I am a wife, mom of five, teacher, artist and author. In my free time, I enjoy writing fantasy, writing Christmas programs, drawing using graphite and colored pencils. Portraits are my specialty. I also enjoy photography. Thank you to my photographer husband who has let me join his journey in photography as well. I am both his model and apprentice. (I still think he does a better job than me.) On occasion I’m his assistant when working with clients and when he needs a “light stand with feet”.
1.What got you into writing / what made you sit down and actually start something?
Growing up, I’d write with my sister for fun. It wasn’t until after reading one of Timothy Zahn’s Dragonback books that I had a story flow. That was back in 2004. In 2006, I went on a family Christmas vacation. While on the trip we passed Three Mile Canyon, Oregon. I saw the name and envisioned a dragon flying down a canyon and blowing fire. That started the Dragon Courage series. My other impetus for writing has been National Novel Writing Month each November. I am planning to participate again this year.
2.What is a usual writing day like for you, how is it structured?
A usual writing day? What is that? For me I write whenever I have free time and can fit it in my schedule. I am a wife and mother of 5; although I currently only have two left at home–a college freshman and an eighth grader. I also am a full-time middle school and high school teacher. So, on lunch break, after school, before bed, etc any spare moment I will write.
3.Do you get writers block? If so, how do you overcome it?
Yes, I have gotten writers block. Book 5 of the Dragon Courage series sat half finished for 5 years on my computer. I tried drawing, I tried rereading the other books and what I had written. It just wouldn’t come. Finally, when the series had been accepted for publication and book one was finished editing, I was able to break through the one scene and write again.
4.Are you a plotter or panster when it comes to writing a story?
Maybe a bit of both. Dragon’s Future had no plot lined out. It surprised me. However, the other books had some form of a plan. The One Who Sees Me was planned as far as the plot goes since it is a historical fiction. The fun thing was to see how Cailean came about and took on a life of his own. He surprised me.
5.Are you traditionally or self-published, and what was the publishing process like for you? Any advice to aspiring authors?
My publishing company, Booktrope, likes to claim they are a blend of both. For me the process was amazing. I went to a writers’ conference with my 18- and 19-year-olds and one of the presenters, Tess Thompson from Booktrope, said her publisher was accepting submissions. I went home and debated. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my husband, that I had submitted. Three weeks later, I heard that I was accepted into the UPdrift imprint. I was floored and then had to decide if that was really what I wanted to do. From there I loved the team approach. My team came together smoothly, and we work wonderfully together. I contacted Heather Huffman, the head of Vox Dei (the Christian imprint of Booktrope), to see if she would want The One Who Sees Me. Again it was a quick response in the affirmative. I have not had any doors slammed in my face since I started the process of publishing.
My advice for aspiring authors is to write and keep writing. Learn what it takes to be an author. As my 18- and 19-year-olds found out, it is more than just writing. There is a lot of relationship building and social media contacts. Make sure you have a presence online. Read about other authors and their journeys. Finally, don’t give up. Find your best book and submit it. Keep refining and keep submitting until you find the right fit for you.
6.What has been your highlight since becoming a published author?
Right now the highlight is to hear, “I can’t wait for book 2.” It is coming from friends and people I don’t know. The reviews are always scary, but then I am floored when I hear good things. To have my daughter’s friend who is more like a second daughter to me and a voracious reader say she will read Dragon’s Future over and over again made my day.
7.Can you share a little of your most recent book with us? And any other books of yours, if you wish. (I took you at your word and gave you excerpts. You can pick and choose what you want to put in.)
My most recent book is The One Who Sees Me. It is about a slave girl, Faru, who is exchanged for a wife for the king. She finds herself in a new home with a new master and life is always going up and down. We’ll join her in chapter 2 when she is leaving her home for the new one:
The carriage pulled to a halt, and Lord Cegrol looked up from where he sat. The ride had lasted close to half a glass, Faru estimated, and in that whole time, the lord had not said a single word to her, nor had he looked up from his folded hands. Now he graced Faru with a smile. It was a sad smile, but a smile nonetheless.
“What is your name, child?” his musical voice inquired.
He seemed to see her for the first time. His eyes took her in, and Faru felt the heat rush to her face.
“Well, Faru, welcome to our home away from home.” He paused as he looked out the window. “It is nothing like my Castle Fearann, but it is comfortable.”
They descended from the coach onto a cobblestone drive surrounded by blooming rhododendron plants. The whites and pinks softened the harshness of the reds. Beyond the bushes, Faru noticed the house that loomed up above her. The dark bricks were a stark contrast to the stone she was accustomed to. Lord Cegrol led the way up wide, winding stairs to the front door. Torches on either side flickered against the brickwork, which seemed to trap the light instead of sending it out to welcome the master home. As Cegrol opened the door, he was greeted by a portly, elderly lady.
“Lord Cegrol, welcome home. You must be exhausted. Let me get your cloak. You just go up to your den. I’ll have Trystan bring you your evening meal.”
“Thank you, Kadi,” Lord Cegrol replied. “I would appreciate that. First, though, we need to help Faru get settled.”
“Don’t you worry at all about that. I’ll take care of everything.”
Lord Cegrol nodded and slowly plodded up another wide staircase. The motherly woman turned to Faru.
“And you are?”
“My name is Faru, ma’am,” the young slave girl replied, trying not to fidget with her long curly hair.
“Lord Cegrol told me your name. What I want to know is, why are you here?”
Faru shivered, not just from the draft that flickered the candles in their sconces, but also from the internal cold.
“Ma’am, a glass ago, I was preparing my mistress’s evening meal as I have done since I was old enough to help my mother. The queen came and brought me to a parlor where King Cyning and Lord Cegrol and Lady Cwen sat. King Cyning walked off with Lady Cwen, and my mistress showed Lord Cegrol and me to the door where the carriage was waiting. Lord Cegrol brought me here. I do not have anything with me. I am at your disposal.”
“You are right about that,” the woman said. “I am Kadi, the housekeeper. Anything that happens in this house, I direct. That includes you.”
Kadi paused, sizing up the new servant before she continued. “What besides serving meals are you good at?”
This was territory that Faru understood.
“I clean rooms. I’ve done some cooking, but more so, just helping the cook prepare food. I’ve taken care of little ones so others can do their work, and I’ve been taught to weave.”
“I see,” Kadi stated, pursing her lips. “You won’t have much opportunity to take care of children in this household unless it is servants’ children.” She stood, looking Faru up and down before she continued. “I suppose for tonight, you can just get settled in. Tomorrow is early enough to start. Follow me.”
In Dragon’s Future, book 2 of the Dragon Courage series to be released on December 8, Braidyn has a strong sense of justice. It takes a series of events and a trip to a new land to help him learn to temper that justice with mercy. Here’s a glimpse of what will bring about that journey.
“Excuse me, sir, I couldn’t help but see what happened this afternoon.”
Triden looked up to see a man in a tan cloak with the hood pulled up to cover his face. If the man was larger, he could have been mistaken for a thief, but his small frame threw that thought down the river. Triden wondered what the young man was up to.
“It is deplorable how riders treat people. They think they own the world and everyone else must bow to their wishes. Wouldn’t you like to take them down a notch or two? I know I would.”
It was as if the man had read Triden’s thoughts.
“Oh, take away their dragons and their special abilities, and I’d love to get a shot at one of them,” Triden agreed. “But it is hopeless. How can you make a rider powerless?”
“You can’t!” The other man interjected. “What you can do, though, is hurt him where it counts—his dragon. They value those as if they were gold—more than gold! If you could steal a dragon, that would speak volumes.”
“Steal a dragon?” the vendor scoffed. “There’s no way. The dragon would fry me in a heartbeat!”
“Not if it can’t breathe fire.”
Triden was confused. He glanced at the young man weighing what he had said. “But what do you give the dragon to make him not breathe fire? And how do you give it to him?”
“You don’t,” the man replied. “You get an egg.”
A dragon egg? Triden had never thought of that before.
“How would I find these eggs?”
“You only have to get one. They have them in a cave in the bluffs south of town. I know a way that you can get inside without being seen by the riders. For as much as the riders value their dragons, they don’t guard them very well. I think they have gotten lazy.”
“But once I have it, what do I do? Do I kill it or leave it for a ransom?”
“Neither,” the young man replied as soon as the word “kill” was out of Triden’s mouth. “I’ll pay you to give the egg to me.”
Triden’s eyes narrowed. He didn’t like talking business without being able to see a person’s face. He wished he could see the eyes of this young man under his hood.
“How much will you pay me? And what do you want with a dragon egg?”
“My reasons are my business. I will pay you five gold now, and thirty-five gold when you deliver the egg to me—unharmed.” He put emphasis on the last word. “There will be not a copper more if there is so much as a scratch on the egg. Do you understand?” The man’s voice went icy cold.
Triden swallowed and replied, “Yeah, I understand. So how do I get there?”
“Here is a map. Follow it carefully or you will be dragon food, or fodder for whatever else dwells in those bluffs. When you have the egg, contact me.”
8.What audience is your book targeted for, and what genre does it come under?
The Dragon Courage series is targeted at the junior to young adult age; however, I have several adults who have reviewed it and say they love it for the characters and the plot. It is a fantasy.
The One Who Sees Me is a historical fiction designed for young adult and older.
9.Apart from writing, what do you do in your spare time?
Spare time, what’s that? Actually, I enjoy drawing and photography. I help my husband on photo shoots. I get to help provide the right lighting. I also have fun using my camera to capture what I see. I love my pencils and am learning pastels as well. They are nice and quick to work with. In the summer, I try to connect with some local artists and do plein air painting. That’s where you go on location and paint or draw. I also watch anime with my kids.
10.What tip would you give to new authors when trying to build a fan-base / get followers and market their books? (What to do and what not to do.)
From what I have been experiencing, it is a matter of relationship. Find something you are good at or enjoy and Tweet about it or write about it on Facebook. My mentor and model for social media is Brian Rathbone. He has wonderful humorous tweets and posts about dragons, Marvel characters, and other things. Every so often, he’ll throw in a post or tweet about his book. I followed him for his humor. Later, I looked at what his books were about and then I purchased some. That is what the model should be. I have a twitter feed that is full of information about books. I have had people follow me and as soon as I follow back, they message me wanting me to buy their book. It is awful. So, keep it friendly and find that balance between buy my book and this is who I am. I am working on it.
11.How much of your books are realistic / based on true experiences/ people?
Dragon’s Future really was pure fantasy and fiction. However, the location was based on Eastern Oregon where my in-laws live and a trip I took to Flagstaff, Arizona. The high desert was my backdrop. For Dragon’s Heir, the first chapter shares a market scene. That was from my experiences in Ecuador and Mexico. I loved the colors and sounds of the market. The crying out of “Mi amigo, para ti!” (My friend for you!) was something we heard a lot. Dragon’s Revenge, book 3, takes place in a fen, a land full of water. It came from my drive to work each day. We passed through the Coquille River Valley. In the wintertime the fields become flooded. I just added more water to the area and made it deep enough for dragons. The fog really does hug the mountains and the valley in the mornings. Dragon’s Posterity, book 5, is based on the land around my home. Just an hour south of us is a sweeping land of beach and fields. Rocks jut up out of the ocean. It would be perfect for a dragon to perch on.
I am currently working on a series for junior readers about four eighth graders. These four characters are designed from four of my students. I had them last year, and they hated reading. I thought why not make a book they would want to read. So, I put them into the story. I have yet to get it even onto the computer. It is my project for this year’s National Novel Writing Month.