Author Spotlight: JAKE CAVANAH

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Jake Cavanah began telling stories before he even knew how to write. He’d iterate his stories to his father, who wrote them for him until he learned himself. Being an editor for his high school’s newspaper and majoring in journalism kept Jake writing, but it wasn’t until after college that he realized his passion: creating stories based on his own imagination. He published his first novel The Abandoned in September 2021 and is the author of the short story series Impoverished Wealth. The Abandoned’s sequel is in the works, he is adding to the Impoverished Wealth series, and, just like every other writer, thinks about new story ideas every day. Jake lives in Portland, Oregon with his girlfriend Scout and two dogs Murphy and Sophie.

Author Interview

Jake, thank you for joining me here for this month’s Spotlight. Tell us about your book The Abandoned.

Once an uninhabited island off the Californian coast, the government used Morple to quarantine minorities during the sonoravirus pandemic from 2030 to 2045. At its conclusion, Morple became the country’s fifty-first state. This is where sisters Robin Karros’ and Ariana Jackson’s tragic journey began. As two of the first children officials checked into and raised in a state-run program responsible for inflicting severe abuse on Morple’s youth, they shared hardships that strengthened their bond. After a social revolution put an end to the program and freed them, Robin and Ariana went their separate ways. Now in 2089, as each has achieved prosperity, their paths intersect after spending the latter portion of their lives apart. Even though it goes against protocol, Ariana reestablishes a relationship with her older sister and integrates with her family. In doing so, she risks her marriage and her husband’s business interests, but it causes her to realize she must make up for her life’s biggest mistake. It soon becomes apparent the fate of Robin, Ariana, and others has been more intertwined than they ever could have imagined.

Is The Abandoned part of a series or a standalone novel?

The Abandoned was originally going to be a standalone novel, but near the end of the project, I decided to write a novella as the sequel. The first half of the first draft is nearly done and it will be a two-part novella.

I love the premise of this book – what gave you the idea to write a futuristic dystopian?

When I began writing The Abandoned, the premise was how America’s internment camps during World War II resulted in our fictitious fifty-first state. But after speaking to my favorite professor and former New York Times journalist/best-selling author, he sparked the idea to base it in the future. That way, I had more freedom to create its world, which has a lot to do with our present.

You note that people-watching is one of the ways you get ideas for your fiction. Were the characters of Robin and Ariana inspired by real people you know? 

Absolutely! I’m not going to reveal who those people are, but yes a lot of their strengths, weaknesses, and even circumstances (just not as severe) are inspired by people I know.

Having worked in corporate, do you think corporate day jobs fueled or stifled your creativity and impetus to write?

Fueled because I knew I couldn’t do that for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the energy to write as much as I would’ve liked back then, but I thought about it constantly and knew I’d eventually make it happen.

What does your writing practice look like? Are you consistent and regimented about writing every day?

Prior to my new job, I would wake up at 5:45 a.m. and write Monday through Friday. To get done what I needed to, I had to make time for it elsewhere, too, but those morning sessions were always the most productive. Right now, I’m writing every weekend, and I’m doing my best to wake up at 5:15 a.m. and write. But I can’t lie, I’m finding out those thirty minutes of extra sleep were crucial!

The Abandoned seems like a multi-layered, complex plot. How much time did you spend researching and outlining this book?

Calling it “researching” and “outlining” is too kind – it felt more like throwing ideas at a wall and seeing what stuck. I wrote countless chapters about whatever was on my mind before deciding what I was actually going to include in the book. The bulk of writing The Abandoned occurred in 2020 when, as we all know, a lot was going on. The news and political climate were so in my face that it was more feasible to get creative. While being all over the place is sort of my style when it comes to narrowing down my ideas, I’ve since identified methods that will make this process more manageable for future projects.

What are the top 3 books you’ve read this year?

John Grisham’s The Brethren, Jeff Pearlman’s Three-Ring Circus, and Abigail Dean’s Girl A.

Who inspired you as a writer more than anyone else in your life? 

It’s hard to narrow down to a single person, but I’ll go with author Don Winslow. His stories are absolutely incredible, but hearing his passion when he talks about his work is what really moves me. It took him a while to make it big, and when asked about what kept him motivated, he said something like, “I’ll just write another book.” I think about that often, and it’s a mantra I now live by.

What’s coming up next for you?

At the start of 2022, I’ll be joining Indies United Publishing House, which is super exciting because I’ll connect with so many other talented authors, add more stellar books to my collection, and have another place to share my work. Both The Abandoned sequel and a fourth Impoverished Wealth short story are my current WIPs. The latter will be part of an anthology that I’ll publish with IUPH, and I hope to do the same with the former. My goal is to get both of those done so I can start my second novel, which I haven’t stopped thinking about since I came up with the idea.

Buy The Abandoned

You can buy Jake’s books here:

Amazon author profile

Connect with Jake

AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT: SCOTT MEEHAN

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Cover of Millennial Girl by Scott Meehan

Millennial Girl

Millennial Girl is the third in a three-book series by US military veteran, author, and teacher Scott Meehan, forthcoming by Indies United Publishing House on January 5, 2022. In this book, protagonist Asha Hawkins, the first female Green Beret soldier, embarks on a mission to stop the diabolical human trafficking network involved in robotic replication. When the daughters of Washington’s elite are targeted, Asha is summoned by the President himself to select a special team to rescue the young girls and bring the cartel to its knees. More than confronting an enemy of mere human forces, the cartel’s arsenal includes humanoid forces and world officials in high places—including Asha’s own American government.

Scott Meehan brings a wealth of personal and professional experience to his writing career. He’s a retired military veteran, author, and middle school teacher. He writes both fiction and non-fiction novels and short fiction based on his 25 years of military experience and a world-traveling tour of more than 20 different countries. His passion is fueled by an understanding of the nuances associated with cross-cultural and diverse storytelling. He considers himself a life-learner and teacher with ongoing professional development to build on his academic foundations in education, information management, business, and the military.

Learn more about Scott Meehan below and how he draws on a storied military career and world travels to bring his fiction to life.

Author Interview

Were you always a writer, or did writing come to you later in your life?  Since high school, I have always enjoyed writing stories, but it was only a “now-and-then” hobby. I began writing for publishing two years after retiring from the Army, in 2007.

Wondering about the interplay between your extensive military career and teaching, how is writing related to these parts of your life? Does one fuel the other? My experiences growing up traveling through South America and the military have been the main interplaying that inspires my writing. However, since I have been teaching middle school for the past two years, I have plans for several middle-school-aged stories coming up. One is already in the works, a 1970s Cold War mystery set in one of the places I lived and went to school – Costa Rica. The main characters are in 8th and 9th grade.

I love the idea of the first female Green Beret. Where did you get the idea for this story, and was Asha modeled after a real person? I’ve always thought that a female soldier could be a Green Beret. My belief in this was solidified by some of the female soldiers I encountered in Iraq. My original storyline for the first female Green Beret was written in 2014. In the summer of 2020, the first actual female Green Beret graduated from all of the Special Forces (Green Beret) training phases.

I imagine you’re a very disciplined person, based on your long military career. Are you a highly disciplined writer or do you write whenever the mood strikes? As much as I would like to be more disciplined as a writer, my first priority is being a middle school teacher at the moment. I give this 110% and am very disciplined. Hopefully, I will find more time to write more, but for the moment, I have been squeezing in my writing whenever I can find time. This is a challenge, because I also have six grandchildren, who I love dearly and love spending time with.

What is the primary genre you read, and what books have influenced your writing the most? I mostly read military, though I also enjoy reading mysteries and thrillers. I turn more towards YA and middle school stories to better understand their mindset, though I have a pretty good feel for it now from my own experiences as a teenager, my own kids, a granddaughter, and those I teach. My favorite writing involves the military family that features a series with an Afghan girl, a twelve-year-old girl, and the 12-year old coming of age, as the first female Green Beret.

The books with the most influence include: the Holy Bible, Green Beret (Robin Moore), Killer Angels (Michael Shaara), and the old thrillers by Alistair MacLain, Jack Higgins, Ken Follet, etc.

What one piece of advice would you share for novice writers just getting started on their writing journey?  If you love writing, never allow another to discourage you. Never give up. Write because you love to write!

Stay Connected

Learn more about Scott’s forthcoming books here: https://www.indiesunited.net/scott-meehan and on his author website. You can also follow him on social media:

Buy books by Scott Meehan:

Thank you for reading, and please feel free to leave a question or comment below.

Happy Holidays!

Author Spotlight: LESLIE PIGGOTT

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Author and artist Leslie Piggott’s latest work, Art in Words, is a book of poetry that expresses the feelings and experiences of the author during the continued COVID-19 pandemic. Beautifully paired with watercolor paintings, this book offers comfort to its readers through word and art.

Leslie is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Buda, Texas. She and her husband, Brad, have two children. She has been a long distance runner since middle school and following college graduation began running marathons as a hobby. She has since completed ten full marathons with plans for more once the pandemic ends. Leslie has always loved being creative and in addition to writing, she also knits, crochets, quilts, sews bags and dresses for her daughter, and does watercolor paintings. Always up for a challenge, she frequently designs her own quilt or tote bag patterns.

Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Leslie worked in the field of biomedical sciences, receiving her doctorate in 2008 from the University of Texas Health Sciences Center at Houston. After earning her degree, she worked as an adjunct professor at Houston Baptist University teaching introduction to microbiology to pre-nursing students. When their family relocated to the Austin area, she took on the role of being a full time stay at home mom. She is active in her church, including helping with various children’s ministry activities as well as singing in the choir. She has assisted with the children’s choir program at the church, including writing two melodramas for the children to perform for the congregation and community. Leslie began writing poetry as an outlet to express her feelings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Leslie this week about the release of her new book, her writing process, and upcoming project. Thank you Leslie for joining this month and I’m excited to shine a light on your work!

What is your process for writing poetry? Do poems just come to you fully-formed, or do they take a lot of work and refining? How do ideas about your poems come to you?
A lot of the time, the poems just come to me as I process my feelings in various situations. Sometimes, I’ll see something or hear something and really be struck by a deeper meaning or metaphor that relates to it. For example, I recently wrote a poem about feeling burnt out that was inspired by looking at the dark stained glass windows in our church at nighttime.


You also write novels. Which genre did you write first? Do you consider yourself more of a novelist or a poet? 
I guess the first thing I wrote as an adult was a short story for our local library as part of a contest. My story won and they printed the Word doc and called it “published” even though there is no copyright or anything like that. I have also written a couple of melodramas for our children’s programs at church that were not published. My first “real” published work was poetry and watercolor in March of 2021. I’m still kind of wrapping my head around being a published author. so I think I mostly consider myself an artist who writes. 


What is the interplay between writing and art for you? Did they always co-exist in your life, or did one come first?
I’ve always been a very creative person. In college, my now husband (then friend) used to tell people that I was the most creative engineer he’d ever met. As a child, I would answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with ‘draw-er’ as I did not know the word artist. My mom told me that I knew all 10 basic colors at 18 months and would frequently ask, “What’s that?” to random objects or clothing, wanting to know the specific color name, not that it was a shirt. I took up watercolor pretty seriously in the summer of 2019 and my poetry/writing habits have kind of woven their way into my creative process.


Have you had any writing mentors along your writing journey? Who has been your biggest inspiration? 

Jennie Rosenblum really helped me mold my novel (Rising Pressure, to be released January 26, 2022) into a story that people would enjoy reading. I took up writing poetry as a creative outlet during the pandemic; a lot of my poems were inspired by my overwhelming feelings. 


Who are your top 3 favorite poets and why?
The writers of the book of Psalms. This probably sounds a little odd, but if you read my poems, many of them are more like prayers or psalms. This wasn’t necessarily my goal, but it is often the case. Amanda Gorman – hearing her read her poem “The Hill We Climb” on Inauguration Day was really inspiring. She was this young, yet powerful voice, sharing her words that everyone in our nation welcomed. None of my poems are anywhere near as long or amazing as hers, but I hope that they spark emotion in others too. Robert Frost – his poem “The Road Not Taken” has always stuck with me since the first time I read it. I like being unique; my daughter also embraces her individuality, which makes me very proud. I debated between putting him in the top 3 or Elisabeth Elliot, whose poem “Do the Next Thing” has been popular for many years. 


Do you have any poet or poem recommendations that readers can check out?
One poet that I’ve started reading a little more of in recent months is David Whyte. He writes poems with a similar style to mine.


If someone wanted to start experimenting with poetry, what tips could you share about how to get started? 
One thing I like about poetry is the subtle message that comes through without the words being there, if that makes sense. You don’t have to write, “I was really upset because no one was listening.” You can just write “unheard” or “the pain of being unheard”. In that way, it’s similar to loose style watercolor painting: you don’t have to paint every petal of a flower or every blade of grass in a field. If you give it the shape and dimension of the idea/object you’re wanting to show, people will see it. People will hear your words within your words. So, I guess my advice is to simplify what you’re wanting to express.

Learn more and connect with Leslie here:

  • Instragram: @craftypiglet
  • Twitter: @lesliepiggott

And you can buy Leslie’s poetry book Art in Words on Amazon now. Please take a moment to review Leslie’s book on Amazon and Goodreads.

Thank you Leslie for joining us here and warmest congrats on your new release!

Released!!!

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Graphic created by Tatiana Villa

It feels wonderful to finally have my new book out and available in the world in all formats! 📚

Ninety-Five is not officially a Young Adult novel but it reads like one. It’s edgy, fast-paced, complex, multi-layered, and (I hope) the human story behind the main character, Zak Skinner, will stay with you long after you reach the last page.

This book is about doors, danger, family secrets, hidden codes, and the blurred lines between right, wrong, redemption, and justice. And Zak is a flawed, paranoid, jaded college student hell bent on finding the truth no matter what it costs him.

It’s available now on Amazon in Kindle, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook and available from all retail book outlets including Target and Walmart.

Buy it here: Ninety-Five https://www.amazon.com/dp/1644563347/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_TGJB079QV88XG6YDXJTQ

If you buy and read this book, please consider taking two minutes to post a review on Amazon or Goodreads citing one thing you liked about it. Reader reviews have profound influence and I’d be very grateful for yours.

Next…HOT HOUSE! It’s the first of a new PI thriller series and it will be published by Indies United next summer. Stay tuned for more details 🙂

Thanks for following me and for your support! Glad to have you with me on my writing journey.

Book Promotion Cheatsheet for Debut Authors

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October 31, 2021

Congratulations on your forthcoming book! As if writing a book wasn’t already a big deal, now you’re going to be published (or published again), and that’s an accomplishment worth celebrating.

To get the most out of your new book release, this Cheatsheet includes some very basic steps you can take to start to cultivate what publishers, agents, and authors refer to as an Author “Platform”. Like the name implies, a platform is a foundational structure on which to build other things, like your social media presence, the industry credibility of your writing, your unique personality and writer-voice, and most important, your following of online readers, writers, wannabe-authors, and other contacts who will begin to care about and follow what you say, share, and promote online.

This Cheat Sheet is specifically for writers who don’t yet have a platform and a following, so they can dip a toe in the water, realize they won’t drown from too much work, lay the groundwork for their future author platform which they build on, and help them feel good about themselves as an author and a media presence.

THE BASICS

There’s a basic skeleton “stack” that you can easily put together to begin to cultivate your platform and online following. These elements will together help you unify your message and get you and your book out in front of a variety of potential readers/buyers from different communities to build interest and get people excited enough to buy your book when the time comes. That promo stack includes: 

  1. Website 
  2. Amazon author page
  3. Facebook author page
  4. Instagram
  5. Twitter 

Note that all of these are FREE. You can, of course, pay someone to host, build, and manage your author website, but there are a number of sites that allow you to do that at no-cost, including WordPress.com. 

Website

Your website, wherever it’s hosted, should include an About link with your bio and experience, a link to your upcoming book with the cover, description, and any editorial reviews or blurbs, and that’s all that really needed at first. You can always build on this content later, and create a blog, or other links related to your writing, work, and passions so readers can get to know you. 

Tip: Don’t include TOO much content here. It’s easy for viewers to get bored and leave if your website it too complicated and doesn’t answer their question quickly. 

See related article for pro tips: https://blog.reedsy.com/author-websites/ 

45+ Author Websites with Stellar Designs
34 Best WordPress Themes for Writers & Authors 2021 - Colorlib

Amazon Author Page

Next, your Amazon “Author Page”. This is what readers will see when they look YOU up on Amazon. When they look up your book title, that will be a different page. But you’ll use a site called Amazon Author Central to develop the page that comes up when someone clicks on your name. 

Tip: Editorial reviews are key here, which means professional reviews, or “blurbs” (testimonials from other published authors), but don’t forget to write a compelling bio about your background, experience, and writing credits. And if you don’t yet have any writing credits, that’s okay – just include a short paragraph about your background is fine at this stage.  More tips here: https://greatstorybook.com/how-to-make-amazon-com-work-for-you-part-1-author-page/ 

Making the Most of Your Amazon Author Page - City Book Review

Facebook Author Page

Your Facebook “Author page” is different from a regular Facebook social media page, because here you can establish yourself as an Author and specifically post content related to your upcoming book, other books, and your writing. 

Audience: Most Facebook users tend to be in the GenX range, as Facebook became popular when they were in their early 20’s. But it’s also widely used by Boomers and Millennials.

Tip: The advantage of a Facebook author page is that here you’ll reach older audiences for your book. Also, hashtags aren’t as important on Facebook as they are on other sites. More tips here: https://gatekeeperpress.com/how-to-create-a-facebook-author-page-2019/

Why having a Facebook author page for your book is (mostly) useless –  Creativindie

Instagram Author Account

Instagram could be your most important social media page. Why? Because it’s become one of the most popular social media sites among Millennials, GenZ, and teens. Instagram is primarily about pictures so your post will always start with an image, and you can include text content (of any length) to caption your picture and influence what your audience thinks about it. 

Audience: Variety of younger audiences, including teens, GenZ, Millennials, and GenX

Tips: As Instagram (sometimes called Insta or IG) is all and only about images, make sure the image you share is cropped to the right shape and dimensions (square), high resolution, crisp, and eye-catching. Viewers are much more likely to view, like, and appreciate your accompanying text content if your image is top notch. If you don’t have your own image to share, you can find free high res images at pexels.com and unsplash.com. Hashtags are super important here, as viewers like to type in keywords in the search bar and find a feed of content related to their unique interests. Hashtags will include your post in those searches and help you reach new audiences and build your following. Instagram users also LOVE emojis (no more than 1-2 per post).

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Twitter

There’s a HUGE writing community on Twitter, made up writers of all different ages, cultures, experience, and publishing  types (self-published authors, traditionally-published authors, and everything in between). So it’s a great site to include as you’re building your platform. A “tweet” is just the name of a post. But, unlike Facebook and Instagram, there’s a length-limit on Twitter – specifically 280 characters (which translated to between 40-70 words including spaces). This length limit is how Twitter became popular many years ago, because viewers get the chance to read small bits of content and view a wide variety of content quickly by scrolling through very short posts. The tricky part is that you need to be very strategic about what you’re posting. Words really matter when you only have 280 characters! 

Audience: A variety of older audiences, including Millennials, GenX, and Boomers. The advantages of older audiences? They’re loyal, discerning about what they buy, and they have money to invest in books. 

Tip: “Pinned” tweets are a way to have an important tweet always-visible as soon as someone visits your profile page because it always stays pinned to the top of the list. A pinned tweet can include a compliment someone gave you on your writing, or a writing “success” (getting a story accepted for publication by a literary journal). 

Authors on Twitter: 55 Stunning Header Image Examples

Goodreads

Then, once your book is about to be released, it’s also a good idea to create a profile on Goodreads. That means finding your book on Goodreads, claiming that book as yours, writing a welcoming message to your readers, and treating that as one of the profiles on your author platform as a way to track reviews and interact with your readers. Learn more here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/program 

Profile Strategies

  • Make all of your social media profiles (meaning the text you include there and also the banner/photo) similar but not identical
  • Use the same 1 or 2 profile images for all of them – for consistency of brand
  • Include links to your website or Amazon author page in your profiles
  • Create profile names that are similar and “autherly” (writertowles, towlesauthor, etc)
  • Add something about your book writing on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is more of a professional networking website, but it has a lot of street cred and it’s to your advantage if your readers can read a little bit about the writing part of your life wherever they read about you.

Hashtags

A “hashtag” is a word or two words preceded by a “hash” symbol or “#”. These became popular years ago as a way of including your content in a category of similar content for viewers interested in that topic. Example: If you’re a travel writer and you’re going to Hawaii to create a blog, vlog (video blog), or other content on your travels, you would include something like #Hawaii #Maui #travel #explore #happiness at the end of your content (room-permitting) so readers interested in those keywords will see your Tweet or content when they search for it. 

Posting Frequency

Try to post new content at least once a week on all of your social media sites. This can be original content that you write yourself, or else forwarding/sharing/retweeting content that someone else has shared (adding a comment from you about what you like about it). And as you get closer to your book release date, post more frequently to help build momentum and excitement.

Reach out to me for questions and stay tuned for more content forthcoming to support new and first-time authors. Congrats again on your upcoming book release and there’s lots of support available for new authors. Book promotion is not rocket science, you can do this!

Helping you SHINE,

Lisa Towles

Indies United author

lisamarietowles@gmail.com 

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New 5-Star Review

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I was delighted to see this 5-star review of my new thriller Ninety-Five posted yesterday by The Book Commentary!

“A compelling thriller and a propulsive read for fans of crime and YA fiction, Ninety-Fiveby Lisa Towles introduces Zak Skinner, a young protagonist and a student at the University of Chicago. When Zak uncovers evidence of organized crime taking place in campus, he is determined to dig to the very bottom of it. The clues lead to more sinister discoveries, and he finds himself faced with a criminal organization with strong ties to the dark web, a world where students are manipulated and blackmailed into committing crimes and on camera. The tortuous path leads the troubled Zak to a house in an abandoned industrial park, where he discovers he is not only hunted by dangerous criminals but that he must come face to face with the one thing he has been running from: his own past!

This is a fascinating story with a fully drawn and sophisticated protagonist. Zak is a deeply and genuinely flawed character whose curiosity and drive to right a wrong will put him into grave danger, and it is interesting to notice how this young man who sets out to hunt criminals become the one being hunted. The prose in Ninety-Five is dazzling, sprinkled with vivid descriptions and engaging dialogues. Towles deftly conveys the depth of human psyche and the humanity of a complex protagonist whose desire for a new start in a new university plunges him into a chaotic world riddled with crime and danger. The unpredictability in plot will be torturing for some readers as they race through the pages, guessing what happens next. 

The fun is never sacrificed and the story is never lacking the drama that elevates the quality of great writing, and as the reader reads from page to page, they find themselves submerged deeper into the twisted web of crime. This sprawling tale of crime and intrigue is a winner and it is hard to not get engaged with the realistic and likeable young protagonist. The descriptions are vivid and detailed and the darkness that attacks the soul of the protagonist rubs off on the reader. The world this author creates is detailed and well-imagined, crafted to engulf the reader and force them to follow the clues towards an unpredictable denouement. This author delivers an intelligently plotted story that keeps the reader engaged from first to last page. The first-person narrative voice is expertly delivered and absorbing and the characters are unforgettable, imagined in a complex web of crime.”

See the published review here: https://thebookcommentary.com/view-book.php?id=170&banner=no

Author Spotlight: GLENDA CARROLL

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Glenda Carroll is the author of the Trisha Carson Mystery Series set in the San Francisco Bay area. Today we’re talking to her about the release of Book 3 in her series, Dead Code. Book 1, Dead in the Water and Book 2, Drop Dead Red, are also available.

About Glenda

Glenda draws on her long history with swimming, surfing, and sailing for this series. ​She was a long time sports columnist for the Marin Independent Journal, focusing on sailboat racing. She also wrote for local, national and international sailing publications, then branched into travel writing and her features have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, Travel & Leisure, Sail, Ford Times, Yacht Racing, Chevron USA, Defenders of Wildlife, and Bay & Delta Yachtsman. She also wrote a twice-weekly column for PacificWaverider.com, a surfing website, for several years. Glenda has raced in more than 150 open water swim events in Northern California, as well as Hawaii and Perth, Australia. And when she’s not writing or swimming, she tutors first-generation high school and college students in English.

What’s Dead Code about?

Amateur sleuth Trisha Carson is being watched – by a laptop that tracks her online life, by a blue-eyed athlete who guides her through an open water swim, and by Frida, her smart refrigerator. What are they looking for? A determined Trisha hunts down her stalkers and stumbles across a grim plan that will echo throughout the West Coast.

Q&A

What’s the most exciting part of writing a thriller series?

When a character shows up that I wasn’t expecting. I am learning along with the protagonist about this new character. Is he/she really who they say they are? Friend or foe?  It is fascinating to watch a character develop. It feels completely out of my control, which I know sounds strange.

Most challenging? 

To make it realistic. My protagonist is not a detective or a policewoman. Guts can only take her so far. She has to know what to do to protect herself. There are times I wish she had Wonder Woman’s superpowers, then I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Unfortunately, I’m not writing fantasy.

How did you become interested in cybercrime? 

I kept reading about businesses, health systems and cities being shut down tight by ransomware. This cyber-espionage fascinated me. When I learned that cities were shut down and all their information was encrypted, I had trouble believing what I was reading. My cybercrime expert basically explained to me, that cybercriminals get into a system just like they hack into a personal credit card. Someone clicks on a link they shouldn’t, which unleashes a virus that spreads throughout their system. Much of it happens because of one little click!

And this launched the idea for Dead Code?

Yes, it was a very interesting concept. Especially when cyber currency changed hands on the dark web to purchase the code to unlock the encryption key.

What does Trisha Carson care about the most in Dead Code? 

In Book 3, she seems to be having yet another identity crisis. At first, she just needed a place to land and get over a very strange breakup with her husband. So she moved from Colorado back to Marin County in northern California and was originally living in her sister’s spare room. Now that she has some stability and can think about her life, she wants more. Family is very big for her. She needs the connection with her sister, her nephew, her sister’s sweetheart and her newly re-appeared father to feel solid and safe.

In what ways did Trisha change through the story evolution in the series? 

Good question. In Dead in the Water (Book1), she was very tightly strung, very snippy with her sister. They nagged each other a lot. She was pushy, focused, and really didn’t listen too much to others. She has mellowed slightly by the third book. She still thinks the world revolves around her when she’s working on a case, but she is beginning to realize that she is alienating the people she loves with that attitude.

In what ways is Trisha NOT like you?  

She is much braver than me. I would never break into someone’s house or confront a bad guy. I am too much of a wimp. I’m glad when someone else does it, but I want to stay safe. I don’t always say what I’m thinking. I keep my thoughts to myself, mostly, and Trisha’s very outspoken.  

What advice would you give a novice writer who was planning to write a series? 

Get to know your characters. They should naturally change and evolve over a series. Growth is a good thing.

What’s next in the Trisha Carson Series?

For Book 4, I was playing around with a modernization of Hamlet. Example: Hamlet is a student that comes home to Denmark when his father dies. His father’s ghost tells him that Hamlet’s uncle, his father’s brother, killed him and already married his mother.  I was thinking of having the student come home from college when he learns of the death of his father. He finds out that his uncle and his mother had been having a long-time affair. Both the father and the uncle are open water swimmers and one—or both—die in a San Francisco Bay swim. I have to get water in there somewhere.

Dead Code is published by Indies United Publishing House and is available in Kindle and paperback formats on Amazon and from most retail booksellers.

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Thank you for reading for and supporting authors and writers!

Happy Halloween!

New Email Newsletter

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I’m new to mailing lists and email newsletters, but I created my first in August and I’ve just sent a second one with news about my upcoming Ninety-Five techno thriller release and related book events, panels, and speaking engagements I’ve lined up this fall. Soon I’ll have some updates to share about my next book – the first of a 3-book thriller series.

Stay up to date by subscribing here: http://eepurl.com/hFmk8P and email me if you’d like me to forward my September 20th news.

Thank you for supporting me on my writing journey…and reach out to let me know how I can support you!

Author Spotlight: BENJAMIN BRADLEY

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Rainbow Mountain, outside of Cusco, Peru

**UPDATE: “Trouble Afoot” is officially released and available TODAY, September 29th – you can buy the book and read a sample HERE!

Author Benjamin Bradley grew up in Parsippany, New Jersey. He currently resides in Durham, North Carolina where he consults for nonprofits and international development organizations. He credits his love of books and writing to his mother who taught him at a young age to appreciate and enjoy stories. Mysteries, thrillers and biographies are among the genres he most frequently reads. When he’s not writing, Ben is an avid traveler and hiker who also enjoys juggling while running half-marathons. Ben is an AmeriCorps Alum and StartingBloc Fellow with a passion for improving the world.

Let’s talk about Trouble Afoot, Ben’s latest release:

When three people vanish from the same patch of forest, it looks unlike any case that Detective Delaney Shepard has ever seen in the sleepy beachside village of Brewster, Massachusetts. As she investigates, she soon learns that the scene of their disappearance has been the source of urban legends for centuries. After all, whether they’re true or not, the whole town fears The Punkhorns. When the case stalls, the town hires Casper Kelly, an out-of-town private investigator, to bring some order to the chaos that has erupted in the town. Delaney reluctantly teams up with the outsider and prays that he’ll wrap this up quickly. But even Casper has no explanation for this puzzling case. As they work together to unravel the cryptic evidence left behind, the case takes a sudden twist. Then another. Soon, Casper and Delaney suspect that the truth may be far more sinister than any urban legend…

Trouble Afoot is a page-turning mystery that brings together a unique group of people including park rangers, two cousins, and Big Foot. Combining the paranormal with the everyday, Trouble Afoot keeps you glued to each page as you try and figure out who did what to whom.” – Glenda Carroll, Author of the Trisha Carson Mystery Series


Author Interview

How did your heist novel, The Stash, lead you to create your Shephard & Kelly series?

The Stash was formative in that it was my first attempt to write a full length novel and also my biggest learning experience to date. I was always a voracious reader, particularly with mysteries and thrillers, but when you’re facing the blank page with just an idea in your head, it’s a much different ask. The Stash taught me a lot of plotting, story structure and how a good twist is pulled off.

Can you share which forest in Cape Cod inspired your book Welcome to the Punkhorns? And do you have the same experience walking through that forest now that you’ve written a book about it?

The actual forest is called “Punkhorn Parklands” in Brewster on Cape Cod. My parents retired there a handful of years ago and I was always drawn to the vast forest in the middle of a beach town. On long runs and hikes, I’d let my mind wander and, soon enough, I had the skeleton of a plot. This summer I was fortunate enough to walk through the Punkhorns with family who had read the book and it was an incredible experience to share with them. Nobody went missing. As far as I know…

I love how you said on your blog, “I like mysteries that mislead you.” (I do too!) Why do you think red herrings like this enhance the experience of the reader? Answer from both author and reader perspectives.

This is the secret sauce. I think that a good mystery is a duel. The author is trying to guide you one way and shroud the truth. The reader knows the author’s intentions and digs into every line of dialogue and random reference to see if that was actually a tip off. When things like red herrings pop up, the reader is faced with deciding what is designed to mislead them. It’s like a puzzle. And (especially after COVID) who doesn’t love a good puzzle?

I loved Detective Shephard and Casper Kelly as an investigation team. What did you enjoy the most about crafting their evolving relationship? Do you think more Shephard and Kelly stories are waiting to be told?

When I wrote Welcome to the Punkhorns, I had no intentions of making it a series. To me, I just had that one story to tell and then I planned to move on to new characters and ideas. Eventually, readers told me how much they loved their dynamic (and Hoagie) and wanted more. The most popular question I got from readers was “When’s the next one coming out?” So, there will be more. That much is certain. In terms of crafting their relationship, I liked the notion that the reader would have more information than they would. Casper doesn’t know how Delaney feels and vice versa. So, for once the reader is in the driver’s seat and can observe with a grin on their face. Everybody has had a moment where you met somebody that you were drawn to. I like to think this is my little way of reminding folks to take a chance if that happens to you.

When thinking about your process for writing novels, are you a highly disciplined writer or do you allow yourself a lot of freedom? Do you have any effective writing practices you’d like to pass on to novice writers?

I’m a plotter, meaning I write out a pretty strong outline and work off of that. With each of my novels to date, I’ve known the ending before I knew where things would start. The middle is the scary part but once you piece it together, it’s incredible to watch the story fall in line.

To be fair, I’d still mark myself in the novice category just because of the magnitude of knowledge out there about writing mysteries and novels. I’ve continued to learn more and more with each page I’ve written, so maybe my advice would just be: keep writing.

How does traveling ignite your creativity and inspire your passion for storytelling? 

In all of my travels, some of my favorite memories are of the stories I heard locals tell. Each little town has its own quirks and characters. Some are honestly more unebelieveable than fiction. As a writer, it’s a gift to get to hear other’s stories. Listen to how they’re told. Watch how others react. See how they stick in your memory. All of that, it’s the foundation to my ability to tell a story at all.

What was the most memorable book you read this summer?

Survive the Night by Riley Sager – A true can’t-put-this-down book. I’m a late night reader, often in bed, and I am embarrassed to admit how late I stayed up trying to get to a resolution. It’s a true fast-paced, non-stop thriller with a pretty simple premise. A girl gets into a car and soon realizes the driver may be a serial killer. That’s a hook.

What are you writing now, and do you have another book scheduled for release?

I have a few works in progress but I’m putting the finishing touches on a third Casper & Delaney story (series known as the Shepard & Kelly Mysteries). In my mind, I had three ideas. If they go beyond this, that’s great. But there is more Casper & Delaney coming.

Trouble Afoot book details:

  • Release date: September 29, 2021
  • Publisher: Indies United Publishing House, LLC
  • Book 2 of the Shephard and Kelly Series
  • Amazon Pre-Order Link

Stay updated about Ben’s books and writing by following him here:

If you like this Author Spotlight, please leave a comment below.

Thanks for reading!

Self Care for Writers

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[This article was originally published in the Sisters in Crime The Stiletta August 2021 newsletter. To read the entire article, click here and go to page 7.]

Do you ever feel like querying, submitting, and constantly searching for a publisher or agent is like always being hungry and rarely being fed? Well, there’s more than just a publishing contract that can feed the longing of a writer’s soul.

[Pull quote] Happiness comes from what we do. Fulfillment comes from why we do it. – Simon Sinek

Why do you write? Do you work a bleeder of a day job and write novels on the side because you crave a creative outlet? Are you retired from a successful career and finally diving into the novel that’s been haunting you for decades? Are you a travel blogger touring the world, or have you always written, since childhood, as a means of escape?

We read a lot about self-care on things like yoga websites, in spirituality magazines, but rarely do I see this guidance slanted toward the writing path. And there’s more to self-care than yoga and massages. It’s about tuning in and being real with ourselves about our dreams, our capacity, our limits, and our needs.  

The writing life comes with lots of perks – freedom, flexibility, creative expression, and eccentricities are more than welcome. But what about the challenges we face, like loneliness, disappointment, burnout, and overwhelm? Exhaustion, frustration, and unmet expectations? No one ever talks about the emotions we repress to prevent rejections from derailing us. We develop grit and tenacity, and those coping mechanisms are mission-critical survival tools. And rejections aren’t without value either, because they’re evidence of productivity and courage. You can’t get rejected if you’re not writing and putting your work out there. But what happens to our hearts and souls when we receive a rejection (or hundreds of them) …or get nothing back at all? Does something die inside us, or is a new level of persistence born making us even more unstoppable? Either way, writers need emotional support, and not just here and there. We need it consistently.

Having a plan for your writing path and future is great. And having the energy and drive to execute that plan is even better. But at some point, your culture of multitasking can easily turn to self-sabotage and overwhelm, resulting in a pattern of ignoring your needs. Ilene Strauss Cohen from Psychology Today writes about this in her article What It Really Means to Take Care of Yourself. The writing path is often deadline-driven. How far will you go to meet a writing goal? My benchmark is if I need coffee to stay up late enough to write, I’m too tired. Go to bed!

Admit it – the process of creation is exhausting. We need mental rest from the constant, micro-decision making required for writing and outlining complex stories, not to mention the decisions and strategy needed to navigate the ever-changing publishing landscape. Writing is solitary and often lonely. It’s easy to feel depressed, unworthy, and invisible after a long string of rejections. Many of us write stories and novels in addition to sustaining demanding day jobs, consulting, and family responsibilities. We manage multiple workloads, juggling way too many things, and God knows we haven’t had a vacation in over a year. We need to regularly restore, replenish, and revive our creative spirit. How do we do that?

Self-Care Habits for Writers

  1. Take a break – take a day or two off if you’ve been pushing yourself hard and feel burned out, depressed, uninspired, or resentful. Or if you’re stuck and don’t know how to move forward with your story, take two weeks or even a month off to give your mind some space from it. Work on another project or start something completely new.
  2. Take care of your vessel – stretch your writing muscles: back, neck, arms, hands, and cover the basics like food and hydration.
  3. Set small, reasonable goals – that way you can meet them easily, and small successes lift the spirit.
  4. Celebrate your wins, even small wins – buy yourself a present.
  5. Acknowledge and grieve your losses – talk to friends, family, or your writing connections, or use journaling to validate your feelings, whatever they are.
  6. Say NO! – Boundaries are an effective form of self-care because they demonstrate self-respect and awareness of our capacity. Saying no also demonstrates our self-awareness and attunement to our higher needs.
  7. Ask for help when you need it – from a writing coach, an editor, proofreader, or marketing consultant.
  8. Get more sleep – so many benefits here, to physical and also emotional/mental wellness.
  9. Fresh air – Spending time outdoors and in nature is a great way to chill and breathe and give space to your day.
  10. Community – don’t always write alone. Talk to a writing companion about your writing dreams, your current projects, and your progress. Join a SinC NorCal write-in, a critique group, or find a writing partner. Even during a pandemic, this can be done virtually.
  11. Perfect your writing habitat – Where do you write? On the floor in the dark with your computer on your lap? Even if your ergonomic position needs adjusting, you can still bring a sense of comfort to your writing habitat with a candle, comfortable slippers, and a cozy chair. When it comes to comfort, details matter! We already keep track of so many of those details with our stories, characters, jobs, and families. Now, it’s time yourself.  

If we can reserve a bit of the energy we usually give everyone else and give it to ourselves, who knows what kinds of magic could result.

What are your self-care tools how do you use them? Would love to hear and thanks for sharing.