Monthly Archives: March 2013

Introducing Team Orange – Kip Ayers: Cover and Release Date Reveal!!

The time has come … are you ready?

You’ve been so patient waiting for an announcement for the release date of the Orange Karen Anthology.

And I bet you want a sneak peek of the cover. Right?


I’ll give you a moment to make sure you’re sitting down. *takes a drink of water*


*** COMING THURSDAY APRIL 11, 2013 ***


Join our Facebook Release Party for more details and excitement!

(Find us on Goodreads)

What do you think? Isn’t is a gorgeous cover? Many thanks to our cover artist, Kip Ayers, who donated his time and talent to create this stunning cover. Want to get to know him? I thought so.

Please extend your comments and thanks to our cover artist, Kip Ayers!

– Christina

Tell us a bit about how you started doing cover design.  I started drawing and painting as a child, and always loved it, but it wasn’t until my 30’s that I made the move from being a massage therapist to a full time freelance illustrator. I used massage to pay my way through college and all the while I built my illustration skills. After school I dove right into to working from my home studio doing book covers, concept art, basically any work that came my way.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:  I have been a vegetarian since I was 16, and the respect for all life is very important to me.

Hidden Talent: I love and am pretty good at playing Native American Flute. I have two that I keep on my desk in my studio, and I often take breaks from illustrating to play.

What was your inspiration for designing such a great cover? As with most of my cover designs, the inspiration comes from an intuitive connection with my clients. They share their vision with me, and I bring that to life.

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? That would have to be an orange Vespa Scooter. I imagine myself and my fiancé cruising around the Italian countryside on a bright orange Vespa.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it? I’m guessing you’re referring to when I’m called in to save the world from the moped riding beasts from outer space bent on world domination, and the only hope is the superior performance of my orange Vespa with racing stripes.

Who inspires you? Why?  Thich Naht Hanh, his words about peace, love, and being present in every moment inspire me.


Kip Ayers

I was born in upstate New York, and currently live just outside the Binghamton, NY area. I have lived in many different locals, from Boston to a remote part of the Adirondack Mountains, but something always brings me back to my home town. Sure the art scene here is a bit malnourished, and you may ask why would an artist choose to live in an area like that, but truly it is the natural beauty that keeps me here. I am closely connected to the land. It also helps that the cost of living is extremely low, so it’s a perfect place for an artist who’s starting out to help build an arts community.

As with most artists, I have always been interested in the arts. From my early days with crayons, to my current endeavors with a Wacom Cintiq, creating visually is what I am meant to do.  After high school, I took a break from art, and became a massage therapist. I enjoyed the work, and spent 8 years in the profession, but something was missing. It wasn’t my first love, and I knew that I had to get back to my artistic roots. I used massage to pay my way through fine art school.

After college, with so many options, I was somewhat unsure of what direction to take. I greatly enjoyed working in oil and thought about working my way up through the gallery scene, that is until I stumbled upon the Wacom Cintiq. Lets just say it was a love story from the beginning and it wasn’t long before I replaced my brush, with a stylus.

Today, I work from my home studio as a freelance digital illustrator. My focus has primarily been in the fantasy publishing industry, but I have worked for the gaming industry and done design work for logos, and album covers. I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I wake up every morning knowing that my job doesn’t feel like work. I am truly grateful.

Introducing Team Orange: Steve and Zack Umstead

Greetings, friends! As we get closer and closer to releasing the anthology to you, we want to continue to unveil our fantastic team. Today we have not one, but two talented authors featured today: Steve and Zack Umstead. This father and son duo collaborated to come up with a great story for the Orange Karen Anthology. A teaser of their story follows the interview.

Author Name: Steve & Zack Umstead

Title of Short Story: Protogenesis

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about:

A mysterious and possibly dangerous form of life is found in a frozen meteorite, and a science team has some challenges researching it.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?

Zack came up with the concept for a rapidly evolving form of alien life, and together we fleshed it out with all the science and plot details it needed. Steve had the idea to make it a seed of life sent on purpose, which Zack liked, being a fan of vague back story in a short piece of fiction.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?

Steve: I’ve known Karen for, what, two years now? That’s like eons in the Interwebs age. I got to know her well during a drive to Massachusetts for Readercon. Very well, actually – did you know she likes talking? In any case, hearing of her medical issue and her struggle afterwards, I couldn’t not (sorry, double negative) participate and help any way I can. I asked my son to collaborate, as he’s incredibly talented for a young teen, and is always willing to help.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:

Zack: I’m completely obsessed with bacon.

Steve: I look at both sides of a Dorito before eating it. Oh, and I’ve been known to brew my own beer.

(Check out this great post from Steve about how Stella Artois shipped him a twelve pack of beer…on ice).

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why?

Zack: Sky’s the limit? So it can’t be our life form… Probably have to say pumpkin pie. That stuff’s great.

Steve: Hot Fries. ‘Nuff said.

(Sensing a food theme here?)

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?

Zack: It would be a shame not to eat a perfectly good pumpkin pie, so I’d probably open a pie factory and end world hunger. Mmm… Pie factory.

Steve: All the world’s valuables and artifacts are all coated in Hot Fries dust, making theft easy to trace. Crime as we know it ends. Waistlines expand. We’re all happy.

Who inspires you? Why?

Zack: Would it be cheesy to say my dad? Well, he does. He’s a great writer, and his imagination knows no bounds, which I try to aspire to.

Steve: Sniff, sniff…I just read this. Sorry, I have to take a break… Sniff.


Space was cold, a vast empty void crossed with deadly radiation and invisible particles, interspersed with sporadic and rare chunks of rock and gas orbiting fiery balls of plasma. Space was barren, but not lifeless. The rarest of rare chunks could sustain life — sometimes intelligent life, sometimes not, but life nonetheless. Every life-bearing rock was different, unique, except for one common thread: they were lifeless until visited.

The meteoroid tumbled slowly as it traveled through the vacuum. Weak starlight reflected from smooth sides, absorbed by the rough sides. It wasn’t large, not as interstellar bodies went, but it was far from unimportant. Its nickel-iron core was protected by a layer of accumulated rock and carbon dioxide ice, the latter of which began to sublimate as the meteoroid approached the yellow-orange star at the center of the small solar system. The thrust generated by the ice burn-off nudged it slightly from its original path and it fell into the gravity well of a planet covered in a thick layer of white.

As it entered the planet’s atmosphere, the outer layer of rock began to ablate, leaving a fiery trail above the surface. It shrank as heat consumed its mass. Three miles above the planet’s surface, the meteor broke into three pieces, two of which were small rocky chunks that crumbled bit by bit and burned up, providing a spectacular show to whatever creature looked skyward. The third and largest piece, composed of nearly solid nickel-iron, journeyed unimpeded. The outer surface flowed like water, but the heat didn’t penetrate. It trailed flaming droplets of molten metal and smoke as it neared its end. The sonic boom it caused would have turned heads below if anything had been listening.

The meteor impacted a wide mass of white and bore hundreds of feet deep, throwing up a massive geyser of sooty ice, finally coming to a rest within the confines of a massive glacier.

A visitor had arrived.

Steve Umstead is the author of the Evan Gabriel military science fiction trilogy, and currently has ten different works published. Zack Umstead is an honors high school student and the author of the published young adult science fiction stories Shifter and Entanglement.

Introducing Team Orange: Susan Ethridge

You have been introduced to some of the authors in the Orange Karen anthology, but there has been some amazing behind the scenes action from Team Orange. There’s one person in particular who works tirelessly behind the scenes, and her work is all over the pages of many of the stories. Who is she? Why, editor Susan Ethridge, of course! Once you’ve finished reading her interview, take a moment to pat her on the back, give her a fist bump, or even a beer (not too many though, we’ve got to keep her upright and ready to work!).

Thank you so much, Susan for all that you have done. We couldn’t have got this far without you.

Three cheers for Susan! Hip hip hooray!!


– Christina

What’s been your favorite thing about being involved with the Orange Karen Anthology?

Reading all of the different stories that were submitted has been incredible.  Each of our authors was asked to use the color orange as a strong thematic element, and the talent and imagination they displayed in response to that simple constraint was phenomenal. Working with the other members of the Anthology team has also been really fun and rewarding – in the course of the last few months, I’ve enjoyed a number of new friendships with some incredibly funny, smart and generous people.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:

I have a long-standing love of muscle cars and recently bought a ’72 Charger that I’m in the process of restoring. Rrrawwrr.

1972 Charger. Can we say, “Dukes of Hazard”? Bitchin’ wheels, Ma’am. 🙂

Hidden Talent:

I wouldn’t really call it a “hidden” talent, but I think I’m a pretty good cook. Maybe one day I’ll go to culinary school and turn it into a second career.

Susan dreams of going to culinary school one day…maybe we’ll see her on Chopped?

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why?

When I think “orange” the first image that comes to mind is of those gumdrop candies that are shaped like little orange segments and coated with glittery sugar. My grandmother used to give them to me; it’s one of the simplest, happiest memories of my early childhood.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it?

I guess that would depend on the nature of the threat – it’s pretty hard to stop the bad guys with nothing but a bag of gumdrops. Maybe I could use them as bait, and trap the bad guys in a cave…or if the threat was some kind of bomb or chemical weapon, maybe I could encase it in a 20-foot-thick gumdrop shield, kind of like those Kevlar blankets the bomb squad puts on top of bombs to contain the explosion.

Who inspires you? Why?

People who do what they do with real passion, and experience evident joy in the process. I once watched an orchestral performance in which the solo was performed by a brilliant tubist; as he played, the expression on his face was literally one of rapture. It made me want to pursue my interests with that same intensity, and on a very fundamental level, it made me want to be a better person.

susan(1)Susan Ethridge works in marketing, and enjoys graphic design, painting, cooking and writing. She and her husband live in Texas with their two cats.

Introducing Team Orange: Jennifer Gracen

Author Name:   Jennifer Gracen

Title of Short Story: “Killing The Fantasy”

In 25 words or less tell me what this story is about:  Two forty-somethings meet through Twitter. First they’re friends, then more… or, it could be, if Wyatt would just let Catherine see him.

How did you come up with the concept for the story?  I’ve spent a lot of time online, and I’m a romance writer. The idea had been brewing for some time, and then the OKA came about… bingo. It’s kind of a love letter to Twitter.

What prompted you to submit your story to the Orange Karen Anthology?  Karen DeLabar is my best friend. Nuff said.

Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know about you from reading your bio:   I had such a hard time deciding whether to be a singer or a writer, that I only applied to 2 colleges (Berklee College of Music and Emerson College), figuring I’d let fate decide. All I knew was I wanted to go to Boston. The music college accepted me first, so I went there. And wrote every day in my dorm room.

What is your favorite “orange” item (it could be a food, an object…sky’s the limit)? Why? Karen’s hair. Because it makes people smile. It’s inspired many conversations. It’s legendary. It’s fabulous!

Our dear friend, Karen DeLabar: She should be in a hair commercial.

Our dear friend, Karen DeLabar: She should be in a hair commercial.

If you had to use your favorite “orange” item to save the world, what would you do with it? Haha, how would I use Karen’s hair to save the world?? (She will shake her head and laugh when she sees this.) Um… she had to cut her hair a few months ago, cut it really short. I guess I’d have taken the snippets, mixed them with magic pixie dust, and scattered them over the world to bring happiness, peace, and laughter.

Who inspires you? Why?  Other writers, because they are my brethren, and they make me want to be a better writer. My children, because they are the most important thing in my life, and they make me want to be a better person.

Story Excerpt:

The more their online friendship intensified, the more Catherine’s curiosity about what Wyatt looked like increased. She had pictures of herself on her Twitter account. But he didn’t, and he wasn’t on Facebook, Flickr, or Google Plus. It almost seemed as if, in a way, he didn’t exist. A huge part of his reticence was fed by his concern that his employees and clients should not see him in an unprofessional light. Catherine knew this, and understood. Yet between liking him as a friend and being attracted to his incendiary sexy talk, the need to know what he looked like burned to the point of distraction.

She tried to cajole him into sending her a picture, teased him mercilessly, asked to the point of almost pleading. He wouldn’t budge.

You don’t need to see what I look like, he would tell her.

It’s not about need, she would type back. It’s about want. I’m just curious. Curiosity is natural in this situation. We’ve talked almost every day for months now.

Curiosity killed the cat, he wrote. But before she could respond, he added, Oh God… your name is Cat. I didn’t mean that how it must have sounded! I was KIDDING. I’m an idiot!

Catherine let out a chuckle as she typed, I know you didn’t. It’s an old saying. No worries. You don’t scare me, sweets.

Well you scare me, lady, he wrote. Smart as a whip, strong single mom, & drop dead gorgeous. Talking to you is gonna get me in trouble. He immediately followed up with his own creative hashtags: #thebestkindoftrouble#viletemptress

By May — admitting to herself, but not to him, that she was quite smitten — they began talking on the phone, late into the night. Hearing his voice added a thrilling new dimension to their relationship. Still, she persisted with her one nagging desire.

One night, Wyatt sighed and said, “Fine, okay… I have light brown hair that’s going gray around the ears, light green eyes that are probably my only attractive feature, I wear glasses, and I’m six feet tall. Not fat, not thin. Not anything remarkable. Completely and boringly average.”

“What’s wrong with average? Hey, I don’t care if you don’t look like George Clooney.”

“Clooney? Ha! Catherine, I don’t even look like his gardener’s sickly cousin.”

She dissolved into laughter.

“Come ooooon,” she wheedled again the next week. “Please?”

“Maybe I’m horribly ugly. Have you thought of that? Like, pathetically so.”

“I don’t care,” she said in a firm tone. “Have you thought of that?”

“You say that now.”

“I say it because it’s the truth.” She sighed. “Wyatt. Do you think I’m that shallow, that I really care what you look like? That it would alter how I feel about you?”

“No,” he stammered. “Of course not. I don’t think you’re shallow at all. But I just don’t… I don’t understand why this is so important. Why do you need to see my picture?”

“I just want to put a face to the words onscreen, to the voice on the phone.” She grunted with exasperation. “I just want… a connection. Why don’t you get that?”

“I do get that,” he conceded quietly. “But I just… maybe I don’t want to… kill the fantasy.”

About Jennifer Gracen:

jgraJennifer Gracen wears several hats: contemporary romance writer, copy editor, social media addict, friend, wife, and (most important hat) mother of two young boys. If it wasn’t for the advent of Twitter, Jennifer would have never met her Favorite Redhead, Karen DeLabar, for which she will be forever grateful.