Author Spotlight: Kelly Brakenhoff

  • a writer of contemporary mystery novels

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Kelly Brakenhoff.

Kelly Brakenhoff

Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. The mother of four young adults, a cranky old dog, and a rambunctious puppy, Kelly and her husband call Nebraska home.

Kelly, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

After giving this question serious consideration, I just can’t imagine coming home to my pet hedgehog no matter how cute its little face is. I’m boring and I love dogs. I love dogs so much, I’m even willing to overlook the occasional pile of puke on my dining room rug, or the chewed up sock left in the backyard all winter until revealed by melted snow.

I had a friend’s whose mom raised hedgehogs. They’re not really domesticated, just sort of caged wild animals that do their own little thing. But they are awfully cute.

What do you write and how did you get started? ANDWhat do you like to read?

I don’t remember not loving to read, and then writing followed soon afterwards. Mysteries are my favorite to read and write. I plan to publish the second in my series later this year. I’m also working on a children’s picture book series that has a deaf dog as the main character.

My book club has met for nearly 19 years. I love when my friends choose books I’d never know about otherwise. We’ve read nearly every genre and age group, mostly fiction and a few non-fiction. We meet at a different restaurant each month, so one bonus is I’ve tried lots of great local eateries. Our friendship bonds are strong after so long together, but everyone still laughs about that time they all absolutely hated the book I chose.

I haven’t really been in a book club since high school, but it was with my english teacher and some of her friends. But I completely understand how reading and writing go hand-in-hand.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Write every day.”

Trying to keep it real, here.

My day job is mentally challenging, I’m married, and I have four mostly grown children and a grandson. Of course, not writing every day has its repercussions, like how it’s taken me 4+ years to finish my first novel. When I don’t touch the manuscript for more than a couple of weeks, I waste valuable time getting back into the story.

I do try to think about my WIP every day. I jot notes that occur to me while dreaming, driving, or running. Keeping work/life balance is such a high priority for me, I just can’t write every day.

Do I feel guilty about it and cringe every time some expert preaches this advice?

Yes.

Will I continue to write at my (snail’s) pace.

YES!

Hear hear! Life comes first, but writing is a priority.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Beginnings matter.

I re-wrote the beginning of Death by Dissertation at least 20 times. I don’t think you can overdo attention to a great opening line and first chapter.

As a reader, I have a strict 50-page limit. If you don’t grab me by the 50th page, I will not finish your book.

I also don’t like it when authors switch time or point of view too frequently before I’ve gotten to know the characters and can keep them all straight. I read to escape, not to work hard.

I probably can count the number of books I didn’t finish on one hand. But most of that is due to my lack of impulse control and my fast reading speed. Good for you for not wasting time on books that aren’t proving themselves.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Kelly’s novel, Death by Dissertation, debuted April 22nd! Get it while it’s fresh.

Death by Dissertation (A Cassandra Sato Mystery Book 1) by [Brakenhoff, Kelly]
Death by Dissertation by Kelly Brakenhoff

Ambitious Cassandra Sato traded her life in Hawai’i for a dream position as Student Affairs VP at Morton College in tiny Carson, Nebraska. She expected the Midwestern church casseroles, land-locked cornfields, and face-freezing winters would be her biggest challenges, but it’s her job that’s rapidly becoming a nightmare.

A deaf student is dead and the investigation reveals a complicated trail of connections between campus food service, a local farmer’s beef, and the science lab’s cancer research. Together with her few allies, Cassandra must protect the students caught up in the entanglement.

Dealing with homesickness, vandalism, and a stalker, Cassandra is trapped in a public relations disaster that could cost her job, or more. No one said college was easy. 

I’m not used to self-promotion so let me take this moment to publicly thank you Morgan for being such a great team-building cheerleader of the Facebook groups you administer. Your tireless efforts were the motivation I needed during the dark days when I wanted to give up. I’m sure there are many other lurkers out there who are like me and really appreciate your positive energy. If it’s true that the good you give comes back to you even more, you will be a best-selling author some day!

In honor of checking the “Publish a novel” box off my bucket list, I’m donating part of the proceeds of Death by Dissertation to a nonprofit that will buy books for classrooms with deaf and hard of hearing children.

Please help me promote early literacy by ordering the book before May 10th. Also I’m offering a fun “Afternoon of Reading Getaway” package and I’d love for you to enter the contest and share the link with your mystery-loving friends.

Thanks for having me, Morgan!

Awww! Thanks. Knowing how much a little support helps me, I’m always glad when I can give others the encouragement they need.

 

 

Check Kelly out on your favorite social media.

 

Wordpress goodreads  Pinterest InstagramTwitter

Author Spotlight: Michelle D. Sonnier

  • writer/mom/wife with a day job and a dream to be a successful speculative fiction author

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Michelle D. Sonnier.

Image may contain: 1 person, closeup

Michelle D. Sonnier is a writer/mom/wife with a day job and a dream to be a successful speculative fiction author. She battles her flaws of anxiety and iffy time management skills to make it happen, and while she’s not rocketing up the NYT Bestseller list like she does in her daydreams, she is making progress.

Michelle, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I am very much a cat person, so I’m pretty happy sharing my home with two lovely felines (Desi and Nyxie). But if making pets of wild creatures weren’t such a bad idea (for both the human and the animal), I’d want a cougar and a flock of crows. 

I’m allergic, but I still like cats. Interesting choices! Cougars are sleepy and dangerous, whereas a flock of crows invokes images of witchcraft and battlefields after the battle…

What do you write and how did you get started?

I primarily write dark urban fantasy, but my first novel that actually sold is classified as steampunk, although it edges toward gaslamp fantasy. A lot of genre boundaries are fuzzy and I feel like I’m in good company if I treat those boundaries flexibly. Some of my favorite authors genre bend on a whim.

I am especially drawn to using the Fae in my work. I also enjoy exploring the gray areas of human behaviors and I considered it a compliment of the highest order when reader said of my characters, “no one is pure.” Because isn’t that the way of life? No one is 100% good or bad and we all make mistakes. Flawed characters are so much more interesting than perfect ones.

As for how I got started, I think you can blame my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. MacNeilis. I adored her and when she complimented me on a poem I wrote about spring I suddenly wanted to write more poems to please her. Then, somewhere along the way, I discovered the joy of playing with words and started writing for myself. I abandoned poetry and moved to short stories by sixth grade because I wanted to tell stories and not just relay emotions. I was hooked and I’ve never looked back.

I love fae creatures and gas lamp fantasies. Let’s hear it for teachers who encourage us!

What do you like to read?

I tend to favor urban fantasy and alternate world fantasy, but I’ll read any genre as long as the characters are well written. I like to read about interesting characters facing extraordinary circumstances. I like it when a character is so well drawn that I can understand why they are doing what they are doing even if it’s an action I wouldn’t take myself. It’s probably easy to tell that I’m into character-driven narratives.

Right now I’m finishing N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy and I am in awe. The story is so intricate and layered, but at the same time it doesn’t feel forced, which can be a problem with complicated narratives. Each twist and turn is at once surprising and completely natural and reasonable. The main character does some terrible things, but you can understand her choices and even sympathize because you can see all the stressors and experiences that led her to where she is now. My other favorite authors include Charles de Lint and Margaret Atwood. 

I’m a huge fan of urban fantasy and alternate world fantasies as well. Jemisin’s trilogy is on my (massive) to read pile. And I stumbled across a Charles de Lint book last year… not realizing it was halfway through the series. Definitely someone I’d love to read more of.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Write what you know.”

Really? You think I’ve actually met mermaids and fairies and talking crows? Perhaps I interviewed a goblin or two?

There’s so much speculative fiction that couldn’t be written if all writers obeyed this edict.

I think this advice can stunt the growth of a writer and keep them from expanding their curious imagination. It can also really go wrong when a writer just assumes they know what they are writing about based on limited information and common stereotypes.

I’ve seen some recent social media posts that hilariously skewer male writers for writing female characters as flat stereotypes and/or displaying a stunning lack of knowledge of basic female biology. So many of these flubs could have been avoided by talking to a woman, any woman.

I think a much better piece of advice would be to let your imagination run free and then research the heck out of things to make sure you’ve got a solid foundation. For example, my knowledge of the Victorian England base I used for my novel was pretty paltry before I started writing, so I spent a lot of time on research. Some of the things I found during my research became fun plot points. And some of the things I’d originally planned had to be altered or cut completely because they didn’t fit.

That’s my approach — dream big, but do your research.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

You can’t edit an empty page.

Whatever is going on, put your butt in the seat and write.

Of course, this is one that I break far more often than I care to admit. The advice is spot on – there’s no way to publish anything that still resides in your brain. You have to get it down on paper (or electrons) if you want to have any hope of someone else reading your work.

But then life gets in the way… There’s a kid who needs me, and so does my husband. My day job boss is not going to be happy if I miss deadlines for her in order to write a novel. The dishes don’t do themselves and the cats won’t clean their own litter (lazy furballs). So, I’m trying to be better about getting my butt in the seat and getting the words out of my head.

I haven’t figured out the answer yet; I seem to go in fits and starts. But I keep trying and I’m always going to keep trying. I’m a writer, and I can’t not write.

I know the call of the page, and the temptation to let it slip. We all have that struggle.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

The Clockwork Witch by [Sonnier, Michelle D.]

You can get my novel, The Clockwork Witch, here.

The seventh daughter of a seventh daughter, Arabella is destined to disappoint, when she was expected to shine. Though she descends from a long line of gifted witches she has earned the moniker of a “brown bud” showing no sign of magical talent. 

When it truly seems her lot can grow no worse, she discovers an unnatural affinity for…of all things…technomancy. Not only are the mysteries of the mechanical world open to her, but her new-found ability allows her to manipulate them, making her the first ever clockwork witch and anathema to the nature of the witching world.

How will she come to grips with her new power when she must question if she will survive the judgement of her family and her peers? Or, more daunting yet…The Trials?


You can get my short story collection, Charmed City, in paper here.

Not all dreams are magical things filled with hope and light, some dreams are murkier and far more sinister. From the shared dreams of her famous sons John Waters and Edgar Allen Poe, Baltimore is known for her share of peculiar oddity, but beyond the bouffant hairdos of her trademark Hons and the quirky neighborhood bars is a world even darker and stranger.

Or in ebook form here.

Feel free to friend follow her on facebook!


Author Spotlight: Louisa M Bauman

– author, researcher, wife, and mom

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Louisa M. Bauman.

Louisa M Bauman is a mom, wife, and author from Ontario, Canada and she loves researching and writing. Before her second life as a writer, she was an avid gardener canning hundreds of jars of her own fruits and vegetables every year, a quilt-maker, a collector of vintage dishes, a scrapbooker, a sewing lady, and a latch-rug hooker, and of course an obsessive reader, but most of all, a mom to eight kids.  

She writes sixteenth century historical fiction and readers have described her books as inspiring, real, poignant, intriguing, sad, full of love and hope, faith-filled and fast-paced.

Louisa, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

It seems I’m not your typical author—I have no cats and only one dog who lives in the barn with the sheep. I don’t really want anything furry or noisy around me all the time, but I love watching fish. I would have an aquarium full of colorful fish, like the one I saw at the Mandarin recently. Maybe even a waterfall. I could listen to water 24/7.  There’s something so calming about watching fish swim around, and besides, I love water.

I love waterfalls and listening to running water. My Instagram may have an obnoxious number of pictures of water — or did when I lived next to a lake. I understand the soothing aura of water, too.

What do you write and how did you get started?

Writing was always a dream of mine, ever since Grade 4 when a teacher said, “One day I will read a book written by Louisa Bauman.” Odds were against me ever achieving it, but I never forgot about it. Creative writing and art were my two favorite subjects in school, and for a long time I didn’t know which one I liked best. But I chose writing because it seemed easier to learn, less investment.

What a joke.

Three years ago, I had to start from scratch, armed with my Grade 8 education, English as my second language and a great deal of determination. I learned how to use a computer, Word, Facebook, Google and just EVERYTHING. It’s an ongoing process and I have a lot of fun, EXCEPT when I’m trying to master things like Scrivener, or macincloud so I can use Vellum.

I loved creative writing in school, too. I’m so excited that you found you way back to it, as well!

What do you like to read?

I read extensively for my research, things like encyclopedias, 1000 page volumes of martyr stories and the Bible. I also have a TBR pile that, laid end to end in paperbacks, would stretch halfway around the world (But I have so many ebooks waiting on Kindle) I read anything that sounds interesting in historical fiction and sometimes romance if there’s a real story, not just a lusty couple. Two of my favorite authors are Philippa Gregory and Francine Rivers.

I’m a Philippa Gregory fan as well. And I enjoy romances with compelling plots.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Write it and they will come.”

No, they won’t. Not unless you market like a demon, eating up time you could be spending on writing. Oh, and speaking of spending, you have to invest money you don’t have, and compete against thousands of other books out there, not to mention the countless other ways people entertain themselves. Suck up the rejection and revel in the praise.

That’s my biggest fear for trying to go indie. You are far braver than I.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Write a good book.

To gain readers and keep them, you have to write a good book. You can’t just word vomit one weekend and publish on Monday. Take your time and do it right.

Oh, and write. every. Single. day.

Writing could be researching, actual writing, or editing. But never skip a day, even if it’s just five minutes. Like my writing instructor said, he will excuse us only if we have a note from the doctor saying we were in a coma.

I’ve been slacking off recently. But, I’ve preached the ‘just five minutes’ approach myself. Either you get five minutes of work done, or you find enough focus and get more done. It’s a win-win approach.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Sister, Fight Valiantly: A Christian Love Story Novella by [M Bauman, Louisa]

Sister, Fight Valiantly

This novella was released in February 2019 and has been enjoyed even by non-Christians.

It’s a true story that was dubbed a real-life Romeo and Juliet.

I have six 5 star reviews on it and one 3 star, so I think it’s successful.

Sword of Peace: A Journey From Fear to Faith (Sword of Münster Series Book 1) by [Bauman, Louisa M]

Sword of Peace

This is my debut novel, self-published February 10, 2018, and I was totally at ease publishing it because I didn’t think anyone would want to read my book, much less enjoy it, so low was my self-esteem. It has religion, for heaven’s sake, and even worse politics, albeit 16th century politics. Fascinating stuff, really.

This is my debut novel, self-published February 10, 2018, and I was totally at ease publishing it because I didn’t think anyone would want to read my book, much less enjoy it, so low was my self-esteem. It has religion, for heaven’s sake, and even worse politics, albeit 16th century politics. Fascinating stuff, really.

Now, 56 reviews later, averaging 4.6 stars, and the recipient of an indieBRAG medallion honoree award, I’m actually TERRIFIED to get the sequel out. There’s pressure and anxiety like you wouldn’t believe, BUT I will fight through it. I’m re-writing at the moment, and it will be the LAST re-write for this book.

Daughters of the Past: A Historical Fiction Anthology by [Li Barr, Nola, Bauman, Louisa, Merewether, Lauren Lee, Miller, Kimberly C., Stathers, Gracie]

Daughters of the Past

This is an anthology I co-authored with 4 other historical fiction authors and contains Sister, Fight Valiantly under the title LIZZIE.  Published February 2019. There’s stories of five different courageous women, from the 14th to the 19th century.

Kindle Edition

How Three Children Saved A Lamb’s Life

I wrote this one for my children. We started raising sheep on our farm and I wanted a memento of their excitement when one little lamb needed their help to survive.  It was published Dec 2018.

I’m mostly found cruising around on Facebook, so you can find me there if you want to connect.

Author Spotlight: Jolie Vines

a romance writer and indie publisher.

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Jolie Vines.

Jolie Vines is from the UK, and writes big-love contemporary romance. Her stories are ‘safe’ – no cheating and always with a HEA, and her heroes are proud, honourable men who fall hard for their heroines, even if they don’t realise it at first. Jolie’s debut, Storm the Castle (Marry the Scot, #1) features Laird Callum McRae, a huge, braw Highlander who has looked after his family of brothers for years and knows what he wants when he sees it.

Jolie, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

I’m mum to a two-year-old so we’re considering a dog as we speak! But I’m allergic so any suggestions of breeds that won’t kill me with dander are welcome.

Oooh! The internet suggests a few types of terriers.

What do you write and how did you get started?

My new Marry the Scot series is set in the Scottish Highlands and centres around the McRae brothers. I write contemporary romance with castles/big houses, weddings, and usually a rich/poor combination. I like honesty and I enjoy putting my characters through their paces and testing their mettle.

For example, Mathilda Storm in book one has a choice handed to her right at the start – a marriage of convenience which would solve a major issue. But in the same breath, she meets Callum McRae, laird and owner of a big heart. He’s a very hard man to not fall for and, when she shares her situation with him, it only makes him more determined to fight for her.

I’ve been writing for a few years now but have just taken the step to becoming an independent publisher, too. It’s exciting and complex and I’m so enjoying myself.

The first romance I ever read was an arranged marriage to a Scottish laird, that I picked up at my grandmother’s house. So, I’m feeling a lot of nostalgia and excitement for your novel.

What do you like to read?

I read romance in all its glorious forms. I love PNR and fantasy, angsty NA-college tales, but I will claw my way to any new contemporary releases with titled characters.

I’ve got a soft spot for supernatural romances, but contemporary usually isn’t my thing.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Every word should count.”

I’ve always applied the rule that every word should count. However, tight writing doesn’t automatically make a great story. Most readers won’t notice or care that an author has used one too many adverbs so long as they are transported away on a journey. Learn tight writing, then learn how to build worlds (including in contemporary romance).

I love world building, and sparse writing can miss that magic. But I definitely know the benefit of tightening my word-count. Great advice.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Educate yourself.

Like in any other career, authors need to learn the ropes. The best way is to self-educate with the wealth of craft books / free resources out there (check out Jami Gold’s website and her beat sheets), then get feedback. Throw your work into the path of agents, publishers, anyone who is a step ahead of you, and listen to what they say. Then write something better.

I have linked to Gold’s beat sheets several times. I love them for plotting or pacing out my first revision.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

My hot Scots will be coming at you this Spring.

If you like big love, big families, and big heroes, and if you’ve got a thing for a Scottish accent, you’re going to adore this series. Storm the Castle (Marry the Scot, #1) comes out March 14th, with the second and third books not far behind.


Available here

Author Spotlight: Emily Moore

an award-winning poet and children book author, as well as a freelance writer and editor.

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Emily Moore.

The many hats she wears include writer, editor, social media manager, student, mom, wife, and volunteer. She loves promotion, marketing, socializing, and getting behind a cause she believes in.

One such cause is supporting local businesses. Most people think this means local shops and farmers markets, but she’d like to encourage others to go beyond that. Check out local artwork, read local authors’ books, buy handmade products and crafts from friends with skills. She hired a young, budding artist to create the cover for ROWDY DAYS OF DOM SANDERS, and is excited to be a stepping stone in her artistic career.

She’s agreed to visit and share with us today some dreams, some advice, and some reading recommendations.

Emily, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Though I’m not typically a reptilian lover, I would absolutely love to connect on a personal level with a dragon. A fire dragon. Or a water dragon… oh, wait, that’s one of my manuscripts in progress!.

Welcome to the growing club! I’m starting to think it’s the preferred pet of quality fantasy writers.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write the full spectrum of children literature, from picture books to young adult novels and series. They are forthcoming! For me, the urge to write stems from wanting to bring an experience to children that makes them feel less alone and hopeless in tough situations as well as bring joy to their lives. My children’s fiction lets them grapple with family dynamics, navigate shifting emotions and friendships, and focus on helping others and allowing kindness and forgiveness into their lives with fun, relatable stories.

I’ve been telling stories since I was young, which my mom caught on cassette tape. Lol. About ten years ago, my daughter started telling lies. I looked up what other cultures used to scare their kids straight, and from that research, my first manuscript developed. My love of writing flowed after that as I submerged into the writing community both close to home and online. I’ve been writing in several capacities since then.

I love that! Turning to stories in order to scare your kid straight! You’ll have to let us know if it worked!

What do you like to read?

Ah, my first love. Reading was an escape route from an emotional childhood. My true love is fantasy in all its forms. Especially retellings and embellished folk lore. Young adult and adult sci-fi also makes me really happy. Classic literature are another of my favorites, and historical fiction in the veins of Jane Austen or Gregory Philippa. Some non-fiction make it into my Goodreads account as well, usually about home, gardening, art, and parenting. I’ve read a few memoirs that I really enjoy, too.

You’re talking my language! I’ve always loved retellings and reimaginings of folk tales and fairy tales. And I’ve recently starting enjoying the occasional memoir…

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Write what you know.”

Write what you know. I love the research process and the daydreaming process even more that real life. Learning new things stretches your reality and your plotlines.

That’s awesome. My mother was a high school librarian, so was always happy and ready to help anyone with the research process.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

“Replace passive verbs with active verbs.”

My writing group jokingly calls me the passive-nazi. While it may offend some people, it’s sort of true.

There are probably more PC ways of saying that, but I totally understand. I know it’s especially nice to have a lot of active verbs in middle grade novels.

Shameless Self-Promotion time! 

When twelve-year-old swindler Dom witnesses a cop’s murder and his boot prints land his bully Taylor in handcuffs, Dom must decide whether to swallow his guilt and let the jerk go to juvie, or take the stand and risk his own life by revealing the truth.

You can buy it NOW on Amazon: Rowdy Days of Dom Sanders.

I’m an award-winning poet and children book author, as well as a freelance writer and editor. I lead my local chapter of the Idaho Writers League.

My shorter pieces have been featured in Hope Paige’s Anthology on loss BREAKING SAD in 2017 and AN OUNCE OF TRUTH, a fundraising anthology for a historic building.

When I’m not telling “Mommy Made stories” to my two daughters or awaiting feedback for my latest manuscript, I can be found off-roading on my four- wheeler, baking something scrumptious, or in a long, plot-refreshing bubble bath.

Be sure to tweet at me, connect with me on Goodreads, catch my posts on Facebook, and subscribe to my blog and website.