Books that matter

Some books formed me as a reader and a writer, and I will remember them forever.

Strangely, I didn’t read a lot of the “normal” kid books growing up. I don’t remember reading most of the Newbery or Caldecott medal winners. The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings were sort of off limits (I didn’t read those until college), no Bridge to Terabithia, Roald Dahl was barely a mention (although I found Matilda and wouldn’t let it go because I needed another strange little girl to give me hope), and Harry Potter came out when I was in high school. I’m just discovering some famous picture books as I build my own son’s library.

I was the epitome of a bookworm, but I don’t remember a lot about the books I read in elementary school. I think my middle school reading was largely furnished by my grandmother’s “don’t listen to rock music, swear, or read about magic or you’ll be possessed by a demon and die” books. Those books creeped me out a bit, and I’ve tried to block most of that reading from my mind. So needless to say, my formative reading was strange and pieced together oddly, but I did have books that inspired my imagination and made me want to write.

Here are some of my inspirations.

1. Emergency Mouse by Bernard Stone – My mother got tired of me asking for this book EVERY night at bed time. I loved it for some reason as odd and off the wall as it is.

Books - Emergency Mouse

2. The Castle in the Attic by Elizabeth Winthrop – I wanted that castle to be real so badly.

Book - The Castle in the Attic

3. Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar – This book was just plain fun.

Book - Sideways Stories from Wayside School

4. My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville – I was pretty certain a few of my teachers actually were aliens.

Book - My Teacher is An Alien

5. The Ghost Wore Gray by Bruce Coville – This book made me want to be a writer.

Book - The Ghost Wore Gray

6. The Ghost in the Third Row by Bruce Coville – And all the Bruce Coville books, apparently.

Book - The Ghost in the Third Row

7. Ghost Cat by Beverly Butler – Ghosts, ghosts, and more ghosts. I wanted all of the ghost books. Oh, and cats. I would read any book that had a cat on the cover.

Book - Ghost Cat

8. Anne of Green Gables and all the Anne and Rilla book by L.M. Montgomery – A redhead, adventures, romance, and Canada. Yep, I read them ALLLLL, and I fell in love with Anne’s sons.

Book - Anne of Green Gables

9. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl – The MOST influential book I ever read.

Book - Anne Frank

10. The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery – These books were amazing for a girl who wanted to write.

Book - The Story Girl

11. Matilda by Roald Dahl – Matilda understood me.

Book - Matilda

12. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry – My sixth grade teacher told me about this book. I loved Mrs. Butler, and I would have read anything she suggested.

Book - Number the Stars

13. The Stand by Stephen King – My first “grown up” read. I loved pulling it out of my backpack because it was HUGE and my mother wouldn’t even read Stephen King, so I felt like a B.A. bookworm.

Book - The Stand

14. A Separate Peace by John Knowles – This was in our 9th grade English book, but they had removed all the swear words. I bought the paperback to be rebellious. Ha.

Book - A Separate Peace

15. Don’t Die, My Love by Lurlene McDaniel – Ahh, teenage sad romance. The sadder, the better. I read this book at least five times and cried every time, and then I decided I could write my own stories.

Book - Don't Die

16. Night by Elie Wiesel – Need I say more?

Book - Night

17. Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters – For some reason, I took this book to Europe with me. I carried it around Switzerland in my backpack. I don’t know what it was about it, but I still flip through the poems from time to time.

Book - Spoon River


Tales by Rails – Author Top 10 with debut author Jewel E. Leonard

Today I want to welcome debut author Jewel E. Leonard to kick off her blog tour for her book Tales By Rails. While I normally stick to discussing YA here at Fueled By Coffee and Books, Jewel writes erotic romance and she is a dear friend of mine. So keep in mind that this book is for adults who enjoy steamy romance.

Click here to check out Tales By Rails on Goodreads.


Jewel lives with her husband, 7-year-old son and 19-month-old daughter in North Central Texas. The Leonards recently adopted a black kitten who will be Jewel’s minion of darkness in short order.

She has been writing since the early 1980s and enjoys reading historical fiction, paranormal and romance. Jewel has a long-standing affinity for witches, werewolves, ghosts, vampires, and epic love affairs. These elements creep out of her pen and bleed through the pages of her stories whether or not she wants them to. Often, her alpha-style leading men fall in love hard and fast (and on occasion, even unapologetically). On the flip-side, her leading ladies are feisty, head-strong, disinterested in falling in love (until the right man comes along), and at least a little neurotic.
Her contemporary stories feature the same types of men and women but also include a heavy helping of pop culture references. Jewel likes to fly her geek flag and encourages others to do the same.

When not writing, Jewel may be found wielding pointy sticks (knitting hats, gloves, and socks) or crocheting, and she has even been known to paint the occasional landscape. Those who know her will tell you all about her penchant for pumpkin spice everything, coffee, flowers, and friends.

So without further ado, I present Jewel’s TOP TEN!



1. My longing for success has always earned me a spot in Slytherin when I take those Hogwarts house sorting quizzes online.

2. My poisons of choice are coffee, cola and chocolate. And Red Vines.

3. I’ve been writing since the early 80s. One of the earliest stories I remember writing was about a runaway. Tales by Rails? About a runaway. Some things never change.

4. I have a neck fetish. I may also have a thing for a finely groomed mustache.

5. I wrote smut in elementary school. It was so dirty that when my parents found it, they wouldn’t allow my older brothers to read it. (I didn’t know a thing about what I was writing.)

6. I have a cock collection. My roosters range from ceramic to wood to metal and they are all over my kitchen. My husband always tells me to pick up another decoration when he sees them on sale.

7. I’m writing my dearly departed kitty into a novel. She’s going to be a vampire.

8. I love music. The more I listen, the more I write.

9. Like Surfer Boy, I’ve never stepped foot on a plane. I have traveled much of the United States and into Vancouver, British Columbia. I love road trips and train rides! I collect key chains from states I’ve driven through.

10. No matter how hopeless I feel, no matter how likely I am to fail in this endeavor . . . I will keep going. I always do. As long as the stories are there, I’ll write them.



 You can download Tales By Rails here.

You can find Jewel on Goodreads, Twitter, and Amazon! Or visit her website.


Writing = wading through quicksand

I’m going to be honest here. Sometimes writing sucks. Having dozens (or hundreds) of characters who live in your head and want attention. Trying to balance aspiring to publication with having a day job that pays bills and provides insurance. Working out time to write when you have a job or family or commitments. And not to mention querying, entering contests, researching agents, revising, studying the market, and obsessing over how you never feel like your writing is good enough.

I’ve been in the query trenches with my first manuscript off and on for almost a year, and it’s HARD. Really, really, frustrating and hard. I love my manuscript, the characters, and everything about the story. I’m sure there are things I could fix, and I plan to do a whole new round of revisions once I’m finished with my current WIP, but I feel like I’m failing with every day that I don’t have an agent or a book contract.

At the moment, I think I’m about 50 pages from finishing my second manuscript. It’s strong and fairly kick ass (if I do say so myself), and I’m chomping at the bit to write the query and see if I get more response from agents. It’s not that I think it’s an inherently better book than my first MS, but I think it hits a lot of areas that seem marketable right now. But I have to wait until I finish the story and have my betas and CPs go over it, and then I’ll have to wait for agents to respond. And wait … and wait … and wait.

Publishing is hard. Even when you’re not really in the door yet. Writing is extra hard because I want to spend time with all the characters in my head right now. I want to hang out with my old characters and give their MS more polish. I need to hang out with my current WIP and finish it before my writing friends throw tomatoes at me for taking so long. And I’m anxious to hang out with characters I’m only just considering for my next project. Why isn’t there enough time to do it all?

Writing is the only job I’ve ever really loved. Putting my words and thoughts onto a page opens brand new doors. I love it when people come up to me and tell me that they enjoyed a story or article that I wrote. It’s an amazing sense of pride when I realize that I created something that resonated with another person.

I love this job, and I even love the writing/creative/connecting part of my day job. I hate the waiting and never feeling like I do enough. I wish there was a way to figure out how to better organize my day so I could do all the things I need to do and still feel like I’m making progress. Most days I feel like I’m simply spinning my wheels and never moving forward.

Balancing and juggling everything sucks. I just want to see myself moving forward as a writer instead of perpetually wading through quicksand. A step forward – any step – would be a welcome relief at this point.