Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Is there a future when characters are frozen into their past?

Today I get to invite one of my favorite authors of paranormal and science fiction, Christine Amsden. She's the author of lots of books that I've read and loved, but her latest is another in the Cassie Scot Paranormal Detective series - a continuation of a series that (almost) seemed finished. Since I'm working on one series and dreaming of another, it seemed like a good idea to ask her, over virtual coffee, how she ended up with Cassie Scot starring and co-starring so many times, and how do real series get written. So, pull up a chair, pour a coffee (tea, soda, juice, water... just as long as it doesn't spill on the computer) and see what she has to say. Over to you Christine:

Writing a Series

by Christine Amsden

Cassie Scot was supposed to be a four-book series. Each book centered on a self-contained mystery, while the series dealt with some character growth and struggles. I wrote those four books together, even though they were released a few months apart, so that I had at least a solid rough draft of Stolen Dreams (book four) done before the original Cassie Scot went public.

It was an ideal way to write a series. I had a plan, changed the plan a dozen times, and rewrote to accommodate my new plans.

Then Cassie’s two best friends, Kaitlin and Madison, decided they needed stories of their own. I accommodated them, but it wasn’t as easy. The first four books were now set in stone, the rules of the world fixed, meaning that I had a silent partner in my new books: Younger me!

These days, I’m working on other projects, but Cassie still won’t stay quiet. Before I sat down to write Frozen, she kept saying, “Hello? Are you there? I’m not dead. I just got married. Not the same thing.”

It’s great that my character is still talking to me. This makes writing new books in her series easy. The hard part, once again, is that silent writing partner of mine. I no longer have the freedom to go back to book one and make little changes to pave the way for new elements I’d like to introduce. For better or for worse, my world is my world. I now find myself taking something of a leap of faith with each new volume I write, armed with only a few vague ideas of what might happen next.

Frozen is once again self-contained, but it definitely sets up the promise of new adventures to come. Maybe even new, deeper explorations of the world around Cassie. I knew some of this all along, but I’m making up a lot as I go along. I trust my future self can handle it. I also trust she’s going to read this and have some choice words for me when she does. :)

Honestly, writing a series is fun. It gives me the chance to go deeper into characters and world than any single book can. It also gives me the chance to revisit favorite characters, and it keeps me from having to reinvent a world from the ground up with each new volume. I like reading series too, and for the same reason. I get invested. I can’t wait to read more about Harry Dresden, Charlie Davidson, Mackayla Lane, Katherine “Kitty” Kat Martini, and others. I hope readers feel the same way about Cassie Scot. 

Well, this reader certainly does. Ever waiting for the next Dresden and the next Cassie Scot. I love that "not dead, just married" line. And I love how Frozen really does let your characters move on from their younger selves. (Click on the link for my review!)


Christine Amsden has been writing fantasy and science fiction for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and relationships, and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

At the age of 16, Christine was diagnosed with Stargardt’s Disease, which scars the retina and causes a loss of central vision. She is now legally blind, but has not let this slow her down or get in the way of her dreams.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. In addition to being a writer, she's a mom and freelance editor.


· Website
· Blog
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ABOUT THE BOOK: Frozen (Cassie Scot Book Seven)

Apparently, life doesn’t end when you get married.

When a couple freezes to death on a fifty degree day, Cassie is called in to investigate. The couple ran a daycare out of their home, making preschoolers the key witnesses and even the prime suspects.

Two of those preschoolers are Cassie’s youngest siblings, suggesting conditions at home are worse than she feared. As Cassie struggles to care for her family, she must face the truth about her mother’s slide into depression, which seems to be taking the entire town with it.

Then Cassie, too, is attacked by the supernatural cold. She has to think fast to survive, and her actions cause a rift between her and her husband.

No, life doesn’t end after marriage. All hell can break loose at any time.


Print Release: July 15, 2018
Audiobook Release: TBA


Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective (Cassie Scot Book One)
Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot Book Two)
Mind Games (Cassie Scot Book 3)
Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot Book 4)
Madison's Song (Cassie Scot Book 5)
Kaitlin’s Tale (Cassie Scot Book 6)


That’s when I saw it – the thing that had scared Evan. It was … a dog, maybe? But massive. As black as night. And with red, glowing eyes. If it weren’t for the eyes, I might have mistaken it for a werewolf. Well, that, and the fact that the moon hadn’t risen. Wolves didn’t turn when the sun went down, only when the moon rose. It wasn’t even the full moon; I would never have left Ana with Scott if it were.
            The monstrous thing lunged for Jim, a thirty-something man in very good shape who couldn’t seem to outrun it. It tore at the backs of his legs, drawing blood and sending Jim sprawling to the ground on hands and knees.
            I couldn’t move, and not because Evan’s power still held me. That thing was about two seconds from eating Jim, a man I happened to like and who I knew had a wife and two kids at home.
            A strangled yell emerged from Jim’s throat. Guns blazed – I hadn’t even noticed Frank and Sheriff Adams drawing their weapons. The beast growled, momentarily losing interest in Jim as it fixed those demon eyes on the two men trying to fill it with lead.
            Then, suddenly, it was in the air, flying backwards through the trees and out of sight.
            The guns went quiet but the sheriff and his deputy continued to run toward their fallen comrade. Evan stood stock still, staring into the woods, arms raised and waiting. Listening.
            Suddenly, the sound of a canine howling filled the air.
            “Move!” Evan shouted. “It’s coming back!” 

Friday, May 18, 2018

Can childrens' books raise you out the doldrums?

It's the end of the day; it's the end of the week; I remind myself it's not, and it won't be the end of my dreams. But those dreams are keeping me seriously busy, planning, checking, opening pdf files with publisher to see how covers are made, more planning, more checking. I'm close to deciding to self-publish those Bible stories as my present publisher returns all the files to me--for anyone who's wondering, he's going far more than the extra mile, giving me covers and interior files, plus copies of all the files he worked with on the way, and returning my rights. I couldn't ask for more--Cape Arago's the best!

But I wanted ... I dreamed ... an agent, a way into bookstores and churches and Christian schools and ... I wanted readers. So now I'm close to deciding to self-publish, after which I shall concentrate on writing more volumes and trying to find those readers on my own. Meanwhile, I loved a Christian children's book I read recently, so I'm posting my review of Gracie and several other children's chapter books. Not as short as the picture books I reviewed last, but still short, still fast-moving and encouraging, still perfect while I work through my slow-moving plans ... and great stress relievers too.

8 year old Gracie and the save a soul prayer team – a father’s broken heart by Paula Rose -- offers sweetly authentic dialog, a child of old-fashioned values in the present day world, and a smooth blend of Touched by an Angel with Little House on the Prairie perhaps. It's a nicely absorbing and uplifting read with a message of God's healing grace -- enjoy with some well-balanced full-flavored three-star coffee.

Gracie prays at bedrime. Other children ask family members to read a bedtime story, and Magical Bedtime Stories by Piaras O Cionnaoith offers child-based stories covering all the natural distractedness of childhood (including puppies) that read like an elderly relative telling the tales. It's satisfying and fun -- enjoy with some two-star bright easy-drinking coffee.

Dragons might be an appropriate bedtime theme, as long as they're not too scary. Fierce Winds and Fiery Dragons by Nan Sweet is a children's chapbook which combines the magic of fairytale with the stark reality of wounded families. Exciting adventures, learning the meaning of friendship, finding strength in themselves--it might just lead to the right sort of dream for a worried child. Enjoy this lively tale with some more lively two-star coffee.

My Twin Sister And Me by Emiliya Ahmadova is another adventure story centering on two girls. This time they're 12-year-olds living in Caracas, Venezuela. The language is slightly formal, though still easy to read, making it a story for somewhat older readers (or for reading aloud). It blends old-world values with modern-world problems and offers intriguing insights into Venezuelan life and Christianity. A fascinating read to be enjoyed with an easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Then there's Secret Sisters #1: Heart to Heart by Sandra Byrd, another Christian based story of girls, followed by Twenty-one Ponies. They tell of sixth grade girls in an Arizona elementary school, where Tess would love to be popular but doesn't want to hurt anyone. Prayer and answers to prayer are nicely handled in both these stories, with sin and forgiveness becoming natural parts of life. Enjoy them both with some well-balanced smooth three-star coffee.

It's interesting. I'm sure when I was in elementary school I used to get annoyed at the lack of girl's adventure books (and I used to "help" Mum by dusting my brothers' rooms so I could read their more exciting books). Now I'm really more girls' books than boys'. Has the world changed so much?

Finally, yes, it's girls again - two time-traveling children visiting the grandmother who died before they were born, and my only complaint is I wish this had more illustrations! Enjoy Jessica D. Adams' Meeting Grandmom with a mild, crisp one-star coffee. It's a quick, short, very enjoyable read.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


Today I'm pleased to welcome author Benjamin Mester, whose inviting us to travel from the wandering woods of Minnesota to the Banished Lands of fantasy. Welcome Benjamin, and please tell, with all those intricate maps and prophecies, what's the story behind those banished lands.

The Story Behind The Banished Lands Series

I've always loved that intoxicating feeling of adventure and mystery when embarking with a character into a brand new world.  My driving motivation with The Banished Lands series was to create a world with a rich lore and history, but not overburden the reader with backstory.  I've always loved the richness of poetry – the metaphorical language which speaks to a deeper meaning just beyond the edge of explanation.  In The Banished Lands series, we enter a fractured world with a forgotten history. But hints of it remain through a set of poems that speak of the old world and cryptic events which brought an end to that age. 

I love the idea of characters living normal, mundane lives, suddenly thrust into an ancient struggle they didn't even know was raging.  I love the fantasy genre because it isn't ashamed of the classic archetypes – the epic struggle of good and evil, heroics, and everything that often gets the label cliché.  Using these archetypes in ways that haven't been done before was my real motivation for writing The Banished Lands series.  The way this series combines poetry, lore and mystery is something unique in the fantasy genre.

When writing this first book, I often sat back and wondered to myself, What would it be like to live in a world with a shrouded past?  We often take modern life for granted – the whole wealth of human knowledge at our fingertips.  But what would it be like to live in a world where the only history was cryptic poetry telling of a time when the world was a completely different place?  And what if, somehow, those ancient poems that no one really understands seem to be the only thing that really explains the dark things creeping forward from the fringes of the world?  Welcome to The Banished Lands.

Ooh, that sounds cool.I guess I often feel as if it's even true - that we have forgotten vital lessons from our past, and that, for many of us, what's left is cryptic and unbelievably strange. I think I shall enjoy your Banished Lands novels. And I love that you include real poetry (see excerpt below).

THE BANISHED LANDS by Benjamin Mester, Fantasy, 384 pp., $9.99 (Paperback) $2.99 (Kindle)

Author: Benjamin Mester
Publisher: Independent
Pages: 384
Genre: Fantasy

A kingdom in danger. A prophecy that will change everything. But will they understand it in time? The old world is gone, and barely even histories remain. But something from that time is returning. The closing lines of a farewell poem, written centuries ago by the last great king of the age to his slain wife, might be more than just a poem:

The world and all its light shall fade,
I’ll stay with her beneath the shade
And wait until the world’s remade…

Join us in this epic fantasy adventure as three friends plunge into the great mystery of their age, twelve centuries in the making. A mysterious fog blankets the forest just outside the sleepy town of Suriya. A dark plot unfolds as Durian and his friends discover ties between a strange wanderer and the warlike barbarian kingdom far to the north. Are the mysterious things happening in the forest a prelude to invasion? What happens next will propel Durian and his curious friends into the middle of the oldest riddle in the history of their kingdom, a dozen centuries old.
Amazon Link:

Other Books in The Banished Lands Series

The Banished Lands series

Dismissing hours as they pass
Soft upon the windswept grass.
The hopes of men have come to naught.
Nothing fair for eyes or thought.

For Sheyla lies on golden plain,
Of Cavanah, the fairest slain;
Who met her last and final day
When all was brought to disarray.

Of gladful things now nevermore –
Now bitter wind, now salty shore.
The peaceful world bound to unrest
And darkness looming in the west.

The world and all its light shall fade.
I'll stay with her beneath the shade
And wait until the world's remade...

Benjamin Mester is native of San Diego but can often be found wandering the woods of northern Minnesota.  He fell in love with language at an early age – the eloquence of poetry or the grandeur of an epic story.  Fantasy is his favorite genre, crafting new and magical places of heroism and adventure.  When he isn’t writing, he’s often taking long walks through nature or wondering about his place in the wide world.

Benjamin is the author of The Banished Lands series.

You can visit him on Goodreads.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Saving... but who saved the book?

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Stacy Mitchell to my blog. We're going to drink some virtual coffee while she answers real questions, so find a mug, read on and enjoy. After coffee you might even get the chance to read an excerpt from her novel, Saving Each Other.

Where did you grow up, and where do you live now? I was born and raised in Los Angeles, moved to the South Bay when I met my husband, and then relocated to the Conejo Valley when my oldest son, Jason, started middle school.

Ah, hence the picture. So if Jason's your oldest, do you have other kids, or any pets? I have two sons. Jason graduated Rutgers, and stayed there, while my youngest, Brian, is about to start design school. I’ve never owned a cat but may get one. I lost my goldendoodle, Norman, last year, and my labradoodle, Maddie, is lonely. Look for my tribute to Norman in the back of my book.

What a shame. We had a standard poodle, then got a black lab after he died. Losing a pet is so hard, and I'm sure it's hard for the remaining pet too.

Do you have any favorite authors? My son Brian is gay and I wanted to be there for him, to guide him. So I turned to gay romance novels. I’m now completely addicted to them. People who live in the LGBTQ+ community have much higher hurdles they have to scale, so the love they share is much deeper than straight couples. Most of the time they’re better than mainstream books. NR Walker is my favorite M/M author. I also love Riley Hart, Lucy Lennox, Alexa Land, and Pandora Pine to name a few. When I read “straight” romance novels, I tend to lean toward Contemporary and romantic comedy. My favorite M/F author is Sandi Lynn. Other one-click authors are Adrianna Locke, Corinne Michaels, BN Toler, and Kristen Callahan.
You sound like a very supportive mom. Did you always want to be a writer? Until three years ago, I never read a book that I wasn’t required to read.

Intriguing... Eleven years ago, my son Brian went away to summer camp. My husband and I decided to take advantage of our time off, hopped in my car and took a road trip up the West coast, from California to Washington. We were in Oregon, nine hours away, when the call came in that Brian had had a seizure. It was the hardest drive of my life. Thankfully, we got in touch with my mother, so I knew he wasn’t alone. When I got there, I was a basket-case, and that’s where the double-edged sword of having my mother there came into play. She handed me a little blue pill, to calm me. She then gave me a few more. She also gave me the name of a “dirty” doctor and told me what to say. The little blue pill was Xanax.

Wow... By the time I ended my addiction, which was eight years later, I was, not only taking twelve to fourteen milligrams a day, I was also hooked on over a dozen prescription drugs. In 2014, I traveled to Ireland and ran out of most of them. The withdrawal was so bad, I spent the entire time there in the hotel room. When I got home, I was in the doctor’s office bright and early the very next day. Six months later, I was back in the same boat. The only difference was, this time I was still in California. That was when I said, “Enough is enough,” and flushed every other pill I had. In hindsight, it was completely the wrong way to quit. Three years later, I still feel the effects, especially when I’m stressed.

Then, what inspired you to write? Dani and Ean inspired me to write. Six months after I stopped the pills, I was in bed in that space between consciousness and sub-consciousness when Dani and Ean came to me. The best way I can it describe is…like watching a movie. I felt their pain with such intensity it took my breath away. I got up, opened notes on my iPhone, since I didn’t own a laptop, and my thumbs got to work.

What would you say is unique about your books?   Aside from adding details that make it seem like you’re watching a movie, I love quotes, or as my husband calls them, Squotes. It’s something you’ll see throughout my book.  You also don’t find many books on the market where the main characters share chapters. Originally, I had five, but, over time, I narrowed it down to two. In the scene where Ean quotes Dani, mimicking her slurring her words, I actually slurred into my phone and let autocorrect do its thing. Also, in my second book, Josh talks with his mouth full. I shoved a bunch of crackers in my mouth and repeated his words. It was both messy, and effective. 

What a neat idea. You keep surprising me. But what are some of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?  Keep your ears open and your mouth closed. Ideas can come from anywhere. And it really does take a village. I originally published my book August of last year. When the reviews came in, I not only read them, I got in touch with the people who wrote them. Best. Move. Ever! I got great advice and made a ton of new friends. It’s because of them that I re-opened Saving Each Other and spent the last four months revising it. Look for their names in the acknowledgment page.

And, don’t even get me started on the amazing women who helped me make my book what it is today, Stacey Blake, Judy Zweifel, Francine LaSala, and Sara Kocek.

I have some amazing friends who help me too, and a cool writers' group that keeps me inspired with things to write. Do you ever struggle with writer's block?  Writer’s block isn’t an issue for me. Saving Each Other is the first in a series of five books. I wrote my second book, Saving Them, a month after my first, and I also wrote it in a month. The last three in the series, Saving Ourselves, Saving Christmas, and Saving Maybe, are partially written and completely mapped out. Going back to “ideas can come from anywhere,” I was in San Francisco last year and met an amazing man, who sadly was homeless. While talking to him, a sequel series, The Finding Series, played out in my mind. It’s all their kids.

Even though I haven’t experienced “Writer’s Block,” I have times when I’m uninspired. My words come from my characters, their voices roll through me. So, for the times I can’t hear them, I found that stepping back usually does the trick. By the time I start writing again, the words are much easier to find. Brian helps too. He’s my official “name” man. Other than the main characters, he named everyone. Talking it out helps too. I bounce ideas off my best friend, Leslie, and after a half an hour, I’m good to go.

What do you think makes a good story? I’m a very visual person, I was an interior decorator in my last life, so I love books with a ton of imagery. I also love books with real places in them. It’s so much fun to stumble across one when I’m reading, and I always Google and bookmark them. It’s also why I only include real places in my books.

What was your greatest challenge in writing this book? You won’t see it, because I’m surrounded by such amazing women, but I suck at grammar! Like legitimately suck!

Where do you best like to write? I have a small deck off my bedroom. I bought an oversized chair from Costco, and spend my days writing with my laptop on a polka dot, pillowed LapDesk. I’m a night-owl, and find I write the best when the moon’s smiling in the night sky.

What do you like to do when you are not writing? When I’m not writing, I’m reading. I could spend the day writing, and still want to read. My goal with Goodreads is 200 books.  And, when I’m not reading, I can be found being creative in other ways. Brian designs fashion, and I love sewing with him. I also love designing jewelry, scrapbooking, and making gift baskets. Look for some of the fun give-aways, coming in the near future, many of them will be handmade.

And finally, what is the one book no writer should be without? One word…Thesaurus!

I agree, though in my case Microsoft Word and Google are my go-to thesauri (or thesauruses). Thank you for visiting, and I really enjoyed our interview. And thank you for the chance to read an excerpt from Saving Each Other, below.

Excerpt from Saving Each Other by Stacy Mitchell
The place D and I have been forced to go for counseling is called “OUR HOUSE Grief Support Center” and is about a half an hour away from my home. My mom insisted on driving me. And while she hasn’t read anything about the accident, she spent the entire ride, before my first session, alternating between trying to force me to read the articles flooding the Internet and trying to persuade me to attend the court proceedings. I’m not going to read what some scumbag has to say about my family and I’ve made everyone promise they won’t either. I’m also definitely not going to the trial. The minute I see the man who murdered my family, I’ll lose my shit and that wouldn’t be good for anyone, especially me.
“OUR HOUSE” usually holds group sessions, but because our sessions are court-mandated and high profile, D and I were able to meet separately with our counselor, Elizabeth Macintyre, on a one-to-one basis.
Since we’re both barely hanging on by a thread, Beth did something very extreme and very risky. She came up with the idea that connecting us with one another could help us get through the grieving process. Her thinking was that since we’re both going through the same thing, we could potentially help each other. She explained to us—that to her—this was worth the potential loss of her license.
She gave us each a new cell phone that contained only each other’s new phone numbers along with the first letter of our first names. She wanted us to have a dedicated line to one another and her only stipulations were that we only communicate through text message and never reveal our real names or other personal details. This I agreed to because I had absolutely no intention of ever contacting her.
Except today. Today I have to. So I turn on my phone and type:
D, this is E.
I can’t believe I’m actually doing this. I don’t see how it’s going to change anything but I can’t stand this anymore. I’m at my breaking point. I’m in constant pain. It feels like a huge band is crushing my chest and getting tighter every day. All I do is cry! Everybody’s been trying really hard to help get me through this, I know that. I just don’t have it in me to give a shit.
I lost it with my mom yesterday. Said things no son should ever say to his mother. All she did was ask me to move in with her, and I lost it. It got so bad that she ran out of the house crying with a very mad Riley on her heels. Sure she’s asked me before, but that’s no excuse. My dad laid into me, took Po, and left. I’m now truly alone; being sucked into an inescapable vortex of grief. I’m so lost.
They haven’t been by yet today and I hope they don’t come by at all; this way I can die in peace. I’m falling down the rabbit hole very quickly and that’s why I need to contact D, the only other person who could possibly understand what I’m going through.
So I continue.
I wasn’t planning on contacting you, but here I am. I’m sure you feel the same way since you haven’t reached out to me and I don’t blame you if you don’t respond. It’s been almost a month since my world ended, and let’s just say, unfortunately, suicide isn’t an option. Even though I really wish it were.
I push aside my tears but not my pain; it refuses to leave. I take a deep breath and keep typing.
I’m dying. With each second that passes, I keep dying more and more. I never leave my house, I just sit near the door waiting for their return. So yeah, I’m contacting you. Are you going through the same thing? Why did this have to happen? How am I ever supposed to move on or whatever the hell that even means.
Through my agony I type the plea that just might save my life.
I know I said I don’t blame you if you don’t respond, but at the same time, I really need you to text me back. I’m scared, sad, lonely, and extremely desperate.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

It's been a long week - time for a short read perhaps?

It's been a really long week. Now, not only am I losing one publisher to illness, but I may well lose another to market forces. I feel somewhat "Earnest" with lines like "to lose one [publisher] might be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness" echoing in my brain. But am I really careless or just careworn?

Either way, reading children's picture books is a great prescription. Even without kids to share them with, picture books still lift the spirits, inspire a smile, and remind me there are more important things in life than being a published author. Being a reader for example -- what could be better? So let's use books and teach our kids to read. Then maybe they'll read my books as well.

Let's also drink coffee of course. Please find an appropriate brew and choose your story:

First is Cedric the Shark gets Toothache by Kay Carter, a smoothly rhyming tale with clear cartoon pictures of a shark who eats too much candy. The images convey emotions quite delightfully and the lesson is fun and wise. Enjoy with some smooth three-star coffee.

Moving from teeth to nails, my next book is the whimsical Nils Cuts His Nails by Nurit Zvolon, where a child who's afraid of scissors just might learn to enjoy nailcutting time. Each finger becomes a character, with nails like hair that needs styling. Intriguing and fun, enjoy it with some one-star mild crisp coffee.

Rattles the Barn Cat Misfit by Arlene White is filled with pen-and-crayon style images, offering a nice blend of light and shade. Images of frightened cats showing their teeth will give children an easy way of learning not to approach unknown animals, and the message of difference and acceptance is nicely told. Enjoy with some lively, easy-drinking two-star coffee.

Gita V. Reddy's Which is P and which is Q was bound to appeal to me as I took forever to learn to read and spell. Those ps, qs, ds and bs had me thoroughly foxed as a child, and this story of their demise is really quite fun, despite a bit of font-mixing in the text. Enjoy with some light crisp one-star coffee.

Isosceles’ Day by Kevin J. Meehan is another picture book that was bound to catch my attention, with its gorgeously soulful image of a dog on the cover. There's also a rather whimsical top-hatted creature holding a wand (!), so what's inside? Enjoy a gorgeously illustrated tale, with an intriguing story behind the story, while imbibing some mild, crisp one-star coffee, and must love dogs!

Baby from the Moon by Mrs. D. offers a nice halfway house between babies brought by storks and babies growing in mummies' tummies. Nice character, whimsical dreams (lots of whimsy in these books - it must be good for me!), bright colors, clear text - one to enjoy with some lively two-star coffee.

Sascha Martin’s Rocket-Ship by John Arthur Nichol is a picture book for slightly older readers, blending picture-book rhymes with graphic novel images. An amusing cast of teachers and students are impacted when someone pushes the button that shouldn't be pushed, and it's all fast-moving, lively fun, to be enjoyed with some lively two-star coffee.

Peaceful Night Poetry by Piaras O Cionnaoith should be fun for many ages, with sleepy animals illustrating the road to peaceful sleep. The poems are nicely organized with pleasant whimsy and magical touches throughout. There are even ten tips for a good night's sleep at the end! But you should still drink coffee, a well-balanced three-star brew perhaps.

Which is maybe a good time to stop - time to sleep even. Next will be a set of children's books without quite so many illustrations, 'cause kids' books are always fun, and next week threatens to be super-busy too.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

What did you want to be when you grew up? ... Finding the Spirit of the Trail

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Carrie Morgridge to my blog. She's touring the internet with her book, Spirit of the Trail. And she's toured the trails with her bike. So, welcome Carrie. I have virtual tea, coffee, juice and even water...

I guess I should start by asking where you live and where you grew up.

  • Born in Santa Barbara, California.  Moved to Aspen CO from CA, and then split time between CO and FL.  Warm cold thing.  Now live in Stuart FL on Hutchinson Island and Steamboat Springs CO.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

  • My mom said I could be anything I wanted to be – every night as a child.  I met prince charming in San Francisco and lived happily ever after.
What is your education/career background?
  • I graduated HS by one point.  I was totally disengaged, but my parents always told me I was smart.  Went to college at 36 and graduated Suma Cum Laude.  Timing was everything.  I have an Associates in Arts from a VoTech School in Tampa – International Academy of Technology and Design.  I graduated as an Interior Designer. 
Do you have kids and/or pets?
  • Yes -  A son John – age 26 and a daughter Michelle – married age 25.  One loveable dog Nina – Toy Australian Sheppard – who travels with us, on planes and in our RV sprinter.  
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? What inspired you?
  • I don’t consider myself a writer, as I always need help with editing, and grammar.  However,  I am a story teller, and I have been exposed to so many amazing things being a Morgridge for 27 years.  Two men in my life, both from the non profit world believed that I had a story to tell.  Every Gift Matters, my first book became an amazon best selling book. Then I won best non fiction from Indie Book Awards and the rest is history.  I have toured India twice from the book, and have a third book in me – Courage Money. The stories come easy, and I acknowledge that there are great writers out there who can help me make my books sing.
Do you have a favorite time or place... or way to write?
  • I am a very early riser, and I like to write first thing when I wake up.  Writing is not a push for me, but a pleasure. When I am into a book, I write first thing, then do a really hard work out – shower – and come back to the story. My brain processes through work out and overnight, so I take advantage to both. When I experience something new or worthwhile, I will write about it and bank it in google docs. I already have many stories ripe for book three.
Do you ever struggle to write or have writer’s block? If so, what are some ways that help you find your creative muse again?
  • Since I write about the now, I do two things. I go on site visits and meet people from my favorite charities and interview them. Their energy feeds my soul, and inspires me to write about them, share their stories and share the goodness in the world. We need to know more about what is out there and focus on the good.  Secondly, I go for a hard workout, which is probably harder than the normal person.  Training for Ironman is hard, and there are many things that one must sacrifice to do finish.  As a mom of small children at the time, I had to balance, family, college, and training all at the same time.  I made a daily goal, and worked one day at a time to a weekly goal, which lead to a monthly goal. So when I mean a hard workout it is 3-5 hours nonstop. I will go unplugged and let me mind take me where I need to go.  From there – I can write about anything.  I honestly can feel all my senses and the writing just flows.
That sounds great. How do you decide when you've got a good story?
  • A good story to me is worth repeating. So when I read, hear or learn of a great story, I immediately try to share in my network.  A good story to me is a simple person, doing a heroic thing, yet they don’t even know it, because it is second nature.  A good story is someone who was willing to take a chance to try something different and succeeded/failed.  The point is that they were willing to take a risk – and I like risk taking. 
What inspired this story?
  • My story is about a couple – who celebrated their 25th anniversary by going on an epic adventure.  We needed each other more and more each day, and helped each other in ways we hadn’t done in 25 years – with kids, careers, etc.  Our trip brought us closer together as if we just met and fell in love.  It was incredibly hard.  There were hard days, tough nights and scary points – all worth sharing.  I hope to inspire others to fall in love again, to adventure cycle, or if anything – unplug for the weekend – take a bike ride and enjoy nature. 
So that's the theme of your book, right?
  • I hope my message inspires others to hit their bucket list and bike across – you fill in the blank – the country, the state, the city, the place.  But to go out there and do it. If a small town girl like me can bike across the country – so can you.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
  • Writing is the easy part. Editing requires professionals. I spend more time with edits and making it perfect for the reader.. Again, I rely on the professionals, and I welcome edits, I don’t disagree, as I know they are making the book better.  I want the book to be 100% perfect for the reader.
What was your greatest challenge in writing this book?
  • I first wrote our bike across the country as a blog.  The hardest challenge was reading my scratch from my phone – which we turned into a book.  Both John and I had to go back and just look at the photos and re-write the entire trip.  The crazy thing is that our memory is sparked by each day of photos and we both could remember crazy details each and every day (46 total) of that summer.
What’s the best writing advice you have ever received?
  • Edits are great!  Go with it.
What is the one book no writer should be without?
  • Their first book that makes them fall in love with reading. This is very individual and each of us can remember our first book, that we just couldn’t put down and pulled an all nighter to finish. This is the book to hold on to forever. 
Who are some of your favorite authors?
  • Adam Grant, Thomas Friedman, Walter Isaacson, Jim Collins, Malcom Gladwell, Sheryl Sandburg, E.L. James, J.K. Rowling, Peter Reynolds, Bill Peet
Who are some of your greatest helpers?
    • My husband, John is my rock.  He put me through college, believed in me as my parents did, and 150% supports me every day
    • My in-laws – John and Tashia Morgridge – they are the BEST in-laws ever. 
    • My parents – they still think I am amazing and I love them dearly.
    • John Farnam – my consultant, best friend, and colleague of 6 plus years
    • Kellie Lauth – The CEO of a non profit that we spun off from Morgridge Family Foundation – but she is the inventor, the creator and just uber smart.  Someone I look up to.
    • Dr. Bridget Coughlin – CEO Shedd Aquarium – Has taught me so much about business, science, evolution.  Smartest woman I know, and one of the kindest.
    • George Sparks – CEO of Denver Museum of Nature and Science.  Taught me how to connect with people better, to work crazy hard, and to never give up.
    • Dr. Michael Salem – CEO of National Jewish Health.  So smart, so driven and willing to talk with me as an intellectual about all subjects.
    • Arthur Brooks – CEO of American Enterprise Institute.  Arthur can share his intellectual thoughts to the point where you can understand what he his saying, yet his words seem to be my words.  He pushes me to be better.
    • Jo Kwong – Director of Economic Development at The Philanthropy Roundtable.  Jo never stops.  Her passion to make America self-reliant is contagious. Our best projects in our foundation is because of Jo’s introductions and I am a better philanthropist because of her. 
    • Robert Wolgemuth – He was my agent for my first book, Every Gift Matters – How Your Passion can Change the World. He and his late wife Bobbie, brought me closer to God, and each day since magical things have happened in my life that I would have never dreamt possible.
Oh... and what's on your bucket list?

    • Be a great grandma – I have 4 grand puppies and 2 grand kittens
    • Inspire women to be whatever they want to be.
    • To be a great wife
    • To visit Mully and President Kugama in Africa
    • To laugh each day
    • To love more each day than the past day
Have you won any awards or honors (not just for writing)?

    • Several -
    • Arthur B Lorber Award for Distinguished Service from National Jewish Health – where they never say never and our foundation supports a school for medically frail children, and residences for up and coming doctors for all of America.
    • Frances Wisebart Jacobs award – United Way Denver (back in the day Frances was not allowed to serve on boards, yet built the bus system so that medically frail people could get to National Jewish Health.  Frances started United Way – in Denver Colorado with a rabbi and a priest. 
    • Urban Legend Award – for our work with homeless teens and young adults
    • Hope Award – from Tony LaRussa for our work in rescue animals
    • Josef Korbel Humanitarian Award – from the University of Denver for our work in our community and around the US. 
Wow! I'm sure there must be lots of other questions I should ask, but that's more than enough for two cups of coffee. Thank you so much for visiting my blog. And I wish you every good fortune in all your endeavors.

And now for some information about the book

The Spirit of the Trail: A Journey to Fulfillment Along the Continental Divide

“Decidedly not for sprinters, this battle royale braves mountain passes and windswept valleys of the Continental Divide from hinterlands of the Canadian Rockies to badlands of the Mexican Plateau.” - tourdivide.org

"A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, ...let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches – that is the right and privilege of any free American." –Ed Abbey, author, environmentalist and one of the most eloquent and passionate advocates of the American West

While The Spirit of the Trail primarily describes the life-altering, 2,800-mile bicycling expedition on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) from Banff, Canada, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico endured by Carrie Morgridge and her husband, John, during the summer of 2016, it frequently touches on concepts and personal traits that are of vital importance to the Morgridge Family Foundation philanthropic mission. The Foundation strives to open new paths for children and adults. As bicycling offers a sustainable method of transportation, the Foundation models sustainable
philanthropy. And while a cycling adventure is hands-on, so is the Foundation’s search for worthwhile projects to support.

The book serves as an informative (but not too technical) guide for those who are ready to tackle the GDMBR and anyone who is curious about stepping out of their comfort zone and facing a large or difficult challenge. Carrie’s voice throughout is inspiring and uplifting, even on the days when she is tired of eating out of a can, sleeping on the ground and is considering giving up, she finds a meadowlark or a field of gorgeous wildflowers to remind her of all that she is thankful for, and presses on.

As with her earlier book, Every Gift Matters, their Foundation plans to contribute all proceeds to the Adventure Cycling Association in support of the Foundation’s enduring commitment to health and environmental conservation.

About the authors

Carrie Morgridge serves as the Vice President and Chief Disruptor of The Morgridge Family Foundation. The mission of the Foundation is to invest in transformative gifts. Carrie is the award-winning author of Every Gift Matters – How Your Passion Can Change the World.
Carrie and her husband John created the Student Support Foundation, a national organization that inspires youth philanthropy. For the past decade, they have celebrated and advanced the educator profession by creating mindSpark Learning which is focused on empowering educators to tackle the most challenging conditions in their schools through Design Thinking and other strategies.
Carrie speaks nationally to education advocacy forums, at poverty alleviation conferences, and many convenings, globally, that are philanthropically focused. She divides her time between Colorado and Florida. She and John have two children who both reside in Denver.
Carrie and John are avid athletes; they recently mountain biked across the country on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route covering 2,774 miles from Canada to New Mexico in 46 days. Carrie has completed nine Ironman competitions.

Praise for Carrie Morgridge and Every Gift Matters

“An informative road-map to making every donation count…[Carrie Morgridge] persuasively argues that donating wisely at any level can bring about big change. Readers will find her astute guidance a valuable tool in choosing where to give.” —Publishers Weekly