Interview with Molly Neely

This month’s featured genre is Fantasy and my guest is author Molly Neely. She is an avid reader of everything from history, theology, and politics, to vampires, ghosts, and romance. Her debut novel, The Sand Dweller, was published by Black Opal Books in 2016. She has an eclectic style and a wide range of tastes, including a passion for Pre-Code classic movies, pretty much anything with bacon in it, and of course preparing for the Zombie apocalypse. She lives in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno California, with her husband, Lyle, and their Whippet, Devo.

Hello and thank you for your interest in being a part of this discussion in support of Indie Authors. Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I don’t have a writing background. I am very much just an “average Jane” who loves to read. When you can’t find that one special story you’re dying to read, that’s when it’s time to put pen to paper…so that’s what I did.

Discuss your newest book.

My newest project is a children’s fairytale, Ima Jean Perry, the Strawberry Fairy. It’s a project that has been needling me for years. I wrote it as part of a book promotion at work. Kids could come into the store and design/write their own story book. I sat with the kids and did my own just for fun. Then I put it in a drawer and forgot about it for about 12 years. It wasn’t until I wrote The Sand Dweller, that I dug that story out and considered doing something with it. My youngest sister Nikki is a budding illustrator. Ima Jean will be her first illustration project.

Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Watching a movie (based on a book) on TV. I remember thinking, “I could write a book like this!”  So I literally sat down the next day and began writing The Sand Dweller.

What are your current projects?

My children’s book, a follow up to The Sand Dweller, and a psychological thriller. I’m all over the place!

What books have most influenced your life?

I was that kid that loved Shakespeare & Edgar Allan Poe, but then would have no problem burying myself in a history book. I am mostly influenced by stories that are dark, full of intrigue and possible.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?

Malachi is half demon, but was raised by an old man from a Bedouin tribe in ancient Israel. He is cursed by association, but because of his upbringing, Malachi longs to gain god’s Grace. It becomes his sole agenda.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Patience. Everything happens when it’s supposed to. Stay the course and you can achieve anything.

What is the hardest thing about writing?

Finding the time.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

The word count was a killer! Writing for adults is a breeze. You can write as much or as little as you want, in order to tell your story. But with young children, you have to have the hands of a surgeon when it comes to writing. You have to say a lot with very few words.

What is the easiest thing about writing?

When you get on a roll, and the words just flow out…that’s when writing is easy. You almost feel possessed, the story comes out and you’re just along for the ride. I love that!

What book are you reading now?

I’m really into history. Especially American history and medieval Europe. I’m picking through the federalist papers right now and a book on the Tudors is in my que.

What is one random thing about you?

I saw fairies when I was 4.

What does your writing process look like?

I start with a question. What if ___? (fill in the blank). My psychological thriller started with, “What if a teen wanted to get rid of her bully? What if she decided to frame a serial killer? What if that killer has chosen her for his next victim?” Before I knew it I had 40,000 words.

Do you have any strange writing habits (like standing on your head or writing in the shower)?

I have to have Wint-o-green life savers.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

Word counts. I tend to get to the point. So I’m constantly needing to expand and enrich the story.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’m a huge classic move fan. Especially pre-code films (1920s to 1934).

From where do you gain your inspiration?

Movies, other books. I have even had a few dreams that ended up becoming poems or short stories.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

Both have ups and downs. I published with a small independent press. I wanted very much to be published traditionally. It was a personal validation that I needed. I think my life is way too busy for self-publishing. I barely find time to promote now. There’s no way I could go the distance self-publishing requires. I do envy the freedom though, so maybe someday.

How do you market your books?

Facebook and Twitter posts. I have met several bloggers and reviewers through social media. I also spent three years (while collecting rejection letters) establishing contacts in local media. So I have been honored with airtime on radio and television, promoting The Sand Dweller.

Do you have any advice for other authors on how to market their books?

Establish good media contacts. Don’t be afraid to ask for airtime. Be bold when looking for book bloggers. What’s the worst they could say…no thanks? And be a good neighbor. Most bloggers I know are also writers who would love it if you posted an author interview, or a review on your website/social media.

What part of your writing time do you devote to marketing your book?

I work on marketing in the evenings. For example, I’m on the couch writing this while digesting my dinner and watching a Humphry Bogart flick. Multi-tasking is the key!

What do you do to get book reviews?

Beg! (lol) Getting reviews is a challenge, but I’m not afraid to ask. That’s really the secret. Be persistent.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

There really is a novel in everyone. Stop worrying about whether no not you can. Just write it.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

On Facebook:…

On Twitter: Molly Neely, Author (@mollyneely)



How to Hook Your Reader

This month’s guest blogger is Teresa LaBella. Teresa published her first contemporary romance novel “Reservations” in 2013. The big city story continued in “Heartland” set in small town Iowa.  “Belonging,” the final novel in the New Life in Love trilogy, moved the McKenna family saga to the west coast of Scotland. E-books include a trio of stories in “Tales from Heartland” that revisit the charm of Harmony and the lives of neighbors met in book two, and “Love Unlikely,” the surprising chance for happily-ever-after for Marisa’s sister, Rachel.

In the following blog, Teresa offers some valuable personal insight into ways to grab your readers from page one.

Wanda DeHaven Pyle

Crime novelist extraordinaire Mickey Spillane said it best. The first page sells the book. The last page sells the next book. Finesse the six elements of fiction – character, plot, setting, point of view, theme and style – and you’ll hook readers into turning those pages through lunch hours, during commutes and into the wee hours of the morning.

Element #1 – Character
Want to grab and hold your readers’ attention? Create strong characters to drive the story along the road map of conflict that you, the author, draw for them. Strategically placed small details can reveal a lot about characters. Only about 15 percent of the details of your characters’ life, the back story behind the motivation for their thoughts, words, and actions, make it onto the pages. But the more you know about the people driving your story, the better the book. Stretch beyond the usual facts you’d ask a new acquaintance at a dinner party. Is your character an only child? Or did he or she lose a sibling to death or estrangement? Do they need to and/or have they made peace with their parents, living or dead? If not, were the circumstances surrounding their death traumatic for the character and if so, how? Did they have a crush on a teacher? Coach? The next door neighbor? Were they bullied? Or were they the bully? Pick and choose what and when you need to reveal those details, if at all, to the reader. But don’t overload the reader with too much back story or characters that do nothing to move the story along that conflict road map. They’ll resent you for it.

Element #2 – Plot
Think of plot as the blueprint for your story that the characters follow. The layout begins on page one. But while plot is important to the story, always remember that the characters live within it. The twists and turns of plot center on and revolve around your drivers. Engage the gears. Is your protagonist the pursuer, of a dream, an idea, a mystery or the pursued, by a real or imagined antagonist?

Element #3 – Setting
Where your characters live, connect and interact with each other molds and shapes who they are. It’s the world they swim in, the culture that seasons them, the baggage they carry until that transformational moment that causes or forces the decision to let go or not. Make description work for setting. Use it to define the characters and their opinion of their world by weaving what they see, smell, hear, and feel into the action.

Element #4 – Point of View
How do you want your readers to see your story – through the eyes of the “I” in first person, the “You” in second person, or the “We” in third person? That depends again on your characters. If you have a cast that demands equal billing, then be their fly-on-the-wall in third person. However, if there’s a character screaming in your head to take center stage, crawl inside theirs. Tell that story.

Element #5 – Theme
Here’s where the rubber meets the road. What is your story really about? Even the most straight forward genre needs a detour, that sharp turn the reader doesn’t see coming, the story arc that winds and bends to reveal the final destination and stays in the reader’s rearview mirror past The End.

Element #6 – Style
The author’s voice sets the tone from page one. Your technique as a writer, pacing, syntax, choice of words, use of dialogue and description, stamps your style as uniquely you. Style that hooks the reader sells the book in their hands and the next one you write.

A freelance writer and consultant, Teresa resides in her Davenport, Iowa hometown with her filmmaker/indie publisher husband John and their three rescued husky fur babies.

The featured genre for September is History (nonfiction). I am pleased to share one of my favorites. If you have a favorite, you may also share it on this page.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larson
On May 1, 1915, with WWI entering its tenth month, a luxury ocean liner as richly appointed as an English country house sailed out of New York, bound for Liverpool, carrying a record number of children and infants. The passengers were surprisingly at ease, even though Germany had declared the seas around Britain to be a war zone. For months, German U-boats had brought terror to the North Atlantic. But the Lusitania was one of the era’s great transatlantic “Greyhounds”—the fastest liner then in service—and her captain, William Thomas Turner, placed tremendous faith in the gentlemanly strictures of warfare that for a century had kept civilian ships safe from attack.

Germany, however, was determined to change the rules of the game, and Walther Schwieger, the captain of Unterseeboot-20, was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, an ultra-secret British intelligence unit tracked Schwieger’s U-boat, but told no one. As U-20 and the Lusitania made their way toward Liverpool, an array of forces both grand and achingly small—hubris, a chance fog, a closely guarded secret, and more—all converged to produce one of the great disasters of history.

It is a story that many of us think we know but don’t, and Erik Larson tells it thrillingly, switching between hunter and hunted while painting a larger portrait of America at the height of the Progressive Era. Full of glamour and suspense, Dead Wake brings to life a cast of evocative characters, from famed Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat to pioneering female architect Theodate Pope to President Woodrow Wilson, a man lost to grief, dreading the widening war but also captivated by the prospect of new love.

Gripping and important, Dead Wake captures the sheer drama and emotional power of a disaster whose intimate details and true meaning have long been obscured by history.

Once again, Erik Larson has captured the human element behind a tragedy. He has artfully focused on the lives of the victims in the midst of political upheaval. One can only shake one’s head at the mishandling of the event that lead to such a tragic end.

You can follow all my reviews and recommendation on Amazon and Goodreads.

Wanda DeHaven Pyle



Romeo and Juliet Wrapped in Social Commentary

The Zebra Affaire: An Apartheid Love Story (The Sub-Sahara Saga, #1The Zebra Affaire: An Apartheid Love Story (The Sub-Sahara Saga, #1 by Mark Fine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Mark Fine has admirably taken on the daunting task of melding fiction with nonfiction in The Zebra Affaire. He has done so by placing his editorial commentary within the text of the novel.These passages are italicized to distinguish them from the fictional story. He welcomes the reader to “skip these asides in order to stick to the main trail of the tale”. The result of this experiment in style is a kind of Romeo and Juliet tale wrapped in social and political commentary.

As a history buff, I found it irresistible to skip these editorial asides. While they were thought-provoking and informative, they also proved to be a distraction to the fictional story. I found it difficult to really get to know the characters in order to fully empathize with their situation. Just when I became engrossed in the story and the beauty of the language, it was interrupted by the commentary. My personal preference would have been to place the commentary in endnotes. That would have allowed me to become more vested in the emotional tale of the two lovers and provide me with a personal connection to the horrors of apartheid. But others may feel differently about this.

Overall, this book is extremely well-written and the language is vivid and poetic. I would highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the effects of apartheid at a very human level.

View all my reviews

This Month’s Feature Blog by Adam Gidwitz

What Makes a Children’s Book Good?

By Adam Gidwitz

October 3, 2016, The New Yorker


As someone who writes books for children, I am privy to a never-ending debate in children’s-literature circles. (You may now be imagining old ladies in floral dresses sitting around Victorian parlors, knitting and discussing the relative merits of “Johnny Tremain” and “Little House on the Prairie”; I assure you, nowadays it is mostly tattoos and pink hair in these groups, though there are still some lovely floral dresses.) The debate is this: What makes a children’s book “good”?

Now that summer vacation is over and students are submitting lists of books they have read since June, the question is particularly relevant. Does having read the novelization of the latest superhero movie “count” as having read a book? How about a graphic novel based on a line of toys? After my seventh-grade summer, I turned in a reading list that consisted of a single title—the illustrated book “Dinotopia,” by James Gurney. My teacher wrote “This is a sad list” on the paper. More fool her: I hadn’t even read “Dinotopia.” It just happened to be the only reading material other than _Mad _magazine in my room that summer, and I’d felt that my proximity to the book constituted reading it.


The conundrum of the “good” children’s book is best embodied by the apparently immortal—or maybe just undead—series “Goosebumps,” by R. L. Stine. “Goosebumps” is a series of horror novellas, the kid’s-lit equivalent of B-horror movies. It’s also one of the most successful franchises in the business, selling over three hundred and fifty million copies worldwide—which is a ludicrous, almost obscene, number. And here’s a secret from the depths of the publishing industry: neither marketing nor publicity nor movie tie-ins can move three hundred and fifty million copies. The only way to sell that many copies is if millions of kids actually and truly want to read the books. The conclusion is obvious: “Goosebumps” books are good, right?

Maybe, but kids have weird ideas of quality. The children’s author Laura Amy Schlitz, in her 2007 Newbery Medal acceptance speech, explained: “I must remind myself that ‘good’ is an approximate term. A second-grader once asked me for ‘a really, really good book,’ and I asked him, as librarians do, what he considered a good book. He eyed me with thinly veiled impatience and replied, ‘Medium-long with poisonous snakes.’ ”

Adult responses to the question of good children’s books tend to fall into two general camps: a content-oriented approach and a results-oriented approach. The ladies in floral dresses of ages past were concerned with content. A good book for children is somehow instructive or nutritive, often morally so. You might laugh that off as hopelessly old-fashioned, but there has been a broad resurgence of the idea that children’s books should be “socially conscious,” which isn’t that far from morally instructive. Vast numbers of children’s books these days are somehow “timely” and “relevant,” taking on issues like discrimination or animal cruelty. Some particularly wonderful ones that might be described as “socially conscious” are Gene Luen Yang’s “Boxers and Saints,” a duo of graphic novels about religious and colonial persecution during the Boxer Rebellion; Katherine Applegate’s masterpiece “The One and Only Ivan,” which deals with the cruel treatment of a gorilla in a roadside zoo; and Cece Bell’s brilliant and funny “El Deafo,” a graphic memoir about the author growing up with a hearing impairment. But _must _a book be “socially conscious” to be good?

A different content criterion is psychological value. This is what the child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim advocated. As he explained in “The Uses of Enchantment,” he believed that a good book would “promote [the child’s] ability to find meaning in life. . . . It must stimulate his imagination; help him to develop his intellect and to clarify his emotions; be attuned to his anxieties and aspirations; give full recognition to his difficulties, while at the same time suggesting solutions to the problems which perturb him.” As a children’s-book author, and even as a purchaser of children’s books, I am daunted by those requirements. Bettelheim claims that few children’s books achieve these lofty goals—with the exception of fairy tales. When I read this passage, Maurice Sendak’s “Where The Wild Things Are” always comes to mind. That one, it seems to me, satisfies Bettelheim’s stipulations. O.K., so we’ve given our children Grimm and Sendak. Now what are we supposed to do?

The results-oriented approach gives us a much broader set of criteria for determining quality. “Results” can range from book sales (“Goosebumps,” in that case, would definitely be good) to making a child laugh (any book written by Jon Scieszka would loudly ring that bell). C. S. Lewis took the results-oriented approach in his landmark essay, “On Three Ways of Writing for Children.” Anyone who believes that children’s books should be read only by children, or who slanders the art of writing for children, should read this essay and then graciously admit defeat. After castigating authors who pander to children, Lewis writes, “I am almost inclined to set it up as a canon that a children’s story which is enjoyed only by children is a bad children’s story. The good ones last. A waltz which you can like only when you are waltzing is a bad waltz.”

What a beautiful idea. And how perfectly stated. Lewis is not saying that adults determine which books are good for children, but rather that the truly good books for children are those that fall in the center of a Venn diagram, where one circle is books that children like, and the other is books that adults like. But as much as I enjoy this idea, and as much as I like the waltzing metaphor, why should this be true? If we are asking what makes a good book for children, why should we care what adults think of it at all?

I asked Laura Amy Schlitz. “I think,” she said, “you’re really dealing with two questions here: What makes a children’s book good, and what makes a children’s book lit-ra-cha.” She went on, “Some children’s books are like children’s shoes: they fit children perfectly, but they don’t fit adults, and in time children outgrow them. ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ on the other hand, is literature. It has breadth and depth, and it’s beautifully illustrated and cadenced. I’ve read it hundreds of times to children, and every now and then I take it out and read it to myself. I never grow tired of it.” Sendak? Again? Damn you, Sendak!

What good, though, is calling a children’s book “literature”? Doesn’t that just permit us to alloy children’s opinions with adult ones? We give children’s shoes to children because they fit_ _children’s feet. And why would we denigrate a waltz that can only be danced to? Children, in particular, are made to dance.

One of the best things about being a writer of fiction, as opposed to, say, a philosopher or a theorist, is that when I am faced with a tough question, I don’t have to choose a single answer. I follow the prophet Walt Whitman: I contain multitudes, and I contradict myself whenever I choose to. In the case of determining quality in children’s books, I have two answers.

The first guides my writing process, and is therefore content-oriented. I aspire to write books that are so exciting that my readers will want to devour every page, and are rich and thoughtful enough that every page will be worth devouring. Authors who aim to write serious and important books for children sometimes forget that if a child isn’t motivated to finish a book, then all that fancy stuff halfway through becomes nothing more than self-serving. Authors who aspire only to write mere entertainment, on the other hand, are missing an opportunity: If you’ve got a kid’s attention, why not put it to good use? More importantly, children want to be challenged, made to think and reconsider; they want to learn and grow and become wiser. Kids will like a book with a great story. But they will only love a book that makes them see the world in a new way.

But I also have a results-oriented answer, because, once my books are written, I want to know how I’ve done. If a child opens a book, reads every page of it, closes it, clutches it to his chest, and says, “I love this book,” then it is a good book. Do kids clutch “Goosebumps” to their chests? Some do. Many others clutch “Where the Wild Things Are,” or “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” or “El Deafo,” because those books help them find meaning in life, be it moral, psychological, or ineffable.

It’s not important, in the end, whether a child is waltzing to Tchaikovsky or to Strauss. The most important thing is that she is waltzing.

  • Adam Gidwitz has a new book for children, the “The Inquisitor’s Tale.”Bottom of Form


7 Things You Need to Write a Bestselling Nonfiction Book

For all you nonfiction writers out there, the following guest blog by Amy Morin has some valuable tips. Enjoy!

Wanda DeHaven Pyle


04/05/2016 04:19 pm ET | Updated Apr 05, 201

By Amy Morin

I never set out to become an author. My main source of income had always been through my work as a psychotherapist. I’d only started writing articles as a way to earn extra money after my husband passed away.

But everything changed when one of my articles—13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do—went viral. Millions of people read it and within a few days, a literary agent contacted me and suggested I write a book.

I knew nothing about the publishing industry. But I knew I wanted to do it.

I spent the next couple of weeks creating my book proposal (after I researched how to write one). And incredibly, that proposal landed me a deal with HarperCollins.

I spent months writing, editing, and rewriting. And just 13 months after my article went viral, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, went on sale. Remarkably, it hit several bestseller lists and was even named one of the best business books of the year.

As an accidental author, I’m humbled and grateful I had the opportunity to write a book. From invitations to a TEDx talk, to producing my own Mental Strength Building eCourse, a traditionally published book opened up a lot of new opportunities for me. Not to mention, it’s a pretty surreal experience to see my book on the bookstore shelves!

If you hope to land a nonfiction book deal with a mainstream publisher, here are seven things you’ll need to be successful:

  1. A Fresh Idea
    To capture the attention of an agent and a publisher, you’ll need a captivating idea. It could be something completely original or a fresh angle on an old idea. Publishers will want to see what will set your book apart from the rest.
  2. An Engaged Platform
    It’s not enough to have a great idea—you also need proof that people are interested in your idea. If you only have 100 social media followers and a dozen blog readers, you’ll want to grow your platform to prove people want to hear your message. Show prospective publishers you already have an audience who is eager to hear more.
  3. Expertise
    Have you studied the subject of your book for decades? Are you viewed as a credible leader on the topic? Be prepared to explain why you’re the best person to write—and promote—the book.
  4. A Motivated Agent
    You can’t pitch your ideas to most mainstream publishers directly—they only take proposals from established agents. So, you’ll need to find an agent who believes in you and your ideas. Your agent will help negotiate a fair contract with a publisher, which is worth every penny of their commission.
  5. A Killer Proposal
    Publishers buy books based on proposals, so no need to write the entire manuscript up front. A nonfiction proposal includes components such as a table of contents, chapter summaries, and a sample chapter or two. It should also include a clear business plan that shows how you’ll help sell books.
  6. A Winning Marketing Strategy
    As someone once said to me, “It’s called the bestseller’s list, not the best writer’s list.” The decline of brick and mortar bookstores and the rise in the volume of books being written, means selling books is really hard work.

Although a publisher will help provide you with marketing support, much of the promotion is your responsibility. Whether you do speaking engagements, or you write for a major publication, you’ll need to find ways to attract attention for your book.

  1. A Clear Writing Plan
    If you get a book deal, take time to celebrate—but don’t celebrate too long. Your book isn’t going to write itself (unless you hire a ghostwriter). Researching, writing, and editing take a lot of time.

Create a clear plan for how you’re going to carve out time to complete your manuscript. Whether you write a little each day or you set aside a couple of days each week to focus solely on your book, create a schedule and a timeline.

But stay flexible. The best ideas may come to you when you’re standing in line at the grocery store or when you’re in the shower. Keep a pen and paper handy so you can jot down your ideas whenever inspiration strikes.

Amy Morin is the author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, a USA Today bestseller that is being translated into more than 20 languages.

Follow Amy Morin on Twitter:

Non-fiction That Reads Like Fiction

Red Notice by Bill Browder

July is non-fiction month, so I thought I would kick things off with a review of one of the best non-fiction thrillers I have read in a long time. Red Notice by Bill Browder is a financial caper, a crime thriller and a political crusade all wrapped into one.  It is the story of one man taking on overpowering odds to change the world. But more than that, it is the story of how, without really intending to, he found new meaning in his life.

Red Notice provides fascinating insight into the world of hedge fund management in the eastern bloc countries. It tells the story of Hermitage Capital, a hedge fund which at one time was the largest foreign investor in Russia.  The story is set in Post-Soviet Russia at a time when the country had developed into a kleptocracy. People in the government and those with the necessary connections were stripping the assets from the communist state at fire sale prices. Some of the assets, like the energy company Gazprom, were so huge that even a gang of dedicated thieves could only steal a fraction of the assets.  Hermitage Capital invested in Gazprom and other companies. Then, after buying the under-priced assets, they exposed the corruption which, at least for a time, drove the thieves away and caused stock prices to rise.

This worked well while Putin was gaining power since it cleared away some of the oligarchs that were in his way. But once Putin came to power, Hermitage Capital’s investment strategy was no longer tolerated. Browder and his company executives did not see the new reality of Putin’s regime unfolding until it was too late.

Browder manages to barely escape with his life. However, his Russian lawyer wasn’t so lucky. He was arrested and jailed where he was eventually tortured to death. His death had a profound effect on Browder.  His first-hand view of the murderous heart of the Putin regime leads him on a crusade to expose it to the rest of the world. Because of that, he becomes Putin’s number one enemy and is placed on “red notice.”

Through this remarkable tale, the reader sees Browder grow through the adversity he experiences. He regrets that he was not wiser in the beginning and did not see Russia clearly for what it was. Such regrets are common for anyone who carefully examines the journey he has made to his wiser self.

Red Notice provides a terrifying look at Communist politics through the eyes of an insider. Crime can keep a nonfiction book moving just like fiction, and this book does not disappoint. It works because the author piles detail after detail upon one another so that the reader feels like he is along for the ride. This book is a must read for anyone interested in politics and human rights.

Wanda DeHaven Pyle is the author of Windborne and the Legacy Trilogy available on Amazon and Kindle.

Story-Telling is a Family Affair

In keeping with the focus on YA authors this month, I thought I would indulge in a proud grandmother moment and feature a piece about my granddaughter. She is a 12-year old indie author who has published her own book and is currently at work on a second one.  She writes for the age group she is most familiar with…middle schoolers. At her young age, she has already been a guest speaker at a Young Author’s Fair and is an inspiration to other aspiring authors. The following press release highlights one of the events we did together to launch her book.

Meet McKayla Gately, author of Chaos, Book I of the Timekeeper Series.

No one expected the youngest novelist at the Inlandia Indie Book Fair to be 12-year old McKayla Gateley. McKayla and her grandmother, award-winning author Wanda DeHaven Pyle, debuted their new novels together at the event in Jurupa Valley.

McKayla spent the past year working on her book, CHAOS, a medieval fantasy filled with Gods and demons, each intent on taking over the land. An avid reader of fantasy and adventure stories, she became fascinated by ancient Greek and Roman mythology during a study of ancient history in school. She plans to release her book on Amazon in December in time for the holiday season. She is already at work on the next book in her series.

When asked who influenced her most in her quest to become a published author, she cited her family and especially her grandmother. However, she has agressively sought out the advice of teachers and other young adult authors whose work she admires.

“McKayla is a very promising young author,” stated her grandmother, Wanda DeHaven Pyle. “I helped her with some editing and formatting, but the story is her own.” With a grandmother’s pride, she added, “I’m quite sure she will someday win the Pulizer!”

Watch for the release of McKayla’s second book on Amazon in the near future.

All books are available on Amazon and Kindle at, and and 

Strategies for Successful YA Authors

The following blog is condensed from “The 8 Habits of Highly Successful Young-Adult Fiction Authors” by Nolan Feeney, Oct. 22, 2013.

Young-adult fiction, commonly called “YA fiction,” has exploded over the past decade or so: The number of YA titles published grew more than 120 percent between 2002 and 2012, and other estimates say that between 1997 and 2009, that figure was closer to 900 percent. Ask a handful of young-adult fiction writers what exactly makes a YA novel, though, and you’ll get a handful of conflicting answers.

At their core, YA books are for and about teenagers and pre-teens, usually between 12 and 18 years old, but sometimes as young as 10. Yet more than half of all YA novels sold are bought by older adults 18 or older, and certain titles published in the U.S. as YA are considered mainstream fiction for adults in other countries. Some authors believe the intent to write for young readers is a prerequisite of YA fiction; others don’t even realize their books will be labeled as YA until after they finish writing.

Many successful authors say there’s no secret to writing for teenagers. Good writing is good writing; believable characters and compelling plots are crucial regardless of who’s picking up the book. But many YA authors will also tell you there’s something particularly fulfilling and rewarding about writing for teenagers, who often respond to stories they identify with more intensely and gratefully than adult readers do.

Nolan Feeney interviewed several successful best-selling YA authors who shared their strategies for crafting authentic, relatable teen characters and fantasy worlds. The following eight strategies were identified:

  • Think Like a Teen
  • Find the “Emotional Truth” of the Teenage Experience
  • A Good Pop-Culture Reference Goes a Long Way
  • Get Input From Real Teenagers
  • Use Slang Words at Your Own Risk
  • Keep It Moving
  • It’s Okay for YA To Get Dark
  • Find the “Kernel of Hope.”

To access the complete article go to