Mary Cunningham: Author – Non-fiction / YA – Tween

My last and most excellent writer, may I introduce to you…Mary Cunningham!

Carla: What would you like to share about yourself?

Mary:  I’m a wife, mother, and writer and live with my husband and newly adopted canine, Lucy, in the mountains of West Georgia. The location isn’t as remote as it sounds since I’m within walking distance of a grocery story—a requirement in every one of our nine moves!

I enjoy golf, swimming, a variety of sports (viewing), hate the summer heat and the winter chill, but haven’t found a way to purchase that vacation home in Maui.

On the professional side, I’m author of the award-winning, four book, ‘Tween fantasy/mystery series”,Cynthia’s Attic.  This series was inspired by a recurring dream about a mysterious attic where twelve-year-old best friends, Cynthia and Gus (Augusta Lee), find a magic trunk that sends them through time solving mysteries with their ancestors. Their first adventure finds them traveling from 1964 back to 1914 where they meet their twelve-year-old grandmothers!

I’m also co-writer of the humorous women’s lifestyle book, WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, and Ebooks, Ghost Light, and Christmas With Daisy, a Cynthia’s Attic Christmas story.

Carla:  When did you feel the need to start getting your thoughts on paper?

Mary:  Oh, wow. That probably would’ve been when I was about six-years old! I thought I was the next Robert Frost (My dad used to recite poetry to me at bedtime, along with his own made-up stories). That’s about the time I started writing some really awful verses. But, in my defense, I was just six!

From there, I wrote family memoirs, but never considered writing fiction until the idea for Cynthia’s Attic emerged. Now, fantasy/fiction is my favorite genre.

Carla:  What is WOOF about?

Mary: Best way I can describe WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, is with the book blurb!

Over fifty? Or planning a trip to mid-life in the near future? Bags packed, but wondering about your destination? Well, you’re not alone. With no map to guide us through the “joys” of middle age, three witty, resourceful, savvy women chart our own course. And you’re invited!

Join us as we romp through issues of expanding waistlines, deepening wrinkles, empty nests and muddled memories. And, we even find some good things to bark about! So, don’t just use this book to fan a hot flash. Look inside. Find out if you’re a Springy Spaniel or a Moody Mutt. Discover over 50 reasons to wag your tail.

But, WOOF isn’t just about the book, we also have a great blog (WOOFers Club Blog) where women over fifty can visit, make comments and even contribute to our special posts on “Dog Tails” (stories about the special canine friend in your life) and “New Leash On Life” (stories on re-inventing yourself after age 50). We love guest posts!

Carla:  Genre you’d like to try but haven’t?

I’m working on a couple of adult mysteries and am especially excited about a mystery/satire. I love  dry humor and the MC and her “cast” embody dry wit. I simply love writing, however, and enjoy jumping from one genre to the next.

Carla:  What are your literary goals?

Mary:  Hmmm. Goals for the future. I’d like to make a comfortable living writing. My husband is retired and like many seniors, we’re concerned about the future. How nice it would be to make tons of money doing what I enjoy!

An added bonus is encouraging students to write. When I speak to elementary schools, I usually end the program by asking them to remember that old author who came to their school, and how she inspired them to write. If I motivate one student to start writing, then I’m happy, although a few dozen would be even better! Lol.

Carla:  What’s your advice for upcoming writer’s?

Mary:  A very generous and blunt NY editor gave me a critique years ago that probably led to getting the first two books  in my Cynthia’s Attic series published. “Too much telling—not enough showing.” I had no clue what that meant before researching various writing websites and blogs. But, then I had one of those “light-bulb” moments. I spent the next six months on rewrites that moved the storyline through dialog and action rather than simply “telling” the story.

The second bit of advice is, “Write what you know.” It’s easier to write about the familiar. Since the original setting for Cynthia’s Attic is my hometown, Corydon, Indiana, and takes in many childhood memories, much of the research was already in my head. Since I’m a very visual writer (It’s much easier to write when I can picture a scene or character), old family pictures and stories about ancestors also bring authenticity to the story-lines.

Unfortunately, in WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty, I know this subject matter inside-out! That’s why we decided to keep WOOF, for the most part, light and funny. We over-fifty women have enough to deal with when it comes to weight gain, hormones and hot flashes, so our objective is to provide a good laugh.

Carla: Favorite dessert?

I’ve always said anything chocolate, however, my maternal grandmother has been in my thoughts recently, and she made the best rhubarb pie in the world! Not to be confused with those fake strawberry/rhubarb pies! She made hers with rhubarb straight from her garden, along with a fantastic vinegar pie crust (the recipe is included in WOOF: Women Only Over Fifty). One of my fondest memories is her teaching me to make crust. In fact, I got so good at it, I made the crust and she made the filling. So, at this moment, I’d have to say my grandmother’s rhubarb pie.

Carla: Pets at home?

Mary: So glad you asked! Years ago, we adopted a sweet terrier/mix. Molly died in 2008 and we were so heartbroken, another dog wasn’t in our thought process…until a few months ago when we spotted a little dog who had just been abandoned. A great rescue group, 1 Lucky Dog Rescue in Hialeah, FL, took her in, got her shots up to date and then posted her pic on Facebook. One look at her and we were hooked. Thanks to the help of many, and—I’m convinced, a guardian angel or two—we are now adopted parents to Lucy, a Chinese Crested/Maltese mix.

She livens up the house with her playfulness and keeps us laughing throughout the day. I feel so fortunate to have brought not one, but two amazing rescue dogs into our lives, and I encourage everyone to check out the shelters first! Don’t shop – adopt!

Carla:  So sorry about Molly!  Nice that Lucy is such great company.  Would you please share with us, a line ,from one of your books?

Mary:  Great question! This isn’t just a line, but one of my favorite paragraphs. My dad was a huge influence on my life and my writing, so this passage from Cynthia’s Attic: Curse of the Bayou, warms my heart whenever I read it.

I stared at the solid, radiant blanket of stars. “The Milky Way,” my dad would point out. “That’s our galaxy, Gus. Remember to always respect the beauty and vastness of the universe.” A tear slipped from my cheek. “Another night, Dad.” I couldn’t bring myself to appreciate much of anything at the moment. I pulled my knees in tight and lowered my head. Maybe tomorrow will look better.

Mary: Thanks, so much, for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, Carla! It’s been fun!

Carla:  You are so very welcome, Mary!  Thanks for coming along for the ride 😉   Wishing much success to you, as you travel on your writing journey!


Mary Cunningham Books

Cynthia’s Attic Blog

WOOFers Club Blog


Echelon Press


Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle – Amazon Link:

YouTube code for video: Cynthia’s Attic Series

YouTube Cynthia’s Attic Series URL:

Kieryn Nicolas: Author – Young Adult

A big, warm welcome to our youngest featured author, Kieryn Nicolas!

Carla: Tell us a bit about yourself.  How old were you when did you had your first book published?

Kieryn: I was fourteen when I got the contract and fifteen when it came out in print. (The eBook was released a few days before my birthday.) I was so excited when I saw the first print copy of Rain—I started jumping up and down, flipping right through it; the works. I was excited to see the first copy of Flawless Ruins, too but I was at a book festival surrounded by boxes and tables so there wasn’t much space to jump up and down.

Carla: When you’re not at school or behind the keyboard, what’s your favorite thing to do to unwind?

Kieryn: Read! I also like to run, especially with my friends, or practice Taekwondo. (The sport takes a lot of concentration, though. Maybe beating up the punching bag in my basement is the part where I unwind. 🙂

Carla: Tell us about Flawless Ruins, your new book.

Kieryn: Flawless Ruins is different from Rain in that it’s set a few hundred years in the future, and I have chapters from two different points of view. Oh, and there are no men in the book!…Or, at least, there aren’t supposed to be. The book cover based on a design by my sister. She drew the background image!

Carla: What’s your advice for teens who want to write professionally?

Kieryn: Know what you’re writing. Make an outline or storyboard so you don’t get stuck. Get feedback from others, like your friends and family. Also, make sure you WRITE!

Carla: Name the most unusual place you’ve found inspirations for one of your books’ characters?

Kieryn: Before my trip to Disney World I was looking up information about the marathon weekend , and I saw a picture of Cinderella. I think she was running to her carriage at midnight, but in the picture she looked pretty freaked out, and that reminded me of a dream I had the night before. The dream and the Cinderella image fused together into an idea for a character (and plot). I haven’t finished this book, but I’m glad I saw the picture of Cinderella!

Carla: Favorite line from a favorite book.

Kieryn: “Humanity takes itself too seriously. It is the world’s original sin. If the cave-man had known how to laugh, history would have been different.” ~The Picture of Dorian Gray

Carla: When you are done sorting through all those college pamphlets, and decide on a school, what subject will you be majoring in?

Kieryn:  I HAVE NO IDEA. Recently I’ve been looking at anthropology and political science, but less than a year ago I wanted to study forensic science.  ( I’m still interested in English and creative writing.)  Who knows what I’ll think in a few months? (I wish I did.)

Carla: Where can my readers find your books?

Kieryn: Rain and Flawless Ruins are available on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, OmniLit, Smashwords, and others—links are on my website


Fun Questions!

Carla: What did you have for dinner tonight?

Kieryn: Garden pizza—I picked the tomatoes off, of course.

Carla: If you were a color, what would it be?

Kieryn: Turquoise, probably.

Carla: Your favorite vacation spot?

Kieryn: Long Beach Island, NJ! I go there every summer. It’s fantastic.

Carla: Cats or Dogs?

Kieryn: Dogs. Definitely dogs. Large dogs.

Carla: What’s the nicest compliment you’ve ever received, personally or professionally?

Wow, I’m not sure. What jumps to mind are a few emails I’ve received from adults, telling they really hadn’t expected Rain to be very good (because of my age). But they were emailing to say they really enjoyed my writing—which I think is a great compliment for any author to hear!

Kristen Hagopian – Author, Columnist, Consumer Reporter, Supermarket Spokesperson and Motivational Speaker

A giant welcome to our multi-talented guest and my dear friend Kristen Hagopian!  (Clapping in the background) She is the reigning,”Queen of Frugality”.

Carla:  Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an extremely fortunate, loudmouth, married, work-from-home Mom of two wonderful kids that put up with me beautifully.  I am also the creator of a little book entitled, Brilliant Frugal Living.  In the last two years, Brilliant Frugal Living has evolved into some fun, crazy job descriptions, including, but not limited to, Author, Columnist, Consumer Reporter, Supermarket Spokesperson & Motivational Speaker. All  this is  has been fueled by tremendous luck and frightening natural hyperactive DNA, combined with a caffeine addiction worthy of a 12-step program.

Carla:    You make me feel so lazy with your fast paced life! When you’re not writing for your column or out in the community speaking, or taking care of your family, what’s your favorite thing to do to unwind?

Kristen : First of all, you are one of the busiest super-achievers I know!  To answer your question, I love combing through local thrift stores to sustain my uncontrollable designer handbag addiction ($5 for a black Gucci leather handbag, what am I supposed to do, walk away?  I think not… J Most of them go as gifts, I swear!!)
I’m also addicted to Julia Child’s “French Chef” episodes from the 1960’s and 1970’s.  I have just about all of them.  After the craziest of days, when the kids go to sleep, I’ll play one of her shows where – I don’t know – she does zucchini five different ways, and suddenly I’m inexplicably in my mellow zone.  Must be the butter.  Bon Appétit!
I’m also a library geek, I love to read.  Books about fabulous speakers always get my attention at the library.  I’m reading a great one about Steve Jobs.  The guy is a Motivational Speaking genius! 

Carla:  Aww…How kind.  Thanks, Kristen!  Oh, Savings Queen, tell us about your life-changing book?

Kristen:  Brilliant Frugal Living details the strategies our household utilized to compensate for losing half our household income (I was making $50,000+ when I decided to quit my Corporate job to start a family). Granted, it’s important to note I had the benefit of growing up in a fabulous (yet frugal) household.  We lived in fantastic neighborhoods, went to the best schools, always had great food on the table, wonderful holidays, etc.  However, I could see from an early age that my parents made it happen because they always thoroughly researched how to spend their money for maximum benefit (and always in such a way that left money over for saving and investing).  A few decades of having those lessons lovingly pounded into my head, combined with modern advances like the internet, made it possible to accommodate for losing half our household income, yet still making it work financially, without sacrificing any of the quality in our lives.  In fact, by the time we had Katie home for one year, we actually had more in savings than when my husband and I were both in Corporate America!


Carla:   What do you think makes your book unique? How has the economy played a role in the promotion of your book?  (Easy one!)

Kristen: The economy has undoubtedly played a role in the book’s success.  When I first tossed about the idea for the book, the economy hadn’t taken its latest downturn yet, things were still flying high, and nobody (and I mean nobody) was interested in a story about a two-income household that suddenly went to one-income.  Then, the economy went into recession, and suddenly every news story was about two-income households that had to quickly compensate for losing an income (or worse).  Now, everybody was interested in saving large amounts of money, and fast.  The book took off.

I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with thousands of people in my work, and one thing is overwhelmingly clear is that just about everyone felt that this downturn happened pretty much overnight.  It left some individuals without much time to plan or accommodate the shift with personal savings.  Once the recession hit, hard-working Americans were absolutely ready to change their spending behaviors to compensate for it, they jumped right into the challenge, but they needed some new tools and strategies to save large amounts of money fast, and I’m humbled to hear that the book seems to help people with that.

You ask how the book is unique: Perhaps Brilliant Frugal Living is a bit different because it shows how to slash spending without a lot of effort.  The strategies are easy and result in your living the same life you have now, having the same great food, brand names, etc, except the book gives you the tools to easily find them for 50-90% off.  It seems to be filling a niche.  I’m very grateful to hear it.

Carla:  Do you have plans for a follow-up book to, Brilliant Frugal Living?  If not, what projects do you have coming up this year?

Kristen: I’m having a great time in planning stages for a 2nd Edition of the book, one that incorporates all of my blogs and columns from the last 18 months!  If I’m lucky, I’ll wrap it up in the next six months.  As for titles, I’m thinking Brilliant Frugal Living II – Now Even Fruglier!.  (Yeah, I’ll keep working on the title…) The first edition of the book is self-published; this next edition I’m going to scout about for a publisher.  If only these publishers would advertise themselves in a way that would be helpful to me, like, “works well with fast-talking, caffeinated frugalistas…”, but alas, no such luck.
As for other projects I have coming up this year, I’m working with some radio stations that are interested in broadcasting weekly Brilliant Frugal Living segments – Should be fun!

Carla:   Name the most unusual places you’ve found inspirations for your book.

Kristen: That’s a great question.  There are a few places that have really stirred up inspiration for me, all for different reasons.  One of the most inspiring locations was a gorgeous, recently constructed, Mack-daddy high school where I was asked to conduct a “Brilliant Frugal Living” lecture for the students.  I arrived early and was looking around, and I noticed that this gorgeous, state of the art school had no Home Economics kitchen!  I asked a 20-something security guard where it was, and he had no idea what I was talking about.  Never heard of the concept.  “Home Eco-who?…”  Then I tried a joke about “Okay then, so where’s the “Take-Out Chinese 101” class held?”, and that went right by him as well.  Crickets.

So here’s this amazing school, with the best of everything, taxpayer-funded by people who (I’m guessing) cooked & ate at home so as to afford to pay the school taxes, only to have those taxes go towards a school that has no intention of giving students Home Economics lessons (a.k.a. “Running the Economics of a Home”!). No cooking, no sewing, no budgeting – I think it’s considered a bit outdated these days.  Personally, as a “Class of 1986’er, it completely freaks me out.  Amusing that they called me in to do a lecture to students on how to stay out of debt and save money.  I think we’ll file that one under “Irony 101”.

Another place I’ve found amazing inspiration was at the Laura Ingalls homestead in South Dakota.  I’ve always loved her books, and her personal story. This incredible writer was born into very limited means, not much education, was very poor for the majority of her life (she didn’t start writing the ‘Little House’ books until she was in her sixties), and yet through hard work and ingenuity she and her family always found a solution for any and all situations.  She always talks about how blessed and fortunate she was, never feeling deprived. I’m reading the books with my six-year old daughter now, and she loves them.  She has a million questions, all from an adorable child’s mindset: “Mommy, why did Laura’s Daddy get that honey from a TREE?!  Couldn’t he just get it from the store?  Why does she have a corncob for a doll?”  I highly recommend it as required reading for all kids.

Carla:   What’s the most effective promo you’ve ever done?

Kristen: The most effective promo was the guarantee I put on the book when I first wanted to get the word out about it.  I said that anyone who bought the book would save thousands of dollars, or their money back, guaranteed, no questions asked.  It’s the only personal finance book on the market that offers that type of guarantee, and it was the type of promo that not only put potential buyers at ease, but also got the attention of local news stations as well.  I highly recommend that sort of strategy.  Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there!

Carla: Amazing!   Share with our readers the most popular tip you’ve given on how to save money.

Kristen: Absolutely, here’s one of my favorites… We all love our little luxuries, our daily coffee from the coffee shop on the way to work, maybe buying a sandwich for lunch – all of these things are great, don’t get me wrong. But they add up.  Here’s a little experiment you can do with your cash instead.  Have a ten-minute talk with your bank, and have that $5/day put into a separate bank account instead.  Then brew your coffee at home, or throw together a ham & cheese from your own refrigerator.  You’re still getting your coffee, still enjoying lunch, nothing has changed, but now you’ve got $5/day going into a bank account as well.  By the end of the year, that $5/day becomes $1800.  That’s an average mortgage payment for many Americans.  Apply that $1800 as one additional principal payment, and you cut a 30-year mortgage down to 24 years instead.   Want some even better numbers?  Depending on your mortgage rate, you’re going to be saving, on average, about $120,000 of your own money over those 24 years.  Now, you could give that money to the bank if you want (you’re currently doing just that), but personally, in 24 years, I’ll be hitting retirement age… and I can think of something I’d prefer to do with $120,000, like KEEP it MYSELF!  More fun math: That $120,000 over 24 years comes out to $5,000/year.  By investing $1800/year into your mortgage, you’re automatically getting $5,000/year back.  It’s a lovely little return on your $5/day investment. Now that’s some Brilliant Frugal Living.

Carla:  Great advice!  So let’s get right down to the most pressing question of this interview…What did you have for dinner tonight?

Kristen: Fabulous and super-easy Chicken Cacciatore!  Sautéed one pound of chicken breasts (on sale for $1.99/pound), combined with a jar of Emeril’s Cacciatore sauce (regularly $4/jar, only $1 at my local discount gourmet grocery!), served over rice – so good! Served with a salad & dessert, would easily cost $40+ for a family of four in a restaurant, but made everything at home for $5 (and have leftovers as well – WOO HOO!)

Carla:  Yum, yum!  If you were a color, what would it be?

Kristen:  Red.  No doubt about it.  Ultra-obnoxious, hurts your eyes to look at it power-red!

Carla:    Favorite vacation spot?

Kristen: I’m close to Lancaster, PA – home of Amish Country.  I love going out there on vacation, it’s peaceful, beautiful, quiet, lots to do, AND inexpensive – how many vacation spots can claim all of that?!  It’s a great place – I love it.

Carla:   Cats or dogs?

Kristen:  Ooh, good one!  I love both, but have neither at the moment.  My kids have three goldfish; all named “Dorothy” after the Elmo’s World character.  Does that count?

Carla:   Yes, amphibious creatures count. What’s the nicest compliment you’ve ever received, personally or professionally?

Kristen: My beautiful six-year old Katie told me recently that she was really glad I was her Mommy (complete with a bear hug as she said it).  Nothing tops that.  A Pulitzer Prize would come in far second to that.

Carla: Super sweet!  Nothing’s better then that! Where can my readers find your book?

Kristen: You can find Brilliant Frugal Living at my website, as well as on  I’ve shipped the book all over the world, and it’s also can be downloaded to Kindle!

Carla: Please check out Kristen’s latest tips on summer savings –

Kristen Hagopian is the author of “Brilliant Frugal Living”.  Her popular book details the easy, proven strategies she developed to save thousands of dollars a year on food, clothing, entertainment and more!  In the two years since her book was written, the Brilliant Frugal Living brand has since evolved into a Column read by millions, over 30+ appearances on ABC, NBC, Fox News and The Live Well Network, and she has been selected as the official spokesperson for a popular supermarket chain.  She conducts humorous lectures on the subjects of entrepreneurial issues, women in business, personal finance, wealth-building and more to civic, corporate and private groups.  Kristen resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with her family.

Tom Schafer: Author – Horror

Please welcome our most wonderful guest, Tom Schafer.  So glad you could join us today!

Carla: Tell us a bit about yourself.

Tom: I’ll give it a shot…I’m thirty-eight, weird and sometimes pretty smart. And I basically just believe that reading and writing is good for the soul.

Carla: What is your genre?  Tell us about your book?

Tom: Horror, for the most part. Not so much blood and guts, but psychological.  Shadow of the Ripper is a book about the ghost of Jack the Ripper haunting a small town in Ohio. It was inspired by an Arby’s commercial, believe it or not. It gave me a thought about what if Jack the Ripper had become obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe and, voila.

Tom: My book, Away from the Hourglass is pretty much a ghost story based on the loss of a girlfriend, that I went all crazy with. Curse of the Pharaoh is more of a drama than Horror. It deals with the death of King Tut. It’s more of a political conspiracy theory type story. Thoughts of The Damned was my first book; It was written when I was still pretty young. It’s one of those…not quite there books, but it has it’s moments.

Carla: Who is your favorite character and why?

Tom: Jared Drake. He was the first character that I ever wrote. Most of my friends think that he’s really my “dark side.” Maybe he is. Now, I try to give him “cameos” in my newer books. He’s pretty much the negative side of the world.

Carla: What do you think makes your book unique from other horror / vampire books?

I read a lot of books or stories where the plot and story development are the same. Or similar. I try to avoid that. I also try to avoid being too descriptive. I’m a firm believer in that vague is clearer. Sort of like a forced-perspective thing. I may say that a character is tall, has long, messy hair, and that’s usually about it. I like the reader to make a connection to someone that they already know.

I also don’t mess around with “fluff.”  Some of my chapters are only a page or two.  I’d rather have a 200 page book that is all story and dialogue, than a 500 page book that is overly descriptive. That usually bores me as a reader.

Carla: Your all-time favorite author?

Tom: I’m going to have to go with Poe. He wrote short stories. He really had a grasp on how to scare you.

Carla: The genre you’d like to try but haven’t done yet.

Tom: A straight up, Comedy. Every comedy I write seems to end up taking horrifically, terrible turns. Or it delves off into weird, Sci-fi.

 Carla: What did you have for dinner tonight?  


Carla: If you were a color, what would it be?

Tom:  Purple…dark, but there’s a little light in there.

Carla: Thanks for stopping by, Tom!

To purchase one of Tom’s books click on:

Tom Schafer is a 38 year-old writer from Fremont, Ohio. He has four published books: “Thoughts of the Damned” (2001) “Curse of the Pharaoh” (2006) “Away from the Hourglass” (2007) “Shadow of the Ripper” (2008) He is currently working on screenplays as well as several other books, including “Lukas Nevland and the Seas of Aquataine,” an adaptation from screenplay to novel, based on the screenplay written by Owen Jennings.