Chit Chatting with Authors Andra and Morgan Ebert


two-people-in-front-of-treeRecently, I had the honor of interviewing Andra and Morgan Elbert, the authors of the adorable new book Winnie the Mini Horse. This mother-daughter duo is also involved with Heartland Mini Hoofs, a nonprofit organization using miniature horses to provide therapy to nursing homes, hospitals, schools, etc. Read on to learn more!


R:  Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing.

E:   We are a mother-daughter team who shares a love of horses and reading. Both of us always have a book nearby that we are reading.


R:  Tell us about your new book Winnie the Mini Horse.

E:  Our first book is the introduction of Winnie to her new family (or herd, as it is called in the horse world). Winnie is beginning her journey to learn how to become a therapy animal.


R:  How did you come up with the idea for the book?

E:  We thought that this would be a great way to introduce the public to the new therapy avenue using miniature horses.


R:  What would you like your readers to take away from the book?

E:  How everyone, including horses, are faced with new situations every day. Through practice and patience, many obstacles can be overcome.


R:  Who drew the pictures for the book?

E:  An illustrator at the publishing house.


R:  Where can people get your book?

E:  Barnes and Noble, Amazon, and Archway Publishing.


R:  At what age did you find your love for horses?

E:  Morgan began riding at 11, and within a couple of weeks she was jumping horses over rails! Now she is a seasoned horsewoman with years of experience. Currently she is riding in the discipline of Eventing (Olympic riding events).


R:  When did you start riding and showing horses?

E:   After placing in her first show, there was no turning back for Morgan.


R:  What is your favorite thing about being around horses?

E:  They are the most loving, loyal and non-judgmental animals. When you ride, you truly develop a lasting bond of mutual respect.


R:  Tell us about Heartland Mini Hoofs.

E:  We are a 501 (c)3 non-profit organization providing animal assisted activity and therapy visits using miniature horses. With our special animals, Winnie, Bailey and Jasper, we provide smiles, laughter and love to nursing homes, hospitals, libraries, schools, Alzheimer’s units, senior communities and other special groups.


R:  Is Winnie one of your horses at Heartland Mini Hoofs?

E:  Winnie is the newest member of the family. The other two horses are Bailey and Jasper.


R:  What are you currently working on?

E:  We have outlined the second book and are currently adding details.



R:  What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a writer?

E:  Make sure you have a way to record or write down your thoughts. Most importantly, never give up!



R:  Are you or your books on any social networking sites? What about an official website?

E:  We are on Facebook – Twitter –, and we have a blog –!wednesdays-with-winnie/


R:  Is there anything else you would like to add?

E:  Reading and horses are a wonderful combination for children. We try to make it extra special by having Winnie “hoof” sign any books that we donate to schools and libraries.


R:  Thank you for the interview. It was an honor. Have a great day.


Written by: Jill Sheets

All photo credits:  Bettis Photography of Taylorville, IL

Dear High School Self

Dear High School Self,

Hello, my friend. I see you will be graduating in the spring. You’ve had trials, drama, and success the last few years. I know you still aren’t quite sure where you fit or what part you will play in life, so be patient. It will reveal itself along the way. It has been and will be worth all the effort you have and are making. Sometimes we race across the finish line with fanfare and cheers. Other times we seem to barely survive and crawl across. HOW you finish matters a lot less than THAT YOU FINISH. Keep giving it all you’ve got, and you’ll get somewhere worth being.

I know you have often wondered if you have what it takes to become something more than you are right now, or if there is even anything MORE out there. Trust me, you can do it. I know now that you will never be alone, especially on those long, dark roads you have and will be required to travel.

Treasure the remaining few months of high school. Don’t allow what you don’t have to rob you of what you do have. Attitude and what you choose to dwell on can make a difference. Don’t allow the “can’t do, so don’t try” people to control your life. There are great things out there for you to accomplish, and wonderful people to meet. Keep yourself in the game so you can be on the field when the really interesting stuff happens.

You think you’ve done some cool stuff. You will always remember your experiences in football, swimming, and music fondly. Having such passion and endeavors has kept you on your feet. I know you are planning to swim in college. You will have a great experience. It may not last long, but it will help set a pattern you will follow the rest of your life. Never hesitate to go for your dreams, or try to accomplish really hard things. Strength and learning are more often found in the path and the effort rather than in the end result.

Hold on and continue to develop that growing faith in the divine. It will become a solid foundation during some of the storms that lay ahead, and it will also allow the sun to shine all the brighter each day. He is there for you.

My young friend, I stand at the other end of the path, looking back over 43 years with a measure of envy. I am happy that you have so much in front of you. Life is a wonderful adventure and will take you amazing places. I see clearly the events that separate us and, with some insight, can say that who I have become is due to all the experiences combined. We don’t get to skip over the rough spots, and we shouldn’t want to. It is the good and the bad, the success and the failure, the joy and the sorrow, things lost and things found, that blend together to give our lives depth, color, and meaning. I see more clearly the meaning of your life, and it has been worth it. All of these experiences make it possible for us to become the wonderful and interesting people that God intended. One day you will see to live…truly live, love, and aspire to be something more…is glorious.

What more can I say? Thank you for making me who I am. As a result of all that has happened, I have found joy and meaning. You will too. I believe in you.

Your friend,

Clark Burbidge is an award-winning YA author, especially known for the trilogies “Giants in the Land” and “Star Passage.” In this letter he writes about what he wishes he could have told his teenage self. Clark talks about being patient because even if you don’t feel like you fit in now, one day you will find your place in the world. He also discusses learning to enjoy the moment and not to not spend your time worrying about the next thing. You can read more about him here: About Author Clark Burbidge

Chit Chatting with Author of the KARE KIDS ADVENTURE Series Charles A. Salter

kare kidsWritten by Jill Sheets

Recently, I had the honor of interviewing Charles A. Salter. He is the writer of the “Kare Kids Adventures” series. Read on to learn more about Charles, his book series, how many books he plans on writing, and what advice he gives to someone who wants to become an author.


R:  Tell us about yourself and how you got your start in writing.

C: Growing up in a writing family, I suppose it was inevitable that I would want to become a writer myself. My earliest memories include Dad pounding away at his Olivetti portable typewriter for hours at a time, producing copious numbers of poems, short stories, novels, nonfiction articles, stage plays, and various autobiographical journals over his entire life. Also at that time we had as a family friend one of the most famous Southern writers in America: Walker Percy. With encouragement from both parents, I wrote my own first illustrated children’s book at the age of 8, a family newspaper by the age of 9, several short stories and mini-plays (which I, along with a younger brother and sister) produced for our parents’ enjoyment between age 10 and 15. That summer of my 15th year my brother and I started writing film scripts and produced a number of these with family, friends, and neighbors serving as cast members. By age 16, I had finished my first novel, though it is important to realize none of the above were formally published or reaching more than a local audience. Not long after college, however, I began to write professionally and for regular publication. I first achieved success in nonfiction, publishing hundreds of articles in journals, magazines, and syndicated newspapers. I also published some textbooks, reference books, and general nonfiction books, including a series of teen nutrition books which became very popular in school libraries and won awards. In more recent years I have turned to fiction, producing both an adult action series and the current “Kare Kids Adventures” series.


R:  Tell us about your book series “Kare Kids Adventures,” and how many do you plan on writing?

C: The “Kare Kids Adventures” are about preteen children who don’t merely care as an attitude, but translate their concern for family, friends, animals, and the environment into real action to solve problems and make their world a better place. In all of these books, the Kare Kids can’t rely on magic or super powers to solve their problems. They are realistic kids who live in the real world…BUT with the help of parents and other kindly adults, they know how to think for themselves and act independently. All the books are rated “G” with no bad language or gory violence. I have four volumes finished now and am working on a fifth. I have some tentative ideas for producing up to about 20 books or so if the fan response warrants that many.


R:  How did you come up with the idea for the books?

C: I get most of my ideas via dreams while sleeping. I keep a notepad and pen beside the bed to jot the key details of my dream stories down upon first awakening, before they fade away.


R:  What is your target age range?

C: About age 8 to 12 is the principal audience target. However, I have seen five- and six-year-old kids love having the books read to them. I think there is also enough intriguing background material about the adults in the series to interest parents who read these books to their children.


R:  Tell us about your first book in the series, The Secret of Bald Rock Island.

C: Book #1 of the “Kare Kids Adventures” is The Secret of Bald Rock Island. In it, 10-year-old Kelcie decides to solve the mystery of what happened to her missing fisherman father years ago AND what the mysterious creature on her island might be. Only recently published in June, it has gotten several excellent reviews already, which can be seen here: The Secret of Bald Rock Island – Amazon


R:  Tell our readers about “Charlotte and the Mysterious Vanishing Place.”

C: In Book #2 of the series, Charlotte and the Mysterious Vanishing Place, Kelcie is now grown up and her 9-year-old daughter is the star. Charlotte discovers a serious environmental danger in the woods and does everything she can to alert authorities and rescue two trapped puppies. This book was published on July 1 of this year. It is also available at  Charlotte and the Mysterious Vanishing Place


R:  Tell our readers about your 3rd book “How Three Brothers Saved the Navy.”

C: In Book #3, How Three Brothers Saved the Navy, Charlotte’s three preteen cousins uncover a terrorist plot to destroy their Navy father’s ship. They show great courage and ingenuity in ferreting out the details and then thwarting the plot. That book was published in early August.

There is also a fourth book coming out around the end of the summer. Charlotte’s twin brother and sister star in The Travel Twins and the Lost Secret of the Vikings. This book’s plot unfolds on a scary (but real) train winding its way high in the beautiful mountains of Norway. Felons with mysterious motives have stolen the famed Leif Erikson Sunstone from their uncle’s Viking museum in Oslo, and the twins decide to get it back.


R:  Are any of the characters based on anyone?

C: Kelcie, the child heroine of the first book, is a composite of my two daughters. Out of the entire series so far, volume #1 is the only one set in the past—about one generation ago. At that time, my now-adult daughters were children and we often went to Maine (the location for this novel). We saw and experienced the kinds of places described in the book!  Kelcie appears in book #2 as a grownup in the current timeframe. The characters of all the kids in books #2 through #4 are based on my grandchildren.


R:  Tell us about your other books.

C: As a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) over the past 30 years, I have published a large number of nonfiction books, including textbooks and reference works, as well as an award-winning series on Teen Nutrition. In recent years I have published four volumes in an adult mystery/action series (The Ebay Detective and Brad Scout Detectives, about an Army officer who does special missions for the President), and now this middle grade children’s series.


R:  Where can people get your books?

C: These four books are available from the publisher, Outskirts Press, and also from all online books dealers such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, etc. Please look up the titles in their search blocks or click on one of the URLs provided above.


R:  You also write for a newspaper. Tell us a little bit about that.

C: I used to write a weekly column on family issues that was syndicated nationwide by Suburban Features, part of the Scripps-Howard publishing network. I am sorry to say that Suburban Features went out of business.


R:  What is your writing process? Do you outline or just start to write?

C: I know some people like to outline their entire novel before starting to write, but I like to begin by dreaming up imaginative new characters and putting them into an exciting new situation or crisis. They soon begin to take on a life of their own and seem almost real to me, and they’ll tell me how they want to resolve the problem. Early on they will tell me what the ending is, but it is always an exciting adventure for us to discover together how they will get there.


R:  What are you currently working on?

C: I am currently working on Book #5 of the series, which brings back the three brothers of Book #3 in a new adventure. This time they help the U.S. Army. I am a veteran and military retiree with 28 years of active service in the Army. During some of those years I did considerable work for the Navy, even sailing on many different types of ships on actual deployments. Writing about military topics just comes naturally for me.


R:  What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a writer?

C:  Gosh, there are entire books full of good advice! I guess the most important are these two points: (1) Don’t get discouraged and give up when you get rejections by publishers.  Even the most famous writers generally were ignored at first.  From the time I wrote my first novel to when I published my first book was ten years!  (2) The creative process can be fun, even exhilarating, as you see those words pour out onto the page. But that is only the beginning—editing and revision are the keys to making any manuscript more readable and saleable. As one of my creative writing instructors put it, “The mastery of an art takes a lifetime.”


R:  Are you on any social networking sites? If so, which ones and what about an official website?

C: My primary author social networking site is:

Among many other items, there are a series of autobiographical posts about how growing up in a writing family turned me into a writer.

I also have an author Twitter account filled with ideas about how to encourage more independence and maturity in youngsters: Charles A. Salter – Twitter


R: Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?

C: The whole point of the “Kare Kids Adventures” series as a whole is to encourage young boys and girls to see their own heroic potential within. Youths need to become more independent as they mature, and our culture todays seems to recklessly disregard the fundamental truth that our society needs independent citizens capable of thinking for themselves and acting on principle. I like to think these books will not only entertain, but also inspire today’s youth.


R: Charles, thank you for the interview. It was an honor. Have a great day.

C: And thank you very much for meeting me like this and sharing my books with your audience! Bye for now.

Chit Chatting With Sara Jouret

Written by: Jill Sheets

 HeadshotRecently I had the honor of interviewing a very talented author Sara Jouret.

Sara wrote the amazing book “Mosaic of a Broken Heart,” which is a book that anyone who has struggles can relate or identity with. Continue to read on and learn more about the book and about Sara’s strong faith in God.

R: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

S: I love to create, which is why I enjoy writing, cooking, painting, sewing, photography, and art in general. I grew up with two brothers, but no sisters. This caused my interests to be more diversified. I also enjoy things like watching sports, camping, playing video games, etc. I can be quiet and a little reserved at times, but it’s simply because I like to take everything in first. I love meeting people and hearing their stories because it helps me to understand who they are like nothing else can. Most of all, I love God! He is my everything and the only reason I am still alive today!!

R: Tell us about your book “Mosaic of a Broken Heart.”

Sara Jouret book cover
S: Mosaic of a Broken Heart is about a girl who faced many difficult obstacles in her journey to becoming a lady. It walks you through her joys, struggles, hopes, and fears, but also shows how God was able to take her most painful life experiences and bring amazing good from them. It includes many things she learned during her journey and how she saw dreams come true in many unexpected ways.

R: Why did you decide to write the book?

S: For many years, I had been wanting to write a book because I love writing, but I didn’t want to write my life story because it felt too messy. I tend to be a perfectionist, and I was too ashamed to let others into the “messiness” of my life. Over time, God began working on my heart by showing me He can use the messiest stories and bring so much good from them if we allow Him to. Every time I began writing my story, I found it to be extremely difficult. Once I decided to turn it into fiction and use my personal journals, the writing process was less intimidating. The only things I changed were names and minor details in order to protect those in

the story. It has never been my intention to hurt or destroy anyone else by writing my story. I simply wanted to help others. I wanted them to know they are not alone in their life struggles and pain. So many are afraid to talk about their struggles because they don’t want to appear imperfect. Others are afraid to share what they are going through because they don’t want to be judged and ostracized by others. God showed me in so many different ways that writing my life story was what He wanted me to do. Even though it was scary and extremely difficult, I wanted to obey Him and do what He asked me to do.

R: How did you decide on which journal entries to use for the book?

S: It was difficult because I had twenty-three years of journals to consolidate. I typed every single journal entry and then sifted through them to see which ones would help share the story in a way which was understandable. I did a lot of praying throughout the entire writing process because I wanted to make sure the story was what God wanted it to be. Words are powerful, and I know I will be held accountable for the words I speak and write. I wanted to make sure the words in my book were honest, but also conveying what God wanted me to share with others.

R: Do you mind telling us about some of the things you went through?

S: During the first fourteen years of my life, I experienced a lot of different health issues (epilepsy, hearing loss, various illnesses, broken bones, etc…). When I was fourteen years old, I was in a serious car accident. The traumatic brain injury I sustained left me unconscious, and I was life-flighted back to a hospital in my hometown. I came out of the coma after three days, but spent the next five months in the hospital and rehabilitation relearning many things. Even though my doctors didn’t think I could, I was able to graduate from both high school and college with God’s help. Growing up, my worst fear was to be abandoned by my future husband. When I was thirty-two years old, I fell in love and got married. The day after the wedding, the abuse began. Over the next fifteen months, the abuse continued to get worse. Because I take my commitments very seriously, I had no plans on filing for divorce. After being abandoned by my husband, I realized he had no intention of working towards reconciliation. The divorce was finalized a year and a half after our wedding day. It was devastating, but something unexpected happened. Through my worst fear becoming a reality, God was able to bring amazing good into my life. Because I was in a time of transition after the divorce, I was able to live with and take care of my Grandma J. until she passed away. During the twenty months I took care of her, I had the amazing privilege of praying with her as she accepted Jesus Christ as her personal Savior. The time I spent taking care of Grandma J. also gave me the opportunity to cultivate a wonderful relationship with my father, which is something I had longed for. Even though life hasn’t been easy for me, I know God has brought beauty from my pain. I am trusting He will continue to use my story to encourage others and draw them closer to Himself.

R: You have been through a lot. How did you keep your faith through all of it?

S: When I was growing up, I was very involved in a variety of church activities. Many of the activities included studying and memorizing scriptures. I truly believe God used the scriptures I memorized before and after the car accident when I was fourteen years old to help me through every difficulty I have faced throughout my life. The more I read the Bible, the more I fall in love with my Heavenly Father!! I am not perfect, and I will never have life figured out because it is so complex. There have been times when I’ve been frustrated, upset, hurt, etc. because of what I’ve been through, but God has always been faithful to help me endure the difficult times and learn from them. My constant goal is to become better instead of bitter, but I know I could never become better without God’s continual help and strength. He has been so faithful, and I am so thankful for His unconditional love!!

R: Do you have any plans on writing more books?

S: Yes! I am currently working on more, but they are all in the beginning stages. Writing makes me happy, and I love helping others. As long as I am able to help others through my writing, I will continue writing books.

R: Where can people get your book?

S: To purchase Mosaic of a Broken Heart (the ebook), they can go straight to my website ( and order their copy.

R: What do you want people to take away from reading your book?

S: I want people to know it is possible to make it through anything with God’s help and come out better on the other side of it. Life is full of difficulties, but we can make it through the most difficult situations because of God and His love. I want people to be encouraged and strengthened in their relationship with Him. I want them to know God is more than able to bring beauty from their deepest pain if they allow Him to. Finally, I want them to know they are not alone in their struggles!

R: What is your favorite Bible verse and why?

S: I have so many favorites!! It’s difficult to choose just one, but one of my all-time favorite verses is Philippians 4:13. I quote it often because I’ve found reciting scripture helps me make it through each day.

R: Who has been your biggest influence in your life?

S: My grandparents and my parents. They have all impacted my life in so many different ways that it’s difficult to single one of them out individually.

R: What are some of your future goals?

S: I love helping people, and I am always looking for ways to help others more effectively. I am currently working on a few different projects to help those aging out of foster care, domestic violence victims, and those with disabilities. My main goal is to honor God with my life. Even though I cannot tell you exactly what my future endeavors will look like at this very moment, my constant prayer is that I will honor Him in every way!

R: It is not easy being a teenager especially when Christian. What advice would you give them in general?

S: Stay close to God through prayer and Bible study. He is the only One who can help you endure the difficulties in life, but He also wants to be a part of your good times. Include Him in everything! Memorize scriptures. Write them in your journal. Recite them as you go throughout each day. I recite them as I’m driving, cleaning house, etc. My relationship with Him has helped me through every moment of my life. Finally, don’t ever be afraid to be the person God created you to be!

R: Do you have an official website? Are you on any social networking sites that you would like to share?

S: Yes! My website is I can also be found on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook under Sara Jouret.

R: Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?

S: Life is so short when compared with eternity. Live well. Love well.

R: Sara, thank you for the interview. It was an honor. Have a great day.


Review of “Prayer at Full Throttle”

Written by:  Jill Sheets
New-Book-Prayer-at-Full-Throttle-Not too long ago, I had the honor of interviewing the author of “Prayer at Full Throttle,” Robert Bakke for my radio show “Penguin Tracks.” The more I listened to Robert talk about his book, the more I wanted to read it.  As soon as I got off the phone with Robert, I contacted my husband and said that we needed to get this book.  When I got the book I dug into the book and started taking things to heart.

This book makes you think, not only about yourself and others, but our Heavenly Father.   Robert touches on the ways that we treat God. Ways that no one wants to be treated. For example:  How many of us have ever ask God how He is doing or even tell Him good morning. What about giving him thanks?  Not just for the big stuff, but the little stuff as well.  I admit, I had never thought about this until I sat down to read the book.

I do admit that there are a few things that I do not agree with in the book, but it is still a great book and well worth the read.

This book is a quick read book that also teaches you about “Performance based prayer.”

So Robert thank you for the interview that made me interested in this great book.

I have one more thing to say:  “Hi God, I hope You are having a great day.”

Chit Chatting with Author Elizabeth Naranjo

Written by: Jill Sheets

elizabeth naranjoRecently I had the honor of interview author Elizabeth Naranjo.  She is the author of the book “The Fourth Wall.” Continue to read on and learn more about her, he book and how she came up with the idea for the book.

R:  Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing?


E:  I’m a bit of a daydreamer; as a young girl I spent a lot of time in my room listening to music and visualizing the stories behind the songs. I started to write my own song lyrics, and then longer stories. And from as early as first grade, I remember my school teachers singling out my writing and really encouraging me. That was huge. It gave me this sense of identity, so I kept going with it.


R:  Tell us about your book “The Fourth Wall.”


E:  “The Fourth Wall” is about a girl named Marin who uses lucid dreaming as a way to escape reality after her mother’s death. Lucid dreaming means knowing when you’re in a dream. With that awareness, you can learn to control your dreams, at least to an extent. Marin thinks she has that control, but then she loses it, and in a sense becomes trapped in her own nightmare.


FourthWall_newCVR_MEDR:  How did you come up with the idea for your book?


E:  I was prone to nightmares as a child, and I learned to wake myself up from dreams. Eventually I learned other techniques, like changing scenes or flying instead of falling, which was fun. So when I was brainstorming this novel I imagined a young girl suffering from depression who has the ability to lucid dream. And I thought, what a perfect form of escapism. Instead of facing reality, she could create a whole alternate reality in her dreams. But that kind of denial would have to come at a price.

R:  When writing the book did you outline or just start to write?


E:  I didn’t really outline in the sense of breaking down chapters and doing elaborate character sketches. What I did was scribble down a few pages of notes that followed the arc of the story, the basic idea. And then I just wrote.


R:  If they were to make your book into a movie, who would your dream cast be?


E:  That’s a great question; who would make a good Marin? I’m so behind when it comes to watching movies; usually when I go to the theater it’s to see something animated. Maybe your readers can throw some suggestions my way?


R: Where can people get your book?


E:  On Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound. It’s also available on Kindle. Any bookstore can order it, and signed copies can be ordered through Changing Hands Bookstore by calling 480-730-0205.


R:  Where can people read your other writings?


E:  The easiest way to find my essays and short stories is to visit my website, because they’re in one place. I have a “published work” tab that lists the publications, and all but one are available to read online.



R:  What advice would you give someone who wanted to write?


E:  Start now. There’s no reason not to. You’re only limited by your own imagination; you can create any world you want. It’s fun, it’s freeing, and the more you write the better you get. If you’re stuck, or if you need some encouragement, email me.


R:  If you could pick any character in a book, which one would it be and why?


E:  If I could be any character I’d be Hermione Granger, because she’s brilliant and honest and brave. Also, I just want to live in the wizarding world—maybe teach at Hogwarts and pop on over to The Three Broomsticks for butterbeer on cold winter nights. Did I mention I like to daydream?


R:  What are you currently working on?


E:  I’m working on a novel about a 12-year-old boy who runs away with his best friend to find the friend’s father. The father is a volcanologist who went missing in the field. It will have a light paranormal element, like “The Fourth Wall.”


R:  It is not easy being a teenager.  What advice would you give them in general?

E:  Just to hang on. It gets better. What I remember most about being a teenager was how helpless it can feel, because there are so many parts of your life that you can’t control and so often you feel trivialized and misunderstood. So find your sources of strength—for me it was music and writing—and just hang on.


R:  What are five things people may not know about you?


E:  My first job was as a fountain worker in a hotel, making ice cream cones, malts and banana splits. In my twenties, I packed my car and moved to Arizona without knowing anyone here. I love baseball, and I don’t believe in designated hitters. I hate the cold. I’ve worn my hair long all my life and I still don’t know how to French braid it.



R:  Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?


E:  “Does this hurt?”


R:  Are you on any social networking sites?  If so, which ones and what are their addresses?  What is the web address to your official website?


E:  I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. My website is


R:  Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?


E:  Yes. Keep reading, keep writing, and thank you.


R: Elizabeth, thank you for the interview.  It was an honor.  Have a great day.

Chit Chatting with Author Sara Latta

Written by:  Jill Sheets

SaraLatta Recently I had the honor of interviewing author Sara Latta.  She wrote the book “Scared Stiff.”  Continue to read on and learn more about her, the book and what are some of her fears.

R:  Tell us a little bit about yourself.

S: I’m a scientist-turned-science writer. It was only when I was studying the immune system in graduate school that I realized I’d rather write about science than actually do it. Plus, I was kind of a klutz in the lab. I love words, and I love science, so this is perfect for me. I also love to read (of course!), cook, travel, and play with my dog Count Basie.



R: Tell us about your book “Scared Stiff.”

ScaredStiff_frontcoverS: As the subtitle says, it’s “Everything you need to know about 50 famous phobias.” That’s probably a little misleading, since some (like claustrophobia) really are famous, but some are pretty obscure. But I’m willing to be you’ve never heard of koumpounophobia (fear of buttons). I certainly hadn’t before I began researching the book. I try to look at phobias from many different angles, using psychology, biology, history, and even pop culture to explain why certain things scare us silly. I tried to make it fun to read without making fun of the many people who suffer from phobias.


R:  How did you come up with the idea for this book? How did you choose the fears that would go into the book?

S: My editor came up with idea, actually. He asked me if I’d be interested in writing a book about phobias, and of course I said “Sure!” As far as the phobias that made it into the book, I wanted to make sure I included some of the most common ones, including the fear of public speaking or the fear of spiders. But I also wanted to include some less-common or less well-known phobias that illuminate in some way our biology, our culture, or our history. For example, many people who fear blood actually have a genetically inherited condition that makes them faint at the sight of blood–and there may be an evolutionary basis for this condition. The fear of the number 13 has its roots in ancient mythology. Clowns can be scary because their painted-on faces hide their true emotions.


R:  How much research went in to the book?

S: Quite a bit! Fortunately, I love researching my books. This one was fun because there was a lot of pop culture and history to learn about in addition to the science.


R:  How long did it take to write Scared Stiff from start to finish?

S: It’s kind of fuzzy now, but I think it was around 9 months.


R:  Some of the phobias I suffer from are Lilapsophobia/astraphobia, somiphobia (sometimes) and ornithophobia.  What, if any, type of fears do you suffer from?

S: I’m afraid of heights, although I don’t think my fear goes to the level of being a phobia. I’ve forced myself to climb up (and down, which is worse) some pretty scary places. Public speaking is also difficult for me, but again, it’s not really a phobia. I find that some of the relaxation techniques I talk about in the book are pretty helpful.


R:  Where can people get your book?

S: You can get the paperback at any bookstore (ask them to order it if you can’t find it!); online retailers should have the ebook and paperback.


R:  What are you currently working on?

S: Right now I’m collaborating with an illustrator for a graphic novel about the 2012 discovery of the Higgs Boson, an amazing particle that basically gives matter its mass.


R:  Are you or your books on any social networking sites.  If so, which ones and what are their addresses/links?  Do you have an official website?

S: Yes!


Twitter: (or search for @saralatta)



Zest Books web page:


R:  Is there anything else you would like to add?

S: If you have a phobia, you should know that you have plenty of company. If your phobia is getting in the way of achieving your goals and enjoying life, I urge you to get professional help–most people find that it really works. And thanks to my readers. I love you!


R:  Sara, thank you for the interview.  It was an honor.  Have a great day.

S: Thank you; it was my pleasure.

Chit Chatting with Author Brenda Janowitz

Written by:  Jill Sheets

Picture credit:  Tracy Toler

Picture credit: Tracy Toler

Recently, I had the honor of interviewing the author of  The Lonely Hearts Club, Brenda Janowitz.  Continue to read on about her, her books and who her dream cast would be.


R:  Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got your start writing.

B:  I’m a wife, a mother, and a writer.  I’m the author of SCOT ON THE ROCKS, JACK WITH A TWIST, RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE, and the new novel, THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB.  My work has also appeared in Publisher’s Weekly and the New York Post.

I’ve always been a writer.  I became a lawyer because I loved to write.  I thought I could turn my writing hobby into a career by going into law and becoming a litigator.  And I did get the chance to write a lot, but legal writing is just not the same as creative writing.

I worked for a large law firm, then clerked for a federal judge, and nothing ever seemed like the right fit for me.  I’d find myself wandering the halls, thinking of the stories I wanted to write.  When I got invited to my ex-boyfriend’s wedding, I thought to myself: this could be a novel.  So, I made it into one!  SCOT ON THE ROCKS debuted in 2007, and I’ve been publishing novels ever since.



R:  Tell us about your book “The Lonely Hearts Club”

B:  It’s the story of Jo Waldman, a young singer/songwriter whose personal and professional life have hit rock bottom… until a blog post she writes goes viral, making her the poster girl for an “anti-love” movement that sweeps Manhattan.



Lonely Hearts clubR: How did you come up with the idea for this book?

B:  After I finished writing my first novel, it was time to think about ideas for a follow up.  I wanted the protagonist to be completely different from my girly-girl lawyer protagonist from SCOT ON THE ROCKS, so I came up with the polar opposite: a punk rocker who couldn’t care less about shoes, whose only passion was music.



R: What is your writing process?  Do you out-line or just start writing?

B:  I’ve done both, actually!  For each book, I really just try to do what works.  Usually I’ll have a strong sense of beginning, middle, and end.  Beyond that, it really depends on the book.  With LONELY HEARTS, I did have an outline I worked off, but as I wrote, a lot of that changed.

I think it’s important to have a sense of structure for your book (whether you’ve created that before you start writing, or impose it after the first draft), but I also think it’s important to just write.  Let the words flow.



R:  Was Jo or any other characters or some traits based off of anyone you know?

B:  Every character, I think, is an amalgamation of everything I am, everyone I’ve ever met.  I usually don’t base characters on one particular person.



R:  If they were to make a movie for this book, who would your dream cast be?


B:  What a fun question!


For Jo, our punk rocker, I think it would be so much fun to have Taylor Swift.  Sure, she’s a beautiful pop princess, but I’d like to see her with her hair mussed up a bit, yelling and cursing.


Jo’s dad has gotta’ be Gene Simmons.  He looks just like Dr. Waldman, for starters.  But more important, he’s rock royalty (one of the chapter titles is even a Kiss song!), and we need a sense of history in the movie cast, I think!


For Max, our dorky computer guy, I’m thinking Nicholas Hoult.  If he’s good enough for Katniss, well, you know….




R:  Where can people get your books?


B:  Anywhere and everywhere books are sold!  Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo Books, and independent bookstores.  You can check my website for links:



R:  Why did you decide to become a writer instead of staying with law and a federal clerkship?


B:  Writing a novel was a lifelong dream of mine.  I first decided to write a novel just to see if I could.  When I finished the first draft of SCOT ON THE ROCKS, it was such an enormous sense of accomplishment for me.  But then, I couldn’t stop.  There’s an expression: writers write.


And it’s true.  It was always there for me—that urge to write.  We writers are a strange breed.  We have to write.  It’s not really a choice.  I was complaining about some personal problems I was having to an old friend of mine and she listened and then asked: have you been writing?  And I had to admit it to myself and to her—I had not.  I told her so, and she looked back at me, no judgments, and simply nodded her head.

Writers need to write.



R:  If you could be a character in any book, who would it be and why?


B:  Natalie Marx from THE INN AT LAKE DEVINE by Elinor Lipman.  I love Natalie’s intelligence, humor, and ability to question authority, even at a young age.  She deals with anti-Semitism, love, and grief, all while staying true to herself.


I fell in love with THE INN AT LAKE DEVINE years ago, and it remains one of my favorite books.




R:  What are five things people do not know about you?


B:  I am a seriously good hula-hooper.  Seriously, I’ve won the hula hoop contest at Tortilla Flats more times than I can remember.


I love cooking.  Food has always been a big part of my life—it’s where we gather with friends, how we celebrate good times—but now that I have kids, it’s taken on a new meaning.  I love learning a new healthy recipe that will make my kids happy.  I love sitting down at the table to eat with my family.  I love cooking a meal and then watching my family enjoy it.


True confession:  I really didn’t love FIFTY SHADES OF GREY.  I know, I know, everyone else did, but clearly I missed something!  (Shhh!  Don’t tell!)


I’m terrified of insects.  Terrified.


I’m obsessed with superheroes.  Batman, Superman, the X-men… I love them all.




R:  What are you currently working on?


B:  My agent sold RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE in a two book deal to St. Martin’s, so I’m working on that second book now.  I’ve submitted a first draft to my editor, and I’m expecting notes any day now!


It’s another multi-generational story, but this time, I’m doing something I’ve never done before: I’m telling it in third person.  It’s enabling me to go even deeper with my characters, to get to know them even better.  I’m hoping we’ll have it done in time for a Summer 2015 release!




R:  What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a writer?


B:  Keep writing! It’s so easy to get discouraged or feel like you don’t have the time to write. But like anything else that is important in life, you have to work at it and make the time for it.




R:  Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?


B:  Ha!  When I was at the Union Square Barnes and Noble, I was signing their stock of my first novel, SCOT ON THE ROCKS.  A woman approached me and asked me if I was the author of the book.  I told her that I was the author, and I’d be happy to sign a book to her, if she’d like!  She thought about it for a second and then said: no.  But she DID ask me if I could sign one of the free promotional bookmarks I was putting into the signed books!




R: Are you on any social networking sites?  If so, which ones and what are their addresses?  Do you have an official website?


B:  Yes!  I love social media.


My website is:








R:  Is there anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?


B:  Thanks for reading!  It was such a pleasure to be here.  Thank you for having me.





R:  Brenda, thank you for the interview.  It was an honor.  Have a great day.

Dear Single Lady

by Tiffany Dawn
For a sneak peek of her new book “Boycrazy,” scroll to the bottom!

notebookDear Single Lady,
Sometimes it feels like we’re the only ones left in the world. Like all the other single girls have dropped like flies and gotten into relationships.
Especially on the holidays.
Those days we turn off Instagram so we don’t see the bouquets every other girl has received.
The ever-present reminder that we— out of all the other people in the world — are still single.
The days we hide every hope and dream under a thick layer of sarcasm and cynicism, pretending we don’t really care about our relationship status on Facebook.
I’m with you.
As a little girl, I fell in love with the idea of finding Prince Charming and getting some major bling on my left ring finger as soon as possible, thank you very much.By age 20, I intended to be
married and on my way to the mission field in China, where I would be martyred shortly thereafter.
Well, here I am in New York, just a few weeks before my 28th birthday. (Feel free to send gluten-free cookies in the mail with a birthday card.) Funny how time flies, and I’m still alive…
plus there’s no ring on my finger. Oddly enough, I’m finally okay with that.
Girls, here’s what I long to share with you, the truths that have brought comfort to my soul:
Our dreams of romance and forever love are beautiful desires.
They’re not something we have to discard to pretend we’re happy being single. They’re something to celebrate and surrender.
But our dream of a happily ever after starts NOW, not later.
We’ve heard this a hundred times, but it’s true! All my life I waited for my husband, thinking life and happiness would start when he showed up. (Preferably wrapped in a sparkly, pink package
labeled: “To Tiffany. From God. Contains ‘The One.'”) I didn’t see the moments I was already living as truly happy, truly full. Why?
Because I didn’t trust my heavenly Father.
If there’s one thing I long for all of you to know, it’s this:
The One who holds our future in His hands — He is GOOD.
I never trusted God. I didn’t really think He cared for me, not enough, anyway. I thought, “Surely You need my help finding my husband. Surely I need to take this in my own hands and stress
and worry about it!” But the truth is…He is GOOD. And He is SOVEREIGN.
I’m not saying we should hide in our houses and never go outside. I mean, c’mon, if you completely hibernated, you’d have no job, no relationships, no life. But at the same time, we
don’t need to worry.
Matthew 6 says not to worry about tomorrow, but to live fully today, knowing the One who holds our future. Knowing He cares even for the birds of the air enough to feed and house them; how
much more does He care for us.
This birthday will be so different than other birthdays I’ve experienced. Most of my life I’ve written a sappy, sobbing love letter to my future husband. That’s great, but it didn’t help my heart very much. I just found myself focused on what I didn’t have, when I should have been focused on what I did have.
Friends. Family. Job. Passion. Joy.
And above all else, I have a heavenly Father who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, who is sovereign over all of life, and who sees me. Who knows me. Who loves me. More deeply and
fully than I could ever imagine.
So to all you single ladies, this is what I would say:
Your heavenly Father sees these beautiful, hidden desires of your heart. In fact, He placed them there.
They’re not wrong, they’re not something to be ashamed of; they’re something to celebrate. But He also sees beyond our time frame. He sees the whole picture, a greater plan. His ways
are higher than ours. And right here, right now, even in the waiting, we can rejoice in what we already have.
We can rejoice knowing the One who holds our hearts is faithful, trustworthy, and loves us more than we can ever imagine. I pray that today you would come closer than ever before to your heavenly Father, and know that He cares for you.
He’s already given you a happily ever after. It’s already started. It’s up to us that we live in it.
Boycrazy Cover Boycrazy: And how I ended up single and (mostly) sane
This is my story of growing up as a boycrazy girl, always dreaming of marriage, waiting for life to start once my Prince Charming arrived. It’s a novel-like collection of heartaches, fears, and (just
for fun) some weird date stories.
But it’s also different from your typical book on singleness. It has all sorts of lessons I wish I’d learned growing up:
  • tips on how to date,
  • how to be yourself around guys,
  • how to know if a relationship is healthy,
  • and thoughts on what contentment really is.
If you pre-order your book today, I’ll also send you a complimentary download of my song “Someday,” my princess song, about trusting God for the future.
tiffany dawnAt 28 years old, there’s no wedding band on Tiffany Dawn’s finger. She’s an author, speaker, songwriter, adventurer, and for the record, she loves being single. Tiffany has her master’s degree in music therapy, and a not-so-secret love affair with raspberry chai, long walks, and everything CIA. She resides in upstate New York when she’s not traveling.

Chit Chatting with Author Rebecca Demarest

Written By:  Jill Sheets


thea of oz book coverRecently I had the honor of interview author Rebecca Demarest.  She is the author of the book “Thea of Oz”  Continue to read on and learn more about Rebecca, “Thea of Oz” and five things people may not know about her.

R: Tell us a little bit about your and how you got into writing?

I am a 27 year old author, book designer, and technical illustrator living in Boston, Massachusetts. I grew up all over the place though, finally graduating from high school in Seattle, went to undergrad in Oregon at Willamette University and got a BA in English and Psychology. I then went on to get my MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College in Boston, and now I spend my days working with a technology publisher drawing flowcharts and the like for their books and my evenings writing and working on book design both for myself and some freelance clients. I also manage to work in a decent amount of crochet, gardening, hiking, climbing, and reading around all that as well.

As long as I can remember, I was writing. My mother even saved my very first story “How the Butterfly got its Colors,” that I illustrated, badly, with crayon around first grade. I read every fantasy and sci-fi story I could get my hands on as a kid, and was constantly tinkering with my own stories, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I realized that writing was what I really wanted to do full-time, and that I wouldn’t be happy with any other career path, regardless of the lack of earning potential most authors face. So I decided to get my MFA, to help make me the best writer possible, and haven’t looked back since.

R: Tell us about your novella “Thea Of Oz.”

“Thea of Oz” is an illustrated novella set in the Oz universe a few generations after the stories we are familiar with. Since then, global warming has caused devastating storms that strip our world and dump the detritus on Oz, including the occasional refugee. Thea is one such traveler, and she’s been on Oz since she was a young child. Little does she know that she is in fact the direct descendent of the fabled Gale girl, which has just come to the attention of the green-skinned Minister of Trade. Accompanied by her disdainful cat Mrow, Thea must confront the villainy that her ancestors fomented all those years ago.

R: Where did you come up with the idea for the story?

Interestingly enough, it was from a writing prompt of sorts. I was at the Association for Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference in Boston a few years ago, and came across this great little journal called The Fairy Tale Review, which was soliciting submissions for their next issue, which happened to be Oz themed. I went home, re-read some of the stories, and then asked myself, how would global warming be affecting Oz? Thea came about from that, but the story ended up being way too long for a journal, so I decided to go find an illustrator who could draw up pictures in the old Oz style and put the story out there myself.

R: How much research went into the book? Did you have to read all of the Oz books?

Have to? No. Did I? Yes. All fourteen of the original Oz novels, all while making copious notes on characters and possible plot devices and tricks. What’s interesting is Oz is a very flexible world, and the rules change as the author wills it. In fact, Baum contradicts himself quite frequently in the stories, which makes it a little bit easier on me because the world itself is contradictory, so I don’t have to be quite as worried about sticking to canon. Some interesting things I learned though is that no one actually dies in Oz (though they can be disintegrated or the like, the bits can always be put back together) and there is a magic for just about anything you want to do. This gives authors a fantastic canvas to work on, hence all the adaptations that are coming out.
R: You are writing 5 novellas in the series. Can you tell us anything about them?

The second one is already at the illustrator and will be out early next year. Needless to say, this is not your kiddy version of Oz, and from global warming manipulation, to the drug trade, arms trade, political insurrection, and open revolt, the stories of Thea’s adventures in Oz will never get boring.

R: Tell us about “Undeliverable.”

Undeliverable is a literary fiction novel of 80,000 words which launched in March of 2014. It is being produced in cooperation with the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children and $1 of the cover price from each sale goes to the center to help fund their efforts. And yes, there is a sequel, I’m working on it, promise.

When Benjamin Grant’s son disappeared a year ago, he felt it was his duty as a father to do everything in his power to find his son, and he tried. He threw himself into the search, but his obsession left him without a home, wife, or job. Now, he’s managed to find work at the United States Postal Service’s Mail Recovery Center, which he hopes will prove an invaluable tool in his search. With the help of Sylvia—a kleptomaniac artist—Ben learns the ins and outs of a warehouse full of lost mail and explores every lead in his son’s case. But when that investigation leads him to Leonard Moscovich, Ben fears the worst.

R: What are you currently working on?

A lot of things. The sequel to Undeliverable, the rest of the Ozite Cycle novellas, a series of novellas set in a sci-fi world that I am currently referring to as “Ask Corporate,” and a fantasy series called “The Mark of the Storyteller.” They are all in various stages of production from outline to finished draft being shopped to agents, so keep a weather eye out for them in the near future!

R: Where can people get your books

Anywhere. No seriously, Amazon, CreateSpace, your local bookstore can even order them for you. They are available in print and ebook forms, the ebooks can be purchased from almost any ebook vendor. Undeliverable is also available in Braille (Thea will be shortly) and they will also soon be available as audio books.

If you want to see the full links for availability, check out the individual book pages on my website, they are all there. Though, if you me to get the biggest royalty on the book, you should purchase them from these links:

R: If you could be any character in a book, what book would it be and what character?

This…is one of the hardest question I have EVER been asked. I…um…to be honest? My character Sophia in my (in production) series, “Mark of the Storyteller.” First, because she lives in a world entirely populated by the characters of every story ever written, so she gets to hang out with Merlin and Alanna and all the characters I’ve ever loved, and secondly, because she harnesses the power of human imagination to do and create anything she wants in their world. Limitless potential. Its kind of like having every superpower/magic ever rolled into one, but she’s still down to earth, has the love of a good man, and isn’t afraid to take on the hard challenges.

R: It is not easy being a teen. What advice would you give them in general?

Find something you love, do that thing as often as you can, and don’t let ANYone tell you its stupid or not worth your time. If it makes you happy, short of murdering puppies or breaking laws, then do it, and don’t worry about what people think. With today’s access to the world at large through the internet, you WILL find other people who share your interests and get just as excited about it as you do, and you’re only a teenager for a short time, so you can put up with just about anything for a couple years. As soon as you’re an adult, you can go find those groups of people with similar interests and do those things for the rest of your life, and be happy. Don’t conform to what other people THINK should make you happy. They aren’t you. And if you’re not doing things that are making you happy, you are by default making yourself miserable. Sometimes you have to bide your time, and do some of those things (*cough* homework *cough*) in order to get to what you would rather be doing, but its worth it in the end. Trust me.

R: What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a writer?

Read. Read everything. Read stories, read non-fiction books on subjects that interest you, read books about writing, especially books about writing by writers, and neuroscientists. (There’s a particularly great one called Wired for Story). Write down every idea that comes to you, bad or good, because you never know what you’ll be able to use later. Don’t edit yourself as you write (that’s what revision is for LATER). Go from start to finish without second guessing yourself or backtracking, make notes if you think of things you want to edit, but just get that first draft written, or you never will. And my last piece of advice? Ignore any writing advice that doesn’t work for you. Writing is an extremely personal experience and you have to find the tricks, tips, motivations, and habits that keep you putting pen to paper, which may be entirely different from me, Steven King, or Lisa Cron. So, experiment until you find what works.

R: What are five things people may not now about you?

Let’s see…I’ve fallen off a 20 foot waterfall (not intentionally, and it really hurt); I make awesome crochet fractals; I want to get a pet hedgehog and name it Hegg; you’d never know it by my indoor forest, but I have killed over 20 houseplants (I finally learned my lesson and stick to succulents for the most part now); when I was 8, I wanted to be a sculptress and only work in marble. I made mom stop at every museum we passed when we moved across country that year so I could study the statues. Then I learned how long it took to work with marble and promptly decided I’d rather write ’cause that takes SO much less patience. I know, I know, I was totally wrong about that, and I laugh at my young self all the time…

R: Other than this one, what is the strangest question you have ever been asked?

If I were a kitchen appliance, which one would I be? Still not sure how I would answer that one…kinda changes every day.

R: Are you on any social networking sites? If so, which ones and what are their addresses? Do you have an official website?

I do! Here they are:




R: Anything else you would like to add or say to your readers?

I’m currently running a giveaway for Thea, and you can enter here: I also love talking with young authors, so if you have any questions or want any advice, feel free to reach out through my website. Unfortunately, I can’t read your writing for liability reasons, but I’m happy to talk shop.