DA Kentner writes the column THE READERS' WRITERS for the (Freeport) Journal-Standard and GateHouse News Service. My alter ego KevaD lives under a stairway of dreams where he writes stories and grumbles about everything. Click the pic to visit KevaD's blog.
Drop me a line at dakentner@yahoo.com

I invite you to read my award-winning short story posted on Calliope Magazine's web site.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Award-Winning Art Director and Author JT Lawrence

South Africa’s Janita “JT” Lawrence describes herself as a ‘long-legged redhead with a penchant for words and pretty things… practices yoga and drinks beer.’ While we obviously see JT’s humorous side, what is hidden is that JT is in reality a businesswoman with an advertising background bent on producing some of the best thriller and suspense stories a reader can find. If her debut novel “The Memory of Water” is any indication, she is well on her way to doing just that.

JT incorporates her native country and snippets of language into a tightly woven tale of murder and the protagonist, Slade Harris, who may have unwittingly plotted the crime, but is now most certainly the prime suspect. Harris is a man yet to come to terms with the ambiguities surrounding his sister’s death years ago. His turmoil has led him along a shaky path leaning toward thrill-seeking self-destruction, but still an inch or two from total collapse into darkness. Within this contemporary tale a reader will find a number of local cultural references that when melded with the author’s brand of humor and exquisite prose serve to paint a vivid picture of the settings and original characters. Simply put, “The Memory of Water” is fun, tense, and a novel that will leave the reader anxiously awaiting JT’s next offering.
http://thememoryofwater.blogspot.com/

Q) You have quite an affinity and devotion to business. In fact, you host a blog recommending books about business. How was it you decided to write thriller novels instead of nonfiction?

A) I find business very exciting; I’d go as far as to say it is one of my creative outlets. It’s hugely satisfying to see something you have created grow and find fast customers. Oh, and the joy that books bring! It trumps being a florist deliveryman any day.

While I love well-written non-fiction (Godwin’s ‘When a Crocodile Eats the Sun’ has stayed with me for years), I am a fiction girl at heart. I devour it, and feel compelled to write it. While my novels are usually thrillers, I don’t confine myself to a single genre. I enjoy experimenting with dark drama and comedy, too.

Q) We share a love of all books. Your enjoyment of reading created an online bookstore as well as suggesting novels to readers whether or not they buy them from you. Where do you believe your passion for reading came from?

A) My mother used to read Roald Dahl to my brother and I at bedtime and I remember being completely entranced with the bizarre, naughty, silly stories. He remains one of my favourite authors and I dream of the day I can repeat the tradition with my own children.

I grew up in a sports-mad family where we were either sitting on some grassy field somewhere or in front of the TV, watching days of (yawn!) cricket, or similar. I only started enjoying sport in my teens so in the mean time I had hours and hours to fill and would mow through whatever I could get my hands on.

Q) I’m curious about your background in art direction. Please share a little about your involvement and how that experience has or hasn’t influenced your writing.

A) I graduated as the top student in my year at the Triple A Advertising Academy and worked at the Jupiter Drawing Room for five years, then at #Network BBDO. I have a love/hate relationship with advertising: I love the people, the big ideas, the camaraderie (and the parties); I hate the frustration that goes with not getting great ideas through. My years in art direction probably taught me about idea generation and the importance (and satisfaction) in crafting, but most importantly it taught me how to handle criticism of my work. Once you’ve had your work torn up in front of you by a gun-wielding creative director with PTSD you don’t take subsequent criticism too personally.

Q) What’s a perfect morning for JT Lawrence?

A) Sundays are my perfect mornings: I read in bed till 10; have a big breakfast with my (dashing) husband, followed by cappuccinos and chocolate, and perhaps a stroll around our leafy neighbourhood. It sounds rather desperately smug, but no matter how good or bad the week has been, there is a kind of perfection in those mornings.

Q) You implanted quirks and foibles within Slade Harris that when combined with South African ambiance created a unique character readers may well want to see more of. Any plans to bring him back?

A) It would be tempting. What I find interesting is that while I disagree with almost everything he says and does, his character was so easy and fun to write. It’s as if I have intimate access to this living person … in my head. I guess all writers suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder to some degree.

Q) Any parting comments for readers who have yet to enjoy the intrigue of “The Memory of Water”?

A) Yes.

Mom, Dad & in-laws: don’t read the graphic sex scenes! It’ll just make things awkward.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Award-Winning Author and Illustrator Sheila Kelly Welch

One of the joys of writing this column is I never know where I’ll encounter an author who snags my reader’s attention like a bear trap. In this case, it was only ten miles from my house.

For most travelers, Forreston, IL, is a town they passed through on their way to somewhere else. For educator, equine enthusiast, animal shelter volunteer, author, illustrator, wife, mother, and grandmother Sheila Kelly Welch, the rolling hills of rural Forreston is home, the place she conjures stories for young adults of all ages. Sheila truly is an artist, both in literature and on canvas. Her visual interpretations of other authors’ work have appeared in children’s books such as “Something in the Air” by Molly Jones and Leone Castell Anderson’s widely read historical novels “Sean’s War” and “Sean’s Quest.” She has also illustrated her own stories for Cricket, Spider, Ladybug, and Cicada magazines.

But it is Sheila’s young adult stories that have captivated imaginations around the world. "The Holding-On Night," published in Cricket, won the International Reading Association's Short Story Award. “Little Prince Know-It-All” and “A Horse for All Seasons” have become treasured additions to many home libraries. Now Sheila has released “Waiting to Forget.”

Though written for young adults, this tale of a brother and sister seeking release from the painful memories of a foster care system that raised them, and the clouds of uncertainty that veil their future, will have many an adult reaching for the tissue box. Sometimes two sentences can sum up an entire story. For me, those sentences are: “He was told to wait. That’s what he’s been doing.” The story is told through TJ’s viewpoint as he tries to protect his sister who makes origami cranes and then throws them out windows. TJ has been waiting his entire life, both for freedom from the past and for his sister to heal. “We live in a pretend house” 12year-old TJ says as he tries in his own way to explain how he has constructed a world in which he and his sister can safely exist from the life neither asked for, deserves, or will ever fully comprehend. “Waiting to Forget” ends with an understanding of how some things just can’t be understood, but that a seed of hope and promise can always be found if you know where to look.
http://www.scbwi-illinois.org/Welch

Q) What or who was the inspiration behind “Waiting to Forget”?

A) Although I write fiction, all my books and stories contain bits of truth, which are extracted from reality and reshaped by my imagination. I wrote my first book, “Don’t Call Me Marda,” shortly after we’d adopted two children, bringing the head count to seven. My mother-in-law did not react well to the news. I found myself thinking about other children whom she would have been even less pleased to have join our family. My imagination created a little girl named Wendy, inspired by a child I’d taught in one of my special education classes. While our pre-existing family was in the midst of the struggle to accept the newcomers, it seemed logical for me to write a story from the perspective of a child whose parents decided to adopt a little sister who was developmentally delayed. To her credit, my mother-in-law loved the book.

After that first novel, I revisited the subject of adoption in several short stories, but most of my writing concerned other topics. As the years went by, I learned how some of our kids had lived before we ever met them. They had existed in a world that was fragmented, chaotic, even frightening. My husband and I sometimes wondered if we could help these kids. Sometimes we felt as though we were failing as parents.

One of the hardest parts for us was realizing that several of our children resented us and did not appreciate that we were trying to give them a better life. But then I thought about how traumatic adoption must have been from their perspective. Imagine moving to a new home, school, and neighborhood when you were eight or nine or eleven years old. Then add onto that a new set of parents who expected you to act like their son or daughter when you had only met them a few months before.

No matter how difficult a child’s former life had been, leaving it behind could feel like waking up to a bad dream. I decided I needed to tell another adoption story. This one would explore the conflicting emotions of an older child who had been adopted. So I imagined T.J., and he was waiting to tell me the truth.

Q) For you, what is it about storytelling that fuels your passion?

A) My mother hated to write, but she told stories about her childhood that I loved and still remember. When I had rheumatic fever in second grade, my doctor prescribed nearly six months of convalescence. Listening to my mother’s tales, drawing, and reading were my means of escaping the confinement of my bedroom. When I was about nine, my older sister (now a poet and a psychologist) wrote a whole book for me. Stories, I realized, could entertain, inform, and illicit powerful emotions.

Storytellers and authors of fiction are a bit like magicians, conjuring tales rather than rabbits. They toss their stories out into the world, and hope an audience will catch them and love them.

When my mother was getting quite senile with Alzheimer’s, I visited her and read aloud a fantasy novel, “Land of Another Sun,” that I had written. She listened intently, laughing and nodding at appropriate places as I read. When I finished the last chapter, and the children in my story – along with an ornery cat – were returned to Earth via a magic bubble, my mother smiled and said sincerely, “I remember. That really happened.”

My first impulse was to correct her. But then I thought about the little girl character like my daughter who loved gum, the cat who said exactly what our cranky cat would have said if she could have talked, and the tan-skinned boy who loved to read just like our son. Yet I knew my mother was actually talking about a magic bubble. It was a bubble I’d created, but to her it was real, and that made her happy. So I said, “Maybe it did happen.” And I felt as if we’d shared a moment of magic. It’s those moments that keep me writing.

Q) My curious side: How did you and your family end up living outside of Forreston?

A) I grew up in the rolling hills near Boyertown, Pennsylvania, with my brother and sister plus cats, dogs, goats, and horses. So living here is not that different from living there. But in between my husband and I had quite a few homes: an historical house in Germantown, Pennsylvania (we were caretakers); three country places in Minnesota (we bought and sold a farm and my husband worked as a dairy herdsman); graduate student housing at University of Wisconsin (my husband was getting his Master’s in Library Science); an apartment and a house in Rockford, IL.

In the fall of 1986, we moved to this old farmhouse surrounded by cornfields. The house we owned in Rockford would have been too small for our five children with the addition of the two boys who joined our family a few months later. At the time, we also had three dogs, five cats, and five horses. Needless to say, we needed more room.

Q) While in your thirties you had to have a heart valve replaced. How did that change your outlook on life?

A) After the surgery, I could actually hear the artificial valve ticking and still can, fortunately. I’d always intended to write stories for children but had been so busy that I’d relegated that goal to a distant “someday.” Listening to the tick, tick of my heart made me quite aware of the passage of time, and I realized that I needed to get to work. My first short story was published two years after the operation.

Having such an amazing, lifesaving procedure has made me very grateful to be alive. My outlook has remained focused on what I feel are the most important aspects of my life, including my family, pets, volunteer work, as well as writing and illustrating. Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This neurological condition has forced me to cut back on many activities so that I have the energy to pursue creative work. I’m fortunate to have a very supportive husband who’s taken over most of the household tasks.

Q) You and your husband adopted school aged children. What led you down that loving path?

A) Shortly after getting married, we talked about having six children. But I knew that my heart had been damaged by rheumatic fever, and I probably wouldn’t be able to have that many. We agreed that adoption would be a good way to form a large family. At the time, I was teaching special education classes at an inner city school. One day, my students asked me if I planned to have children, and I replied, “Yes, six.”

The class of all girls was shocked. “Six? Why you want six kids? That just crazy!” But when I mentioned that my husband and I planned to adopt, they were all for it.

One girl raised her hand. It was Leila, a difficult thirteen-year-old, who caused more than her share of trouble at school. “Would you adopt me?” she asked. I didn’t think she meant it literally, so I told her that we weren’t ready to have a child yet and when we were, we’d get a baby.

Many years later, after we’d adopted two infants and had one biological child, I saw a picture of a brother and sister in a book that listed waiting children. I could almost hear Leila’s voice asking if I was willing to adopt her. When I showed the photo to my husband and asked if we should get them, he answered, “Sure. Why not?” And the adventure began . . .

Q) Any parting comments for your readers?

A) First I want to thank you, David, for asking very good questions that made me dig into my memories. I also want to mention how much I appreciate my family, friends, SCBWI-IL, and ABC Writers who’ve been so supportive and kind over many years. I extend a special thanks to Carole Dickerson, library director, and her staff at Freeport Public Library, and to Stephen Roxburgh, publisher and editor at namelos.

Many readers would like to be authors themselves. My advice is to write about what has meaning and importance to you. Toss your stories out to the audience and hope some people will love and appreciate what you write. And keep reading! Thanks!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Author and Football All-Star Bruce Beaton

Three-time Canadian Football League All-Star Bruce Beaton could have easily written a book about his many personal achievements and accolades. But that isn't who he is, not really. This Nova Scotia Hall of Fame inductee chose to retire from football and pursue what truly matters to him – helping people and making a difference in their lives.

To that end, Bruce teamed up with football all-star Dan Comiskey to create a business focused on habit change, personal standards, and behavior modification. The duo subsequently wrote several books on success and leadership, including the acclaimed "The Truth About Success."

Still, Bruce, a father devoted to his children and their growth, wanted to take his message of ethics and betterment beyond the obvious and put it in a perspective parents can utilize with their own children:

"My goal is to help concerned parents meet the parental goal of raising, through organized sport, positive, happy, confident, secure future leaders who might pursue their goals and dreams (whatever they may be) with passion."

In "Little Athletes, Big Leaders: Effective Sport Parenting," Bruce uses eloquence, humor, and sincerity to share with parents what he has learned over the decades. And it is that sincerity that sets this book apart from so many others. The author didn’t write for himself, but for us. He wrote "Little Athletes, Big Leaders" from his heart and in turn revealed the concern, love, and commitment of a father who only wants the best for his children.

When you read "Little Athletes, Big Leaders" be prepared not just to gain insight into methods of inspiration and empowerment, but a look into a man totally in love with life and his family. Yeah. Keep a box of tissues nearby just in case.
http://www.littleathletesbigleaders.ca/

Q) "Little Athletes, Big Leaders" was written for adults. However, you also have Sport Leadership Volume One, an audio CD specifically designed for children. How difficult was it to transfer your thoughts and principals into audio lessons that require a level of entertainment as well?

A) It was not difficult for me because I am incredibly passionate about teaching children success principles through sport. I believe kids need to learn to set goals and they need to learn about the power of small daily steps toward those goals. They have to learn that it takes a long time to achieve mastery at things but if they work hard and practice daily they can become great at almost anything they choose. I love telling stories about athletes that have worked hard, persevered through tough times, and believed in themselves despite short term setbacks, especially when they were young. I really think kids need to hear these stories and my passion is evident in the recording.

Q) You are an excellent motivational speaker seemingly at ease in front of a crowd. To what do you attribute your comfort amongst groups of strangers?

A) There are two reasons why I'm comfortable in that environment. One, I am a content rich speaker who has put the work in for years. Two, my speaking has nothing to do with me. It is all about the listener - I sincerely want to give the listen great content...content that educates, inspires, and transforms. I love caring parents and volunteer coaches. They are the best people in the world. I deliver interesting research and anecdotal stories that these listeners appreciate, and I feel that I have an obligation to show up and help these deserving people with their important work - raising great people.
Q) Sometimes parents walk a fine line between what they want for their child, and what the child's goals are. Are there signs a parent can readily identify when they may well be on a different path than their children?

A) Listen to your child. Really listen. Don't assume. Ask lots of questions. Children usually know what they like, they know what they want, and they'll tell you if they trust that you are interested in their opinion. Then trade apples for apples. Quitting sport to play video games is not a fair trade. Quitting one sport for another, or quitting a sport to pursue music, or art, or something else developmental, is a fair deal. They have to understand that as their guide, you are interested in their skill development, especially in the areas of their strengths and passions, so that they can make a meaningful contribution to society. We all have to contribute.

Q) Volunteer coaches played a huge part in your personal development. What is the one value you learned from them that you believe helped mold the man you have become?

A) I had a coach that consistently emphasized that today matters. He taught me that there was no such thing as stress. he said you set goals for the future, but all you had to do, once that important work was done, was to take small steps toward those goals today. Only focus on today, and just take those little steps. He repeated himself a lot (thankfully) and eventually I got it. That was the most valuable lesson for me.

Q) Okay. You have to allow me one football fan question. What was it like to play with Doug Flutie and Jeff Garcia and know you played a part in their success or failure on the field?

A) When I think of Doug Flutie I think about daily excellence. He set a standard, and everyone naturally rose to that level. He never said anything, he did it all be example. It was a fascinating experience for me as a young player to see how one person could have that effect every day in practice. Now, as a parent, I can't believe he did what he did professionally with two autistic boys at home. Just a very committed, impressive Dad and professional athlete. When I think about Jeff Garcia I think about passion. He was such a hard core, passionate competitor. A fighter with tremendous desire, a guy who wanted to win so badly he just carried people forward with his passion. Both were great guys who went on to the kind of success they deserved.

Q) Any parting thoughts for your readers?

A) Absolutely. Your children can be great. They can do big things in the world, and we really need those kinds of leaders. Or they can do little things well, and be so important as family members, friends, and community members. My nine year old daughter wants to be a dog breeder and a writer. Your daughter might want to become a world leader. Both of those things are valuable. There is nothing more important than guiding your children toward a life where they have goals, and purpose, and happiness, and connection. You have to do your best work as a parent when you are the busiest you'll probably ever be, so learn every tip and tidbit you can from some of the great research that's being done, and then cherish every moment! And good luck...we are so blessed to have children, so lucky and fortunate, and I wish you and your children a continuation of that luck and good fortune.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Award-Winning Author Jamie Freveletti

To borrow from Jamie Freveletti's web site: She "is a trial attorney, martial artist, and runner. She has crewed for an elite ultra-marathon runner at 50 mile, 100 mile, and twenty-four hour races across the country, and holds a black belt in aikido, a Japanese martial art." Let's add she's also very devoted to her family. However, Jamie has since placed her attorney status on "inactive" to pursue writing fulltime.

Yet, somehow this amazing and determined lady managed to write "Running from the Devil," which was chosen as a “Notable Book” by the Independent Booksellers of America, awarded "Best First Novel" by the International Thriller Writers, and awarded a Barry Award for "Best First Novel" by Deadly Pleasures Magazine. Not to mention the book became an international bestseller.

So, how do you follow that introduction to readers around the world? With another award-winning novel, of course. "Running Dark" became a bestseller and won a Lovey award for Best Novel 2010.

Now Jamie has released "The Ninth Day," the third offering in her action thriller series featuring biochemist Emma Caldridge. Emma inadvertently stumbles upon human traffickers. Taken to Mexico, Emma learns of marijuana fields infected with a horrible disease that kills within nine days, and a plan for distribution. She also discovers she has been infected and only has nine days to come up with a cure and stop the shipment before it arrives in the United States, or die trying.

Much has been said about Jamie's strong, self-reliant character, Emma Caldridge, and how female adventure stories tend to be overlooked and underrated. For me, the fact is without skilled writing, without a story and plot that rivets me to my chair and keeps me turning the pages until my wife gives up trying to talk to me, who or what the protagonist is or isn't simply doesn't matter. Any story, no matter what genre, requires a mind and level of expertise capable of producing tales that capture the reader's interest, attention, imagination, and breath. And that is precisely what author Jamie Freveletti does.
Jamie's Web Site


Q) What made you decide to write, and when did you ever find the time?

A) I was working on a difficult trial and at night felt as though I needed to unwind so I began writing a novel late at night after putting the kids to bed and when the house was quiet. I just kept going!

Q) The Estate of Robert Ludlum selected you to write the next installment in the Covert One series. Forgive my envy and open jaw, but how did it feel to receive that honor?

A) Wonderful! Amazing! (And my jaw dropped as well after my agent told me that I had been chosen). Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity is one of my favorite thriller books, and just before I learned of their interest I had blogged about how he made me want to be a thriller writer. Don’t know if they saw that before they contacted my agent, but I was glad to have it out there! The manuscript is complete and the book should launch in Fall, 2012.
Q) I've read your first published piece was actually a poem you wrote at the age of twelve for a book Carol Burnett produced. True? If so, what was the poem about?

A) That’s true. The Carol Burnett Show was a favorite in my family and we’d watch her every week. When I was twelve my elementary school teacher told us that Carol Burnett was launching a nationwide contest for children’s poems to be included in an anthology. I jumped at the chance and my poem was chosen! It was about progress and the pollution that sometimes results from it.

Q) There are those who make the erroneous assumption you are a male writing thrillers. How do view this sometimes gender-swayed supposition?

A) I’ve been made aware from reader emails that many think that I write thrillers that are “like those that men write.” Emma Caldridge is a female protagonist who is a biochemist and ultrarunner. She’s like a lot of women that I know: straightforward and curious. I’m not exactly sure why readers make this comparison, but she is a hero, acts alone in the world and is not a sidekick or part of a team.

As a woman she doesn’t often beat up her adversaries like some male protagonists would, but instead she’ll use her intellect to overcome obstacles or pick up a weapon if need be. She’s been making slow steps to gaining proficiency at weapons: in Running From The Devil she learns how to shoot an AK-47, in Running Dark a pilot that flies the (legal) khat drug route in Africa teaches her how to shoot a rocket propelled grenade launcher.

Q) How have the demands of writing and the traveling for public appearances affected your family?

A) Actually, I’ve been home a lot more since I no longer have to commute back and forth to an office. I only tour a couple of weeks a year, so that’s not so bad at all and my husband has been able to work his business travel schedule around mine. During the tour for Running Dark we cut it a bit close and his plane was delayed and mine early, and we ended up bumping into each other at O’Hare airport. Since it was lunchtime and the kids were still in school we ate a nice meal together before he took off. We still laugh about that!

Q) Source: Chicago-Sun Times. "Chicagoan Jamie Freveletti thinks it's only natural that so many successful trial lawyers have become best-selling novelists." What inherent edge do you believe trial lawyers have over non-attorney authors?

A) As a lawyer you learn to listen to a client’s version of events (“the story”) and tell it again to a judge in a way that makes sense. It’s great training to write!

Q) Any parting comments for your readers?

A) Just to thank them for taking the time to read my novels. I really appreciate it!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Romance/Suspense/Paranormal Author Debbie Vaughan


Former librarian Debbie Vaughan, like so many of us, had a dream to write. The difference is, Debbie pursued her dream with the passion she instills into each of her stories, and she now proudly possesses the title of published author.

Raised in rural Arkansas, Debbie recalls how her grandfather's wagon became her royal coach, his plow horse her charger, and the barnyard animals whatever her child's mind could conjure. Most importantly, she learned early her imagination knew no limits. To this day she refuses to place borders on wherever her mind chooses to lead her pen.

But another lesson she learned was to respect life in all its forms. When not at work at her retail job or writing, Debbie rescues animals and nurses those in need back to health. Her current household includes ten dogs. And when the numerous storms and freezing winter hit the Arkansas area she continues to reside in, she made sure the horses were all fed, watered, and out of the weather, while she wasn't.

"Dare to Dream" became Debbie's first published novel. A time travel romance, this, at times erotic, story unites two people separated by a century. But Debbie enjoys suspense, so she naturally had to add a vein of danger, an evil bent on keeping the two lovers apart.

Her second offering, "Mr. Fix-It," is a contemporary romance surrounding a divorced woman - an animal lover (sheer coincidence, I'm sure) with a pack of dachshunds and some horses – in need of help repairing her farmstead. When a widowed repairman arrives, our heroine realizes he might be able to mend her heart as well. And maybe the mattress in the bedroom. But her psychotic ex has other plans, plans that don't include both of them living long enough to enjoy their divorce.

One sure thing readers will always find and enjoy within Debbie's stories is her inborn sense of humor. This vivacious lady simply can't help it. So, if you enjoy romance sprinkled with a laugh and the bedroom door left open, be sure to give a Debbie Vaughan story a look.
Debbie's Web Site

Q) You went through all the trials and tribulations of seeing the rejections come in time and again. What kept you going until you found the right story for the right publisher, in this case Siren Publishing?

A) Well, Dave, some days it was hard. But life IS hard. That’s a lesson I learned at an early age. I’ve had a lot of “No!” thrown at me. My friends helped to be sure. They always had a kind word of encouragement. You should know since you were one of them. But mostly, and I think this is probably the most important thing any writer can do--YOU have to believe in your work. If your characters don’t live and breathe on the page for you, don’t make you laugh and cry-- they won’t for anyone else.

Q) "Dare to Dream" is a bit different in that you include not just the fantasy of time travel, but Native American legend as well. What inspired you to go in that direction?

A) I’ve always been intrigued by Native American lore and by the connection those peoples had with the land and animals. They were so much more grounded in nature than most, and of course they were historically the underdog. I always root for the underdog. But to be honest, I never set out with that goal in mind. My characters define themselves as I write.
Q) Was there a person in your life who you attribute your infectious humor to?

A) Not really. Life often gives you only two choices—to laugh or to cry. I believe the glass is truly half full. There is no future in wallowing in self doubt and pity, which can only make the situation worse. Put on a smile and the next person you meet will smile back. Your day will brighten. There are a lot of clich├ęs clinging to my tongue, all of them true.

In reality, life is what you make of it. So why make yourself and everyone around you miserable?

Q) Where do you believe your intense love and appreciation of animals came from?

A) Animals were in my earliest memories. Sharpy, the Pyrenees mix who tended my grandfather’s cattle--and me. I lay on the porch in the sun and sucked my bottle with him as my pillow. He guarded me from the copperheads and rattlesnakes as I ran to meet grandpa coming in from the fields. I lay with him when he died under the gardenia bush. No child ever had a better or more loyal friend.

Nellie, the plow horse who graciously allowed seven of us kids to ride her at once. She froze in mid-stride if one of us so much as titled. The list of names would be long and distinguished, each, in their own way, so I won’t recite them all. Animals give with their whole heart, never holding back fearing to be hurt, they love unconditionally. People would do well to emulate them.

Q) Any parting comments for your readers?

A) I hope you enjoy Dare to Dream and Mr. Fix-it and find them meaningful as well as entertaining. I would love to hear from you. Dave has included my website address, please leave a comment or find me on www.facebook.com/author.debbievaughan or at my publisher, Siren Bookstrand, Inc. http://www.bookstrand.com/debbie-vaughan Hopefully, my Legacy Series will find a home soon as well. My vampires don’t rust, bust, collect dust or sparkle in the sunshine. As a matter of fact, they’re like no vampires you’ve met yet!

And, because I would be remiss not to do so, I must add a message dear to my heart. Every day millions of animals die in shelters and abandoned on the streets. They have done nothing to deserve this fate other than be born. There are not enough homes for the ones now dwelling on this earth and yet we continue to breed or allow breeding. After 25 years in rescue I know the only answer to this problem is sterilization. Please, be a hero and save thousands of lives--spay and neuter your pets! Do not breed or buy while shelter animals die. Adopt! Even if you want a pure bred animal, you can find them in shelters and with breed rescue groups.

I do practice what I preach. Six of my ten dogs are purebreds and both of my horses. All are rescue and all are sterilized.