The Secret of Camp Whispering Pines
Read this fun mystery as a stand-alone, or start with book #1
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What could be better than hiking, swimming, and horseback riding? Having a mystery to solve, of course!
When Sam and Ally go off to summer camp together, they discover the secrets of Camp Whispering Pines. Set in the beautiful, rugged mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the clues are slowly revealed and it's up to the two girls to figure it out.
New friendships are formed, while at the same time enemies lurk nearby. The closer they get to uncovering the truth behind the camp, the further they are pushed into danger and deceit. Can Sam and Alley put all of the pieces together before it's too late? Follow them on another thrilling tale filled with excitement and adventure, along misty, high mountain trails, and deep ravines, where the answers wait to be found!
This fun middle grade series is being called a modern-day Nancy Drew. It will take you back to your Trixie Beldon days, but are in current social settings with real issues relevant to today's teens and pre-teens. They're clean, wholesome stories that you and your kids will devour!
Check out the whole series
Tara Ellis, an Amazon best selling author, lives in a small, rural town in Washington State set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She enjoys the quiet lifestyle with her two kids and several dogs. Tara was a firefighter/EMT, and worked in the medical field for many years, before committing herself to writing young adult and middle grade novels full-time.
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1. Tell us a little bit about yourself: who you are and where you come from:
My name is Katie Harwood, I also go by Katie Louise and some others tbd haha. I grew up in a small town in NH and moved to California after finishing my first year of college trying grow up. Didn’t work out so well and ended up back on the East Coast after a brief stint of about 7 years meandering around the state of California and trying to finish art school. Finally made it back, grew somewhat up, got an art degree and went promptly to work in finance. The ultimate cliché.
2. When did you know that you wanted to be a musician/songwriter?
There’s footage of me somewhere at months old playing with a fisher-price toy piano. That was always my proof that is was there from the beginning. I used music to cope at an early age, but the development of songwriting started when I started realizing that there wasn’t always a song for me that fit my emotional state. I knew I wanted to write my own music when I got sick of playing classical piano and singing opera pieces that I usually only used to impress boys into thinking I knew how to speak a different language. It worked, until I finally met one that actually spoke Italian. There’s a song about that too.
3. What kind of music do you write?
The very first song I wrote was called “Die, Grandma, Die”. I was 7-years-old and had just lost my grandmother to cancer. I clearly write music mostly in a literal sense. Everything I put my hand to, has been in some way experienced, either by me or through others. The lyrics are meant to tell a story and I try and use them in such a way that puts them up for interpretation, but never something anyone has to try and figure out.
4. What inspires you?
Spontaneity. People experience things on a daily basis, but there is always that one moment when the realization of something hits you. For me, it can be a lyric, or a melody. Whatever it is usually comes at the most inopportune time, when I’m either sleeping or in the supermarket or shower. It sounds silly, but I have a notebook full of one-liners that I wake up from dreams with and an iphone full of horrible sounding voice bites. I am inspired by the strength of the people that surround me and of my own. It’s taken me a long time to be inspired by my own life, but with time, I realized it’s worth sharing as well and have been told it has provided support for others, which is, if anything, the one thing I always wanted to accomplish. I am inspired by a lot of late 70’s/early 80’s era rock, folk and country. I like things to make sense, whether it be chord progression or the flow of words. I think a lot of the old school bands like Boston, The Stones and Steve Miller Band, and random singers like Garth Brooks, Cat Stevens or Stevie Nicks. There is a wide array of things I listen to. Inspiration has come from as far off as metal and/or punk music, which is a whole way of life in and of itself.
5. What message or inspiration do you hope to pass on to your listeners?
Let things surprise you. Take chances. Really listen and take in what people are saying and find meaning in even the smallest things. Be inspired by yourself and the good things that happen as well as the bad. Don’t ever think timing isn’t for a reason.
Bonus Question: What’s next for you?
I have been working with a producer named Mike Davidson here in Boston and we just finished a successful crowdsourcing campaign that raised a little over $10,000. With that I’m on my way to head back into the studio to record my first album! I’m kind of just seeing where life take me right now based on that. I’m a free spirit when it comes to possibility. I have some other things in the works in terms of marketing and radio, but you’ll just have follow along to see where it goes ☺
Over the course of the past few weeks, I got a chance to interview Jenna Brooks, a talented author, awesome editor, fierce Mother’s Rights activist, and former homeschooling mother of two. "Unconventional" is a word that particularly suits Jenna: she couldn’t resist turning the interview on me a few times!
Jenna’s the author of award-winning October Snow, its sequel An Early Frost, and a new set of handbooks for survivors of domestic violence. Here, she discusses her new projects, her thoughts on evil and truth in the world today, and how her faith influences her writings.
KT: The obligatory first question: what started you writing?
JB: Dude. Really?
I'm not one for self-introspection. It can turn paralyzing (not to mention, boring) real fast. Best I can tell you is, it's a compulsion. Always has been.
C'mon. Go philosophical on me. Or maybe issues - let's give the reader something to talk about.
KT: Okay, challenge accepted: Here are two questions: Your books, October Snow and An Early Frost center on strong female characters and their friendship with each other, something that can seem a rarity in books and movies these days. How do you feel women are generally represented in books and movies today? And how do you hope your books and characters speak to women today?
JB: I don't believe that women are represented authentically at all in books and movies (or in any form of media, for that matter). Not these days, anyway. Generally speaking, I think the vapid, oversexed, emotionally over-dependent females that we too often see in art and in media are no more than the fantasies of a culture that has turned wholly contemptuous towards women, and we aren't portrayed realistically. It's an insidious kind of propaganda, designed to keep women silent - because the most powerful force of good known to mankind is a woman who knows her worth, and who has no problem with making her opinions known.
As for the second question: I hope I help women to remember their dignity. To find their voices. While this culture debates to death every evil (or what is perceived as evil) out there, we aren't talking about the main reason that this culture is circling the drain: Women have been silenced, and the primary weapon used against us is shame. It's now arrived at the point where the very things that shamed us into silence - porn, faux-feminism, abortion, all resulting in the "Jezebel" theology of far too many churches - have been fully mainstreamed into our society. They're accepted as being normal. And when you consider these facts: 1. Very few women were in positions of institutional, media, or judicial/legislative power when these aberrations were promoted and incorporated - for our own good, they told us - and 2. That women are now blamed for the results... Well, you have to wonder if the greatest scam of all time has been played against women.
KT: Dignity is a great word that you don't hear all that often. I notice that you use it a lot in After Awareness, your guide to helping battered women, which is based in part on your 10+ year experience helping domestic violence victims. What do you find is a major stumbling block to those who've lost their sense of dignity?
JB: I'll answer, but you go first. What do you think is a stumbling block to women's dignity? Or, do you not regard it as an issue?
KT: Wait, who is giving the interview here?
All right: the concept of dignity is suffering across both genders and I think a lot of it has to do with knowing who you are. Dignity means self-respect, a sense of pride in oneself, something that, by definition, takes time and effort to build. But how can your respect what you don't know or cannot define? We're largely choosing not to raise our children in religion, our families are scattered, and our national identity is being shattered. Even the concept of gender is becoming a fluid idea. If you don't know that you're a child of God, or your family, or if being patriotic is good, or whether or not you're even male or female, how can you know yourself enough to respect yourself?
Truth is being redefined to mean "what is true for me or you at this particular moment". We learn largely through trial and error - but if there is no error, no truth that we cannot reason or talk our way around, no good, no bad, no wrong, no right, and everything can change on a dime... How can you build anything, including self-respect, on shifting sand?
So, that is my two-cents and I turn the camera back to you: What do you find is a major stumbling block to those who've lost their sense of dignity? And how can they overcome it?
JB: Real quick, on your comments about truth: The truth is not a wide road, and it's not a free-flowing, individualistic narrative that's defined by one's personal experiences. It's a pinpoint of stark reality, never changing, created by God and no one else. And we either accept it or we reject it - and I believe that creating alternate realities is a factor in the emotional instability we see all around us.
I mean, I disagree with that famous quote about the definition of insanity - that it's doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. If that were accurate, then no one is sane. I think insanity is indicated by the level of outrage a person experiences when the results are always the same. And we can tell the truth about how we feel, but when we term our feelings as the ultimate "truth" - and worse yet, deem them to be divinely inspired - we're tap-dancing all around the unpardonable sin. Just my opinion.
Okay, the biggest stumbling blocks to dignity: For males, I say it's fear of being a hypocrite - which, when you boil it down, is actually a form of cowardice. This culture has gone off the rails; yet instead of doing the required one-eighty and setting the example for our children, they tend to hide inside their shame. The only way to overcome that is through three little words: "I was wrong." And then make it right.
For women...? Okay, here's another question for you (and again, generally speaking): How do you think people react to a woman who thinks highly of herself? Who sets immovable standards for how she will be treated?
KT: People who act with dignity and self-respect tend to inspire a like response in others. Those who are easily threatened (bullies, the childish, etc) will probably react poorly, as they would when confronted with other good things in life.
As to your second question, in a free society (absent of slavery or serfdom) the dignified woman (or man) sets the standard for themselves. However, dignity is not determined by the treatment of others: it is both inherent and assumed by the individual. Since we're both Christian, I can comfortably say that God values us and it is from Him alone that we receive our worth. Being treated badly by others does not change our worth (because it has not that power) and need not change our self-respect: some examples of dignity maintained under fire would be Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa, Booker T. Washington, and Maximilian Kolbe. What bad treatment can do is blind us to our sense of worth - which is, indeed, a terrible, terrible crime.
Okay, back at you. Your books deal heavily with recovering a sense of self after abuse, both verbal and physical. What is a practical way a friend can help a recovering victim towards recovering her (or his) true sense of worth and self-respect? Or is this something that the victim can only do alone?
JB: I dunno, Traynor... I feel like you sidestepped (but only slightly) the issue of the response to women who display their dignity. But I'll let that go. (Yeah. That's bait.)
Last question first: Some women are fully able to recover on their own, but with no thanks to a culture and a court system that I believe is, at best, lukewarm about actually advocating for abused women. In too many cases, our institutions are actually allies of the criminal.
I suppose that's a whole other topic, though.
As for the first question: I have to take brief issue with the way you phrased it, because I don't agree with the notion that violence against men is even in the same universe as violence against women; if nothing else, the results are vastly different, as are the options for escape and subsequent rehabilitation. The determination to equalize the genders in all things is, on its face, a troubling cultural trend - and when it comes to DV, the results can be deadly.
That said, helping a battered woman can be a minefield. The first thing that caring people can do, and should do, is to get educated. Most people are badly misinformed about what's really going on out there, and there's plenty of research that blows a hole through the conventional ideas about DV and its targets. And definitely, everyone needs to get up-to-speed on the truth about the Family Court industry, especially if they still believe that the courts favor mothers. They don't, and abused mothers and children are often further traumatized by the system's acceptance of (alliance with?) the Father's Rights movement. (Anyone who wants to learn more can start here.)
After becoming fully educated - and having avoided the Father's Rights propaganda while doing so - there's a process to helping a target survive and then get back on her feet. I wrote that handbook that explains what to do and what not to do, but the best advice I can offer is this: Never lose sight of the fact that women who are terrorized have experienced trauma. Sounds obvious, right? Yet if we're honest, doesn't our society pin some of the responsibility for an abuser's felonies directly on the woman he battered? And after she escapes, if indeed she does survive him, doesn't our society treat her like she should be able to simply start her life over again - no problem?
Finally, do what you can to change the culture, because the roots of DV are now firmly planted within our lives. Again, I have suggestions for that in After Awareness.
KT: Yes, I agree that we tend to just want the victim to 'just move on'. I suppose this could be seen as a reflection of our collective guilt as a society. After all, most DV abuse happens right under our noses, to people that we see on the playgrounds, at stores, in parties, schools, churches, and book clubs, and yet often we're caught unawares.
So, we have your handbooks to learn more. Is there a place for DV victims and their friends to go to discuss the often overwhelming task of rebuilding a life and self?
JB: Not usually - not for what happens after a DV situation. That's why I wrote the books.
Are we going to talk about literature soon?
KT: Of course we are! Which authors or books have most heavily influenced you?
JB: My writing isn't influenced by other books, but my life is directed by The Bible, and I read non-fiction from authors such as Dan Allender and Charles Stanley. I keep Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning on my desk.
That said, I'm inspired by my interactions with people - and when I come away angry enough, I write.
KT: You need to explain that last comment.
JB: I think my anger is my most productive resource for my work. It motivates me. And I often wonder why so many people have turned tepid toward the evil in the world - how it is that they can look directly at the destruction of another soul and say nothing, do nothing. Or worse, find a way to blame the one who is being oppressed. Every time I think I'd like to go do something else, I'm reminded of a couple of people who were very close to me, whose lives was taken apart by violence. Not so much by the actual abuser, but by the ignorance and subsequent apathy of those around them. And I decide to stay in the fight.
I think I got off topic. Sorry.
KT: No worries! People have compared your books to Stephen King, though yours do not feature the supernatural. How do you feel about that comparison? Do you think it's apt?
JB: Stephen King? I don't recall that one. I've heard Gillian Flynn and Liane Moriarty, because my novels - especially October Snow - mess with the reader's head. I got a couple of comments referencing Hitchcock (not sure why that would be, though), but I haven't heard a comparison to King.
Speaking of Hitchcock, I so would put your books up there with his movies, but we'd have to also include comparisons to the great classic romances of that era. Like Necessary Evil - who would you cast as Greg and Maddie? Same for Summer Shadows: who would play Robert and Julia?
KT: Hey, I'm supposed to be interviewing you, not the other way around!
Seriously, I don't mind telling you who I'd cast in my books (though once you found out who inspired Gregory Randall, you'd throw something at me), but you're the subject, so I'm turning the question back on you: if you could cast whomever you'd like to play Josie, Samantha, and Maxine, who would play them?
JB: No idea. No, actually, I think Chelsea Noble would be perfect as Jo. The others... I haven't thought about that in a long time.
(And readers: Killarney told me privately which famous Hollywood actor inspired the character of Greg Randall. I LOVE it.)
KT: What future projects can the readers expect from you?
JB: I have three novels that I hope to launch in the next two years. Meltdown is Book Three of the October Snow series. It's a straight-up murder mystery, where Jack Seever turns up dead and the main suspects are the survivors from the first two books. I'm having a ball with this one. I never wrote a murder mystery before.
Ventriloquist is a bit of a mindbender. Actually, it's a huge mindbender, deals with stalking - and what happens when the tables are turned.
None So Free will come out in 2017. It's a tearjerker, and it may be my favorite project ever.
By the way, I'll offer the handbooks After Awareness and The Alienated Mother for free on the day you post this interview, so let me know when.
Know what? I'll price my novels at 50% off, too. I'll make an event out of it.
Thanks for the chat. It was a lot of fun.
KT: You can find Jenna's website at Jenna Brooks Online, and follow her on Twitter at @shesjennab.
And now for something completely different...
So I guess you know that I have to start with the usual question: Why do you write?
Sure! But it’ll be the same answer as always.
I write because I don’t have a choice. Seriously. I’ve been in publishing since I was twelve years old and there have been times that I thought it would be interesting to do something else, but it couldn’t ever happen because at the end of the day I have stories blasting through my head and characters that won’t let me sleep.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I am really interested in the reasons you wrote this particular book.
To be honest, I’m very frustrated with the lack of honesty in our culture today. We’re trained to behave a certain way, and that way curtails to pleasing and sustaining a select few while the masses suffer. No one is supposed to speak out and the prevalence, and acceptance, of silence encompasses most subjects, honestly. It drowns people.
I’m very rebellious. In my life and in my writing. And I’m uncompromisingly honest, but I can only express my own truth. I can’t speak for all the wrongs in the world, and I don’t claim to, but I can speak for the suffering of women crushed in the fists of misogyny. I’ve lived it. It’s everywhere and most of the time it’s so normal, or so subtle that women don’t even recognize it for what it is.
It was the normal, subtle things – the lies we are taught to believe and base our behavior on - that I wanted to point out. I wanted to show the undercurrent that creates a chain reaction in a woman who figures out the game and can’t take wearing the mask anymore. So she changes the rules and works it to her advantage.
It happened in my own life and I survived. In fact, I won the game.
I wanted to show how it happens, and why a woman would do a drastic thing to save her own sanity while drowning in misogyny, and the aftermath of her actions as her family, and society, reacts to her decision of destroying the silence and the status quo of what she “should have done.”
So why "Lights of Polaris"? That's an unusual title.
There is a wonderful story from Greek Mythology about Polaris, the daughter of Apollo. It’s detailed in the book, but it’s a story of love, tragedy and hope. It’s also about survival after obliteration and becoming something greater than you were. Polaris is also the North Star and the source of finding direction when you are lost, so she’s deeply symbolic in that as well.
How many of your real-life experiences are in this book?
Do I have to admit that? Uh, I really can’t because if I did the man I based Daniel on would sue me and win in court. Not all of it’s plucked straight from the pages of my own life, but I’d give it a solid ninety percent, as for Daisy’s experience. As for the rest… that was just my over-eager imagination working out subconscious issues.
You have a reputation for being "edgy". Is that a deliberate thing?
Not at all. I’ve been through a lot in my lifetime. Edgy’s just who I am, I guess. Other people say that, not me. But I get it all the time.
When I was a girl, in the environment I was raised in, being honest got you in huge trouble. Everything was premeditated and any sort of authentic response was unforgivable and punished far worse than the crime. Somewhere deep inside, I knew that didn’t work, and that kind of retribution and shame wasn’t going to serve me in life if I turned it on myself. I knew all it was going to do was keep me trapped in a destructive pattern, so I decided if I couldn’t be outwardly honest, I was going to be that way with myself. And then, when I left that environment and I didn’t have to hide my thoughts, I suppose I became what people consider abrasive, because I don’t pull punches. But I’m not mean. I don’t abide by cruelty. Ever. I don’t dish it out, but I won’t stand back and watch it happen, either.
On a scale of 1-10, how edgy are you in your personal life? Then give some details.
That’s hard for me to judge. I’m actually a really sweet person. I just have a low tolerance level for unkindness. This is what I think: everybody is set on this earth worthy of empathy and respect. Therefore, no one has the right to walk around suppressing and disrespecting another being. I’m the nicest person on the planet, but do not come at me with unwarranted insolence, because you have no idea who you are dealing with. I do not abide rudeness. Ever.
Obviously "Lights of Polaris" delves into some pretty deep issues. I've also heard from reviewers that it's is an unflinching look into what women tend to think, and how they interact with each other when they get real.
I really wanted to show how women truly are – what they think, how deeply they feel, and how the world around them affects their decisions. I wanted to show them damaged and frozen, and then the lioness inside awakening. It was really important, too, that the women in the book spoke and interacted like women actually do. There are no negligees or pillow fights in Lights of Polaris. I tried to avoid any stereotypes and be bold with the sacred truths that women hold – and too often keep secret because of the shame society places on them.
The main character, "Daisy Cade", was in your previous novel, Burning Down Rome. What made you decide she needed her own book?
It was funny, because as I was writing Burning Down Rome, there were background characters that had nothing really to do with that book. I mentioned three names in Burning Down Rome only once or twice – Cooper Thomson, Stuart Adkins, and Daisy Cade. But somehow I knew that all three had major stories. I just didn’t know they were connected to each other, or how closely.
Writing can be a very schizophrenic thing. I literally see visions and hear voices when I’m falling asleep at night. Daisy kind of haunted me. Kid Cade had five sisters, but she was the one who didn’t jump out at me. It was that quiet that I became interested in, and I couldn’t let the thought of her go, so I focused in and what I found was a deeply fascinating woman who reflected the strangulation and torture of what conformity can do to some people.
And then the other voices began…
She's a high-functioning autistic woman, which is an interesting choice for a main character. Why did you decide on that for her character?
Well, I’m high functioning Aspergers, so I applied that part of myself to Daisy so she could make sense to me, honestly. Because she’s weird. She’s a total oddball, but she’s also wonderful, warm and embraceable. But she’s often terribly misunderstood, too. I suppose putting a label on her was almost an easy way out for me to let the reader understand her sometimes unusual behavior.
Do readers need to read Burning Down Rome before Lights of Polaris?
I’d say no, but I’d also say it would help to absorb some of the depth of the story. The characters from Burning Down Rome are all in Lights of Polaris, so if you’ve read Burning Down Rome, you’ll know what happens to the kids from Cry Baby Jake down the road. It makes it a bit more well-rounded and interesting, but Lights of Polaris definitely stands alone.
About you, personally: if you could wave a wand and rid the world of only one problem, what would it be?
Ignorance. I really wish people would educate themselves and stop believing what they’re told. Open your eyes. I’d have everybody question everything all the time and realize that they are empowered already and don’t need permission to take control of their own minds and lives.
So here's the part of the interview where I ask: what about your next project?
It may be asked, but I don’t discuss upcoming projects. I will say I’m looking at writing a series, though, and it’s nothing like I’ve ever written before.
Well, I know you'll publish more novels, 'cause that's what you do. I heard that you recently turned down an offer to sign with agents. What made you decide to stay Indie?
Ouch. Yeah. That. Well, this is the thing. The traditional publishing industry likes to keep things in a bottle – a specific formula of plot versus character versus page count. I think that’s fine for a bit of light reading, or if somebody reads for entertainment alone. But I believe there are bigger books that need to be written and stories that shouldn’t be cut by 30,000 words because if they are, they lose their impact. Books can change lives. Some books have a soul of their own. Some stories are real. Sometimes fiction is more real than truth. And when that happens, an author has an obligation not to compromise the integrity of that work.
So I didn’t compromise. Maybe down the road, with the right agent and the right house, I can find a place that I feel won’t ask me to concede what I believe in. But I don’t know. I’m way too punk rock to want to cooperate a whole lot when it comes to my art.
Edgy, right? Yeah. I guess maybe I do live up to that rep sometimes.