Featured Author of the Month…Joanne Lecuyer

Joanne L1773  72 DPI JPG



I’d like to introduce to you all my featured author of the month, Joanne Leucyer!  Joanne has been working for the Canadian federal government for over 25 years, with the last half in corporate communications and more recently as a change management advisor on corporate projects. She is also a professional and personal coach and a Reiki Master. Joanne’s favorite past-time is writing children’s books and doing writing workshops with kids. “I feel that my imagination has been in over-drive since 2009—I’m loving it! I consider myself as an eternal learner.”  Joanne lives in a small rural community outside of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with her husband Rick, their dog Kato and cat Black Magic. Joanne and her husband  both love watching animated movies–especially the ones for kids (Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Rango, Epic, and so many more…). They also enjoy time with friends and family.



Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?




Joanne: I’ve been writing stories for children for about 5 years now. The seed was planted in 2004 after spending a weekend with my younger brother. He’s a graphic artist and has always been extremely creative.  On my way home, I felt that I just had to jot a story down on some scraps of paper. I called it Topsyturvia. When I got home, I filed the pages away.


In 2009, I got an urge to transcribe the story into my computer and just kept adding to it. At about 6,000 words, I decided to read it to my husband (who can sometimes be brutally honest). He told me that he thought it was a very good story. With a boost of confidence, I gave a copy to a few colleagues with children and they liked it too. My brother is currently working on the illustrations. Once I had that book written, more stories starting popping into my mind. In 2010, I published my first book The Witch, the Cat and the Egg.




Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.




Joanne: My first book, The Witch, the Cat and the Egg, was inspired by the Disney books I read as a child. I’ve always loved stories with princesses, fairies, magic, wizards and dragons. With magic anything is possible. I also love animals. The main characters, and the forest creatures, remind me of the magical stories that I read when I was young. The young witch, named Juliane, is a mixture of all the female characters that I loved in Disney books and movies like Cinderella and Snow White. Juliane is happy, kind, and loves to help others. She is friends with all the magical creatures of the forest. When I was a young girl, I loved walking through the woods.  I wished that I could talk to animals. I still do!  We have a small forest behind our house in the country. It’s my magical place that inspires me.


I had no idea that I would be writing a series. But, the idea for the sequel, The Witch, the Cat and the Water Dragon, came as I was working on the final chapter. There will be a book 3 in 2016.


Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?




Joanne: In my job, I write a lot of reports, email messages, presentations, and facilitate working groups, etc. Writing children’s fantasy stories sometimes seems like a stretch. But it feels like it has come naturally. Writing kids’ positive fantasy books is very liberating and therapeutic! I believe that you can have a great story without limbs flying or guns going off. There is a lot of beauty and wonder in the world and I want to have kids tap into that. I want them to read something that is fun that will give them something good to dream about.




Sierra: What is one of your favorite chapters (or part) to write?




Joanne: That’s a tough question to answer. The story evolves as I write it. I’m usually amazed at end, when I’m re-reading it, that I actually wrote the story.




Sierra: Is anything in your books that is based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?




Joanne: The stories come mainly from my imagination. But, they are peppered by my thoughts, feeling and values. I do base some of my characters on people I know, sometimes I use their names.






Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?




Joanne: Did I mention that I really enjoy fiction and fantasy! I don’t have one favorite author.  For me it’s all about the story. I have to like the premise and the characters, also the flow of the writing. For children’s books, I would have to say all the Disney classics. That’s what I grew up reading. Other books that stand out are The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings and The Chrysalids. As for Y/A and adult books, Harry Potter of course. My husband and I are reading an oldie but goodie trilogy about Merlin, The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart (Merlin is my favourite character). I’m also reading a French series called Les chevaliers d’Émeraude (The Emerald Knights) by Anne Robillard – there are 12 books and I’m only on book 3. I’m half-way through the Divergent trilogy by Veronica Roth. I really enjoy the style and pace of her writing. Did I mention I’m a Gemini?  There are two of me to keep busy!




Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?




Joanne: Not yet! In my case, I don’t stress about having to work on only one book at a time. I work on the one that pops into my head. During the spring and summer, I focus on completing the book that I will publish for the fall.




Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?




Joanne: J.K. Rowling – I’d love to talk about magic and wizardry with her over tea. J.R.R. Tolkien – If he were alive, I’d want to sit in a hobbit hole in New Zealand with him and ask what he thinks of Peter Jackson’s rendition of  the creature Gollum in the movies The Lord of the Rings. Does he feel that the essence and likeness of the character was captured the way he had imagined it.


Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?




Joanne: I have 2 books coming out in October.


In The Witch, the Cat and the Water Dragon, the story continues with Juliane who is a young witch and forest guide to the magical Forest of Ennyar. The egg she had transported has now hatched and Tarak the last magical water dragon has emerged. As Juliane and the dragon will learn, friendship and courage will be required to face the unknown, and help save magic and the forest. For the images, I had to find a new illustrator. I met Brooke Alexander at a book fair in Ottawa, Ontario. As I watched her drawing with color pencils, I realized that she would be perfect to illustrate the sequel. Brooke is a wonderfully talented illustrator.


In My Friend Merlin, I decided to create a story around one of my favorite characters the wizard Merlin. I added a few twists on the legend, to make him more accessible to kids. A young druid boy named Merlin shows a young Prince Arthur that magic can be used to do good despite what King Uther and his followers have come to believe. It’s the tale of the meeting of Arthur and Merlin and how they changed the fate of magic. The book contains over 20 amazing color images by a Canadian illustrator, Rich Lauzon. Rich and I met at a Geek Market in Ottawa, Ontario a few years ago. He was drawing an image of a young boy and a dragon, which gave me the inspiration to start writing the story. I used it as the first image in Chapter 1 of the book. I’m sure the kids, even adults, will love his illustrations as much as I do.




Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first book or getting it published that you would change?




Joanne: I don’t think I would change anything. A small local publisher, my husband and friends gave me just the right amount of encouragement to get me to actually print the first book.




Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?




Joanne: I would say, write down your ideas when you get them. Don’t try to edit your own work. A good editor is your friend. Write the best story you can and ask friends, colleagues, people that don’t know you well to be your test readers. They can help find the holes in the story and give you ideas. Of course, you don’t have to take all the suggestions. But I do think that considering them makes for a better story in the end.




Read your story out loud (a few times). Doing this really helps pinpoint the spots that don’t flow, or are boring, etc. Don’t be afraid to re-write, scrap an idea, a whole paragraph, and even a few pages. Save them in another file in case you can use them for the sequel or another book.




Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?




Joanne: My wish is that my readers will feel good after reading the story and looking at the images. I also hope that it may spark their creative juices and hopefully inspire them to create their own stories and images.


Thank you for making Topsy Books part of your reading collection. I always look forward to receiving reader questions and feedback on the books. Readers can also connect with me on Facebook: Topsy Books and Twitter: @JoTopsyBooks. Check out the website www.topsybooks.com to find out more about the books, learn new words, try some word games or download coloring images.




Thank you so much!!

Featured Author of the Month…Michael Golembesky

Michael Golembesky_Afghanistan

I am honored to introduce to you my featured author of the month, Michael Golembesky,  author of  “Level Zero Heroes”.  Here is my review for “Level Zero Heroes”  if you missed it!

Born in 1976, Michael moved from his home town of Levittown, Pennsylvania to Colorado in 1997 to begin a new life. There he worked as a truck driver for a local dairy before enlisting into the Marine Corps shortly after the events of 9/11 to help support the United States in the global war on terrorism.

Upon graduating MCRD San Diego in 2002, he was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 10th Marines as a field artillery cannoneer, deploying to Okinawa (2003) and Iraq (2005) with Regimental Combat Team 2, where he served as a provisional rifle company squad leader.

Upon returning from Iraq, Sgt. Golembesky made a lateral move in primary MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) to become a Fire Support Man (0861). He served his following two deployments attached to 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines as a forward observer and Fire Support Chief as part of the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (2006) and Task Force 2/2 in Iraq (2008).

While on his second deployment in Iraq, SSgt. Golembesky was selected to become an aircraft controller with the newly formed Marine Corps Special Operations Command (MARSOC). He reported to 2nd Marine Special Operations Battalion in January, 2009 and immediately attended the Joint Terminal Attack Controller course in Norfolk, Va. After graduating and obtaining 8002 MOS, he was assigned as a team JTAC with Marine Special Operations Company G, Team 2. His fifth and final deployment was served in Afghanistan (RC-W) with Marine Special Operations Team 8222 from 2009 through 2010 in the Bala Murghab River Valley.

Honorably discharged in Oct. 2010 after eight years of military service, Michael, along with his wife Sabrina and daughter Devlyn, returned home to Colorado where he works as a defense contractor and writer.

Michael’s personal military awards include the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (Valor), two Navy and Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbons and the Afghanistan and Iraq Campaign Medals.

Check out my interview with Michael and if you have not read this book, I highly recommend you do!!


Sierra:  How did you begin writing “Level Zero Heroes”?  Did you intend to become an author?

Michael:  Becoming an author was probably the furthest thing from my mind. I started writing the book for myself, slowly building upon events from my memoir and emotions. After writing about 30k words I realized that this would make an amazing book.

Sierra:  Considering the contents, where there any occupational hazards to writing this story?

Michael:  No, not really. I wrote the book in my spare time as I juggled family life, being a father and working a fulltime day job.

Sierra:  Who is your intended audience? 

Michael:  Anyone willing to take the time to read it. John Bruning and I wrote the book in a manner that would make it easy for non-military people to understand and enjoy it, because we wanted the message of the story to reach a larger audience than just military veterans.

Sierra:  When working with different chains of command you describe in the book, how did you keep a strong hold on procedures? Especially when certain situations came to light that didn’t exactly sound logical to you.

Michael:  I wrote the book in a way so not to draw any conclusions for the reader. All I could do was tell the story as it happened and let the reader decide what is right and wrong, good or bad.

Sierra:  What was the hardest part in writing this book?  Was it the real life situations you endured and put onto paper or something more?

Michael:  I had most of the material collected before John and I even started writing the book. I guess the hardest part was making sure the book had a solid structure and flow to it. We wanted to keep the reader engaged and make the book hard to put down.

Sierra:  What cultural value do you see in telling this story?

Michael:  I wanted readers to finish ready the book feeling like they were a part of the story, not just looking in on it. Hopefully they walk away with a better understanding of modern warfare and the brutal reality that extreme Muslim ideology poses on the civilized world.

Sierra:  What has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author?  Did anyone discourage you from writing this story?

Michael:  There were some people within the MARSOC community that didn’t want me to write this book but I told them the same thing I told everyone else that had an issue with it; I am not writing this book for them, I am writing for my fellow team members and they are the only ones I answer too.

Sierra:  Tell us a little about your cover art.  Who designed it and why did you choose that particular image?  Was the image a photo that you collected from your service?

Michael:  Lisa Pompilio at St. Martin’s Press can up with the final design, but it had been a work in progress for a year or so. I intentionally placed the original photo used on the cover inside of the book because I wanted readers to know that it is ‘real’, the look on Mark’s face is what war is and feels like.

Sierra:  What inspires you as an author and a person?

Michael:  Freedom and choice to aspire to be who you want to be, regardless of the events in your past. The future is as bright as you make it.

Sierra:  If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first book or getting it published that you would change?

 Michael:  Nothing. It was a lot of hard work and long hours but in the end, holding the book in my hands made it all worthwhile.

Sierra:  What can we expect from you in the future that pertains to writing?

Michael:  The future is wide open, but like I said, I never intend on become a writer. Maybe if people are really interested, perhaps there could be a follow-up to Level Zero Heroes that covers the rest of the deployment. We will see.

Sierra:  Having seen your film, “Infil Exfil” which brings to light the mental struggle that goes on within all combat veterans, did this inspire you to write the book about your experiences in Bala Murghab?

 Michael:  I wouldn’t say directly but many of us veteran struggle with the same challenges after leaving a war zone. Hopefully this story and my success outside of the military helps to offer hope to someone who may be struggling with the change.

Sierra:  After watching “Infil Exfil”, I have followed along with you via Facebook awaiting the release of your book.  I am a dog lover and loved learning about your dog “Bear”.  You write about him in the story of how you came to find him, or how he came to find you.  In the book, you don’t exactly say how you brought “Bear” back to the states.  From following your page, I learned about Nowzad, the non-profit organization who help soldiers get pets they have rescued while serving, back to the United States.  Would you like to shed some light on the process you went through to get “Bear” to Colorado with you and your family?

Michael:  It was a long process and took the help of many people. The first hurdle was raising about 3k to cover the travel and sheltering expenses for Bear’s trip to the states. I hitched a ride on an Italian helicopter to get him to Herat City where he was handed off to a local national that Nowzad had coordinated with. From there he traveled to Kabul, Flew to a shelter in Pakistan, where he stayed for about a month before making the long flight to New York. It took a lot of coordination and faith with Nowzad and other forgiven agencies to get him home, but well worth it.

Sierra:  Michael, I cannot express how thankful I am for you to take the time to answer some of my questions.  Not only that, I am honored to have gotten to read your book.  Words cannot explain how a person feels after reading about such experiences and realizing exactly what it is that you men do for our freedom here in the United States.  Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Michael:  We are thankful for all of our veterans, but it is the combat veterans that have endured the weight of war. The next time you meet a combat vet from Iraq or Afghanistan, shake their hand and offer to buy them a beer. -Ski

Level Zero Heroes_cover approved

Level Zero Heroes by Michael Golembesky

Level Zero Heroes_cover approved


Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥


I would first like to thank the author, Michael Golembesky for sharing his story with me.   Honestly, you cannot put a rating on this book.  No rating could ever be enough for what these men in this story and all around the world do for our freedom every single day.  Because of them, we can go out at midnight and do cartwheels in the yard if we want.   A useless example, but once you read “Level Zero Heroes”, you will want to spend your time doing much, much greater things with your life!

“Level Zero Heroes” is the first book written about the U.S. Marines Special Operations since it was created in 2006.  This book is written from the context of first account views from Team 8222 (MSOT), a 22-member squad of Marines serving in a village called Bala Murghab, Afganistan, an isolated Taliban stronghold.

I have always been passionate about freedom, in the fact that freedom is never free.  What you will find in this book will open you up raw as Michael takes an extremely complex situation and compresses it so any reader can easily understand the circumstances that the author and his team endured while in Bala Murghab, Afghanistan.   I have never read a book quite like this one.  The interest came after watching Michael’s film “Infil Exfil”, which brings to light the mental struggle that goes on within all combat veterans.  I knew I had to read this book.

“Level Zero Heroes” brings to light the seven months that Golemesky and his men fought, side by side, going from one extremity to the next.  I’m not sure I didn’t feel a day went by that there wasn’t at least one fire fight while they were stationed there.  These men survived through a couple freak accidents, sniper ambush missions in sub-zero temperatures and trials where you couldn’t see the line between who was a friend or who was a foe.   I kept saying to myself while reading, “this is about to get sketchy!”, not just from the way Michael writes, but I literally felt it in my gut like I was there with them!

So much is bundled into this book that I feel like I will be reading it more than once.  There were some parts I read so fast because I was terrified for the men being written about, I might have missed something!  I was reading this book in the evenings before I would go to bed, which was a mistake because I would be awaking thinking about everything I had just ‘witnessed’.

This is so much more than just a deployment to Afghanistan, so much more a person needs to realize about our country.  Follow the accounts of valor and brotherhood, let this book open your eyes a little wider and understand the passion driven men and women who fight for your country in the past, present and those who will serve in the future!   I feel as though this book will be winning some awards,  a highly recommended read.   Once again, thank you to all the men and women who serve to grant us freedom in the United States of America!


To learn more about the author, keep an eye out for my interview with him.  Find out more about “Level Zero Heroes” on the website below!


VISIONS: A Cainsville Novel by Kelley Armstrong



Expected publication: August 19th 2014 by Dutton

Series: Cainsville Series #2

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Once again Kelley Armstrong wows me with her second book in the Cainsville Series!  I loved the first book Omens and if you have not started reading this series you are missing out!

Omens, the first installment in Kelley Armstrong’s new series, introduced Olivia Taylor-Jones, daughter of notorious serial killers, and Gabriel Walsh, the self-serving, morally ambiguous lawyer who became her unlikely ally. Together, they chased down a devious killer and partially cleared her parents of their horrifying crimes.

In Visions, I wouldn’t blame Olivia if she started thinking she was going a bit crazy, because not only is she seeing omens but she’s seeing the dead body of a young girl dressed to look like her. Luckily she really isn’t going crazy and the mystery of this dead girl is the one that Olivia is out to solve in this story.  But why? And what role has her new home played in this disturbing murder?  So her and Gabriel team up once again to solve a murder – in a very round about way.  Olivia’s effort to uncover the truth places her in the cross-hairs of old and powerful forces, forces that have their own agenda, and closely guarded secrets they don’t want revealed.

I was glued to the pages as Olivia and Gabriel navigated through the secrets and mysteries they encountered and the new developments in plot lines. I like Armstrong’s writing, and I was already engaged with the main characters from the previous novel.  I think Visions was a great addition to the Cainsville series and I eagerly look forward to more!

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud



When the dead come back to haunt the living, Lockwood & Co. step in . . .


Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

What a wonderful ghost story for children and young adult!  I was impressed with Jonathan Stroud’s writing having not read anything by him before this book.  The cover art is also fantastic!  For a little over 50 years, the country has been over ran with an epidemic of….ghosts!  Due to the increasing number of these “things”, Psychic Investigation Agencies have been popping up everywhere to try and destroy these apparitions.  A little gal named Lucy arrives in London hoping to find a great career for herself, only to realize she has a special gift and ends up joining one of these agencies ran by the other main character, Lockwood.  Not all of their investigations go smoothly and some have gone horrbly wrong.  With on last chance to prove they can tackle these spirits the two ghost hunters are put to the test in one of the most haunted houses in England.

The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humor and truly terrifying ghosts, but not too terrifying for young readers.  Absolutely recommended to anyone who loves a unique, dark, fun horror story (which like I said doesn’t get to scary) but does give you enough chilly moments with an intriguing story line to savor and enjoy.  Keep an eye out, Jonathan Stroud is going to be my next Featured Author of the Month!





Featured Author of the Month…Kevin O’Brien

Kevin O'Brien - New Photo


I would like to introduce to you my featured author of the month, Kevin O’Brien,  author of  “Unspeakable” and his new book “Tell Me You’re Sorry”.  Here is my review for “Unspeakable”  if you missed it!  Check out my amazing interview with Kevin!

Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Kevin:  I was a huge Hitchcock fan growing up, and wrote some scary stories for creative writing classes in high school.  When I was a Junior at Marquette University (in Milwaukee), I took a creative writing class on a lark, and loved it.  The instructor, Anne Powers, was a published author—and a very encouraging teacher.  She taught us not only about writing, but about how to get published.  At one point, she told me, “Your stories remind me of my writers’ group colleague, Robert Block.”  Yes, that Robert Block, who wrote “Psycho.”  That was 1977, the start of my serious writing.

I set a goal for myself to get published by the time I was thirty (a short story, novel, screenplay, anything).  I wrote my first novel, “Actors,” from 1982 -1984, then spent nearly two more years revising and trying to sell it.  The book finally sold to a publisher the day after my 30th birthday, August 21, 1985.


Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your first book.

Kevin:  “Actors” was a sweeping saga about a pair struggling actors, who fall in love, but they split up when she becomes a star.  His career goes nowhere, but he never stops loving her from afar.  The story spans three decades (1950’s – 1980’s).  I used to call it jokingly, “The Thornbirds Go to Hollywood.”  It was released in hardcover, then paperback—and had several foreign editions, too.  But it has been out of print for decades, and isn’t available on ebook.


Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

Kevin:  It took a long time to sell my second book, “Only Son” (1996), but my agents didn’t give up on it.  In fact, they sold the movie option before finally selling it to Kensington Books.  I’m so glad I ended up there, because it’s been a perfect match.  The book did very well, and was even featured in “Readers Digest Select Editions” here and in several foreign countries. But it was a long struggle.  My agents surmised that we’d have better luck selling a thriller next time.  “Only Son” was mainstream fiction with some suspenseful elements.  And I’d always been a Hitchcock fan.  So I wrote “The Next to Die,” and Kensington bought it.  When it became a USA Today Bestseller, I knew I’d found my genre.

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write in your new thriller, “Tell Me You’re Sorry”?

Kevin: I had several “favorite” scenes in the book.  I really enjoyed writing the scene with the Chicago-area teenager, Ryan, driving home in a violent thunderstorm after a distress call from his new stepmother.  The reader knows he’s being set up to get killed once he steps inside that house. Will he   turn back toward his friend’s house or continue on in the storm to his death? I also liked the scene in which my heroine, Stephanie, figures out someone is trying to lure her down to her basement to kill her—and her subsequent escape.  The set ups for the various abductions were also interesting to write.  But I guess the segment that stands out for me is the flashback to 1986, with the teenagers skinny-dipping at night—and you know something horrible is about to happen.  It’s a long scene, and I tried to make it slightly titillating, funny, pathetic, poignant and pulse-pounding scary.

Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Kevin: Well, that beach where the teens were skinny-dipping is based on a private beach in Glencoe, where I used to swim (in a swim suit).  I also worked at a country club during the summers while I was in high school—as one of my main characters did in the book.  So writing those flashback scenes was sort of fun and nostalgic.

The apparent “murder-suicide” in a North Chicago suburban home is loosely based on a true (and tragic) case that occurred at another locale—to the son of a film actress.  He was caught embezzling, and rather than go to jail, he shot his wife and children.  He called his lawyer, confessed to the murders, and then shot himself.

On a much lighter note, my character who is a TV news anchor has a funny slip up on the air, referring to the “Seattle Shitty Council.”  That was based on a news anchor friend’s slip up when he was on the air in Oklahoma City.

You tap into all sorts of true stories when writing fiction.


Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?

Kevin:  As a kid, I was profoundly influenced by “Psycho,” first the Hitchcock movie, then Robert Bloch’s book.  In college, around the time I wanted to be a writer, I read “Boys and Girls Together,” by William Goldman, and then gobbled up all his books.  He also wrote the screenplay to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Marathon Man,” and several others.  Goldman penned a terrific book on screenwriting, too.  I consulted that book—and Ernest Lehman’s brilliant screenplay for “North by Northwest”—when I wrote two screenplays after college.  Neither one ever sold, thank God.  I don’t think they were very good, but they were terrific practice for novel writing.


Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Kevin: You bet.  It comes with the job.  I usually conquer it by asking myself what my protagonist would do at that particular point in the book—and then writing all those options down in a stream-of-conscious manner.  Chardonnay helps, too!  If that doesn’t work, I ask what my antagonist would do next, and again I just start jotting notes on the character’s options.  That usually helps me break through the block and come up with the next scene.


Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

Kevin:  I’ve met—and know—so many wonderful authors.  But I still haven’t met Stephen King or Phillip Roth.  It would be cool to sit down and talk with them.


Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

Kevin: I’m still promoting my new thriller, “Tell Me You’re Sorry,” but work has indeed started on the next, “No One Needs to Know.”  It’s about the 1970 murder of a movie star and her husband, who were staying in a rented mansion while she was on location in Seattle, shooting an occult film.  Now it’s 45 years later, and they’re making a film about the notorious murders.  They’re using all the real locales, too—including the mansion where the killings occurred.  But strange things start happening on the film set—and people start dying.  That’s all I’m saying about it for now!


Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting it published that you would change?

Kevin: It was a long, tough process.  It took several revisions and nearly two years to sell my first.  But I remember at the time reading that the odds of publishing a novel were about 1 in 4800.  So—I’m just glad I hung in there.

If I could change anything, I would have gotten in touch with the publisher’s marketing/publicity department early on, and done whatever I could to get them working to promote the book.  My publisher at the time didn’t do much at all to push “Actors.”

I’m lucky that all of my other books since then have been published by Kensington.  Their marketing department and publicity team are top-notch.  They’ve got my back.


Sierra: Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?

Kevin:  I’m a believer in writers groups.  Writing is such a lonely profession, and you need the support of other writers you trust.  You need someone to give you honest feedback about your work before you send it off to an agent, editor, or the general public.

The other bit of advice I have for aspiring writers is to persevere, have confidence in yourself, but also be humble enough to realize that everything you write isn’t gold.  So-write, re-write, re-write again, and re-write once more!


Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Kevin: Yes, thank you for your support!  And be sure to spread the word about my thrillers!

And thank you, Sierra.  It was a pleasure talking with you!


A visit from author Kate Clabough

Kate Clabough headshot


I get excited about a lot of things, but what I really enjoyishaving authors visit my (small) local library!  By (small) I mean to say that we don’t get very many authors to come speak in our neck of the woods, so when one does, guess who is there to get the scoop,  A Simple Taste for Reading!  Not only did I get the ‘scoop’ on author Kate Clabough, I was also invited to dinner with her and another friend of mine who runs the wonderful site Nebraska Rural Living, Betty Sayers.  I feel as though I might have talked their ears off, but books and their author’s get me just a bit excited!

Kate had grown up in this area and is considered a ‘local author’, which is why she was chosen to come speak to us. She is a Holdrege, NE native but lived in the town of Alma, NE for 13 years.  During a few of  those years, she was a ‘jack of all trades’ working at a floral shop, cleaning a motel and working at the newspaper, just to name a few!  Kate is the type of person who is willing to work at anything that is asked of her.  Then at last she became a librarian in the town Alma, where she worked for 4 1/2 years (the exact same amount of time I worked at my library!).

Later in life, she had gotten a divorce and moved to Tennessee at the age of 33.  When she hit the Tennessee border, she decided she was going to be an author!  Kate has been a writer all through out her life, but this change was going to be the one where she was going to be someone different.

Once Kate settled in to her new life, she started writing for the Farragut newspaper.  She wrote for  a special section called “The West Side Story”.  Kate not only likes to write, but she is also passionate about genealogy and is, as you can say, a ‘professional researcher’!  “The West Side Story” staged articles about a wide variety of people and places, as well as their history.  Writing for this column, Kate told us about some of the interesting people she would meet while researching for her articles.  Some adventures Kate was lead on were a little too outrageous to mention! Many of the ‘folks’ she would interview referred to Kate as a ‘foreigner’ and a ‘not from round’ these parts’, which didn’t phase her one bit.   Kate’s grandmother Alice, was the soul person who inspired her interest in history.

After her run with the newspaper, Kate and her husband both started working for a regional magazine.  Kate was writing about 20 stories or more for them A MONTH and of course her points of interest were the history of things.  As this job became a past tense, she started to do a little freelance writing for magazines and focused more on her books and being an author!

Kate mostly writes non-fiction, but her newest writings are works of fiction.  Her first published book is titled, “Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Murder”.   This is books is part of Kate’s series, the Rhea Tennyson Mysteries.  Kate refers to her books as “rainy afternoon mysteries” that you can enjoy in mostly one sitting!  In her first book, she takes us to a town called Blaisdell, Nebraska where library director, Rhea Tennyson’s neighbor turns up DEAD.  Not knowing if it is the work of a serial killer or someone personal, Rhea becomes part of the investigation when mysterious strangers start showing up in the town.  Keep an eye out for the offical review in the next day or two from, A SIMPLE TASTE FOR READING!  The next two books that Kate is about ready to release, although I haven’t been told a date yet, are titled “The Fine Art of Murder” and “Cooking with Strychnine”.  Kate was actually doing a little research while she was here for the second book!

If you are interested in purchasing Kate’s first book, you can do so by clicking on this link “Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Murder“!  I very much enjoyed getting to know Kate and she was so inspirational to me with her words of wisdom on being an author and becoming one as well!  I look forward to staying in touch with her and learning from her as she is a great teacher and writer!  Kate no resides by the Great Smoky Mountain’s but still finds serenity on the Great Plains of Nebraska, I hope she will be back to visit soon!

Featured Author of the Month…Kelley Armstrong


Kelley has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, Kelley’s would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers’ dismay. All efforts to make me produce “normal” stories failed. Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon.

Kelley is the author of many great books including one that I have reviewed, “Omens”!


Featured Author of the Month…Chris Grabenstein


I would like to introduce to you my featured author of the month, Chris Grabenstein,  author of  “The Crossroads.  Here is my review for “The Crossroads”  if you missed it!  Check out my amazing interview with Chris!

Chris was born in Buffalo New York on a cold and wintry night in September.  Yes,  it is cold and wintry in Buffalo every month except July and August.  When he was ten, his dad’s company transferred him to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Being ten, he decided he better go with him.   Fourteen years later, after college, Chris moved back to New York, this time the City, to be an actor and a writer.  He did improvisational comedy for five years (Bruce Willis was in their group), wrote for the Muppets, co-wrote a Christmas movie with a buddy from college (The Christmas Gift starring John Denver), took a writing aptitude test,  got hired by James Patterson at J. Walter Thompson advertising, wrote and produced commercials for seventeen years, quit, started writing books, started collecting rejection letters, finally got published in 2005 and now have about two dozen books out there in the world!


Sierra: When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?

Chris:  I started writing my first book in 2001 and finished it in 2003, I think.  It was never published.  Neither was my second or third book.  My fourth book was my first book.

Sierra: Tell us a little bit about your first book or the first book in the series.

Chris:  The first book in my adult murder mystery series was called TILT A WHIRL.  A by-the-book former MP becomes a cop in a Jersey Shore tourist town where nothing bad ever happens.  But then it does.   It won an Anthony award for best first mystery.  This year, the 8th book in that series, FREE FALL, came out.  I also wrote two thrillers for adults.

My first middle grades book, THE CROSSROADS, came out in 2008.  There are now four books in that series.  I also did a caper series for kids, have co-authored a few books with James Patterson, and recently became a New York Times best seller with ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY


Sierra: How did you choose the genre you write in?

Chris: I try to write the kinds of books I like to read.  Mysteries, thrillers, puzzlers, humor, a little sci-fi.  I know what readers want in those genres because I’m one, too.

Sierra: What was your favorite chapter (or part) to write?

Chris:  The bad guys.  They’re always the most fun.

Sierra: Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?

Chris:  A lot of what happens in my books has happened to me in my life.  For instance, Kyle Keeley, the hero of ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY is based on my memories of having two older brothers.  The only time I could beat them was when we played board games!

Sierra: Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as

an adult?

Chris: When I was a kid, my parents had a copy of The Complete Short Story Collection of O. Henry.  I think his twist ending style profoundly influenced me.  I also liked those books like Hotel and Airport that had multiple story threads that all came together in the end.  And, more recently, Stephen King, especially his “ON WRITING” has been extremely influential.

Sierra: Do you ever experience writers block?

Chris: No.  In fact, in my school visits, I teach the kids a trick to avoid it for the rest of their life.  Just use the rules of improvisational comedy.  Say, “yes…and…” and see what happens.

Sierra: Is there an author that you would really like to meet?

Chris:  Charles Dickens.  I like to go on long walks, too.  So maybe we could take one together.  With Fred, my dog.

Sierra: Will you have a new book coming out soon? If so, can you tell us about it?

Chris:   Let’s see, I EVEN FUNNIER, co-authored with James Patterson just came out.  Next June, the paperback of ESCAPE FROM MR. LEMONCELLO’S LIBRARY will come out with bonus puzzles and pages.   Mr. Patterson and I have several other books coming out in the new year:  TREASURE HUNTERS 2, HOUSE OF ROBOTS: BRO-BOT, and I FUNNIEST.   My new book for Random House, THE ISLAND OF DR. LIBRIS, will come out in the Spring of 2015.

Sierra: If you could go back and do it all over again, is there any aspect of your first novel or getting

it published that you would change?

Chris:  The first several pages of TILT A WHIRL.  I made the classic first time author mistake of laying out a lot of exposition (even though it’s pretty well done, thanks to my narrator’s smart alecky voice) instead of jumping right in with action.   Now when I start a Ceepak story, we’re in the middle of some kind of action packed mess and I’ll catch you up with who everybody is and where we are later.

Sierra: Do you have any advise to give to aspiring writers?

Chris:  Read, read, read.  Write, write, write.  And — this is a trick that really helped me — study screenplay story structure and adapt it to word count instead of page count.

Sierra: Is there anything you would like to say to your readers and fans?

Chris:  Thank you so much for reading my books!   It’s no fun writing if no one reads what you write!


Thank you Chris!