Meet the author of A DEADLY TRUTH, Joyce Proell

A Deadly Truth by Joyce Proell
ISBN:  9781771550604 (ebook)
Publisher: Champagne Books
Publication Date:  July 1, 2013

A man obsessed, a woman willing to risk it all…

Tainted in the eyes of Victorian society by his wife’s suicide, successful entrepreneur Doyle Flanagan turns a deaf ear to the baseless gossip and harsh rebukes. Ignoring his shattered reputation, he goes about his business making money, doing some good for others and making a few enemies along the way. Arrested for a murder he didn’t commit, he is forced to rely on a feisty school administrator to solve the puzzle. As he struggles to prove his innocence, he realizes gaining the trust and loyalty of Cady Delafield may be more important than his freedom.

On a quest to locate a missing student, school matron Cady Delafield enters a stranger’s house and discovers the woman murdered. Driven to see the murderer brought to justice, she is determined to prevent any further tragedy even if it means joining forces with the very man accused of the atrocity. Against the wishes of her powerful family, she risks her job and reputation to learn the truth. But will

the truth, once revealed, drive her away from the man she has come to love?

Passion and murder collide in 1880’s Chicago as they race to keep one step ahead of the police who want Doyle to pay for his crime. As the attraction between Cady and Doyle sizzles, they battle suspicions, lies and lethal actions to uncover the murderer before he destroys them both.

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit with author Joyce Proell. Ms. Proell provides us with a little insight into who she is as a person and a writer.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Author Joyce Proell

On Becoming a Writer

I may be one of the few writers who never imagined I’d ever write a book. Instead, I wanted to be an artist and studied art in college before I switched to psychology and social work.  

Scariest Moment

The morning after a blizzard left the city of Chicago crippled; I slogged through the pristine snow to Lincoln Park Zoo. The place was deserted. The lion building was open. Inside stood about a half a dozen lions in cages. I was the only person there. These massive, powerful animals, some with enormous manes, stared at me. Then, in unison, they began to roar. The thunderous sound engulfed me. The sheer enormity of rumbling noise made me quiver. I couldn’t breathe. I thanked God I stood on the other side of those thick, steel bars and not with the muscular creatures. The deafening noise went on and on. What a frightening and marvelous experience.    

Happiest Moment

The birth of my daughter, Kate, ranks the highest. After nine months of pregnancy, I was well and truly ready to greet this new person. When the nurse handed me the bundled babe, I saw a slight resemblance to me in her rosy face. The connection was unmistakable. I knew we were a part of each other and would be forever. 

Something to look forward to

Release of A Burning Truth, December, 2013
A winter in Florida

First Book Ever Read

The Pink Ballet Slippers was the first book ever read. Like most little girls, I adored the color pink. Once I spotted the illustration of pink ballet slippers on the cover, I couldn’t resist reading it. 

Favorite Nursery Rhyme

I recall two nursery rhymes. The first was The Old Woman in the Shoe. The idea of so many children living in a shoe—and the shoe illustration had all these windows on different levels—intrigued me. The second rhyme was Wynken, Blynken and Nod. I often wondered what I’d do sailing off in a wooden shoe. 

Favorite Cartoon Character

By far, the best character is Wile E. Coyote. Gotta love the guy’s speed and tenacity. Nothing can keep him down, quite literally. No matter what the obstacle, whether he’s run over, thrown off a cliff, or flattened with a boulder, he pops right up, silly grin in place, and keeps moving forward. What a great metaphor for life. 

Favorite Series

The Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon 
The Prey series by John Sanford
The Bedwyn series by Mary Balogh

Favorite ‘Love’ Word

Cherished. The concept of being cherished implies a certain reverence and appreciation. To cherish means to nurture another person through loving, respectful actions. How wonderful is that? Whether you are the giver or receiver, being cherished feels great.

Best On-screen Kiss

In The Last of the Mohicans, there is a scene which takes place at night. French and British gunfire is erupting like fireworks. Smoke drifts across the starry sky. After days of sexual build-up, Daniel Day-Lewis kisses Madeleine Stowe. It’s intense, wild, and as passionate as the bombs going off in the background. 

I’d love to hear from readers. What is your favorite on-screen kiss?

Thanks again for having me here today. It was fun. 


About the author:

Joyce Proell grew up in Minnesota and attended college and grad school in Chicago. After working in mental health, she retired at a young age to write full-time. Her first book, Eliza, was published in 2012. When she isn’t writing mysteries or historical romances, she loves to travel, walk, read, and do crossword puzzles. She and her husband make their home in rural Minnesota in her very own little house on the prairie.

Connect with the author: 

Website     |     Goodreads     |     Facebook 

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Guest Post: Sandy Appleyard, author of THE WIFE OF A LESSER MAN

The Wife of a Lesser Man by Sandy Appleyard
ISBN: 9781482794830 (paperback)
ASIN: B00BZAVEE0 (Kindle edition)
Publisher:  CreateSpace
Publication Date:  April 15, 2013

They were deeply in love, their days and nights filled with scintillating romance and passionate love making—even after 20 years of marriage. Then fate delivered a hammer blow when a heart attack led to Mark’s impotency and Shelley’s unbearable frustration.

Encouraged by a friend, Shelley becomes flirtatious and unfaithful, finding those moments of glorious intimacy for which she hungered with another man. Mark, a police chief, suspects nothing as he channels all his time and energy into tracking down a serial killer. But when the murderer leaves a terrifying final clue too close to home, only Shelley can solve the case. 

     The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit by author Sandy Appleyard. Ms. Appleyard offers great advice on creating realistic characters, so writers and would-be writers take note.

How do you Create Powerful, Realistic and Interesting Characters?

Creating powerful, realistic, interesting characters is accomplished through compelling dialogue and action. When I transitioned from nonfiction to fiction, this was the hardest part. In nonfiction, you generally don’t have to worry about much dialogue, except when remembering verbatim (for memoirs).  

Creating powerful, realistic dialogue is probably one of the most important parts of writing good fiction.  Here are a few tips to help you do this:

  1. Imagine what real people would say to each other.  It sounds like a no-brainer, right?  It isn’t.  You almost have to picture in your mind two or more people having a conversation, and pick out which parts your characters would exchange.
  2. Focus on one thing at a time; be sure not to add too much background information; you can add tidbits of necessary facts within the dialogue as needed.
  3. Have different personality types and multi-dimensional characters. Do you enjoy being in the company of someone dry, boring, unemotional and completely predictable? Then you wouldn’t enjoy reading about a character like that, right? I make sure all my characters have different facets within their personality. What makes a story particularly interesting for me is when a character is one that we love to hate.  
  4. Keep in mind when creating your dialogue what the purpose of your scene is. In the first draft of my first romantic mystery, I created a bunch of scenes that had no point. The dialogue was great (and maybe that was what I needed-to practice creating great dialogue), but none of the scenes had a purpose.  
  5. If you don’t know how to create the scene or what dialogue to use, just brainstorm and add notes at the end of the scene reminding you what the true purpose is.  Come back to it later so you can keep your work flowing.
  6. Always remember you can edit. This is the most important point. Don’t try to make a scene or excerpt of dialogue perfect the first time, especially if it’s an important or difficult scene. In my experience it’s usually the second or third pass through different scenes that make them perfect or even better than what I had initially intended.
  7. Be consistent but also show growth. Real people don’t like change and change takes time. The same should hold true for characters. If your character is going through transition, make sure it’s a slow and clear process. Don’t have them trying to quit smoking in one scene and in the next scene they appear smoke-free.  

Most of all just keep writing. Don’t put your work away because you’re struggling with a scene or with dialogue. If you’re challenged, move on to something else or brainstorm ideas for other things in your writing plan. Keep motivated and positive; it will come to you when you least expect it!

About the author:

This is Sandy’s fourth self-published book and her second novel. Her first romantic mystery, Blessed and Betrayed was received very well by readers and reviewers and was given an average of 4.25 stars on Goodreads and Amazon. 

Sandy wrote her first two books, which are memoirs, while her children were infants. The Message in Dad’s Bottle is about her father, who tragically passed at the age of 41 from alcoholism, and I’ll Never Wear a Backless Dress tells Sandy’s personal story about her life with Scoliosis. 

Sandy is a full time writer and when she isn’t writing she’s reading, exercising, playing with her children, her cat, or obsessively cleaning her house.

Connect with the author:

Website      |     Facebook      |     Twitter      |     Goodreads 

Buy the Book:


Promo – Guest Author Post: THE DISAPPEARING GIRL by Heather Topham Wood

The Disappearing Girl by Heather Topham Wood
ISBN: 9781483906775(paperback)
ASIN: B00CMR7GFQ (Kindle edition)
Publication date: May 7, 2013

Kayla Marlowe is slowly vanishing…

Last year, Kayla’s world imploded. Her beloved father died, leaving her alone with a narcissistic mother who is quick to criticize her daughter’s appearance. During her winter break from college, Kayla’s dangerous obsession with losing weight begins.

Kayla feels like her world changes for the better overnight. Being skinny seems to be the key to the happiness she has desperately been seeking. Her mother and friends shower her with compliments, telling her how fantastic she looks. Kayla is starving, but no one knows it.

Cameron Bennett explodes into Kayla’s life. He’s sexy and kind—he has every quality she has been looking for in a guy. As Cameron grows closer to Kayla and learns of how far she’s willing to go to stay thin, he becomes desperate to save her.

Kayla’s struggles with anorexia and bulimia reach a breaking point and she is forced to confront her body image issues in order to survive. She wonders if Cameron could be the one to help heal her from the pain of her past. New Adult Contemporary-Ages 17+ due to language and sexual situations.

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to have the author of The Disappearing Girl, Heather Topham Wood, as a guest today. Without further ado, I give you Ms. Wood with advice on selling your first novel.

How to Sell Your First Novel
by Heather Topham Wood

The thing that I never realized after writing my first novel, the aptly named First Visions, is that putting the story to paper was the easy part. Everything else involved with selling a book would be the cause of my sleepless nights and nail biting.

I was completely clueless after I wrote First Visions. I knew very little about the book blogging community, honestly I never even heard of Goodreads. Most of the information I learned about book publishing and marketing came from Absolute Write, a forum for authors. It is hard for me to fathom that this was only last year.

Querying my first novel was such an eye-opening experience. The one thing I learned is that you shouldn’t query every single agent you can find contact information on. If you want to sell your book, find the agents that are looking for manuscripts within your genre. AgentQueryis a fabulous resource to find information on agents that are accepting submissions. Read guidelines closely to avoid ending up in the slush pile.

Selling your first novel may also be the first time you experience the worst type of ego bruising. Expect to hear back from agents and publishers with phrases such as “not for me,” “didn’t connect with me,” and “nope.” Do not let them break you! Be strong, author, and keep writing. Agents and publishers may ask you to revise and resubmit. This can help get you closer to an offer as well as improve the quality of your manuscript.

With First Visions, I did receive several offers through small publishing houses. Ultimately though, I decided to self-publish the novel. This is not an easy or inexpensive route and although I’ve been successful, I’ve put a lot of work into marketing my books. I’m working with Crescent Moon Press for an upcoming series and it has been less stressful to hand over cover and editing duties to them.

Once my book was released, successful marketing was a trial and error process. Book tours are a great way to get the word out about your novel. It can also help your book get reviews on Goodreadsand book retailer sites. Other successful promotions I’ve done are sponsorships through Kindle Nation Daily and BookBub. Offering your book for free as part of the KDP Select program on Amazon can also help boost sales.

I hope this helps new and aspiring authors avoid some of the mistakes I made. But above all else, writing should be fun! Even if the sales don’t happen, you should be proud that you accomplished something that many other people were unable to do.

About the author:

Heather Topham Wood’s obsession with novels began in childhood while growing up in a shore town in New Jersey. Writing since her teens, she recently returned to penning novels after a successful career as a freelance writer. She’s the author of the Second Sight series and the standalone The Disappearing Girl.

Heather graduated from the College of New Jersey in 2005 and holds a bachelor’s degree in English. Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as USA Today,, Outlook by the Bay and Step in Style magazine. She resides in Trenton, New Jersey with her husband and two sons. Besides writing, Heather is a pop culture fanatic and has an obsession with supernatural novels and TV shows.

Connect with the author:    

Website     |     Facebook     |     Goodreads     |     Twitter

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Buy the book:

Guest Post, Excerpt and Giveaway – SWEET MERCY by Ann Tatlock

Sweet Mercy by Ann Tatlock
ISBN:  9780764210464 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781441261496 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00B85M16C (Kindle edition)
Publication date: May 1, 2013
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers

When Eve Marryat’s father is laid off from the Ford Motor Company in 1931, he is forced to support his family by leaving St. Paul, Minnesota, and moving back to his Ohio roots. Eve’s uncle Cyrus has invited the family to live and work at his Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge.

St. Paul seemed like a haven for gangsters, and Eve had grown fearful of living there. At seventeen, she considers her family to be “good people.” They aren’t lawbreakers and criminals like so many people in her old neighborhood. Thrilled to be moving to a “safe haven,” Eve is blissfully unaware that her uncle’s lodge is a transfer station for illegal liquor smuggled from Canada.

Eve settles in to work and makes new friends, including an enigmatic but affecting young man. But when the reality of her situation finally becomes clear, Eve is faced with a dilemma. How can she ignore what is happening right under their very noses? Yet can she risk everything by condemning the man whose love and generosity is keeping her and her family from ruin?

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a guest post by author Ann Tatlock and provide an excerpt from Sweet Mercy.

Meet the Cast of Sweet Mercy 
by Ann Tatlock

Eve Marryat, our narrator, is a likeable 17-year-old girl who really only has one major flaw: she’s a bit smug. She’ll tell you so herself, though she’s much older than 17 when she’s willing to admit to it. She’s a loyal and loving daughter to her parents, Drew and Rose Marryat, though she’s rather critical of sister Cassandra, who was drawn to the life of speakeasies, hip flasks and illicit love affairs that catapulted her into marriage and motherhood sooner than she had hoped.

Drew is laid off from the Ford Plant in Minnesota and the family is invited by Cyrus Marryat, Drew’s brother, to return to Ohio and help him run the Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge. Eve is happy to leave crime-ridden St. Paul (and sister Cassandra) behind to go live in idyllic Mercy, Ohio. Uncle Cy seems like a hero to Eve, but there’s more to him than meets the proverbial eye.

In Mercy, Eve befriends Marlene Quimby, who introduces Eve to her first love, Marcus Wiant. Marcus is the son of the sheriff and works with Marlene’s boyfriend, Jimmy Fludd, at the gas station across from the lodge.

Two more young men enter Eve’s life, the first being her step-cousin Jones, a reclusive albino who lives and works at the lodge. The second is a fellow she knows only by the name of Link, a drifter who lives at the shantytown up the river and comes by the lodge occasionally for a hot meal and a cold drink.

In spite of Eve’s best hopes, the island is not so idyllic, the lodge is full of secrets, and no one is quite what Eve thinks they are, including Eve herself. The summer of 1931 is a season of discovery for Eve, and a time when she comes to know the meaning of sweet mercy. 


From Chapter 1:

 “Well, that’s easy,” I said. “It’s easy to love Uncle Cy.” After all, he was my ticket out. He was my ticket to a new life. We were leaving the city of sin behind. No more bootleggers, brothel-keepers, gangsters, corrupt lawmen, kidnappers, or murderers. We were on our way to Marryat Island Ballroom and Lodge in Mercy, Ohio, on the Little Miami River. We were on our way to the Promised Land.

Daddy gave me one more glance in the rearview mirror before settling his eyes on the road for the long haul ahead. Mother wiped at tears one last time before resignedly stuffing her handkerchief back into her pocketbook. She turned her face to the window, her features delicate and gentle in profile, her soft brown hair pulled into its usual knot at the back of her head.

I too settled back for the ride. As the newly awakened Minnesota landscape rolled by, I noticed the morning edition of the St. Paul Pioneer Press on the seat beside me. Clear of the city limits and facing the long stretch of open road toward Wisconsin, I picked up the paper to pass the time. When I saw an advertisement on page six for Wilson Tailors, I shook my head and clicked my tongue softly. Even the tailors were making money from the fallout of St. Paul’s sleazy underworld. In bold type the proprietor, Mr. Edmund Wilson, boasted: “Bullet holes rewoven perfectly in damaged clothes.”

Ann Tatlock

Ann Tatlock is the author of the Christy-Award winning novel Promises to Keep. She has also won the Midwest Independent Publishers Association “Book of the Year” in fiction for both All the Way Home and I’ll Watch the Moon. Her novel Things We Once Held Dear received a starred review from Library Journal and Publishers Weekly calls her “one of Christian fiction’s better wordsmiths, and her lovely prose reminds readers why it is a joy to savor her stories.” Ann lives with her husband and daughter in Asheville, North Carolina.

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Guest Post – Author Safia Fazlul

The Book Diva’s Reads is proud to host a guest post by Safia Fazlul, debut author of The Harem. Without further ado, I give you Ms. Fazlul…

Overcoming Writer’s Block
By Safia Fazlul

A while ago, during one of my many late-night procrastination sessions surfing the Internet, I came across an interesting article about writer’s block – particularly about the extreme sort that debut authors of fiction suffer from. I could empathize with the author of the article as I had an abundance of ideas for my second novel and still I spent hours just staring at my computer screen, not writing a single sentence. I was still attached to my characters in The Harem and the realization that their story had finished left me both relieved and saddened.

However, I refused to be yet another frustrated and unproductive new author and, so, I decided to try just about everything and anything to get me writing again. I’ve listed below the methods that are working for me and if you’re an author who often suffers from crippling writer’s block, hopefully they’ll work for you too:

·         Go somewhere secluded and empty of things. Writing fiction means to leave planet Earth and enter that fantasy setting in your head, which becomes very difficult when you’re surrounded by “real” everyday noise and distracting objects. My favourite place to write nowadays is at the library, in a small cubicle that’s hidden behind a long hall of book stacks. This place is so quiet and uneventful that I want to escape to my novel’s world.     
·         Quickly write a badly written paragraph. I think writers inherently recognize good and bad writing and need to urgently fix ugly sentences (or maybe that’s just me?). A piece of writing that’s been written quickly and without much thought will have many problems to solve – but it is still words on a page. Then, once I reread the paragraph and begin to edit it, I get so involved with the story that it makes it easier to continue writing it.   ·         Write to describe a character. A story progresses through its characters and to be committed to writing a novel, you must be committed to the characters in it. When I no longer feel enthused about the storyline, I simply start to list facts about my characters: their problems, their goals, their flaws, the way they look, the way they talk, and so on. My interest in the characters usually re-ignites the interest in their story and helps the writing come easier.       ·         Go for a long walk. Staring at a blank page all day can be very depressing as I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of time doing nothing. That feeling of failure definitely withers the mood for writing, and that’s when I turn off my computer, grab a bottle of water, and go for a walk outside. I find that the fresh air improves my mood and the long solitary stroll helps me regain my focus.

·         Read parts of your all-time favourite books.Authors are married to their writing but, just like in a marriage, sometimes the romance needs a little rekindling. When I simply don’t feel like writing, I try to relax and read my old favourites. Reconnecting with novels that have affected me is inspiring and reminds me of why I wanted to experience the pleasure (and sometimes pain!) of writing in the first place. Also, the flow of the writing of authors I admire makes the task seem less difficult.

·         Drink. Coffee, that is. I’ve cut down on coffee lately since I was bordering on caffeine dependency, but there’s no doubt that a hot, frothy latte in the morning wakes me up and helps me focus on my writing. Most days I substitute with green tea which pretty much has the same effect but a lot less caffeine per cup.       
·         Keep notes/review notes. Sometimes amazing ideas just come to you out of nowhere and disappear just as fast unless you make a note of it. I often keep a notepad and a pen in my purse to jot down a great sentence or a change in the plotline or some other detail. When I don’t have my notepad, I write it as a text message and send it to my inbox. Reviewing these notes helps the writing flow when I’m stuck as they’re small ideas that require more elaborate explanations.

The Harem by Safia Fazlul
ISBN: 9781894770989 (Trade paperback)
ISBN:  9781927494196 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00AZQ88VM (Kindle edition)
Publication date:  October 2012
Publisher: Tsar Publications

How far would you go to be free?

Humorous, though tinged with a sense of the tragic, at times risqué, and utterly contemporary, The Harem, is a fast-paced novel about young Asian women and their quest for freedom. Farina has only one dream: to be free and move away from Peckville, a Muslim ghetto in a large city. She is eager to escape the clutches of her strict parents who will not let her drink, party or have any kind of contact with males. As soon as she turns eighteen, she sets her dream in motion and gets her own apartment. The only problem is that her minimum-wage job leaves her feeling anything but liberated. How can she resist when her ambitious best friend Sabrina proposes an infallible business idea? How harmful can running as escort agency really be? Will she finally be freed by her increasing wealth and independence, or will she remain enslaved by her increasing guilt? 

About the author:


Safia Fazlul, of Bangladeshi background, was raised in Scandinavia and now lives in Toronto, where she attends the University of Toronto. When she was eighteen she found work as a “phone girl” for a high-end escort agency, an experience that inspired this novel.

Connect with the author:  Website     |     Goodreads

Buy the book:  Also available at Tsar Books 


Guest Post – Author Brad Cotton

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit from Brad Cotton, author of A Work in Progress. Without further ado, here’s Mr. Cotton answering some of frequently asked questions:

The questions I get asked most often:

When it comes to reading, writing, and publishing, I don’t have all the answers. In fact, I have about 3. However, I do get asked the following questions most often, so I thought I would take this opportunity to share my answers with you. Please take these responses with a grain shaker of salt.

Questions from readers:

How much of A Work in Progress is autobiographical?

I get this one a lot, especially after someone reads the book. The answer is pretty much none of it. The book starts off with the main character recovering from certain personal traumas – one of them being getting dumped by his long-time girlfriend who then moves out of the country. That particular unfortunate event did happen to me. However everything that follows in the book is complete fiction. I never met or knew any of the characters, nor did anything in the book ever happen to me, or to anyone I know. I think we all learned our lesson from A Million Little Pieces

Why did you become a writer?

If you asked my beloved high school English teacher about me, she would no doubt tell you, “Never heard of him”. What this means is that, contrary to a popular response, I did not know early on that writing was what I wanted to do. If class attendance and grades were any indication, most would have predicted me not on a bookshelf, but more so on parole.

I won’t give you the old cliché that you don’t choose to be a writer, but that writing chooses you, because I would have to punch myself in the face. But I will say, it’s a cliché for a reason. I can’t paint, I can’t sing, but writing just comes naturally. I can’t help but do it. If you look at my bank statement, you’d know that I didn’t become a writer for the money. So it must be something else.

What would you be if you weren’t a writer?

A neurosurgeon or a grocery bagger. Maybe both.

How long did it take you to write A Work in Progress?

Believe it or not, people ask me this all the time. It took me 8-months-ish to finish the initial draft. I took a 2-month break in the middle and was holding down a full-time job at the time. I think people ask me this to gauge how long it would take them to write one of their own. For that, however, there is no benchmark. I know people who have written a full-length novel in two weeks. I know authors who have been working on the same book for 3 years. If you’re thinking about writing a book – just go and do it. And don’t ask any more questions about it until you’re done. Go and do it right now. There is no better time.

Will you come to my party?

Yes. Yes I will.

Questions from Writers:

Did you study writing in school?

That’s a tough one. The answer is no, and yes. While I didn’t major in English literature, or writing composition, or anything like that, I always read and studied with a discerning eye. The same goes for television shows I watched, movies I went to, lies I told, and so on. After a while, people with a certain disposition tend to pick up on what works, what doesn’t, what makes a compelling story, and what stalls one. Of course, everyone will have a differing opinion on these things, but there are some fast rules that tend to apply across the board. A great line of dialogue, a cool idea, a punchy sentence, etc., will be just that no matter where you come upon it. Authors are just people who instinctively take that stuff in, store it, and then choose to share with others how they see the world (or how they want to see the world) using what they’ve gathered. (It’s a very similar thing for stand-up comedians, I would imagine). It’s about perspective and insight and material, and I don’t think that can really be taught. Delivery, however, can be taught; though it’s something a writer can never finish practicing… unless you’re Hemingway. But I’m not Hemingway.

How did you get published?

I got published the old fashioned way. I finished my manuscript, then found a freelance editor and paid to have it edited myself. Once I had a polished piece, I began a querying campaign. Many, many rejections from publishers soon followed, as did self-pity, until one day a letter came in with a positive response. I am truly thankful for my publisher. Though I’m considering going indie with my next book.

What? Why are you considering going Indie?

I’m glad you asked. This answer to this could be a post all it’s own. I think to sum it up would be to do a disservice. For a thorough answer that would be close to my own, check out this post from Hugh Howey:

Do you have any other advice for aspiring writers?

Yes – there’s no such think as aspiring writers. If you write, you’re a writer. Just like if you run you’re a runner, and if you paint you’re a painter. Some make a living doing these things, but most do not.

Read On Writing by Stephen King. Let as many people read your writing as often as you can. Don’t expect to make money, but don’t ever stop chasing an audience. Help out other writers as much as possible, whenever possible. Be prepared to be your own best marketer/publicist/agent/advocate. Keep writing. Keep reading. 

Questions from my mother:

Did you visit your Grandmother?

I did. You left your scarf there.

General Questions:

What’s your favorite Book? Movie? Music?

The book that influenced me the most was Catcher in the Rye. If you’re familiar with all the conspiracy theories related to the title, fear not. I’m far too apathetic to attempt assassination of a President or a Beatle. It was simply the first book I was forced to read that actually resonated, and it piqued my interest in literature. Plus, there’s only two Beatles left… and they’ll get theirs soon enough.

When I was younger my favorite movie was Braveheart, but… Gibson? Really? There’s a train wreck I can turn away from. These days I’m more into indie movies. They seem to have more integrity. I just watched The Words. I liked it a lot. If I had to pick a recent favorite: Barney’s Version

If you’re looking for good music, look deep. If you hear it on the radio you know it will be replaced very soon. Search out music like you search out books. Follow the path of what you like and find the ones buried. A few bands in my iPod today: Elbow, Cat Empire, Stars, and P.G. Wodehouse. That’s an audiobook. Wodehouse rocks.

When is your next book coming out?

Good question! My next book is called Boundless. It will be out later this year. It’s about two guys, an escape, a road trip, a pretty girl, a dead body, another pretty girl, and ultimately: what happens when two people venture out to discover who they really are.

Were can I buy your book?

How do I get to the highway from here?

Always head south and hope for the best.

About Brad Cotton:

Born and raised in Toronto, Brad has been writing professionally for over a decade. An average guitarist, a sub-par painter, and a horrible juggler of anything larger than a tangerine, he is currently married to a woman, but does not have a cat, a drum set or any children.

This blog is populated by writing tips and resources (gathered from online sources and originals), reviews of everything from movies, to music, TV, pop culture, and, of course, books, and anything else we deem suitable and/or absurd enough to be posted.

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Guest post – author Lauren Carr

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a guest post by author (and fellow West Virginian) Lauren Carr.

How to Kill Thy Neighbor Without Getting Arrested…or Sued
By Lauren Carr

I can say with confidence that every time I make a new acquaintance who discovers that I write murder mysteries, they are bound at some point to shoot me a worried expression and ask, “Do you ever kill anyone you know in your books?”

I will reply quite honestly, “Yes.”

That’s why I have no friends.

I don’t always kill people I know. Sometimes I kill absolute strangers. Sometimes I make people who tick me off killers. Or sometimes I’ll make them just plain so nasty that everyone sees them for the evil villain they are. 

However, as anyone who is not living under a rock will tell you, and me, and any writer, to blatantly write someone you know into a book can be a litigiously dangerous operation. Publishing attorney, Lloyd Jassin had posted an excellent article that goes into the legal aspects of using real people in Ask the Lawyer: Libel in Fiction in his blog post entitled: When Fiction and Reality Collide. As they say in the pharmaceutical commercials, if you have literary homicidal thoughts, call a lawyer. 

For this article, I am addressing the use of real people and situations from the artistic point of view. What writer is not inspired by the things, people, places, and circumstances around them? If you make all those things off limits for fear of being sued, then you are turning off the faucet for an abundance of material to draw upon.

Most writers will not write someone into a book simply because they got ticked off and want to world to know about it, even subconsciously (usually … mostly … okay, generally). 

Here’s why. Say you’re writing a book and your boss really ticks you off. I mean really, really ticks you off and you decide, “I’ll get her.” 

Seventy-two pages into your work-in-progress, you insert your boss. Maybe you even go back to the beginning and insert scenes with her in them.  You changed the name and maybe make her a dyed blond with gray roots, but it’s her none-the less and you’re telling the whole world what she did to you in the subplot of your comedy. Most likely, the reader, not knowing anything about what happened between you and the boss, will come away scratching his head and wondering what was the point of that subplot. 

Experienced authors use real people and situations in fiction the way an accomplished chef uses ingredients in a delightful recipe. A chef doesn’t simply throw spices in because it strikes her fancy. With the first priority being the meal, the chef will only put in that which will improve on the final experience of the diner.

For example, in the first installment of my Deep Creek Lake mysteries, It’s Murder, My Son, Mac Faraday’s half-brother, David O’Callaghan is an officer with Spencer’s police department. In the original draft, David’s partner and childhood friend gets David fired by betraying him to the police chief. Days later, the supposed friend gets a promotion that David had been up for. 

That betrayal happened to me. I was intimate with the pain and fury of being betrayed not just by a co-worker, but someone who I considered a very good friend who less than a week later ended up with a promotion for which I had been a candidate. That was what I wanted to bring across for the character of David. It served as the perfect catalyst to bring my protagonist Mac Faraday into the murder investigation.

The character in It’s Murder, My Son, who had perpetuated the deed bore only a very slight resemblance to the real-life culprit. I had already created the character of David’s friend before deciding to use the betrayal, based on my personal experience, in the plot. I incorporated some of the real-life culprit’s traits, which were necessary to make that character capable of such an act, but not the person as a whole. Most of the differences between the real-life incident and the way it went down in the book were necessary in order to make it work within the plot. 

In other words, like a chef, I chopped up the real life incident, used only what I needed, and threw away the rest.

As It’s Murder, My Son was revised and rewritten, David’s disloyal friend changed repeatedly until in the final product, Travis Turner was not a police officer, but a best-selling mystery author and the motive for his treachery was not to get a job promotion. The only real-life parts that remained were the act of betrayal and the self-serving nature of the perpetrator.

More often than not, it is a single trait or even a situation that strikes me. For example, in my latest book, Blast from the Past, one of characters was inspired by a complete stranger with whom I had one brief conversation at a book event. The man was an author working on his first book. Always willing to help new authors, I tried valiantly to listen to him, but found myself distracted by his bad breath, body odor, and other hygienic issues. Involuntarily, I kept backing up while, anxious to tell me about his work-in-progress, he approached. Eventually, I found myself backed up against a wall and staring at stuff hanging from his nose.

Later, I found out from someone at the event who knew this man, that he came from a wealthy family and had inherited an already successful business. Sadly, his issues drove away already loyal customers and his business went south.

Hearing this, the thought struck me. Can you imagine being married to this man? By the end of the day, Gordon and Nora Crump from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, were born. 

I’ve been inspired by people to whom I have not even spoken. Last summer, while on a pit stop on the way to Snow Shoe, West Virginia, I was sitting in the car when I saw a man come out of the bathroom, purchase a soda at the machine, and go to his car. He was medium height, black hair on top of his head with gray from the temples down, like a gray strip around his head. Under a hook nose that was so huge it looked fake, his mustache was bushy and gray and he had a gray goatee. He also had a pot belly above his waist that made him look nine months pregnant and about ready to burst.

This stranger’s appearance was so intriguing that I have stored him away in my memory to use later in a book. I still don’t know what book yet. I may kill him. Or maybe he’ll turn out to be a killer? Maybe. Maybe not. You’ll need to read my books to find out.

About the author:

Lauren Carr fell in love with mysteries when her mother read Perry Mason to her at bedtime. The first installment in the Joshua Thornton mysteries, A Small Case of Murder was a finalist for the Independent Publisher Book Award. 

Lauren is also the author of the Mac Faraday Mysteries, which takes place in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland. It’s Murder, My Son, Old Loves Die Hard, and Shades of Murder, have all been getting rave reviews from readers and reviewers. Blast from the Past is the fourth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series. The next installment in the Mac Faraday series will be released in October of this year.

Released September 2012, Dead on Ice introduces a new series entitled Lovers in Crime, which features prosecutor Joshua Thornton with homicide detective Cameron Gates. The second installment in the Lovers in Crime series will be out in 2013.

The owner of Acorn Book Services, Lauren is also a publishing manager, consultant, editor, cover and layout designer, and marketing agent for independent authors. This year, several books, over a variety of genre, written by independent authors will be released through the management of Acorn Book Services, which is currently accepting submissions. Visit Acorn Book Services website for more information.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She also passes on what she has learned in her years of writing and publishing by conducting workshops and teaching in community education classes.

She lives with her husband, son, and three dogs on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

Visit Lauren’s websites, blog, or connect with her via email, Facebook and Twitter: 


Author Website     |     Blog – Literary Wealth     |     Facebook     |     Gnarly’s Facebook Page     |     Lovers in Crime Facebook Page     |   Acorn Book Services Facebook Page     |    Twitter

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Guest post: Author Sheryl Browne

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to provide a guest post by author Sheryl Browne as part of the A Little Bit of Madness virtual blog tour…

Slush Pile by Sheryl Browne

As part of my book blog tour I was invited to offer ten tips on how to avoid the slush pile.

So who am I to offer such advice?  Well, I currently have three books published, Recipes for Disaster, Somebody to Love and Warrant for Love.  I also have a book that released on Valentine’s Day, A Little Bit of Madness, and a further three book contract.

Blowing my own trumpet a bit, aren’t I? 

After more years than I care to mention sobbing onto my keyboard, spookily recognising a rejection even before I’d opened the email, it’s a first, trust me.  My road to publication has, you see, has been littered with pot-holes, and it’s only now I feel qualified to offer such advice. I would therefore like to share some of what I’ve learned along the way in the hope it might help make your road a little less bumpy if you are just starting out on your publishing journey. 

OK, my ten tips are:

  • Make sure your first chapter is your best! The first chapter has to provide the all-important hook. It also has to introduce the characters, show their inner/outer conflict, along with the ‘inciting incident’ which brings your characters together and into conflict, i.e. set the tone for the story. That’s an awful lot of information/background information you are going to be cramming into that first chapter. Could it be – horror of horrors – that your slaved over first chapter actually ends up muddled and totally boring? A prologue is a consideration, of course, but unless it conveys information crucial to the book that can’t be conveyed in the first chapter, it’s superfluous. So, be open to rewriting that first chapter, scrapping it, or moving chapters around to make sure you are starting your story in the right place. At the end of the day, it is your book. You are the author. You have the power to do it!
  • Do consider joining a writers’ group or perhaps teaming up with a critique partner.  Feedback is invaluable.
  • Do employ outside editorial help if you need to, but be careful to check credentials. Personally, I chose to approach someone recommended by the Romantic Novelists’ Association, who was very reasonably priced and extremely professional. You can find details of editors I’ve used, including a fabulous US editor, at 
  • If your manuscript is ready to submit make sure to research agent/publisher websites to see if your genre is something they represent. DO keep your covering letter short. A brief bio and intro the book is sufficient. For example, I am seeking representation for my book, Lost in Birmingham, a thriller, approximately 90,000 words in length. I noted from your website you are interested in looking at this genre and wondered whether my book might be of interest to you. DO mention you realise they will be inundated with enquiries – they will be!  
  • Make sure to keep synopsis and chapters to the length stipulated in the agent/publisher submission guidelines (i.e. two page synopsis and first three chaps) and only submit online if they accept email submissions. Most agents do nowadays.  
  • Read you work out loud, into a tape recorder, rather than to the dog. If you hesitate while you are reading, chances are the reader will, too. It’s a great way of ironing out the glitches and getting rid of superfluous narrative.
  • Once you are underway with the submission process, do think about building yourself an online presence. Authors need to be totally interactive in promotion in today’s publishing climate. Set up a website, but do make sure it looks professional. Take a look at the websites of authors writing in a similar genre. Set up a blog, linking back to your own website, a Twitter Account and Facebook page and start connecting with people. Published authors, as well as authors who have chosen to ePublish, find Twitter an invaluable marketing tool. There are other social networking platforms, such as Linked in, Stumbleupon, Digg, but don’t overwhelm yourself! 
  • Become Goodreads or other Bookbuzz site member. You can then start linking with like-minded readers and writers and, as with Facebook, eventually set up an author page.
  • Do also consider linking up with online writer/author support groups. Often you can connect up with members of these groups via Twitter and begin sharing/tweeting between members to reach a higher audience. I am a now a proud member and editor at  (a group of thirty show-cased authors and associate Readers from around the world, everything from chick lit to WWII memoirs & stories).
  • If you get rejected and the agent/publisher has offered you a piece of advice, even a snippet, be grateful. Despite hundreds of submissions to wade through, someone has gone to the trouble of commenting because they think your work has potential. They wouldn’t have bothered otherwise. Use the advice, if you can, dust yourself off, and move on. 

I wish you every bit of luck your hard work deserves!

About the author:

Now residing in Worcestershire, Sheryl Browne grew up in Birmingham, UK, where she studied Art & Design. She wears many hats: a partner in her own business, a mother, and a foster parent to disabled dogs. Creative in spirit, Sheryl has always had a passion for writing. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, she has previously been published in the US and writes Romantic Comedy because, as she puts it, “life is just too short to be miserable.”

Sheryl’s debut novel, RECIPES FOR DISASTER – combining deliciously different and fun recipes with sexilicious romantic comedy, is garnering some fabulous reviews! Sheryl has also been offered a further three-book contract under the Safkhet Publishing Soul imprint. SOMEBODY TO LOVE, a romantic comedy centering around a single policeman father’s search for love, his autistic little boy and the boy’s Autism Assistance Dog, launched July 1 with an immediate 5* review. WARRANT FOR LOVE, bringing together three couples in a twisting story that resolves perfectly, released August 1, and A LITTLE BIT OF MADNESS released on Valentine’s Day 2013.

Connect with the author:

Author Website     |     Facebook     |     Twitter     |     Romantic Novelists’ Assoc.

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Guest Post: Author Maryka Biaggio

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to present a guest post by Maryka Biaggio, author of Parlor Games.

A Story I Didn’t Tell
Maryka Biaggio

Considered a scandalous woman of the Gilded Age, May Dugas had many adventures—and run-ins with the famed Pinkerton Detective Agency. I couldn’t possibly fit all of her escapades into my novel, Parlor Games, but I do have a particular favorite among the untold stories. Here May puts her unique skills to good use and keeps a mother and her children together.

When a good friend of May, a Mrs. Hanna, decided to take her three children abroad for an educational tour, her ex-husband secured two court orders forbidding this travel. Defying his wishes, Mrs. Hanna stole away from Cleveland with the children. Mr. Hanna uncovered her plot to spirit the children to New York City and sail from there. He hired the Pinkertons to help him intercept her.

Mrs. Hanna’s pursuers learned she was staying at the Savoy Hotel in New York and surrounded the hotel to prevent her escape. Then they received a tip: Mrs. Hanna had managed to sail earlier that day on the Menominee. Mr. Hanna and his Pinkerton cohorts rushed to the pier and discovered that the passenger list of the departed ship did not include the Hanna clan. But one other ship, the Campania, was scheduled to depart later that day, and when they discovered Mrs. Hanna’s trunks had been loaded onto it, they boarded the ship and undertook a search. 

Upon reviewing the ship’s list they found that Mrs. Hanna’s name had been recorded but crossed out. They asked the Captain about this. All he would say is that she was no longer on the list and, furthermore, he was far too busy to stop and talk to them about the ship’s passengers. The Hanna family was in fact on board, and the Pinkertons even identified the rooms they were likely hiding in. But the cabins were locked, and they couldn’t force entry into the rooms of a ship sailing under the British flag.

May Dugas, however, was also on board, and when Mr. Hanna discovered her on deck he summoned the detectives, knowing she was a friend of his wife. He and the detectives queried her: “Is Mrs. Hanna on board?”

“If she is, I do not know it,” she replied.

“Did she sail on the Menominee while booking her baggage on the Campania?”

Carefully choosing her words, May said, “If Mrs. Hanna has left America by now, she must have left on the Menominee.”

The interrogators then asked May if she had concocted the scheme to get Mrs. Hanna’s children out of her husband’s reach, to which May responded, “I am not at liberty to say, for Mrs. Hanna is my friend.”

They had no choice but to leave the ship and watch it sail away.

Then they started wondering if or how Mrs. Hanna could have eluded their watch at the Savoy. They returned and interrogated the staff. There were two possibilities: Either they had been smuggled out in laundry baskets or had exited via a backside passage that took them through several shops before opening onto Fifty-ninth Street. But the hotel staff they questioned steadfastly declined to reveal how they had escaped under the watchful eyes of the Pinkertons.

And that is how the adventure ended. Not only had May succeeded in helping Mrs. Hanna and her children gain passage undetected on the Campania, but she had also assisted her friend—who was handicapped by an arm in a sling and had three sons aged seven, eleven, and thirteen in tow—escape from the Savoy Hotel while it was surrounded by Pinkerton detectives. That May: She was a clever one! I hope you’ll get to know her better when you read Parlor Games.

About Parlor Games

The novel opens in 1917 with our cunning protagonist, May Dugas, standing trial for extortion. As the trial unfolds, May tells her version of events.

In 1887, at the tender age of eighteen, May ventures to Chicago in hopes of earning enough money to support her family. Circumstances force her to take up residence at the city’s most infamous bordello, but May soon learns to employ her considerable feminine wiles to extract not only sidelong looks but also large sums of money from the men she encounters.  Insinuating herself into Chicago’s high society, May lands a well-to-do fiancé—until, that is, a Pinkerton Agency detective named Reed Doherty intervenes and summarily foils the engagement. 

Unflappable May quickly rebounds, elevating seduction and social climbing to an art form as she travels the world, eventually marrying a wealthy Dutch Baron. Unfortunately, Reed Doherty is never far behind and continues to track May in a delicious cat-and-mouse game as the newly-minted Baroness’s misadventures take her from San Francisco to Shanghai to London and points in between.

The Pinkerton Agency really did dub May the “Most Dangerous Woman,” branding her a crafty blackmailer and ruthless seductress.  To many, though, she was the most glamorous woman to grace high society. Was the real May Dugas a cold-hearted swindler or simply a resourceful provider for her poor family?

As the narrative bounces back and forth between the trial taking place in 1917 and May’s devious but undeniably entertaining path to the courtroom—hoodwinking and waltzing her way through the gilded age and into the twentieth century—we’re left to ponder her guilt as we move closer to finding out what fate ultimately has in store for our irresistible adventuress. 

About the Author

Maryka Biaggio is a former psychology professor turned novelist with a passion for history. Twenty-eight years after launching her academic career she took the leap from full-time academic to scrambling writer and now splits her time between fiction writing and higher education consulting work. More information about Maryka and Parlor Games can be found on, including a discussion guide, historical information, recommended reading, and a fun “Parlor Talk” feature. You can also find out more about Parlor Games on Facebook.

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Guest post: Author Steven Manchester

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to provide you with a guest post by Steven Manchester, author of Goodnight, Brian.

My Writing Process
by Steven Manchester

I suppose I discovered the writing world by accident – or perhaps it discovered me.

I’d just returned home from Operation Desert Storm, and was working as a prison investigator in Massachusetts. Needless to say, there was great negativity in my life at that time. I decided to return to college to finish my degree in Criminal Justice. During one of the classes, the professor talked about police work but nothing else. I finally raised my hand and asked, “The criminal justice system is vast. What about the courts, probation, parole – corrections?” He smiled and told me to see him after class. I thought I’d finally done it! In his office, he explained, “There’s no written material out there on corrections or prisons, except from the slanted perspective of inmates.” He smiled again and dropped the bomb. “If you’re so smart,” he said, “why don’t you write it?”

Nine months later, I dropped the first draft of 6-5; A Different Shade of Blue on his desk. From then on, I was hooked. I was a writer.
I’d written a lot at my job (report writing), but it all started with my college professor’s challenge. Perhaps because of my age and experience, I understood right away that writing is a craft that takes time to evolve; to mature, so I spent the next several years PRACTICING my chosen craft. Under the pen name, Steven Herberts, I wrote in every venue of print I could get my name in: newspaper, magazine, etc. I also penned two collections of poetry, and wrote drafts for two more books. After five solid years of writing, I finally believed that I’d found my voice; MY STYLE – and was ready to contact an agent.
The greatest challenge for me has been time. First and foremost, I am a dad and my children come first. After that, there are other responsibilities that need my attention. Yet, my passion to write has constantly gnawed at my soul. To overcome the obstacle of time, I made writing a priority over watching TV and sometimes even sleeping. Once my family is taken care of and the world closes its eyes, I’m up for a few more hours each day – chasing my dreams on paper.
It has taken thousands of words, hundreds of pages, before I finally identified with a particular genre. I decided that my voice was a more sensitive one: a male perspective to a female audience. My novels, Twelve Months and Goodnight, Brian are evidence of that.

Goodnight, Brian synopsis:

Fate was working against little Brian Mauretti. The food that was meant to nourish him was poisoning him instead, and the doctors said the damage was devastating and absolute. Fate had written off Brian. But fate didn’t count on a woman as determined as Brian’s grandmother, Angela DiMartino – who everyone knew as Mama. Loving her grandson with everything she had, Mama endeavored to battle fate. Fate had no idea what it was in for.

An emotional tale about the strength of family bonds, unconditional love, and the perseverance to do our best with the challenging gifts we receive, Goodnight, Brian is an uplifting tribute to what happens when giving up is not an option.

Early Reviews include:

“Steven Manchester has a gift for expressing through his writing the complicated and transcendent beauty of the human experience with poignant clarity.” – Yolanda King, eldest daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King

“Steven Manchester’s Goodnight, Brian is a poignant, inspiring story about resilience and faith and one family’s enduring love that should be a model for us all.” – James S. Hirsch, bestselling author, Willie Mays: The Life, The Legend

“Steven has once again proven his deep insight into human emotions and relations and his ability to craft a well written and entertaining story that also has the power to inspire courage and hope. Goodnight, Brian is a fine read.” – Bob Price, WPZZ Radio Personality

Now that I have nearly two decades of writing and getting published under my belt, I enjoy trying to help new writers break in. My advice is always the same:

  • Be true to yourself, always.
  • Write constantly.
  • Keep the faith!!!
  • And NEVER, EVER, EVER quit. Most people in this industry would agree that more than talent or skill or even luck, perseverance is the one trait that will always get the job done.
  • Knock on every door you can, and keep knocking. I promise that eventually someone will open and the warmth you feel on your face will more than validate every hour spent alone in the darkness. 

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