Thursday, June 14, 2012

Meet Melissa Groeling, author of TRAFFIC JAM

It's a pleasure to have fellow Black Opal Books author, Melissa Groeling, as a guest on my blog today.  Melissa's novel, TRAFFIC JAM, was released in May 2012 and getting rave reviews! 

Welcome Melissa!!!!

Hi Leslie! Thanks so much for having me! It’s so great to be here! My name is Melissa Groeling and I, like my wonderful host, Leslie, have been dancing around with the written word for quite a long time. It’s a complicated, awesome, entertaining, sometimes frustrating dance but a dance nonetheless. There are days when I have my dancing shoes on and I’m ready to PARTY! Other days, I just want to wear my slippers, curl up on the couch with a book that’s not mine and stay far, far away from my computer.
As I sit here, sipping blueberry tea and staring balefully at the blister on my little toe, I wonder, what’s the hardest thing writers do? In the scheme of things, a blister is a walk in the park. There are days where I’d rather deal with a blister than sit at my laptop. Honestly, I can get so frustrated with a story that I’m surprised I’m not bald from tearing my hair out. I’ve always considered shaving it but my hair dresser refuses and then I chicken out. But okay let’s get back on track, shall we? What exactly is the hardest part of being a writer?
Is it fleshing out the plot? Is it building up a world and characters from scratch? Is it tying up the loose ends of the story within a reasonable amount of pages? Is it keeping the story in a constant flow from start to finish? Or maybe it’s keeping the motivation to continue. Maybe it’s fighting that feeling you get when you feel like what you’ve written is a piece of crap. Or maybe it’s everything that comes after---you know, the promoting, the marketing, getting yourself and your work out there so people can see it.
Or maybe it’s the people who tell you that you can’t do it.
That you’re no good.
That your story is too weird to get published.
That it’s impossible to be a writer because it’s so hard.
Well, my friends, can you imagine where we’d be if we actually listened to those people? All these reject letters and emails that we collect. They can beat a person down, sure. But will that person stay down?
          I think that’s the core of a writer. We just don’t know when to quit.

Melissa Groeling graduated from Bloomsburg University with a degree in English. She lives, reads and writes in the Philadelphia region and wherever else life happens to send her. She is a hardcore New York Giants fan and loves chocolate. Traffic Jam is her first young adult novel.

Come find me at Facebook!
Twitter: @stringbean10

When you’re caught in a traffic jam, you’ve got nowhere to go… Val Delton’s life is spiraling and there’s nothing she can do to stop it. Her dad lost his job, her mom works fourteen hour days to pay the bills and yet somehow there are high-end shopping bags and an iPod in her older sister’s room. Naturally, Val becomes suspicious but her sister’s lips are sealed. Then by accident, she uncovers a dark, dangerous secret hidden behind her sister’s bright smiles and cool indifference. Val has no idea how far and how deep the repercussions of her sister’s secret will reach but she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her family safe. Will she succeed before her sister’s secret destroys everyone she loves?

Great having you here, Melissa.  And for all those who haven't picked up her book yet, it's available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, and Black Opal Books!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Author Interview: ZRINKA JELIC... and a GIVEAWAY

Today I’m with Zrinka Jelic, author of Bonded by Crimson.  Bonded by Crimson was released early this year by Black Opal Books.  As always, it’s a pleasure to chat with one of my BOB sisters. 
Also, Zrinka will be giving away an eBook copy of her book to one lucky commenter.  Leave those comments, people.
1.    Zrinka, Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Ah, the question I dread during the job interviews. In our culture it is considered unworthy tooting your own horn and one would be modest about singing the praise to himself. So needless to say, when I moved to Canada and went on my first job interview, it didn’t go so well. It took me quite some time to get used to the idea to put myself on a pedestal and I don’t think I haven’t gotten completely over this cultural difference. I’m just your average gal, maybe on a quiet side, though I’ve come a long way since my awkward teenage days. Nowadays, as always, you’ll find me with my nose in a book. But with two kids, house, promoting my novel and working on my works in progress, those moments are scarce.
2.    Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
I don’t have one particular all times favorite author. At the moment I’m taken by Arturo Perez Reverte. The books I’m reading are translations from Spanish and I’m not sure how much was lost in translation, but I love them and the smooth prose.
3.    What are you reading?
I have three books on the go. One is Debbie Christiana’s “Twin Flames” which I’m enjoying immensely. I think I’ll finish it in the next day or so. Then I have Chris Karlsen’s “Golden Chariot” and just finishing “The Kings’ Gold” from A. P. Reverte.
4.    I’m actually reading Twin Flames myself.  It’s such a good read.  So, What do you do when you’re not writing?
I’m either in the gym, babysitting other kids along with mine, house chores, reading. I used to have sawing side craft. I figured how to make those little leather slippers that were so expensive in stores. I made a few pairs for my friends’ kids and somehow the word got out and orders started to pour in. But now you can get those slippers almost in any kids’ stores for less than I can make them. So I stopped my production though I’m still known in my neighborhood as patch-up lady. I do some alternations and fix ups on clothing.
5.    When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book?
The very first book I finished was waaaaay back in high school. I was struck with an idea and very motivated to write a story after I’ve seen “Romancing the Stone”. To this day this movie is still my favorite romance and inspiration. My first story was hand written, and the girls in the school fought over it. I can’t even remember what it was about. No idea what happened to it. I’m assuming it got ripped in one of the cat fights. This was in pre-photocopier days. But I wish I still have it, just to get a good laugh out of it. But my first “official” finished story is what I like to refer to it as “my training wheels” where I made all of the beginners’ mistakes. I’m planning to go back to it someday and revise. I still think it’s a good story.
6.    Where do you get your ideas?
From everyday life. I like to observe people around me. Often I imagine how two people met, what drew them to each other, what’s their story, what hardships they had to overcome to find their happiness. Today young people don’t have to struggle with the same troubles as their parents. Dating is seen as normal part of growing up, while in my teenage days and where I lived, parents forbid their children to go out on dates. And any parent who allowed or even encouraged their children to date was looked upon as too liberal or strange. I also like to explore old tragic love stories and try to reincarnate them to some kind of happily ever after.  
7.    Are you a pantser?  Or do you outline?
I’ve read a few books on how to write and each stressed out the importance of detailed outlining. So I gave it a try and failed. I felt silly doing some of the exercises in the book and got nothing out of them. These books also made me guilty about not plotting and doing that character’s arc and all that. And while I see how having the clear plot and character’s arc (journey) n front of you can help along, I also find it a waste of time. I outlined my book and never referred back to it. While I stuck to the original plot, my muse also decided to take me on a ride. So it is safe to say I’m a punster and I’m proud of it.
8.    Can you tell us the challenges in getting your first book published?
There’s been a few but I had biggest one that many new writers fear. While my book was still in pre-published state, I’ve decided to “test the waters” and posted opening chapters on a website where other aspiring writers rate each other’s work. Majority of readers liked the story, but some didn’t. I never expected that absolutely everyone would love it, but I wasn’t prepared for harsh and right down nasty and hateful reviews. From people I never met or did not know. It was quite discouraging but I pressed on and found out the worst thing you can do was to reply to those comments. These people are Internet trolls and they get their kicks of getting people to lash out at them. The best is to ignore them and delete their comments if possible.
9.    Tell us about BONDED BY CRIMSON.
The premise of the story is do we deserve second chance at love and happiness. It there love after loss and hurt? Can we recognize it when it comes our way and most importantly, would we embrace it or would we be scared to open our hearts and souls to another being out of fear to get hurt again?
10. How did you come up with the title?
Originally I wanted “Bonds of Crimson” but the title was taken and I wanted something original. In the book the enzymes of a hero (who is immortal though he is slowly turning human again) are passed through his child to the mother therefore making her something of an immortal too. So that they can have endless future together. But it also has another meaning, Kate (the heroine) is bonded by blood (crimson) to her husband, their children and the land they came from (Croatia).
11. Who designed the cover?
That was Jack from Black Opal Books and I think he did a great job and nailed the book right there. I love the silhouette of the Matthias’ (the hero) wife’s ghost in the background.
12. What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I think the middle was hard. Just to keep that intrigue and not to reveal too many details and yet give just enough clues and foreshadowing to keep the reader’s interest. I’ve read too many books that gave it all away in the first chapter, or had saggy middles that it was a daunting task to read it through, but they started off very interesting and I just had to find out how it all come together in the end. I was disappointed.
13. If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything about your latest book?
Can’t think of a single thing, but maybe I’d just tightened some of the sentences, other than that I wouldn’t change anything to the actual plot.
14. What project are you working on now?
I have two works in progress. One is paranormal romance titled “Love Remains” and it’s about a career oriented single woman who returns home from a business trip and finds a husband and a couple of kids in her house. Of course, the plot thickens from there. My second project is a prequel for “Bonded by Crimson” titled “Rose of Crimson” and we go back six years to find out how Matthias, under the guise of Miles, got Kate to write his story. In this book my attention is to bring the full legend of the tragic love story to life. It’s going to be a big task, but I’m up to the challenge.
15. Any new books coming out? 
I have my second novel “Treasured Chest” going through the editorial process and I’m hoping it will be released sometimes later this year or beginning of the next. It’s a pirate’s romance with an unexpected and unusual twist.
16. Congrats on the new novel.  Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers?
The writing is very solitary but you don’t have to do this alone. There are numerous writing organizations, some are free to join, some have a fee, but just get out there and join to critique loops, writing communities and other supportive group. I can’t stress out supportive enough. Unfortunately I wasted plenty of time on places where the members tend to put down other people’s work and praise their own. Your love for writing will shine in your work and don’t let anyone discourage you. Yes, there’ll be nasty reviews but that is a part of the business.
Rapid Fire Questions:
Favorite Song? At the moment it is Thomas Bergersen - "A Place in Heaven
Favorite Movie? Romancing the stone
Favorite Season? Summer
Favorite Food? Watermelon
Favorite Quote? “The road of life is rocky and you may stumble, too. So why not point fingers, someone else is judging you.” ~ Bob Marley
Any parting words? Thanks for having me as your guest blogger, Leslie. It is always exciting to reach out to new audience. This was fun to write.
My debut novel “Bonded by Crimson” has been released on January 28th, and it is available in all formats at Black Opal Books, Amazon, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble and All Romance eBooks

Love isn’t in the cards for her…

After her short failed marriage, Kate tries to rebuild her life and takes a position as a nanny to three small boys. She quickly grows to love them, but their father, terrifies her, while igniting a passion she didn’t know she possessed. Disturbed by his distant manner with his sons, Kate struggles to make him more involved in the boys’ daily lives. Her efforts are mysteriously supported by an entity that cannot really exist. Or can she? And if she does exist, is she really trying to help Kate, or just take over her body?

But when he deals the hand, all bets are off…

Six years after his beloved wife passed away, Matthias is still trying to become the father she wanted him to be. Not an easy task for a three-centuries-old immortal. His search for the ultimate nanny ends when Kate Rokov stumbles to his home and into his arms. The immediate attraction he feels for her seems like a betrayal of his dead wife, a love he’s harboured for over three hundred years. But when Kate is stalked by a deadly stranger, life he clung to in the past begins to crumble and break down. Can Matthias learn to trust and to love again in time to save his family from disaster, or will his stubborn pride destroy everything worth living for?


Zrinka Jelic lives in Ontario, Canada, with her husband and two children. A member of the Romance Writers of America and its chapter Fantasy Futuristic &Paranormal, as well as Savvy Authors, she writes contemporary fiction—which leans toward the paranormal—and adds a pinch of history. Her characters come from all walks of life, and although she prefers red, romance comes in many colors. Given Jelic’s love for her native Croatia and the Adriatic Sea, her characters usually find themselves dealing with a fair amount of sunshine, but that’s about the only break they get. “Alas,” Jelic says, with a grin. “Some rain must fall in everyone’s life.”

Find me on: Facebook Twitter 
Watch the book trailer: Bonded by Crimson
One lucky reader who comments on my blog will be randomly selected to win an eBook copy of “Bonded by Crimson”. Good luck!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Author Interview with Christine Hughes... and a GIVEAWAY!

I'm so excited to have fellow Black Opal Books author, Christine Hughes, with us today!  Her debut novel, TORN, was released Saturday June 9, 2012 to the masses.  I'm hearing great things about it and I can't wait to read!  If you haven't already, pick up your copy of TORN. 

And the best news of today?  One lucky commenter will receive a free ebook copy of TORN. 

So, Christine, let's chat...

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Let’s see, I’m a writer so that should tell you I’m a bit off my rocker. I’m a former middle school English teacher so that lends itself to the crazy part too. J I’m a stay at home mom with everything that entails. I’ve been married for almost 9 years to the man I met when I was 14. As a child, my father was in the Army so I moved around a lot – I attended 13 different schools before college. I guess because of that, I am able to adapt to new situations pretty seamlessly. I have a younger sister who has taught me a few things about being an adult over the years. In general, I’m pretty normal expect for the off-the-rocker bit.
  2. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult? Fahrenheit 451 by the late Ray Bradbury helped me to look at fiction in a new way. The story was brilliant and way ahead of its’ time in terms of how the world operates. He was familiar with reality tv before there was such a thing. Also, A Separate Peace by John Knowles. I don’t know what it is about that book but I just loved it – the story behind it, the message it sent – amazing book.
  3. What are you reading? I am finishing up the Hunger Games Trilogy. I really like it but by book three, I’m not terribly impressed with Katniss. Don’t shoot me! I just think that by this book she should be more, well, just more something. Overall though, I really like the series.
  4. What do you do when you’re not writing? With two kids at home who play two different sports, I feel like we are always on the go. Sometimes I read, sometimes I veg out, other times I’m so busy, I don’t know where my day went. Lately, I’ve been promoting the heck out of TORN so I feel like I’ve been spending all my free time attached to my computer.
  5. When did you first start writing and when did you finish your first book? I first started writing TORN on my back deck and finished there too.
  6. Where do you get your ideas? I get my ideas from music. Lyrics to songs, the melody and tempo.
  7. I'm a music person too.  I get a LOT of ideas from music.  Are you a pantser?  Or do you outline? Pantser all the way. I try to outline but I end up so far away from where I think I’ll be, I just go with it and let the story write itself. For example, the betrayal in TORN was completely changed around. It was too easy to write it the way I first thought it out so I changed it up and it ended up being a great plot twist – less predictable.
  8. Can you tell us the challenges in getting your first book published? I queried the hell out of TORN. I went to the NJSCBWI conference in Princeton, I had it critiqued, edited, ripped apart and sewn back together. All it took was three lines and a contest at SavvyAuthors to garner the attention of my current publisher. I consider myself lucky though – I finished TORN in June of 2011 and signed my contract with Black Opal Books by October.
  9. Tell us about TORN. TORN is a YA paranormal with some romantic elements. It’s a story about the yin and yang relationship between good and evil, hope and despair. It asks, if everything is all sunshine and roses, will hope fade way? Do we need the bad with the good?
  10. How did you come up with the title? The original title was CHOICES but I felt it was a little soft. I was talking to my sister-in-law, who beta read for me, and I asked her if she could feel Samantha going crazy. She responded that she wasn’t so much going crazy as she was torn about the situation. So, thanks Allison for a great title!
  11. Who designed the cover? Jay Sabo of JS Designs designed the cover. He’s amazing and I have him ready to design the cover for Three Days of Rain and BETRAYED.
  12. If you had it to do all over again, would you change anything about your latest book? I think I might’ve put it into 3rd person. I’ve fallen in love with my antagonist, Sebastian, and I feel he has a great story to tell. Who knows – maybe I’ll write one from his POV.
  13. What project are you working on now? I am working on the sequel to TORN, tentatively titled BETRAYED
  14. Any new books coming out?  Three Days of Rain was picked up by Black Opal Books. It should be out by the end of this year or early next year.
  15. Do you have any advice to give to aspiring writers? All I can say is to keep at it. Everything you write, everything you read, makes you a better writer. Take the good with the bad. Don’t get discouraged by rejections or bad reviews. Keep plugging away and it will happen if you really want it too. Cyn Balog taught me to realize that I had become an “I did” and had separated myself from the “want to’s”.
Rapid Fire Questions:
Favorite Song? Three Days of rain by my friend Jason Liberatore (find it on Spotify)
Favorite Movie? Probably When Harry Met Sally
Favorite Season? FALL
Favorite Food? Cheeseburgers
Favorite Quote?  "All you umpires, back to the bleachers. Referees, hit the showers.  It's my game. I pitch, I hit, I catch. I run the bases. At sunset, I've won or lost. At sunrise, I'm out again, giving it the old try." ~Ray Bradbury

Any parting words? I want to thank you for having me here, Leslie. I’m happy to be able to call you my friend. Being publishing “sisters” has allowed me to see what a great person you are, so thank you for all the chats, messages, shares, likes and conversations.

Come visit me on my facebook page: and check out my terrible neglected blog at

Thanks for coming by Christine!  One of the BEST things about this author thing was that I was able to meet some AWESOME writers.  I'm happy to call you my friend and I'm looking for great things from you!