Friday, June 24, 2016

Review Copies are Available!

If you are a book blogger, librarian, or bookseller you can read UNLOCKED before it officially releases to the public!

It's easy!

Simply click on over to Edelweiss and request a digital copy.

Then - leave your honest review of the book everywhere and anywhere you can!

Happy reading!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

Frequently Asked Questions of Margo Kelly, Author

Here are answers to the questions I'm most commonly asked during interviews:

Q: As a public speaker, you’re already something of a professional communicator, but there is a difference between the spoken word and the written one. Was the transition from orator to author a challenging one for you? 
A: In some ways, yes, because much of my public speaking has been on non-fiction topics such as business, sales, and recruiting. Now I’m writing fiction for the young adult audience. These are two completely separate worlds. However, any great public speaker includes stories, personal details, and a bit of hyperbole to keep the interest of the listeners. The art of engaging the audience has definitely helped me translate stories to paper.

Q: What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
A: The greatest thing I learned at school was to think for myself. Just because someone says something doesn’t make it true. Researching and challenging the statements of others became an essential skill.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up? 
A: I wanted to be a writer … or ruler of the universe … they’re pretty much the same thing.

Q: How do you react to a bad review?
A: With my favorite ice cream: Chocolate Haagen-Dazs.

Q: What makes you cringe? 
A: Cockroaches … really any kind of bug or spider or creepy-crawly thing makes me cringe! I once slept with a can of Raid next to my bed, because when we lived in Arizona our apartment had a poisonous centipede infestation. I kid you not! We used bug-bombs multiple times, and those huge suckers kept returning. Legs as thick as toothpicks. Bodies as long as nine inches. My husband went after one once with a butcher’s knife (quickest thing he could grab). He chopped that thing into multiple pieces, and each piece scampered off in a different direction. It would not die. Ack. Just thinking about it makes me cringe! I still check my sheets every night before climbing into bed.

Q: You are stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you want? 
A: Computer, WiFi, and an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet

Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing? 
A: I love to make quilts, go camping, garden, and read.

Q: What’s on your nightstand?
A: Dust. Because I’d rather read than clean house. In addition to the dust, I have a stack of over twenty books and my Kindle (with countless additional books waiting to be read).

Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
A: Dean Koontz, Mindy McGinnis, Marissa Meyer, Barry Lyga, Janet Evanovich, Marie Lu, Dan Wells, Patricia Briggs, Leigh Bardugo, oh there are so many great authors out there!

Q: If you could choose only one, who would be your favorite author?
A: Dean Koontz, for his page-turning thrillers. My desire is to write fast paced thrillers for the young adult audience.

Q: Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
A: I love to read, and I have a lot of favorites, but if I have to pick just one, I suppose I’d choose Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz. It not only kept me turning pages, but it also caught me by surprise in the end. Any plotline that is unpredictable impresses me, but I especially enjoyed Odd Thomas because he’s such a lovable character. Koontz writes great thrillers. Outside of my genre – I’d have to say I love the Stephanie Plum novels by Janet Evanovich. Every single book in the series has made me laugh out loud at some point. I love fast paced, plot driven books.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child/teen?
A: Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell

Q: If you could live in any book “world” which book would it be? 
A: Oh. My. I read a lot of thrillers, horrors, and dystopias … so I don’t know that I’d want to live in any of them. ;) I would want to live in a tranquil place. So I suppose I’d want to live in the world of Anne of Green Gables -- Prince Edward Island. 

Q: If you had a time machine where would you go back in time or ahead? And who would you like to visit. 
A: I would go back in time about fifteen years to visit more with my maternal grandmother before she passed away from this life.

Q: Do you have any pets?
A: Two dogs. We rescued our big black dog from the local shelter, and they had named him Black Sabbath. The little white dog, which we also rescued, was really tiny when we first brought him home. We wanted to give him a name opposite of Black Sabbath. So we named him Rascal Flatts. We call him Rascal.

Q: Any pet peeves? 
A: Dog hair (no pun intended) … and yet, I have two wonderful dogs who shed hair everywhere and on everything, and I love them.

Q: When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie? 
A: I’m a pretty honest and even blunt person. I don’t usually lie. If you ask me a question I don’t want to answer, I will either say, “Oh, that’s a story for another day.” Or, “Frankly, that’s none of your business.”

Q: Who was your first boyfriend?
A: A boy I met at the roller-skating rink. I can’t even remember his name.

Q: Tell me about your first kiss
A: When I was a preteen I tackled the cute neighbor boy and planted one right on him.

Q: Do you believe in love at first sight? 
A: Yes. I fell in love with my husband at first sight. I went back to my college dorm that night and told all of my friends that I was going to marry him. They thought I was nuts, but they laughed when I announced our engagement about five months later.

Q: What's the memorable summer job you've ever had?
A: I only lasted two weeks at KFC. It was so greasy that I kept slipping on the floors and falling. Grease covered every surface, and I went home feeling so icky every day. But I still eat there occasionally! 

Q: What’s your favorite season/weather? 
A: Fall

Q: Beach or pool? 
A: Sandy beach along a river in Idaho

Q: Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
A: I’ve traveled a lot. I’ve been to places like Bermuda, Grand Cayman, Cancun, Panama, Alaska, Hawaii, Washington D.C., Williamsburg, Puerto Rico, and many other great places. But the best place in the world is amongst the pine trees in the mountains of Idaho next to a rushing white-water river.

Q: Where can readers stalk you online?
A: Website:

Monday, June 13, 2016

Frequently Asked Questions about Writing

During interviews, I'm often asked about writing. Here are some of the most common questions I receive:

Q: When did you first consider yourself a writer? 
A: I wrote a lot of poetry when I was young. (I don’t write poetry anymore.) And I always wanted to be a writer … or ruler of the universe … they’re kind of the same thing. But I honestly considered myself a writer way back in elementary school when I wrote a poem about roller-skating, and it was published in a small booklet.

Q: Are you self-pubbed or traditionally published? What made you go for this model? What advice/tips can you share with writers working towards the same goal?
A: I chose the traditional publishing route, because it felt like the right choice for me. I wanted the editorial input of a talented agent, and I wanted the business expertise of a publishing house. My advice for writers working toward being published via the traditional route is to make sure your manuscript is as polished as possible before querying agents. Then when you receive feedback from agents or editors, consider their advice carefully and improve your manuscript based on the feedback you’ve received.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
A: Christi Corbett (author of ALONG THE WAY HOME) advised me to keep an “I don’t suck” file, which is basically a resource of reviews that compliment my writing. That way any time a rejection or terrible review comes my way, I can refer back to the flattering items and not feel quite so awful.

Q: What are some of the common challenges that new and experienced authors face and what advice do you have for overcoming them?
A: The most common challenge is rejection – an agent rejecting a query, an editor rejecting a submission, or a reader rejecting a book. Rejection is the toughest test a writer faces. And honestly, the only way to overcome it is to eat a lot of chocolate refer back to the “I don’t suck” file.

Q: What's one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors? 
A: Revise. Revise. Revise. Finishing the first draft of your manuscript is an awesome accomplishment, but do not stop there. Revise it. Find a fellow writer to critique it. Revise it. Find another person to critique it. And revise again.

Q: Do you write as you go, or do you have the book all planned out from page one? 
A: I have found that creating a story “road map” (not a precisely plotted outline) works best for me. It gives me direction while writing, but it is more flexible than a detailed outline.

Q:  Are you worried your Google history will get you into trouble? 
A: Absolutely! I have googled some pretty sketchy topics … all in the name of book research, of course.

Q: Where is your favorite spot to write?
A: My favorite place to write is in my office next to my window, which looks out into my garden full of berries: raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries.

Q: How do you celebrate the completion of a book? 
A: With my favorite ice cream: Chocolate Haagen-Dazs

Q: What do you enjoy the most about writing? 
A: I love the challenge of translating the vision in my head to a story on paper that someone else then reads and envisions in their own mind.

Q: How do deal with writer’s block? 
A: The hardest part of writer’s block is pushing through it. That means first, I have to sit down and start. Sometimes I’ll set the timer for fifteen minutes and force myself to just write – even if it’s terrible and even if I delete it later – because sometimes the physical action of typing will get the creative energy flowing again.

Q: Anything you would've done differently if you could do it all over again? 
A: I would have read more books on the craft of writing before I began to query agents. Some of my favorite books on writing include:
SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder
THE STORY BOOK by David Baboulene

Friday, June 10, 2016

My 12 Step Writing Process

Here are the basic steps I take when writing a story:

1. I read as many award-winning and best-selling books as I possibly can.

2. I read books on the craft of novel writing, and especially before I begin writing a new story, I read a NEW book on the craft that I've not read before. This really helps refresh my brain on the skills and techniques involved in great writing. Usually while I'm reading, my brain will spark with character and plot ideas for my next manuscript.

3. BEFORE I write the story, I write a query letter, or an elevator pitch, or a quick summary ... this makes writing the manuscript easier. First of all, by writing out the pitch, I can make sure the idea is going to work and then stay on track. I even pass that pitch on to my beta readers and critique partners to get their feedback. It's amazing what kind of plot problems people can pick out just from your short pitch.

4. Once I've polished the idea, then I use Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet, from his fabulous book SAVE THE CAT, to rough out the big ideas of my plot. Then I outline the main points of my story to work out problems ahead of time and save effort later.

5. Character development exercises help me get to know my characters better before I start writing. I utilize a character chart and ask my characters questions to make them as fully developed as possible.

6. Then I jump in and write the first draft. I *try* to finish the first draft without revising and editing; otherwise (because I'm such a perfectionist) I would be stuck forever polishing the first chapter.

7. Revising is my favorite part. I start with the overall big ideas and work my way down to the small individual word choices. I believe every word needs to move the plot forward or develop a character. If the word, sentence, paragraph, scene, or chapter doesn't do one of these two things, then it either needs to be cut or seriously revised for improvement.

8. While I'm in the revision stage, I will send chapters off to my awesome critique partners. They lovingly rip my work to shreds, and then I revise it again. I prefer to stage my critique partners so that they are not reading the same version. I will usually send a chapter to one critique partner, revise as necessary, and then send it to another partner for new feedback.

9. Once I'm satisfied with the manuscript I will send it to a few beta readers who tend to look at the bigger overall story rather than nit-picky little details. I make necessary improvements based on their feedback.

10. I send the manuscript to my ROCK STAR agent. After she reads it, she sends me an editorial letter with suggestions for improvement. And I revise again (because her suggestions are always spot-on, and I always slap myself in the head and ask, why didn't I see that sooner?)

11. My agent submits my manuscript to editors at publishing houses. If the planets are aligned properly, it sells. Then the editor sends me a new editorial letter, and I revise again (slapping myself in the head again, asking, why did I not see that sooner?!)

12. And then I start the writing process all over again.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Book Review: A MADNESS SO DISCREET by Mindy McGinnis

A Madness So DiscreetA Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book ruined me. (In a good way.)

Oh. My. Gosh.

Mindy McGinnis ... I am a fan for life!

This was the type of book that was so utterly compelling that I could not start reading another book for quite a while afterward. The characters are still in my mind. I'm still thinking about the choices they made. I'm still thinking about what I would have done in their situations. WOW.

And ... I usually HATE stories that deal with the sexual abuse of a child (it was an underlying element in this book) but McGinnis handled it SO WELL that it did not make me cringe at all.

But this story is about SO MUCH MORE than that. It's about women's rights. It's about respecting other people. It's about respecting yourself. It's about defending the defenseless. It's about justice and injustice. *sigh* Maybe I'll just read it again - right now!

Some of my favorite lines:
"Grace pulled her pillow tight over her ears, ignoring the feather shafts that poked through the cheap muslin and pricked her skin." (page 1)
"...patients seeming to evaporate into an unlit hell to rematerialize as tamed demons." (page 64)
"Sometimes the loveliest places harbor the worst monsters." (page 105)

If you like horror or darker mysteries, this is a must read!

Frankly, it's the best book I've read in ages.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Cybersecurity is Our Shared Responsibility

Since my debut novel, Who R U Really?, features an Internet predator, I'm often asked to speak to groups of all ages about online safety. Here are a few tips I share with everyone:

Manage your settings both on your devices and social media platforms to control who sees your profile, photos, comments, and more.
Be selective and only accept friend requests from people you know in real life. Then monitor your list of friends to regularly reassess who has access to your information.

Never share it via email or instant messaging.
Beware of contests and “free” offers that require your personal information.
Use caution when entering information on websites.
o   SECURE = web address begins with “https” or has a closed padlock
o   TRUSTED = the official website of the organization

Practice research strategies by considering the source, utilizing multiple websites, and relying on current information.
Exercise shopping strategies by using a single, dedicated credit card and monitoring your statements regularly.


• Impress your friends by posting online about cybersafety.
• Encourage your local community center, library, or school to host a cybersecurity program.
• Discuss the importance of Internet safety with your family.
• Distribute Stop.Think.Connect. materials in your neighborhood and community.
• Report if you are the victim of online fraud to the Department of Justice at:

Stop.Think.Connect. is a national public awareness campaign aimed at increasing the understanding of cyber threats and empowering the American public to be safer and more secure online. The Campaign’s main objective is to help you become more aware of growing cyber threats and arm you with the tools to protect yourself, your family, and your community.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Book Review: ROSES AND ROT by Kat Howard

Roses and RotRoses and Rot by Kat Howard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


However, it was not what I expected. Based on the cover and the description - I anticipated more of a scary, nail-biting, horror story. While it was not that (and I don't want to give away what it was) - I thoroughly enjoyed this story. It was unique. The setting was captivating. The characters were diverse and developed. And the plot line had a darker tone with underlying questions that kept me turning the pages to find out how the story would be resolved.

Beware, this is not a YA novel. There is ample usage of the f-word (but not enough to deter me) and there is a short explicit sex scene.

I look forward to reading more books by Kat Howard. Well done!

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Frequently Asked Questions for WHO R U REALLY?

Here are answers to the questions I most commonly receive regarding my debut novel ...

Q: Can you describe your book in five words?
A: Girl falls for a boy.

Q: How would you introduce Who R U Really?
A: A teenage girl falls in love with a guy online, and when he comes for her in real life, he is not the person she thought he was. Who R U Really? is a rollercoaster ride of thrills and chills. I hope that you read it in one sitting, and I hope that you reevaluate your online habits after you close the book … because people aren’t always who they portray themselves to be online.

Q: How did you come up with the title for your book?
A: This story went through multiple title changes before we finally came up with Who R U Really?. My editor, Jackie Mitchard, and I emailed back and forth for quite a while brainstorming ideas, and this title emerged from that process.

Q: How would you describe your protagonist?
A: Thea is a na├»ve teenage girl who hungers to be loved by a boy. When things go wrong with the boy she likes at school, she falls for Kit, a guy she meets in an online role-playing game. She ends up lying to her parents and her friends, because she’s convinced she’s in love with Kit, and she’ll do anything for him. Her world falls apart when she learns that Kit is not who she thought he was. Thea has to figure out who she can trust in order to save herself in the end.

Q: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Thea?
A: I had to get out of my “adult” head and climb into the head of a young naive girl. While you and I might have made different choices than Thea did in her situation, she made the best decisions she could with the knowledge and abilities she had at the time. Plus, we all make mistakes, even when we know better. If Thea had made all of the “right” decisions that would have made a boring story. Plots get exciting when the main character makes “wrong” choices.

Q: For those who are unfamiliar with Kit, how would you introduce him?
A: In theory, Kit is a sad teenager seeking out friends in an online role playing game. However, Kit is a figment of online imagination. He is basically a puppet, and the puppeteer is someone we should all be afraid of … or at least consciously aware of … because the puppeteer is manipulating the situation and as a result, manipulating the other players in the game.

Q: If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
A: I would introduce Janie (Thea’s best friend) to Lia of Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, because moral support is essential in overcoming any addiction or illness.

Q: Who is your favorite character? Least favorite?
A: Favorite = Tim … Least favorite = Kit

Q: Is this your first writing project?
A: I have written non-fiction articles for magazines in the past, but Who R U Really? is my first novel to be published.

Q: What inspired you to write it?
A: Years ago, my daughter was nearly abducted by an online predator. After a counseling session one day, my daughter and I played the “what if” game. What if “this” had happened instead of that? What if “this” decision had been made instead of that? And a novel was born. There are many true scenes in the book along with many fictional ones.

Q: What was the hardest part about writing your book?
A: There are quite a few scenes in Who R U Really? that actually happened in real life. The hardest part about writing the story was making those real-life scenes translate into a believable fictional tale … because sometimes real-life events are too hard to believe.

Q: How much of the book is realistic?
A: There are quite a few scenes and conversations in the story that are based on real-life events. For example, the white chair scene actually happened, and that’s one of the scariest scenes in the book. However, the majority of the book is a work of fiction. All of the secondary characters are a work of fiction.

Q: What was the hardest scene for you to write?
A: The scene where the mother and daughter played Scrabble was the hardest scene for me to write, because that happened in real life. The events that immediately followed the game also happened. As I wrote the scene, I got very emotional. Writing it from my daughter’s perspective rather than my own made it even more challenging.

Q: What is your favorite scene in your book?
A: My favorite scene would have to be the climax at the end, which did NOT happen in real life!

Q: Do your characters talk to you?
A: In the case of Who R U Really? … yes, the characters really do talk to me, because the main character was loosely based on my daughter. She read early drafts and immediately TALKED to me. ;) She told me the things she liked and the things she hated. She was a great help, making sure the “voice” of the character was just right.

Q: Did writing Who R U Really? bring back the trauma of your daughter’s experience?
A: The process of writing the story was very therapeutic for both me and my daughter. The tough part for both of us was when we received the advance reading copies from the publisher. That was when we both realized the story was actually going out into the world for everyone to read. I have to admit there was a flash of panic for me. It was an extreme moment of vulnerability—feeling naked. Not only would people be judging the story for its merit, but also people would be judging my parenting choices and my daughter’s naivety. We wish we could explain a couple of things to every reader: 1) This happened to my daughter many years ago when she was eleven going on twelve. 2) This book is mostly a work of fiction. While many of the scenes happened in real life, there are many more that are merely a product of my imagination.

Q: Was writing Who R U Really? a cathartic experience for you?
A: Yes, it was. It allowed my daughter and me plenty of opportunities to discuss what happened and what could have happened. We’ve both grown and matured through the process, and we’re closer than ever.

Q: Do you think you would have become a published novelist without your daughter’s harrowing experience to motivate you?
A: The simple answer is yes. The long answer is that the path to becoming a traditionally published author can be a tough and time-consuming one. While I wanted to share my daughter’s story and it served as a great motivator, if no publisher had picked it up I would have continued pursuing the publication dream.

Q: How is your daughter coping following her terrifying experience, and has it made her more cautious online and in life in general?
A: My daughter is thriving (through the assistance of a great counselor and the benefit of time). The experience definitely made her more cautious online and probably a lot less trusting of people in the real world as well. Her trust was violated in a very intimate way, and it’s taken time for her to get to a place where she wants to trust people again. But she’s there now (many years later). She’s happy. She loves life. And she’s seeking out new adventures.

Q: Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
A: It’s important for writers to tell the stories they feel passionately about … and that’s an understatement for why I had to tell this story. The laws of the land are not set up to keep you safe when using the Internet. The only person protecting you online is you. So be mindful of what you’re doing and saying when typing or posting anything online.

Q: What do you hope readers will get from your book?
A: I hope they get a thrill from the book. I hope they stay up late to finish it. I hope they strain their eyes to read faster to find out what’s going to happen to the main character! And then, I hope they reevaluate their online practices.

Q: How do you define success?
A: I have different definitions of success for different things in my life. For the publication of Who R U Really?, I had defined success as helping at least one teenager stay safer online. I’m thrilled to say I’ve received several emails from teenagers telling me that after reading the book they cleaned out their “friends” lists online and deleted the people they did not know in real, everyday life. That’s a huge success.

Q: Who are some of your favorite writers? The ones who inspired you to share your story in print?
A: Dean Koontz is my favorite author in the thriller genre, but Laurie Halse Anderson is the author who inspired me to share the story of Who R U Really? with the world.

Q: Who R U Really? is getting great reviews. Were you surprised to find such overwhelming success with your first literary project?
A: I’m thrilled with the reviews that have come in for Who R U Really? … and yes, I’m a little surprised, because as I continue to improve my writing skills, I see things that I wish I would have done better in my debut. But since there’s nothing I can do about that now, I’m focusing on making my next project better than ever. And I hope readers will keep coming back for more!

Q: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
A: Patience. The traditional publishing process moves slowly, but it is a very worthwhile process.

Q: What is the most unusual or interesting research you have done for your books?
A: I’ve read a lot of Psychology Today articles about our emotions and why we make the choices we do … but I suppose that’s pretty boring research. For this book, the most interesting research I did was watch a lot of YouTube videos on self-defense so that I could make the scenes realistic in the story.

Q: What are your thoughts on social networking and friendships?
A: I love social networks, and I love friendships. However, we need to be aware and alert. People online are not always who they say they are. I’ve partnered with a campaign called STOP. THINK. CONNECT., and I’ve learned some interesting statistics through them. 75% of kids will share personal information in exchange for goods and services. That means, even if you tell your kids constantly to not share personal information online … when they receive an email or a message stating that they can get a free iPod (or whatever product), they’ll quickly type in their personal information to claim the merchandise. That message could be from a malicious person. It is our shared responsibility to help educate ourselves, our friends, and our family regarding online safety.

Q: What practical advice would you offer teens today about staying safe while on the web?
A: Here are five tips:
• Only accept friend requests on social media from people you know in your everyday life.
• Be transparent with the people in your real life who love you.
• Trust your parents. You don’t have to always agree with them, but trust that they have your best interests in mind.
• Keep your actual birthdate, phone number, email, street address, even city private. No one online needs to have that personal information about you.
• Most importantly, remember that there is strength in numbers. Use the buddy system, and do not ever meet an online acquaintance by yourself. Not ever. Don’t even play with the idea.

Book Review: THE HEIST by Janet Evanovich & Lee Goldberg

The Heist (Fox and O'Hare, #1)The Heist by Janet Evanovich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh. My. Gosh. I freaking loved this book! Seriously. It was awesome. Do I have to write anything more? ... Well, I will.

This fun story was a cross between MISS CONGENIALITY and WHITE COLLAR.

I laughed out loud - so many times!

I loved all of the characters.
"He had a spray tan, tortoise-shell glasses, and crotch wrinkles in his tan slacks." (page 2)
""Got some butterflies in your stomach?" "Butterflies are awfully girlie for a woman who carries a Glock, don't you think?" "Okay. African killer bees."" (page 43)

Seriously, if you want a fun read - pick up this book! I am excited to read the next one in the series.

View all my reviews

Friday, June 3, 2016

Camping Pictures - Because I Know You're Curious!

I recently went camping for ten days. Yes, I love being in the woods. However, I hate dirt and bugs - so it's an interesting conundrum for me! Below are a few pictures, and over the next several days, I'll post reviews of some of the books I read during the trip. YAY for books!

Except for the creepy bugs - we had a terrific time! :)