Good morning campers! Hope you had a great week. I'm coming to you from a wonderful campground in Columbia New Jersey called Camp Taylor. Later today I'm expecting my sister and Nick, as well as Rich and Kelly good friends. The ribs will be cooking low and slow all day and I hope to hear the wolves from the Lakota Wolf Preserve periodically. Hali is channeling her inner wolf in case a howl goes up. I had an amazing week with blogs and Facebook takeovers. If you want to check it out, head over to my about and guest blog page. But today isn't about me it's about my lovely guest. So let's shake off the dust of the week. Grab a beverage and enjoy our discussion.
Today I’m welcoming to the Campfire Marilyn Barr. She is a fellow Wild Rose Press Author and I'm excited to have her at the campfire. Thanks for coming by Marilyn, what’s your preference, coffee, tea, cocoa, wine? The camp fridge is like the Starship Enterprise, you speak it, you get it. Ginger tea please, after my morning coffee I rely on green or ginger tea to keep my internal fire going.
Tell us have you ever camped, or as I call what I do, Glamp.
My family glamps every November in the Smokey Mountains. We rent a cabin with an indoor pool and shut out the rest of the world. We hibernate like the three bears. In my paranormal romance series, the Strawberry shifters are in an alliance with a North Carolina mountain pack. This pack is nestled in the Smokey Mountains, and I use my glamping adventures to describe living there. The Smokey Mountains will be the travel destination for one of the Paulino boys when he’s old enough to be looking for love. I’m so excited to write about them.
How wonderful. I love when a location inspires a story and the Smokey Mountains are gorgeous. Tell us about your latest project. What book are you talking about today and what’s on the horizon?
On June 3rd, the first Strawberry Shifters novel, Bear with Me was released. Readers are now able to visit Strawberry, KY with the pack’s newest residents: the Luther family. Grant, Alison, and their son Henrik have relocated to the tiny town to follow Grant’s career dreams. He is the new Director of Regulatory Affairs at Bergan Pharma. While a more cautious person may question why an upstart pharmaceutical company is located in the middle of nowhere, Grant is just happy to have the chance to drive the company to stardom.
The second Strawberry Shifters novel has already been submitted to The Wild Rose Press. The loveable jokesters who run Bergan Pharma’s IT department are the main characters in Strawberry Shifters Book 2: Round of Applause. However, Round of Applause is a Yuletide book so its release date will not be until this holiday season.
I'm excited! Shifter stories are so much fun. Do you have a tagline? Life Motto?
On social media look for #Strawberryshifters as my tagline, but my personal life motto is “Dum Spiro, Spero”. Cicero’s famous quote means “Whilst I breathe, I hope”. My son and I battle a genetic autoimmune disease as well as neuro-diverse challenges just like our #ownvoices characters in the Strawberry shifters series. I hope to show the strengths and challenges of living with sensory processing disorder (SPD) through Alison Luther. I gave her the same flavor of SPD as myself with heightened hearing, taste, and smell but with muted touch, vestibular stability, and visual acuity. When she experiences the terror of an unidentified foreign food texture when she eats, it is from my experiences when eating mixtures. No s’ mores for me, thank you though. Combined with my ulcerative colitis, eating any meal is like being a contestant on Fear Factor.
Oh, my. That's a tough row to hoe. I'm shoving the s'mores back in the cabinet. Using your life experiences make stories so much deeper. I'm sure not only myself, but all the reader wish you both the best. How long did it take you from conception to publication?
In December of 2018, my husband dared me to write a paranormal romance novel. I hadn’t written fiction since high school but have background experience in technical writing. At the time I was reading 300 to 500 pages of paranormal romance a day and I believe he was trying to get out of buying another bookshelf.
I wrote Bear with Me, Round of Applause, and was almost finished writing Go Scorch Yourself in four months. My spouse learned never to dare me to do anything and I learned I loved writing paranormal romance as much as I love reading it. My friends were kind enough to let our book club read Bear with Me and loved it enough to also read Round of Applause and Go Scorch Yourself. They convinced me to try the query process, so I sent out one query and waited for a reply.
By June of 2019, I was losing hope on my one query attempt and started to scout out where to send my next letter. I was very naïve about the query process. I met my favorite author Lora Leigh at a reader to author meet up. I decided to wear a self-designed Strawberry Shifters t-shirt with a plea for an agent on the back. I got more laughs from my shameless self-promotion than agent attention, but I did get career-launching advice from Lora Leigh. She told me to query a small press directly and enjoy being an author, instead of waiting on an agent. I was a fan of a couple of Wild Rose Press authors and decided to query them. Bear with Me went into contract November of 2019.
I appreciate your bold gesture. And congratulations on landing in the Wild Rose Press Garden. It's a great publishing house and the authors in the garden are amazing. Tell us, are there any mentors, authors, or books you would like to give a shout-out to?
I would like to give a special shout out to my adopted hometown neighbor, JR Ward. While I was editing Bear with Me, I went to her presentation at our local library and was lucky enough to meet her. By having the speediest dialing, I was one of the first 30 participants to RSVP, winning a ticket to the pre-lecture reception. She talked about having the courage to write how the story in your head instead of the story desired by the market, the publisher, or the haters.
She autographed my idea book with the advice “only listen to your rice crispies”. She gave me the courage to keep the spice level of the Strawberry Shifters at the hot level of the books I like to read. One of the themes of Bear with Me is the balance of power in a marriage needs to be equal in all areas: emotional, financial, intellectual, and sexual. Taking the naughty scenes out or cooling them down would diminish the journey. I had to develop the courage to share them for which I credit JR Ward.
Good advice and an amazing thrill for you. Now that your published, what does literary success look like to you?
I have to admit, I am in it for fans. I can’t wait to sell books at a convention booth, signing autographs, and talking about Strawberry with readers. The ultimate sign of literary success for me would be fan art! I have zero artistic talents and in awe of anyone who does. The first fan to approach me with their rendition of Grant or Alison will probably be met with gushing happy tears. Be warned!
Life Hacks for Authors. Do you have any tips, tricks, or anything you specialize in that you would share with others. I’m also interested in how you have been managing your life and writing with COVID-19.
My son was diagnosed as immunocompromised and too sick for school in 2013, so we have had years to adjust to social distancing. My best tips involve using space and technology to work for you instead of against you. First, we have UV sterilizers for phones and tablets to avoid smearing them with disinfecting wipes several times per day. Putting the phones in the sterilizer for an hour at night not only keeps them from passing germs but gives us an hour of alone time…
Secondly, summer in Kentucky means farm-fresh produce, meat, and dairy which we prefer. After soaking produce in very dilute white vinegar to decontaminate them, I freeze, can, and pickle enough to last the winter. Lastly, but also concerning food, we have a grocery wiping station set up in the garage with wipes, gloves, paper towels, indoor-only cloth grocery bags, and new plastic bags if some of the packaging falls apart during decontamination. The equipment stays in a bin in the garage waiting to be used to avoid having to find everything when you get home from the grocery.
Before COVID, we evaluated immunity risks based on crowd level, air quality, cleanliness, food, and activity. The zoo is a better choice than a movie theater just because of the ability to spread out, minimal eating so you can wear a mask, and fresh air with the sun’s UV rays. Letting Mother Nature help keep you safe with her air-purifying plants and sunlight is an excuse to reconnect with the green spaces in your area. While my family does not rough it, we love an isola-cation like glamping here with you.
Wow you really were prepared for this. Thank you for sharing it. And now the fun questions
What is your favorite mug or teacup if neither T-shirt with graphic or Meme
My husband travels overseas for work several times per year. I asked that he brings back a mug from each destination. In a few years, I have amassed a collection of mugs from around the world. My favorite is my Canada mug because my spouse was able to purchase on our vacation without my knowledge. While we were suffering through security on the way home, he vanished. I struggled through the line with my nine-year-old and our gear. My husband reappeared when it was our turn to go through the scanners. The rogue let me gripe about it to him the whole trip home and throughout our first days back. It wasn’t until I unloaded the dishwasher that I found the mug and pieced together what he did. He had been laughing internally for nearly a week while I nagged him.
Teach me something I don’t know in two sentences.
The oldest myths of people shifting completely into animals are stories about dolphin shifters. The Indus wrote about Ganga and Makara, the Olmecs wrote about Boto Encantado’s many lovers, and next summer Smoother Than Spumoni will introduce readers to Suzie Larkin and her mystery mate.
What’s your favorite cartoon and why?
Growing up in the 1980s, I was a major fan of the Smurfs. Watching Smurfette navigate being the only -ette in the village helped me navigate being the only girl in my engineering classes. My son is a huge smurfs fan as well. We watch the Lost Village from a blanket fort most weekends.
If you could eat anything in the world right now, what would it be?
I brought pizza dough and foil so we could fire pizzas over the campfire if you don’t mind. Even though I am mildly allergic to tomatoes, I could live on pizza. I make pesto sauces of every green leafy herb and veggie imaginable to substitute for marinara. I freeze it to make pizzas all winter long. No extravagant toppings are necessary although I do love piling on fresh herbs from my garden atop a cheese pizza.
What's the last thing you really geeked out about?
I was reading about Kirlian photography and how it captures the energetic discharges differently from healthy organs and cancer infected organs. As much as I love reading about shifters and vampires, the strange behavior of subatomic particles in the body is more bizarre. I have a master’s degree in Particle Physics and still geeked out over medical testing and interventions based on sub-molecular principles. I write about pharma nerds because I am a pharma nerd married to another pharma nerd.
LOL! Marilyn, it's be not only fun but educational to have you here today. I wish you and your family a safe and healthy future. Please leave us some information about where we can learn more about you and your books.
Thank you for allowing me to visit your blog. As a new author, extra exposure means the world to me. I appreciate this opportunity and want to make the experience working with me the best possible. If you need additional information, please ask.
Blue eyes, dimples, and silky brown hair; Grant Luther has all of Alison's
When he asks for one last chance to save their marriage, she agrees to relocate their family to isolated Strawberry, Kentucky in pursuit of his career dreams. Grant views Alison's sensory issues as limitations and protects her from outside threats. When he finds his new job includes changing him into a shifter in a war against the soul-sucking Sluagh he vows to keep the changes a secret. What he doesn't know is Alison has been hiding a magical secret of her own. One that makes her a target of the Sluagh.
Will Alison emerge from Grant's shadow to protect her family? And can Grant learn that being different can be a strength not a weakness?
Book Excerpt: “You look perfect. I mean perfectly healthy. I mean mostly uninjured,” she stammers. She places her tiny hand over her eyes. Feeling braver than ever, I walk right up to her. I gently remove the hand from her face and hold it to my own. “See, I’m fine,” I whisper as I gently rub my thumb over her tiny knuckles. Her eyes lift to mine and lock our gazes. I have always found the golden color of her eyes fascinating but never studied them up close. They are light brown with a golden star in the middle. I am literally star gazing as she takes in the injuries to my face. We stand there for about a minute, lost in time. I wonder if she is thinking about when we first started dating, the hard times that followed, the present, or the future. I search her face for clues but don’t want to break the spell by opening my mouth. I decide to put said mouth to better use by lowering my head toward hers.
Barnes & Noble
Marilyn Barr currently resides in the wilds of Kentucky with her husband, son, and rescue cats. When engaging with the real world, she is collecting characters, empty coffee cups, and unused homeschool curricula. She has a diverse background containing experiences as a child prodigy turned medical school reject, biodefense microbiologist, high school science teacher, homeschool mother of a savant, and advocate for the autistic community.
She would love to hear from readers via her website: www.marilynbarr.com.
Amazon author profile