Interview with Rachael Richey

New profile pic 2013Rachael Richey is a romance writer I met in a critique group I’ve participated in for several years. (I highly recommend joining a group like this, for many reasons.) I’ve been able to read two of her novels, pre-publication, so far. I recently got her to answer a few questions about writing, publishing, and about her new book.


Tell me about your most recent novel. Who is your audience?

My most recent novel, Practising for Christmas, is a romantic comedy set at Christmas.  Olivia and her friends are spending Christmas in a remote coastal cottage, and before the others arrive, Olivia discovers an unconscious and very handsome stranger on the beach.  She takes him home to patch him up and it’s when her friends arrive the next day that things begin to spiral out of control due to a case of mistaken identity.  It’s basically a feel good seasonal romcom.  My audience will probably be mostly female, but I do have some stalwart male fans who read all my books.

perf5.000x8.000.inddWhat kind of writer are you? Do you insist on daily word counts? Do you edit as you go or force out a whole first draft first? Do you write in silence or with music? In the morning or at night? What do you do when you get stuck in the writing process?

Wow.  A lot of questions!  Right.  I write when and where the mood takes me.  At the moment I’m going through a bit of a dry patch, but when I’m in the zone (for example, nearing the end of a book), I have been known to write about 20k per week.  Definitely no insistence on a daily word count – that would put me off.  Sometimes it flows, sometimes it doesn’t and you just have to go with it.  I usually read back over my previous day’s work and do a quick edit, but save most of the editing until I’ve finished.  Sometimes I like music when I’m writing, but I’m equally happy writing in silence.  I have been known to do it with the TV on in the background if all the family are in.  I have to fit my writing in around everything else (I long for the day when it is my main job), so I write anytime.  I wrote a lot of my first book at night, between midnight and 4 am, but these days I don’t seem to stay awake so well, probably because I have more early mornings now.  If I get a bit stuck on a plot, the best way to sort it out is in the shower.

Who are some of your favorite authors?

Daphne du Maurier, Kate Morton, Kate Atkinson, Patricia Cornwell, Kathy Reichs, Linda Fairstein, Barbara Erskine, David Baldacci, Sophie Kinsella, Elizabeth George

When did you decide you wanted to be published? How did you go about making it happen? What is the biggest challenge of being published? What’s the best part?

I’ve always wanted to write, right from when I was a small child.   I used to write stories all the time and just assumed that when I was grown-up I would be a published writer.  That didn’t happen for a very long time and I kind of got caught up in other things, then one day in early 2012 I resurrected a story idea I had had a few years earlier, and once I started I couldn’t stop!  As soon as I had finished that one, in about three months, I started a sequel, at the same time editing and then submitting the first one.  By the time I finally got an offer from a publisher (actually from three in one week), in early 2014, I was part the way through the fourth book in the series.  You really do have to be prepared for a lot of rejections though.  I must have had at least twenty, if not more, for the first book.  Don’t be put off.  It’s worth all the rejections when you hold your first published book in your hand, and realise that other people will be getting to know your characters, and hopefully getting to love them.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on another romantic comedy, but I have ideas for several other books all fighting for my attention as well.  I’m not sure which one will win yet, but it’ll be exciting finding out.

You can find out more about Rachael Richey here.


Photos For Class–for writers and teacher-authors

photos for classA question I get a lot from readers is where to go for free, teacher-safe images. Photo sites are either too sparse or poorly vetted. And–while we’re on the subject of online images–it needs to be easier to add citations because otherwise, students will just skip that step.

Photos for Class(but not just for classes), brought to you by the folks at Storyboard That (a premier digital storytelling site that quickly and easily enables users to mix avatars, backgrounds, and talk bubbles to tell a story–like your latest book in comic form) does all of these. It uses proprietary filters to search millions of Creative Commons-licensed photos from the Library of Congress, the British Royal Archives, and Flikr’s safe-search setting to curate a classroom-safe collection of topical photos in seconds.  There is no log-in, no registration, no fee or premium plan, and a zero learning curve. All you need to know is how to use a search bar and a download button.

Here’s how it works: Go to the Photos for Class website (no registration or log-in required), search your topic:

free online photos

…and then download the selected photo. Each downloaded photo includes an attribution and license detail.

online photos

There is no charge, no delay, and lots of choices.

In addition to photos, the site offers suggestions on citing and filtering photos, and a list of the top 250 searches.


Photos for Class is intuitive, easy-to-navigate, with child-safe content for even the youngest searchers. It makes it easy to develop good habits for properly citing online content.

If users find an objectionable image, they can report it to the site with the assurance that–if inappropriate–it will be removed from the site.


Besides downloading, photos can be saved with a right-click. This is a con only because they don’t include attribution. You have to add that yourself if needed–like with Flikr photos.

Insider Tips

Storyboard That’s premium service includes the ability to add photos from Photos for Class to Storyboard That projects. This is a great way to share your upcoming novel with authentic pictures in a way that people like to read. It’s a pleasant change from video trailers..

Writing applications

This is a great source of high-quality photos for your book marketing, your blog, or any other place you need pictures for your writing. It’s not as large as Pixabay but focuses on G-rated and kid-friendly. The thumbnails are big and bright. The search bar is prominent, and the results are fast.

More about online images:

Quick Search for Plagiarized Images

5 Image Apps

What Online Images are Free?

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Survival of the Fittest, Spring 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Top Tech for Writers

In case you missed this in April, here’s an article I wrote for Ronel (at Ronel the Mythmaker) for her T entry in the A to Z Challenge. I love talking tech but generally bore friends and family with it so was beyond excited when Ronel invited me to discuss it as much as I wanted.

These are five of my favorite tech tools for writers:

self edit1. A good editing program

Whether you’re self-published or agented, you want your manuscript as clean as possible. You can edit it yourself, use beta readers, or pray, but one more option to include in your toolkit is a good online editing program. Often, these ask you to copy-paste your text into a dialogue box on their website and they take it from there. Sometimes, you upload your entire manuscript. What they do varies from simply checking your grammar and spelling to analyzing pacing, word choice, and more. I like Grammarly for basics and AutoCrit for more detail.

See my Grammarly review here.


2. A digital deviceipad tips

I know lots of people who write the first draft of their novels with paper-and-pencil but almost always, the next version is completed on some sort of digital device. That might be a Mac, PC, iPad, Chromebook, laptop, or in some cases a dedicated word processor like the Retro Freewrite or Alphasmart. Pick one or more that work for you, doesn’t matter which as long as it’s digital and allows you to type and edit your manuscript.

See my reviews here for Chromebooks, iPads


3. Google Forms

Google Forms are an easy digital way to collect information from readers, sort it, and throw it into a spreadsheet. They’re professional-looking, intuitive, quick to create, and can be personalized to your needs. I use them to collect data for blog hops, curate my newsletter list, ask for feedback, sign up interested readers for an upcoming book, and more. There’s just no reason to struggle through this sort of design by yourself anymore.

See my Google Forms review and another form program I like, JotForms.


4. Canva

It’s hard enough writing a novel and bringing it to publication, without then being forced to also market it. That includes banners, logos, fliers, headers, announcements–yikes! Years ago, I knew I had to reform when my kindest beta reader wrote, “Is the flier supposed to look like that? No–really, I like it!” Right. I found Canva provides all the tools writers need to create headers, banners, Facebook placards, Twitter tweets, informal book covers, and the myriad of marketing materials that are part and parcel of publishing a book. It provides templates, size options, samples, even a design school–all for free. And it didn’t take long to get used. Now, I create what I need usually in less than five minutes. You heard that right. Try it out.

See my Canva review.


5. Book Trailer Program

Book trailers are quite popular because movies are a nice way to get readers excited about your book. If you’re creating your own, you want a program that is easy to use with a shallow learning curve, looks professional, and is as free as possible. I’ve seen a lot of options for this task, everything from Animoto to Tellagami to even a storyboard program like Storyboard That!


More tech for writers:

Best-in-Class Digital Storytelling Tools

8 Digital Tools for Writing

5 Must-have tools for Writers Conferences

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and Born in a Treacherous Timefirst in the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today and TeachHUBmonthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning. Look for her upcoming trilogy, Crossroads, eta Spring 2019.

What Authors Should Know About MS Sway?

Lately, among teacher-authors (these are teachers who also write), one of the most talked-about webtools is Microsoft Sway. Though fairly new, Sway may unseat PowerPoint as the presentation-tool-of-choice because Sway projects are visually appealing while minimizing the amount of time spent formatting.

What is Sway

Sway is free from Microsoft and part of Office 365 Education. It is an easier, more versatile alternative to the popular PowerPoint slideshow program. Using the Sway canvas, writers select a theme and then add notes and media. Sway organizes the content, suggests images and even data, and then helps the writer to quickly arrange everything into a comprehensive and fully-fleshed project. If the selected theme doesn’t work, simply click “remix” and get a different look. More advanced users can edit the pieces to fit particular colors and interests. When everything’s perfect, it can be shared, embedded, and/or published.

Sway accepts almost any file format including videos, PDFs, text, audio, images, native camera pictures, charts, audio clips, audio recordings, and links. A completed project can be embedded into any Office app (such as Excel, PowerPoint, or Word) and automatically updates with the original. Sway works in Windows, on iPads, iPhones, and desktops.

How to get started

  • Install the Sway app to your iPhone, iPad, Surface Pro, or use it on the web.
  • Create an account so you can collect all of your Sways in one place.
  • Click the “Create new” button or alternatively, create a Sway from a topic or an uploaded document.
  • Click to add new “cards” (these are content areas; you might think of them like slides in a PowerPoint deck). These are stacked to the right of the screen and easily moved by dragging-and-dropping. Each of these contains space for all content related to the theme of that card.
  • As you add content, Sway suggests web material that may be relevant and might be good additions to your document.
  • When your Sway is finished, add it to any site that accepts embed codes, send it out as a link, or share it to a variety of social media outlets.

Prosms sway for writers

It’s free — so much power for no money. That’s amazing.

It’s easy to use and has lots of automated options that take the stress out of being creative.

Sways are automatically saved, by default to the MS Office account you used for the sign-up.

Multiple people can collaborate on a Sway. All you have to do is send the Sway link to collaborators.

Sway will create a project from a theme. You type in the theme and Sway suggests text, pictures and more that fit that topic.


Sway requires a Microsoft account (but not Office 365). This isn’t bad, just one more place that requires a log-in.

While Sways can be shared on various social media or via an embed code that can be played in situ, other options aren’t as easy.

8 Writerly Uses for Sway

Here are some of the ways my teacher-author colleagues and I use Sway:

  1. Easily create quick book trailers that pop to share with your writing community.
  2. Create a linear website for your book with content that’s revealed with a flick of the finger.
  3. Create a website with your resume and/or writer’s portfolio.
  4. Research and collect notes in OneNote, then send that information to Sway to be mashed up as a presentation
  5. Write and format marketing materials. Input the text and then let Sway suggest images and other resources.
  6. Prepare any presentation, much as you might a PowerPoint.
  7. Create a themed newsletter quickly to share with your (GDPR-approved) mailing list.
  8. Create digital stories with a mix of text, images, and other multimedia pieces.
  9. Create a portfolio of artwork, poems, or writing that can be shared to showcase your work.
  10. Collaborate with your writing team on your WIP or marketing materials.

Overall, Sway does a great job of minimizing formatting in favor of writing — a real plus in today’s busy world.

More on writer’s tools

Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-8 technology for 15 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, CSG Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, CAEP reviewer, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, a weekly contributor to TeachHUB, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

Labor Day 2018

We’re taking today off to enjoy the unofficial last day of summer.

Labor Day is meant to celebrate the contributions we all make to our country. Here at Today’s Author, we want to celebrate the contributions we all make with our creative efforts.  What better day to spend a few minutes, choose a prompt or two (or more) from our archive of Write Now prompts and enjoy the labors of all the talented authors in the Today’s Author community!


Interview with Dave Olner

IMG_20170518_162052070 1

Years ago, I belonged to a now defunct writing site called Authonomy. There, I workshopped my writing, learned to critique others, and, ultimately, found my publisher. Dave Olner was one of the writers I met there and his book, The Baggage Carousel was one of my favorites. I was so glad to see he recently published it and I had a bunch of questions for him that he was nice enough to answer.

Since Authonomy closed, have you found a comparable writing group?

I haven’t frequented a writing site since Authonomy shut up shop. I feel like I found it at the right time: as a clueless fledgling taking their first crack at writing a book. Some of the feedback I received there helped shape the finished manuscript immeasurably and I’m thankful for it. It was a case of separating the wheat from the chaff, though, because some of of the feedback I received there was dogshit, from people who didn’t know what they were talking about. People just like me! I had found a virtual peer group and it was a sad day when the site closed.


When did you decide you wanted to pursue publication? How did you find your publisher?

After completing the book I embarked on the well-trodden road of queries, subs and rejections. I garnered some initial interest in the manuscript, but nothing that ever came to fruition. When I’d exhausted all options, when I couldn’t find anyone else who would even spare the time to dismiss my work, I set the MS to one side and started on a second book.

Years later, I was contacted by Nathan O’Hagan, one of the non-dogshit people from Authonomy. Now a big-shot published writer, he babbled excitedly about a new indie publisher, Obliterati Press, he was setting up with another author, Wayne Leeming. He told me he remembered my book fondly and asked if I’d ever managed to get it placed. The short answer to that was No. The two of them agreed to consider the MS and…well, here we are.


Describe your writing process. Do you keep a journal?

Much to my shame, I’m not currently writing at all. I’d like to write but after work, sleep, feeding and occasionally washing myself there doesn’t seem to be much time left. Although, sometimes I get an idea for a short story and it starts to rankle me so much that I’m eventually forced to write it down. It’s like lancing a boil and finding a homunculus within.

I don’t keep a journal in my grim everyday existence, but I have done them whilst away on backpacking trips. I’d like to say these journals contained in-depth reportage of the places I’d visited, but I found an old one recently and most of the pages were filled with doodles of robots.


tbcIn The Baggage Carousel, the main character’s traveling is motivated by rootlessness and restlessness. The places he travels to seem so real. How have you researched these places? Are you affected by a similar wanderlust?

All the places mentioned in The Baggage Carousel are ones I’ve visited. Some of the events featured in the book are based on actual occurrences. For the purpose of the narrative, I expunged myself from those events and transposed the central character, Dan Roberts, into them. He’s a bit more of an arsehole than I am but, hopefully, a little more entertaining. So it was like a Spacey/Plummer situation, except in reverse.


Is this really your first book? How long did it take to write and when can we expect another?

Yes, it’s really my first book. I would not intentionally deceive you. It’s hard to tot up how long it took to write The Baggage Carousel, because it’s something I would set aside for months on end and then return to periodically, a scab I had to keep picking at. So, maybe soup to nuts was something like five years, but it wasn’t five years of continual slog. If anything, the MS was something I would revisit when I had a little time away from the continual slog.

I wrote a second book, “Munger”, a character study based on a sex-tourist I met on a bus in Thailand. He was a hideous man, really, but his voice got stuck in my head. Even after the inherent darkness of my first novel, I somehow managed to plumb new depths of depravity with my sophomoric effort. I honestly do not know if the world will ever want or need this novel, but I do know it was something I needed to write.


You can follow Dave at and and check out his publisher,

I’d Love Help Launching Born in a Treacherous Time

I just launched my latest novel, the prehistoric fiction, Born in a Treacherous Time:

Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive in a world where nature rules, predators stalk them, and the next species of man threatens to destroy Lucy and everything she understands.

If you like Man vs. Wild, or have ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. 

If you read To Hunt a Sub and loved the cameos of Lucy, the ancient female, Born in a Treacherous Time reveals her life, why she appeared to Kali as sad, and how she set off on what would be man’s African exodus. Also: Learn how to knap tools, steal carcasses from Scimitar-tooth cats, and avoid the many dangers that preyed on early man.

If you are interested in featuring my book on your blog, I’d love to share your site on my writer’s website, WordDreams. I have a series I call ‘Traveling’ where I visit your website article about my book and promote that on my blog. To participate, add a comment to this post with a way I can contact you and I’ll reach out.

Here are some details:


Born in the harsh world of East Africa 1.8 million years ago, where hunger, death, and predation are a normal part of daily life, Lucy and her band of early humans struggle to survive. It is a time in history when they are relentlessly annihilated by predators, nature, their own people, and the next iteration of man. To make it worse, Lucy’s band hates her. She is their leader’s new mate and they don’t understand her odd actions, don’t like her strange looks, and don’t trust her past. To survive, she cobbles together an unusual alliance with an orphaned child, a beleaguered protodog who’s lost his pack, and a man who was supposed to be dead.

Born in a Treacherous Time is prehistoric fiction written in the spirit of Jean Auel. Lucy is tenacious and inventive no matter the danger, unrelenting in her stubbornness to provide a future for her child, with a foresight you wouldn’t think existed in earliest man. You’ll close this book understanding why man not only survived our wild beginnings but thrived, ultimately to become who we are today.

This is a spin-off of To Hunt a Sub’s Lucy (the ancient female who mentored Kali Delamagente, the female protagonist).

Kirkus Review:

“Murray’s lean prose is steeped in the characters’ brutal worldview, which lends a delightful otherness to the narration …The book’s plot is similar in key ways to other works in the genre, particularly Jean M. Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear. However, Murray weaves a taut, compelling narrative, building her story on timeless human concerns of survival, acceptance, and fear of the unknown. Even if readers have a general sense of where the plot is going, they’ll still find the specific twists and revelations to be highly entertaining throughout.

A well-executed tale of early man.”

–Kirkus Reviews

Click here for the entire review

An reader review

Born in a Treacherous Time sheds light on a period of time that gave birth to the human race, and allow us to bear witness to the harshness and tenacious spirit that is uniquely human—to survive and endure. Readers with a thirst for knowledge and who enjoy historical fiction, this is a must read. I am looking forward to reading book 2 when it is published.

 “I devoured the book in 2 sittings.”

–Luciana Cavallaro, author of Servant of the Gods series and webmaster of Eternal Atlantis

Continue reading

Review of Write!

For the last few months I’ve been test-driving Write!—a word processing application that lives in the grey area between a text editor and a WYSIWYG word processor.*


Why, you might ask, are we talking about another entry in the word processing universe?  And that’s a fair question.  Since you’re reading this online, I’d be shocked if you don’t already have a go-to program when you want to hammer out a few pages.

But every job has tools—carpenters have hammers and chisels, analysts have computers and spreadsheets, and writers have pens and paper and word processors.  And anyone who performs a job for any length of time can get a little particular about the tools they use—just listen to a chef grumble if you tell them to use knives that are not their own.  Writers are not immune to this pickiness.  Bring it up at a gathering of writers and you’re likely to hear a dozen different opinions on what word processor—or lack thereof—works best.  Personally, since Ami-Pro—of the 1990s—disappeared, I’ve been drifting aimlessly. But for many people—and I’m one of them—using the right tool, or at least the tool that’s right for you, can be a critical thing.

This review has taken me longer than I expected; and while part of that has to do with the way free time dries up when you buy a house, it also took me a while to figure out how I felt about Write!  Not because it’s difficult to use—on the contrary, you can be up and running, and comfortable in your surroundings in less than 5 minutes—but because it’s fundamentally different that other word processors I’ve used.

After using it for several months I’ve started thinking of it as the Goldilocks of the word processing spectrum.  If you’re a high-end user of the fully-functional WYSIWYG programs, especially if you need something with powerful layout tools, Write! just isn’t going to be for you.  Conversely, if you’re like me, and gravitate toward the ultra-simplistic, barely-more-evolved-than-Notepad choices, Write! may have enough features to distract.  But if you fall somewhere in the middle, Write! could be the program that offers just the right mix of features to enable your writing, while getting out of your way.


Likewise, Write! sits in the Goldilocks price zone.  High-end packages like Word can cost quite a bit, and the free software generally just isn’t full-featured, or can be a bit buggy.  Write!, at $24.95 for a lifetime license, is inexpensive, and if it’s features are what you’re looking for, that’s not a lot to pay for a slick, well-programmed word processor.

At its core, it’s that dichotomy that made this review so difficult for me to wrap my mind around.  It took a long time to understand why there needed to be a middle-ground between the extremes.  The way I’ve worked for years is to open up PSPad, or the WordPress post-creation screen, and once the writing was done if I needed to make it look pretty, I’d copy/paste it into MS Word to do the heavy-lifting.  Write! won’t solve that problem—if you need to get a document presentation-ready to take to the printer you’ll still need something else to make it look professional.

Instead, Write! has included a suite of features that can help you with the technical work of pounding out the pages.  Instead of fancy fonts, and clip-art packages, Write! includes features focused on productivity—cloud storage, powerful cross-document search capability, quick publishing of documents to allow sharing and collaboration.  Focus Mode—where the paragraph you’re working on is highlighted and others are de-emphasized—is a feature I thought would bother me, but I found surprisingly helpful.

As with any program, it has it’s quirks, some of which may resonate with you and some won’t.  I don’t love the way the spell-checker works—I think it takes one too many clicks once a word has been identified, but a friend tried it and liked it better than what she was used to.

There are a lot of things to like about Write!, but there is one feature that I REALLY need that Write! just doesn’t do very well—Portability.  The main reason I’ve come to rely on Google Docs is that if I find myself with the time to write I can open the document on my home laptop, my work computer, my tablet, my phone, or any computer I borrow—all without installing extra software.  Write! has the ability to export documents to other formats (docx, pdf, txt, and a couple of others), but without a phone app, or web version, portability is limited.

So is Write! worth it?  That will depend on how you intend to use it.  It seems tailor-made for writing copy for online use, because the text it produces isn’t bogged down by formatting codes.  However, it doesn’t do everything as well as it does the basics, and if you use your processor to make flyers, brochures, or anything that needs graphics, visual elements and formatting, it’s probably not your first choice.  To me, it’s a solid program and it has it’s uses, but until I can edit documents on-the-go, I’m only going to use it when I’m home or toting my own laptop to the coffee shop.

*DISCLOSURE:  I received a free license for Write! in exchange for agreeing to evaluate it and share my thoughts.  Since that agreement my only contact with the Write! staff was to ask a few clarifying questions, and to let them know this review was scheduled for today.


Interview with Jeanne Felfe

Head shotJeanne Felfe is a women’s fiction author whose debut novel came out in 2016. Always curious how other writers make the journey, I asked her a few questions about writing, publishing and her support system. Here are her answers.

When did you start writing?

I actually have a notebook from Junior High that contains some of my writing, so back at least that far. However, I didn’t write seriously until around 2012. I “played” at writing, but would start and then stop for months at a time.

When did you decide to pursue publication?

The Art of Healing began its life as a short story for a Writers Digest contest in 2003. A friend mentioned Camp Nano in July 2013, the day before it started, and I decided to turn that short story into a novel, even though I knew two weeks of that month were already booked. Although I didn’t write 50K words, I did make it to 21K, which was the most I’d ever written on a single story. The writing bug caught hold that time and hasn’t let go. It took me three years to complete The Art of Healing, and I published it in June 2016, knowing absolutely nothing about pre-launch and marketing. I knew half-way through that I would publish my first book as an Indie author – it just felt right.

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000026_00025]Describe your book. Who is your audience?

The Art of Healing is a blended Women’s Fiction/Love story. Although the love story is central, it’s not a true romance. And though it has a satisfying end, it’s not the ending one might expect. The main female character, pediatric nurse Julianne Garvoli, has fooled herself into thinking her life is perfect – that it’s her dream life. Until she comes home one day to learn that her perfect life is anything but perfect. The main male character, photographer Jokob O’Callaghan, is definitely living his dream life, with his wife Keara. They travel the country in an RV creating works of art from his sunrise/sunset photos, and her poetry. When his life is shattered, he hides behind his work. A chance meeting between Julianne and Jokob in St. Louis at one of his art shows opens the door to a possible future together that neither really wants due to their brokenness. In spite of themselves, they find themselves falling in love. But life may have other plans for them.

The ideal audience is a reader who enjoys a deeply emotional journey through pain and healing. A story of growth and forgiveness, and of learning that we all deserve a second chance at love.

The Art of Healing was a quarter-finalist in the Booklife Prize 2017 Contest, where the judge said, “…This satisfying novel has a traditional romance plot, but infuses it with a depth and introspection that keeps the story fresh. No space is wasted on tangents, and the plot comes to a gratifying climax.”

Do you consider genre before you start writing or after the book is complete?

I should, but don’t. When a story floats into my head, I don’t question what it is, I simply write it. However, most of my stories revolve around strong female characters, and fit into some sub-category of Women’s Fiction. That said, I also write short stories, many of which have won contests and been published in several anthologies. My short stories range from humor to horrific, and just about everything in between, including a couple of fantasy. I’m never sure where the ideas come from, but they are usually a flash of a character or scene, and I follow wherever the stories lead.

Do you have a critique group or support network? Do you let people read early drafts?

I am truly blessed to belong to Saturday Writers, a chapter of the Missouri Writers Guild (MWG), and began serving on the board in January 2017. I also served on the MWG board for the 2017-2018 session. Saturday Writers is my writing home and I belong to two novel critique groups made up of several of its members. I can’t imagine trying to write a novel without their support. These two groups (one made up of six women), along with a tightly knit Facebook group, are the only ones I allow to see early drafts because I trust them completely to be honest without destroying me. That wasn’t the case early on when I received some critiques from writers who were not kind, nor supportive but were rather demeaning. I quit writing for a while because of that feedback. Now I am selective. My FB critique group has been writing together since 2014 when we participated in short story workshop together.
Learning which feedback to take from any particular critique partner is something all writers must figure out. Many beginning writers will take anyone’s feedback and make changes that may not serve the story, perhaps changing the voice beyond what truly works.

What are you working on next?

I am so excited to be working on my second novel, The Things We Do Not Speak Of. One day I had a flash that a teenage boy, Daniel, the pastor’s son, had disappeared. When I asked what happened, the voice of fourteen year old Cadey Farmer, a Somali Muslim refugee came through as if she were sitting in my kitchen telling me her story. I ran with it, not truly knowing where it would lead. I knew the beginning and the end, and I knew what had happened to Cadey and Daniel. The rest comes to me in flashes of conversation (how I usually write) between the various characters. I am trying something different. Cadey’s voice came to me in 1st person. There are multiple other point of view characters, all in 3rd person (but all with their own chapters and/or scenes – it’s not omniscient, but rather deep POV for each character). I’ve never read a novel that does this, and it probably breaks a bunch of rules, but all my critique partners tell me it works this way.

The story is a blend of coming of age, family drama, small town bigotry, religious clashes, and mystery, all rolled into one. After the Farmer family moves from Atlanta, where they settled six years earlier after escaping Somalia, to (fictional) Savannah Falls, South Carolina, young Cadey makes a decision that rocks her family, and rattles the townsfolk. Her decision sets up a collision course, forcing a change in deeply held beliefs on all sides. The story dives headlong into generations of racism and prejudice, of small town rivalries, and hidden secrets.
I hope to finish it by the end of the summer and will then begin submitting. All three of my critique groups have been reading it as I write it, so by the time I finish it will have had over ten sets of eyes on it.

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Memorial Day

imageWishing everyone a safe and healthy Memorial Day. Wherever you are, wherever you go, think about those who have sacrificed to help you be able to get where you are.

Have you written any stories about sacrifice you wish to share in the comments?  Or, perhaps, you might choose to use this as an extra, bonus, writing prompt: write about a character who makes a personal sacrifice for the benefit of many.