Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mike Somers Gives Hope to Self-Published Authors

Today I welcome back my friend Mike Somers. Welcome, Mike! Could you please share your journey as a self-published author with us?

The decision to tell the truth -- that I was a self-published author -- has been a conflicted journey for me.

I work in higher education, where being “traditionally” published is the be-all and end-all, so there’s been an element of shame involved.  I imagined my colleagues saying, “What? His book wasn’t good enough to be published by a real publisher?”  I imagined the stink of failure wafting from the pages of my book as people I worked with flipped through it, wrinkling their noses.

No, my book was not traditionally published.  I wish it had been.  I think many authors hope for that.  Nine young-adult publishers, both big and medium, passed on STARVED, and most editors had very kind and supportive things to say about the story in their rejections.  I knew it wasn’t because I wrote a “bad” book; my agent, Karen Grencik of Red Fox Literary understood the book and believed in it strongly enough to shop it around.

For a variety of business-related reasons, mostly that my book is considered midlist and midlist books are finding fewer and fewer slots, STARVED was turned down.  I knew the writing was good but I couldn’t find a home for it.

Once all of our best options had been exhausted, Karen suggested I self-publish so my story of Nathan, a teenaged boy with eating disorders, could find some sort of life with readers, which I did in 2012. I won’t go into detail about that here, since I’ve written quite a bit about it on my website,, and I encourage you to visit the site to learn more about that part of my book’s journey.

Fast-forward to April 2014 and my email inbox.  Writer’s Digest had sent a call for submissions for their 22nd Annual Self-Published Book Award contest.  On a lark, I clicked on the link for the rules of entry and before I knew it, or thought too much about it, I had completed the application, paid the fee, and had a copy of STARVED sealed in an envelope.  I jumped in my car and drove to the post office, riding a wave of self-empowerment.  Yes, I was Rundy Hill Press.  Yes, I was self-published.  If anything came of this contest, I’d worry about telling the world then.

So I put it out of my mind and honestly, rather forgot about it.

October came and I received an email from Writer’s Digest telling me STARVED had earned Honorable Mention in the Middle Grade/Young Adult category.  Sure, I wanted to sweep the category, but hey, Honorable Mention is pretty darn good!  I did a little happy dance in my living room, saying, “Omigodomigodomigod” on a loop as I twirled around.

If I hadn’t been encouraged to self-publish by my agent, if I hadn’t been lucky enough to speak to college and high school students about my book, if I hadn’t heard from men and women around the world who recognized themselves or their loved ones in the book thanking me, if I hadn’t simply entered the contest, I likely still wouldn’t be willing to admit I am Rundy Hill Press.  Now I have a reason -- a very good reason -- to own it and to own it with pride.

Author Bio:

Michael Somers is a teaching writer who lives in mid-Michigan. His award-winning creative nonfiction has appeared in Cardinal Sins and Flashquake, and in November 2013, he was a featured essayist on This I Believe for his essay "The Power of Paying Attention."

His first novel STARVED earned Honorable Mention in the 22nd Annual Writer's Digest Self-Published Book Awards for the Middle-Grade/Young Adult category.

Visit Mike at:

Michael’s books are available at

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Shani Struthers Likes a "Spirited" Read

Shani Struthers is badgered by her muse as much as Boris badgers me. We may complain, but you know we love it! I am so pleased to visit with my friend from “across the pond” today. Welcome, Shani. Talk about the books you’ve written. What was the first seed of an idea you had for your book? How did it develop?

Hi, Elizabeth, lovely to be here. My name is Shani Struthers, I live in the UK and I’m a writer of paranormal fiction. Currently, I have three books in the paranormal genre published, the best-selling Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall, Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me (my latest release) and a stand-alone paranormal romance/mystery set in the Highlands of Scotland, Jessamine (note the emphasis on the ‘mine’ there!).  I started off writing in the romance genre (I’m also the author of The Runaway Year and The Runaway Ex, set in Cornwall) but quickly decided it was with the paranormal that my heart lay. I’ve grown up reading the likes of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, James Herbert and Peter Straub, and my appetite for horror films is insatiable, with perhaps the old black and white movie, The Haunting, staring Clare Bloom, the most spine-tingling of them all! I would describe my books as paranormal rather than horror and a lot of my beliefs about the spirit world are weaved into them – if a spirit is grounded, I actually have sympathy for it rather than fear (yep, even the mischievous ones!), after all, the space between two worlds must be a bewildering one. The Psychic Surveys books center round a high-street consultancy – Psychic Surveys – specializing in domestic spiritual clearance. If you suspect your home is ‘haunted’, they’re the first port of call. Run by a great team of psychics, Ruby Davis at the helm, they deal with routine and not-so routine cases. Dealing with a grounded spirit is commonplace, but there’s more between heaven and earth than we can possibly know – making for some very dark moments indeed!

Yes, my belief in spirits informed my writing of The Cavanaugh House. How would you describe your writing process? Do you outline? Let the muse lead you? Or something else?
I don’t outline anymore – I used to but found that as the writing progressed I’d veer so far from the outline it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on. I’m working on my sixth book at the moment, and nowadays I tend to sit down, write the first sentence and go. I try and write the first draft as quickly as possible as the muse hurls idea after idea at me. When I get stuck I simply trust in the muse – she’s never let me down before, taking me down some very surprising avenues indeed! I have to say though, she’s a hard taskmaster, the ideas flow practically 24/7.

My muse, Boris, is very talkative, too. He seems to like giving me great ideas at about 2 a.m. How has writing books changed you?
Before I wrote a book I used to daydream about writing a book – imagining what a cosy life it would be, pounding out a few hundred words, making coffee, typing a few more, going for a walk, coming back, creating another hundred or so (effortlessly I might add!) and then end up finishing for the day – possibly just after lunchtime. As for the finished product, it would fly off those shelves, virtual and otherwise. I now know how wrong I was! Being a writer is hard, hard work. Not only does the muse badger you 24/7, you have to find all sorts of ways to promote as well – after all, what’s the use of having a brilliant product, if no one’s heard about it? And then there are the edits to work through and the proofreading – you end up reading your own book about a zillion times! But it’s good fun though, I love it – I’m living the dream in many ways, even if it sometimes seems like a nightmare!

How do you handle major rewrites?
Luckily I haven’t had to do many major rewrites, not at editorial stage anyway. I put this in part down to the fact that when I’ve written a book and got it to a decent readable stage, I hand it out to a group of trusted beta readers – I know those guys are going to hold no punches regarding what works within it and what doesn’t. And 9 times out of 10, I usually agree. I think the thing is when you’re writing a book, you’re so close to it that sometimes you can’t see what is glaringly wrong – but a fresh pair of eyes can. I then tend to rewrite it according to feedback, do a final proofread and submit. The process must work because so far all books have been accepted for publication with very little to do from that stage onwards except catch those pesky literals!

Sounds like your beta readers are awesome. What do you keep in mind as you write? An overarching question? A theme? The last line of the book?
I keep in mind a theme normally – but again, only very vaguely – and I allow sub-themes to develop naturally as I write.

Is there an aspect of writing that you favor over others, e.g. dialogue, exposition, description of a scene, setting, or character, etc.? Is there one that is more difficult for you?
I love writing dialogue and have been told my dialogue flows well and sounds natural. Great characters are very important to me, not only as a reader but as a writer, I love creating them, watching how they interact with other characters and how they come ‘alive’ in the mind.

Tell us about the funniest/craziest/most interesting thing that has happened to you as a writer.
I was on holiday in America last year, in deepest, darkest Tennessee, seriously I was complaining all the way to the hotel, as it was so off the beaten track. We checked in, went to our room and then I had to go back down to reception. The lady behind the desk – Shelby – looked all excited. I was wondering what the matter was with her when she told me she knew my name. It turns out she’s a voracious reader and had spotted me on Amazon. We chatted about books and stuff, signed up to each others Facebook pages and have kept in touch ever since. Primarily interested in the romances, she went on to read Highdown Hall, loved it, and left a great review. I didn’t expect to be ‘recognized’ when I checked into our lonely hotel I can tell you!

That is every writer’s dream come true! What is the best piece of advice about writing that you ever got or read? What would tell aspiring writers today?
In the words of that great Nike slogan – “Just do it!” There’s another slogan I keep in mind also, Susan Jeffers’ “Feel the fear and do it anyway.” If fear is the only thing stopping you, don’t let it. Yes, you’ll be both savaged and adored when your work is made public, but you can’t please everyone, so don’t even try. If just one person reads it and enjoys it, it’s worth it.

I love both of those slogans and your attitude. Thank you for spending time with me today, Shani. I wish you great success with all of your books.

Contact Shani at:
Facebook Author Page:

Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me

Psychic Surveys Book Two: The Haunting of Highdown Hall


Author Bio
Born and bred in the sunny seaside town of Brighton, one of the first literary conundrums Shani had to deal with was her own name - Shani can be pronounced in a variety of ways but in this instance it's Shay-nee not Shar-ney or Shan-ni - although she does indeed know a Shanni - just to confuse matters further! Hobbies include reading and writing - so no surprises there. After graduating from Sussex University with a degree in English and American Literature, Shani became a freelance copywriter. Twenty years later, the day job includes crafting novels too. She is the author of best-selling paranormal mystery - Psychic Surveys Book One: The Haunting of Highdown Hall - published by Crooked Cat in April 2014 and Jessamine, a paranormal mystery/romance set in the highlands of Scotland.
Psychic Surveys Book Two: Rise to Me is also now available.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Writing Not To The Norm

I’m thrilled to have my friend—and one of my favorite historical romance authors—on my blog today.  Becky Lower has just released the latest book in her Cotillion Ball Series. I have read and loved every one. Today Becky discusses how different her process for this novel was from her previous books.

Over the years I’ve been pursuing writing, I’ve attended a number of workshops and read a ton of craft books, as have most of us. What I’ve gleaned from all these takes on writing romance is to follow the formula. You know the one. It goes by a variety of names–beat sheet, four-act structure, etc. I’ve used several versions in my career, and most of the time, it works flawlessly.

Until I wrote Expressly Yours, Samantha, anyway. This was my first attempt at writing a hidden identity story. In order to escape her evil uncle, Samantha Hughes cuts her hair, changes her clothes, lowers her voice and becomes Sam Hughes, a male working on the Pony Express route. She has feelings for the hero, Valerian, from the start, but can’t express them, since it would give her away. My beat sheet was being altered exponentially.

Instead of Sam and Valerian becoming interested in each other romantically, they could only become buddies on the trail. But Valerian’s brother-in-law, Joseph, a half-Ojibwa Indian, tells Valerian destiny has put their paths together and it’s up to Valerian to find out why. He first thinks Sam’s on the run from the law, and covers for him while he hides from the Pinkerton agents. Valerian is relieved since he thinks the destiny Joseph talked about has been fulfilled.

I wasn’t planning on unraveling the mask Samantha had put on until later in the book, but I quickly realized that, in order for a true attraction to form, Valerian had to find out about Sam’s true identity sooner rather than later. That’s where the bending of the beat sheet came into play.

Other things got complicated, too. When I was in Samantha’s POV, everything needed to be referred to as Samantha, her, she, etc. When I was in Valerian’s POV, it was Sam, his and he. Kudos to my editors for catching me the couple of times I slipped up.

In the end, I think it was worth it. The reader definitely can relate to Samantha, since she’s in such a dire situation. And Valerian has been referred to in several books in the series as wanting nothing more than to ride horses all day, every day, and he needed to grow up.  Making it work for this pair and finding a way to give them the happy ever after every romance needs was indeed a challenge.

I hope you’ll find it worthwhile.

Here’s a taste:

Samantha Hughes needs to get away from her wicked uncle, and, following her aunt’s death, she has one day to escape. A sign in the post office offers an avenue out. She can cut her hair, pose as a man, and become Sam Hughes, a Pony Express rider.

Valerian Fitzpatrick has defied his parents and stayed in St. Louis for the past year. He doesn't want the weight of responsibility his brothers have in the family business. All he wants to do is ride horses, and, fortunately, the Pony Express is starting up and looking for wiry young fellows.

When Sam Hughes helps Valerian control a runaway horse, Joseph, Valerian’s brother-in-law, tells him their meeting was destiny. Over the weeks and months that follow, Sam and Val work side by side on the exciting Pony Express. Val assumes Sam is on the run from the law, and helps shield his buddy from the Pinkerton agents. He thinks this must be the destiny Joseph talked about. Although Samantha harbors feelings for Val, he has no idea she’s a woman. Until she suffers a stray gunshot wound and he has to undress her to staunch the wound.

Friendship turns into attraction and maybe even love. When her uncle tracks her down, she is forced to run yet again. She realizes the danger she’s put Valerian into, having him try to shield her from her uncle, and leaves him behind with a note to not track her down. Will he be able to find her, or is he relieved to not have any responsibility again?

Author Bio: 
Amazon best-selling author Becky Lower has traveled the country looking for great settings for her novels. She loves to write about two people finding each other and falling in love, amid the backdrop of a great setting, be it on a covered wagon headed west or in present day small town America.  Historical and contemporary romances are her specialty. Becky is a PAN member of RWA and is a member of the Historic and Contemporary RWA chapters. She has a degree in English and Journalism from Bowling Green State University, and lives in an eclectic college town in Ohio with her puppy-mill rescue dog, Mary. She loves to hear from her readers at Visit her website at

Becky’s books are available at:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Local Legend Gives Shannon Eckrich a Devil of an Idea

Author Shannon Eckrich stopped by today for a little Q & A. Welcome, Shannon. Talk about the books you’ve written. What was the first seed of an idea you had for your books? How did they develop?
I’ve written a total of eight books. Three novels and five short stories. The three novels are Young Adult paranormal, and the five shorts are YA fantasy. I guess to keep this short, I’ll talk about Kissing the Devil, my latest novel.

I’ve always been fascinated with myths and legends. You know, the monsters that go bump in the night. But I’ve always loved the story of the New Jersey Devil. For those who have never heard of the New Jersey Devil, I’ll give you a quick summary. The legend goes back to 1735, where Mrs. Leeds, mother of twelve children, became pregnant with her thirteenth child. Upon finding out about her thirteenth child, she cursed it by saying, “this child will be the devil." At the time she went into labor, the child was said to be born. As soon as he was born, he sprouted wings and took on the shape of the devil, killing his entire family. Of course, as legends go, there are different versions to this story. Some say Mrs. Leeds was cursed by a witch, and others say she lived in the Pine Barrens Forest of New Jersey caring for her child. Ghost Hunters, mystery seekers, and even regular people go out to the Pine Barrens in hopes of catching a glimpse of the devil, who residents say, still occupies the forest.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

A Dash of Romance Spices Up the Mystery of The Cavanaugh House

In honor of The Cavanaugh House $.99 Kindle Countdown Deal, I thought I would post one of my favorite excerpts from the book. Though I’ve marketed this novel as a Cozy Mystery, it could also be considered Romantic Suspense. I set the story in 1968 at a time when telephones were landlines, usually one-to-a-house. That way, my protagonist Jesse Graham would not have instant access to 911 or help of any kind when she got into dangerous situations.

This era also meant that the Woman’s Liberation Movement shaped Jesse, so she is ultra-sensitive to comments and attitudes that do not impact us in the same way today. The clarion call for women’s autonomy affects Jesse as she reels from the betrayal of her former fiancĂ©, Robert. Just as there is no easy way for her to telephone for help when she is in danger, there is no easy way for her to reconcile her need for independence with her deepening feelings for Joe Riley. While I love the mystery within the Cavanaugh House, I also love the turmoil Jesse faces in sorting through this new relationship and the sweet romance that develops between her and Joe. Here’s a peek at their first meeting:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Mystery, Romance, Suspense at a Deal that Won't Scare You

The Cavanaugh House is available for $0.99 as a Kindle Countdown Deal from this afternoon, Feb. 25 -March 4. With 86 five star reviews, The Cavanaugh House debuted as a #1 bestseller in three different Mystery categories on Amazon. It will be featured on two sites this week:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Struggle to Escape Chapter 29

I am so pleased to have author Alice Orr as my guest today. I met Ms. Orr last year at a meeting of the Greater Detroit Chapter of Romance Writers of America. Her workshop was both inspiring and practical--the kind that made me feel a sense of urgency to get back to my manuscript and try the ideas she offered. Welcome, Ms. Orr.

I didn’t want anything more to do with Chapter 29. The demon in my head even suggested I didn’t want anything more to do with the whole damned book. I’d come all of this way. I’d written 28 chapters – but it was simply getting too hard. That was the substance of my whining anyway. So I tripped into something I find too easy – the avoidance dance.

I decided our bedroom needed rearranging. This involved moving heavy furniture so I recruited my husband Jonathan’s help. He had no idea he was really helping me avoid Chapter 29. An important step in the avoidance dance is this – tell no one what you’re avoiding or even that you’re in a dance. After 42 years together Jonathan knows it’s sometimes easier just to go along so he hefted the heavy stuff.