Friday, April 6, 2012

Book Review: The Little Gnome by Sheri Fink

I just finished reading Sheri Fink's new release, The Little Gnome. This book is both imaginative and educational. The story begins when The Little Gnome makes a whimsical Victorian garden his new home. Initially, he appreciates the warm weather, blooming plants, buzzing activity, and animal companionship. But, then the seasons begin to change and the Little Gnome has to adapt and appreciate his new surroundings.

The Little Gnome is a great way to introduce children to the differences between the four seasons. It concludes by teaching them to be positive and to embrace new situations:

"Just like the Little Gnome, you can choose to look for the good in every season and situation. When you look for the positive in every change, you will always find something to appreciate and enjoy."

Learn more about Sheri Fink by reading her interview on The Writer's Block!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Stephen Henning

1. Tell us a bit about who you are, and where you live and work.

My name is Stephen Henning. I’m a writer based in Ipswich, in the UK. Ipswich is a small coastal town on the East coast, close to where all the US Air Force bases were located during World War 2 and the Cold War. (Something which just might creep into the book series at a future point...)

2. Describe your journey to becoming an author.

I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Throughout my life I have drawn stories, written them, acted them out, and even filmed them. I’m into film making, and roped my friends into creating a mini superhero epic!

3. What kinds of books do you write? Who is your ideal reader?

My Class Heroes books are thrillers aimed at teenagers, young adults and hopefully adults too. The main characters are superheroes, although the aim of these books wasn’t to just translate a comic book into prose form.

First, because I think the kind of stories you can tell in the graphic novel/comics medium are totally different to books. Second, British superheroes in costumes fighting crime in Liverpool, Cardiff and Ipswich … it just doesn’t work. In New York it looks cool, at the British seaside it looks ridiculous.

The main characters in the books, James and Samantha Blake, are 14 years old. I gave them super powers as a means of telling big stories. When you suddenly become very powerful, all the usual problems that go with growing up are suddenly magnified. We all did silly things when we were in our teens, and in most cases those mistakes don't have far reaching consequences. But if you can do super-powerful things, then all of a sudden, the decisions you make take on greater significance. I think a lot of us are still convinced we are teenagers, so I hope the books will have a universal appeal.

I like to think my books are good holiday reads. There’s nothing better than buying a thriller book - something that’s intense, exciting and good escapist fun – and taking it away with you when you go on holiday. So I think my ideal reader is over the age of 13, likes action and adventure, maybe a fan of superheroes already and is just about to go away somewhere nice for a vacation.

4. Where do you find your inspiration for the characters in the Class Heroes Series?

A lot of the inspiration comes from … me. I can remember how it felt to be 14 and I remember wanting superpowers (actually, I still do). So a lot of what the characters feel and what they do comes from my childhood. There’s a certain amount of wish fulfillment in the books. I also took some inspiration from my two cousins. The poster image on the Class Heroes website was based on photos of my cousins from when they were 14, and was painted by a renowned book cover artist called Andrew Skilleter. Andrew has painted cover images for BBC’s The Chronicles of Narnia, Ruth Rendell Mysteries, and Doctor Who.

Andrew was a really nice guy. He’s a very accomplished artist, and I thought he’d be way too expensive for me. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a child. I had posters that he had painted up on my wall. I approached him, told him what I was trying to do with my books, and he was really interested and he came up with this brilliant movie style poster at a really reasonable cost. He’s a star.

5. Why did you start Elucidox Publishing? Describe your publishing process.

Elucidox Ltd is a company owned by myself and my friend and colleague Andrew Butters. We are primarily technical writers, i.e. we write training manuals, user guides and website content. I wanted to write the Class Heroes books, and it seemed logical to publish it under the Elucidox banner.

6. Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

I really like Lee Child, Michael Crichton, Terrance Dicks, and I’m currently reading Shada, by Gareth Roberts, Paper Money by Ken Follett, and The Drowned World by JG Ballard. Terrance Dicks is a prolific author of children’s books and it was reading his books as a child that made me want to be a writer. I love comic books too. I think the biggest challenge in telling a superhero story is finding the drama. If a character is super powerful, then you have to work hard to build the tension and create situations where the main characters are placed in genuine jeopardy, and can't just wave a magic wand to get them out of it. I think the Batman books/films work very well in that respect.

7. How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

I set up a website for Class Heroes, and I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Google +. I want the Class Heroes books to be more interactive. They are eBooks after all, so I wanted the adventures to continue outside the confines of each book. Although the storylines are fantastical, I want them to be grounded in reality. So to try and add to the reality, I have set up a fictional News website (like Sky News or Fox News), which contains news reports and videos relating to the events in the books. It's called 24/7 Interactive News, and one of 24/7's news reporters appears in the first book!

I like the idea of people reading the book, and then going onto a "news" website and watching news videos about the events that have happened in the novel.
(You'll also find my mini superhero epic film "Rage" on the 24/7 News site.)

Also, the characters have their own blog and their own twitter feeds. It's a way for readers to find out more about the characters, see what happens to them in between books and engage with them on Twitter.

8. What are your upcoming plans for 2012?

I released the first Class Heroes book, A Class Apart, in October last year. My aim is to release 2 books a year. I’m hoping that the second in the series will be ready in May, and then the third later in 2012.

9. What is your definition of success as an author?

There are two definitions. I think the first is in actually writing a book in the first place. As I’m sure anyone who has tried it knows, it’s a tough thing to do. I’ve always written, but there are some books that I started and could just never complete. For some reason, it just didn’t work for me. But with A Class Apart, it just clicked. The feedback I’ve had on the book has been positive, and that's been encouraging and a relief! And of course, to have the books sell well would be amazing. I don’t really know what I’d consider a success in terms of sales. As long as a reasonable number of people bought it and said they liked it, I’d be happy.

10. What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Well, I wouldn’t presume to give anyone advice really. I’m just an aspiring author myself. But what has worked for me is writing about something I really love, believe in, and think about 24 hours a day. You’ve got to really live and breathe it. Oh, and reading lots of books too, including books on how-to-write.

Author Biography - In Brief

I'm a Technical Writer, by trade, although I used to work as a journalist and for a publishing house. I live with my wife, Rebecca, in the UK. Rebecca proof reads and edits my books. I spend a lot of time looking at my book stats :-) You can read a fuller biography of me on my website.

Website links

Twitter accounts


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Melissa Foster

1) Tell us how you became an author? Describe your journey.

Oh goodness, my journey? I waited ten years to write, and I finally claimed my writing list when our six children were all in school. The day my youngest went to Kindergarten, I put him on the bus and never looked back. I've been at my computer since that day, M-F from 9-2, September-June. No moments of regret -- not a single one.

I emailed Jodi Picoult back in 2006 and asked her how many pages I needed to write to be considered by agents (I could have researched word count, etc., right? But I'm a pantzer -- we don't think that far ahead). Jodi was gracious enough to respond and tell me to write 300 pages because 50% of it would be edited out anyway. No problem, right ? Wrong. I took that literally and wrote 300 single spaced pages. She meant 300 double spaced pages. I had written a 160,000 word novel that would never be published at such a high word count. Five years, one novel (Megan's Way), and several renditions later, Chasing Amanda was published. I'd like to send a thank you every day of my life to Jodi Picoult. Those directions enabled me to learn a lot about writing--believe it or not, those years of editing and revising really did help me grow as a writer. I wouldn't have changed a thing from my path.

2) Do you prefer any particular literary genre?

I am a genre hopper - I write women's fiction, contemporary fiction, and suspense/thriller. I love all of them, and I can't say that I have a favorite, because I can wrap my favorite type of writing--emotional--into any of them.

3) Where do you find your inspiration to write?

Life is one big beautiful inspiration in every way, shape, and form.

4) Please share some of your available titles. Where can they be purchased?

Megan's Way (literary fiction--optioned for film), Chasing Amanda (suspense/mystery), and Come Back to Me (contemporary fiction), can all be purchased from Paperbacks can also be purchased from Barnes and Noble.

5) How do you balance your professional life with your family life?

I'm a big scheduler. I schedule every aspect of my day--and if something slips, as it usually does, we just go with the flow. We order many dinners in--I think we need a wife.

6) You are an award-winning, best-selling author. How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

I worry less about promoting my work and more about building relationships. No one will read my book because I shout, "Read my book!" They will read my book when they take an interest in something about me, or are curious based on something they've heard. What works for me is building relationships instead of working toward sales. Sales are just an added bonus--I'm someone who genuinely enjoys people.

7) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

Don't worry about word count, genres, or any other confines. Write what you feel and figure the rest out later. Don't skimp on quality - save money toward having your book professionally edited -- your readers deserve it.

8) How did the World Literary Café get started? How can authors benefit from this community?

World Lit Cafe was formed because in November 2011 I brought 35 authors with me for an extraordinary ride. I taught them ways to cross promote and expand their audiences, and when we launched Come Back to Me, over 80% of the authors hit the Top 100 with my guidance. I realized how much authors could achieve if they were provided with guidance and offered the appropriate venues. I have great visions for where WLC is headed, and authors can benefit from a supportive community, training and expertise from best-selling authors, and connections with readers, reviewers, and bloggers. WLC is a site for all writers -- aspiring, traditionally published, and independent, and a community for reviewers, bloggers, and all aspects of literary services.

I'm launching Fostering Success very soon and there we will focus on showing authors every step of the self-publishing path, from creating an online presence to using that presence for effective marketing. I hope to help millions of authors reach the height of their careers.

9) What is your definition of success as an author?

Easy - success is nothing if achieved alone. One can only achieve true success if they help others to do the same. For me, success as an author isn't the number of books you sell or how long you are on a bestseller list. It's defined by who you helped along the way and you help once you've reached your peak. Authors often say they want to follow my path. I tell them to please surpass me:-)

10) What is next for you in 2012?

This will be an exciting year. I have just wrapped up my fourth manuscript (a thriller). I'm excited to see where that takes us. Megan's Way is being adapted to film, so this year will probably hold a number of interesting achievements in that area, and with the launch of Fostering Success, the ability to help others will also increase. I'm also redesigning the World Literary Cafe, and hope to offer far more social avenues there as well. Mostly, though, I'm looking forward to my months at Cape Cod in 2012. Life is beautiful--I guess I just love it all.

Author Bio

 "Melissa Foster is a wonderful connector of readers and books, a friend of authors, and a tireless advocate for women. She is the real deal."--Author Jennie Shortridge

“Melissa Foster is as kind as she is successful. With her experience, Melissa is the best advocate for writing, publishing and marketing. Hands down.” – Rebecca Berto, Editor

“Melissa Foster is a touchstone for the indie publishing community." --Ashley Barron, The Priyas

"Foster's latest novel is in the same league as books written by such authors as Nicholas Sparks, Jennifer Weiner, and Kristin Hannah."--Author Carrie Green

Melissa Foster is the award-winning author of three International bestselling novels, Megan's Way, Chasing Amanda, and Come Back to Me. She has also been published in Indie Chicks, an anthology. She is the founder of the Women's Nest, a social and support community for women, and the World Literary Cafe (previously WoMen's Literary Cafe), a cross-promotional site for authors, reviewers, bloggers, and readers. Melissa is currently collaborating in the film production of Megan's Way.

Melissa hosts an annual Aspiring Authors contest for children, she's written for Calgary's Child Magazine and Women Business Owners Magazine, and has painted and donated several murals to The Hospital for Sick Children in Washington, DC. Melissa lives in Maryland with her family. Melissa's interests include her family, reading, writing, painting, friends, helping women see the positive side of life, and visiting Cape Cod.

Visit Melissa on The Women's Nest or World Lit Cafe. Melissa enjoys discussing her books with book clubs and reader groups, and welcomes an invitation to your event.

Melissa supports Provincetown Cares.


Megan's Way
2011 Beach Book Award Winner (Spirituality)
2011 Readers Favorite Awards, Winner (Fiction/Drama), Finalist (Women's Fiction)
2010 Next Generation Indie Book Award, Finalist (Spirituality)
2011 New England Book Festival, Honorable Mention (Spirituality)

Chasing Amanda
2011 Readers Favorite Awards, Winner (Paranormal), Finalist, (Women's Fiction, Mystery)
2011 Dan Poynter's Global eBook Awards, Winner, (Paranormal)
Top 10 Books of 2011, Pixel of Ink
Amazon Top 100 75+ Days running
Indie Reader's Bestselling List That Counts (8 weeks)
Top Books of 2011, The Write Agenda

Top 5 Must Read Books of 2011, IndieReader
Top Ten Books of 2011, Tea Time With Marce
IndieReader Best Reviewed Books of 2011, Huffington Post


Member: Maryland Writers' Association

Member: League of Extraordinary Authors

Member: Independent Author Network

Contact Melissa

My Books

My Website

Follow me, Facebook, Twitter, FB Fanpage

Chat w/me on The Women's Nest

The World Literary Cafe, Where readers and authors unite!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Stacey Shannon, Founder of Happily Ever After Me

1) Describe your journey to becoming an author/illustrator.

Growing up, I always loved writing little poems and scribbling meaningless doodles. I had a blue book similar to a diary that I would keep all of my poems in. I still have that book. I always wanted to do something more creative, but I also wanted it to be different. Once I had my children, I realized that I really did have a love for being silly, and using my imagination. I began to catch myself telling stories to them throughout the day and enjoying it just as much as they did. In early 2009 I wrote a poem. I felt that I wanted to take it a (scary) step further and illustrate. It was then, after many, many, months that my first official storybook, The Swirly Sweater, was completed. I felt like I had accomplished something I never thought I could do! Through this process I realized I wanted to take storytelling to a whole new level (for me) by writing for other children, too. But I wanted to stand out, I wanted to write JUST for each individual child; make THEIR own fairytales and secret dreams come to life. It was then, that Happily Ever After Me, LLC was born. 

2) What inspired you to start writing for children?

My inner child inspired, and my children unknowingly encouraged. I have never completely let go of the ‘little’ Stacey and what she loved most – being creatively different.

3) What books have you written? Where can readers buy them?

My first book, “The Swirly Sweater”, is available on (link

I have written a little over 30 books to date, most of which are completely custom. Because of that, they are not usually sold for others to purchase.

4) How did you develop the concept for Happily Ever After Me, LLC?

I wanted to do something different. I wanted to have a product that grabbed people’s attention, and made them feel as exclusive and unique as their stories were.

5) What products are available for customization? Describe the creative process.

We now have six custom products available- Custom Storybooks, Poetry Prints, SAVE the sKeTcHeS! Storybooks, Custom Puzzles, Custom Posters, and our newest product, FamilyFigures Prints.

The process- I collect the needed information from the customer, depending on which product they choose. I then write accordingly and send back to the customer for approval. Once the story, poem, etc. is approved it is forwarded on to one of our incredibly talented illustrators (love them!). When the illustrations are complete I bring the final product together and then send it back to the customer for approval. The customer stays informed through the whole process to ensure 100% satisfaction and the most custom product possible.

6) How have you promoted your work? What strategies have been the most effective?

I promote my work through sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, AboutMe, Freelanced, Google Plus, Amazon, and YouTube. Although Facebook has played a HUGE part in our growth, my amazing customers have definitely been the biggest “promoters” for me.I believe that customer satisfaction (which leads to word of mouth) is the most effective of all.

7) What is next for you in 2012?

In 2012, I would like to save more sketches, create more timeless storybooks, write more poetry about the beautiful love that families share, and continue walking away touched by each adoption storybook we are asked to create. I want to continue the wonderful relationships with my amazing illustrators, Joyee Neogi and Eva Rojano, and I want to build new ones with all of the other incredible people out there that I have yet to meet.

8) What advice would you give to budding author/illustrators?

My advice would be - don’t let your passion remain a thought. It took some encouragement from others for me to take the first step--and as terrifying as it was, I have never looked back! It is very important to believe in yourself and your work. One thing I am still learning is to not let the negative opinions of others change who you are and what you choose to do. It is good to listen (you can learn and grow as a result), but don’t lose yourself in the process.

9) What is your definition of success as an author/illustrator?

Three years ago I would have said that success was selling books by the millions… which for the record did NOT happen… But, today my definition of success would be doing what I love. I am a mother and wife, first and foremost, but when I sit down to work (if that’s what you want to call it) I love it! Creating and writing something new every time is always so refreshing, especially when I know that the stories have a purpose, a meaning; they represent people and their stories. We celebrate life, what could be more rewarding than that?

Stacey's Bio

Stacey Shannon was born and raised in Greenville, SC.  She is a mother to 3 children: a 1 year-old girl, a 4 year-old boy, and a 9 year-old girl.  She has been married to husband Brad for almost 4 years and lives in Goose Creek, SC (right outside of Charleston). She founded Happily Ever After Me, LLC in March of 2009.

Contact Stacey Shannon

Twitter: @HEAM_llc

Blog (part of the website):



Monday, April 2, 2012

How to Make a Living As A Writer, Parts One and Two by Rachelle Gardner

Today's offering is a great 2-part article written by literary agent Rachelle Gardner. She provides some really spot-on practical advice about how to approach your career as a writer. I have printed  excerpts of both. Find the links to each of the full posts below. Enjoy!


I’m going to make this very simple: The secret to making a living wage as a writer lies in two words: volume and variety. Today let’s talk about the first one.


The biggest mistake writers make with respect to their “publishing dreams” is hoping for that one big break that’s going to change their lives, allow them to quit their job, and propel them into the life of the full-time writer.

Making money in this business, for the vast majority of writers, isn’t about having one huge hit. Or even two huge hits. Instead, it’s about building a career, book by book, and building an audience that wants more of your books.

Writers begin to see a “living wage” when they have a stack of books out there in the marketplace, each one bringing in royalties regularly. Even if each book is not selling a huge number of copies individually—if you have a whole bunch of books out there, each selling some copies, it starts to add up.

It’s all about building a foundation, building a reputation, so that each book you release builds on the last and each one expands your audience so that your new readers are always wanting to go back and find your older books, too.

You’re not ready to “quit your day job” until those royalty checks coming in regularly are adding up to the amount you need to support yourself. Hopefully this is in addition to any advances you’re getting.

Now, this is difficult because you’re only one person. You have limited time, and you can only write so much. That’s why it’s important to take the long view. You’ve got to methodically and strategically build your career. The writers who are doing it full time are able to do it because they have a large volume of product out there, and they’re having enough success that their audience keeps growing.

Read Rachelle Gardner's full post.



Yesterday we discussed “volume” as a key to being able to support yourself as a writer. Today we’ll talk about the second key: Variety.

Now a lot of people are wondering what I mean by this, because we’ve all had it pounded into us that we need to “brand” ourselves, we need to find a niche and write to a certain audience in order to build a following. That’s all true, especially for writers just getting established and trying to find their audience. Your best chance is to “specialize” so that each book continues to build your audience.

If you’re traditionally published, you also have an obligation to your publisher, not only to abide by the specifics of your contract and whatever the non-compete section says, but also to help make sure you’re putting your energy into making those contracted books as successful as possible. This means writing them to the best of your ability (without so many distractions that you can’t do your best work) and it also means having the time and energy to devote to marketing.

But there are people who have found a way to make “writing” their full time living. How do they do it? It’s variety… even more than volume. And I have to tell you the truth, few people are cut out for this kind of writing life, the kind that involves “piecing together” a living from a variety of different writing-related income sources.

Read the complete post.


Ms. Gardner's Bio:
I’m a literary agent with Books and Such Literary Agency based in California, founded by Janet Kobobel Grant. (Click to meet the other members of the Books and Such team.)

I work at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I’m a voracious reader, a mom, a firefighter’s wife, and a huge fan of Starbucks.

I never get tired of talking about books and publishing, and working with authors is my dream job. This blog is a place where I get to hear the concerns and perspectives of writers in the trenches, so that I never lose touch with what’s happening on the other side of the desk.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

A Few Words on Gratitude

We live in a time where we are often faced with struggle, despair, and heartache on a daily basis. Rather than focus on what is wrong, or what you don't have, or who/what has failed you, count your blessings. The things that we focus on will flourish while the things we discount and ignore will surely wither. So, even when there is only a drop of water left in the glass, focus on the drop rather than the void.

1)  Be grateful for your trials; there is a lesson in them for you. You will become stronger and wiser after you push through to the other side.

2)  Be grateful for the disagreements you have with others. Assuming that all parties are in their right minds, it means that everyone cares enough to keep communicating. If the problem hasn't been resolved and the lines of communication close, it could mean the loss of a valuable relationship.

3)  Be grateful for all that people have done for you in the past, even when their hearts or ability to help have changed. For whatever reason, they chose to ease your burden during a difficult time. Cherish that and be sure to reciprocate it.

Keep your pen to the paper! Remember, inspiration is everywhere...