Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Weight of Emptiness

Born and raised in the rural hills of East Tennessee, Bronson L. “Bo” Parker began cobbling words together for money at the age of sixteen. The ensuing years included an internship with the Wall Street Journal, work as both a news reporter and sports writer for several newspapers, and along the way, work was mixed with study to earn a degree in journalism from UT-Knoxville,
          After thirteen years in the newspaper world, Parker moved to a management position with Newport News Shipbuilding in Newport News, Virginia where he spent four and a half years before accepting an appointed position as a public official with his adopted City of Hampton, Virginia.

When he left the newspaper business, he did not abandon word cobbling. Historical non-fiction articles and books on events in his adopted city and state satisfied his word-cobbling addiction until he turned to fiction after his retirement. THE WEIGHT OF EMPTINESS is the second installment in the life of Joe McKibben. The first one, THE PROVIDENCE OF DEATH was published in 2010.
I met Bronson a few years back at Cape Fear Crime Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina and instantly loved his dry wit and cuteness.

It's nice to have you on the blog at last, Bronson.

Good to be here, Susan.

How has your environment affected your writing?

A childhood curiosity as to the why of things has never been outgrown. An early introduction to journalism with its five “Ws”¾who, what, when, where, and why¾heightened that curiosity. However, in the rush of daily publication, there was seldom time to dig deeply into the why behind many of the stories.

Turning to historical non-fiction did little to satisfy the hunger. Historical records can be long on facts. But beyond scholarly works that most often rely on supposition and speculation, the whys that led to decisions and events are an elusive element.

When turning to fiction—where everything is created from scratch— the freedom existed to create the whys behind Joe McKibben’s decisions and the actions he takes.

Give a short synop of your most recently published book.

Joe McKibben, retired chief of detectives in Hampton, Virginia, is wrestling with the emptiness of widowhood when, against his better judgment, he agrees to a friend’s request to look for a woman who has left town without telling anyone where she has gone, or why. Joe’s search becomes an odyssey that leads him to several small towns about the Virginia countryside. He ultimately meets the woman and learns why she left town without telling anyone. In the end, Joe realizes what he observed and heard during his odyssey has given him the resolve to get past his feeling of emptiness and move to the next stage in his life.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Since making the choice, for the most part, to write in the first person POV, a lot of personal viewpoints are reflected in how Joe McKibben sees the world.

This ought to be interesting.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

It was the continuing struggle to hone the skills of a different trade. Years of writing news/sports and historical non-fiction was the work of a mason, building walls out of stones of fact, held together with mortar. Fiction demands the skills of a carpenter, building wood-frame walls. Both types of walls have to be straight, plumb, and level. But there are far more different materials and methods of assembly in a wood-frame wall with which one has to become proficient. I am still serving my apprenticeship.

That's the best darn answer I've ever heard!
Do you travel to do research or for inspiration? Can you share some special places with us?

          Since my traveling days are over, I rely on my fifty plus years of living in historic Virginia and the many unique individuals I met during my working days. There’s always seems to be a place or individual that crawls out of a memory cell when needed for a setting or character in a scene.

What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? What advice can you give new writers?

It is exactly what the late Bill Tapply said to me when I started writing fiction. “It is the hardest thing a person can attempt.” The first draft may be the result of inspiration. But rewriting, “getting the words right,” is the result of perseverance and perspiration. No better advice can be passed on than to emphasize the need to accept the truth of Bill’s comment and decide if the resolve to make the commitment is within. 

Wow! Another great answer and super advice to all of us. 
Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

          Ideas are stored in my head where things are allowed to germinate and sprout like growth in the cracks of a sidewalk. As things progress, there’s a lot of weeding done to find the right ingredients to mix up an acceptable salad.

Great analogy, Bo.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

          That is the big question. Since hitting the road is no longer possible, the Internet will be my only connection with the world. How that tool will be used is still to be determined. The best I can say at the moment is that if a reader likes the book, recommend it to a friend, or write a brief review on Amazon where the book is currently available for the Kindle

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

          The idea in the beginning was that Joe McKibben’s story would be a three-book series. That is still the plan, but there is no time frame involved. Beyond that, something else will sprout up to grab my attention. I do know this. I’ll be writing something. “When something takes hold of your soul, it’s a part of you forever.”   

All writers understand that response. Thanks for letting me interview you. I wish you lots of success with both books. Hugs!

Enjoyed the questions, Susan. Take care.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Bill Thompson needs no introduction in North Carolina

Bill Thompson and I are sitting on the front porch, rocking and eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, washed down with sweet iced tea. Our conversations always contain tidbits and stories around the state we love and then turn to books and writing. It doesn't get any better than this!

 Bill Thompson is a North Carolina native who has been writing about The South and particularly North Carolina for nearly forty years.  He began writing a column for his local paper then expanded that into over thirty papers in North and South Carolina.  He wrote a regular column for Our State Magazine for over a decade.  Our State (Mann Media) published three of Bill’s books:   Sweet Tea, Fried Chicken and Lazy DogsPearls Pork Palace,(a collection of short stories) and Backyards, Bow Ties and Beauty Queens.  He is an active speaker for numerous events throughout The South. And an excellent one, I might add.

Bill, while we finish up lunch, let's talk some more about your personal writing. I know you love North Carolina as much as I do and I love to showcase the state in my writing too. How has your environment affected your writing?

The old axiom “Write about what you know.” certainly applies to me.  All of my books, columns, plays – everything I write—is taken from my experiences.  I grew up in the rural South so that’s what I write about.

And you write it in such a delightful and entertaining way.

Why, thank you, Susan.

How many books have you written?

I have written two books of essays/commentaries, one collection of short stories, and my first novel, Celia Whitfield’s Boy.

Give a short synopsis of your most recently published book.

Celia Whitfield’s Boy is historical fiction centered around a young man growing up during the lumber industry boom of the early part of the twentieth century in southeastern North Carolina.  He has to deal with personal relations with two women while confronting racism and politics connected with the governor's election of 1924. Of course, it’s much more complex than that but you said keep it short.

LOL. Yes, I've read the book and there's plenty going on. I hope historical fiction readers will pick up a copy.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book? 

The character of Jacob Whitfield is based on my Grandfather Council.  My grandfather and I were very close and, certainly, at least some of my grandfather’s characteristics were passed on to me. My personal slogan “Everything in the world is personal”  applies to my writing, including this novel.  Jacob and I share a lot of the same perspective on personal relationships and struggle with the cynical/realistic approach versus the more idealistic concepts of politics and the role we can play in that regard.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

I had to do a lot of research.  Since, contrary to some observations, I wasn’t actually around during the 1920s I interviewed a lot of people who were around  as well as looking up historical material to make sure I was being authentic in my image of the time and place.  Jacob is a lawyer in the story and that necessitated my reliance on my friend and attorney, Marvin Tedder, to make sure the interpretation of the law during that time and place was authentic.  Of course, his caveat that covers all that is, “The law back then in rural areas like ours was whatever the sheriff and the judge said it was.”

Do you travel to do research or for inspiration? Can you share some special places with us?

I didn’t really have to travel much to do the research and since my inspiration was my grandfather I didn’t have to go away to remember him.

What advice can you give new writers?

 The best advice I would give to new writers is , “Don’t be in a hurry.  Take time to let whatever muse you have speak to you, then revise and revise and revise.  Don’t try to write like somebody else.  Develop your own style”.

Great advice, Bill!

Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

Many years ago I used to carry a small tape recorder with me when I traveled, but now I just try to remember things I see and hear.  And sometimes I just make it up.

You can remember things? Wow! I have to write everything down ;-(
 We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I don’t understand internet marketing, so I leave that up to my publisher.  My most effective way of selling my books is through my speaking engagements around the country.  In my talks I talk about my life growing up in The South and those things that inspired my books.

And you sell lots of books. I've been there. I've sat beside you at signings and I've seen the lines. Your dynamic personality and that deep voice don't hurt either. You're a Southern gentleman and I'm proud to call you a friend.

Why, thank you, Susan.

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

I have a new book coming out in July 2015 that I am really excited about.  It’s called Listen to the South Wind and is the result of a collaboration with a fantastically talented photographer name Doug Sasser. He's also a superior court judge. 

When Doug Sasser and I first started discussing the possibility of putting together a book, we knew we didn’t want to do just another “coffee-table book” with pretty pictures and a text describing the photos to the reader.  We saw this as a collaboration of two people who come from very similar backgrounds and have a real appreciation for the geography and culture of our native Carolinas.  We wanted our readers to develop that same appreciation.

I like to think that I paint pictures as I write about the people, places and events that are a part of who we are and where we are.  As I looked at Doug’s pictures, I wrote down, not a description of the photos, but what I felt as I looked at the images.  It was sometimes a story, sometimes a commentary or sometimes a poem.  Occasionally, I would remember something I had written before and thought it worth restating.

Most of Doug’s photos are landscapes or still life.  I usually write about people.  By combining our perspectives, we hope the reader can see beyond our individual views, beyond what we absorbed during our lives, beyond what we write or record with the camera.  We want the reader to become a part of all that we have experienced, to absorb that unique sense of time and place that makes us Southerners and makes this land a special part of God’s creation.  And our home.

YAYY! I can hardly wait to get a copy!

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

They can buy them from their local bookstores or from Out State Magazine, Second Wind Publishing or they can contact me at
Are your books available in print and ebook formats?

Thanks for dropping by, Bill. And don't forget to let us know when the new book is released. 

I hope to see you again soon, Susan, somewhere around North Carolina.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

There's no substitute for Carolyn Rose ... Really!

Carolyn J. Rose is the author of the popular Subbing isn’t for Sissies series (No Substitute for Murder, No Substitute for Money, No Substitute for Maturity and No Substitute for Myth), as well as the Catskill Mountains mysteries (Hemlock Lake, Through a Yellow Wood, and The Devil’s Tombstone). Other works include An Uncertain Refuge, Sea of Regret, A Place of Forgetting, and projects written with her husband, Mike Nettleton (The Hard Karma Shuffle, The Crushed Velvet Miasma, Drum Warrior, Death at Devil’s Harbor, Deception at Devil’s Harbor, and the short story collection Sucker Punches).

She grew up in New York's Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She’s now a substitute teacher in Vancouver, Washington, and her interests are reading, swimming, walking, gardening, and NOT cooking.

Carolyn, it's great to have you back on the blog.
You've lived in several areas of the country. How has your environment affected your writing?

Two environments have affected me the most—the Catskill Mountains of New York where I grew up, and Vancouver, Washington, where I’ve lived since 2000.

The feeling of being rooted but also yearning to break away that I had as a teenager figures in the plot of Hemlock Lake, the first of my Catskill Mountains Mysteries. The ghosts and legends of those ancient mountains and the stories I heard as a child feature in Through a Yellow Wood and The Devil’s Tombstone.

My Subbing isn’t for Sissies series is set in Reckless River, Washington, a fictional town that has a lot in common with Vancouver, where I now live. Barbara Reed, the divorced and downsized protagonist, becomes a substitute teacher, a job she describes as being a step above that of crash-test dummy. Not coincidentally, I became a high school substitute teacher shortly after ending a 25-year career as a TV news producer and assignment editor. Silly me, I felt I was getting too old for the stress of constant deadlines. Now I have stress on a whole different level. But when the final bell rings I can leave the building knowing I don’t have to return to that particular classroom if I don’t want to.

 How many books have you written?

Counting one I trashed, three now out of print (and staying that way), and six co-written with my husband, the total is 19 going on 20. I just started on the fifth Subbing isn’t for Sissies book. (Working title: No Substitute for Mistakes.)


Give a short synop of your most recently published book, No Substitute for Myth.

No Substitute for Myth:

Is Bigfoot prowling around Reckless River, Washington? Has Sasquatch come to the city?

Barbara Reed doesn’t know if she believes the legendary creature exists, but evidence is stacking up. Something big is scavenging for food in city parks. Something tall and heavy left footprints across a dirt parking lot. And something huge and hairy careened into her one night on the riverfront trail.

Did that same creature kill a man and drag his body into a swamp? Or was the killer human? Will justice be undermined by media frenzy, a tide of tourism, and hundreds of hunters?

With help from the usual suspects, Barb, her drug-cop boyfriend, her pearl-powered wealthy neighbor, and Cheese Puff, her less-than-loyal dog, set out to solve a mystery, catch a murderer, and bust a few myths along the way.

I love Cheese Puff!

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Instead of hidden, I’d use the phrase “thinly disguised.” My main characters share a lot the attitudes and opinions I’ve had at different times of my life. And most of them can’t resist snack food or a BLT on rye with crispy bacon. They’re pretty outspoken and sarcastic, love dogs, prefer small towns to cities, like a frothy rum drink now and then, and think we’d make more progress in government if we took some of the politicians out of politics.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

Sitting. Cutting back on the snacking. Getting through the dreaded middle.

Thanks to a special cushion that helps my sciatic nerve pain, I am now able to sit comfortably for longer periods of time, but I make an effort to get up every 20 minutes and move around. Unfortunately, moving around generally takes me in the direction of the kitchen, the lair of the cheesy snacks. More unfortunately, my brain demands carbohydrate fuel to generate ideas to get me out of the quicksand I occasionally write myself into. If it wasn’t for water aerobics at the community pool, I’d have to sew my lips shut so I wouldn’t have to shop for clothing at a tent store.

LOL! And did I mention, dear readers, that Carolyn Rose has a great sense of humor that runs through her stories?

Do you travel to do research or for inspiration? Can you share some special places with us?

To get the feel for The Devil’s Tombstone, I read a number of articles on the geology of the Catskills and went back to those mountains in April of 2014. That’s the time of year when the book begins, a season when the sun casts long shadows, wind soughs through the pines and hemlocks, and ice may still clog the lakes. One theme of the book is the legend surrounding a huge rock, a glacial erratic. I wanted to see and touch some of these rocks carried by glaciers and left behind when the ice sheets retreated. Fortunately, I was able to convince my brother (Lorin Rose) and my cover-designing cousin (Dorion Rose) to come along and carry the sandwiches. More fortunately, the hike wasn’t so arduous that they had to carry me on the return trip.

I get plenty of inspiration for the Subbing isn’t for Sissies series every day that I show up to sub at my favorite Vancouver, WA, high school. I get even more when I walk on one of many trails along the Columbia River or streams that run through the city. Thinking about what creatures might be lurking in the forest along a greenbelt trail gave me the inspiration for No Substitute for Myth.

And, I confess I’d been watching several TV shows featuring teams hunting for Bigfoot. I’m always ready to make popcorn and slouch on the couch for an hour or so and take in a mystery or a Bigfoot hunt.
What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far?

To let my characters express their opinions. I used to hold back because a writing coach told me my characters were too over-the-top. I also worried what people would think of me because of what my characters said and did. As a result, my characters were flat. Now I let them cut loose and splatter their thoughts on the pages.

I'm so glad you do, Carolyn.

What advice can you give new writers?

Don’t get discouraged. Don’t give up. And don’t let others define “success” for you. If you’re able to do it, take money out of the equation and write for the joy of sharing your stories with people you’ve never met and may never meet. I did end-zone happy dances when I saw I’d sold books in Malta, Angola, Ecuador, and Singapore. I may never go to those places, but my characters have.

Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

Everywhere BUT on a spreadsheet. I have four bulletin boards in my office, all layered with scraps of paper, cartoons, articles, file cards, and photographs. I also keep notebooks for each series with character and setting details.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I’m terrible at this. I use Facebook and blog for a few other authors and I have a tiny mailing list. I don’t Tweet. I’m an example of what NOT to do.

I don't tweet either. I never quite figured out how or even why. 

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

I’d like to write at least two more in the subbing series, and then tackle a mystery/love story with paranormal elements.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Check my website:  and my Amazon author page:

Are your books available in print and ebook formats? (please provide the buy link for easy reader accessibility)

Amazon Links:

Kobo Links:

Nook Links: 

Both books are available as trade paperbacks.
Great! Carolyn, I wish you the best and can't wait to read No Substitute for Myth. I hope readers will start at the beginning of this series and read them all. Such fun and giggles!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Lissa Brown's Family of Choice

Lissa Brown has the best of all worlds. She is retired from careers in teaching, public relations and marketing and now writes for her own enjoyment. She’s written four books since 2009, one humorous memoir as Leslie Brunetsky and three novels under her own name.

     Lissa has been working her way south from New Jersey for the past thirty years and is happily settled in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, the source of her literary inspiration. Concerned about the prevalence of bullying of LGBT kids, she wrote Another F-Word to raise awareness of the problem in the U.S. Bible Belt. Her latest novel, Family of Choice is a sequel to that book. She has spoken extensively on the subject of bullying.
I was privileged to meet Lissa in person several years ago when we both attended a book event in Blowing Rock, North Carolina.
Welcome to the blog, Lissa. 

Thank you, Susan. It's great to touch base with you again.

Let's get right to the interview, Lissa. How has your environment affected your writing?

If I hadn’t moved to the southern Appalachians in 2005, I definitely would not have written the humorous memoir, Real Country: From the Fast Track to Appalachia, about a Yankee urbanite trying to adjust to life in a NC holler. If I had not seen the devastating effects of bullying of LGBT kids as NC voters debated amending the state constitution in 2012, I doubt I’d have been moved to explore that topic in a novel. I was so disturbed by what I witnessed that I needed a way to consider the question of why some adults do things to hurt children. Another F-Word was the result of my reaction to some pretty hateful behavior I observed. My latest book, Family of Choice, the sequel, examines the effects of childhood bullying on adults and their families.

Please give us a short synopsis of Family of Choice:

Rory Calhoun Wilson, now a practicing  physician living with his partner and the partner’s two children in Baltimore, was a victim of bullying by his father, classmates, preacher and others while growing up in rural Tennessee. He wrestles with the issues of whether to forgive his father and even perhaps to reconnect with him after years of estrangement. Concurrently, Rory must decide whether to legally adopt his partner’s children. His doubts about whether he can be a good father are inextricably tied to issues with his own father. Can he let go of anger nourished over many years? Should he? Will it free him to have a fulfilling life? Those are the central issues in Family of Choice.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

When I tell you that I will never write another sequel, you’ll have some idea of how difficult I found it to write this book. I intended the sequel to be able to stand on its own so that a reader could choose to read Family of Choice and not read Another F-Word first. It had to be a good enough story to hold the reader’s attention without being shored up by the first book. Easier said than done! I had to include enough back story to have the plot make sense to someone who had not read the first book, but I couldn’t load up so much back story so that a reader who had read Another F-Word  would grow tired of repetition. Finding that balance was the most difficult challenge I’ve faced as a writer.

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters of your books?

If I’ve learned anything from writing novels, it’s that the writer cannot predict what readers will see in her books. I had a very funny call from a cousin after I’d written my first novel, Family Secrets: Three Generations. He called to say he’d started the book and was very upset because it made him realize that he didn’t know my parents as well as he thought he did. I paused for a minute before reminding this psychologist that a novel is fiction and that the family in the book was not mine. I understand why he drew that erroneous conclusion, though. The girl in the story did seem to resemble me in some ways. It was my first attempt at writing fiction, and I suppose I stuck a little too close to what I knew as I told the story. Friends who’ve known me since childhood say they hear my voice when they read female characters in my books. I’ve had several readers tell me they know who a particular fictional character really is even though I did not base them on anyone or even a composite of several people. I think many writers insert parts of themselves in their characters. If I do it, it’s on a subconscious level. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
 LOL. Gotcha! ;-)

 How do you get the word out about a book?

Even though I have a background in marketing, promoting your own books is very different. For one thing, it’s difficult not to feel personal rejection when people don’t love your books. I thought I’d developed a pretty thick skin over the years that somebody else judged my writing and either paid me or didn’t pay me based on their judgment. I do have to remind myself that it’s the writing people are reacting to, not me.

I spent an entire year speaking to any group that would have me about the topic of bullying. I spoke in churches, conferences at universities, professional meetings and a variety of youth groups. As a former educator, of course I wanted to educate people about the consequences of bullying, but I also wanted to sell my books. I stay active on Facebook and participate in as many media interviews as I can. I maintain a website and still plan to establish a blog when I find time to do it right. I write articles on topics pertinent to the subject of my books and have been fairly successful placing them. Like most writers, I’d rather write than promote, but it’s a necessary part of being an author these days.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

To purchase a copy of Family of Choice as an ebook or paperbook , go to

People can learn more about my books and me at

Thanks for dropping by, Lissa. I wish you all the best and hope to see you in the near future.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Haberman's Lake of Lies

C. G. Haberman was raised in south-central Nebraska. He received his undergraduate biology degree from the Nebraska University and a MS in zoology from Fort Hays State University.
For nearly a decade he taught the biological sciences in secondary schools. He changed professions to work in the environmental field for three different state agencies over twenty years. C. G. returned to education as a community college instructor and as an adjunct at a four-year, liberal-arts College until his retirement. During his teaching years he incorporated field studies into his ecology and summer classes.  
His hobbies consist of photography, some of which he has used for book covers. Another hobby he developed is cooking and loves to prepare a meal for his wife and her best friends.

Welcome to the blog, C.G. My husband has been going from North Carolina to Nebraska for 29 years to pheasant and quail hunt. He stays with families in Beaver City and Fairbury and I have visited twice. Those families are now part of our own.

How has your environment affected your writing?

Thanks, Susan. Glad to be here. My writing stems from single events, people I’ve met, and the places my wife and I have lived. I planned for one or two CJ Hand novels, but the series idea began to unfold halfway through the first novel, Deadly Circles. My love for Nebraska and surrounding prairie led me to develop the protagonist CJ Hand. The Naturalists historical novel developed because of my love for, and the huge loss of, a unique natural resource.

How many books have you written?

I have written and self-published five novels. The four CJ Hand Series (crime/mystery) and the, The Naturalists, a three-part historical novel set in the Rainwater Basin of Nebraska. All my novels use the Great Plains as the main setting.

I can understand why. It's beautiful.
Give a short synopsis of the most recently published book.

The most recent novel I self-published is Lake of Lies. The book explores a myriad of problems that torment Hand for the first time in his life. With all these distractions his life changes on a snow and ice covered rural road in northwest Iowa. His closest friend and former criminal investigation partner, Dr. Trish Baker, seeks revenge. For CJ, his fiancĂ©, and for the loss of her own fiancĂ© she hunts down a cold-blooded killer in the South Dakota Badlands. 

How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

Very little, as events, such as the last CJ Hand novel, Lake of Lies, occur from my teaching methods. Examples of other events: uranium mining in northwest Nebraska, cougar hunting, hibernation of animals, and the small bluegill fish called Jaws. A tongue-in-cheek shot is taken at the I-80 corridor in my free short story on the web site. If you have explored Nebraska you know the State is not flat.
I let the characters take over as I write. The best example of this is in The Naturalists – A Historical Novel of the Hayman Family (Vol. 1) where Abner Hayman took the reins, so to speak. To develop his son’s character, Abner’ persona needed development that leads to the latter part of the novel set in a unique area of Nebraska called the Rainwater Basin. John feels a spiritual draw to this unique area, which harbors waterfowl, shorebirds, and other species in the neck of a migratory hourglass. Here the birds briefly dwell by the thousands to rest and feed before they journey to nesting grounds in Canada.

What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? What advice can you give new writers?

I have learned to outline and research the ideas first, not bog down in the research (as I did with one novel) and avoid writer’s block. I’ve found reading helps when I hit a non-writing wall.

Yes, I have to read  and go on long walks in order to break a block myself.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I use social media: Facebook, Twitter, emails, Linked-In, and my web site The web site contains Chapter excerpts from each book, photos, events, and recently two new pages. The new pages: Free Short Story reading (which started March 1) and Follow a Novel Writing Experience via journal notes. The latter commences the first week in April.
Others are:

Other sites, which Cold Coffee Press developed the promo connections.  

Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

Currently I am working on The Naturalists (Vol. 2) and outlining the fifth CJ Hand novel: 100th Meridian Murders. I hope to hone my writing skills based on the comments from reviewer comments from all the novels.

Where can folks learn more about or buy your books?
Click on my Amazon Author page or the other sites listed below.

It has been a pleasure getting to know you, C. G. Wishing you all the best!

Thanks, Susan and the same to you in your North Carolina novels.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Emily-Jane Hills Orford: To Be A Duke

Emily-Jane Hills Orford loves writing about the extra-ordinary people (and special dogs). She writes about real people and real events. Emily-Jane’s stories have appeared in History Magazine, Canadian Stories Magazine, The Curious Tourist Guide, and Western People. She has written several fiction and non-fiction books: Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Ukulele Yukon, Letters From Inside, The Creative Spirit, It Happened in Canada (Books 1, 2, and 3), Personal Notes, The Whistling Bishop, Songs of the Voyageurs, F-Stop: A Life in Pictures, Still Delicious, Amazingly Extra-Ordinary Women and To Be a Duke.  An award-winning author, she was named a Finalist for the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards with her book, The Whistling Bishop, and again in Finalist in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards with her book, F-Stop: A Life in Pictures.

Welcome to the blog, Emily-Jane. Have a crisp juicy apple while we talk.

Thank you, Susan. I love apples!

How many books have you written?

Seventeen books published and two in the works.

 WOW! You've been busy.

Give a short synopsis of your most recently published book, To Be a Duke.

After experiencing an unhappy first year of his life, Duke believes that he has found his forever home. To Be a Duke is Duke’s story of adjusting to life in a new home and a family that he quickly grows to love. Life is good, especially when he learns how to be a Duke.
There are other books on the market about dogs, about a dog’s life, about a dog’s relationship with humans. There are even books written in first person (or first dog?), talking from the dog’s point of view. These are similar concepts to my book, To Be a Duke. What differs is the message. To Be a Duke encourages excellence and positive attitudes; it presents life as one to be lived with great dignity and great joy; it teaches us as humans to be as good as our dog(s), to be kind, caring and loving to all of the living creatures around us.

To Be a Duke is ageless in its appeal. It is a true story, which makes it even more appealing. Duke was adopted from a local dog rescue group. Duke’s story awakens our compassion for ‘man’s best friend’ and bears witness to the tragedy that often befalls these beloved pets. As reviewer Faridah Nassozi wrote for Readers' Favorite, To Be a Duke “is no ordinary puppy story. It is a really emotional narration that will make you think twice about your actions towards dogs, and all animals in general. You do not know the inner workings of the mind of a puppy until you have read To Be A Duke.
How much of yourself is hidden in the characters in the book?

I don’t think any writer can totally hide their own character. When I’m writing, I’m always referring to myself is so many different ways. Even when we, as writers, say that we are distancing ourselves from the story and the characters, we’re not. Who we are in real life will always appear in our written work. To Be a Duke is based on one of our family dogs, so it’s to be expected that my character would appear in some form in the book, even though the story has been fictionalized.

What challenges did you face while writing this book?

I wanted to write this story in first person, from the dog’s perspective. Getting into the mind of a dog is not as easy as one would think. I spent a lot of time observing my dog, trying to understand why he would do the things that he did. I think I was successful, as reviewer Faridah Nassozi wrote for Readers' Favorite, “The choice to let Duke tell his story was excellent and made the story even more touching as he narrated his experiences in the different homes. Emily-Jane Hills Orford did an incredible job and it left me with a new and more enlightened perspective on the life of dogs amidst the emotions, thrills and humor.”

What do you think is the greatest lesson you’ve learned about writing so far? What advice can you give new writers?

Never give up. Even when the rejection letters keep pouring in. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone is going to tell their story in a different way. Just because one publisher/editor doesn’t like the story, doesn’t mean it’s no good. It just means that you haven’t found the right publisher/editor. Keep writing. Everyone’s written story is just as good as another’s. Don’t sit around and wait for the BIG publishing contract.

Take some writing courses and/or participate in writing groups, seminars, workshops. I run classes, seminars and workshops in my hometown for writers of all ages. I also teach online through the Creative Writing Institute:
Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

I always carry a notebook with me. When I’m sitting waiting for an appointment (always a long wait in the doctor’s office), I either write a story, article, or just jot down some ideas. I don’t like to sit idle while I wait, so I’m always writing something in my little notebook.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I have a website:

I also make good use of Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

I have a website:

I am also on Facebook, just google my name and you will find me linked to other articles/stories that I’ve written and other sites that I either connect with or have written about me and my work.

Are your books available in print and ebook formats? 

To Be a Duke is available in both print and ebook format through Amazon (Canada, US, and International), as well as other online sites. Here’s the link to

Some of my other books are also available on this site, or people can always order my books directly from me:

Good to know, Emily-Jane. I wish you great sales with your books. Thanks for stopping by.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Writing duo CC Tillery

I met (via Internet) two of my favorite "sistahs" in Hot Springs, North Carolina, where my novel, Just North of Luck is set. Christy Tillery French and Cyndi Tillery Hodges aka Caitlin Hunter are a dynamic writing duo I "met" on Facebook and then in person at a writing event in Boone. These gals visit the setting of their first book, Hot Springs, NC. several times a year and meet at the Smoky Mountain Diner for lunch. I joined them. We love their food (yummy peanut butter pie!) and the friendly, laid-back atmosphere. A couple of months ago, they were there and were paid one of the highest compliments a writer can be given: the waitress told them they’d had several people come in who were visiting the town because they’d read their book. After lunch when they walked the main street of town as they usually did, their heads were in the clouds and their feet didn’t touch the ground once! It's my pleasure to interview these two sisters. If you haven't been introduced, sit back and get to know them and their writing a little better. Feel free to leave comments and questions in the comment section.

CC Tillery is the pseudonym for the two sisters, both authors who came together to write the story of their great-aunt Bessie in the Appalachian Journey series. Tillery is their maiden name and the C’s stand for their first initials.

One C is Cyndi Tillery Hodges, a multi-published author who writes paranormal and contemporary romance under the pseudonym Caitlyn Hunter.

The other C is Christy Tillery French, a multi-published, award-winning author whose books cross several genres. To find out more about her work, visit her website at

For more information on the Appalachian Journey series, the stories it is based on and the authors, visit

Yum! This pie is the best I've ever eaten! It's so good to see both of you again.

Christy:  It's great to see you again, too, Susan.
Cyndi:    We appreciate the interview.

You're certainly welcome.
Please give a short synopsis of your most recently published book, Beloved Woman.

Beloved Woman, Appalachian Journey Book 3
In the second decade of the 20th century, major world events resonate even on secluded Stone Mountain where Bessie Elliott lives with her husband Fletcher. There’s a great war, one that takes away many young men, including Bessie’s kin, some never to return. Bessie’s role of healer intensifies as she treats those suffering from the Spanish flu and tries to keep it from spreading further on her mountain. She defends a young woman who is in the middle of a controversy that threatens to tear their peaceful community apart. And she finds herself involved in the Suffragette movement as the women of North Carolina fight to gain their rights under the constitution.

Then when one of her family members makes an appalling decision, one that has the potential to damage a child, Bessie impulsively steps in to right the wrong.

Cyndi, what challenges did you face while writing this book?

One of the hardest things for us was handling the passage of time in the books. Aunt Bessie was approaching her 90th birthday when she died, and while she had an interesting life, there were naturally what we call “down times” where nothing much happened. In a few places we faced moving the story over great chunks of time without bogging the narrative down. The transition from one year to several years later is always a challenge for us and we’re still struggling with that. Also, merging fact and fiction since it’s important to stay true to the stories and, of course, to be accurate with the history. In several places, we found we had to adjust the timeline a bit to make the story flow better. For instance, in Beloved Woman, we‘ve brought our dad into the picture ten years early, being born in 1918 when he wasn’t actually born until 1928.

I am writing my first historical fiction now and I understand about the gaps in time. It certainly is difficult to deal with and keep the facts as accurate as possible. I may have to enlist you gals to give me some feedback once I complete it.

Other than trips to Hot Springs, do you travel to do research or for inspiration? Can you share some special places with us?

Christy:  Our books are about our great-aunt and -uncle who lived in the mountains of western North Carolina, first in the small town of Hot Springs, and after they were married, on Stone Mountain between Old Fort and Black Mountain where Uncle Fletcher’s family was from. We both live nearby and we’ve taken many trips to both areas to research and promote the series. The people we’ve met and talked to have been incredibly welcoming and helpful. Since Hot Springs is about half way between our homes and we love going there, we visit as often as possible. It always brings us closer to Great-Aunt Bessie somehow and we feel as if we’re walking in her footsteps when we visit the places we know from family stories she went during the time she lived there.
Where do you store ideas for later use: in your head, in a notebook, or on a spreadsheet?

Cyndi:  Before we start writing each book, we do a “Purge” file with historical and social timelines and notes about the time period we plan to cover in the book. We also keep an Appalachian Journey Notes file on our computers which includes genealogy, stories we’ve been told by Daddy, Aunt Bessie or other family members, a list of Southern sayings for the chapter headings, superstitions, and snippets of information about the setting which we find during our research for each book. That file is in a constant state of flux as we add, delete, or correct as needed.

It sounds like y'all are great organizers.
We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

Christy: Online, for the series, we have a Facebook page (, a blog ( and our Amazon Author Central page ( ) and we try to post as much as possible to all of them. Offline, we attend many festivals in the area and give talks and/or readings at the local libraries and welcome centers.

Our biggest success has come from our readers and their generosity in sharing their thoughts and feelings about the books which are all three bestsellers on Amazon and Kindle.

Cyndi:  Thanks to the great sales of the first book, Whistling Woman, we were offered a contract last year for a German translation, Madchen, die pfeifen, which was released last November. Neither of us speak German so we can’t tell you how it was promoted but judging from the fact it has made three Amazon bestseller lists, the publisher did an outstanding job. We were also offered a contract for the French translation (no title yet) which is in production and should be released later this year.

That is terrific news! Congratulations to both of you!
Can you tell us your future writing goals/projects?

Christy:  We are currently working on the fourth book in the series, Wise Woman, and hope to have it written and released by the end of this year. While all the books are close to our hearts, this next one is, in a way, the most special of all because this one tells the story of our dad, who is the inspiration for the series, and his time on the mountain with Great-Aunt Bessie and Great-Uncle Fletch.

Are your books available in print and ebook formats? 

Cyndi:  Yes, all three books in the Appalachian Journey series are available in Kindle ebook or print. The first two are also available in audio and the audio of Beloved Woman should be released within a few weeks. The easiest way to find our books is to visit our blog, where we have the covers in the sidebar and readers can click on each cover to connect to the book’s page on Amazon or they can go to our Amazon Author Central page,, and click on the covers there.

Okay, I have to ask:  do you two ever argue over the content? How difficult is it to work with another person?

Cyndi:  Sorry, no arguments, only a slight disagreement about the tone of the books. The good thing about writing with someone you're so close to, is you can simply tell them what you think, discuss the difference and then come to a decision. That's how it is with us, and though we haven't had any arguments (aside from whose name would come first on the book which was easily settled by going with a pseudonym), we have discussed many, many aspects of writing historical literary fiction vs. contemporary fiction. 

Whew! I'm glad you get along so well. I figured that because you're both sweetie pies, but thought I'd ask just in case there was drama to unearth. LOL

I wish both of you continued success and hope to see you again soon!

Christy:  Maybe we can meet here again next year.

Sounds good to me.