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Book Excerpt: Counselor Dynamite, by Starr Burgess

1 counselor dynamite

Author: Starr Burgess
Illustrator: Victor Guiza
Illustration count: 12
Dimensions: 8×10 /hardcover
Pages: 26
ISBN: 978-1-60131-118-4
Imprint: Big Tents Books
Retail: $16.95
AGE: 8-10
Publish date: July 28, 2012


About the Book

It’s Christmas time and Counselor Dynamite is the newest superhero to hit the scene.

Counselor Dynamite’s mission: To serve and protect children and support staff members in schools everywhere.

It’s the day before Christmas break. Teachers and staff are either running low on patience or are just plain tired. The students as you might have guessed are full of unbridled energy, but one thing is for sure everyone is ready to start Christmas break. Counselor Dynamite notices that something is amiss and quickly jumps into action knowing that if something isn’t done soon, students, teachers and staff will never be the same once chaos is unleashed. Will her helpers and faith be enough? Starr Burgess’s endearing story is brought to life by Victor Guiza’s vivid, colorful, and crisp illustrations.

Counselor Dynamite will capture the laughter and spirit of the holiday season with mischievous behavior and humor so contagious you will want to read it again. Counselors everywhere will be inspired to reinvent their own special quick, happy dance marking the end of each adventurous day.

Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Apple iTunes Store


Twas’ the day before Christmas Break, when all through the school

Not a teacher was happy, they were losing their cool.

The students were rowdy, they were losing their minds

The teachers decided these children have one more time!

Emotions were high, everyone had had enough

If something didn’t change, it was going to get rough.

The counselor was called to check room after room,

To make sure the teachers hadn’t fled the school with a zoom!

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Interview with Kaylin McFarren, author of ‘Severed Threads’

As many people know, Kaylin McFarren wasn’t born with a pen in hand like so many of her talented fellow authors. However, she has been involved with business and personal writing projects for many years. Her careers have taken her in all directions, ranging from fashion modeling and interior design to office manager and art gallery director. Yet her love of reading and interest in creative writing has remained ever present. As a result of her tapping into her imagination and utilizing her own life experiences, she has earned more than a dozen literary awards. Her first novel, Flaherty’s Crossing was a 2008 finalist in the prestigious RWA® Golden Heart contest and her second book, Severed Threads, has already garnered two first place awards.

Kaylin is a member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers. She received her AA in Literature at Highline Community College, which originally sparked her passion for writing. In her free time, she also enjoys giving back to the community through participation and support of various educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest, and is currently the president of the Soulful Giving Foundation – a non-profit she and her husband formed to fund expanded research, and the care and treatment of cancer patients and their families.

Her latest book is a romantic suspense titled Severed Threads.

You can visit Kaylin online at www.KaylinMcFarren.com.

Twitter: www.twitter.com/4kaylin

Facebook: www.facebook.com/kaylin.mcfarren

Blog: http://kaylinmcfarren.wordpress.com/


Q: Thank you for this interview, Kaylin. Can you tell us what your latest book, Severed Threads is all about?

Believing herself responsible for her father’s fatal diving accident, Rachel Lyons has withdrawn from the world and assumed a safe position at a foundation office. When called upon by a museum director to assist her former love interest with the recovery of a cursed relic from a sunken Chinese merchant ship, she has no intention of cooperating – until her brother is kidnapped by a drug-dealing gangster. In order to save him and gain control over her life, Rachel must not only overcome her greatest fears, but also relive the circumstances that lead to her father’s death.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

Rachel is an attractive thirty-two year old, brown-haired, hazel-eyed former marine biologist who’s lost everyone she’s loved for one reason or another and is simply going through the motions after giving up her passion for diving. Four years earlier, her arguments with her father ultimately lead to his accidental drowning. As a result, she’s buried her emotions, taken a job in a foundation office and experiences reoccurring nightmares.

Chase Cohen, Rachel’s ex-lover, is a charismatic thirty-four year old, blond-haired, blue-eyed treasure seeker who’s fun loving, brave and caring, but he’s also hiding a world of secrets that caused him to leave town four years ago. He’s become obsessed with finding the mother lode and although he blames himself for his part in Sam Lyon’s death, the success of his latest endeavor depends on Rachel’s generosity and willingness to forget their damaged past.

Devon Lyons, an ambitious high-powered stockbroker, is Rachel’s younger brother. His preoccupation with money and blind love for Selena, the sister of a notorious drug-dealing mobster, has resulted in his involvement with an unsavory group of characters.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

My characters originally come from my imagination as a transitory illusion and over time become more concrete and defined. Eventually they are chiseled into complex, interesting individuals, aided by my interactions with memorable people from my travels to various places around the world.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

I tend to start with a story idea and know pretty much where it begins and where I want it to end. As I grow my characters, I turn them loose and let their personalities help shape the story, often detouring it in all directions. Oddly, it’s not unusual to see the solution to a painted corner buried within the developing story.

Q: Your book is set in San Palo, California.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

Actually, I invented this city to mirror communities similar to San Diego and Port Angeles, where I’ve spent a great deal of time. I find it’s often easier and more fun to create unique places than worry about accurate details of a thriving, well-known community.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

Yes. This is a struggling mid-size town that depends on fishing, charter boats and tourism for its economic survival. The discovery of an ancient shipwreck with a valuable cargo onboard affects everyone living and working there.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Devon Lyons is tied up in an abandoned warehouse and being forced to watch a gangster beat his financial partner and best friend to death.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

“Rachel, I’m not going to lie to you. I heard you’d given up diving, that you were working for the Warren Nash Foundation. But I honestly had no idea you’d be here.”

Her spine stiffened.

“And as for your dad,” he continued, “not a day goes by that I don’t feel responsible for what happened. Sam was a good man. Like a father to me.”

She bristled. Her gaze burned with emotion. “Oh, really? Then why didn’t you have the decency to show up at his funeral?”

Chase’s gaze slid from her face. His brows met when he looked up again. “Look, I really wanted to come. It’s just that after the investigation and everything – ”

Her anger ripened. “Yea, right.” His scrawled note had left her brooding for weeks. Something urgent came up…have to leave town. After professing her love, he turned out to be the scoundrel her brother Devon had painted him out to be. Her teeth clenched at the memory. “You were a complete asshole. Now, get out of my way.”

Using both hands, she shoved hard against his taut chest, but he rocked right back in place. He grabbed hold of her wrists and pulled her in close. “You have every right to be angry,” he said quietly. “But there was a good reason why I stayed away. Why I never called you.”

An involuntary shiver ran up her spine. She averted her gaze toward the marina, wishing the drifting fog could shield her from his soul-searching gaze. She didn’t want him to see how broken she’d become. Or how much, deep inside, she had never stopped yearning for his touch.

“It had nothing to do with you and me,” he insisted.

She stepped back, breaking his grip. “It still doesn’t.” Venom dripped from her words.

Chase nodded slowly. “Maybe not. But right now, I need this job. More than you know.” His blue eyes intensified. “What will it take for us to get past everything? An apology? You have it. My promise to stay clear of you? Done.”

His words reminded her how easy it was for him to dismiss her. She’d been such a fool in allowing his charm to blind her. He obviously cared about no one but himself. And deep down inside, no matter how hard she had tried to dismiss it, they both shared the blame in her father’s death. Nothing would change that.

She drew in a deep breath. “There is one thing that will make me feel better.”

His face relaxed. “You name it. Anything you want.”

She pulled back her arm and swung with all her might. Her palm connected with his cheek so hard it stung her hand to the bone.

“Damn!” He grabbed his face, wincing from the blow.

She pressed her palms together, nursing her own pain, and addressed him again. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time. If you think you can just show up and expect me to – ”

Before she could finish, he pulled her into his arms. His lips found hers, launching a current through her veins. The parking lot was spinning out of control and he was the driving force. Her legs quivered, leaving her unsteady on her feet. When he finally lifted his head, she leaned against him, breathless, betrayed by her body’s weakened state.

His warm breath brushed her cheek, lifting tiny hairs on her skin. “And I’ve wanted to do that,” he whispered raggedly, “from the first moment I saw you in Doc’s office.”

Of course. His agenda. Her senses sobered. She distanced herself and firmed her tone. “Nice try. But you’re still not getting a dime from me.”

Chase bent his head and seemed to be strategizing his next move. When he looked up, his crystal eyes chipped away at her soul. “For what it’s worth, Rachel, I really am sorry…for everything. Should’ve said that a long time ago.” He rubbed the back of his neck. An emotion resembling disappointment crossed his face. “Believe me, I would’ve stuck around if I could have.”

She was surprised by his show of sincerity. But nothing he could say would lessen the pain she still felt from him abandoning her when she needed him most.

She jutted out her chin. “It was just a summer fling. A mistake from beginning to end. We should have ended it like adults, is all.”

Her final words hung in the air. A nerve jumped at his temple. “I didn’t know you felt that way,” he said.

Chase’s kiss still simmered on her lips. His nearness threatened her reserve. It wasn’t in her to be cruel, but she’d been hurt far too long to back down now.

“So…now you do.” The lie tasted bitter in her mouth.

Chase’s eyes darkened. He gave a rueful nod. “Good thing we got that cleared up. Wouldn’t want to make any more mistakes.”

As he strutted toward his truck, anger gathered in Rachel’s chest. Anger over his words, his deeds, his presumptuous kiss. Over the fact that for a split second, he had made her feel like the bad guy. Her mind threw daggers at his back. “Damn you, Chase Cohen.”

She slid inside her silver Kia and slammed the car door grateful the museum’s security guard was now watching from a distance. If he hadn’t been, she might have acted on a homicidal impulse and run Chase over, the manipulating jerk.

In fact, it made her feel better just to imagine it.

Q: Have you suffered from writer’s block and what do you do to get back on track?

Oddly, I haven’t had this problem. My issue is that I have too many ideas and not enough time to write them all down.

Q: What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

I’d love to have an hour to pamper myself and simply relax, since my life seems to be going a hundred miles an hours most of the time. J

Q: Which already published book do you wish that you had written and why?

The Help. I love this book! The characters and their voices are real and their stories incredibly compelling. Plus I really enjoyed the dark humor tucked inside.

Q: What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors regarding getting their books out there?

There are so many options available to authors with everything ranging from traditional queries and submissions to well-known literary agencies to self-publishing and working with print on demand companies. My only piece of advice to a new author would be no matter which route you elect to take, be sure you’re representing quality work that you’ve spent time polishing and that you’ll be proud to see in print. Become familiar with market trends and public demand while having realistic expectations for your potential sales.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Kaylin.  We wish you much success!

Thank you!!







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As the Pages Turn Chats with Alretha Thomas, author of Dancing Her Dreams Away


An author, playwright, producer and director, Alretha Thomas is making her name through her pen. Award winning plays and wanting to help her community, Alretha’s background is as diverse as her personality. She started at the age of ten, when her 5th grade teacher picked and read her short story assignment in front of the class – that simple, loving act empowered a new writer. Continuing in high school, her numerous original oratorical conquests on the Speech Team led her to a journalism concentration at the University of Southern California. Upon graduating, Alretha soon realized that her interest in journalism was not heartfelt. While at the taping of a live sitcom, the producer noticed her and encouraged her hand at modeling. Modeling didn’t mean much to her, but it did lead her to acting and a NAACP Theatre Award Nomination (1993) for BEST ACTRESS. She feels that this acting stint gave her more fuel to write, and particularly, a better understanding of character development.

Alretha left acting and began to write full time. Her church gave her an outlet to fulfill her writing desires through their Liturgical Fine Arts Department wherein Alretha penned twelve theatre pieces – the community response was overwhelming. This led to full length plays outside of the church including Alretha’s play, Sacrificing Simone (2007) which had a successful run at Stage 52 in Los Angeles and was called “an inspirational crowd pleaser” by the Los Angeles Times and her most recent work, the ground breaking OneWoman, Two Lives, starring Kellita Smith (The Bernie Mac Show), directed by Denise Dowse, which garnered rave reviews from critics and audiences. In between plays, Alretha’s first novel Daughter Denied was launched in 2008.

You can find out more about her and her book at http://www.Dancingherdreamsaway.com.

Q: Thank you for this interview, Alretha. Can you tell us what your latest book, Dancing Her Dreams Away, is all about?

A:  Dancing Her Dreams Away is about a young aspiring actress named Shelia King who’s raised by her grandmother. Not having the love of a mother or father has left a hole in her heart, and Shelia is determined to fill that emptiness by becoming a star. Her dreams seem like they are about to be realized when she meets the handsome, rich, and powerful producer, Gregory Livingston III. But unbeknownst to Shelia, Gregory also has a dream, a dream that could become Shelia’s worst nightmare.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

A: Shelia King is a 1985, 21-year-old. I stress the year, because I believe there’s a difference between a 21-year-old today and a 21-year-old a quarter of a century ago. Young people are exposed to so much more now. In 1985, there was no World Wide Web, nor were there any social sites such as Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter.  There were no Blogs or celebrity gossip sites, and the only cable television news station was CNN. Shelia is an aspiring actress living during this time, has very little street experience, and is desperate to become “somebody.”

Nana is Shelia’s maternal grandmother. She’s a small-minded, religious woman, and raised Shelia after her mother died. Nana’s dream is for Shelia to become a successful reporter and talk show host like “Opie Winey.”

Gregory, Livingston III is rich, suave, powerful, and handsome. He’s a business man with a trust fund and a hidden agenda who’s dabbling in the movie industry. He’s searching for the perfect actress to play the lead in his new movie and Shelia fits the bill.

Edwina is Shelia’s ghetto fabulous best friend. Edwina’s dream is to become a fashion designer. At present, she works in a topless bar. She’s no nonsense, street wise, and like big sister to Shelia.

Heinz is the owner of the Flamingo club where Shelia works. He’s gruff around the edges, but has big heart and a crush on Shelia.

Q: Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

A: Every character in Dancing Her Dreams Away is based solely on my imagination with the exception of Shelia. Shelia and I have a lot in common. Twenty-five years ago, I was an aspiring actress, and I took a job at a dance club, so I could be free to audition during the day. Like Shelia, I had little to no-self esteem and my drive to become an actress was fueled by a need to fill a deep hole within.

Q: Are you consciously aware of the plot before you begin a novel, or do you discover it as you write?

A: I definitely have to have a plot in mind before forging ahead with writing my novel. Along the way, invariably I discover new things and take different paths to the end, but the overall structure of the novel stays intact.

Q: Your book is set in Los Angeles.  Can you tell us why you chose this city in particular?

A: I chose Los Angeles, becauseHollywoodis inLos Angeles, and the focus of the story is about a girl who wants to make it big in Hollywood. Moreover, I have spent the last thirty-six years living inLos Angelesand know my way around. It’s important that the descriptions of the city in the book are accurate and being a resident ensures that.

Q: Does the setting play a major part in the development of your story?

A: Yes. There are four major settings in Dancing Her Dreams Away. The Flamingo Club, Greg’s world, i.e., his mansions and the movie set, the streets, and if I tell you the fourth setting, I would be giving away too much of the story.

Q: Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

A: Gregory is apologizing to Shelia for “inadvertently” leaving the video camera on while they’re making love. She accepts his apology and the role in his new movie Dancing Her Dreams Away.

Q: Can you give us one of your best excerpts?

A: I know it’s rude to stare, but Edwina’s pasties would make Stevie Wonder do a double take. Shaped like a penis, they’re decorated with glitter and an assortment of fake diamonds, rubies and pearls, topped off with a patch of foam. I lean back on her sofa while she shimmies, shakes, and gyrates. To be a big girl, Edwina is comfy in her own skin — sometimes too comfortable.

“How I look?”

I try to keep a straight face as I take in all that is Edwina. Double D’s, fifty-two inch hips, and butt for days. If she had been the muse for the Commodores when they wrote Brick House, they would have called the song, Ten Brick Houses. “Don’t hurt nobody,” I say.

“Girl, I made so many tips last night, I was covered in money. It’s only gonna be a minute before I’m able to enroll in design school. I tell you, leavin’ Flamingo was the best thing I coulda done. This topless shit is where it’s at.”

I give her the look.

“Don’t trip. I know it’s not for you.” She snatches a robe off her bedpost, throws it on, and attempts to tie it closed. Her outie belly button peeps out every time she makes the slightest movement.

“I’m not tripping, and I have never judged you. I just want you to be happy.”

She sits next to me and puts her arm around my shoulder. “I am happy. What I wanna know, is you happy?”

“I’ll be happy when I land a good part.”

“How’d the cattle call go?”

“Everybody and their mama was there. Girl, I had been in line for about thirty minutes when this woman comes out with a bullhorn and announces that everybody behind this one actress could leave, because they had too many people. And of course, I was behind that actress.”

“That’s jacked up.” Edwina pops up and pulls a lollipop from her robe pocket.

It’s getting so bad Stan is looking at parts with nudity.”

“What kind of nudity?”

“Topless and I’m not trying to go there.” I fold my arms over my chest for reinforcement.

“I don’t know why not. You have nice breast. They’re small, but nice.”

“You know my grandmother would have a fit.”

“You need to stop trippin’ on your granny. Don’t you wanna make it as an actress?”

“Of course I do.”

“But you don’t want it bad enough,” she says, pointing the lollipop at me.

“I do, but I don’t wanna sell my soul.”

“That sound like some bull your grandmother would say.”

Those are my grandmother’s words, and they haunt me like a hungry ghost wanting to devour my dreams.

Q: Thank you so much for this interview, Alretha.  We wish you much success!

A: Thank you and it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.

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Interview with Stephen Masse, author of “Short Circus”

About Stephen V. Masse

Stephen V. Masse was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He wrote his first novelat age 13, handwritten into a school composition book.

Educated at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he studied creative writing, and was author of a weekly newspaper column, “Out of Control.” His first novel for children, Shadow Stealer, was published by Dillon Press in 1988. Short Circus is his second novel for children.

In addition to children’s books, Masse has written A Jolly Good Fellow, winner of the Silver Medal in the 2008 Independent Publisher Book Awards, as well as honorable mention in the 2008 New England Book Festival for best books of the holiday season.

The Interview

Q: Thank you for this interview, Stephen. Can you tell us what your latest book, Short Circus, is all about?

A: Twelve-year-old Jem Lockwood has been fatherless for four years and finally gets a Big Brother, but just as the best summer of his life is about to begin, he discovers that Jesse Standish’s rented house is about to be sold. Jem does all in his daring imagination to make Jesse’s house unmarketable, and the neighborhood unfit for prospective buyers. Sadly the city’s swimming pond has been sabotaged, and the city has to close it to all recreation after two boys are injured. Jem is sure he knows who did it, and helps carry out a plan to punish the evildoer. But Alpha qualities are not always perfectly aimed, and Jem learns about the consequences of jumping into action without sufficient knowledge or understanding.

Q: Is this your first novel? If not, how was writing this novel different from writing your first?

A: This is my third published novel, quite different from writing my first. The process of publishing the first novel taught me an incredible amount about finishing a manuscript professionally – a huge benefit for later novels.

Q: How difficult was it writing your book? Did you ever experience writer’s block and, if so, what did you do?

A: Writing Short Circus was probably my most pleasant writing project. There was no writer’s block, although in the many re-writes there was an occasional editing block where some tough decisions had to be made on what to keep and what to cut.

Q: How have your fans embraced your latest novel? Do you have any funny or unusual experiences to share?

A: It’s probably too early to tell, since I’ve only had one fan mail. The reader wrote that “reading Short Circus is like taking a hit from the crack pipe of childhood memories.” Funny and flattering, though perhaps not appropriate for a dust jacket blurb on a book for young readers.

Q: What is your daily writing routine?

A: I don’t make my living by writing, so having a daily writing routine would be a luxury. When I’m in the midst of a writing project, I try to write as much as possible each day, taking a break for eating, and hoping to reach a logical stopping point in the narrative or editing.

Q: When you put the pen or mouse down, what do you do to relax?

A: Writing is my relaxation. Next to that I enjoy socializing, reading, watching a good movie, and music.

Q: What book changed your life?

A: Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read at 12 years old.

Q: If someone were to write a book on your life, what would the title be?

A: Unauthorized: The Biography of Stephen V. Masse

Q: Finish this sentence: “The one thing that I wish people would understand about me is…”

A: I think people understand me fairly well. When they don’t, I make good effort to communicate where I stand.

Thank you for this interview Stephen. I wish you much success on your latest release, Short Circus!

About Short Circus

Twelve-year-old Jem Lockwood has been fatherless for four years and finally gets a Big Brother, but just as the best summer of his life is about to begin, he discovers that Jesse Standish’s rented house is about to be sold. Jem does all in his daring imagination to make Jesse’s house unmarketable, and the neighborhood unfit for prospective buyers. This three-ring circus romps with with Jem’s boyhood friends and older brother Chris, all recognizable kids who share in the rough-and-tumble delight of living in a northern Massachusetts city whose newspaper is delivered by kids on bikes, where kids play in the streets, and the local convenience store is owned by the family of Jesse’s girlfriend, Andrea. Sadly the city’s swimming pond has been sabotaged, and the city has to close it to all recreation after two boys are injured. Jem is sure he knows who did it, and helps carry out a plan to punish the evildoer.

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