Month: December 2016


Kathleen Schrenk’s Writing Journey

This is the first, in what I hope, will become a series about authors’ journeys through the roller coaster ride that we call publishing. Our first author is Kathleen Schrenk. Read on and get an insight in what it takes to achieve a lifelong goal that many of us dream of.


I grew up in New Orleans, Louisiana, where I spent summer vacation catching toads, building subterranean clubhouses in vacant lots, and wading barefoot in streets flooded by afternoon thunderstorms. At the age of twelve, I discovered greater adventures—and air conditioning—at my neighborhood library. I practically camped out between the stacks to finish reading Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-tiki and Nevil Shute’s On the Beach.
After receiving a B.S. in education, I worked as a speech and language therapist in the public schools. I took a twelve year furlough to be a stay-at-home mom to our three sons. When the youngest entered kindergarten, I became certified as a classroom teacher and taught middle school science and language arts for twenty years—quickly discovering that sixth graders are some of my favorite people!
I left the classroom in 2001, but continued to work with children—as a volunteer tutor in Start the Adventure in Reading and as a docent for school groups in the New Orleans Botanical Garden in City Park. In 2005, following the devastation of my hometown from Hurricane Katrina and the floods that inundated the city, I focused my volunteer work on the recovery of New Orleans and on coastal restoration.
I serve on the board of the Louisiana SPCA, am a founding member of NOLA City Bark, New Orleans’ first off-leash dog park(2010), and the creator of Bark Bits, the dog park’s monthly e-newsletter. I belong to the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Women’s National Book Association.
My travel articles about European carnival celebrations have been published in Arthur Hardy’s Mardi Gras Guide, and my personal essay on Katrina recovery, Coming Home, appeared in Six Hens Magazine ( A Dog Steals Home, my debut middle grade novel, will be released by Pelican Publishing Company in March, 2017.
My husband and I share our home in New Orleans with our rescue dog, Lola, and accidental cat, Whodatcat.

My Writing Journey:

My first attempt at writing a children’s book has been like the many dogs and cats that find their way into my home and heart—serendipitous. One of those dogs, Dingo, was a slow-moving thirteen year-old when my first grandchild was born in 2011. As soon as my grandson could lift his head and focus his eyes, his gaze followed Dingo as he moved around the room. He liked to reach for Dingo’s plumed tail and eventually crawl to him. Dingo died before my grandson was two, but he missed him and often asked for him.
Inspired by their relationship, I decided to write the text for a picture book about a very young child and an old dog. I sent the manuscript off for a free evaluation to an independent editor I had met at the Tennessee Williams Literary Festival. She replied that I had definitely established the relationship between the boy and the dog, but that I needed dialogue, plot, and conflict. How I wish I had kept that email! She went on to suggest that I join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and participate in a critique group.
Since she hadn’t dismissed me completely, I decided to take her advice and move forward with the book. I joined the Louisiana/Mississippi Chapter of SCBWI. There I connected with other writers of children’s books. I’ve been a member of SCBWI for four years now, and the support, knowledge, and advice I have received from fellow writers has been invaluable.
Although I benefited from critiques at SCBWI meetings, I felt the need for a more in-depth approach. I met regularly with an open admission critique group at the public library for about a year. I grew from those meetings and made some helpful contacts, but because I was the only children’s writer, the group wasn’t a good fit for me. I formed my own group with two friends—one a musician and lyricist, the other a poet. We had a great time, but I’m not sure how much either of us helped the other! Almost two years ago, I joined a writers’ group that was forming in New Orleans. We are strictly middle grade/young adult fiction and are in the process of whole manuscript critiques of each member’s work.
After eighteen months of writing, sharing in critique, and revising, my picture book had grown up into a middle grade, coming-of-age novel, A Dog Steals Home, which explores the themes of family and friendship. It remained tucked away in my computer while I decided what to do with it. I didn’t want to self-publish, but did not have the confidence to submit to a publishing house. I decided to send it to the editor who had originally rejected it and see what she thought. This time she was interested, and I hired her to work with me on the book. The editing process took six months and multiple revisions until we both felt it was ready for submission.
Then began the query process and my crash course on the business of getting a book published. I studied agents’ websites, sought advice from my fellow SCBWI members, and read books on the subject. I researched agents and publishers to find a good fit for my book and began to submit. In February, 2015, Pelican Publishing Company requested the full manuscript to review. In October of that year, I signed a contract with them. A Dog Steals Home will be released in March, 2017, almost five years after I began the project.
Meanwhile, I took a class in fiction writing at the University of New Orleans, attended writing workshops, and completed my second middle grade novel, Mystery at the Bitternut Inn. I have received the full manuscript critiques from my group and hope to finish revisions and submit it to Pelican Publishing before A Dog Steals Home is released in March.

Year End And Next Year Plans

Hi all,

This little post is to let you know what has been happening and what, I hope, will be happening next year.

This year was a bit of a pain to tell the truth, until I got an amazing email from James Wymore at Immortal works. Finally, I am to be a published author. I signed a publishing contract with Immortal Works and my year changed, or should I say, my perception of 2016 changed. Suddenly what was a pretty bad year turned into a dream year.

I signed my contract and was assigned an editor, now the real work begins because writing the book is supposedly the easy part. Really? In retrospect writing the novel was the easy part. The hard part was revising the novel several times so that it shined like a new penny. Then came the excitement and eagerness of awaiting a response to queries I sent out to agents and publishers. This was followed by the crushing heartache of rejections coming in. Being a writer is a roller coaster ride and there are times that you think it will never happen. Suddenly you are there, someone loved your book enough to put a team behind producing it and getting out to the public. For some reason this was the point when I actually thought I was an author.

The dust has now settled and I am awaiting the first round of edits from my editor. Did I just say that? ‘My Editor’ Each time I think that, it sinks in a little more that I achieved a lifelong dream. But, that feeling is fleeting, like a willo-the-wisp, something that you can’t actually grasp. To me it still doesn’t feel real. I’m sure most authors go through this phase and eventually it does sink in that you are doing the job you always wanted to do.

Now that GERALD AND THE AMULET OF ZONRACH is in the hands of my editor – see I said it again – I concentrated on going through my other completed novel to tweak it ready for submission to my publisher. I have now done that and am waiting with bated breath to see if JAGUAR finds a home with Immortal Works.

I also have two works in progress:

GERALD AND THE THREE PRINCESSES, which is the next in the series of Gerald books. This novel finds him in a strange land and immediately in a bad situation. The real problem though is if he is successful he may find that he returns home shorter than he arrived. And if he is really good he could, realistically return home without being a wizard anymore. He is going to have a lot of problems trying to untangle that mess. I’m hoping to complete the first draft of that novel by mid 2017.

My other WIP is WILFRID and the first chapter can be seen here on my blog. This is the story of a twelve year old Anglo Saxon boy whose life is turned upside down after his rite of manhood ceremony. What should have been an exciting period of his life is shattered by the death of his father and then the death of his best friend. Be is banished from his village by the Thegn because his best friend was the Thegn’s son who believed Wilfrid responsible. From there he has to seek revenge and put things right, but his beliefs are challenged by his ordeal and everything he thought was concrete in his life now is now confused and as clear as the marshes to the east of his home. This story is set in 8th century England and it is a bad time to be wandering around the countryside where marauding Welsh warriors are a common threat and Kings change at the drop of an axe.  I’m hoping that the first draft for this novel will be finished by the end of Jan 2017

So, to summarize. 2016 ended on the ultimate high, signing a publishing contract for GERALD. Next year looks promising with the release of my debut novel and, possibly, my second novel as well. I will also have completed the sequel to GERALD and the first in the WILFRID series. To say that 2017 is going to be a busy and exciting year is an understatement. For me it is the start of, what I hope to be, a very fulfilling second career, this time as a full time author 🙂

Weekend 99 Cents Sale: Salvation


Looking for a great fantasy read? Of course you are. Who wouldn’t be? This book has it all- magic, cool swords, amnesia, monsters, and love. There’s also plenty of snow, just in time for the holidays! Grab it today (or tomorrow, December 17-18) for less than a buck. Then get warm and cozy with your kindle as you join the people of Winigh in their struggle for Salvation.


Is that all the fantastic fun you want? I didn’t think so. Let me recommend several other amazing books on sale. I’ve read them all and they are great. You can get the whole lot of them for just $5.94!


Valcoria: Children of the Crystal Star by Jason King

FIVE out of the Dark (book 1) by Holli Anderson

FIVE out of the Ashes (book 2) by Holli Andeson

Death by Cliché by Robert J. Defendi

The Lure of Fools (book 1) by Jason King

The Soulless Grave (book 2) by Jason King

CQ Chronology EbookIf you don’t feel like reading a whole book, perhaps you’d prefer a short story collection, or two. These have both been #1 bestsellers. Chronology has my story, Draconic King, first on the list and includes a story by the iconic Piers Anthony.

CQ Primetime EbookPrimetime includes the short story that launched my bestselling Actuator series, Cyber-Cowboy.

Both of these collections are huge. They are an incredible bargain for just two days!

Don’t forget, e-books make great gifts for the holidays!


The Cure for a Star Wars Hangover – James Wymore

I love Star Wars! After years of building anticipation, months staring at my tickets, and hours of trying to distract myself before the show began, I finally saw The Force Awakens. It’s hard to describe how I feel after a Star Wars movie.

The Return of the Jedi came out when I was young and impressionable. My awesome parents sacrificed to take me on the second day. I remember coming out of the theater after a matinee at dusk. The sunset, the street lights, the first stars– what had been common before was fantastic now. I saw the world through new eyes.

When the Phantom Menace came out, I made sure to go the first day. When I left the theater, I couldn’t really talk. We went to lunch and the dam broke and we analyzed it for hours. Again, an experience I’ll never forget, because it changed me.

Everybody experiences things differently, but this franchise has been the biggest impact of any fiction in my life. I already loved the new Star Treks directed by J. J. Abrams. I already bought into the Avengers series and Pirates of the Caribbean by Disney. So I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. Will it change me as much as the others? Time will tell. What isn’t different is the intense hangover Star Wars always puts me in.

I have this malaise where my mind just spins and spins around the images and ideas. It’s great! Yet, sooner or later, I know I have to come down off this high. The hours of “real” life wear down the affection and the mundane tasks chip away at the emotions. Eventually, it will leave me slightly depressed and wanting to go back to see the movie again.

The best way to cope with such a hangover is a good book.

Watching another movie after Star Wars is just wrong. Books are a different media. They get deeper into the characters’ minds, and are a slow burn compared to the explosion of a movie. They take longer in a quiet place so it’s a good way to sooth hyper emotions without dropping to the low.

What book could serve as a good net for something like Star Wars, though? Star Wars books aren’t right. That’s like entering the uncanny valley. It needs to be something epic. Star Wars is not just sci-fi. It has fantasy, action-adventure, drama, and a touch of romance. Characters fight impossible enemies against incredible odds; destiny, mystery, and a touch of mysticism.

It’s a rare book that has both the right atmosphere and pace to catch a falling Star Wars fan. I can recommend one, though. You should try The Actuator: Fractured Earth. It has a compelling world, not too like Star Wars, yet deep and complex. There is plenty of action and plenty mind-bending. Here’s a quick overview:

A machine is built to physically transform the world into a utopia, but a saboteur instead uses it to break the world into patches of every kind of genre fiction. People on one side of the road see aliens invading. So they run across the street to escape only to find a full fantasy dragon rampaging. People all over the world are confused and dying in real-life horrors featuring pirates, vampires, orcs, and just about every other creature imaginable. Only a handful of people even know about the Actuator. This group, called Machine Monks, have to put the world back before it falls into complete chaos.

Written by one forever altered by Star Wars, it may have the salve to cool the burn. So give it a shot. What do you have to lose besides that nagging ennui that follows everybody around after an amazing movie like a personal storm cloud?


To make it even more tempting, the FIRST THREE BOOKS are just 99 cents today and tomorrow, Dec 15-16!

The Actuator 1: Fractured Earth

The Actuator: Borderlands Anthology

The Actuator 2: Return of the Saboteur

The Actuator 3: Chaos Chronicles (New this week!)

Watched Stephen King Interviews

Okay this is a little creepy as I’m a fantasy writer, and more to the point I usually write humor if the story feels it should be that way. The Gerald series is a classic example of that and I believe that there is more than a soupcon of me in that character; not particularly good at anything but if I do try and do it, I do it one hundred percent and with the best equipment I can afford. I like to look the part you see.

Well, I’ve just been listening to a couple of interviews with Stephen King, one of my favorite authors, who I read a lot even though his books are not the genre I write. Basically I read them because I like his writing and he is also pretty much a pantser like me. While listening to one interview a scene popped into my head and I couldn’t get it out, so I wrote it down. For me, considering what I like to write, this scene is pretty disturbing as you will see. I’m going to put it below. 🙂


The sirens are getting louder. I can hear the roar of the engines now and the screech of tires lance through my brain. I am running out of time, but the voice will not let me stop until it is done.
The eyes, full of terror a moment ago, flicker as life leaves them. I lean forward, lips almost touching, and inhale that one final breath as it leaves her body.
The voice says ‘well done’ and I feel a surge of elation. I have pleased him–or is it her? I’ve never really been sure. I do know that this feeling will dissipate quickly and soon I will be at the bottom of a bottle to keep out the voice.
Just as I gripped the neck of the unfortunate soul below me, I will be gripping the neck of that bottle, trying to strangle the owner of the voice.