books

Signed the sequel!

I’m thrilled to announce, this week I signed a publishing contract for BOY RELEASED, the thrilling follow up to Boy on Hold.

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What’s it about? Well, no spoilers allowed. But here is a teaser.

Ten years after the horrific murder of Sally Hubbard, Tyler Trout is released from psychiatric rehab and Hen, now seventeen, will soon inherit the wealthy Hubbard estate. But all the money in the world won’t fix the Trout family problems. As Marcella continues to fight blindly for her children, Bernie has to calm his own inner demons in order to accept Tyler into his home.

While Tyler struggles to reintegrate into the community, he becomes entangled in another violent crime—this one hitting closer to home. Marcella seems to be the target and, although initial evidence points to Tyler, the true culprit is exposed in the most astonishing way.

Aren’t you dying to know what happens?

Boy on Hold was meant to be a stand-alone book. A complete story in itself, I never thought it could have a part two. Yet, on Christmas Eve 2019, nearly five months after its release, an idea came to me in the middle of the night for a sequel. It hit like a bolt of lightning!

Knowing the next morning would be chock-full of merry-making with the family, I hopped out of bed at 3am and furiously sketched out a rough outline in my journal. A few weeks later, I reached out to Immortal Works to feel out whether they liked the concept. After getting an enthusiastic thumbs up, I put aside my current WIP and started writing on January 20, 2020.

I completed the first draft at the end of April. (Yes, in only 3 months. And yes, quarantine helped my writing productivity.)

After two months of revision, I sent it off to Immortal Works and crossed my fingers they’d like it. Not only did they like it, they “adored” it. And thought it was “beautiful.”

I’m SO excited. In some ways, the sequel is even better than the first. I can’t wait to share it with you all.

Look for it in 2021!

IPPY Gold Winner!

In May, I got word that Boy on Hold won IPPY Gold for Best Mystery/Thriller ebook!

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A rare and prestigious honor, IPPY typically holds a gala in NYC for their award-winners. But alas, with all other public events in the spring of 2020, it went virtual. And though I planned to do a red carpet vlog in heels with my husband popping champagne by my side, summer came and the sunshine ate up all my grand plans. Now, with July in full swing and with it all my boys’ birthdays, I wanted to post before too much time passed.

JD Spero wins IPPY gold

An at-home celebration in lieu of the NYC gala. Still an honor!

Press Release from IPPY

(May 13, 2020 – Traverse City, MI)  – Jenkins Group and IndependentPublisher.com are proud to announce the medalists in the 24th Annual Independent Publisher Book Awards. Conducted each year to honor the year’s best independently published books, the “IPPY” Awards recognize excellence in a broad range of styles and subjects. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the gala award ceremony in New York is cancelled. Winners will instead use #IPPY2020 to post acceptance speeches and related award content.

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From last year’s IPPY gala in NYC. Sad it had to be cancelled in 2020.

All 419 of this year’s IPPY Award gold, silver and bronze medal-winning books have something to offer readers. This year’s contest drew 4,750 entries, and medals will go to independent authors and publishers from 44 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and Guam, 7 Canadian provinces, and 15 countries overseas.

“A book is a lifeline that can help us through all kinds of difficulties,” says Jim Barnes, director of the Awards. “These medal-winning books epitomize how we humans share our stories and help each other solve problems. Each new book you open offers the promise of a new day with new possibilities.”

Congratulations to all this year’s IPPY Award medalists for their independent spirit and dedication to making the world a better place! See the official award listing here.

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A bit about IPPY

The Independent Publisher Book Awards were conceived in 1996 as a broad-based, unaffiliated awards program open to all members of the independent publishing industry. The awards are intended to bring increased recognition to the thousands of exemplary independent, university, and self-published titles produced each year, and reward those who exhibit the courage, innovation, and creativity to bring about change in the world of publishing.

Audiobook released!

I’m thrilled to announce that Boy on Hold is now available on Audible!

Might be a good time to share a bit about VOICE.

By definition, voice in literature is the distinctive style in which the author writes — conveying a tone and feel. Kind of like the “personality” of a book.

BOH is written in multiple POVs — a troubled teen struggling with mental illness, a single mom trying to figure it out, and most prominently, a sweet and precocious young boy.

The story was inspired by my middle son who — at the age of 6 — was obsessed with nocturnal animals and pleaded to go out at night to catch one for a pet. I channeled my son’s voice to write those scenes, though he was 12 by the time the book published. He’s been a guest reader on multiple launch events, reading the powerful opening scene.

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Roy Bullard, the California-based voice actor who narrates Boy on Hold, is both talented and kind — but was first a fan! After his chapter-one audition, he downloaded & read the book on his own. He then reached out to me directly, praising the story and asking if he could be considered for the job. How cool is that!?

It’s imperative that the narrator “gets” the author’s voice — or in my case, voices. Throughout the process, Roy and I traded lots of emails. He asked in-depth questions about the characters — even minor ones. He sent me audio samples to approve, etc. The process was a first for me, and I’m thrilled with the outcome. He nailed it — on point with all the different voices — male and female, young and old. Not an easy feat!

But part of me wishes the world could hear my boy reading Hen’s voice. Well, maybe there is a way…

 

Book Excellence Winner!

I am incredibly excited to announce that I have been recognized as a Book Excellence Award Winner for my book, BOY ON HOLD in the THRILLER Category.

Out of hundreds of books that were entered into the Book Excellence Awards competition, my book was selected for its high quality writing, design and overall market appeal.

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Released in August 2019. The book is perfect for anyone high school age and up, especially boys! Here’s the blurb:

Cabbage Night, 1991. The traditional night of pranks takes a disturbing turn when a violent crime rocks a small Adirondack town. Even more so when the only witness is a seven-year-old boy. Hen Trout, who had hoped to catch a pet hedgehog that night, instead sees his beloved Miss Sally become a victim.

Single mom Marcella Trout is blindsided when Tyler, her seventeen-year-old, is arrested for the very crime Hen witnessed. Now Tyler’s eerie mood swings seem dark and frightening and rooted in a family history Marcella has desperately tried to bury. As the criminal investigation churns on, the tenuous fabric of the Trout family begins to unravel…and even Hen begins to question the truth.

Want to get a copy? Click here.

Look for Blue Sky

Back in November, too early for holiday gifts, a package arrived containing a book: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. No note included. I thought my mom — a Kingsolver fan — may have ordered it, but no. Was it sent by mistake? Nope. My husband uncovered the mystery. “My colleague sent it. He read Boy on Hold and it reminded him of this book by Kingsolver.”

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Stop. the. press. Caught in a moment of greatness, I was speechless. One of my very favorite authors, Kingsolver is a genius at tackling big world issues in an articulate and moving way. Back as a student teacher, I taught Poisonwood Bible — allowing me to study the imperialism of Republic of Congo, while dissecting each conflict and character down to the nub, leaving me scraped raw and vulnerable and brimming with emotions I didn’t realize I had. That book remains one of my favorite books of all time.

To be considered alongside Barbara Kingsolver in any capacity is a huge honor. I mean, *my book* reminded him of one by the great and brilliant BARBARA KINGSOLVER?!?

How it got into the hands of my husband’s colleague is a compliment in itself. Turns out, BOH was recommended to said colleague’s daughter — a psychology student at NYU — by her professor. (Let me say that again.) An NYU psychology professor recommended Boy on Hold to one of his/her students. *pinch me* So, BOH made its rounds in the family, which led to the Kingsolver gift…

Such an overwhelming compliment, it was a bit intimidating to read Unsheltered. But of course, I did. And it certainly held up.

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

The book’s logline sets the tone and could very well apply to Marcella Trout in BOH: How could two hardworking people do everything right in life, a woman asks, and end up destitute? 

Alternating time periods between current day and post-Civil War era, Kingsolver layers climate change and environmental issues of today with the evolution controversy of Charles Darwin. Kingsolver’s smart prose certainly made me think. I’m grateful for the introduction to Mary Treat, the 19C biologist “whose work deserves to be better known.” Kingsolver deftly wove in strange but true events such as Treat’s feeding her own fingertip to her Venus flytrap as an experiment. As the story turns more serious, though, it made me appreciate those who take a stand on a large or small scale — even if it comes at great cost with no reward. It also made me rethink the value of “stuff” in general, as also eloquently put in this article my friend pointed out to me today.

All in all, the message rings clear: Rather than fight change and for a life we think we deserve, find creative ways to adapt and be open to happiness that waits for you there.

An Unsheltered excerpt that’s stayed with me:

…when God slams the door on you…you’re going to end up in rubble…you won’t find your way out of the mess if you keep picking up bricks and stuffing them in your pockets. What you have to do is look for blue sky.

A message Marcella Trout should absolutely consider as her world turns upside down and she finds herself “in the rubble” at the end of BOH.

I want to hear from you:
Have you ever had to adapt to a new normal? How did you find blue sky? 

First born, first book

When I started writing Catcher’s Keeper, my oldest was five. He was so little, it never occurred to me that he would ever read it someday. But recently, at age 14, he did. And he loved it.

Reading Catcher's Keeper

Inspired by The Catcher in the Rye, I originally wrote CK for adults — though it’s often paired with Rye in high schools as a YA book (fun fact: Salinger originally wrote Rye for adults too). I may have cleaned CK up a bit if I’d known kids (especially my kids) were going to read it.

I mean, its prose has a toilet mouth. Take the first line:

Not even a week since I moved in with my brother and he’s testing my pacifist nature, butting in on my shit.

And that’s just the first line. (The word ass appears another paragraph down…)

It’s an odd feeling. My son peeled back a layer and saw another side of his mom. One that writes in male voices and curses like a truck driver. Yikes. To say I was relieved that he liked it is an understatement.

Though it was published in 2014, the book has gotten a boost recently. Still a favorite for book clubs, it also resides in several classrooms as a Rye companion. There’s been a slight uptick in sales, which is nice. In November, it was featured on this cool website, Snowflakes in a Blizzard, which highlights and brings awareness to some awesome, lesser-known books.

And hey, the ebook is a bargain at only $2.99!

I’m proud of my first book. But even prouder when I read this from my first born:

I’ve read Catcher in the Rye and I thought it was great. The voice, the conflicts, the hidden messages. But, when I read Catcher’s Keeper, it shed a whole new light on everything. The characters were all so believable as adults, you’d think it was written by JD Salinger himself! That signature Holden Caulfield (now Alden) voice is ever-present, but you experience and feel everyone else in a whole new way. The struggles, the twists, that suspicious MD, and an unforgettable ending makes this book a must-read for anyone who’s read Cather in the Rye. 5 stars. 

Catcher's Keeper book review

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.

KINGDOM CITY: REVOLT cover reveal

New release by Xchyler Publishing — the 2nd in the KINGDOM CITY dystopian thriller series.

Kingdom City by Ben Ireland

The gripping sequel to KINGDOM CITY: RESURRECTION

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About Author Ben Ireland

Ben Ireland

Ben churns out his prose from his home in Southeast Texas, where he lives with his wife and three children, and works in IT. When he isn’t writing, he’s either thinking about writing, or he’s driving his wife insane talking about his novel ideas. His work has appeared in two X-anthologies: “Kissed a Snake” in A Dash of Madness: a Thriller Anthology (July 2013), and “Fairykin” in Moments in Millennia: a Fantasy Anthology(January 2014). His first novel, Kingdom City: Resurrection was published in February 2014.

So many books, so little time

Book club ended in the inevitable fashion — everyone chiming in on what to read next. I’ve been part of many book clubs over the years where the policy had been: the host of the next club chooses the next book. I’ve recently joined a club that chooses from a big glass jar containing book titles on slips of paper. Random selection at its best.

But this time the title on the paper triggered a fiery discussion on what they’ve read, what they loved, what they’d recommend. Soon, slips of paper were added to the jar. Some of us (me included) got a personalized list of must-reads.

This is my favorite way to get a book recommendation. From friends. Especially from friends who share my interests and have similar tastes in books. (My mom also happens to be an extremely reliable recommender.)

We all have seen the occasional Facebook post “I need a good book. Any suggestions?” This is the same thing. Lots of bookstores will have “Staff favorite” shelves. People not only rely on but seek out other’s opinions about books.

If you think about it, online book reviews accomplish a similar thing. Apart from word-of-mouth, friend-to-friend recommendations, people rely on reviews, specifically — reviews posted on Amazon or Goodreads. They offer a personal endorsement that readers trust. I have heard that people make decisions on what to read based on ratings and reviews. More than the book’s concept, the back-of-book blurb, awards, discounts, or advertising…

How about you? How do you choose what to read next?

Answer in the comments section for a chance to win a free ebook!

 

WDC in NYC

This past weekend, I attended the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference in New York City. Having just launched FORTE, it was not only an opportunity to hone my craft but also to continue the celebration. The best part about it? My brother, Jim Davies, flew in from Ottawa to attend the conference with me.

Jim Davies & JD Spero on the street

Jim & me in Times Sq

We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bryant Park. Our digs, courtesy of my husband Anthony Spero, held amazing views of both water and Times Square from the 34th floor. The 6:35 am Megabus dropped me a few blocks away, and when I got to the hotel at 10am, I pushed the elevator button for the lobby and…there was Jimmy!

Times Square, NYC

View of Times Square

We dropped our bags, checked the map, and headed toward the Roosevelt Hotel for the conference check-in. My sleep deprivation got the best of me, but my misguided confidence convinced Jimmy I knew where I was going. Our hour-long detour didn’t deter our fun — and got us some cool photo opportunities and a yummy lunch.

Kinky Boots

Jimmy in some Kinky Boots!

We made it in time for registration and the first session, Pitch Perfect by Chuck Sambuchino (nothing to do with the movie but everything to do with pitching literary agents). And so it began…

WDC15 name tag

WDC15 name tag

Some gems from the workshops:

Don’t pigeon-hole yourself! WRITE EVERYTHING! – Jonathan Maberry (Keynote)

Take off your pants and write using the hybrid approach of “plantsing” – Jeff Somers

It’s the small things that break your heart. – Rebecca McClanahan on Word Painting

Writing is both mirrors and windows. – Jacqueline Woodson (central keynote)

Slip the pill in the liverwurst. – Jon McGoran on Exposition & Economy


In addition to the workshops, I attended the Pitch Slam — where I pitched my latest book to 8 or 9 literary agents and came away with lots of genuine interest. Hooray!

We met lots of other writers, including a fellow Xchyler Publishing author! It was a miracle we found each other. There were 1000 people at the conference, who all squeezed into the lobby area for the mixer. I felt like I was back at college at a keg party.

JD Spero and Jamie Potter

Me and Jamie Potter at Saturday’s mixer.

Jimmy and I write in somewhat different genres, so at times we attended different talks throughout the conference. Years ago, Anthony and I attended a Forensics League competition which was being judged by my one-in-a-million grandmother — Grandma Honey. Being newlyweds, we were hesitant to leave each other’s sides, no less let go of each other’s hands. But Grandma Honey insisted, “You need to split up, go experience different things, so that when you come back together you have lots to talk about. And you end up with twice the fun!”

I shared this wisdom with Jimmy, who agreed. So we coined a new term (which wouldn’t fly on the Scrabble board, but would sure make Honey smile): Splitskis!

It became our mantra and moniker. At times, we’d have to find each other among the sea of writers passing in the halls between sessions. I could be heard calling above the crowd: Splitskis!

“Which session do you want to go to next? All right, I want to go to this one. Okay, Splitskis!”

My favorite sessions were those we attended together, however. And I benefitted as much from our whispered side commentary as I did from the speaker’s. It’s way cool my brother and I have this writing thing in common. I’m pretty sure we were the only brother/sister team there. What’s more rare is the heartfelt support and encouragement we give each other — without a smidge of competition.

WDC15 mixer

At networking mixer Saturday night

I can honestly say that — by far — the best part about the conference was spending quality time with my bro. Our final Splitskis was a melancholy one.