Sunday, July 5, 2015

Lissa Brown's Family of Choice

Lissa Brown has the best of all worlds. She is retired from careers in teaching, public relations and marketing and now writes for her own enjoyment. She’s written four books since 2009, one humorous memoir as Leslie Brunetsky and three novels under her own name.

     Lissa has been working her way south from New Jersey for the past thirty years and is happily settled in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, the source of her literary inspiration. Concerned about the prevalence of bullying of LGBT kids, she wrote Another F-Word to raise awareness of the problem in the U.S. Bible Belt. Her latest novel, Family of Choice is a sequel to that book. She has spoken extensively on the subject of bullying.
I was privileged to meet Lissa in person several years ago when we both attended a book event in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Welcome to the blog, Lissa. 

Thank you, Susan. It's great to touch base with you again.

Let's get right to the interview, Lissa. How has your environment affected your writing?

If I hadn’t moved to the southern Appalachians in 2005, I definitely would not have written the humorous memoir, Real Country: From the Fast Track to Appalachia, about a Yankee urbanite trying to adjust to life in a NC holler. If I had not seen the devastating effects of bullying of LGBT kids as NC voters debated amending the state constitution in 2012, I doubt I’d have been moved to explore that topic in a novel. I was so disturbed by what I witnessed that I needed a way to consider the question of why some adults do things to hurt children. Another F-Word was the result of my reaction to some pretty hateful behavior I observed. My latest book, Family of Choice, the sequel, examines the effects of childhood bullying on adults and their families.

Please give us a short synopsis of Family of Choice:

Rory Calhoun Wilson, now a practicing  physician living with his partner and the partner’s two children in Baltimore, was a victim of bullying by his father, classmates, preacher and others while growing up in rural Tennessee. He wrestles with the issues of whether to forgive his father and even perhaps to reconnect with him after years of estrangement. Concurrently, Rory must decide whether to legally adopt his partner’s children. His doubts about whether he can be a good father are inextricably tied to issues with his own father. Can he let go of anger nourished over many years? Should he? Will it free him to have a fulfilling life? Those are the central issues in Family of Choice.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

When I tell you that I will never write another sequel, you’ll have some idea of how difficult I found it to write this book. I intended the sequel to be able to stand on its own so that a reader could choose to read Family of Choice and not read Another F-Word first. It had to be a good enough story to hold the reader’s attention without being shored up by the first book. Easier said than done! I had to include enough back story to have the plot make sense to someone who had not read the first book, but I couldn’t load up so much back story so that a reader who had read Another F-Word  would grow tired of repetition. Finding that balance was the most difficult challenge I’ve faced as a writer.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters of your books?

If I’ve learned anything from writing novels, it’s that the writer cannot predict what readers will see in her books. I had a very funny call from a cousin after I’d written my first novel, Family Secrets: Three Generations. He called to say he’d started the book and was very upset because it made him realize that he didn’t know my parents as well as he thought he did. I paused for a minute before reminding this psychologist that a novel is fiction and that the family in the book was not mine. I understand why he drew that erroneous conclusion, though. The girl in the story did seem to resemble me in some ways. It was my first attempt at writing fiction, and I suppose I stuck a little too close to what I knew as I told the story. Friends who’ve known me since childhood say they hear my voice when they read female characters in my books. I’ve had several readers tell me they know who a particular fictional character really is even though I did not base them on anyone or even a composite of several people. I think many writers insert parts of themselves in their characters. If I do it, it’s on a subconscious level. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
 LOL. Gotcha! ;-)

 How do you get the word out about a book?

Even though I have a background in marketing, promoting your own books is very different. For one thing, it’s difficult not to feel personal rejection when people don’t love your books. I thought I’d developed a pretty thick skin over the years that somebody else judged my writing and either paid me or didn’t pay me based on their judgment. I do have to remind myself that it’s the writing people are reacting to, not me.

I spent an entire year speaking to any group that would have me about the topic of bullying. I spoke in churches, conferences at universities, professional meetings and a variety of youth groups. As a former educator, of course I wanted to educate people about the consequences of bullying, but I also wanted to sell my books. I stay active on Facebook and participate in as many media interviews as I can. I maintain a website and still plan to establish a blog when I find time to do it right. I write articles on topics pertinent to the subject of my books and have been fairly successful placing them. Like most writers, I’d rather write than promote, but it’s a necessary part of being an author these days.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

To purchase a copy of Family of Choice as an ebook or paperbook , go to

People can learn more about my books and me at

Thanks for dropping by, Lissa. I wish you all the best and hope to see you in the near future.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Haberman's Lake of Lies

C. G. Haberman was raised in south-central Nebraska. He received his undergraduate biology degree from the Nebraska University and a MS in zoology from Fort Hays State University.
For nearly a decade he taught the biological sciences in secondary schools. He changed professions to work in the environmental field for three different state agencies over twenty years. C. G. returned to education as a community college instructor and as an adjunct at a four-year, liberal-arts College until his retirement. During his teaching years he incorporated field studies into his ecology and summer classes.  
His hobbies consist of photography, some of which he has used for book covers. Another hobby he developed is cooking and loves to prepare a meal for his wife and her best friends.

Welcome to the blog, C.G. My husband has been going from North Carolina to Nebraska for 29 years to pheasant and quail hunt. He stays with families in Beaver City and Fairbury and I have visited twice. Those families are now part of our own.

How has your environment affected your writing?

Thanks, Susan. Glad to be here. My writing stems from single events, people I’ve met, and the places my wife and I have lived. I planned for one or two CJ Hand novels, but the series idea began to unfold halfway through the first novel, Deadly Circles. My love for Nebraska and surrounding prairie led me to develop the protagonist CJ Hand. The Naturalists historical novel developed because of my love for, and the huge loss of, a unique natural resource.

How many books have you written?

I have written and self-published five novels. The four CJ Hand Series (crime/mystery) and the, The Naturalists, a three-part historical novel set in the Rainwater Basin of Nebraska. All my novels use the Great Plains as the main setting.

I can understand why. It's beautiful.
Give a short synopsis of the most recently published book.

The most recent novel I self-published is Lake of Lies. The book explores a myriad of problems that torment Hand for the first time in his life. With all these distractions his life changes on a snow and ice covered rural road in northwest Iowa. His closest friend and former criminal investigation partner, Dr. Trish Baker, seeks revenge. For CJ, his fiancé, and for the loss of her own fiancé she hunts down a cold-blooded killer in the South Dakota Badlands. 

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Very little, as events, such as the last CJ Hand novel, Lake of Lies, occur from my teaching methods. Examples of other events: uranium mining in northwest Nebraska, cougar hunting, hibernation of animals, and the small bluegill fish called Jaws. A tongue-in-cheek shot is taken at the I-80 corridor in my free short story on the web site. If you have explored Nebraska you know the State is not flat.
I let the characters take over as I write. The best example of this is in The Naturalists – A Historical Novel of the Hayman Family (Vol. 1) where Abner Hayman took the reins, so to speak. To develop his son’s character, Abner’ persona needed development that leads to the latter part of the novel set in a unique area of Nebraska called the Rainwater Basin. John feels a spiritual draw to this unique area, which harbors waterfowl, shorebirds, and other species in the neck of a migratory hourglass. Here the birds briefly dwell by the thousands to rest and feed before they journey to nesting grounds in Canada.

What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? What advice can you give new writers?

I have learned to outline and research the ideas first, not bog down in the research (as I did with one novel) and avoid writer’s block. I’ve found reading helps when I hit a non-writing wall.

Yes, I have to read  and go on long walks in order to break a block myself.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I use social media: Facebook, Twitter, emails, Linked-In, and my web site The web site contains Chapter excerpts from each book, photos, events, and recently two new pages. The new pages: Free Short Story reading (which started March 1) and Follow a Novel Writing Experience via journal notes. The latter commences the first week in April.
Others are:

Other sites, which Cold Coffee Press developed the promo connections.  

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

Currently I am working on The Naturalists (Vol. 2) and outlining the fifth CJ Hand novel: 100th Meridian Murders. I hope to hone my writing skills based on the comments from reviewer comments from all the novels.

Where can folks learn more about or buy your books?
Click on my Amazon Author page or the other sites listed below.

It has been a pleasure getting to know you, C. G. Wishing you all the best!

Thanks, Susan and the same to you in your North Carolina novels.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Emily-Jane Hills Orford: To Be A Duke

Emily-Jane Hills Orford loves writing about the extra-ordinary people (and special dogs). She writes about real people and real events. Emily-Jane’s stories have appeared in History Magazine, Canadian Stories Magazine, The Curious Tourist Guide, and Western People. She has written several fiction and non-fiction books: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Ukulele Yukon, Letters From Inside, The Creative Spirit, It Happened in Canada (Books 1, 2, and 3), Personal Notes, The Whistling Bishop, Songs of the Voyageurs, F-Stop: A Life in Pictures, Still Delicious, Amazingly Extra-Ordinary Women and To Be a Duke.  An award-winning author, she was named a Finalist for the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards with her book, The Whistling Bishop, and again in Finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards with her book, F-Stop: A Life in Pictures.

Welcome to the blog, Emily-Jane. Have a crisp juicy apple while we talk.

Thank you, Susan. I love apples!

How many books have you written?

Seventeen books published and two in the works.

 WOW! You've been busy.

Give a short synopsis of your most recently published book, To Be a Duke.

After experiencing an unhappy first year of his life, Duke believes that he has found his forever home. To Be a Duke is Duke’s story of adjusting to life in a new home and a family that he quickly grows to love. Life is good, especially when he learns how to be a Duke.
There are other books on the market about dogs, about a dog’s life, about a dog’s relationship with humans. There are even books written in first person (or first dog?), talking from the dog’s point of view. These are similar concepts to my book, To Be a Duke. What differs is the message. To Be a Duke encourages excellence and positive attitudes; it presents life as one to be lived with great dignity and great joy; it teaches us as humans to be as good as our dog(s), to be kind, caring and loving to all of the living creatures around us.

To Be a Duke is ageless in its appeal. It is a true story, which makes it even more appealing. Duke was adopted from a local dog rescue group. Duke’s story awakens our compassion for ‘man’s best friend’ and bears witness to the tragedy that often befalls these beloved pets. As reviewer Faridah Nassozi wrote for Readers' Favorite, To Be a Duke “is no ordinary puppy story. It is a really emotional narration that will make you think twice about your actions towards dogs, and all animals in general. You do not know the inner workings of the mind of a puppy until you have read To Be A Duke.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I don’t think any writer can totally hide their own character. When I’m writing, I’m always referring to myself is so many different ways. Even when we, as writers, say that we are distancing ourselves from the story and the characters, we’re not. Who we are in real life will always appear in our written work. To Be a Duke is based on one of our family dogs, so it’s to be expected that my character would appear in some form in the book, even though the story has been fictionalized.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

I wanted to write this story in first person, from the dog’s perspective. Getting into the mind of a dog is not as easy as one would think. I spent a lot of time observing my dog, trying to understand why he would do the things that he did. I think I was successful, as reviewer Faridah Nassozi wrote for Readers' Favorite, “The choice to let Duke tell his story was excellent and made the story even more touching as he narrated his experiences in the different homes. Emily-Jane Hills Orford did an incredible job and it left me with a new and more enlightened perspective on the life of dogs amidst the emotions, thrills and humor.”

What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? What advice can you give new writers?

Never give up. Even when the rejection letters keep pouring in. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone is going to tell their story in a different way. Just because one publisher/editor doesn’t like the story, doesn’t mean it’s no good. It just means that you haven’t found the right publisher/editor. Keep writing. Everyone’s written story is just as good as another’s. Don’t sit around and wait for the BIG publishing contract.

Take some writing courses and/or participate in writing groups, seminars, workshops. I run classes, seminars and workshops in my hometown for writers of all ages. I also teach online through the Creative Writing Institute:
Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

I always carry a notebook with me. When I’m sitting waiting for an appointment (always a long wait in the doctor’s office), I either write a story, article, or just jot down some ideas. I don’t like to sit idle while I wait, so I’m always writing something in my little notebook.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I have a website:

I also make good use of Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

I have a website:

I am also on Facebook, just google my name and you will find me linked to other articles/stories that I’ve written and other sites that I either connect with or have written about me and my work.

Are your books available in print and ebook formats? 

To Be a Duke is available in both print and ebook format through Amazon (Canada, US, and International), as well as other online sites. Here’s the link to

Some of my other books are also available on this site, or people can always order my books directly from me:

Good to know, Emily-Jane. I wish you great sales with your books. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Writing duo CC Tillery

I met (via Internet) two of my favorite "sistahs" in Hot Springs, North Carolina, where my novel, Just North of Luck is set. Christy Tillery French and Cyndi Tillery Hodges aka Caitlin Hunter are a dynamic writing duo I "met" on Facebook and then in person at a writing event in Boone. These gals visit the setting of their first book, Hot Springs, NC. several times a year and meet at the Smoky Mountain Diner for lunch. I joined them. We love their food (yummy peanut butter pie!) and the friendly, laid-back atmosphere. A couple of months ago, they were there and were paid one of the highest compliments a writer can be given: the waitress told them they’d had several people come in who were visiting the town because they’d read their book. After lunch when they walked the main street of town as they usually did, their heads were in the clouds and their feet didn’t touch the ground once! It's my pleasure to interview these two sisters. If you haven't been introduced, sit back and get to know them and their writing a little better. Feel free to leave comments and questions in the comment section.

CC Tillery is the pseudonym for the two sisters, both authors who came together to write the story of their great-aunt Bessie in the Appalachian Journey series. Tillery is their maiden name and the C’s stand for their first initials.

One C is Cyndi Tillery Hodges, a multi-published author who writes paranormal and contemporary romance under the pseudonym Caitlyn Hunter.

The other C is Christy Tillery French, a multi-published, award-winning author whose books cross several genres. To find out more about her work, visit her website at

For more information on the Appalachian Journey series, the stories it is based on and the authors, visit

Yum! This pie is the best I've ever eaten! It's so good to see both of you again.

Christy:  It's great to see you again, too, Susan.
Cyndi:    We appreciate the interview.

You're certainly welcome.
Please give a short synopsis of your most recently published book, Beloved Woman.

Beloved Woman, Appalachian Journey Book 3
In the second decade of the 20th century, major world events resonate even on secluded Stone Mountain where Bessie Elliott lives with her husband Fletcher. There’s a great war, one that takes away many young men, including Bessie’s kin, some never to return. Bessie’s role of healer intensifies as she treats those suffering from the Spanish flu and tries to keep it from spreading further on her mountain. She defends a young woman who is in the middle of a controversy that threatens to tear their peaceful community apart. And she finds herself involved in the Suffragette movement as the women of North Carolina fight to gain their rights under the constitution.

Then when one of her family members makes an appalling decision, one that has the potential to damage a child, Bessie impulsively steps in to right the wrong.

Cyndi, what challenges did you face while writing this book?

One of the hardest things for us was handling the passage of time in the books. Aunt Bessie was approaching her 90th birthday when she died, and while she had an interesting life, there were naturally what we call “down times” where nothing much happened. In a few places we faced moving the story over great chunks of time without bogging the narrative down. The transition from one year to several years later is always a challenge for us and we’re still struggling with that. Also, merging fact and fiction since it’s important to stay true to the stories and, of course, to be accurate with the history. In several places, we found we had to adjust the timeline a bit to make the story flow better. For instance, in Beloved Woman, we‘ve brought our dad into the picture ten years early, being born in 1918 when he wasn’t actually born until 1928.

I am writing my first historical fiction now and I understand about the gaps in time. It certainly is difficult to deal with and keep the facts as accurate as possible. I may have to enlist you gals to give me some feedback once I complete it.

Other than trips to Hot Springs, do you travel to do research or for inspiration? Can you share some special places with us?

Christy:  Our books are about our great-aunt and -uncle who lived in the mountains of western North Carolina, first in the small town of Hot Springs, and after they were married, on Stone Mountain between Old Fort and Black Mountain where Uncle Fletcher’s family was from. We both live nearby and we’ve taken many trips to both areas to research and promote the series. The people we’ve met and talked to have been incredibly welcoming and helpful. Since Hot Springs is about half way between our homes and we love going there, we visit as often as possible. It always brings us closer to Great-Aunt Bessie somehow and we feel as if we’re walking in her footsteps when we visit the places we know from family stories she went during the time she lived there.
Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

Cyndi:  Before we start writing each book, we do a “Purge” file with historical and social timelines and notes about the time period we plan to cover in the book. We also keep an Appalachian Journey Notes file on our computers which includes genealogy, stories we’ve been told by Daddy, Aunt Bessie or other family members, a list of Southern sayings for the chapter headings, superstitions, and snippets of information about the setting which we find during our research for each book. That file is in a constant state of flux as we add, delete, or correct as needed.

It sounds like y'all are great organizers.
We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

Christy: Online, for the series, we have a Facebook page (, a blog ( and our Amazon Author Central page ( ) and we try to post as much as possible to all of them. Offline, we attend many festivals in the area and give talks and/or readings at the local libraries and welcome centers.

Our biggest success has come from our readers and their generosity in sharing their thoughts and feelings about the books which are all three bestsellers on Amazon and Kindle.

Cyndi:  Thanks to the great sales of the first book, Whistling Woman, we were offered a contract last year for a German translation, Madchen, die pfeifen, which was released last November. Neither of us speak German so we can’t tell you how it was promoted but judging from the fact it has made three Amazon bestseller lists, the publisher did an outstanding job. We were also offered a contract for the French translation (no title yet) which is in production and should be released later this year.

That is terrific news! Congratulations to both of you!
Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

Christy:  We are currently working on the fourth book in the series, Wise Woman, and hope to have it written and released by the end of this year. While all the books are close to our hearts, this next one is, in a way, the most special of all because this one tells the story of our dad, who is the inspiration for the series, and his time on the mountain with Great-Aunt Bessie and Great-Uncle Fletch.

Are your books available in print and ebook formats? 

Cyndi:  Yes, all three books in the Appalachian Journey series are available in Kindle ebook or print. The first two are also available in audio and the audio of Beloved Woman should be released within a few weeks. The easiest way to find our books is to visit our blog, where we have the covers in the sidebar and readers can click on each cover to connect to the book’s page on Amazon or they can go to our Amazon Author Central page,, and click on the covers there.

Okay, I have to ask:  do you two ever argue over the content? How difficult is it to work with another person?

Cyndi:  Sorry, no arguments, only a slight disagreement about the tone of the books. The good thing about writing with someone you're so close to, is you can simply tell them what you think, discuss the difference and then come to a decision. That's how it is with us, and though we haven't had any arguments (aside from whose name would come first on the book which was easily settled by going with a pseudonym), we have discussed many, many aspects of writing historical literary fiction vs. contemporary fiction. 

Whew! I'm glad you get along so well. I figured that because you're both sweetie pies, but thought I'd ask just in case there was drama to unearth. LOL

I wish both of you continued success and hope to see you again soon!

Christy:  Maybe we can meet here again next year.

Sounds good to me.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Networking and writing with Hawaii's Mary Deal

Do you network with other writers? That is perhaps the most rewarding aspect of having a blog. Sure, I hope folks will be interested enough to buy my books and my guests' books, but getting to know them either through cyberspace or in person is an awesome experience.  I had been friends with Mary Deal for many years in the cyber world. As she wrote books, I interviewed her here and have read most of them. She's an excellent writer. But the most amazing thing happened this past summer. Out of the blue she invited my husband and I to come to Hawaii and meet her in person. YES! Honolulu, Hawaii! We got our plans in order and flew from eastern North Carolina to Hawaii almost non-stop. WHEW! What an awesome trip that was. When we arrived, it was as though Mary and I had known each other since childhood and we pretty much acted like a couple of kids the entire week! I know this kind of generosity doesn't happen every day, but if you aren't networking, you should give it a try. The writing life offers all kinds of unexpected intrinsic rewards. Now on to my interview with Mary Deal:

Mary Deal is an award-winning author of suspense/thrillers, a short story collection, writers’ references, is a Pushcart Prize nominee, an artist/photographer, and former columnist and magazine editor. She is a multi-genre writer and author in both fiction and nonfiction. She resides in Hawaii.Welcome back to the blog, Mary.

Thank you, Susan. I have to add a few thoughts about your trip.You didn’t get to sample a Manapua, a steamed bun with meat and vegetables inside.Nor did you taste the Octopus rolls.

I guess I'm not quite that adventurous Mary, LOL but I do appreciate you taking my husband to climb Diamond Head while I recuperated from your EXCESSIVE energy. And it was neat to meet a man from North Carolina who set us up in a condo on the 19th floor with three ocean views! One of the highlights of the trip other than meeting you in person, was going to Pearl Harbor. Wow! What an experience that was for patriotic folks like my husband and I. I shed a few tears at the Arizona Memorial. So quiet.I could look right down into the water where so many of them are still.

Okay, okay. We have to get to the interview. I think people will understand how great an experience this was. Let's snack on some dark chocolate macadamia nuts while we chat.

Tell us about your mystery series, Mary.

Two plots carry through the Sara Mason mystery series, that of Sara solving cold cases and that of her love interest Huxley Keane searching for this brother’s remains in Vietnam.

In The Howling Cliffs, A Sara Mason Mystery, after a trek through the Vietnam jungle, Sara gets involved in a cold case on Kauai, that of a 6 year old girl missing for 10 years.
How has your environment affected your writing?

As you know from visiting here, Hawaii is conducive to clearing the mind. Living in Hawaii, I’m thrilled when people such as yourself can come and visit. It’s as if I can share the aura of this place that takes away cares, puts everything in better perspective and lets us focus on what we do best.

For the past nearly 20 years, I have found peaceful living among the islands to be exactly what I needed. Much to do is available but by using a little restraint, and concentration on the importance of my writing, is not distracting. I know your busy schedule, Susan, and saw you relaxing among these balmy trade winds and incredible sights to see.

Incredibly relaxing and I think I could write there on the balcony with no problem.

Give a short synopsis of your most recently published book.

If I may, since The Howling Cliffs, A Sara Mason Mystery is the 1st sequel to River Bones:

From the River Bones story, Sara is stalked by a psychopathic killer in California’s Sacramento River Delta. She meets Huxley Keane, the love of her life, and then loses him. But Sara and Huxley have built a history together, she having learned that he searches for the remains of his brother and the daughter of their mutual friend, Esmerelda, among other MIAs in Vietnam. Later, Sara agrees to become a decoy for the Sheriff’s Department and falls into the clutches of the elusive madman who leaves no live witnesses as human skeletons keep turning up.

In this story, The Howling Cliffs, Sara and Huxley are deep in the jungle in Vietnam where they find one MIA’s meager remains. As Huxley flies back to the United States to get them identified, Sara becomes involved in a cold case on the island of Kauai in Hawaii. Knowing someone wants to put an end to her investigations to keep a cold case cold, and tries to kill her to do it, leads to a half-crazed homicidal maniac who is just sane enough to keep suspicion off himself.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

In The Howling Cliffs, I had not intended to take the characters into the Vietnam jungle as Huxley searches for his MIA brother’s remains. That part could merely be alluded to in the rest of this story which takes place in Hawaii. Then, out of nowhere, I met a former Marine who freely and graciously provided me perfect information and edited my descriptions. This allowed me to place the characters in the jungle and added greater depth to this continuing subplot.

Can you imagine how grateful I am to this man? I dedicated the book to him.

That's great!

What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? What advice can you give new writers?

Usually I state the obvious when imparting any advice to others, you know about doing research and proper grammar, punctuation, and such. But this time, with more and more people publishing eBooks, what I’ll say here it that I’ve found most all eBooks have terrible formatting. If writers self-publish, then they need to learn formatting. Nothing spoils a good read like sentences and paragraphs all askew, blank pages in the middle of a story, titles on the bottom of a blank page, etc. These types of errors will ruin a writer’s reputation at a time when it’s most critical. Either writers need to learn proper formatting or they must hire someone to do it.

 I totally agree with you. I've seen some really bad formatting and still prefer a hard book.

Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

As you know, I travel too far and too fast to carry heavy electronics. When out and about, a tiny notebook is my permanent companion. When I am back home everything gets transcribed into a note file on PC. I noticed while you were here that you took a few notes yourself. I’m wondering what you are conjuring about Hawaii that may later show up in one of your books.

 Only time will tell, my friend.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

Online, I participate in many writers’ sites. Just getting to know people and spreading the word about my books with video trailers, cover images, and exciting bits of chapters, brings book sales. I must remain active online. I live on the most remote land mass on earth and much traveling is not an option. My big writing site,, teaches writing. When writers find good advice they are likely to buy a book from someone they trust. Too, I also have two online art galleries for my oil paintings and photography and many friends from those sites have purchased my books.

Offline, you had a taste of what it’s like to do word-of-mouth advertising in a new area far from home. Passing out an informative business card keeps us in people’s minds, as does a free or donated book now and then. When traveling, it’s a chance to place your books in places they may never show up – a great opportunity to reach more readers. Had you not come to Hawaii, you’d not have made such wonderful contacts way out here in the middle of the Pacific unless you searched for them online. Anytime we travel provides a magnificent opportunity to simply talk to people, make friends and Network. And you are so good at it! It’s no wonder people seek you out for promotion.

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

The Howling Cliffs is published in eBook format. Around June the paperback will be released. In the interim, I’m working on my 11th book, another nonfiction with the topics coming from my former career field as a clinical hypnotherapist. If my schedule holds, later in the year, my smaller books, Legacy of the Tropics, and Off Center in the Attic will go to paperback as well. Late in 2016, the next sequel to River Bones will be published.


Are your books available in print and ebook formats? 

My books are available at Amazon (with some at smashwords)  along with those where I am a contributor. Your Killer Recipes cookbook, Susan, I am proud to claim is among them. My Amazon Author page:

Mary also contributed some great recipes for my cookbook, including Stuffed-in-the-trunk mushrooms. Available in Kindle or paperback at

Mary, please tell Ron how much we enjoyed his company as well. Maybe we can link up again somewhere in the future. Hugs to you both and continued success with your writing, networking, art, and photography.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Arleen Alleman cruises into a new book

Arleen Alleman is a former senior analyst with the Government Accountability Office where she wrote extensively on many topics ranging from military satellite systems and highway technologies to endangered species and biotechnology. She has a science education, but also worked as a fashion model, teacher, insurance adjuster, jewelry designer, and proprietor of a home décor shop. Her interests include reading, health and fitness, origin and history of world religions, and travel. Her trips supply authentic backdrops and narration for her fictional stories. Born in England and raised in New Hampshire and Nevada, she lived in Colorado for many years. She now lives in SW Florida with her husband, Tim. She is the author of five Darcy Farthing adventure novels.

Have some Banoffee pie (an English concoction of banana, toffee, and cream with chocolate shavings)  and a cup of tea while we discuss A Current Deception.

Why, thank you, Susan. I love it!

Wow! You certainly have an interesting background.
How many books have you written altogether?

So far, I have written five novels. All are in the Darcy Farthing adventure series. The stories take place in many different locations and have elements of a travel log along with the murder-mystery story lines. Every book has the word current in the title and this is a play on words referring to my protagonist’s life philosophy, which she mentions from time-to-time. I have to say that once on the road of using the same word in each title, it becomes more difficult to come up with a satisfactory meaningful title.

Give a short synopsis of A Current Deception.

A Current Deception finds Darcy and her new husband, Mick, on a cruise around Australia with her daughter and granddaughter, and some close friends. Readers of previous books in the series already know these characters, but I always strive to have each book stand on its own. In this case, all the characters are anticipating having a relaxing fun vacation in a new environment including a honeymoon for Mick and Darcy and a wedding for friends Sid and Brooks.

Biochemist and pragmatist Darcy is embarking on a new career path as an investigative reporter following her success wherein Time purchased a story from her. She has come to understand that her curiosity and investigative nature cannot be denied. The cruise immediately takes a disconcerting turn when a small town Kansas woman and her husband are plagued by an infestation of invasive yellow crazy ants, mysteriously cancelled tour reservations, and illness caused by a mysterious food-borne pathogen. These bizarre and relatively minor incidents escalate when the ants injure more people. After a passenger dies in a hit and run incident on a street in Adelaide, other passengers come under attack aboard the ship. As crimes escalate, Brooks who is also her ex-husband comes under suspicion and the ship’s security chief refuses to look any further for a suspect. Clue by clue, Darcy unravels a complex plot by a master of disguise and world class computer hacker intent on revenge for a twenty-year-old crime.  
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I don’t believe I’ve ever been asked this interesting question so directly before. I would think that all authors have some of themselves hidden in the characters. For me, there is no question that Darcy and I share some personality traits. I think she is more like a role model to me than an alter ego. Like Darcy, I am a humanist and a scientist at heart. She is a woman who strives for the high moral ground and often achieves it, but constantly battles her mistakes and flaws. I say that she is an edgy character, but it is probably more accurate to say she is controversial as are some social issues addressed in the stories. As for the rest of the characters, I don’t know if I am hidden in them, but in many cases I certainly hope not. To my knowledge none of them are patterned after actual people I have known.

So you travel to do research or for inspiration. Can you share some special places with us?

Yes, that is very much the case. So far, the series takes place in a wide range of locations where I have visited either on land or by cruise ship. That is, seaports all around the Caribbean, South America, Mexico, and Australia, as well as Colorado Springs, Las Vegas, SW Florida, Seattle, and D.C. One of the unique things about these stories is the varied settings and the travel log of sorts that Darcy narrates through the stories. Along with working to solve the mystery, she presents tidbits of history, geography, and anthropology, and is particularly interested in the roots of human culture and religion, the fate of indigenous populations, and genetics.

What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? What advice can you give new writers?

No book is for everyone. Many people who like fiction will not even consider reading a novel if they believe the subject is outside their belief system or somehow unpleasant to them. This becomes apparent in talking with folks at book signings. No author should ever feel let down by this simple reality because there are always lots of other people who will think the content is wonderful or at least thought-provoking. So, an author should stay true to her own heart in writing regardless of any negative comments on subject or language. Now that is not to say that criticism of the writing style, and plot and character development, should not be taken to heart as well. For me, the writing process is a learning curve that never ends. I listen to every critique and try to use the comments to improve. I would like to think the books are getting better as I go along.
Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

Actually, I sit down and type out a list that is a very rough outline of any idea I have, including the subjects that will need to be researched. At that point, there isn’t necessarily a full story, but I can go back and add to the outline as ideas occur to me. In this manner a story with chapter delineations eventually emerges. For me, brainstorming at the keyboard is very productive. Also, at the beginning of the process I use a big piece of newsprint to outline the characters I plan to include and overall plots. Then I connect them with lines to map out relationships. I think my years of analysis and auditing for GAO instilled a need for structure even with the creative process.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I use social media, primarily Facebook and Twitter as well as a myriad of book and author sites, like Book Town. I try to get as much exposure online as possible. My genre is so huge that it is very difficult to stand out among the tens of thousands of mystery novels and series. I work at getting reviewers to read the books, and then highly publicize the reviews.

I have also built a rapport with a number of B&N store managers in several states where they allow me to have book signings every few months. This is a great experience and a way to meet potential readers.

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

At this point, I plan to continue with the series. I am working on Darcy number six now.
I try to write entertaining murder-mysteries, but I have to admit there are subtle and not so subtle messages contained in the stories. I hope fiction lovers will enjoy the fast-paced writing style and will also find some thought provoking and even educational content.

However, I have ideas for novels not in the series that might be set in a future where climate change and water shortages have radically changed cultures all over the world. I’m not interested in writing dystopian novels but would like to address the reality of living in a greatly changed world of perhaps 200 years in the future, and explore how the physical changes will affect human emotions and beliefs.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

My website is . There the reader can learn about the books and about me, check out any scheduled book signings, read news articles, reviews, and book excerpts, and access my Amazon and Barnes and Noble book pages.

Are your books available in print and ebook formats? (please provide the buy link for easy reader accessibility)

All my books are available in ebook, as well as hard and soft cover formats.

And on Barnes & Noble at

Thanks for dropping by, Arleen. I wish you lots of great travels and inspiration for many more good reads.

Thank you, Susan. And the pie was delicious.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Trish Jackson Romances

Trish Jackson grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe, Africa, which sparked a love of adventure and suspense, and being a romantic at heart, she writes romantic suspense and romantic comedy. Her stories are usually set in small towns, where the people enjoy country values, and the pace of life is a little slower. Trish also loves animals and always includes them in her stories. Welcome to the blog, Trish.

Thank you, Susan. I brought you a South African dessert that Andre's mom Rietta makes in Aquarius Addiciton. It called 


1 large ready pie crust
2 cups milk
2 tblsp sugar
½ cup flour
2 eggs, well beaten
1 tblsp butter
½ teaspoon cinnamon

Boil together milk, sugar, butter and cinnamon.
Blend flour with a little cold water, and add boiling milk mixture to it, stirring briskly to prevent lumps.
Return mixture to pan and cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Allow to cool a little.
Add well-beaten eggs, stir well, and cook again for a few minutes.
Pour into pie crust and sprinkle with a little additional cinnamon.
Bake at 375 deg. F. for around 20-25 minutes until just browning.

It's delicious, Trish. Wow! Growing up in Simbabwe is awesome, I'm sure. Tell us more.
How did your environment affected your writing?

Having grown up in Zimbabwe, I had no clue what a 'redneck' was until I moved to the US. I found them to be wonderfully genuine people who would literally give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it, and who are not afraid to speak their minds. That's when I started the first in my Redneck P.I. trilogy.

How many books have you written?

I've written a lot of books, and published six full-length novels, and a couple of non-fiction books. I also write short stories about my characters, which I offer free in eBook format.

Give a short synop of your most recently published book.

I had two books released around the end of 2014/beginning of 2015.
Backwoods Boogie (romantic suspense/comedy) is the third in the Redneck P.I. series. Twila Taunton, redneck private investigator is determined to rescue gentle Brit Pam Taylor from a being convicted of a murder she clearly did not commit. In the course of the investigation, Twila discovers an illegal puppy mill, where several dogs are living in filth and squalor without adequate food, shelter or veterinary attention. She and her quirky friends make a plan to rescue them, while she also helps a biker gang break up a dog fighting operation.

Aquarius Addiction (romantic suspense) is the second in the Zodiac Series, in which each heroine belongs to a different star sign and exhibits the typical traits of her sign. Aquarius Arlette Xylander is feisty, eccentric, freedom-loving, flirtatious, rebellious and unpredictable. Her emotions rage between denial, anger and tears when her doctor tells her she is suffering from a rare terminal disease. When hunky Andre Rossouw asks her to help find his sister who has been missing for four years, Arlette makes two decisions. To beat the disease and find a cure, and to have wild and passionate sex with him. The book includes some paranormal, and (I always write about animals)—a black cat called 'Marbles'.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I suppose the author's unique voice is really the author's character showing through. I believe my love of animals has helped me create some memorable four-legged characters, including Scratch, the Cairn Terrier who rides on the back of Twila's Harley, and Riley's palomino, Flight-of-Fancy in Capricorn Cravings.

What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? What advice can you give new writers?

I have been published by Uncial Press and Soul Mate Publishing, both of which have wonderful, caring editors who have helped to make my stories so much better than they would have been. I absolutely recommend an editor. Even the best writers have editors, because we can't see our own mistakes.

Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

I create new folders in Word and store them on my computer for later. Another word of advice for new authors is this—keep copies of all your work on another computer or storage device. I keep several copies of everything. Think of how devastating it would be if you lost it.

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

Virgo's Vice, the third Zodiac Series story is with my publisher and will be released at the end of 2015.

I'm currently working on three projects:

  1. Leo's Legacy -- the fourth book in the Zodiac Series, which takes place in my country of birth, Rhodesia (nowZimbabwe), and is based on true events. Zimbabwe currently is governed by a ruthless dictator who appeases his disgruntled citizens by allowing them to attack farmers and force them to give up their farms, murdering and torturing them if they feel like it. They also maim and torture the animals, and I plan to bring this horrific situation to people's attention in this story.

  1. Ass Backwards – the fourth in the Redneck P.I. Series, as told by quirky character Gasser Cunha, whose many talents include farting, computer hacking, and superior guitar playing. This one is about illegal meth labs.
 I can hardly wait to read that one!

  1. My first psychological thriller.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

My websites – and also offer free downloads of a few short stories.

Are your books available in print and ebook formats? (please provide the buy link for easy reader accessibility)

They're available in both.

Thank you for the delicious Melktert ! I wish you great sales with all your endeavors.