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Sunday, January 30, 2022

Review and Interview: Athanator: GateWorlds Earth


Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Gillbert Troll.  Gillbert Troll has written the book, Gateworlds Earth - Athanator (Book 1).  First, let me thank you for joining me.  I appreciate you giving me your links and I want to share those with our readers.


Visit the Troll:

•           www.gillberttroll.com

•           Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21954477.Gillbert_Troll

•           Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/gillberttroll

•           Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/gillberttroll

•           Universal book link – to purchase book: https://books2read.com/u/mYGNEP


Your book we’re promoting: Gateworlds Earth - Athanator (Book 1)

Can you tell us a bit about it and about you as a writer?

I am a book-troll. Some say I am tall, dark, and trolly, mainly people that cannot see very well. I have an MSc in Business and a doctorate in Dragon Mythology. This comes in handy on many planets of the multiverse.

I have several hobbies, such as biking, cooking and sailing, but as I am married and have two children, I usually have no time for such indulgences.

I noticed often in your book references to keeping the main character's wife happy. What led you to risk not getting the trash out in order to write?

I am a huge fan of books, and I read across many genres, from fiction to non-fiction. I always wanted to try whether I could write a book but kept on postponing it. But in 2021 I challenged myself to write one, and with the help of a dragon, I have.

"Have the right balance between trusting yourself/your intuition and listening to feedback from people around you. Balance I feel is key."


Your book is chocked full of fun characters. Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books? 

I mainly get inspiration from the everyday life situations around me. Even something trivial as shopping for groceries or having your hair cut could lead to a great story if it was for example, done by a werewolf with a cold.

As someone who decided to write this past few years, what advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer? 

Just start and persevere. If you want to be a writer, you can be. It only depends on you, if you have the determination, no one can stop you.

What is the best advice you have ever been given as a writer? 

Have the right balance between trusting yourself/your intuition and listening to feedback from people around you. Balance I feel is key.

Speaking of balance, how do you schedule your time to write?  

I have many other “normal” jobs besides being a writer. Which jobs greatly help me to get inspiration for my writing. Especially when coming up with new fantasy species. In case of writing, I always set aside a given amount of time each week to write. It usually varies when it gets done, based on my other schedules, but I try to write when I have a bit of time.

What does literary success look like to you? 

I would define myself as successful when the majority of people who have chosen to buy and read my book(s) enjoy themselves and feel that they gained something from the experience: a laugh, a good story, a memorable character.  


Can you read / provide us with a small exert?

We looked around. There was a chicken in the far corner of the room, looking at us intently. The chicken held a knife. While continuing to look at us, she slowly hid the knife behind her back. She smiled widely, a full toothy smile. This seemed strange to me because, as far as I could recall, chickens had no teeth and, for that matter, never smiled. Of course, they usually did not carry knives either, but I would have let that slide if the blade was not covered in blood. Our team surrounded the chicken.

“Did you kill him?” I asked my feathered friend.

“Cluck, cluck, cluck,” she said evasively, but she kept her calm.

“Please answer my question. I know perfectly well why you crossed the road.” The chicken looked each one of us up and down before answering. “Cluck, cluck. Cluck, cluck, cluck, cluck. Cluck.”

“I see. And do you have an alibi?”



“Cluck, cluck,” said the chicken slowly…


Will there be a follow-up to your first book?

 I would like to continue the Gateworlds series as I feel there are many adventures in that dimension of the multiverse.


What is your biggest obstacle to writing? 

 Lack of chocolate

Comments like that are exactly what made your book so fun. Thanks for joining me!


John was a management consultant before the Gateworlds were reopened. Now, there are barking hamsters, dwarves that serve as psychiatrists, a dragon who recently won sexiest dragon on the planet, talking trees, and dark elves. As another reviewer noted, the work is reminiscent of Terry Pratchet. Fun, wild things are introduced that surprise us but are the norm in the character’s world. Thus we get lines like, “You know a situation is terrible if a dragon knows your wife’s phone number.”

In the midst of a fun to read world, there is an engaging plot. John must save the world, indeed the multiverse, by retrieving a rune crystal. The search moves the story along, introducing perhaps my favorite scene – The orcs who refuse to help because they don’t do assault work anymore, only defense contracts. It is the humorous interchanges that remind me of Pratchet as well as books such as Catch-22. The plot is solid and drives the story, but what kept me turning pages was the phenomenal world Gilbert has created. It is a world where not only aliens have come but our own specieces have interchanged. Thus we can encounter woodchucks. Not a were-woodchuck, but a totally average woodchuck… in a red cape.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

WHY WE WRITE: Your First Novel



    First of all, congratulations! You almost have a book to print!!! It will be tempting to send it out. After all, you have already corrected a few misspellings along the way and you've read through this thing a lot of times.


Take the time to have someone go through who is a detail oriented person. Find someone with fresh eyes not really reading the story for content but for grammar, spelling, paragraph flow, and general readability. I write Middle Grade so I also have to think about vocabulary and grade reading level. Your genre may have similar necessities.

Do it your self  - ONLY SORT OF

In all reality, you should not be the one to do this. Seriously. You are too close. You can find an inexpensive proofreader on Upwork. It may not be 100% error free, (get what you pay for), but it will still be better for the expense. 

I would say you can reduce your cost by saving the person time (you still need to give it to someone else) if you use / purchase software such as grammarly. Grammarly has a free version, but I do not have experience with it. It will do a remarkably good job going through your work, though you may have to do it in smaller sections since it is an online tool. Again, I do not think it replaces a set of human eyes, but it may reduce the cost of that task.

My other advice is to read your entire book OUTLOUD. Seriously. You will be amazed what you discover. Try it just for a chapter or so and I think you will see how it draws out little issues. If you don't want to say what's on the page out loud, it likely means you need to change that snippet of dialogue, description, or narrative.

Pay someone to do it.

I think this is your best option. There are lots of places to hire a proofreader. I've mentioned a few. The person I use I found through networking. I hired someone to proof Jam Sessions. Then, after publication, I decided to make it into an audible book (will discuss this in a later post). The gentleman I worked with identified a couple of things my admittedly very cheap proofreader missed. He was an author of a Hallmark movie (that starred Kenny Rogers!!) and connected me to the lady who proofed his work. She was kind, affordable, and didn't advertise beyond referrals. She has done everything I've taken to print since.

A word about seeking an agent. A manuscript should be in its best form possible before going to an agent. I suppose, you could get by with taking your first few chapters (what most agents request) to a professional editor with the expectation that when your work is picked up the publisher can help you with this final polish. My book twelve Hours was published by a small, Indie Press (Three Ravens) and they did the bulk of the final walk-through.

-3. Coerce, Bribe, or Beg someone to help.

If you know a librarian school marm who loves to correct apostrophes, knows when to use semicolons, and has t-shirts that say things like "They're practicing Their grammar over There" then you won the lottery. Even more if he or she is willing to help. These people are rare gems. If you are writing a single book, perhaps your own memoir, I would suggest this route. However, if you are planning to write more than one I would suggest finding someone to employ. I have seen groups around that do this level of editing also. In my limited experience they are no fun and somewhat hateful as they bicker over the use of the oxford comma and - if you take corrections from different members - may leave you with inconsistencies. I left the one I was in when they spent thirty minutes debating whether a British spelling was appropriate. It is, by the way. They invented the bloody language.

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Review: Things Happen: A Collection by Christopher Acker


I was given a copy for review. The thoughts an opinions are my own.

First, Christopher Acker spins a good tale. He uses well trodden tropes that play well in contemporary fiction (actress trying to make it big but something unchangeable about her is a hinderance which later turned virtue or down-on-his-luck journalist fights depression). The prose are solid and the stories read well with clever endings. My favorite was the closing line of "Lady, You Shot Me."

On the down side, Acker's stories require a bit of commitment to the start. In the story mentioned above the second paragraph introduces a first person character with "My throat feels like sandpaper."  We don't hear from the POV character directly for another three pages, making it difficult to discern her (something we don't find out for another page or two) place in the story. 

However, once we learn who she is the story picks up and becomes a delightful read. Certainly contextual in a world where we see riots on TV, question whether the civil rights movement is progressing or failing, and watch groups such as the BLM movement grow. In "Lady, You Shot Me," Ackers gives voice to a population we seldom hear from but know are plentiful in a country where everyone should be equal: mixed race Americans. I appreciated his prose and loved as I said before the ending - a good reminder that even in a personal story that ends well there is still work to do.

My second favorite of the four stories is "The Salazar House of Horrors." It too suffered from the opening pages where the reader has to work a bit to sort through names in the italicized news report verses the characters introduced in the primary narrative. But with a name like "House of Horrors" it is easy to predict the two will meet in pages to come. I loved the incorporation of HO scale buildings and models. It was reminiscent of my childhood experiences... but without the horror. The other two stories are equally good. Overall, I would recommend Acker's work and wish we had more "medium length" fiction. These were a bit more than a traditional short story but less than a novella. It made for a great short read. Pick up a copy and introduce yourself to a solid author writing in our current political-social context.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

WHY WE WRITE: Your First Novel



    Medium issues occur at the chapter and scene level. These are issues you may have recognized in the first edit. You may need to rewrite a scene, introduce something earlier that appears later as a solution to the MC's problem, or add details / introduce a character better.I love Save The Cat's model, so this often guides me as I seek to lengthen or shorten a scene to fit the book's flow. This is also a good time to read through your manuscript for "Show, Don't Tell," use of passive voice, "head popping" (changing POV), or providing information that your Point of View wouldn't allow (If first person, your MC won't know what his nemesis is thinking). This is also the place - in my opinion... many want to do it before they write. I think this can stall out your work unless it is absolutely critical). 

An example in my current WIP (work in progress). I have a group of convicts working as miners on a space colony under the military watch of NASA. In due course, they drill into an asteroid and out come a bunch of pterodactyls. I know, dinosaurs in space. Love it. One of my Beta Readers mentioned in the section on my world that he thought dinosaurs couldn't fly in space and they certainly couldn't howl as I had them doing. My gut reaction was to say, "In Star Wars the ships' gunfire makes sounds." But I am not George Lucas and this is not Star Wars. Humility. I resolved the flying in space by talking to someone in NASA I knew from my college days. The other I fixed by acknowledging it to my reader but never explaining. Someone asks my MC "How can we even hear them in space?" He replies, "I don't know, man. It's like they are screaming inside my head rather than out here."

There were probably other solutions. Better ones. Hopefully, though, this serves as a good example of a mid-size issue. Another example in Jam Sessions came when one character uses the Duck Song (Wanna buy some lemonade?). I liked the song in the story but it isn't mine to use. I wrote the composer / author and got permission. If I had not, I would've rewritten the section.

Medium fixes should take a... wait for it... a medium amount of time. If you come across anything epic that involves overhaul of a major character, plot point, or story arc then return to step one.

Now, how can you accomplish this?

Do it your self 

    Here you need to do some soul searching. Are you really the right person for this task? I am not. You may be. If so, I would recommend you do a few things in succession. First, identify your tendencies. I tend to write dialogue that is polished rather than slang. I go through my entire work doing nothing but examining dialogue. I have a friend who tells rather than shows a lot. Identify what those issues are for you and do a read through only looking at those corrections. 

Develop a character sheet. There is software out there (Scrivener mentioned before), excel sheet templates, or make your own. Minimally it should contain names of all characters, places, things, unique stuff to your world (In Freckles they played RumpleBottom Ball.). 

Good news, if you had a good Beta Reader or content editor, you now have a Honey-Do list and action plan. Look at their comments, evaluate, and either fix or leave. I should mention, it is YOUR work. Just because a reader doesn't like something doesn't mean you have to change it. However, if three or four readers all tell you something is confusing, disengaging, or wrong you should probably take a look. 

I would also recommend listening to a podcast or reading a book on characters, scene development, etc... during this phase so the ideas in those teaching resources are fresh in your mind. There are also templates out there for how to start and end scenes for varying genres.  Lean on those.

Pay someone to do it.

    I much prefer sites like Upwork and Redsy for this task rather than using them for content edits. It is cheaper because the issues should not be systemic. You also have the option to hire someone to critique a defined set of pages (10, 50, 100). This is great because they may identify something for you that is a small / medium but repeated problem. Now, you can move into "DIY" mode and fix the remaining chapters. There are even conferences you can attend where you are invited to (for a fee) to submit your work to an agent or editor. I've done this several times and found it exceptionally helpful. These are people who make a living discarding books and selecting books for market. They are willing to (hopefully with kindness) speak into your work and help you be a better writer. They may also tell you something that draws you back to the big issues.

 I have a 40,000 book meant to be a series sitting right now after such an event. I paid for two additional consultations. Both told me the same thing. My novel read like a MG (Middle Grade) with lots of action and very little head-dwelling. However, my characters are young adult age. They both suggested I needed to make a choice once I narrowed my target audience. That means I need to do some POV work or change my main characters' age (and thereby some of what they do, say, think, and feel).

Coerce, Bribe, or Beg someone to help.

    Here I would promote the value of a writer's group. By the way, not all groups are the same and you should (1) know you can be in several) and (2) know what each group you've joined does. I was in a very intensive group for a while. It was under my membership to the Society of Children Books Writers and Illustrators (great place to network if that is your genre and fantastic boards to peruse or ask questions). There I found a group of people who read 1500-2000 words per week  (6-8 pages) and everyone edited the pages. We then met by zoom and discussed. You would edit every week until your week and then you would provide a section of your WIP (work in progress). You had to contribute to get the reward, but it was worthwhile if you are in this stage of a project. People come and go from the group and I probably will rejoin here in a bit. Obviously, if only 2,000 words are getting reviewed every month it would take several years to go through your whole manuscript. That is why this is a great resource for Medium Issues. This is a great place to present individual troublesome chapters.

I am in another group where each month two of us submit short sections for review. Again, it is not a place to edit an entire work, but it is nice to get a dozen voices speaking into a problem area. 

Finally, BE CREATIVE! When I wrote Jam Sessions, I asked a good friend of mine who is a child psychiatrist to read it. He did, gave me feedback in the particular area of his expertise, and even agreed to write a brief afterward for the paperback edition. 

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Review Pawel Kuch's Oxford Girls


Read the Blog Here

Today, we have an opportunity to talk to Pawel D. Kuch. Pawel has written and published the first part of a Young Adult/thriller series "Oxford girls; Michaelmas – Alex." 


First, let me thank you for joining me. I appreciate you giving me your links and I want to share those with our readers.



different vendors you can buy my book from: https://books2read.com/oxgirls

my website: https://pdkuch.com/

amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09MYR1GQ5/

Goodreads book website: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59751685-michaelmas-alex

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22038972.P_D_Kuch

Tumblr: https://pdkuch.tumblr.com/

the book "Oxford Girls - soundtrack" on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4iDstkubK9BdBDtR8Lk8hb?si=752b7b372d564048

"I placed the “Oxford Girls” series in the magnificent town of Tolkien, CS Lewis, Oscar Wild, and Harry Potter after visiting my friend who was studying there at that time.

I take a lot of inspiration from other people’s lives, blogs, but mostly from my own ‘dirty’ imagination. The research nowadays is quite simple through the internet."


Title of book we’re promoting: "Oxford girls; Michaelmas – Alex" vol. 1.


That is great. Can you tell us a little about yourself and what led you to start writing?


Thank you for having me. I'm a lawyer and legal scholar. I always wanted to write a book, but my career and family life postponed it. Plus, I had no good topic to write about. A few years ago, I started my Ph.D. and to distract myself from the challenging research, bored with TV content, I decided to write a book on the side, a book that would amuse me, a book I would like to read. In short, yes, childhood dreams, boredom and concern for my sanity made me do it.


Where do you get your inspiration, information, and ideas for books?

It’s a great question. From everywhere, to be honest. I took a few ideas from my own life, but mostly from other books and films. I placed the “Oxford Girls” series in the magnificent town of Tolkien, CS Lewis, Oscar Wild, and Harry Potter after visiting my friend who was studying there at that time. I take a lot of inspiration from other people’s lives, blogs, but mostly from my own ‘dirty’ imagination. The research nowadays is quite simple through the internet.


What are your hobbies and do they ever play into your writing?

In summer I like to sail. Interestingly enough, it was a book that lured me to it. One Christmas, I got a sailing album with a drawing of a half-nude girl and a man shaving to a sextant mirror, and I was lost. In winter I like to ski and play chess. A few years ago, I managed to get a Private Pilot License – flying was something I had literary dreamed about since a little boy. And yes, all that play some part in my writing.


What advice would you give someone who wants to be a writer?

First and foremost: just write. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Second, secure an income source other than writing ;). And third, don’t be discouraged by toxic people and especially by your own insecurities. The time for editing comes later.

 "readers, thank you for buying our books. Do us, authors, a favor and dedicate a few minutes to post a review and spread the word if you like a particular book."

Do you write full-time or around another job? How do you schedule your time to write?

I mostly write in the evenings. During the day I'm a serious lawyer and legal scholar. I don't write on any particular schedule, I just try to write 5-10 pages a week.

How many hours a day do you write?

In a good day I wrote for 4 hours straight. Usually 2 maximum 3 hours.


What is your favorite part about writing?

That is a tough question. I would say it's like with all seasons: I love and hate them all equally.

What does literary success look like to you?

Definitely my readers' satisfaction. I am thrilled when readers say they like the book, the premise or the protagonists, and they recommend my book to others. Surely, I would love to see myself as a bestselling author or could afford a porsche like Hank Moody from 'Californication,' but I'll be happy if the books bring me enough to take my family on extravagant vacations.


Please tell us about your current release.

"Oxford Girls" is a brand name for a Young Adult adventure thriller series. The first book "Michaelmas – Alex" introduces the main protagonists but is only a prelude when it comes to the main plot. Still, it is full of action and many bright but also dark threads. The second part will be published in March-April this year.


Can you read / provide us with a small exert? 

Let me share the more darker sample:

Now, Mr. S. was facing the storm – self-controlled, still fueled by rage and vengeance, well trained and motivated human girl – a very well-prepared girl. Her helmet equipped with high-tech solutions detected and actively shielded her brain against any radio signals that might trigger her implants. Built-in optics with night vision technology enhanced her visibility. Her skills sharpened by grueling training and a clear objective to crack down on her enemies made her deadly dangerous. 

Without further ado, N. pulled out her sword and cut off the left hand of Mr. S. – the one he was reaching for a phone on his desk to call for security. Mr. S. was in shock. Before he could make any move, N. quickly strapped Mr. S. to the chair by his neck and secured first his right hand and then the unamputated part of the left one with a strong, silver tape. She committed few moments to stop the hemorrhage of the open wound, and when Mr. S. tried to stand up with his chair, she only hissed ominously:

‘Sit still, or I’ll cut off your feet next.’

N. plays an essential part in the series, and Mr. S. is a villain. It may seem strange in this short part that I use their initials only, but those two are exceptions. I assure you the rest of the characters have proper names.

What exciting story are you working on next?

I've started to write the third part. It may be a little darker, we'll see.


Who are your favorite authors?

They're so many and for many different reasons. But being honest, I don't care so much for the author's name but rather for the good story.

What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

It's a whole series under-appreciated for a long time but thanks to Netflix resurrecting like a phoenix from the ashes – "The Witcher" by A. Sapkowski. Written in the '90s waited 20 years to be translated into English, finds now new fans and new audience.


What is your writer’s kryptonite?

Book marketing. Not that I don't like to promote my books and meet new fantastic people like you, but it takes an enormous amount of energy and is time-consuming.


What part of writing and publishing was most difficult for you?

Waiting. It's so much different from my regular activities where time has a great value, and everything happens rapidly. The book publishing market has its own time dimension; everything moves in slow motion.   


Anything additional you want to share with the readers?


Dear readers, thank you for buying our books. Do us, authors, a favor and dedicate a few minutes to post a review and spread the word if you like a particular book. We love to know your opinions. And please check the link to the "Oxford Girls - soundtrack" on Spotify.


One more time, where can someone go to purchase your book?


"Oxford girls; Michaelmas – Alex" vol. 1.

different vendors you can buy my book from: https://books2read.com/oxgirls

paper back on amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/8396323402/

my website: https://pdkuch.com/

Goodreads book website: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/59751685-michaelmas-alex

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/22038972.P_D_Kuch

Tumblr: https://pdkuch.tumblr.com/

"Oxford Girls - soundtrack" on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4iDstkubK9BdBDtR8Lk8hb?si=752b7b372d564048



The lead protagonist, Alex, is introduced. Her parents have passed away and she is now in college. She narrates portions of the book with some perspective, acknowledging that her younger 16 year old self didn't fully understand her parents' love. But she is also immersed in her daily life getting on the rowing team/

 Other sections are third person narrator and take the reader first to China, then England, and ultimately to a DC agency her parents participated in. There is also a letter given to us the reader from a 10 year old claiming to be on a space ship.

The two storylines build with emphasis on Alex's world and POV. The book certainly sets up possibilities for future books.

I enjoy a bit of dark plot. This work has it. However, I typically do not enjoy books with romance-novel style sex scenes and lines like "I really hoped it wouldn't be Hal's d--- that imprisons me, but rather the person attached to it." I say that because I understand many do enjoy that in their reads to accompany up the story like salt added to chips. This novel has it between the protagonist and two different characters which kept me from rating it a 5. I say that, because for many readers this would make it a six. The scenes are very well written, just not my thing.

I was given a copy to review. My review and opinions are my own.

Friday, January 14, 2022

Middle Grade Fiction

 Chattacon Presentation - View It Here

I led a breakout session today at Chattacon. ( https://chattacon.org/ ) on Middle Grade Fiction. Why I am by no means an expert, I have spent my time in my writing career learning this genre and it's close counterpart: Young Adult. For those who were there and would like the slides or for those who are interested in the presentation I have included the link here. Let me know in the comments if for any reason the link does not work.

Chattacon Presentation - View It Here

The ugly link:


Wednesday, January 12, 2022

WHY WE WRITE: Your First Novel



    These are the gaping plot issues. It may be as simple as when you are writing the first draft you got to a fight scene and wrote in big print "INSERT FIGHT SCENE HERE. MC WINS." Well, guess what? Now you have to write the scene. It may be you change your magic system, need your boyfriend to have a different job than he had the first five chapters, or perhaps you discover you need to tell the story from 3rd person point of view instead of in your character's head. These issues involve major rewrites

    When I wrote my first book, Jam Sessions, I got to the end and was overjoyed. I had written a book! Well, I had written a draft! I was ready to go to press, right? No. My main character moved schools in the middle of the year. On his first day he is taken to class by the school bully who subsequently becomes his friend. That is until, the MC is bullied and teased. My MC must find a new friend group and a way to work through his panic attacks. That was my book. I had a whole backstory about why he was in a new school. It was interwoven into the book with a lot of "not in school" scenes. It made the book darker (an abusive dad) and lost focus on my MC finding his way amongst his peers. Beyond that, it was a conflict already resolved (maybe not fixed, but resolved) when the opening chapter arrives. Simon (my MC) and his mom had moved states and were living near Simon's grandparents. I went through teh book and cut all my beloved passages. I rewrote the start of the book. It showed a sleepy kid being woken at 2:00 am as his mom drove away from their house. It sets the stage without being a book about trauma in the home. That's a good book, but not the one I was trying to write. My intro isn't on par with the best openers on the market today, but it is a solid freshman effort because I was willing to radically rewrite sections of the book.

However you decide to do it... DO NOT... I repeat DO NOT start sending your first draft out to agents yet!!! Take some time to correct and revise. If an agent is something you want, it should be pursued with the cleanest manuscript you can offer. So, what are your options to fix the major issues?

Do it your self - If you choose to do this yourself you MUST walk away from the book for a while. Get some distance. Start a new project, read, go reconnect with friends and family you neglected as you did the final writing sprint to finish. Six weeks to six months. I would not suggest less or more. Then come back and read the book. Do not edit. Read it through and annotate sections that need work. Again, don't fix them. Just identify them. That way you are reading the book all the way through in one pass. It is the best way to catch the big issues.

Pay someone to do it. - Paying someone to beta read is fairly expensive on sites like Upwork and Redsy. However, there are folk out there you can subcontract out for the work. I think better are groups who love ARC's (Advance Reader Copies) and book bloggers. You can find ARC readers on sites such as Netgalley. They will read and offer feedback. The good part about such sites is you can join with a group of people (network!!) and it has great promotion capability also.

A word on paying someone. Don't be prideful about this. In fact, embrace it. For me, writing is a hobby. I spend much less on it than my brother does on hunting and flyfishing. It costs less than my neighbor's obsession with buying souped up trucks and atv's. Today, my hobby even pays me a little bit back. Whether you are doing it as a future income stream ("gotta spend money to make money") or as a personal journey, it is okay to spend. Just spend in the areas you need it the most. Set a budget (more on this later) and follow it, just like you would if you got heavily involved in golfing, scrapbooking, backpacking, or aquatic crocheting. 

Coerce, Bribe, or Beg someone to help.

    Ahhh the Beta reader. This is not your mom telling you how special you are and posting your book cover on the fridge. Don't get me wrong, that is important. But here we are talking about that unique person who loves (1) to read (and has read a lot, especially in your genre), (2) likes you and is willing to read an unpolished copy, and (3) is willing to take the time and energy and risk to offer correction. 

My first set of Beta readers I asked ten or so people. six said yes and never read or got back with me other than the occassional, "I haven't forgotten!" This is true. They hadn't forgotten. They just weren't all three of the things above. Of the other four, two sent my manuscript back telling me how great I was. Kind, but unhelpful. One spent lots of time correcting small grammatical issues. Again, it was kind, but by the time I rewrote the draft these corrections were often mute. 

One sent my manuscript annotated as another author asked her to do. She was awesome. Here is her list:

"ZZZ" meant the story did not hold my interest.

"???" means I am disoriented, confused, or see something that doesn't match. These often had comments attached.

"!!!" meant I loved this section.

A solid line "--------" meant she stopped reading here.

In the end she spoke to these areas:

-1. Characters - Were they believable? Could I identify with them, especially the MC?

-2. World - Was the world / setting  understandable? Interesting? Coherent?

-3. Plot - Were there plot points that were unbelievable or you had trouble with?

-4. Dialogue - Did each character have his/her own "voice?" Was dialogue used well? Sound artificial?

-5. Show, Don't Tell - Were there areas you felt like I was teaching, lecturing, preaching rather than immersing you in the story?

You can google "Questions for Beta Readers" and come up with hundreds more. My suggestion, keep it simple so the reader can annotate as they read with a very brief overall assessment at the end. i've seen some Beta reader questions that emphasize the first chapter too. Since this often gets sent to agents it makes sense.

I should mention I discuss the Beta Reader as a free option. You can pay Beta Readers as well, though if I was going to spend that money I would get someone more professional on the content editor status. Also, in the realm of advice, if you "pay your dues" in a writer's group by being active, helping others, and generally not being an ass you may find some folks in that circle who will swap ARC (advance reader copies) with you.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Freckles Included in an Author Bundle!

 See the Bundle Here!!!

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Larry Simpson's No Excuses


 I remember as a young man reading "Now Let Us Praise Famous Men." It was the compelling stories of simple Americans living in a hard era. I had the same ethos as I read "No Excuses."

Larry Simpson grew up in a family constantly on the move across America in the 1950's. As the title says, it is not a story of victimization, tragedy, or hopelessness. "I'm a trailer boy. I'm grateful for it all. I have no excuses. I hope you don't either," he declares. And that is his message. Through learning to play marbles, joining sports teams, acclimating to new schools, and building friendships Larry does something else: He lets my generation see the world as our parents lived it. 

"Find the story in yourself." - L Simpson

I saw in the stories the things I reflect were great about my parents (also growing up in the 50's). Larry at one point introduces a chapter by saying, "One of the great blessings of the life God gave me was being taught to work." In another place he tells of sliding down a mountain side with his rifle, realizing he was thirsty and ill prepared. He shares how much he treasured small things like his mom's plastic burgundy purse he acquiesced to use to keep his 127 marbles. He reports his early romance and the heartbreak of the family picking up and moving. He shaped his life not off the failures of his father, but off his father's strengths. "my human father had faults, but I never held any of those against him and chose rather to look at the very good character in him. All dads should have character traits for which to be remembered."

The story reads more like you are sitting on the porch listening to your grandfather weave stories, amazed at the life he led beyond how you know him. knowing Larry is a pastor, I imagine he has blessed his congregants over the years with these vignettes, using them as punctuated sermon illustrations. I'm sure when he did the people in the pews around him knew he was real, his faith was real, and he loved them. 

Love is the word. It is seldom used in the book, but it is on every page. In a later section Larry talks about his own faith that led him to college and ultimately to seminary. But this work resides in the life of a young man growing up in America with no excuses.  The book is written in what must be Larry's conversational "voice." I think the few editorial corrections would blur the connect the book offers to a part of history that many will enjoy remembering and all will enjoy experiencing through this memoir. I highly recommend. 

I was given a copy of the book for review. Opinions are my own.

Larry was kind enough to also share an exert. Presented here with permission:

Story 13:    "Sitgreaves Pass, on the way to California, 1957"

"We casually headed up and out from Kingman to Bakersfield-- a gorgeous, sun-lit day-- going
through Oatman was shorter, we turned North on Oatman Highway, old '66--  we were very
content-- being only 3,550 feet in elevation we knew we wouldn't have much of a climb--
slowly moving up to Sitgreaves Pass, Dad pulling our 50' long trailer with his green Ford truck--
then 4.4 miles down to Oatman-- the highway looked gentle-- the Del Vikings were singing"come
go with me," I got happy--

The decent would be easy-- THAT CHANGED SHOCKINGLY, increasing speed-- the slopes dropped
off like sinking earth-- Dad's face was white-- hitting one hairpin curve after another-- we were
faster-- the brakes were smoking, they faded completely, the trailer swerved close to the violent
edge-- looking down the rocky cliffs, I knew we were fighting for our lives-- time stood still--  his
look at me was fearful-- then mortal pity--plunging off the mountain filled my brain--jagged,
sharp rocks-- "we're going to have to jump!"-- faster with each passing inch-- the trailer tilted
to the left and shook-- as we fought for our very existence-- I thought, at least I'm with my
Daddy, we'll just go to heaven with each other-- But suddenly, shockingly-- we began to slow
a little-- the bottom seemed to be rising to us -- we're nearing the bottom-- pulling over to
the side of the road, we fell into each others arms and mixed our tears-- Dad prayed an
impassioned prayer--we were safe.
I briefly got to speak with the author who I met at NextChapter Con in Dalton:

https://www.facebook.com/J. Larry Simpson, I - No Excuses.....
https://www.newswire.com>news> J. Larry Simpson, I
https://youtu.be/WoXP5PxiRis....tv interview
https://youtube.com/ No Excuses....press release
https://fultonbooks.com/J.Larry Simpson, I

Author name:  J. Larry Simpson, I

Title:  "No Excuses, The True Life Adventures of a Little Trailer Boy" ( see links above)

What led you to write your memoir?

    Living in NW Ga. I am a first time author, with a Bachelor's Degree in Secondary Ed.
and Political Science, a Master's  Degree in Theology, a businessman, a lifetime pastor,
a horse National Champion, and was a distance runner.  I'm married to my teenage
sweetheart, Sandy.
    I began writing because I knew I had to tell my' boyhood story'.  My story is too
unique, filled with boyhood adventure, family, successes, girls, friends, all while I
traveled across America as a boy.  Moving to 10 states , 15 schools, 24 moves in a trailer
pulled by my father, I lived a life like no other.... too unique not to tell.  On retirement at
age 73, excitement to reveal this one very different and blessed life moved me to start

What are your hobbies and do they play into your writing?:

Yes, was horses up till 3 years ago, and my experiences with them enter into my writing.

What is your favorite part about writing?

My re-discovery of the blessings and uniqueness of my life as a 'trailer boy' etc. and refined
the love and thankfulness of my life and the hope that others will see it and enjoy with me.

WIs there a follow-up?

Other untold stories of childhood then into adulthood, including victories of life and exciting
horse stories. As well as Knowing God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit rules on His throne.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

WHY WE WRITE: Your First Novel

 Today let's talk about editing!

Maybe if you are a plotter editing is a joy? I've met a few weird souls who seem to thrive on revision and editing. For a pantser it can be painstakingly difficult.

I've already given my first tip I've discovered. I write my first draft by hand. This forces me to edit as I move my penscratch to computer. However, I feel the struggle. Just like the middle of the book can feel like an anchor weight... so can the idea of meticulously going through hundreds of pages.

Good news! Remember that talk we had about WHY you write? If you are not in love with the idea of editing then feel the freedom to freelance / contract out the work to others!!! I know there are authors who don't want to let their newborn manuscript out into the world until it is completely perfect. If you are such a person, let me encourage you to write down "WHAT DOES A 'PPERFECT' MANUSCRIPT MEAN TO ME?" The answer should not be more than three snetences or several bullet points.

Here is mine for Freckles: The Dark Wizard.

- First chapter that connects my wizard world to a middle school kid while showing the magic

- clear main story arc

- laugh when read

- minimal distracting editorial issues (grammar, consistency issues, confusing narratives)

And for Twelve Hours on the Block:

    A edge of your seat action ride from chapter to chapter with comic relief between the two main characters. Story should get crazier and crazier but never violate the reader's suspension of disbelief created with opening scene where "Hummingbird" (Aztec god) rips a man's bleeding heart out.

If you can pinpoint what it means for you to release your story to others, then you have a goal to work toward. Ultimately, you will have to share it to be heard. So figure out when that is for you. 

Now, when I first started writing I was overwhelmed with terms like proof reader, beta reader, content editor, developmental editor, copy editor, critique partner, or online editing software. Let me offer my humble take on all of this. You have three stages of editing:

I grew up helping my dad in his workshop. If it helps, think about this like sandpaper. You do not pass over a project the first time with 220 grit fine sandpaper. You are wasting your time and will ruin the sandpaper. First, you use a coarse grain (40 or 50 grit) to get rid of rough edges and large issues. Then you use a medium grit (80) to give the project a unified look. When you get to fine grit (120) you aren't even doing enough to take off a varnish. Yet, the last strokes are the one that make the project a masterpiece.

-1. BIG ISSUES  (40-50 grit sandpaper)

    These are the massive problems that demand rewriting whole characters, major plot points, changing the novel's POV (point of view). These take a lot of time to fix and perhaps create more repairs along the way. 

One of my dear mentors says that the author makes promises to the reader along the way. If we introduce a wizard with a secret pendant he wears under his cloak, we are promising the reader that pendant will be used. If we tell the reader the heroine has never been kissed, we are promising there will minimally be a kiss in the story. Some promises are key. in fact, there is probably one central question to your story. For my twelve Hours on the Block it is "Will the two main characters survive?" Along the way they meet two girls ("Can they rescue their new relationships") and a woman who swears she will die trying to get out (yes, she does). Apart from major content editing of plot, world, characters, and subplots you must also make sure the reader can follow your engaging story, satisfied in the end.

-2. MEDIUM ISSUES (80 grit sandpaper) 

    Here we are looking at smaller issues. They may be within a specific scene or chapter or may be a small add, subtraction, or revision to the novel to support the story. It may be adding something in earlier to prepare the reader, changing something about a character necessary to the plot, or answering a small  unanswered question.

In my book, Freckles: the Dark Wizard, Simon (MC) sees a picture of his dad winning the school RumpleBottom trophy with his mom on his dad's shoulders in a victory celebration. It was a promise to the reader regarding what would happen in the end with Simon's love interest (medium size promise)  if Simon won the tournament (big promise) 

-3. SMALL ISSUES (120 grit sandpaper)

    Here is where you make the work ready for publication. Spelling. Commas. Dialogue tags. passive Voice. Show, Don't Tell. And my personal favorite, not putting two spaces between sentences (apologies to my editor!! I grew up using typewriters!). 

I know. I worked hard to develop cool sounding terms. Now, for each layer you have three options:

-1. Do it your self (well... except for "small issues." That one needs outside eyes.)

-2. Pay someone to do it.

-3. Coerce, Bribe, or Beg someone to help.

Next Wednesday we will dive in!

Tuesday, January 4, 2022




Friday, January 14th - Sunday, January 16th 

I'm excited to be on several panels during Chattacon.

Friday I am hosting a panel on Middle Grade Fiction. More to come about this for sure and I'll try and post my resources here as well. 

I will be promoting my latest MG Fantasy!  Freckles: The Dark Wizard

"Anyone who has ever survived middle school will enjoy this. The magic is cleverly original, and RumpleBottom (which is dodgeball plus magic) is suitably vicious. The author knows middle school from bottom to top. Human nature doesn't change much, magic or no magic." - John McBride

I will be at Chattacon!! 

I am super excited on Saturday to be doing a panel with the highly sought after MD Cooper. Her work is fabulous. The panel is on character development. I hope if you are in the area you can attend! Chattacon is a great con and this will be a superb panel.

original image Source

See her Good Reads here - or just google MD Cooper!

I'll also be doing a fun panel on Dune with a great local author who also works at UT Chattanooga. Check out his blog here!!


In addition, I'll be in a panel regarding Self, Small Press, or pursuing an agent in regards to publishing. Those who read my blog know that is something I've started writing about a lot recently.

Oh! And shameless


My Chattacon Profile (you know... to prove I'm actually invited...):


And be sure to check out my latest!!

Freckles: The Dark Wizard

(Self Published)

Twelve Hours on the Block

(Indie Press Published)

Monday, January 3, 2022

The Frights of Fiji by Sunayna Prasad

 The Frights of Fiji by Sunayna Prasad




The Frights of Fiji (Alyssa McCarthy's Magical Missions #1)

by Sunayna Prasad

Genre: Fantasy

Age category: Middle Grade



A world of magic and adventure awaits…

Sent to live with her strict, aloof, and uncaring uncle after her parents are killed in a car accident, twelve-year-old orphan Alyssa McCarthy longs for the life she used to have—one filled with fun and love. Then one stormy night, a message appears in the raindrops on the window that will change everything.

"Your life will never be the same again, as magic will interfere."

Before long, Alyssa is kidnapped by Master Beau, a banished sorcerer with a mysterious connection to her who can only regain his power by weakening hers. Suddenly hurled into a world of wizardry filled with fantastical beasts and marvelous technology beyond her wildest imagination, Alyssa must defeat Master Beau if she ever wants to get home again. But Master Beau will stop at nothing, including using Alyssa’s friends, to ensure he is triumphant.


Originally titled "From Frights to Flaws", this story is the exciting and enchanting first book in the "Magical Missions" series.



- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/42438477-the-frights-of-fiji

- Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/books/the-frights-of-fiji-alyssa-mccarthy-s-magical-missions-book-1-by-sunayna-prasad

- Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Frights-Alyssa-McCarthys-Magical-Missions-ebook/dp/B07HXMJ6GB/

- B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-frights-of-fiji-sunayna-prasad/1131319822

- Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ebook/the-frights-of-fiji

- Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/The_Frights_of_Fiji?id=oYUFEAAAQBAJ&h

- Apple: https://books.apple.com/us/book/id1460719018



This blog comes as part of Lola's Blog Tours.

About the Author:

I have always been passionate about fantasy, especially with a modern twist. I have read bestsellers, like the Harry Potter series, which gave me a lot of inspiration for my books. Movies, especially Disney classics, also inspire the content of my stories.

When I am not writing, I am drawing, cooking, and working out to Disney song videos as well as other visual and entertaining videos.


Author links:

- Website: https://www.sunaynaprasadbooks.com/

- Twitter: https://twitter.com/SunaynaPrasad

- Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5002639.Sunayna_Prasad



It reminded me some of Series of Unfortunate Events with its start and took on some of the things that make popular fantasy tales work including a banished sorcerer somehow connected to the heroine, cool creatures, and a quest to get home to her godfather, Alex. At times, the story seemed to borrow heavily on “Harry Potterisms”  but I know for my kids they love seeing the same tropes played again. There is a tech / sci-fi twist here that kept me engaged as well as Simon, who is likely my favorite character. The ending is a bit open ended, even as the first book in a series. I was given a copy as part of a blog tour. The thoughts and opinions are my own.