The Long Road to Publication – by Anna Belle Rose

My guest blogger this week is Anna Belle Rose. She is a graduate of Middlebury College, Castleton University and Union Institute. She lives on their small family farm in Central Vermont with her husband and youngest son. When not writing, she enjoys time with her husband, children and grandchildren, traveling, gardening, cheering for the Red Sox, and taking care of her alpacas, bees and chickens. Anna Belle is also an avid knitter and spinner, and often her best ideas for novels come when at the spinning wheel or in the garden.

Years and years ago, actually decades ago, I was a stay-at-home mom for a bit, with my then youngest child who would not fall asleep at nap time. Over time, I realized that while he wouldn’t sleep, he would sit in his crib for a bit each afternoon, listening to Yanni at the Acropolis, looking at story books, and I could sit and write. And write I did. I wrote and wrote and wrote over many months. By then, my youngest was talking, and he somehow understood that Mommy was writing a book, and he kept nagging me to keep going. And I did.

Fast forward many years, and I’d keep opening the word file of that first novel, print it out, edit and revise, and eventually send it out to a few agents. Rejections would come in, and I’d put it away for a while, then that same son would poke at me again, and the process would start all over again. During this same time, I also started several other novels, and kept working on them in the same way. All of them were contemporary romances, heavily linked to life in Vermont, and all have gloriously happy endings – I mean, who doesn’t love a happily ever after?

Finally, late in 2016, I decided I needed to either get serious about writing, or give it up for good. So I pulled those two complete novels out again, and hired incredible professional editors to go at them. Then I started submitting them to a few agents, and a couple publishing houses that didn’t require representation by agents. And on June 13th, a publishing contract arrived on the novel I wrote first, The Phone Call. And on July 13th, a contract arrived for my second, That One Small Omission. And joy of joys, on December 4th, a contract was offered on my third, More Than I Can Say.

On October 11, 2017, That One Small Omission was published in e-book and print versions, and on December 12th, The Phone Call will be published. The joy and excitement I feel each time I look at my mantle and see my first published novel is an emotion that I think only other authors can understand!

Amazon link to That One Small Omission:

Amazon link to my author’s page:



Interview with Ruth Anne Caukwell

Author Name: Ruth Anne Caukwell

Book Title: Musings of a Blogger Inspirational Thoughts for Your Life’s Journey (Published by Balboa Press in January 2016)

Genre: Inspirational/Self-Help

 This month I thought we might all be in need of a little inspiration. Ruth Anne Caukwell is a blogger and the author of several inspirational books. She is “passionate about telling her story and spreading awareness to others so that they too can overcome adversities and have a choice to step out beyond a ‘hum-drum’ life to live the most amazing life ever.”

Hello, thank you for agreeing to this interview.

  • Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Born in Christchurch New Zealand my family moved to Tauranga when I was eight, Samoa when I was 16 and then onto Brisbane Australia when I was 17.

I achieved my first degree, Bachelor of Modern Asian Studies, at Griffith University, Brisbane plus, the following diplomas: Diploma of Freelance Journalism; Diploma of Commercial Art; Diploma of Creative Writing; a Business Diploma and: a Proofreading and Editing Diploma.

In 2013 I was invited to join the Golden Key International Honors Society – life time membership. I qualified and was accepted into the World Wide Branding Who’s Who Registry of Executives, Professionals and Entrepreneurs – VIP life time membership, in 2015 was and in 2016 was granted entry into the World Wide Top Female Executives, Professionals & Entrepreneurs circle – life time membership.

I had a 20 year career with the Australian Federal Government where I held a number of positions. Returning to Christchurch in May 2008 I achieved my second degree, a Bachelor of Teaching and Learning – Early Childhood Education (ECE), before starting in the early childhood sphere in November 2012.  I have my Full Teacher’s Registration. I went into early childhood due to a love of children, teaching and to gain an insight into children’s art and literature.

I started an inspirational blog, RuAnCa, in December 2014

I have published two e-books (short stories) about women which are also available on Amazon (Kindle):

“An Anthology of Three Women – A Mother’s Love and Sacrifice for Her Children” – 2014

“An Anthology of Three Women 2 – Unveiling the True Essence of a Woman “– 2015

My first Inspirational Book – “Musings of a Blogger – Inspirational Thoughts for Your Life’s Journey” – was published in 2016 by Balboa Press and is available at their website, Amazon and other on-line book stores.

  • Discuss your newest book.

My book is a collection of inspirational thoughts with a workbook relating to each chapter. After reading the book you can do the workbook which will assist you in finding out the truth about your own life and become a source of strength. It gives you the tools to cope and overcome any issues in your life. And, by having  ‘Reader’s Questions’ at the end of the book, which can be utilized in a reading group, with a smaller number of people or, just two, the opportunity is there to answer questions already posed as well as write questions of your own.  The choice is there for readers to share, discuss and discover together!

The overall theme (central topic, subject or concept) of  my book:

The main concept in my book concentrates on finding your authentic self. The series of ten chapters (of inspirational words), followed by a workbook (ten chapters also relating to the inspirational chapters), gives readers the opportunity (through the words and tools contained in the workbook) to discover the source of their own strength and the truth about their own life.

‘The Parable of the Butterfly’ (one of two important themes running throughout the book and the source behind the illustrations of ‘The Hexagon of Life’ – the second theme) illustrates the concept of finding and utilizing one’s own strength within the journey of finding authenticity. The repeated design, The Hexagon of Life’, consists of a hexagon with tipped points, dots around the outside, and a butterfly within is very symbolic and together make up a profound image and clear meaning for one’s life.

Each of the hexagon’s six sides represents a vital part of existence and when combined forms the basis of a well-rounded life:

  • physical • spiritual • emotional • relationships and social • leisure • environment

Within our life one or more of these components may be missing, reflected in a negative way, or detrimental to our physical and mental well-being—or maybe there is a period where we are faced with extra stress, such as any of the following:

  • eating an unhealthy diet and/or not exercising • not taking time out to relax and do anything we enjoy doing • being involved in an abusive relationship • having a loved one die • losing a job

If, and when, this is the case, the hexagon will not be a hexagon. The same goes for life. If one of these components is out of sync or missing, there will be an unbalance—a gap—thereby leaving us vulnerable, defenseless, and open to hurt, pain, suffering, and living an unhealthy life, either mentally physically or both.

My book assists readers in working towards having a balanced life, or ‘hexagon’, by looking inwards, discovering where their own strength lies and how to utilize that strength so as to live an authentic life! My book gives the reader the opportunity to discover that the struggle to break free from whatever their ‘bonds’ might be is what gives them the strength to live a true fulfilling life – it is a beginning them finding their authentic self!

  • Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I was always good at English and read a lot but never really thought much about writing a book, blog or anything like that but I wrote my book from my inspirational blog, which I started in January 2015, after I had gone through a soul-destroying period of adult bullying, one from which I thought I would never recover. Time and support did heal me, though, and because of these experiences, I learned a lot about myself—who I thought I was, not who I really was! I had prided myself that I was a strong woman able to cope with anything. I had come out of a number of traumatic events earlier in my life and had moved on. Little did I realize that all I had done was bury my hurt, pain, and authentic self through busyness and work and was living with a sense of numbness behind a thick wall of self-preservation? The bullying was the straw that broke the camel’s back, and I was broken both physically and mentally.

As I started to heal, I was inspired to write my blog and e-books about women. My blog took off, and I found myself part of a network of people who appreciated and were supported by my heartfelt words. Suddenly, I felt like a caterpillar released from my own chrysalis—a chrysalis of hurt, pain, and hiding—and I was ready to fly above the ugliness of those people who would trample me down. I was ready to fly like a butterfly, high above, into the clouds of life, and burst forth from my chrysalis of hurt, but changed and renewed, ready to live again…. And part of that is to inspire others to step out on a journey of self-discovery too!

  • What are your current projects?

I am currently writing my second inspirational book –

“The Hexagon of Life – Inspirational Words for Each Day”

I write on my blog and other social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr, LinkedIn) and working on my public speaking skills.  I have a couple of projects in the pipe line – one of which is a series of inspirational You Tubes (yet to come)

  • What books have most influenced your life?

The ‘Lord of the Rings’ triology by J.R. Tolkien

The ‘Sword of Shannara’ by Terry Brooks

‘You can Heal Your Life’ by Louise Hays

‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen

‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ by Harper Lee

‘Hamlet’ by Shakespeare

‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ by Victor Hugo

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

There is only one main character in my book and it is, each reader themselves, thus… it is the reader themselves who is the most important person to the whole story, as, the information contained within the story is for them to read, contemplate and utilize for their own life.

The story is really each reader’s story… the story of their life if they choose it!

My book takes place in the ‘here and now’ of each readers life as it is written for them to be inspired to work towards and find their authentic self!

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

The message in my book, which will appeal to readers because contained within its pages is hope! Hope in the fact that each reader will learn something about their inner self. They will gain knowledge (and the tools) on how to go forwards in their life. They will, if they choose too, gain an insight on how to overcome and start on a journey of self-discovery – one of learning about themselves and their authenticity.

The two concepts running through my book (‘The Hexagon of Life’ and the Parable of the Butterfly) will open up new ideas for the reader to contemplate and work with – these concepts are new to many but realistic and easy to apply to one’s life!

People in today’s society have to face so much due to the fact that life is so busy, stressful and can sometimes be a frightening world to live in. This effects people in many ways and will emerge as fears, anxiety, depression, sadness, loneliness and loss of hope – so much so that they look for answers outwardly not realizing that the answer they seek is found within themselves…!

 My book with its inspirational words and work book will give readers the opportunity, and tools, to look within themselves and find some answers!

  • When did you decide to become a writer?

I myself had to face, deal with and overcome and in doing so learned about myself (and others) in the process.  I used many strategies but all those (and the ideas, suggestions, etc.,) found in my book I ‘trialed’ and found were the ones that assisted me so greatly! I had to work through deep depression and face issues not only due to adult bullying (which occurred in 2015) but realized that ‘things’ from the past I had not really and truly dealt with either – they were buried deep behind my ‘wall’.   I just started writing my inspirational blog and posting on-line and the ideas and thoughts poured out… what a healing for me and I worked so very hard to deal with and find strategies (even though I had support which I was very dubious of asking for – but did!)

  • Why do you write?

I have a passion for words, concepts and being able to express my inner thoughts.  And in saying that I want readers/others to realize that life is not hopeless… that no matter what issue/s overwhelm us there is always an answer – we just need to look for it and we can!  I want my readers to realize that hey yes, they can ask for help from others… and should do if they need too but, ultimately, it is up to each of us individually to find, and use, one’s own inner strength to overcome – just like the butterfly in the chrysalis we need the struggle of life to realize and know where our strength lies and when we do we will start on a journey of finding out who we really are – we will find our authentic self!

  • What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?

It was a form of ‘release’ from the hurt and pain that I was feeling and it became a way to heal and overcome.  I found that I could express my emotions, feelings and these amazing concepts that seemed to just start pouring into my mind!  I gain so much inspiration from nature especially the sea that I always make time to be somewhere peaceful every day or second day.

  • What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?

The hardest thing about writing my last book was dealing with the emotions and hurt from the ramifications of my bullying.  I cried a lot when I was writing it but it was such a healing process – my book, which is my first, is a special book for me and I so much want others to be able to choose to go on such a journey as I did!

  • What is the easiest thing about writing?

The writing – I just sit and write.  The words come tumbling out as if they were meant to be written!

  • What book are you reading now?

An amazing book called “The Book of Strange New Things” by Michel Faber

  • What is your preferred medium of writing? Pen and paper or strictly tablet and computer?

Ha ha… I have notebooks and pads everywhere (even in the car) for when I suddenly get a flash of ideas (sometimes in the middle of the night) so yes I do still use paper and pens but these are just for the ideas and doodling of concepts.  I write ‘whatever’ on the computer

  • What does your writing process look like?

I as I said above have lots of ideas and concepts written in my notebooks and pads all compiled together for future use.  Sometimes I go to these to write (if on my blog and social media) or sometimes when I sit down something just flows out – especially if I have been somewhere and taken some photographs (I use all my own photographs on my social media to enhance the topic/words that I write).  Other times I have a plan and choose my ideas then just write.

With my second book, which is an inspirational book with words for each day but there is something special also included within it (no spoilers here though…!), I have done a lot of work already so I work specific aspects of it.  Probably about three months to go!

  • Did you make any marketing mistakes or is there anything you would avoid in future?

I am still a newbie in regards to marketing and building my platform so learning lots – also doing lots of reading too.  I have really just ‘flown-by-the-set-of-my-pants’ so to speak but the big thing for me was that I had no platform or marketing experience at all when my book was published which was, I found out, made it difficult to sell books.  I have since started building my niche and fan base which will be there for my next book!

  • What is your favorite motivational phrase?

‘What are your options? You can step forwards in growth or you can step backwards in to the safety of your old life! Your Journey will consist of many small steps and not one giant one, so step forwards in confidence and with courage towards your future’ © Musings of a Blogger Inspirational Thoughts for Your Life’s Journey

  • .What is your favorite book and why?

The three books within the ‘Lords of the Rings’ triology as it is inspiring and the characters are amazingly courageous.  Each of them has a place within the bigger world and the ramifications of their actions were far reaching just as ours are!

  • Do you have any advice for other writers?

Yes… just be yourself, believe in yourself and know that you can do anything if you CHOOSE to – in other words do not let anyone, no matter who, knock you, your writing or your dreams!

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

I am always busy even if I am by myself as my hobbies are: playing classical music; art (painting and drawing); literature, writing and reading; history; gardening; walking/tramping and; swimming.

I love animals, especially horses, the sea and being among nature and the natural world as this is where I find peace and gain inspiration.

  • From where do you gain your inspiration?

Nature, watching people and animals or it just comes!

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

As I have only ever self-published (through Balboa Press) I can only answer from my experience here – I think the hardest thing is the marketing and building up of your platform, selling your books and finding your niche within the bigger market. With no ‘big’ publisher or an established publisher you can be ‘behind-the-eight-ball’ on this so lots of time and hard work involved

  • How do you market your books?

Through lots of hard work!  I work a lot on social media, but I have also done some interviews on radio and in magazine but mostly work through social media.  With the copies that I have at home I do marketing through face-to-face in various places and libraries.  I am currently working towards public speaking so will have another outlet there (still learning!) but there is no easy answer to this!

  • Why did you choose this route?

It just happened I suppose!  I would love to be traditionally published though and will pursue this road once I have finished my second book.

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

Utilize social media lots!

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

At this stage I would say ½ but as I need to also work on my book I will probably down grade this to ¼ over the next couple of months

  • What do you do to get book reviews?

I contact people and also watch out for those who are willing/offer to do a review

  • Which social network worked best for you?

I would say my blog, twitter and Facebook

  • Any tips on what to do and what not to do?

For inspirational works try not to publish before you have a platform or some semblance of  presence on social media as this is a ready-reckoner for growing followers and selling books.

Always be passionate about what you do, even in the down times, try to be positive and just-keep-on-keeping-on!

  • What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Believe in yourself and your dream – chapter one of ‘Musings…’ is ‘Do you have a dream?’ and Chapter 10 in the workbook gives you some tools to help you achieve your dream.  Sometimes there are knockbacks and knockers but you need strategies to help your positivity alive.  Also realize that ‘instant success’ rarely happen – hard work, enthusiasm and passion is needed!

  • How can readers discover more about you and you work

My book is available as an ebook and a large paperback book on all on-line stores including the publishers – Balboa Press and of course Amazon, Book Depository, etc.

I have signed copies here if a reader would like a signed copy (I live in New Zealand so postage would be included in the price). I can be contacted on my business email – or refer to my social sites including my Blog RuAnCa and my website –

Inspirational book – ‘Musings of a Blogger – Inspirational Thoughts for Your Life’s Journey’, (Published in 2016) is available through Balboa Press:-

and Amazon

Inspirational blog – RuAnCa

Website –

Twitter –

Facebook page –

Gmail –

My LinkedIn –

My Tumblr page –

My Instagram –

You Tube –

Member of the New Zealand Society of Authors (NZSA):

World Wide Branding – VIP member –

Top Female Executives, Professionals & Entrepreneurs


Curl Up With a Good Crime Mystery This Season

Guest post by Peter Mulraney, author of the Stella Bruno Investigates crime series.

Stella Bruno Investigates is a series of quick reads – books designed to be read in one sitting. Each book in the series only takes around an hour and a half to two hours to read. So, there’s no waiting for days to find out who did it.

The series is set in and around Adelaide, South Australia, and centres on criminal investigations led by Detective Sergeant Stella Bruno. I have the inside information on Adelaide – it’s my home town.

Stella is assisted by Detective Constable Brian Rhodes, who’s approaching retirement, harassed by Detective Inspector Frank Williams, and distracted by Shaun Porter from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In addition to all the crime, the stories also follow Stella’s developing relationship with Shaun and provide insights into her life as a single mother with a fourteen-year old son. You’ll also discover some of the benefits she enjoys by being part of an extended Italian family.

If you’ve never been to Australia, these stories will give you a little taste of life ‘down under’ where you can experience the North Wind as hot and blustery and winters without snow and ice.

A Deadly Game of Hangman, Book 4 in the series, tells the story of Stella’s investigation into the murder of a young man whose body is found hanging from a tree in Adelaide’s famous Park Lands, which ring the city centre. The killer tried to disguise the murder as a suicide but there are some things about a hanging that you just can’t hide from a forensic pathologist, like Dr Steve Wright.

The case gets a little more interesting when the body of a friend of the first victim is found hanging from a tree in Morialta Park, in the foothills on the eastern edge of the Adelaide metropolitan area, and the similarities strongly suggest to Stella that she is dealing with a serial killer.

And, just to keep you up until you’ve finished, I’ve built in a little bit of suspense towards the end.

The other titles in the series published to date are:

  • The Identity Thief.
  • A Gun of Many Parts.
  • Bones in the Forest.

A Deadly Game of Hangman is available from Amazon.

My website:

Universal link to book on Amazon:



Where Do Your Stories Come From?

This month’s guest blogger is Paul Toolan. A resident of Somerset, he left a successful academic career to become a crime writer. “A View from Memory Hill” is Paul’s first short story collection, exploring themes of ageing, memory and personal realization.

Wanda DeHaven Pyle

“Where do your stories come from?’

 If only I received royalties every time a reader asks me this!

Here, there and everywhere is the true but unhelpful answer. In ‘A View from Memory Hill’, there’s a story called Old Man, Young Pub that was triggered by seeing…an old man in a young pub!

I was at the Brighton Festival [Brighton, England – I used to live there] with old friends/fellow retirees. We dropped in to a wonderful, low-ceilinged pub called The Basketmakers, whose decor has barely been touched since it opened. I remember thinking we were the oldest people there, among many young and lively folk, some dressed in the trendiest fashion, some so far ahead they were next year.

It was a hot day, but as I looked around I spotted an old gentleman in a tweed jacket and tie, standing at the bar, quietly sipping his pint. All around him, bright young things were loud and full of energy. They squatted on bar stools, but no-one offered a seat to the old guy, and his legs could have used one. I wondered about his silent thoughts.

His anonymity, mine too, amongst this colourful crowd threw up a name: Smith. With the conscious germ of a story now in my head, I called him Frank Smith in hope he would eventually be frank enough to tell some sort of tale. I never spoke to this old man, but later when I sat at my keyboard, I spoke to Frank Smith, or he to me. I really don’t know which came first.

What I had was a character and a setting. No plot, no events, no history. Yet. But Frank Smith travelled with me, later in the Arts Festival, to a shabby-chic little theatre where, on hard seats, we watched a trio of skilled actors on a bare, dark stage. Magically, they brought to life some of Damon Runyan’s New York Prohibition stories.

Shortly after, inside that inexplicable swirl called a writer’s head, two separate experiences merged. Frank Smith went to his local pub; and he went to see a play. To keep the story structure tight, I made the theatre a blacked-out room at his pub, and had him go out of sheer boredom. Frank would have liked the Damon Runyan stories, but there’s insufficient conflict in what characters enjoy. I needed to change the play, to find one that Frank Smith liked less, that triggered something of his history, his demons or regrets.

On my bookshelves I have ‘Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works’. I browsed through it. ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ seemed ideal. It featured an old man’s memories, recalled with the aid of an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Krapp is a drinker too, which resonated with Frank. While flicking through, I revisited ‘Rockaby’, a short Beckett play featuring an old woman in a rocking chair, remembering her past. Within moments, Frank Smith had a wife.

A day or two later, I named her Lucy. Then killed her off. The story would have become a novel if I hadn’t, and I wanted to balance Frank’s ageing memories – of Lucy and others – with voices of youth. So along came the young woman who ushers the audience to their seats in ‘the long thin dark theatre’ where Krapp’s Last Tape is performed. Her surprise that Frank turned up at all, among so many young people, releases the demons that rumbled as Frank watched the play. Short stories need a moment of realisation or change, and the clash between her enthusiasm for the play’s use of the past and Frank’s disturbed memories provided this.

‘We’ve all been something,’ was all he managed to say. ‘Known someone.’

The story might have ended there, but because the theme of age and youth was well-established I felt more could be done. I went back to the keyboard and jiggled the plot, making Frank inadvertently upset the ‘woman in black’, so her young hopes and dreams could quietly confront his regrets.

“In the half-dark, she looked squarely at him, black T-shirt and jeans appraising jacket and tie. A slight twitch flickered her lips. He thought there might be tears.

‘We all have dreams,’ she said, in the quietest voice he’d ever heard. ‘I’d rather dream than drift, any day.’ She pressed her lips together to control the twitch, but it continued. ‘What’s wrong with having dreams?’ she asked.”

This exchange then allowed a more positive development in Frank, making for a more satisfying conclusion [in my view, anyway, but I’d love to hear yours too].

So, a chance observation in a pub, a visit to a play, a book on a shelf, some musings and experiments at the keyboard – and before too long there’s a character’s voice, a felt situation, and a set of realisations. If it was as easy as I’ve made it sound…

I drop in to a pub maybe once week. I’m wondering if I should go more often. Pubs are full of people, and where there are people, there are stories.

You can find A View from the Memory Hill here:

Paul Toolan










Behind The Cost of Survival

As part of this month’s focus on Science Fiction and Fantasy, I am featuring a guest blog by L.L. Stowers about his new book, The Cost of Survival.

The Cost of Survival is a science fiction thriller exploring the dark side of human nature from a world on the brink of destruction. Author J. L. Stowers asks the question, “What if humankind could no longer reproduce?” The answer is shockingly disturbing, but perhaps not too far from the truth if our dark history repeats itself.

The main character, Walt Marshall, is cynical and distrustful of the very government who hired him. Yet he can’t say no to a once in a lifetime mission to a remote area devoid of the masses and their overwhelming use of technology. He makes his new home outside a military camp in a war-torn valley in hopes to restore the area to its once fruitful nature. However, Walt quickly realizes things aren’t what they seem.

Walt stumbles upon an unspeakable secret regarding the truth as to why this valley was selected for colonization. Readers are emerged in Walt’s journey and internal conflict. The closer he gets to finding answers, the more he’s reminded of the emotional anguish he tried to leave behind.  His path to the truth leads through espionage and treason all while forcing Walt out of his comfort zone. The long time loner is forced to trust and rely on the people around him in order to uncover the facts.

This story is filled with twists, turns, and symbolism to keep readers on their toes. However, the best thing the first book in the Genesis Rising series has to offer is a glimpse at the lore fueling the trilogy. In the short story prequel, Project Genesis, we witness the discovery of the Genesis documents and the formation of the secret organization behind the translation. In The Cost of Survival, Walt Marshall experiences the mysterious language once more. We learn some of the information uncovered in the Genesis documents and more will be revealed throughout the series.

This incredible journey will take readers beyond what they’ve expected and it all starts with learning the secrets within The Cost of Survival.

Buy The Cost of Survival on Amazon here.

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