Guest Post: Barbara Ehrentreu author of If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor

Today Barbara Ehrentreu joins me to discuss the inspiration for her YA novel If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor. Today is extra special because it’s also Barbara’s birthday. She is the second author to spend her birthday with me with a guest post.  So Please, Barbara, tell us about your inspiration for writing If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor.


The summer of 2002 I enrolled in Writer’s Week at Manhattanville College where I was currently working on my Masters in Reading and Writing. If you have never been to Writer’s Week and live relatively close to the college you should think about it. For an entire week you have workshops both in the morning and the afternoon. You choose your genre and each workshop is headed by a well-known author or teacher of writing. Celebrity authors and workshop participants rub shoulders at many activities, including the daily readings of outstanding work from each group.

So the workshop I chose was Children’s Writing led by the delightful, quirky and multi- book author, Paula Danziger. She wrote books for young girls that cut to the very heart of the emotional life of a tween ager. For the pass to get into the class we all needed to write three chapters of a story for children. At the time my daughter, who was going into college in the fall, had some issues with both her body and with eating. Her eating disorder had not gotten out of hand, but it was a problem to both her and me. This was something on my mind and so I created two characters. One had issues with her body image and the other was perfect, but she had an eating disorder. I wrote my three chapters and handed them in to Paula Danziger.

The first day of the workshop she arrived with her signature purple sneakers and her bright red hair and she looked like she had stepped out of a children’s book. But the thing about Paula was how open and friendly she was and how accessible she was to us. We all sat around and she talked with us about writing, for a whole week. During this time she held private conferences and the first time she saw my three chapters her first words to me and the words she wrote on the paper were “Cut, Cut, Cut!!!”  I still have the original papers on which she wrote.Paula believed that children’s books didn’t need long sentences and especially in the beginning of the book, sentences should be short and move the reader to want to learn more. After all of the revisions and editing of my book, I still have a few sentences left that came directly from Paula. She told me that first day that she liked my writing and that I might have a good book in there if I could wade through all the extra words. She even reminded me during workshop discussions that I should cut my words while speaking.

About six months later I met Paula at the Winter Conference for SCBWI and we talked about my book. Then a year later, her last conference, I showed her a passage that had given me a lot of trouble. She read it and suggested a few things to do that helped me very much. Her encouragement helped me to continue to write and eventually finish the story. However, I did get bogged down in the middle and that was when I turned to Children’s Authors’ Bootcamp for help. This was two days of constant lecturing and writing where we took apart our stories and examined each part. We learned about character development and plot development and on the second day after having been stumped for both an ending and a clear plot line for my secondary character, Jennifer, I was able to finish the plot and write an ending for my story. Laura Backes and Linda Arms White gave me the tools I needed!!

Paula Danziger, unfortunately, is not here to share in the triumph of the publication of my first novel, but I know if she were she would be doing a happy dance with her red hair wildly flying and her face smiling. She was one of a kind and her support made me feel that someday I too would be able to publish my book. That is why I dedicated my first ever YA novel to Paula Danziger. If you are not familiar with her work you should go to Amazon and look up Paula Danziger.

My YA novel, If I Could Be Like Jennifer Taylor, MuseItUp Publishing is available here in ebook and print:

Muse Bookstore:


Barnes and Noble:






Book Promo:

Also, come over to visit my blog, Barbara’s Meanderings,  where I host many different guest authors, primarily YA and MG. In addition to my blog I sometimes do a monthly show on Blog Talk Radio called RRWL Tales from the Pages where I get a chance to interview authors, editors and publishers.

Barbara E at Muse's book signing. copy

Barbara Ehrentreu

Thank you for joining me today, Barbara. If you think this book sounds interesting, or if you’ve already read it, please let us know your thoughts in the comments section. And don’t forget to wish Barbara a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!


Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud: Excerpt 2

Okay, this (relatively) young website/blog reached its 1000 viewer this week (I also hit 300 Twitter followers). Maybe it doesn’t seem like a lot to those of you who have been blogging for a while (or have some natural talent at it), but I’m happy with the progress so far. I still have a lot of work to do, and even more features to learn. So while I’m learning, you can read the promised excerpt from Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud. I’ve also included a single paragraph that appeared on Facebook this week. I’ll call it Excerpt 1.5. Excerpt 2 is a flashback story of Cedric’s. I tell you this to justify why he’s younger in Excerpt 2 than Excerpt 1.5. I hope you enjoy this little double-dose of Cedric.

Excerpt 1.5:

Rounding the corner into a hall that opened to the courtyard of the Keep, he saw someone he tried to avoid at all costs: the king’s magician, Cedric. The man’s thick, black beard with streaks of gray stretched almost to his waist. His black robe had white specks throughout. Is that the color of the material, or filth? He had the hood of his robe lowered to his shoulders, and a nest of unkempt, black and gray hair encircled his head like a wreath. Owen couldn’t even hide in the throng, as the once crowded corridor seemed empty all of a sudden. He pretended to study the stained glass windows lining the hall. Each frame depicted a famous battle from the glorious history of the Central Domain.

Excerpt 2:

The cool night air blew in Cedric’s face. His new beard, now reaching the neck of his cloak, ruffled in the breeze. He hoped the sound of rustling leaves and tree branches would help mask his own sounds as he sneaked behind Argnam’s cabin.

Cedric took his staff and drew the outline of a door on the back wall. He stepped away and the line started glowing faint chartreuse. Within the outline, the wall almost vaporized to dust. It piled on the ground as quiet as a phantom; the chirping crickets didn’t even break from their merry song.

Creeping through the makeshift doorway, Cedric saw the figures of a man and a woman lying in bed. The moonlight cast enough of a glow for him to recognize the man as Argnam. He couldn’t identify the woman; her long blond hair obscured her face.

As he approached the side of the bed, he raised the dagger he brought for the assassination. He took a deep breath before plunging it into Argnam’s chest.

The woman’s leg flashed out of the covers, striking him in the chest and knocking the wind out of him. She sprang from the bed. Her feet met his face in a rapid succession of kicks, topping the skill of a master fighter.

Gasping for breath and unable to stand, Cedric fell to his hands and knees and looked up at the approaching woman. The moon silhouetted her female form. Light reflected on her face, and Cedric recognized Necrose before she raised her leg over her head, and slammed the heel of her foot into his face. Total darkness enveloped him.

Guest Post: Antje Hergt author of Darinel Dragonhunter

Today I am pleased to welcome fellow Muse It Up fantasy author Antje Hergt. Darinel Dragonhunter, book one in the Reluctant Dragonhunter series, came out in June. What else can you tell us about the book, Antje?


Amazing cover art by Karen Phillips

Prince Darinel is traveling–for what feels like forever. Expelled from his father’s kingdom, he just wants to find a new home. When a shadow lures him to a wealthy kingdom, he stays to discover more about the darkness, but the citizens are tight-lipped.

Their king welcomes the foreign Prince hoping that he will solve his two problems: the dragon and his strong-willed daughter. Coming from a warrior kingdom, Darinel despises violence, but charmed by Princess Tuskja’s dare, he sets out to confront the beast. Instead of finding a fierce dragon, he finds a friend. The dragon’s malicious humor and his love of fairy tales entangle Darinel in a summer of adventures, while danger stirs in the East, the Dark Prince. Being refused by the Princess and humiliated by the dragon, this proud prince seeks revenge.

In compliance with the king’s decree, Darinel is torn between his friendship with the dragon and his love for Princess Tuskja, whom he can only marry if he kills his friend. Before he can make a decision, the kingdom is under attack. Now it is up to the dragon to either help his friend or respect his wish to not interfere.


The prince sighed. “Yeah, you’re right. Do you mind if I take a break here?”
“Oh no. Be my guest,” the voice replied, cheerfully.
Darinel dismounted and reached to tie Tibor’s reins to the trunk of a tree, when a dark shadow swished over him. The horse bolted in panic and disappeared. Dumbfounded, he stared down the path they had just travelled.
“Oops!” The voice sounded a bit regretful.
“That was not supposed to happen.” Still shaking his head, he turned to a little sparkling stream at his feet and knelt beside it. He took off his helmet and splashed water onto his face and over his head.
“It is a bit inconvenient, isn’t it?” the voice said. “But don’t worry, the way down always seems faster,” it added cheerfully.
“Yeah, right!” the prince said with a smirk as he slid back to lean on a big boulder behind him. “Now you see I am no threat to you, won’t you come out and sit with me?” He ruffled his hand through his wet hair.
“I’d love to, but don’t you know, there’s a fierce dragon in these mountains?” the voice pointed out.

About the Author:
Antje Hergt

Born and raised in Germany, I came to explore the Canadian Rockies in Canmore, Alberta in 2003. Taking part in the Writing-with-Style Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2007 encouraged me to follow my passion: writing for children. Darinel Dragonhunter is my first novel, which was inspired by my deep love for classic children literature and fairy tales. My thrill for science fiction/fantasy movies and television shows had an outlet in various genre short stories. I am a member of the Alberta Writer’s Guild and graduated from the Justus-Liebig-University in Giessen with a degree in Modern Languages.
Currently, I live in Germany with my snoring cat, Sally, but I miss the magic of the Rocky Mountains. When I am not in Canmore, you can find me in Germany.

Thank you for stopping by, Antje. Your book sounds fantastic. Darinel Dragonhunter is available now from Muse It Up Publishing or Amazon. Please use the comment section below to let Antje know what you think of her book.


Guest Post: Joshua David Bellin (The YA Guy) and MONSTERS

Today, I’m pleased to welcome Joshua David Bellin (aka The YA Guy), as he discusses one of my favorite subjects: MONSTERS. I have so much I’d like to put into an introduction, but I’d start rambling and digress from young adult to adult…and clowns, AHHH! I have to stop. Here’s Josh.

YA Monster Mash

 By Joshua David Bellin

I love monsters.

Always have. My all-time favorite movie is King Kong (the 1933 stop-motion classic, not the 1976 desecration or the

2005 CGI-fest). My first book (written when I was about six) was an illustrated guide to monsters, a page of which I reproduce here:

Monster Book

When I grew up (physically), I published a book on monsters, taught classes on monsters, and doodled monsters in my spare time.  Here’s a rendition of Medusa, based on the 1981 Ray Harryhausen epic Clash of the Titans:



So yeah, I’m into monsters.

And I’m also into YA, where monsters are particularly hot!

I don’t mean “hot” as in “overflowing with sex appeal.” That kind of monster is omnipresent in YA, thanks to books like Twilight and Shiver.

But I’m a traditionalist. I like my monsters scary. Bizarre. Get-under-your-skin, freak-you-out creepy. Not all suave and soulful.

Fortunately, those kinds of monsters are hot in YA too.

So here, for your reading pleasure, are the ten best monsters I’ve encountered in recent YA novels. The list is in alphabetical order, so take your pick; if you’re as into monsters as I am, you can’t go wrong with anything on this list.

1. The Beasts. Children who’ve become bloodthirsty killers in Bethany Wiggins’s dystopian novel Stung, the Beasts got to me the way monstrous children always do. Maybe it’s because there are so many child “monsters” in real life (kids killing their parents, shooting up schools and neighborhoods), or maybe it’s because, as a father, it creeps me out to think of something malign developing from something so blameless. Whatever, I read Stung with a constant sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

2. The Fade. These creatures of darkness and shadow haunt the ruined world of Josin McQuein’s post-apocalyptic novel Arclight. They have silver eyes, shroud-like body wrappings, and the ability to blend into their surroundings. They’re not what you think they are (ghosts or ghouls or zombies), and that’s one of the things I liked about them.

3. The Forsaken. I found these creatures, which populate the slums of J. Barton Mitchell’s Midnight City, among the most original I’ve read in recent years. They’re human beings that have been transformed into oily, shape-shifting predators through contact with alien viruses–but merely describing them doesn’t come close to doing justice to the scene in which a tidal wave of the things tries to overwhelm the novel’s heroes. It’ll blow your mind.

4. The Grievers. You’ll find these nasties in James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. I can’t really describe them; they’re part mechanical, part animal (kind of like slugs, from what I can tell), and all vicious. They like to kill the teenagers trapped in the Maze because. . . . Well, because that’s what they like to do! I can’t wait to see how they’re translated to film in the upcoming adaptation of Dashner’s book.

5. The Inferi. Maybe it’s not accurate to call J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince “recent” (or even YA). But man, when those reanimated corpses rose up from the lake where Harry and Dumbledore were seeking the Horcrux, my daughter and I (who read all the Harry Potter books together) nearly jumped out of our skins. It’s a real shame the cinematic adaptation of that scene was so brief, muddled, and un-scary; it should have been and could have been great.

6. The Locusts. What’s so monstrous about locusts? Nothing, unless they’re the ones in Chris Howard’s novel Rootless. They’ve survived a holocaust that has stripped the earth of trees, and though they’re unable to consume the genetically-engineered corn that’s the only food left on the planet, they’re more than happy to eat anything else. Like, for example, human flesh.

7. The Mutts. Or mutt-ations, mutated abominations from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games trilogy. Each book has its own mutts, all of them disturbing, but the ones in the first novel, wolf-creatures with the eyes and (maybe) souls of the children who died during the Games, totally freaked me out.

8. The Nix. I don’t read a lot of paranormal romance, for the reasons aforesaid. But I happened to pick up Ruth Frances Long’s The Treachery of Beautiful Things, and I found it pretty cool.  The monsters are based on traditional English folklore and tales of Faerie, so there are redcaps and Green Men and so forth. But I was particularly drawn to the Nix, an underwater demon that traps the heroine’s soul in a golden cage. Weird, freaky, trippy stuff.

9. The Shadows. The greatest thing about Leah Bobet’s urban fantasy Above is that you’re never totally sure if the events are real, fantasized, hallucinated, or something else. Same with the monsters. Maybe they’re actual, animate shadows that infest the sewers beneath the city where the novel takes place. Or maybe they’re echoes or memories of the horrors some of the characters suffered while committed to a nightmarish psychiatric hospital. Whatever they are, they’re not to be messed with.

10. The Skaldi. All right, I’m cheating here a little. The Skaldi are monsters from my own forthcoming novel, Survival Colony Nine, which won’t be published until Fall 2014. But trust me on this one. Horrific creatures with the ability to consume and mimic human hosts, they’re not for the faint of heart!

So there you have it. I’d love to hear from readers who have other favorite YA monsters; I’m always looking for more! Thanks, Eric, for having me on the blog, and happy monstering to you all!

Joshua David BellinJOSHUA DAVID BELLIN’s debut novel Survival Colony Nine comes out in 2014 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. Josh has also written Framing Monsters (2005), a survey of classic and contemporary monster movies, and a bunch of short stories in the fantasy and sci-fi genres, most recently “Scarecrow,” a retelling of the Oz story available from Untreed Reads Publishing. Josh tweets @TheYAGuy and blogs at You can also catch up with him on his website,

We’ll Josh, you’ve certainly opened my eyes to some great monsters I may have otherwise missed. I look forward to Survival Colony Nine next year, and maybe you’ll like some of the monsters I’ve thrown into Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud. Please use the comments section below to open discussions about great YA monsters.

Guest Post: Margay Leah Justice author of Sloane Wolf

I’m honored to have Margay Leah Justice join me and give us some insight into her book, Sloane Wolf, Book One in The Wolves of Destiny Falls. In this paranormal romance from Muse It Up Publishing, a one-hundred and fifty year old legend comes to fruition and brings together Micah, the protector of the legend, and a gifted young girl named Shiloh.

Margay has started work on the second book in The Wolves of Destiny Falls, Piper’s Dream. For now, read on for a supplemental letter from Micah to Shiloh.

How do you like the wolf’s snarl in the background?


            I’m not sure how I should start this. I’m not one for spilling my feelings, even on paper, so I don’t even know if I started it right. Should I have said ‘Dear Shiloh’ instead of just ‘Shiloh’ or is that okay? Does it make it sound like just a note? Is it too informal? I don’t know, I don’t usually do this – any of this. I’m not the heart and posies kind of guy, I don’t make the outlandish gestures to tell my woman how I feel, so this is really awkward for me. So I guess you’re kind of wondering why I’m even doing this, then, huh? Well, Raven told me to. Now before you get all huffy about why I’d let my sister talk me into something like this, just listen – or read, in this case. Raven knows me – sometimes too well – and she knows how I have a hard time expressing things (I know you’re laughing right now, so don’t), so she thought this might help. If I could just write it down, I could figure out the best way to tell you how I feel. So this is it, this is how I feel. About you.

            Before I met you, I was just going through the motions of life, but never really living. But I didn’t know that until I met you. When you first came riding into my life in that flashy Hummer, it’s like it kick-started something inside me – something I didn’t even know was lying dormant – and I really began to live. I became aware of you in a way I was never aware of any other person and I didn’t know how to deal with that, especially when all that stuff went down with Haines and Ava. But then, when I thought I lost you, none of it mattered. That night in the woods, trying to find you – it was the worst time of my life and I never want to go through anything like that again.

            You are the first breath I take every morning, the lifeblood I need to survive. You are every beat of my heart. Without you, my life would cease to have meaning and I’d be back to just going through the motions like I did before I met you. It was a lonely existence then – it’d be a hellish one now. I know we haven’t known each other very long and it seems impossible that I could feel this strong about you so soon, but there it is. Without you, there is no me so, please, say you’ll stay with me. Say you’ll take a chance and stick around and see where this might take us. I won’t force you but know this, if you decide this is all too much for you – if you decide to go – you’ll be taking the better parts of me with you. No matter where you are or what you do, I will always love you.


Buy Sloane Wolf here:

Muse It Up


Author Bio:

Descended from the same bloodline that spawned the likes of James Russell, Amy and Robert Lowell, Margay Leah Justice was fated to be a writer herself from a young age. But even before she knew that there was a name for what she was doing, she knew one thing: She had a deep and unconditional love for the written word. A love that would challenge her in times of need, abandon her in times of distress, and rediscover her in times of hope. Through her writing, Margay has learned to cope with every curve ball life has thrown her, including the challenges of single parenting, the harsh realities of living in a shelter, coping with the diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, and the roller coaster ride of dealing with a child who suffers from bipolar disorder. But along the way she has rediscovered the amazing power of words. 

Margay currently lives in Massachusetts with her two daughters, two cats, and a myriad of characters who vie for her attention and demand that their own stories be told. In her spare time, she is an avid knitter, knitting her way through a stash of yarn that almost rivals her tbr pile!



Thank you, Margay, for joining me.

Please leave a comment below to tell Margay what you think of her book. If you’ve already read the book, please tell other readers what you thought of it.

Guest Post: Sherry G. Antonetti author of The Book of Helen

Today, I am honored to host my first guest: Sherry G. Antonetti, the author of the forthcoming book from Muse It Up Publishing, The Book of Helen. I think this book about “the original Fan Fiction woman,” Helen of Troy, sounds fascinating, but you can read Sherry’s post and decide for yourself–because as LeVar Burton used to say, “You don’t have to take my word for it.” Oh, and did I mention today is Sherry’s birthday! So don’t forget to wish her happy birthday in the comments section.


Another excellent cover by a Muse It Up artist.

What started this story?

Answer: Back in 2005 I started writing. I discovered the wonderful writer’s forum, and began submitting pieces that amazingly enough, got published in the Washington Post!

By 2007, I’d begun to think, I should try something more than articles. I should write a book…but about what? My daughter Regina was born and a month after, contracted RSV. When a baby is sick and you’re the mom stuck at the hospital, you can do three things…pester the doctors, watch bad television and worry over your child.

File:Beginning Odyssey.svg

Greek text of the Odyssey’s opening passage.

Having done all three, when Regina was sleeping, I tried reading. My husband had bought the new translation by Faegles of the Odyssey. The line about Helen slipping a drug (opium) into the wine to allow the men to think about the Trojan war without getting upset jumped out at me.

Imediately I wrote a Helen story with the tag, “It started with an apple.” I liked the Helen who told the story. I liked her so much, I began writing more stories. The original idea had been to do a series of tales (sort of an Arabian Nights) based on the various trinkets and treasures Helen deemed sentimental. It turned into something more.

I thought about how she had to manipulate and charm and work the ancient world and envisioned her as a CEO in a predatory world. Helen became a composite of multiple strong women I’ve known in my life plus a goodly dose of the mythic woman from all the literature. In researching her, I discovered Helen to be the original Fan Fiction woman. There is only one Odysseus, one Hector, one Achilles and one Penelope, but Helen has been reinvented in almost every age of Western civilization. She even now is a system of measurement, as a minihelen is the amount of beauty needed to launch a single ship.

Writing this book, I sought to answer three basic questions that go unanswered in the original texts and many of the subsequent reinvisionings of the Helen/Paris/Menelaus Trojan war story.

1) What made Helen leave Sparta? (She’s queen, she’s in charge; she’s the actual power of that world). Most of the time it’s simply Paris being beautiful or the gods directly compelling the action or Menelaus bashing which oddly is designed in most cases to exonerate Helen for leaving. I wanted her to have a thinking/feeling reason for her actions and not be a mere pawn of the gods in the machine.

File:Trojan Women - Andromache.jpg

Aomawa Baker (Andromache) in Brad Mays’ production of Euripides’ The Trojan Women. 2003

2) What made the Trojans keep her? They could have ended the siege by sending her out or killing her. Her beauty alone would have been sufficient perhaps for Paris, but what made all of Troy decide to stick it out for her? If you read The Trojan Women, you’ll find not all of Troy found her beguiling, but the Helen in that play is strong and defeats the seemingly justified wrath of Queen Hecuba. So Helen had to be more than a pretty face to warrant a ten year war that ended a civilization and hurt so many others.

3) What made Menelaus take her back after all of that? She’s the most famous adulterer of the Greek world. She’s shamed him. She’s forced Greece to empty its city states of grown men on her behalf to bring her back. She’s caused the deaths of countless people and suffering to those left behind. The line in the Aeneid, “She bared her breasts, he dropped his sword.” is all the explanation of their reconciliation we get. Yet in the Odyssey, it is clear that the two of them have a happy marriage later in life. So how do we get from running away and a 10 year bloody war to apparent tranquil domestic hearts in accord with one another?

Now, six years, four computers and two more children later, The Book of Helen is set to be published by and will be available as an ebook at Amazon and in formats for Kobo, at Smashwords, Barnes& Noble and at the site itself,

Sherry G Antonetti is the author of The Book of Helen, happily married and mother to ten wonderful children. She can be reached at or her blog, also known as Chocolate for Your Brain! You can also like her page, The Book of Helen on Facebook to keep up on the publishing date for this book.

MuseItUp Publishing

Thank you, Sherry, for stopping by. Please let Sherry know what you think of her book in the comments section below. And remember, today’s her birthday!