I didn't just love Gizelle's Bucket List, My Life with a Very Large Dog because I'm super proud of my niece, Lauren Fern Watt, the author - but because she's a super, awesome writer. Her book has so much heart and brought me back to the days in my twenties when the future was uncertain and exciting. And of course Gizelle won me over in the first chapter. The book comes out March 7th. Go get a copy on Amazon, click here to order. 

To learn more about Lauren's journey to publication (which is the stuff fairy tales are made of) click here. To learn more about the cause close to both of our hearts and a big part of Lauren's story, Shatterproof, "a nonprofit dedicated to ending the devastation addiction causes families," click here

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Gizelle’s Bucket List, My Life with a Very Large Dog is a beautiful, heartwarming, and heart wrenching story about love, self-discovery, and acceptance—acceptance of the things in life we are powerless to change. Written with just the right amount of humor I found myself both laughing and crying. Lauren Fern Watt did an amazing job of paralleling the two big things in her life that were out of her control: the impending death of her beloved dog, Gizelle, and her mother’s up and down fight with addiction. The love the author has for both Mom and pup pours from every page. Her raw and honest accounts made me feel like I was right there with her dancing on Swamp Thang in Rio, picking up colossal dog poo on the streets of NYC, or anxiously awaiting her mom’s visit. This book has me rethinking, in a good way, how we (I) love others, and of course makes me want to go snuggle with my own (little) dog. Readers of any age will love Gizelle’s Bucket List. This book will entertain, inspire, and warm your heart.

Follow Lauren on Twitter @LaurenFernWatt or on Facebook at Lauren Fern Watt.


Quotes That Take Flight

There's no quote more precious and smile worthy as those uttered from the mouth's of babes, especially our own  : )

While cleaning my home office I came across a forgotten journal. Inside were noteworthy quotes from my children. This one from my son,  then three, now ten (sniff), I thought I'd share.

My son woke up one morning and raced into my bedroom all excited, "Mom! Mom! I just saw you flying under the moon!"    

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes "Awesome, did I have wings?" I asked, hoping he wouldn't say I wore a pointed black hat and straddled a broom.

His brows scrunched as he tried to remember. "No, " he said. "But next time, take me with you."

And I realized that right there, as children's writers, is what we all hope for, to take the readers flying through our worlds, our stories. Weeeeeee! 

See? Magic really does exist.

Happy flying!!

Kiki Hamilton - Author: Blog Tours! (Many!) Giveaways! Fun!

“THE TORN WING is a fun read – all but impossible to put down… Lovers of fairy tales and Victorian England aren’t the only readers who will be charmed by this story of self-discovery.” - Kirkus Reviews
Book 1
Book 2

 Don't miss the chance to win a copy of Kiki Hamilton's second book in THE FAERIE RING series titled, THE TORN WING!!! Don't worry, if you don't win this time, I'll be doing a giveaway in November.

Kiki Hamilton - Author: Blog Tours! (Many!) Giveaways! Fun!: Happy Monday my Lovelies! We have some awesome blog tours kicking off today with reviews of THE TORN WING , interviews, giveaways etc. ...

YA Author Interview - Writer Spotlight - Carla Luna Cullen

Carla Luna Cullen
It's been too long since I've had a Writer Spotlight post so I am beyond thrilled today to have aspiring writer, Carla Luna Cullen (no, she's not related to THOSE Cullens) here to tell us about her YA fantasy, PIPER GIRL. 

And for anyone who wonders if agents ever read any of these blogs - the answer is, YES. Two other Writer Spotlight interviewees (that I know of) as well as myself were contacted by an agent who requested partials of our completed manuscripts. So if you're interested in stepping into the spotlight read the guidelines on the Writer Spotlight page and contact me.

Now, back to Carla. WELCOME CARLA!!! 
Carla is a former archaeologist, turned stay-at-home Mom. She's originally from Los Angeles, but grew up in Canada, on Vancouver Island. She now lives in a small town in Wisconsin, along with her husband, two kids, and a feisty cat named Allegro.

What manuscript would you like to tell us about today? (genre, title, word count)

Piper Girl is a 68,000 word YA fantasy, set in the near future, in a walled slum outside downtown Los Angeles. I like to think of it as an ‘urban twist’ on The Pied Piper fairy tale.

Sounds great!!

Can you give us a three to four sentence pitch?

Still reeling from the tragic circus accident that tore her family apart, seventeen-year old Marisa has survived by flying under the radar. But when an explosion at Dyna Corp, a nearby research facility, releases infected lab rats into the slums, Marisa can’t hide her unique talents any longer. While playing her silver flute, she has the ability to charm animals, especially rats. If she agrees to help Dyna Corp, she could earn enough to escape the ghetto forever. But when she learns the truth about the rats—and the deadly disease they carry—she must decide if she should risk helping her community, even if it means taking on Dyna Corp.

How original. Lots of great twists going on – I’m definitely curious to know more.

Would you care to share the opening line or paragraph (up to 250 words)?

The sirens sound like they’re right outside my door.

No chance of going back to sleep. I reach over to turn on the lamp, but nothing happens. The electricity’s out again. Fumbling in the darkness, I grab my flashlight and twist it on. A few roaches skitter away into the shadows.

I slip on flip-flops, but hesitate before unbolting my door. Do I really want to leave the safety of my room? Cops in Brea Village are a rare occurrence. If they’ve ventured into the Dumps, then the situation must be serious. But I haven’t heard any gunfire. Yet.

Maybe just a quick peek.

Before I go, I shine my flashlight around the room. There’s nothing visible worth stealing. The most valuable item I own—my precious silver flute—is tucked behind a loose cinder block in the wall, covered by an old calendar.

I lock the door, pocket the key, and navigate the narrow stairwell to the ground floor. Out on the street, a blast of hot, dry air hits me in the face. The Santa Ana winds have been relentless all week.

Luis, one of the neighborhood sentries, sits on a rusted lawn chair near the end of the block. Across his lap is an automatic rifle. He looks up when I approach. “Evening Marisa. Everything okay?”

“Yeah. What’s up with those sirens?” I glance around. No cop cars. Not even an ambulance.

What!!? You’re leavin’ me hanging here, Carla. Great opening, sets up the tone nicely.

How would your main character describe you? If you entered into a scene in your manuscript, how would you be introduced, how would the MC perceive you? (Give us a scene of 250 words or less : )

When the show ends, Dad and I go out into the audience, for our customary meet and greet. After I pose for a photo with an elderly couple from Texas, a mom approaches me. Next to her are two kids—a teenage girl and a younger boy.

“I was impressed with your Pied Piper act,” the mom says. I like her outfit—a cool embroidered top and silver hoop earrings. Otherwise, she looks like a typical tourist—middle aged, pale, probably from the Midwest.

“Your act was just like the fairy tale,” she says. Then she grins. “Although I’m glad you didn’t lure the children out of the audience and whisk them away.”

I return her smile. Not everyone knows about that part of the fairy tale. Then I wait for her to ask how I did it. Everyone wants to know what my secret is.

The boy speaks up first. “You used magic to attract those rats, didn’t you? Was it a spell or are your flutes magic?”

The girl rolls her eyes. “Duh, James, there’s no such thing as magic.”

“Of course there is,” the mom says. “Magic is everywhere. You never know where you’ll find it.”

Oddly enough, I get the feeling she isn’t saying this to make her son feel better. “So you believe it’s magic?” I ask her.

She shrugs. “Sure. Stranger things have happened. But I’m pretty open. I believe in ghosts, too.”

Ghosts, not so much. But definitely magic. Because there’s no other way to explain my gift.

Haha, that’s great, Carla. I believe in magic, too : )

What is your least and most favorite word? Use each in a sentence, writing in the voice of one of your characters from any of your manuscripts.

My favorite word is archipelago. I love the way it rolls off my tongue. But, sadly, there are no archipelagos in Piper Girl.  So, this quote is from my medieval-set YA, The Fallen Princess (which is mentioned below):

At every turn, I saw musicians, jugglers, and masked performers. Nimble acrobats leapt across the lawns, dazzling the guests with their flips and aerials. In another area of the gardens, veiled dancers from the Archipelago of the Winds held a large audience in their spell.

I don’t have a least favorite word, although my grammatical pet peeve is unnecessary apostrophes. For example, signs that read: “Video’s” or “Hot Dog’s.”

Haha, yes. My favorite (recent) man-made sign I spotted on the side of the road said, “Free firewood for sale.” Hmm.

What else are you working on while you wait?

I have another manuscript that I’ve been querying for about four months, entitled The Fallen Princess. It’s a YA romance, set in a land resembling medieval Persia, about a headstrong young princess who runs from an arranged marriage, only to fall in love with her intended groom when he captures her.

LOL, love it! Good luck!!

What book have you read in the past six mo that’s inspired you and why?

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. I’m a total 80s geek, so I loved the pop culture references. What impressed me the most about the book was the great storytelling. Our whole family listened to the audiobook on a road trip and we drove seven hours without a break, just to get to the end of the story!

I drive a lot for work, I’ll have to pick it up (though by the sounds of it, I may drive right past my destination). Thanks for the recommendation.

Do you have (if you were a teen, or had when you were a teen) a literary-character crush?

Hmm . . . definitely not anyone who’s secretly a vampire or a werewolf. Maybe Valek from Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder (not a YA book, but a great fantasy). And I really liked Day, from Legend by Marie Lu.

Any random fun-facts you’d like to share about yourself?

As an archaeologist, I’ve had the chance to travel a lot, especially in the Middle East. I’ve worked on projects in Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Cyprus, and Spain. My family also lived in India for five months, in 2009, when my husband was a Fulbright exchange teacher in Chennai.

I love acting, and did children’s theatre when my kids were younger. Most of the plays were fairy tales, so I’ve been a fairy godmother, a shoemaker, a frog prince, and an emperor (mainly guy roles, for some reason!). But I never got a chance to play the Pied Piper.

My maiden name is Carla Luna, and I always thought I’d use that as my pen name, until I found out there’s a famous Flamenco dancer by that name.

Speaking of names, when our family went to visit Forks, WA, three years ago, we got special treatment whenever we mentioned that we were the “Wisconsin” Cullens.

THAT is too funny. And yes, everyone, I did ask Carla if she was related to those Cullens when she first contacted me. You must get that a lot, sorry : /. And wow, you’ve had an interesting life so far. Thanks so much for stepping into the spotlight today and good luck with both manuscripts!!! 

Keep us posted. 

Visit Carla's blog here for contests and great posts. Follow her on Twitter by clicking @casacullen     
or on Facebook by following this link: Carla Luna Cullen

Giveaway - S.R. Johannes' SUFFOCATE

It is May 21st and guess what that means?   

S.R. Johannes’ Suffocate is out today! 

You may know Shelli from her amazing blog Market my Words, which was listed as a Finalist/Honorary Mention by the Goodreads Independent Blogger Awards in the Publishing category. Congrats Shelli!!

Suffocate is the first novelette in THE BREATHLESS series. It is a 15,000 word young adult thriller that combines the dystopic and science fiction genres.

Here’s a little about the novelette…

“For centuries, the world outside the Biome has been unlivable. Today, marks the first time anyone will attempt to leave the suffocating ecosphere. Eria is not worried because her scientist father has successfully tested the new Bio-Suit many times. It's a celebratory day until something goes horribly wrong. In the midst of tragedy, Eria uncovers a deep conspiracy that affects the very air she breathes. 

If those responsible find out what she knows, they won't stop hunting her until she takes her last breath.”

The 2nd novella in the series, CHOKE, is scheduled for Fall 2012. The 3rd, EXHALE, is scheduled for Winter 2013.

Sounds awesome, right? I, for one, can't wait to read it!!!

You can purchase Suffocate for only 99 cents at
Also you can add it on Goodreads!

And in case you were wondering here is a bit about the author –

S.R. Johannes is author of the Amazon Bestseller Untraceable and a current nominee of the Georgia Author of the Year in the Young Adult category. After earning an MBA and working in corporate america, S.R. Johannes traded in her expensive suits, high heels, and corporate lingo for a family, flip-flops, and her love of writing. She lives in Atlanta Georgia with her goldendoodle Charley (notice he is listed first :), her British-accented husband, and the huge imaginations of their little prince and princess, which she hopes- someday- will change the world.  

You can find Shelli hanging out online. Visit her blog here
Or follow her by clicking on the links below : )

Show Shelli some lovin' by posting a comment below and win an electronic copy of Suffocate for your Nook or Kindle. You must be a follower to win : ) I'll announce a winner tomorrow.

Lucky 7

Laura Stanfill tagged me for the fun Lucky 7 Meme going around the blog-sphere. It looked like fun so I thought - why not!!

The rules - Open current novel-in-progress and:
  1. Go to page 77.
  2. Go to line 7.
  3. Copy down the next 7 lines, sentences, or paragraphs as they are written.
  4. Tag 7 new authors.
So here goes. My seven-ish lines from my YA paranormal, UNTIL DEATH:
Emma stops fidgeting and meets Dr. Abrams pointed gaze with anger of her own. “Because, I could care less about her.”
“Sounds like you do-oo,” Marta sing-songs. Who is this chick, poster girl for most irritating teen?
“Be quiet, Marta!” Emma snaps. “Like I said, Audrey is my legal guardian, that’s it.”
“Do you want her to be more?” Dr. Abrams asks.
Emma narrows her eyes and spins the ring on her middle finger. “Audrey gave my dad a choice when she got pregnant: her or me. He chose me. She walked away. Any mother who could do that isn’t one I want in my life. So no, I don’t want anything from her except her guardianship which allows me to stay in the only home I’ve ever known.” 
And now it's time for me to tag seven writer friends and get a chance to read their Lucky 7!! Who better to tag but some Writer Spotlight peeps (among others).  Hey guys (waving).

Faith Hough
Kiki Hamilton (author of The Faerie Ring who's working on sequels. Give us a peek Kiki
Melody Valadez
Dustin Hansen
Dianne Gardner (who, btw just signed with Hydra Publications, WHOOHOO!! Congrats! More on that soon)
Nandini Bajpai
Betsy Devany


A.K. Fotinos-Hoyer
It's been too long since a writer has been brave enough to step into the   spotlight. I'm so excited to have A.K. Fotino-Hoyer with us today!!!

Let's hear a round of applause!!!

Hi A.K.!!!! Welcome!!!

And thanks for your patience. I intended to post her interview Tuesday, but started and new job and things got cra-a-zy, blahbityblah!!
Anyway, I'm so glad to have her here today all the way from Berlin, Germany.

A.K. writes YA fantasy as well as YA contemporary. Today she's here to tell us a bit about her urban fantasy,  DAUGHTER OF THE MOON.

What manuscript do you have out on submission now? (genre, title, word count)

DAUGHTER OF THE MOON is a young adult urban fantasy complete at 55,000 words.

Nice title!! Sets the tone and genre nicely.

Give us the three to four sentence pitch.

Seventeen-year-old Selina Kane discovers she is the last living Necromancer. But she doesn’t have time to learn how to use her powers before the love of her life, Blake, is taken by the undead. There is one spell, one that would save Blake’s soul, but she’d have to kill him to use it, and worse, transform him into a ferryman for the Underworld. There may be other ways to save him though, if she's willing to make dark alliances with the undead.

Ooh, sounds like a dark and twisty tale. Love it!! Want a more detailed blurb? Click here.

Would you care to share the opening line or paragraph?

SELINA DRIFTED on the waves of Mrs. Riley’s voice as she described the assignment; a letter to the future. The classroom faded and for a brief moment Selina was falling through heavy gray fog. She emerged within a ring of trees, landing softly on the sandy shore of a lake.

A warm breeze wove strands of mist into her hair and around her legs. Selina looked up, but a wall of gray masked her view of the place she’d fallen from. And then something great and winged sliced through the twilight. It flew with the grace of a bird, though it was far too large to actually be one. The creature stretched out sharp talons and flapped green leather wings as it landed on the sand not too far from where she stood. A plume of fire erupted from its mouth, burning through the wet air.

WOW, what an opening!! Beautifully written, A.K.!! I can hear the water lapping and see the mist. Love this phrase: "burning through the wet air."

What is your least and most favorite word? Use each in a sentence, writing in the voice of one of your characters from any of your manuscripts.

Coalesce is a favorite word of mine and here’s a sentence:

Wisps of light rose from the body and coalesced into a silver ribbon which could only be one thing; Sara’s soul.

My least favorite word has got to be “noob”. I wasn’t sure if it was an official word or not, but I did check and sadly, “noob” has made it into the dictionary. None of the characters from any of my manuscripts would ever use this word, but here’s what might happen if Selina from DAUGHTER OF THE MOON were to meet someone who did:

“So you’re the last living Necromancer? And you’re a total noob?” Dillon asked.

Selina gave him enough time to fully appreciate her glare before whispering a few words in the language of the Underworld. The magic was harmless, but it would make him think twice before calling her a noob again.

Noob, LOL, yeah. Snarf. I could actually have fun with that word - with the right MG character. Hmmm.

What are you working on while you wait?

I’m nearly half way through the first draft of the sequel to DAUGHTER OF THE MOON.

Good for you!!! Best of luck!!

What book have you read in the past six mo that’s inspired you and why? 

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern has been an inspiration to me not only because of how much I enjoyed the novel as a reader, but also because the story behind the novel spoke to me as a writer. The Night Circus started as a NaNoWriMo project which wasn’t really going anywhere (according to the author) until Erin Morgenstern decided to move the whole story to the circus. Recognizing that a story isn’t working, and being open to “moving it the circus”, is an act of bravery I admire.

WOW!! That is brave. I hadn't heard that - interesting.

If you’re a teen, were at one time, or still are but someone swapped your body with a wrinkled version of yourself—who would your (hypothetical) literary-character crush be?

Right now, I’m thinking Four from Veronica Roth’s DIVERGENT. He’s tough and edgy, but there’s more to him than meets the eye. And if you can get him to share his secrets, you’ll be part of something special.


Any random fun-facts you’d like to share about yourself?

I was born in California, lived in Boston, MA for eight years, and now live in Berlin, Germany with my husband and one crazy cat.

I have a blog! I’d love it if you’d follow me Check it out here.  

And if you’re on Scribophile or Absolute Write, say hello (my username is A. K. Fotinos-Hoyer) – I have a passion for critiquing and enjoy exchanging experiences with fellow writers on the road to publication.

I learn so much from critiquing. It's crazy how much easier it is to "see" things when it's not your own wip.

Lucky you, living overseas with castles and misty mountains only a train ride away. Thanks again for the interview. It's been so great to "meet" you and learn about your finished ms DAUGHTER OF THE MOON. Best of luck and do keep us posted!!

If you would like to be spotlighted, please contact me asap, (PaulaKayMac@comcast.net). I'm always looking for interviews and love to meet new people that like to talk writing.