My Blog.

Music that sings to me – How music inspired me to deepened the plot and characters in my stories

People ask me all the time what inspired me to write this book, Harmless. A million things did! But amongst all that a few songs really helped me figure out the characters, and come up with some pretty cool twists in the plot.

So, I’ll start from the top… I Won’t Give Up, by Jason Mraz. This-song-is-epic! If Nate (From Harmless) were to tell the story from his point of view, it might sound a little like this song. And I can say, it inspired one of the most anticipated scenes in the book; when Rachel dances with Nate at the community center dance. I wish I could have written the lyrics right into the pages of the book but, you know… due to copyright laws and all that I had to leave it out.

In this song, Jason Mraz asks, “how old is your soul?” Which is a total precursor to what happens later in the story. SPOILER ALERT! Souls are a major thread in the story. They are what makes the world, our world, what is it is. They connect us. They are powerful. And they are infinite. For Nate to ask Rachel, how old is your soul, would be like asking, do you know what’s inside you. DEEP… yes. That’s how I role sometimes.

Back to the song. The singer also says, “you’ve come so far, to be right where you are.” That is not so much a precursor as it is letting on that perhaps Nate knows more about Rachel’s brother’s death and whats going on with her, than he lets on. The character of Nate is this near perfect person with the capacity for so much love and patience. A person that ‘won’t give up’, which is, you guessed it, the name of the song.

I-PixTeller-123329“The skies get rough…” Again, with the foreshadowing to the epic tale that is the Harmless series. Which I wish I could tell you more about! BUT that would take a whole book or two to tell you! A whole book titled MAVENS, and a third book titled TEMPEST to be exact. I’m working on it! I promise! Back to the song, I loved the reference to the ‘skies’ in this song. My character, Rachel Barnes, often refers to her feelings as types of weather; something she picked up from her therapist, aptly named The Weather Lady for describing feeing as meteorological events. For example: My skies are cloudy, could mean that she is in a blah kind of mood.

“learn how to bend with the world caving in.” Another awesome line from this song. Rachel especially needs to learn to bend. Her world has been ‘caving in’ for years and through the pages in this story she learns when to bend and when to have the strength to withstand. Which isn’t always pretty. But life is like that sometimes.

So that’s that song. I’ve attached the YouTube link so you can have a listen.

I won’t give up – Jason Mraz

Now here is a song for Mason… Let Her Go – by Passenger

Mason; my tortured soul. My bad guy you can’t help but feel for. There are a few lines in this song that helped me shape his character. “Everything you touch surly dies”, if Mason were singing this song, he would be talking about himself here. Not just because that’s how his powers  work to take lives. SORRY… SPOILER. But because he knows what dark lurks inside him.

“You only need the light when its burning low.” This line from the song could be interpreted a few ways. One, Mason sees Rachel as a source of light and goodness. Or when the light burns low in him (his wendigo powers) he feels its depletion. He senses his need for both.

“Only know you love her when you let her go.” This line in the song is what inspired the very last scene in the book; if it had been through Masons eyes and not Rachel’s. For those of you that haven’t read it yet, I won’t totally wreck it for you. But think of this song when you read it.

For me this song was a depiction of Mason’s struggle; the demons within himself, the want to do good, but the justification to be who he is… a wendigo. Once again, a really deep interpretation. But I’m happy to enlighten. I would never get this much detail out in an author interview or podcast.

Here is a link to the song. Have a listen and relieve the story.

Let her go – Passenger

There is one last song that made it into the pages of Harmless, Magic Carpet Ride, by Steppenwolf.Blog-PixTeller-123321

The lyrics in this song came into play when Rachel was waiting for the last few minutes of her English class to pass. Mason sneaks this song into her head.

What I like about this song was that it’s an invitation. “You don’t know what we could find. Why don’t you come with me little girl, on a magic carpet ride.” Maybe he wants Rachel to become what he is? Maybe he just sees the world a little bigger than the inside of a grade twelve English class.

Again, a link to the song. Have a listen.

Magic Carpet Ride – Steppenwolf

Well, thanks for reading everyone. I hope I’ve answered some questions and inspired others to take a deeper look at writing and music. If you absolutely must read the book now… you’re in luck! It’s available through the usual channels; Amazon, Barns and Noble, Chapters Indigo, and Kobo.

OR you can obtain a FREE SAMPLE of Harmless on InstaFreebie!Harmless Sample cover

Good read and good writing to you all.




Paperbacks $10.99

deja you jpeg image

TITLE: Déjà You
PUBLISHER: Emerald Lily Publishing
RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2017
AmazonB&N Paperback | Create Space Paperback

In Déjà You, five authors share stories of second chances, as varied in telling as the writers themselves.

Kelly Cain’s We’ll Always Have Oahu takes us on a whirlwind New Adult romance set in the 80s between a young woman on a high school graduation trip and a handsome Navy sailor.

Bianca M. Schwarz transports us to 1760 in The Pearl with the story of Marcus Landover, who attends a card party and ends up with more than he bargained for in the beautiful Sophia Chelmsford.

Amanda Linsmeier’s Joy and Sorrow reunites lovers separated by death in a Women’s Fiction tinged with the unusual.

The Eyes of the Heart by Jamie McLachlan gives us Rosalina, who is forced to confront her attraction and the truth about her blindness when a new gardener is hired at the Greystone house.

Finally, C.H. Armstrong brings us Mr. Midnight, where tragedy reunites two star-crossed lovers, but misunderstandings soon rip them apart. Now, six years later, the stars are realigning with the help of the smooth voice of a late night radio DJ.

Some of the stories are sweet, some sad, some steamy, but all carry the same theme. Déjà You is a collection of stories for those who believe in love, but most of all, second chances.

The Birth of Déjà You

About two years ago, a group of five novice writers signed with the same small publisher, each inexperienced in the publishing world yet committed to understanding the process and finding success. Through their mutual dive into unchartered territory, Amanda Linsmeier, Bianca M. Schwarz, C.H. Armstrong, Kelly Cain, and Jamie McLachlan reached out to one another and became instant friends, sharing laughs, tears, and the struggles of life and writing. We soon dubbed ourselves “Book Besties.”

During the fall of 2016, we decided to write a book of short stories together. As friends, we wanted to combine our talents to create a collection that would inspire hope and happiness. After much deliberation, we chose the theme “Second Chances” and decided to title this anthology, “Déjà You.” Though each story contains the same theme, they all are as unique as the author who wrote it. Including New Adult, Women’s Fiction, Fantasy, Historical, and Contemporary Romance, each short offers a different take on the theme and involves varying heat levels, from sweet to steamy.

About the Authors

kellycain200x200Kelly Cain has published a multicultural adult and new adult romance, but she writes across genres and age groups, currently penning book one of a young adult urban fantasy series. Most of her stories are set in Texas with frequent travels to her home state of California, and all of her stories have an excess of food weaved throughout.

If she’s not writing, she’s probably reading. Or maybe cooking. Check out her website for recipes for dishes featured in her books, and some other fun stuff. She has two adult daughters and lives in a suburb of Houston, Texas.

Kelly is the author of Altered, a new adult multicultural romance and Connections, a steamy short story exclusively available on Amazon. Visit her on her Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or Tumbler.


Bianca M Schwarz was born in Germany, spent her formative years in London, and has a US passport, but she considers herself a world citizen. She lives in Los Angeles because that’s where they make movies and she used to work on them. She writes novels because that’s kind of like making a movie in people’s heads and because she just loves books. Bianca has one son, because that’s all she can handle and she tolerates her husband because, well, she loves him and there is no help for that. Visit her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

10254015_492271840927359_9159417025130441003_nAmanda Linsmeier is the author of Ditch Flowers and Beach Glass & Other Broken Things. Her writing has been featured in Portage Magazine, Literary Mama, and Brain, Child Magazine. Besides writing Women’s Fiction, she loves reading and writing fables, fairytales, and fantasy, and sometimes she pretends her Hogwarts letter is still coming. She can be found blogging about writing and books at When she’s not writing, she works part-time at her local library and brings home more books than she has time to read. Amanda lives in the countryside, surrounded by trees, with her family, two dogs, and two half-wild cats. You can Amanda’s blog for book reviews and random musings, or check her out on Twitter or Facebook for more information.


Jamie McLachlan is the Canadian author of Mind of the Phoenix, an Amazon Bestseller in Dark Fantasy and the first novel in the Memory Collector Series. The third, Rise of the Phoenix, is set for release in summer of 2017. When not writing, Jamie reads, dabbles in various crafts, and spends time with her family. Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.


C.H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma-native transplanted in the Midwest. A life-long lover of books, she made her author debut with the 2016 release of her historical fiction novel, The Edge of Nowhere, which was inspired by her own family’s struggles during the one-two punch that was The Great Depression and The Dust Bowl. Armstrong is currently working on two young adult novels and is a regular contributor to the Minnesota-based women’s magazine, Rochester Women. Visit her on Twitter, Facebook, and her website.

For more information on Déjà You or the Book Besties, visit their website, or find them on Twitter or Facebook.

Hello Everyone!

I’m finally getting around to writing in my very public, electronic diary I call a blog. Sorry it’s been so long. I’d like to say the life got in the way, but it always does I if you let it.

So, here’s what I’m up to…

Trump hairBack in December I decided that I’d had enough of querying my manuscript to agents. Querying wasn’t that horrible an experience that scared me for life or anything. It was just long. Long like Donald Trump’s hair: wildly searching for someone to like it, but having no real direction. (First and last political joke … I swear!)

So instead of continuing on this path of searching for the perfect agent, I decided to finally commit to going indie. And what a huge commitment it is! I’ve pondered self-publishing for a long time, and for a bunch of different reasons I’ve held off. But now that I’ve taken the plunge I couldn’t be more excited, and nervous, and––going out of my mind just a bit.

For any of you that have ever tried to start something from just an idea, might get this. It’s trial and error. You get a few wins, and perhaps as many losses. Those who eventually succeed are the ones who never quit. Okay, I’m done with my motivational cat poster memes…

But really, the friends and contacts that I’ve made along this publishing journey have helped me immensely. Not only do they keep me motivated but they to help navigate this ever changing, very confusing industry of books and publishing.

What else is going on…

My Etsy ShopBecause I don’t have enough to keep me busy or perhaps because my brain is always going in seven different directions, I opened an Etsy shop this month! I’ve always been a very crafty person. I think I get that from my mother. Whether she’s painting, drawing, gardening, crafting, she’s a creator. In the past, my creative outlet was drawing. Vintage pencil portraits from photos I’d gathered over the years were my muse. Now, I like to make jewelry. The three main things I have on my Esy site are: natural stone bracelets, glass tile necklaces, and metal and glass bookmarks. I’m hoping that when my book comes out, I’ll be theming some of my creations to my HARMLESS series.

Soo … My book. My editor tells me that she’ll have the manuscript back to me in about week. It made my heart sing to hear she was wanted to finish editing it quickly because the teenaged girl inside her needed to know how it ends. I can’t wait to share this story with everyone!Never Quit

Once the manuscript files are formatted I’ll finally be able to set a book release date. The book trailer, which was created over a year ago by the lovely and most talented Brianna Schretlen will also be released. It’s a work of art! I couldn’t have made it without the help of Bri and Sophie. The soundtrack on the trailer is by Sophie Serafino. Check it out her music here.  So beautiful!

There’s a whole laundry list of stuff I need to get done before this book comes out, but I’ll leave that for another post. I just wanted to write this to say a long overdue, Hello out there! I’m going to get back to writing MAVENS, the sequel to HARMLESS!  Wish me luck.

Here’s to wishing you good reading and good writing.




A Group Of Our Own

img_5671I’ve thought about it for years; wanting to start or be part of a writing group and never did it. But the day has finally come! With the help of my good friend, Chris Rothe, we’ve finally put our heads together and coordinated a gathering of like minds. And it’s been AWESOME so far.

Our goal was to create a group that would motivate us to write. Chris and I both write fiction. He’s more into anthologies and quirky literary fiction with his own brand of sarcastic humor. Me, I write YA supernatural realism.

Our only stipulation for this group when it started was that the writing discussed be fiction. We wanted a good assortment of different types of fiction writers, and that totally what we got.  Well almost …

One of our group members doesn’t exactly fit this bill of traditional fiction. HA! If that’s even a category, BUT  has served as an incredible muse. Her work is not quite poetry, but has a lyrical tone. And it’s not quite fiction or non-fiction. I find it work raw and written in a way that makes me go hmmm …


I’d like to share a piece of her work with you. Try to label it’s genre if you want, or not. Just experience it. Perhaps she has created a new genre? Read and see.

Untitled: By Sholley Powell

If ‘pi’ is infinite, and we will never know the true area of a circle, is it possible to ‘float’ out the measurements as we would a hydraulic chamber?
If we can calculate true weight by surrounding the body by water, subtracting volumes etc … couldn’t we just draw a square around the circle, subtract the areas of the four triangles? I know there is still a problem with the curvature of the base of the triangle created by the circle which would still require a ‘pi’ Calculation. Or could it be treated as the meniscus dip created when fluid sticks to the sides of the container (I cannot recall if there a meniscus calculation? Or perhaps measurement just begins at the base of the ‘dip’.)
Another approach could be to draw a line creating a straight base and calculate the two secondary tinier triangles created. However the process still becomes infinite as we will always be dealing with a curved base just getting smaller and more minuscule.

I wonder how many insolvable remnants there are created by infinite figures only solvable because we make them so or force them into solution by ’rounding off’. This means every measurement with a circle or rounded edge is insolvable.

In relationship to human personality types, perhaps we better categorize as shapes in our way of perceptual thinking….
Some of us are finite ruled by structure and equations providing definite answers – black or white – no grey regimented – militant. The squares,the triangles, the solvable.
Some of us are circles, meniscus’, squiggly sound waves. These are the arts, the writers, the artists, the creators. They are the defiant challenging the ‘rule’ literally thinking get “outside of the box”. These are the two-year-old “but why” questioners un-accepting of the ‘because’ answers of the linear square or box thinkers.
Enter the semi-circles or the half cylinders- these are those who take from the squares and the circles and challenge a new unity. Balancing a ruler on a ball- will balance steadily which is great and a small instant gratifying “ah ha” moment…. but if you off balance the focal point you get a teeter totter…. now if you add weight and force you can catapult!
These are the architects, the innovators, the inventors, the visionaries, the humanitarians.
They seek to solve the wonders of the world by cracking the code of existence by the derivative of alternative calculations– beginning the equation where the boxed thinkers end.
They question the why?… with a why not?
Calculating probability, they execute a process.
Failure is only part of the process to extreme success in creation of a NEW rule.


The leaves are turning, the nights are longer, and the autumn chill has settled in. This is absolutely, by far my most favorite time of year!

But this year is a little more special… Because my writing tends to be on the eerie side of things, I’ve been asked to help judge a most ghoulish, pet inspired, short story contest. Being an animal enthusiast and writing addict, I jumped at the chance to help out with this

So here’s what you need to know to enter…


The contest is open for entries right now. Both Canadian and US residents can enter! What the prize you ask? Not one, but two pet portraits! One normal and one Zombiefied!

Go to

And share with us your TRUE tale of something your pet has done! Has your pet exhibited weird, mysterious, even silly behaviors? Or has left you terrible tricks or treats? Write it down and tell us about it! Your entry will be judged on four categories: 1) How awesome it is, 2) Humor, 3) Depiction of your pet’s personality and 4) Creativity.

Your entry can be up to 1,000 words.

(Now to say that all again in French.)

Partagez votre histoire vraie de quelque chose que votre animal a fait! Si votre animal présente, comportements stupides mystérieux étranges ou vous a laissé des tours ou des friandises terribles puis écrire tout cela ici! Votre entrée sera jugée sur quatre catégories: 1) Fantastic, 2) Humour, 3) représente la personnalité de votre animal et 4) Créativité.

Votre entrée peut être jusqu’à 1000 mots.

Good Luck!

Have a happy and safe Halloween everyone!







So I wrote this short story…

It’s a bit of silliness really. It all came about when my friend, Chris Rothe, and I decide to start a writing group. One of the goals of this group is to produce short bits fiction that could be submitted to contests or just shared among us. Yeah –– so this is what I wrote. The idea came from one of Chris’ ‘Story Appetizers’, as he calls them.

Appy #7: A man thinks he has become telepathically connected to his pet hamster. He believes the hamster to be giving him life advice, but when the man acts on that advice, things do not go as planned.


Here’s what came of it! I hope you enjoy!


The Life Coach

By Katherine Dell


“I’m glad I’m here, Doc. The whole thing has just been eating me up. I mean –– Real life is so hard, unpredictable and generally a pain in my perfectly laid out plans. I certainly never meant to end up being counselled in a padded room, wearing a jacket made of to many belts. But what’s one to do about it? Despair not, or do? Either way, it seems that life’s little hamster wheel just keeps on turning.

 “So … It was several weeks ago, on a Tuesday night, when I first had the inkling that, Harold, was not the stubby-tailed burrowing rodent he was made out to be. I should have known better than to procure the fluffy fur ball from the strange man in the alley behind the pet shoppe. But who knew it could have such catastrophic consequences.”




The sound of the bell hanging above the entrance to the pet store, announced my arrival. Hello minimum wage staffers, it’s me, Devon Winston Abney! A most tragic soul destined to live alone, who cares about no one but myself. Well, according to Margie, my now most recent ex. But what does she know. I’ll show her I can care for things. I’ll get a pet and care the shit out of it.

Bird. Cat. Turtle. None of these pet choices seem right. For some reason I feel that feathers on captive animal doesn’t feel domesticated enough. Same thing for the cat, minus the feathers. Deep down, there probably still beats the heart of its wild cousin the tiger, just waiting to spaz and test what those snatching claws can do. Nope, cats can’t be trusted. And the turtle, to –– hard. I don’t think I could bond with something with such a hard outer coating. Perhaps Margie was right this isn’t going to work.

“Hello there, are you finding what you’re looking for?” The over exuberant, eau de shavings scented employee speaks at me.

There are so many comebacks to that proverbial question, but I answer with a short and simple, “No.”

“Well, I’d be happy to help. Are you looking at getting a pet for yourself or for someone else?”

“For myself I suppose, but mostly in spite of others.” The look on her face says I just tipped past her meagre pay grade.

“Um, okaaay. Is there any type of animal you had in mind?” I turn and glacé over the open-air tanks of gerbils and mice. I swear they all look up at me, thinking to themselves ‘for the love of Peter, please don’t don’t pick me.’

“Something small, low maintenance perhaps. Something I won’t much notice at all.” She doesn’t answer right away and I stop her before she does. “You know, I don’t think there’s anything here that fits the bill. I uh –– I think I’ll be going.”

I leave the store muttering to myself. I need to get a grip. I should just do what I always do when I’m feeling a fuss: have a bath, drink a cocoa, and watch an episode of Sherlock’s Manor. Just one though, won’t want to stay up too late and not feel well rested the next day. Rounding the corner out of the shoppe I decide to take a short cut to the tube through the alleyway. It’s daytime, and to my logic, the unsavoury characters don’t come out until the sun goes down. So it should be perfectly safe to tread there.

“Excuse me, sir?” A male voice I do not recognize calls after me down the alley. I stop and turn to him. Referencing again to my thinking: well-lit places are never nefarious. “Yes, hello.” He says. I notice he is dressed in what one would consider office attire, but looks rather bedraggled. “I um –– over heard you in the shoppe back there. That you’re looking for a special kind of pet.”

“Um … Yes, but …”

“Well a have just the thing for you.” The man has come within steps of me and I now notice the small wire cage he holds in his hands. “Here, take a look at him.”

Although it’s light out this scenario still raises suspicions. Why is this man tracking me down to offer me … “It’s a hamster.” I say.

“Yes, but Harold is special. That’s his name. He practically takes care of himself.”



“To my recollection this bizarre conversation went on for several minutes, to which the man finally convinced me that, Harold, was the solution to my relationship whoas. So, Harold, in his small cage, traveled back with me to my flat. I found him a comfortable spot next to my vintage records and my plastic ficus, right by the window, and pretty much forgot he was there for the next two days.

 “Until the inexplicable happened. Harold spoke!”



“Um –– Devon? That’s your name, is it not?” The high-pitched, yet distinctly male voice was coming for the barred enclosure adjacent my fictitious ficus. “I don’t mean to be a bother, but are you going to feed me? I’m about near chewing off my own leg here for sustenance.”

My ears hear the tiny voice, but my mind refuses to believe it. Did my hamster just speak?

“I know what you’re thinking. Yes! I speak. But perhaps not for long if you don’t feed me.”

Letting my episode of Sherlock’s Mansion play on, I creep over to Harold’s cage. I see him there looking up at me; his two black eyes like shinny be-be’s of wonder.

“I’m trying very hard, Devon, to believe you when you said you could care for things other than yourself, but my hunger pains beg to differ.” Harold’s little hamster lips move as he talks. I blink hard. This can’t be happening. Perhaps the trauma of breaking up with Margie has pushed my psyche to the brink. Although, the little bugger is right. I haven’t feed him much, or at all. So I accept the surreal and answer him. “What can I get you to eat?”



“A jaunty conversation regarding the diet of hamsters and the lack of contents in a bachelor’s ice box extended. I didn’t know a little critter could be so argumentative but eventually I found a few baby-cut carrots that Margie must had left behind.”



 “Well Harold, I really must be off to bed. My show is through on the tele and I need to make sure I get enough rest.”

“Rest for what?” Harold mumbles, his cheeks bulging out to the side with multiple pieces of carrot.

 “For my work at the factory. No one codes and sorts the widgets and mabobs like I do. It’s been said that I excel at it.”



“And mabobs?”


“That sounds just ––– terrible. Even me, who lives a rather incarcerated life in this casa de rodent, has a better job than you. I’m very sorry for you, Devon. Good Night then.”

“Wait, you have a job?” I can’t believe I just asked that.

“Yes I do. I’m a life coach.” Harold shoves another carrot bit in his bulging cheek but doesn’t eat it.

“You can’t be a life coach. You’re a hamster.”

“Wow, Devon. That was incredibly racist. Or maybe since we aren’t really the same race, but rather difference species it’s … Hmm there must be a word for that. Any who, it’s not a good thing, and horribly rude. Perhaps I shouldn’t help you out then.”



 “I could tell Harold was getting really pissed off. He kept shifting the pieces of un-eaten carrot from cheek to cheek. And when I asked him why he wasn’t actually eating any of it, he said he wasn’t particularly comfortable with me watching him eat.”

 “Yes. Sorry, Devon, I’m trying to keep up with my notes here, but you’re going a little to fast for me. Can you back up a sketch to the part where you’re hamster said he was a life coach. I’m just want to make sure I understand things.”

 “ I know right! I’ll tell you, I had to google terms to understand things better too, Doc, but I get it now. I now fully understand the difference between a psychiatrist; what you are, and what a life coach is. Ha! to very different things!”

 “Good, Devon. That’s good. And you understand to that hamster can’t be life coach?”

 “No, I believe that’s supremacist. I had to google that too.” dreamstime_m_20154117



Well… It’s been about a year since I met the wonderful and most interesting, Kelly Charron. And looking back onto the interview I did with her I see how far she’s come. Today, she is revealing the cover of her upcoming book PRETTY WICKED, slated to be released this October. I had the pleasure of reading an ARC of if, and without a doubt I give it five stars! It’s a must read for someone who is looking for a fresh take on a YA Storytelling.

Now that PRETTY WICKED is on the verge of it’s debut, let me share with you a few more tantalizing details so you crave a copy as much as I do!

The Synopsis and Cover…

The daughter of a local police detective, fifteen-year-old Ryann has spent most of her life studying how to pull off the most gruesome murders her small Colorado town has ever seen.Pretty Wicked 3D Image of Book Cover Black

But killing is only part of it. Ryann enjoys being the reason the cops are frenzied. The one who makes the neighbors lock their doors and windows on a hot summer’s day. The one everyone fears but no one suspects.

Carving out her own murderous legacy proves harder than she predicted. Mistakes start adding up. And with the police getting closer, and her own father becoming suspicious, Ryann has to prove once and for all that she’s smarter than anyone else—or she’ll pay the ultimate price.

*warning – some graphic content*
Pretty Wicked is a mature YA novel intended for ages 16 and up.


Questions about Pretty Wicked…


  • What inspired you to write such a dark character?

I’ve always been fascinated with psychology and human motivation. Whenever I read a novel or watched a movie or television show, I was drawn to the villain. I wanted to understand what made them act the way they did––delve into what happened in their lives or minds to make them the person they had become.

When there was the odd story from the “villains” point of view, it seemed to characterize them as “misunderstood” and usually spun them into a likeable character who was the hero of that new version of the story. I wanted to write something unique and portray the villain realistically. What would the story look like if they were a true villain? I got the idea for a teenage serial killer who was unapologetic about who she was and what she wanted and thought it was really interesting to explore what her point of view would be if she drove the story and the “villain” was the detective trying to stop her.

  • Is this your first novel?

Pretty Wicked is the second book I wrote and the first to be published. I have been writing for ten years. My first book was a YA urban fantasy that took me seven years to complete because I kept http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-485362stopping for huge chunks of time while I completed my degrees (English Lit and Social Work). I finally got serious about writing in 2013 and have just completed my fourth novel.

  • Why did you choose to self-publish?

I did query it to literary agents and received a lot of positive praise for the book. In the end I kept hearing the same feedback: it’s a fascinating concept, the writing and voice are great, but we don’t think we can sell such a dark book to a publisher. I completely understand this. I know this book is going to be very polarizing. People will either love the concept of hate it. So far I have had overwhelmingly encouraging feedback from readers who understand that this is a fictional story that is trying to do something different from most novels. There was some interest from small publishers but the wait times were longer than I was comfortable with. I decided if I wanted to see this book out in the world I was going to have to do it myself. It was an intimidating process, but luckily I have an amazing and brilliant support group who helped me along the way.

  • What genres do you write in?

Psychological thriller, urban fantasy, and horror. I have two YA urban fantasy books, though one may never see the light of day. It’s my first book and would need to be rewritten before I decide its fate. The second (currently titled Wilde Magic) is the first in a planned series that I am very excited about.

Here is a short blurb:

The novel follows fifteen-year-old Ainsley Davenport as she moves from her life in Maine to attend a prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts after her widowed mother marries a wealthy man that she can’t stand. At Ashbury Academy, Ainsley meets a group of students whom she finds more sophisticated and exciting than any kids she’s ever encountered. Ainsley is pulled into a world of wealth and extravagance, but it isn’t long before she realizes some things aren’t adding up and there is more to Ashbury than meets the eye. One of the oldest covens in history, The Wildes, is hidden beneath the school grounds. Magic is alive and well, and the coven is actively training new witches in this secret enchanted society. Ainsley soon recognizes that she may be in over her head when she uncovers secrets that she was never meant to know. The magical kind. The deadly kind.

  • Is Pretty Wicked a standalone novel?

http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-485358The Pretty Wicked series will continue with adult books. The sequel, Wicked Fallout, is currently going through editing and the third book in the series is brewing in my mind. I have some very fun ideas for Ryann.

Wicked Fallout takes place twelve years later when Ryann is 27 years old. That’s all I can say right now as to not reveal spoilers.

  • Ryann is not a very likable character. Do you like her?

I actually do. I really enjoyed writing her. I don’t agree with anything she does at all! In that sense, Ryann is deplorable! But what I like is her humor and wit and the way she owns who she is. She was a fun character to write because she is so different to most characters out there. It’s like when you see a Hollywood actor discuss their favorite roles. Often they say the villain roles were their preferred because it was more fun and exciting to play. There are forbidden elements that make it a bit more exciting than the standard hero. It’s no different for me as the writer.

  • What is your writing process?

I have a day job so writing usually happens in the evenings and on weekends. I work in a school so I am fortunate to have shorter days, two vacation break periods, and summers off which really help me carve out the time needed.

On a writing day (Saturday or Sunday) I will get up, shower, eat breakfast, procrastinate with some TV and then get to it. I’ll make a coffee and park myself on my couch (even though I have a beautiful desk in an actual home office). I’ll write for about 2-3 hours (about 1500-2000 words on average). I may do another session later that evening if I’m really inspired. I watch a lot of television and read widely to inspire my creativity and ideas.

I also have an amazing group of friends who are writers as well and we meet up to have writing and brainstorming sessions, which is fantastic!

Where can you find the book and more about Kelly…



Sign up for her mailing list or check out upcoming books at:
Mailing address:
340-255 Newport Drive
Port Moody, BC
V3H 5H1


Hello everyone!
I have had the pleasure of chatting with fellow author, Cassidy Taylor about her writing experiences. And –– as we all learn from our own and others personal narrative, I hope you will all enjoy and learn as much I did when asking these questions. With out further delay –– I introduce to you Cassidy Taylor.


Cassidy Taylor Author Photo

Lets start off with you telling us a bit about yourself and how you got into this business of writing books?

I was one of those kids that was always writing, but I never thought of writing as a “real” profession. I studied in the Creative Writing program at UNC, but when I graduated, I got a job, got married, and had two kids before I returned to writing. I finished the first-draft of what will become my first novel during NaNoWriMo 2015, and connected with my publisher, Fantasy Works, through #Pit2Pub in early 2016.

I see on your website that you have a new book, The Runaway Queen coming out soon! This line from your synopsis has me totally hooked…

With danger lurking around every corner, Ruby must summon the courage to face her enemies and fight for a throne she never wanted, a king she doesn’t know, and the queen she never knew lived inside of her.

Can you tell us a little more about the story? A sneak peak at the cover perhaps?

The Runaway Queen is the first in a series titled The Mondragon Chronicles. The cover is still in the works, but that line really sums it up. Ruby Mondragon is a young girl thrust into a position of power that everyone else wants but she fears. The story follows her as she decides whether to give up or to stand up and fight.

Do you have any favorite authors or books? Have they influenced your writing in anyway?

I feel like everything I read makes me a better writer. I grew up with Harry Potter, and would say that those books have been the most inspiring. I also love anything by Marie Lu and Alexandra Bracken.

I love to ask this question. If your book became a movie, who would you choose as the main cast?

Although I’m a visual person, I’m not a big movie buff and don’t know a lot of actors. On my Pinterest board, I did find inspiration for Ruby in the model Alia Jolie, and for Aodhan in actor Luke Pasqualino. You can find my Pinspiration board here:

Much of my everyday experiences make it into my writing. Can you share a tidbit of your fictional writing that’s actually a real part of your experiences?http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-480709

To answer this one with a question of my own, who hasn’t wanted to run away from their responsibilities and hide in the mountains with a handsome king?

Have can people discover more about you and your work?

Website: (join my newsletter!)

Whether you are traditionally published, self-published, or somewhere in-between marketing your work can be a challenge. What marketing strategy has worked well for you?

http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-480692I haven’t had much to market yet, but I’ve been working on building relationships with readers and other authors. I try to be genuine and available across all platforms, and look forward to seeing how this translates once my book is out.

Who have been your biggest supporters in your writing endeavors? Go ahead, give them a shout out!

My parents! I have two kids and a full-time job, so my mom has started taking the kids for a few hours on Sundays to give me a good solid chunk of writing time. And my six-year-old daughter is my biggest cheerleader. She’s always asking about my word count, and is equally as excited whether I wrote 250 or 2,500.

From what I can see you have one book out and another on the way. Can we expect more books in the future? Will you stay writing in the same genre or try something new?

The Mondragon Chronicles is planned as a trilogy right now, so that will be on my plate for a while. After that, I have a couple of YA dystopian ideas, and a sci-fi story that have been trying to get my attention for a while. Only time will tell!


It’s my pleasure to introduce to you a writer and teacher, Kim E. Morgan!

So, Kim, tell us a bit about the writing workshops you lead? I know there are a few different types.

Kim white borderThank you so much for the invitation to talk about my work. I love to talk shop about all things writing.

As an adjunct of North Idaho College, I teach creative nonfiction and plan to offer courses in self-publishing. My teaching and life philosophy is that we are all born storytellers. We move, we breathe, we live. We express ourselves with stories. My foundation for creative writing includes these three practices: the practice of memory, imagination, and compassion.

Soon, I plan to develop online courses for writers aspiring to publish their work, using my website as the platform for these mini-lessons. I also offer free courses through the Community Library Network in my area, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.


These courses include:2015 Large group photo

“Write Now!” – a series of Literary Workshops

Writing by the Lake – Writing from Your Core

Finding Ancestors – Our Ancestors, Our Stories

Writing for Keeps – Creative Nonfiction

Is there a link to where a person could enroll in one of your workshops?

My website is the hub of all information like that, at I would recommend those interested, to contact me or join my newsletter for updates on the availability of courses.

You’ve mentioned to me that you have a fiction book coming out soon! Congratulations! Can you give us a short synopsis? Where can readers buy it?

Redemption2June 2216. Fifteen-year-old Marie-Joëlle Peone faces the greatest challenge of her life when she defies the corrupt world of Global Advanced Programs. She doesn’t know that GAP controls her fate in ways she can’t possibly imagine. What Jo does know will test the very fiber of her existence.

Jo Peone can’t remember her life before the visions. She grew up in a world of half-truths, but somehow knows she caused her parent’s separation. Her father calls her a Spiritkeeper, but she doesn’t know what that means.

​She’s angry, defiant and out for revenge in the world of 2216, a world where she doesn’t belong and everything she knows turns out to be a lie.
​But Jo’s life is about to change. Recurring migraines trigger her visions with greater frequency. Her psychic ability readily develops beyond her control, and the visions become otherworldly.

As she exposes her parents’ deception, Jo finds herself drawn into a diabolical conspiracy involving a shadowy group and the atrocities of Jove’s science. Her power increases, but forces her to decide who will live or die. In the end, the final betrayal could shatter Jo irreversibly. The final hour leaves her at the mercy of 2216 science and the elusive Jove.

You can find in on Amazon at

I see you have one non-fiction book published. What inspired you to switch to fiction?

I teach writers to explore topics they feel inspired to write, as I often do. I’ve tried my hand at poetry and academic writing as well, some of which has been published and won awards. But all my life I’ve longed to write and publish fiction. And here I am! JOVE’S LEGACY is hot off the presses! Dreams do come true.

I’m always curious of how much of an author’s real life makes it into their fiction books. Are any of your characters based on real people?

I suspect all of the characters in JOVE’S LEGACY reflect something or someone in my unconscious mind. My main character, Marie-Joëlle, is the projection of my true self in her quest for redemption. She is my voice in many ways, speaking truths, as I never could.

What have you found surprising about self-publishing a book?http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-371555

The giant learning curve to self-publishing, marketing, and selling books! My enormous respect for indie writers has increased with each challenge I meet along the way.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?


My Blog is my Journal:

Friends Facebook: https:

Author Facebook: https:


Did you always dream of being a writer? Tell us about some of the other things you’ve done.

Yes, I’ve dreamed of being a writer since I was thirteen years old. But there have been many things I’ve done before I became one. I think my greatest accomplishment so far is motherhood. My two sons make me very proud. I’ve even used our conversations together, from the dinner table, as dialogue in JOVE’S LEGACY. My thirty-two years of marriage to my husband, John, is also outrageously amazing. I never could have done so much without him.John and Kim Morgan

Rounding out the list of my very full life: I’ve worked with incredible people on empowering-charitable projects, worked in finance, and hold a career as a professor at two post-secondary institutions… and somehow have managed to write a book.

Can you tell us about one of your favorite books/authors? What do you like about their work? Does it influence the way you write?

I lean toward the modernist writers, particularly Flannery O’Connor, John Steinbeck, T.S. Eliot, and William Faulkner. Given the wide-range of literature I’ve taught, these and others influence my writing. However, I love commercial fiction. I stumbled on Steve Berry and bought every one of his books. Go figure. At the risk of dating myself, I ravenously read historical fiction, before it was even a genre in the early ’70’s! I thrived on history and Christian scholarship, but give me a steamy romance any day. Outlander, well, that says it all. I’m hooked forever on Jaime and Claire.

Last but not least… give us your favorite quote from your upcoming book!

“Rage is a granite wall we hide behind; crack the stone and light emerges.
––– Jo Peone, JOVE’S LEGACY


Book Review – Suicide Stitch, By Sarah L. Johnson

I happened upon this book one day on one of my frequent trips to Chapters. The author, Sarah Johnson, had a table set up and was signing books. At first glance I thought –– short stories, that’s not really my thing, but I’m so glad I picked up a copy!

Out of the eleven stories in this book my favourite are: I Am Lost, and Five-Day Forecast.

I Am Lost, features my favourite type of storytelling: the unreliable narrator! It’s the story of a couple, determined to live free of things that cramp their style or tie them down – when the unexpected happens; a pregnancy. The author whisks you back and forth between past and present, and only at the end do you piece together what really happen. Viewing the outcome through murk clouded glasses.

Five-Day Forecast: This is a story about two broken souls, at least that’s the way I saw it: an exotic dancer and a child of divorce. Each day, for four days, the dancer finds the child huddled by a chain-link fence, in frigid temperatures, near her house. Though their conversation might seem mundane, there are moments that scratch at the raw parts of both their lives. On the fifth day, the boy doesn’t show at their usual meeting spot. The coldness of that day can be felt though the pages.

I absolutely love reading all the stories in this book! I give it a 5 out of 5!



My writer traitsI’m sitting here at my desk thinking … what am I going to work on today? Maybe the sequel to my Harmless series, or a little on the other novel I just started, or a blog maybe. Blog it is! You know –– Ever since I’ve coined myself a ‘writer’ I’ve wondered if it’s changed me in anyway. Or have I always been like this – a ponderer of life, in need of expression. So I’ve decided to make a list what makes me a writer –– and hopefully a good one at that.


Do my writer traits match any of yours? animated guestbook gif



  1. I’m a people watcher! No, I do not stock people, driving around in ones of those creepy, white vans with no windows. Creeping is solely reserved for Facebook. Um yeah … but really … What I mean by ‘people watching’ is I notice things. I notice the moments between friends or total strangers that often go unnoticed. Like the way a person lights up when they see someone or the opposite, they way they deflate. Details from my everyday watching often make it into my books. Don’t worry friends! I’ll change your names in the final draft. 😉
  2. I’m constantly thinking about my characters. What will they do next? If this happened, how would they feel? How would they react? I think about my characters from every possible angle. So much so that they almost jump off the page!
  3. I’m always asking, what’s the back-story? Even if I don’t say it in my story, I always have the cause to every one of my characters reactions.
  4. Coffee and spirits: a writer’s best friend. Don’t go overboard on either, but they can add a little zip to you and your writing when inspiration is lacking.
  5. I have a reading problem. If there’s a group for people who read too much, I’d be a member. Reading in the genre I write in is my favourite (YA) but I stray into others on occasion, broadening my horizons.
  6. Talking ‘shop’ about writing is one of my favorite things. Ask any one of my writer buddies or my friends (who have no interest in writing) how much I annoy them with my chatter about writing. It’s borderline obsessive.
  7. I’m ambitious. I really want to be a published author. And until one of The Greats says, “Hey Katherine, great job!” I will not believe that I have ‘arrived’.
  8. I consider writing to be play and work. I enjoy what I do! Isn’t that the goal in life? Love what you do and you’ll never work a day. It doesn’t feel like that everyday of course, but it’s till a good thing.


So that’s ‘writer me’ in a nutshell. What about you? What makes you a writer?


I’ve had the opportunity recently to get to know children’s author, Shari Schwarz. Like most of us, she’s struggled with writing and publishing. I’d like to share with you a bit of how she’s come to publish her book, TREASURE AT LURE LAKE. Congratulation Shari! Publishing is a long road traveled and you did it.  ––Katherine––


Shari Schwarz: My Path To Publication

In my fifth grade diary I have a list of goals written in the back. One is to write a book. And if you know anything about me, you know I love to dream … and I love to work toward my goals.

I started writing my book, THE LEDGE (now renamed to TREASURE AT LURE LAKE), December 10, 2013 after a quick facebook chat with a good friend of mine, Jenda Nye, who is also a writer. She encouraged me to start writing and, bonus! we could be writing partners!Book cover

The idea for my story was totally inspired by my boys and Gary Paulsen’s HATCHET. But I had NO idea what I was getting myself into when I wrote ‘The End’ on my first draft in February 2014, or what would happen when I plugged into the amazing writing community on Twitter in March 2014.

At that time, my parents were the first ones to give me valuable feedback and editing suggestions on my first draft, and I will always be so grateful for their support and guidance. Then, I sent out my first queries to literary agents in March 2014. Literally a year too early, but that’s what the learning process is all about…making lots of mistakes and learning from them. I’m thankful for each mistake along the way because they all have been a part of the path I’m on to becoming a better writer and story teller.

I entered TREASURE AT LURE LAKE in various online contests like #NestPitch, #JustPitchIt, #PitMad, #PitchSlam, #PitchMas, Operation Awesome, #AgentMatch, #SecretShop, Sub it Club pitch party (and those are just the ones I received requests from agents on) and queried widely over the next six months. Early on in the query process I received two “R&R” (revise and resubmit) requests–one from an editor and one from an agent. While neither of them panned out in the end, they offered sound and generous advice that helped me shape the early drafts of TREASURE AT LURE LAKE.

In the fall of 2014, after getting feedback from at least 30 critique partners, getting numerous rejections from agents and just a couple of bites (requests for fulls), I went to the Rocky Mountain SCBWI conference with my friend, Emily Moore, who I also met on Twitter but then got to know in real life! I learned so much at the conference, and Emily really helped me brainstorm ideas for some major changes in the story that got me excited again after enduring so many rejections of my work. It’s not easy putting your heart and soul into something and having a hundred people tell you ‘no, not quite right.’

One side of wisdom might say it’s time to throw in the towel, but this is a hard business to break into, so I kept plugging away. I had so many people encourage me to press on, not give up and try again!

http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-371543In December 2014, after a couple of close calls with agents, I nearly gave up on TREASURE AT LURE LAKE. I had also finished writing the first draft of a new book and started on another. Discouraged and heartbroken, I went for a long hike where I stomped and cried and yelled at God. Why is this so hard? So frustrating? I hated getting my hopes up over and over again each time an agent seemed interested only to be let down and disappointed when they said no.

So, I decided to let go and self-publish. By that time, I knew there were problems with my book, but I just couldn’t give up on Jack and Bryce (the boys in the story). I felt free and excited and a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of self-publication!

But then, in January 2015, an amazing online friend and critique partner, Sarah Floyd, told me not to give up and took a once over of the first few chapters of my manuscript. With her feedback, I was inspired to revise again and send out a small batch of queries. Full manuscript requests started to come in. I sent out more queries. More fulls were requested. Lots of waiting ensued!

So, back to the revision board…again and again. In March, one of my original critique partners, Sally Hughes Doherty, read through TREASURE AT LURE LAKE and gave me a thorough http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-371555evaluation of my book which shed bright light on some problem areas I still had. With her brilliant advice, I revised again. A couple of contests and a few more full requests later, I felt like I was on the right track.

By this time, I wasn’t as prone to discouragement; my skin had grown thick. Plus, I had started reading manuscripts for a literary agent and could now see firsthand the numerous ways in which a manuscript just doesn’t cut it even if it is good writing or an amazing story. The idea of self-publishing became more and more of a possibility to me, and I started to research it.

Then one day, I saw an #MSWL call for submissions by an editor, Ashley Gephart, at Cedar Fort Publishing and decided to send TREASURE AT LURE LAKE to her on May 11th, 2015. By the end of May, I was completely shocked to receive an email saying they had accepted my story for publication! I literally could not believe it at first. I think I read that email ten times before it sunk in that it was real — not spam or a joke or someone who was going to change their mind a few days later.

After researching Cedar Fort, asking a million questions, talking to one of their authors and going through the contract, I’m thoroughly blessed and honored to say that I signed with Cedar Fort’s general release fiction. TREASURE AT LURE LAKE is set for release on April 12, 2016.

UntitledShari Schwarz lives in Colorado with her husband and their four boys. TREASURE AT LURE LAKE is her debut middle grade adventure which reflects her love for a good adventure story and spending time hiking and camping in the Northern Colorado Rockies.

Contact Info:

Twitter: @sharischwarz
Facebook: Shari Schwarz
Goodreads: Treasure at Lure Lake
Amazon: Where to get the book!

Let me introduce you all to Lucy, from The Blode Writer. Now – I’m  always searching for my next amazing author to interview to write, and her blog caught really my eye. To be more specific, her blogs caught my eye. On there are three blogs: The Diary of Roxy Collins, The Writing Club, and another one that’s a bit more general, all of which are written by Lucy. My interviews, they usually consist of authors who write traditional or indie published fiction novels, but this time I wanted to explore the inner workings of a bloggers brain.  So – lets start off with Lucy telling us a bit about yourself.

LucyI am writer and a blogger. I am a mother, wife and cat owner.
Writing has always been a huge part of my life. As a child I used to sit in my Dad’s garage and create my own libraries by writing my own books. Writing has stayed with me throughout my life; when I was at university I used to write long and elaborate letters home which apparently made my mother roar with laughter. Tales of me not being able to cook, wash my clothes without dying them or generally look after myself made her morning coffee sessions (sigh!). I would like to point out that I was a nightmare teenager and spent all my time partying or in bed when my mother was giving out ‘life lessons’. In some respects this was her revenge. When I was pregnant with my two children I let my pregnancy hormones go wild and I wrote some amazing stuff.
In April 2014 I created my blonde blog. After turning 40 I decided to take writing seriously. I read that to be an author you need an online platform and a novel. The novel bit seemed to hard so I thought I would do the online platform bit first. My blog has grown and so too has my online following. I now need to finish my novel and fulfil my childhood dream.
I like writing comedy. I think we all lead busy lives and some days we just want someone to make us smile. I am a big fan of smiles.
I am currently writing two comedy series and a thriller novel.
Tell us a bit about what each blog is about.

the-art-of-blocking-out-literary-noise-1The Diary of Roxy Collins: I used to read a lot of Chick Lit. I was obsessed by the genre at one point. Then I started to grow tired of female heroines who were stick like, beautiful, rich and amazing mothers. They had fab husbands and were so far away from reality it drove me potty. I wanted to read about someone who struggles through life, doesn’t have it easy but who survives.
Roxy is my single mother, thirty something, has three kids and two useless ex partners. She’s one of life’s survivors; she has little money, lives in a run down rented house, works full time in an office and is trying to find love third time around. I love writing her and one day I might turn her into a book. For now she is someone who makes me smile!

The Writing Club: I think writers make fabulous comedy characters. We are all intense, emotional and a bit odd. I attended a writing group a few years ago and it gave me so much comedy fodder. There were tears, tantrums and awkward silences. I love the Writing Club because I am getting to know all the characters and they are fun to write about.the-writing-club
Most writers take bits of their everyday lives and weave it in to their writing. Is there any ‘real life’ in your characters? Can you tell us about how you created them?
My characters are a mash up of people I meet in everyday life.
Roxy is based on some of the amazing and inspiring single mothers that I know. I admire their strength and determination to raise their children single handedly.

The characters from the Writing Club are based on some Creative Writing Courses that I have been on and some writers that I have met over the years.

Your blog has a Chic-Lit sort of feel. Do you plan on publishing your blog(s) into a book someday?
I am writing a thriller novel. It’s about a woman who comes back to find her murderer. The story is written from the perspective of her, her best friend and her best friend’s husband. Its set by the sea and I am really enjoying working with the location.

At times I am torn about whether I should stick to writing comedy. I hope to turn Roxy into an E Book later this year.

I love asking this question! If the characters from your writing were cast, what actors would you pick to play them?

This is a great question. Ok here goes – the cast of ‘The Diary of Roxy Collins’:

Roxy Collins – Christina Hendricks from the TV series Madmen. When I think about Roxy it is Christina that springs to mind. She has the fuller figure that Roxy has and that cheeky smile. She also has bags of attitude.

Matilda Collins – This character was inspired by Morgan Saylor in the TV series Homeland. Morgan Saylor plays an amazing troubled teen and this is how I see Matilda.

Shaz – Roxy’s best mate and dating confidante. I see this role being placed by Jessica Hynes, one of my favourite comedy actresses who played Cheryl in the hit sitcom ‘The Royle Family’ – she has the dry sense of humour that I like in a character.
How can readers discover more about you and your writing?

My website:
Facebook: Blondewritemore
Twitter: @Blondewritemore
Pinterest: Blondewritemore
Instagram: Blondewritemore

Do you have any tips from people trying to create a successful blog?
I would recommend blogging to anyone. My tips are:
– Find a niche subject and stick to it.
– Think of your reader when designing your blog and writing posts. I see too many blogs with huge chunks of text and are a nightmare to navigate around.
– Get on Pinterest ASAP! It brings in traffic. Use bold and colourful photos on each post.
– Be you! Add the personal touch – this is what makes a blog successful.

Are there any other awesome blogs you’ve come across that you’d share with us?
I am a big fan of Sacha Black’s blog – her blog is jam packed full of writing and blogging tips.

img_2779I see that you’ve won some awards for your blogging; can you tell us a bit about them?
In August 2015 I won ‘Funniest Blog’ award in the Annual Blogger’s Bash Awards. This is an award which is voted by the online community. I was relatively new to blogging so didn’t expect to win. It gave me confidence and helped me build my blog.

Thanks for taking the time to chat today. Keep up the great work!

The Method To My Madness: Part 2

Ebbs and Flow

Welcome back! Up to reading more of my writer musings are you?

In part one, I discussed how I write a scene. And how I consider a book to be like a movie: written in scenes not chapters. But lets back up even further from that conversation: a book being a collection of scenes, and think about how to organize a story so it naturally tells it self, creating it’s own ebbs and flows.

What do I mean by that? (I’ll tell you, because that last paragraph sounded like I’ve been hanging out with some yogi in the Tibetan mountains … naturally tells itself?) I’m talking about how your story moves along and (where I would consider) a good place to start a story.

Now I write YA, which is usually a little faster paced than other writing styles. In fact (Listen up this is a good writing tip for YA!), The average teen who reads has a short attention span. (Nooo http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-313020Waaay!) So you should pace your writing accordingly. (Duh.) Sooo – taking into account a persons average reading speed, you should change what’s happening in your YA story (change the scene, not necessarily the chapter) every ten minutes. No need to time yourself reading it! Just keep this tid-bit in mind when you’re writing. There is no magic word count number! I.e.: Hmm, it’s been about ten minutes of reading … time to throw a wrench it to things!

A change in the story doesn’t have to be big. There’s no need to go all Game of Thrones on your readers and kill off a character! Your changes can be a little subtler than that. Here are a few suggestions.

  1. Change the perspective. I.e.: Your character is in a bedroom cluttered with things. She picks out an old leather jacket from the closet, remembering who gave it to her. The scene changes from her in her bedroom holding the jacket, to a flash back of a memory of who gave it to her. Present to flash back.
  2. A character that hasn’t spoken or interacted yet, finally speaks up. Perhaps what they say gives the reader a new take on the situation. I.e.: They comment on what happened the previous night and it catches the main character off guard. “Oh my! I never knew he felt that way!”

More thoughts on story ebbs and flows …

Before I started writing HARMLESS, I read a lot of books on how to write fiction ‘well’. I daydreamed and took notes about my story for what seemed like forever before I put fingers to keyboard. There was a diagram in one of the books I read about the flow of a novel. I’ll be dammed if I could find the book, so I’m going to attempt to draw the diagram for you from memory.

Wait – I need to say one more thing before I get into this diagram. Okay – I have my big story idea in my head. It goes something like this. Girl goes through traumatic loss of her brother. Girl’s parents’ get a divorce. Girl moves from big city to small town … and girl unleashes ancient spirit that possesses her friend. (Whew, quite the jump there at the end.)

http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-313735So that’s my story in a very tiny nutshell.

Back to the diagram now! In this very informative book of writing tips, that I no longer seem to have in my collection, it said – start with a hook. The hook being – the moment when you have the reader! And put it in the first ten minutes of your book!

The hook in my story is ‘girl unleashes ancient spirit’. Chronologically, there is a lot of story that comes before the unleashing moment, but I don’t have time for that in this first part. I only have ten minutes to hold the dwindling attention of my reader. So all that super cool back story will have to wait. I only have time for essentials!


My super cool drawing!


I’ve numbered the diagram to make this a little easier to explain.

  1. As you can see, right away in my storyline diagram, the excitement, the engagement, goes up. This is my moment of no return. Something happens that alters my characters plotted life course! Yeeee! Exciting!
  2. We are past the exciting hook. Things may have settled for the moment. The main character is flooded with questions and possibilities. What will happen next? Then BAM! A quarter through your story should be another big exciting moment. Wow didn’t see that coming! Now there is no ignoring what could have been coincidence. The plot thickens! (Insert evil laugh here.)
  3. The middle of your story. Don’t let it get saggy! IF YOU ARE BORED WRITING, THEY ARE BORED READING! Never forget that. The middle of your story is just as important as any other parts. I like to get into what I call ‘mini stories’ in the middle. Those awesome nerd-nuggets, back story, gems that will keep your reader going. I.e.: weave in a flashback, explain a quirk, debunk a myth! The mini story bits are endless.
  4. Building tension like the impending crash of a freight train. Then BOOM, the ending! An event which if your character survives is forever changed … not always for the better. All parts of a book can be tricky to write, but endings are what you leave your reader with. I’ve heard that, what people remember most about a book is not what it was about, but what feelings it left them with. What feelings will you leave them? It’s a bigger question then you think. One more pearl of wisdom when writing endings … I heard this at an event where Veronica Roth and Tahereh Mafi where speaking. Veronica Roth said that her editor told her, “You will find your end in your beginning.” Best advice ever! Ponder that for a while when you are having trouble with your ending.
  1. The tail-end. I like to keep this short and sweet. Say something poetic and call it a day. Some readers might want to know what happens ‘after’. But I say, if your readers want more – write book two.

So that’s my pictorial tutorial on the ebbs and flows of a YA story. But I’m not quite done yet … here is my tail-end.

Diagrams, tips, tricks and other things with help you figure out the intricacies of what good writing is. BUT the only way to go from being good to great, as with most anything – is to do it! So write, every day, even if you don’t feel like it.

Wow! That just sparked an idea for my next Method To My Madness Blog! Writing when you’re not in the mood: You aren’t always sunshine and rainbows, and neither are your characters!


Good writing and good reading to you all.




Eight Steps to Fitness for Writers

Novel writing is a marathon that’s interspersed with bursts of speed, hurdles, and trip wires (aka plot holes). And yet it’s a very stationary sport. It’s easy to succumb to the temptation of staring out of the window, sipping from the half-empty coffee cup or vodka glass, as you ponder the inevitable: that like all writers, you are suffering from writer’s block. You are, of course, allowed to.

Writer’s Fitness – a Healthy Body for a Healthy Mind

Yes, writing is hard mind work—but minds are at their best in a healthy body. A fit body gives more energy, more thinking power…and builds a winning confidence that can feed into all areas of a writer’s life. “Your Workout Makes You Smarter”, an article in Scientific American in July 2009, explains that “physical exercise is critical to vigorous mental health”.

This is something I have certainly found in my life to be true. I used to box competitively, and noticed pretty early on that the fitter I was, the more effective I became at achieving goals inside and outside the ring. Pretty soon it was clear that in order to achieve my daily written-word target, I needed to spend many hours per day at my desk—but I also needed to be physically fit. The words just didn’t seem to flow from within when the vessel that held them wasn’t in top working order.

I believe that we are comprised of a mind, a body and a spirit—and the body minds spirits! So, the first step is to pour the Smirnoff and the cappuccino onto the knot weed that’s chewing through your home’s (and your writing’s) foundations—and to take some exercise.

Support for Your Writer’s Fitness Plan

It’s one thing to have a fitness plan, it’s another to stick to it. I’ve tried a lot of different ways to “trick” myself into exercising over the years. In the end, what worked best for me was a multi-level support plan.

  1. Find a Friend4.Fitness in Yr Daily plan

First—find a friend who shares your fitness ambitions. You can both then encourage, congratulate, or cajole the other into actually doing it.

I’m lucky because my co-trainer is my editor. This means our work schedules are often focused on the same deadlines so we can co-ordinate our gym visits too. Even though my editor works on the other side of town, we check in via email to push each other along.

It doesn’t matter whether your friend is in the same country—though similar time zones can be helpful—what matters is the consistency and the commitment of you and your partner to stay in touch and support each other in your goals.

  1. Make a Plan

The second is to draw up a (realistic) plan and monitor progress. This can be via a spreadsheet or (in my case) a piece of paper pinned to the bathroom wall above the sink.

The key thing here is to write it down. There’s more impact when looking at marks on a calendar that clearly show when days have been missed. Somehow, just noting it in the brain doesn’t have the same effect. We are writers and respond well to the written word—so write your plan down, update it daily and put it where you can see it.

  1. Banish TBSALA Syndrome

The third is to rid yourself of TBSALA Syndrome. This is perhaps the most important of all. It stands for: The Bathroom Scales Are Lying Again.

Arbitrary numbers have never worked for me. To be allowed to box competitively, you must make a certain weight. This meant weeks before an event of monitoring exactly how much I consumed, with daily trips to the weighing scales. I learned pretty quickly that the scales never lied. They also never made me happy. As soon as I stopped competing, I threw them away, which was a liberating experience.

Not only was it a mental burden banished, but I also became more aware of how my body felt at its correct weight. I learned how to “feel” the difference if I gained or lost a few pounds. Without the scales to rely on, I had to learn the feeling of normal for myself. It takes a while to get used to, but looking at scales puts distance between us and our bodies. It’s indirect. If you make exercise a part of your routine, you’ll notice on your calendar notes when you miss a day. Your body will tell you too.

  1. Make Fitness Part of Your Daily Plan2.make a plan

I start my day with a brisk fifteen minute walk to a local coffee shop. It’s enough to wake me up and I fill my time considering the writing challenges that kept me awake the night before. Then I drink a decaf or herbal tea, read the paper, and do the word puzzle, hoping to beat the Bulgarian trainee barista who wins four times out of five.

Why not add a gentle morning walk to your routine? More and more, I hear walking is the exercise of choice—there are several Meetup walking groups ( in my area. If you find walking suits your style and want to go further, perhaps there’s a walking group near you.

  1. Add Moments of Meditation Daily – Fitness for the Mind!

After the coffee shop, it’s a brisk trot back to my desk. I open the Word file for my manuscript and write until lunchtime (the timing of which is dictated more by hunger pangs than by a clock). Then after a light lunch, I lie on the sofa for twenty minutes and blank out.

It’s a form of meditation—and I try not to fall asleep. When I rise, I feel recharged in body and mind. So I stretch a little, then write some more. This is usually the time of day when I am at my most productive.

It may feel silly to stop and take time for oneself, especially when there are pressing deadlines to be met. But give it try. Persevere. It’s an effective way to supercharge your productivity and it only takes moments.

  1. Make Sure You Move Every Hour!

When writing, I try to limit myself to an hour of sitting at a time. After that, I get up and move around. Web MD recommends two minutes of walking every hour to boost health (, Dallas, Mary Elizabeth, April 30, 2015). In 2016, I’m planning to buy a treadmill so that I can create a “walking desk”, to enable me to walk and write at the same time.

Author Yann Martel of Life of Pi fame uses a walking desk—and it seems to work well for him. You can see him on Youtube discussing it at .

  1. Find Exercise That You Love1.Find a Friend

Walking may not be the exercise that most speaks to you. But there are so many sports to choose from. And sometimes a change of pace is fun too. Even a favorite sport can become repetitive. Alternating between types of exercise can keep interest levels high.

Late afternoon/evening for me is the time for a gym visit or swim. I try to alternate sessions and aim for four workouts a week. Swimming is an incredible form of exercise because it’s highly efficient (working most muscle groups) and low impact. In the gym, it’s skipping, hitting a bag, stretching, and fast reps with light dumbbells.

Why not be adventurous? Find out what you enjoy. You can also alternate your favorite exercise with a new sport. What have you never tried but always wanted to? Does your exercise partner have a suggestion?

  1. What Motivates You?

One of my most powerful fitness motivators is the sense of guilt—letting myself down—if I miss a session. This feeling lingers until I hit a new target, whether it’s about losing weight or a certain number of push ups etc. I try to push myself extra hard after a missed session.

The energy of others working out nearby motivates me too. I’m fortunate in that I really do enjoy exercise. However, I find it difficult to work hard when I’m alone, so I aim to train when there are others around. Pretty soon you start recognizing and talking to people. As writing is a lonely occupation, I find this interaction stimulating. And once your new friends learn that you write, they usually want to know more…

But everyone is motivated by different things. Some make a promise to their exercise buddy about a target they hope to achieve; others promise themselves treats after a goal is reached. How do you motivate yourself in other areas of your life? What works for you there? Maybe you can adapt this to motivate you in your writer’s fitness routine as well.

A fit body keeps the mind fit. Scientific American said it. Someone—possibly golfer Gary Player, or actress Ethel Merman—said something similar too: “The harder I train, the luckier I get”. So I train pretty hard, and you know what? So far, I’ve been pretty lucky.

How do you keep fit as a writer? What exercise and routines motivate you?


5i.Moments of meditation 1.Ben in morning cafeBen Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his work. His interest in marine life has taken him across three continents over the past three decades. He boxed competitively until recently and continues to coach. He graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and a Master of Philosophy.






Blank white book w/pathBen has just released, Something in the Water, available now on Amazon at

The sealed box Teal finds in the street contains more than a mystery…

What if to be with the man of your dreams… you had to give up your life?

On the verge of losing her job, a side-lined journalist is forced to travel to the South Pacific to untangle a mystery where she meets a reclusive ex-boxer with a message. When a syndicate of corporate criminals invades paradise, she must either accept the plum promotion that will save her career or defend the island with her life.

The awesome Victoria Griffin from Victoria Griffin Fiction has tagged me in a fun Valentine’s Day blog hop!
You don’t need to be tagged to participate! So if you are reading this – join in and have a whole lot of valentine fun!
  1. Favorite Love-Story book? Hmmm … A memorable series that comes to mind – Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.
  2. Share your best Valentines day memory? I’m not one to kiss and tell. 😉 Especially not on the internet!
  3. Favorite fictional hero/heroine? There are so many! Evan Walker – Fifth Wave, Eve  – Anna Carey’s Eve, and Juliette and Warner – Shatter Me.
  4. What story has the best most memorable romantic moment; kiss, proposal, etc.? The last book in the Shatter Me series, Ignite Me, between Juliette and Warner. Swoon!
  5. What is your all time favorite Romantic movie? I don’t watch a lot of romantic movies, but I’d have to say Hope Floats. It’s one that’s stuck with me. Or Maybe Train Wreck! Hahaha!
  6. You can go anywhere for a romantic getaway (fiction or non-fiction,) where do you go? Somewhere in Europe involving the countryside, castles and wine.
  7. Who do you want to be your valentine? My hubby is my only valentine. :)
  8. Chocolate or flowers? Hard call … I have expensive taste in both.
  9. Novels: Romance or Adventure? Adventure, but I’m a sucker for young love.
  10. What fictional villain, do you secretly love? I’m in love with the villain in my own book, Mason Allen! Ask my editor.

Let the Tagging begin!
I tag:

To participate: Copy and Paste the following in your blog to participate in this tag.
Cupid’s Book-Lover Tag

The Rules:
1. Tag the creator (AbbieLu @ Cafe Book Bean)
2. Have fun answering the questions.
3. Tag 5-10 people to join in the fun.
4. Thank & link those who tag you.
5. Don’t worry about the rules!
You don’t need to be tagged to participate, so join in and have a whole lot of valentine fun!


Dark Fantasy is not my usual genre of choice, but I’m so glad I took the chance on this book!

Where do I start …

necroThe main characters, Maldren (love the name) and Ayla, aren’t your ‘A’ typical heroes. Maldren, is a bit of a buck the tides, head strong, Necromancer. He has ambitions for promotion in his guild, but keeps getting passed over. For those of you who don’t know what a Necromancer is, it ‘s – in general, a magic practiced by a witch or sorcerer. This magic centers on being able to communicate and/or conjure magic in regards to the dead.

Ayla, is Maldren’s new apprentice. She’s young, from a rich family, inexperienced … everything that gets on Maldren’s “got-to-go” list. But – things change, the story develops, and you can’t help falling in love with both these characters.

Each scene is vividly written, taking the reader there; to the battles, to the sewers, and back to places a little less rough around the edges. Many times when reading this book, I found myself glancing back at the cover. Graeme Ing couldn’t have picked a better image for this story!

I give this book a 4 out 5! And would recommend it to any fantasy loving reader.







So … being that my manuscript is finally finished (YEAH!), and is waiting to be discovered, I now have more time to do other stuff – like sit and stew. But really – I’m not moping around staring at my phone and email waiting for it to go off … waiting … waiting for the infamous call. Okay – I’m not good at waiting.

But I’m finding ways to keep busy – like writing this blog! I got the idea to write this after it was suggested to me that I help run a writers workshop for a local woman’s group. There was a workshop template I could use, or I could change it up as I saw fit. This got me thinking – How can I make this workshop unique? How can I make it my own?

The only way I know how! By sharing how I write a novel. Yes, yes – I know people have done this before. There are a million billion self-help writer books out there. But that’s not what I’m looking to do in this series of blogs. I’m not wanting to give you writing tips. I am wanting to let you into my inner madness. To show you how (specifically) my unique way of writing is achieved.


If this blog were up to my editor, she might say that I have the ability to channel characters from a fictional dimension. #TheFictionalDemension (I’m going to make this hashtag trend one day!) But that’s not the case … entirely. :) Wouldn’t that be cool though!

Any who, moving along …

In this blog, I’m going to keep it pretty general, or at least try. And then in the ones to follow, I’ll start to really dissect my writer’s brain, showing you where the crazed little hamster runs on the wheel!http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-300685

So – back when I started writing I didn’t have a whole lot of rhyme or reason about why I wrote the way I did. But now that I’ve been at it for a while I’ve started to notice the patterns in the way I do things.

http___www.pixteller.com_pdata_t_l-300696Let’s start with how I would write the beginning of a scene. Yes, I called it a scene, not a chapter. That’s because when I read a book (if it’s a well written book), it plays like a movie in my head. I can mentally see the characters interacting in their little world.

Now – I’m a bit of a free writer, by that I mean I don’t make huge, intricate outlines. What I do is a little more organic. In my notebook (coil bond, paper … I’m old school like that), I write out a few key points. This page often turns in to a scribbly mess but as long as you can read it that’s all that’s important. I start with the most basic things – Who is in the scene? This part is usually easy. I know which characters need to be there, which ones haven’t been seen in a while, and which ones might have some unfinished business.

Then I write down, in point form, what I need to get across in this scene. For example, the main character is very secretive about her life before moving to this small town. She’s doesn’t express her feelings well, she’s awkward, and the only time she’s ever opened up about her painful past was to a therapist, whom she can’t see any more because of the move.

Point form:

  • She (main character) is awkward
  • She doesn’t express her feelings well
  • She has a secret past
  • She’s spent years with a therapist, that she is heart broken to leave.

(These particular examples pertain to writing the first chapter in my novel. Maybe you don’t care … but it keeps me focused telling you this as I write.)

When introducing this character, I need to get across all these things, BUT without actually telling the reader or dumping too much on them all at once. Not easy! But I’ve gotten better at it. It’s the whole – ‘show don’t tell’ thing. :)

To help ‘ show’, I’ve given my main character, Rachel, a few quirks and objects in her environment.

  1. Cardboard boxes: A simple and an effective way to hide things out in the open. Give a person a whole bedroom stacked with unopened boxes, that have been there for months – and you now have a proverbial ‘elephant in the room’. The cardboard boxes gave me a way to show the reader that Rachel was hiding something. It lets the reader in on a secret without sharing all the details with the other characters (her friends by association), while still making something seem ‘off’. She is reluctant to share what is inside the boxes with her friends. (Conveying her secretiveness about her past.)
  2. Expressing her emotions through weather analogies: I wanted to show the reader the relationship my main character had with her past therapist. So I gave the therapist a nickname, The Weather Lady. (In my world, you give people you love the most a nickname.) This ‘Weather Lady’ would analyze Rachel by using analogies about the weather. I think using this in my story adds depth, backstory, and invites the reader to use their imagination about what the main character is thinking. It also keeps these feeling to the reader and the main character, because she is shy, closed off, and all around messed up.
  3. An inner monologue, that occasionally comes out: Something the therapist tried to cure Rachel of, without success. I myself have a constantly running inner monologue. This quirk is a little bit of me seeping in to my character. I think it’s an awesome way to share with your reader, while keeping secrets from other characters.

Now that I have my list of characters in the scene, the points I need to get across, and a few things in the environment, I start to think about how I’m going to share this part of the story with the reader. A good way to figure out ‘how’ is to ask a few questions.

For example:

  • Are the characters in the scene hearing something? A radio, A TV?
  • Is someone talking in the background?
  • Is a character dreaming or thinking about it in their mind?
  • Would a flash back best tell this tale?
  • Are the characters in a conversation?
  • First, second, or third person?

After I’ve figured out where my scene stating point is, I let my characters take it from there. If you know your fictional characters well enough, they’ll know what to say and do. :) #TheFictionalDimension Make it trend people!

Okay! I hope that all made sense and you’re hungry for more. Next time, I think I’ll write on how I develop a fictional character.

Thanks for reading!

Good writing and good reading to you all.







Whether you’re submitting to literary magazines, querying your manuscript, or applying to be crowned ruler of the world, you’ve got a tough road ahead of you. There will be heartbreak, betrayal, and disillusionment—and that’s just in the trailer.


But I’ve got a few tips to make it easier. Nothing fancy, but they might help you out in a pinch. Think of this post as a Swiss Army Knife for the submission jungle.

1. Savor encouraging rejections.

You know the ones: While this piece is not for us, you obviously have tremendous talent. Or even better: We would love to see more work from you. Take those, enjoy them. Don’t stop reading as soon as you see the dreaded unfortunately. Sometimes an encouraging rejection can be your motivator for the next few submissions. It lets you know you’re on the right track.

2. Give yourself a fighting chance.

Check the guidelines, people. We’ve all heard it before, but we can all stand hearing it again. If the magazine or agent accepts literary and mainstream, do not send fantasy. If they only publish poetry, do not send fiction. Format your stuff the way they ask. Send them what they ask. If the guidelines say to write your story on a roll of toilet paper and send it by way of giant carrier pigeon then do it! Writers are always struggling with the question of what do editors want? Well, they’ve been kind enough to lay it out for us in the submission guidelines. There’s no reason we shouldn’t follow them. Don’t let your story suffer because you needed to use Calibri instead of Times New Roman. It’s just not worth it.

3. Don’t stress about each submission.

I know I mentioned guidelines. Read them, follow them, but don’t get hung up on them. Don’t fret about whether the title is exactly a third of the way down the page or whether your cover letter is spotless. I’m not saying to be careless, but you have to find a balance—one that gets the thing into an editor’s hands. Your work will never be accepted if it’s stuck in an unsent email on your computer, waiting for you to proof it for the twenty-second time. Do your best, and let it go.

4. It’s a numbers game.

Nobody will ask about your failures. They ask about your successes. They won’t ask how many rejections you received for those five acceptances. They won’t care whether there were ten or two hundred. But guess what, two hundred submissions will definitely get you more acceptances than ten submissions. Submit submit submit. Most markets accept simultaneous submissions because they know how it works. You have to get your stuff out there. A while back, I decided to commit to a few things: write one word a day, read one page of (unassigned) fiction a day, and submit one piece a day. I have since discarded the stringency of this plan—although it did what I meant it to, started good habits—but I still submit like crazy. Sometimes I feel like I am crazy, or at least a glutton for punishment, when the rejections start rolling in. But here’s what I’ve learned: you pay for each acceptance. You pay with effort. You pay with time. And you pay with rejections. Every so many rejections I receive earn me an acceptance, even if the going rate fluctuates.

5. Don’t take it personally.

Yeah, we’ve all heard this one. We roll our eyes when someone gives this advice, and yet it is one of the toughest pieces to master. As a softball player, we talk a lot about the fact that a person’s value is not dependent on her batting average. Obviously, I know that, rationally. If someone walks up to me and asks, “Are you a bad person because you struck out last night?” I’m not going to say yes. But I often feel that way, and the fact that the feeling is not grounded in logic makes that it tougher to combat. As writers, it can be even more difficult. Each piece we write is a part of us, and when an editor rejects it, we feel like they are rejecting us as a person. So next time you see an email in your inbox (Thank you for your submission, but unfortunately…) take a moment to remind yourself that your self-worth is not hooked to that message. You are not a bad person because one editor didn’t absolutely adore your work. Don’t let yourself fall into that trap. If your personal value is at stake every time you send out work, a difficult process becomes impossible.

If you’re not sure whether you need that reminder, say it out loud. Seriously, stand up, take a deep breath, and say, “I am still a good person. Rejection does not change that.” See how it makes you feel. I know it sounds silly, but it’s one of those things that can sneak up on you and get stuck somewhere deep in your mind. Don’t let it.

Real talk: when the Twitter feed is out of sight, and nobody is watching, it’s going to come down to you and the submit button. That’s why, as much as these tips work for me, you have to find your own driving force strong enough to make you press that button and put your heart on the line. You have to find your own reasons and your own strategies to survive it.
Hopefully, something in this post clicked for you. I hope I leave you with one line or one thought that makes it a little bit easier. Because really, that’s all we can hope for as writers—for it to be just a bit easier. I know, and you know, that we would never want it to be easy. We would never sacrifice the thrill that comes with being chosen out of hundreds or thousands for that coveted acceptance.
Just don’t tell the editors that.

Guest Blog Written By: Victoria Griffin

Victoria GriffinFiction writer. East Tennessean.

Victoria was born and raised within sight of the Smoky Mountains. She loves any place you can still see the stars and constantly struggles with (and sometimes succumbs to) the temptation to write “ain’t” and y’all.”

She is a senior at Campbell University, home of the Fighting Camels (yes, it’s always hump day at Campbell), where she maintains dual identities as a softball player and English major.

When not writing (with a do not disturb sign stuck to the door) she is likely on a lakeside run or relaxing in a hammock, her nose in a book.

Her work has appeared in various literary magazines, links to which can be found in the Fiction section. Follow on Twitter for updates. – See more at:

What's NextWhat’s Next: Part 3

It’s been a while since I’ve written a ‘What’s Next’ blog … so I’m about due to write one again!

Lets see …

First – I learned that you can have the best book ever, but if you can’t hook your reader in the first few pages, most people will never know it’s the best book ever. Thus – I spent a month editing chapter one into a lean mean … um … chapter. Those first pages can be tricky! You have to set the stage, so to speak. And my first chapter has five characters in it. It was quite the challenge, making sure each character had their own voice right from the start. Also, getting just the right amount of back-story without dumping everything out was a precarious balance to find. But I think I did it.

I’m getting a bit ahead of myself here. I couldn’t have attempted another rewrite on my manuscript without my new editor! I was confident that my work was good, but I wanted it to be great! (I dream big!) I needed someone who was as big a fan of my characters as me, but possessed editing talents that I do not. She found me – or vice versa. It doesn’t matter … It was a fantastic experience, from which I learned a ton. For example – The subtle nuances between American, Canadian, and UK grammar and spelling. No matter how long I write, I think I’ll always need help this sort of thing.

So – after the editing, and the editor, I now have a solid handle on where I want my book to go. And I have a plan on how to get it there. As many authors know, publishing is a confusing, and can be, cruel world. It involves a lot of ‘hurry up’ and ‘wait’. But patience and perseverance will see you through a lot of that.

Another thing that got finished this month was my book trailer! It’s been a while in the making, but well worth the effort. I’d recommend my graphic artist to anyone. She’s a visual arts genius! I’ve learned so much about stock footage, voice overs, and music. And I’m so dying to show it to everyone! But alas … this gem isn’t going online until just before the book is released. Unfortunately, I don’t have a release date yet.

What else can I tell you about my woes to becoming a published author…

I’m back on the bandwagon, creating more high quality content like this for my website! I’m writing blogs, contacting authors for interviews, and sourcing out interesting guest bloggers! Keeping up my website is an important part of an authors platform. These days, an online presents is so crucial! Who knew there would be so much other stuff to writing a book … other than writing a book?

A new thing I’ve started doing in preparation to having published book, is getting more involved in my local writing community, as a presenter. I’m just working out details to lead a four-day writers course put on by a local woman’s foundation. And I’m looking into getting on a panel or two at the next When Words Collide in August.

Interesting fact: When I was a kid, I used to compete at public speaking. I made it up to provincial levels once! Public speaking isn’t always considered the ‘coolest’ of hobbies, but I’m sure glad I learned those skills early on.

Last but not least …

dreamstime_m_22497074The most awesome thing I’ve done, (in terms of my writing) in the past few weeks is – I submitted a query to the agent. For some that might not seem overly epic, but to me it is. After all the beta-readers, editors, failures and successes – I finally have a manuscript that I’m proud of.

It gives me terrible butterflies to finally be at this point, which is probably normal. Who wouldn’t be nervous, sharing with the world something that took years to create? But – my work is ready to get out there, on stage, and do it’s thing! I just hope, that with all my efforts that the critics will be kind and throw roses, not rotten vegetables.

To all the other writers out there that keep on pursuing their dreams … I hope you get roses too!

Good reading and good writing to you all!


All He Had To Say Was Thank You

Guest Blog by Alon Shalev

There is an urban author’s myth of a now famous author in her undiscovered days – was it Janet Evanovich? – who spoke at a bookstore in a mall with pouring rain outside. She knew the audience would be sparse as the mall was empty, and to cheer herself up, she bought a box of chocolates from the store next door.

Only four people turned up and she made them sit in a circle and gave them each a chocolate. They were silent as she spoke and read, and asked no questions. At the end three got up and left. The fourth thanked her and the author asked, rather desperately, if she wanted to buy a book. The woman laughed and said that all four were homeless, and just thirsted for a little culture so the bookstore allowed them to attend. The author felt compelled to give her a copy of her book and the rest of the chocolates.




I recently went to a book reading of an author who is struggling to break through, like me. We had met a few times and I have offered advice at various stages. I dutifully spread the word of his book launch to my social and e-circles, attended the reading, and bought a book.

Not many people turned up and even less felt inclined to buy the book. He was disappointed and the bookstore staff was not too excited either. When I asked him to sign my book, he mumbled a weak thank you and scribbled. I don’t think he ever made eye contact with me, and I felt a profound sense of resentment.

This is reality for all but the 200 or so A-listers. The rest of us may have 50 people in attendance or 5. It is hit-or-miss and this is probably a significant reason why adopting an online marketing strategy makes sense.

To celebrate the first Wycaan Master trilogy and the Eric Hoffer Book Award, I held a celebration in my hometown at the iconic Games of Berkeley at the end of last year. There was a strong attendance, but I put a lot of time into advertising and most of those attending had already bought the books. It was not a good return on investment if I look at it through economic eyes alone.

Games of Berkeley Question from Asif

But I loved doing it. I loved my friends who came and read parts, I loved the Q&A, especially the questions from the younger members of the audience, and most of all, I loved the conversations and the excitement of my readers – yes, for one afternoon they were all mine!

I sincerely hope that those who attended left happy and committed to my series and me. I especially hope that the young people were inspired to continue reading and, who knows, maybe put millennial quill to parchment.

I have heard many times that my author-hero, Terry Brooks, is an inspiring author to meet. I hear he shares a conversation with everyone bearing books, and that he is a delight to be with. I can believe that after reading this passage in his book, Sometimes The Magic Works. He says that book signings are not about selling books or advancing your career. He say…oh why not just let him say it:

Terry Brooks

“It is not in fact about you at all.

Rather, it is about making a connection between readers and books. It is about making readers feel so enthusiastic about books that they cannot wait to come back and buy more – not just copies of your books, but of other authors’ books, as well. It is about generating a feeling of goodwill toward the bookstore and the staff. Mostly, it is about reassuring everyone that they did not waste their time on you.

How do you accomplish this? …

…Speak to everyone. Make them aware of the fact that you are grateful to be there, anxious to chat, and ready to answer questions if they have any. Never sign a book without looking at and speaking directly to the reader, and then thank them for choosing to take a chance on you.”

I think I have always thanked those who buy my books. To this day, when a stranger tweets me that they just bought one, I feel genuinely touched and honored that they spent their hard-earned money on my books.


girl-hugging-words1And I thank them.

Maybe one day, someone will develop an app wherein I can put my hand through the screen and shake theirs as I thank them. Perhaps the 2.0 version will allow us to reach through and hug someone.


The world would become a better place, for authors, readers and all humankind!

Have a great week,





Book Signing Games of BerkeleyAlon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of GalbriethThe First Decree, and Ashbar – Wycaan Master Book 3 – all released by Tourmaline Books. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels including Unwanted Heroes. He swears there is a connection. More at and on Twitter (@elfwriter). Hang out with Alon on Google+

Focus and Generosity for 2016 Guest Blog by Shari L Schwarz

As the New Year rings in or stumbles in, or however it comes in for you, I’m frantically trying to catch up from being sick for almost three weeks before Christmas. Although that was a miserable time in many ways, I found that having to stop and rest for that long forced me to see things afresh.

Two words have been impressed upon me during this time: Focus and Generosity

I’ve been quite scattered in my writing life (we won’t talk about the many other aspects of my life which make it a challenge to stay focused: mothering, housekeeping and the like). But I’ve been increasingly feeling a strong pull toward the picture book community and the desire to get at least one of my books on its way to traditional publication–this year?? I’m in a new critique group here in Ft. Collins where we focus mostly on picture books, and some of my favorite critique partners online are picture book writers as well. My plan is to focus on my picture books even though I have a Middle Grade book and one Young Adult book written (and one MG and one YA, each partially written). I can’t do it all! I have 6-8 picture books that have been revised…some of them dozens of times, so I feel like I’m past the honeymoon stage of thinking, “Oh! this is easy.” Ha! It’s not easy at all, but it’s fun and I love the generosity of the picture book community…so here I go!

Which brings me to my second word for 2016: Generosity. I don’t necessarily mean materialistically but more of a generosity of spirit. The spirit of giving back, and opening up…of letting go of the things I feel like clenching my fist around…and blessing others, encouraging others…cheering others on and letting go of jealousy…

These are my New Year’s resolutions, in a sense. And I’ve also started freelancing (editing, ghostwriting, blogging) to help save up for our boys’ impending college years.

So, will I be more focused? We’ll see. But I feel like I have more concrete goals to hang my hat on this year.

2015 has been a year of shifting and learning for me. It’s the year I thought I’d never write again…and the year I won a big writing award and received my first contract for publication for Treasure at Lure Lake.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 holds! I at least know I’ll be holding the fruit of 2015 in my hands in April!!! I’ll be officially revealing my book cover for Lure Lake next week with a giveaway for a Kindle Fire, so stay tuned!

Happy New Year to you!

And Happy Writing!


About the Author


sharismiling2014Shari Schwarz is a mom of four boys–three preteen/teenagers and one preschooler. (Yes, they are alike in many ways!) and the author of the upcoming, TREASURE AT LURE LAKE, out April 12, 2016 by Cedar Fort Publishing.

Shari is a simple person (her husband would totally disagree!) and a homebody, but she does love long chats with friends over a latte, dreaming of going to the beach, and writing adventure stories for children. If she’s not writing, she’s reading, whether it be a manuscript for the literary agent she interns for or working on an editing project. In the quiet spaces of life, she might find time for her other loves: gardening, weight-lifting, hiking, and a bit of photography. Shari has had a lifelong faith in God and tries to leave it ALL in his hands.

Shari has degrees in Cross-Cultural Studies and Elementary Education with an emphasis in Literacy. She worked as an elementary school librarian before her little guy came on the scene. Now she stays home with him and writes.

Follow Shari on Twitter!

Check out Her website at!

Hello fellow readers!

Katherine (30)It’s the first week of January 2016 and I’m doing my best to fall into some semblance of a routine. (Insert dramatic sigh here.) Semblance being the operative word …

The first day of the month started off like the day before it, sleeping in past any normal adult should. Not because I partook in any New Year’s festivities, but because I’m a smart mom who believes in the idea of banking sleep … at least I want to believe. So far, sleeping in is only proving to fuel my night owl tendencies.

Any who, on to what I wanted to say! Getting back into this writing and blogging thing is tough stuff!

For the entirety of 2015, I was blessed to have the company of my husband at home with me, 24/7. Some of you might think that’s not such a blessing, but the two of us get along like ketchup on Kraft Dinner! ☺ I like that analogy ☺

So, it’s been a year of doing all those things we’ve always wanted to do but never had time for. Traveling! Finishing my book! Living all will-nilly like gypsies! BUT now – it’s back to reality. He’s back at a 9-5 and so am I – so to speak. Being a stay-at-home super mom/writer extraordinaire is more between the hours of awake and asleep.

These last few days of settling into a new schedule have been interesting ones. Let me browse you through the highlights.

My computer.

2015-11-02 12.22.54My giant, twenty-seven inch Mac desktop has been my buddy for four years. It’s never given me a problem or reason to doubt it until recently. But now it seems to have decided it would rather be a tanning bed than my word processor.

Now … it’s winter, and I do appreciate the radiant heat coming for my monitor, but it’s probably not good for either of us. So, I unplugged Big Mac and took him to get fixed.

After hours of waiting (not sure why they made me book an appointment – they obviously didn’t understand the meaning of the word), I got to speak to a tech. He ran his tests and everything came back normal. What? Not that I wanted to be told my computer was one micro-process away from going nuclear, but I wanted a better answer than that.

I left Big Mac overnight for a more thorough run through and again got an all clear, good to go, stamp of approval.  One thing the tech mentioned was, when a Mac desktop overheats, nine times out of ten, all you need to do is disconnect it completely from its power source for a while.

What did I learn from all this? What does it have to do with getting back into my routine? I’m getting to it …

The dog.

2014-05-28 11.21.02My sweet-hearted, geriatric dog has a few quirks. One, being his super power to shed profusely, and the other is his refusal to drink water from any dish known to man. I’ve combatted his shedding and distaste for hydration with regular grooming and crafty ways of increasing his fluid intake.

After complaining to the groomer and vet for the millionth time about his drinking habits (that kind of sounded like my dog needs AA.), they ran more tests on him at my request. Which came back perfectly normal! Not that I’d want a different result – just an answer for why he won’t drink water!

So he went in for his grooming, and the groomer asked me if I wanted his glands expressed. Yuck – better her than me to do it. I Googled it … the DIY method recommended wearing a welding apron, full arm-length gloves, and goggles. I might be a super mom but I was not going there.

To my surprise, having my dog’s ‘reset’ button expressed fixed all his quirks! Except for the shedding one. He no longer has the power to hydrate himself by osmosis but I like him better this way.

So what am I getting at talking about life changing routines, computer problems and an often dehydrated dog?

Here it is …

People can tell you till they’re blue in the face what normal is. But until you take a while to disconnect and press that reset button, you’ll never know what your daily version of that is.

Happy New Year, everyone! Never deviate from your own special kind of awesome!


7 Questions For Writers When Looking Back on 2015
Guest Blog by Lucy from Blondewritemore

As writers its vital we look back to see how far we have come, what worked, what didn’t go so well and what we can learn for 2016.

Here are 7 questions a writer can use when looking back on 2015:

  1. What was your biggest writing achievement in 2015?
  2. What writing issue did you overcome and how?
  3. Which writing worries were unnecessary in 2015?
  4. How did your writing outlook evolve over 2015?
  5. Which one aspect of your writing would you do differently?
  6. What were your 2 biggest distractions in 2015?
  7. What was the best piece of writing advice that you received in 2015?

 As I love quizzes and questionnaires here are my answers:

  • Completing the second draft of my novel. It was an achievement because I detested the first draft and wanted to bin it. Instead I rolled up my literary sleeves and re-wrote 77k words.
  • Writer’s Block. I went through a really bad patch after my second draft. No matter how hard I tried to write the third draft I just couldn’t write a single thing. Cue the world’s worst period of writer’s block. I became frustrated, paranoid and an absolute pain to be around. The way I overcame my writer’s block was sitting down in December and giving myself some writing freedom. I allowed myself to write whatever I wanted. I just sat at the table and let my fingers type. This was quite radical for someone like me. Looking back now I think I forced myself into writing the third draft and I wasn’t ready for it. Sometimes you have to just go with the creative flow.
  • Worrying about what other people think. I spent a lot of 2015 worrying about what people thought about my writing. This was fuelled by some hurtful comments about my blog and writing from some non-writers / people who know me outside of writing. Towards the end of the year I decided to change my approach. I said to myself ‘who cares what people think?’ – I love being a writer, I enjoy writing, blogging and I have the guts to share my work (believe me – its takes real guts to put your writing out there for the world to see). Since stopping worrying about what the rest of the world thinks of me and what I put out for the world to read I have become a much happier person and writer. I am never going to please everybody.
  • A more relaxed outlook. At the start of the year I was on edge, anxious and impatient about my writing. I wanted fast and immediate results – a finished book. Over the year I have really changed, particularly in the last few months. I have learnt the importance of patience and the benefits of letting ideas stew. I have ditched all my anxieties and gone back to enjoying writing again. This has worked wonders and I recommend it.
  • Listen to my gut instinct. I didn’t listen to myself enough during 2015. It is quite a skill to cut out the noise and listen to what your gut instinct is telling you about a project or a piece of work.
  • Phone and Pinterest. I am starting to reap the benefits of putting my phone away for long periods of time during the day. I am trying not to pin so much but it is addictive.
  • Books take time to write. Books cannot be written in a matter of weeks. Some takes years to write and that’s not a bad thing. Ideas need time to develop and mature.

Have you looked back on 2015? How was it for you?

Let me know some of your answers to these questions?


About the author


A naturally blonde writer with a Yorkshire accent, who likes eating cheese, dancing around her kitchen and sniffing books. Believes she should have been born in America and feels that she has missed out on: Breakfasts involving pancakes, Living in a town where the name ends in ‘Falls’, and Fannypacks … just to name a few.

Follow Lucy on Twitter!

Check out her website at

*I was given an advance read copy of this book for a fair and honest review.*


I like to write book reviews as soon as I finish reading the book, while it’s all still fresh in my mind. Though it’s been a few days since I’ve finished this one, I’m am not worried about forgetting it’s intricacies. This is one of those books that stays with you for a while. The characters, their trials, the love, the heartache; choices made by fictional characters that by the end of the book are all too real.

The Edge of Nowhere, a historical fiction novel by C. H. Armstrong, that will take you on a journey of what it was like for a young widow and her combined fourteen children and stepchildren to survive in the 1930’s dust bowl era.

Spoiler Alert!


The beginning of the story starts with a letter written by grandmother, Victoria Hastings. At the end of this prologue there is a line that sums up the entire book so beautifully.

“Remember me not as your hostile and overbearing grandmother, but as a woman who refused to be a victim.”

Indeed, Victoria Hastings, refused to become a victim. Through harsh circumstances, Victoria survived to become a woman, almost emotionally unrecognizable from her youth. This story will make you feel the love, hate, and everything in between that Victoria felt.

I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars! And would recommend it to anyone who likes women’s fiction, or historical fiction.


At a random outing to my local Chapters bookstore, I met author, Adam Dreece. Being that this store is one of my more avid haunts; it was the store manager who introduced me to Adam. She told me that, Adam, was one of the most engaging self-published authors she’d ever met and that this guy is going somewhere.
Looking at his book display in the store, Adam, stood dressed in a dapper steampunk-esque vest and monocle. The table was arranged with accolades to his latest books, complete with professionally put together banners. I was impressed immediately at his dedication and obvious passion for his stories.
Today, I have the privilege of sharing with you, a peek in to the inner workings of this indie author.
So – I introduce to you, Adam Dreece.


Adam, you’ve just released your fourth novel in The Yellow Hoods series. How many books are left before the series is complete? And when can we expect them to be released?

The current story arc is going to wrap up in Book 5. However, in Book 4 I’ve laid the groundwork for book 6 (possibly 7 as well). There’s one more piece of The Yellow Hoods storyline that I want to do before I wrap things up, which will likely be 1-2 more books.

 After that, I’m planning on doing more books in the same world. More on that when I get closer to it.2015-11-09 14.20.53

Having read the first two books in your series, I admire how you’ve combined both the steampunk and fairy tale genres together. Can you tell us a bit about the storyline of this series, and what inspired you to write it?

 The story is really one about coming of age, not just of the Yellow Hoods trio (Tee, Elly and Richy), but of ideas that shape society. The story reveals two secret societies, the Tub and the Fare, and how they’ve succeeded or failed at exerting their influence over the past few decades.

 Our fairy tale stories and rhymes are their real world events, whether that’s Santa Claus represented as two brilliant inventors in their twilight years, Nikolas Klaus and Christophe Creangle, or the Tub which is lead by a butcher, a baker and a candle-stick maker.

 For those unfamiliar with steampunk, or those that know it well, I call The Yellow Hoods an ‘Emergent Steampunk’ series. Rather than feeling like you are walking into a Victorian Clockwork world, you start with a small mountain town. All the elements of invention, and the history of the world as well as where its going, are woven into the storyline itself.

 As for inspiration, well my daughter gave me the nudge to write the first story, Along Came a Wolf. I was stuck writing something else, and she suggested I take a silly bedtime story I’d told her once and give it new life, and I did. From a world perspective, I first visited Steampunk back in 2000 when I wrote a Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game supplement for a contest being run by Wizards of the Coast, but it failed to get submitted correctly. Part of that world I’m currently reusing in my free online serial, The Wizard Killer.

What advice do you have for new writers who are just starting out?

COVERMASTER-Book 1-MasterRecognize that there are two great fears: Finishing and Judgment, and find a way to conquer them. It’s hard to declare something finished, that you are going to move on. I see so many people take a redwood of an idea, and whittle it down to a toothpick. Learn to let go and move on. For every story you complete, you will become stronger and better, and you will have better ideas and be able to execute them even better.

 And then comes the Judgment. You need to get early feedback (beta readers) and listen to what they have problems with, and look at their proposed solutions as more hints of what may have bothered them. Their concerns are real, though their solutions are rarely the right ones. It’s hard to get feedback, to listen to it, because while we are fierce in creativity, we are all sensitive to words that affect our sense of worth. All I can say is that the difference between being an author versus being a writer, is putting your work out there and learning to let the arrows harm you as little as possible, and learning to let the praise touch you.

There’s a world of potential marketing avenues out there for indie authors. Do you have any marketing tips or strategies that have worked well for you?

Connecting with people genuinely and directly on Twitter has worked. Genuinely means without automation. No automated thank yous, no automated anything except maybe scheduling some tweets regarding blog posts that people might find useful. Another thing is not blasting your following with ads, because you will quickly get muted.COVERMASTER-Book 2-Master-V2

 Offline, meeting people directly at expos like CalgaryExpo has been amazing for me. Building a fan base is a grassroots thing, and you do it by earning one reader and fan at a time. You have to get out of your shell, put on the author hat, and meet people because no one will be better at convincing them to give your book a chance than you.

Do you have a favourite author or book? What was so memorable about their works?

You know, this is the first time during an interview I actually remembered to mention this book, it’s Good Omens by Neil Gaimen and Terry Pratchett. The characters and their contrast still sticks with me, and the humor. I loved that book.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Blog: http://AdamDreece.comPromo - focus on Book 1
Amazon Author Page:
Indigo –
Amazon –
iBooks –
Kobo –
Book Trailer:

I know that writing hasn’t always been your profession. Can you tell us a bit about what you did before you became a full-time writer, and why you made the change?

Book 3-MasterWhen I was in high school I started doing two things, writing stories and programming. Okay, and playing lots of Dungeons and Dragons, so three things, but they were all inter-related. From there, programming and writing stayed with me.

 For 25 years I did nothing with my writing, and for the past 20 years, I’ve been in software. Specifically, I quickly went from being a software developer to a software architect. I’ve been the write hand on projects as big as $100 Million (I can’t say that without thinking of Doctor Evil), and have worked for Microsoft and in Silicon Valley.

 The drop in oil prices and the sudden scarcity of contract positions for me gave my wife and I an opportunity. We decided that my first year as an author had gone really well, and that it was worth making some life changes to allow me to go full time, and I did. A lot of the skills that I developed as a software guy have paid huge dividends for me, such as being able to strategically think, to look at the end result and figure out how I might get there, and being able to work really damn fast and well.

Can you tell us a bit about your cover design? Who designed it? What inspired you to choose those images?

The initial cover we had when we launched at CalgaryExpo 2014 wasn’t what everyone’s used to seeing. We listened to the feedback from the potential readers and customers. We were then faced with a decision, do we seek out someone who can create the cover that we really want, or do we keep going with what we have? That’s when we found Xia Taptara, and he’s been doing the amazing covers ever since.

 For each of the covers, I’ll send Xia an idea or two, capturing a particularly moment or feeling of the book, and he’ll send me back a few concepts. They always blow me away.

When I look back at the novel I’ve written, I find bits and pieces of my own life that have made it in to my work. Can you share with us a bit of your life that has made it in to your stories?

Wow, there are several. The map itself is littered with several. But probably the one that is absolutely the most personal is Mounira and dealing with her pain in book two. I went through 15 COVERMASTER-Book 3-Mastermonths of horrible scar tissue pain years ago, which was improved to became liveable chronic pain. I understand what it is to have hot, raw pain that wants to consume you. I know how it can eat away at who you are, what you want and more. And putting that into an eleven year old kid, someone who was so filled with joy and innocence, I wanted to walk with her through that journey of taking the demon that was pain and absorbing it, making it a strength rather than her enemy. I have a lot planned for her in the future, I hope I get to go there with her.

Other than being able to write books at a fantastically fast pace, do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I really miss table top role-playing, but when I’ve tried to return to it, the complexity isn’t there for me. I played a miniatures game called Heroclix for a while and miss it too, I don’t have the time or friends to play it with these days.

 As for unique talents? I’m told listening is one, and my style of writing is another. But then again, what do I know?

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There’s nothing as empowering as taking that risk for a dream, stepping off that cliff and seeing if you can fly. It’s terrifying and exhilarating, but more than anything, it reminds us that our ideas are worthy and powerful.


Hi Eric! As you may have noticed from my website, I like to interview writers. From what you’ve told me, you like to write sci-fi fantasy stories, but also write some business and finance works as well. I’m happy to chat with as fellow writer like yourself, but I’m not going to ask you about your writings today.  Instead, I’d like to pick your brain regarding your passion for helping writers figure out the business side of being an author.

Before jumping into the main questions, can you tell us a bit about your experiences that lead you to want to help writers?

I have always had a passion for writing and storytelling but like many prospective authors I felt that writing for a living was just a pipedream and I went to school for business instead. My love of books and the overwhelming fines I had racked up at the local library led me to become a manager of a bookstore. Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to speak directly with many authors and gain priceless insight into their mind. My experiences have led me to speak with authors just starting out, as well as, others like Larry Correia who have achieved the hallowed, NYT bestseller status.Eric Headshot

As I stepped into this larger store 6 months ago the requests to do author signings and questions about how to publish a book has grown exponentially. From my countless conversations with new authors it was apparent that many authors lack the experience, resources, and knowledge to get their books to their readers hands. I realized that it was selfish for me to hoard the knowledge I had gained through my unique ability to directly interact with successful writers.

I decided to put more of my effort into understanding and overcoming the struggles of new authors. It then became my crusade to help my fellow writers understand the business of books so that they can see the fruits of their labor.

I can name off a long list of struggles, writers go through when trying to publish and market their books. What do you see as being a major reason why a lot of authors fail to get the exposure they are seeking for their books?

This is a bit of loaded question so I will give you a short and long answer for it.

Short: Supply and demand…

Long: Writers often are creative people who would prefer to not have to get their hands dirty with the business side of things. This is why the industry model has been one driven by writers, agents, publishing houses, and bookstores all playing the same role for decades. Writers need agents, who need publishers, who need bookstores, and bookstores need writers, who need… I think you get where I’m going with this.

This model has recently, if you can call almost a decade recent, been altered drastically with the advent of the e-reader. Due to the lowered cost of print self-publishing partnered the ease of e-book publication the market was taken over by people who may never have written a book in the old system. With the a few hundred thousand new titles flooding the market agents have a test market to cherry pick budding authors from. They choose the authors who have the quickest and most likely chance of selling X number of books. By removing the middleman from the equation many authors are left with a voice but no microphone.

The author is forced to pick up the slack and market themselves. The fact that many authors have worked their entire lives on the right side of their brain they lack the experience and business acumen to become the marketer they need to be in order to get their message out there. The writer in today’s over saturated market has to build their own platform so they can stand out to readers, agents, and publishers.

Can you suggest a few things, which you think, a successful store book signing has?

The first thing I would suggest is that the author have a built in audience. Without a built in fan base it is likely that anyone who is shopping the store will not think you are very interesting if nobody has shown up to see you. People think they are missing something if there is a crowd.

Another thing you should have is an engaging topic you plan on discussing. It is great to start by reading a passage from your book but the people who’ve traveled to see you want more. They want to know what the passage meant to you. Let them in on your secret thoughts that led you to write the book. Sharing this content will help the person have a deeper connection to you and your book. These people will sell your book for you.

The last and most important thing you should have is candy. People love chocolate and it may just sweeten the deal and encourage them to purchase your book.

If people would like to find out a bit more about you and your works where can they find you?





In your experience as an Assistant Store Manager for a large US bookstore, what advice do you give authors wanting their book on the shelves? Is it the same advice for both indie and traditionally published authors?


The primary piece of advice I can give you is to make sure your book is returnable. The management and staff at a bookstore love literature and also love helping new authors get their book to people. With that said they are also running a business that they need to ensure is profitable. If the book is non-returnable then it is not likely the bookstore will be able to carry the book. Some independent bookstores may allow you to do a consignment where you sign an agreement that you will purchase back the books at retail cost.

To my knowledge Lightning Source is the only Print On Demand (POD) publisher who allows you to set up your book as returnable. Keep in mind that this option costs more for the author and there is no guarantee that you will recoup the cost if it doesn’t sell. The author typically has to pay the shipping or destruction cost.


More often authors who have gone the traditional method for publication typically have returnable books so my primary advice is different…

Get your book on Edelweiss.

This website allows publishers to put the book up for bookseller, reviewers, and other industry professionals to download for free. There are over 74,000 people in the bookselling industry who have accounts on this site. These are the people who can and will be the champion of your book. If they like your book they will order it into their store and handsell it to your readers. Partnering this with a well defined social media strategy and you have a great chance of success.

Can you give us an anecdotal story about an author who’s come in to your store? Maybe they were a great example of what to do right – or wrong.

Hmm…That’s a hard one too.

I would prefer not to conjure up the thoughts of failed book signings and although Ronda Rousey and Greg Gutfeld come to mind, I think a more pertinent example would be Andrew Welsh-Do you reviewHuggins. He is a local author of the book Slow Burn and has done a few signings at my prior store. With a Twitter following of only 3,000 he can always pack the store with people. He is brilliant at marketing himself and relating to his followers. When you talk to him you can tell he genuinely appreciates his fans and enjoys connecting with them. This is why I have witnessed him have a successful signing on a Tuesday and do equally well at the Ohiana writer’s festival on Saturday even though it is just a few miles away.

Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions! I’m glad to have gotten the opportunity to connect!

My best wishes for all your endeavors Eric! Katherine

Inspiration from Mediocrity

I came across this blog on, written by Gordon A.Wilson. Gordon and I have had many chats about writing, life, and what inspires, but I feel this blog hit the nail on the head when it comes to talking about inner motivation. Some of us who strive to write a best seller will never reach that goal because perhaps (amongst other reasons) we choose to be okay with mediocrity. Gordon has found the inspiration in this. Read on, and be inspired.

I started this blog writing about things which inspired me. The inspiration has come in so many different ways. Seeing someone trying to get somewhere is always inspiring. When I see an honest effort to get something done it just makes me feel good. When I can see this effort being made it inspires me to want to put anything I can into supporting their effort.

I work with a lot of different students, and I see every level of dedication and commitment. I have a student who I never need to prepare for because she never practices. She can make excuses for anything and everything and believe me she does. I could teach her the same stuff every lesson and I swear sometimes I do because she puts no effort into growing.

At the other end of the spectrum is a student who devours everything she comes near. She worked on learning the chords to a song so she could play and sing it. I wasn’t sure what to expect. She returned a couple days later able to play and sing the song almost all the way through. Let me explain, to the non instrument players- playing and singing anything at the same time is not the same as playing or singing. It typically is something most people really have to work at to synchronize and get right. She pulled this off in couple days. She admitted that when she got home she was so excited she played it over and over until she got it right. Talk about self motivation.

So what does this have to do with anything? I was considering asking the same question. In the course of my exhaustive research for something I was working on yesterday  I came upon a video entitled something like, why you suck at guitar. The gist of the video was what kind of guitar player do you want to be? He drew up this great analogy about being alright with and accepting mediocrity. He explained more about the amount of effort and preparation it would take to get there which is not much. He also went on to explain how much effort and essentially practice it would take to become a really good guitar player. It is an entirely different level of commitment and a completely different mindset as well. Have I answered the question what does this have to do with anything yet? No. Not really but it’s getting closer.

What does the whole mindset aspect have to do with anything? Enough that it deserves a volume on its own. A champion in any field cannot have the mindset of a failure. A champion cannot even have an average mindset. Most of the champions I admire are humble so we are not talking about braggadocio.  I am talking about confidence and vision.There are a few things I would like to be much better at. One of them ironically is playing guitar and singing. But I really desire to become a better writer. In  a sea overflowing with writers, what could possibly separate my writing from anyone else’s? I don’t know that it could. But I can tell you for certain bad writing is not the path. Writing worse or accepting mediocrity is not on the path. Becoming a less interesting storyteller certainly won’t separate me from averageness. (I realize it may not be a real word but it so fits in with the point I am making.) Mediocrity. Being OK with mediocrity. Think about that one for a minute. This is where the whole playing guitar blends in with being a writer and as far as I am concerned being a person.

I can choose to not practice. I can choose to not learn. I can choose to be petty and small. I can choose to hold onto a self destructive grudge. I can choose to substitute judgement for understanding. I could fill my days with excuses for not accomplishing any given thing. When I get done I could ask someone to tell me what it looks like from where they stand. My guess is it would look just like it did before I made all my excuses. Why wouldn’t it? Nothing changed.  I didn’t really look at the things that make my writing less than interesting. I didn’t really practice that part I am having a hard time with. I made excuses and got nothing done.

The bottom line is this. The phrase “being alright with mediocrity” is offensive. It makes me cringe. I know the sea of writers is overflowing, as is the sea of entrepreneurs, singers, songwriters and about any other group I could list. Do I think the ones who have risen to the top of their field were the ones who were alright with their own mediocrity? Absolutely not.

What is inspiring about any of this? Everything. Look I know I will never be John Steinbeck or Ernest Hemingway nor will I wait for an invitation to go on tour with the Stones. But I can make choices to take steps each day to separate myself from mediocrity. I can learn from these greats and the not so greats. I can practice at being a more patient person. I can make efforts to spend more time listening and less time talking or assuming. I can make decisions to improve that which is improvable. Working to move away from mediocrity is inspiring.

Great Things

Hello all,

The last blog I wrote was about the bits of me that made it in to my first novel, Harmless. Sticking with that theme, I’d like to share with a short piece that inspired my main character, but didn’t make it in to the book. For those of you curious as to what my novel might be like, this short story is a good example of my style of writing. It’s also one of my favorite bits I’ve written. I hope you like it.




Great Things


Sometimes, you just have to hold your breath and jump right in. That’s what I’ve done. Part of me feels like I haven’t come up for air yet … and then there’s another part. There’s definitely another part now.

The screech of metal rubbing on metal. My bed creaks and grinds as I flop all my weight onto the mattress, held up by the old cast iron frame. The smell of rosemary and lavender float up from my pillows and blankets. I breathe it in deep. My grandma washes everything in lavender scented soap and the rosemary … I bring a pillow to my face, covering it. The rosemary is everywhere in my grandma’s house, growing unruly, in clay pots strategically soaking up the sun from every south facing window. The scents bring me back. Back here. To my home. To my bedroom. To my bed. To a safe place.

I let the pillow fall off to the side as I glance around my room. It looks the same as it always has. My worn wooden desk and soft pink computer chair sit beside my bed. My laptop open on top of it, it never closes. The potted gerbera daisy my mom gave me sits by the edge in its terra cotta pot sprouting seven blooms. My four-drawer dresser sits underneath the window dressed in yellowing lacy curtains. And one cardboard box sits crammed into the corner of my bedroom, hiding from the world, refusing to be unpacked. Yep, my bedroom looks exactly the same as when I left it, and at the same time a whole world different.

I slow my breathing in an attempt to filter the rush of senses. My senses are exploding. I can smell the stale air between the cogitated folds of the cardboard box. I can hear the tiny legs of an aphid crawl on the leaf of the plant beside me. I can pick out the tiny flaws in the lacy pattern of my bedroom curtains from ten feet away.

I’d like to say the room is spinning but it’s not. Maybe I’d like it to be or I wish it was, because then maybe I could still convince myself this is all just a dream. But it’s not. Everything’s crystal clear. My mind, my body … clear. Perhaps even perfect.

I grab the edges of the quilts on my bed and wrap them around me tight, covering every inch of me from head to toe. It’s a small comfort, more like a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. I’ve been trying so hard to look the other way, live here in the spaces between reality and … this. But it’s undeniable. I’ve made my choice. I chose to become this … this thing. How long have I spend fighting against this devil I know, only to discover the world is not as black and white as it seems. And good cannot exist without – evil. I know now, with absolute clarity, that God and the Devil are as real as you and me. Can’t say I’ve formally met either but I’m beginning to think the Devil might beg to differ.

A single tear rolls down my cheek. I can smell its salty brine as it hits my pillow, mingling with the rosemary and lavender.

This isn’t the way things were supposed to end! My voice is screaming in my head. So loud, I can’t stand another minute inside this quilted cocoon. I burst from my tight wrap kicking the covers off me in a heated tantrum. This isn’t how things end!

A house fly scratches at some dirt crowded in the corner of my bedroom window. I close my eyes and try to silence the world.

You know … I had this feeling once, that I was destined for great things. But that pinnacle – that tuning point, where I’m faced with my choices, I realized – great things can be mixed with equal parts of terrible. And no matter what I choose, it won’t change what terrible things I’ve already done – or what I will become … a true monster.

It is my pleasure to introduce you all to Catherine Armstrong, author of the Historical Fiction novel The Edge of Nowhere.

So tell us Catherine, is this a first novel for you or have you written others?

The Edge of Nowhere is not only my first, but my first strong attempt at fiction. Though I’ve written for years, I wasn’t sure I had the imagination to write fiction. And then this story got stuck in my head and wouldn’t leave. Since then, I’ve written a YA novel and have started three other novels that are in various stages of completion.

C.H.ArmstrongI’ve always found Historical fiction fascinating. My favourite title in this genre is The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill. Did you find that writing a fiction book that stayed true to historical events difficult? How did you do most of your research?

LOVE that book! In the United States, it’s sold under the title of Someone Knows My Name! But to answer your question, staying true to the historical events depicted in The Edge of Nowhere was fairly easy for me for two reasons: First, because the Dust Bowl lasted a full ten years, so there was a fluidity of timeline to work with. Second, because I grew up on the stories of hardships from this era. While it’s a work of fiction, The Edge of Nowhere was actually inspired by my own family’s struggles during this time, so I grew up hearing about the poverty and sacrifices. As a result many of the events depicted actually happened either to someone in my own family, or to another. I think the fun thing for readers will be trying to discover which elements of the story are fact-based, and which are a product of my imagination. And, frankly, some of the answers may surprise them.

Your book cover is very nice. Can you tell us a bit about who designed it and why you chose those images?

Thank you – I admit that I’m really happy with it! The cover was designed by Steven Novak, of Novak Illustration, and was a combined effort of the design artist, my publisher and myself. The inspiration, though, definitely came from the artist. The two things I love best about it are the background and the woman. If you’ll notice, behind the woman on the front cover is a background image that depicts the devastation of the era. Everything you see is a landscape covered several feet deep in dust and dirt, which is very true to the history of the era. The dust storms would sweep in and cover everything in dirt, much like a Minnesota snowstorm buries the landscape in snow. It was very similar, and that’s really what the main character does – constantly. As soon as Victoria overcomes one battle, she has to gear up for another. I love that we were able to find an image of a woman whose entire demeanor says, “Give me a second to regroup, then come at me! I dare you!” Incidentally, the main character was loosely based on my own grandmother, and I guarantee that’s exactly what she would’ve said: “Come at me – I dare you!” She was a strong woman who backed down for nobody.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Twitter: @C_H_Armstrong


Amazon Author Page: Coming soon
Google Plus:

Goodreads Author Page:

Did you always dream of becoming a writer? How you pursued other careers in the past?

Yes. I’ve always written because it’s always been the one thing I felt accomplished at doing. With that said, though, I always thought my first book would be a work of non-fiction because, until recently, it was what I mostly wrote.

I have a degree in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and have almost always pursued jobs related to writing. I’ve been fortunate to stay home to raise my children these last 19 years, but I’ve used that time writing for non-profits and charities, and most recently for a local magazine.

Give us a quick synopsis on your upcoming novel The Edge of Nowhere.

The Edge of Nowhere is based during the 1930s Oklahoma Dust Bowl and tells the story of a young woman’s struggle – first as an orphan and then after the death of her husband. The Dust Bowl and The Great Depression have just begun to gear up when Victoria’s husband dies, leaving her with a farm that cannot produce, a mortgage she cannot pay, and nine children she cannot feed. To provide for her family, she does (arguably) reprehensible acts in order to secure the basic necessities for her family. It really begs the question, “Is there anything at all a parent won’t do to provide for her children?”

While it’s not a “romance,” it’s definitely a love story. It’s the story of Victoria’s love for her deceased husband and their children and, in return, their children’s love for each other.

As a writer myself, I think about this all the time. If your book ever became a TV show or movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

I think Deborah Ann Woll would be perfect for the role of Victoria. She not only looks the part (height and stature), but I think she has the acting chops to go from a somewhat naïve young woman to a kick-butt, get-out-of-my way, leading character.

I haven’t given a lot of thought to who would be good as the peripheral characters.

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learned so far in publishing a book?

I’m surprised at how incredibly fun it is! My publisher, Penner Publishing, has made nearly every step of the process fun. Sure, it’s a lot of work, but the pure fun is not something I expected. That, and the friendships – I’ve made some incredible friends along the way with other authors going through this same process alongside me.

Is The Edge of Nowhere written as a series? Can you tell us what your working on next?

No – it’s completely stand-alone. With that said, I enjoyed writing about the era and may return someday to tell the stories of some of Victoria’s children. Currently, though, I’m in the process of searching for an agent for a Young Adult novel I recently wrote about a homeless family. It’s a piece I’m really proud of and I hope to find a home for it soon. Beyond that, I have a couple of other manuscripts in the works, but none are really far enough to give much information on them.

One last question . . . Tell us a bit about the person you feel supported you most in your writing career.

I wish I could name only one person. At the top of my list is my husband and children, who have been so incredibly patient while I ignored literally everything around me to get this book in the hands of readers. Beyond that, I’ve had no end of support from my extended family and my “Facebook Family,” as well as many residents in the town of El Reno, Oklahoma (where this novel is set) who have been with me and encouraged me every single step of the way throughout this process.


The Bits of Me

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog, and I think it’s time I did. I’ve been hiding in my office, trying to crank out the last of the edits, needed on my manuscript and I can finally say … it’s done. Three and a half years, and the book I’ve worked so hard on is polished to a point I can see my face in it. There’s still lots of stuff for me to do while I wait to hear back from agents, like – watch way to much Supernatural on Netflix, and start writing book two of course.

So, I wanted to write this blog, before I get too far in to writing book two, too share with all of you the ‘bits of me’ that made it in to my first manuscript. A friend of mine said to me. “Katherine, you’re telling all your secrets!” But I don’t think so. Someday, if my book ever goes big, this blog will be a nerd nugget for super fans! I writing this cuz I’m a nerd too and appreciate stuff like this. So here goes …Rosemary

  1. Rosemary: That’s right, the herb used to season poultry! I have huge pots of unruly rosemary plants growing in the south facing windows of my house, and so does the character, Grams, in my book. The sent of rosemary can be used to enhance memory. I used rosemary symbolically in the book. Gram’s granddaughter, Rachel, is always trying to forget what happened in the past, the sent of rosemary brings clearer memories, that were once foggy.
  1. Leather Jackets: I have what I consider to be, a very cool leather jacket. And, when I’m feeling particularly ‘bad ass’ I like to wear it. In my story, my main character, Rachel, also has a leather jacket. Her late brother, a rebel without a cause, gave it to her. My jacket was bought at the mall, but the same as my character’s jacket, it gives her a sense of becoming someone different.Katherine (8)
  1. Turning emotions into analogies about the weather: Long ago, a friend once told me. “Don’t let other peoples weather, effect your weather.” Which basically means, if others are in a bad mood, don’t let it become your mood too. I liked this, ‘emotional weather analogy’ so much, that I created a whole character around it called, Dr. Doppler, aka The Weather Lady. The Weather Lady is a psychologist, who analyzes her patient’s emotions, interpreting them into weather report like analogies. The weather reports give my main character a whole new way to express how she feeling, without actually coming out and saying it.
  1. Conversations over hot beverages: Do you every notice that a lot of important conversations happen over hot beverages? Or is that just me? Just Teaabout everyone in my story think this, except for my main character.
  1. Crow funerals: Did you know there was such a thing? Google it, I dare you. Once, several years ago I witnessed a crow funeral. By chance, looking out the window of my house, I saw a dead crow a little ways off away. Up in the trees, around the dead crow, were perched four or five crows. After a few more minutes, I noticed a few more had arrived. After about twenty minutes, there must have been around eighty crows! Apparently, crows will gather to ‘pay respects’ to their fallen brothers. Crow funerals are a real thing, and are very creepy. I found a way to put a crow funeral in the book … its awesome.Crow
  1. Inner voice vs. outer voice: Anyone who’s had a conversation with me in person, probably realizes that I have an inner commentary that’s always going, and so does my main character. There’s a commentary in my main characters head of what she would have, could have, should have said … but never does. A trait we both share.

I hope you enjoyed these tidbits! Someday I hope you look back on this blog (after reading the book) and say “Hmm – so that’s how she thought all that up – weird.”  :)


Good reading and good writing to you all!


I’m pleased to introduce to you all, Ben Starling; a lover of marine conservation, a skilled athlete is the sport of boxing, and an author with a just released short story.

Ben, can you tell us a bit about your new short story? Are there any themes of boxing and marine conservation in this tale?

Thank you for interviewing me, Katherine. My short story Something in the Air has just been released on Kindle. While it’s true that there’s boxing and a marine theme in my upcoming novel that will be released in 2016, in this new short love story, the focus is on a returning soldier, a veterinarian and an urban environmental concern.

Daniel thought war was tough. That was till he fell in love.
What if it’s true that you can never really go home? Returning from a soul-crushing war, Daniel Dragan is determined to put the past behind him. But with his beloved uncle dead and the town’s economy in a slump, there may not be much to keep him in San Prospero, California.
That is till he is startled by veterinarian Willow Dixon at the roadside lookout above their hometown’s new factory. A desperately needed job offer there may offer Daniel the chance he needs – but all is not as it seems at the factory and Willow, determined to save the inhabitants of her animal sanctuary, wants the factory’s operations stopped. Sometimes the road home is neither the one we expect. Nor the one we left behind…
You can find it on Kindle at

Are you choosing to self-publish, or is this book being published by a traditional publishing house? Why did you choose to go this route?

I am looking forward this Autumn to indie launches of several short stories set in the same world as my upcoming novel. This novel is also a love story – and an indie launch as well.

Independent publishing is one of the most exciting changes happening in any industry these days and is largely an online phenomenon. It’s morphing at lightning speed and no one knows what will happen next. It’s fascinating – and a fun challenge!

And one of the nicest things about online publishing is the interactive component – reading and writing have become a two-way street as readers and writers reach out to each other over the internet and around the world. Traditionally, writing was a very lonely occupation. It’s a great time to be a writer!
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
I can be reached at and at all of these social networks – I look forward to connecting with you.

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From what I’ve read about you online it sounds as though you’ve lived a very interesting life. Tell us a bit about your passions, other than writing.

Well, of course, I love boxing. People tend to think of it as a bit of a brutal sport, but I enjoy it for the technique and the strategy of the game. If you can include strategy in your plan – defensive parries, counters to your opponent’s every move, footwork that is active rather than reactive… it opens up a lot of possibilities. I retired from competition a few years ago and now lift weights, swim and hike to keep fit.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I’m a freelance editor, working on business plans, articles published in specialist magazines and some fiction. After so many years of working on other people’s stories, it felt like the right time to create an original one of my own.

Do you have any advice for people just starting out writing?

If you haven’t already, read The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. Also any creative writing book by James N Frey is a good investment. Read them all. He is one of the best teachers of structure I’ve come across.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?

That’s a difficult question. What I wanted to achieve was to touch the reader across a range of major emotions: love, despair, excitement, humor, hope, acceptance…to name a few, while also being unpredictable. Twists and turns. Pain and joy.

I suppose what surprised me most was that all the spreadsheets, post-it notes and brain-storming sessions my long-suffering editor insisted upon have produced a novel that I’m very happy with. Spreadsheets for creativity? It sounded crazy. The tunnel was long and dark but I got there in the end! Just about sane.

I love to ask this question! If your book were turned in to a TV show or movie, whom would you cast as the main characters?

Ah, I’d love to see the charismatic Anne Hathaway as the heroine! The hero would be Chris Hemsworth. Or Channing Tatum. Either would be fantastic.

Are there any authors out there that inspire you? What is it about them or their work that helps drive you to write?

Maeve Binchy. Great structure. Great style. I read her work first just for the joy of it, but there is also so much to learn from her. She is one of the master storytellers of our time.

BEN blue_actors headshot sq_AUG2015Is there any thing else you’d like to add?

Something in the Air is the first short story (others coming soon!) in a series. You can find it on Kindle at

Something in the Water, a novel, continues the journey in this series and will be released on January 21, 2016.

If you’d like to stay in touch and be notified of other new releases, please visit:

Thanks for interviewing me, Katherine. I look forward to reading your work too.

Short Bio: Ben Starling is passionate about marine conservation and boxing, both central themes in his upcoming novel. He is Oxford’s only ever Quintuple Blue (varsity champion five years running), was Captain of the university boxing team, and coached and boxed competitively. Ben graduated from Oxford University with a Master of Arts and an M Phil. He was born in the USA but has lived in the UK since childhood.


I came across this blog while reading tweets attached to the  hashtag ‘#MondayBlogs’. After reading it I thought, here’s a writer just like me! When she sits to write she has a vague idea of where the story will go, but she lets the story, and characters, take it where they may. I hope You like the blog as much as I did …



Writing my fwriterirst book came as a surprise. I didn’t sit down with the intention of writing a novel. I’m not sure what my intention was, if in fact I even had a conscious purpose in giving voice to the noise in my head. Once the paragraphs turned into pages, and the story kept unfolding, I realized what was happening. At that point, though, I was already immersed in the characters, and I didn’t stop to consider the process until I was done.

And then…

I had a novel. After I whooped and danced and celebrated my “finished” novel, the cold, hard truth slapped me in the face. What I had was a first draft that needed a lot of work. My process of learning and rewriting is irrelevant to today’s discussion. The pertinent issue is that I did not have a creative writing educational background. Consequently, I didn’t know that I was breaking the rules.

creative Rules for being creative? Who knew?

Now, many years and eleven books later, I know that I consistently break one of the basics taught to most students of creative writing. I do not outline. Feels like I’m breaking a commandment. Thou Shall Outline. Oops.

I am a clueless writer. I have only the vaguest sense of plot when I start a novel. The best way I can explain my process is to say that the story is not mine to manipulate. The story belongs to the characters, and so I follow them and write down what I see, hear, and feel. Often I’m as surprised as readers by the things that happen along the way.

writer2Over the years, in my writerly manner of introspection, I’ve realized that breaking this rule wasn’t merely a matter of ignorance. I’m simply not a planner. I did what came naturally to me. A clear example of this comes from my long ago college English Composition class. I was never good about homework. (Another story altogether.) So I arrived in class to find that I’d totally forgotten our first assignment was due that day. I was supposed to have written a two-page short story. We’d been given a prompt, which I’ve long since forgotten, and a full week to write the story. And there I was, without a single word. Fortunately, I arrived to class twenty minutes early. I opened my notebook (the olden days, when we used pens and paper) and I started writing. I remember the few classmates who’d also arrived early were laughing and teasing me. No way was I going to complete the story before class began. Fortunately, another one of my idiosyncrasies is that I can shut out the world and get lost inside my own head. Whatever that prompt was, I found a voice, listened, and followed. I wrote. When the professor walked in, I was writing the last sentence.

I received an A+ on that paper. No, I’m not saying that to brag about my writing skills. And I don’t recommend putting off assignments until twenty minutes before class begins. My point is that I cannot plan. I’m not meant to plan. If that assignment had been to outline a story, rather than to write one, I would most definitely have earned a flaming F as a grade. That first college writing assignment taught me something about myself, though I didn’t realize it until much later. Creativity is a personal thing. What matters is where you end up, not how you get there.

Outlining, to me, is tedious. Forced. My mind doesn’t work that way. I can’t hear the voices. I can’t feel what the characters are feeling. It’s like trying to swim while wearing a straightjacket. The constraints take away what I need to chase after my muse.

listenThose who want to learn the writing craft, or any other artistic endeavor, will come across lots of rules and advice all over the internet, in books, and from mentors and teachers. Clearly there are rules that should not be broken, ever, such as proper grammar. Right? Well, sort of. Most people don’t speak in proper grammar all the time, and using it consistently in dialogue can make a character seem stuffy at best, and at worst can make the writing feel dull and forced. So even the rules that seem obvious aren’t really that clear after all.

I’m not suggesting that it’s pointless to learn any of the rules. What I am saying is that within all this advice, we need space to find our own voice.

My advice: If you want to be a writer, break the rules. Or don’t. Either way, do what feels right.


Thanks for reading. :)

About Darcia

Darcia My name is Darcia Helle and I write because the characters trespassing through my mind leave me no alternative.

I write mostly within the suspense genre. I’m fascinated by the dark side of human nature, and that shows in my writing. But I’m not always examining the psychopathic mind. Occasionally my characters take me on a humorous journey, they fall in love, and maybe even talk to ghosts.

If you have questions about my writing or something on my blog, you can contact me directly at:

You can learn more about me and my writing on my website:

Banned Books: Steinbeck and The Library Bill of Rights.

Guest Blog by Cathie Armstrong

Good morning!  Today is Day Six of Banned Books Week, and I’m back with one of my favorite books of all time:  The Grapes of Wrath!

Of course I’d have to address this book!  In fact, I’m sure you were expecting it.  When my own book takes place in the same era and also addresses victims of the Dust Bowl, how could I possibly not shout out to Steinbeck, the Joad family, and all Okies out there?!

But first, a disclaimer:  By mentioning The Grapes of Wrath alongside my own novel, The Edge of Nowhere, I am in no way making comparisons.  Though my novel is set during the same era and was, in many ways, inspired by Steinbeck’s novel, there is just no comparison.  Nobody could compare to Steinbeck.  He was a master at his craft.  He seemed to intuitively understand human nature, and all of his books reflect that intuition.  The Edge of Nowhere is not a “Steinbeckian Recreation” (How’s that for a phrase?  I made it up!).  Whereas Steinbeck’s novel tells the story of the Joad family who migrated west to escape the Dust Bowl, my novel focuses on those who were too poor to leave and were forced to stay behind.

But I digress.  Back to the topic:  Banned Books Week and The Grapes of Wrath.

As an Okie by birth and by blood, I think Steinbeck’s novel is one of the greatest pieces of literature ever put on paper.  But not everyone agrees.  When this novel was released in 1939, it faced equal amounts of criticism and praise.  According to the Banned Book Awareness website, The Grapes of Wrath was a New York Times Bestselling Novel at the same time that protests were being held around the nation and copies were being burned. Let me repeat that:  At the same time that the majority of America was reading and loving this book, a small segment of America was holding rallies where they burned copies of this novel in protest of its publication.

Yes.  In America.  Home of the Free.  Where our forefathers sat down and wrote a document guaranteeing us the Freedom of Speech.  Sadly, that Freedom of Speech extends to protests were beautiful books are destroyed by fire.

So what’s the problem with this book?  Why so much protest?  First let me start by telling you a little about the circumstances that prompted Steinbeck’s novel.

“Migrant Mother” 
Photo Credit: Dorthea Lange (1936)banned books 5
From 1930 to 1940, Oklahoma and many of the plains states suffered a devastating drought.  Poor farming practices, combined with the drought, turned Oklahoma and neighboring states into an oasis of nothing but dust and dirt.  Huge dust clouds rolled in, the skies turned black, and people took to their homes to escape.  But there was no escape.  The dirt entered through the tiniest crevices and left layers of dust and dirt everywhere.  I’ve read stories where houseplants were so heavy with the settled dust that their limbs sagged.  Houseplants — not trees or bushes outside, but the plants people keep inside their homes.

The devastation of this era was far-reaching.  The Great Depression had begun and people were already hurting.  Farmers, who tend not to be wealthy anyway, were now in a dire situation.  The drought, combined with the blowing dust and dirt, turned their once fertile fields to something akin to a desert.  Everywhere you looked was dirt.  Nothing grew.  What grew below the surface was scavenged by rabbits and other wild animals.banned books 4

You’ve heard the phrase, Dirty Thirties?  The very phrase that encompasses all of the United States during this era originated from the dust and dirt that covered Oklahoma and surrounding states.  I’ve read that, though only a few states suffered from the drought conditions, nearly every state in the United States received some of the blowing dirt.  I read somewhere that some of that same dirt blew from the Dust Bowl states right onto President Roosevelt’s desk in Washington D.C!  Nobody was completely immune.

The dust in Oklahoma and nearby states was relentless and settled in the lungs of every living thing.  An epidemic of “dust pneumonia” ensued, striking hardest on the very young and the very old.  Times became so hard that people began to look for a way out, and many of those people took the roads — sometimes walking — west toward California.  They had to get out.  They felt sure they couldn’t survive otherwise.

And so began the Great American Migration of the 1930s as depicted in Steinbeck’s novel, The Grapes of Wrath.  Featuring the Joad family, Steinbeck tells the story of one family’s migration to banned books 3California.  To say that they met many trials and tribulations on their way is an understatement. They weren’t wanted, and the state of California did everything they could to keep migrant workers out in much the same way as the United States is arguing illegal immigration right now.  Only these weren’t illegal aliens coming to America for a better life.  These were American Citizens being denied, in some cases, the right to migrate to California.  Those who made it and crossed the border were often exploited by working long hours for low pay.  They lived in tent camps and, quite frankly, the conditions they’d migrated to weren’t much better than what they’d left behind.

The nickname “Okie” — a name I take great pride in — was originally used as the most derogatory of descriptions in the same way as some of the most despicable slang for minority groups has been used over the years.

banned books 2It’s been reported that Steinbeck was appalled by the conditions that met the migrant workers, and that The Grapes of Wrath is the product of his own exposé on the subject, so to speak.  But if this actually happened, why was Steinbeck’s book so reviled?  Why did (and do) people want it banned?

The Banned Books website quotes writer Bryan Cordyack’s explanation for some of the earliest challenges of Steinbeck’s novel.  It reads:

Bryan Cordyack wrote, “Steinbeck was attacked as a propagandist and a socialist from both the left and the right of the political spectrum. The most fervent of these attacks came from the Associated Farmers of California; they were displeased with the book’s depiction of California farmers’ attitudes and conduct toward the migrants. They denounced the book as a ‘pack of lies’ and labeled it ‘communist propaganda’.”
In 1939, it was burned by the East St. Louis, IL Public Library.  Yes — burned.  In the United States.  By a library.  Burned. Torched. Obliterated.

The Banned Books website cited above further states that twenty public libraries were ordered by the Kansas City Board of Education to remove it from bookshelves because, they felt, the book contained “indecency, obscenity, abhorrence of the portrayal of women and for ‘portraying life in such a bestial way.’”

NPR credits The Grapes of Wrath as “a key event in the creation of the Library Bill of Rights.”  According to the American Library Association, the Library Bill of Rights reads:

The American Library Association affirms that all libraries are forums for information and ideas, and that the following basic policies should guide their services.

I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.

III. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.Banned books

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

V. A person’s right to use a library should not be denied or abridged because of origin, age, background, or views.

VI. Libraries which make exhibit spaces and meeting rooms available to the public they serve should make such facilities available on an equitable basis, regardless of the beliefs or affiliations of individuals or groups requesting their use.
The Grapes of Wrath is maybe one of the best reasons that we must have free access to books.  Steinbeck witnessed a deplorable situation and set out to make the world aware.  Whether people chose to read his fiction account, or even whether to believe it was based upon actual situations, is obviously a personal choice.  But to not have access to it is to doom the reading population to live in ignorance.

For more reading on the banning of The Grapes of Wrath, I’d strongly recommend the following articles.  As I was writing this article this morning, I had a terrible time deciding what to include because the entire topic is so fascinating.  Enjoy!

Banned Book Awareness:   The Grapes of Wrath

The Telegraph:   The Grapes of Wrath – 10 surprising facts about John Steinbeck’s novel

NPR:   ‘Grapes Of Wrath’ And The Politics of Book Burning

Note:  All images used in this article are public domain and found through a combination of sources including The Library of Congress, Wikimedia, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


This Guest Blog was written by:

C.H. (Cathie) Armstrong is a 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma. Her debut novel, “The Edge of Nowhere,” will be released in January 2016 by Penner Publishing

Banned Books Week, Day 5: Judy Blume

Guest Blog By Cathie Armstrong

Today marks Day Five of Banned Books Week, and how could we possibly come close to finishing out the week without commenting on one of the most well-loved and most-challenged author for several decades running:  Judy Blume.

If you were ever a child (and isn’t that every one of us), then Judy Blume’s name is at least familiar to you.  She wrote the books that helped many of us get through adolescence.  She was the adult in our lives who told us that our experiences were normal!  She told us about the facts of life, and she told them to us straight.  And we appreciated and loved her for it.  But, for her efforts, she’s been one of the most challenged authors ever.Judy Blume

My childhood would not have been complete without many of Blume’s books.  She was part of the “village” that raised me.  Among my favorites were:

    • Are You there God? It’s Me, Margaret:  One of the best books to cover that confusing time when a girl leaves behind childhood and takes her first steps toward womanhood.  Blume’s address of menstruation and buying that first bra took away some of the embarrassment that an 11-year old me felt at the time.
    • Blubber:  Long before it became social taboo to bully kids, Judy Blume was tackling this topic in her books.  She made it clear that it wasn’t acceptable, and allowed those readers who’d been bullied an opportunity to finally gain some self esteem and come out on top!
  • Forever:  Truly the first romance novel I ever read, Forever tells the story of young love and first experiences.  Sure, it explores sex from a teenage perspective, but can you honestly say that — as a teen —  you weren’t curious about sex and, in many cases, too embarrassed to discuss it with your parents?  Blume takes the agony out of the wanting to know.  It’s beautifully written and remains one of my favorites to this day.

These are only a few of the many issues Blume has tackled that has made her the target of not only would-be book banners, but real-life bullies!  Yes, bullies!  According to an article in The Guardian, some people weren’t happy with simply banning Blume’s books.  Some people went so far as to make personal threats to her safety.  The Guardian quotes Blume as saying:

“I went to a couple of places two years ago and I got seven hundred and something hate-mail warnings – ‘We know where you are going to be and we’ll be there waiting for you’, that sort of thing,” says Blume. “My publisher sent me with a bodyguard. He was wonderful, I loved knowing he was there. And nothing happened and probably nothing would have happened, but it was very scary.”

judyblumeThe Guardian’s article was dated July of 2014!  That means that as late as just last year, people in the United States not only wanted to ban her books, but wished to do her personal harm!   Wow!  How’s that for living in the Home of the Free?

I’m now 45 and owe a good bit of my love for reading to Judy Blume.  I also owe more than a small part of my own self-esteem to her as well.  To Judy Blume, I bow down low and say, simply, THANK YOU!

The Coven 600 dpiBefore I give you my thoughts on this book, I would like say that I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This book falls in the genre of magical realism, which is one of my favourites. The story starts off in the year 1718 AD on an island off the coast of North Carolina. A coven of witches has gathered on the beach to discuss an impending attack from the infamous pirate Blackbeard. A decision is made by the queen of the witches to send three of the covens daughters as a distraction to Blackbeard. Blackbeard takes the women, convinced that they are not witches, leaving the rest the people on the island to escape his wrath. The queen scarified these women to the pirates to hide there most guarded secret… that they are witches.

After this introduction, the story jumps to present day focusing on the main character Stevie. Stevie is a thirty year old, recently divorced, single mother of a young autistic boy. Stevie has no idea that her mother, friends, and rekindled love interest are all witches, until she saves her son from a near miss car accident. Stevie then discover she too is a witch, and is told about an evil witch who returned to her small town to seek revenge on her and her young son.

I loved the ideas and concept behind this story, but felt it lacked in a few areas. Sometimes I felt confused about what characters were in a scene. And on other occasions, I felt mundane details were described overly, not really adding to the story. But as a whole, the story was good. It kept my interest till the very end.

As a writer myself, I understand the difficulties all to well when it comes to crafting a well-written story. I think this author has real potential in her writing but I’m giving this first book in the Crystal Coast series a 3 out of 5 stars. If you want an easy beach read, and love stories about witches, this book might be for you.

close up of a match

Lesson #1 from 6 months as FT Author – Burn Out

Six months ago I ended my career as a full time software architect, and part time writer, to become a writer full time. I posted a few blog entries leading up to it and as I started, but after a couple of weeks, I stopped. Here are the posts: Leading up, Week 1Week 2, Week 3, Week 4.

Lesson #1 – BURN OUT

When I started writing and publishing back in early 2014, I was on fire. I was working my job, spent time with my family, AND got my first two books out and they became Amazon & Calgary Herald best-sellers.

So when I started being a full-time author, why did I slowly find myself needing my evenings to veg out at times and then…sometimes…feel like… I was…just…coming…to…a…crawl. At first, I thought it was because I was doing too many things. I was doing a LOT of things. I was doing book signings like a mad man, I was a storm on Twitter, I got more two books out (which I had started writing before going FT). Was this the problem?


It wasn’t the problem, not really. The root of my burn out was that I didn’t have any real idea how to judge my efforts. I didn’t quit my day job and start living off the revenue from my books. My contract ended, and with the oil plunge, my wife and I decided to invest in what I was doing and have her carry the burden. That left a psychological burden on me that took a long time to figure out, which was how can I judge that I’m delivering the “value” I need to my family for my actions? By not having an answer that I could truly embrace, it zapped my energy.

I was spending 50 units of energy doing great stuff that wasn’t writing. I was spending 50 units of energy on writing. And I was spending an extra 100 units of energy doubting myself and trying to figure out what I wasn’t doing that I really should be doing. Recommended daily budget? 80 units of energy MAX for a sane person. This wears you down.

You can tell yourself that this is a long term thing, but if you’re like me, you still need short term indicators to let you know that you’re doing something good. Seeing books sell on their own, without me to push them, whether online or in bookstores, is a good indicator. It doesn’t need to be much, it just needs to have a slow and steady pace that can be built upon.

What I had to do was recognize this, and start looking at the constituent pieces that were contributing to this. It starts with being honest with yourself.


I use the term “full-time” author but the reality is, it isn’t really full time. It’s about 2/3 time, and that’s because I had from 9-11am, and then from about 1-3pm every day. That’s 5 hours. I’d often, but not always, get an hour or two in the evening, so let’s average that to 6. That’s 3/4 time, at best. From 11-1 I was with my young boys, and by 3pm they had all they could handle of being with the nanny before wanting to play with daddy (in a good way). If I wasn’t at a meeting somewhere, then by 3pm my sense of guilt and duty to my kids would start distracting me, start eating me up.  Add to that I was up, almost every night either with them or for another reason, so I was getting poor sleep. And yet, my mind was expecting me to be producing at peek, 8-11 hours a day.

I had to learn how to balance my schedule so that I could productive, properly. I had to cut things out, sharpen my focus and get out of the house when I needed to accomplish something. I love my office, and my kids, but I fail everyone if I don’t get out of the house to get X done because I will be grumpy about it, whether I know it or not.

I have never had more respect for stay-at-home parents than going through this. If you think it’s a simple job to be screamed at by a 2yo for hours, and then trying to focus, try it. They didn’t need water boarding in Gitmo, they needed angry toddlers.

After you’re honest with yourself, you need to learn how to breath.


My wife, my friend Mia, and others have told me that I need to BREATH. And by that, they mean allow myself real opportunities to recharge. The problem is, when you always feel like your constantly behind and failing yourself, how do you do that? Do you delay your next release and watch some TV? Well, that just builds anxiety in me. All you need is just six weeks of uninterrupted time to catch up, right? The problem is, there is no catching up. That anxiety hole just builds.

I finally cracked this nut for myself really recently, at least I think I have. I wouldn’t accept, deep down, slowing my writing and publishing pace any more than I already have (I want 2 novels and a novella out a year, at least). After I have 10 books out, I might be able to convince myself, but for the moment, no. So what could I do that would lower my stress level? And then something donned on me.

I tried writing the first snippet of a fun story that I wanted to do, called Steampink. I really enjoyed writing it and sharing a different part of me, and that’s when I realized that I’m missing an element. I’m going to dedicate two months in the year where I’ll only write and submit for anthologies or magazines, it won’t be towards one of my books. It’ll allow me to write shorter pieces, fun things where I can create a world and then send it off, maybe to think about it again at a later point if I really liked it. This would also further my authoring career in a way that is clear and concrete.


The first six months have been filled with a lot of challenges I didn’t expect, but stopping and thinking about them, talking with someone about them, breaking them down, it’s the only way to last. I’ve already seen some indie authors who started when I started, leave “the business.” I’ve done very well in my first year, and my second year has been even better. I have to keep in mind what is great progress and what is just fantasy-impossible, and judge myself appropriately. I have to find the things that will inspire me, invigorate me, and treat myself as an asset and now a consumable.

At the end of the day, this isn’t a marathon, it’s a pilgrimage. It’s a pilgrimage to the land where, if we can get there, we yell “HOLY COW, I CAN’T BELIEVE THIS IS HAPPENING!” And you know what, we better enjoy the journey.

Adam DreeceGuest Blog by: Adam Dreece

Indie author Adam Dreece created the bestselling Steampunk series The Yellow Hoods — which has become a hit with kids from 9-15 as well as with adult readers. You can find out more about Adam Dreece and his books at


L. Atwater 1

L. Atwater 1

Telling My Story: One Tale at a Time

I was stunned by the e-mail I received from a Canadian editor in December 2003:

“From a technical writing point of view the manuscript was not bad at all. You are a very good technical writer… Perhaps technical writing is your niche.”

The message referred to the book I had just written as a ghostwriter. After completing this challenging project, I was so upset I considering giving up my craft of the past fourteen years—helping others tell their life stories.

Then a post from a member of my professional organization piqued my interest. “Would anyone be interested in joining a memoir-writing group? If so, please contact me.”

Joining the group and writing my own story would give me the chance to prove I could write. I signed up immediately in hopes that telling the story of my youth would lift my spirits and also help others who’ve experienced great loss. I had no particular audience in mind. At the time I never dreamed that it would take nearly ten years and many rewrites to tell the story that I’d wanted to share for over forty years.

The memoir-writing group I joined began with several enthusiastic members. Each month we wrote on a specific topic and shared our work, requesting feedback. Meeting a monthly deadline was the incentive I needed to make my words and feelings flow onto the page. Suddenly the tale of my tumultuous youth that I’d wanted to tell for nearly forty years began to take form—one tale at a time.

Unfortunately, ten months after the group began, it dissolved. But I was determined to finish my tale and needed motivation. I wrote chapters on my own between writing other people’s stories to earn my living.Libby Atwater

In 2007 I joined a class called “Writing Your Personal History” and had to adhere to weekly deadlines and attend classes where I read my work aloud. Although there were days when my voice quivered and tears fell, the positive feedback I received made me continue.

My biggest challenge was reliving the past, which was often difficult. I had written the hardest stories first and decided that to balance the sad material, I needed to write the happy stories from my youth. Paradoxically, those seemed harder to write, yet I felt it was important that my book begin with the happy days, descend into the dark material, and end looking forward to a brighter future. I wanted my eternal optimism to appear and not write a book that left readers sad.

Libby, NeilOn June 29, 2012, I completed my memoir. Finishing it was a reward in itself because I tend to write and rewrite until I think a manuscript is the best I can produce. Other rewards followed after I entrusted my manuscript to colleagues for review. Their encouragement made me realize I had written a book that others wanted to read, and writing my story brought catharsis and healing.

Telling my own story was something I needed to do. I’m happy that many who have read it can relate to my journey, but that was not my primary reason for writing it. The ability to review and reflect on my formative years and understand how they shaped the adult I’ve become has helped me a great deal. After a dear friend of forty years read it, she said, “I’ve known you for a long time, but now I understand you.” I think I understand myself a lot better, too.

GraemeIngPhotoLet me introduce you all to Graeme Ing, an engineer of peculiar worlds! He’s guest blogged on my site a few times now… How we met? He contacted me after reading another author interview off my site, and so the networking began! Graeme is an author of two published books, one Dark Fantasy and the other a YA Fantasy.

Graeme, can you give us a short summary of both your published books?

 Hello Katherine, and thanks so much for inviting me. My first book is a YA fantasy, “Ocean of Dust.” Yes, the Oceans of this world are made of a fine gray powder, not water. Our heroine, Lissa, is thrust into a harrowing adventure on a “pirate” ship. She doesn’t have a lot of allies on board and many folks are downright cruel. As the ship sails the dust ocean, she develops a rare talent linking her to the ocean and the mysterious creatures that live in it. Next year, I shall be writing sequels, because people keep asking me “what happens next?” Besides, I love Lissa’s guts and determination, and her little sidekick, Branda, is adorable.

“Necromancer” is a dark fantasy. Maldren is our necromancer hero, and he needs to save the city he loves from a fiery elemental intent on burning it to the ground. I particularly wanted to show that a necromancer could be a good guy, not an ancient, sinister old man that summons icky things. That said, bizarre undead abound, plenty of unique spells, adventures into the undercity, and through it all Maldren begins to fall in love with his female apprentice. His only way to save the city is to ally with a murderous, ancient ghost. The pact almost costs him everything he holds dear.

The cover imagery on these is beautiful. Can you tell why you went with these images and who designed them?

I love covers that convey character emotion and a unique setting. Erin Dameron Hill is my amazing cover designer, and I think she nailed it. Here’s her site. I adore the mood and use of color that she brings to her designs. Everyone seems to fall in love with them. Thank you, Erin!


How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Amazon Author Page:
Book Links:

I hear that you’re currently working on a sci-fi mystery. Tell us a bit about that and when can we expect it out?

It’s titled “Emergence.” A millennium ago, the Ancients constructed a mammoth cave underground, to protect the survivors of the Cataclysm. Now the Ancients, the Cataclysm and the Surface remain only as stories. But the Cavern is beginning to fail… If I’ve done my job right, this will be one of these books where the reader is hooked into determining the reality of the situation. As the plot progresses, the reader can attempt to piece it together, only to discover new layers. I hope the final reality is a pleasant surprise. Expect it in the 2nd half of 2016.

You grew up in England but moved to California in the late 90’s. Can you tell us a bit about what sparked your move?

Cold and rainy weather. :) Seriously, as a geek who works in software engineering, what better place to live than California? San Diego has a gorgeous climate with sweeping hills and blue ocean. I’ll always love England, but California is a great place to live.

Other than writing fantastic books, do you have other unique talents?

Well, thank you. Nothing unique, I don’t think. Unless you count that I can bend my thumbs back 90 degrees? No, I didn’t think so. I’m a geek, nerd, gamer, armchair astronomer and explorer, pilot, and am currently taking sailing lessons. Why that’s taken me 20 years in a sailing mecca like San Diego, I have no idea. According to one of my six cats, Pippin, I have a unique lap, because I’m the only one he likes to sit on. Does that count? :)

Was there a defining moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

That decision brewed over about 30 years. I remember writing my own stories and screenplays when I was nine, typing them on a manual typewriter. That should have been a hint to me. I wrote a lot in my twenties, but it was only about 10 years ago that it suddenly occurred to me that “Hey, I want to be an author.” Now I’m committed and don’t plan on ever stopping. Probably the defining moment was after reading “Lord of the Rings”, aged 7. My imagination went into overdrive after that. To this day I have hundreds and hundreds of book ideas scribbled down.GraemeSphinx

What’s one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in becoming a published author?

This industry amazes me every day, as do the wonderful people in it. The most surprising discovery was that people actually enjoyed my books enough to write to me. I appreciate every review and email, and love to chat to readers about what other books they like. I never imagined that readers could be so kind and generous with their time to engage me on social media or send me emails. That’s what makes this whole thing worthwhile – bringing a smile to readers.

I always ask this… If your book were optioned to become a TV show or movie, who would you cast as the main characters? Just pick one of your books.

Great question! I happen to have written a blog about it!  I have a cast for “Ocean of Dust” picked out. Emily Kinney (lately of “The Walking Dead”) is perfect for my heroine Lissa. The cute, little Branda would be played by Kailee Bauer. Everyone knows Paul Bettany. He can play the cruel First Officer, Farq. (booo!) The creepy ship’s navigator, Oban, would be played by Ian McDiarmid (yes, he was the Emperor in “Star Wars”.) Finally, Orlando Bloom would be great as the handsome officer. Mampalo, that becomes one of Lissa’s best friends.

And last but not least… Give us fun fact about one of your books for all your fans out there.

Final600x900My favourite of all the characters in my books is the immortal Phyxia, from “Necromancer.” I had such enormous fun writing her scenes. At that time, I formed the habit of eating pistachios while I wrote, and that’s why in the book she has a passion for “jit-nuts,” which she can scoff by the bowlful. Expect to see Phyxia in future books.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview with me Graeme! Best of luck with your writing. I’m sure we’ll chat again soon.

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Why I Will Never Ever Buy Your Book – A guest blog… or rant, by Author Kayti Nika Raet

I’m going to be Crabby Kayti today. Crabby Kayti is snarky. You may want to back away.
I don’t normally talk about these things because I’m a bit of a social media hermit who manages to miss all the drama in the indie author universe (thank goodness! That’d be a lot of popcorn to pick out of my teeth XD).
But since I’ve been on facebook, twitter, tumblr etc for a couple of years I’ve started to acquire a LIST OF THINGS THAT ANNOY ME.
Yep. This is a rant. Enjoy.


1 Don’t post on my freaking wall.

I’m sure your book is interesting. Really. I mean, you only have five stars reviews up there. It was so good that people who have never posted a review in their life made sure that their only review was of your 628 page masterpiece.
Brilliant, mindblowing, piece of literature, I’m sure.
But since you slapped your Crayola cover on my facebook wall within five seconds of us being ‘friends’ (them copy/paste skills are on point!) I have no interest of ever reading, promoting, or making sweet sweet love to your book.

2 Auto DMs make my eyes twitch.

No. I will not ‘buy my book’. I don’t care if it’s free.
And while I’m aware that not every auto-DM on Twitter is like that, I’ve gotten so many that were that they’ve become painted with the same brush. And they bury the legit DMs I get from friends. Grrr.

3 WHY is there porn in book advertisement groups?

Whyyyyyyy? And it’s really gross looking stuff too. I swear I can feel the malware just oozing out of that screenshot.
I have fun reporting them. Well, until the facebook review comes back and says it’s not in violation of their rules for some reason.
Um, k.

4 How did you get my email address?

Okay. I know how you got my email address. It’s not that hard to find.
But when I get an email out of the blue asking my to buy your book, support your… whatever, or check out that writer thing your selling, I’ll view the email the same way I would the one telling me where to find sexy Russian brides.
And if I get a follow up email asking me what did I think of the product you spammed me with….

5 Do I know you?

Everything really comes down to this. Social media is about being… social? It’s a great way to network and find other authors for the purpose of… socialization? You can learn really cool stuff when you’re… social?
You see the trend here.
I cannot share inside jokes with ‘buy my book’. When I want to create a facebook event to promote people that I (wait for it…) socialize with? that spam message doesn’t even cross my mind. When I’m looking for new great books to read ‘buy my book’ gets translated to ‘don’t ever touch THAT one’.
You’re shooting yourself in the foot with the whole ‘buy my book’ thing. Let me get to know YOU and since you’re so obviously cool, your book must be a reflection of that.

*deep cleansing breath*

I definitely needed to get that off my chest. Let’s say goodbye to Crabby Kayti for now (yes, she’s funny, I know, but she can’t stay). I should let everyone know, despite unleashing my inner grump puss I genuinely like promoting other authors and helping readers find new books. Just don’t be a dick.


By the way, buy my book. ????

Let’s Negotiate

Whether you’re an indie author, traditionally published or somewhere in between, there comes a point in every writer’s quest to publish when they have to deal with contracts and negotiations. These contracts could range anywhere from simple paperwork to uploading an e-book, to negotiating international sales territories and optioning rights. For some of us, staring down at a book contract is the realization of years of hard work. For others it’s a huge gulp of reality that their hobby has just become something MUCH bigger.

Currently, I have no signed contracts on my book, but that doesn’t mean I’ve had no dealings with them. I few months ago I was all signed up and ready to self-publish with a reputable Canadian publishing service. I was weeks away from submitting my manuscript when a friend pointed out a few things in my contract. I’m glad I looked in to them further! I found two details, that for me, where deal breakers. Now… I’d like to say, said details were hidden in the fine print of the contact, but no; the font was all the same size. (Ha ha! Writer joke.)

I didn’t cash in my chips straightaway on that contract. I tried to negotiate with them or at best find reasons for their stipulations. I learned a lot about self–publishing that day. Long story short… that publisher wasn’t for me. I cancelled out of that agreement with no hard feelings and a few lessons learned.

So – Next time I stare down at publishing contract… because there will be a next time! I’ve written myself a list of things to think about.

  1. Leave the emotion out of it. I’m sure almost every writer can sympathize that their manuscript feels like it’s their baby. You wrote that thing through blood, sweat, and bouts of carpel tunnel syndrome. It might be the manuscript only it’s mother could cherish… but it’s yours, and you love it. Yeah… BUT publisher are in the business of selling books and making money. Trust me, they like it. Otherwise you wouldn’t even be talking about a book deals. So, take a deep breath and keep an open – not so emotional mind. Little ‘Manny’ might need a haircut and braces before he hit’s bookstore shelves.
  1. Be knowledgeable about what each party brings to the table. If you’re an indie author, shopping around for a printer or distributor, you bring everything to the table, including your wallet to pay for the services you can’t do yourself. You are your own publisher, PR, marking, website designer, content writer, etc., etc…

A traditional publisher, in most cases, is looking for a stellar manuscript with a marketable author. Sounds simple, but let’s make things a little more challenging. The landscape of traditional publishing is changing everyday. So add to that list, that traditional publishers are now looking for authors with solid author platforms, ability to self-promote, and a vision as to where they want to see their careers go… with evidence to back it up. All that extra stuff has got to be worth something, right? Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I suspect it could be with honest and well thought out negotiation.

  1. Know what your goals are with publishing a book. Are you looking to be the next J.K. Rowling? Or do you just want to give it to your family and friends? Are you willing to give it 110% to pump out a sequel? Or is this the only book you’re ever going to write?

I could go on and on about the intricacies of publishing, contracts, and trying to find the right fit. As a lot of writer’s do… I have publishing on the brain. So just remember – Next time you’re staring all doe eyed in to the blinding light of a contract, remember… Stay cool. Be knowledgeable. And know what you want. I’m sure you’ll do just fine.



Let me introduce you all to Gordon Wilson, a resident of Mason, Michigan, an independent author, and real person I met on Twitter. So far, Gordon has published one book titled Firetok. Can you tell us a bit about Firetok and what inspired you to write this book?

Firetok is about a person who has really lived a rough life in part due to his ability to see things and events outside of the norm. He fights his abilities, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a destructive relationship and bad decisions. Eventually he finds himself in situations which suddenly make sense of his unacceptable abilities. The discovery leads to a rebirth of self with the help of a somewhat mysterious man and a dog. So the story has what may be considered supernatural elements. To me it is more about discovery of self and a conscious rebirth or awakening outside of societal norms.

The inspiration well, I don’t know if I should admit this but I firmly believe there is more to life than meets the eye. I see things all the time which make me think, I wish I could do something about that. I wish I could right that wrong, take matters into my own hands. While writing Firetok I did just that. Call me a virtual vigilante.

Reading some of your recent blog posts, I see attempts to coin a new genre, Inspirational Horror? Tell us a little about what inspirational horror is, and what draws you to this type of genre?

Inspirational HorrorI started reading articles and interviews while trying to understand genres in general. You are right, I have discussed it in detail in my posts. I was really puzzled to learn how in most circumstances a supernatural element in a story will get you classified in the horror genre. This was a huge surprise. I thought of horror as chainsaw massacre, hockey mask kind of stuff. It has become so much more. So to boil it down, Firetok was this inspirational tale of people really coming out on the other side of situations which were quite awful. The supernatural elements and the dark subject matter push it toward horror, yet the overall message is that of hope, perseverance and positive change. Inspiration. Horror. Inspirational Horror. I searched around and found virtually no instances of it so I jokingly coined the phrase in one of my articles.

What have you found to be the most difficult about writing?

It’s not the writing at all. It is everything else around it. I can write all day if I have the time. It’s promotion. I am not a self-promoter, while I can promote someone else without limit. I have never been comfortable bringing attention to myself. It’s the whole “getting published” thing. The whole “query” thing. The list of things I don’t even know I don’t know yet. What I have found in the process of trying to learn how to write is that you don’t just write a book. Writing is merely the tip of the iceberg, trying to figure out what to do next is where it gets difficult.

From what I’ve read online, I can’t tell if you write full time or not. If not, what do you do? Do you have future hopes of writing full time?

I do not write full time. I have spent nearly my entire adulthood in the construction industry and only in the last couple years have moved over to the music business. It took a couple years of working pretty long hours and writing in the cracks between to put Firetok together. Writing full time has been a dream but I will admit it is a passion thing with me. At this time I cannot even imagine how that would work. Don’t get me wrong, I am open to the concept. In the meantime I spend my days helping my wife run the School of Rock in Ann Arbor Michigan, a dream job in itself.


I see that you’ve posted many new blog posts lately. Are you ramping up your following for a new project you’re working on? Or going hard promoting your current book and writer interests.

None of the above. Firetok is something I did years ago. I am not actually promoting it at all. I read through it now and see everything I could do better. I felt I needed to learn more about all the other stuff I mentioned before I move forward with another book. Hopefully I have learned and evolved quite a bit as a person and writer since that time and my current work will reflect it. My blog is really a notebook of topics I have studied, researched or read during the process of exploration. I have had personal experiences as well as many things I have learned which make it into the blog. My wife and I have a two hour commute to work each day we typically talk the entire way. Many, many times my blog posts are essentially notes from these conversations. One day we were talking about figuring out Twitter and how to use it. I put it out as a blog post and people went nuts for it. So I was never really trying to do anything with my blog until I discovered people wanting to read it. Now I am promoting the blog itself and have been overwhelmed with the response and support I have received. So to be honest I am promoting my own education and sharing the fruits. Building a following, that sounds like a great idea.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website/Blog :


Twitter: @gordona_wilson
Amazon Author Page: https://www.

Book Links:

You strike me as a person that not only likes to write, but read too. Name a few of your favourite authors or books, and what strikes you about their work.

I read all the time. Lately I have been devouring articles on writing itself and genre while I figure out where I fit in it all. I do love Mark Twain. The dialect and old style way his stories read to me now, really take me away. When I was younger I read about every Stephen King book I could get my hands on. I am looking forward to the release of your book.

Tell us a bit about your book cover? Who designed it? Why did you go with that image?

I did the cover art myself. The font was something I actually painted on paper then digitized to get it where I wanted it. Firetok is a giant Great Pyrenees dog which is what you see as the base image. I wanted it to be surreal except for his eyes which I believe I achieved. There are some scenes in the book where he gets involved in some gruesome action which involves blood. I felt the overall image of the book cover reflects contradictions I was trying to do with the story. The dog looks happy and harmless yet it kind of looks like he could be covered in blood? You get the idea, and like I said earlier, there is more to life than meets the eye.

Other than writing, do you have any other unique talents or hobbies?

I would not say unique. My recent changes in lifestyle have allowed me to get back into music in a way I never thought I would. I play guitar and sing with a group of other guys my age and actually work a lot with kids where I have been able to help them achieve their goals. It is not unique but definitely rewarding. I love horses and dogs and try to be around one or the other of them as often as possible.


Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview Gordon. Best of luck to your in life, and in your writing.



So yesterday I decided to start a blog… Guest Blog by Sophia Belford

So there I was at ‘work’ – – bored out of my mind – – frustrated as all hell with very little to do and facing a 1 1/2 hour commute back home at the end of the day.  I was hired to coordinate, write and submit proposals but they are few and far between.  The subject matter is less than thrilling and my tasks had been relegated to chasing people down for information and performing the tasks of a glorified secretary.  There has to be something more!

As many people do, I turn to the internet to pass the time.  I read the local news, check Facebook, even browse a few job listings.  Somewhere, at some point, “75+ Paid Writing Opportunites” catches my attention.  I cruise through it and think ‘I can do this’!  I am a writer by accident really – starting out as a secretary because I knew how to type, my job duties evolved until I was managing and writing proposals.  What I had never done, was to write for fun or write about anything meaningful to me – this was my opportunity and maybe I could make a few dollars doing it.  So, as it usually goes, I become totally OCD about the writing process, jobs, what to write, how to write, sites to write on.  I read and I read and I talk and I talk and I start a blog and then I let it sit for four days because that is my pattern — I have so many freaking ideas but none at all and so much information that I am completely and utterly paralyzed and can’t do anything!

My very first blog post?  That is HUGE  – it will ‘set the stage’ for everything going forward and what people look at as my first work at when I am a famous writer.  (Yes, I did just go there.) What could I possibly say that would be so prophetic, so amazing that it would be worthy?  Today, I took advice that was given to me a long time ago and that was to stop thinking.  I just stopped thinking and started writing so while it is not a masterpiece (yet), I did complete a mini-project of sorts.  Baby steps.

So what does one blog about?  I know I am late to this party but be patient with me.  As I do with just about every question I have ever had, I Google it.  The general consensus was to write what I am passionate about.  Therein lays my issue – I didn’t really think I was passionate about anything — that anyone would care about anyway!  So I really gave it some thought…..

My passions include my husband and our marriage — I treasure more than most for various reasons, however I will not write about this.  This is intensely personal and my preference is to keep my thoughts and feelings regarding our relationship private.  My other primary passion is my dogs.  At the moment I have three but each four legged member of our family – past, present and future – has a piece of me that is with them wherever they are.  While the antics of my dogs (and there are many!) are likely of little interest to anyone outside our immediate circle, I have had many experiences because of them that I think will be interesting to the average pet owner.  An extreme introvert by nature, I also enjoy decorating my new home, learning new things (always), the beach, a cocktail now and again and generally being home (if that counts as a passion).  It is from these experiences that much of my writing will be generated.

I hope you enjoy my writing and I love insight and feedback.

The Storyteller’s Daughter was your first published novel. Tell us a bit about this story and what inspired you to write it.

The novel tells the story of a teenage girl named Skye MacNamara who learns that the parents she has always known are changelings, that she herself is descended from a line of seannachies (the ancient storytellers of the Scottish Highlanders who have been said to have almost mystical abilities), and that her real mother has been trapped in a story for the past 15 years. Skye’s task is to try to rescue her mother, which she can only do by learning what it means to be a seannachie.

I began writing The Storyteller’s Daughter while I was finishing up my Ph.D. dissertation, which has a strong focus on memory and how our identity is made up of stories—stories that we tell, stories that we have been told, stories that we find in the world around us. One of the novels that I studied was Alistair MacLeod’s No Great Mischief. There is a single line in the novel where MacLeod refers to seannachies. I’d never heard of them before, and I was riveted by his description of the way “they would ‘remember’ events from a Scotland which they had never seen, or see our futures in the shadows of the flickering flames”. That single line inspired a chapter in my dissertation, but it also inspired my novel. I had the good fortune to live in Scotland for a few years while I did my degree; those experiences combined with my childhood in the prairies to create the setting and background for my story.

Are you currently working on any new projects?

I am currently in the process of turning my dissertation into a book, which will be published by McFarland. The book will look at representations of memory and identity in the works of four Canadian authors: Alistair MacLeod, Michael Ondaatje, Jane Urquhart, and Margaret Atwood.

I’m also working on a sequel to The Storyteller’s Daughter: Where the Story Begins. It picks up just after the last novel ends, and finds Skye and her friends facing new conflict as a consequence of some loose ends that were left at the end of their last adventure. It’s given me an excuse to delve even deeper into Celtic and Gaelic mythology, and helps let off a little steam after a day of immersion in critical theory!

When you were a kid, did you dream of being a writer?

I have always thought of myself as a writer. Even when I’m not working on stories or essays, I always have a pen near at hand. I have written dozens of journals, tons of poetry (bad), and zillions of skits and anecdotal stories that are intended to point out the absurdity of my daily life. I have always dreamed of being a self-sustaining writer, but I’m also teacher. I love teaching students how to express themselves, how to articulate their thoughts more effectively, and to appreciate the power of stories and narrative. Teaching and writing go hand-in-hand for me; I wouldn’t want (or even be able) to give up either.Cover

Do you have any advice for new writers thinking of publishing a book?

Hmmm… I’m still looking for advice in this department myself. But from what I’ve gathered, I’d recommend that new writers start by reading as much as you can about publishing, both traditionally and independently. Make contacts—through blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all those kinds of social media. There is a lot of really helpful information, and a lot of authors who are willing to share their experiences. The other thing I’d recommend is to take a deep breath and slow down—don’t rush into anything. Take your time, especially if you want to make writing and publishing a regular thing!

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Amazon Author Page:

Who is your favourite author and what strikes you about their work?

This is a tricky question. I love Terry Pratchett’s work: his novels are incredibly clever, hilarious, poignant. His characterisations of Sam Vimes and Granny Weatherwax resonate very strongly with me. I love Death, too. There is always something for me, whatever the mood or situation, in his pages. I’ve read all of his novels dozens of times. If I could write satire, I would aspire to write it like his.

Of course, I love a lot of authors and have had dozens of favourites over the years. My recommended reading list for anyone who makes the mistake of asking is huge. But Pratchett is my go-to guy when I’m reading just for me.

Celtic Tarot CardsTell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?

My cover art was done by the incredibly talented Vanessa Kalyn. She read my book and came up with a number of different possible images. I chose the image of the three girls for the cover because I love the way she captured each girl’s personality so clearly yet so simply, and I feel like there’s a strong sense of the dynamic between them. Vanessa’s artistic style is incredibly unique, and the image just pops. It’s so different from every other cover I’ve seen. I still remember the first time I saw it—I couldn’t stop smiling!

Other than writing, do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

Reading and writing seem to occupy a lot of my time. However, I love to swim (I was a lifeguard for years), and I want to start camping again. I used to do a fair bit of that kind of thing, but haven’t for years. I also love to do things with my hands—a friend of mine taught me to do beadwork, and I LOVE that. I like to draw as well (though I’m not very good at it), and would love to learn to paint but I just don’t understand colour.

Give us a memorable quote from your book meant to intrigue and tantalize us.

I took a step closer then stopped, undecided. She was a lonely, eccentric old woman who’d known me all my life. My parents had trusted her. I trusted her. Part of my brain was prepared to follow her, but the rest of my brain was gibbering unintelligibly in all-out panic. Everything she said sounded right, but it all felt wrong. I knew how a mouse that has wandered across the path of a ferret must feel. At that moment, I didn’t care if I never saw any of my stuff ever again. All I wanted was to get out of there, alive and with all my usual bits still attached.

“I just remembered something…” I mumbled. Then instinct took over and I turned and ran for it.

As I dashed from the steps back to my car, I was certain that I felt her breath on my neck. I fumbled with the door handle on the passenger’s side and scrambled into the car, slammed the door, hit the locks and scrambled across to the driver’s side. Only then did I look back, and I half expected to see Mrs. Schnout pulling a full-on Cujo, slavering and crashing into the door behind me. Instead, she was still standing in front of her open door, hunched and squinting, watching me.

What other books are similar to your own? What makes them similar to your own?

Books that blur the line between reality and fiction have a lot in common with mine—you know, the idea that there is a huge part of the world that we know nothing about where amazing things are happening but we don’t realize it because we aren’t looking for it. Stories that bring gods and mythical creatures into this world, and focus on a heroine who is stubborn and independent but also vulnerable in a variety of ways, like Nicole Peeler’s Jane True stories (though her stories are way sexier than mine!). My narrative tends to focus on adventure and challenges to the individual, rather than on romance, which makes it a bit different from a lot of stories.




Do You Review Books?

Do you reviewLet’s talk about book reviews. Do you review books?

Many people don’t. Some folks have grown up in a culture where professional critics review books or movies, usually in newspapers and magazines. It’s easy to forget that social media gives us all the power to influence others by writing a review. Other people just don’t feel comfortable writing a review online. They don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, don’t know what to say, or just flat out can’t be bothered.

There is some debate about the validity of online book reviews. Recent years have revealed cheating, where specific authors have gamed the system by paying for good reviews. These cases are (hopefully) isolated and we shouldn’t discount reviews because of them. Other readers disregard the first dozen 5-star reviews of a book, assuming they are written by family and friends. This “front-loading” effect has less of a bias as more reviews are left. It’s unlikely that all 100 of those reviews were written by friends and family. I’m sure every reader has a gut-feeling for how many reviews make a valid sample: 20, 50, 100?

Another debate: Is someone more or likely to review a book  if they absolutely love it or hate it? Hard to say. One could argue that naysayers are more eager to get their opinions online, as can be seen by “trolls” and “flame wars” if you follow any topical thread on social media; but I’m not sure this effect carries across into book reviews. I would argue that there are many more 5-star or 4-star (overall) book reviews than 1 or 2 star, or maybe those bad books just disappear into obscurity? There are too many factors at work to tell. Better books get more visibility on Amazon, in the form of sitting higher on the Top 100 and Top 10 lists or being recommended to people who read similar books. This suggests that better books tend to rise to the top, pushing bad books out. What about all those books in the middle with an average of 3-stars?

I’m more more likely to review a good book, both to reward the author and to encourage other readers who might enjoy it. I have given 3-star reviews, but if the book is terrible then I rarely review it unless I can be constructive. That’s me. If most people are like me, then yes, reviews are biased.

Do you judge a book by reviews? Most “experts” talk about the “gun”. This takes the form of a lot of 5 and 4 star reviews (the barrel), and a tapering number of 3, 2 and 1 (the gun handle). This is what you would expect of a good book. A lot of good reviews, a reasonable amount of so-so and just a few haters. You’d probably read that book. What if 90% of the reviews were 3-stars. Clearly the book doesn’t stand out, but neither does it suck. In that circumstance you probably want to actually read individual reviews. Many people have commented that even bad reviews do not stop them buying a book, as long as those readers explained what they didn’t like. Maybe you don’t care about the same things. “Lots of typos but a great story“: Would you read it? “Great action, not enough romance“: All depends on what you enjoy, right?

See how you can leave a bad review and it not be devastating? I always encourage people to leave a review, preferably on the major players like Amazon, iBooks, GoodReads, etc. Or all of them! Not only can you help other readers decide if the book is for them, but authors REALLY appreciate reviews. They do help the recommendation engines like Amazon and give our books more visibility. We’re not Stephen King; we need more readers. It needn’t take long either. At the very minimum, please give books a star-rating. That’s anonymous and very easy now that most ebook readers will prompt you at the end of the book. It takes 2 seconds.

I don’t know what to write“: Fair enough. Keep it simple. You don’t have to be a New York Times reviewer and get all pithy or artsy. Just say what you liked. Say who would enjoy the book. Example:

Loved the characters and how they outwitted the bad guy. The twists and turns kept me turning the pages. Read this if you love spy thrillers.

Simple. Effective. Here’s another:

I rooted for Helen all through the book. So glad she found the right guy in the end. Super book. I wish there hadn’t been so much swearing and F-words though.

That’s fair, and warns easily-offended readers not to waste their money. Authors won’t hate you for saying that. Better for the reader not to waste their time and money and maybe pick up another book by the same author, than to read it, get upset and leave a bad review.

Of course if you want to wax lyrical for several paragraphs and go into detail, then great. Authors and prospective readers will love you for that. Sometimes it’s good manners to warn up front if you are going to give out spoilers. You should be reviewing the book, not giving the whole plot away and ruining other’s enjoyment.

So… do you review books? Do you pay attention to reviews? Let me know in the comments.


Blueprint For An Author Press Kit


If you’re an author, you need a press kit.  I know, I know, we’re all introverts (mostly) and don’t want to toot our own horns, but people are going to come to your website to learn more about you.  And if they’re fancy people (ready to give you publicity), you need to have a landing place for them.

Hence, the “press” tab.

What the heck do you put there?

First, let’s look at you…

1) Your author head shot.  Make sure it’s professionally done, or at the very least not “selfie” status.  I’m sure you have a friend, grandma, or dog who can take a picture of you.

2) Have an author bio (yes, your bio) ready to go.  Don’t have any idea what that should look like?  Check this out.  (P.S. I’m so guilty of struggling with bios – mine’s getting some TLC soon – so you are no alone!  I feel the same way about my own bio as I do about a synopsis…)

3)  Got interviews?  Excellent.  Include them.  If you don’t, google some sample interview questions (here’s a ton to pick from), write out your answers in 3-5 sentences, and post that in your press page.

4) Press release.  Okay, take a deep breath.  You can do this.  This is the real-life story of you and your book.  Don’t think you’ve got anything interesting there?  That’s a lie.  You’ve got a story, and it matters to you – your book is important!  So it’s time to give it some bones and skin.

What goes into a good press release?

You could cheat and use this free template…  You’ll also find some great press release tips in that template offer from Stand Out Books.

Here’s another great list of tips on what to write for your press release.

If you’re writing fiction, think of the press release as your personal memoir reflecting on your publishing journey.  This is your nonfiction story – this is about your real life, who you are, and how you book fits into the mix.

Here is a GREAT sample press release.  See, it doesn’t have to be long and scary.  You’ve totally got this.  Don’t believe me?  Here’s another sample.

Oooookaaaay, are you still with me?  Now let’s look at the information for your BOOK.

5)  The cover. (Duh, right?)  Even better if you’ve got a high quality photo.

6) Blurb.  Nowadays also known as the back cover copy.  You could also have a one-sentence description.  Tricky, but doable.  Think Twitter pitch.

7)  All the nitty gritty book details like ISBN, publisher, distributor, page count, genre, release date – and any other fine points you can think of.  What are the details you’d want to know?

8)  Have you gotten any awesome reviews?  Comments on your book?  Share them – quotes, paragraphs – but keep it clean and looking neat.

9)  Find what makes your book stand out and highlight that.  Did you write it to grieve your kid dying from cancer?  (Sorry, that was the first thing that came to my mind.)  The more you can set yourself and your work apart, the better.

10)  Have your first chapter ready to be downloaded from your website.  That’s what they get anyway on Amazon, right?

From the Creative Penn: “You may also include things like: editorial reviews, testimonials, links to relevant media content like audio and video, any awards you’ve won, etc. Remember, a press kit doesn’t have to be complicated or fancy. Nowadays, most people prefer to receive a PDF version of press kits.”

You’ve now been empowered to go create your own press kit.  Even if you don’t have all the things mentioned (and more), get started anyway!  Something is better than nothing when agents, editors, reporters… the president… come snooping by your website.  If you start now, you’ll be prepared and professional.

Have you decided to add something else to your press kit that I missed?  Let me know!  I love to hear your ideas.

TTFree4 copyLooking at your various social media I’ve counted five books you’ve published. Is that correct? What are your published titles so far?

Sadly, I only have two books published so far. Book one and two in a middle grade fantasy trilogy, Truth Teller and The Wrath of Siren. Book three, Favian’s Law, is currently in the hands of my editor being proofread. I also have sci-fi/fantasy children’s novel called Unknown Reality that is also waiting to be proofread. I can’t wait to put the finishing touches to these two novels and get them published.

I have a poem that is being published by Kendall Hunt Publishers this month. They produce educational books for schools and colleges in America. The poem is called Our Solar System and was written to teach children a little bit about each planet in our solar system.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?




Amazon Author Page:


Barnes & Noble:


Are you working on anything right now? Can you tell us about it?

I’m about a third of the way through a children’s story called The World in Johnny’s Back Garden. I wanted to write a story that gave kids an alternative view of living things. I started writing this many years ago and it has changed so many times, but now I finally have a whole new plot for the story, and I hope to actually finish it one day. Here is a sample of the first chapter.

You’re very generous with sharing your marketing tips and tricks. What book marketing strategies have worked well for you?

Marketing is so very difficult for a children’s author. It’s the only genre where you don’t really have direct access to your target audience. So when you market, the best you can hope for is to persuade a parent or teacher to recognize that your book is something their children would like to read. I’ve tried to overcome this by donating my novel to places like school libraries where they will be read by the kids I wrote them for.TruthTeller_MED

My most successful marketing strategy so far has been to make my first book perma-free once I covered what it cost me to publish the novel. Then I used some of the many companies out there that do free book promotions. There are plenty to choose from. Some are better than others, but if you find a good one, you can get anything up to two hundred downloads in one day. Hopefully some customers will like my story enough to buy the other books in the series.

How did you come up with the idea for your book? You’ve published a few,  just pick one.

When I was a child, I always struggled to read some of the classic fantasy novels. I fell in love with fantasy but was never very good at reading. So tackling such classic books like Lord of the Rings was hard for me. I remember thinking back then that someone should write fantasy books like this especially for people like me who were not so strong at reading. When I decided to write children’s novels, I already had an idea of what I wanted to write: a fantasy novel just as I imagined from a child. That is how my Truth Teller trilogy was born.

Do you have a favorite author? What strikes you about their work?

I would have to say Terry Brooks is my favorite author. I have read most of what he has written. The Shannara series was an absolute classic. I think there are about sixteen books all together. I admire Terry because he is such a master at the way he writes. He is my biggest inspiration when it comes to writing.

Tell us a bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image?

WrathofSiren_MEDI SO love my covers! Truth Teller won an award for best artwork on the Preditors & Editors Reader’s Poll 2012. They are designed by a very dear friend of mine, Dawne Dominique. We met many years ago in the Young Adult Novel Workshop on writing,com. As I knew absolutely nothing about writing, she took me under her wing, encouraged and supported me, and helped mould me into the author I am today, along with many other amazing people I met on this journey. Dawne is such a great cover artist as well as a brilliant author, not to mention an amazing person. You can find her here:

Give us an interesting fun fact about one of your books?

Every character I have ever created has been fictional, all except one. One of my characters is actually a real person. I wonder if you can guess which one it is.


Give us a short summary or snippet from one of your books meant to intrigue your audience.

I love this bit from The Wrath of Siren where the human child, Charlotte, is traveling with a young elf called Elderfield.

Charlotte began to tire of their adventure and longed to sleep in a soft, comfortable bed once again. “What do you think we will find when we come to the end of the river?” she asked, trying to strike up a conversation to relieve her boredom.

Elderfield shrugged. “To be honest, I have absolutely no idea.”

“I reckon we’re going to find a massive lost city, probably made of gold or something like that, and nobody’s ever been there apart from us for thousands of years.” She grinned at the image she created.

Elderfield laughed. “I doubt that very much.”

“You never know, this place is well weird. You don’t know what’s going to happen next.” Charlotte was serious for a moment then continued, smiling. “And when we get there, because we’re the first people to visit this place for thousands of years, they think we are some kind of gods or something, and they treat us like kings and queens. They tell us we can have anything we want.”

“Do you not think that you are getting a little carried away?”

“No,” Charlotte replied bluntly. “If you could have anything you want, what would it be?”

“If I had the choice, I think I would have to choose … going home right now.” He grinned.

“No, that’s boring.”

She noticed Elderfield watching her with amused interest as she tried to think of something herself. “I would definitely have to wish for a chocolate river.” She licked her lips. “That would be amazing.”

“What in heaven’s name is a choclit river?”

Charlotte burst out laughing. She tried to reply but laughed too much to get the words out. “No, a chocolate river, not a choclit river,” she finally managed to say.

“Whatever it is, it sounds ghastly to me. Why would you want a river made out of … whatever it is?”

“Elderfield! You don’t know what chocolate is, do you? Wow, that’s just wrong. You have never lived, trust.” She giggled behind her hand.

“What is this stuff?”

“It’s like angels dancing on your tongue.” She paused to judge his reaction. “Apart from my family, it’s the one thing I miss the most. That and telly.”

“And you say that we are weird.” He shook his head.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you so very much, Katherine, for featuring me on your awesome site and letting me show off my books. Like so many other authors in the writing community, you have been very supportive. You’ve gotta love the writing community!

And thank you to all the readers out there who have come to view this post. If you’re a fan of fantasy, go and grab a free copy of my book. Happy reading.

Thoughts From a Beta-Reader

Last night, my manuscript was handed back to me (by my first beta-reader) with a ton of revision suggestions. Most everything was scribbled into the margins, but there was also an extra page handed to me with some overall thoughts and comments. We had an opportunity to sit down and talk through her notes, questions, concerns, etc. Here’s what I learned:

  • Some of my characters are just written better than others. This was a little surprising to me, but I completely understood what my beta was saying. She felt that she just knew some of these folks super well and that others needed to be fleshed out more. Some of her most directed comments were about my protagonist. Eek. Sure, she’s driving the plot and clearly central to the story… but, it was some of her supporting cast members that were the most vivid characters.
  • Some characters sounded too similar. This was extremely helpful. I didn’t necessarily pick up on this while I was writing. It is super important for each character to have an entirely unique voice.
  • Word choice. There were some words/phrases that I used a bit too much. One in particular stood out to my beta: plopped. She commented that she saw it a few times and that she didn’t think it really had a place in my novel… even once. Funny thing: I don’t remember ever even using it.
  • Plot holes. She definitely dug some up and now it’s my job to fill them back in. Fortunately, the two of us were able to chat about how I might do that. I already have a ton of great ideas.
  • Realistic injuries/healing time. She reminded me that my characters aren’t Jack Bauer and that this isn’t an episode of 24. She said that I need to make sure that injuries inflicted on my characters are given a realistic amount of healing time. She’s right.
  • Consistency with a new alien language. The example given to me was Tolkien’s use of language in LOTR/The Hobbit. She emphasized that when I allow a new species to speak in their own language that I must know exactly what they are saying at all times. There’s needs to be consistency. If an alien character is saying “hello” in his/her own language, then he/she needs to say “hello” the same way each time. If I’m inconsistent, my readers will certainly notice.

There’s more, of course, but this should give you an idea of some of the comments I received. I plan to spend today working on these revisions. I’m also giving myself a deadline of a week to make all of these fixes. I don’t want it to sit too long before I hand it off to my next reader.

This is my process. As I always say, different authors won’t necessarily do it this way, nor should they. Find your own process and make it work for you.

Keep checking back. Things are moving fast right now!


So, you’ve written a book and now you want to get it published. Dido! And the more you look in to how to achieve this goal, the more confusing it gets. Yep! Don’t fret! There’s an answer out there, specific to you. And you’ll eventually find it if you stay the course. But… may I offer a bit of advice that seems to be working for me in my quest for publishing? Are you read for it?

Learn how to sell yourself and the rest will come easier. (NO, not in the biblical sense.)

Over this past year I’ve tried my hand at a few interesting hobbies, one of them being, becoming a TV and movie background actor. Through an agent I got on a few shows that were being filmed locally in YYC. I never imagined that so many big name stars came to my city! But… more to the point I want to get at.

Being on set with everyone ranging from an extra to a big star, gave me a whole new appreciation for the industry. Everyone there, no matter what rank they were, was trying, somehow, to sell themselves. To portray to best ,and most interesting side of themselves. Not everyone’s goal was to become that next big movie star, but they were all there to showcase something.

I saw background actors bringing lines from other productions to practice, honing their theoretical skills. I saw shaggy looking guys get transformed by hair and makeup artist in to someone their loved ones wouldn’t even recognize, on the chance to be involved in what is ‘movie magic’. But most of all I saw, and appreciated, the heart and dedication that went in to it all.

I’ve tried hard to emulate my experiences onset in to my writing career. For example, I ‘ve had my website, book cover, photos, and branding professionally done. All these things portray an image to potential agents, publishers, and readers that I’m the real deal. I am committed! Not only will I write one book with dedication and passion, but many! Katherine (32)

How people perceive you to be has huge effect on whether or not you’ll get noticed. Now, I’m not saying go out and spend a bunch of money on promoting a ‘movie star’ image of yourself. What I’m saying is – portray a ‘professional you’ for an audience to see. One that says this is what I do and I’m passionate about it!



Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.

  1. See and be seen. Get out there! Got to writer conferences, book signings, trade shows, etc., and look professional while your doing it. I know an author who dresses reminiscent to the genre he writes in whenever he attends an event. Does he look like that every day? No. Does it look professional when he’s at an event? You bet!
  2. Get professional images of yourself and what your trying to promote on social medias. People make decisions about you in seconds. Make a good first impression.
  3. Separate the personal you from the professional you. Professional you doesn’t post cat videos! … Well there may be some exceptions :)
  4. And my last tip… Be consistent. Show your passion for what you do every day and people will notice.



Good luck and Good Writing.



EasterBasketMonsterHatMeet Chris Rothe, an author as wonderfully quirky as the books he writes. Not only is Chris skilled skilled in the art of weaving  fantastical tales, he has a heart of gold when it comes to helping, and encouraging his fellow writers. I introduce to you, Chris Rothe.

Chris, I’ve read your book Dirk Danger Loves Life, for which I gave a glowing review! (Book Review) Give us summary of what this book is about and what inspired you to write it.

Thank you! So very glad you liked it. The book is about a twenty-something who is unable to function as a self-sustaining adult. One morning, when he’s at his lowest, he accidentally meets an eccentric fellow named Dirk Danger who decides to help him be a better person. Hilarity ensues! 978-0-9866424-2-5_flyer1-full

 The inciting incident in the book is that the main character decides to call the number on one of those fliers with the tear-away tabs along the bottom. The number is for a weight loss program, and I wondered what would happen if the person on the other end was more mean than helpful, and if being mean could be helpful. The story sprang from there, with me trying to turn negativity into positivity, resulting in a book that aims to be funny and uplifting.

 Where can people find your book for purchase?

You can find my book at my publisher’s website ( in both physical and eBook formats, along with the usual suspects: Amazon, Chapters, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and select local booksellers.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Website: /

Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on right now?

I’ve just finished my second book, a collection of short stories that deal with death and dying though a comedic lens. It’s currently at the publisher awaiting judgement, so fingers crossed I’ll have more to share later in the year. I’ve also just about wrapped a second collection of shorts and a new novel that I’m keeping the details tight on until it’s in a more solid form.

I’ve also thought about doing a podcast on the writing process. It’ll probably be only a single episode and will consist of me sobbing into a microphone for ninety minutes.

Do you have a favourite author? What strikes you about their work?

My favourite author at the moment is Dave Eggers. His book You Shall Know Our Velocity is one of my all-time favourites. The way he’s able to weave comedy and tragedy together is what I like most – it’s a tough balancing act and he handles it in way I aspire to with my own writing.

Are you reading anything right now?

Indeed! I’ve been burrowing into Adam Roberts’ collection of science fiction short stories entitled Adam Robots. The ideas are quite wonderful, and Roberts’ ability to switch up his style and tone keeps the stories fresh and distinct.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was fourteen. One night, I was lying in bed when a whole poem just materialized in my head, fully formed. As I was fourteen, I’m fairly certain it was drivel, but at the time, I sprang from bed to write it down and have been writing from that point on. Not poetry though. Poetry is hard.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?Book

The most surprising thing I learned was just how much you have to be willing to hack apart your work during the editing process. As Dirk was my first novel, I’d not been through the professional editing process prior to that point and in the end, I’d taken an axe to the manuscript and chopped out six full chapters that didn’t work, while fleshing out the good stuff. It was pretty eye opening and I had to learn that sometimes, you need to slice and dice and to let go of something you thought had merit at one point or another.

Tell us an interesting fun fact about your book.

None of the characters in my novel ever reveal their real names.

Other than writing, do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I’m very adept at having crippling self-doubt. Also, vacuuming. I can clean a floor like nobody’s business.

If your book was made in to a TV show or movie. Who would you cast to play the characters in your book?

I have no idea! Maybe it could be a movie where Eddie Murphy plays everyone, or maybe one of those avant-garde things where the characters are all highly trained cats. It’s a difficult question to answer, because I tried to write something relatable and that people could find themselves in. Putting a face to the weirdos is a challenge.

What advice do you have for writers trying to get their first book published?

Don’t give up, but don’t get your hopes up either. Getting your hard work into the hands of readers is definitely a challenge and something you should strive for with all you’ve got, but don’t expect to instantly show up on any best-seller lists. It should always be a passion while you work your hardest to make it your career.

Name one person you feel has supported you in your writing career?

As alluded to in the previous question, I’d not quite say I have made a career of my writing just yet. Semantics aside, my wife has always been a great support and points out when I’m running in the wrong direction. She’s a great reality check when I think I’ve struck gold, but have actually lodged my pickaxe into a water main and am being sprayed with raw sewage.

Anything else you’d like to add?

No, I’ve never been very fond of math.

:) Thanks for taking the time to do this interview Chris. Everyone, take the time to check out Chris’s re-launched website at !



What annoys me as a reader

As a writer, I’m fairly forgiving of books that I read; fully appreciative of the long hours, sweat, anguish, mood swings and sheer number of hours required to write a book. I hope that few readers take books for granted. Writing is hard work and takes a lot of time. Knowing this, if I spot flaws in a book, I am lenient and always willing to give the author the benefit of the doubt.

That said, here are my top 7 peeves as a reader:

  • Plot believability: Readers are smart. They will spot those huge holes in your plot. They will scream at the page “Why would she do that?” or “All he had to do was…”. The classic example of this is demonstrated in Hollywood B-movies where everyone in a haunted house splits up, or the girl walks into the dark cellar by herself without a light. If you can’t make your plot work without making the reader groan, then go and rework the plot. Deus ex Machina is the term that comes to mind here.
  • No info dumps please: Don’t be a lazy author. Please take the time to dribble your backstory and setting details as the book progresses. Work those details in naturally. Let the reader discover them bit by bit at a moment that fits the scene. Don’t vomit all that information at me in a ten page description. I don’t need to know the full history of every character the instant you introduce them. It’s far more interesting to learn about how he/she nearly drowned as a kid, at the point in the book where the adult character has to take a boat somewhere. Now you have tension and emotion. Similarly, just because you did weeks of research on horses, or armor, or the pine forests of Canada, that does not entitle you to info dump all that research: “Lumber mills in Canada began in 1721, when…” Yawn!
  • Don’t slack off in the middle: Most books I read, slump in the middle. Great start, big bang of an ending but yawn-yawn in the middle. Don’t stop the momentum. Don’t pad the middle. Go back and cut the slow stuff and make the middle more exciting. You can’t coast until the climactic ending. Put in more twists and turns, reveals, plot twists, etc. Make it fun.
  • Give me a neat ending: Don’t concentrate so much on the big bang ending that you come to an abrupt “The End”, leaving the reader wondering what happened to that poor guy left in the cell in Chapter 4, or the missing magical goat, or did those two minor characters hook up in the end? There should be an aftermath at the end to wind things down and tidy up some loose ends. You don’t have to answer every single thing, but resolve the major issues. This dovetails with “Deliver on your promise” (below). If you are writing a series then you clearly have more leeway to leave things unanswered. That said, as a reader, I like every book in a series to have a good clean ending just in case I don’t read the next book.
  • Cut the mundane: Every scene should advance the plot, or reveal character or setting. If not – chop it. Some authors put in mundanity for the sake of realism, but no, I don’t want to read about that uneventful ride through three kingdoms to get to the capital city, if nothing relevant happens. Don’t have two characters head-to-head in dialogue about the weather because “that’s what real people would do”. Don’t describe Mary putting on her makeup, having breakfast, getting into and starting her car unless it reveals something about her character. Just start with her racing out of the driveway, late for an important engagement.
  • Deliver on your promise: “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.” – Anton Chekhov. Don’t trick the reader by introducing the promise of an action or dramatic scene, and then it never happens. Of course red herrings are allowed, and plot twists occur, but they must make sense. If you don’t want the rifle to go off, then fine, but explain why not. (It’s a fake, it isn’t loaded, in the heat of the fight, the old man can’t reach it, etc.) There was a Hollywood movie (that I won’t name) that had a man chased by a stalker throughout the entire movie, finally going man to man at the end in the classic fight. Then, at the last minute, a cop rushes in and shoots the stalker. No! Don’t cheat me of the hero besting the stalker. If the cop is a valid part of the plot, then that’s ok, but foreshadow that, don’t just have the cop come out of nowhere.
  • Show don’t tell: This is one of the commonest author fails. So much so that every single writer has done it, and some continue to, to a greater or lesser degree. Give the reader something dramatic to read. “Mary was sad”. Ok, but such a lost opportunity. “Mary’s shoulders drooped, and she blinked back tears, chewing her lip to prevent it from trembling.” A little flowery, but you get the point.

I see these errors time and again in books that otherwise are fantastic reads. What are your pet peeves, dear reader?


A fellow Canadian writer! Nice to meet you! Through some of the chatting we’ve, you’ve told me that your book is not yet published. Can you tell me a bit about this project your working on?

The current manuscript is a YA thriller called Pretty Wicked. It’s about Ryann Wilkanson, a fifteen-year-old serial killer living in a small town in Colorado. Her father is one of the town’s police officers. Ryann uses him, his fellow officers, and her experience at the police station to study how to get away with murder. Even as a small child, Ryann knew she was different. Instead of concerning herself with toys and games, she was secretly studying infamous serial killers who she refers to as The Greats. The story is told in first person by Ryann, as she plots murder, incites chaos, and tries to thwart the cops in her small town Dungrave.

I have two complete novels, and am currently working on a third book as well.

Are you thinking of self-publishing or traditional publishing to get your book out there, and why?

I’m currently querying agents, but am not opposed to self-publishing. It’s a great option for authors. The publishing industry can be very tough and it’s nice to know that writer’s have more options to get their work out. Ideally, I would like to be a hybrid author. It seems to be a nice mix of both avenues.

Do you write full time or have a job as well?

I have a part-time job as an Educational Assistant. Before that I worked as a Youth Outreach Worker in the Vancouver area. Both are excellent fodder for stories about teens. I have the ability to test out ideas on potential readers and get direct feedback, which has been extremely helpful.

Do you find that things in your daily life find their way in to your novel?

Of course. I don’t see how they couldn’t. The subconscious is a powerful thing and even when I don’t knowingly use things from my life in a novel, I’ll catch something later when I’m editing. If something I’ve experienced fits and will enhance my story, I have no problem putting those details into a book. Characteristics and certain nuances of people I’ve met and places I’ve been definitely influence my work.

Are you reading anything right now? How is it?

I’ve been going through a lot of friend’s manuscripts right now as they are also querying. The last published novel I really loved was by E.E. Cooper. It’s a YA suspense called Vanished. It was really well written and fun. The book is dark and twisty, but contrasts nicely with flecks of humor.

I commend you for starting your author platform before your book is finished. What social medias can people discover more about you and your work?

I am on Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads. I am in the midst of building my website, which will be up and running this week.

Facebook author page-



I love to ask this question. If your book became a TV show or movie, who would you cast to play the main characters of your book?

Nicola Peltz is the perfect Ryann. She stars in Bates Motel as the beautiful but troubled Bradley Martin. I actually wrote Ryann with her in mind. Interestingly enough the role of her nemesis, Sergeant Estevez, also stars on Bates as Sheriff Alex Romero, played by the talented Nestor Carbonell. Stephen Moyer from True Blood could easily play her dad, Detective David Wilkanson. Ryann has too many friends for this game, but I would say that Austin Butler from the Carrie Diaries would be a great Lucas.

Did you always dream of being a writer?

It has been a dream for many years. I used to carry blank notebooks and fancy pens around and pretend I was a famous journalist and interview my family members when I was six and seven years old. I wrote a few stories, complete with illustrations, around nine and ten year old. But, I didn’t give it serious consideration until my mid-twenties. I was too insecure and overwhelmed to write, so I read every Writer’s Digest and Craft book on writing that I could get my hands on for a few years before I wrote my first book.

What’s been one of the most surprising things you’ve learned writing and trying to get your book published?

That writing is mostly rewriting and editing, and that you often need another set of eyes to help see things that you are no longer capable of finding in your own work. On the publishing side, I was surprised to learn that most authors write an average of 6-10 books before they get picked up by an agent and publish their first novel. I also discovered that there is no such thing as security in publishing. I was under the misconception that once you were published with one book, you had an ongoing contract with that house. I’ve learned since that it is often a succession of different contracts and that you can be essentially let go at any time. I have read about a few authors who were released mid series. It’s a scary thought, but I love writing too much to let any setbacks inhibit me. If I had, I guess I wouldn’t still be querying my second novel. You just have to be open to the stages of publication and learn what you can in each.

Do you have a favorite author? What strikes you about their work?

Successful published friends aside J, I love Anne Rice, Stephen King, Nova Ren Suma, and Maggie Stiefvater. Wait that was four. There are too many amazing authors. What stands out most about Rice and King is how prolific they are, but more than that is their ability to write widely across genres. Each of the mentioned authors take risks in their work. They choose subjects and ideas that are at times controversial and they tell their stories through narrators or points of view that aren’t always likeable or conventional. These are the most interesting stories to me.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for asking me (a yet to be published author) to be a guest on your blog Katherine! You’re so lovely, and I had a blast.



Why You Shouldn’t Spam Your Book At Us


Maybe, I’m incredibly naïve. Maybe, if I’m ever lucky enough to end up finishing my book and getting it published, I’ll want to repeatedly wave it into everyone else’s Twitter-faces. Maybe. I like to think I’ll do it a little, but that I’ll also have enough perspective-taking skills (and modesty) to temper it a bit. I like to think that I’ll be self-aware enough not to do that, but then again… who knows?

You know what I’m talking about though, right? You’ll be clicking on the #amwriting thread and expecting to “run into” other fledgling authors out there, share in the misery of struggling author-hood, maybe even get some recommendations/ads for new books out there. Some. Yet, so often, when I’m cruising through that hashtag (and others), I see so many authors out there spamming their books, their services, whatever to us all. Not advertising… spamming. And, honestly, I don’t get it. Occasional advertising, is one thing. Spamming (in some instances I’ve seen the same person post every few minutes or so the same ad for their book, over and over) is a totally different thing, altogether. I feel it’s important to differentiate.

Advertising = okay. Spamming = bad.

When I walk into the mall, I don’t expect vendors to chase me around, follow me from store to store,  repeatedly blasting their wares into my line-of-sight. That’s not to say that they won’t (or shouldn’t) advertise or try to sell me their stuff, but they’re not going to do it so much so that I choose to avoid the mall entirely on my next day off. That would be counterproductive as they’d likely lose my business entirely.

Now, on twitter, particularly on the #amwriting feed, I am not expecting to buy anything. My purpose scanning that hashtag is generally to hear from other authors sharing advice on their writing processes, tips about the publishing industry, success stories, etc. Even still, I expect to see some advertisements for new works. It’s awesome, in a community of writers, to see that some of us are actually reaching that goal, getting published. It’s great that we have the ability and the technology to be able to dance around in front of a community of fellow writers, shouting, “Look at me, look what I did!” I, personally, love to support new authors and if there’s a book out there that sounds interesting, or up my alley, I’m in. Sign me up. That’s totally cool. Please tell me about your book.

Just please, don’t do it that much. And you all know how much I mean. We’ve all seen it.

Ok, so what do I do when I see the same ad, repeatedly, within a short amount of time? I get annoyed. Sometimes I get angry, ’cause I’m trying to relax and read new posts. And then? I block you. I don’t buy your book. I don’t follow you. I just block you. And then the next time you try to talk about your book, I’m not going to see it. Sale lost, follower lost, and any chance at making a future connection or sale… lost.

And that’s the beautiful thing about twitter. Unlike the mall, you don’t have to leave the building to avoid that maniacal salesperson. You can just block ’em. For-ev-ah.

I might be in the minority, and if that’s true then this post is just me complaining about a pet-peeve of mine that others can’t relate to. But I think, I really do, that when I finally finish my novel I will be more conscious of how my posts might be taken by others. Sure, I’ll advertise. I’ll shout to the world about my triumph, even. Just not at the expense of annoying followers/potential buyers of my book until they block me.

Love, Tom
p.s. I’m tweeting and blogging about my journey writing my first book. Check me out @RimerTom

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog. I figure it’s time I put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard so to speak.

So what should I write about? I went to this awesome writers convention last weekend, When Words Collide! It was the first time I’d ever been to a writers conference, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Everyone was there and by that I mean; there were big name authors, writers hunting for agents, avid readers, and everyone else in between.

The choice of sessions to attend were numerous and widely varied. The one that I found most interesting was on transmedia storytelling. Finally, I have words for what I’m trying to achieve! Little did I now that there are actual classes taught at a University level on this very subject! Perhaps you’re all wondering what transmedia storytelling is? Here’s a definition I found on Wikipedia.Harmless_JustFrontCover_Final

Transmedia Storytelling (also known as transmedia narrative or multiplatform storytelling, cross-media seriality[1]) is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats including, but not limited to, games, books, events, cinema and television. The purpose is not only to reach a wider audience by expanding the target market pool, but to expand the narrative itself.[2]

So, how am I incorporating transmedia storytelling in to my world of writing you ask? Well – first comes the foundation, my young adult novel titled, Harmless. Once I’ve submitted the manuscript for this, I’ll be working on my Harmless prequel in graphic novel form. The graphic novel been on the back burner for a while now. I can’t wait to get started on it again. While I’m waiting for my most talented artist (Brianna Schretlen) to draw the frames, I’ll again be switching gears again,  typing away at the sequel to Harmless in novel form.

Oh, but my transmedia storytelling doesn’t stop there! I’ve got big dreams! A book trailer is in the works for Harmless. I am so excited to show it to you all when it’s finished. The trailers is a collaborative effort between me, Brianna, and a vary talent musician (whom I’ll wait to name). Let me tell you… The rough draft, gives me goose bumps! It looks like it’s a movie trailer!image-2

More transmedia ideas… Someday I would like to create a fandom type website, that centers around the characters and mythology I’ve created. It would be a place where fans could interact with other fans and geek out about all things Harmless.

Other transmedia storytelling I’d love to happen… It would be crazy awesome if someone wanted to make my book in to a movie or TV show. A video game version is also on my dreaming about list. I could go on and on about this… but I shall cut it short. I need to get back to the editing of my manuscript.

‘Till I blog again… Good reading and good writing!



Let me first say, I’m honored to have the opportunity to interview such an accomplished author such as you. You’ve published twenty-five books to date in genres such as Mystery, Memoir, Historical Fiction, and Biography. You actively make author appearances and teach at Michigan State University as a guest assistant professor on the subjects of writing, popular literature, and Jewish-America literature. You have dozens of published essays, articles, and stories in an array of publications. I could write a book filled solely with your accolades. So, once again, thank you for taking the time chat with me and share your experiences with those who read this.

Thanks for inviting me!

Out of your twenty-five published books, do you have a favorite? Having looked at your many titles this could prove to be a difficult question. Perhaps tells us about your favorite fiction, and non-fiction books you’ve written.

That’s always a tough question, but I think I’ll stick with just one if that’s okay: no. 19, My Germany is a favorite for many reasons. It combines mystery, memoir and history so it represents my writing and publishing across genres. Then it’s a book that challenged me a lot because I wasn’t sure for a long time how to structure it, and it actually was a number of different books before it found its final form. I also have intense memories of doing research for it in Belgium and Germany.My Germany

Beyond that, it’s put more miles on me than any other books of mine in terms of book tours, including two sponsored by the U.S State Department that took me across Germany. And I even learned German so that I could travel intelligently there and eventually do some of my readings from the German translation—and that was mind-blowing! The book changed me in many ways, both in writing it and afterwards, and I met lots of fascinating people including my German BFF who’s promised she would meet me in any city in Europe when I visit. Last time it was London.

Finally, as the son of Holocaust survivors, I never expected to go to Germany or write a book about it. A long answer, but it’s a layered book. 

Are you working on any new projects? Can you tell us about them?

I have at least half a dozen books in different genres started, which means I’ve got anywhere from a page or a vague outline to as much as 40 pages written, and some involve working through a shelve of research books before I start writing–but I’m taking a break right now because I’m a little burned out. Writing my suspense novel Assault With a Deadly Lie was tough. It’s about police militarization and it demanded something new from me. I’d been writing mysteries with these characters but I had to kick everything up a few notches from “Whodunit?” to “OMG–What the hell is going to happen next?” That demanded lots of planning and writing at a higher pitch. I also had to do new kinds of research about guns and go to a shooting range and go shooting with friends who are well-trained in firearms.Assault with a Deadly Lie

I’d ask if you have any advise for new writers starting out, but see you’ve written whole books on the subject. What’s one insight you’d like to pass on to the next generation of writers?

Be patient with yourself, and that covers a lot of territory. Take the time to learn your craft and learn the business and don’t be overwhelmed by other people’s success or envy or the latest publishing noise. We all have our own paths and some of them are wonkier than others. Learning your craft also means being as well-read as possible in any genre you choose to make your home. When you write, you’re joining a community of writers, and most of them are no longer living—don’t discount writers who aren’t contemporary, they might have a lot to teach you.

Are all your books self-published? Or did you go with traditional publishing houses on some? Would you recommend your method of publishing to others?

Most of my books are traditionally published, ranging from huge presses like Doubleday to boutique presses like Leapfrog. But the choices are wide open for everyone starting out now and there are so many guides to publishing, I think writers need to do research as to what the best plan would be for their specific project—for instance is it a hot enough property and do they have a platform that might interest an agent (in which case try Every book is different, every writer is different, nothing is predictable.

I read that you have a background in theater. Can you tell us a bit about your experiences?

I double majored in English and Theater in college for a while and it helped me get over some shyness (even though I’m an extrovert). Acting in a wide variety of plays was tremendous preparation for all the hundreds of talks and readings I would end up doing down the road once my work started getting published and recognized. Here’s where patience is part of the arsenal. You can’t do a good reading unless you practice, you’re prepared, you choose your excerpt wisely, and you treat the event as what it is: a performance. Too many authors don’t take readings seriously enough. I love doing readings, and enjoy teaching people in workshops how to do them.

Have you ever been approached to have any of your stories made in to a movie or TV show? Choose one of your fiction books and tell us who you’d cast as the main characters.

The Germay MoneyOh yes. I’ve had my work optioned and had people try to do plays from some of my stories and a movie from one of my books. Luckily nothing happened because the final results would have been, well, disappointing. The German Money is an intimate family drama about the children of a Holocaust survivor arguing once she’s died. Set mostly on the Upper West Side, it would be a perfect indie film and I’d cast Mark Ruffalo as the screwed-up brother, Laura Linney as the cold sister, Jason Isaacs as the older brother escaping his past, Carla Gugino as the woman he left behind, and Olympia Dukakis as the elderly neighbor.

Name a book you’ve read that you found notable. What about it grabbed your interest?

Here are some very recent reads. Midnight’s Furies is about the partition of India into India and Pakistan and gives you a rich history of that terrible, chaotic time, going much deeper than what most of us know. The French Intifada explore the dark history of France’s colonial rule in North fracas and helps explain what’s happening in France today with its Muslim population. Sinclair Lewis’s Kingsblood Royal is from the 1940s but it’s a surprisingly contemporary-feeling portrait of white racism in the north in the story of a man who discovers he’s actually black and his family has hidden this from him. The Blue Hour is an amazing biography of one of my favorite novelists Jean Rhys. All four books told great stories and were very well written—two absolute requirements for me no matter what I read. Oh, I also finally read Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, the only major novel of his I missed back in the day and was surprised at how funny it was, and how beautiful.

Other than writing, do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I’m good at languages, speak French and German, picked up Flemish and Italian when I needed to, and am currently studying Swedish. I’m also taking voice lessons for the first time and my teacher says I have “a nice middle range” for a baritone.

How can readers find out more about you and you work?



Twitter: @LevRaphael

Amazon Author Page:


Readers can always contact me via my web site.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. It was a pleasure chatting with.

Katherine Dell

Inspiration is Arriving beyond Fear. More on Understanding Horror. – Part 2

Believe it or not I have been reading more about this mysterious genre called horror.

My original quandary on the subject was fueled in part by an interview with Michaelbrent Collings on the CreativePenn.

I returned to the scene of the crime.

This time I am digging around on his site reading through his blog posts. It would seem that my original hypothesis about the inspirational aspect of horror is not far from what he describes. He places a large emphasis first, on the type of horror which is more than just the elicitation of disgust, he actually refers to this type as pornography.

So what I am discussing here, is the type of horror which exposes or elicits a much deeper fear. Once we have discovered this fear there must be the other side of that fear. The conquest of the fear, the profound experience of overcoming that which would or could have undone us. Coming out on the other side of it, if you will.

This to me would be inspiring.

Getting there may be difficult or nearly impossible at times. Some gruesome events may occur along the way. The glimmer of hope which propels someone forward against their worst fear or risking loss of their most prized possession, I see that as inspiring.

What is my outlook? What is your outlook? Do you experience a series of awful events and quit or figure out some way to persist and carry on?

Some people don’t have the option of giving up, others just wouldn’t if they could. Of course we need to cover the whole spectrum, so some of us will give up at the first sign of trouble.

Obviously we are not all the same, there are different thresholds, we all have lived different lives. The culmination of our experiences has a great deal to do with where we are now.

Now is where I am living.

I can be inspired by a cute little fluffy kitten as well as by the person who was forced to face their fears and figured out a way to overcome. I have read fear is the strongest of human emotions. It makes sense to me that there must be the other side of fear in order for fear to exist.

This group of emotions is where I understand horror should take me. Maybe kicking and screaming and possibly even begging to quit along the way, but overcoming that worst fear must lead to somewhere good. Hopefully somewhere very good.

This to me is inspiring despite the difficult and maybe even disturbing journey.

Arriving beyond the fear is inspiration.


profile_picnewI see your first novel, Blood Toy is going to be released soon. Tell us bit about the story and what inspired you to write it.

Blood Toy is the story of a girl who becomes a vampire hunter when her parents were murdered. After hunting to the exclusion of everything and everyone else in her life for three years, one finally started hunting her back. Blood Toy is mostly the story of that hunt. It is definitely a more classic vampire tale than the paranormal romances that have been making the rounds lately. I was inspired in high school by Anne Rice’s Lestat and Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula. Though the first vampire story I ever read was The Celery Stalks At Midnight about Bunnicula, a vampire rabbit.

What do you like most about the genre you write in?

It allows me to write the books I want to read.

What advice would you offer to authors just starting out?

Don’t get too attached. Learn the phrase “Kill your darlings.” Embrace it! I just might get those words tattooed on myself. I’d get them engraved on my tombstone when I die, except I don’t plan on having one.

What’s the most memorable book you’ve read? Why?

The Taking by Dean Koontz. As a rule, I don’t re-read books, because I hate knowing how they end, but I read this one once a year. If I told you why it was brilliant, it would give the story away, but I will say knowing the ending makes it a completely different story the second time around.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

Amazon Author Page:
Book Links:

Do you have any strange writing habits?

Sometimes I eat Jelly Belly jelly beans when I write. My favorite flavors are Toasted Marshmallow and Buttered Popcorn. I also listen to music that reminds me of high school (not sure why since high school was mostly awful). I listen to these songs…in this order and in a loop. I am a creature of habit!

  • Silent Lucidity – Queensryche, 1990
  • Sailing – Christopher Cross, 1979
  • Into the Mystic – Van Morrison, 1970
  • Wind of Change – Scorpions, 1990
  • Crucify – Tori Amos, 1992Screen Shot 2015-06-20 at 7.07.26 PM
  • Carnival – Natalie Merchant, 1995
  • These Dreams – Heart, 1985
  • Witchy Woman – Eagles, 1972
  • Whispers – Elton John 1989
  • I’ve Got Dreams to Remember – Otis Redding, 1968
  • Sweet Dreams – Eurythmics, 1983
  • Right Here, Right Now – Jesus Jones, 1990
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor, 1982

If your book was made in to a movie or TV show, who would you cast to play your main characters?

Oooh…this is a fun one. Gabriel Gray would make a good Desollador, I think.   Diane, definitely Eliza Dushku. And I’ve always thought of Bree Conners as a young Drew Barrymore, but the closest modern actress would have to be Maddie Hasson.

Tell us a bit about the cover of your book. Who designed it? Why did you choose those images?

Screen Shot 2015-04-11 at 3.57.37 PMDonna Murillo of DHM Designs created the cover during a design contest I ran on The background is a photo she took in Yosemite. I had a feeling she would be my cover designer when she told me about that photo, because Yosemite is my favorite place on earth. Donna created a unique 3D model based on my very specific idea of Diane. Eliza Dushku was the inspiration for her, with Olivia Wilde’s eyes and Emily Browning’s attitude from role as Babydoll in Sucker Punch. After I narrowed down the finalists to three, Diane told me in a dream she wanted the body Donna made for her. So that decided it. Her costume, I am told, is not realistic, but it really isn’t meant to be. Her weapons also have an intentional element of surrealism. The cover depicts a very specific moment in the final chapter of Blood Toy. Readers will definitely know it when they read it it.

Are any of the characters in your book modeled after people you know? (No need to name names) Just curious.

All. Except. One. When I first wrote Blood Toy, I literally took every person I knew in high school (or wanted to know) and created a character based on them. I even used anagrams and alternate forms of their real names (which is why I have a character names Mace). It’s why my cast of characters is so large, though their personalities have evolved much over time. The good guys were based on people I liked. And the bad guys were based on people I really liked. I based my victims on the ones I didn’t like:)

Gives us a memorable quote or snippet from our book that is mean to intrigue and tantalize.

My editor thinks this is the best line ever:

I stopped at an unremarkable thatch of Bradford Pears, snowy blooms wilting in the damp air, and vomited up the people I had eaten.

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 10.47.29 PM

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I had no title for this book for such a long time. The first scene in Chapter 1 of my book was actually one of the last scenes I wrote. Desollador handed me the title on a silver platter. I knew as soon as he said the words to Diane I had my title.

Name one person that you feel supported you in your writing career?

There are so many: friends who have read every single version of it from the young adult novel that it was in the beginning to the mature themed book it is today, my husband who bought me a Macbook Pro to celebrate finishing my first draft, my daughter who is too young to read it, and my parents who probably shouldn’t read it, but will anyway.

Inspirational Horror as a Genre, Guest Blog By Gordon Wilson – Part 1

A short time ago, we were sitting around the table with some very dear friends. During the course of the conversation the subject came to books and my dear friend said, “Gordon I know you take this as a compliment but your writing is too creepy for me” It is and was quite hilarious to me. Why?

Well, here is the deal. I have never considered my writing horror or any other genre for that matter, I just write. I’ve been told more than once what comes out of my mind is disturbing. I have a problem with the title, part of which is my own ignorance. Not the horror title, a title period. I just write whats in my head, not particularly trying to be anything. Part of it is my lack of interest in lumping much of anything into a broad category. This doesn’t just pertain to writing either. So often it seems we want to pack everything into an easy category. I have developed quite an aversion to politics in recent years. Due in part to a similar phenomenon. This group is this and this group is that, but nothing is this simple. I will move on from this subject right away as I try to keep this blog positive.

So back to the irony of my writing. I have been educating myself on what is lumped into the category of horror. It gets pretty broad. You see, I look at Firetok as this inspirational tale of a person who was able to experience rebirth as a person after living through some really awful stuff. Not only does he experience self discovery, he finds a purpose in helping others with abilities he had been taught to ignore. This is inspirational to me. So the part I glossed over was the “really awful” part. And of course there is the “supernatural” element which I am finding is a fast track to the horror category.

Part of my process of writing the second book in the Firetok series is to reread aloud the first book. This accomplishes many things besides just irritating me when I find flaws or style which I have grown away from. It’s more of a flow thing for me and let’s face it, some parts of that book were written years ago. One of the unintended consequences of reading with my new-found knowledge and tip of the iceberg understanding of what modern horror has become, is to observe my book as an outsider and really evaluate what I read. My reluctance in desire to be lumped in any particular category aside, I am coming to grips with how gruesome parts of the story are. They had to be. The subject matter underlying the rest of the story is deep dark awful and a reflection of what is really going on in our world. For a reader accustomed to butterflies and hand holding while sipping expensive wine from an exotic location, my writing doesn’t go there. My stories are from a different part of life but one I feel is just as inspirational and uplifting even if it is surrounded with unsettling details. In the end, every author has to write what is right for them. And for me, I always want to see the good guy win.

The reality of life as I see it, there are some pretty awful things going on and some of us end up having to deal with it considerably more than others. It’s one of those big unfair parts of life I will never understand but I refuse to give up trying. In the meantime I have decided to refer to my writing as inspirational horror and hope it catches on.

What's NextI’m beginning to think that blogging about ‘what’s next’ for me has become a form of therapy . An authors world can be a very solitary one. This way I get to tell the world what’s going on with my writing, without annoying my friends by talking about it too much. Wait… I talk about it too much with my friends anyway.

So here’s where I’m at…

I’ve written a great book – at least a few people think so. I’ve had beta readers pour over it, and an editor too. And I’m putting the final touches on my manuscript before I send it for another round of substantive edits and formatting. Which will probably end up taking another six months  to complete. After it goes in to editing again I can kick back and relax… OR NOT! Writing and publishing a book doesn’t actually stop at writing and publishing a book. At least not for me. My wheels are always turning. So, What’s Next?Harmless_JustFrontCover_Final

I’ve started working on a book trailer! Well, to be more specific, I’ve hired two exquisitely talented professionals to collaborate with on the making of a book trailer. So far, I’m blown away! It looks like it could be a movie trailer and we’re only doing rough cuts so far. Once again, I marvel at the talented friends that surround me.

Here are some great book trailers I found online of books I’ve read.

Paper towns Johns Green

The Red Queen By Victoria Aveyard

Mosquitoland By David Arnold

The Fifth Wave By Rick Yancey

Eve By Anna Carey

Audio books?

I haven’t started on any audio book version of my book yet but I’ve been pondering it. Would an audience that reads my book, buy audio books? My book is YA, perhaps leaning a little most towards the older people in that spectrum. Are those people audio book buyers? Lots to think about.

Another thing I need to wrap my head around is a concrete marketing strategy. I’m finding this hard, but not impossible. The most difficult part of this is committing to trade shows, signing, events, etc., without knowing the exact release date of my book. Patience Katherine…

logoMy website content and upkeep keeps me busy as well. I have three main categories I concentrate on; guest blogging, author interviews, and my blogs. Content is key for a good website. I like the guest blogging and author interviews the most. I get to meet writers like myself, promote them while getting great content, and build a network of like-minded people. I’m always looking for new bloggers and writers. Drop me a line if an interview or guest blogging interests you.

Good content on my site, leads to good content in my Twitter feed. There are a few other places like Goodreads and Facebook where I have profiles, but Twitter is my main social media. In an effort to increase my Twitter following read a ‘how to’ book the other day. It’s strategies on how to unravel the mysteries of Twitter are coming in handy with build my author platform.

Another project I’ve started, related to my novel Harmless is a graphic novel prequel. I write and my artist Bri draws. She is the same artist I use for all my promotional materials, book cover, and book trailer. I have high hopes to turn this prequel in to a series as well. Here are a few rough sketches Bri has come up with so far.

So yeah… That’s what’s next for me. I’ll keep you all updated on the progress!

Good reading and good writing to all of you!

Katherine (34)


Mike Cody_Portrait
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I took a look around on your social medias before writing this interview, and let me say, your website is awesome! I was surprised to find that you also wrote two non-fictions books on urban biking. I to am a bike enthusiast! Just this year I final got my dream bike. Although, I must admit it’s probably a little more bike than I needed. Perhaps reading your book could have helped me. Can you tell us a about your two urban bike books?

First of all, thank you so much for the invitation to chat a bit about my books, my writing and how I write. The Urban Bike books happened I think because of several events in my life that occurred around the same time.

First, I moved into the DC area and needed to commute to work every day. I quickly realised that owning a car in an urban area can be a lot more trouble and expense than most people realise. I eventually started using public transportation and went though several different “Urban” bikes before figuring out what my needs really were.

The next thing was Amazon and other sites selling eBooks and those same books slowly elevating to being called “real” books. I saw people on the subway most every day reading from readers and ipads. I soon got an Ipad myself. Switching from “real” books was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I of course haven’t given up real books; I and most other people now have just added the flexibility of eBooks to our reading!

The last thing that happened was I had finally decided to try my hand at some writing. I had been thinking about it for a while but didn’t know if I could do it. I have been a reader all my life and have always enjoyed reading, hearing and telling great stories. I knew I was interested in writing fiction, but it seemed very intimidating as you might imagine! I thought, what do I know about writing a book right? So after a bit more thought, I decided to write about something I had a passion for and would require little of no research. All I had to do was write the darn book! Of course, little did I know, all the research that would be required later to get that book out there and into readers hands! As well as doing covers, PR, interviews, marketing and tons more, but more on that later.changes 8x10jpg adjusted copy-1

So that’s how The Urban Bike came to be. I knew I wanted to make something that was informative, but not intimidating. I bought a book in my college years by a guy named Denis Diblasio that used caricatures. I loved that book! It was pretty deep jazz stuff but the caricatures just made it a lot friendlier and less scary! So of course, I stole his idea and used it for the Urban Bike books. If you see this Denis, THANK YOU!

Anyway, that’s pretty much how they started.

The Urban Bike is a guide to finding and/or putting together an urban bike to fit YOUR needs.

The second book is a collection of interviews I did with people from all walks of life and from all over the world, who have made a bicycle their main form of transportation. Many of them are completely car-free. Some are what we like to call car-light, meaning they own a car and need one from time to time. But all of them had great stories to tell on the hows and whys of moving to a car free lifestyle.

After writing your urban biking books decided to write fiction, publishing Where Power Resides. Can you tell us a bit about what this book is about?

Where Power Resides takes place here in Washington D.C. Two FBI agents are brought into a case when a long-time Washington Post writer is murdered. After a lot of chases, fights and a bit of cat juggling, they learn about a secret government program called Far Sight. Far Sight seems to go well beyond just spying on citizens. The two agents learn that Far Sight might also have the capabilities of far more sinister things, like killing people. It is a fast paced thriller that I hope, keeps the reader turning pages till the end!WPR_Final_Cover copy

Did you have to do a lot of research the book Where Power Resides? Tell us a bit about it?

As a reader, one of the things I like to see in a story like this is realism. Could this happen? So I ask, is the technology, storyline and characters plausible? Keeping with that mindset, I did quite a bit of research on real government programs like MK Ultra. I also spent time just looking at the real FBI building in DC to get a feel for it. I know the area pretty well having lived here several years so when I mention places and things in the book around DC and Virginia, they are pretty accurate. The Metro stations I mention are real, and the building I call “The School” is a real boarded up old school in downtown DC near Chinatown, just as I describe it in the book!

Give us an interesting fact or two about Where Power Resides?

Well as I mentioned before, I think the fact that so much of the locations are real is interesting. The “On the spot” noodle place is a restaurant I’ve been going to for over ten years! Lastly, I guess it might interest some would be writers out there that I started this story for NANOWRIMO (National Novel Writing Month) a couple of years ago. So yes, writing a book in a month or at least trying, CAN end up being a book!

metro fight    china town cat juggling-1     The School

How can readers find out more about you and your work?


Blog: My blog is located on my website






I’ve found, that becoming a self-published author can be a major learning curve. Do you have any advice for people just starting out?

I agree! If you go into Indie writing thinking all you’ll do is write a great book, well, you will be very disappointed! However, if you go in with eyes and mind wide open, you will take the kind of control over your art that very few have been able to do in the past.

Writing a good book is the first step of course, and if you can’t do that, the rest really doesn’t matter too much. (I’m staying well away from discussing 50 shades and other not so great books that made a LOT of money!) After that you need a great edit and maybe several revisions. Some where along the line you need a great cover, it’s the first thing people see so it is imperative that it’s professional, well designed and fits your book.

So now you have a book. You can sit back and watch the sales roll in! well, no… if people don’t know it’s there they can’t buy it so now comes Public relations, marketing and advertising. I don’t want to scare off all the would-be authors out there, after all I’m a reader and they might write my next favourite book! But yes, very simply, there is quite a bit to learn.

But here is the good news is if you get that far, you have already done what most people didn’t, you actually wrote a book! You didn’t just talk about it or dream about it. You put butt to seat and fingers to keyboard and wrote the darn book. You can do the rest too! So go do it!

Do you write full time? Can you tell us about other careers you’ve had/have?

I am working towards writing full time with a full time income. So far, I’m not there, but I am definitely moving forward! More fans, emails, interviews and yes, even book sales, every month!

As far as jobs I’ve had, I spent most of my life doing technical production for stage shows, concerts, events, tours and lots of other things. I guess I have been telling stories one way or another for quite a while.

Name one person you feel has really supported you in your writing career?

Hands down, my fiancée Linda. She is my biggest cheerleader and yet isn’t afraid to question things or ask questions about my work. I feel very fortunate to have her in my life. I also have a few friends who support my work. It’s funny though, you’ll find that most won’t. No idea why but most creative people I know will tell you the same thing. You need a lot of determination and will to just keep going, but I think it’s worth it.

Do you have a favourite author or book? What strikes you about their work or that book?

Hey I’m a reader so I have tons of favourite books and authors! Some, like Stephen king’s “On Writing”, are just inspirational and educational. Others, like Jurassic Park and “20000 Leagues Under the Sea”, are just great reads! But here are a few more in random order as I think of them… I’m sure I’ll leave out great stuff, but here is what comes to mind as I type this.


Fat Man and little Boy

The Right Stuff

A League of their own

Search for Red October

All Creatures Great and Small

A Man on the Moon


Miles: The Autobiography

Interview with the Vampire

The Da Vinci Code

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

The Lost Symbol

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

A final big thank you for those of you who made it this far! Writing can be a solitary journey, but if you feel the pull to take that trip, I say do it. Write your story, only YOU can write YOUR story! And when you do, drop me a line so I can check it out!

Summer Dreaming- Guest Blog By SK Thomas

There is this allure to summer and all the activities that go along with it. The kids are out of school and more activities start to happen around the house at all hours of the day. Days are longer, so more time is spent outdoors for most, which in turn translates to not getting the same amount of writing done. Then as summer progresses and the temperatures soar, procrastination sets in or a vacation here and there gets in the way of allotted writing time.

So, when you aren’t able to get work done or insistently let the summer spirit bring on procrastination…are you dreaming of writing? After all, Eugene Ionesco stated, a writer never has a vacation. For a writer, life consists of either writing or thinking about writing.

The old adage that being busy does not always mean productivity and this adage is never more apparent than during the summer. I agree it is of major importance to enjoy this time with friends, family and kids during these summer months, when more people are willing to slow down and spend more time playing. But, can you relax or do you dream about writing?


When I’m not able to write for a while, I dream about it. I dream as far as my imagination will take me. I think about the greatest outcomes, my wildest dreams. I dream of all the riches, beyond what I already have.

I recently had an author friend tell me, he has no illusions as far as making a living as a writer. I had to laugh and laugh hard I did. You get what you expect out of life. That statement itself will keep him miles behind most others just because of his attitude.

I completely understood why he said what he did. But my immediate response was, “Oh, I have illusions. That’s what tucks me in at night, snuggles with me while it sings me a lullaby as I drift off to sleep.”

I am realistic and do know the history of most writers, but there’s this childlike quality in me that cannot be quelled knowing and believing that anyone can create or dream up whatever they would like in their life and make it a reality.

I will leave you with this great quote for thought:
All men and women who have achieved great things have been great dreamers. –
Orison Swett Marden

What do you think? Leave a comment.

SK Thomas is a writer, author, book reviewer and the curious creative complex brain behind this blog.

Keep in touch with the blogger/author:
Twitter: @skthomasauthor
Member of Goodreads, LinkedIn & Google+

Thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview. I really enjoy hearing about the journey other take in getting their books published. I did a little searching and found that you have three books out, Witch in the Woods, Clearly’s Corruption, and Blood Moon Ritual. Can you tell us a bit about this series?

Thank you for having me. My Witch in the Woods trilogy takes place in the year 1601 and is about a professional witch hunter named Victor Steep. He takes on a case in a small town called Beth’s Hollow, believing it to be a normal case. However, Victor quickly discovers that this witch is not like the normal witches he hunts, and that she was the last witch his father tried hunting before he died. Meanwhile, as he searches the woods of Beth’s Hollow, Victor meets a mysterious young lady by the name of Clearly, befriending her and promising to find a cure for her cursed brother named Fabian. Things only get more complicated for Victor as he tries to finish the case and save those he holds most dear. Throughout the trilogy, battles are fought, secrets are revealed, and sacrifices are made in a battle against good and evil.

What inspired you to write these books?

I originally wrote Witch in the Woods as a short story for my creative writing class in high school. My fascination with the Salem Witch Trials and my love for the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales were my biggest inspirations for Witch in the Woods.

What other titles are similar to your books?

I really haven’t seen any other books that are similar to mine. I really tried to make mine unique, but I have been keeping an eye out for anything similar that may come along.

Tell us a bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you choose that image/artwork?

I illustrated the cover art for all three books in my sketch pad, and then edited them on the computer. I wanted my covers to be beautiful, dark, and a little mysterious. For me, book covers featuring silhouettes have all those qualities, so I felt it was the right design for my trilogy.

Witch in the woods creataspace   Clearly's Corruption cover art (1)   BloodMoonRitual1

Other than writing, do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I grew up in a very artistic family, which gave me a passion for the arts. I am especially fond of drawing and am very much influenced by the Japanese manga style. I also enjoy working in the kitchen to making crazy desserts, like a giant S’mores brain.s'morebrain

I see that you’ve been working on a new book called Desolation. Is it a fourth book in the series?

I just recently renamed “Desolation” to “Forlorn”, which is actually a standalone novel set in modern times. It’s a sci-fi/fantasy about two young adults named Gabby and Nathan, who meet while hiding from the aliens who’ve just invaded and are wiping out everyone on Earth. They fall in love while on the run, but their responsibilities threaten to separate them and even put them in danger of being captured by the aliens.

Being an indie author isn’t easy. What’s one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in creating your books?

I didn’t find anything very surprising while creating my books, but what I did find surprising was the amount of supporters out there. It’s not just friends and family giving encouragement to keep creating, but other indie authors, artists, and readers too. The amount of indie supporters out there is amazing, and I love that we all can support each other.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Readers can check out my blog, Facebook page, and Twitter profile. They can even find me on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords, or check out my boards on Pinterest.





Amazon Author Page:



What draws you to the genre you write in?

Fantasy and the paranormal have been lifelong interests of mine, so I was always looking to read books with those themes! They take you to another world full of adventure, suspense, romance and conflict. They add magic to your everyday life, and let you experience things that are rare or does not exist in our world. Those are what draws me in and makes me want to be part of that genre.

Give us an interesting fact about one of your books?

In Witch in the Woods, Fabian was originally named Gabriel. He wasn’t going to appear in the series until the second book, as was going to be the new antagonist. Yup, Victor’s best friend was originally going to be his enemy.trilogymain

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I’m extremely excited to say that I’ll be having a cover reveal for Forlorn on my blog very soon. Thank you so much for the interview, I really enjoy your website. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.

Thank you for taking the time to do this interview! Best of luck with your writing!

Katherine Dell


Write On! Indie Book Review #6: These Books Have Cooties. By Christina McMullen

The other day I realized it has been a long time since I’ve written a Write On! Review post, even though I’ve read a whole lot of books recently. Well, part of that has to do with the fact that I’m actually woefully behind in posting reviews to both Amazon and Goodreads and part of that has to do with the fact that I’ve spent the last month in social media limbo after my tablet blew up. (For more on that, read my guest post about techno-dependency on S.K. Thomas’ blog)

So… To make up for this, I’ve decided to do a super-sized Write On! and yes, as the title suggests, these books are written by men. For those just tuning in, Write On! has traditionally been reserved for reviews of science fiction and fantasy books by female authors. Every so often I’ve allowed a dude to sneak in under the radar, but this time, I’ve opened the gates. Of course, because every once in a while I let a male author sit at the girl’s table, I’ve also put female author on this list as well. What follows is a list of super authors that I’ve recently enjoyed that you should definitely check out.

D. E. Morris, author of Aliens in the Gift Shop
Looking for fun, lighthearted and quirky science fiction that reads easily yet still packs in the science? Then this is the book for you! Aliens in the Gift Shop tells of two alien scientists on an exploratory mission to earth that goes slightly awry, as well as the human woman (and owner of said gift shop) who gets caught up in their shenanigans. Once you read, you’ll definitely want to see more of Marcy, Quigbat, and Zort, so lucky for you, the sequel, Aliens and the Race to Earth is coming out on July 20th!

Dwayne Fry, author of Ladybug Boy and a whole mess of other stories.
Okay, picking just one of Mr. Fry’s stories out of the nearly two dozen he’s published is incredibly difficult. Like so many of us, Fry decided to indie publish because he didn’t want to be shoehorned into a single genre. While I would say the majority of his stories are satire, there’s also quite a few horror, general lit, and now he has paranormal as well. Ladybug Boy falls into the category of general lit and I picked this one because I’ve just recently finished and have yet to write a review. The tale takes place in the mid eighties and made me incredibly embarrassed as I realized that my awkward junior high period was probably even more awkward than poor Lola’s, but that’s exactly what I loved about it. This particular story is part of a series that will eventually lead to a full length novel and I’m looking forward to reading soon.

Ryan Guy, author of Atomic Aardvark
Still looking for quirky? The last two authors not quirky enough for you? Well, how about the story of an epic battle between a skunk and an aardvark, each of whom acquires super powers from a combination of a meteor shower and toxic waste? Oh, and there’s also a pair of star crossed internet dating app users who may or may not be able to get their heads out of their own butts long enough to figure their love life out, but really, this story is all about Aardy, the Atomic Aardvark.

Riley Amos Westbrook, author of Breath of Titans: Little Black Stormcloud
There’s something about epic fantasy that I simply don’t like and it has everything to do with the snooze fest that is Tolkien. It’s pretty obvious that Westbrook loves Tolkien and was heavily influenced by his work. Lucky for us, he’s not a giant bore and writes fun characters who are not full of themselves (mostly because they are full of intoxicating spirits) and are interesting enough that we care what happens to them. In a world of orcs and fairies, a half-dragon half-elf named Lov must quest to find out what happened to his mother and find the one who killed his father. Lov is easy to… Well… Love. He’s young and wet behind the ears. He’s also impulsive and given to fits as most teens (and I suspect most dragons) are, but that is all part of his charm. That, and there are fairies. Fairies who seem to exist for no other reason than to annoy Lov’s uncle Nord, who is also a fun character. Seriously, even if you aren’t a fantasy fan, check this one out.

Charles Hash, author of Nascent Decay
Are you a fan of space horror? Did you love the film Alien? No? What’s wrong with you? Nascent Decay has all of the elements of classic horror, but tells a unique tale of what happens when the human mind is pushed beyond its limits. The heroes are flawed and the antagonists are utterly merciless, as is the author in lulling the audience into a false sense of security before gutting us once again. A sequel is currently in the works. Until then, I recommend checking out Mr. Hash’s short stories as well.

David M. Kelly, author of Dead Reckoning and Other Stories
Looking for sci-fi of a more classic variety? How about tales that would be at home in the Twilight Zone? Then this is the collection you’ll want to read. There’s everything from the chilling title story of karma coming ’round to bite you in the butt, to the heart wrenching How Much is that Doggy, to one incredibly groan worthy pun. Sadly, it isn’t out until July 28th, but before then, you can check out Mr. Kelly’s other short works, some of which will be featured in the collection.

V. M. Sawh, author of Cinders
This is not the Cinderella story of your childhood. Here you will find no Disney princess. Instead, what you’ll find is a gothic tale that in many ways is much closer to the original and mostly morbid original Aschenputtel. What you’ll also find is a darkly beautiful tale and expert storytelling. Cinders is part of the Good Tales for Bad Dreams series, which puts a very different spin on these well known stories.

Kat Caffee, author of Out of the Darkness
As I said, to keep things fair, I had to put a female author in with this group of fellas. Sorry Kat, hope you’re immune to cooties.
In all seriousness, this series is one to watch. On a very basic level it it the tale of a gladiator, born into slavery, who fights his way to freedom and must learn to adapt to a whole new set of rules as a free man. But really, it’s so much more than that. The storytelling is superb. Despite the heavy subject matter, there’s some lighthearted elements that crop up at the right times. As of right now, there are two books in the series available with a third coming  soon. I’ve actually had the pleasure of beta reading the third, so I can say that the story just keeps getting more interesting.

Keep watching for more Write On! book recommendations! Next time, we’re bringing the ladies back for some good old fashioned fantasy fairytales!

5 Things Nobody Tells You About a Writing Career



When I published my first short story in Redbook after winning a prize, I thought my career was set.  I was my MFA program’s star (that year, anyway); I’d made a lot of money for a graduate student through the prize and the magazine; I was getting fan mail and queries from agents.  But even though I’d spent over two years in the program, nobody told me what my career could be like.  When I got my degree I was completely ignorant of key aspects of the writing life, with no idea what was ahead of me.  I learned five key things the hard way.

You need to accept from the start that you have very little control.  You can polish your work as much as you can, read everybody and educate yourself as an author; attend seminars; find a terrific mentor; network like crazy; get a top agent and even land a book contract with a great publisher–but what happens to your book once it’s born will seem completely random at times.

Other books just like it will swamp yours.  Books that are far worse will get great reviews or better sales.  Your book may simply be ignored by reviewers of all kinds for reasons you will never know.  So you have to focus on what you can control: being the best writer you can be; enjoying what you do while you do it, plan it, revise it, and research it.  And then, try to let go and move on to another project.

Writing is a business.  It always was and always will be.  Expect pressure from all sides on you to sell, sell, sell. When I started out, bookmarks and other petty swag were in.  Then I was urged not just to attend conferences but to advertize in conference programs.  Later came building my web site, book trailers establishing a Facebook and Goodreads presence, blogging, tweeting, blog tours.

There’s always something new which is the magic answer to making you successful.  But the competition gets fiercer all the time and you can find that promotion is a rat hole.  It’s important to establish parameters for yourself since you can’t do everything and be everywhere.  Never let promotion be more important than writing itself, and just because something works for someone else is no guarantee it’ll work for you.

The writing life will be lonelier than you can imagine despite all the writers you might meet and hang out with, and they’re not always the easiest people to be around.  Let’s face it, are you?  Ask your significant other.  As paradoxical as it might seem, do not let writing take over your life.  If you haven’t already, start build a life for yourself that has other compelling interests.  Travel.  Learn to play an instrument.  Study a foreign language.  Garden.  Train for a Triathalon.  Get a dog.

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as writing isn’t the be-all and end-all of your existence, because those days (or weeks or months or even years) when things go south you’ll feel you have nothing.  And make sure you have plenty of friends who aren’t writers so that you’re not constantly talking shop.  Normal people can be interesting, too.

Exercise is crucial for people like us who spend so much time sitting hunched over a laptop.  It’s important to break away on a regular basis and walk, swim, jog, lift weights, do Zumba, take Pilates, anything that gets you out of your head and into your body.

There’s nothing like physical activity to give your mind a rest–it’s almost as good as napping!–and surprisingly, you’ll often find that when you might feel stuck, instead of obsessing about it or heading for the fridge, the best thing to do is get out and get physical.  let your subconscious take care of the writing problem and solve it for you while you’re taking care of your body.  You’ll also be breaking the isolation of the writer’s life and may even get some good story ideas along the way.

Be prepared for surprises in your career because they will come.  Good surprises.  Your career will take you places you would never imagine because your imagination is boundless if you have the courage to let it be.  I started out as a short story writer and novelist but one day suddenly had an idea for a psychological study of Edith Wharton, one of my favorite writers. After that came a mystery series which got me my first New York Times Book Review.

And gradually over the years, I’ve published in about a dozen different genres, books I never would have guessed I’d write, including a vampire novella, a memoir about what Germany has meant to me as the son of Holocaust survivors, a historical novel set in The Gilded Age, a children’s book and many more.  Don’t rule anything out, and don’t be a genre snob. One of my favorite authors, Henry James, gave this advice to a young writer: “Try to be one of those on whom nothing is lost.”  It may sound a bit formal to our ears today, but it’s advice that I’ve never forgotten since reading it years before I ever got published.



Lev Raphael is the author of Writer’s Block is Bunk and 24 other books in genres from memoir to mystery which you can find at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Check out more of Lev’s work on his blog, Writing Across Genres.

Check out his newest book Assault With a Deadly lie at


It seems these days that a lot of people treat Twitter like their own flashing neon billboard. Buy this! Re-tweet my post! Join my team! Be my ultimate fan! Sure, Twitter is a great platform to promote yourself. I promote my self and my writting all the time on social medias, but it’s easy to get turned off of it when a good chunk of it is a tidal wave of people’s spammy ads. Now, before you all get discourage in Twitter-land let me share with you a few real people I’ve meet in the Twitter-verse.


Cristen Iris:

She’s a nonfiction creative writer, freelance editor, speaker, and aspiring literary agent. She has an incredible zest for all things literary and is very interesting to chat with on the topic of publishing and author platforms.

Kurt Chambers:

Kurt hails from across the pond, and is the author of the Truth Teller fantasy series. He has a wealth of Twitter tips and is a pleasure to chat with online. His BlogSpot Genius Bordering Insanity is also a very witty read!

Adam Dreece:

Adam is the author of the YA series, The Yellow Hoods, and fellow Calgarian. I met Adam at a book signing. The store manager said I must meet this this genius of indie author marketing, and I’m glad I did. If you can catch him between zealous writing spells and energetic comicons, Adam likes to chat ‘books’ over the strongest cup of coffee know to man. No correlation to his writing speed I’m sure.

Kelly Charron:

I recently met Kelly on Twitter. She’s not published yet but she’s one to watch out for! She writes in the YA, with genres including horror, psychological thrillers, and urban fantasy.

B.K. Raine:

A wonderful person who loves her vampires! B.K. writes dark erotic urban fantasy. She also writes an upfront and interesting blog. Check it out


There are many more I could have mentioned on this blog… but it would have gotten too long. I encourage you all to make your own list of ‘real Twitter people’. Don’t get discouraged. Start treating Twitter more like a water cooler than a flashing ad and you might be surprised at what an enjoyable pace to hangout Twitter can be.

Happy Tweeting



So nice to meet you Betty. I’m glad we could do this interview. Looking over your Goodreads profile I see that you’ve published three books: Discarded Faces, Mistress of the Topaz, and Mistress of the Land and Sea. Which one of your books is your favorite and why? Tell us a bit about that of betty for interview


I don’t have a favorite, so I’ll summarize all three. Discarded Faces is a YA dystopia centered in a viciously homophobic police state where if you’re gay, they send you on a one-way trip to a concentration camp. The heroine is a Lesbian teenager from a family that’s always supported the government, for a different set of reasons. When she finds out about the underground resistance movement that some of her friends are in, she joins.

The other two are Mistress of the Topaz, and Mistress of the Land and Sea, which form a two-book fantasy series. The mistress in question is a 19 year old Queen whose father used to govern most of the planet, but there was a rebellion and he died with only one odd corner as his domain. The Topaz in question is a magical gem that answers her questions. Her opponent is a 30-something woman who belongs to the ruling council of the kingdom that is now dominant. The young queen is fighting to restore the Hegemony (her father’s global empire), but the older woman counselor has the power to manipulate other people’s thoughts. Both magical powers have limits, and the two novels show how two ambitious women might use them. At the end of Land and Sea, the battle has been resolved.

discarded-faces-DD-cover-art  mistresstopaz-pub-cover    mistressoflandandsea-510

The books you’ve written are science fiction/fantasy for young adults. What draws you to this genre you write in?

It’s what I like to do. I developed a taste for science fiction from watching the original Star Trek series when I was a teenager–because, yeah, I’m that old. Before that, I was very interested in science but turned up my nose at science fiction. “The future won’t be like that,” was my attitude. Since then I’ve realized that sci-fi isn’t really about predicting the future. It’s about present possible futures and asking us how we would respond to those altered conditions, both as individuals and as a society.

The Lord of the Rings introduced me to fantasy, although before reading it I was wishing such a genre of fiction existed. Fantasy takes the settings of traditional folklore–elves, dwarves, magic rings, dragons, and kings who actually do something–and presents us with a world that never existed and probably won’t, but forces us to consider the uses and misuse of the magical powers that the characters we have, but we have not and never will.

I don’t think I’ll ever write so-called “realistic fiction.” It’s just not my calling.

Having published three books, you must have some advice for writers just starting out? Give us a few tips or pointers that you’ve learned along the way.

Don’t lose the momentum. Write every day. Don’t worry about inspiration. That will come to you in the course of your work.

Write in the format you’re most comfortable with. You don’t have to write short stories first. That might help, but results vary. I find my stories are by definition novel length.

If you have writer’s block, try writing two stories at once, alternating between them.

Write the kind of stories you’d love to read if somebody else wrote them. Don’t just imitate what’s selling right now.

 I’ve read on Goodreads that you’ve ‘weaned your TV watching habit’. I myself read more than I watch TV but I’m always curious… If one of your books became a TV show or movie, who would you cast as the main characters?

 First of all, a book with complex world-building, like all of mine, works best as a TV miniseries. A single two-hour movie isn’t long enough. Eight or ten hours of television programming would work fine. Then you could put them on DVD and rent them out through Netflix.

Characters? That’s tough for me, because I’m 65 and don’t get little exposure to up-and-coming young actors. I know who I’d cast for the young Queen in my fantasy books–Jennifer Lawrence. She can already ride a horse and use the bow and arrow. Just die her hair red, give her some hand-to-hand combat training, and she’s good to go.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?


Facebook Page



As an indie author, what’s your best marketing tip?

Social media. It’s never been easier and cheaper to publicize your books.

Are you working on anything right now? Can you tell us about it?

Yes, Discarded Faces is now officially a trilogy. The second volume, already submitted, is Dispelled Illusions. The third is the one I’m writing now. It’s called Unleashed Hopes. I call the whole set The Danallo Chronicles.

TLDR: After the dictatorship is overthrown, the rebel alliance (not its real name, of course) breaks down. Everybody has their own agenda and nobody trusts anybody else. The rival factions contend with each other. Sometimes they settle their differences through elections. Other times, not.

Tell us a bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that image? (Just pick one cover to describe)

mistresstopaz-pub-coverOkay, let’s pick the cover of Mistress of the Topaz. I found my own artist, and sent her some jpg’s showing her how the Queen’s armor looked, what her face looked like, and the shape of the window I wanted in the background. I described her magical gem, the Oracular Topaz, and described the scene in a general sort of way. She did the rest. There was some feedback along the way. I forgot to mention at first that the Queen has six fingers on each hand. Also, it took us a while between us to figure out where and how she hung her sword. We succeeded in avoiding the sword-hanging-down-the-back cliché. I’ve had many complements on the result.


Other than writing, do you have any unique talents or hobbies?

I read a lot–mostly YA these days since that’s what I write. I like to watch movies, but I prefer to do that through Netflix or buying the DVD.

Who is your favorite character from one of your books, and why?

Hard to say. I really like Peb, Balk, and Kanath from The Danallo Chronicles. I like the World Queen from my fantasy books too. Underneath her boundless ambition, there’s a lonely, but humanitarian, heart.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

You’ll never know whether your good at something or not until you try.


Why Do We Really Write? – By Michael Cody

In this new age of writing and self-publishing, many people who only a few years ago, would have few choices in route to publication. now have a cheap and easy method. Indie authors now publish at a rate of maybe hundreds of new titles a month. For whatever reason, it’s pretty hard to meet someone who has an idea for a book, a story they think is new, or just something they want to say! Why?

This was brought home to me just this week. When I first got into writing, I thought it might be a great and interesting way to not only use that creative spirit I seem to have, but maybe even make a little money! Yes I’ll be honest, I AM in it to try and make a little money, maybe even a living at some point! I’m sure I’m not alone in this but it obviously is not the only reason people write. Frankly, writing is not the easiest way to pay the bills. It’s work!
I have seen quotes from famous authors including J.K. Rowling who say they are “driven” to write. I’m not sure I am driven, although I DO like to tell stories and when I am actually working on one, I feel that compunction to see what happens next, To keep going if only to see what these characters of mine are going to get themselves into!
But I think, at least for me, it was all brought home just a day or two ago.
Great suspenseful thriller
ByBob Wigleyon April 14, 2015
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
Mr Cody is a very talented author whose discriptive style helps the reader feel and visualize the scenes with the characters. Well researched and conceivable plot. A few surprises and turns keep you on your toes. Characters are well developed. Looking forward to more of the authors works.


 I got a review for my newest book. A five star review. No, it’s not my first one, but it was a very nice one. The person even went to the trouble of mentioning it directly to me on Facebook! And right then it really dawned on me… THAT’S the best part. Someone else enjoying something I created! Something that did not exist until I sat down and wrote it! Wow, what a great feeling to give someone else a few hours of entertainment…
So what about you? If you write or create, why do you do it?
Till next time… keep writing!

As much as I ‘d like to lock myself in my office and write fantastical prose to the wee hours every night, it’s not very feasible. Not only will I get nothing else done, but my family and friends will start to wonder if I’ve become some writer-hermit. Sooo, every now and then it’s good for a writer (or anyone) to step away from the keyboard and do something else. And no, I’m not talking about that pile of laundry that’s been haunting you. I’m talking about really stepping away!

As a chronic work-o-holic, I’ve been known to take very few vacations. I like the idea of taking trips, but am not easily convinced to go on them. I’ve always been like that… Now that I think about it, I’m not sure why.

So, this year I’ve decided to turn over a new leaf because hey… nothing good ever comes from your comfort zone, right? I’ve taken a trip to Mexico and Kelowna so far this year, and I have another two and a half weeks planned in trips coming up. When I go on my trips, I leave the work at home. I take a real, honest break from writing and I’ve never been more productive! Who knew!

So next time your feeling burnt, I’d recommend (if you can) take a trip, big or small. Go for hike in a local park or fly somewhere far where your email can’t find you.


Well… back to work for me.




Getting Published–Kurt Chambers

I was in the process of submitted Truth Teller to a possible Publisher. I’d like to share my experience with you of the first time I did this. I’d just spent two years of my life with a pen and a notepad permanently at my side. I had a story to tell, and I took every opportunity to scribble down a few more paragraphs as the story played out in my head. It was very, very exciting. I was going to be the next best thing, I knew this for certain. This story was just SO great. It didn’t matter that I knew absolutely nothing about writing, and even less about the publishing industry.I was sitting at the side of the road having a tea break in my builders van when I finished the last chapter. I laughed out loud …Ha!… What a fantastic ending, I congratulated myself. My mate, Mick, rolled his eyes. “You’ve finished then?” he remarked in a casual tone. “What happens at the end?” Like I was going to tell him. I suggested he purchased the book when it went on sale. He rolled his eyes again …lol…Once I finished spell checking and making everything just right, I set about finding out how to get published. Yes, admittedly, this wasn’t the best way to go around things, but what did I know. I read so many articles on the internet that I thought my head would explode. I was sure I knew what to do and went for broke. I found an agency in New York that looked like the next best thing since sliced bread. Yes, I thought. Let’s do this thing. I sent a sample of my work and sat back to wait. Man! I can’t ever remember checking my email so many times …lol… I was like a man possessed. People were starting to avoid me in the street so they didn’t have to suffer any more book talk.Then it came…the reply. I remember staring at the computer screen with my mouth gapping open. I just wanted to cry. In truth, I think I did cry a little. How could this be? Why? I must be mistaken, I’ll have to read it again. It read the same.Dear Mr.Kurt Chambers.

We would like to thank you for submitting your material to our agency. After careful consideration I am pleased to tell you we would like to offer you representation with our agency. Please find a copy of our contract attached to this email.

It’s all a bit of a blur now. I vaguely remember some screaming involved and can just about recall waving a copy of this email I had just printed out in my wife’s face …lol… I had made it! The first novel I had ever written was sent for the first time to an agent, and I had been offered a contract. What was the chances of that happening? After two of the most wonderful days of my life, a light-bulb went off in my head. What WERE the chances of that happening? I’d better check this out. I’d read there were some dodgy agents out there. After some more research, I discovered the Preditors & Editors web site.

I remember staring at the computer screen with my mouth gapping open. I just wanted to cry. In truth, I think I did cry a little. How could this be? Why? I must be mistaken, I’ll have to read it again. It read the same.


There is a moral to this true story. Always, always…ALWAYS…do your homework!


Whether it be in an actual elevator or a chance meeting at a party, someday, somehow, someone is going to ask you… “So, what’s your book about?” You have about 30 seconds of their attention and you need to be prepared with a short, yet informative answer. Something that will spark their attention, not loose it.

Crafting an elevator pitch has been a difficult challenge for me. I can be long winded in my stories… So when I’m asked to sum up my full-length novel down to a few sentences, it can cause a bit of anxiety. But, I did some research online about how to pitch a book and craft a spiel and I’m feeling good about what I’ve come up with.

There’s a tonne of ways to go about it but here’s the method I liked the best.

Your pitch should have three parts:

  1. The hook.
  2. A killer logline
  3. A short synopsis

The Hook:

There are different ways to write a hook. My favourite is the Hollywood Pitch. You take your book and compare it to other well-known books that are similar.

E.g., My book is a YA fiction, coming of age novel, that’s a bit Stephanie Meyer’s, The Host, meets Chris Van Allsburg’s, Jumanji.

 With a hook, your trying to create one line that peaks people’s interest so they want to know more. You could also try these ways of starting a hook.

Give a time and location:

E.g., It was the summer of 1982 in rural Mississippi…

Set up your main character:

E.g., A fast paced thriller, staring a bumbling 60-something detective…

Variations of when:

E.g., After years of hardship and political unrest…

 After you get your hook down pat, you’ll want to craft up a killer logline. A logline is two sentences (or close to that) that explains your main character, their goal and the conflict in the story. Even though a logline is short it can take forever to write. Here’s one I wrote for my book, Harmless.

A disconnected high school senior searches for closure after her brother’s tragic death, and parents’ divorce, all the while coping with the unwitting release of an ancient spirit that has possessed her friend. To save her friend, and heal her own conscience, she must accept a reality she never could have imagined to be true.

Now… If you’ve gotten someone to listen to your hook and logline and they still want more, this is when you give them your short synopsis. A short synopsis is your whole story summed up in about two paragraphs. I haven’t completed this yet for my book. Surprisingly, I found the one and two sentence summaries much easier to write.

Here are some suggestions I have to writing your synopsis.


Read the synopsises of other books.

  1. Read articles on how to write a synopsis. Here’s one I found helpful.
  2. Try not to drive your friends crazy asking them to read it.
  3. Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite until it’s perfect.



After you’ve finished writing these three pitches, memorize them! Practice in front of a mirror so you don’t sound canned or loose your place.


Good Luck and Good Writing




I had the pleasure of interviewing Kayti Nika Raet this week. Kayti is the author of  the YA series The Outsider Chronicles, a five book series to which the first three are currently published.10659400_298202547035793_9011333378634101133_n

Looking at your books on Amazon, I see that you currently have three books published in a series called The Outsider Chronicles. Tell us a bit about this series and why it would appeal to your target audience?

Hi! Thanks for having me. The Outsider Chronicles is a five book YA dystopian series featuring a badass girl with a baseball bat and set in a world of acid rain and flesh eating monsters.

It starts of with Niko, the main character, searching for her brother, who went missing after a devastating fire. From that small goal the series expands to touch on things like genetic modification and classism.

As a dystopian, it leans more to the action horror side of the genre, but there are some sci-fi elements and quite a bit of romance.

I’m guessing the same person did the cover art for all three books. Can you tell us about who designed it and why you went with those particular images?

I’m lucky enough to have an artist for a sister! Hana Kura has done all my covers. I try to have them showcase a particular mood or scene from each book, while the color red ties them all together. I’m hoping for something that fits the dystopian genre but stands out at the same time. My sister has created three covers so far, and she’s working on the fourth one right now. I’m really excited about it.


Other than writing, do you have any other talents or hobbies?

I mostly like to write, but I do a lot of reading, dabble in photography, and occasionally create a new outfit to wear. I think 90% of my brain is dominated by writing though!

Give us an interesting fun fact about your book series.

NOTE:  Here are some links to my fun facts blog post.

These are always fun! I’ve actually made a list of fun facts for Niko and Harm, but I have yet to post something about Outsider, book 3.

1) The first draft of Outsider was finished before I published Niko. It was a personal goal of mines and I almost didn’t make it!

2) Alice and Zenith, two new characters in Outsider, where originally going to be named Alyss and Zen. At first they were twins, then they were a couple, then finally, I settled on brother and sister. They’re super fun to write (I love snarky people) and the kind of characters you’ll love to hate.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?

For the most part. Though other things might grab my attention, I’ve always gravitated towards writing.

Are you working any anything new? A fourth book in the series?

I’m working on the fourth book in the series right now. I’m in the editing stage. It’s called Monster, and I plan on releasing it July 18th.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?






Amazon Author Page:


Book Links:





What advice would you offer to people just starting out in the book writing business?

Don’t be a hermit! Make writer friends! Don’t expect your book to be a bestseller right out of the gate. Have a social media platform in place before you hit ‘Publish’. Don’t stress. Have fun. Always learn.

I see that you are active on social medias. Which one do you like best for promoting yourself as an indie author?

Twitter has been really good for me. You just have to make sure you’re engaging and doing more than screaming ‘buy my book!’ I retweet a lot of stuff that I hope my followers will enjoy, and I use a tool called Roundteam to make sure that I catch most of my followers tweets and share them.

I’m slowly getting the hang of Facebook. I’ve had an author page for about 6 months, I use it pretty much in the same way that I use twitter. I try to share interesting and fun book related memes as well as sharing photos of fans who brought a physical copy of Niko. It’s been more fun than I’ve expected.

I also have a blog and tumblr account, which I need to be on more, and a youtube account where I review (fangirl over) books.

Basically, I’m everywhere!

You see quotes from books all the time online. Give us a memorable quote (or snippet) from one of your books.

Are you sure you want me to do that? I might get quote happy. I love making these things, but I’ll restrain myself and post just a few (five counts as a few, right? Oh well, it does now!)





The Rules of Creative Writing by author Kurt Chambers

The indie publishing scene has grown so massive over the last few years that writing and publishing your own book has become possible for anyone who wishes to do so. This has caused a lot of mixed feelings. The main criticism is the quality of writing. In order to become published mainstream, you usually need a fundamental understanding of the ‘creative writing rules’ in order to be taken seriously. Unless you’re a celebrity, of course. Self-published authors can publish anything they want without having to know anything.

When I first set out as an author, I didn’t care much for these rules. I believed you should write however you want. What’s wrong with some originality? I spent many years in a novel workshop, writing and reviewing, learning and slowly honing the skills that were taught to me. Now I can see why learning these rules was so important. It does make you a much stronger writer. When I questioned these rules, the advice I was given was, ‘You have to first learn these rules in order to know when it is okay to break them.’

In this post today, I want to share with you just a few basic things that will help make your writing stronger. You can use this as a guide when it comes to editing your first draft. Try it for yourself. Edit one chapter of your manuscript applying these few rules, and see what you think of the difference. Read it aloud in order to hear how your story sounds to the ear as well as in your mind.

Some Basic Creative Writing Rules

Show, don’t tell:

I was taught never to ‘tell’ the reader anything. This is a great rule that will add so much more depth to your writing if done well. To try and ‘show’ everything isn’t always practical. For example, you don’t need to go into pages of description about a particular uniform with a brass helmet and matching buttons just to inform the reader that this character is a fireman. But as a general rule, especially when it comes to emotions, it is better to ‘show’ as much as you can.


Johnny entered the dark room and came to a standstill. Something was wrong. The door slammed closed, making him jump. He was terrified.

Johnny entered the dark room and came to a standstill. His heart beat faster. The slamming door sent a jolt through his body. He gripped his chest, fighting for gasps of breath.

Both these sentences are describing the same scene. In the second sentence, I replaced the ‘telling’ statements with character action. It’s clear to see the difference between the two. Read through your manuscript one paragraph at a time and see how many ‘telling’ statements you could replace in a similar way.

I had a terrible ‘telling’ habit when I first started out, so I made a list of character actions to help me ‘show’ emotions. Telling is fine in a first draft, but when it comes to editing, you may find this list useful.

POV (point of view):

This is a very important aspect that all authors need to get to grips with. I never had an understanding of this when I wrote some of my first novels and had to spend many hours editing at least two complete novels to correct all the POV mistakes. Instead of explaining POV in great detail to you, I am going to take the easy way out and share an article by Pam McCutcheon, who explains it so wonderfully. It was this article that taught me what POV actually was, and I am only too happy to share it with you.

POV is something of a personal preference. The growing trend these days is to write in first person perspective, especially in young adult genres. It is said you can get a deep POV that really gets into the head of the character. I only write in third person limited myself and like to think I can get a deep POV using this method. I think it is the most popular POV for middle grade readers. We are all different. I guess it comes down to whatever you are used to reading.

Adverb abuse:

Adverbs (words ending in ‘ly’) are wonderful things but do fall into the ‘telling’ category. Using too many is viewed as lazy writing. It is quite easy to rely on them as a shortcut to describing a character’s feelings, actions and facial expression in just one word.

“I think she passed away,” he said sadly.

What you should be doing is describing the actions of the character in more detail to paint a better image for the reader.

“I think she passed away.” He held a palm to his forehead, releasing a long sigh.

It is a worthwhile exercise to skim through your manuscript looking for adverbs you could eliminate to make your writing much stronger. You will be surprised at how many authors use them wastefully, pardon the pun. Here is an example of how they can sometimes be placed in a sentence for no reason.

He crept into the darkened room quietly.

The verb ‘crept’ is strong enough to give the reader enough information on the actions of the character without having to use the adverb ‘quietly’.

We used to use a ball-park figure of no more than three adverbs per chapter. How many have you used?

Passive voice:

This is not the easiest thing to explain. There are certain trigger words that cause passive voice. Words like ‘was’ and ‘were’, for example. I am no expert in this field, so I will post a link that will explain it in all its glorious technical details, using examples to show the difference between active and passive sentences.

Although passive voice is difficult to explain, it is something that will become more and more obvious to you once you have a general idea of what to look for.

Repeated and unneeded words:

This may seem like something trivial to worry about, but by simply finding and changing words that are repeated often, you can improve the ‘flow’ of writing by quite a bit. Also, when you read your manuscript out loud to yourself, you may find there are some unneeded words that just choke up the writing. Use as few words as needed, well-chosen words.

These are some of the basic rules that I was taught in my novel workshop that I sometimes see lacking in the growing trend of indie authors. For those authors out there who are still submitting manuscripts to publishers and editors, these are some of the things that could lead to your MS being rejected. For those authors who are publishing themselves, I hope you find this helpful in bringing your books to a higher literary standard that will make them shine above the rest. Good luck to you all and happy writing (and editing).

Some other useful writing posts:

Hooks and Cliffhangers:

Best Social Networking Sites For Writers:

The Pitfalls of Self-Publishing:

Getting Published – Writer Beware:

Shameless plug:

Kurt Chambers

If you are interested in seeing the results of a finished novel putting into practice the above set of rules then you can download a free copy of my award winning fantasy novel, Truth Teller. It is a heart-warming tale of true friendship in an action packed adventure. It is free to all readers in any format.

Truth Teller

How could ten-year-old Charlotte ever envisage that magic really existed. For her, the world of other realms belonged in children’s fairy tales—or so she thought—until she discovers a strange shopkeeper, which begins an adventure that will change her life forever.


When she finds herself lost and alone in a far away forest, she must embark on a journey where heart-stopping danger and real life monsters are real. However, a far greater threat shadows her every move. Even with the strengths and skills of her new companions, they cannot protect her against a ruthless druid assassin.


But in this realm, Charlotte is not the vulnerable little girl she thought she was.



Barnes & Noble:

This weeks author interview is with the most talented and funny Christina McMullen. Christina has always dreamed of being a writer. Except for a short time in the late eighties :). She has nine books to date! I know I’ll be adding many of them to my reading list.


Looking at your website, I see that you’ve written eight books? Wow, how long have you been writing?

 Actually, as of right now, there are nine. 😉

While I’ve always written for fun and had hopes and dreams of becoming the next great American novelist, it was 2012 before I finally dragged out my notes, dusted off the computer, and actually finished an entire novel. Once I made it past the first book hurdle, the rest were much easier.

Of the books you have published so far, which is your favorite? And why?

 This is a very tough question, but I would have to say, Kind of Like Life, which is my only young adult novel at the moment. Why? Because it’s something of an homage to my own young adult days and how I would spend far too much time day dreaming and coming up with crazy adventures. Also, despite some very heavy and serious subject matter, it was fun to write.KindofLikeLifeMKLow

Tell us a bit about that story and what inspired you to write it?

I read a lot of YA and noticed that because there seems to be a formula, I had come up with some standard scenery in my mind. I recognized this scenery as being my ‘ideal world’ from my own youthful daydreams. From there I came up with the concept of a young girl with an overactive imagination who moves to a place that matches her ideal world perfectly. Her life goes from boring to the ideal ‘YA perfect’ practically overnight. Of course, I couldn’t let her enjoy it for too long because that wouldn’t make for an interesting story.

What happens next, also known as the spoiler that makes it impossible to talk about the remaining 80% of the book, was inspired by shows like The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone, where things aren’t always what they seem.

 What the most important thing you’ve learned about self-publishing?

To have patience. I really had no idea what I was doing when I first submitted my first book back in 2012. As such, I hadn’t edited nearly as much as I should have and ended up going back and uploading several revisions. That first book is still far from perfect, but it taught me to take my time and put out the best product I can.

In your experience, where do you find the greatest support for indie authors?

Amongst other indie authors. Through social media, especially the groups on Goodreads like Support Indie Authors, I’ve met some fantastic people and became part of something positive. It may seem cliché, but we really are stronger when we stick together. I think indies know this better than most. We don’t see each other as competition. We see allies.

Are you reading anything right now? Tell us a bit about it.

I just started reading Atomic Aardvark by Ryan Guy as part of the Indie Book Club on Goodreads. It’s a quirky, light fantasy that seems to center around a strange celestial event and an aardvark who had been a mascot for an Italian restaurant.

Who is your favorite author or favorite book?

There are so many. I have many influences of the famous or infamous variety, but I’ve really been digging on indie books for the last few years. If I had to pick, the closest I could come to naming a favorite would be to name all of the amazing women who write science fiction and fantasy, breaking the stereotype that these are men’s genres. Since I can’t name them all, here’s a few that I adore: G. G. Atcheson, Ann Livi Andrews, Chess Desalls, S. Usher Evans, and BB Wynter.

What draws you to the genre you write in?

I’ve been a huge fan of sci-fi and fantasy (with a little horror and romance thrown in) since junior high at least. While I do like to stretch the boundaries as much as I can, I can’t imagine writing anything that I don’t love reading.

Did you always want to be a writer?

 Well, other than that awkward time in the late eighties when I wanted to be a hair metal rock goddess, yes, I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

I always want to know this question… If one of your books is made in to a TV show or movie, who would you choose to play the main cast?

This is a very tough question because I live under a rock! Seriously, the last movie I watched was The Lego Movie and I didn’t recognize half the voice actors despite them being the hot actors of the day!


I have actually thought about this for my first series, The Eyes of The Sun. For Lucy, I would want an unknown actor. Hopefully, this would be the project that kick starts her career. Andre would have to be whoever the swooniest (that’s a word, I promise) young man of the day happens to be. The internet tells me this is Matthew Lewis. You go Neville Longbottom!

The older characters are a bit easier, even if casting this makes me feel old. For the ‘holy trinity’ of Evan, Dara, and Abe, I would go with the ‘holy trinity’ of nineties actors and get Brad Pitt, Selma Hayek, and George Clooney. And since we have Brad, we’ll have to give one of the diabolically sexy vampire roles to Angelina Jolie.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Amazon Author Page:


Tell us a bit about the cover art of your books. Who designed them? Why did you choose those images? (Pick your two favourite covers)

I am my own cover artist. I don’t have a lot of talent for visual art, but I really enjoy dabbling and think what I’ve done so far is at least passable. I prefer to use my own images and art mainly because it’s so much easier than searching out and carefully reading the licensing agreements on stock photos. Also because the pics are mine, I know that my covers will be unique.


My favorites would be Past Life Strife and Going Green. The painting I used for Past Life Strife was only meant as a placeholder until I figured out what I wanted, but it turned out nicely. Unfortunately, it set the bar pretty high for that series and I’m not sure I can keep that up. Going Green was serendipitous in that my husband and I found the remains of an abandoned theme park in the Adirondacks and I was able to snap a shot of him wandering about with no other people.


Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Thank you very much for the interview opportunity. I’ve had a great time answering these questions.






How to Develop Realistic Characters



Today, I thought it would be fun to talk about what makes a fictional character believable. It’s easy to describe what a character looks like and give her/him/it a cool name. But how do you make your readers care about what happens to that character? What’s the secret to bringing your characters to life?

Okay, so it’s not necromancy. Sorry.

But here are five questions to ask yourself when you’re developing characters for your story:

1.  Why are they here?
Every character you include needs a purpose. Are they driving the plot, do they cause the conflict, are they necessary to move the story forward? If not, then why did you include them? What is their role in your story? If you can’t answer that question, maybe your character needs to sit in a corner while you think about their purpose.

2.  What do they care about?
What makes your character get out of bed in the morning? World domination, a quest to throw some jewelry into a volcano, a burning desire to find the love of their life? And think beyond the big stuff. Do they prefer dogs or cats? Coffee or tea? Chocolate or vanilla? Vampire or zombie? Battle axe or morning star? You need to know what motivates your characters, because it will make their actions and reactions more believable.

3.  Are they consistent?
This can be a tricky one, especially when you’re writing a longer piece, but it’s essential. If your character hates frogs, make sure they hate frogs throughout the story–unless, of course, they have a life-changing experience that alters their feelings about frogs. But seriously, your characters should always act in character. Nothing frustrates me more than reading a good book (or watching a good show) and then suddenly having a main character do something that is literally unbelievable. When that happens, you’ve lost me.

4.  Do they act like real people?
So, you’ve invested the time in creating your character. You know what their purpose is, you know what they care about, and you know how to ensure they are consistent throughout your story. Now you have to make sure their actions are convincing. Your spider-loving protagonist probably wouldn’t squish an arachnid. And your claustrophobic antagonist isn’t likely to take the elevator. More importantly, you have to remember that people are complex creatures, which means your characters (even the non-human ones) should mimic that complexity in their own actions.

5.  Do they sound like real people?
Finally, a word about the importance of dialogue in character development. Good dialogue can make a great story even better, but bad dialogue can ruin a great story. You have to make sure your characters talk like real people, but you also have to make sure their dialogue is relevant to the plot. Read my post, Rules for Writing Killer Dialogue, to learn more about mastering dialogue in your writing.


Guest post contributed by Suzanne Purkins, blogger at Apoplectic Apostrophes. She is a writer, editor, mother, step-mother, dog owner, sleep-deprived, tea-drinking chaos-magnet. Check out more of her articles and posts.

So I’ve written a book! Now all I need is a book cover that sums up the whole thing in just one image. Ha! A lot easier said then done, as many of you might know.

I had an idea in my head of what I wanted for my cover but didn’t have the talent to do it myself. So, having worked in the media industry, I reconnected with a former coworker to help me out. After explaining my story, my friend Brianna Schretlen signed on for the challenge. She’d never done a novel cover before but hey, neither had I. Her years of graphic design knowledge shone through with ever draft she produced. Some of you  have seen my finished cover but I wanted to show how that cover came to be.

For starters, it defiantly helped  the whole cover design process that my Brianna read my book not once, but twice. (That’s dedication for you!) We both agreed that the cover should depict as least one of the white spirit animals talked about in the book. There was a white deer, white bear and a white crow. The animal associated most  with the main character was the white deer.

Here are a few of her first drafts. Although beautiful, they did not make the cut.

Harmless covers 004Harmless covers 002Harmless covers 009Harmless covers 010Harmless covers 001Harmless covers 008


I loved the images of the white deer, the contrast between black and white, and the silhouette of a faded totem pole.  Figuring out how to put all those images together was another challenge. So back to the drawing board!

Round two of cover design.

Upside down deerDeer with totem brown footerDeer legsDeer in the forest

Sticking with the deer theme, Bri come up with these covers . The upside down deer was a little to ‘Hitchcock’. The full face was really nice but, I didn’t like the shading on it’s face. Cover three didn’t do much for me. And cover four, it was nice but a little dark and busy.

So, round three… The final cover! A seamless integration of the white deer, shadow and hint of a totem. I also like  it’s monochromatic  color scheme with it’s eyes matching the color of the title. I  can’t wait to see it wrapped around 400 pages of YA fiction!


Brianna is now working on my kiosk displays, promotional materials, illustrating the graphic novel prequel to Harmless, and the Harmless book trailer. I’d recommend her to any author looking for polished professional images for their books.






This week I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing the young writer Sydney Scogham. Her debut novel Chase is due out soon. I’m told the target audience for this YA fantasy novel is geared towards horse lovers, old school video games enthusiasts and  those who have a soft spot for original Disney movies. So, without further adieu… Sydney Scrogham.

author photo

I’ve read on your website ( that you have a book coming out with a publishing house in Virginia Beach, VA. Can you tell us a bit about this book?

Two worlds will collide under one reigning Promise.
He’s chosen to die.
She’s destined for Snix skin.

 Financial strain from her mom’s lost job means Lauren has to sell her horse. In a desperate attempt to keep her beloved animal, Lauren pursues an escaped genetic experiment worth a ten thousand dollar reward—a bright red horse.

 With the red horse in sight, Lauren disappears into Agalrae and comes face-to-face with Chase, a man raised by Alicorns. Lauren wants to return home, but the Snix, Chase’s enemy since birth, has other plans. The Snix confronts Lauren with an ultimatum: Kill Chase for ten times the red horse’s reward money, or sacrifice the lives of her mother and horse.

 Forced to stay in Agalrae until she decides, Lauren wrestles with possible outcomes. But she can’t hide the truth from Chase forever.When destiny splits, which path do you follow?


Chase has been through a rocky publishing road, and you can’t tell that from reading the back cover copy. I had to wait until my 18th birthday to sign a traditional contract for publishing with a small press. I was so excited—I still have the pen I signed the contract with. But a little over three years later, the contract was broken on the publisher’s end, and my dreams were smashed.

In the midst of that fallout, I was worried that the small press I’d been signed with had published Chase and sold it without my knowledge. (Very stressful time that took me forever to get to the bottom of things.) Now in the present day, I know that’s not the truth, but at the time in 2014, I was so worked up about “the scandal” that I decided to scrap the entire manuscript (which received so much negative feedback at this point I was sick of the thing) and rewrite the whole story for NaNoWriMo 2014. That means I rewrote the story in 50,000 words during the month of November—while I was a senior in college—yes, crazy, but it happened.

Since my fresh version of Chase didn’t have a publisher yet, I experimented with writing query letters and sent countless e-mails to agents and publishers. Three months-ish later (a very short window of time, in my opinion), Nora Firestone, an acquisitions editor for Koehler Books, got connected with me, and as they say, the rest is history. I’m currently on the Emerging Author Program track that Koehler Books offers (a hybrid publishing deal that could lead to a traditional door), and everything is going beautifully. This is how it should’ve been the first time around!

It’s hard to believe that, finally, four years later, after all the tears and struggle, I’m going to hold Chase in my hands. Yes, it’s for the rest of the world, too, but this book means so much to me especially after losing the story’s main inspiration, my first horse named “Blue,” back in March 2015 because he broke his leg. Koehler Books has allowed me to include a picture with Chase’s dedication to Blue, so I’m not only sharing my story with the world, I’m sharing my horse. And I know when I hold Chase, Blue’s going to come galloping back to me.

How did you come up with the idea for this story?

I was home schooled between second and ninth grade, so I had a lot of time to think and write as a kid, and I loved it. Oftentimes in the quiet playground of my room (littered with Bionicles and Breyer model horses), God would snap his fingers and story ideas would pop in my brain. He still does that. When He snapped the idea behind Chase into my brain, I had a friend who was going through a particularly hard time and debating whether or not God really cared about her. I wrote Chase because I felt God wanting me to show that He wants to romance people rather than force religious regulations on them. But be warned, Chase reads like a hard-core YA fantasy with romantic sparks. You won’t see any inspirational Christianese unless you’re looking for it. (I think the traditional Christian market would turn me away. 2

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating this book?

 Well, for one, I didn’t know publishers backed out of contracts. I’ve also been enlightened behind how much has to be done with a book outside of the writing process. Writing the beast is the easiest part! As a student fresh out of college, coming up with the finances to do this hasn’t been easy. I wish that, for all the young writers out there, that money will never be a defining factor in whether or not you can publish your book. I’ve had incredibly supportive family as well as understanding people on the Koehler Books end. Where there’s a will, there’s a way, even if you have to beat that way through a brick wall.

Lastly, about the writing process itself, I’ve learned… Nothing will ever be perfect. There comes a point when you’ve just got to let your story go. Not even the best sellers are perfect, which is refreshing, because it means indie authors can have just as much success.

How did you come up with the title?

It’s the hero’s name, and he’s possibly my favorite part about the book. Chase was raised by the Alicorns, and so he thinks like a horse. Writing his parts was so fun! That’s where Blue’s influence really shines on the pages.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?





Amazon Author Page: (coming in July)

WattPad (to read a free story that’s about the history of Alicorns before Guardians like Chase arrived in Agalrae):

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

When I was 12, I wrote 30+ “books” in a series within a year. I had never felt so alive, but my writing wasn’t heavily encouraged and was often met with phrases like, “You’ll never have any money.” That deterred me. I let my writing gift go unused after Chase because I used all my extra time trying to get the manuscript ready for print while I pursued a “real job.” Redoing Chase last year cracked open the closet on my writing gift, and I’ve had words spilling out of me regularly again since then. At the ReWrite 2015 conference in Austin, Texas, I knew yet again that I’m meant to be a writer, and I’d been running from it trying to find that “real job” so I can “have money.”

Life’s too short to be governed by having money. Even though it’s scary, I’m pursuing what I know I was made to do. And yes, it’ll probably be a few more years before I can work from home. But that’s okay.

Do you have any suggestions on how to become a better writer?

Write and read. It’s that simple. And don’t ever force yourself to write something you don’t like. You are your first audience. Write to please you. The world will come later, and you’ll see that you weren’t alone.

Are there any new authors out there that have grabbed your attention?

I’m in love with Tamara Shoemaker’s debut fantasy Kindle the Flame.

And I’m excited to read Margaret Locke’s debut romance, A Man of Character.

Tell us a bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image?

*drum roll*

I… don’t have it yet. I’m waiting with just as much enthusiasm as you are! The team at Koehler Books is working hard for me, and they’re expecting to get something to me by late June.

chase promo graphic with Blue

What’s your favorite movie and TV show?

TV show: Hands down, ABC’s Castle. That was one of the things that encouraged me to write again. I’ll still be watching episodes from my rocking chair when I’m 80.

Movie: Oh, it’s so hard for me to juggle between Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor… But if you’d asked me when I was way younger, I’d have told you my favorite movie is Pocahontas.

Are you reading anything right now?

I’m doing reviews for a lot of people right now, and currently I’ve got my nose in an advanced reading copy of E.D.E Bell’s The Banished Craft.

 Who is your favorite author and what strikes you about their work?

Maggie Stiefvater—The Scorpio Races

Anyone who’s read that book knows I don’t need to say anything beyond that. Everything about the style and tone of The Scorpio Races influenced my second draft of Chase. Stiefvater’s voice is incredibly poetic. She could write about making toast and I’d be happy. I’ve gone back and reread my favorite lines so many times. It’s beautiful.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I love connecting with people, especially if you’re a young writer people. I don’t care how old you are, if you write a My Little Pony inspired story and ask me to read it, I will. I promise to recognize that your book is your baby, and I won’t crush your hopes. Everyone’s got a story inside of them.


TRUST YOUR VOICES. You can and do write great things.

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Come To The Bright Side: Character 101 – By Sydney Scrogham


You know the rules.  Things have got to get worse before they can get better.  Let your character have a goal, but don’t give him what he wants.  That’s why people keep reading.

You’ve also got to dish up all your character’s flaws on a silver platter.  To have a moving story, your flawed character needs to face his darkest moment, and step away from it victorious.

With pen and outline paper in hand, you build your story, weaving twists and turns that will leave your reader begging for mercy. (That’s your plan anyway–it says so in the outline.)

Then you get to the end of your story, that bright, shining moment after you’ve tortured your character and pulled all his strings.  He (or she) is a new creation, transformed before your eyes, and you finally bestow upon your lead the crown of victory.  Everyone can stand back and say: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.



That’s right.  Doesn’t that sound a little hollow to you?  You need something great and touchy feely that’ll put the icing on the cake for your character and readers.  It’s not enough to send your lead into impenetrable darkness and bring him out safe and sound.

You also have to let your character have his (or her) happiest moment.  How do you discover this blissful retreat?  Well, you interview your character.  Get into his (or her) head, and ask.  You might be surprised what you discover.  I think it’s also important that what your lead’s happiest moment be different from his (or her) heroic goal (or want) that propels the story.

For example, anyone watch ABC’s Castle?  The story goal there is always to catch the killer.  And then, as the story developed deeper in seasons 2-4, Richard Castle’s happiest moment began to form.  He fell in love with Kate Beckett.  His happiest moment, separate from the story goal, would be to spend forever with Kate…  (Thankfully, the writers delivered that–but doesn’t that help you see the difference?  Doesn’t that pull at your heart strings twice as much as just catching the killer?)

The happiest moment can be simple, small, and it adds dimension to your character.  It lets him (or her) be human.

Where should the happiest moment happen in your story?  That’s completely up to you.  You’ll have a sense of when your story really needs it, whether it’s at the beginning (and your character discovers that truly wasn’t the happiest moment), the middle (and your character realizes this is what he (or she)’s been looking for and the whole story turns around), or at the end (icing for the delicious cake of triumphant victory).  Or any mix of locations in between–even the end of a series.  You’re the creative genius.  I have complete faith in you to figure it out.

It’s time to release your character’s bright side as well as the dark side.  Don’t start writing unless you know both sides of your hero.

What's Next




What’s Next…


As a self diagnosed achieve-a-holic, I’m always asking myself this question… What’s next? This repetitive query plays like a broken record in my head pushing me to constantly explore and think out of the box. Even now, when my goal/to-do list is a mile long, and great things are in the works… I’m still asking myself, what’s next in my writing career? What can I do to make this book of mine a booming success? So, in terms of my writing, here’s what’s next for me…


  1. I’m looking at having a book trailer made for my novel. As my audio-visual skills leave something to be desired, I’m hiring this one out. Ha… if I did it it would resemble power point presentation done by blind cavemen. (Zoom in from far left… fade to sparkles…Ta-da!) I’m also on the hunt for the perfect song to go along my trailer… I think I may have found one! Yeee!


  1. I’m thinking of joining my local Toastmaster club to polish my public speaking abilities. I’m not as bad at public speaking as I am at making a video trailers but my skills defiantly need a tune up. When I was a kid I competed at many a public speaking competition though my local 4-H club. It was mandatory, and something I wouldn’t have done to do if I had a choice. I’m sure glad I did though; I even made it to provincial level competitions a few times.


  1. My book is not out until fall but I’m already thinking about how I’m going to get those oh so crucial book reviews. I have a few ideas bouncing around in my head on how to do this… All of them involving lots of tedious of man-hours. (Insert dramatic sigh)


  1. I’m working with an artist to create a fantastic booth display I can use when doing book signings. I’ve been very lucky find such creative people that are as dedicated to this project as I am.


  1. I’m already taking notes and swirling around ideas for book two in the Harmless series. Hoping it won’t take as long as book one to write.


  1. The graphic novel prequels to Harmless are started. Not sure if I’ll market them as a prequel series or an accompaniment book. Time will tell…


  1. Always looking for new ways to promote myself and other fellow writers. Along with my #Mondayblogs, and Friday book review/blog, I’m now starting Wednesday author interviews. If you’re an author and would like to be interviewed, give me a shout.


  1. And last but not least… I’m working on the editing of my novel. I’m half done! I don’t mind the editing part; it’s the merging of the 20 individual chapters in to 1 ‘Pangaea’ of documents that has me fretting. But, it will feel good once it’s done!


So, I ask all you writers out there… What’s next for you?

Author Cristen Iris is re-launching her website! Check it out everyone!

We're open










This blog post was the first post on my first website. The sentiment still holds and so I “begin” this blog on this, my new and improved website with it too. I’m glad you’re here.


The start of anything new is always exciting.  This blog is no different.  And yet, as I consider all that has preceded this first real blog post it strikes me that this is not a beginning at all; it is the continuation of a long and thoughtful process, one that continues to mature and evolve.

The same is true in any business.  The first day we turn the key and flip the sign to welcome customers is our grand opening, but it is not our first day in business. For we have been in the business of opening for months, perhaps even years.

In the past year I have watched two businesses in this process.  Franco’s New York Pizza, which was at the corner of Gekeler Lane and Boise Avenue suddenly disappeared one day.  I was sorry to see it go, another victim of the recession.  Or so I assumed.

A short time later I noticed that they had not closed at all.  They had relocated just a mile or so west on Boise Ave., closer to the Boise State University Campus.  A “coming soon” sign appeared in the window.  I watched with curiosity as little things began to change.  The new permanent signage went in.  Things were happening, but then, they seemed to stall.

I began to speculate about what was happening.  I began to doubt that they were actually going to open their doors.  I was sorry to see that it was not going anywhere, another victim of, well, what I did not know.  Or so I assumed.  But then, finally the key turned, the open sign flipped, and they were back on the scene.  Their patio is often full and the neighborhood appears to have embraced them.

I learned valuable lessons as a curious bystander to Franco’s move.  First, what may look like failure from one corner may actually lead to success when looked at from another.  Secondly, things take longer than expected, and our journey on the road to success is often a halting one.

Shortly after Franco’s vacated their previous location, a new sign went up in the window at the corner of Gekeler Lane and Boise Avenue.  Coming soon was Amir Mediterranean Bakery. This intrigued me.  In short order the little bakery opened its doors.  It is a simple little place, a place that seems to say, “you’ll come here for the food”.  Not long after the bakery opened, the adjacent space, which had been empty for quite a while, began to show signs of life.  Amir’s simply little bakery was expanding to allow for a full restaurant.  There’s something special about that plain little space right next door to a gas station.  There’s obviously something special about those business owner who saw the potential for opportunity and growth in it as well.

This reminds me that business is a journey, a journey that begins in the mind and progresses through many iterations.  Some of those iterations are far from illustrious, but they should always seem to say, “it’s the food that matters most”.  And if we focus on feeding our clients and meeting their needs in a way that keeps them coming back, they will forgive us any sparseness and see, as we do, that our current station and location is not a beginning nor is it an end, but somewhere in the middle.

So, the pressure of beginnings is relieved for this blog.  I am sure that it will go through its own amendments and improvements, but for now I hope that you are nourished by its substance.

Today I turn the key and flip the sign.  Welcome.


Originally published in 2014

Cristen Iris 2015

Book Review – Blues for Zoey – By Robert Paul Weston

I picked up this book on recommend from the manager at my local Chapters store, and was not disappointed. If you’re a fan of John Green’s Paper Towns, I’m sure you’ll like this book by Robert Paul Weston.

The main character Kaz, works at the Sit’N’Spin laundromat, saving every penny he earns for college. At least that’s what he tells people. He’s really saving his money for his sick mother who needs special medical care they can’t afford.

Through chance, Kaz meets Zoey. A quirky musical genius, who plays an instrument that resembles a homemade crucifix. As their relationship develops, you can tell there’s something Zoey is hiding. A shaded past? An underlying agenda? I won’t spoil it for you.

Robert Paul Weston has cleverly crafted a twist in this book that surprised even me. I give Blues for Zoey 4 out of 5 stars, and would recommend it to any fan of YA fiction who likes a surprise ending.

Finding My Muse – By B.K. Raine


I came across this blog yesterday, written by a gal named Molly (a.k.a Tick Tock), under Freshly Pressed. Molly is a thru-hiker, which means she hikes entire trail systems…for fun. Mexico to Canada—sure! Georgia to Maine—why not?

While I enjoy the occasional destination hike, to a waterfall or rock outcropping with a view you can’t experience by car, I am not a hiker or even very outdoorsy. My husband jokes that my idea of camping is a hotel without a jacuzzi tub. And he’s not wrong. I laugh when people suggest I explore the joys of sleeping in a tent. No. Just no. The last time I did that I was ten, and my dad pitched it in our living room because it was cooler than a pillow fort.

Molly’s blog only caught my attention because in Book 2, my protagonist has to spend some time out of her comfort zone traipsing around the woods looking for a vamp. Because I am unwilling to, like a method actor, take up camping to get to know my story better, I am researching the subject from the comfort of my air conditioned living room.

I am familiar with the more touristy parts of the area my protagonist will be hunting from first hand experience.  For the past week, I have been scouring boring trail descriptions on the internet, studying maps and pictures, and feeling more depressed with every passing day with the prospect of writing about any of it.

Then enter Molly. One twenty minute jaunt through her posts about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail—which I didn’t even know was a thing—gave me enough inspiration for two new characters and at least as many chapters. Why? Because her telling of her experience made it real for me. I could feel the mud in my shoes (ick), the stares of the tourists and even the desire to be by myself instead of crammed into a shelter with a dozen other hikers. Which is totally a testament to her writing ability because, did I mention I am not a hiker?

I don’t know why it never occurred to me to use blogs in my research. Maybe because I’m new to blogging myself. Maybe because I still do research in a library. I read blogs all the time about writing, editing, and books, but I never thought to read any about the stuff my character does or the places she goes. Am I the only one that forgets other people experience the sh*t we only write about?

So if you are struggling with inspiration, I encourage you to go check out the Freshly Pressed, step out of your comfort zone and find a new muse.

Book Review – The Storyteller’s Daughter. Where The Story Begins.

By Sharon Dawn Selby


I had the honour of receiving a signed paperback copy of this book from the author, in exchange for a fare and honest review. As much as I can, I try to read indie author books. Not only to support my fellow indie authors but to hopefully be the first to discover a great story.

Although Sharon Selby has written other works, this book is her first work of fiction, classified as juvenile / young adult fiction. After reading it, I would say an appropriate age range of readers would be around 11-13, as the language and content is mild.

This book starts out fast from the gates. The main character, Skye, abruptly losses her parents in a questionable car accident. No one seems to investigate her parent’s death at all. Documents are signed, the family house is packed up by movers, and Skye is left to live with a creepy family friend.

Sparked by visions, and strange changes to family photos, Skye is swept up on a journey to find out more about a past that’s been hidden from her. She discovers a history filled with magic… and the art of Seanachie story telling.

I liked the fresh ideas portrayed in this story. Before reading this I knew nothing about Seanachie’s and their lore. Sharon Selby really takes the reader in to the Seanachie world.

I give this book a 3 out of 5 stars. The only reason being, that I found the story to slow in the middle and towards the end, and found it difficult to keep my interest.

Developing Your Artistic StyleGuest Post by Mike Wells

 Woman with a fan - Brighter

In my early days of fiction writing, the notion of “style” eluded me.

“What exactly is style?” I repeatedly asked myself.  “Where does style come from?  Is it something that you purposefully develop, or does it somehow manifest by itself?”

I researched this question in books and asked my various writing teachers about it, but never got a satisfactory answer.

The reason I became so obsessed with style is that I knew that the successful artists of all types—painters, musicians, writers, etc.—have a unique, instantly recognizable style.  (See blog post about this)

If I had no style, how could I possibly become a successful writer?
When I developed my fiction writing skills to the point where agents and editors started taking me seriously, I still saw no style in my work.  I had learned to tell a tight, engaging story, but stylistically, was it very different from anyone else’s?

If so, I could not see it.

What compounded this problem was the voluminous amount of criticism I received from these publishing industry professionals when I sent out books.  There were no patterns to the feedback.  Much of it was contradictory.  “Very well-developed characters.” “Unbelievable characters.”  “Crisp, catchy dialogue.” “False dialogue, not like real speech.”  “Too much description.”  “Not enough description.”

I pulled out my writing books and tried to make sense of it all.  I couldn’t.

It seemed to me that the answer had something to do with style, but this was little more than a vague feeling.

I didn’t know what to do.  I finally became so fed up with all the rejection that I decided to take a long break from my writing.  To clear my head, I decided I needed a dramatic change of surroundings.

I ended up moving Russia for a year, taking a part-time teaching job to pay the bills.

I moved to St. Petersburg, an amazing city, Russia’s artistic center.  I rented a modest apartment just a block from the spectacular Hermitage Museum, which boasts one of the most impressive art collections in the world.  The first few weeks I spent many hours strolling through it, and became fascinated with the Impressionist collection—they have hundreds of paintings by Picasso, Monet, Gauguin, etc.   I was particularly impressed by Picasso’s work.  Talk about a unique, instantly-recognizable style!  After spending a just little time looking his paintings, I could recognize a Picasso at 100 yards.

Outside the museum, on the magnificent Palace Square, street artists would set up to draw portraits of tourists for money.   I often stopped and watched the artists at work.

Observing this activity stirred something deep inside me.  When I was 6 or 7 years old, I went through a rather intense period where I wanted to be an artist.  My grandmother, who was Hungarian, was a talented oil painter and watching her work inspired me.  This dream didn’t last, but it persisted long enough for me to take drawing lessons every Saturday at the art museum in Cleveland, Ohio, where we lived at the time.

There was portrait artist on the Palace Square in St. Petersburg who stuck out above all the others—his portraits were awe-inspiring and looked exactly like the subject being painted.

His name was Andrey.  I paid him to do my portrait, and as he worked, I made some small talk.  It turned out he was a graduate student at the prestigious St. Petersburg Art Academy and made portraits some afternoons for pocket money.  He spoke English, but just barely. When he finished my portrait, I mustered up the courage to ask him if he would teach me how to draw portraits like he did.

He eyed me skeptically—a middle-aged American tourist asking him to do something like this?

“I took drawing lessons as a kid,” I said.

He shrugged.  “Why not?  We may try.”

I’ll never forget my first lesson.  I wanted Andrey to come to my apartment, where we would have privacy, but he insisted that I come over to the Art Academy campus on Vasilievsky Island, to one of the formal studios.  “We need many material and good light,” he said.  “Better I learning you in studio.”

To say that I was nervous is an understatement.  I was 38 years old and hadn’t picked up a drawing pencil since I was seven. My apprehension quadrupled when I arrived at the spacious studio and found out that some of Russia’s most famous artists had used it, including Ilya Repin, the man after which the academy was originally named.  On top of that, Andrey had arranged a live model—an undergraduate art student—to pose for me.  There were several other artists milling around the studio, too, which only added to my anxiety.

Andrey stood next to me as we gazed over the top of the blank paper at the model, a beautiful 20 year old girl with a classic Russian features.  She sat on a stool, perfectly still, her head turned, peering back at me.

Andrey put a charcoal pencil in my sweaty hand.  “First step—draw outline of face.”

I swallowed, and barely able to keep the pencil from shaking, slowly started sketching the oval.  Yet, oddly—within 30 seconds—I began to relax, the soft scratching of the charcoal against paper calming me.  The sounds took me back to my childhood, and I actually remembered the sounds and smells from the Cleveland art museum.

“You draw not badly,” Andrey said, looking relieved.  “I think I learn you ok.”  He began coaching me through the drawing.  When it was done, it was pretty bad, but wasn’t nearly as bad as I feared.  At least, nobody in the room was laughing.

I was soon taking lessons from Andrey three times a week, at first at the studio, and later, at my apartment, after I’d bought the requisite easel and materials.

I threw myself into this work, experiencing one of the most powerful bursts of creative energy I’ve ever had.  I drew portrait after portrait after portrait, very detailed works, sometimes completing 2 or 3 a day.  Andrey spent many hours explaining in painstaking detail all the techniques used to draw eyes, noses, lips, ears, cheeks, necks, hair, sideburns, mustaches, wrinkles, birthmarks and so on.  He also arranged for me to buy an actual human skull and taught me all about the anatomy of the head, the bone and facial muscles beneath the skin, the cartridge of the nose and ears, and how all this effected facial structure, shadows, and so on.

Andrey and I got along marvelously and became close friends.  But by August, I sensed something was wrong.  I was beginning to feel comfortable enough to deviate slightly from all the rules and techniques he had taught me.

“There is only one correct approach to drawing,” he stiffly told me one afternoon.

In late August, just as the weather started to cool, our relationship underwent a dramatic, unexpected rupture.

I was in the middle of drawing a portrait of one of my friends, John, an American about my age, with Andrey looking on.  Andrey was supposedly there to give me pointers, but he was strangely silent.  He hadn’t said one word the whole time.

Suddenly, he pointed at the paper.  “Nose is wrong!”

I studied the nose I’d just sketched, glancing back and forth between it and John’s nose.  I didn’t see anything wrong with it.  “How so?”

“It is simply wrong!”  Andrey shouted.

I glanced at John, then back at Andrey.  “I really don’t what’s wrong with it.  It looks just like John’s nose to me.”

Andrey stomped his foot on the floor it so hard that it sounded like an explosion.

“You no listen me!  I your teacher!” He pounded his fist into his chest.

“Calm down,” I said.

“I need some water,” John said, scurrying into the kitchen to get the hell out of there.

Andrey was staring at me, breathing hard.  He pointed angrily at the drawing.  “You change nose!”

Now I was beginning to feel stubborn.  I didn’t see anything wrong with my rendering of John’s nose.  “I’m not changing it.  I like it the way it is.”

“Then you find new teacher!”  Andrey bellowed.  He stormed out of my apartment, slamming the door behind him.

I felt terrible the next few days.  I really liked Andrey—I called him a couple of times but as soon as he heard my voice, he hung up.

I wandered back out onto the Palace Square and tried to find another teacher, but no other artist seemed even remotely as good as Andrey.

Meanwhile, my friend John had hung the portrait I’d made in his living room—he really liked it. “Are you sure you need a teacher?” he said.  “It seems to me you’ve had enough instruction—can’t you just develop your skill on your own?”

I mulled this over and decided maybe he was right.  I continued to make more portraits,  hiking over to the art academy campus every morning and hiring new students to pose for me.  I cranked out drawing after drawing and kept steadily improving.  At least, I thought so.

One day I decided to put all my latest portraits on display in my studio.  I had dated each one, so I started with the most recent and worked my way back, until I had covered all four walls with them, and even part of the ceiling.

A short time later one of my student models asked to buy the portrait I’d done of her.  This was an awesome moment for me—it was the first time anyone had actually offered me money for any of my portraits.  I decided to give it to her as a present.

She was delighted.  “My mother is a curator at the Hermitage Museum,” she said proudly.  “I will show it to her.”

Uh-oh, I thought.

She and I became friends, and the next thing I knew she wanted to invite her mother over to my apartment to see all my portraits.

A curator at the Hermitage Museum?  A professional art expert?  No way!

I kept making up excuses, but she kept pressuring me.  One day we met for coffee and her mother happened by, on a one hour break from work.  “I would love to see your portraits,” she said.  “If you have time.”

As we walked up the stairs to my apartment, me knees felt weak.  “Look,” I said, turning to the lady, “I’m just an amateur.  My stuff really isn’t worth seeing.”

“Nonsense,” she said.  “You must learn to be more confident.”

Bracing myself, I led the two of them into the studio.

The woman stood there in the middle of the room, slowly turning around, taking in one amateurish portrait after another.  I wanted to crawl under the easel.

“These are wonderful!” she said, looking back at me.  She passed her gaze over the portraits again.  “You have already developed your own style!”

“Style?” I muttered.  I looked around from one charcoal portrait to another, dumbfounded.  I had no idea what she was talking about.   All the portraits looked exactly the same to me.  I saw no more style in those drawings than I did in my novels.

“There’s no style,” I said.  “It’s just the way I dra—”

I never finished the sentence.  It was one of those rare epiphanies that hit me with such force I was nearly knocked off my feet.

It’s just the way I draw.

As soon as the two of them left my apartment, I pulled out my oldest portraits, the ones that I had made under Andrey’s strict instruction, and compared them to the ones I was doing now.  They looked completely different.  I found the portrait that Andrey had made of me, the day I met him, and compared it to the others.  What had happened, so gradually that I hadn’t even noticed, was that I had veered from drawing the way he taught me to drawing in my own way…the way that I thought was best.  And in so doing I had developed my own style.

That’s not to say that Andrey’s instruction wasn’t necessary.  He was (and perhaps still is) an incredible teacher, and I’m certain that without his expert guidance and training, I would have never been able to draw a charcoal portrait that was worth looking at.  Mastering the fundamental skills and techniques of any art form is crucial—as the old saying goes, “An artist must learn the rules in order to break them.”  But at some point, you have to set yourself apart from the teachers and follow your inner voice.

I had no intention of becoming a professional artist.  But as soon I arrived back in the States, I felt renewed energy about my writing.  I dove head-first into my next novel.  This time, I told myself to forget about all I had learned in my writing classes, and all the well-meaning criticism and advice from the from agents and editors.

I just wrote the story the way I thought it should be written.

The book was called Wild Child.

The rest is history.

Writer’s Quest 2015

Did any of you play the game Kings Quest when you were a kid? You know… that archaic game on your first home computer? Where you went around collecting things just so you could move on to getting the next thing. (I’m dating myself… King’s Quest VI came out in 1990.) Anyway, I feel like I’m on a writer’s quest! Maybe I could make that in to a video game… Unfortunately, it isn’t always that fun to play.

How many times, as a writer, have you been asked, “So, have you published your book yet?” Too many to count I bet. That’s because not many people have any idea about what goes in to publishing a book, other than the writing part. That was me not so long ago.

My quest to publishing has been a long road. So far, I’ve been on it almost four years. It started with an idea and a passion. I wanted to write a book! But, had no idea how. So, I took courses on how to write. I researched how to write well. And I read more books than the average person probably should. I was off to a great start.

About mid-way done progress slowed down. I stopped to edit what I’d written. As much as it is our nature to want what we write to be perfect… that was learning curve number one. Don’t edit until your done. Trust me! Your first draft will get edited so many times before it gets published… it will be so polished, you’ll be able to see your face in it!

Nearing the end of finishing my first draft I started to look in to editors, cover designers, and types of publishing. There were so many options it made my head spin… Still does some days. I wrote a blog or two about it and came to the conclusion that going ‘indie’ (self-publishing) was the way for me.

After receiving my ‘indie’ badge of honour, I picked up on a few other things like; how to create an author platform using social medias; the do’s and don’ts of networking; blogging and finding your niche; creating not just a book, but a marketable product, and so much more.

I’m at a point now, that I tow a whole army behind me. I’ve chosen my editor(s) and publisher. I’ve had a few beta readers. Artistic geniuses have created my branding, website, and book cover. I’ve even embarked on a side quest… creating a graphic novel prequel to my YA novel. I’m nearing the end of my writer’s quest! I can almost smell the ink on 400 bound pages!

(Insert dramatic sigh here.)

So next time someone asks you, “So have you published your book yet?” Say, “Nope, my quest isn’t over.” They’ll look at you like you’ve lost your marbles but hey, it could save time in explaining why it’s taking so long. :)


Wishing you all well on your writer’s quests…



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Compassion from a stranger – Guest Blog by Jenna Brandt

Recently, I was sitting in church and the pastor was talking about the impact of the loss of a loved one. Instantly, the tears began to fall as I was taken back to the previous spring of 2014 when my infant son, Dylan, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. The pain of that day cannot be measured or expressed adequately. His death left an enormous hole behind in my family’s life. What started out as silent, small tears turned into gut-wrenching sobs. I tried to control them since I was in a public place but the pain was too overwhelming and even though I muffled them as best I could, I was embarrassed others around me had seen and heard my sobs.

When I went to pick up my two older daughters from Sunday school, a woman was standing behind me who gently tapped me on the shoulder and asked, “Are you alright?” I turned around and was shocked to recognize a woman who had been sitting in the row in front of me. Had she heard me crying? Did she think I was crazy? I was mortified and wished I could melt away right on the spot. Before I could say anything, she confirmed my suspicions by saying, “I noticed you were crying in service earlier. I just want to make sure you’re ok.” The tears started to pool at the corners of my eyes as I thought about covering up the honest answer with the convenient, “I’m fine.” But something happened in that moment when I looked into that woman’s eyes. I didn’t see admonishment or judgment or even pity but rather concern and kindness. Her gentle probing broke down my walls and I blurted out, “My son passed away a few months ago and I am still dealing with his loss.”  The woman reached out and pulled me into an embrace and said, “I am so sorry.” I rested in her comforting arms for several moments, completely amazed by the kindness and compassion that this stranger demonstrated in the most unexpected way. In that moment, she was my hero because I had been overwhelmed by how isolated I felt from my son’s death and her ability to see a stranger in need and care was a powerful act of love and kindness.
This incident set in motion the beginning of our friendship. She has now become a close friend and has been there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on and none of that would be possible if she had not reached out to me, a stranger in pain

Book Review – The Yellow Hoods, Along Came a Wolf – By Adam Dreece

The Yellow Hoods

Through serendipitous chance I stumbled upon this wonderful book by author Adam Dreece. The Yellow Hoods – Alone Came a Wolf is the first in a five book series, three of which are published to date. This book is classified as emergent steampunk, which is for ages 9 to 12. Even though this book is for a younger crowd, I still enjoyed it very much. I’m also told that this series progresses with the reader, turning in to a more pre-teen/young adult type read in the following books. So, it’s a series the can grow with the reader.
Adam Dreece has artfully combined the fairy tale and steampunk genres together in a new and refreshing way. For any reader who hasn’t experienced steampunk fiction yet, this book is a wonderful introduction into that world.
There were many parts of this book I liked, one of which was the author’s play on words with his characters names. LeLoup… The Big Bad Wolf. Egelina-Marie and Bakon… Eggs and Bacon. And of course Bakon’s brothers, Bore and Squeals… the three pigs. But, my favorite part of the book came on page 172.


The main character Tee, has just vanquished her foe LeLoup. Her mother and father have come to find her face down in a pile of leaves. She rolls over, checks herself for injuries, and admits to her parents that LeLoup is defeated by the yellow hoods. Then her mother asks her…

“You forgot something,” said Jennifer.
“What’s that?” asked Tee.
“Your triumphant La-la,” answered here mom, sweetly.
Tee thought about it for a moment. For years, Tee had added her special exclamation to things she’d done – but none of them had been as serious as this.
Sitting on her dad’s knee, and looking at the trees and their enchanting, colored leaves, she said, “Mom, I think I might have outgrown it.”
Her parents hugged her tightly.

This is the exact moment in the book when Tee starts to turn from child to adult. It’s the first glimmer of realization that things are serious and not just fun and games. I love coming of age moments in books! They are my absolute favorite.
As the author recommends, so do I, this is a book series for ages 9-99! I give this easy, fun read a 5 out of 5 stars.


Happy Reading.


Have you ever as an author enjoyed an opportunity, thinking expansion and that this opportunity is going to help build your brand or platform? So, you work diligently accepting the opportunity making sure all the little ducks are in a row. And then it goes live or public, when immediately you want to take it back or change the way it was sent out into the world. This is what I call the learning curve for authors.Typically, I’m very conscientious of what goes out being as truthful as possible. However, there are just times when it’s out of your control. Have you ever flubbed an interview, regretted a book review done for another author, got on the radio and went into a state of panic, appeared at a book signing and said something you shouldn’t have? It’s all in the learning curve.
Recently, I have been lucky enough to get a couple of interviews when the learning curve struck. During the first couple of questions when asked about myself, I just happened to describe myself in the 3rd person. Ouch! Who does that? Yes, it might be funny for a Seinfeld episode. However, I don’t know if that’s what I was going for. Then instead of describing the books in my own words, I copied the back cover (word for word) which seemed like a fool proof plan at the time. OUCH again, very canned! Needless to say after the interview was posted, I emailed the interviewer. What did I shout, you ask? “Learning Curve!” Ok, I didn’t shout it and I didn’t blame him at all. It was my error through and through. But we did have a good laugh about it. I am still hoping he’s laughing with me instead of the alternative.But if your career is growing and movement is happening, I think learning curves are always going to be present. I watched an interview with Stephen King the other day that was quite awkward. I wish I would of tagged it to post here today, but I didn’t. When I went back to retrieve it, I could no longer find it because he has done so many of them. I would hope that when all of our careers reach Stephen King status, the learning curves will be less and farther between. But realistically, more learning curves will probably be thrown our way because when you get to that status, there is always some new opportunity or event around each corner.Here’s one of his wise rules to leave you with, while also reminding us why we started this writing journey in the first place: Writing is about getting happy.
“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”If you have a particularly interesting or embarrassing learning curve story, share it in the comment section below and start a conversation.Stay connected to the author! Find out the latest gossip, news & events:

Publishing a book is possibly one of the scariest things a writer can do. So, to start off, I’d first like to give a big congratulations to all the published authors out there. Thank-you for having the courage to share your words with the world! Sharing your work letting with the world can be an unnerving experience. I know as I get closer to my publishing date thoughts in my head start to stir up, like – What if no one likes it?

Now, the chances of every single person who reads my book not liking it is slim, I hope… But, that still doesn’t quench my fears of the inevitable (cue drum role) BAD BOOK REVIEW! So, how does one deal with poor reviews? No one likes to hear their work sucks… I shutter as this thought brings back a memory of my sixth grade science fair. huuuh… But hey, let’s keep on track.

Here are a few pointers I’ve come up with on how to deal with the inevitable bad book review.

  1. Any review is publicity for your book. The more reviews the better! I know I’d be more likely to buy a book if it had lots of reviews, even if some of them were poor. Hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. And with the miracle of social media, every person with WiFi and a keyboard has one!
  2. I’ve heard  authors say, don’t even read the 1 and 2 star reviews. The bad reviews will put too much self-doubt in your head. Yet, others say, take the criticism and learn from them. What I think is, know the difference between constructive criticism and what’s irrelevant. So, learn from some, and forget the rest.
  3. Concentrate on the comments and reviews that make your heart soar! I can go for days on a witty, well-written comment. Know that you have fans out there. People, who have taken time out of their day to write about the work you do, because you are worth their time.
  4. Remind yourself again that you had the courage to put yourself out there, by publishing something you probably consider to be part of you. That’s something not many people can say, and that in itself is awesome!
  5. Don’t react harshly to bad reviews. Act like the review doesn’t exist. Step away from it. For God’s sake, don’t memorize it! Sometimes people writing reviews forget that there’s a real person on the other end reading them. People get brave in what they say when to them, it’s only a line of typed text.
  6. And the best advice of all, when dealing with bad book reviews. Don’t believe everything you read!


Wishing you all positive reviews!


How To Launch Your New Book: Everything I Know: Guest Blog, Luther M. Siler


(I’m going to be presenting these as Unquestionable Rules that Must be Followed.  Argue with me anyway.  Sometimes I’m very strident and wrong at the same time, especially if I think a general tone of Absolute Authority is funnier.  I am scheduling this to pop while I’m on the road, so feel free to yell at me in comments.)


You have written a book.  Congratulations!  I am proud of you.  You have done something that you have probably wanted to do for a very long time and that many, many people have tried to do and failed.

Here is what to do next, so that when you publish your book, you have the greatest chance of your book making an impact.  Note my phrasing; it’s intentional: when YOU publish your book.  You’re not submitting your book to an agent or to a publishing company and waiting a year to get a quarter of a sheet of paper in an envelope as a rejection notice.  You’re going to do it yourself.


Have already written and published three other books.  At least.

That’s only sort of a joke.

Understand something: your first book?  No one has heard of you, and no one cares.  Your mom might buy a copy; she won’t read it.  Your dad will pretend to read your mom’s copy, and your little brother will openly laugh at the idea of reading your stupid little story.  Your friends will think you’re joking about this whole “author” thing.  You need to go into your first book expecting that it will sell ten copies and then no one will ever see it again.  Shoot for the stars, but plan to faceplant.  It’s okay if you do!  If I know one thing about writing beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is this:  do not expect instant success, and plan for the long game.  The trick is, once you have a handful of books out and you actually have some fans, the hope is that people will read your new book, like it, then go find the other ones.  Your first book, they read, enjoy, and then forget about you when it takes another six months for #2 to come out.

Alternatively, if this is the first book you’ve published, wait until you’re close to having a second one done before you publish the first, so that you can stagger them four to six months apart.  This doesn’t mean rush through something and make it garbage.  I am assuming you’re good at what you do; you want to give people something new from you without making them wait so long they forget who you are.  The good news about the first book is that no one will be yelling at you to get it finished.


Have a presence online.  Again, you want to be able to market to beyond your family and friends, because they don’t believe you yet.  Folk online didn’t know you when you were pooping yourself and have never held your hair back while you puked, so they are more likely to believe you when you give them your word-extrusions and tell them to pay you money for them.  There are a lot of people who will tell you that blogs and Twitter are useless for marketing; in the right circumstances, I’m even one of them.  They are useless for HAY BUY MY BOOK RIGHT NOW COMPLETE STRANGER PERSON.  That’s not going to work. They’re great for building relationships with people, who you can later convert into readers.  Also: Goodreads.  Get a Goodreads account, and start rating what you read.  You’ll need an author picture, too.  Resist the urge to post something from Facebook; if you don’t do an actual sitting for it, at least dress nice and have somebody else take a headshot.

You do read a lot, don’t you?  Start, if you don’t.


Find some alpha readers– at least three or four.  Do you have a blog?  Hit up your commenters, the people who seem to actually think you’re entertaining and smart for some reason.  Someone will probably bite.  Note that these folks are alpha readers.  Make sure that they are aware that they’re getting a first draft, and if you can, try and focus what they’re reading for.  In other words, if you want grammar help, mention it.  If you’re curious about whether a subplot is necessary, ask.

It is okay to think that a part of your book is broken and needs help at this point.  If that is the case, say to them “I think part of this book doesn’t work,” but don’t specify what that part is.  See if your readers tell you that that same bit is broken.

Give them at least a month to read through your book.  During that time, under no circumstances are you to read, edit, look at, or even think about your book.  In fact, work on something completely different.

When your alphas come back to you with comments, take them seriously.  Unless they are idiots, and then why did you ask them to be alpha readers?  That was dumb.


Get your cover nailed down.  Do not half-step on the cover.  At the very least, head yourself over to and see if something over there works for you.  I wrote an entire story in my first novella specifically so that I could use the cover I chose.  Entertainingly, people regularly tell me it’s their favorite story in the entire collection.

Very important:  Unless your job title is “graphic artist,” do not design your own cover.  You suck at cover design, goddammit, and if your cover sucks no one will read your book.  Get someone who knows what they are doing to design the cover, and yes, this will probably involve spending some money.  Bleed for your art, dammit.

(NOTE: I am literally in pain because of the effort it is taking me to link to terrible book covers by people who were presumably serious in wanting you to read their work.  I don’t want to call anyone out.  But please: don’t do your own cover unless someone else has paid you for graphic art work before.)

This goes for the text on the cover, too.  Shut up, you don’t know how to do it right and it’s going to look stupid.  Get someone who knows what they are doing.

Incidentally, you are getting the cover as early as you can so that you can do a cover reveal on your website or on Twitter, to drum up interest in your book.


Create a page on Goodreads for your book.  You already have an author account at Goodreads, right?  If not, do that first.  Once you have the cover and the page is done, start regularly pointing people at the page.  You want to get as many people as possible putting that book onto their bookshelves and, hopefully, talking about it.  Hopefully you’ve already got a presence over there and you’ve got people on your friends list.  Go ahead and “recommend” the book to them– but do not overuse this power.  Do it once, right after the book’s page is created, and maybe once more when the book is actually released.  No more than that.


Reread your book.  Do not read the comments yet.  Just reread your book, taking notes as necessary.


Read their comments.  Take them seriously.  And take one month to fix the book, based on your own notes and their comments.  Now, this commandment is one that’s going to get me flak because a lot of people’s Process simply doesn’t work like this, but to my mind the second draft should take much less time than the first.  If you need to take longer, fine; adjust the other timeframes as necessary here.  My second drafts are generally lightning quick even when school is in session, so a month is enough time for me.  Your mileage may vary.


Send the book to your beta readers.  Ideally, you have a handful more beta readers than you did alphas.  Betas can be the same people as your alphas, but it’s useful to have a few who were not alpha readers.  Make something clear to these people: by this point, the book is done.  They are not reading it to provide you with commentary.  They are there so that there are reviews available on Amazon and on Goodreads for your book on the day of release.  Writing that review– and, critically, being honest about it— is their job.  They are not to point out problems with the book unless it’s something 1) easily fixable and 2) egregious, like, say, claiming that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Tarzan.  (Sigh.)

Make it clear to your beta readers that you want honest reviews– but keep in mind that you get to pick these folk, so choosing people you think are likely to enjoy your work is probably a good idea.  Folk can smell fluff reviews a mile away, and they won’t do you any good at all.

(Note: again, this is variable due to your own process.  I’ve never written anything that needed more than two full drafts.  There are plenty of people massively more successful than me who use many more drafts than that.  Again, adjust other dates as needed.)

(Note also: every ebook should have a page at the back with links to your blog, your Twitter page, and every other book you’ve ever published ever.  Be careful with this, and don’t link to Amazon versions on the edition you’re sending to Smashwords– you can also link to the page on your website that you created for your other books, which is probably safer.)


Submit your book to Amazon, and to any other service that you can that allows pre-orders.  Amazon, I know, will allow you to set up pre-orders for your book so long as they actually have an uploaded manuscript file for it.  I don’t know off the top of my head if Smashwords does.  Note that you’ll probably need two separate properly formatted files because Smashwords has a couple of specific requirements to them.  KDP Select may also be an option for you if you want your book Amazon-exclusive; that’s up to you.


Several things:

  • Stay in touch with your beta readers.  You want those reviews up and readable by the day the book launches, if not a day or two in advance.
  • Do you have friends who write for different circles of folk than you do?  See if you can get them to interview you about your book on their website.
  • Create a separate page on your site for your book.  Include at least your short pitch and the cover and a link to the pre-order page.
  • Post an excerpt or two.  Note that it’s possible that Amazon might squawk that they found a portion of your book somewhere on the Internet– but when they do this, they seem to be amenable to the answer “Yes, I posted an excerpt to this site.”
  • If you’ve got a blog or a Facebook page, change your header image to part of the cover.  Make sure to include the name of the book, the release date, and where it’s available– and if you can make it a clickable image, that’s good too.
  • Push the pre-orders.  Amazon counts all pre-orders and all first-day sales as sales on the first day, and the higher your search ranking goes on Day 1 the better job Amazon’s algorithms will do in pushing you even higher.  Every pre-sale counts.
  • Work on something else.  Resist the temptation to change the release date because it’s done and you want it out now now now.  That temptation is stupid.   Squash it.
  • Threaten to abandon everyone you’ve ever known and everyone who loves you if they don’t both buy your book and convince a stranger to buy it.
  • How close are you with your local bookstore owner or comic shop?  See if they’ll let you run a little promotion or a flyer or something like that.
  • If you have the resources for print ads of some sort, do it.  Do not pay anyone on Twitter for anything.  Or Facebook.  Facebook advertising is completely useless.


Reload the KDP Reports page, over and over, every five minutes, and spend the day crying, giggling maniacally, or both.  Note that it is okay to be a spamming Twitter monster on the day your book is published.   Update folks on sales every hour if you want.  People will forgive you.  Just don’t expect it to last too long.


Continue promotion efforts, but keep in mind that vomiting onto Twitter going ARGLE BLARGLE BLAAH BUY MY BOOK won’t work very often.

And start working on the next book.

The end.



I started using Twitter about a year and a half ago, and at first it was a major learning curve. I’m only allowed 140 characters? What’s a hashtag, and how do you use it? Why would I want to make a list? These were just a few of the questions I had. Now that I’ve been on Twitter for a while, I’ve learned what a valuable tool it can be for self-promotion as an author. So, I’ve made a list of a few tips that have helped me navigate the fast paced world of tweeting.

  1. If you want people to take interest in what you are doing, take interest in what they’re doing. Simple, right? You never know what interesting things you might find of Twitter if you just pay attention.
  2. Don’t spam! (Maybe this should have been my number one point.) Nobody likes the same ‘pitchy’ blurb or ad thrown at them every five minutes. So don’t do it!
  3. Be active. Be interactive. Actually talk to people on Twitter! Most of them are just like you, trying to get their words out there.
  4. Find creative ways to collaborate with people via Twitter. I networked with people to find indie authors/bloggers to guest blog on my website I sent out a schedule of who and when posts were happening, and in return we all, tweet, retweet and favor each other’s posts. Social networking/Indie author support at it finest!
  5. Use the list function in Twitter. The feed of all the people you follow can get overwhelming. When you make a lists in Twitter, you can categorize the people you follow. For example, I have lists for my guest bloggers, book promoters, etc.
  6. Learn the Twitter language. Use all the @’s, #’s, and shortened url’s to their full potential. You only get 140 characters to get your message out there, so type wisely.
  7. As much as you can, say thank you on Twitter… without it being a canned response. A ‘thanks’ could be one of many things, a follow back, favoring a tweets, or tweeting out something positive about them. Be creative.
  8. Favor, re-tweet and follow back, BUT be selective. My goal is to build a fan base that will buy my book. So I follow back people who write, publish, love to read… you see where I’m going with this. Be consistent.
  9. Set goals. Why are you on Twitter? Are you trying to create a fan base, find a publisher, boosting sales? Create a Twitter strategy that fits your goals.
  10. When your number of Twitter followers gets large, you may want to get an app to help you manage your account. I use Crowdfire. (Previously justunfollow). It allows you to see who unfollows you, who isn’t active, and much more.
  11. Let’s not forget… Tweet something interesting to your readers. This can be difficult to figure out. It took me a while to find my niche.
  12. AND, last but not least… Be genuine. There’s enough fake people in this world, don’t be one of them.

Happy Tweeting Everyone.



Red dice and playing cards on a casino table

Book Promotion – The Gambler’s Dilemma

I just did a book promotion. I had my book listed in several newsletters. I had some sales, not what I’d hoped, and I saw my book rise to #3 in YA Steampunk and I think #14 in Fairy Tale. The experience was interesting, and I found myself going through some of the thoughts below. The more I thought about it, and had people asking me about how my promo was going, sharing their experiences, the more I realized that there was something I needed to call out, to blog about.

We’ve all heard about the fabled people who made THOUSANDS from a great newsletter. They make it sound like it was simple. I actually know a guy, and I’ve spoken with him face to face and I believe him, who made $18k. It’s not a joke, it’s not an exaggeration, he did. Thing is, it was about a year and a half ago which is eons ago in online marketing terms. Second thing, he’d also sold 90k books over a few years so he had a bit of a name.

There’s a real dark side to all the indie book promo stuff, a dark side that uses our fear of doing something wrong, our hope to succeed and then, our fear of shame, against us. There’s an enormous industry out there that all it does is feed off of prospective writers and indie authors.

“Hey buddy, you got a book? How’d you like to be rich? All you got to do is this…”

Red dice and playing cards on a casino tableWhere we start

You want to promote your book. Maybe you can get on BookBub, the most famous of the newsletters? You look at their website and your imagination goes wild over the stats they have that say how many copies the average book in a particular genre newsletter usually sells. If you got only half of that, or a quarter, you’d be laughing. Before you consider submitting for it, you’ve got to think about price.

First there’s the question of whether or not you offer your book for free or for $0.99, or maybe for $1.99. Sales have crawled to a stop where there seem to be more and more days between them. You’ve got two books, so maybe you decide to go free for one, hoping that the other one will get followup sales. There are a lot of blogs out there that say this is the thing to do. But on the other hand, there are the blogs that say you’ll get a lot of free-hogs, coming in to download your book ONLY because it’s free and not doing anything other than raising your hopes, or potentially leaving you terrible reviews because they didn’t like that your book about fairies had, you know, fairies in it.

You decide that you only people who are willing to actually buy something, to have a level of commitment, and so you set the price at $0.99. You decide to use Amazon Countdown deals, even though that will isolate anyone not in the US or UK because Amazon doesn’t support it. Amazon makes it sound like when you do a Countdown deal that readers are somehow going to be able to find it, that you’ll get some exposure, but you doubt that’s true and yet, even though, you hope. Alternatively, you could go to all the sites you have your book on and set the price to $0.99. It takes some planning and work down ahead of time, and everything’s set.

freshicon_393The Newsletters

You start with the best, BookBub. You fill in the online form and submit your book’s promo. You should get in, you’ve learned since last time, but when the email comes in, they haven’t accepted you. There’s no rhyme or reason given, you’re just not in. That’s okay, there’s a lot of others out there.

You sign up for 8 free newsletters and stop yourself, as you find the audiences are getting smaller and smaller. The last one you filled in had 3000 people and you wonder, from the 1997-esque type of website, really how many of them read it. None of these guys have data to show like BookBub.

You sign up for two paid ones. One’s $10 and the other’s $20. Then there’s that new book startup you heard about on Twitter. You check them out. They want $40 to get into their newsletter, discounted (supposedly) from $100. They have 75k people on their newsletter. Okay, it sounds worthwhile. Then you discover on KBoards that an author you really admire has his pet list of newsletters, and you’re only on one of them. You sign up for them too, another $50.

You realize that you’d planned to spend $50, but now you’re $120. You do the math and figure out how many books you need to sell to break even. It’s more than you’ve ever sold, but it’s okay. It’s possible. All you’d need is 5% of the readers of all these newsletters to buy your book.

Then a website you subscribed to offers ads at a discount, FIFTY PERCENT OFF! You know enough about marketing to know that people usually need to see something several times over before they commit to a buy. The ad’s only $40 and it’s for a whole month. They will have you on their sidebar, shining nice and all pretty for their users. Heck, their name even has Kindle in it, and they seem to have their marketing act together. Okay, feeling a bit guilty, you’re in. $160 spent, but all in all, you figure if you don’t sell, at least you’ll get good exposure.

vector-t-shirt-design-with-dice-on-fire_fJDAYb__The roll of the dice

The date comes up and everything starts. Like an addict, you’re refreshing the stats on Amazon KDP’s site and others to see how the sales are doing. There’s nothing at first, and you realize that everyone’s at work. You’re being an idiot, you need to chill out. You remember that podcast where they said not to do what your doing.

At the end of the first night of the three days, you look at the total with disappointment. Four. Four? Really, four? Well, most of the newsletters are coming in tomorrow, and your books rankings have improved on a couple of sites. You start second guessing the synopsis you used for the ads, the timing. You started it during the week, you’re an idiot, right? Should have had it starting on Saturday, or should you? It’s too late now.

A new follower on Twitter is another newsletter. You can’t help yourself and you click on it. Their site is really good looking and they claim to have a serious number of readers. They also have a Twitter broadcasting service, and in desperation, you sign up for it. You know that you get most of your sales from there, so little extra help should work… though deep down you doubt it.

The second and third days do better, but you’re not near your breakeven mark. What’s worse, you have no way of knowing what newsletter was effective, or was it just you tweeting your heart out? You realized in the final hours that it was pointless posting to the Facebook book promotion groups because new posts show up within seconds of yours, stuffing it way down the list. It’s like zombies jumping on top of each other to get over a wall.

Girl With Her Head In Her Hands Sad And Unhappy About SomethingRemorse

The top spot you got for your book felt good, for a moment, but you slipped back down quickly. The fifty new readers you have will hopefully, one day, move on to your next book. You don’t want to discuss your experience with anyone, and wonder how many other authors feel the same, like there’s a dirty, dark secret to the whole indie thing that no one wants to share. Maybe there’s too much money to be made off of people like you for people to be honest. Maybe your synopsis wasn’t good, or maybe the day was wrong. Maybe you shouldn’t have done the Countdown deal because it was too confusing and none of the newsletters handled that properly, or maybe you went to broad and wide with where your book is. Maybe it was just a bad week, or maybe… maybe you didn’t have the right newsletter. Maybe you should have added those last two you found at the last minute who, for only an extra $10, could have added you in as a Featured Title.

My experience

I didn’t get into Bookbub, and I went with about eight newsletters. One of the newsletters was a startup company but I’d had several interactions with them and thought I’d try them out. All in all, I spent maybe about $90 bucks and sold about 70 copies at $0.99 and a few at the Amazon Countdown stepped up price of $1.99.

The thing is, I know that I had 725 clicks on my own Twitter and Facebook book links. I had pretty good retweet support, no sharing on FB but good sharing on Google+. So did anyone click on the newsletter links? I don’t know. Did I sell most of those or did a particular newsletter do that? I don’t know. All of the newsletters stripped the links I gave, or just asked for the ASIN of the book, so that they could wrap their own associates link around it (i.e. get a commission on any sales). None of them give me any data as to how many people opened the newsletter mine was in, how many clicked on my link. That would at least be something.

My book went up to #3 which was great to see, and because of its existing sales and continued trickle of sales, it’s hovering around #16, moving up and back down and then back up. Here’s the thing, that hope you have as you rocket to the top of a chart if it’ll suddenly catch fire, it didn’t happen. Does that type of thing happen anymore? I don’t know.

Did I make some tactical mistakes? Sure, but figuring out what they really were is something I’ll only figure out through further experimentation. Was an Amazon Countdown deal the right thing to do? I think not, because the newsletters have no support for the idea of price changes. Was it right to charge for my book, rather than give book 1 away for free? I think it was. Should I stay Amazon exclusive? I’ll be blogging about that.

I knew I’d done the wrong thing when I got talked into having some Tweet support for $25. I’d been talking with the owner of the author/reader site for a while and in a moment of weakness, he talked me into adding tweets to my campaign. Now, it wasn’t complete weakness. I paid a very discounted rate to be a member of their site almost a year ago. It was a final opportunity to show me some value, and it failed. Paying that $25 saved me more money.

When I realized I’d paid for the tweeter support, that’s when I started thinking about the whole gambler mentality. If you do nothing, nothing will happen. But if you do something, something will happen. If you do the right things, a LOT of good stuff is supposed to happen… right?

At the end of the day, nothing beats making direct connections with potential readers in social media and in real life. Can newsletters and promos be helpful? Sure, but which ones? And for which genres? And in which months? And… and… and… When is it just rolling the dice?

Check out my books on Amazon

10 Steps To Building And Creating A Following For Your Author Blog By B.K. Raine

Maybe you’ve been writing your blog so long you have weeks of content already planned out. Maybe the promotion is, at this point, practically on auto-pilot. But for those of you that are just getting started or that are struggling to get traction, I’m going to give you the skinny on the 10 things that are working for me.


1) Take Your Time. Don’t jump the gun when choosing your design. In addition to getting your first blog post up for the world to see, create a few static pages for readers to peruse and learn more about you and your work. I started with About The Book, A Letter From The Author and my Blog. I spent hours making sure my header image displayed properly on every page, that the layout worked with my page titles and that I had three blog entries ready to go before making my site public. I have since added TeasersContact info, and even a Community Story.

2) Content Is King. This is such an oldie, but still a goodie. There is no gimmick or marketing strategy good enough to overcome a content deficit, so spend the time to create good content that will appeal to your target audience. This is an author blog for a dark urban fantasy novel, so my target audience includes other authors, potential readers, and fans of the genre. Therefore I blog about the writing process, marketing, and editing. I also post teasers for BLOOD TOY twice a week and typically one random blog per week about something meaningful to me.

3) Spread The Love. If you write, it is a safe bet you do a lot of reading. If you blog, it is a safe bet you read a lot of other blogs. Those blogs are bound to inspire some of your content and admiration. When that happens, quote (with permission) and/or include a hyperlink within your own posts to the blog that inspired you. Then, and this is the important part, let the author of that blog know you’ve given them a shout-out. At the very least, they will probably wander over to read what you’ve written. If they like, they just might return the favor.

Guest posts are also great way to spread the love. Katherine Dell first reached out to me about guest posts, so I have to give her credit for this idea! I didn’t even know it was a thing, but this is how it works: you reach out to bloggers you like and ask to re-post their content with links back to their site, and offer to let them re-post any of your content they like on their blog. Reblogging gives you access to some great content you didn’t have to agonize over creating and may attract some new followers to your site, while giving the guest blogger access to all of your following. Mutually beneficial. Some bloggers even make it easy with a reblog button on their posts (like the one at the bottom of this one—wink, wink).

4) Be An Extrovert. I know this is not an author’s natural state, but it is essential to getting read. Make sure your sharing settings allow people to like, comment, reblog, and share your posts. Likewise, make sure you site is configured to connect with all of your social media platforms so blogs are auto posted to your Facebook wall, Twitter feed, etc.

5) Be Visual. Include a picture on every blog post. Like a book cover, a picture helps the potential reader decide if they want to read your blog. Be sure you have permission to use every photo and that you provide attribution or image credits if required. This blog has a great list of sites for obtaining pictures and even more recommendations in the comments section. I have it pinned on my bookmarks bar and refer to it frequently. My favorite sites for free pics are morgueFile and Wikipedia Commons but, for cheap stock photos, I use photodune. Note: you will have to manually add pictures to your Twitter posts, but tweets with pics are many more times likely to be re-tweeted ,so its worth the effort.

6) Follow, Follow, Follow. There is no magic metric I know of to build a following. You create a following by being a follower. Just be sure to follow the people you want to follow you—other authors, particularly others in your genre, book bloggers and fans of your genre, popular personalities and the people who follow them. PS.  I wrote at length in this post about how each of the social media platforms (Twitter, FB, etc.) stack up for me in terms of engagement, that is how many of my followers will actually read the stuff I post.

7) Talk To People Not At Them. If you take the time to follow people—especially if they take the time to follow you back—then also take the time to reply, retweet, comment, like their posts. This is especially true on forums.—especially this group—is a great resource to connect and brainstorm and support other indie authors. But don’t expect to just spam the “Introduce Yourself” thread on a dozen groups and win any friends. Jump into the conversation with a useful opinion, a question, a congratulations, etc. The occasional relevant URL is fine, but no one will thank you for spam.

8) DON’T SPAM. If I see your book promo with the same (expletive deleted) cover and the same (expletive deleted) Amazon link and the same (expletive deleted) 140 character teaser text that was witty the first 150 times I read it, but now makes me want to puke…if I see that one more time, I swear I’m gonna unfriend you. That crap isn’t making anyone want to buy your book. You want to know what makes me want to buy your book?  Besides having a good cover and blurb and being of a subject matter I like to read? Actually liking your spammy *ss. Yeah, if I think you’re cool, then I am likely to think your book might be cool. Spamming the same promo ten times an hour is NOT COOL.

By all means, mention your book in your blogs. I’ve mentioned BLOOD TOY twice in this blog. People that read me know I have a vampire novel called BLOOD TOY coming out this summer. See here, did it again. It’s expected you will make sure people know what the heck you’re building your platform to do, put up some teasers and share your excitement, but beating me over the head with your book promo a couple hundred times a day is not going to sell your book. I promise.

9) Be Authentic. I do marketing and advertising for a living. My day job is why I have a pen name, but it is also why I feel comfortable and qualified to offer advice on those subjects. I have also been writing for a really long time. I have read just about every book there is on self-editing, and I have worked with numerous professional editors both personally (with my writing) and professionally (with my day job), so I feel comfortable and qualified to be offering writerly wisdom as well. I am a mother. I am an adoptive parent. I write vampire novels. I love bad guys and sexual tension. I read a heck of a lot of urban fantasy and erotica. I am therefore comfortable blogging about all of these things. They are authentic to me.

On the other hand, I have a very dear friend who just started out blogging. Her personal experience is very different from mine, but she is working on her debut novel—a psychological thriller that has amazing potential—and has just started building her online presence to promote it. My advice to her was to share feelings and experiences authentic to her on her blog. She has some pretty significant stage fright when it comes to the whole self-publishing process, and rather than pretending they don’t exist, I suggested she embrace them. Her fears make her relatable, someone her readers are going to root for and want to see succeed. I know I do.

10) So above all, whatever you, do BE YOU.


Still Alice

Book Review – Still Alice, by Lisa Genova

This book is an amazing work of fiction, depicting the life of a Harvard psychology professor who’s diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The main character, Alice Howland has built up an impressive career for herself, she’s written books, been a keynote speaker at countless events and has mentored many in her field.

I loved the fact that the story was written from the prospective of Alice. It makes the journey from a fully functioning brain to full onset Alzheimer’s that much more vivid. The way Alice describes the daily happenings in her life is spot on to how the disease takes its toll.

This book stirred up some questions in my own life. Such as, if you could be tested for the genetic mutation that causes Alzheimer’s, would you? Two of Alice’s children got the test done, one did not. I think I would group myself with the child who did not get the test. For many reasons, I don’t would not want to know.

I fully understand the ravages of this disease, having seen both my grandfather and father cecum to it. As of yet, there is no cure for it. So I consciously try to live my best life being as healthy and happy as I can, hoping Alzheimer’s is not in my future.

I’m not sure I would recommend this book to a reader who has someone with Alzheimer’s disease in their life. This story is a very real portrayal of the disease. I had to stop reading a few times because it was just so sad.

BUT, for writing a compelling story that needed to be told, I give Still Alice 5 out of 5 stars. But be warned… This story might hit a little too close to home.


The Crucial Importance of “Candy Bar” Scenes in Your Writing

By Mike Wells

I recently read through a long thread of comments from a random group of authors talking about their writing process during NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month).  Many of them were lamenting about the same problem, how they had to “slog” or struggle through much of their story to reach those delicious candy bar scenes.

What is a so-called candy bar scene?  It’s not a scene that involves a Snickers or a Kit-Kat, if that’s what you’re thinking.  It’s a scene that “tastes” so good to you, the author, that you just can’t wait to reach that part of the story so you get it all written down.  It’s a juicy scene that you have been looking forward to sharing with readers perhaps ever since you had the idea for the book.

Well, I have some advice for you new writers out there.  EVERY SCENE in your book, from Page 1 to the very end of the story, should be a candy bar scene.

Now, before you raise your hands defensively and say, “No, Mike, that’s just not possible—there are great scenes in every book but there has to be some filler, too, all books have it…”

No, all books don’t have it.  I can open up any of my all-time favorite novels (I’m not going to name them) and turn to ANY page in the story and—voila—I’m smack in the middle in a candy bar scene!  Each and every scene is scrumptious and engaging.  There are no plodding, lackluster, or filler scenes.  This even includes flashbacks and simple scenes that at first glance do not even appear to advance the plot.

If you want to write a truly great book, you must do likewise.  During your writing process, you must, with great care and discipline, eliminate every non-candy bar scene from your story, whether that means cutting the scene out (often the case) or reworking the scene (even more often the case).  If it’s the former, simply muster up your courage and delete that scene.  If it’s the latter, put on your creative thinking cap and dig deeper.  Ask yourself:  why am I not as excited about the scene as I need to be in order to make this into a wonderful book?  Trust me.  If you are not in Candy Bar Mode when you’re writing a scene, the reader won’t be, either.  Your story will drag along at this point, and your reader will have exactly the same feeling of wanting to get past this part and move on to something more interesting as you do.

So, how can you jazz up humdrum scene so that you’re just as fired up about writing it as every other scene in the book?

Unfortunately, there is no simple formula for solving this problem—it’s a creative one.  But I can share a quick example from one of my books to show you how I do it.  In Lust, Money & Murder, there is a section of the story where my hero, Elaine Brogan, graduates from a conservative, all-girls high school and then wins a scholarship to a very liberal, coed college.  When she enters the college as a freshman, she is not only shy and self-conscious around boys, she’s a virgin.  All this makes her feel like a misfit, especially around her sexy, open-minded roommate.

In these pages of the story I decided to summarize, rather than dramatize, how she lost her virginity in a well planned-out way.  It was a few paragraphs long and rather boring to write.  I was clearly not in Candy Bar Mode.  But I went on writing the rest of the story, knowing I would fix it, somehow, on the second draft.

On the next read-through, it became even more obvious that I wasn’t nearly as enthused as I should have been when writing that part of the story—the narrative came across flat.  I thought something needed to be there but I wasn’t sure why.  I first simply decided to cut it, but when I studied the scenes that preceded and followed it, I realized that cutting it would leave a gap.  Many readers would wonder how Elaine made this difficult transition from a conservative, all-girl environment to the liberal, coed one.

I put on my thinking cap and started brainstorming.  I began to imagine, in great detail, how Elaine would lose her virginity…and I realized that this could be funny.  Poor Elaine feels like a social misfit and wants to escape this feeling as soon as possible.   She’s also very pragmatic, a problem-solver.   This was a chance to show more of her character, too.  I decided that she would go out and hunt down three different suitable-seeming guys, and the first two would be disasters but the third one would rise to the occasion, so to speak.  This triggered the analogy of Goldilocks and the Three Bears—the first guy would be too hot, the second guy would be too cold, and the third guy would be just right…or at least he would appear so at first.

Then I started creating these three characters, with the idea that the third and last one—Mr. Just Right (Almost)—would actually turn out to be a sports fanatic who was virtually “pickled in Viagra.”  When he’s on top of Elaine, going at it, he startles her by crying out “Go, Rodriguez, go!” At first she thinks he’s speaking to his own manhood, but she when opens her eyes she sees that he’s watching a basketball game on TV.

By the time I had visualized these few scenes I couldn’t wait to get in front of the computer and write them out.  They were funny and engaging to me.  I was clearly in Candy Bar Mode.  The three paragraphs were expanded to three pages.  It was a solid day’s work, but well worth the effort.  One of the most frequent comments I receive about that book on the social networks is “Go, Rodriguez, go!” with a smiley face tagged on the end.

So, if you want to write a great book, don’t let yourself get away with any non-candy bar scenes.  Be merciless with yourself.  If you’re not fully enthused about any part of your story—and I mean any part—go back and cut it or rework it until you are.

Now I think I’ll go have a Snickers.

I'll meet you there

I’ll Meet You There – By Heather Demetrios

Where do I start with this book? If I could give it more stars than 5 out of 5 I would. From the cover design to every emotion packed chapters, this booked had me up at the wee hours still reading. Now that I have discovered Heather Demetrios writing style, I’m eager to read more of her  books.

So… let me tell you about this book. The story stars off at a high school graduation party in Creek View, California. The typical Creek View girl would have a double wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and a dead end job at a fast food chain to look forward to after graduation but, not Skylar Evans. She has a 4.0 GPA and a full ride to art school come fall. The only thing separating her from her dream of art school, is her reality in Creek View.

Skylar Evens deals with the harsh realities of living below the poverty line, a mother that’s more like a child, a best friend with a baby, and falling in love with a boy who’s just as broken as she is. Through working at the aptly named Paradise Motel, Skyler meets Josh. Josh, has just returned for fighting in Afghanistan, missing a leg from an IED. His PTSD, and her troubles at home, put them both in an isolated state only the other is able to reach.

Their story is a powerful experience of the empathy felt for those we love.

I recommend this book to readers who also like the works of John Green as the style is very similar.

5 out of 5 stars!

Walk Away, Cliché

By Christina McMullen

  We’ve all heard them, silly catchphrases, metaphors and old wives’ tales that are meant to make us stop and think. The early bird catches the worm. A penny saved is a penny earned. A stitch in time saves nine.
Okay, funny story about that last one. I never was very good at sewing, so I had no earthly idea what it meant. I thought a stitch in time literally meant a stitch in the fabric of space and time. What nine was it saving? Astronauts, of course. Nine astronauts were lost in space and about to fall into  a black hole,  but some benevolent being stitched it up. Seriously, I am sometimes literal to a fault.
And sometimes I stray off topic. The point is, these phrases are quick ways to convey a point without having to say much. But I think it is time to retire some. Mainly, the ones I hear over and over when I dare complain about writing. And complain I do. Ask my husband. Every book I write is ‘killing me’ or is the ‘absolute worst!’ Fortunately for me, he is a musician and understands where I am coming from. He would never say, for example…

Slow and steady wins the race
I hear this one occasionally when I get bogged down by the fact that I am a slow writer. Let me tell you something. Back in November, I did a 5k. It took me something like 43 minutes to complete. I was slow. I was steady. I did not win the race. In fact, I might have been dead last if it hadn’t been for the fact that there were young children in this race as well. The winner had a time of something obscene like, 17 minutes. As I was plodding along, thinking about the cupcakes* at the finish line, several of these winners ran past, screaming at us slowpokes to get the heck out of their way. By the way, this was, as many 5ks are, a charity event, which was supposed to be fun. Do you know what isn’t fun? Being knocked off course by someone who takes running too seriously.
So no, slow and steady does not win the race. Neither does the promise of cupcakes*. Months of training and a competitive spirit wins the race. I guess, in a way, this is a better phrase. Not for book writing, but marketing for sure. Not that I’m going to win that race either. But hey, cupcakes* are cheap enough that I don’t have to win. Speaking of races…

Life isn’t a race
Wait, what? You just gave me bad advice on how to win the race! As my father (and later Kurt Cobain) used to say, “take your time and hurry up!” Well, which is it? A race or not a race? Here’s the thing: we’re using this one all wrong. Death isn’t the finish line in the race of life. Early retirement? Now were getting a little bit closer. We are all racing toward success. The faster you get there, the faster you get to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Or cupcakes*, in my case.

Rome wasn’t built in a day
This irks me to no end. Aside from the ‘duh’ factor that any civilization built in a day is probably a cult and a poorly managed one at that, Rome was built by conquering other states and enslaving their people. Again, this one pertains to the speed of my writing, but also to the highs and lows of the book selling process. I realize that you can’t build a city in one day. And you can’t write a novel in one day. Well, I’m sure you could, but you shouldn’t. Not if you want it to be any good. And I certainly am not going to be a success in one day. But Rome wasn’t built by one person either, now was it? Books, especially indie books, are. I didn’t build the world I am writing in one day, but I built it. It is my world and I would like others to see my world and enjoy it. It’s okay to be a little impatient. Just don’t let it overtake you.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy
Okay, show of hands: How many of you just saw Jack Nicholson doing what Jack Nicholson does best?
Actually, there is nothing wrong with this proverb. Everyone needs to realize that sometimes it’s better to punch out and leave the project unfinished instead of wasting countless hours slamming your head against an immovable roadblock. Go home or go to happy hour, just don’t stay in the office, drooling on your keyboard as your brain turns to mush. Go win the race that isn’t life. There may even be cupcakes*.

*Why yes, I am starting my fall doctor’s visit diet. Why do you ask?






The closer I get to publishing my novel, the more I realize how important it is to have a good marketing plan. Some very well written indie books never reach their target audience effectively because they are lacking just that. I’ve come up with a list of ideas to help me promote my book when it’s released. I hope it can be of some benefit to others struggling to get their self-published book out there.

Self-Pub Marketing Ideas:

  1. Word of mouth: Never under estimate this simple form of marketing. Tell everyone you know that you’re writing a book. That’s right, start talking about it when you’re not yet done. Create a buzz!
  2. Get on social medias: It’s never too early to start doing this. I’ve set up separate ‘writer-self’ accounts about a year ago. By the time my book comes out this fall I’ll have had the accounts just under two years, and will have built up an industry specific following. My favorite social medias are Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook. Be sure to research where your target audience spends the most of their time and learn to use their language effectively. Ie: Hashtags #.
  3. Consider writing a blog: The options for writing a blog are endless. You could blog on your own site or for someone else. Finding your blog niche can take a while, but stick with it and you’ll get noticed. Don’t forget to post your blogs via social medias!
  4. Review other indie author books: You review theirs, they might review yours… It’s just good karma. Post your reviews on Goodreads, Amazon, Indigo/Chapters, Barnes and Nobel or anywhere books are sold. Don’t forget to link it back to social media or your website.
  5. Get a website: I had mine professional done. If you don’t have they capital for that there are many less expensive options.
  6. Join an online or face to face book club(s): Goodreads has many of these, some specific to indie authors.
  7. Do a blog tour: You can do it on your own blog or hire other blogs to spread the word that your book is out there. Even though I have my own blog, I’ll probably hire out for this. Blog tours that you can hire generally have a greater reach than you might be able to coordinate yourself.
  8. Go to your local libraries: Offer them a few books to put on their shelves. Ask if you could do a book signing. Basically, just talk to them. You might be surprised at the programs they have for Indie authors or just their willingness to help you out.
  9. Have a book launch party: I’m thinking of hosting one at my local community centre. Having it within a few weeks of your book release date will give people a chance to read it and keep the sales momentum going.
  10. Offer free books to reviewers: They’ll have to state on their reviews that they receive a free book for an honest review. The more positive reviews you get, the higher your ratings will get with on-line retailers.
  11. Do book signings: Depending on your budget and book popularity… the skies the limit.
  12. Pay for a professional book review: I’m told, the crème de la crème of book reviewers is Kirkus Reviews. If you want to take your book to the next level, here’s where to start.
  13. Farmer’s markets or craft sales: Depending on your book this might be an avenue for potential sales.
  14. Advertise in community publications: There are so many choices when it comes to advertising. Staying local might be a good advertising avenue for some.
  15. Talk to your local book stores: Not just about putting your book on the shelf, but other opportunities they might have for local authors.
  16. Author/writer events: There are a many of these events where I live that offer sales, networking, and learning opportunities for writers. When Words Collide and Wordfest are just some of the larger events in my area.


I hope this list of marketing ideas sparks a passion to tell the world about your book!

Good Luck and Good Writing.


Katherine Dell


Finish What You Start!

3 Big ‘Don’ts’ to ensure you DO finish your book!

(This post is one for my writer friends…)


1) Don’t spend your writing time reading your own work.

I played the piano when I was in middle school.  I never could get the hang of reading sheet music.  I compensated for my shortcoming by pecking my way through a note at a time—memorizing as I went—until I could play an entire song.  When I didn’t want to put myself through the grueling task of deciphering and memorizing a new song, I played one I already knew.  I once played “Für Elise” and “The Rose” every day for a solid week during my one hour allotted practice time. 

I don’t play the piano anymore.

I mention this because I got stuck in a rut a few years ago when I wasn’t quite sure how to end BLOOD TOY.  I didn’t exactly have writers block.  I just had a frayed mess of loose ends and no clue how to tie them up in neat bow by the end of the book.  To alleviate my frustration, I decided to read what I had written to see if inspiration struck.  When none did, I read it again.  And again. 

I told myself I was ‘editing.’  Nope.  I spent more time admiring what I had written than changing it.  I was in ‘reader’ mode.  Not ‘writer’ and certainly not ‘editor’ mode. 

Thankfully, I eventually got sick of reading my own book and starting scouring Amazon for one to help me get back to actually writing one.  That’s when I found 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love, by Rachel Aaron. This is a terrific book.  I cannot recommend it enough for improving efficiency. 

My mistake all along was waiting for inspiration to strike me in the first place, when what I needed to do instead was to figure out how I was actually going to end the book, scene by scene, then put pen to paper.  I needed an outline.  A plan.  Sounds simple enough, right?  So why did it take me two years to figure it out? 

2) Don’t wait until your manuscript is perfect to let someone else read it.

While there are plenty of novice authors who have no problem baring their virgin manuscripts on and waiting for the praise (and maybe even those big six deals) to come in, there are many of us that fear letting a single typo out into the world.  So we hoard our story, rewriting, revising and tweaking until, if we are wise, we eventually let it find its way to beta readers, editors and fans.

There are two big risks in this practice.  The first is the very real possibility of spending so much time with your work before letting it go that you can no longer find fault in anything.  This will inevitably lead to heartache when your editor advises you to cut that favorite sentence or chapter.  Don’t even think it won’t happen to you.  When it comes to editing, nothing is sacred. I once had an editor mark out an entire chapter—one red line through the center of ten pages—with only this criticism for explanation: Well, Bippity Boppity Boo!

On the other hand, you just might, like me, fine tune your work to the point that you despise every single word of it, scrap it entirely, and start over.  I did that three times with BLOOD TOY.

3) Don’t put off writing any scene for later.

The first time I wrote BLOOD TOY, I immediately wrote the next three installments in the series, hoping to get them all finished before I started college.  I set a deadline for each book, and I meant to stick to the schedule.  When I got behind on the third, I skipped ahead to the fourth, meaning to make up some time and come back to it later. I was writing eighteen hours a day that summer, living off of Maxwell House and Jelly Bellies.  It wasn’t until I came to the missing chapters during self-edit (I had allowed myself a meager 5 days per book) that I realized I had not actually finished Book 3 at all. 

While you will probably never find yourself putting off—and then forgetting—entire chapters, procrastination on any scale is a bad idea.  Why you are procrastinating is probably the most important thing you can ask yourself.  In 2K to 10K., the author asserts that if you don’t want to write something, chances are your audience will not want to read it.  That concept was no less than an epiphany to me. 

I was once again putting off my last three chapters, this time not to satisfy some arbitrary timeline, but because 1) I did not have an outline to guide me through them—and there were frankly too many loose ends to tie up by the seat of my pants—and 2) the ending I was thinking of writing bored the crap out of me.  The solution was really very simple:  Stop putting off writing something I didn’t want to write, and start actually writing something I did. 

What came out of that resolution not only changed the ending to BLOOD TOY completely, but improved my whole novel from start to finish.  In order to make the new ending plausible, I had to revise Diane’s character arc throughout, creating a much stronger protagonist. 

Chances are if you are putting off writing something, you need to ask yourself a few tough questions before you write it anyway.

Blog written by B.K. Raine

What inspires you to write?

I’ve gotten this question more than a few times. And to answer it fully would literally take me forever, because I get inspired every day. I’m constantly writing little notes in my journal, in my phone, or on whatever scrap of paper I can get my hands on. My inspiration come for movies, TV, books, friends, family, life… I’m constantly watching and listening.

But, enough about my writing inspiration. What I want to know is… What inspires the authors of some of my favorite books? Here’s the hard part of answering that question… I can’t just call them up and ask. So how do enquiring minds get a glimpse at their favorite author’s literary muse?

Well, here’s what I think… In the first few pages of some books, there are quotes from a different books. I like to think that authors inspire other authors. And although, a single quote may not have sparked that author’s entire book, it inspired them enough to include it in their published work.

Here are a few quotes I’ve found in the first few pages of some of my favorite books.

The Book of Negroes – Lawrence Hill

I have set before thee life and death,

the blessing and the curse.

Therefore choose life.

–Deuteronomy 30:19

So geographers, in Afric-maps,

With savage-pictures fill their gaps;

And o’er unhabitable downs

Place elephants for want of towns.

–Jonathan Swift


Shatter Me – Tahereh Mafi

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

–Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”


Paper Towns – John Green

And after, when

We went outside to look at her finished lantern

From the road, I said I liked the way her light

Shone through the face that flickered in the dark.

–“Jack O’Lantern,” Katrina Vandenberg in Atlas.

People say friends don’t destroy one another

What do they know about friends?

–“Game Shows Touch Our Lives,” The Mountain Goats


When Everything Feels Like The Movies – Raziel Reid

I guess I am a fantasy.

–Marilyn Monroe


The Infinite Sea – Rick Yancey

My bounty is as boundless as the sea,

My love as deep; the more I give to thee,

The more I have; for both are infinite.

–William Shakespeare


Eve – Anna Carey

Maybe I really don’t want to know what’s going on.

Maybe I’d rather not know. Maybe I couldn’t bear to know.

The fall was a fall from innocents to knowledge.

–Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale


These are just a few of the quotes I’ve found at the beginning of books. Are there any quotes in the first few pages of your favorite works?

Good luck and good writing








red queen 2

This book is yet another YA novel I devoured in just a few nights. Victoria Aveyard’s novel Red Queen is a refreshing take on the young adult dystopian society genre. In this book you get it all, Kings and Queens, love and betrayal, struggle and my favorite… revolution.

I feel in love with the main characters Mare and Cal, not so secretly rooting for their underdog romance. I even found myself talking to them… “Mare! How can you be so blind!” Ooh, but that’s what makes this book so good! You think and feel exactly what Mare Barrow’s feels, on her rollercoaster through friendships, death, being red, being silver, being… Mare.

The last pages leave my heart aching, not just for the main characters, but for the fact I’ll have to wait for the sequel!

I give this book a 4.5 out of 5. you’ve written a book and are thinking of publishing it? Awesome! Have you decided yet on how you’re going to publish it?

As a writer who is new the experience of publishing, I have to say… Publishing a book makes my head spin! I’m guessing though,  my current state of confusion isn’t uncommon to many newbies in world of book publishing. I’ve researched, I’ve networked, and it seems everyone has a different opinion on how best to publish a book. So how do I choose? Independent/self-publish or a traditional publisher. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no ‘best’ way. Only a best way for each individual writer. Which still doesn’t answer my question! Indie or Traditional?

I haven’t picked my publishing route yet, but I’m getting closer to figuring it out. Here are some questions I’ve come up with to help me decide. I hope they’ll help other writers too on their journey to getting published.


Questions to ask yourself about what method of publishing is right for you…

  1. What’s your goal when having your book published? Are you looking to see if you have what it takes to sell it commercially and become the next J.K. Rowling? Do you just want your friends and family to read it? Or somewhere in-between?
  2. How much money and/or time are you willing to invest? Some traditional publisher may pay for the whole thing. Are you willing to give up a percentage for that? You’ll have to shell out costs yourself if you self-publish. Although, there are many ways to keeps cost lower.
  3. How much control of the marketing, editing, and design do you want to have? This goes back again to; what are your goals? Publisher may want to make changes. Are you willing to accept changes and criticism of your work?
  4. Agents and publishers will take a percentage of your book sales. Is it worth it, to you, to pay for the benefits they offer? Be honest with yourself about whether or not you could effectively duplicate what they offer and if that coincides with your goals.
  5. Do you have the time, experience, or skills needed to market a book after publication?
  6. Is the validation of been chosen by a traditional publisher important to you?
  7. What’s your financial risk tolerance? If you self-publish you get 100% of the profits…And 100% off the losses. Risk might be lessened by going with a traditional pub, but you’ll pay a percentage for this.
  8. Are you willing to wait to find the right traditional publisher? Submitting queries and manuscripts can be daunting… Not to mention the inevitable rejection letters.

I hope this list of questions helps… Don’t get discouraged! Remember… Every famous writer started out as a no body.

Good luck and good writing.





I wrote this blog a while ago when the weather was still pretty cold but, I think it’s funny sooo, I’ll post it anyway.

I was born in Canada. I’ve grown up in Canada. And there’s a 99.99% chance I’ll always live in Canada. That being said, I’ve seen my fair share Canadian winters. So, here are few tips from me, on how to do winter like a true Canuck.





  1. Tip number one. Stay Warm. Some of the younger crowd may think it’s ‘not cool’ to dress in warm layers. Well… Do you know what else is not cool? Frostbite!
  2. Which brings me to my next point. Know how to properly defrost frostbite. Your first reaction might be to warm up your frozen parts as quickly as possible. This is a bad idea! Remember to use cool water to warm things up by adding warmer water SLOWLY. Unfortunately, I know this from experience.
  3. Do not eat like a bear going in to hibernation over the winter months. Over accumulation of that extra that wintery layer can be troublesome to get rid of come summer. You know, summer? That 8 week period that separates Spr-inter and F-inter.
  4. Embrace winter by partaking in winter sports and activities! There are so many fun and exciting things to do in the winter, for those brave enough to try them. Like skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, snowmobiling, shovelling snow, fort building, slipping on ice, removing the snow from the roof of your house, tobogganing, ice carving, shovelling more snow, snowshoeing, ice fishing and so much more… snow!
  5. After a day of invigorating outdoor winter actives come inside for an unmistakably Canadian beverage, such as Timmies double double or a hot chocolate. Prefer something a little stronger? Rye is Canadian and can be mixed with almost anything. To also comes in maple flavor. :)
  6. Know that Canadian’s derive a good portion of their patriotism from the two activities we do most in the winter; hockey and beer. Um, yes… Beer is an activity.
  7. Last but not least… The most important rule of surviving a Canadian winter… Even if you think winter is over and it can’t possibly snow anymore… Don’t EVER take your snow scraper out of your vehicle or put your snow shovel in to storage. OR the snow will come back! And other Canadians will blame it on you.

Happy Wintering :)


Raziel Reid

I just finished reading When Everything Feels Like The Movies, By Raziel Reid… And my heart is still raw.

This book won the 2015 Canadian Governor Generals Award in young adult fiction and attracted much attention in doing so. (I can’t help but laugh a little… The main character Jude would have LOVED this!) I read a few heated articles about this book and its award. Some said, that the use of language, discussion of drugs, and graphic sex and violence in this book were too much of an adult topic to be classified as young adult fiction. And, that the book was glorifying these subjects.

After reading it cover to cover, I’d dare to say that that was not the author’s intent at all. I’d say it was more a portrayal of an honest, brutal and totally un-sugar coated reality that some gay youth have to face every day.

It starts off as a tale of a flamboyantly gay teen, living as only he can (in the spot light), in an unaccepting, homophobic society. The main character, Jude, faces many hardships; bulling, assaults, fake friends, checked out parents, and the list goes on. Jude’s life is not an easy one, but he chooses to live it openly no matter what the consequence.

There’s a Betty Davis quote in the book that really stuck with me… Probably burned in to my memory forever.

“It’s better to be hated for who you are, than to be loved for someone you’re not.”

This book is not my usual M.O., but I’m glad I expanded my horizons and took the time to read it. If I were asked if I would recommend this book, what would I say?

Have an open mind… Not everything you read has to have a glossy coat of ‘perfect’ on it.

I give this book a 5 out of 5… and 1 yellow blanket.

Katherine (32)

I got talking with a few friends the other night about personality testing. Have any of you ever taken a personality test? And, no… I’m not talking about the ones that come out of trashy magazines. The kind of personality test we got talking about was the Brigg Myers personality test. It gives you a 4-letter formula, out of a possible 16 that describes the preferences and description of your personality type. The In-depth versions of this test can have hundreds of questions long. The one I took was a little more condensed at around 75. I took the test 3 times to see if the results were similar, and they were.

Ha! That probably says something about my personality right there.

Anyway, I got to wondering… Does my personality benefit me as a writer?

Here is what the test came up with…


Extravert(56%)  iNtuitive(75%)  Feeling(75%)  Judging(11%)

  1. You have moderate preference of Extraversion over Introversion (56%)
  2. You have distinct preference of Intuition over Sensing (75%)
  3. You have distinct preference of Feeling over Thinking (75%)
  4. You have slight preference of Judging over Perceiving (11%)

The first line I read off the internet describing my ENFJ personality type…

ENFJ’s are the benevolent ‘pedagogues’ of humanity.

That’s sounds pretty cool! What does it mean? I’ll sum it up for you…

  • ENFJ’s have tremendous charisma, which they often use to express their grand schemes to others. (I wrote a book and it’s going to be big someday! At least that’s what I tell people.)
  • They also use their awesome interpersonal skills and unique approach to salesmanship to get people to believe in their dreams. ENFJ’s are not manipulators though! (I talk about writing, publishing and reading way too much with whomever will listen. Talking about my big dreams as a writer and hearing people’s feedback gives me such a boost.)
  • ENFJ’s know, appreciate and sympathize with people. (I know and love my friend deeply. This trait also helps me write real, believable characters.)
  • ENFJ’s see the big picture and possess tremendous entrepreneurial ability. (I have great faith that my writing will be out there soon, because I have a team of people behind me who believe it too.)

What kind of careers does this personality test suggest for me? Top suggestions… Management, Politics, or Psychology. I’ve often thought I missed my calling as a psychologist. Although my interest in how people think really comes out in my writing.

So there it is… According to the Brigg Myers personality test I am an ENFJ. And I think it really benefits me in my pursuits to becoming a great writer.

Curious to see what your personality type is and what you’re best suited for? Here the website I went to.

Happy testing.


Dirk Danger

Through a chance meeting with on old high school friend, I was introduced to the author of this wonderfully weird book, Dirk Danger Loves Life. I had the pleasure to meet with Chris Rothe and talk about the wonderful world of writing. After meeting, I just had to read his book, and I’m glad I did.

This quirky little tale starts off in the less than desirable apartment of the main character, known only as, ‘Cheesebomb’. Cheesebomb has hit an ultimate low in his life. He’s just been fired from his third job in a month. He’s being evicted for his apartment, and is now faced with the need to eulogize the lifeless body of his nameless pet fish.

A serendipitous encounter sends the main character in to the quirky world of Dirk Danger. Dirk, is determined to help Cheesebomb. Through a series of life lessons created by the one and only Dirk Danger, Cheesebomb is forced to take a good hard look at the realities of his life. This book will take you on a not-so-typical coming of age journey involving a fake lawyer, scuba gear, awful poetry, homelessness, ‘keeping it interesting’, and the largest collection of porn no one should ever own.

I implore you to read this sure to be cult classic. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.


Christmas is done and the New Year is almost upon us. So has anybody made their resolutions list yet?

I’m usually one of those people who makes resolutions and then keeps them for about the first fifteen days of the New Year. It’s usually something like, work out more, eat better, and lose weight. Blah, blah, same old, same old.

But this year, I’m thinking why bother with resolutions of change? Not that the beginning of a new year isn’t a great time to try and create yourself in to a better self. It’s just, I think my life is pretty great the way it is. So instead of thinking of nit-picky, negative things that I only manage to do for two weeks, I’m going to take a different approach to the New Year this go round.

This time, I’m going to make a list of everything that’s good in my life. A list of all the things I enjoy! Things that I’d like to see continue seeing or happening in my life for the next 365 days. It will be a list of positive things. Positive energy attracts more positive energy, right? I’ll put the list up somewhere where I can see it all year.

So, it won’t really be a resolutions list. It will be something to remind me that good things happen all the time and I don’t need drastic changes to obtain some unattainable perfection.

To being happy and a happy New Year.



Peculiar children

I give this book 3.75 out of 5 stars.

Perhaps I’ve given this book a slightly lower star review than it deserves. I read the first three quarters of it in a day or two but then got distracted. That’s not unusual for me. It was another week before I picked it up again and finished the rest. Maybe the break between starting and finishing made the story lose a little of its magic for me.

There were defiantly a few things I really liked about the book. For starters, the plot is unique. Which can be rare in today’s YA fiction genre. This Author, Ransom Riggs, over some time, stockpiled vintage snap shot photos that he collected for anywhere he could find them. He selected just fifty photos to go in to this book. Because there was no way of really knowing the true stories behind the photos… he wrote them. Each photo inspires a character, a scene, a happening.

As a writer, (and person who also owns a huge box of vintage photos) I can appreciate the talent and creativity that must have gone in to producing a book like this. It would defiantly be very different type of writing process. One I might like to try for myself one day.

My favorite part of the whole book is close to the end. (Sorry, spoiler alert) Page 344 in my copy. Jacob, the main character has finally found the strength in himself to make a decision. He must decide whether or not to go follow his new found friends on a journey to God only know where. If he goes, he would have to leave everything, and everyone he’s ever know behind and perhaps never see them again. Or he could decide to go back to the life he had. A life where everyone thinks he’s crazy, where the safety he thought he had never really existed.

In this scene Jacob finally finds his voice to tell his dad the decision he’s made.

I wonder for a moment if I would have to run from him. I pictured my dad holding me down, calling for help, loading me onto the ferry with arms locked in a straitjacket.

“I’m not coming with you,” I said.

His eyes narrowed and he coked his head, as if he hasn’t heard properly…

I love how in this book you can see how fragile Jacobs personality was, and how he finally, he come in to his own.

So, I do recommend this book. It’s different. It’s quirky. It’s a good read.

3.75 out of 5 stars… or maybe a little better than that.

Thank You

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I took my family to go see the field of crosses set up on Memorial Drive yesterday. And I’ll tell you, seeing it in person was a bit of a haunting experience for me. It really drove home the fact that, because of these people and what they did, my family and I don’t have to experience the hardships they did. Perhaps this year in light of the untimely deaths of Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent, we are reminded more so of how much our Canadian soldiers have done for us.

In the field along Memorial Drive there are three thousand crosses set up. The crosses represent soldiers from southern Alberta who died in wars Canada had, and still has involvement in. If it wasn’t for all the soldiers who have bravely fought we wouldn’t have so many of the things we take for granted today.

So I would like to say thank you to all of them.

Thank you – for my uneventful and ordinary days which I get to spend with the people I love.

Thank you – for standing up to the bad people in this world.

Thank you – for helping make, and keep, our country uniquely Canadian.

Thank you – for all your hardship and sacrifice.

Lest We Forget… I Will Remember.

Katherine Dell

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Little Village

Anyone can imagine that it’s not a difficult thing to get swallowed up by the enormity of a big city. In the city where I live there are approximately 1.2 million people living here. My neighbourhood alone has about 20,000 people in it. But on my street – where my house is – is my little village in the big city.

I know everyone within who lives within a four house radius in each direction of mine, and not just their first names. I know their kids, what they do for a living and probably what they did last weekend. I live on a street where the kids play in the front yards and ring doorbells to see if their friends are home.

We neighbours have open invitation parties and BBQ’s, most of which are impromptu. We have a habit of leaving our garage doors open saying we are home and to come hang out. And it’s not surprizing for a water balloon fight to break out or to see people just chilling in their front yards.

I truly live in a Norman Rockwell version of reality. So I encourage you– Get to know your neighbours. Perhaps you can find your little village in a big city.



A good author will have several summaries of their story on hand depending what it is needed for. Here’s one I’ve been working on for the inside cover. Does it make you want to read the book?


Harmless  – By Katherine Dell

Have you ever made a wish? One, so seemingly insignificant that you never gave it a second thought—until one day when it comes true? And now, there is no amount of wishing that could ever take it back.

Rachel Barnes, a seventeen year old high school senior finds out just how much one single moment like that could change her life forever. After her brother’s death years ago, and the recent divorce of her parents, Rachel’s mother makes a major decision to move from Vancouver. Rachel is forced to leave the city she’s called home for her entire life and to settle in a small town in northern BC—called Hazelton. It is the small town where her mother grew up, and where her grandmother still lives. This is where her mother hopes they can finally put back together their life that seems so broken.

Linked to her family’s native origins, Rachel soon discovers the secrets about Hazelton that have all been forgotten. Secrets so old they are legends. Legends so old no one will ever believe are real. Until that one night—that everything seemed so … Harmless.

Deer Cover

I’m so close to being finished the first draft of my novel Harmless. Yeah! But, now that I’m almost done it’s starting to bring up questions like, will my book have a sequel? Yes, defiantly! It’s taken me a while to craft an ending that both solves my main characters problems and creates a whole new set for her to solve in book two, but I’ve done it. My book will not only have a sequel because some of my favorite books have sequels, but also because – I’m not ready to stop writing about my characters. I often wonder if other writers get this attached to their characters.

Not too long ago, I took a writing class at Mount Royal Collage (Now Mount Royal University). I remember my instructor telling the class – You know you’re a writer when the thoughts and voices of your characters keep you up at night, demanding to be written. Okay, maybe those weren’t her exact words – but that was the gist of it. Perhaps this is why many writers are such night owls, doing their best work at night. My characters defiantly demand to be written! In more than just one book. Their experiences are not over yet.

As a writer, I’m constantly thinking about the characters in my book. I ask myself, why do they do things? Where are they from? What put them in this situation? How do they react? I know them so well they’re almost real – well as real as a character in a book gets. :)

So, after I’m finished writing Harmless, I’ll be working on its next book. My characters adventures are… To be continued.

This is a short story I wrote a little over a year ago. I was taking a writing class and it was one of my assignments. Rachel and her Grandma are characters from my book, Harmless that I’m currently working on.

Hope you like it. Katherine

Conversations Over Hot Tea

I walk into the kitchen and see it right away. Two cups of steaming hot tea set out on the kitchen table. Crap – she wants to talk. Maybe – if I back up real slow she won’t even notice I’m out of bed yet. I slide my worn cotton socks over the yellowing linoleum but the creak near the fridge gives me away. Busted.

“Hey, you’re awake.” My Grandma’s voice floats over the newspaper she’s reading. She’s sitting in her ratty old lazy boy in the living room.  I’m not sure why she won’t just get rid of that thing, it’s at least circa 1970’s. the chair groans when she shifts her weight. “Were you planning on sleeping the whole day? Or are you going to do something with what left of it?”

“Well…” I blink my eyes wide a few times and fish the last bit of sleep from the corner my right eye. Ugh, how many hours of sleep did I get? My head is pounding from a well-deserved hangover. I’m not fooling anybody about my level of alertness, not sure why I’m even trying. “I thought maybe I’d spend some time with mom today. Maybe go for breakfast or something.”

“It’s twenty after twelve Rachel.” She finally peers over the top of her Saturday Post; slowly taking the time to fold it back into its original tight bundle. “Your mom’s ran out to the office for a while to catch up on a few things. Said she’d be back around supper. So, I’m thinking breakfast is out.”

She’s not really staring, just giving me that look only a grandmother can give. She’s mad? no confused? no… I don’t know. My head hurts. She’s never been very hard to read. Although, I can’t say I’ve stopped to wonder on too many occasions. She’s always one to be out with it, no guessing involved. ‘To old to be anybody else but me.’ She would always say. ‘Don’t like me, that’s your troubles.’

She’s crossing the threshold of living room shag to kitchen lino when she says it. “I made some tea. Come at the table with me.”

Tea. Whatever she has to say must be pretty heavy if it involves hot beverages. My mom, my grandma, and just about everyone in this strange little town, insist that important conversations take place over hot tea. It’s definitely something I’m still getting used to. Hot tea that is. I’ve never really been a big fan.

The kitchen chair’s old bones groan in protest as I sit at the table. I find a comfortable groove and wrap both hands around the welcome warmth of my mug. Everyone has their own mug in this house. Mine’s the one with the kitten on it that looks just like my grandma’s cat. My mom has the one with the running horses, and my grandma’s is the one with the soaring eagle. Pretty sure they all came from that touristy place in town, along with the dream catcher that hangs in the window above the kitchen sink. Strange place to catch dreams if you ask me.

She takes a long sip from her tea, breathing in the hot vapours. “You’re not the only one who’s lost someone they love, you know.”

What? We’re talking about this now? I pick another kernel of sleep from my eye. Everyone knows I don’t talk about Eric’s death. What is this? Some sort of one woman, hot tea intervention? Man – one night of drinking and I’m branded clinically depressed. Is that it? He died six years ago. I’ve dealt with it, or I am dealing with it. Whatever – I’m fine. I’m fine. Just breathe Rachel. You don’t have to say anything, just sit here and drink your tea.

“Your Grandpa Harold, he died three years and twenty-two days after your brother Eric did.” She’s looks down at her mug of tea, like she sees something other than her own reflection swirling back at her. “I know that because I counted the days. I also know it was four days after Harold died that we had him cremated, and two more days after that when we held his funeral. It’s been one-thousand seventy-four days I’ve been without your grandpa Harold. On bad days, I still find myself keeping track.”

She gives her tea a stir even though she’s put nothing in it. “Keeping track of things was one of the ways I coped with him not being around anymore. Another thing I did after he died was – bake. I baked, and I baked, and I baked. Most times, when someone passes away your friends bring you things they’ve baked. So you don’t have to cook for the inevitable crowd of people that’s going to show up around that time. For me it was the opposite. I’d bake things and take it to them.” She looked up gazing off into nothing, from what I could tell. “I didn’t like being alone for any stretch. I baked as an excuse to see someone so I wouldn’t be alone. I baked everything; pies, cookies, casseroles. Oh, the casseroles; baked-sadness, oven-roasted-pity, bad-luck-pot-luck. Baked so much, our tiny grocery store ran out of cream of what-ever soup, so I couldn’t bake anymore – or so they said.”

“Are we still talking about Grandpa?” I had to jump in and say something. This conversation is getting weird and rambling, even for Grandma.

“Yeah, we’re still talking about Grandpa.” She loosened her grip on her soaring eagle mug. “What I’m trying to say is, we all have our ways of dealing with things when people die. I know how much it hurts to have people go before you, but at some point, it’s okay to start living again and enjoy things like you used to. Not just going through the motions. Whether you like it to or not, life keeps on moving. And if you spend forever baking sadness, you won’t notice – life is leaving you behind.”

Well – what do I say to that? I get it. I do. Maybe it’s time I check back in. Maybe.

What are we eating?

Summer 2014 141

So, let me ask you this. What was the last thing you ate?

Was it organic? Non-GMO? Fresh? Locally grown? Hormone and pesticide free? Blessed by a saint and washed in holy water?… Just seeing if I have your attention. :)

Now, I’m not trying to be preachy asking these questions. I’m just asking. When was the last time you thought about what you’re eating? Take a second right now and think about it. Maybe you could answer some of my earlier questions, maybe not. Or perhaps you’re thinking what the point of worrying about it at all. The stuff I buy at the grocery store is good for me – right?

Here’s the point… Most of us just go to the store and buy what’s available. Which, in my opinion is how it should be. We should be able to read the packaging on our foods and believe it to be the truth, not just a version of it. After doing a little research of my own, its lead me to believe that maybe what I’m buying to feed my family requires a little more thought than just trusting the buzz words on food packaging.

Here’s a few things you could do to make sure you’re eating what’s best for you…

  1. Grow a garden! If you don’t have space in your yard there may be community ones close to you. Not only will you get fruits and veg that you’ve grown yourself, but you’ll get fresh air too.
  2. Educate yourself! I personally like documentaries. Here are a few with good reviews.
  3. Shop at a farmers market when you can. The food is often fresher and more locally grown. I love going to a farmers market. The smells, the culture, the people are always a treat. Markets bring another level of interaction between us and what we eat.


Summer 2014 154

Eat well, everyone. :)

From reader to writer

Katherine (34)

I haven’t always been the avid reader that I am today, devouring five-hundred page books in just a few nights. In fact I only discovered my love for reading about seven years ago. I was pregnant with my first, and my husband I were just starting out in a new city where we didn’t know a soul. We didn’t have a lot of extra money for things so we had to make our entertainment dollar go a little further than most.

A library card to the local public library was my solution to staving off the boredom. To some of you this probably doesn’t sound very exciting… and maybe it’s not. But let me tell you something, I discovered something that a lot of people are missing out on. Books can take you places! Now, I know you’ve all heard that before, but it so true. The more you read the better you get at it. And it truly is a skill. Once you’re good at it, books become like movies in your head. You can see the characters and feel the emotions. They become more than just words on a page.

After a few years of reading everything I could get my hands on, I discovered that young adult fiction was my favorite. I also knew that I wanted to write. So… years later here I am. I’m a chapter or two away from a first draft of a novel. I’ve collaborated with talented friends to build a website and brand. And I’ve branched off into graphic novel prequels to my novel with another very talented artist friend.

As a writer, I wish that someday my stories will inspire someone else to write or even just enjoy reading that much more.

My Writers Journal


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Every writer should keep a journal! Or so I’ve been told.

Now, I’m not talking about one of those cutesy little books with pictures of cats on the front with a tiny bronze colored lock which holds it closed. Or even a diary that you’ve religiously kept every day since grade six camp (although, that might really be something). Nope, what I’m talking about is a journal… for any random though really. A writers journal is for those who aspire to write more. Or maybe they want to be published someday. Or it could just be, they have amazingly awesome ideas that need to be recorded before they’re forgotten in to nothingness.

I take my journal with me almost everywhere. It’s big enough for grand ideas and it’s tough enough to take some abuse. I keep it close when watching my favorite shows, when reading, or anytime I might get inspired. It’s great for recording those awesome idea you have right before you fall asleep. Sometimes I even use it for brainstorming on a new chapter I’m writing.

Here’s a list of things you could write in your writers journal…

  1. A poem you wrote.
  2. Titles of books you’ll never write.
  3. Character names.
  4. Big questions and big answers.
  5. What you should have said… but never will.
  6. Quotes that inspire, chill, or enlighten.
  7. Tape, glue or draw some pictures in it.
  8. Make a list.
  9. Write an old school letter.
  10. Do whatever inspires you and do it often.

Happy Journaling !


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So I was reading this book last night, Looking for Alaska – By John Green. This particular author is becoming one of my favorites. His vivid stories and rich characters give me something to strive towards in my writing. This is the third book by John Green that I’ve read, the others being The Fault in our Stars, and An Abundance of Katherines.

I’m not finished reading Looking for Alaska yet, but I wanted to share with you this amazing quote I found on page 54.

“You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”

Without giving you any context of what point in the story this comes from, I want you just to think about it what it says. What does this quote say about your life? About the goals you pursue… About the world in general?

I think I could philosophize on this quote for pages but, I’ll sum it up for you in just a few lines. :)

We are living and working in today, for a future we dream will be abundant, rich, and far more fantastic then what we live right now. But, rarely do we step out of today’s mind set and actually reach that future, because we are far more comfortable in the pursuit of it than ever really achieving it.


Whew… Who says young adult fiction can’t be deep? After I finish this book I think I shall start on one of John Green’s other books called Paper Towns.

Be a Kid Again

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Let me share with you something I read somewhere a long time ago… It said,

If you don’t grow up by a certain age, you never have too!

Wouldn’t that be nice? In some ways at least. Obviously it’s not a reality for the vast majority of us. Which suits me just fine. BUT, on occasion I highly recommend that each of you rewind to your younger, more carefree selves.

I took an impromptu trip with my family just recently to Waterton Lakes National Park to do just that. While we were there, we rode this crazy four person bike. Which, when peddled at rapid speeds only went about 5km hours. We ate waffle ice cream cones as big as our heads, finished every last bite, and went in to mild sugar comas. We played at a park in the pouring rain, and awed at scenery and wildlife like it was the first time we’d ever seen it.

It felt great to relax and be silly. Not just for me but for my kids too because some day they’ll be all grown up, and I’ll undoubtedly become hopelessly ‘un-cool’. When that happens, I hope they’ll remember these fun times, and know that life isn’t all about being grown up and sophisticated all the time. That sometimes it’s good to not be too grown up.

When I listen to these songs it’s like hearing my own personal soundtrack to my latest novel I’m working on. These songs have inspired my stories, helped me put depth into my writing and ignited deeper passions in my characters. Just like a good book, songs can take you places you’ve never been. Here are just a few of the songs that have had a role in inspiring me to write my latest young adult novel Harmless. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

I won’t give up – Jason Mraz

Kiss me – Ed Sheeran

Let her go – Passenger

Magic carpet ride – Stepphenwolf

Demons – Imagine Dragons

Hair Salon

Just recently I was at the hair salon getting the ol’roots touched up. That’s right, my blonde hair isn’t as blonde as it used it be but I guess only my stylist knows that. Well, she and all of you of course. Anyway, I’m sitting in the salon chair reading my trashy magazine while my stylist is ‘foiling’ away on my hair when another stylist comes by and interrupts her.

“Excuse me,” The girl says to my stylist. “but, do you know who’s in the bathroom?”

This, being a strange question to ask gets my attention. The other stylist goes on to say that the person in the bathroom has been in there for at least twenty-five minutes and she needs to use the facilities. You may have guessed by now that the place where I get my hair done only has one bathroom. So tying it up for long periods of time can be an issue.

The second stylist stews for a bit wondering what to do, when she hears noises coming from the bathroom. What she hears is a blow dryer. Now, there are always a lot of blow dryer noises at a salon, but not in the bathroom. Having gone to this salon many times I can tell you there is no a hand dryer in there. Finally, the second stylist knocks on the door to the bathroom. The door opens to a regular salon client that had just finished having a color done on her hair. For any of you who don’t dye your hair… When you have a color done, the stylist must wash the hair dye out of your hair when the product is finished processing. Leaving your hair wet of course from the shampoo and water.

Now it’s cold outside and this isn’t one of those cheap hair cutting joints where they just wet your hair, cut it and kick you out the door like a drowned rat. No! They blow dry your hair for you. Who knew? It’s even included in the price of the dye job.

So… The regular client emerges from the bathroom. She’s going on and on about how she had a ‘hair emergency’ which required her to bring her own blow-dryer to the salon bathroom to dry and style her own hair. Now, in her defence I’ve had stylists do my hair and it ended up looking like a blind person cut it with play-doh scissors and a Barbie comb. But, I’ve never scuttled off from the salon sink with wet hair claiming a bathroom break just so I could do my own hair… at a salon… where I’ve just paid someone else to do it.

The disgruntled regular client left out the front door of the salon with the manager complaining about how rude it was for the stylist to knock on the bathroom door. She scoffed in disgust that she should be allowed to do her own hair… and that it was a hair emergency!

So what is the point this story? Well, in the world today a lot of us are used to getting what we want and most of the time… that’s good. But that doesn’t mean you should act like a weirdo. So here are a few tips from me in the area of common sense, politeness and etiquette. Don’t bring or drink Tim Horton’s coffee at a Starbucks. Don’t bring food from home to restaurants. And last but not least… don’t bring your own hair dryer to a hair salon even if it’s a hair emergency!

The Promise of Amazing - Book Review

Anyone who knows me knows I read a lot of books. I read so much in fact I often have to pace myself so I can get other things done. This probably isn’t a problem for most people but, I’m not most people. Eighty percent of what I read is young adult fiction, which is also what I write. So, if YA is your favorite genre look no further for a great book review. And if not give it a try, you just might like it.

I’ll tell you about this book I just read. The Promise of Amazing by Robin Constantine. Now, I know I’m not the only one to have reviewed this book. So when I say that The Promise of Amazing delivered just that. I hope I’m not being too cliché.

This story is your classic coming of age love story between two teens trying to find themselves. And answers the question a lot of us still ask. ‘Who am I?’

Robin Constantine took two average characters; Wren and Grayson and let us dive head first into their private lives. She lets us see that there is much more to people than the labels they possess. Especially those bearing the tag of ‘That quiet good girl’.

By far, my favorite part of the whole book was a scene between Luke and Wren. The two were sitting together on the school bus heading to St. Lucy Retirement home to volunteer with a group of students from their schools.

Luke: “Has he ever mentioned Brinker Hadley or Mike Pearson?”
The name sounded vaguely familiar.
Wren: “Brinker Hadley? A Separate Peace, right?”
His eyes changed, softened the tiniest bit.
Luke: “You’ve read that?”
There was an edge of disbelief in his voice.

I won’t spoil the entire book for you, but this is a major turning point. Wren doesn’t know the impact she is having on the other character (Luke). Which make this scene even better. It’s like a secret only the reader knows… That even a cold and calculating heart can have a soft spot.

This book speaks to the diehard romantic in me. I give it four out of five stars. 

Partials - Book Review

When it comes to young adult novels I generally lean towards books that are part of a series. So that if I fall in love with the first book, I know the characters will carry on in to the next book in the series. So far, I’ve read the first two books in the three book series Partials by Dan Wells. (Fragments, Ruins.)

This young adult, science fiction novel is set in a post-apocalyptic reality of the year 2076. This is eleven years after an isolation war between the United States and China. In an effort to end the isolation war, the US contracts Paragen, a manufacturer of bio-synth organisms to create an army of almost human super soldiers, later know as partials. The partial army ends the war but unfortunately they are not welcomed home as heroes. They are segregated, oppressed and pressured into rebellion.

The first book starts eleven years after the partial rebellion and isolation war. Tensions are still high between partials and humans, especially since 99.6% of the world’s population of humans has been wiped out by a virus called RM. It’s believed that RM was released by the partials to wipe out the human race, which it almost did. Now the remaining population of humans immune to RM struggles to survive, all gathered together on Manhattan Island. In the eleven years, the survivors have not had one baby born immune to RM and are now facing the reality that their generation will be the last.

This book is thrilling, amazingly detailed, fast paced and will keep you reading to the last page of the last book in the series. If you like books like I am number four by Pittacus Lore, Once by Anna Carey or The hunger games by Suzanne Collins you’ll love this book series.

I give it a 4.5 out of 5.

A mom with many hats

As a mom, writer, chauffeur, chef, counsellor, wife and (Well, the list is endless) it can be difficult sometimes to find balance in my everyday life. Between raising happy heathy kids, achieving my personal goals and having a little fun in between, life can get a bit crazy. For example, today I’m writing this blog while watching my two children play on giant inflatable bouncy houses. Yep, I’m listening to joyous screams of about twenty-five three to six year olds all playing around me while I sip my coffee and type away on my keyboard. It’s a bit loud in here to say the least but I’m sure any mom can appreciate the level of multitasking that I’m achieving. A lot of the time my attempts at this don’t run this smoothly but that’s okay. Most days I’m just happy to ‘roll with it’ however the day might play out. Which has kind of been my motto since I became a mom.

Even though my time can be limited and divided between the many ‘hats’ I wear, I can’t be more thankful that my life is so full. As a writer it’s given me the ability to see life from different perspectives, making my stories that much richer. And as a mom I’ve learned to notice and appreciate even the smallest moments.

So, to all the moms out there that dream big… Don’t give up. Most things that are worth doing aren’t very easy.