Friday, October 28, 2011

Shellie Neumeier--YA Fiction Author and All-Round Devotee to Children and Young Adults

Everyone's Story's guest this week is Young-Adult Fiction author Shellie Neumeier. Was it her twenty-one years of experience in youth and children's ministries that fueled her desire to write for the YA market? Or her four children? Where did she cultivate her interest in helping young adults or teens become authors? Shellie has lots to share so please snuggle up with a cup of coffee or cocoa for a visit.

Shellie's Gracious Bonus: one randomly chosen commenter will receive one copy of her just released debut novel DRIVEN. Please leave your e-mail address within your comment. Plus, if you like, I would appreciate if you became a Follower to this blog. Thanks!!

First, Three Questions for Shellie:

About 10 years ago, during a stroll in the aisle or two (it was a lot smaller then compared to now) of the Children's/YA section of Barnes & Noble, I was taken back by the dark, very serious fiction titles. On one hand I realized that children & young adults read fiction to help cope with life situations, just like adults. On the other hand, I wondered back then if this age group was being pushed by marketing execs to read this type of fiction rather than more lighter, escapist reads. As far as an "entertainment value" how do you see YA fiction in today's market? And as a mom, what's your view? 

Wow, starting deep☺. Love it. This generation's YA fiction is not the Nancy Drew I grew up with, that is for sure. However, what I may see as dark may carry a weight that reaches to this generations deeper awareness of social issues, international dilemmas, and economic stresses. An awareness which has broadened with the ease of travel and availability of internet information. Teens of today have a knowledge base that covers a greater scope than that of many middle-aged folks I know. Because of this avalanche of information, teens seem to feel the need to carry a heavy issue load. They are spurred on to save the earth, save the whales, save society at large, and the drama you would find in a novel published a generation ago may no longer hold the same entertainment value for such a generation. I think the same holds true for many other venues as well. Remember Happy Days, Bambi, Pong, and roller skating, well now there's Pretty Little Liars, Iron Man, Halo, and Laser Tag. As a mom, I don't necessarily care for the dramatic overload or dark overtones, but since its widely available (maybe not at my house, but at friends' and school) I try to help them distinguish between real drama and fictional drama. The biggest thing I can do for them is pray.

Please share with us about NextGenWriters. 

I love NextGenWriters! They are the coolest group of teens around! What is it? Well, its an online place for authors under twenty where they can get together ( to learn about the craft of writing and network with authors their age. There are forums for chatting, critiquing, even honing those queries. We have monthly blog classes from guest posters like editor Chila Woychik and author Jill Williamson. And we discuss everything writerly from POV to setting to creating worlds to how to get published (even if you're a kid). I love it (did I say that already?:). NextGen is where professionals in the business can feed into and grow the next generation of great authors.
Dash, a faithful companion
And for fun: do you recall the whackiest plot you ever tested on your greyhounds during a walk on a country road? What was their take on it? 

Hmm, wackiest plot...well they all ended up in a book at some point☺. I think the funniest thing I ever tried out on them was an Oprah-styled interview of one character. I only had Dasher at the time and he looked stupefied when I'd paused and waited for him to applaud. Poor dog, thought I'd completely lost it, but he did enjoy the longer walk we took that day☺.

I write YA (young adult) fiction. Why? Well…
Imagine being a princess. A real-live princess with tiaras and gowns and servants…and the ugliest nose ever grown on a human face. No, really. THE ugliest. Even though your princess status affords you the ability to turn-in anyone who dares tease or taunt, you know that doing so would be the end of them. You wouldn’t mind a little retribution, but to have them—killed? That’s, well, too much. So you turn a deaf ear to every “carrot nose,” “honkeretta,” and “Princess Schnoz” whispered behind raised hands and down alleyways where people think you can’t hear them. 
That’s the plight of Princess Ally, the main character in The Wishing Ring, my middle grade book to be released in February 2012. Ally bears her humiliation alone even to the point of isolation. It is far easier to never leave her room than stomach the hurt that comes from every snicker. 

Perhaps you don’t suffer from having an overly large nose. Perhaps you are plagued with everything-wrongitis. You know, everything you touch goes wrong. The words that gush from your mouth get you into trouble faster than you think humanly possible. No one calls you “carrot nose,” but they have teased you about that shoelace that dangles from your mouth. That’s Robyn’s plight in DRIVEN, my YA novel about a girl, her destiny, and the demon sent to destroy her.
Maybe you feel alone. Alone and disconnected from your parents, who couldn’t understand what you’re going through if you texted, IM’d AND Facebooked them. No matter what you try, they just don’t get it, even when you’re trying to do something right for a change. It’s as though they’ll never forgive—or forget—the messed up stuff you did in the past. That’s Andy’s story in A Summer in Oakville, co-written with Lisa Lickel. 
My point? Writing YA fiction is about mixing real issues with dramatic flair. Life is new, vibrant, and turbulent when you’re under twenty. You don’t have the anchors that weigh down your imagination later in life, so fiction is given a broader range of latitude within which everyday lessons can take root. I have heard it argued that today’s YA fiction is a watered-down version of adult fiction. It fails to utilize and encourage a depth of language, be it vocabulary or grammar that would challenge growing minds.  Perhaps. What I see is a genre rich with social issues. YA doesn’t step lightly over tough stuff—life and death, popularity and solitude, disorder and order—it dives in and address them. That is why I love to write YA. Stir the pot a bit and see what rises. Isn’t that what Jesus did? 
Shellie enjoys hearing from readers, other authors, or anyone who would just like to say a hello.

Author Bio:
Shellie Neumeier holds a degree in Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a minor in Psychology, Sociology and Social Studies. A devoted mother of four, Shellie previously worked on staff with Northbrook Church as the King’s Kids ministry assistant (serving children in grades 2nd through 5th). Shellie’s YA novel, Driven, is available from Risen Fiction, A Summer in Oakville (co-authored by Lisa Lickel) is available through Black Lyon Publishing, and her middle grade chapter book The Wishing Ring will release February 2012. She is an active member of SCBWI and ACFW as well as a contributing author for various blogs. Shellie is located in southeastern Wisconsin.

Contact Links:

Book links:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Connie Almony--A Dog With Skin Problems, An Autistic Child, and Heaven Sent Joy

Everyone's Story welcomes Connie Almony, a writer aiming for the Christian fiction market. She's also a mental health counselor, hosts her own blog Living the Body of Christ, and is a dedicated shoulder-to-lean on. She shares with us how well God knows our desires and how He sees to our needs in the least expected ways. Connie looks forward to hearing from you if you'd like to share your own insights, experiences, or encouragement.
♡I invite you to become a Follower of this blog ♡

Prepared in Advance
Ephesians 2:10
Years ago, before I knew much about God or how He worked, I prayed He would make me a good mom. But as a believer of the doctrine, “God helps those who help themselves,” I set out to make that happen. I read books on child development, studied psychology and took a job as a counselor in a day-care center. I was ready—or so I thought.
Then God threw me for a loop. He gave me a child with autism. And though some of the above training and experience I accrued helped, nothing prepared me like the unexpected events God threw in along the way.
Shortly after the prayer I mentioned above, my sister and her husband had to move to Kansas. On the day they packed their last belongings in a moving truck, I asked them, “What are you going to do about your dog?” Jan looked at me with pleading in her eyes and I knew that question was mine to answer. I had to figure out what to do with the untrained, allergy-riddled dog that tore up my belongings every time I visited. Great.
So I took her in with the sole purpose of finding her a home—not mine. Within one week her beautiful fur began to fall out, her skin festered with sores and she licked uncontrollably until her skin flamed red. I took her to the vet only to be referred to a doggy dermatologist.
Five to eight hundred dollars later (I can’t remember exactly—it’s all a blur now), I found out she was allergic to just about everything, and would require a special diet, regular medicine and weekly shots that I’d have to administer. All for a dog I didn’t even like.
In the process of getting her well, I trained her. I know, a novel idea … at least to my sister. Turned out she was not as evil as I’d originally thought. She just needed to learn some manners, not to mention gain freedom from the constant, nagging itch that plagued her every, waking moment. And then it happened. I fell in love with her. She became my baby and eventually slept beside me at night. A wonderful friend.
Connie's son and Angel-dog Geisha

Years later, I would tell people she was an angel sent from God to teach me how to be a good mom. In fact, I learned more from her than the books and child-care experience combined. There is nothing like having a living being, who looks to you as its sole means of survival, counting on you alone. Very different from the children I gave back to their parents at 5PM every day, and not seeing them at all when they were sick.
So, as I told people God gave her to me for this purpose, I’d chuckle, “I guess He’s gonna give me a high-maintenance child.” Then my son came. My wonderful, sweet, loving … and yes, sometimes high maintenance, son. The son who needs special training, special medicine and special diets. Just as God had prepared.
Then God went a step further. Two years before my little guy was born, I entered a Christian book store specifically to find something by one of my favorite 19th Century authors, George MacDonald. I found only one title with his name on it. The back cover described the story of a mute boy. Now how could that be any good? There wouldn’t even be much dialogue. But something told me to buy it. So I did. And quickly, I discovered it would be among my favorite books of all time. Such a favorite that the third time I read it was to my three-year-old, autistic son, who had not yet learned to speak. I was a third of the way through the book when it dawned on me how much the Gibby of the story was like my little boy. And suddenly, I knew, everything would be okay. My son may never talk, but God had a plan for him just the same. Just as He had for Gibby.
So this is how God prepared me—to see who my son was and not just what he wasn’t. I thank You, My Creator, for this wonderful gift and preparing me to nurture and appreciate it.
Whenever I write or talk about my son and his giftedness in heart, I feel I need to caution readers who do not experience the effects of autism on a daily basis. Yes, I can see my son as a gift from God. His autism has made him quiet and even serene. His particular gifting is in how he seems to read the emotions of others in a room better than the average person. Others struggling with this disorder have a very opposite experience. Their affected child may speak and understand, read and write, but are emotionally distant, and may engage in violent behavior. If you know someone struggling with the effects of this disorder in their homes, please do not press on them how they should see autism as a gift from God. Though I truly think God can reveal Himself through their struggles and their child is also a gift, this kind of intrusion can only leave the afflicted feeling alone and misunderstood. Pray for them … and in any way you can, help to bring them relief!
Author Bio:
Connie is trained as a mental health counselor. While working on her Master’s Degree she actually lived in an all-male dorm as part of the job requirement as a Resident Director. This experience is the inspiration for her current Work-In-Progress (WIP) entitled, One Among Men.
Connie hosts the blog Living the Body of Christ ( dedicated to help readers find and use the gifts God gave them. She also writes for (, a group blog dedicated to guide writers in their pursuit of a dream and readers in their pursuit of a good read.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Richard Jay Parker--An Author Who Grabs Your Attention And Won't Let Go

Why, you may ask, would I--a writer who is striving to publish mainstream fiction for the Christian market--be interested in fiction that is dark, creepy, and leaves me wondering about the psychological constitution of an e-mailer? Aside from enjoying darker stories, the answer is because Richard Jay Parker is a great writer and with his background, has a lot I can learn from. He's also a great guy and true gentleman. I hope you enjoy this interview. If you have any other questions, Richard welcomes seeing your comments.

In 2010 you had the honor of being nominated for the 2010 John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger Award. This award, presented by the Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) is the longest established literary award in the UK and is an internationally accepted recognition of “excellence and achievement.” How did it feel being up for an award that is sponsored by the best selling author Louise Penny and an award that carries such a literary reputation? Were you able to snag any endorsements from this nomination?
It was certainly a surprise that STOP ME was nominated in any sort of literary awards let alone that it was recognised by the Crime Writers' Association. It just goes to show that there's a real appetite for new authors and that the zeal of the CWA allows those writers a platform. My sales certainly enjoyed a spike during the nominations so, whatever you think of awards, there's no denying that it gets your work that extra bit of exposure.  
I see that you also enjoy one of my favorite authors: Harlen Coben. If Mr. Coben were your professor in a class on writing what criticisms or comments do you think he would have to offer on your writing? Do you think you’ve come a long way from a student of writing to professional author, in other words, do you think you’ve made “Professor Coben” proud?

I've yet to catch up on most of Harlan Coben's books but am very much looking forward to it. I've read three so far and I find them effortlessly engaging. I think every writer is on a continual learning curve no matter how accomplished they are. I certainly still feel I have a lot to learn. 'Could do better' would be the comment I'd leave on my own work. I'd hate to think what Professor Coben would write!    
Please tell us about your career as a TV writer, script editor and producer. Does having such a varied and professional background prior to becoming a published author of fiction help to liberalize you in that you were a fearless writer when you began working on STOP ME or was it just the opposite, that perhaps you were too aware of your audience and too conscious that you needed to please them, and that you perhaps struggled with a case of stymies?
My TV background was in comedy and I think there are many similarities in the reaction you try to instigate with comedy and suspense/horror. It's visceral and as with comedy you're setting up and paying off - just doing it in a more circuitous way. I certainly think my script writing background helped me refine my dialogue but writing a book is a very different discipline. With TV I could write something and see it performed within a week but with a novel the wait is much longer - even if you already have an agent and an interested publisher (which I certainly didn't when I started writing STOP ME).   

What separates STOP ME from your typical the-clock-is-ticking suspense story?

STOP ME isn't your average cop/serial killer thriller and most of the feedback I've had from readers who expected one type of story and got another was pretty positive. I set out to confound expectation and this seemed to be welcomed on the whole. Some people like a formula though and I completely respect that.   
Any writing tips on a fast-paced novel?
I suppose the most basic tip is to make sure you give your reader no choice but to start the next chapter. Hooking them with an event or intrigue is an art I'm still trying to perfect but when readers tell me they ended up staying up until four in the morning to finish the book when they didn't intend to it's the best feedback I could possibly receive.   
You’ve gone from writing comedy for the BBC to psychological thriller suspense. Do you scare yourself or your wife with your ambitions?
I scare both of us on a regualr basis but I think my wife is slowly getting desensitised to the products of my imagination. She's sat through a lot of my material at studio recordings and she thought STOP ME was pretty restrained in terms of some of the other material I've written... 
If your characters were to walk off the page and stop at the local pub or ballgame, would you like to meet them? Any one particular question you have for them?
I'd ask them what they were doing slacking off when they should be busy scaring readers.
Richard's Office
Describe for us your workday. Who is in control of your writing: you or your characters?
I think in the morning I'm in control but when the sugar levels drop in the afternoon that's when the characters have their wicked way.
Do you have a story to share of the least expected place or person that STOP ME has appeared? Has that touched you—or the other person—in any profound way?
Very early after its publication I got a tweet from a lady who lived in Hawaii who said she read STOP ME and loved it. This was before the Kindle edition was released so it was great to hear how far a paperback had traveled from the UK in such a short time. I love getting tweets from people who have read it. They're great boosts when you're trying to write.
Would you like to preview a little about your next release?
I'm hoping to release some details very soon but things can still change at this stage so I'd best not tempt fate. Needless to say, I'm hoping to up the ante with the suspense and twist quota. I don't think my wife will think this one is as restrained either...

Bio of Richard Jay Parker:

In the past twenty-four years Richard Jay Parker has been a professional TV script writer, script editor and producer.  His debut thriller novel STOP ME became an Amazon bestseller and was also nominated for a CWA Dagger Award.  He is currently finishing his second novel. customers:

Amazon UK customers:

Book Depository (free shipping of paperback to anywhere in the world):

Richard's creepy website:

Richard's Twitter page (Bookwalter):

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Many Hats of Nancy Loyan Schuemann: Author, Middle-Eastern Dancer & Instructor, and Emotional/Spiritual Liberator

Nancy and I met years ago at an RWA conference. We did exactly what was advised: plunged into conversation. She: "I have two dogs and a husband." Me: "I'm owned by three cats and I'm married too." We became fast and true friends, sharing independent streaks, family dilemmas, joys, and facing fears. Nancy has thrived the past years, carving a fascinating name for herself. Come for a visit, and share  some of your stories as well. She'd love to hear from you.

The Making of an Artist: Embracing Being True to One’s Self”
by Nancy Loyan Schuemann 

There’s the old saying, “To thine own self be true” and I’m living proof.

I was born and raised into a vanilla ice cream family and that was a problem since I am a neopolitan person. Being different can be a blessing or a curse. Growing up in a middle class, working class, ethnic family during the 1960’s encouraged certain expectations for the youngest and only girl in my household. In high school, I took classes in shorthand and typing but mixed in college preparatory courses to my parents chagrin. I was a nerd when girls were expected to be flirtatious and popular. After all, bra size was valued more than IQ and a girl was expected to marry out of high school. I had higher expectations.

I graduated without any husband prospects. Actually, I had never even dated and wanted to attend college.  I was given a choice: a small car and commuting to the nearby community college or two years at the college of my choice, during which time I would have to find a husband. 

After choosing the car and community college route, I graduated with honors and the intention of furthering my education. My parents agreed with the understanding that I would attend a nice college and obtain the MRS before the BS. 

Fooled them. I graduated from a prestigious four-year school with only my BS, majoring in business and embarking on a career in outside sales. Though I had been promoted to an executive level, my mother told the relatives that I was a secretary. Business was, after all, a man’s career and I was an embarrassment.

Nancy's beautiful coffee-table book.
To add further insult to the family, I married at the “old” spinster age of 28 to an older man. Gasp … we never had children (not by choice but circumstance). I was told point blank by my mother, though she denies it and we didn’t speak for months after the comment, that she never would have borne me had she known I was not going to have children. Procreation, after all, was a woman’s purpose in life. 

Nonconformist that I am, I embarked on careers that my parents would never understand. God gives each of us talent and if we don’t use it, we are insulting Him, aren’t we? I decided to do what I love instead of just earning an income. Life is too short, I surmised.

Actually, me and Superman have a lot in common. We are both from Cleveland. By day we are both bespectacled nerdy writers but by night we transform. He into a superhero and me into “Nailah,” the Middle Eastern belly dance instructor and performer. 

As a child, when I used to write, my mother would ask me why I was wasting my time, that no one was ever going to read my writing. Writing for me is like breathing, something that I have to do. 

Nancy's novel based on
her travel experiences.
I became a writer and an author. I’ve freelanced for years, specializing in architecture, construction, profiles and special interest locally and nationally. I was commissioned to write two local history books, one a coffee table book on Cleveland by a national publisher that is widely distributed. Recently, one of my novels has been published by a small press as an e-book.

Over twenty years ago, I took my first Middle Eastern belly dance class and was hooked. 
Ever since graduating from high school, I have made a point of learning two new skills a year. This was one that I have pursued with a passion. 

My elderly mother now chastises me for being too old to dance and Middle Eastern dance too lewd an art form. At my age I should be sitting at home, watching daytime talk shows, shopping and lunching with friends or sitting with her reminiscing. 

Nancy in Middle Eastern dance costume.
Middle Eastern belly dance is misunderstood. It is the world’s oldest dance, not oldest profession. It originated in Egypt as an expression of female empowerment, femininity and reproduction. The dance is not only a form of self-expression and exercise, but is mental and spiritual. The dance aids in self-esteem, body awareness and acceptance. It is meditative. 

Dance has taken me around the country and around the world, having studied and danced in Egypt. I instruct at a university as well as at the prestigious Chautauqua Institution. I have a cadre of students and give lectures-presentation-performances to women’s groups and at wellness seminars. I even write about belly dance locally and nationally for the web magazine,

Like the Robert Frost poem, I have taken “the road not taken and it has made all the difference.”

As Jeremiah says about God, “I know the plans I have for you…”

What plans does God have for you? Are you living a life utilizing the gifts he has bestowed upon you or are you merely following the expectations of others?

Author Bio:
Nancy Loyan Schuemann (“Nailah”), Cleveland, Ohio is a writer, author and Middle Eastern dance instructor/performer. Her recent book is a multi-cultural women’s fiction  novel that takes place in the exotic Seychelles Islands and is available for download at or at in the Kindle store. Her web sites are:  and

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