Sunday, December 16, 2012



It’s Embrace’s Book Birthday and to celebrate the success of her debut novel Cherie Colyer is giving away a copy of her book plus swag. Before we get to that, here is a brief excerpt and some information about Embrace.

We walked at a fast clip to the gates. I told myself to keep my eyes forward, not to let on that I could feel the eyes that watched us. I looked back as we stepped onto the sidewalk. Tombstones reached up like crooked teeth, laughing at me, daring me to come back.

Embrace
by Cherie Colyer

How far would you go to save the people you love?

Synopsis:
Madison is familiar enough with change, and she hates everything about it. Change took her long-term boyfriend away from her. It caused one of her friends to suddenly hate her. It’s responsible for the death of a local along with a host of other mysterious happenings. But when Madison meets a hot new guy, she thinks her luck is about to improve.

Madison is instantly drawn to the handsome and intriguing Isaac Addington. She quickly realizes he’s a guy harboring a secret, but she’s willing to risk the unknown to be with him.

Her world really spins out of control, however, when her best friend becomes delusional, seeing things that aren’t there and desperately trying to escape their evil. When the doctors can’t find the answers, Madison seeks her own.

Nothing can prepare her for what she is about to discover.
~

To view the book trailer click here. If you’d like to curl up with Embrace today you can download the eBook on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

To win a copy of Embrace or swag, all you have to do is fill out the form: 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Find Cherie: Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter 

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Next Big Thing Blog Challenge - Tag You're It!


My friend and fellow writer, Cherie Colyer http://cheriecolyer.blogspot.com, tagged me in the Next Big Thing Blog Challenge. The rules are simple:

I must answer 10 questions about my current work-in-progress. Then I tag other writers (up to 5) and link their blogs so readers can hop over and read their answers.

Here are the questions:

1.  What is the working title of your book?
2.  Where did the idea come from for the book?
3.  What genre does your book fall under?
4.  Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
5.  What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
6.  Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
7.  How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
8.  What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
9.  Who or what inspired you to write this book?
10. What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

And here are my answers.

1. The title of my WIP is: On The Brink

2. This book will be the sequel to my historical fiction novel, Merely Dee. Originally, I'd written this book as a stand-alone, but readers pressed for answers to the love triangle. Which man does Dee Pageau choose--Karel Koznecki or Lars Nielsen? So I guess I have to say that you, my dear friends and readers, gave me the idea for the sequel.

3. On The Brink is Young Adult/Adult Historical Fiction

4. Check out the cast below. What do you think? Any other suggestions for the main characters?

5. As Dee Pageau wrestles with the desires of her heart, her life becomes complicated by new responsibilities, new friends, and new experiences.
 
6. I'm going to try for an agent with this book.
 
7. I don't know how long it will take to write the novel, but I'll work as hard and fast as possible. Please hang in there and don't lose faith. The sequel is coming.
 
8. I'll get back to you on this one.
 
9. My grandmother's story inspired me to write these two novels. (For those of you who don't know the tale, Grandma Manseau had a ticket to the 1915 Western Electric Employee Picnic. The night before the big event, Great Grandma Savageau had a premonition of danger and begged my grandma to remain at home. Grandma Manseau listened to her mother and didn't go to the picnic, thus avoiding the terrible tragedy of the SS Eastland.) 
 
10. Dee's world will expand as she explores the wonders and horrors of 1915/1916 Chicago. There'll be encounters with now-famous people and visits to historic landmarks.  
 
Now it's my turn to reciprocate. Tag you're it:
Terry Flamm
http://brokenheartedtoy.blogspot.com
Susan Kaye Quinn  www.susankayequinn.com
Terri Murphy  www.terrimurphyart.com


Hailee Steinfeld as Dee Pagaeu
 
Ashley Judd as Momma



 Holland Roden as Dolly
 
 
 

Andrew Garfield as Karel
 
 

Kellan Lutz as Lars
 
 

Elizabeth Olsen as Mae


 
Thanks for visiting today, and I hope you find time to check out the blogs of my three amazing friends.  


Monday, September 17, 2012

The Blessing of Alzheimer's

Right about now, you're saying 'what'? How could any sane person find a blessing in a disease that takes a once-capable mind and turns it into mush? Well, I am sane (at least I think so, the kids in my life may have other opinions). But I'd discovered that when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease our whole relationship changed. For the better.

How, you wonder? Well, to be brutally, painfully honest, my mother and I always had a difficult relationship. Towards the end of her 'aware' years, our relationship had deteriorated to such a pitiful state, I felt we were on the brink of termination. That's precisely when the signs of Alzheimer's began to appear. Mom would leave the stove on, she'd lose her keys, she'd forget what she'd been talking about. The right words would just not come out no matter how hard she tried to deliver them. Once, we had to call paramedics, her thoughts and speech were so choppy and disconnected, we'd thought she had had a stroke.

When it became clear that she couldn't live safely on her own anymore, my sister and brother and I made that painful decision to move her into an assisted living apartment. It was a beautiful facility and an even more beautiful apartment, but Mom hated it and us for putting her there. That first year in her new apartment was the worse year of my life. Yet as her memory faded and the disease took more and more control of her mind, a strange thing happened. Mom mellowed! Her doctor explained to me that Alzheimer's bring out the patient's 'true' personality. If a person has always been mean and angry, then they'll become even more canterous. If a patient is sweet and quiet, then the outcome is blissfully childlike and easy to manage. So, what was happening to my difficult mother? Why was she softening and not growing mean-spirited and troublesome to handle? Her doctor did not have an answer for me. Mom's sitution was unusual--even for this seasoned professional.

But I was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. I believed then as I believe now that her disease was a gift from God. A special blessing that could heal our torn and tattered mother/daughter relationship and bring us around to a better place. If Mom had not gotten Alzheimer's, then we might not be speaking to each other now. And that would be a terrible shame.

But do not get me wrong, dear reader. Our relationship is still difficult, but in new and different ways. Now I'm the parent and Mom's the dependent child. I worry about her constantly and I'm on call 24/7 for any emergency that might pop up. I have to put other family members in place before I can go out of town. But now, Mom appreciates my visits. She's always happy to see me and sometimes cries when I have to leave. The woman who had once criticized and scolded and bossed, now simply says, 'Thank you' and offers a kiss. It's a gesture that never fails to surprise and thrill me, and one that I'll never take for granted. I know the high price Mom has had to pay for this stunning change of heart. She sacrificed her mind, but gained a loving heart. And a loving daughter who is eternally grateful for the blessing of Alzheimer's.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT ALZHEIMER'S DISEASE

- 5.4 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's.
- One in eight older Americans has the disease.
- Alzheimer's is the 6th-leading cause of death in the U.S. and the only cause of death among
  the top 10 in the country that can't be prevented, cured, or even slowed.
- Based on mortality data from 2000-2008, death rates have declined for most major diseases
   while death from Alzheimer's Disease have risen 66% during that same period.

For more information, contact the Alzheimer's Association  www.alz.org
Step-daughter Amber Cheatham and I at the 2012 Walk to End Alzheimer

 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

ROADTRIP TO RESEARCH or How I Started the Sequel to Merely Dee by Driving All Around the Great Lakes

I apologize, faithful readers, for neglecting to post a new blog til now, but I've been overwhelmed this July with family concerns (the death of a dear aunt and getting two kids settled in college apartments). But even more to the point of this blog, I've been anxiously researching a sequel to Merely Dee. This Eastland novel was supposed to be a stand alone, single book. I had no plans to continue Dee Pageau's story, but readers wanted answers to her lovelife dilemma. So I started jotting down notes, and before I knew it, I had an entire novel plotted out. All I have to do now is flesh out the historical details.

I began at the beginning, or should I say, at the end of Merely Dee. It's months later, the winter of 1915. The Eastland has been righted and raised and towed by tugs away from the disaster site at the Chicago River. Western Electric is at full-staff again, and Dee is thick in the middle of a love triangle. But what else is going on in the world?

Chicago has become a fast-growing industrial city, the working class poor hobnobbing it alongside the Palmers, the McCormicks, and the Marshall Fields. Jane Addams's Hull House is a thriving settlement nearly a block long. Suffragists hold meetings to address the issues of women's rights, the every-growing problem of neglected street children, and the concerns for drunk and abusive husbands/fathers. Prohibition is just around the corner. The Great War has already broken out in Europe. And a fictious Eastland seaman, named Lars Nielsen, has joined the crew of the SS Theordore Roosevelt.

I started my research of that exciting time period with books, but that answered only so many questions. I needed to know about a Merchant Marine's life on a Great Lakes steamer. What was it like to live on a ship day in and day out? What did mariners do for money when the ice settled in on the lakes and their ships were dry docked for the winter? To find the anwers, I set out in my SUV. Fortunately for me, I was able to drag my husband along for company (and a little R&R for him).

Our first stop: Millburg, Michigan, burial place of Eastland's notorious captain, Harry Pedersen. By the winter of 1915, Pedersen was all over the news. He, and five other men, had been arrested and charged with conspiracy to operate an unsafe ship. He stated--in no uncertain terms--that he would not be the scapegoat for the disaster and continued to change his story to suit his circumstances. I was never a fan of the man, and so I wanted to go full circle on my Eastland research, and dance on his grave. But the reality of his final resting place was humbling and sad. I could no more dance upon his decaying, unattended headstone than I could beat a dog. Pedersen's long life came to a pathetic and lonely end, and I left Millburg satisfied for the victims.

Harry Pedersen's headstone set in the ground alongside his wife's.

Me and Bob Bowersox
At the wheel
Onto happier things! Our next trip took us to Toledo, Ohio, to visit a 1911 steamship freighter,the SS Carl Schoonmaker. The freighter has been restored to its original brillance and is now a floating Maritime Museum. The Eastland and the Teddy Roosevelt were excursion ships, not freighters, and their design and purpose were different. But all three ships were from the same era and just seeing this freighter, climbing her narrow steps, staring out her wraparound bridge windows, took me back to a bygone time. I imagined Lars Nielsen on those decks and my book came alive. But this ship was not the biggest surprise of the day. Our tour guide was a retired Merchant Marine, with 40 years experience on the Great Lakes. Bob Bowersox, Vietnam Vet, and lifelong resident of Toledo, told me stories that would add depth to Lars's fictional existence. Bob fielded every question I had and then went on to answer some that I didn't even know I needed. I left Toledo with a page of scribbled notes and a huge smile on my face. Thank you, Bob Bowersox, from the depths of my heart!


Curator Laura Shields, docent Jackie Glidden, and me.  
Before heading home, we stopped for a two-day rest in Michigan City, Indiana. For those of you familiar with the Eastland story, you know that the ship was heading to Michigan City the morning she capsized. The picnic grounds at Washington Park along the beautiful southern shore of Lake Michigan were a favorite amusement spot for Chicago tourists. For just seventy-five cents, the tired and over-worked citizens of the crowded city could take a round-trip adventure on a steamer for a relaxing day of sun and fun. Washington Park has changed over the years, but Lake Michigan and the sandy beaches are as beautiful as ever. I had an appointment with Laura Shields, curator of the Old Lighthouse Museum, an actual working lighthouse on the shore of the Great Lake. I'd emailed her in advance of my visit, asking if she had any information on the SS Theodore Roosevelt. She invited me to take a seat in the basement library and presented me with a folder two-inches thick. For the next hour, I was in heaven, going through old postcard pictures, newspaper articles from the early 1900's, and family photos of passengers on decks of the Roosevelt.  
The Old Lighthouse Museuum as it stands today.
I still have much more research to do. Soon I'll take to the highways again, this time to visit the Hull House Museum on the campus of the University of Illinois in Chicago, and another museum in Elmhurst that is featuring an exhibit on the history of chocolate in Chicago--including the Brach's Candy Company where Karel Koznecki works. I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures for you, dear readers. Until next time... happy and safe travels to you and your families this summer!

One last thing before you click off! I need a favor that only you can provide. If you've read Merely Dee, and you have some free time on your hands, please consider writing a book review for me. You can write one review and download it in several places: Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and Goodreads. If you don't have any extra time, please just make a quick visit to these sites and rate my book from 1 to 5 stars (one being bad and 5 being great) and then hit the 'like' icon. I would really appreciate it and so would Merely Dee! Thank you for your continued support this year. You've been more than awesome!  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Shake, Rattle, and Let's Roll (Or How I Made It Through My First TV Interview)

Thursday, May 31st, 2012 was a day unlike any other. After years of writing in quiet obscurity, I was invited into the light of WGN TV for an interview on their Midday News program. Needless to say, I was excited, but beyond that, I was terrified. The interview was going to be broadcast LIVE. No rehearsals, no video editing, no second chance to take back the bloopers. I would say what I would say, and the whole world--well at least the areas of the US that picked up the WGN superstation--would see me for what I was. A trembling, nervous wreck.

The day started out on a sour note. After a week of sunny, warm weather, Chicago had suddenly turned rainy and cold. The outfit I'd scoured the stores for, bought coordinating jewelry and sandals for, would not work. I'd look like a fool in a summery dress and beige sandals with big, flouncy flowers. So with a sigh, I left outfit A in the closet and slipped into Plan B--a dress with a sweater and closed-toe heels with pantyhose. But at least, the jewelry was coordinating.

After a forty-five minute drive into the city, my entourage and I arrived at the WGN studios. (Really, I was accompanied by my sister-in-law, Barb Manseau, and my aunt, Phyllis DeCicco, but they were as good as any entourage out there. I'd bet my bottom dollar on that!) Barb had graciously offered to drive and I was so glad she did. If I'd been behind the wheel, we probably wouldn't have made it on time. Or alive. But we were safe and sound and ringing the buzzer for our grand entrance. The security guard asked me who I was here to see, and I stammered. Who was I here to see? What were the names of those news anchors? What was the name of the program? I stared at him with wild, frantic eyes, trying to remember my name. He calmly checked his clipboard and said, "You must be the Eastland author?"

Yes! I nearly screamed.The Eastland author. Thank you for reminding me. He chuckled and buzzed us into the lobby. "Green room's third door down on the right," he called and we started on our way down the yellow-brick road to the 'green room' where stars wait for their on-air cues!


We dropped our wet umbrellas and raincoats and purses and bags, and grabbed our cameras. We took turns posing in front of the blue-green door under the Green Room sign. My aunt snagged some guy in the hall and he took a picture of all three of us under the infamous sign. "Would you like a tour?" the nice man asked.

Of course we would! And off we went to the legendary Bozo the Clown's studio across the hall. Bozo's no longer on the air, but the nearly vacant studio elicited 'oohs' and 'awwws' from all three of us nonetheless. Cameras snapped, flashes popped. We circled the cavernous room, delirious with excitement when I spied Bozo's Buckets.


"Tom's favorite!" I cried, snapping a photo for my husband. We tore ourselves away from Bozo and the staffers trying to have a meeting in the corner and headed back to our room to wait and watch WGN's morning programs on the fuzzy, outdated TV mounted on the wall. The television may not have been a state-of-the-art flatscreen, but the coffeemaker was top of the line. We sorted through the Keurig cups while my aunt flagged down another guy in the hall to bring us some water for our empty coffeemaker. We rummaged through the empty fridge, disappointed there weren't any bottles of Perrier or Smart Water, and tried to relax.

Barb and my aunt relaxed, I sweated and fussed and coughed. It was 11:00 am and the Midday News had just started. In forty minutes, I would be on live TV and I couldn't catch my breath. My knees were quaking and I knew I might faint if I didn't calm down. TV thankfully provided some momentary respite for my over-wrought nerves. It was White Sox day at WGN and the building was abuzz with baseball players and giveaways and food catered by Cellular One Stadium. An all-black Smart Car emblazoned with the White Sox logo had been parked in the hallway. Up on the screen, the Sox's newly acquired relief pitcher was being interviewed by the two Midday News anchors--Dina Bair and Steve Sanders. Addison Devon Reed was young and vibrant and chatting happily away while I watched in fascination and admiration. Could I pull off something like that? I didn't know, but I'd find out in twenty-five minutes.

My aunt wrangled the young pitcher as he was leaving the building and he gave her an autograph and a big smile. A few minutes later, the producer appeared. "Which one of you is Marian?" she asked, glancing around at the three of us. I stepped forward. The pretty, twenty-something producer shook my sweaty hand. "I'll come get you at 11:30," she informed me. "You'll be on at 11:40, but we need a few minutes to set you up with a mike. Steve Sanders will do the interview. He read your book already."

"Great," I said. "So what kind of questions will he be asking?"

I held my breath, waiting for the answer when she said, "Oh, he has all kinds of questions."

"What kind? What specifically does he want to talk about?"

"You're the expert," the bubbly producer said. "Who knows your book better than you?" She patted my arm. "You'll be great. Just be sure to look only at Steve. Like you're having a personal chat with him. Ignore the teleprompters and cameras." She smiled, hugged her clipboard to her chest, and turned to leave. "Be ready at 11:30 when I return to escort you to the Studio 3."

She never came back. Instead, a gangly young man with a clipboard knocked on the opened door. "Ready?" he asked in a voice that seemed too small for such a tall person.

I stopped pacing and gulped. "Sure," I said in a voice that matched his. "Okay," I said to Barb and my aunt. "Wish me luck."

"Oh, they can come too," my willowy escort said. We scooped up all our belongings before he changed his mind and  followed him to the studio at the end of the long hall. "It's only my second day," he whispered to me. I stared at him for a frozen moment. Second day? I was being summoned by a kid with only one day's experience? What was going on here? Where was my bubbly producer? Did this kid even know the right way to go? Before I could have a complete meltdown, we walked through the doors marked with a huge number 3 and fell silent. Steve Sanders and Dina Bair were behind the anchor desk reading from teleprompters. A director was standing directly in front of them, pointing to one of three cameras. Red lights flicked on and off as cameramen took turns shooting the anchor desk from left, right, or center. A short guy in a white jersey hooked a mike to my sweater lapel and wrapped a wire around my waist and through my belt as a clip of a BBC news blooper played on the screen.

"We all make mistakes," Dina Bair said, laughing when the BBC story ended and the cameras returned to the anchor desk.

"Yep," Steve Sanders said with a chuckle. "We've all been there." And then his expression turned serious and the cover of my book appeared on the screen. "The author of a new book about the 1915 Eastland boat disaster is in the studio today." Or words to that effect and the screen went to commercials. Steve got up and walked a few feet to a tall round table. I was directed to the chair next to him. I hopped onto the stool, adjusted my skirt, and looked over at him. He smiled and my heart slowed. Steve asked me a few questions and told me what he wanted to talk about. I was thrilled with the direction this interview would take and grinned heartily. "Take a deep breath," he said as the camera turned on us. "You'll be fine."

I never took my eyes off of him. Later, Barb and my aunt told me they were standing only a few feet away, watching as one camera shot me, another camera was aimed at Steve, and the third camera caught the image of both of us at the table. I hadn't noticed a thing. I didn't see my entourage. Didn't see the cameras. Didn't notice the director pointing his finger at one cameraman or another. The only thing I remember when the interview ended was Steve saying, "I hope you sell a million copies."

I hope so too, Steve. Thank you very much for helping me through this! You're a scholar and a gentleman. You can check out the interview in its entirety on the sidebar. If you have any problems, you can always find the video on WGNtv.com. Just type my name in the search bar. And thanks for watching!   
        

Monday, May 14, 2012

Random Act of Kindness (RAOK) Pay it Forward!

I was all set to write a new blog about mothers today when I received the most amazing email from my friend and fellow writer, Cherie Colyer (Embrace). It seems that the blog, The Bookshelf Muse, is sponsoring a Randon Act of Kindness Blitz for writers, and that Cherie chose me as someone who has touched her writing life. She even went so far as to offer me a gift. A personal, private critique of one whole chapter of my next novel! What a generous offer considering how valuable her time is these days. (She's hard at work on the sequel to Embrace, Hold Tight). I'm honored and thrilled by this unexpected surprise, and I thank Cherie from the bottom of my heart. When we met many years ago in our SCBWI writer's group, I was the one who was touched by her kind nature and generous spirit. As a co-chair of our group, she is always quick to make new members feel at ease. Her critiques are honest and heartfelt, and I've come to trust and depend on her opinion for my own work.

So, as my own way of thanking Cherie, I'd like to continue this ROAK Blitz by selecting two fellow writers who have made a huge difference in my life—the dynamic duo of Terry Flamm and Mike Kelly.

Early last summer, our group attempted to gather for our bi-monthly meeting at our local Barnes/Noble. For some unknown reason, only three of us showed that night—Terry, Mike and myself. Terry Flamm had brought a brochure from the Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago announcing the productions for the 2011-2012 season. The three plays had a theme. They would each tell a story about an incident that had changed history. The first play would be about the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the second about the hiring of the first-ever black baseball player, Jackie Robinson, and the third would be a musical about the Eastland boat disaster of 1915. Now as most of my readers know, my novel, Merely Dee, is set against the drama of the little-known Eastland disaster. What great good luck! A respected Chicago theatre group was going to tell the story of the capsizing. The city would hear the details in a new light, and maybe, just maybe the Eastland would finally come out of the shadows. But what about my as-yet-unpublished novel? I had to get it out there, but how?

In what I can only call a magical moment of serendipity, Mike Kelly handed me an article from Time magazine. The article was about the boom of self-publishing and highlighted several self-published books that had become best sellers. Some authors had even signed movie deals. Why don't I self-publish Merely Dee, Mike had inquired. Yes! Terry Flamm echoed. Why don't I?

I didn't have an answer that night. But I did go home with the Lookingglass Theatre brochure and the Time magazine article and talk to my husband. We discussed the money, the risks, and the opportunities, and made the momumentous decision to self-publish my book. That decision changed my life in so many wonderful ways, and it all came about because my two friends cared enough about my work to get involved. For over a year, Terry and Mike, and all the other members of our writer's group, critiqued my manuscript and helped me to shape the novel. Terry and Mike are particularly adept at critiquing and I truly value their opinions and insights. They're tough, but honest, and their suggestions for revisions are always right on target. And so was their suggestion to take a chance and self-publish, and for that, I'm forever in their debt. As a small token of my affection, I'd like to buy you guys a 'thank-you' cup of coffee at our next meeting.

You can find Terry Flamm's stories, commentaries, and reviews on his blog, http://brokenheartedtoy.blogspot.com. Mike Kelly writes and illustrates graphic novels. Check out his Barker the Beagleman series and his soon-to-be-published GN in the Night Stalker Series. And of course, you'll always discover new and exciting stuff on Cherie's blog, http://cheriecolyer.blogspot.com. Information on Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre is at: http://lookingglasstheatre.org. So how about you, fellow writers? Who would you select for your Random Act of Kindness? Join the Blitz at http://thebookshelfmuse.blogspot.com

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Interview with Author Susan Kaye Quinn

Merely Me: Thank you for joining me today and congratulations on the success of your latest novel, Open Minds!
Susan Kaye Quinn
Open Minds is being called dystopian sci-fi. Can you explain your take on dystopian literature for my readers of historical fiction?
Susan Kaye Quinn: The classic definition of a dystopia is that it's the opposite of a utopia. Instead of the world becoming a perfect place with perfect humans in a perfect society, it becomes a fun-house mirror version of that, a dark place where oppression rules the day. I think of dystopian stories more like thought experiments: what would happen if robots became sentient? What if everyone could read minds? What if...? They are really speculative fiction, where we take one element of the world, twist it into something new, and see what would happen. In other words, they're lots of fun for geeks like me.

MM: Yeah, and thrills for geeks like me too! In Open Minds you've created a world of mind readers but with a devilish twist. How did you come up with the idea for the Mindjack Trilogy?
SKQ: It literally just popped into my head one night as I was drifting off to sleep. I wanted to enter a 1st paragraph online contest, but I didn't have a suitably snazzy paragraph in my then-current works, so I decided to create a 1st paragraph for a novel that didn't exist (yet). I played around with a couple ideas, including a story about a boy who was a touch-empath (who was very isolated because of his ability), but then this image of a girl sitting in a classroom of mindreaders popped into my head. She couldn't read minds, so she was painfully isolated (like the touch-empath) in a world that had gone silent because no one spoke anymore. I didn't win the contest, but I was compelled to write her story after that.

MM: Would you like to be able to read minds? Or would you like to live in Kira's world? Or both?
SKQ: Neither. Way too scary for me in Kira's world.

MM: What kind of books did you enjoy as a child?
SKQ: I was a HUGE (monstrously gigantically huge) science fiction reader. I read all the classics by Asimov and Heinlein, and they had a big impact on my young aspirations to be an engineer/astronaut, but also in how to live my life. They fed my philosophical leanings as well.

MM: You have a very hectic life. How do you fit writing into that schedule?
SKQ: I write when my kids (ages 8, 11, 13) are in school, which I'm very fortunate to do. I know so many writers with full time jobs or little kids, and I have no idea how they do it. The only reason my life is hectic is because I try to stuff an elephant's worth of work into a teacup sized amount of time.

MM: You are very involved in an online group called The Indelibles. Please tell us about them.
SKQ: The Indelibles are "fun, fierce and fabulous indie authors, hoping to leave a mark on MG and YA readers." It's a tremendously supportive group of 25 indie-published authors. We're not a regular writer's group that exchanges critiques (although we do that sometimes too), but rather we support each other in our indie-publishing journeys with cross-promotion, joint events like #indiechat every Tuesday 9pm EST on Twitter, and general support in navigating the indie publishing world. We have authors who are soon to publish their first work up to authors who have sold over 50,000 copies of their novels and landed TV deals with 20th Century Fox. I'm proud to be part of this amaziing group of talented ladies.

MM: I saw Open Minds as a movie in my head as I read your first book of the trilogy. If (or should I say when) the Mindjack Trilogy goes Hollywood, who do you see playing Kira Moore? How about Raf? Who should play Simon?
SKQ: I'm seriously bad at casting, so I'm not even going to try. I'll trust the movie guys to take care of that (someday).

MM: Who is your favorite character from fiction? If you could, would you trade places with her (or him) for a week?
SKQ: I was just saying on Twitter that Cassel from Holly Black's White Cat is one of my favorite characters (I'm reading the third book, Black Heart, right now). He's a tormented boy, a con man in a world where spell workers are part of an underground magic mafia, but he wants to save the girl he loves and, maybe, someday, even be one of the good guys. Tormented, I tell you! Love that boy. Wouldn't want to be him though. Possibly date him if I was a reckless 17-year-old that didn't mind being cursed.

MM: You've just completed work on Closed Hearts, book two of the Mindjack Trilogy. Congratulations! When can we expect to see it on Amazon? And what about book three?
SKQ: Thanks! Cloased Hearts will be released May 23rd, which will be Virtual Party Day and all kinds of fun, but there will be contests and giveaways leading up to the launch, so your readers might want to stop by http://www.susankayequinn.com to check out upcoming events. As for Mindjack #3, I don't have even a tentative release date, although I have already started working on the book.

MM: What's next for you after the Trilogy? What kind of book can your fans anticipate?
SKQ: This is a great question, one I've been wrestling with. I have a story idea that's been haunting me for over a year, which is a good sign that I need to write it, but I need to make sure it can support a whole novel, preferrably another trilogy. Whatever I end up writing next, it's safe to say it will be more young adult speculative fiction, so hopefully fans of the Mindjack Trilogy will enjoy it.

MM: Your fans and I will look forward to hearing about that next project. So, tell us about your workspace. What's on your desk as you write?
SKQ: Diet Pepsi, Writer Mouse (stuffed), and a whole lotta junk. I really need to clean my desk.

MM: One final thought before you leave us. Writing a trilogy is a major commitment in your life. How will you celebrate the completion of the Mindjack books?
SKQ: A date with my pillow. And there might be wine involved. Thanks so much for hosting me! 

I hope you've enjoyed our visit with my friend and fellow author, Susan Kaye Quinn. You can find more about Susan at:
http://www.mindjacktrilogy.com
SusanKayeQuinn@comcast.net
http://www.susankayequinn.com

For a light, romantic read, check out her novel: Life, Liberty, and  Pursuit 
 







You can also find Susan's stories in the anthologies:

You can find The Indelibles at: http://indeliblewriters.blogspot.com 

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Choice

One of the first lessons a newbie writer learns is to 'write what you know.' This is good advice and one that experienced authors have been following forever. Take Jane Austen for instance. She wrote about the social and financial restrictions placed upon women in uptight 19th century England, a persecution she understood only too well. What about Stephen King? He lives in Maine and many of his novels take place in New England. And then there's John Grisham who practiced law in Mississippi before becoming a writer. He now pumps out bestsellers almost exclusively about southern lawyers. I write about Chicago because that's where I was born, grew up, and am growing old in the company of my family and friends.

In researching Merely Dee, I was able to walk the streets of Cicero and along the banks of the Chicago River imagining what life was like nearly one hundred years ago. And though we are a century apart, I can still identify with my protagonist, Dee Pageau, in many ways. I have a momma, who in her younger days, worked very hard balancing a home, four kids, a part-time job, and the needs of her own aging parents. I, too, started working at sixteen, but only evenings and weekends.  School was always the priority in the Manseau household. I grew up in Elmwood Park, a neighborhood very much like Cicero. But instead of wooden two-flats, the entire block consisted of brick bungalows built so close together we could peer into our neighbors' houses. As a kid, I knew every family on our long, Chicago-like block, and everyone knew us. I had a BFF who lived close by, and I had a crush on her older brother. Like Dee, I daydreamed of romance in a seemingly impossible situation. But unlike Dee, nothing ever happened between me and this older guy. However, in Merely Dee, Delia Pageau does get her chance for love, not once, but twice, and someday, even in our imaginations, she will have to make a decision.

So dear readers, I'm asking you to choose for her. If you were Dee, who would you pick? Mae Koznecki's gorgeous older brother, Karel, the dimpled heart throb of Cicero back in the day? Or the rough and ready sailor, Lars Nielsen, with those muscled arms and that warm and inviting smile? Take the poll and cast your vote. I myself, can't seem to make a decision. Maybe someday I'll have to, but for now, I'll go on loving them both.

ON THE BOOK FRONT        

Merely Dee is moving along at a wonderful pace, thanks to all of you! But I want to tell you about another project involving the Eastland boat disaster of 1915. Lookingglass Theatre in Chicago has announced the premiere of Eastland: An Original Musical. The production, written by ensemble member, Andrew White, will open on June 6, 2012, and the tickets are the hottest item in town. The story revolves around the victims and the heroes that emerged that fateful day. The music is inspired by early American folk tunes. So, if you live in the Chicagoland area, be sure to order your tickets. If you're planning a trip to our fair city this summer, make sure you're in town during the run of this musical. I'm getting my ticket, I hope you do too!!  
                     lookingglasstheatre.org                   facebook.com/lookingglasstheatre


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

From Out of the Chaos...

Alzheimer's disease is a tricky thing. Some days may be good--as in Mom can walk on her own with the aid of her walker and communicate her needs to me. At other times, we aren't that lucky. Mom is confused and anxious and can't seem to maneuver at all. On those occasions, we use her wheelchair. But on those 'good' days, Mom can become quite spirited. She displayed those feisty colors last month when I came for a visit only to discover that her apartment had been turned upside down.

I always take a quick inventory of the clothes in her closet and dresser. I also spotcheck her bathroom to see if she needs any supplies. On that particular day, I did my usual poke around of her bathroom when I noticed something strange. Everything on her sink was missing. I looked through the medicine cabinet and underneath the sink for Mom's toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss, but they were no where to be found. Where could these things be? She only has a studio apartment. Things couldn't have gone too far. So I started searching, beginning with the front hall closet which proved to be empty. Mom has three coats and every one of them had disappeared. I headed for the galley kitchen where I found her toothpaste in the second drawer down of  her lower cabinet. The roll of saran wrap from the bottom cabinet drawer turned up in her dresser amongst her socks. The staff then informed me that her coats had all been left in another resident's apartment. Apparently, Mom and her cohort had made plans to escape and thought it best to bring all their coats--both winter and summer. The toothbrush and floss never did turn up that day. When I returned the next day with replacements, I stumbled upon her toothbrush and floss stashed away in her purse. Obviously, they had been part of the foiled getaway plan.  

It's fortunate for most of us that our lives aren't that disorganized. But I find that when I'm trying to write, even a little bit of chaos can throw me off track. Claude Monet, my favorite impressionist painter, once said, "Tranquility is the first necessity if one is to work well." I keep a copy of that quote tacked to my bulletin board as a permanent reminder of what perfection should be. I'd like to tell you that my life is like a Monet painting, calm water in a lily-pad pond. But that would be a lie. On any given day, you can find our border collie chasing and 'herding' our two cats. From the time I wake up til the time I go to bed, the house phone rings with messages and my cell chirps with texts. My husband leaves for work at dawn and returns at 3:00 in the afternoon. My nephew heads off for his college classes around noon each day and my aunt--who now lives with us to be closer to her sister (my mom)--treads quietly in and out of her room. My brother works in the neighborhood and often stops by for a visit. Stepdaughters come to forage through the refrigerator in search of food for their apartment. In a perfect world, I'd have tranquility, but in reality, I have a life.

This so-called life of mine often overflows onto my desk. But that's where I have to put my foot down. While I can live with all the comings and goings and meowing and chasing, I can't work or write at a disorganized desk. I need a certain amount of structure in order to create. And so each writing day, I stack all the papers, dust the fur from my laptop screen, and take a deep breath. I clear my thoughts and then pray for the words to flow. And if I'm lucky and the spirit of Monet is watching over me, those precious words appear and I get to happily share them with you.


Join with me in asking President Obama to issue a strong National Alzheimer's Plan. Click on the link to send your message and please, invite your friends to do the same.

ON THE BOOK FRONT

I'm pleased to announce the winner of my Goodreads Giveaway of Merely Dee. Nearly 500 Goodreads members signed up for a chance to win a paperback copy of the book. The winner's name was randonly selected by Goodreads and emailed to me this morning. Carla of Tennessee should check her mail for the copy I posted to her this afternoon. Thank you one and all for choosing Merely Dee and I hope that someday a copy finds its way into your hands.

If you love to read and you're not already a member of Goodreads, click the link to check out their website. You won't be disappointed.  www.goodreads.com

Friday, February 10, 2012

Interview with Author Cherie Colyer

Merely Me: Welcome, Cherie, and thank you for joining me today.
Cherie Colyer
I want to congratulate you on the success of your debut novel, Embrace, a teen paranormal thriller/romance. Has this experience been everything you'd hoped for when you started this journey?
Cherie Colyer: Thank you. The journey has definitely been a wonderful one and I couldn't be happier with my publisher. There's nothing like seeing your book go from an idea to a published novel.

MM: Imagine Embrace as a movie trailer. Without giving away too much of the plot, what scenes would you like to see on the screen?
CC: Definitely Isaac and Madison's first kiss. Okay, maybe all their kisses. I'm a sucker for a romance. The graveyard scene with Madison and her friends. It shows a lot about the girls' personalities. And then the scene where Kaylee loses it in the classroom. It's a turning point for Madison, forcing her to look for answers to everything that's been happening around her.

MM: We've heard or read a great deal about your book, but what about you? Tell us about your life? Where were you born? Do you have any siblings? How does your family feel about your success?
CC: Oh, my, how much time do we have? I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, where I still live with my husband and our boys. I'm the younger of two girls and have amazing parents who have always encouraged me to go after my dreams. My entire family has been very supportive of my writing and I think they were just as ecstatic about Embrace being published as I was.

MM: Tell us about your writing process? Where do you write? When? Describe your office.
CC: I really don't have a set process. Since I work full time, most of my writing time is done in the evening and on weekends. My favorite place to write is in the living room. We have a comfy chair and ottoman in there and it's quiet, so there are few distractions.

MM: What do you like to do in your 'down' time?
CC: I really enjoy spending time with family and friends, going for long walks at the arboretum, and while it's not always fun, in the summer, I spend a lot of time doing yard work.

                        
MM: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
CC: That would have been after I wrote my first novel and wanted to learn how to make that story better. I knew then that I loved creating worlds and that I wanted to be able to share my stories with readers.

MM: Imagine if you would, a life without writing. What would you be doing instead? How would you find your bliss?
CC: I'd still be reading as many books as time allowed. Come to think of it, I'd be able to catch up on my growing to-be-read list. (Pauses just thinking about all the time I'd have.) Nah, I'd miss weaving together my own stories.

MM: What's your favorite vacation spot?
CC: Out of all the places I've been, Maui. It's absolutely beautiful and I love the ocean. If I had an endless amount of money, I'd go to Europe, rent a car (or maybe just buy one) and drive everywhere possible.

MM: What three things would you tell 'newbie' writers?
CC: Finish the book! You'd be surprised at how many times I've heard someone say, "I started a book X years ago." Join a critique group. And attend local conferences or take courses to help you improve your craft.

MM: What is your favorite food? What is Madison's favorite food? What would Isaac like to eat?
CC: Mine - pasta
        Madison - chocolate and peanut butter ice cream
        Isaac - bacon cheeseburgers

MM: What can we expect to see from you in the future?
CC: There are definitely more teen paranornal thrillers
in my future. It's my favorite genre. And I have a middle
grade ghost story that keeps reminding me every week
that I need to find it a home.                                                       

I hope you've enjoyed this visit with my friend, Cherie. Be sure to check out her amazing novel, Embrace. You can find Cherie Colyer at:

Blog: cheriecolyer.blogspot.com
Twitter: @cheriecolyer
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cherie.colyer
Website: www.embracenovels.com

                                                                  * * * * *

ON THE BOOK FRONT

Merely Dee is having a launch party! And everyone is invited.

Saturday, March 3, 2012
1-4 p.m.
Author Presentation at 2 p.m.

Center for History
315 W. Front Street, 2nd Floor
Wheaton, IL 60187

Admission Fee Waived      Parking Nearby     Elevator Onsite

Center for History
Award winning museum & education center
Disaster, Courage, & Silence Exhibit in the Eastland Gallery
Largest Collection of Eastland memorabilia in the nation

Signed copies of Merely Dee will be available: Hard Cover $25 or Paperback $15
Portion of sales benefit the Center for History
                                       



                                                  

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Remember The 844

In 2009, when my mother was moving into her assisted living apartment at Friendship Village in Schaumburg, IL, I saw a notice about another FV resident, Salvatore Pisano. It seems that Sal was an Eastland 'survivor' and was telling his story in the auditorium on the July anniversary of that disaster. At the time, I was doing my research for my as-yet-untitled novel about the Eastland, and couldn't believe my luck. Ninety-four years later, I was meeting a survivor!

I missed his lecture, but caught up with him the next day. Sal was nothing like I'd expected. He was spry and energetic, and quite capable of living independently in his one-bedroom apartment. After a brief explanation of my project, he enthusiastically agreed to be interviewed and wasted no time in bringing out all his own Eastland research and memorbilia. I sat spellbound as he relayed the story of his life.

Born in April of 1915, Sal was three months old when his young parents, Mary and Martin (a twenty-three-year-old stock keeper at Western Electric) bought their tickets for the Fifth Annual WE  Employee Picnic. The Pisano family got an early start that day, hoping to board the SS Eastland--the first of five steamships that had been leased to ferry picnickers from Chicago to Washington Park in Michigan City, IN. Martin boarded first, but Mary, carrying her infant son in her arms, became nervous when she started across the Eastland's wobbly gangplank. She told her husband that she wanted to stay behind and begged Martin to go without her. Mary returned to the dock to watch and wave farewell. But instead, Mary witnessed the capsizing of the Eastland and the death of her beloved husband.

Like so many others who had endured the horror of that tragic disaster, Mary suffered from shock and gried, and refused to ever again talk about what she had seen. As Sal grew, he became more and more curious about his father's death, but his mother would not--or could not--offer Sal any relief. So Salvatore spent his life on a quest, accumulating any and all information on the doomed steamship in the hopes of knowing his father. When Sal was about twenty-five (only a few years older than his father had been when he'd perished), he organzied a memorial for Martin and the other Eastland victims. But the peace Salvatore Pisano so anxiously sought, eluded him, his whole life.

One day last winter, I was walking with my mother through the main lobby of FV when something caught my eye. It was a picture of Sal--on the Death Notice bulletin board. Salvatore V. Pisano had past away on Februry 3, 2011, just a few months short of his 96th birthday. Tears flooded my eyes as I read his obituary and then suddenly, I brightened.

"What? What?" my mother kept asking as she tugged at my arm. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I answered truthfully. All was right with the world. Salvatore had finally met his father.

To honor my friend, Sal, I named a character in Merely Dee after him. I could not write about the Eastland boat disaster without getting to know the victims. In doing my research, I'd read stories about them, visited their gravesites, met their relatives. The 844 were real people to me. And so I say to you, dear readers, remember the 844. They'd lived, they'd died, and now, they should be acknowledged.



 
ON THE BOOK FRONT

Merely Dee has been available for a few weeks now. Images of the cover are visible on all the major booksites--Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, iUniverse.com. I've been asked by many people about the haunting image on the front of my book. Did I get a say in the design? Is that a stock photo or did someone take the picture just for my cover? Where did I find that image? Do I know that girl?

The picture is an actual photo taken by a staff photographer for the now-defunct Chicago Daily Newspaper. The image shows a young women who had been rescued from the Eastland, standing on the deck of some unnamed ship, staring into the murky Chicago River. A man's arm appears on the railing coming up from below deck. The picture was originally in black and white, but the talented Byron design team from iUniverse tinted the photo to that stunning blue. I had gasped when I'd first seen it.

The book jacket describes how my protagonist, Dee Pageau, is rescued by a mysterious stranger--and Poof!--like magic, that stranger has appeared on the cover. I couldn't believe it. I hadn't notice that arm in the black and white photo, but on the cover of Merely Dee, that mysterious arm is quite prominent. It was another goose-pimpley moment, like so many others I'd experienced during the writing of this book. Next time, I'll tell you the amazing story behind the drawing of the ship (shown below) and how it made its way into the pages of my book. I'll also be posting an interview with my friend and fellow debut author, Cherie Colyer, about the wonderful success of her paranormal romance YA, Embrace. So be sure to check back with Merely Me. Thanks!! I enjoyed our visit. 


Monday, January 16, 2012

Going Live

On Wednesday, January 11, I was in the lobby of my mother's building waiting for the elevator to open when my cell chirped. It was my perky marketing rep at iUniverse and she said congrats, Merely Dee had gone live! I was stunned for a moment but then regained my equilibrium and glanced around for someone with whom I could share this amazing news. But there was no one, only Molly, the massive golden retriever house dog. I told Molly my story, but she just rubbed her furry head on my thigh trying to get another scratch behind the ears. She was unimpressed, so I said good-bye and went upstairs.

Of course, I told my mother, and for that one moment, she was thrilled. But then she forgot and I didn't have the heart to repeat myself all day, so I let it drop. I'd make do with that one fleeting smile of recognition. Mom  had always been so supportive of my writing and I knew that if she'd been in her right mind, she would have probably spent the entire day on the phone telling all her friends. I bundled her up and headed out to the dentist for our semi-annual cleanings, but not before texting my entire family first.

The replies came fast and furious and my cell kept beeping so much the dentist kidded that maybe we should do this another day. I reassured him that I could get back to everybody later, and to please finish with my mother before she changed her mind and fled. The entire dental staff congratulated me, and I left with a minty-fresh smile on my face. 

My standard agreement with Mom is that if she cooperates with the dentist, we can go to her favorite place for her favorite lunch. And so we headed off for Burger King, home of the Whopper, my cell buzzing the whole drive. By this point in the day, I was fairly anxious for news of my massive on-line sales. How did the book look on Amazon.com? Had President Obama bought one yet? After all, Merely Dee is a Chicago story. What about Oprah? Did my newly 'live' novel have a good set-up on the publisher's website? I knew that my sister, Sue, who is a whiz at Facebook and such, would have a report for me. Only one problem--I couldn't get to my phone! 

But I saw hope up ahead and turned into the parking lot. I leaped out, unfolded Mom's walker in one swift movement, and pulled her as efficiently as possible from the car. We shuffled painfully slow up a rather steep slope, through two sets of heavy glass doors, and into the restaurant. I looked up at the menu board and gasped. This wasn't the home of the Whopper! In all the excitement, I'd pulled into the wrong parking lot.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Mom. This isn't Burger King. It's McDonald's."

She looked at me and said, "Well, do they sell hamburgers here?" The girl behind the counter giggled.

I nodded. "Why yes, yes they do."

"Well then, get me one." And Mom toddled off to find a seat.

What's the old saying? A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse. A Quarter-Pounder was as good as a Whopper to someone with Alzheimer's. And so Mom and I celebrated my going 'live' with a pair of burgers and some ice tea. I told her my news again, and for that one sweet moment, she was thrilled.





 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The week before Christmas, I had to rush my mother to the ER. She was having trouble breathing and in obvious respiratory distress. The hospital staff worked quickly and efficiently to get her comfortable, and then the ER doc tested her cognitive abilities.

Dr. - "Angie, do you know when were you born?"
Mom - With an annoyed look, "Of course. May 24th, 1933."
The doctor looked at me. I nodded. We were off to a good start.

D - "Who's the president?"
M - She thought a moment and then, "Kennedy."
The doctor shot me a glance.

D - "What year is it?"
M - Another pause and then, "1967."
The doctor didn't even bother to turn his head. He asked a few more questions and then made some notes. I knew exactly what he was writing. Diagnosis: Alzheimer's Dementia. Prognosis for the coming years: Bleak.

After a four-day stay in the hospital, Mom recovered nicely, and I was able to take her back home. On my visit this past weekend, I wished her a Happy New Year. She just stared at me blankly and scuttled away with her walker. The turning of the calendar meant nothing to my mother, but it means alot to me. In 2012, I'm determined to re-focus my efforts on counting Weight Watchers points. I will unwrap that new X-Box Kinect fitness program with the personal trainer and get moving. I won't stop till I master all the complexities of the Kindle Touch that my nephew, Chris, gave me for Christmas. I'll Facebook more and better. I'll dust off my neglected manuscript-in-progress and set goals for future publication.

I still have the mental capacity to appreciate that a new year is fresh beginning. I have time with Mom and my family, and time for friends like you. What does 2012 mean to you? I'd love to hear.

ON THE BOOK FRONT:

Merely Dee is off to the printers tomorrow! I anticipate a debut date around the middle of this month. What a great way to start off this year! I'll keep you posted on the actual arrival date.

Many people have asked me about the title. A book about the Eastland boat disaster with a title like a children's picture book? What's up with that? I'll attempt to explain.

When I started writing the novel in the fall of 2009, I didn't have a title. Like Hemingway, I had a list of possibles, but nothing solid ...until I typed:

I edged past all the mourners pressing to get through the front door and sagged against the painted exterior of the house. Momma stood beside me, gently stroking my hair. She didn't say anything. She didn't need to. Her quiet presence was all I required. I closed my eyes and thought about Mae and Momma, two very different women. Yet, I loved them both. Momma was solid and strong, while Mae had been daring and passionate. I wasn't like either of them. So then, what was I?

Only what I could be, came the reply. Merely me. That would have to do for now.

The title hit me like a thunderclap. Merely me morphed into Merely Dee (after my protagonist Delia "Dee" Pageau) and my novel was born. A mere girl lives through a terrifying disaster and comes out the other end only to find that surviving is just the beginning. She discovers her true character in the challenges ahead and learns that she is not merely anyone. She is more. She is a survivor.