Author’s Roundtable: Susan Buchanan


How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was very young. However, I have been writing novels for just over ten years. The first one took me nearly six years to finish, then I had a break of nearly three years before recommencing “The Dating Game” in April this year.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Yes, but alas, time has made it very difficult. I actually wanted to translate books, as I am a linguist. I was told once, many years ago, in order to translate novels, I would have to have written my own. Something which, it now turns out, isn’t exactly true…

What books or stories have you written? Published? 

“Sign of the Times” is a full-length novel, which was published in March 2012. “The Dating Game” should be released by Sept. 30, if all goes well. There are already definitive plans for another five books. Those interested should keep their eyes peeled on my blog

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

Well, “Sign of the Times” is about 12 people whose personalities, character traits and careers are defined by their sign of the zodiac. It’s a story about relationships, friendships and family. There are 12 main characters, so it’s a relatively long book by today’s standards. 

Here’s the synopsis:

Twelve people. Twelve star signs.

Sagittarius – Holly, a travel writer, visits Tuscany to research her next book. Seeking help when her car breaks down, she gets more than assistance when Dario, a vineyard owner, puts temptation in her path. Disappearing without explanation, he proves elusive. Bruised, Holly tries to put it behind her until a chance encounter brings her feelings to the surface again.

Capricorn – Holly’s fiancé, Tom, misses her while she is in Italy and turns to an Internet chat room for solace. His construction business is under threat, but could foul play be at work?

Gemini – Holly’s sister, Lucy, a serial man-eater finally meets her match, which puts her long-term relationship and career in jeopardy. Cheating, she discovers, can have devastating consequences.

Libra – Holly’s uncle, Jack, an eminent prosecutor, juggles a difficult teenage son with his high-profile career and finds himself lacking. When his son’s school work starts slipping, he decides he needs to take control, but it’s not long before the balls all come tumbling down, and Jack finds his family on the wrong side of the law.

One event binds them all…

“The Dating Game” is about a recruitment consultant who has had a really crappy love life so far. So, she decides to join a dating agency for professional people, the type that sorts the wheat from the chaff. Here’s a mini-blurb for “The Dating Game:”

Workaholic recruitment consultant Gill McFadden is sick of her friends trying to match-make for her. Up until now her love life has been a disaster, and she’s going through a drier spell than the Sahara desert. Seeing an ad on a bus one day, she decides to visit Happy Ever After dating agency. Before long she is experiencing laughs, lust and… could it be love? But like everything in Gill’s life, nothing is straightforward, and she ends up wondering exactly who she can trust.

How did you get inspiration for the characters?

Well, with “Sign of the Times,” the idea for the 12 characters based on the signs of the zodiac came to me first. I then researched those signs, gave the characters their traits and then invented everything else around that. With “The Dating Game,” the idea was sparked by a friend who signed up to a professional dating agency, but the characters came about as a result of thinking of as diverse personalities as possible.

Are the books based on personal experiences?

Not per se, although there are anecdotes and places I have travelled to, which are depicted in the novels. For example, Bibbiena, Tuscany, features heavily in “Sign of the Times,” Barcelona in “The Dating Game.” I vacationed in Bibbiena and used to live in Barcelona.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Write. Market. Get your second book out. Don’t get too caught up in the Twitter marketing and all that goes around that. It’s great as a tool, but also eats into your time. Strike the right balance. Have your cover professionally done. I didn’t have it done professionally initially and changed it a few weeks ago, and I love my new cover.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

My editor is an old friend from the university, who doesn’t edit full-time. One thing I will say is not having your work edited leaves you open to not noticing mistakes you have made, repetition, as well as continuity errors. You are naturally too close to your own work – even your editor gets that way eventually. So, I would say, don’t just have your work edited, but engage beta readers, too. Hopefully they will pick up any minor errors you and your editor miss.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

Well, I am indie published, although I did go down the traditional publishing route back in 2008. Once the indie route opened up, it only came down to hard work, and I am no stranger to that. I received rejection letters back in 2008 when I sent out “Sign of the Times,” and, of course, I was deflated. But I have to be honest and say I didn’t cry or anything. I am a very positive person, and I firmly believed that “Sign of the Times” would see the light of day at some point.

How do you find enough time in the day to write?

Well, I am currently working part-time from home. I found it difficult to get into a writing routine for a few months, as Twitter and marketing “Sign of the Times” was taking up a ridiculous amount of my time. Now I have seriously limited my Twitter time and made myself a deadline for when I have to shut it down – that goes for all social networking sites, blog, emails, everything. And I am much happier because I am writing!
 
How did you find time to write your books?

I used to only write when I was on vacation, which is why “Sign of the Times” took six years to write. After five years, I had only written half of it. I then took a year off work and finished it in five months. It took another five months to edit, and then I was good to start the next one!

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

I love losing myself in the world I have created and in my characters. It relaxes me and makes me happier, so from a personal point of view it has benefits. I would say for those who wish to get into writing to make it rich, seriously, buy some lottery tickets instead!

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

Ah, this is where I should have read all of the questions before answering – yes, as you can see above it relaxes me. I can’t think of being stressed recently, so no specific examples of where it has helped me really relax spring to mind, but generally it’s escapism, in the same way that reading is.

Has writing made you a better person?

In many ways it has made me a worse person! Until a couple weeks ago, I had barely seen my friends for months, and my boyfriend complains that my laptop is surgically attached to me. But I am a happier person since becoming a writer, and I love the whole writing community and how we authors all help each other.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I love to read, and my only gripe about writing is it detracts from my reading and vice versa.

I prefer contemporary fiction, books like “The Book Thief,” “The Historian,” “A Thousand Splendid Suns.”

I also enjoy some chick-lit, as long as it’s not about a PR company, handbags, shoes and too fluffy!

And I love crime (but not true crime) and legal thrillers.

I also read other books, but those are the main genres.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

I suppose it depends on the writer; however for indie writers they are particularly important, because of how Amazon’s algorithms work.

For the rest I can only speak for myself. I love getting reviews. Of course, I prefer good reviews! But I love to know what readers enjoy about my work, and it gives me great pleasure that they have enjoyed the book and also that they’ve taken the time to review it.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

Yes, of course, very few authors haven’t. Well, the first time I received a bad review, naturally I was upset. But, once you have time to reflect and realize that it’s not a personal attack and that your novel simply didn’t “do it” for that particular reader, you put things in perspective. I am very fortunate that the vast majority of my reviews are very good and four- or five-star.

Check out Susan’s blog, follow her on Twitter, be her friend on Facebook, and buy “Sign of the Times” on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

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Author’s Roundtable: Merita King


How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing novels since June 2011, but I’ve tried to write ever since I was a teenager. I’ve never had difficulty coming up with plots, but I never had the ability to make it long enough to be a book, nor the skill to make it look professional. I just didn’t have enough knowledge with using the English language.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Yes. I can remember as a teenager wanting to write a book and wishing I had the ability.  My aunt wrote books, and I was so jealous of her.

What books or stories have you written? Published?

I have three novels out so far: “The Lilean Chronicles: Book One ~ Redemption,” “The Lilean Chronicles: Book Two ~ The Sleeping” and “The Lilean Chronicles: Book Three ~ Changing Faces.”

The fourth volume in the series will be published shortly after Christmas. I have self published my novels, as I like the freedom it gives me. I believe traditional publishing will be a thing of the past before too long.

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

The “Lilean Chronicles” is a series of four novels centered around the life and adventures of Vincent Richard Domenico. He is from the planet Lilea. His birth was prophesied a very long time ago, and he was destined to become Lilea’s great warrior and put an end to the evil Transmortal Army. The four books tell how he fulfills the prophecy and fights an evil that threatens the home world of his friends, the Drycenian Nation. As we read about him and his friends, we also watch him grow personally as he battles his own inner demons, and we bear witness to the spiritual growth he and his friends experience as they endure the trials that their destinies have burdened them.

How did you get inspiration for the characters?

This is a very interesting question. My characters pretty much build themselves. I have a unique way of writing, in that I don’t make any sort of plan. I just sit down with a basic plot line in my head and begin to write. My characters become real people to me, and I am aware of them standing beside me as I write what they tell me. It is very much their story, and they tell me what to write. After a few chapters I begin to “see” them in my head, and they give me a visual representation of how they want me to see them physically. Of course, they all have aspects of me in them, that’s natural, but they are as they build themselves to be.

Are the books based on personal experiences?

Yes in many ways they are. Although I write science fiction/space opera novels, there are many of my own personal experiences in there, and some of the personal idiosyncrasies of the characters are based upon my own personality quirks.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

The best piece of advice I was ever given was to get the story out of your head and onto the paper. Never mind about how tidy it is or how correctly it is spelled or punctuated; you can tidy it up later. Just get it out of your head to start with, and you can build from there. If you keep it in your head, you will never get it written.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

Well, I always do my own editing. I know many other authors don’t agree with this, but I do it for two main reasons. First of all I can’t afford to pay someone to do it. Second, other people tend not to edit it the way I like. Let me explain. I like an editor to correct my spelling, punctuation, tenses, grammatical errors and such. I don’t want them to change the actual story or cut bits out, etc. Professional editors cannot help themselves. They always try to get you to chop it up, cut bits here, add bits there. If I want comments on the actual story, I won’t pay the editor’s exhorbitant fee, I’ll wait for reviews. I do several read throughs with a few weeks between each, and I always read it aloud. Reading aloud is the best way to pick up things you’d never notice reading it silently. Having never had the money to pay someone to do it for me, I can’t really comment on the benefits, although I’m sure there are some. I have to live within my means and do the best I can.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

The hardest thing for me is marketing the book. I suck at it. It’s a constant battle to get the word out via Twitter and Facebook, etc., but I’m not a natural sales person and being virtually unknown, my sales pitch tends to fall on deaf ears. It’s a good job. I didn’t start writing to get rich!

How do you find enough time in the day to write?

I don’t have a family or a social life! Seriously, I don’t. I work part time, and I write during the late afternoons, evenings and on the weekends. It’s my only hobby and my only joy in life. It’s free and doesn’t require physical exertion!

How did you find time to write your books?

I wrote my first novel in two months, in the evenings and on weekends. I then let it sit for a few weeks while I started writing the second volume, and by the time the first was ready to publish, the second was written. I’m one of those people who, once I start writing, I can keep going forever. I don’t know what writer’s block is and, although the third volume of my series has just recently come out, the first draft of the fourth volume was already finished.  I’ve done one read through and edit, and now I’m five chapters into the first in a new series.

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

Oh yes definitely. It keeps your brain active for one thing and, for me, it allows my creativity to grow and expand. It also gives me an opportunity to bring out some of my own inner demons, and have my characters experience them and see how they cope and react with them. I get bored very easily, and writing allows me to while away the hours without having to spend any money or work up a sweat. It has expanded my knowledge and skill with English and for the first time in my life, my mother listens to my point of view about things and doesn’t criticize my use of language!

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

It is great therapy. I’m autistic and have Body Dysmorphic Syndrome so my social skills are almost zero. I have been able to have my characters experience some of my own inner demons, which allows me to shed some of the emotional trauma in a safe way. It also gives me an opportunity to see how my characters cope with my problems so that I get an alternative viewpoint. While I’m writing, I’m not dwelling on my problems, and I’m achieving something good that I can be proud of.

Has writing made you a better person?

It has made me more patient and allowed me to achieve something I can be proud of, which helps my self esteem. It has given me a greater ability to see things from many different points of view in an objective way and has also made me more comfortable with being alone in the world. I don’t have a family or a circle of friends as such, but I spend all my time writing and creating which I feel good about, so I don’t have to despair so much at being lonely.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I love to read. I like science fiction, fantasy and space opera because those are my favorite movies. I like escapism, and those are the genres I write. I also love horror books and movies, and I will admit to liking misery memoirs from time to time. 

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Constructive reviews are very important for an author. It is only by knowing how the reader feels about our work that we can improve it. If they don’t like it and tell us why, we then have the opportunity to make changes to future work. If they don’t tell us what they think, we can’t make it better.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

No I haven’t received a bad review yet. I actually find few readers bother to write reviews at all, despite my polite requests via Twitter and Facebook. I get messages on Facebook from readers telling me they love the books quite often, but few write actual reviews. I think this may be for two main reasons. First, most sites require you to register with them before you can write a review, and people don’t want to be bothered with all that.  Second, my books can’t be found at Amazon, and most people who write reviews, will only write them there for some weird reason.

If you love science fiction then you’ll love my new series of books. Buy “The Lilean Chronicles” in paperback from lulu.com and in e-book formats from smashwords.com.

Live the journey, for every destination is but a doorway to another!

About Merita King

Merita King has loved the science fiction and fantasy genre in both books and movies since she was a young child. She has been greatly inspired by years of watching movies and reading books, and has wanted to make a contribution to this genre for many years. Her stories all contain a strong spiritual thread as she believes that spirituality is universal and crosses all boundaries. She believes that the creative process is largely intuitive and can be very effectively blocked by too much pre-planning.  “Plot lines, characters and events all come to me intuitively,” she says, “and this makes the act of writing a constant pleasure.” She is a psychic medium and lives alone in Hampshire, UK. Visit her website, follow her on Twitter, be her friend on Facebook, and buy her paperbacks and e-books.

Author’s Roundtable: Eden Baylee


How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing since I was a teen, so that’s a few decades ago.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

I’ve always enjoyed writing, but it wasn’t something I took seriously as a profession until early 2010. That’s when I left my job as a banker to write full-time.

What books or stories have you written?

I have many shorts on my blog and have written two books, along with contributing to a couple of collaborative works.

Published?

I’ve published two on my own. “Fall into Winter” was launched in February 2011, and “Spring into Summer” is my latest. It came out July 9.

Can you tell us a little about your books?

Both my books are of the literary erotica/erotic romance genre. Each contains four novellas, two for each season.

What are they about?

I’ll speak to the current release, “Spring into Summer,” as it’s the companion piece to my first book, “Fall into Winter.” It’s comprised of four distinct erotic novellas; two take place in the spring and two in the summer.

My love of poetry inspired this book, and the first story called “A Season For Everything” is heavily influenced by my affection for poets.

In “Unlocking the Mystery,” I pay respect to the serendipity of life. Though my writing is steeped in reality, this story acknowledges we can’t always explain the magical quality of love.

“Summer Solstice” kicks off the hot season. Everything about this story is hot—the men, the women, the toys. It’s a party with pagans, and they know how to have fun.

The final novella is “The Lottery,” a story that touches on many themes, but at its core, is about the choices we have, the sacrifices we make and the relationships we keep.

Sex, of course, is the common thread, in varying amounts as needed to serve each story.

How did you get inspiration for the characters?

They represent people I know or have known in one capacity or another. The majority of my characters have some basis in reality. 
 
Are the books based on personal experiences?

Yes, some stories are more personal than others. As a writer of fiction however, it’s my job to take that initial spark of reality and weave a good story around it using my imagination. Where reality ends and fiction begins should be seamless.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

My mantra to myself: Keep writing. Be persistent. Believe in yourself.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

I’m a firm believer if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, you must use the tools of the trade. Getting a professional edit is mandatory as it’s impossible for me to see my own mistakes. 

It’s one thing to be able to tell a good story, but the mechanics of doing it properly must be firmly rooted. I know how frustrating it can be to read a book that is poorly edited, so I usually don’t. Once I abandon the book, the likelihood of me ever picking up another one from the same author is nil.

If an author doesn’t care enough to package his/her words in as flawless a manner as possible, then I’m not wasting my time reading it. It’s as simple as that.

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

I’m an indie author, so I do it on my own. If I can’t, then I hire professionals. This model suits my anal personality, but it can be exhausting. That’s the price I pay for wanting it done my way, and I’m fine with it. 
 
How do you find enough time in the day to write?

It’s my job and what I’ve chosen to do with my life, so I make the time. 
 
Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?

As I said earlier, writing is not a hobby for me since I left a long career to do it. Given that, the benefits need to manifest as sales of my books. If that doesn’t happen, then I have to consider some other way to support myself, so I can continue writing.

The true benefit of writing is, of course, it makes me happy. Otherwise I wouldn’t do it.

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you?

Writing doesn’t relax me because I’m focused on it like anyone would be doing a job. It’s work but something I enjoy immensely. If I want to relax, I meet a friend for dinner and talk about things other than writing. 
 
Has writing made you a better person?

Only in the sense that it keeps me busy and out of trouble.

Do you like to read?

Yes, of course.

If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

I read everything from literary fiction to thrillers to autobiographies to poetry. I don’t have favorites, and it’s important I read different types of books because I get bored easily. Aside from keeping me engaged, reading different genres allows me to experience various writing styles.

I’m open to reading almost anything as long as the writing is good.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Reviews are important, but they won’t make or break a book. At the end of the day, most readers who are not authors read for enjoyment and not with the aim to review the book when they’re done. They finish one book and move on to the next. If they are good enough to provide a review, that’s fantastic, but I suspect many don’t have the time to do it, and some may just not know how to.

I’m always happy to get reviews because it’s feedback about my work.

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

Not yet, and I’ll be sure to let you know how I feel once that happens 😉

About Eden Baylee

Eden Baylee writes literary erotica. Her stories are both sensual and sexual, incorporating some of her favorite things such as travel, culture and a deep curiosity for what turns people on. “Spring into Summer” is her second collection of erotic novellas.

Check out Eden’s website, blog, follow her on Twitter, be her friend on Facebook, watch her videos on Youtube and see what kinds of things she likes on Pinterest.

Buy Eden’s books

Thanks so much for inviting me on your blog, Jason. I think it’s wonderful that you’ve created such a lovely forum for writers to connect.

Author’s Roundtable: Gae Lynn Woods


How long have you been writing? Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Writing has always been something that I’ve wanted to do, but it’s only within the last five years or so that I’ve worked up the courage to put words to paper. I’ve always loved reading and have many voices clamoring for attention in my head. I wrote my first “book” when I was about eight years old. My family had moved from Dallas, Texas, where I was born, to Dayton, Ohio. That first story was my way of working through the trauma of leaving my friends behind and adapting to a new culture and physical environment. It was written in response to a class assignment, and although I don’t remember what kind of grade I received, I must’ve been pretty proud of it because I “bound” the pages with orange yarn, colored the cover and added illustrations throughout!

Other than for school assignments, I didn’t write creatively again until 2007 when I left the corporate world. I wrote one novel, thought it was wonderful and sent out a few queries. Although I received almost zero response, I immediately started writing my second novel, re-read the first and realized how dreadful it was, and shoved it into a drawer secured with a kryptonite lock. I think that experience helped me get a grip on the type of story I want to tell and the quality I know I have to produce to be taken seriously as a writer.

What books or stories have you written? Published? Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

I’ve published one novel, “The Devil of Light,” which is the first book in the Forney County series. I’m working on the second book now. The first novel that I wrote back in 2007 is still cowering in that drawer, but with some serious editing I think it’ll become the third book in the series.

I write crime thrillers, suspense, mystery novels. The Forney County series is set in East Texas and follows the path of a young detective, Cass Elliot, as she finds her feet in the county sheriff’s department. Cass is from the wrong side of Forney County’s tracks, and she’s working furiously to gain the respect she deserves, battling her family’s white-trash history, the effects of a violent event in her past and her need to seek vengeance from the man who hurt her. She’s never told anyone about the attack that left her scarred, physically and emotionally and doesn’t trust anyone enough to ask for help in hunting this man down.

In “The Devil of Light,” Cass and her partner Mitch Stone’s investigation of a murder reveals a delicate web of conspiracy woven by religiously-inspired vigilantes. The members of this cult have ruled Forney County from the shadows for almost a century, perpetrating their brand of justice through blackmail and violence. Their initiation rituals require brutalization of the innocent, and Cass and Mitch must identify these men and stop them before they hurt – or kill – someone else.

How did you get inspiration for the characters?
 
I’ve traveled quite a bit and love to meet new people and absorb different cultures. Many of the people I’ve had the pleasure to meet have stuck with me, and I’ve got a cast of characters roaming around my brain, all clamoring to be let out! As I write, a mental image of a new character seems to form in my head, and I’m able to peel away the layers forming that character’s personality and underlying motivations. Getting to know my characters, learning their secrets and what drives them, is fascinating to me.

Are the books based on personal experiences?
 
No (and boy, does my husband breathe a sigh of relief with that answer!). For some reason, my imagination tends toward the gritty side of life and human behavior, and I hope that leads to interesting crime novels.

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

Just do it. Your first effort may be less than stellar, but focus on improving. If you have the desire to write, you won’t be able to resist it, so give in and get started. Learn everything you can about the fundamentals of solid writing, keep putting words on paper and never stop polishing those words.

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?
 
I haven’t used a professional editor yet, but hope to at some point. I’m blessed with an “advisory board” of early readers who each bring a different aspect of editing to the table. They’re also brutal with their feedback, which is an admirable trait in this situation. Some read early drafts for grammar and punctuation, others read for story and character development. This process worked well with “The Devil of Light,” and I hope to have book two in their hands before the end of the summer.
 
What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?
 
Working up the courage to self-publish. I agonized over whether “The Devil of Light” was interesting enough, well-written enough, to interest readers. I wish I’d pushed through the process faster – without sacrificing the advice my advisory board provided – and just gotten over my lack of confidence.

How do you find enough time in the day to write?
 
I think most writers find this a challenge. It’s a matter of discipline, and there are definitely times when life gets in the way of writing. I’m a morning person and prefer to write early in the day when my energy is strongest. I was living in London, England, when I wrote “The Devil of Light,” and I took my laptop to the local coffee shop every morning to write. Even through the noise of the shop, I was able to get into that “zone” where the imagination takes over, and words fly off the fingertips.

Do you think writing has any benefits, and if so what would they be?
 
Definitely. Writing is almost therapeutic. Watching a story form and seeing characters develop is incredibly satisfying to me. I “live” in my stories, as strange as that may sound, and feel a deep connection with the imaginary people who inhabit imaginary Forney County. Helping them have their say and work through their challenges is a blast! Time slips by during a good writing session, and I feel energized afterwards.

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?
 
I love to read. Just like I step into the world of the characters I’m creating, I can dive right into a well-written book and engage fully with that world. When I’m editing, I try to read authors whose writing “flows,” authors like John Connolly, Stephen King and Daniel Silva. Reading their work while I’m editing my own is inspirational to me.

Most of the books I read are thrillers and usually crime thrillers. Why? I suppose there’s some satisfaction in seeing a problem resolved, whether in favor of the hero or the villain, and the urgency of a thriller keeps me hanging on and needing more. While I have my favorite traditionally published authors, I’ve also found some amazing indie authors. People like Russell Blake, Toby Neal, John Paul Davis and Dan Chamberlain write great thrillers set in a variety of locales and time periods. But I’ve also expanded into more “life-related” works by Alle Wells, Wright Forbucks and D.G. Torrens; horror by Carrie Green; and even sci-fi by Joshua Bigger. It’s astonishing that some of these authors haven’t been picked up by traditional publishers – the stories are interesting, and the writing is excellent.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers? What kinds of information do reviews offer authors like yourself? Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

Reviews are incredibly important to indie authors – readers who might be wary about picking up a book by an unknown author use reviews to judge whether or not the story and writing are worth their time and money. In that way, reviews are a form of advertising.

I’m always fascinated by the reviews “The Devil of Light” receives, and I try to use what readers have to say to make the next story better, more compelling. Each reader sees something different in the plot or the characters, and it’s rewarding to know that people are engaging with the book. I’ve received one three-star review, and I’m okay with that. The reader was disappointed that I left part of the story hanging, but that’s part of the way the series will develop. Life is like that – all the ends don’t wrap up neatly, and some problems never get resolved.

Before I go, I just want to say I’m tickled for the opportunity to talk with you and your readers. Thanks so much for asking me to visit your blog!

Breast Cancer – The Gift Nobody Wants


Today I bring you the inspiring, courageous story of Jamie Inman, who survived two bouts of breast cancer. If you have a wife, sister, mother, aunt or friend, I encourage you to ask them to get a mammogram at least once a year. You never know how important getting checked can be, until it’s too late.

In December 2005, a second cancer was found in my left breast. Although surprised because thirteen years had elapsed since my first bout (well beyond “cured”), my strongest emotion was annoyance. The previous eighteen months I had devoted to caring for my dying father, then my widowed mother; by comparison my cancer was a tiresome interruption. 

For the first go-round with cancer I had taken the conservative path of lumpectomy with radiation, which ultimately failed me, so this time I was aggressive. On Feb. 6, 2006, I had a double mastectomy with immediate DIEP flap reconstruction. With three surgeons working for more than ten hours the procedures went smoothly. A few hours later, however, my left breast looked bad, so they returned me to surgery and discovered that a vein had closed (probably weakened by the previous radiation) and caused a thrombosis. My surgeon took a vein from my ankle and reconnected the blood supply between the mammary vessel and the flap. He saved the flap, but the breast had nearly doubled in size with clogged blood, so he had to leave the wound open to heal. It looked nasty, but didn’t hurt more than the right breast, and eventually healed. It did require an extra revision surgery to reduce the size for symmetry, after which I had two lovely C cups, with nipples and areola to follow: a grand total of seven surgeries. And that was the easy part.

Except for the extreme nausea in the hospital, the physical suffering was surprisingly easy; to my horror and dismay, the emotional aftermath was almost unbearable. The profound “tearing of flesh” of the surgery unearthed even more profound emotional damage from early sexual abuse. I am not a stranger to depression and anxiety—I have experienced both, plus I am a psychotherapist and work with sufferers every day. Were this not true I would have thought I was going insane when flashbacks to childhood abuse suddenly erupted weeks after the surgery. While I could not prevent or stop it, at least I understood what was happening to me, and had resources for coping with it. 

I became miserably dependent on (fell in love with) my doctor (he has the patience of Job and very good boundaries). I also had the good sense to call my own therapist to begin the hard work of healing wounds I did not know remained. I was so overwhelmed for a time that I missed work for two months beyond the post surgery period. Once I stabilized and returned to work, dealing with the post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) still required intensive therapy, sweat and tears (no more blood!), but did not sideline me completely again.

I never asked, “Why me?” but I DID ask, “Why at all? Why should anyone have to suffer like this?” Refusing to let my suffering go to waste I beseeched God to help me give it meaning. Since then I have devoted myself to bridging the gap between excellent physical care of patients’ bodies and excellent emotional care for their hearts and minds by sharing my harrowing, sometimes hilarious, odyssey with others who are facing the same ordeal.

Celebrated 60th birthday

Six years and a thousand deaths later I have emerged from the valley of the shadow of death, stronger and healthier than before, both physically and mentally. The lessons learned in the dark valley are numerous and precious. Neither recovery is automatic, both require patience and effort, but the fruit of the labor is beyond measure. There are losses with the gains. I love my flat tummy and perky breasts. But I miss the sensitivity of my nipples, a very important erogenous zone. It is not a tragedy, but it is a terrible loss that continues to pose painful challenges in my intimate life.  

But even more I love the emotional freedom gained through this “severe mercy.” It has been a journey I would never have signed up for, but I would not trade for anything. My experience is probably not typical, but my prayer is that another lonely traveler will find something in my story that helps her make sense of her own. 

I sign off with my survivor’s motto: “I am alive . . . and I have cleavage!”

About Jamie Inman

Jamie Inman grew up in Santa Clara County when it was famous for prune trees instead of silicon chips. In the thirty years between college and seminary she was a stay-at-home mom of two daughters and a son, all of whom are successfully launched. In 1999 she completed a masters degree from Western Seminary in marriage and family therapy and has worked in private practice since then.

Jamie has survived breast cancer twice and works tirelessly to support people who have been affected by the disease by encouraging and educating, with a uniquely personal touch. She founded Stay In The Pink in order to advance the cause of prevention and early detection.

Her proudest achievement, however, is her marriage of more than 43 years. Both California natives, Jamie and Doug have lived near San Jose for more than 25 years. They enjoy good food, traveling and being active in church life. They love the empty nest and agree that “only the first 25 years were hard.” Jamie also takes great pride in teaching classes in the community on various topics relating to personal growth, family life and breast cancer activism.

Jamie is a motivational speaker and teacher, speaking on an array of topics including, but not limited to: “Losing Our Breasts, Finding Ourselves,” “The Secrets Of A Happy Marriage: Only The First 25 Years are Hard” and “Finding Myself in a Psych Ward.” A licensed marriage and family therapist, Jamie specializes in counseling for a variety of mental health and spiritual topics, including couples therapy, family therapy, depression, anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress disorder and many more. Jamie Inman is also a two-time breast cancer survivor, and in 2008 she founded the Stay in the Pink organization, a resource for women and men affected by breast cancer. Jamie is also one of the founders and the current president of The Giving Ribbon, which provides information, resources and emotional support to San Benito County residents living with breast cancer. Today Jamie continues her work as the founder and CEO of Stay in the Pink while maintaining her private therapy practice as she works to build her newest venture, Jamie Inman Enterprises. A complete listing of current speaking topics is available on her website. To request Jamie for your next speaking engagement, contact The Lowry Agency.

Gone Fishing


My son’s voice was fading. Head leaning against the back of the opened fold-up chair, I faced the warmth of the morning sun. Legs stretched out, I propped my feet on top of the fence that kept small children and adults alike from dropping and flaying in the waters that surrounded the small metal pier. Sure didn’t wanna scare away the fishies.

A night crawler firmly attached to my hook, I patiently waited for it to either drown or be nibbled on-affording me the opportunity to sit and daydream, converse with my child in hushed tones and soak up some rays.

My child, an experienced fisherman, has never caught a fish. Too many distractions. He likes to experiment with different lures and baits. Takes all helpful suggestions from more seasoned fisher folk than myself with serious consideration. His unwritten mission statement is to try most anything that will stick to the end of the line at least once.

“How do they (the fish) KNOW they won’t like a certain bait if they haven’t tried ’em?”

His logic makes sense when he explains further, “Whenever you make brussel sprouts, you make me keep tasting them every single time…”

“Yeah, but you don’t like them.”

He nods in agreement as he reels in the line. “But you say maybe someday when I get older I will. So maybe it’ll be the older, bigger fish that I’ll catch.”

Clicking over the bar on his reel, his awkward all elbows, knees and feet transform into one of fluid motion. Cuts through a slice of sky with his mighty saber, freeing his line. Exhaling with an audible sigh, he aims across the horizon, unfurling a song of ribboned hope born of all fishermen. As the faux food, attached to the hook mark the lake’s surface, he holds still, waiting, hoping.

“Hey mom.”

“Uh huh?”

“I just figured out why fishing is so cool.”

“Why?”

He pointed to where the rings slowly expanded in the final moments of movement where his lure dropped. “’cause every time you cast out, it hits a bull’s-eye!”

Chuckling, I considered the truth of his statement. With measured movement, the line crawled across the water’s glassy surface, fragmenting it into patterns of fragile cracks as he once more reeled in.

Meandering down the pier, he headed towards a fellow fisherman. I grinned. Poor guy didn’t have a clue. This kid of mine could extract information from a rock. Tenacious of spirit, if a stranger held a rod and reel, information WOULD be gleamed. Spontaneous of attitude, but plotted by desire in connecting, the conversations and opportunities almost always ended with both he and I traipsing home with more bait, lures and weights than what we started out with.

I dozed as they quietly talked. Gave Tim a thumbs up when he asked permission in sharing our lunch with his new bud.

As the snowy white egrets skimmed the lake, the wood ducks mirrored the glass in perfect unison, dancing through sky and water as the music of breeze filtered through the trees. Male mallard ducks, with their emerald jeweled heads, chased competitors from reeds where their mates nested. We munched our sandwiches in companionable silence, watching the world, as viewed from the perspective of the lake, move in a forward motion.

Lunch finished, the fishermen wandered back to their favored place to fish. Later I noticed that the two were joined by yet another. Shaking hands, he introduced himself as the first fisherman’s son.

It is strange how we, as parents, are so anxious to cut the apron strings that keep our youth clinging, but the nearly invisible line that connects through the subtle art of fishing is knotted securely against the forces of time to establish and re-establish opportunities beyond the surface.

A child’s familiar voice breaks through my train of thought…

“Hey mom…”

“Yeah?”

“I know you don’t want to get pregnant any more, ’cause you think you’re too old, but do you get PMS?”

Now, do I REALLY need to interject here how I felt as that innocent blurb was spewed out through the oh-so-peacefully quiet skies? My first instinct was to grab all the weights in the tackle box in hopes that once I jumped off the pier I would sink low and long. My second thought was to throw a couple of ’em at my child. Common sense ruled under a Higher Power, proving once again that miracles indeed, in this modern age still happen. My face reddened, and not from the sun, as acute embarrassment washed over me.

The fishermen were polite enough to keep silent. I watched as they quickly turned their backs to us, shoulders shaking in mirth. I was afraid to speak, to ask, but like that lemming, headed for the cliff’s edge anyway.

“What?!” I squeaked in response.

“Well, I was watching the mallard ducks and noticed the guys keeping away all the other male ducks, and the females are hiding in their nests with the eggs…I know they lay a bunch of ’em…”

As he was sharing these important facts, he slowly sided up to me and continued…

“Now, everyone knows that the eggs have to be fertilized before they can be babies, but I was wondering what happens when they aren’t. They still lay the eggs, whether they have babies in ’em or not, and HE said,” (nodding to the younger fisherman who still had the grace to face the water with his shoulders hunched down), “that he thought that the lady ducks probably had PMS.”

He paused for breath while I, depleted of oxygen, still held mine.

“I told him that I knew ’bout that stuff, but I didn’t think it applied to ducks. Besides, I really don’t think you do either. You usually save your mad times for when I try to sneak outta doing my homework or when I hide my stuff under my bed when you tell me to clean my room.”

Sometimes silence is better than opening the mouth. Don’t have to dig an enlarging hole that way. I nodded in agreement. Later, after the younger fisherman left, I walked up to the other as he was packing up his gear. “Wanted to apologize for my son’s…sharing.”

Slowly, the wizened old gentleman creaked to a standing position and stood tall. Readjusting the wide band of his sun bleached hat, his pale blue eyes locked into mine.

“Ya know, I’ve had some mighty strange conversations over the years with other folk who like fishin’, but gotta admit, this one was a tad…” (here he grinned, searching, but coming up short for the right words…) “different. After my son left, we kept talkin’ ’bout the habits of ducks, bait, rocks in mountains, rocks in the deserts, rocks in the ocean…his rock collection. We talked on ’bout which would be more dangerous, a viper with an attitude or a black bear coming out of hibernation. He asked me what I liked to do when I was his age, when I learned how to fish, and if ‘en my mom made me taste vegetables I didn’t like when I was young. He talked ’bout what scared him when he was little and what still worries him now. He asked me what scared me when I was little and what worries ME now…”

This gentle older fisherman paused, looking down at his feet, then looked back up, peering deep into my eyes. Quietly spoke:

“Then outta the blue, like it was the normalist thing in the world, he asked me if I was goin’ to church tomora. I told him I stopped a long time ago. Your kid said to me, ‘Know what? When I was young,'” (he snickered), “‘I went through this time where I didn’t wanna go, too. It would be lots more fun to stay home and play, or watch cartoons and stuff.’ I asked him what happed to change his mind…’well, going to a church you like is kinda like fishing, wherever you, (and here your kid cast his line out again, dropping it into the water), ‘go you’re surrounded in a circle after circle after circles that touch, but keeps going out and out and out…and sometimes, when you least ‘spect it, you catch something…'”

“…And I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19

Tim actually caught more: two bluegill and one bass!

By Karen Rice

Introvert in an Extravert World


First, I’d like to thank Jason for inviting me to take up space on his blog.

I am certainly not an expert on anxiety and shyness. My words today are from a personal perspective. I’m an introvert in a family of extroverts. This is not easy. Indeed, all introverts live in a world that caters to and rewards extroverts. Because of this imbalance, we’re often led to believe there is something wrong, something lacking, within us. I spent decades battling this perceived personality deficit, before finally realizing there is absolutely nothing wrong with me as is. In fact, I’m quite happy being me.

Introversion is not the same as shyness. The difference is that shyness interferes with a person’s desires, prevents a person from doing the things he or she wants. Perhaps paradoxically, a person can be a shy extrovert. Introversion is a personality trait that simply means we’re happier in quiet surroundings and smaller groups.

As a child, I was painfully shy. The very idea of speaking to a stranger terrified me. Even now, all these years later, I couldn’t tell you why, or what I was afraid of. I think, for me at least, shyness stemmed from insecurity. Being shy interfered with my life in many ways. For instance, I would never walk over to the ice cream truck with my friends and ask for an ice cream. I wouldn’t raise my hand in class for any reason, especially not to ask something as embarrassing as to go to the bathroom. Being called on to answer a question had me stammering like a fool.

I’m no longer shy. Speaking to strangers doesn’t scare me, though, because I am an introvert, it can still make me anxious.

Overcoming shyness was a gradual process. I always loved to read and learn. When I was about fourteen, I picked up a book that had, a few years before, been a bestseller. The book was “Be Here Now” by Ram Dass. He talked about his spiritual journey, about living in the moment and about yoga meditation. From there, I bought another book specifically on learning various yoga meditation methods. I began meditating daily, using a method called “progressive relaxation” to calm tense muscles. When you’re anxious, your muscles become rigid, and that stress in your muscles adds to your mental stress. Consciously relaxing those muscles helps relax your mind. The breathing techniques in both meditation and yoga exercise also work wonders in easing anxiety.

When I got my first job and was forced to interact with people almost daily, the shyness gradually faded away. My role at work made it easier, and necessary, to feign confidence. Eventually, I realized people weren’t so scary after all. Often, they did and said stupid things. No one had all the answers, and that was okay. Overcoming the shyness was, in part, about realizing that other people muddled through life in much the same way I did.

“Overcoming” the introversion was something else entirely. Because I come from a family of full-blown extroverts, I was always the odd one. The people I loved most thought I needed to be fixed. They couldn’t understand my preference for quiet and solitude. They were loud and thrived on being surrounded by people. Too much of that, and I’m ready for a rubber room.

I spent a good part of my young adult years believing the extroverts of the world were right. At that time, I worked as a hairstylist. I spent five days a week surrounded by people and noise. On my days off, I wanted to be left alone. I craved silence. But society, and the nature of my family, had me believing I needed to force myself to socialize. I needed to attend parties, rejoice in constant company and weekends out with groups of friends. For an introvert, this kind of constant stimulation is mentally exhausting.

The beauty of age is that, with it, comes wisdom. Finally it occurred to me that I’m happy on my own with a book. Or spending the day with one good friend. I don’t need to socialize to make others happy. What I need is to make me happy. Now, when I find myself in a situation that requires me to spend time with strangers, I’m better equipped because I understand who I am. I take a deep breath, release the muscle tension and smile. Sometimes those are the only cues our mind needs to help us take the plunge.

The most important lesson I learned in my journey is that we are all in this together. No one is inherently better than I am. Everyone won’t like me, but that’s okay. I don’t like everyone I meet, either. I give myself permission to be comfortable with the person I am. If I accept myself as is, then it simply isn’t all that terrifying to risk putting myself out in the world.

** Earlier this year, one of the best books I’ve ever read on this subject was published. It’s called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Both introverts and extraverts can learn a lot from Ms. Cain. **

About Darcia Helle

Darcia Helle lives in a fictional world with a husband who is sometimes real. Their house is ruled by spoiled dogs and cats and the occasional dust bunny.

Suspense, random blood splatter and mismatched socks consume Darcia’s days. She writes because the characters trespassing through her mind leave her no alternative. Only then are the voices free to haunt someone else’s mind.

Join Darcia in her fictional world. The characters await you.