books

Spread love through books!

This year, my November was chock-full of book events. It was a reminder of how important it is for writers to step away from their computers and their writing to connect with the community on a personal level. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

First, there was the BOCES Artist & Presenter Vendor Fair on November 1. Educators and administrators came through to meet artists of all shapes and sizes. I met some colorful characters, including the guys from AudioBody who had recently performed at my son’s school. Looking to book a gig for your school? Check out the arts & enrichment BOCES vendor listing.

Next, the annual Chronicle Book Fair in my hometown. It’s one of my favorite events in the community. I enjoy meeting other authors and connecting with readers. “This is your fan base!” one of my biggest supporters told me that day. The best part? My extra special visitors!

On the 7th, I attended the Lake George Jr/Sr High Volleyball banquet, an event that was bittersweet. Despite an undefeated record, the varsity team was disqualified from playoffs because they played one more game than was allowed in their regular season. The community was up in arms about this unjust and irrevocable decision that came from the NY state school athletic association. This hit home for me as an alum. As a gesture of support, I presented each player and coach an inscribed copy of Forte — which features a young girl who magically becomes a volleyball superstar in her small upstate town. Rather than a typical teenager response, these girls were genuinely grateful and appreciative. Their strength and spirit in the face of huge disappointment is truly an inspiration.

  

The last week of November, I had the honor of meeting with a local Girl Scout troop as part of a special visitor series on professional writers. We talked about story creation and fictional story telling. “A story isn’t a list of things that happen. A story has a shape.” They totally got it, and told me about their “story mountains” they are working on in ELA. One girl in the group was especially excited to meet me after winning my book basket at a school fundraiser (Brayden’s Family Fun Night).

  

November is typically the national month for writing, a la NaNoWriMo, the annual national writing challenge to complete a 50K-word novel in the month of November. How about NaNoPROMO?

You may have read my post about why I don’t do NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t mean I don’t write or edit or revise or work on my latest book(s) most every day. I do. But, for me, this month was about the other side of being an author — getting out there and spreading love through books.

But these events aren’t just about book promotion. They are my creative fuel. Giving my readers faces and voices and smiles . . . inspires me to keep writing.

Thank you to everyone who helped make it all happen.

New Book Deal Alert!

Five years ago, I got a story idea that stubbornly clung to my psyche until I unleashed it onto the page. It became a true labor of love, as it was inspired by my then-6 y/o. When my husband read the first draft he said, “This book will change your life.” It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever written. Today, I’m signing a publishing contract with Immortal Works that will help get this very story — BOY ON HOLD — out into the world.

Pop the bubbly! Cue the fireworks! Woo-hoo!

Yes, this is a new publisher. Lots of people ask me about the publishing process. How I found this publisher is, in itself, an interesting story.

Back in March, I took part in a Twitter pitch contest called #PitMad. Basically, you pitch your story using hashtags to indicate genre and theme. If an agent “likes” your Tweet, it’s a request to see more. It’s a fun way to query a bunch of agents at once — and practice the art of a the modern-day elevator pitch. (Note to writers: the next #PitMad is September 6, 2018! Get your pitches ready!)

Here was my pitch.

Some pitches got lots of likes. The most I saw on one pitch was 17 likes.

Me? My pitch for Boy on Hold got one like. ONE.

Blugh. My first thought: “Well, that was a waste of time. I’m never doing that pitch contest again.”

That one like was from Immortal Works. Not an agent but a publisher. They requested the first page.

Blugh. My next thought: “Only one page? This was seriously a waste of time.”

So I sent the first page and didn’t give it much thought.

Almost 3 months later — (yes, 3 whole months) — Immortal Works got back to me, complimenting the quality of my writing . . . and asked to read the entire manuscript.

That made me sit up a little straighter. My next thought: “Oh! Okay, let’s see where this goes.”

As I sent them the MS, I also sent it to my Kindle since it had been a year (or two) since I read it through myself. While on vacation with my family, I read it on my iPhone, highlighting all the parts that I thought needed work. I couldn’t help but get excited about the story all over again. When I got home, I got to revising right away with renewed energy.

Then, a surprise. An email from an assistant editor at Immortal Works saying she “loved it.” That she “totally cried” at the ending. She said it reminded her of To Kill a Mockingbird but with schizophrenia instead of racism (Whoa — !!). And she wanted to recommend it for publication.

My thought at this time? Let’s just say, I was jumping-out-of-my-chair psyched. I had to hold back not to tell everyone — even strangers in the grocery line. Instead, I settled for a celebratory happy dance with my husband and kids.

About a month later, they officially requested to publish my book. The contract was in my inbox the very next day. Today, I signed!

Now, I’m beyond stoked. I’m FLOORED. I can’t tell you how gratifying this is. To have a publisher as excited as I am about my story. That’s when you know you’ve found the right match. They LOVE the book. And “totally cried” at the ending. Her last email to me said that she got “chills” thinking about it as she ran errands. Squeeeeeeeeee!

Writer friends who are slogging through the noise to get your work noticed, keep up the good fight! Keep querying! Keep pitching! Remember this: it only takes one like.

 

Seeking The Kithseeker

Today, I had the pleasure of interviewing fellow Xchyler author M.K. Wiseman on her new release, Kithseeker, Book 2 of The Bookminder series. (Book 1 is now on sale for only $.99!)

M.K. and I became friends in the usual fashion: online! She was an early reader of my latest book, posting a lovely review. I reached out to thank her and we instantly found a common bond in our writing . . . and the rest is history. If you studied our chat history, you’d find a healthy combo of brainstorming, griping, motivating, and celebrating. Although we’ve never met in person — she’s a Midwesterner and I live in the Northeast — we have plans to join forces at a book fair someday soon. That’s when the real magick will happen! 😉

Without further ado, here’s our latest chat. Take a read. I’m sure you all will adore her as much as I do.

What inspired you to write The Kithseeker

It’s fun to look back on the origins of a story once it reaches completion, publication, and release. Where Kithseeker ended up is so so far from – and yet simultaneously quite close to – where it started in my head. I always knew that, if given the chance, I could continue the story of my wizards through [redacted: spoilers!]. But here’s the weird thing about a sophomore story like this one: book 1 inspired book 3 inspired book 2… Bound by real history, as I prefer to work, date and place was largely set for me by the two on either side of Kithseeker. And there, as with the rest, real history cued the events of this book. Louis XIV had a real ‘teller of tales’ under his employ, a woman charged with telling him fairy stories for entertainment. Yes, fairytales briefly were a bit in vogue. Too fun! From there it all just clicked into place.

The Kithseeker by M.K. Wiseman

How is it different from the first book in the series, The Bookminder

It’s far bigger, for one thing. I mean, honestly, book 1 is an interpersonal drama between two very isolated people. It’s close to my dream idea of a book occurring within a small space with small cast, having it out in close quarters over the course of 400 pages.
But Kithseeker just blows that up, dragging these mages out of their comfort zone, forcing them to change and grow and it’s just a bit of fun for me, really. To play like that. Plotted out, it might be, but it’s been fun to really paint with wild, broad strokes for a bit. It’s like I opened up a whole new palette of colors. The two books really are quite different from one another at their heart— a happy surprise for me. (To that end, I fear book 3 for similar reasons. Tonally, it shifts. And that’s all I will say about that here.)

Did you always intend to write a series?

Yes and no. I didn’t ‘intend’ anything with even book 1. Falling into publishing as I did, it all came as a bit of a surprise to me and I sort of just rode along for the fun of it. I knew just enough (and have watched enough television—we’re all thinking it so I’ll say it: Firefly) to realize that, even if I fully arced out a multi-book saga, the story might have to stay small, stay one neat and tidy little book.

Aware of this, I actually made certain that Bookminder’s last word stayed constant through the edits. It was my final ending should it be determined that my pre-arced story not be of interest to readers. I am so grateful that folks proved to want more. As much as I’d like to think I’ve paced out a nice story-within-a-story and can stop at one book, there are hooks built in, threads that would remain unrealized. Book 1, in the end, will be enriched by the books that come after.

What author/book is your main source of inspiration? 

Oh gosh, this is the hardest question of all time, I swear. One? I have to stop at one?? You do know I was a librarian before I became an author, right? I can’t pick one!
Brian Jacques. And here’s why. I adored him when I was younger. Mariel of Redwall is the first book I can clearly remember geeking hard over. I can actually remember the exact afternoon in my grade school library, what shelf the book was on, who I was talking to . . . and this before I had read anything of his. The book just called to me. It was a life changing moment in reading for me. And in those days, he kept coming to speak at our local book shop and so I managed to meet him several times and get everything signed and he was so lovely. What a lovely man with such lovely stories. Something about that encounter with a book . . . I want to be a part of that. So, I take that with me in my heart whenever I put pen to paper.

What’s the most important aspect of your writing routine? 

Control of my environment.
I have realized I’m a bit ‘moody’ with how I work. I don’t have a strict routine—no special pen, or snack, or time, or anything. What I find useful one day, is absolutely distracting the next. I often love coffee shop chaos in the background but my husband knows that one word from him while I am ‘in the zone’ will result in limbs torn asunder. I do dislike music when I write—my brain latches on to lyrics and melodies far too easily. So, what works for me is identifying what mood I am in and then creating that specific environment for those few hours.

There’s a lot of magic in your books. If you could choose one of them for yourself, what magical power would you have?

I think I would most enjoy the ability to travel from one place to another instantaneously. I really abhor airplane travel (but I love a good road trip) and I think it would allow me to sample other places, other cultures, without so much hassle— heck, with such powers I could visit the other end of the earth and then go home and sleep in my own bed that night, right? Bliss.

What’s next? Is there anything you’re working on now we can look forward to?

Book 3 is, of course, in the works. Pounding away at the keyboard for that one for weeks now.

But outside Bookminder, I’ve a few things. Am shopping around a book/maybe series about wizard spies that I am super happy with. I’ve a number of things on my hard drive that I dive into here and again for a break. One is a pure sci-fi space adventure with a hard-boiled trucker of a space ship captain and a bunch of societal misfits. A couple high fantasies. And another historical fantasy that leans steampunk and is my own personal love letter to New Mexico, where I lived as a kid. Oh, and a new twist on Hamlet which I keep picking up and putting down. Gosh, my brain spins when I think ‘what’s next.’ Thanks for that. haha

About M.K. Wiseman

M. K. Wiseman was a reader long before she entertained the idea of turning the stories in her head into words for others to enjoy. But then she got a taste for writing and the rest simply fell into place. Dabbler became scribbler became author. A lover of classic literature, her lifelong goal is to be one of the prose. (And, yes, she really does like terrible puns. #ISeeWhatYouDidThere)


When she isn’t mucking about with books, M. K. goes on medium-long runs to unwind and plays brač. Unicycling, juggling, sailing, and doing massive jigsaw puzzles round out some of her favorite hobbies.

Apple falls up

A talented writer in his own right, my oldest son AJ has been named Student of the Quarter twice in a row for WRITING. Last year in fifth grade, he wrote a short fantasy story for school that blew me away. The title is “Eugallado” and, after begging him to allow me to share it, I’m thrilled to post a sneak peek at the opening:

Eugallado. Chapter 1. The Cave.

It was a day like any other when the secret world was discovered by two ordinary boys.
The trees and the ground were covered in prestigious, sparkling white snow, and the sun made everything shine so bright it was almost hard to look at it. We gazed at the beautiful trees, sprinkled with glistening sugar-white powder, longing to explore the woods. My mom said we could never go in, but she wouldn’t tell us why. Of course we wanted to find out.
“Let’s go,” my best friend Ryan said excitedly . . .

People like to say the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree and all that jazz, but I think it’s the opposite. In our case, the apple falls up! And writing is just one of his many talents. I’m so proud of this kid. He inspires me. He’s an inspiration to our whole family.

QMS Student of the Quarter

Excellence Award in Writing

On my school visits, I always tell students that the best way to improve your writing is to READ. Read everything. Always be reading. AJ is proof of that. He’s participated in the Battle of the Books program at school since third grade. He’s usually got at least 2 or 3 books going at one time. He reads books he likes, and books he dislikes. And maybe it’s his youth, but he seems to remember EVERYTHING!

I’m honored AJ is such a fan of my books! He read Forte twice — and after reading the first draft of its sequel, he gave me feedback that will be cherished forever: “I loved your book so much! I loved the description, and I felt like I could really feel the characters. I loved the combonation of music, magic, and mythology. Definetly one of the best books I’ve ever read! – AJ <3”

YA magical realism Concerto

AJ almost done with Concerto

When Concerto was published several months after he read the first draft, he was eager to read it again (gotta love this kid). Now 12 and dealing with middle school antics and LOTS of sixth grade homework, he found the time to read my book. It was my gift to see him peek out with a smile from behind my book as I tucked him into bed. As soon as he finished, he wrote a review on Google docs and shared it with me.

*Warning: contains spoilers!* (But too precious not to share!)

Concerto Review By AJ Spero

Mom, I thought your book Concerto was absolutely amazing! And I’m not saying that just because you’re my mom. If I went to Barnes & Noble and bought your book and read it, I’d say, “WOW! This book is so cool!!” First thing: I thought the characters were awesome! They were so real, I felt like I could really feel and connect with the characters. I also really liked how there was some suspense that made you ask questions that really kept you turning the pages! I always wanted to see what happened next. And the drama between the characters was really good! I felt like it was emotional but not over-the-top, you know? For instance, When Sami started to date Miles, I was like, “No! What about Jason?” Then when she went to visit Jason, I could really feel the awkwardness. I was cringing myself! Then when Jason gave Sami a pat on the back, oh man. Total cringe fest. Then at the end, I loved how they finally started to get back together again. I didn’t really like how they broke up in the first draft, though, it was even painful for me! I know I have a big, long, rambling list of all the things I loved about your book, so I’ll wrap it up with one more thing. I loved the sneak peak chapter of “Cadence”! I want to read it so bad now! I love how you see the other side of that conversation Lauren and Sami had. Sami seemed so oblivious! I also like Lauren’s fun personality, and I can’t wait to find out more about Lauren. I felt like, in “Forte,” I couldn’t really connect with Lauren as a person, but I like how I’ll find out her side of things. Overall, I thought your book was SO GOOD and I can’t wait ‘till “Cadence” comes out! 

 

Rave review(s)

As an indie author, it’s important to get online reviews. Actually, it’s CRUCIAL to get online reviews. Why? Amazon uses an algorithm to determine which products to push–and books with lots of 5-star reviews (over 50) have a better chance of appearing in search results, etc. Needless to say, I’m super eager to get reviews. (hint, hint!)

The review that came in yesterday, though, wasn’t on Amazon or Goodreads. It wasn’t on Facebook or any social media. It was written (& drawn) with markers on a blank sheet of paper. And it will be cherished forever.

CONCERTO REVIEW

I love your book, the combination of magic and mythology was astounding. The battle at the end had lots o’ action and I love love love action. I’m just gonna sum it up with just a few words … , … YOUR BOOK WAS AWESOME!!!

Love, Adam Spero (age 10)

Adam loved Concerto!

Adam finishing Mom’s book yesterday, snuggling with Mom on the couch.

Looking back at my posts, I see that my oldest AJ finished Forte when he was 10 and gave me the most valuable review. 

Adam finished Forte last summer and was like “Oh no, she drank the blue stuff! This is baaaaaaad!”

Adam loved Forte

Adam finished Forte last summer. Loved it!

I sat with Adam as he finished the final pages of Concerto. It was a special moment. I loved seeing his reading habits. Unlike me, he wasn’t racing to finish. He took his time. Stopped to admire the cover, read the back copy blurb. He even took a break to read the teaser chapter for book #3, for the second time.

Oh, those little hands holding my book, *my heart*.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello February.

December 2017 was a climactic, exciting month. My third book was published early in the month — Concerto — which prompted glitz and fireworks to an already happy, busy, holiday season in our new home. The book itself is a thrill. I may like the story even more than the first in its series, Forte. Not soon after its release, I was already started on book #3. Actually, I started before the release. At the end of Concerto, readers will find a teaser chapter for the next — currently titled Cadence. This was my #JaNoWriMo project this year.

For those unfamiliar, JaNoWriMo is a version of NaNoWriMo — where writers give themselves a daily writing quota in a month-long writing challenge. I choose January instead of November for reasons I’ve outlined in a previous blog post.

So how’d it go? 

I’m happy to report, Cadence is well under way! I only had a teeny head start — just that 1200-word teaser chapter. January 31 snuck up on me, but my total word count as of today (Feb 2) is 22,390 – ! The story is cranking and the ideas are flowing. Structure is kind of falling to the wayside as I’ve tried to keep pushing the story forward rather than overthink what should happen and when. This is something I’ll have to fix. But, for me, to keep my enthusiasm up for a project, I need to keep writing. Even if it means more work in the long run. Plotting scenes on note cards just doesn’t excite me. The project would fizzle. And what a shame that would be. This story may be my best yet!

So, yay! I’m a happy writer.

What was different this year? 

I didn’t write every day. I skipped weekends. I accepted those lunch dates with friends that were a no-go last year. I kept up on bills and other domestic responsibilities, which kind of suffered last year (sorry, honey). So, this year was about balance. Besides, I may have needed a sort of break after working so hard to get Concerto out into the world. And I look forward to continuing to work on it. Can you say #FebNoWriMo? Ha!

What’s Cadence about, you ask? Ahhh… 

Not to keep you in suspense, but that’s a subject for another day, another post. Stay tuned!

Polar Bear Prints

My youngest son just finished a unit on polar bears in art class. His teacher just posted this beauty to Artsonia.

Polar Bear Prints

Polar Bear Prints by 7 y/o Chaz

I love this artwork for so many reasons.

Some of you may be surprised to learn polar bears inspired the concept of Concerto.

For those of you who are familiar with Forte, you’re probably wondering how the sequel could have anything to do with these beautiful arctic creatures. Forte is about music and magic . . . an ancient rivalry and a mysterious prophecy to fulfill. No lions or tigers or bears of any kind.

Its follow up, Concerto, is also about music and magic — but also about extreme weather personified by power-hungry gods of the sea and skies.

Sure, my latest may not involve animals, but it does involve their habitat.

Years ago I watched a documentary about polar bears that made me cry. With their habitat melting away, the problem seems insurmountable. And that’s just one example. Climate change. Global warming. Beyond these buzz words in the political arena, when I think about the kind of environmental problems we are passing on to the next generation, my mama-tiger claws come out. But then, despair hits. What can I, a writer, possibly do?

Write this book.

But this book is not a political statement. As the book evolved, the magic created an otherworldly twist that doesn’t translate to what’s happening in our environment. Sami, my main character, is charged with fighting extreme “natural” disasters and the evil force behind it. However, considering all the crazy extreme weather happening in the world lately, it seems timely. Wouldn’t it be cool if music could magically affect the weather?

I’m not hoping my book will trigger an environmental miracle. I do hope that it helps raise awareness, though. I also hope my son’s precious artwork is not someday seen as a study of a glorious animal that had become tragically extinct.

 

Best Launch Party

Concerto is now available!
Order your copy today to take advantage of special introductory pricing!

Hooray! It’s finally here! I think Xchyler Publishing and I set a world record with our aggressive editing schedule for this one. It was just August 21 when Xchyler gave me the first round of feedback on the manuscript as a whole. I managed to turn those edits around in less than three weeks. Then, there was a back and forth with the editing team: more content edits, then line edits, then grammar and proofing — for each chapter individually. I’d say we went through a minimum of 4 rounds of edits per chapter. (I think the most was 8? Maybe 9?) I’d often wake up in the middle of the night to see more edits in my queue and a whir of excitement would keep me up to work on them into the wee hours of morning. What’s that you ask? Sleep? Who needs sleep when you have a book to launch! At Thanksgiving, I had to beg out of conversation with my in-laws, “Sorry, I don’t know how to talk about anything but my imaginary characters and the made-up world they live in.”

It was such a whirlwind, I didn’t have time to set up a launch party. And being so close to the holidays, I didn’t really want to. But, look what my family did for me? My boys made me homemade cards, my husband brought home flowers and champagne. What more does a girl need? My heart is bursting.

Forte magic returns with Concerto launch

From my ten-year-old. “Straight up AWESOME!”

 

Concerto YA fantasy is now available

So much love in these “Congrats!” cards from my boys.

Sometimes the best launch parties are right at home surrounded by your loved ones.

Concerto YA fantasy now available

Best fan club ever.

 

YA fantasy new release ebook sale

Order your copy on Amazon today & take advantage of special introductory pricing!

Concerto — Cover Reveal!

It’s finally here! Concerto, the spell-binding sequel to Forte, will launch December 1, 2017 — less than two weeks away! It’s been a whirlwind of a year. Lots of hours and lots of love poured into this project. I’m so proud to work with Xchyler Publishing once again to get this out into the world. And today, I’m thrilled to share the final cover design.

Concerto, Book 2 of YA fantasy series - Forte - releases Dec 1

Concerto, Book 2 of Forte series, releases Dec 1

What’s it about? 

Samantha McGovern sacrificed her magic to save her home town. Finally, after more than two years, stirrings within her whisper of a reawakening. However, nothing can offset the misery of parting with her boyfriend. How can she keep Jason when he’s moved on to college life, but she’s still trapped in high school for another year?

In Boston, Sami’s new friends help her rediscover her power, and, reunited with an old crush, he now seems into her. Sami struggles to ignore the intoxicating charms of Miles Eichen, but with Jason’s increasing distance, it feels like a losing battle.

When her strange visions begin to come true, Sami discovers a new purpose to her magic—magic stronger than she could ever imagine. Millions of lives are in danger, and only she has the power to foil a great evil. However, it will take a different kind of magic to repair the rift between her and Jason.

Cover reveal YA fantasy series CONCERTO releases Dec 1

Full spread – Back and Front – CONCERTO Cover Reveal!

*New* Adult with Author Q & A

Today I visited with a rockin’ author and editor who also happens to be my good friend, Sandra Hume, who writes fiction under the pen name Sienna Cash. Her new book — Finding the Eddy, now available for preorder — is the sequel to the steamy page turner, Worst-Kept SecretBoth books follow the on-again, off-again relationship of onetime next-door-neighbors Charlie and Wade, who are seven years apart in age—but the twist is that he’s the younger one. Without further ado, let’s get acquainted with our *new* in new adult, Finding the Eddy.

What’s it about?

Rejecting Wade Hunter was the worst mistake Charlie Michaelsen ever made. But what good is knowing that now? Even if Charlie were brave enough to confess her true feelings, Wade’s gone—two thousand miles gone, in Colorado, while Charlie’s home in Massachusetts.

As for Wade, he’s moving on, done trying to shake the girl who wrecked him. It’s been six months. He’s finally inching towards normal.

Until Charlie shows up in Colorado—to stay.

FINDING THE EDDY, Sienna Cash’s long-awaited sequel to WORST-KEPT SECRET, picks up the sexy story of the once-doomed Charlie and Wade, childhood next-door neighbors who stumbled into love across a seven-year age gap. With fresh determination, Charlie’s ready to prove to Wade that she means it this time. Uprooting her life from the Atlantic to the Rockies is nothing compared to losing the best person she’s ever known. But is Wade ready, or even willing, to take that risk?

With piercing honesty and humor, FINDING THE EDDY follows Charlie and Wade’s uncertain journey of forgiveness and redemption towards a HOME that may have nothing to do with geography.

Coffee Talk with Sienna Cash


Who are your particular books written for?

These two books about Charlie and Wade—Worst-Kept Secret and Finding the Eddy—are for people who enjoy a realistic, often-funny love story. But the books are also about family and female friendship, and how we can both fail and succeed at both at times. I’m told both are page-turners for those who enjoy that kind of story.

What do you mean by “new adult”?

It’s nothing more than an age category for characters, really. In general “new adult” refers to books about characters from ages 18-28. New-adult books can be in any genre—fantasy, dystopian fiction, romance. The term was pioneered as a response to the books of Jamie McGuire, a hugely successful self-published author whose novels were about college students and people in their twenties. These books tend to read like YA but with more adult themes. My own personal shorthand for this is “YA + sex.”

What’s your approach to writing sex scenes?

Sex scenes are notoriously difficult to write, but I enjoy the challenge. I took a writing workshop not too long ago—it’s worth mentioning that it wasn’t a sex-writing workshop—and the instructor, a high-caliber author, happened to mention unrealistic or glossed-over sex scenes as one of her pet peeves. I agreed with her. Sex is an integral part of life and we should be able to treat it as such. Beyond that, sex is so much more than simply sexy—it’s funny and messy and poignant and can provide some of the most valuable character revelations. I didn’t want to shy away from the truth of that. Of course, if the sex scene can be both realistic and high on the heat-level scale, that’s a win-win.

How is Finding the Eddy different from its predecessor, Worst-Kept Secret?

Without being too spoilery, WKS takes place mostly in Massachusetts; more than half of FTE takes place in Colorado. Also, we get into Wade’s head in FTE, where WKS was entirely from Charlie’s point of view. The reader gets more of an idea of why he is the way he is.

What is your favorite music to listen to while writing?

This sounds like the antithesis of who I am, because second only to my roles as wife and mother, I am a music fan. But for the most part, I can’t write to music. I think about writing, and my characters, while music is playing—in my car, for example—and I have specific playlists earmarked for characters like Wade, who lives and dies by his music (as do I, or at least I used to when I was his age!). When I wrote scenes from his point of view and really wanted to get into his head, sometimes I did play that playlist. But most times I find music too distracting to really write.

Why do you self-publish?

I wrote a blog post on this when I first published Worst-Kept Secret, which is here. But the short answer is: I like control, and I’ve been wanting to do this for way too long and wasn’t willing to wait on a traditional publisher’s timeline.

Who is your favorite character of all time?

I assume you’re talking about other people’s characters, because I don’t have that many! (I will say that I rather enjoy the character of Tater in Finding the Eddy.) But overall, my favorites are probably a cross between the Walsh sisters from Marian Keyes’ books and Laura Ingalls from the Little House series.

How do you choose your character names?

It varies. Usually they just come to me. I try not to change character names mid-stream. I did that with one character in Worst-Kept Secret, and I stillmake mistakes when I write about that particular character. Mostly the characters arrive in my head already named. As I write more, though, I expect to broaden my horizons and turn to outside sources, because there are only so many names to go around, particularly for heroes. The name of the MC in my next novel, which will be young adult, showed up in a dream. Because a dream was the catalyst for Worst-Kept Secret, I believe it would be a mistake to not honor that.

Describe a scene that’s autobiographical-ish.

I did lose my father at a young age, which is about all I have directly in common with Charlie, the MC of both Worst-Kept Secret and Finding the Eddy. Several times I have had trouble, as she did, finding his grave in the cemetery, because, like her, I don’t enjoy visiting them. Her hometown of Danborn is based heavily on my own hometown in Massachusetts (with liberties taken as needed to serve the story), enough that natives of that town recognize it. So that’s certainly autobiographical. But I took a lesson from author Sarah Dessen, who had a negative experience when she first started writing about real places: readers will always call you on something they perceive as wrong. So no details of any place I write about—including Fort Collins, which is an actual city in Colorado—are entirely real.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

Officially, I run an editing business, line editing and copy editing fiction. If you need a fiction editor and you’re self-publishing, I’ve got your back. The business is under my own name; Sienna Cash is a pen name. (Here’s why I write under two names.) I also write nonfiction travel books about Laura Ingalls Wilder under my own name.