Wednesday, August 20, 2014

James Burd Brewster {Writer Wednesday} + GIVEAWAY

A little bit about James...

James Burd Brewster, a fraternal twin, was raised in Albany, NY with his 5 brothers and sisters. He learned to sail on Lake Champlain, navigated a Polar Icebreaker in the US Coast Guard, and married Katie Spivey from Wilmington, NC. They started their family in Cleveland and moved to Baltimore where Ben and Luke first heard Jim tell the Rocky Hill, Fireman stories. Their family grew to five (Ben, Luke, Rachel, Andrew, Sam) and they settled in Pomfret, MD outside of Washington, DC where Jim finished up a career in the US Coast Guard.

During this time, Katie educated all five children at home which Jim says gave him the motivation to tell the Uncle Rocky, fireman stories to Ben and Luke. Twenty two years later, when Jim and Katie became empty nesters, they took a creative writing course which prompted them to consider converting the Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories into illustrated children’s books. Through the assistance of Yvonne Medley of the Life Journeys Writers Club and advice from James Mascia (author of High School Heroes) Jim was able to find an illustrator and complete four books.

Twenty-three years after the first telling of Uncle Rocky, the first book, Fire!, was published followed by Something’s Missing, Sparky’s Rescue, and Sparky Protects within four months time. One year later The Adventures of Uncle Rocky, Fireman, a chapter book containing 12 episodes written for 3rd and 4th grade readers, was published. Ben and Luke are no longer 6 and 4 1/2. Ben is a Marine, married, and father of 4 and Luke is living in Chicago, IL. Ben now tells Uncle Rocky stories to his sons Levi, Micah, and Judah. “That’s exactly how I always envisioned Uncle Rocky would look,” was Luke’s immediate comment when he first saw the illustrations.

How to Connect with James...

Purchase The Adventures of Uncle Rocky, Fireman: A Treasury of Twelve "Uncle Rocky, Fireman" Stories (Volume 1)  

Author Interview | James Burd Brewster

How did you start writing?
...The short answer is “God’s Timing.”

...The long answer goes back 25 years to 1990 when I told the Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories to my two oldest boys (Ben and Luke) as I put them to bed at night... They were 6 and 4 at the time. I had a blast telling them the stories and they had a riot acting them out. I especially enjoyed seeing them mimic Uncle Rocky’s arm motion and hearing them say “Glad to do it” at the end of each story. We thought other parents might like the same experience with their kids. As a result, Katie and I always thought they would do well as illustrated children’s stories. 

...About 15 years ago, the boys and I sat down and wrote down as a many titles and themes as we could remember and I actually wrote out several episodes as complete stories. Fast forward to the fall of 2012 when Katie and I were officially “Empty Nesters,” as the last of our five children was off to college. To celebrate, we enrolled in a creative writing class taught by Wayne Karlin at the College of Southern Maryland. Our writing assignments got me thinking of the Uncle Rocky, Fireman stories and I brought them out of mental and physical storage and actively began to think of a book project. 

...My renewed interest in writing and a Tax refund check made me receptive to a notice I saw on the library bulletin board for the Feb 16, 2013 meeting of the Life Journey’s Writer’s club (LJWC) founded by author Yvonne J. Medley (The Plumb Line). As a note, my stumbling block to starting the Uncle Rocky, Fireman books had been the cost and difficulty of finding an illustrator. I thought the writer’s club might be able to help me, so my daughter, Rachel, and I attend the meeting. Sure enough, at the meeting I met children’s book author Mr. James Mascia (High School Heroes series) and he told me I could find all the affordable illustrators I would ever need at He was correct. Within 24 hours I had contracted with Dayna Barley-Cohrs to illustrate my books and we had the four books printed and published by June 2013. It changed our lives.

What has kept you writing?
...Three things keep me writing: 1) I have a good thing going with Uncle Rocky, having over 50 episodes identified and needing to be written out. On top of that, the success of completing one book gives me the motivation to write others. 2) Since I have “figured out” how to write and illustrate children’s books, I can see other topics or ideas that would be just as fun to do as illustrated story books. 3) I like to help people and I think my books help families, especially fathers and sons, to enjoy each other. So I keep writing because I think it is one of the ways I can be Jesus’ hands and feet.

Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
...My favoritest and first story I ever wrote is “The Lady From East Raymond.” It is the retelling of a limerick and how much fun my parents and I had making it while driving from our home to our summer place on Lake Champlain, NY. I was 14 when it occurred and it was the story I wrote when I submitted my application to the Institute of Children’s Literature.

What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
...The hardest thing about publishing was having the consistent thought that getting published was hard to do. The easiest thing about publishing was the freeing feeling I received when I realized that anyone can get published for only the effort of writing and submitting a book cover and interior file to CreateSpace in the correct format. Once I understood that anyone can get published, the work that became hard for me was the attention to detail required to keep track of different book files and where each book was in the publication process.

...That said, Print on Demand (POD) publishing, is a huge contributor to the Freedom of Press in America. POD makes printing and distributing a book accessible and affordable to any American who wants to publish a book. Christians should take advantage of this accessibility to write and distribute evangelical, spiritual, counseling, and encouraging literature.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book or what you’re working on currently? Why are you/did you write it?
...The bulk of my writing for the next couple of years will be in developing the 50 Uncle Rocky episodes I have identified into fully illustrated story books or into 3rd grade level chapter books. At present, I am working on 4 more Uncle Rocky episodes and am publishing Feat of Memories, a book written by Katie, my wife.

#5 - Picnic - Ben and Luke help save two paddlers when their canoe capsizes during a family picnic

#6 - Market Meltdown - Uncle Rocky, Bob, Big Joe, and Sparky help a family out of trouble at the grocery store.

#7 - The Man in the Jacket - Officer Jack and Uncle Rocky top a robbery before things get out of hand.

#8 - Fire Safety - Uncle Rocky has supper with Ben and Luke and teaches them about fire safety.

Do you have a favorite character in this work? If so, why?
...I absolutely love Uncle Rocky. He embodies all the character traits we desire our children to adopt and that I wish I could consistently emulate. He is kind, strong, patient, willing to help, encouraging, and humble in the face of praise.
What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...Uncle Rocky is fortunate to be able to rescue from and help people through very dangerous circumstances. Because there are so many things that can go wrong and foil a rescue, he knows that divine guidance and direction is always involved when things work out well. As a result he is humble in the face of praise because he is the hands and feet of the powerful God that is working behind the scenes.
...I try to remember this when complicated and serious things work out well for me.

Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...Uncle Rocky is totally made up, except his character reflect very much how I feel we should be towards each other. Uncle Rocky looks for needs in people and then tries to make their life better by meeting that need.

When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...I have two hopes for my books. 1) I want parents and their kids, as a result of the Uncle Rocky stories, to have the same kind of fun, the same kind of bonding experience, and the same kind of shared memories that we had/have with our children. 2) I want kids to learn from the Uncle Rocky stories that it is a wonderful thing to help someone and to be “Glad to do it.” when praised.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...The restrictions to publishing are all gone. Just do it. If you are not that good at it, you can find or hire help to edit your book, draw your illustrations, improve your grammar and deign your cover so that your book will be good. If you need encouragement or have questions you want answered, e-mail me at and I will be glad to tell you everything I know about publishing and writing.


What is your favorite activity during the summer?
...My favoritest activity of all time is to sail on Lake Champlain. My grandparents bought a summer place there the year I was born and I spent at least one week there almost every summer since then. I started with a Sailfish, then a Sunfish, rebuilt a Knockabout with my father and finally thoroughly enjoyed my father’s Tanzer 21. The water is exciting, the wind energizing and the views of the Adirondack (NY) and Green (VT) Mountains are stunning.

What are you currently reading?
...I am reading in print Brennan Manning’s “The Furious Longing of God.” I finished reading in audio James Patterson’s “The 9th Judgment” during my drive to work and am about to start “Between You and Me; A Memoir” by Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes and Gary Paul Gates. I really don’t get much time to read print books, but love audio books. My daily commute can be up to 3 hrs total and you can “read” a lot of audio in that time. I absolutely enjoy the performance put on by the reader as they add character to each character.

Apparently August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day (who knew). What is your favorite dessert?
...Interesting that your question is prompted by Lemon Meringue Pie Day as my favoritest (that word again) desert is Floating Islands which is Egg White Meringue “islands” floating in a bowl of egg yolk custard. My mom showed me how to make it in high school and I loved the process of making the custard in a double boiler and waiting for the sauce to thicken until it “Coated” a spoon. After you get done with enjoying the creative work of making the desert, you get the additional joy of the tastes and textures of the custard and meringue in the same spoonful.
Thank you so much for stopping by the blog today, James. So great to hear how you go into publishing children's books and I love your encouragement to new authors. That dessert sounds pretty amazing too ;)

We've got another GIVEAWAY as well!

James has offered to do 2 separate giveaways: 1)A complete set of 4 Uncle Rocky Fireman books and 2)The adventures of Uncle Rocky! These area amazing gifts for your children, or maybe to win for your friends with kids! Either way, leave a comment below of your "favoritest" summer activity!

PLUS >>> Don't forget my End-of-Summer GIVEAWAY is going until September 1st as well! So many options to win books and fun goodies ;) If this doesn't jumpstart your fall, I don't know what will!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Photos & A Winner

**New Photos**

Many of you know that I am a photographer in addition to be a writer. Today, I had some fun and took new headshots so I could update my business cards for the ACFW Conference. I'll be posting more blogs about prep-ing for the conference in the coming weeks, but I wanted to share the update!

Also, I'm excited to announce a winner of last week's {Writer Wednesday} GIVEAWAY! Congratulations....


You've won Susan Lyttek's book Killer Field Trip! We'll get that out to you soon :) 

For the rest of you - don't forget the End-of-Summer GIVEAWAY going on right now. You can enter via the post here or you can visit my Facebook author page here and there via the giveaway tab. 

Monday, August 18, 2014

End-of-Summer GIVEAWAY

Me in DC!
It's that time again...the end of summer and the start of school. It's hard to believe that Summer 2014 has already come and gone, but lots happened to make it an amazing summer.

In order to properly celebrate the close of summer, my move to Washington, D.C., and the creation of my new author Facebook page, I've decided to host a fun GIVEAWAY!

Below, I've outlined the gifts (straight from my summer reading list and favorite things) and below that, you'll find the Rafflecopter entry form. Some entry opportunities are offered daily so make sure to visit often! The giveaway starts today and ends September 1st. I'll be announcing the 5 winners on September 2nd with much applause.

Oh...and did I mention that these will be *signed* copies!? YES! These authors are the BEST!!! Click on the links to be directed to my reviews for each book.

The Prizes 

Redeeming the Rancher by Deb Kastner 

Deb does it again with a charming romance and handsome cowboy hero that any girl could get hung up on!

Raptor 6 by Ronie Kendig

I loved this book and couldn't put it down! From page one you'll be caught by the action and intrigue that Ronie is known for.

Words of Conviction by Linda J. White

This, aside from being a fantastic read, also celebrates my move to DC! It's set there and you'll feel like you've been to the city after reading Words of Conviction!

$10 Amazon Gift Card

Who can't use more books...or movies...or whatever you want! That's the beauty of Amazon - there's something for everyone.

 $10 Starbucks Gift Card

And the perfect addition to any morning (or afternoon for that matter) is some COFFEE! Those of you who know me know I'm addicted ;)

**Just a note: Prizes can only be shipped within the United States.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Operation Zulu Redemption: Act of Treason - Part 4 | RE:View

Sheesh...Ronie Kendig sure knows how to write the best suspense! For those of you who have been following my progress through this awesome serialization, you'll know that I've been loving everything about it. Well, Part 4 was no different.

As we left off in Part 3 with Teya and The Turk, we catch back up with them for Part 4 to rocket us through to the next level of the plot behind Misrata. I wont give much away here, but take it from me - you will not be able to put this down. The wild twists and turns that Act of Treason takes you on will shock and surprise you, but when the ending comings my bet is that you'd never even guess who was behind it all.

I can sum up my experience with Operation Zulu in 3 little words...(and a few exclamation points)...

I want MORE!!!

For a book lover like me, it was like I was watching a favorite television show but instead I was reading it! It's an experience I'd be happy to enter into again and I hope hope hope Ronie will be doing a Season 2 because, though she wrapped up the ending nicely here, there is so much more to find out.

I give this entire serialization 5 stars and highly recommend it to anyone interested in military fiction/suspense with the perfect amount of romance and a whole lot of amazing plot twists. This will keep you up late at night flying through sections to get to the answers!

Purchase Operation Zulu Redemption: Act of Treason - Part 4
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Susan A. J. Lyttek {Writer Wednesday} + GIVEAWAY

Welcome Susan to the blog! 
She has graciously offered to GIVEAWAY a copy (digital or paper back) of her novel 
Killer Field Trip!!!  
To enter this giveaway: leave a comment for Susan below or leave the title of a book that's on your summer reading list! I'll announce the winner next Tuesday August 19th.

A little bit about Susan...

Susan A. J. Lyttek, author of newly released kids’ comedy, Guzzy Goofball and the Homeschool Play from Outer Space and the cozy mystery Homeschooling Can Be Murder by Harbourlight Books, wife and homeschool mother of two teenage sons, writes early mornings in the shadow of our nation’s capital. She also enjoys training up the next generation of writers online through Write At Home, and by teaching middle and high school co-op classes. The mystery sequel Killer Field Trip releases August 2014.

How to connect with Susan...

Purchase Killer Field Trip

Author Interview | Susan A. J. Lyttek 

You and Writing

Tell us a little bit about yourself: How did you start writing?
...I’ve always pretty much written. My mom published one of my poems in the local paper when I was in kindergarten. My high school creative writing teacher put one of my poems in the textbook he was writing. 

What has kept you writing? 
...After I came to faith, I actually gave up writing for a little over three years. I’d had a rough teenage-hood full of things I shouldn’t have done like partying, the occult, and too much of the wild life in general. A lot of that came through my writing, so I burned most of it at a home church service and told God that if He never wanted me to write again, I wouldn’t. One cold and sunny afternoon, a complete praise poem dropped in my head. I took that as a sign that God wanted me writing again, but now writing for Him.

Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? 

...My yet unpublished Dinosaur Window series. I love the characters, the history, and the reason behind writing them. I wrote them because a group of boys I taught asked me to. They said no one else was writing their stories.

What was the hardest thing about publishing?

...Breaking into books is hard. Breaking into speculative fiction books is even harder because I haven’t done that yet. The easiest? Some of my poems, short stories, plays and devotions got published the first place I sent them to.

Your Writing

Tell us a little bit about your book.
...Killer Field Trip just came out on August 1st. It is a stand-alone sequel to Homeschooling Can Be Murder. (Same family, but the story does not depend on the one before.) 

Why are you/did you write it? 
...I wrote it because homeschool moms need stories for them, too!

Do you have a favorite character in this work?
...I like Jeanine. If I didn’t, I couldn’t have her narrate the events. I think Susan, the tour guide and victim, is the most likeably unlikeable character I have created so far. You can’t stand her until you get to know her.

What is one take-away from your book that you hope readers identify with?
...In each mystery there’s a historical mystery along with the contemporary one. I would like readers to see that our history is never far away from us.


Where do you find inspiration for your story/characters? Are they based on real life or pure imagination or both?
...Both. Many of the characters in the mystery series are based on conglomerations of homeschoolers I’ve known. But completely real people don’t always work in a story so I have to adjust them to fit.

When you write, what is your overall intention with your stories?
...I write, hoping that people learn something about their world or themselves, but in a fun way. I try not to take myself too seriously.

What advice would you give to aspiring authors for writing and/or publishing?
...Could I quote Winston Churchill? Never, never, never give up.


What is your favorite activity during the summer? 
...Going for walks in the neighborhood. Hanging out by our community pool. Writing and writing and writing some more. I teach online and at co-ops during the school year, so summer is my writing season.

What are you currently reading? 
...I bought a stack of books from the library, mostly old 80s mysteries, recently. But by the time you post this, they’ll be long gone. I read about 2-3 books a week. I can’t fall asleep without reading for about a half hour. I recently read The Case of the Exploding Speakeasy by David Fessenden and loved it. I just bought The Shadow Lamp by Stephen Lawhead, so I’ll read that soon.

Apparently August 15th is National Lemon Meringue Pie Day (who knew). What is your favorite dessert? 
Cheesecake. Or rhubarb pie. I think the best dessert ever would be a combo of the two!
I love that you say you wrote the yet-unpublished Dinosaur Window book because students asked you to! I think it's great that there are influences in our lives that lead us to write certain things. Sounds like you are quite the reader as well (2-3 books a week is amazing!). I am enjoying my summer reading thus far as well and I hope you continue to get that reading and writing in. Thanks again for being a guest on the blog :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Operation Zulu Redemption: Hazardous Duty - Part 3 | RE:View

My pulse is racing just thinking about Part 3! Sam has been taken...where, you'll find out, but things are heating up like never before. Suddenly, the stakes are raised when Teya realizes she has shot The Turk, the assassin on a mission to take her life. Annie has been captured in Greece and Francesca is still hot on Traces tail.

In this third installment of Operation Zulu, you'll be faced with more twists and turns. The question of who is behind Misrata still hangs persistently in the background, while the team faces an onslaught of action as they delve for the truth.

What will happen between Sam, Trace, and Annie? Will The Turk die at Teya's hands? Will Francesca get what she want's most of all - to decimate Trace's career and character in the process?

Get Part 3 and start reading to find out! Make sure you've read the introduction and parts 1 and 2 to get the complete picture though. You won't regret getting sucked into the melee that is Operation Zulu Redemption!

Purchase Operation Zulu Redemption: Hazardous Duty - Part 3
I received a free copy of this book for review purposes, but was under no obligation to read the book or post a review. I do so under my own motivation and the opinions I have expressed in this review are honest and entirely my own. 

Rainy Day and a Winner

Enjoying a lovely, rainy day here in D.C. Yes, I promise an update will be coming soon but I've been busy settling in and starting to work with my church here! 
All of that to say... we had a GREAT turn out for last week's giveaway from Cherie Burbach (if you missed the post you can read it here).  I'm happy to announce that we have a winner for a free print from Cherie's Etsy shop...

Congrats, Karen! You can contact me and I'll get you all set with Cherie to get a free print. 

For those of you who didn't win, not to worry - there will be many opportunities for winning coming up soon! In fact, tomorrow's {Writer Wednesday} post will offer another giveaway! And, I'm excited to announce a future GIVEAWAY you will not want to miss. Starting on Monday of next week, I'll be announcing a huge giveaway from some of my favorite authors as an end-to-summer, Facebook Page party!!!

So, make sure you check back tomorrow and then next Monday to find out how to enter and what amazing prizes you could win!!!