Author’s Roundtable: Maggie Thom


How long have you been writing?

Pretty much my whole life. I know as a young child I used to like to write. When I was about nine I wrote my first “novel.” It was a one-inch by one-inch size book that was about forty pages long, with maybe ten words per page. You get the picture… not much of a story. And from there I wrote off and on over the years.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Yes. I absolutely love writing. I think I might have been born with a pen in my hand. 🙂
 
What books or stories have you written? Published?

I have two published novels – Captured Lies and Tainted Waters.
 
Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

CapturedLies - FINALCaptured Lies

She was kidnapped not once but twice and now someone wants her dead because of it….

Her life was a lie!

Bailey knew her upbringing wasn’t normal but she’s worked hard to stabilize her life. At 29, she finally has a good business, a stable home; her life is miles from that of her childhood. Then suddenly her mother dies, leaving a gaping hole and a discovery that they may not even be related. If Guy, the private investigator is to be believed, her life is a lie. Using the skills she learned on the streets, Bailey travels back through a sketchy and dangerous past to find answers. Dodging bullets, staying ahead of those who want her dead and convincing Guy she can do it alone are making it difficult to discover not only the secrets of her mother’s past, but that of a family claiming she is their’s.

Everyone seems to have a story… but who’s telling the truth? And who wants her dead? Is Guy part of the solution? Or part of the problem? To discover the facts, she’ll have to untangle a web of deceit, lies and secrets, dating back more than thirty years.

But can she do it in time…

Tainted Waters

He didn’t commit suicide but who’s going to believe her…

TaintedWaters800x1200Frustrated at being fired from her latest job and overwhelmed by her consolatory family, Sam decides to move to the family’s cabin at the lake. A place she hasn’t been since her dad committed suicide there twenty years before. Or did he? Snooping is something she’s good at but someone seems to be taking offense to her looking too closely at what has been happening at the lake. What she discovers is shocking. Now she must uncover what’s real and what’s not. All that she learned growing up may be false. Keegan, who has recently moved to the area to finish his latest book, is also trying to find out if his grandfather, who’d passed away ten years before, died of natural causes or was murdered? The descendants of the four families, who own the land around the lagoon, are dying off. Since Sam and Keegan are the only ones questioning the deaths, they find themselves working together to seek the truth. Are people being murdered? Who would benefit from their deaths? Why would there be barricades and armed guards at the north end of the lake? To stay alive, Sam and Keegan must find the answers and convince others, before more people are killed… including them.

“This is a book that will have you on the edge of your seat. Just when you think the story is over, think again.” Read Your Writes Book Reviews

How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

The ideas for the books were things that just happened when several things came together at the right time. I love writing about family secrets and lies and what are the extremes of that. I like pushing the boundaries, and I love putting in twists and surprises.

Captured Lies – A plane flew low over us, and I wondered what if it crashed. I flew three times in three months (very different for me as I fly about once a year), and I watched a show about kids being kidnapped by their families. And I just started to play “what if.”

Tainted Waters – I have always been fascinated by people who have a cabin at the lake. And we had gone camping at a secluded, slough-like lake where we discovered big trucks drove by all night long, heading to a plant only a few miles away. And I just started to play “what if.”

Are the books based on personal experiences?

No. They for sure aren’t. However there are some real situations that led to the creating of them.

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

Write. Write. Write. And write some more. And at some point take the leap. Ask others what they think of the story. Plot is the most important – grammar, punctuation can all be fixed but you need to have a compelling storyline from start to finish.

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

Editing is so important. You really need to make sure that not only do you go through your manuscript several times but that you get others to go through it as well. No matter what you are writing you need someone else looking it over who can catch all the spelling, the grammar, the punctuation.

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

Myself. I loved writing. I loved creating stories but I was always too worried about what others would think about what I wrote. Finally I realized that was what was holding me back. It wasn’t that my writing wasn’t good enough, it was that I was worried about being judged. So I took the leap. I’m learning as I go.

How do you find time to write your books?

I have always written whenever I could find five minutes. Now I try to write during the day when my family isn’t home. But I try to balance that with marketing my books. Sadly sometimes writing loses out.
 
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 definitely therapeutic. Often, it helps me work through issues, sometimes I’m aware of those issues and sometimes I’m not until I’ve written something about it. As for it being relaxing… sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. I think the act of writing is relaxing but when I get into my stories, and I have the characters going through a lot of stuff, I too tend to go through it. I laugh when they laugh, I cry when they cry, I jump when something scary happens. I love writing because it takes me on an adventure that I’m never really sure where that is going. I love it. It’s almost as exciting as reading a good novel.

Has writing made you a better person?

Interesting question. Not sure but I’m not sure who I’d be without it. And it for sure helps me work through issues and see things differently. I know it has awakened me to a whole new world. I am finding the confidence of being an author.

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

I love to read. I always have one, two or three books on the go. I just don’t always have the time to read them when I’d like to. I read all genres but I prefer suspense, thriller, fantasy, mysteries… I love the puzzle, the “who done it.” I like twists and turns in a story. I like surprises, never really knowing where this journey is going to take me.
 
Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Reviews are how we get found, get noticed in this sea of writers and authors. Reviews are really a word of mouth that shouts out to the world about our work, our books, our stories. I’ll admit that before I became a published author I never did a review on the Internet. I didn’t think anyone would care what I thought. And I had no idea what to say. Now I realize how important they are. I just state what I feel about the book. I never write disparaging or “put-down” reviews. If I don’t like something I just state it wasn’t for me but I always try to put some positive. The author worked hard on that story and should be recognized for that. I make a point of writing reviews and helping out other authors any way I can. There are many people who do reviews and I am forever grateful for those who do take the time to do so. Not only do reviews make a difference in being found but it really helps an author understand how their work is being received. I always use reviews as a learning tool. 

Would you mind sharing an excerpt from your book?

Since Tainted Waters is on a Book Review Tour this week (June 27 to June 21), I’ll share an excerpt from it.

“Hello, George.”

“Hello, Harry. Did anyone see you come in?”

“No, I was careful but even if they did I could say I was doing a story on this funeral or something.”

George stared at the man he’d personally groomed. This alliance served him well. Or it had. He smiled. “Can I offer you something to drink?” He moved over to what looked like an elaborate and intricately designed and carved feature wall. With a quick press on an obscure point, a panel swung down, exposing a myriad of liquor and mixes.

“Scotch, if you have it please.” Harry walked over the plush, leather sofa and eased himself down, only to find himself plopping backwards. “Couch is damn low, George.”

“Sorry. You’re right. I really should replace it. I just don’t seem to have time to do anything about it.”

Harry waved it off like he was swatting a fly. Keeping his back to him, he poured the drink, while allowing a momentary reaction of clenching his teeth as his whole body stiffened. His eyes darkened. Turning, he put on an amicable smile as he walked across the plush black carpet, which muted the sound of his steps.

After handing the drink to him, he stepped back and leaned against his oak desk. “What can I do for you? It’s kind of a busy day for me.”

He took several gulps before answering. “Yeah. Well… I seem to have a bit of a problem.”

“Oh?”

Harry looked around suspiciously before moving forward, which was really just leaning his head forward, his bulk didn’t bend. He spoke in a hushed tone. “I know I’m not supposed to talk to you about this but…”

“What is it? You sound really stressed, what’s going on?”

He finished off his glass of scotch. “It would seem that Mr. Ozz isn’t happy with me.”

George’s eyes widened. “Oh. What did you do?”

“I didn’t do a damn thing. That little bitch you had me hire is who did something. She has caused me nothing but grief.”

“You mean, Sam? I’m so sorry, Harry. I was just doing a favor for an old friend. I didn’t think it would be that big a deal.”

“Well, it damn well is. I fired her ass a few days ago but it would seem that wasn’t enough for him. I need you to talk to him.”

“Oh no. I can’t. I really don’t want to get involved.”

He waved his empty glass indicating he wanted another one. George immediately complied. “Well you damn well are involved. It’s your fault she turned out to be such a busy-body and stuck her nose where it doesn’t belong. You need to get me back into his good books.”

“I don’t know why you think I could do that.”

“When he hired me and set me up as CEO to the newspaper, he got you to show me the ropes – how to look like I was born for that role, how to act sophisticated, how to handle myself with dignity and confidence. You made sure that everything worked out. I know you have connections and are well liked in this town. You are a respected businessman. You make things happen.” He held out his glass for a refill. “I need you to fix this problem. He makes things…” Harry leaned forward or as much as his bulk would let him and whispered, “go away. And I don’t want to be one of those things.”

Anything else you’d like to share that I didn’t ask?

Thank you to everyone who reads my books and keeps coming back for more. You are why I keep writing. 🙂 My third novel, Deceitful Truths, the companion novel to Captured Lies, will be out late 2013. Connect with me on Facebook, Twitter and/or Goodreads.

Maggie 3 - 337 x 431About Maggie Thom

Maggie Thom took the challenge and leapt off, leaving a full-time twenty-year career in management, to write full-time. After her initial panic that she might need a straight jacket, she published her first book Captured Lies in October 2012. And now is excited to release her second novel, Tainted Waters in April 2013. Her third book, Deceitful Truths (sequel to Captured Lies) will be available this fall. An avid reader and writer her whole life, she decided to break the monotony of wishing to be an author by making it happen. Married to her best friend, she is learning that humor, love and patience help her navigate her way through her twins’ teen years. Her motto: Escape to read and read to escape. Maggie Thom writes a fast paced thriller laced with romance that keeps the reader interested and on edge!” InDtale Magazine

Check out Maggie’s website, become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, check out her Goodreads author page, check her out on Google Plus and find out what piques her interest on Pinterest

Buy Tainted Waters on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony, Barnes and Noble, and Diesel

Buy Captured Lies on amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.uk, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Sony e-reader store and Diesel.

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Souls Are Perfect


Souls Are Perfect

By Michelle Martin Dobbins 

In the Hamrick family, we’ve been blessed in many ways. We are a quite unique collection of people, and we have always been closer than most extended families. We have disagreements, and we have hurt each other unintentionally, but we always forgive. We hold family as important, and we get together often, even though we are scattered around the country and sometimes the planet. Homer and Roena Hamrick, my grandparents, knitted us tightly together.

My cousin, Brian, drew us in, too. Brian had cerebral palsy, and he spent his life in a wheelchair. He was a bright and shining light in our family, and we all loved him beyond measure. He loved music and was almost always smiling. When I was little, though, I was afraid of him. I was afraid of his chair and the sounds that he made, and I couldn’t understand him. I thought he was different from me.

BrianOne rainy afternoon with Brian changed how I saw him and the world forever. We were watching a parade, but as often happened in our town, the weather did not cooperate with the local festival. My aunt parked a camper along the parade route and the children watched the parade perched in the loft of the camper, peering out of the window. At one point in time, it was just me and Brian. He looked at me and clearly said, “Why are you afraid of me? I’m just like you, except that my body is different. It just doesn’t work the same way as yours.” Normally, I had difficulty understanding Brian’s words, but that day they rang our perfectly clear to me. He spoke to me from his heart. Although I was sometimes still shy around him, I learned something from him that day I will never forget.

I learned that all souls are perfect. Bodies can be disabled, minds can be damaged, and spirits can be crushed, but souls are created by God perfect and remain ever perfect. This knowledge welled up in me and overflowed as a desire to work with special-needs children. I went to college and spend eight years teaching special-needs children, until I left to have my own children. I loved my job, and I adored those kids. They lit me up. I saw my students differently than most people did. I connected with them on a soul level, and I could feel who they were. I didn’t see their disabilities. We can all do that with anyone if we try. I don’t know why we all come in to this life with different challenges, but I have experienced that many people who have physical or mental disabilities have stronger spirits. We all have challenges to bear, and people without apparent disabilities are no exception. We all have gifts to share, and people with disabilities are no exception. We are all more alike than different, so reach out and connect with everyone you can.

Brian died, unexpectedly, a few weeks after his fortieth birthday. Our family was sad to lose the person he was, but his perfect soul still exists and this gives us comfort. I am thankful for the love he shared with our family and how his spirit made us all closer to each other.

Michelle 2012About Michelle Dobbins

Michelle Dobbins is a pre-published author, who shares tips for positive living and true stories of magic, creation and love in everyday life on her blog. You can connect with her and get her Magic Question of the Day on Facebook and Twitter.
 
Michelle, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting my readers know that, yes, souls are perfectly and wholly made by God, and that we are indeed perfect in His eyes. We do all have something special to give, and I want to sincerely thank you for opening my eyes and showing me that everyone has their own struggles and difficulties. Sometimes I’m guilty of “assuming” that nothing is wrong with someone else, because I cannot physically see a disability. Thank you for your amazing gift that you’ve given me, the ability to see through to the soul of someone who’s truly a role model for others and has inspired not only me, but the countless students you’ve taught. God bless you.

Everyday Hero, Doing My Best


One of the things I get asked most often, especially if I am out taking pictures and writing an article for work about the local Veteran’s Day or Fourth of July parades on the Square is if I am a veteran. Most of the people who ask me are veterans themselves, currently on active duty overseas or having served in Korea, World War II or Vietnam. Now I can totally understand why they would ask… I’m in a wheelchair and could have suffered an injury fighting on the front lines in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Jason BourneI really hate to “burst their bubble” and tell them that I’m not a veteran (in the most-common sense of the word), but after talking with several veterans the past five or six years, I’ve come to understand that, in truth, I really am a veteran of a much bigger war. The war of everyday life. Let me explain because I know you have that “deer in the headlight” look right about now, thinking “What is this guy talking about?”

As most of you who’ve followed my journey may know, and for those who just joined the journey, I was born with spina bifida and have been in a wheelchair for more than 25 years. Every day when I get out of bed, I’m fighting some kind of battle, whether it be an aching back, not getting enough sleep, a stomach ache that never stops or seemingly trying to play catch up with the ever-changing pace of society and their attitudes toward people with special needs. No matter how much I get done at work, it seems like I’m always running on empty when I get home and just want to crawl in bed and go to sleep for eight solid hours. But I think I do have one thing in common with the U.S. military, and that is my work ethic and my determination to never give up and keep fighting because I know I’d be letting a lot of people down, epsecially my friends, family and co-workers.

I really hate to put my name in the same sentence with the U.S. military because nobody can compare to the bravery and courage of our men and women in uniform, but some days I feel like a soldier in the infantry on the front lines near Baghdad. I may just be “infantry” but I know the man right beside me, or the person in the next cubicle, is depending on me to get the job done and do it right. Sure I may make mistakes, but that’s one of the best things about being a team, whether in the desert of Iraq or at the office working the daily grind of a nine-to-five shift. A team sticks together and helps each other be the best they can possibly be, and God knows I would not be where I am today without the encouragement and support of my co-workers and friends. I’d probably be sitting at home, looking through the want ads for another job or out picking up trash on the side of the road, and definitely would not be living my dream and having the best job in the world.

In my line of work, I meet a lot of co-workers, in different departments, and have developed what I think are great relationships and friendships with most of them. Like I’ve said previously I’m out on the streets a lot, or in other departments, talking to people about what’s going on in the city where I work, and apparently from the e-mails and feedback I receive from co-workers, I must be doing something right. Here are several e-mails from friends and co-workers I’ve received the past couple years.

IMG_2477Heroes come from all walks of life and are heroes because someone thinks they are. We all think you are.

I know you’re a fighter.

Keep smiling. Don’t let the energy vampires sap your strength!!! They are everywhere, and positive people are their enemy. Fight on! 🙂

All your efforts are greatly appreciated, Jason.

A couple months ago, I went to an event celebrating Gone With the Wind, and met an author whose aunt worked as technical adviser on the movie back in 1939. She said I am a real hero. I don’t mind sitting here today and saying that I felt almost ashamed when she called me a hero. I haven’t done anything special. I am just living life and trying to beat spina bifida any way I know how. You have no idea how unworthy I am of being called a hero. Every day, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and the military put their lives on the line to keep our cities, counties and nation safe.

I’m sure everybody remembers the tragic events the past few months in Oklahoma, Texas and Boston. The men and women who saved countless lives after these tragic events are the REAL heroes and deserve so much more respect than I do. I’m just a man, doing the best I can with what God gave me. Sometimes it feels like I can do so much more, and sometimes I just want to go up to a soldier or a police officer and thank them for everything they do to protect the freedom I love so much. Next time you see a soldier, police officer, firefighter or paramedic, take a few minutes and thank them for everything they do every day. Most of them hardly see their families, and I cannot imagine how hard it must be for a family to sit and worry whether their loved one is coming home.

I remember a couple days after I talked to my author friend at the GWTW event, I e-mailed a co-worker for something and told her what the author called me. A few minutes later, my co-worker wrote back and said, “You are a hero and I applaud her for recognizing that!! With all the challenges you face each day, you still get up each morning, come to work, do an outstanding job and all with a cheerful, helpful, positive attitude. Do you have any idea how many people NEVER do that? You are a hero to me, too!”

I felt so humbled and honored that people do actually see me as a hero, but please understand something… I don’t do what I do for recognition or praise or awards. I don’t go out every day, beating my chest saying, “Hmm, I wonder who’s hero I can be today?” And I sure as hell wouldn’t put myself in the same category as the U.S. military or law enforcement. My accomplishments pale in comparison to what these people do for each and every one of us every day. I will say it again. I just take it one day, one step at a time and try to do the best I can despite the obstacles that are thrown in my way. I genuinely love helping people and if I can offer a hug, a word of encouragement, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, or an ear to listen, then that’s what I’m going to do.

IMG_4622One thing I’ve learned the past few years is that a little pat on the back, a word of thanks, a hug or someone saying I’m proud of you can make all the difference in someone’s life, especially if that person has special needs. You have no idea how good it makes me feel to get an e-mail from a co-worker, a text from a friend or a thank you from someone I come across in the community. If you have a family member or a friend with special needs, please, please take the time to tell them how much they mean to your life, even if it’s just “Hey, thank you for coming to eat with us today. We’re really glad to see you.” Or “Hey, great job on that project at work. I know how hard you worked on it, and you’ve really done a great job. Keep it up!!” You’ll never know how big these seemingly small words can be to a person struggling to face their challenges every day.

As I close, I want to dedicate this post to anyone who has a disability or knows someone whose life has been impacted by a disability or cancer. You can do anything you set your mind to. Sure we may look a little different, or talk a little bit different, but one thing I can guarantee. We’re doing alright for the shape we’re in!!!

Do yourself a favor and connect with me on Twitter or send me an e-mail letting me know what you thought about this post. I’d love to hear from you 😉

Buy Mocha, Moonlight and Murder Free Through June 15


Mocha, Moonlight and Murder, a romantic suspense novel set in Reno, Nev., usually only $2.99 will be FREE for Kindle users Tuesday, June 11 through Saturday, June 15. Get your free copy here for great summer reading!

This book tells the story of 28-year-old Katherine O’Brian. One night she awakes and can’t go back to sleep. Hungry, but with an empty refrigerator and a pantry that holds little more than Ramen noodles, she decides to walk to a nearby all-night diner. Unfortunately, she comes face to face with a killer as he prepares to dispose of his victim. She gets away, but it doesn’t take him long to find out who she is, and he wants her dead. Katherine has recently gone back to college, to finish her degree, where she’s paired with Scott Mitchell on a class project. Scott left a broken engagement behind when he moved to Reno, and the last thing he needs is more melodrama, but that’s what he gets. It can be very distracting when someone is out to kill your lab partner. Together, they try to figure out 9781620151402-cvr_Createspace.inddwhat the police haven’t been able to—the identity of the murderer. Passions flare, but with Katherine’s life in danger, romance seems like more than a bad idea. Scott and Katherine will face jealousy, misunderstandings, lust and rivals, not to mention attempted murder—and all before their first real date.

Here are just a few of the great reviews

A MUST read!! Mystery, danger, drama, romance…it has it all! I gave this book five stars because it’s so cleverly written, I was hooked from the start! I read it in two days because I just kept speculating about what happens next. There are a lot of romance books out there at the moment, but let’s be honest, they’re mostly all sex and little depth to the story lines. This book has it all! Romance, kinky sex, and a storyline that will keep you on the edge of your seat! There are lots of twists and turns and when you think you’ve figured it out, you soon find out you haven’t. There is an unbelievable twist towards the end that left my mouth hanging!

I hate reviews that reveal too much, so I won’t say much about the twists, but I hope you’re ready to fall in love with Scott and Katherine….and Reno! The chemistry between these two is sizzling hot! This author is one to look out for, for sure. Looking forward to more from her.

Do yourself a favour and buy this book right away! Mocha, Moonlight and Murder is an excellent novel combining my two favourite genres – romance and mystery. I couldn’t put the book down and only wished that it was longer. I highly recommend this book – it’s an easy read which will keep you guessing right from start to finish. After reading it, I immediately tried to find out if Mary Ann had written any other books and was very disappointed that this was only her first novel (though this fact impressed me immensely). Hope to read a lot more from the author in the near future.

Newest PictureAbout Mary Ann Kempher

Mary Ann Kempher’s writing is infused with romance and mystery. Her love of romance stories goes back to her teen years spent living in Reno, Nev., where Mocha, Moonlight and Murder is set. Mary Ann’s travels have taken her to beautiful cities in Italy, southeast Asia and the sultry desert country of Qatar. She met her husband on one of her romantic misadventures while traveling. She has two children and currently lives in Florida, where she and her family share their home with two dogs and a cat. Her writing influences include favorite authors Jane Austen and Agatha Christie. She’s a huge fan of the Hercule Poirot mysteries. Her guilty pleasures are any and all sweets, including a good cup of mocha. For more about Mary Ann Kempher, visit mkempher.com.

If you’d like to connect with Mary Ann, she’s very active. Check her out on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and Pinterest.

Author’s Roundtable: Margie Miklas


How long have you been writing?

I only began writing three years ago so I still consider myself a newbie.

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Not really although I used to write limericks as a child, wrote letters to the editor occasionally, and wrote a humorous newsletter for my department in the hospital for several years.

What books or stories have you written? Published?

I have written one book, and have published numerous articles for various websites and an Italian-American newspaper.

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

My book is a true story, a memoir of the three months I spent in Italy traveling solo.

How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

Since this book is nonfiction, all the characters in it are real.

Margie Profile 1Are the books based on personal experiences?

Yes, my book is a memoir based on three months I spent traveling through Italy.

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

Other authors and writers have consistently told me to keep writing, and to write every day. I think this is good advice. I also had been told to discipline myself so that I set goals of word counts, either per day or per week, in order to accomplish my goal of finishing my book.

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

Yes, I published my book initially without the benefit of a professional editor, and found numerous typos and errors, which I edited myself and resubmitted.

I currently am working with a professional editor, on this already-published book, and her direction is immensely helpful, not only to correct typos, but to improve sentence structure, avoid repetitious words, and so on. I am still working on this.

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

Since I self-published my book, both the e-book and the paperback, I found the formatting to be very challenging. There definitely is a learning curve to self-publishing.

How do you find time to write your books?

I have to make time, create a specific amount of time each week to turn off the Internet and focus on writing.

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?

Since I write about true experiences, I am almost re-living them as I write and edit the story, and this brings me a great sense of satisfaction, almost as if I am going to Italy again.

Book signing Event edit FB sizeHas writing made you a better person?

I think so, insofar as it has made me appreciate the amount of work that goes into writing.

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

I do enjoy reading, and wish I had more time to do so. Right now I have about ten books on my iPad partially read. My favorite genres are suspense, intrigue, courtroom dramas and biographies.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Reviews are important to writers because they provide feedback and give a writer a sense of what readers expect.

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

Yes, and I think all writers have received at least one negative review. Being human, I felt bad reading it at first, but then let it go. I realize that not all readers will like my writing, and also sometimes a review is written by someone who is not in a good mood, or is having a bad day.

Would you mind sharing an excerpt from your book?

Of course. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 4.

It is now early Friday evening, and I am back in my hotel room in Siena. All of a sudden there seems to be a lot of noise outside, as though someone is announcing something on a loudspeaker. Today is Good Friday in Italy, and there is a cathedral around the corner, so maybe there is some outside religious event going on.

My curiosity gets the best of me, and I grab my jacket and leave the hotel to see what is going on, not wanting to miss out on what could be a major event. To my naiveté and surprise, the cathedral appears to be closed, yet the streets are filled with people and there are quite a few police. I’m noticing that the people are not strolling, as in la passeggiata, but instead seem to have an agenda, and suddenly it becomes clear to me what is going on.

Book cover print version Amazon (200x295)I can see the lights and the soccer stadium, which is right behind my hotel, and after inquiring from the police, I become aware that there is a soccer game between Siena and Venezia. Never having been to a professional soccer game, I make a snap decision to go to the game so I find out where to buy a ticket. I am thinking that if it is a reasonable cost, I will go. Fortunately for me, the ticket costs only eight euros, which is incredible. I am quite surprised that I need to show my passport to purchase the ticket, and I don’t have it with me. It is in the hotel. After a few minutes, the ticket seller feels sorry for me and maybe I look like I am not a security threat, and she lets me buy the ticket anyway. The other person, however, has to walk me to the gate and explain to the guy there that it is OK for me to get in. Again it is a process here just to get in to a soccer game. I thank them, and I am really happy that I am now experiencing my first Italian soccer game!

Italians are passionate about life but they are really passionate about soccer! I have always heard about this, but now have a chance to see this firsthand. I love being part of the crowd, hearing the fans singing, yelling, probably swearing in Italian and stomping their feet on the aluminum stands, which is making a deafening sound. It is a great time! I’m smiling and nodding my head to the people sitting near me whether I understand everything or not. I feel a part of it!

Anything else you’d like to share that I didn’t ask?

Maybe readers would be interested in knowing if I am writing any other books.

I actually have a second book half finished. This book is about my travel experiences in Sicily, and not as a solo traveler.

I think you covered it all, Jason, and thank you again for this opportunity. You are very special, and a real asset to writers. I really appreciate all that you are doing in support of writers.

About Margie Miklas

Memoirs of a Solo Traveler-My Love Affair with Italy is Margie’s first book, and it is based on her three-month solo adventure in Italy.

Margie Miklas is a writer, photographer and critical-care nurse, who has a passion for travel, with a particular love of Italy.

Margie is a contributor for Yahoo Voices, a contributing writer for La Gazzetta Italiana newspaper, a travel writer for Beachcomber Pete Travel Adventures, and writes travel and medical articles for several other websites.

DSCF6502 (1024x681)Margie writes a blog, margieinitaly, where you can follow her adventures through her writing and photography throughout Italy.

Margie first started writing as a young teenager, when she would amuse herself and her friends by writing limericks. A few years later, she became a headline editor of her high school newspaper in Elyria, Ohio. Later still, she developed, wrote, and edited a humorous hospital newsletter in Tampa, Florida.

Margie lives in Port St Lucie, Florida, where she works in a cardiovascular intensive care unit, and is always seeking out opportunities to travel, especially to Italy. When she isn’t working or writing, she enjoys spending time with her twin granddaughters, going to the beach, and working in her garden. Check out Margie’s blog, follow her on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook, and buy her books in paperback and on Amazon Kindle.

Reading: It’s As Easy As A, B, C . . .


I agonised over what to write for this guest post for Jason’s blog, and by agonised I mean that for at least ten days I sat looking at a blank Word document because I had absolutely no ideas what-so-ever. I picked the brains of some friends for ideas. Hell, I even got to the point of having tears well in my eyes from the frustration of not having a single, solitary, good idea to write about. I don’t know whether I’d classify this period as writer’s block, or if it was simply the fact that I had such a huge choice of topics that I could cover but had no interesting place to start from. Either way, I was ridiculously frustrated about the post.

KathrynFox3As I mentioned, I spent days looking at the screen without the hint of an idea. It seemed to me that the longer I sat staring at the Word document, the more it appeared that the damn page was mocking me, taunting me, laughing at the fact that I was out and out stuck for a post. I would flip between the blank page and my various social media platforms, desperately hoping that a topic would leap from one of the timelines or feeds and inspire me. It didn’t. Then the social media became a distraction: if I couldn’t write a post, then I’d futilely creep profiles, like updates and photos, pimp my own blog, anything that would take my mind off the inevitable . . . the unwritten blog post. Still no ideas.

I’m not sure how I finally came upon the topic, but when it arrived, it came guns a-blazing and thwacked me right between the eyes. Okay, so maybe not literally, but it did hit hard enough for me to have one of those a-ha moments. It’s something that I like doing, something that everybody really would benefit from being able to do, and something that seems to me to be a dying art: reading. Yes indeedy, I was going to write a post about reading, and ta-da, here it is.

In my day job, I deal with booger eaters (kids, for those of you who might not have heard the term before), and many of those booger eaters have difficulty reading. If I’m brutally honest, many of those booger eaters can’t read at all. That’s right, I wrote at all, and I’d imagine that if I extrapolated the data globally, it’s more of a widespread issue than most people would realise. Take a moment to fully digest that information. Many of today’s children can. Not. Read. Scary, isn’t it? The future leaders and decision makers of our society are unable to pick up a book, turn to a random page and read the words written on that page.

Why is this the case? I mean I live in a world (real life and online) where I deal with people who are authors, writers, poets, and educators . . . and who love reading and writing. So, why are the booger eaters of today bordering on the illiterate? Maybe “illiterate” is too harsh a term to have used, but in my school days if someone couldn’t read and struggled to write – which yes, do go very much hand in hand – then illiterate is the word used to explain their lack of ability. And maybe, yes, it’s wrong to categorise and label these booger eaters, but I think we tend to err on the side of political correctness too often, and we fail to address the issues head on for fear of offending someone. However, the thing is, an inability to read is one of the education problems that the younger generations are facing so, in this instance, perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to call it as I see it: illiteracy is far more prevalent than anyone wants to admit.

I wanted to avoid a “point the finger and lay blame” kind of post because that won’t get us anywhere. I will, however, go as far as to say that everyone involved in the education of booger eaters is, in part, responsible for the fact that the ability to read is going down the toilet: teachers, parents, administrators, politicians, educational theorists, and yes, the booger eaters themselves. Everyone plays an equal role here . . . or rather, everyone fails to adequately play his or her role. No one is completely to blame for this decline because everyone has a role to play here.

Me in MelbourneTeachers have over-sized classes and therefore can’t spend enough time with each booger eaters. They have curriculums to teach, and the emphasis of those curriculums might not be heavy on the reading side of education. Parents are busy running households, raising children, working to pay the mortgage, working to earn money to live, trying to find time to spend with their brood . . . day to day, important things that matter in family life. Administrators are focused on successfully steering their schools in the right direction, working towards raising always needed funding, dealing with behavioural issues, new enrollments, battling against school districts and other upper-echelon administrators and bean counters, running the school. Politicians will tell you that they’re doing everything that they possibly can to make sure that your children have the best possible education. This is highly debated amongst educators and parents alike. Educational theorists are doing what they can to justify their existence . . . I mean, investigate the next best educational theory that is going to be the best thing since sliced bread and will ensure that your booger eater is at the top of his/her education game.

And the booger eaters? Most of them just aren’t interested in reading. They’d prefer to play whatever gaming console they have, or sit at the computer and play games or Skype or Facebook. Before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, these are real excuses for not reading that booger eaters tell me on a daily basis. I’m not making this stuff up. But to get the full effect of how these booger eaters feel about reading, imagine them moaning one of the above excuses and then add in to that image the “oh my God, I can’t believe you’re going to make me read” eye roll.

Now, I’m not saying that every booger eaters feels this way about reading. As with anything, there are exceptions, and there are a number of them who greatly enjoy the activity. In fact, I know booger eaters who’d prefer to sit undercover and away from other booger eaters and read, instead of going out at lunch break and playing. Granted, these booger eaters are few and far between, and I might find one of two per educational institution that I visit, but they are out there if you know where to look . . . sort of like the mythical fairies at the bottom of the garden, or the last of the unicorns. If you believe hard enough, you may just see them here and there . . . if you squint your eyes and lean your head slightly to one side.

I mentioned to a colleague a few weeks ago how I noticed that many, many booger eaters couldn’t read, unlike our cohort when we were at school, and her response was: “Yeah, but the times have changed and they’re so much better with computers and the Internet than we were at their age.” Aside from the fact that the Internet practically hadn’t been invented when we were at school, her reply baffled me. Let me get this straight, as educators, we’re trading off reading ability with computer skills? Hang on a minute, you still need to be able to read in order to navigate the Internet, and you still need to be able to read in order to use those computer skills to your advantage . . . don’t you? At least I thought you did. Maybe I’ve been approaching this whole computer/Internet thing the wrong way? Maybe I was banging my head against a brick wall with my colleague?

The thing is, these booger eaters may very well be computer geniuses but, and it’s an important but, along with the fact that many can’t read, is the fact that many of them also don’t know and can’t recite the alphabet. Yep, you read that one correctly too. A large proportion of booger eaters that I deal with absolutely, categorically cannot recite the alphabet, and God forbid you give them the task of putting words in alphabetical order. And so I say again, these are our future leaders and decision makers. Our society rests in the hands of people who can’t, don’t, and have no interest in reading.

100_0905The educational theory pendulum swings in both directions, often in the extreme. We’ve gone through the “boys in education” fad, the “girls in education” counter-fad, this fad, that fad, all, it seems to me, ad infinitum. As educators, we spend a few years focusing on this particular problem to the detriment of other areas, then we’re told that there’s a new area of concern and education swings towards that problem again, to the detriment of all other areas. It’s in this process of educational to-ing and fro-ing that we’ve lost sight of making sure that future generations have basic skills such as those required in reading, writing and arithmetic. We need to get back to these basics and stop namby pamby teaching, stop falsely praising booger eaters for every tiny achievement, go back to correcting them when they are wrong because that’s part of learning lessons. If booger eaters are afraid to fail, just as with adults, they will cease to try things. If booger eaters are constantly praised for the smallest thing that is done well, as with adults, we cultivate a false sense of achievement, abilities, and effort in them, just as it occurs in adults.

I know that I will have offended a number of parties involved in education with this post, I do. But at some point, we must stop jerking around and solve the problem of why our booger eaters don’t like and can’t read, and we won’t do that by walking on eggshells. Let me conclude by saying two things:

  1. I am not an education expert. I am simply commenting on what I have experienced across a number of educational institutions.
  2. If booger eaters don’t experience significant people in their lives reading, and enjoying reading, then they can’t learn from their environment. If teachers don’t enjoy reading, if parents don’t enjoy reading, if their role models don’t demonstrate enjoyment associated with reading, then you can’t expect that the booger eaters themselves will harbour the desire to read, let alone enjoy reading.

Reading: it’s as easy as A, B, C . . . providing you actually know the alphabet.

Instagram MeAbout Danielle Monique

Danielle writes stories that may be considered to be a little twisted, and sometimes she does write opiniony, ranty pieces that she calls her armchair philosophy. Currently unpublished, she harbours a desire to become one of the lucky writers who manages to wrangle a publishing contract. Until then, Danielle’s stuck with working a day job in education and messing around with her social media profiles. On the positive side of the day job, she has been fortuntate enough to teach some really lovely young people who have excelled in their chosen fields.

Check out Danielle’s blog, follow her on Twitter, be her friend on Facebook and get connected on Google Plus.

Author’s Roundtable: J.P. Lane


Hi Joan. It’s really a pleasure and an honor to have a few minutes to chat about your travels and your writing. What do you say we jump right in? Pull up a chair and sit down your purse and we’ll get right down to it.

Golden Eye, once Ian Fleming's home in Jamaica where Lane was born and raised.

Golden Eye, once Ian Fleming’s home in Jamaica where Lane was born and raised.

Your bio says that you lived in Jamaica, London, Malaysia, Puerto Rico and Miami. Can you tell me a little about your time in these places and how it’s impacted your writing?

I think all our life experiences impact our writing in one way or another. With the exception of Colombia, the locations in The Tangled Web are places I’ve lived in or visited. But your question has made me realize there may be a little more to it than writing about places I know. I’ve traveled from an early age and that may be why my plots travel around. The book I’m writing now doesn’t have as many locations as The Tangled Web, but the plot doesn’t stay in one place either. It moves between England, Jamaica and Ghana. So it seems I always find a way to return to Jamaica where I was born and lived a good part of my life, and England where I studied and which just happens to be the first country I ever visited.

Although I lived in Puerto Rico for more than three years, I can’t say the time I spent there had any particular impact on my writing. It was really Miami that introduced me to the Hispanic culture, which I touch on in The Tangled Web. Rubbing shoulders with Hispanic co-workers and friends every day, I came to know that culture well. I never did learn more than a smattering of Spanish, but I understand the tone of the language well enough to have brought authenticity to the Spanish dialogue in The Tangled Web. Even when the Colombian characters are speaking English, the way they express themselves is how they’d speak in Spanish. Malaysia had a huge – and lasting – impact on me, but none of my Malaysian experience is reflected in my writing.

How long have you been writing?

Forever. 🙂

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

I think I’ve always written, without consciously thinking it was something I wanted to do. It was a poem I once wrote that landed me my first job as a writer. I didn’t want the job. I didn’t think I was a writer, but the friend who offered me the position in his ad agency thought I had potential because he’d read my poetry. Until I retired a few years ago, I made my living writing. I was an advertising and marketing writer. There were times I loved it and there were times I hated it – pretty much the same way everybody feels about their job.

What books or stories have you written? Published?

I’m skipping this one since I already jumped the gun and talked about it.

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

It’s a bit premature to talk about the book I’m writing now, so I’ll stick with The Tangled Web, though every time I’m asked about The Tangled Web I get tongue-tied. If I say it’s about political corruption and cocaine trafficking on a grand international scale, I’m over simplifying, because there are two interweaving main plots. One is about a set of powerful people who get together to rescue their country from becoming a drug state, and the other is about a man and woman who fall in love while caught in this dangerous web of political intrigue. It’s impossible to say more about it without throwing out spoilers. In fact, I think I may already have with that short description.

fullrHow did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

The characters just came to me, as did the plot. There’s only one character which vaguely resembles anyone I’ve known, or known about. She looks like a former roommate of mine in London, but she’s very much like one of my cousins. But something amazing happened with my character, Maria – the ruthless Colombian drug boss. I didn’t know this while I was writing the book, but she has a real-life counterpart. Or I should say had. Her counterpart was assassinated in Colombia late last year. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the news report. She was known as the cocaine godmother. She was a pioneer in Colombian drug smuggling and mentor to the famous drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. It’s said she was behind around 40 homicides. There’s no physical resemblance between her and Maria though. Griselda Blanco was a plain woman. Maria is drop-dead gorgeous.

Are the books based on personal experiences?

No. Not saying my life isn’t interesting, but I find fiction a lot more fun. There are no limits with fiction.

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

When I published The Tangled Web, I didn’t have a clue what was involved. It’s a miracle I sold that many books. My advice to up-and-coming authors is to do your marketing homework before you even breathe a word about your book. Don’t publish until you’ve built a social media network and a network of other authors who will support you. Line up reviewers and interviewers in advance, so you have reviews and author interviews as soon as you’re published. And don’t release a book that hasn’t been professionally edited. You could have the greatest story ever written, but it won’t get good reviews if it’s littered with typos and grammatical mistakes. And forget the old saying “Never judge a book by its cover.” Whoever said that was wrong, wrong, wrong. Your cover is the first impression of your book, and it can make or break your sales. Have it professionally done. There’s a lot more to a book cover than a nice design. And prepare to market your book. Nobody will buy it if they’ve never heard of it.

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

I’m sure there’s a writer somewhere out there who’s capable of editing their own work, but we lesser mortals need another eye – several other eyes. Aside from line editing, which is basically cleaning up typos and grammatical errors, there’s the editing that involves scrutiny of the storyline – continuity, plausibility, the strength of the characters and stuff like that. Here’s a good example of the value of an editor. I went into great detail with a scene in The Tangled Web where one of the assassins is getting prepared to shoot his target from a window. I went through that scene with a fine tooth comb, going as far as to time how long it took to get up on a ladder and unscrew the cover of an air conditioning vent. When the manuscript came back from the editor, there was a note in the right margin telling me that he needed to open the window. I’d overlooked that small, but very important detail.

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

I published my book, so I didn’t have to go through the song and dance of literary agents and publishers. But I think I’ll probably take the traditional publishing route with the one I’m writing now. I’ll be in a better position to answer your question then. 🙂

How do you find time to write your books?

It’s hard, and I haven’t been writing as much as I would like. I’ve been concentrating more on marketing. The thing is I become totally immersed when I’m writing, so when I get back to my book, marketing will have to take a back seat. Both are important to a writer and some writers are able to find that balance. I can’t. It’s one or the other for me.

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?

Writing is relaxing? Think that’s a bit of an understatement. It’s like a drug that sweeps you away into an alternate universe of your making. It’s pure bliss. Or as another author put it in their interview, it’s better than sex. Okay, I admit that’s a bit of a stretch. But how about as good?

Has writing made you a better person?

I really don’t have an answer to that, but if you were to ask my family and friends they’d tell you I’ve become annoyingly anti-social since I started writing books.

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

Yes, I like to read, though I don’t have much time for reading these days. But I manage to bury my nose in a book for an hour or two every night. If I were to choose a favorite genre it would be historical fiction, though I like most genres. I also read a lot of non-fiction, mostly history and religious philosophy. And I love poetry.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

I think reviews are very important. They’re the feedback on your work, plus they often show your book in a light you never saw it in. For example, even though there are some factual events in The Tangled Web, it never occurred to me that it could be categorized as historical fiction until two reviewers alluded to that in their remarks.

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

Indeed I have – a scathing one-star review that made me blush to my elbows. I read it again when I’d recovered from the shock. I don’t think the reviewer was being mean. The book just wasn’t their cup of tea. Though The Tangled Web certainly doesn’t deserve a one-star. That’s usually reserved for very poorly written books, and most reviewers won’t bother to review a book if it’s that bad.

Would you mind sharing an excerpt from your book?

I’d love to, and I’m going to share one I’ve never shared before. This was a special moment during the writing of The Tangled Web. Maria came out of nowhere, and her arrival on the scene changed the plot I’d had in mind. She’s the drug boss, the one with the real-life counterpart.

Late that evening in Cali, Jorgé Caicedo Rojas tightened the sash of his burgundy smoking jacket and walked over to the well-stocked bar to make himself a nightcap. He deliberated for a moment between a Grand Marnier or a Rémy Martin. He decided in favor of the Rémy and poured a large snifter, filling it considerably more than is customary.

Across the room, Maria Echevarría lounged languorously on a butter-soft calfskin sofa, her white satin gown clinging to the curves of a perfect body. “You are such an uncouth pig, mi amor.” Her comment, breathed in a low, throaty voice, was iced, and she contemplated the man at the bar with disdain. “You live in the lap of luxury and yet look how you pour a glass of cognac, like a peasant. And here am I dying of thirst and you haven”t even thought to offer me something.”

Jorgé’s blood boiled at the insult, but he chose not to react. He had learned not to rise to the bait where Maria was concerned. “I apologize, that was thoughtless of me. What can I get you?”

“Drambuie, por favor. My tastes are less extravagant than yours.”

Jorgé poured the Drambuie carefully and took it over to her, waiting for her to begin the inquisition.

“Jorgé, mi amor.” She was pouting petulantly. “You have not brought me up to date on our deal with the island.”

Jorgé took a cigarette from the engraved silver cigarette box and lit it slowly. “Everything is in place, Maria. Transportation to two additional cells in Eastern Europe has been secured. That eliminates our reliance on the Albanian Mafia.”

“Remind me, where are the new distribution centers?”

He knew she remembered perfectly well, but nevertheless placated her with an answer. “Albania and Kosovo. We ship directly to the island and the containers get transferred immediately to a secure shipping line.”

“What ever happened with the African route?”

“I don’t see how that can be beneficial to us at this point. Right now, I think the island is our best bet.”

Maria shifted on the sofa, her dark eyes quickly calculating. Because Europe was largely Mafia territory they had, until now, been left with no choice but to collaborate with the Albanians to open up new European markets. Their partnership with the island opened doors that had formerly been closed. Jorgé was right on that count. But she still considered the island a risk. “Who owns the shipping line on the island?” she asked.

Jorgé eyed her. He never knew what dark thoughts were running through Maria’s mind. Her question could have been for any of a hundred reasons. “It’s a small private operation,” he answered carefully. “They ship mostly agricultural products – citrus, coffee, sugar – that kind of thing. From what I gather, that company was the main shipper of bananas to the UK during the island’s banana heyday.”

Maria smiled sardonically, “Well, bananas are no longer profitable. We must keep up with the times to stay afloat.” Her eyes looked into an unseen distance. “How much do you estimate we can transship through there in a year?”

“With these new centers opening up? I estimate we can move at least one hundred tons in a year. That’s the plan anyway. But I should warn you, there is a downside.”

Maria arched her eyebrows quizzically.

“Our associate demands fifty percent of gross sales.”

Maria did not respond immediately, seemingly preoccupied with close scrutiny of her manicure. She seemed oblivious to Jorgé for an uncomfortably long time before she stated calmly, “I’m not happy giving our associate such a large slice of the pie. That is a ridiculous demand. El hombre debe estar loco.”

“Usted no esta·tomando en cuenta ciertas cosas, Maria. Not only is he offering unobstructed transportation, he can also stockpile the merchandise for us if we need him to. That is a plus. In addition, we are spared the cost of intelligence gathering and bribes to officials because we have his protection as head of state. These things need to be taken into consideration.”

“I’m aware of that,” she snapped, “But even so, I am not prepared to facilitate such an insane demand! There must be another way.” She twisted a silky strand of ebony hair in contemplation as she stared at him unseeingly, not expecting a response, or wanting one for that matter. Then, in the matter-of-fact tone of one who has come to a mundane household decision, she said, “Eliminate him.”

Jorgé flicked an ash into the ashtray without comment.

“Find somebody else. It shouldn’t be that difficult.”

“No creo que sean necesario tales extremos. The man can never be a threat to us.”

“Everyone’s a threat,” she hissed, uncoiling like a viper and sitting up. “Somebody’s pilfering those shipments. The figures aren’t adding up. We can’t be sure it’s happening on that end, but I don’t trust him. He’s become careless, and that makes me nervous. We can’t afford to have our operation compromised. In any case, he’ll be forced out one way or the other eventually. With things deteriorating at the rate they are in that country, it’s only a matter of time before all hell breaks loose. Then, where will we be, Jorgé? Dígame!”

FINAL SHOTJorgé finished his Rémy with a single gulp and sat heavily in an armchair opposite her. He had always had a strong distaste for violence and had only ever turned to violence as the very last resort. “Are you absolutely sure you want to take this path, Maria?” he asked in a futile attempt to dissuade her.

“Positivo, mi amor,” she said rising and going over to him, her perfume enveloping him. She moved closer and ran her fingers through his hair. “I’m going to Europe for a little break. I’m sure you’ll have everything in place by the time I get back.”

Check out J.P.’s website, follow her on Twitter and buy her book on Amazon Kindle, Smashwords and at the iBookstore.