turning mourning into dancing
Our sweet, beautiful Patches passed away on Monday, April 10th. Y'all may have known her as my Creative Director, and boy-oh-boy, did she have pizzazz!!!
But when she wasn't calling the shots (demanding more cat scenes in the Shady Gully series) she was really quite the charmer...
The grief we're feeling now is in stark contrast to the blooming flowers and tweeting birds of spring. Seasons change, of course, but I wonder, are we ever really "ready" or "prepared" to lose a loved one?
Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, has filled my head, heart, and soul these last few weeks. Verse one says, "To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven."
Here is my social media tribute to Patches, the cat that was definitely All That :)
We had to say goodbye to our sweet, beautiful Patches yesterday. Twenty-two years old and gifted with an amazing constitution, she waited out a variety of cats and dogs to finally have us all to herself. When Lucy died almost two years ago, Patches truly lived her very best life. A heated cat bed in every room. A diet consisting of treats and the finest tuna. She thrived being the only furry child in the house.
While she had her share of setbacks, especially lately, she fought hard and resisted her final farewell…right up until the end.
We are devastated. It truly feels like the end of an era. She grew up alongside our daughter, Bree, and purred in her arms when she went away to college. And then gave her the side-eye when she married and got a cat of her own.
Patches lived in three different states, enjoying sunsets in Louisiana, New Mexico, and Kentucky. She oh-so-patiently schooled a very select group of sitters whenever we traveled. Sarah Hopkins, Rachel Dodge, John Brothers.
I’ll never forget the kind and gentle words from Mr. Wimberly from the Pineville Animal Shelter in Louisiana. Twenty-two years ago, he told me with certainty, “She’s going to be a big cat and live a long life.”
I can’t imagine how he knew that, but she WAS, and she DID. While I’m so grateful for the time I had with her, as I circle the empty cat beds and her electric blanket perched on the couch next to my spot, my heart aches for more.
Back to Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, specifically verse 4, "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance."
While I'm mourning and weeping for our sweet Patches, I DO have some super, exciting news to laugh and dance about. And you guessed it, it's BOOK NEWS!
That's right, the audiobook of Shades of Violet is NOW AVAILABLE! The great Kathy Fox Vancil, aka the voice of Shady Gully, is back to narrate the third book in the Shady Gully Series. Here's what she said about her experience:
"From a narrator’s perspective, Hallie Lee writes immersive fiction. Her characters live and breathe because Hallie knows how to create and sustain real life experiences, emotions and personalities through the turn of phrase and masterful wordsmithing.
There were times, when narrating Violet, that I had to stop because the insecurity parallels hit a little too close to home. Meadow’s combined bitterness and hopefulness was a rollercoaster … a thoroughly exhilarating and unsettling ride. Lenny, dear man, is rock solid on the outside but needing real answers. One of the highest praises I can offer is that Lee’s male characters are men, not female author “idealized” male characters, but real men.
It was a privilege to narrate the 3rd book in this delightful and gritty Shady Gully series. Can’t wait to see where Hallie Lee takes us in the next book." ----Kathy Fox Vancil
The audiobook is available on Amazon, Audible, and Apple Books. Here is a link to purchase at your favorite retailer--> https://www.books2read.com/shadesofviolet
Now. Don't you think the Shades of Violet audiobook would make a GREAT Mother's DAY Gift? I do, and I'd love to give one away. Any takers? Just comment below or email me here and tell me why you want the audiobook of Shades of Violet. I'll pick a winner before next Friday.
The response to Shades of Violet has been fantastic, and as always, I'm grateful to all who have taken the time to rate and offer a line or two about my work. You can do that anytime on Goodreads as well as Amazon, and wherever you purchased the books.
So there, even amid sorrow and pain, there is always something to laugh, dance, love, and embrace. In fact, if you're wondering what's next for my husband and me, who suddenly find ourselves petless, stay tuned. I see a GRAND ADVENTURE in our future. Stay tuned!
And most of all...
Happy "Father Patrick" Day!!
Greetings FRIENDS of HALLIE,
Is it safe to say that winter is OVER? You're right. I should probably keep that on the down low, eh? Just in case Mother Nature starts feeling ornery again. Seriously though, storms ran rampant across the country this year. How did y'all fare?
Did you make it through without losing power? Without slipping on ice? Without a windstorm lifting two heavy grills off your patio and plopping them into your yard?
A little too exact? Yep, that's what happened to yours truly when the Great Windstorm of February 3, 2023, charged through Kentucky. We lost power for a number of days, and sadly, lost some trees. Our back porch was twisted and mussed as if a tornado sneezed on us, but thankfully, nothing worse.
So, what about y'all? Any Winter War Stories?
Shades of Violet made its debut on January 11th, and the response has been exciting. If you haven't had a chance to read it, here are a few reviews to get you in the mood.
Speaking of reviews, I have some FANTASTIC news! PAINT ME FEARLESS is only 10 REVIEWS away from 100!!! From what I hear, lots of good things happen when you get 100 reviews on Amazon. Pixie Dust, Balloons, Spiked Punch, and a favorable algorithm--whatever that means.
To me, it means PRIZES! So expect some Giveaways when that day comes!!
If you haven't reviewed my books yet, you can REVIEW THEM ON AMAZON HERE
And finally, can we talk? About the future of Shady Gully? I figure if you've read all three books, you've got a vested interest, so I want to know, whose story do you want to read? A few characters are rattling around in my brain, but I'd love some input from my True Blue Shady Gullians.
Quietdove? Sterling? Micah? Dolly? Adam? Timothy? Fireman? Sigourney? Father Patrick?
Speaking of Father Patrick, he and his jolly, Irish heart want to wish you an especially beautiful and lucky day today!
In parting, Father Patrick and I would like to leave you with a snippet of dialogue from Wolfheart. This is when his personality really took shape for me. Enjoy! Cheers!!
Excerpt from Wolfheart:
(FATHER PATRICK): “Oh please, I beg of you,” he said, "spend me a yarn about some scandalous secret mission. Perhaps you’re about to take off to Peru to wrestle a notorious drug lord. No?” He guffawed. “How about a jaunt to Tahiti to meet a glamourous, shapely spy?”
(WOLFHEART): I couldn’t help but laugh. “Afraid not, Father. How are things with you?”
“Business is quite good actually. No doubt it will continue that way as long as Cain and Abel carry on as they do down the road.”
I laughed again. Twice in one day.
“Shame on me. Gossiping is wrong. Now I’ll have to go to confession.”
“Are you going to confess to yourself?” I teased.
“I’ll have you know, Mr. Wolf, I’m a very good listener.” He considered me. “Sorry to hear about your incredible garden. Simply tragic. Especially those tomatoes. All gone up to create a heavenly marinara for our Lord, I suppose.”
Stay Fearless, y'all, and since it's St. Patrick's Day, be sure to wear green, eat corned beef and cabbage--or maybe marinara--and have a wonderful day!
Happy New Year to all my FRIENDS of HALLIE newsletter subscribers!
I hope that (so far) your 2023 has been filled with excitement, joy, and gratitude. While we're only into February, I can honestly say I've experienced all three in abundance.
By the time Shades of Violet was released on January 11th, I felt purple all over! Seriously, the buildup was intense. There were so many details to consider like Goodreads listings, contacting libraries, new links, updating websites and social media, etc.----but wow, was it exciting!
The response to this book has been amazing! My first readers (including Advanced Review Copy readers) have been extremely positive. As y'all know, my method with the Shady Gully Series is to use three strong characters to drive the series forward. In this case, Violet, Meadow, and Lenny. While Violet's conflict frames the book, Meadow's journey has affected readers in an almost visceral way. And Lenny, well, Lenny has always been a fan favorite. And I love him. So, there's that.
To all my readers, and especially to my FRIENDS of HALLIE loyalists, I want to thank YOU for loving these people and this town. Because of YOU, there will be more Shady Gully books to come.
This is the thing about reviews, this is why they're so important. They let publishers and those in the industry know that the books are resonating. Reviews matter.
As much as I think of what I do as creative and artful, it is a business. A business that depends on you. So, to those of you who have left reviews--even if only a one-liner--I'm grateful.
If you haven't, please consider going back and leaving an honest rate/review on books 1 and 2, and of course, 3 when you read it. You can do this on Amazon or wherever you bought the book--even if you bought it at Bellerive True Value Hardware! Or borrowed it from the library!
All you have to do is pull it up on Amazon and leave a review.
Another great place to leave a rate/review is Goodreads. Not only does it help me, but it's a great resource to those of us who love to read.
And now, I have a few newsworthy surprises for you. Back in January, amid a wicked smoke alarm battery problem in our home, I was a guest on Chautona Havig's "Because Fiction" podcast. It's quite the big deal, let me tell you. Chautona is a bestselling author, an advocate for Christian Fiction, and a great host and interviewer.
Well, this was my first podcast and there was the ...er.... aforementioned random and quite terrifying SHRIEKS of the alarm to contend with, but we got through it!
We had a great time and I'll be honest, since I'm a southerner, I have a tendency to go and on, and then circle back for good measure.
So you'll hear things you've never heard before.
About Shady Gully.
About my inspiration.
You get the point. The podcast airs on Valentine's Day. How perfect is that?
And lastly, and perhaps I should have opened with this, because it's...HUGE...
You'll soon be getting a special Announcement from me. It will be a neat, little email (perfect to forward to friends, family, and co-workers) with some MAJOR NEWS!
It's a celebration of sorts. For the first time EVER, my publisher is dropping the (eBook) price of PAINT ME FEARLESS to....99cents!
That's right. The eBook will be available to download EVERYWHERE. ALL RETAILERS. I know, right? I'm over the moon about this price drop!
But it won't last forever. The discount will run from February 13-17th. So please help me spread the word by forwarding the email announcement, telling a friend, or sharing the promos you see on social media.
Who do you know that needs a little Shady Gully in their life?
Blessings to you All,
it's all about the bulbs
Greetings FRIENDS of HALLIE!
It's mid-December now, and my guess is y'all are knee-deep in shopping, list-making, and wrapping presents. All that is fun, but----
No. Let me be honest with you, especially since y'all are so generous with your time when you read my books. Here's the truth: I find it all a bit daunting. I even (mostly) shop online these days and I STILL find it overwhelming. How about you?
Don't get me wrong. I love Christmas. It's the shopping that wears me down. On the other hand, decorating the Christmas tree is always a soul-stirring experience for me. Why?
It's all about the bulbs. Seriously. Every year we add a few more, which are lovely, but it's the ones that are seasoned with memories that make me emotional. Here's one my daughter made for me in elementary school.
Isn't it fabulous? Sure, the glitter has thinned over the years, and it's starting to look a tad weathered, but when I hang that particular bulb on the tree it always transports me to a time long ago.
Christmases were different when my daughter was younger. The magic of the season felt more palpable when she bounced around the house, eager to "decorate" the tree, eager for the big day to arrive. Just eager.
Then there is the following one (pictured below) from that same time period. A time when we were surrounded by friends (the group, we called ourselves) and we celebrated and laughed almost every weekend. It was hard to imagine then that things would ever change. But they did, and they do, as this very special bulb was a Christmas present from one of my friends in the group's mother, who we lost to cancer a few years later.
Yes, time changes everything. Circumstances. Health. Everything.
As you can see, inside the bulb is a picture of my daughter, Bree, smiling along with the daughter of another of my cherished friends in the group. All our kids called each other cousins and called us aunts and uncles. Yes, Shady Gully fans, I'm sure that sounds very familiar to you.
Every Christmas, when I hang this beloved bulb, I am moved by the sheer joy in those young faces. Once I gather myself, I always text the mother of the smiling blonde girl in the red shirt. Within seconds, she texts me back. She gets it. Sure, it's just a text, but it's also a ritual, a way of connecting even when we can't be together physically.
Then there is this one.
I love the pear bulb and my husband hates the pear bulb, so naturally it goes on the tree. That's the price he pays for sitting on the hearth of the fireplace watching as I decorate the tree every year. Oh, he does help. He oh-so-helpfully directs me to the bare spots in the tree while sipping a cocktail.
Every year, almost on cue, we glide into our back-and-forth banter about the pear bulb. Again, it's a ritual that is part of our history. It's nice to have a history with someone, isn't it?
When my husband, daughter, and I moved from Louisiana to Santa Fe, New Mexico (a career move for him) we had to say goodbye to our family and friends, and to the group. The change was profound.
And yet, eight years later we'd managed to make new friends, friends we'll carry in our hearts forever. Friends whose memories we brought across the country to Kentucky in the form of this Christmas bulb.
Every year, when I put this bulb on the tree, I think of one of those Santa Fe friends in particular.
I was nowhere near being a published author then, but this friend believed in me. She encouraged me. "Keep on writing," she insisted, "one of these days it's going to happen."
Nostalgia washes over me every year as I decorate my tree. I'm flooded with a lifetime of memories that make me want to weep for the loved ones who are no longer with us, and smile through tears as I recall those weekends of fun and laughter and joy with the group.
Yes, things do change. Constantly. Always. Except for one.
Hebrews 13: 8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."
How wonderful is that?
What stories do your Christmas bulbs tell? Please share!
MERRY CHRISTMAS to all my special FRIENDS of HALLIE. I truly hope it's a wonderful season for you and your loved ones.
Oh, and before I forget, if you're an eBook reader like I am (as one of the things that has certainly changed is my vision) the eBook of SHADES OF VIOLET is now available to preorder everywhere. Paperback and hardcover to follow soon.
Click on pic below for links to a variety of retailers.
At last...book 3 details!
I know you've been waiting oh-so-patiently for this book. I’ve received emails and texts, and messages on both Facebook and Instagram, all curious about when book 3 would hit the shelves. I even naively told a few of you it would be released during the summer of ’22. Well…. that didn’t happen.
Despite my unbridled enthusiasm over book 3, life has a way of foiling the best laid plans. What does scripture tell us about plans?
Proverbs 16:9 “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.”
While unforeseen circumstances threw a kink in the timing of book 3, AT LAST it’s time to show you the cover and share some details!!
When my publisher asked if I had any ideas for the cover, I didn’t hesitate. After the striking emerald green jacket featuring a courageous wolf in book 2, I wanted a softer, more feminine look this time, something that mirrored the story...
When Book 2 ended, we left Brad WOLFHEART standing at Shady Gully’s four way stop with little more than a prayer on his lips as he mused over the fiery destruction of his town.
Fast forward two years later as Book 3 unveils a time for healing and new beginnings.
"Pinks," I enthusiastically told my publisher. "Lavenders and purples. And violets..."
I mean, really, does anything say "new beginnings" quite like a wedding?
I hope you love it as much as I do!
Shades of Violet will be released January 11, 2023! Stay tuned for lots more updates and giveaways to come!
Speaking of giveaways, congrats to Buffy Birchfield who won the drawing this month. She chose the ebook of Paint Me Fearless as her FREEBIE, and Mark Cermak, who recommended the FRIENDS of HALLIE newsletter to her, takes home the audiobook of Wolfheart.
Woohoo! Welcome to the family, Buffy!
P.S. Feel free to email me at Books@HallieLee.com with your reactions to the Shades of Violet cover!
Bye-Bye Summer, Hello....?
Hi FRIENDS of HALLIE subscribers!
How was your summer? I hope it was wonderful. I also hope you had a chance to enjoy a good book, a sunny beach, and lots of time with your loved ones.
I've had a very busy and eventful summer. Here are just a few of the highlights:
Longtime FRIENDS of HALLIE subscribers may remember my 6/2/21 blog post entitled A Season For Everything, as it was a tribute to both my daughter's wedding and the passing of our family dog, Lucy Belle.
Well...Bree and her husband, Phil, became the proud parents of a golden retriever! Guess what that makes me? You guessed it! Meet my grand dog, Lola.
Lola's personality is every bit as endearing as Lucy's, however, that's where the similarity ends.
Lucy only weighed eleven pounds whereas Lola already weighs fifty!
Lucy was persnickety and prissy while Lola is happy-go-lucky. She's also a bit of a Ga-loop! She digs holes, eats grass, and refuses to let her Nana (that's me) lead her on her walks. She blames it on those flirtatious butterflies and pesky leaves, but I know better.
In other news (and for those who often ask about 22-year-old Patches) we had a terrible scare in June. Because of a series of ailments and her gradual decline, it was with heavy hearts that we took her to the vet. Thanks to a Hail Mary by Dr. Carl at Equestrian Woods Animal Clinic, she received a massive boost of antibiotics and pain/anti-inflammatory meds, and within two days she was feeling much better!
She is now THRIVING and probably on her 6th or 7th life. Of course, if all you had to do every day was eat, drink, nap, get brushed...and REPEAT...you'd be feeling pretty swell as well.
In June, my husband and I celebrated 30 years of marriage! I know, that's a long time, but honestly, each year gets better and better, so I reckon we'll stay together :)
Check out the fun T-shirts I bought us for The Big Day. And you can probably guess who is posing next to us. Hint: Ga-Loop.
So....I guess that's about it.
You're right, it's THAT time again. Cover release time. Title time. Shady Gully time. Book 3 time!
I can hardly contain my excitement for this book. I had such a wonderful time writing this story. I laughed. I cried. I rewrote. I laughed some more, cried some more...rewrote some more.
And the cover. Oh my. I think it's my FAVORITE!
The story takes place a good seven years after Paint Me Fearless, and two years after Wolfheart, and a lot has changed in Shady Gully since the fiery conclusion of book 2. You won't want to miss this one!
Because I'm partial to my FRIENDS of HALLIE subscribers, I'll do the COVER REVEAL here FIRST!
Stay tuned and please, tell your friends about my books. Encourage them to leave reviews and sign up for my newsletter/blog.
All new subscribers are automatically entered into the Freebie drawing, and if I draw their name, I'll ask them who referred them, and if they say YOU, well...YOU'LL GET A FREEBIE AS WELL.
The celebration is coming!
P.S. Congrats to new FRIENDS of HALLIE subscriber, D. Jennings, who chose an ebook of Wolfheart as her FREEBIE. Welcome to the family!
Hi FRIENDS of HALLIE,
How's your summer going so far? Having fun with the fam? Working on your tan? Seeing the world?
Now. Let's get down to the real nitty gritty....
WHAT ARE YOU READING?? I'll tell you what I'm reading at the end of the newsletter. Believe me, it's worth the wait.
First though, I'm happy to announce the WINNER of June's FREEBIE Drawing. All new subscribers were entered, and June's winner is.......
Drum Roll Please...
Kristi's Freebie of Choice was an Audiobook of Paint Me Fearless!
Enjoy, Kristi, and Congrats!
How do YOU win a FREEBIE? It's easy. All you have to do is encourage your friends to sign up for my newsletter/blog. If I draw their name, I'll ask them who referred them, and if they say YOU, well.....YOU GET A FREEBIE AS WELL!!
I've had a busy summer doing two of my favorite things. One, of course, is reading, and the second, is meeting my readers!
Summer Book Clubs
I had the most wonderful time at the Azur Book Club talking about Paint Me Fearless. What a wonderful group of women! It's fair to say that I've got a new group of besties, as they asked me to become a member!! Does it get any better than that?
Thank you to Paula Lowman for the delicious meal and the invite!
At the end of May I had another fantastic experience with the Knight's Playbook Book Club. Again, another super discussion with an amazing group of women with wonderful questions.
The lovely Angie Johnson hosted the event at her home and served us a combo of Louisiana and Kentucky cuisine to match the theme of Paint Me Fearless.
Do you belong to a Book Club? If so, tell us about it!
Do y'all gather at a restaurant? Or at someone's home?
Do y'all use Official Book Club questions? Or go crazy with random discussion about the book? Does everyone read the same book or does everyone share a little about whatever they're reading?
If you aren't in a Book Club, I'd encourage you to find one and join. It's a great place to meet people with like interests...and make new friends!
***If your club is reading a Shady Gully Book and you'd like the official Book Club questions, go to the book's page-----
Paint Me Fearless
----and click on Book Club Questions, and I'll send them to you.
Or if you're interested, I'll even make an appearance in person if possible, or via Zoom. I love, love, love my readers :)
And now.....about what I'm reading!
Not only am I THRILLED to share The Difference with you, but C. D'Angelo, the molto favoloso author, is this month's featured guest on the FRIENDS of HALLIE newsletter/blog!
C. D’Angelo is the award-winning Women’s Fiction author of The Difference and The Visitor. When not writing relatable stories of the Italian American culture, she can be found at home in Florida enjoying time with her husband, playing ukulele, drawing, crocheting, and partaking in a variety of other artistic endeavors.
C. D'Angelo, in her own words....
Hi, I'm C. D'Angelo and I love writing about quirky characters, Italian history, and food (it's no exaggeration- you will be hungry reading my books!). I can't wait for you to dive into my stories and experience their humor and richness. Enjoy.
When anxiety-prone Rachel Granza learns that her growing sense of emptiness is affecting her relationship with her almost perfect boyfriend and that she’s jeopardizing any possibility of a marriage proposal, she knows she must pull herself out of her funk. But how? A dream apartment in New York City, a thriving psychotherapy practice, and her unique obsessions with topics like the Titanic don’t even make her feel grounded anymore. Red alert!
Trying to find happiness and meaning again—in more than her beloved Italian food—she stumbles into a genealogy mission to discover childhood information about her idol, aka her grandpa, who died years ago. He never spoke about his Italian immigrant past and now she’s determined to find out the reason for his unusual secretiveness.
Rachel’s ancestral roller coaster has roadblocks galore, but she needs the answers to her family’s hidden history. They’re her only hope to know more about her hero, salvage her relationship, and most importantly to save herself.
Fiercely independent Mary Pontrelli is blindsided when the New Orleans building housing her New Age store and upstairs apartment is listed for sale. Worse yet, a developer wants to destroy it and her high school ex-boyfriend—ahem, nemesis—is leading their charge. But this budding sweet spot for that weasel from the past can’t happen since traitors never change.
The best chance Mary has to save her cherished French Quarter building is to join forces with the other business owners whose livelihoods are also at risk. Too bad she avoids teamwork at all costs. Thankfully, a mystical new customer who shares Mary’s lost Italian heritage may be able to help alter her stubborn patterns. And, learning about the city’s history and her own Sicilian roots from the shopper may prove beyond merely engaging.
Even so, acquiring trust in strangers and accepting assistance requires more bravery than any societal expectation she’s challenged in her life. But if she doesn’t depend on her community and learn forgiveness, she may lose her career, home, and deeper relationships. No eccentric spirituality or heritage lessons can fix this…right?
Hallie: Welcome, CD! I can't start without asking about the ukulele! Where did you learn how to play, and do you have a picture to share with us?
CD: I come from a musical family and have played multiple instruments in my life; organ and flute being the two most prominent. In my adulthood, the strings called to me and I taught myself the ukulele. Since I have a knowledge of music, it wasn’t hard to learn, thankfully. It’s such a joyful little thing to have fun with and relax! I wrote more about it and have pictures of it in this blog post: https://cdangeloauthor.com/2019/11/
Hallie: I'm so impressed. Not only are you a talented writer but you're musically inclined as well. Very cool. Thanks for sharing the pic :)
Now, onto the books. In The Difference, Rachel's idol is her grandpa. Who is yours? And did he/she inspire you to write?
CD: My grandpa was an idol of mine as well, which is why I made Rachel have her grandpa as her hero. He was just the sweetest, gentlest man who always made me feel special. We were easily in sync and enjoyed our time together to the fullest. My grandpa died many years ago and I felt like when the story came to me I had to honor him in this way. So, his strength as an Italian immigrant and all that he built in America along with the person he was inspired me to write The Difference.
Hallie: He sounds like quite a man. I bet he'd be so proud of you!
The setting for The Visitor is New Orleans. Do your characters ever visit Shady Gully? Hhahahahahhah! Just joking. But seriously, I'm curious, what inspired you to choose the Big Easy as the setting for your second book?
CD: When I write novels, I set the stories in places of Italian significance. There's a lot of Italian history in New Orleans that people do not realize (I didn’t). One tragic event occurred there that I include, as well as many positive connections to our world today, such as brands we know and love. The other aspect of my stories is to include a highlighted area of Italy, so this book features Sicily, since most of the immigrants from Italy were Sicilian in the late 1800s. Then, because it’s New Orleans and known for the mystical, I added an element of that in The Visitor. It’s a perfect mix and a perfect setting for the story I wanted to tell to honor my grandma. (Yup, the first book honors my grandpa and the second honors my grandma.)
Hallie: Oh my gosh, and your grandma gets the honor in the second book! How wonderful!
Here's a fun question: if your books were made into movies, who would you choose to play the lead roles?
CD: Wow, what a dream. I honestly always envisioned The Difference as a movie, even before I wrote it. The funny part is that I never thought about the actors that much. Even when I post about the characters on social media, I am careful never to include faces because I want the reader to imagine them as they would like. So, my answer is that I would leave it up to the professional casting director. But, let me add that I hope there's a role for my favorite actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, in either book’s movie. LOL!
Hallie: I feel exactly the same way about planting "real faces" on my characters. Like you, I want my readers to imagine my characters through the lenses of their own life experiences. Same way with covers. I don't want faces, only silhouettes. Speaking of covers, yours are fantastic! Did you create those yourself?
CD: That's so kind of you to say! No, I did not create them. My cover artist, Jena R. Collins, is outstanding in every way and I'm in awe of her covers. View all of them on her website: https://jenarcollins.com/
Hallie: Thank you for joining us, CD. It's been an absolute pleasure. Shady Gully fans, I hope you'll check out C. D'Angelo's books. She's a super talented author and she's just getting started!!
Find out details about C. D’Angelo’s books, get freebies from her newsletter, and more at: www.CDAngeloAuthor.com
Connect with C. D’Angelo:
What's Coming Up in the next FRIENDS of HALLIE newsletter/blog?
NEWS on Book 3 in the Shady Gully Series! THAT'S WHAT!
And here's a hint: There's a dog, a church, and a tree...
Just kidding. About the tree anyway.
Seriously though, NOW would be a great time to read Paint Me Fearless and Wolfheart, if you haven't already.
Follow Me Everywhere:
Let me tell you a story
What do Brad Wolfheart, James Patterson, and Dolly Parton all have in common?
Well, they hung out for a while on Amazon's Hot New Release List in Audiobooks in the Southern U.S. Literature Category!! Pretty cool, huh? Granted, this was a few weeks back, but anytime my name gets close to Dolly Parton's, I'm taking a picture!!
FRIENDS OF HALLIE, y'all are in for a treat today!
The VOICE OF SHADY GULLY, the FABULOUS Kathy Fox Vancil, is this month's featured guest, and I know you're going to love her. She's definitely a Shady Gully FAN FAVORITE, and a pretty cool person as well. I've had the privilege of getting to know her over the last several months, and I'm fascinated by her and her profession.
How about a little peek into the life of an audiobook narrator? Oh, and you won't want to miss the hilarious BLOOPER at the end!
Meet Kathy Fox Vancil
Kathy Fox Vancil loves to tell other people’s stories. As a teenager, she discovered libraries offered recorded books for visually impaired people and realized someone had to read those books. Why not her? She discovered her acting chops in high school, refined her skills in the Ball State University theatre department, dabbled in radio, taught public speaking and performed in community theatre productions. She listened to various audiobook narrators in an attempt to learn how they brought characters and scenes to life using only their voices. Many years later, after “retiring” from being a missionary pastor’s wife, she finally delved into narration and discovered pure joy in playing all the parts. Kathy focuses on Christian and historical fiction, mysteries and non-fiction. She and her husband, Ted, live in northern Minnesota and serve as full-time staff to their elderly cat, Maggie.
HALLIE: First of all, Kathy, thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to chat with me. I know my readers are going to be thrilled to get to know you!
Without a doubt, my first question has to be: What the heck? You're not from the south? With that accent? I can't believe you live in Minnesota, which is, BTW, on the opposite side of the country from Shady Gully, Louisiana. Seriously, how did you learn to do such fantastic accents? And master those regional inflections the way you do?
KATHY: Ya, you betcha I live in Minnesota now, but I grew up in Indiana which gave me access to a variety of regional accents around the midwest. My ear has always been especially tuned to the softer sounds of the South. While studying theatre, we acting students would sit around playing with all kinds of accents and dialects just for fun, and the habit stuck with me. Several years ago, I met a man from Georgia and made sure to sit close to him every time I could just to listen to him talk. What a lovely, genteel voice he had! Recently, I embarrassed my husband by recording two elderly Norwegian brothers in our local cafe hoping to capture their incredible pacing, inflection and euphemisms. It's plain fun for me to listen and try to mimic the way different people speak.
HALLIE: I love that! Hilarious. All you need now is an author to write a novel with Norwegian characters. Hmmmmmm. Maybe Dolly, Jesse, and James have some evil cousins from Norway who travel to Shady Gully for a visit. LOL. Stay tuned!
In all seriousness, you're a gifted narrator. It's clear your passion for accents comes into play in your work. As I listen to the Shady Gully books, I find myself holding my breath...even though I know what's coming. Your narration is powerful. What is your process? Do you read the book first and then mull over the characters for a while to determine how you want to portray them?
KATHY: I guess I work on narration the same way I work on a role for a stage play. I do read the book first, but I skim it rather than reading each word. I look for what the characters say about themselves, about each other, and what the narrator of the piece adds to the descriptions. I take notes so that I know sex, age, background, life experiences, where is the character from, etc. Then I consider who the characters are and what kind of voices they have. Here is where I have to be careful. If I give a male voice a really rough edge, I have to make sure I can sustain that voice over the course of the book. For instance, I could not have done Madhawk's voice if he was a main character with whole chapters of his own. My own voice would likely have not lasted. Regarding the things that happen to the characters, well that's voice acting. You, Hallie, write wonderful scenes involving characters that I care about. You've already put them into humorous or dramatic situations that I then get to act out with my voice using the words you've put into their minds and mouths. You make my job so much easier, and I wish you'd write stage plays!
HALLIE: I loved your portrayal of Madhawk! He was absolutely wicked! And I also enjoyed your take on Fireman. I don't know how you do it, switching back and forth like that. Sometimes when I'm writing, I try reading my sentences aloud, but after a few paragraphs my voice gets ragged. I can't imagine doing it all day long. How do you take care of your voice? Do you drink honey tea? Or do you have a special potion to soothe your voice before you start recording?
KATHY: The most recording I can do in a day is maybe four hours, and that's with breaks. My voice will get ragged if I am nervous about someting I'm recording. I'll tighten up and that messes up the take. It's so much easier to get a good take if I relax, breathe and maybe sip some hot tea with honey if the vocal cords are really tight. I have no special potion, but I do stay away from dairy when I'm recording. Cream in my coffee will mess up my voice fast. I tend to not eat until I'm done recording for the day because I don't like having to edit out stomach grumbles. Microphones will pick up every single noise you don't want recorded for posterity.
HALLIE: I'm curious about where you record? Do you have a special office or a studio?
KATHY: A couple of years ago I turned a moving trailer into my studio. It's not a perfect solution, but it does give me privacy. I've used sound deadening materials on the walls, floor and desk to create a decent recording studio. Living in northern Minnesota, one challenge is keeping the place heated enough during winter months. I have to turn off the heater in order to record. Then when I'm resting between takes, I turn the heat back on so I don't freeze. I also keep a heating pad under my feet and that helps to keep me warm enough while recording so my teeth don't chatter.
HALLIE: Wow! Simply marching out to your studio on winter mornings takes a lot of will power and discipline! That's dedication!
As many books as you've read, and then narrated, have you ever considered writing one of your own? It's bound to be frustrating at times when an author takes a character in one direction, when you'd have preferred them go in another. Since you are quite literally the voice of the character, you're bound to have an emotional connection with them.
KATHY: It is so true that I become emotionally connected with some of the characters I'm narrating. Your Shady Gully series has several characters I love dearly and am rooting for during the stories. It's also fun to read the "bad guys" too and get to play them. It's interesting to figure out where I think they are going and then have the author take them in a different direction. So far, I've not narrated a book in which I've deeply disagreed with what the author did with the characters. That day may come. Would I want to write my own books? I tried once and found the editing process agonizing. I have written several short stories and some short plays as well. I won't say no to writing, but right now I'm thoroughly enjoying narrating other people's stories.
HALLIE: Lastly, what happens when you mess up? Like if you sneeze or your phone rings or something?
KATHY: Me, mess up? Ha! It is a fact of life that I will mess up or the phone will ring or someone starts the lawn mower. Sometimes I get stuck on a phrase or word and have to do take after take. Editing is essential for what I do. Most listeners might be surprised if they heard raw recordings before editing and mastering takes place. Then there are times when something the author writes cracks me up. That happened in Wolfheart. I had to stop because I was laughing too hard. Another time, this was in Paint Me Fearless, I had to stop because I was crying over something happening to a character and I couldn't talk. If an author ever wants to know if their writing gets to someone, ask the narrator.
HALLIE: Do you have any special BLOOPERS you'd like to share with us?
KATHY: I referred to cracking up during a scene in Wolfheart. Here it is.
HALLIE: Hhahahahahaha!! That's the best! Thank you for sharing. And for being my guest on this month's FRIENDS of HALLIE newsletter! You are a treasure.
If you haven't listened to her audiobooks, check them out on Amazon or Audible by searching: Kathy Fox Vancil.
Her amazing dramatizations of Paint Me Fearless and Wolfheart are linked below.
THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS TAKEN THE TIME TO OFFER ME ENCOURAGEMENT. WRITING IS DIFFICULT, AND I'M SO GRATEFUL WHEN SOMEONE TAKES THE TIME TO REACH OUT TO ME AFTER THEY'VE READ ONE OF MY BOOKS.
CONGRATS to new FRIENDS of HALLIE subscriber, Amy Deville, who won this month's drawing. Remember, all new FRIENDS of HALLIE subscribers are automatically entered in the drawing! And if they win, and YOU referred them, you'll win a FREE ebook or audiobook as well!
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authors to watch in 2022
So.....what do a beautiful, brilliant schoolteacher from California, a handsome, rugged man who recently retired from Law Enforcement, and a lovely, creative sixteen-year-old girl bursting with aspirations for the future, have in common?
Well, they’re all WRITERS TO WATCH in 2022, and they are HERE to introduce themselves to you in this month’s FRIENDS OF HALLIE Newsletter!
Meet Elizabeth Jacobson
Elizabeth, in her own words....
I’m a math teacher, born and raised in California, but I have to admit that I spent many sunny days of my childhood holed up inside with my nose in a book (math was not my friend back then). Words spoke to me in a way that I couldn’t quite explain, and I still get that same childlike excitement for a good book now as I did then, so many years later.
I don’t remember a time when my mind wasn’t making up stories, trying desperately to mirror those books I so loved. First, it was sequels or continuations of books or even movies that I liked – but soon I couldn’t let go of the idea of creating stories of my own. I enjoyed uncovering the intricacies of characters that I loved so much; I knew I had to attempt it with characters of my own creation!
My first work was on a fantasy series, and later I began work on a science fiction series. These are in-progress works and I am excited to someday share them with you!
My first completed work was Not by Sight: The Story of Joseph, a historically-accurate retelling of the story of Joseph, his brothers, and his coat, from the Old Testament of the Bible. It is the first in a series of historically-accurate Bible retellings – with an emphasis on both faith and humanity.
As a Christian, I can say with confidence that my faith is the most important part of my life. But I know that no one can say with any truthfulness that they always follow through with everything they believe to be right. That’s human failing at work, and that is the reason Jesus came, after all.
And so I looked at that story of Joseph in the Bible, and instead of the unshakable (and rather unrealistic) pillar of faith so often presented, saw a real human with failing there, waiting to be explored.
Not by Sight: a novel of the patriarchs, will be released March 16, 2022, published by WordCrafts Press.
What could make a man turn to God when every event in his life screams that God has turned his back on him?
Beloved. Brilliant. Despised. Joseph, the eleventh son of the patriarch Jacob, had his father’s favor, and that was his downfall. Sold into Egypt by his enraged and jealous brothers, Joseph is left with nothing to cling to except the stories of his father’s God, a seemingly remote and unreachable figure. Faith may prove futile, but Joseph is desperate – for the very hate that enslaved his brothers has begun to overtake him.
HALLIE: Elizabeth, we've known each other for two years now and I think you're exceptional in every way. Honestly, I never had any doubt you'd get published. I'm thrilled for you! Congratulations!
I've read your work. You're extremely articulate and thoughtful in your writing, which is why I'm blown away that you're a math teacher. I'd have pegged you for an English teacher for sure. How did that happen?
ELIZABETH: I love this question! I share this story often with my students. Language Arts always came easily to me in school. Math did not. I spent many, many hours from elementary school through college being tutored in math by my dad.
But, in the end, this is why I like teaching math far more than I like teaching ELA. How to you even begin to go about teaching something that came easily to you? It’s an uphill battle, because you have no point of reference for knowing why a student might be struggling, or when to expect that they might become stuck on a particular concept. Did I figure out how? Yes, over time and with collaboration with my awesome partner teachers. But is it as rewarding as teaching a subject where you can anticipate and relate to students’ struggles, and help them work though them just like someone once did for you? Nope. Not at all!
HALLIE: I'm struck by the cover of your book. It draws me in. It tells me right away that this isn't going to be your typical biblical fiction. Joseph's story is very edgy. Change the year and the names, and maybe the clothes, and it could almost be a scandalous Netflix series. Besides that (ha!) what made you want to tell this story? And is there another story from the Bible you'd like to write about?
ELIZABETH: Yes, his story is quite edgy. I think that can get lost in all the Sunday-School flannelgraph adaptations so many of us grew up on. But I think it’s deeply dramatic on top of (even partially because of) its edginess. Extreme – and if you know the Joseph story, you know it’s extreme – levels of drama between characters really draw me in as a writer. Character work is my absolute favorite part of writing.
Looking at the more “historical narrative”-type framing of the story in Genesis, I knew that there would be a wealth of interesting character growth and exploration to be uncovered in a novelized version. The idea was tantalizing.
We know what events happened and that people made certain choices in the narratives shown in the Bible, but we are often not told exactly why a person made the choice that they did. We are left to put those pieces together ourselves, based on the events. That seemed like such an intriguing challenge to undertake with the Joseph story. After all, he is the brother who is separated from his family and from his father, Jacob. And Jacob is supposedly the one who should be teaching the family about God. Yet Joseph, the brother alone in a pagan land, ends up as the one whose faith is exemplified. Why is this the case? It was, as I said, an intriguing question. That, coupled with the intense drama of the story, caught me – hook, line, and sinker. I had to write it.
As for other Bible stories, I haven’t yet found one that has grabbed me as an author quite like Joseph. That said, I do have some thoughts regarding a story set in New Testament times, running parallel with Biblical events. But, like Joseph’s story, it will be research-heavy to ensure that the historical setting is portrayed correctly, and I’m not quite ready to take that on again just yet!
HALLIE: What advice would you give to young writers such as Ava who is also a highlighted author in the 2022 Authors to Watch issue? She is only sixteen years old.
ELIZABETH: Ava, you’re a rockstar already for just having the passion to write. Writing is hard. Writing keeps us up at night, because we don’t know what to write next in the plot, or because we don’t know how to find the words to correctly portray the story or plot or character arc that we feel, that is right there, just out of reach – or maybe because our characters just won’t leave us alone and want us to give them things to do.
Writing is hard, but don’t give up, because writing is also intensely rewarding … which I know you know, or you wouldn’t be a writer. Don’t give up on a plot or a character arc that seems overwhelming. If it’s that complex, it’s probably really good. You need to plot, rework, and plot again. Let it rest, work on something else, then come back to it and try again. Practice makes progress. In my current manuscript, I’m tackling a plot that I had in mind fifteen years ago, but knew I wasn’t experienced enough to write at that time. It’s still not easy to write, but the practice and the waiting has been worth it, made it a reachable goal.
My last bit of advice – don’t write in a vacuum. Find people, other writers or astute readers, who will give you good, constructive advice about your writing. We writers tend to become so fixated on certain parts of our writing that we can’t see the hole over there in the secondary plot, or the fact that we’ve used the word “seemed” seven times on the last two pages. It doesn’t mean that we’re struggling, it just means that we’re human! And humans aren’t meant to work alone.
Great advice! Thank you, Elizabeth, and good luck with your debut novel! Not By Sight: a novel of the patriarchs debuts March 16th, 2022. Click to Follow Elizabeth EVERYWHERE!
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Meet Jeffrey Pentz
Jeffrey, in his own words...
I remember it vividly, the first book that ever hooked me. I supported its heft with my little six-year-old legs and turned the pages as quickly as I could read them. I couldn’t wait to see what happened and move on to the next book in the series. The book was an encyclopedia. Seriously.
It took me many years to get hooked on fiction. A child of the 80s, everyone was reading Stephen King. I forced my way through Pet Sematary because my girlfriend had read it. It would behoove me to read it. Meh. I chewed my way through Misery. Blah. The Firm? Zzzz. Not knocking these centimillionaires, I just didn’t click with them. Chopin’s The Awakening. What the…? English Literature class? So many forced reading assignments I’ve forgotten. I don’t think it was a genre problem, I just think it was stylistic.
Then I saw the movie The Hunt for Red October, and thought it would be cool to read the book. (This is the order that I still stick with even today… movie, then book. I can’t do it the other way around. My daughter argues with me on this all the time.) Tom Clancy’s style captivated me, and I read, what was at the time, the entire Jack Ryan series. I’m a voracious reader, reading nearly every day, but still favor non-fiction. A quick count of my Kindle library shows 45 fiction novels versus 110 non-fiction books that I’ve read at least once.
My greatest gift, or curse, is trying to analyze things. People fascinate me. Cause and effect fascinates me. “What if?” fascinates me. My favorite dictum is that life is a series of choices between two possibilities, and the writing equivalent is that writing a book is a series of answers to the question “what if?”
Sins of Our Fathers materialized out of asking the question, “What am I going to do when I retire? What if I write a book?” I had to do something, and writing seemed like a perfect fit. Not talent-wise, but being able to work from home in all weather conditions and even when you don’t feel well (boy, I had a lot to learn there.) So I set out to learn how to write. There were setbacks along the way, of course. I had to write a book while learning how to write a book. It’s like trying to build a house while learning how. You pour the slab and frame it up, only to learn that you need to take the frame down to repair the slab, and so on. Hopefully, when you pour the slab for the next house, you’ve learned how to properly.
I’m a perfectionist, which is hard when your job is production, which is largely how I view writing. You need to be able to let some things go… an acceptable level of mistakes. I’ve done the book, the cover (mostly,) the website, the trailers (videos,) and the ads… and I’ll be doing the covers and audiobooks myself from now on because I'm a control freak (there, Evelyn, I said it in public!) I’m still finding flaws in all these things I’ve produced and it drives me crazy. It’s definitely a learning curve for me.
The response to Sins of Our Fathers, the support I’ve received, has been humbling. I view the Antilles series as a marathon, not a race, and I’m hopeful that Becca Malone will continue to gather more fans as the series grows and readers get to know her. I know that I’m having fun getting to know her and her readers.
Sins of Our Fathers by Jeffrey Pentz
Book 1 in the Antilles Series
Some sins are better left in darkness.
Becca Malone is a fraud investigator freelancing in The Bahamas and searching for the truth behind her father’s disappearance twenty-five years ago. When Becca’s source leaves her with only a few clues, her plan to follow the trail of breadcrumbs through the Caribbean is thwarted after her small sailboat disappears in a ball of flames.
Sebastian Forde, a former Antiguan drug lord, is grieving a catastrophic loss for which he holds himself responsible. He bargains with God, whom he deems increasingly unresponsive, driving Forde to battle a sense of abandonment and his own declining mental stability. His seething rage tunnels his vision until, having shed everyone and everything that ever mattered to him, only the final goal remains.
Now, Becca has to learn how to stay alive, discover her father’s fate, and win over the man who stayed at her side through discovery and disaster. Join Becca as she explores the many faces of paradise in Sins of Our Fathers.
HALLIE: Jeffrey, congratulations on the success of SINS! I'm proud to say that we hail from the same little town in Louisiana! You reckon it's something in the water down there?
I got a kick out of your love of encyclopedias. What child of the 80's wasn't mesmerized by that series? It was awesome! And it had pictures!! LOL. I have to know though, since you are a movie-before-the-book kind of guy, what do you think of the Jack Ryan series on Amazon Prime?
JEFFERY: I haven't watched any of it, but I can offer an anecdote. My favorite Clancy book is Without Remorse, and I saw that it had been made into a movie recently. I hurriedly found the movie trailer and was immediately perplexed. None of the events in the trailer matched my memory of the book. I realize that film and books are different mediums, but if the Jack Ryan series on Amazon Prime was butchered similarly, I'd wager Tom has worn holes in his funeral clothes turning over in his grave.
HALLIE: I'm fascinated (and impressed) by the way you taught yourself to create covers, book trailers, ads, and even your website. I'm also impressed by your ability to create multi-dimensional characters. Let's discuss Sebastian Forde, the ''bad guy" in your novel. I honestly found him one of the most intriguing characters I've read in a long while. His brooding was attractive, rather than evil. His intense need for revenge seemed righteous, rather than corrupt. His power and influence came off as noble, rather than arrogant. At first. And then you started to peel away the layers, and even as you thoughtfully and expertly exposed his true nature, I felt empathy for him. I truly longed for his redemption.
I still do actually, and the way you left it...well, I feel like there is much more to learn about this character. Can you elaborate on your process in creating this provocative character? And give us a hint of what's coming in book 2 of the Antilles Series?
JEFFERY: Thank you for that wonderful praise for that character. He was really fun to create. I decided to create a character arc for both the protagonist and antagonist in Sins of Our Fathers. Becca, the protagonist, undergoes a bit of a Hero’s Journey, while Forde undergoes a negative change. I was determined to make him relatable and morally complicated. I started with the basic “bad guy who does bad things” and then asked why does he do bad things? The loss of his family was a good start. Then, he had to watch them die. Holds himself responsible. That’s a pretty good engine for the bad guy. What about his capability? He had to have wherewithal, influence, and smarts. I made him an orphan, a self-made cerebral and financial success, and benevolent. Everywhere I came up with a trait, I asked “what if?” He’s a bad guy. What’s as bad as it can get? Worship the devil? Okay, what if he’s fiercely Christian? And so on, until he was fleshed out.
His slow descent into madness is the resultant vector of the forces acting upon him: he wants his family back, tortured by dreams, wants vengeance to atone for his own culpability in their death, knows that he may not see then in Heaven if he does, and then holds God responsible. Eventually, he forsakes everything… God, friends, fortune, just to reach his final objective. He is alone, truly alone, with only this last mission to accomplish heading into the book’s climax.
The sequel to Sins (Book 2 of the Antilles series) finds Forde using his expertise to find the identity of a new player in the drug trade, working for the government. Becca has taken over her Uncle’s business and is doing quite well. Events transpire to put them back on a collision course, and they fight a new battle that results in some interesting new relationships that cast the die for book three.
HALLIE: I'm curious about your time as a law enforcement agent. You mentioned in your bio that the "what if" question triggered a lot of your creativity. I can only imagine the "fictional" scenarios that crossed your mind throughout your career. Care to share any? Or elaborate on that experience?
JEFFERY: I worked at a Federal Prison, so I've tried really hard to forget my time there lol. Seriously, I didn't think about any fictional scenarios involving work...I usually dreamed about places away from there. The most impactful question I asked was "What if a Caribbean drug lord systematically murders the descendants of a shipping magnate?" which became the basis for Sins.
HALLIE: Thank you, Jeffrey, for giving my readers a chance to get to know you and your work. Congrats on your retirement, as well as your new career. Best of luck with the Antilles series! Click to follow Jeffrey EVERYWHERE! Website, Facebook
Meet Ava Langley
Ava, in her own words...
Hello! I’m Ava Langley, an aspiring sixteen-year-old author. I’m from Indiana but in recent years have been in Kentucky. Right before I moved, I found my love for reading, which led me to the realization that I could bring my imagination to life by words. That was a very… magical moment for me. That moment brought forth the first spark of the novel I’m currently working on. Of course, since it’s been almost four years that this idea has been blooming in my mind, it’s changed and matured a lot. But I’m proud of where it’s landed. My manuscript is a YA high fantasy novel. It has romance, betrayal, magical gems, mythical creatures, a determined protagonist, enemies hard to defeat, wicked connections, a plague creeping over the land, and spirit animals. I hope this book will one day meet the shelves of bookstores, or possibly another book I’ll write in the future will. Because, as we all know, a writer’s mind never stops creating.
HALLIE: Ava, you are the most determined, disciplined, and talented young writer I know. I have no doubt that the next time I feature you in my newsletter, you will have a cover image to present!
Your short stories (included below) are fascinating. In Nights of Bane, you do a wonderful job of making the reader feel the protagonist's sense of outrage. Trapped in the castle where she was raised, the protagonist suffers nightly at the hand of the conquerors. Her heart breaks at the way the marauders have removed the family portrait and stripped away her papa's special draperies. But then, at the end, we see that she has a secret, doesn't she? Bravo!
Your detail and vocabulary is quite extensive for your age--quills, parchment, dungeons! Oh my! How did you learn so much about this genre? And when did you know this was the genre for you?
AVA: I think there’s always been something in me that’s been drawn to fantasy. Since, which this is quite funny in my opinion, but until three years ago, I hated reading. With a fiery, burning passion. But there was this one book I read for school, The Last Book in the Universe by Rodman Philbrick. It sparked a different kind of passion in me. So the next time I went into the bookstore, I randomly grabbed a book off the shelf and it ended up being Nightshade by Andrea Robinson. With that as an introduction to YA, I started reading books such as The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, and Caraval by Stephanie Garber. I loved those types of books with how magical and special they seemed. So, that’s how I knew fantasy was the genre for me–it made my world so much more extraordinary and it ignited the hidden writer in me.
But since fantasy novels are normally set back in the day and I read so much of it, I’ve picked up on many vocabulary words over time. Almost all of my knowledge regarding vocabulary and fantasy is by reading the genre. I’ve heard this tip from many authors and I’m sure almost every person who writes has too, but it’s so very true. Read lots of books in the genre you want to write in because you’ll gain knowledge of it without even realizing. It’s the best research you can do when wanting to write in a genre you’re unfamiliar with.
HALLIE: That's wonderful! I remember being inspired by books and certain styles of writing at your age, and it sort of shaped the way I write today. It seems fantasy is definitely the genre for you. Are there any particular shows in the genre you enjoy? Do you watch Witchers? I hear that's all the rage. And what about Lord of the Rings? Harry Potter?
AVA: I’ve actually never seen Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. And now that I think about it, I don’t watch too much full-blown fantasy. I love Narnia, but that’s the only one that comes to mind. I do have some that have fantastical/supernatural aspects like Sweet Tooth, Roswell (the original, of course) and Outlander. Other than that, I haven’t watched a lot of fantasy movies or shows. Or at least ones I was in love with.
HALLIE: Outlander! Yes! Would you believe I've never watched it? Even folks my age love that show. Ha! Ava, how do you plan to pursue your writing career once you graduate from high school?
AVA: After high school, I plan to simply continue writing and hopefully get published. I know once I finish my current fantasy novel and get it ready to the best of my capability, that I’ll start to query. Then work on a new novel that I already have ideas for. There is always a little dream in me I could get picked up before or right around the time I graduate high school, though I know that’s a low probability and don’t have high hopes. But! I know that writing is the career for me, so I’ll keep working on it and take it one step at a time, letting it lead me. I love it too much to ever think about stopping.
Thank you, Ava, for spending some time with me and my readers. Good luck with your writing, and PLEASE, keep us updated on your success. Click to follow Ava on Instagram and check out her latest short stories. Myth of Madness and Nights of Bane.
Thank you to Elizabeth Jacobson, Jeffrey Pentz, and Ava Langley for being my featured guests this month.
As for me, I've been working away on Book 3 in the Shady Gully Series! This has, thus far, been one the most joyous writing experiences I've ever had. PAINT ME FEARLESS was emotional; WOLFHEART was intense; and this is ....well, it's EVERYTHING!
I cannot wait to tell you more. In fact, I'm so psyched about this book I may have to leak the characters I'm spotlighting ahead of time. Stay tuned.
Lastly, if you don't follow me on Facebook or Instagram yet, now is the time. On Friday, I'm going to introduce FRIDAY FREEBIES!
All you have to do to qualify is:
1) Follow me online
2) Be a subscriber of the FRIENDS OF HALLIE Newsletter.
3) Encourage a friend to do the same.
You, or the friend you sign up, will have a chance to WIN a FREE Audiobook of Paint Me Fearless. Or maybe one of Wolfheart.
Or maybe even an ebook of one or the other!
Speaking of Giveaways, GOODREADS is doing a giveaway of PAINT ME FEARLESS in February. You have until March 1st to enter for a FREE COPY. Go to Goodreads, enter Paint Me Fearless in the menu bar, and then scroll down until you see "Enter the Giveaway."
audiobook is available now!
The Wolfheart Audiobook is now available!!
I know some of you have been waiting eagerly for this jewel and I'm happy to say that it is READY for YOU on Audible, Amazon, and Apple!!
See Purchasing Links Below
The fabulous Kathy Fox Vancil is back as the VOICE OF SHADY GULLY!
Even though I knew what was coming, I found myself holding my breath while listening to Kathy's dramatization of the Prologue! When she says: And it had come to Rage! my heart skipped a few beats!!
Her brilliant and nuanced narration is gripping.
It's like the characters are right there in the car with you, or on the treadmill, or wherever you listen.
Trust me. It doesn't matter. You WILL BE in Shady Gully, Louisiana.
Here is a teaser for y'all!
Once you've finished the audiobook--and recovered from your emotional trip from Shady Gully--PLEASE leave a review! Kathy and I would be most grateful, as ratings are critical for new artists.
Drawing for FREE Audiobook
In my January newsletter (delivered this week) I invited entrants to email me with their interest in the drawing for a FREE Audiobook of Wolfheart. Wow! The response was overwhelming! I wasn't prepared for the HUGE number of entries!! Because of that, I've decided to GIVEAWAY not just 1, but 2 FREE Audiobooks.
Congratulations to Annie Harmon and Janet Abramson!
I will email you with details!
Thank you to all those who entered. I treasure the enthusiastic emails you sent!
I will run another contest/giveaway very soon!
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