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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Welcome Guest Author Susan M. Strecker

I meant to put this on here on Friday, but as you know, real life gets in the way. So here it is now only a few days late!

Susan Strecker was my guest on my radio show: Red River Radio Tales from the Pages on Thursday, February 23, 2017. If you click on the link you can hear this great show! To help you learn more about her I am including that interview here on the blog and also I am giving you the blurbs and excerpts from her wonderful books: Night Blindness and Nowhere Girl.

Here is the interview:

1    1.      Where were you born and where do you live now? 
I   I was born in Stamford, Connecticut and grew up in Madison, Connecticut. I’ve lived in Essex, Connecticut with my husband and kids since 2009.

2.       Besides writing, what do you like to do? Do you have any hobbies? 

I grew up riding horses and quickly learned that the responsibility of owning a horse (or being their person, as a horse person would say) was more of a lifestyle than a sport or hobby. I rode and competed all over the country all through my childhood, college and afterwards. My kids, Cooper and Ainsley, started riding almost as soon as they could walk. Now I am loving being a horse show mom and helping them take care of their ponies. I also love watching my kids play lacrosse. When I have a free moment, I needlepoint belts and love to read.

3.       Who or what influenced you to begin writing? What was your first piece of writing and when did you write this? 

My mother has been my biggest influence on my writing career. When I was little, my family spent a lot of time fishing on boats. I felt bad for the fish and didn’t want to hurt them with hooks. To give me something else to do, my mom would bring me a notebook and pens and tell me to write stories about our adventures. I’d have to say that my first piece of writing was about a little girl who was on a boat with her big brothers and I wrote it when I was six.

4.      How did you get the idea for your first novel, Night Blindness? 

I wrote Night Blindness as a tribute to my dad, who died of cancer several years ago. He was one of the greatest men I have ever known and I wanted to have something permanent inspired by him. There’s so much of my dad in Sterling (the main character’s father) and I loved including bits of real life into a work of fiction. I get such a thrill when a fan tells me that Sterling was his or her favorite character in that book.

5.      Please take us through the path to publication for your first novel. How did this change your life? 

How much time do you have? With the help of my fabulously talented development editor, Suzanne Kingsbury, I created a specific and methodical system for querying literary agents. After a year and 63 rejection letters, the amazing and lovely Lisa Gallagher took a chance and signed me. She gave me the statistics of just how hard it is to sell books to publishing houses and that there were no guarantees. But, she is a genius and eleven days after she signed me, she sold my book at auction. Five publishing houses bid on Night Blindness. Thomas Dunne Books bought Night Blindness and signed me for a second book, as well. The publishing process changed my life in that I became 100% dedicated to writing and becoming a novelist.

6.         When did you get the idea for your second novel, Nowhere Girl

I was listening to the radio when a Red Hot Chili Peppers song came on called “Scar Tissue”. I love that band and immediately felt connected to the song. It evoked so many images of what scar tissue could mean, and I thought it’d be a great title for a book. I went home that night and started writing- which was a pretty bad idea. I had no beginning, no middle, no end, no plot and no characters- just a great title. This book ended up being the second one involved in my deal with Thomas Dunne. Once it went to production, my team and I decided on a different title, Nowhere Girl. But it never would have been written if I hadn’t heard that Chili Peppers song.

7.        Did having experience from your first novel prepare you for what you had to do with Nowhere Girl

The experience of working with crazy talented people prepared me for my second book more than anything else. Writing is a craft and like any other skill, the more it’s practiced, the easier it gets. Of course, I still have plenty of days when I have nothing to say and I use the backspace button on my computer a lot. But, the support system Suzanne Kingsbury and Lisa Gallagher and my team at Thomas Dunne Books have created for me has helped me tremendously. Also, having been through book tours, publicity, signings and interviews, I had a better idea of what to expect the second time around.

8.   Please take our listeners through a typical day of writing for you. 

When my kids are in school, I try to write from the minute they get on the bus until they get home. I will also write in the orthodontist’s office, during the seven-minute halftime at a lacrosse game and at four o’clock in the morning when I wake up with an idea. When I’m not editing a client’s work, I make myself write 2000 words a day. It doesn’t sound like much- it’s only about six pages. But, for every 300-page book I write, there are about 150 pages in the cut file. So, if I cut 1000 words because the scene just doesn’t work, I really have to write 3000 words that day. The 2000-word rule only applies to my first drafts. Once I start editing and rewriting, it’s a bit of a free for all. The first draft of a book is an entirely different story than what ends up in bookstores. So the rewriting and editing process is slow, often painful and never easy. Once I start that stage, I just make myself work and write and rewrite until my kids come home. I have also been known to bribe myself with cookies to motivate myself to finish a scene or a chapter.

9.    What are you doing to promote your work either in person or online? 

I have become a one-man band. I contacted every bookstore I was at during my first tour to ask if I could come back when Nowhere Girl came out. I also called local TV stations and newspapers and told them I had a second book. I am shameless with promoting myself on social media. I’d never used Twitter before I signed with Thomas Dunne. Nor did I have a website. Now I do whatever I can to get my name and my books out there. I hired a publicist for my second book, and she was tremendously helpful in getting me into new bookstores. Since Nowhere Girl launched in March, 2016, I have done 37 bookstore appearances, talked to students at eleven elementary, middle and high schools, given nine radio and TV interviews, been featured in four newspapers and have traveled to more than twenty book clubs to talk about Nowhere Girl and my writing. Many people reach out to me via my website or social media and I’ve been honored to be a frequent guest lecturer at writing conferences and workshops. Marketing and promoting myself and my books is a full-time job and one I knew nothing about before I got signed with Thomas Dunne. It’s exhausting and there’s a huge learning curve, but I love every minute of it.

11.   Do you have any tips for beginning writers? 

Write. And then write. And then write some more. No matter what- just keep writing. And give yourself permission to write crap (pardon my language). A lot of days I have nothing to say and no inspiration. But, I make myself write anyway, fully aware that I may chuck the whole passage in the cut folder the next day. But, if I can salvage one paragraph or a sentence, or even just a thought, it’s worth it. And don’t ever expect to get it right the first time around. Sloppy, messy writing is the foundation of what will eventually become the finished product.

12.    What WIF’s are you working on now? Are you planning a sequel to either of your novels? 

I am currently working on my fifth book, tentatively titled, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. I love music and often get inspiration from songs. That title is the name of a Neil Young song and it’s so fitting for the subject. This book will be dedicated to my grandmother who passed away last year at the age of 100. Grammie was the matriarch of my family and was the high priestess of a remote group of cabins in upstate New York where I spent every summer and many winter weekends growing up. Woodland was the stage of every milestone and best memory of my childhood. It’s also immune to technology, modernization and the worries of the world. And it happens to be a place that you can’t get to from here. Hence, the title. It’s a profoundly personal book and a tremendous responsibility to make sure I do justice to this very special place. I will not write a sequel- ever. Nelson DeMille (who I worship) wrote a sequel to one of my favorite books and he said it was the hardest thing he’s ever done and would probably never do it again. That pretty much scared me away from sequels. Also, by the time I rewrite the ending to a book ten or twelve or fifty times, I truly feel like the story is over.

13. Are you a plotter or a "pantser"?

I am freakishly organized and have an unnatural love of lists, spreadsheets and label makers. So, I guess that makes me a plotter. My kids keep me running all the time and I have to be a planner to fit everything in. Also, I love the feeling of crossing things off my to-do list. It makes me soooo happy!
(If you listen to my radio interview with Susan she talks about being a "pantser" in her writing. She says she never knows where a story is going until it ends.)You can listen here to that interview.

Here are the blurbs for both Night Blindness and Nowhere Girl

A future as bright as the stars above the Connecticut shore lay before Jensen Reilly and her high school sweetheart, Ryder, until the terrible events of an October night left Jensen running from her family and her first love. Over the years that followed, Jensen buried her painful past, and now, married to a charismatic artist, she has created a new life far away from the unbearable secret of that night.
When Jensen's father, Sterling, is diagnosed with a brain tumor, she returns to her childhood home for the first time in thirteen years, and the memories of her old life come flooding back along with the people she's tried to escape. Torn between her life in Santa Fe with her free-spirited husband, Nic, and the realization that it is time to face her past, Jensen must make a terrifying decision that threatens to change her life again—this time forever.
An emotionally thrilling debut set during a New England summer, Susan Strecker's Night Blindness is a compelling novel about the choices we make, the sanctity of friendship, and the power of love.


In Susan Strecker's Nowhere Girl, sixteen-year-old Savannah Martino is strangled to death in an abandoned house. The police rule Savannah’s murder a random attack of opportunity, which prompts the small New Jersey town to instigate a curfew and cancel football games. Isolated and afraid, Savannah’s sister, Cady, continues to communicate with Savannah through dreams. Cady knows Savannah in ways no one else knew: The beautiful, ethereal twin everyone thought was an angel was actually on the road to self-destruction. 
Years later a chance encounter while researching her latest novel coincides with an unexpected call from the once-rookie cop on Savannah’s case, Patrick Tunney, now a detective, who tells Cady that Savannah’s case has been reopened. Through new evidence, it has been determined that Savannah’s death wasn’t a random attack and that whoever killed her sister loved her.
Despite years of interviewing convicted killers, profilers, and psychiatrists for her bestselling thrillers, Cady isn’t prepared for the revelation that someone close to her could have killed her sister. Cady is drawn into a labyrinth of deception and betrayal reaching all the way back to her childhood that will force her to find the strength she never knew she had in order to face the truth.

                           My Review of Night Blindness

I read Susan's first book, Night Blindness.  I found this book to be readable and a page turner. In the beginning of the book Jensen is living in Colston with her husband, Nicco and modeling for him and his friends. She has night blindness since the death of her brother, Will. At a birthday celebration for her she receives a phone call from her mother back in Connecticut that her father has a heart tumor. She leaves immediately and finds herself engulfed in childhood memories and family drama. As her father's illness takes up her entire summer she also reconnects with Will's best friend, Ryder, with whom she has a deep connection. In a coincidence, he turns out to be her father's doctor. As she relives all of her childhood experiences she forms a strong bond with her father and realizes she cannot go back to her old life until she solves this mystery of her brother's death and the cause of her night blindness. In doing this she finds that maybe everything she has thought was her life is suddenly changed. I really enjoyed reading this book and wanted to know more about this character as she struggled to make sense of events as they changed daily. The author writes her character with care and the other characters are well drawn too. After reading it, I wanted to read more of her work. This author writes with a compelling voice.

I give it 5 sailboats: 


Please tell us where we can find your books. (links to website, etc.)

My books are available at major bookstores everywhere as well as online at amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thank you so much to my Guest Author Susan M. Strecker. It has been a pleasure to have you on my blog. Please return when you have a new book!

Until the next time, I don't have another guest for my blog, so if you are interested, please let me know. 

On my next radio show for Red River Radio Tales from the Pages on Blog Talk Radio on March 23, 2017 at 4PM EST my guests will be poet Lily Swarn and author Linda L. Kane. 

I know I said a lot of things that were political on my last post and unfortunately, the climate has not changed at all.  I just keep hoping each day that things will get better!! At least it is getting closer to Spring!!! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy February and Sorry for the Late Posting!!!

Okay, so I took a little break from this blog because things in my life got really complicated. In August I scheduled a complete knee replacement for my left knee and then in October, I had the surgery. It all went pretty well, but there was a month when I really did very little except stay in bed and get rehab and nursing at home and that was it. The next two months I spent in rehab and I got pretty far in the use of my leg. However, I had to stop due to insurance not paying for it anymore. I stopped in January and now with doing the exercises at home, I am pretty much mobile. It doesn't hurt much anymore, except for just before it is going to storm. Then for some reason, both knees hurt. LOL

I have also been pretty busy in other ways. Just before I had my surgery I published my very first poetry book called: You'll Probably Forget Me: Living With and Without Hal. It is a book dedicated to the memory of my husband. As everyone who reads this blog knows, he passed away in May of 2014. After he passed I wrote a lot of poems so these and some of my previous poetry are in this book. I am very happy to say it was published by Wildfire Publications by the lovely and talented Susan Joyner Stumpf. She published it on and I have a button on the side of my blog now where you can find it. I am including the link here too so you can check it out. I am very proud of this and I think my husband is very well represented here. I consider it a memorial to him.

So you have an idea of why I didn't post a blog during this time and oh what events have occurred since then!!! I don't usually use my blog to talk about politics, but with this country in the condition it is in I had to write something. I have written poetry about it and signed petitions to stop what is happening. However, it is still happening. I know some people believe everything is fine and that this president is better than sliced bread, but I differ with this greatly. If my husband were alive he would also be very upset about events, but he had a way of dealing with them. I, on the other hand, do not. He would have been able to tell me how things fit in a historical timeline. He would have found a way to get through all of this. Without him, I have to depend on the people who have investigated and have a historical perspective on these events and that person. I am disgusted by the things he has done and I don't know how I will live for the next four years with a tyrannical dictator like him and the people he has dragged in with him. 

I am sorry to any who feel that I am wrong. I will never change my mind unless this so-called president changes his behavior. I have lived through presidents from Truman, Eisenhower,JFK, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama. That is a lot of presidents to have seen and experienced. Though Nixon was certainly a criminal and some of the others were not so great, I have never seen a president behave like this one. He has almost destroyed our country in only three weeks. That is terrifying to me and I feel he should be taken out of office. As you can see, I have had a lot of presidents to observe. Not one of them has done what this one has in so short a period of time. I fear that he will dismantle our entire government and destroy all of our freedoms. He is running roughshod over our Constitution. So yes, I think he should be gone. 

As I said, I don't usually use this blog for political use, but I feel I need to speak out. I am hoping that my author friends will feel the same way I do and start to speak out about how they feel. I welcome your comments, but if you are going to be nasty or mean I will delete you from my blog. I believe in peaceful resistance and I am not the only one speaking out against this president. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs is holding its conference in Washington, D.C. Guess what the topic is? Check it out! Plus there are all kinds of groups you can join on Facebook and in person now. #Resist.
Also if possible I try to listen to Robert Reich, who is live almost every night. 

I will end this with the poem I wrote for the wonderful page on which I have been posting my poems every week: The Garden of Poetry and Prose. You need to scroll down to the Week 11 poems and mine is the banner that is hot pink with a peony:

I wake each morning with the
ineffable feeling of loss
Not for the spirit of my country
for that is still there in the
crowds that surged forward
to show the best of us
No, it is a greater yearning
that will probably stay with me
for the coming years
Unlike mourning a lost love
it is the loss of an ideal
as if somehow overnight
truth and justice disappeared
It seems like nothing has changed
and yet everything has transformed
And suddenly I feel the loss of power
for no longer will my voice be heard
And no longer will the people be heard
We are to watch on the sidelines as
a tyrant and his cohorts strip us of our rights
It is a Hiraeth deep in my soul that
will remain until his ilk are replaced--
the grabby handed, popinjays -- who
care nothing for human beings and
live in a world where only they are
the ones who know all the answers
Who operate under the assumption
that all of us little people are so dumb
we won’t notice the lies or as they say
“alternative truths” spewing forth from
their duplicitous mouths to cover their
reality in a blanket woven together
so skillfully they can fool their followers
into believing they are telling the truth
I feel that Hiraeth every time I think of
what our country could be and what we
will need to see in the coming years
And there is a sadness so deep I
find it ineffable and must carry it
as a burden until this nightmare ends.
© 2017. Barbara Ehrentreu. All rights reserved.

Until the next time, I will be doing my radio show on Blog Talk Radio, Red River Radio Tales from the Pages on Thursday, February 23, 2017, and my guests will be: Susan Strecker and Alex Maxwell. Susan has a best-selling book and Alex is an accomplished poet. It should be a really great show. Also, there may be some surprises as always.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ken and Anne Hicks Come Back for a Visit!!

Welcome Ken and Anne Rothman Hicks to my blog. I was pleased to be a guest on their blog earlier in July and now they are coming here to talk about their new book Stone Faces: An Alice and Friends book published by MuseItUp Publishing, which comes directly from Ken's fascination with rocks. To hear Ken and Anne talk about how they came to write this book you need to go to their interview on my show: Red River Radio Tales from the Pages on Blog Talk Radio. Today we are going to highlight the new book and learn more about this unusual writing team. 

Here is a little bit about Ken and Anne Rothmans Hicks:(taken from their blog)

We are somewhat scattered in approach.  Anne and I write novels for adults and for tweens and middle readers that are character driven and in whatever genre seems to fit the story — mainstream, mystery, suspense and fantasy.
We also take pictures and turn them into books or use them in our books for children.  We published  a book based on images of hearts that were made by accident out of paint or broken concrete or tar or any one of a number of things (Hearts (no flowers) Signs of Love in the Gritty City).  We published a book called  Picture Stones which is made up of photographs of stones with pictures on them that were just lying there on the beach until we happened to notice them and pick them up.  And then we did a middle reader book called Stone Faces that grew out of the fact that we had found a stone on the beach at Cape Cod.  That book has been published by MuseItYoung a division of MuseItUp Publishing in both digital formats and in paper.
Ken and Anne have also published adult stories: Weave a Murderous Web, (Adult fiction) (Melange BooksPraise Her, Praise Diana(adult fiction) (Melange Books) and Kate and the Kid (adult fiction) (Wings ePress)
So this is our approach — to stay aware of all  the things that are interesting and beautiful in the world and try our best to convey to all of our fellow citizens of the world just why we find them so interesting and beautiful.

And you have been able to capture the attention of many children and adults with your books. So they are multi-genre authors. 
Now let's look at their new book: Stone Faces: An Alice and Friends book, which suggests that there will be more in this series and if you listen to the interview you will hear Ken talking about the upcoming sequels to this book. The book came from their discovery of a rock that reminded both of them of a happy man. From this came the idea of the book, which originally was supposed to be a picture book. Then they decided to expand it and make it a middle grade book.
We know a little bit about this book, so let's see the blurb and an excerpt from this unusual book:

STONE FACES is the story of a ten-year-old girl named Alice who notices one day that her parents’ faces have turned to stone. Soon afterward, they tell her they are going to get divorced and, in reaction, she allows her own face to turn to stone because she doesn’t want anyone to know how much this hurts her. It is easier to deal with her friends when her stone face is in place, but she also begins to find herself alone more and more. 
While on her summer vacation at her aunt’s house on Cape Cod, she sees a stone on the beach in the shape of a laughing man’s face (called Mr. Happy Man). She soon discovers that this stone can talk and that it has friends among the other beach stones, who play games in the sand when people aren’t around. 
Together with Mr. Happy Man and his friends, Alice develops an ingenious scheme to help her parents resolve their differences. Their plans are thrown awry when a woman finds Mr. Happy Man in the sand and walks off with him. Alice decides to rescue the stone and sneaks into the woman’s house where she learns that the woman is actually a witch.

Now of course we need to see an excerpt from this extraordinary book!!!

I put on my stone face when my mom told me that my dad alone would be taking me to visit my aunt that summer. Aunt Bess was my father’s sister, so it would be awkward if Mommy brought me. And of course we couldn’t all go as a family. Of course.
“Then I’ll go by myself.” I said (okay, maybe I yelled), and I ran out of the room and slammed my bedroom door behind me and wasn’t nice to either of them until they agreed.
Even when they said I could go myself, I cried. Not in front of them, of course. I waited until I got back to my room and then the tears started rolling. I don’t think I ever cried that much in my entire life. It was a really bad day.
After that, I just did not want to talk to anybody because it seemed to me that everyone knew about my parents, and I didn’t want to hear that stupid lie that it would be all right. I didn’t want to go to dance class or soccer practice anymore. I didn’t care what I got on tests at school.
One day at recess, my friend Samantha came up to me.”
“I’m sorry your parents are living in different apartments,” she said.
I glared at her and mumbled something like, “Yeah, okay.”
“What’s it like to have two bedrooms?” she asked then.
“What’s it like to be so nosy?” I shot right back. She ran away.
That afternoon, my teacher, Mrs. Hamel, asked me to stay after class for a few minutes.
“You know it’s not unusual to be angry at your parents over a divorce,” she said. “And sometimes we’re even angry at our friends.”
I said nothing.
She paused. A sad sort of smile crossed her lips.
“If you would like to talk about it, I would be happy to listen. I might be able to help.”
Guess whose face was hard as stale saltwater taffy?
“Thank you, Mrs. Hamel,” I said and clamped my lips together.
After a few more minutes she let me go. My report card in June was not pretty.
The only good part of being a stone face was that it made it easier to get prepared for being on my own in Provincetown. When the day arrived for my trip, I was ready. Both my mom and my dad came to the bus station with me. My dad carried my bag and gave me two new comic books to read on the bus. My mom brought water and snacks, including my favorite cookies.
“Thank you, Mother,” I said. “Thank you, Father.”
When it was time to get on the bus, they each kissed me on the cheek.
I didn’t kiss them back.
“I’m going to miss you, Honey,” my mom said.
“Me, too, Sport,” said my dad.
“Goodbye,” I said in a small, cold voice that I imagined a stone-faced girl would use.
I climbed up the stairs to the bus and found a seat by a window. I did not cry. I breathed in and out and concentrated because I had read somewhere that monks who live in mountain caves practice breathing and can withstand cold and heat and wet and any kind of pain. My mom cried and my dad’s eyes got all red like he was going to cry too. I sat on my hands and stared at them out the window as the bus started to pull away. Then I saw my dad put his arm around my mom to comfort her, and she rested her head on his shoulder. A tear slid down his cheek too. I felt like my heart was being torn in half. Still, not one tear came out of my stony eyes.

You know as I told you on the show, I think this book is a great one to give to any child who might be going through something similar, because this girl's story gets to the heart of what a child might be experiencing. 

Here is their bio:

Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks

Anne Rothman-Hicks and Kenneth Hicks have been married for a little over forty years and have produced about twenty books and exactly three children in that time. At press-time, they still love their children more.
Their most recent novels are set in New York City, where they have lived for most of their married lives. Anne is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College where, in 1969, as the fabled Sixties were drawing to a close, she met Ken, who was a student at Haverford College. They don’t like to admit that they met at a college mixer, but there it is. Ken and Anne have a website: There, they have links to some of their books and display images that they hope will be used in future efforts. In case you were wondering abut the website address, “R” is for Rothman, “H” is for Hicks, and 71 is the year of their marriage. No secret codes or numerology anywhere. Sorry.
Finally, please give us your links:

Kenneth Hicks and Anne Rothman-Hicks
Facebook Author Page
Web site

Authors of:
Weave A Murderous Web(mystery/thriller) Melange Books
Praise Her, Praise Diana, (thriller) Melange Books 
Things Are Not What They Seem (middle reader) (MuseItUp)Kate and the Kid(mainstream)(Wings ePress)
Hearts (no flowers) Signs of Love in the Gritty City (Apple iBookstore)

Picture Stones, Nature's Own Art (Apple iBookstore)

Thank you Ken and Anne for coming back on the blog today. It is always a pleasure to have you here. If you have read this and not gone to the wonderful interview on my show you are missing a great opportunity to hear this delightful couple talk about their books and their writing style.
Until the next time I have three amazing guests for my next Red River Radio Tales from the Pages on the 4th Thursday of this month, August 25 at 4PM EST - 6PM: Nina Haberli, author and playwright, Judith Alter, who has been a guest author on this blog and Radine Nehring another excellent author. As always it will be a great show and there might be some surprises as well. 

Also I am publishing my very first book of poetry dedicated to my husband about my life with him. I do not have a publication date yet, but I am in the process of doing it.

My summer has been extremely hectic, because I have also been a guest poet on Poem Kubili. My poems were published for Poem Kubili 29, 30 and 31 as a guest poet. It has been a great experience and I have made some wonderful new friends who are excellent poets too! Check it out: Poem Kubili



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