Would you like to be featured in an Author Spotlight?


Whether you’re an experienced, mid-career book author or you’ve just released your debut novel, Spotlight features are a great way to launch a new book, broaden your exposure as a published author, leverage the networking power of social media and, ultimately, drive more potential book-buyers to your Amazon or retail book site to increase sales.

The process is most effective if a post is published immediately after the release of your book, so readers can learn about you as a writer, read about your story, get interested in your main character, and then go directly to your Amazon page.

So far I’ve covered fiction and nonfiction, and I’d welcome any genre, as well as short story collections or poetry. Traditional, small press, agented, unagented, and self-published authors are all welcome.

If you’re interested in being featured in an Author Spotlight on this blog, email me at lisamarietowles@gmail.com, give me a few weeks’ lead time, and send me the following:

  • High quality photo of your book cover and head shot photo of you
  • Synopsis and the first few chapters of your book
  • Your bio and a press release (if you have one)
  • Publishing info

I’ll go through your materials and email you a list of interview questions. Feel free to check out my prior Author Spotlights to see how they’re formatted and structured.

And once the piece is finalized and published, you can use the URL to your heart’s content. Share it on Facebook or any social media site, or post it on your own blog or author website. WordPress is mobile-optimized, so your post should display well on an iPhone or similar device.

The writing path is difficult and solitary, so writers need each other for support and encouragement. Writing a book is a REALLY BIG DEAL, and getting it published is a huge accomplishment! I want to help you celebrate the success of your book release to encourage you to a) keep writing and b) help other authors by encouraging them. You can do that by taking the time to review books on Amazon and Goodreads, attending book-signing events, retweeting posts on new releases, and celebrating their successes. Comment here or email me with questions, and see you on the trail!










Author Spotlight: JW BELL


This month’s Author Spotlight is focused on author, JW BELL with the release of his debut novel, The Sigma Factor (April, 2018). We’ll talk about his new book, his world travels, and he’ll share some tips about his writing journey and process. The Sigma Factor, published this month by Rebel e Publishers, is an exciting political thriller with all the elements you might expect from this genre.

Drawing on his well-traveled past and varied expertise in a number of industries, JW has a history that includes the US Army, oilfield worker, restaurant owner and manager, and he has notable expertise in weaponry and in classical music composing. Talk about diverse! So it’s no wonder that The Sigma Factor is packed with plenty of suspense, multiple plot lines, unexpected twists, and more than enough intrigue to keep you turning its pages.

How much of this tale is based on real events or experiences?

As far as the plot is concerned, not a lot. The Isis connection is fiction but it is based on probable cells that are in the country. Having said that, my personal world doesn’t have all the excitement that happens in the story. I have, however,  been to several of the locales – New York, Wyoming, Switzerland, Amsterdam, and Lake Mead are all places I’ve been. I find it adds more realism to scenes I’ve actually been too. It tends to give a visceral feel to things especially for those familiar with them. As far as the use and operations of weapons, I do have experience with those. Now that I’ve said all that, though, the meat of the book is really the emotion of the characters. I think every author needs to do a deep dredge within themselves to find the best way to express what their created beings feel and how they react.

Looking back on your interesting background, do you see any commonalities between your military experience, being a restaurateur, and a classical musician?

I think the biggest link between those fields is exploring the unknown. That may be fairly clear with the military and music, but let me tell you that if you don’t stretch yourself as a restaurateur you will fail quickly. I’ve always had the need to push myself. I think writing is yet another way to find what is really there.

How much do you have in common with Stan, your main character? And did the writing of this book through Stan’s eyes teach you anything about yourself?

Ha! Well, Stan has a great deal of me in him. I’m sarcastic, sardonic, and have a mouth way too big for myself. I think that is one of the reasons I became an author. But delving a little deeper, the self doubt and confusion that Stan shows has to be rooted in me. Everyone has that inner conflict about what to do next. That is an unmistakable part of life. Then there is that immature part of him, that little boy, the unpolished teenager prevalent throughout. Just because I’ve grown older doesn’t mean I’ve totally forgotten what life was like as a young, ill-mannered person. Every older person feels the same on the inside as when they were young. We’ve simply learned how to keep things under wraps.

Have you planned a sequel to this book or do you have plans to make it into a series?

I’m writing the second book in the series right now. The working title is The Dao Factor. It is set mostly in the Pacific Basin and Asia. The characters that still stand at the end of Sigma are called upon to help with a crisis of world-shaking possibilities. After I finished The Sigma Factor, my wife and I were both struck with the many possibilities of the reincarnation twist. There are additional books begging to be written already, tugging at me. I see no reason to ignore them.

Can you describe your writing process? For instance, are you highly disciplined, or do you write only when the spirit moves you? When and where do you write?

My creative process has been honed over several years. When I attended college, I developed a skill that has served me well. Back then, when I was learning how to write music, there never seemed to be a quiet place in which to do my work. I had to learn how to block things out in order to write music; I had to concentrate enough to focus on one thing. In that sense I’m very disciplined. I write wherever I am, because I’m focused on what needs to be done. It backfires at times though. When I’m supposed to watch the kids I lose myself in my project and miss some things in the house. The kids are used to it. They sneak around until they get caught like every other kid.  It can be frustrating.

Another facet of my writing process is that I consider it writing when I’m thinking –  working on plot development, or fixing a problem I’ve written myself into. In that respect, I write almost constantly. I don’t necessarily have to have my current manuscript in front of me, but I have to have a way to take notes. A lot of times I jot things down in my phone, enough to be able to jog my memory and then catch everything up when I’m at my computer.

Can you share your path to publication? It’s a common struggle for writers to find a commercial publisher, especially for a first novel. How did you connect with Rebel?

I lived a nightmare for years – looking for an agent. I have so many rejections piled away on spreadsheets, that’s right, several sheets of rejections, each with untold amounts of, “Thank you for sharing, but …” The first few hurt, but after so many I simply picked myself up and sent more off. The way I found Rebel was by going through Preditors and Editors, a website devoted to rating agents and publishers. They separate the good from the bad with useful feedback. On that site, I noticed Rebel accepts submissions directly from authors (without an agent), so I sent off a manuscript. Jayne Southern received the manuscript and rejected it, but she also took the time to send me a personal note giving me encouragement and useful advice, unlike all the form letters that were creating a fire hazard in my office. So I sent another manuscript, and another, and each time I came away with something useful to improve my writing. Finally, I sent her The Sigma Factor, and I about fell over when her letter came back agreeing to publish. I think it took me a couple of days to even write back and agree.

Can you share some of your other writings? (Other books, short stories, articles)

I spent so long learning how to write novels that I’ve done very little in the way of short stories. Well, Sigma started out as a short story, but I didn’t like it. There was nothing to do but expand it into a novel. I originally sent three novels to Rebel and they were my first series, but I don’t think their individual premises were defined well enough. Without that, it is hard for an author to say what needs to be said.

I have another novel that Rebel wants to publish. I wrote it during the time between Sigma’s acceptance and actual publishing. Although it too is a thriller, it does not belong in the series. Entitled The Great Zero Sum, it’s about Colonel Colton, an outspoken Army officer who disagreed with the Secretary of Defense and had to leave the Army. As the story progresses, old scores are settled and festering wounds get lanced. It’s a frantic chase with lots of action.

Well, warmest congrats on the publication of your first book and we look forward to many more forthcoming!

You can buy JW Bell’s new book, The Sigma Factor on Amazon and through other book retailers in Trade Paperback and ebook formats. Buy it on Amazon here and please take a minute to leave a review.

Check out JW’s website here, and follow his Amazon author page here.

Thank you for visiting!!

Ever been to a Writers’ Conference??



I’m a little late compiling my annual list this year, but there are still plenty of conferences scheduled across the US and it’s not too late to get in on the fun.

First things first: “Why bother?” you might ask. Regardless of where you are on the path of your writing journey, conferences have tons of useful benefits that can reignite your passion, inspiration, and drive you to move forward:

  • Networking with other writers, which can lead to lasting peer relationships, additional support, and even the forming of critique groups
  • Direct 1:1 access to literary agents in your genre during informal social events or more formal “pitch sessions”
  • Access to new agents looking to build their list of clients, or new publishers focused specifically on your genre
  • Updates about the business of writing, including marketing, sales, tips, tricks, best practices, and industry trends
  • Exclusive opportunities for conference attendees

And if those aren’t enough to whet your appetite, I’ve found that the conferences I’ve attended deepen my commitment to the writing path, remind me that I’m investing in the improvement of my craft, boost my confidence, jack up my networking and communication skills, and generally motivate me to keep going!

Here’s the catch – they’re expensive. Yep, there’s no getting around it…but is there? Most of the conferences I’ve highlighted below have different rates and several options. Entire conference, one day only, and for some you can even just pay for a pitch session without attending the entire event. Some conferences have an early bird rate if you register way ahead of time, and others allow you to a la carte your way through the conference lineup.

Without further ado, I’ve pulled out a few conferences for the rest of this year, along with links to more extensive lists at the bottom. If you find that any of these links don’t work, or you know of other conferences you’d like me to add, post a comment or email me at lisamarietowles@gmail.com.

Las Vegas Writers Conference

April 19-21, 2018

Sell More Books Show Summit

May 4-6, 2018

Santa Barbara Writers Conference

June 17-22, 2018

Annual Greater Los Angeles Writers Conference

June 22 – 24, 2018

Sun Valley Writers Conference

July 21-24, 2018

2018 Book Passage Mystery Writing Conference (northern California)

September 27-30, 2018

Florida Writers Conference

October 18-21, 2018

Kauai Writers Conference

November 9 – 11, 2018

Additional 2018 writers conferences published in The Writer magazine:


And for Canadian authors or those traveling to Canada this year, here’s a list of

Canadian writing conferences in 2018:

Thanks for reading and enjoy!

Author Spotlight: CHRISTINE HUSOM


This month’s author spotlight interview features veteran mystery writer, Christine Husom, and thoughts and feedback she’s shared on the writing craft, her interesting history, and her two two successful mystery series. Her latest release from her Winnebago County Mystery series is Firesetter in Blackwood Township.

Barns are burning in Blackwood township, and the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office has a firesetter to flush out. The investigation ramps up when a body is found in one of the barns. Meanwhile, deputies are getting disturbing deliveries. It leaves Sergeant Corinne Aleckson and Detective Elton Dawes to wonder why they’re being targeted, and what is the firesetter’s message and motive.

Firesetter in Blackwood Township is the 7th of your Winnebago County series. How has your main character Sergeant Corinne “Corky” Aleckson changed since the first book in your series?

Corky has maintained her moral fiber and love of law enforcement, but her personal and professional experiences have influenced and shaped her. She’s been involved in a number of critical incidents that have strengthened her resolve to continue in her chosen field. She’s also fallen more deeply in love with her mentor, Detective Smoke Dawes.

What are the main do’s and don’t’s of series writing?

I believe the key elements for success writing a series are: creating realistic characters who continue to evolve with each book; having an ending that leaves the reader wanting more; and writing each book as either a standalone or as the next book in the series.

Characters need to be living-, breathing-, thinking-people who are interacting with other characters, going to jobs, falling in love, and committing crimes for your readers. How do the characters react under pressure, or when they get knocked down? What are their strengths, their talents, their fears, and vulnerabilities? What role do they play in the story, and what will they do next?

You want people to read the next book in your series, so besides engaging characters, you need stories that hold readers’ interest. Readers need to be satisfied the mystery has been solved, the bad guy has been caught, but they will also find unanswered questions —often in the protagonist’s personal life—to be intriguing.

The most challenging of the three elements is that each book is both a stand-alone and the next in the series. Background information on the characters, laid out in the first book, needs to be shortened to a sentence or two in subsequent books. You don’t want to get bogged down with too much back story. I address past issues and introduce characters from previous stories through conversations between the characters and tapping into Corky’s thoughts about situations and people. You want to limit spoilers, but they’re unavoidable to a degree.

What do you have in common with the main characters in both of your series? 

I share a strong sense of justice and a need to uncover the truth with both protagonists.

What parts of your personal history and background do you draw upon to perpetuate the Winnebago series?

I’ve served as a corrections officer, mental health practitioner, and deputy sheriff. Firsthand experience in those fields has been a great help. I’ve been creating stories all of my life, but a family tragedy sparked the idea for the first Winnebago County Mystery. About halfway through writing it, I started loving the characters and decided what their next two cases would be, based on dramatic incidents that happened when I worked in the sheriff’s office.

What are you reading now, and what genres are you most drawn to?

I’m reading Matt Goldman’s Gone to Dust. I read a variety of subgenres in the mystery genre, but I love well-written books in general, mostly what would be classified as mainstream. I also have a deep appreciation for the classics.

Tell us about your writing process. Are you super disciplined, waking up at 6am every morning to write?

I wish I had a more regular writing schedule, but I also serve as a county commissioner, and my schedule is far from regular. I write when I can. Some days I write fourteen or more hours, and then I go days without writing.

What do you see as key things inexperienced writers get wrong when plotting mysteries? 

Some have too many characters for a reader to keep track of. Or the characters all sound like they have the same voice. Or they can give too much back story, or include detail that isn’t relevant and doesn’t build the plot to move the story along. I read a mystery where the writer didn’t get to the crime/mystery until after one hundred pages, and I wondered when the real story would begin. Reading other authors’ works, taking classes on plot, pacing, and character development, being in a good critique group, or finding honest beta readers are great tools for improving techniques.

Can you tell us anything about your publishing path?

I learned a great deal about the publishing industry working with the editors at Penguin Random House on the Snow Globe Shop Mysteries. That inspired me to start a sole proprietorship business, The wRight Press. I independently published Firesetter in Blackwood Township, and am in the process of gaining full rights to my first six Winnebago County Mysteries. They’ll be published March 1, 2018 under the new company name.

THANK YOU, Christine, for joining us here and sharing your expertise!

Firesetter is available on Amazon in Kindle and trade paperback and can be found here.


High Praise for Christine’s Firesetter in Blackwood Township:

“Thoroughly engrossing journey down the rabbit hole.”~Timya Owen

“I felt like I was searching the crime scenes and investigating with the characters.”~Barbara Schlichting

“This excellent series features a character who is tough but compassionate.”~ Jim Doherty

“A fine addition to Christine Husom’s successful Winnebago series that will give mystery fans an exciting ride.”~Lisa Towles

“Fans of the series will enjoy the overlapping twists and turns as the action steadily builds to a shocking climax.”~Patti Phillips

“With great hanging questions, compelling characters, along with the gorgeous Minnesota setting, Husom’s book leaves one question–when will the next book come out?”~Kathleen Donnelly


To keep informed about Christine’s upcoming releases, check out her website and her Facebook page

Thank you for reading!


Author Spotlight: DIANA DUFF


The genius of Diana Duff’s writing is its elegant simplicity. “It seems such a strange thing to be doing, I thought, however ordinary the surroundings: waiting in a coffee shop in Oxford Street with the London traffic roaring outside, for my mother, whom I would not recognize when she finally arrived.”

With a path that led her from South Africa to Ireland, Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, Ms. Duff’s page-turner memoir, Leaves from the Fig Tree reads more like an adventure novel, submerging us in the vastly different worlds she has known with a story of isolation, travel, rebellion, love, and freedom.

At age 2, she was transported from South Africa to her family’s historic estate in rural Ireland, County Cork, in a Victorian estate called Annesgrove (originally Ballyhimmock), built in the 1700s.

A descendant of the brother of the Earl of Annesley, Diana’s pedigree isolated her as a child within the rigid confines of Victorian life in rural Ireland, with no siblings or other companions except a series of ill-equipped governesses, juxtaposed with the expansive freedom and wild magic of the Africa that called to her again and again.

Diana 5

I talked with Diana from her home in Johannesburg about her story and her writing path:

You were quite the globe-trotter! You went to Kenya from Ireland at age 18, then stayed in Kenya and Tanzania until you were 30, when you went to South Africa. What do you remember most about Africa in your early days there? There was a freedom there that allowed people to live an eccentric way of life doing their own thing. During that time, it was not a very structured society, and it was a fantastic place to live. People were really individuals, they didn’t try to fit into any social system or way of behavior, and they didn’t need to. Kenya was my freedom.

How did living in the midst of the Mau Mau rebellion in Kenya impact your view of the world? I was so young, I didn’t really appreciate the dangers. But we certainly lived in the middle of it all.

In thinking about writing mechanics, is there one thing that you consistently see writers getting wrong? Nowadays there is a tendency to overdo the shock tactics, and maybe that’s required the way the world is now. It seems that authors feel pressured to write about sensationalist topics rather than writing what they feel strongly about, what moves them. And those books aren’t like art and it’s less of a pleasure to read them. In Isak Dineson’s Out of Africa, for example, you can really see the people, you can feel them.

Which is your preference for the books you read – fiction or nonfiction? What are you reading currently? Though I read mostly fiction now, I’m also reading Heat by Ranulph Fiennes and The Story of an African Farm by Olive Schreiner.

Since you’ve seen so much of our world, what do you think is most different about it now compared with when you were younger? Politics, power and money seem to be the ruling factors today. A drive towards material wealth takes all the color out of life  and is not at all appealing. But there are still magical places in the world. Where I work, we have a lovely Moonlight Market – an evening, outdoor organic market with organic foods and lots of gems and minerals, which attract amazing people with amazing stories. Stories are the common thread for me, for everyone.

Everybody’s interesting. Every single

person has got a story to tell.

At age 85, Diana still works – at Bryanston Organic Natural Market, an organic outdoor market and gem and mineral store, where she meets fascinating people every day. “Today I met a man who’s building a life center on Green Island (Queensland), I met two Americans, someone who’d gone to Malaysia on a canoe trip, and someone who’d been gored by a hippo.” And she has written another story (fiction this time), which takes place in Tanzania.

Diana 6

Diana’s book, Leaves from the Fig Tree is published by Rebel e Publishers in Kindle, paperback, and other digital formats and can be purchased on Amazon.

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Thank you for reading! If you’ve enjoyed this post, please Like or Share it with other readers and writers 🙂

Author Spotlight: J.H. BOGRAN


picture1Author J.L. Bogran is a novelist and screenwriter born and raised in Honduras. The son of a journalist, the writing craft is clearly in his blood as evidenced by his media success and list of prolific projects. His debut novel, Treasure Hunt, was selected among Preditors and Editors’ Top Ten in a reader’s poll. Today we’re talking with him about Poisoned Tears – his forthcoming third novel, his writing process, and his other passion: screenwriting.

You’re bilingual in Spanish and English. How did you learn English and how do you decide which language to write in?

Just as practice will get you to Carnegie Hall, the same goes for learning English. I started with basic grammar and conversation practice at a local school, but later my jobs required me to speak English for extended periods of time. First as a front-desk clerk at a hotel, then working in the garment manufacturing industry, where I had to work with people from all over the world. And although I’m a professional translator, I don’t like to work on my own stuff, so the first thing I decide is the language to write the piece. That clears the path for all the decisions that follow.

Do you read in Spanish or English?

I read books, newspapers and almost anything in both languages.

Where did your inventive idea for Poisoned Tears come from?

My wife likes to watch animal shows on TV. One show listed the top ten most dangerous animals. That triggered the idea of “what if somebody used an animal to hide a murder?” I developed the idea further, and it later became an outline of the book. Part of my research took me to New Orleans. I had the notion that my character hated the city but wasn´t clear on why…until I saw a game in the Superdome and thought losing a pro-football career there would make the person hate the venue, and the city by extension.

What does Knox, your protagonist, struggle with the most? And what does he have in common with Sebastian Martin, the main character in your novel Firefall?

Alan struggles a lot, first with his own hatred of the city, then the police rejecting his theory on a serial killer prowling the city. Later he partners with a journalist, only to discover that he doesn’t like the opportunistic writer. Although not directly mentioned in the book, Alan Knox has a younger brother named Bill, who happens to be Sebastian Martin’s boss. So the connection is slim. In terms of what they have in common, they’re both tortured souls, both widowers, and reluctant heroes.

How did you get started writing screenplays?

That can only be attributed to serendipity. A few years ago I ran a video store, and one night a customer dropped by asking if I had any old Buster Keaton movies. Surprised that I even knew who Mr. Keaton was, we started talking about movies, and he told me he was working on a TV project. I volunteered, and first he gave me this look of “Oh, damn, not another guy who thinks he’s better looking than George Clooney!” But when I confessed that my passion was for writing, he told me he was down one writer on his team and offered me a job on the spot. So far, I’ve been a writer for two motion picture scripts, and co-writer for three TV serials. Most recently, I wrote the script for the movie 11 Cipotes (11 Kids), which was considered a contender for the 2015 Oscars in the Foreign Film category. The movie is about a bunch of kids driving everybody crazy in a small town in Honduras. A man studying to become a priest takes the kids to form a soccer team, and then they are invited to a championship in the big city. It’s the adventure of their lives. You can see the trailer here.

Are you disciplined about writing? Do deadlines bring out your best or worst writing?

I wish I were more disciplined. It’s funny how my own creations take a lot of time to finish, but if I do work-for-hire, like a screenplay, I’ll wrap everything up before a deadline. I once finished a first draft of a movie in just four weeks.

Do you write on a computer, sitting properly at a desk, or longhand on coffee-stained napkins in a noisy cafe?

A combination of all of the above, actually. And it depends on the job at hand. For a screenplay, I’d have to sit and type it because of the formatting. However, for novels or short stories, I would write chapters in a notebook, then take a picture of each page and save it to my Dropbox just in case I lose the notebook. Typing them into a computer gives me the extra benefit of doing a first round of edits simultaneously.

What’s your next project?

This is a tricky question to answer, and one I usually avoid. A couple of times my actual next project turns out to be different from the one I described in a previous interview. I’ll compromise and say I’m working on a couple of projects; a sequel to Firefall, a joint project with marvelous British writer Steven Saville, and I’m currently in negotiations to take on another script. So which one will see the light first? Only God knows!

Any favorites in your choice of pens?

Ballpoint I guess. Now, for signing books there’s nothing better than a classical fountain pen!

About Poisoned Tears, forthcoming on March 15, 2017:

Retired Dallas private investigator Alan Knox dislikes New Orleans so much he won’t even drink Abita, the local beer. It all goes back to the day his knee and his promising pro football career were wrecked in a Superdome game with the Saints. But when his estranged son calls and asks for help finding a missing fianceé, the guilt-ridden Texan heads for the Big Easy where he soon finds himself in trouble up to the tops of his snakeskin boots. What starts off as a missing person case turns into a hunt for a serial killer who uses exotic poisonous animals to dispatch his victims. Painfully aware he can’t go it alone, Knox joins forces with an over-the-hill journalist and an unfriendly police detective as he navigates the dark streets and seedy bars in search of his prey. Great plot, colorful descriptions of NOLA and well-drawn characters. Poisoned Tears is full of so many twists and turns that it will make your head spin long before you get to the heart-thumping surprise ending. –Paul Kemprecos

J.H.’s books are published by Rebel ePublishers.

For more information about J.H. BOGRAN, check out www.jhbogran.com, and follow him on these sites:

Thanks for tuning in today, and now…countdown till March 15th!