Showing posts with label Guest Posts/Interviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Guest Posts/Interviews. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Guest Post: Kandi J. Wyatt: Six Key Elements to Writing a Story

Kandi J. Wyatt

Any time I can get an author to write a post that I can share with not only you my readers, but also my students, it is a win-win. I asked Kandi to write about writing. So many out there are curious about how to get started. Here are Kandi's Six Key Elements for Writing.

Writing a story is something that takes time and patience. There isn’t a magic formula that makes a tale unique and special. The originality comes from the writer diving into their own experiences and sharing in story form the truths they learned. However, there are some key elements to have in place for writing.

1.      Consistency

As you write, you want to do it on a consistent basis. That means every day for some people. For others, it might be every Tuesday at 9 pm. Whatever it is for you, make sure you have planned writing time and that it’s held sacred. Don’t let the normal everyday distract you from writing. An emergency here or there is okay, but don’t make everything into an emergency.

2.      Practice

Like consistency, practice is key to improving your craft. The more you write, the easier it’ll come. When I first wrote in high school, I wasn’t consistent nor did I do a lot of writing. But later, when I started writing for publication, I wrote more and each story progressively got better.

3.      Listen to experts

Editors and other writers will know the craft of writing. Listen to them. But be careful. Not all editors are who you need. Take for example my story Journey from Skioria. I’d originally written it to have the style of The Secret Garden in third person omniscient. The editor I found read the first snippet and returned the manuscript with an ebook of her own. I was to read the book and change my manuscript to fit her style. I should have stuck to my guts and found a different editor.

That being said, I’ve found the best editor for me. She works with me and my stories to bring out the best in my books and in me. As I write, I’m now hearing her voice instructing and warning me on problem areas. That makes my writing better in the long run.

4.      Learn from others

This may be similar to number 3, but it’s with the idea of training. All athletes train for their sport. They go to camps and learn. The same is true of writers. Go to conferences and learn from the speakers. My go-to conference is Realm Makers. It’s every July and often they have a winter retreat option. They even have a teen track in the summer for kids to learn to hone their craft.

Read books on the craft. Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Steven James’ Story Trumps Structure, Terry Brooks’ Sometimes the Magic Works, or Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water are all good to read and learn from. Another book, not quite on the craft of writing but on creating is Allen Arnold’s Chaos Can’t. (In reality any of his books—The Story of With, Waves of Creativity, and The Eden Option—are excellent.)

5.      Read in your genre

The best way to improve your writing is by reading the type of books you want to write. Since I’m publishing two to three books a year, I don’t have much free time, but I can read at lunch, listen to books on the way to work and home, and there’s even a few minutes before going to bed. Reading for enjoyment enables you to absorb the things you love about a book or author’s style. When that happens, you’ll find those things will begin to naturally make their way into your books.

For me, it was H. L. Burke’s books that brought the light romance into my series Four Stars over Ardatz: Sovereigns. I loved how it wasn’t the main plot of her books, but it came naturally. I read many of her books (I’m way behind on her superhero universe) and the romance became a natural part of my own series.

6.      Live Life to its Fullest

The best way to write is to live life and have experiences that you can draw upon. My first story I wrote that actually worked was written after my first year in college. I’d come home to earn money to go back to school the next semester. My job was in a mall at a cinnamon roll shop. I wrote my sister, our friend group, and my boyfriend into a mystery around the mall. It was probably cheesy and amateurish, but I wrote it. In reality, it was a stepping stone to my later published works. I could say I’d finished a full story. It wasn’t novel length, but it was a complete story.

So, go out there. Live life, read, learn, and grow. Then write. Write to your heart’s content. Never give up. Never allow someone else to tell you that you can’t. You can

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Guest Post by Kandi J. Wyatt

 Kandi J. Wyatt has long been one of my favorite authors. Her fantasy dragon series has kept my students reading book after book.  Yesterday we revealed the cover to her newest addition to the series.  Today she has written a special post that is really geared toward my number one reader, my students. As a teacher she knows what students like.  This post is perfect because our next unit my students will be writing a story. Of course, in November there is always NaNoWriMo.  Please help me welcome Kandi J. Wyatt.

Your teacher gave you an assignment to write a story, or maybe you have a really cool idea for a story, but what now? Well, it’s really not as difficult as you’d think. In essence there are only five things you need for a story.

First, you need a genre. Genre is your category that you write in. If you’re writing a story, you’re most likely using fiction. There are many genres in fiction to choose from—Western, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Thriller, Horror, Mystery, Historical Fiction, and Romance to name a few. Each of the genres have different aspects to them, but as long as you understand the main ideas, you’re good to go.

After a genre, you need a setting. Setting is where and when your story takes place. Is your mystery taking place in a haunted house in the 2000’s, or is your science fiction happening on a new planet in the year 3500? Either way, you need a place and a time. Place can be as big as a country, a world, or a planet. It can be as defined as a woods, castle, space ship, or haunted house. When will decide what can happen. If your story takes place in the medieval times with knights and kings, you’re not going to have someone show up with a machine gun—unless you have a time traveler who comes from the future.

Your next two important pieces are your characters. Wait? You said two pieces and only listed one thing. Yep. You need at least two characters—an antagonist and a protagonist. It’s easy to remember these names. If you’re pro-something, you’re for it. Your protagonist is the good guy in your story. If you’re anti-something, you’re against it, so your antagonist is the bad guy.

To build a character you need to know their physical traits but also their personality. What are they like? How do they react to things? Are they easy-going or do they fly off the handle at the slightest provocation? You’ll also need to know what their goals are, why they do what they do. This will help with the final thing you need in order to write a story—plot.

Your plot is what happens. In the Western it’s telling how the good guy helps the town and defeats the bad guy. It’s how the boy gets the girl in a romance, the journey in a fantasy. Remember for a good story, bad things need to happen. Your protagonist can’t get what he wants right off the bat. He needs to work for it.

Now you know the elements that make up story. What I’ve done with my middle school students is Roll-a-Story. It’s something that a college professor created and shared at a writer’s conference. I then created my own versions. These worksheets will walk you through finding your genre, your setting, your character, and your plot. Try it out. I’d love to read what you come up with. You can share your stories with me via my email address.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Guest Post by Richard Spitzer - The Margin of Error War

The 2016 Presidential election exposed the cyber-war waged by the adversaries of the United States.
How did it happen?   How did we let it happen?  What did we miss?
Cyber-defenses must be developed now to prevent the 2016 cyber-attack from repeating in the 2020 election. But if we don’t understand how our adversaries succeeded, countermeasures will not be effective.

We thought we knew a lot about cyber-war, but our adversaries knew more. We did not recognize the subtle aspects of the new “information-terrorism” war. What exactly did Russia and China do? How did we miss it? What can we do to fight the new cyber-information war?
How could I analyze all the information? We know what happened in the 2016 cyber-attack, but what were the conditions that led to that event ? My practical approach was to reverse engineer the known events and work backwards over the long history of US vs. Russia and China conflicts.
My research process was similar to the crime mysteries from TV, movies and books. The story opens with the discovery of a crime. The detectives investigate the scene, look for clues, motives and possible suspects, backtracks every possible step that led up to the crime
The Margin of Error diagnosis is similar to the criminal investigation, but we are starting with far more information than a typical crime story. We know:
ü  The crime: the infiltration of digital news and  social media with fake information and hacking  of the 2016 presidential election.
ü  The perpetrators: the adversaries of the United States, primarily Russia, China and to a lesser extent, Iran and North Korea.
ü  The likely motives: the malicious intentions of our adversaries  for economic, political and global influence, and to harm the United States and  the 2016 presidential election.
ü  The obvious weapons used in the crime: mass media, social media, hacking of digital files.
ü  All the basics of the crime have been confirmed by the first investigation teams and the  U.S. intelligence agencies about the scope and actions of external “meddling” in the U.S. elections.
So, our mystery is not a whodunit, or why they did it, or what weapons were used.
Our mystery is how the cyber- weapons were brought into our space undetected and used so effectively.
The second familiar crime concern – is the perpetrator still at large ? Are we still at risk for another similar crime? The answers are yes.
The Margin of Error War diagnoses the long-term war against the US and the 2016 turning point, when we lost the first epic cyber-battle of the 21st century. Russia, and friends, found the subtle and unrecognized techniques to manipulate the news and voters – right in front of us– to shift political polls, in critical areas, just enough, within the “margin of error”.
The internet has leveled the global battlefields. All combatants now have the same capabilities to wage cyber-war using unregulated digital media. And digital communications technology has advanced far faster than our systems to ensure their safe and legitimate use.
Our adversaries did not have to use the digital media to influence every vote in America, their plan was simpler and easier. The basic strategy had two components that we missed in real-time:
·         Aggravate and accelerate every conflict that was already present in the US, to increase divisiveness.
·         Change the minds of just 2% of the people, in critical states. The elections in three states, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were each decided by less than 1%. Our adversaries were able to manipulate news and opinions, nudge just enough votes to be undetected, because the shifts in the political polls were “within the margin of error”.

We have one more chance before 2020 to get the cyber-war right.
We have a government and professionals who have the knowledge to develop the hi-tech cyber defenses. But we also need new information defenses that will give us more confidence in the credibility of the news and the providers.
There are regulations for accrediting or  inspecting food, airplanes, water, colleges, almost everything in our life to help ensure they are safe and accurately presented. But we have no standards for the critical news that affects our lives. We can develop the standards to make sure that most news and political polls provide the most accurate, reliable and honest information possible.(Yes, can stay within First Amendment rights).Two things we can do now:
·         Create an accreditation system for news and information providers. No one will be prohibited from publishing news, but accreditation will be an additional step for sources that want to be acknowledged as willing to meet standards of transparency and legitimacy.
·         Develop robust standards for political polling. General practices are currently observed, but they are insufficient to ensure that surveys and political polls are designed and conducted to minimize bias and help make them more comparable. The disclaimer of poll results must be sued recognizing  the “margin of error”, is not a safeguard, its an excuse.

You have to judge what you believe about our diagnosis and proposals, but you can’t disagree with the current state of global conflicts. The conflicts are real; the identities of terrorists are not in question. Most of the tools, tactics and actions are documented. This book is about how it happened, how easily it happened, and what we can do while we still have time to combat our adversaries and preserve America institutions and democracy.
Yes, the truth can be more alarming than fiction.

Available on    Amazon

Richard Spitzer   

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Monday, July 29, 2019

Dania Voss Guest Post

When I decided to try my hand at writing a short story, the origin story of Luke Stryker and Abbey Jayne from my debut novel On the Ropes, I didn’t realize what a challenge it would be. I was both excited and nervous to write Off the Hook, When Luke met Abbey.
I was excited because I wanted to offer Off the Hook as a free read to readers, to introduce them to my Windy City Nights series. I was nervous because I had never written a short story before and Luke and Abbey’s origin story took place when they were 18 and 20 years old. They were young adults, not older adults like in the debut novel, which took place ten years later.
I had quite a bit of research to do, as I do for every book I write. For writers, research is one thing we can get mired in that delays us from starting to write. Since Off the Hook was supposed to be short story, I didn’t want to and couldn’t spend too much time doing research, I had to get the story written!

But since the timeline placed their origin story in June of 2007, I had to be historically accurate on several critical things.
The World Series - Luke is a pitcher for his family’s team the Chicago Cobras so I had to research what teams played in the World Series in 2007 and make adjustments for the Cobras to play in the story.
Technology - I researched what the popular laptop models were in 2007, as well as the popular cell phones. The first iPhone came out in 2007, I didn’t know that until I researched it for the story.
Movies – I found out which comedies were out in the summer of 2007 and chose one for Luke and Abbey to watch in the story.
Online Universities – Since Luke was travelling with the team, I had to research which universities were offering online degrees at that time. He couldn’t attend regular classes like everyone else.
Since Abbey was 18 and Luke was 20, it was a challenge trying to get into the mindset of younger adults. Luke was Abbey’s first boyfriend. She hadn’t done much dating before she met him. Luke’s family is wealthy in addition to owning the Chicago Cobras. He’d led a fairly charmed life, even though he’d lost his parents at a young age.

I’m a plotter, not a pantser so as I’ve done with my full length novels, I created an outline for Off the Hook with word count limits for each chapter. In the end, I went over about 2500 words and ended the story with over 18,000 words, but I’m proud with the result of my first short story.

Author Bio
Born in Rome, Italy and settled in the Chicagoland area, Dania Voss is a lover of all things pink and a huge fan of 80's hair bands. She became a romance junkie in her teens. After decades of voracious reading, she published her first romance novel On the Ropes, the prequel in her Windy City Nights series in March of 2018. It was nominated as best Contemporary Romance in the 2018 Evernight Publishing Reader's Choice Awards. 

The Warrior's Whisper was released in September of 2018 and her current romance Hannah's Bliss, with Italian int'l model Luca Pantini on the cover, is the third installment in the series.

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Skype:  Rose Hudson (

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Thursday, April 25, 2019

Guest Post Marilyn Meredith: Spirit Wind

Coming Tomorrow: My review

Native American Legends in the Tempe Crabtree Series

Thank you so much for inviting me to appear on this wonderful blog.

I thought I’d write about some of the Indian legends I’ve woven into my Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. Tempe belongs to the Yokut tribe of California’s Central Valley. Over the period of the books, she has not only learned about the many legends of her own tribe, but those of other tribes in California. Including these legends in various books, I feel has enriched the plots.

The famous Big Foot of Northern California appeared in Kindred Spirits, and while I was researching for that book I discovered the most famous legends of the Yokuts are about the Hairy Man. A pictograph of him and his family can be seen on a cave in the Painted Rock area of the Tule River Indian Reservation.  Once I learned about the Hairy Man, and saw the pictographs for myself, I knew he needed to be a part of the series and has been an important character in several books.

In other books, I’ve included the legends of the creation of the world, what the appearance of an owl means, and the howling of a dog.

The latest in the series, Spirit Wind, is set in the mountain community of Tehachapi. Anyone who has driven on Highway 58 between Bakersfield and Mojave has passed by Tehachapi. The hillsides are covered with a multitude of huge wind machines. However, Tehachapi is probably better known for the Loop where extremely long freight trains pass themselves as they go around a mountain. Tourists come from all around to watch this engineering phenomenon.

While doing the research for this mystery, I learned about the Kawaiisu people who first inhabited the area. Like the Yokuts, they were forced by soldiers to move on foot many miles away to Fort Tejon. When that didn’t work out, both tribes were marched back to their former homes. Many died.

One of the Kawaiisu legends is about the Rock Baby. The story was told to Tempe by Nick Two John, a friend who is also a Yokut, and this is what he said. “Watch out for Rock Baby. Many call him the spirit of doom. He painted pictures of himself. The images are said to change daily. All are warned if someone touches his likeness that person will go blind. If you hear him crying, it means something evil will happen.”

Of course, this legend is included in the story. The Rock Baby’s crying alerts Tempe to dangers awaiting her.

I feel privileged to be able to use these fascinating legends in my Deputy Tempe Crabtree mysteries.

Author Bio

Marilyn has had so many books published, she’s lost track of the count, but it’s getting near 40. She lives in a community similar to the fictional mountain town of Bear Creek, the big difference being that Bear Creek is a thousand feet higher in the mountains.
She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, three chapters of Sisters in Crime, and is a board member of Public Safety Writers of America.
Facebook URL: Marilyn Meredith
Twitter: @marilynmeredith

Buy links for Seldom Traveled:

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Guest Post by M.J. Markovski Author of Whatever It Takes

I, Marija (Maria) Salapanov Carpenter writing as MJ Markovski began my journey of the fictional story of Whatever It Takes in 2015 after my husband at the time left not only left me but my children.
But the journey to writing seriously began in 2009/2010 when I became disabled from a major attack from multiple sclerosis (MS). The doctors thought at that time I would die but here I am. And the worst that had occurred was that I am in an electronic wheelchair for mobility. I view it as God’s way give me more time in writing.
I don’t allow my illness to define who I am.
In 2010 I completed my master’s in accounting, while recovering. I completed my first modern young adult fantasy novel later that year. Basically, related on Irish mythology and how the ancient race walks among us.
My daughter had just graduated kindergarten that year. And now she’s on the brink of finishing up her sophomore year in high school. And she is brilliant not only in science but in English as well.
I recovered quickly which had given me the time to write. And I had chosen young adult because teenagers are fearless, shy exploring the world of trying to become adults and fantasy because you can bend the rules within reason. The title to that book is Not Dark Enough.
A year later I wrote another young adult fantasy titled Worse Than Bad.
I would take writing courses in between to sharpen my craft. While writing my first novel, Not Dark Enough, I did find a critique partner who I still have currently. And I’ve written a couple short stories along the way. Have some ideas for other stories to create in the background. But always trying to find more time to write.

Here is a snippet from my book:
“Her heart dropped heavy like a brick. He wore a black -shirt, loose black slacks, and black boots. His eyes were dark with a tight smile.
“What are you doing here?” She asked, pushing away loose strands from her face. She glanced past him toward the exit, but she determined it was too far. The Tiffany motivated chandelier lights glowed faintly in this location. And there were plenty of little hideouts as well. If this guest planned on rape, murder, or other miscreant activities on his mind he’d cornered her in the perfect spot. The back of the hair on her neck stood straight up.”

In a nutshell I do love to create great stories that explore characters and their origins. Which is why I love to write complicated stories. On the surface Whatever It Takes is a Romantic Suspense/Thriller on the surface but it delves much deeper than that. The mind is such a complicated machine that even today we are still scratching the surface to understand the brain. Which was no surprise in my part what I would pick that genre as a storyteller.
Thank you for allowing me to be your guest on your blog. It has been my pleasure.

Here is a sample from her book:
Chapter One


More than five years had passed since Regan last walked into her brother’s rank and musty service open garage in Parker, Texas. Her stomach jittered at the manly smells—a mixture of gasoline, WD-40, brake parts cleaner, grease, welding smoke, and tires. Heavy metal pounded from old speakers, nearly drowning out the garage noises of a drill, distant traffic, and the light chirping of birds. It was just another Monday in a town where whispers during summer were as steamy as the day’s barometric reading. And in late June, the temperature climbed high, so those secrets would hang as heavy as a curtain. Her teeth clenched; she’d grown up in Parker and was accustomed to the mind games the locals played. There’s no way she’d have ever come back if she didn’t desperately need her family’s help. But if anyone could tell her how to deal with the mess she’d left behind in New York, how to navigate what she’d discovered, it was her brother, Theodore. She just hoped that this surprise wouldn’t blow up in her face. She’d been barely sixteen when she left for a full scholarship at New York University. Five years, after all, was a long time between visits home.
She peeked inside the service door, remembering that Theodore had a military mind and kept god-awful early morning hours. Before stepping through, she scanned the dimly lit shop, but she didn’t see her brother. Instead, she spotted a man with sapphire-tipped faux-hawk, standing on a small stepladder, bent over a monster pickup truck. Mr. Faux-Hawk’s shirtless arms displayed a jaw-dropping, hot-flash-inducing art canvas. Corded muscles flexed as he continued to tinker with the engine.
When Regan stepped onto the concrete floor of the garage, a chime rang. She observed a tattooed hand move, and with a click of a remote, the tunes lowered to a background hum.
“Can I help you?” He lifted his head from under the open hood and propped an elbow on the side of the newly-painted, black and silver frame. Predatory deep blue and purplish eyes bore into her, the long-feathered lashes, making them all the more menacing. Her breath caught. There was something disturbingly familiar about him. “Yeah—yes, I’m looking for Theodore.” Her voice echoed, too loud inside the open garage. She hid her fidgeting fingers behind her and clasped the bronze bracelet that did not quite cover the spidery scars littered from her elbow to wrist.
“Who’s asking?” The rolling timbre of rock-on-rock in his voice made her insides curl. He stepped down from the engine.
Her lips lifted in a slow smile. “Excuse me?” She was not the swooning type, even if he was dreamy. Okay, smoldering. Thank God she wasn’t tongue-tied around guys anymore.
They began a staring contest. His skin glowed like smooth copper. All hard angles and fierce planes, his face boasted a sharp blade of a nose and black-as-the-devil’s-heart eyebrows.
Regan gulped as she studied him. Oh, crap. It was Hunter Grainger. Boy, had he changed. But unfortunately for her, he’d only gotten hotter in the time since he’d broken her heart. Her pulse raced. In his presence, her tongue became knotted.
“Damn, Regan, you grew into those long legs.” His lips relaxed a bit, and they curved up in one corner. Then he winked.
Her smile faded. Warmth flooded her cheeks. From the smug look pasted on his face, he knew she had recognized him. Blinking seemed to break the spell she was under.
“Holy shit. Hunter Grainger?” She took a deep, unsteady breath. “What are you doing here?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” He had an inappropriate asinine smile on his face and took a slight step back, pointing toward the engine.
She blushed hotter if that was even possible.
“Yes—yes—I can see you’re working. What I meant is...” She stretched her fingers and began again. “What I meant to say is, what are you doing back in Texas?”
The smirk settled in deeper. “I could ask you the same thing, but I don’t want to appear rude.”
“Rude?” her voice colored with anger. “You don’t want to appear rude? What about the time—”
She was not prepared for this. Not at all. She was a fool for not recognizing him immediately. Every girl had been in love with the bad boy, including her.
All the things she’d sworn she’d say if she ever ran into Hunter flew from her mind. Here he was, right in front of her as she’d so often imagined, and again she was at his mercy. She’d have kicked her own backside if she could.
He finally dropped his work tools back into the toolbox with a deliberate clank, then snatched the rag sitting on top.
“It’s complicated.”
She waited, but it was all the explanation he intended to offer.
In high school, her responses were one or two words. But now she was bolder with her speech and told others her piece of mind. Her choice of clothing reflected her personality—brightly colored shorts that molded to her body paired up with a snug top.
He stepped away from the side of the monster truck and strode with confidence toward Regan, rubbed his rag across his neck before he stopped in front of the monster truck. He leaned casually against the front fender, crossed his ankles, and stared right at her, daring her to say something.
She had a purpose in coming here and again asked about her brother. “So, where’s Theodore?” Trying to avoid Hunter’s eyes, her gaze went to the high-end Italian sports cars neatly lined in the front to the left of the monster truck. Further back, she could see bays with more cars.
Her head snapped back to that damn rag, now clutched between his tattooed knuckles. It drew her gaze to his sculpted chest and downward to his chiseled abs. However, his abs did not hide the horrible scar across the length of his ribs. She didn’t look away fast enough before he cocked his hips toward her.
“So, I couldn’t help noticing you were checking out the goods.” He said it with a lazy smile, winding the rag between his knuckles.
“Which goods are you referring to?” She slipped a glance at him, and he flexed his biceps. He had an array of tattoos on his arms, and her gaze stopped at the large scorpion on his right hand. The extended tail fished down, making the loop to the R on his ring finger inked across his four knuckles that spelled out CROW. “Maybe it’s time for you to get another tattoo.”
He did a half twist showing an outline of wings beginning between his shoulder blades and finishing down the back. “Already there. Try again.” He raised one eyebrow and slightly tucked in his chin when her mouth made a small ‘O’ of surprise. He flashed her a smile.
She tried to recover by crossing her arms and taking a step back, but she stumbled over a wrench. He grabbed her arm. Had he not, she would’ve fallen. She shivered when he pulled her up close against him.
His eyebrows scrunched, and his voice lowered. “Tell me why you came back.” He breathed his words against her face.
Thoughts of her job as a clerk for a law firm back in New York, of the treacherous secret she’d discovered there, flittered across her mind. The phone calls, the threats. She shuddered and dismissed it. There was no way she would utter that to anyone, least of all to Hunter Grainger. Instead, she focused on the questions Hunter hadn’t answered about her brother. “Family,” she said. “I returned because I’m big on family passion. I mean affairs.”
Dammit. She should’ve worn thicker patting on the cut still healing. It had begun forming a scab on her right side of her hip. She forced herself to keep smiling, to hide her embarrassment.
His gaze dipped down and ran back up the length of her body. Her spine tingled, and it felt like it might burst out of her skin.
“Passion, you say.”

Marija Salapanov Carpenter writing as MJ Markovski was born in Detroit, Michigan to Macedonian immigrant parents, raised very sheltered, and then moved to Arizona for college. Ended up staying in Tucson.

Two words to remember her by are tenacious and complicated.
The journey to writing Whatever It Takes series came to her not only in a form of a dream but also when her husband at the time left her and her children. They had been together since she was eighteen.

But her journey to writing seriously began 2009/2010 when she became disabled from a major attack from multiple sclerosis. Doctors thought at that time she would Die but here she is, and the worst of it was she is currently in an electric wheelchair for mobility. For now. She views it as God’s way for her to have more time in writing.

She doesn’t allow her illness to define her.

MJ loves stories that explore characters and origins. It thrills her to get inside their minds and find out what makes them tick. That’s why she loves writing third person limited because it’s intimate. What if on the surface a person comes up to them you think one character views him as granite steel emotions but he truly speaks in his mind is actually passionate and driven but you can’t see that on the outside you’ll find it out till Chapter Five but his actions show it? She loves the weave stories with their theme another fuel for her many books to come forth. Angst, passion, romance, (she’s a romantic at heart but don’t tell anyone that) and suspense/thriller.

MJ graduated with her Masters from the University of Phoenix in Accounting. She’s worked with government contractor as a Financial Accountant as well as an advisor for taxes. She ran a small business of doing taxes for family and friends for a while in the early 2000’s then stopped because of the MS exasperation that landed her in the hospital. But when she retained her health, she put that business aside and she began seriously writing. That self-run business reignited her passion in her writing and to help others as well when the opportunity comes to help other fellow writers.

MJ enjoys spending time with her family and friends when she can, loves reading, watching a movie once in a great while with her daughter, spending some time outside (when it’s cool and not in the heat of Arizona) life is full of complications but every morning getting up in writing with her vitamin smoothies and coffee is a perfect start of the day.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Guest Post by Albert A. Bell, Jr. : Death by Armoire

I have been reading mysteries since I was in seventh grade. I started with the inevitable Hardy Boys and Perry Mason. At some point I picked up a Nancy Drew. Yeah, I know, teenaged boy reading a book aimed at girls. But I read Little Women, too. And I will admit, in public for the first time, that I cried when Beth died.

Over the years I have read all kinds of mysteries, but my favorites have always tended to be the cozies. They involve an amateur sleuth, preferably a woman, who investigates a murder which the police don’t think is a murder. They’re set in a knitting store, a library, a bakery, or some other environment that we usually associate with women. The Hallmark Channel now offers a series of such stories, although I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more of Lori Laughlin’s “Garage Sale” movies. There are an amazing number of these cozy mysteries available today. I may offend some readers by saying that I do not like ones where cats, dogs, or ghosts help to solve the mystery.

I had already published several books in a series of mysteries set in ancient Rome when I decided to write a cozy, set in an antique store. Death by Armoire was inspired by memories of my grandfather’s antique/used furniture store in a small town in South Carolina. Maureen Cooper is a ghost-writer, penning books for celebrities. She likes that quiet, below-the-radar life. Then she learns that her ex-husband, Troy, has been found dead in the store, crushed by a large armoire that apparently tipped over him. It’s ruled an accidental death. But someone breaks into the store and goes through the armoire and other pieces of furniture that came from the same set. What were they looking for? Was Troy’s death really accidental?

As she tries to answer those two questions Maureen uncovers secrets about her family and her hometown that change her whole outlook on who she is. She has a dog, Pepper, who was Troy’s support dog, but he offers no help in solving the case.

When I was finished with the book I wasn’t looking forward to the whole process of finding a publisher. It can take a couple of years to get through that ordeal. I’m lucky to have an excellent publisher for my Roman mystery series in Perseverance Press, but they’re small and did not have room for another title in their list. I decided to do something I’ve often criticized people for: I self-published the book. It had gone through the vetting process of my writers’ group and a friend who is a free-lance editor, so it wasn’t as though no one had worked on it.

Once the book was published, I saw a notice about Writers’ Digest’s contest for self-published books. I entered Death by Armoire and WON the genre fiction category. I’m waiting for movie offers and other sorts of acclaim to come my way. Surely, soon.

You can find more information about this book and my other books at my website:

Death by Armoire by Albert Bell Jr.

I love everything about my house, but the one part that I would never give up is the front porch. The builders of big old Southern houses like mine, which goes back to 1887, understood the importance of a porch. My house, a joyously gaudy Queen Anne, faces east, with a huge magnolia tree and an ancient oak—and thus very little grass—in the yard, and the porch runs across the front and halfway back along both sides. On the south side there’s a large swing mounted from the ceiling.
At the northeast corner the porch bulges out to create a circular area where I have a table and chairs, the same table and chairs my mother had when I was a little girl growing up here.
Because of the conical shape of the roof over this area and the black shingles, I dubbed it the Witch’s Hat when I was a child, and the name stuck. It’s the perfect place to eat breakfast on a summer morning, as I did so many times as a child, as I did with my children, and as I was about to do now.
But now everything’s different. My children are grown, my mother died eight years ago, my father a year after that, and my cheating ex-husband Troy died a week ago.
As I arranged my breakfast on the table, Troy’s companion dog Pepper trotted up the steps and plopped down on his haunches next to me. I gave him the extra slices of bacon I had fixed, and they disappeared in two gulps. Pepper is a five-year-old Gordon Setter. Everybody thinks he’s named Pepper because of his color—the black that’s typical for a Gordon—but his name is actually short for Sgt. Pepper, after Troy’s favorite Beatles’ album.
Neither of my children can have a dog in their apartments—and Pepper’s too large for their apartments anyway—so I had to take him in. Gordon Setters are known for their loyalty and good nature. Pepper actually excels Troy in both those categories, but we’re still trying to figure out our relationship. I’ve never been a pet person.
My cell phone rang and I cursed myself for putting the thing on the tray when I came out here. Force of habit. It was my agent, Dave Siegler. I wasn’t sure whether he was calling about the book I was supposed to have finished this week or about the proposal he emailed to me on the day Troy died. We had talked once earlier in the week, when I called to tell him about Troy’s death, but we hadn’t discussed business, of course. I guessed he had waited as long as a New York agent could contain himself.

Albert Bell

Albert A. Bell, Jr discovered his love for writing in high school, with his first publication in 1972. Although he considers himself a “shy person,” he believes he is a storyteller more than a literary artist. He says, “When I read a book I’m more interested in one with a plot that keeps moving rather than long descriptive passages or philosophical reflection.” He writes books he would enjoy reading himself.

A native of South Carolina, Dr. Bell has taught at Hope College in Holland, Michigan since 1978, and, from 1994 - 2004 served as Chair of the History Department. He holds a PhD from UNC-Chapel Hill, as well as an MA from Duke and an MDiv from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is married to psychologist Bettye Jo Barnes Bell; they have four children and two grandsons Bell is well-known for the historical mysteries of the series, Cases from the Notebooks of Pliny the Younger. Corpus Conundrum, third of the series, was a Best Mystery of the year from Library Journal. The Secret of the Lonely Grave, first in the series of Steve and Kendra Mysteries for young people, won a Mom’s Choice Silver Medal and the Evelyn Thurman Young Readers Award.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Guest Post by Tally Adams

Shadow Pact by Tally Adams – Blog Post

I learned at a young age my imaginary friends weren't like everyone else's. Mine didn't go away as I got older, for example, and they were always running around in the back of my mind in 'what if' scenarios. In my preteens, I learned to channel them into words and gave them delightful tales to get them out of my head for a while. By the time I was 11, I'd begun to enter adult writing competitions and managed to win a few. Stories of adventure and overcoming all odds held my attention, and I started reading about heroes in mythology. (How can a person ever go wrong with Hercules?) Before long, I couldn't get enough! I spent the next few years reading everything I could find on mythology from all over the world.
Then, sometime in my teen years, I discovered Johanna Lindsey and her Fabio-laden book covers. For a while, mythology was all but forgotten as I disappeared into romance. It didn't take long to realize different writers had very different takes on what makes a good romance. Some of them had the classic wilting-flower heroine, while others portrayed women who were adventurous and daring. Eventually, I found Laurell Hamilton and realized both of my passions could exist in a single story. From there, Shadow Pact was off and running.
I would soon learn, however, that finding a publisher who was willing to tackle a new no-name writer was far more challenging than writing. Since my imaginary friends were already stirring and the next book was coming together in my head, I decided to self-publish Shadow Pact and move on in the series.
Before I knew it, Amazon wasn't able to keep up with the orders and I found myself needing to produce faster than the print-on-demand model could offer. After a little thought (okay, a lot of thought), I decided to find a small print press in Dallas and have a number of copies made. Brown Books came up on my search for phone numbers and I called them to place an order for distribution. I explained what I needed and why and was told by the receptionist there was someone I needed to talk to. That's when Tom Reale (President of Brown Books) got on the phone. I rattled off my situation and asked for a price on a print run. He started to laugh and said, "I'm not a print press. I'm a publisher, and I want to see this book." The next thing I knew, Brown Books had taken me under their wing and Shadow Pact was released nationally, reaching far more readers than I'd ever dared to hope. Now, with the backing of a terrific team, Shadow Pact is gaining in popularity and starting to carve a place for the rest of the Immortal Romance Series. For anyone who loves adventure, a dab of magic and a dose of romance, check out Shadow Pact!   

Reviews and blurbs for Shadow Pact

Shadow Pact is a dark fantasy about Emily's quest to find her missing sister Amber, which embroils her in an ongoing supernatural conflict between vampires and werewolves. The handsome vampire-werewolf hybrid William rescues Emily from a dire situation, but far greater dangers await - a sinister vampire queen, a blood-crazed Coven, a werewolf king greedy for power, and more. Exciting to the very end, Shadow Pact is a ‘must-read’ for connoisseurs of the genre, highly recommended.”
-          Midwest Book Review

Tally Adams lives in Texas with her husband and four children (and one big, fat English bulldog). She's been writing all her life, realizing at a young age the characters just swirl around maddeningly in her head if she doesn't put them on paper. She began participating in adult writing competitions before she even hit her teens. Years later, she worked as a nurse and continued to write. Finally, she decided to move forward into the world of publication and share her imaginary friends with the world.

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