Unexpected Blessings #gratitude #life

Stop waving that diaper around, I’m not expecting one of those blessings. Sheesh, I’m still trying to figure out how to finish the last two projects I was sent. I’m talking about those blessing we don’t realize are blessings until after the fact.

After a difficult challenging year, I decided to take a moment to count my unexpected blessings, because when they first arrived, they were not greeted with Joy and Enthusiasm, more like they were met at the door by Worry. Worry is a nice enough guy, but he can do a real number on you, your confidence, and your outlook.

So here goes the countdown:

Quick review of events leading to our countdown. We lost Mr. Garden Gnome (our dad/dad-in-law/granddad) to the evil minions of cancer. Three weeks later Knight was involved in a car accident, he luckily walked away from but it left our steel steed in unfixable pieces. Three weeks, one day later we lost our faithful Hellhound after 11 beautiful years. Three weeks after that, Knight, Prankster Due and I moved into our humble abode, while Mrs. Garden Gnome moved in with our Herbalist Sisters. And three months later, after 18 years with a specific company, my position became the victim of a “workforce reduction”. Time to hook up with Worry.


  • Knight and I realized that we could indeed scale back and still maintain the lifestyle our Prankster Duo is now accustomed to, while providing the little things we didn’t want them to lose. This required a bit more forethought and planning, but was completely doable.
  • This served as a reminder that my self-worth should not be tied to a paycheck. Regardless if you earn a regular financial deposit, a mother and wife and self-employed business person is worth their weight in much more than gold.
  • Time management should not be taken for granted, and that hour you decided you have, tends to bring friends like two, three and four and before you know it, you’re day is filled. Being busy is a good thing, but being too busy is not, which leads to…
  • Taking time to talk to your mini-you’s is hugely important, and do it while you can, because soon they will be out on their own adult adventure and you’ll wonder why you didn’t take five minutes to discuss their idea of why socialism might not be such a bad idea in today’s government, or why does the female half of the population have to act silly around the male half they’re trying to impress. Don’t they get that the male half will be impressed if they’re honest about being smart? (Yep, I had some very enlightening conversations with my Prankster Duo during the last eight months. Some serious, some silly, each one you couldn’t pay me enough to miss.)
  • You re-learn to appreciate the simplest things, especially when everything around you feels as if it’s spinning out of control. Remember to breathe. Remember to try, because whether you fail or succeed, at least you tried and that’s better than never attempting it.
  • I decided to pursue an opprotunity I would never attempt if I had not found myself with time on my hands. Wicked Dragon Writer Solutions was born and is still growing, and I learned just how much I enjoyed editing and helping other writers.
  • We were rescued by our beautiful and lovely Fur Minxes, who brought the fur love back to our home. There is joy in being rescued by an animal, when you get two, it’s double the love.
  • You’re never too old to learn something new. Something I discovered when I published my collection of short stories all by my lonesome. However, the flip side of this lesson: I am eternally grateful for my publishing houses and all that they do, because man the amount of things they’re juggling for me and their other authors: mind-blowing.
  • Changing “day jobs” at the mid-point of your life, is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it may be exactly what you need to move to the next game level of life.
  • And most important of all, I realized why I adore my Knight unconditionally. There’s a reason your partner is called a “partner”, and their support through all of the ups and downs becomes the foundation you lean on when Worry begins to nag and shift your foundation.

So while trying to identify these unexpected blessings while you’re battling your way through the hazy fog and trying to dodge Worry and his incessant nagging, may be especially hard, stop for a minute and look around. Those little flickers of light through the haze, reach for those, hold them close, because they’ll help you find the path through. Before you know it, you’ll look back and realize you made it.


SJ Francis uncovers dangerous family secrets and old betrayals #suspense #giveaway #familysaga


*Warning: today’s excerpt steps into dangerous territory, so before you tread forward, you were warned.

Today we welcome SJ Francis and her debut novel, Shattered Lies, where digging into family secrets can be hazardous to your health and heart…Front cover

She wants to know the truth, but some secrets might be better left alone…

Kate Thayer has a good life as a veterinarian, running the family horse farm—until she uncovers an act of unimaginable treachery by those she trusted most and learns that everything she knew about herself was a lie. Her paternal grandmother, the woman who raised her, is behind a number of devastating secrets Kate is compelled to discover. But the deeper she digs, the more betrayal she finds, changing her life in ways she could have never foreseen.


She knew that bigotry existed, but she had never experienced it quite like this before…

Kate couldn’t say anything for a moment. She was just too astonished. “Wh—what? Excuse me? What you did you say?”

The other boy with brown hair spoke, “Sorry, miss.” He giggled too. “You have to excuse my friend. He’s a little drunk.”

“How old are you two?”

They didn’t look older than eighteen, and had acne breakouts on their cheeks, but she knew better than anyone that looks could be deceiving.

“We’re old enough,” the rude one said.

Sam returned just as the rude one spoke again and pointed, “Hey look, it’s the Jolly Giant Nigger.”

Kate shot to her feet so that she was between Sam and them.

A porter was with Sam. “Is there a problem, miss?”

“Yes,” she said without facing him. “We’d like to change our seat.”

“Of course, Sam asked too. We have another place for you over here, if you both come with me.”

Kate moved to leave. The two young men said nothing, which was a good thing. She swore she could feel her blood boiling in her veins. If they said one more thing…

Sam stood aside to let her exit and then she heard the young man. “Goodbye now, Uncle Tom.” Giggling. “Enjoy your meal, Uncle Tom, so nice to see you.” More giggling. “Dumb nigg—”

He didn’t have a chance to finish. Kate snatched the water glass from the table, threw the water at him, slammed the empty glass down hard on the table directly in front of him, and glared into his eyes. “You disgust me! It’s people like you who have turned this world into shit!”


As you can see, SJ fears not the tough topics, so of course, I had to grill poke and prod at what makes her tick. She bravely accepted my challenge (something about not being able to leave until I was satisfied might have had something to do with it). Without further ado, may I present, the magnificent SJ Francis…

If you were to hold a dinner party for six, who would you invite and share at least one question you would have for each? 

Hmmn….let’s think on this. Should I be politically correct or push the bar? (push, push) I’m a writer so let’s push the bar as far as I can. For a dinner party, I think I would have to invite Leonardo da Vinci, Genghis khan, Napoleon, Winston Churchill, Idie Amin, and Fidel Castro. I think that would be an interesting assortment of people. Now to the questions….

For the deep thinking, Da Vinci, I’d ask, what do you think man is capable of?

For Genghis Khan, how far do you think you can go?

For Napoleon, If you had conquered Russia, what then?

For Winston Churchill, what if Germany won, then what?

For Idi Amin, what did human flesh taste like? Or, if you want to protect sensitive tummies, Jami, how about, if you ruled today, would you do anything differently? (Never fear, SJ, my followers are a tough batch of cookies, I think they’d be more interested in the culinary aspects.)

For Castro, what do you see in the future for Cuba and the United States?

I’m sure the combined presence of these mixed personalities and responses would heat things up considerably. Don’t you think? (It’d be fun to be a fly with a notepad on the wall!)

As children we tend to have an idea of what we want to be by the time we’re ten. Before you decided to pursue the artistic dream of being a writer, what did you want to be and why?

I wanted to do everything. Of course, that wasn’t realistic. I wanted to become a veterinarian. I love animals and just wanted to help and protect them. Once, I discovered there was too much math and science involved to become one, I knew I had to choose something else, but my love for animals and advocating for them has never waned. (Funny enough, being a vet was one of my choices, until Career Day in eighth grade where a beautiful Shepherd’s hind leg had to be reset. I broke down and couldn’t stay in the room.)

Whether we’re plotters or pantsers (outlines not needed), creating our stories takes us on very memorable journeys. Sometimes we may be part way through before we realize some major aspect of our story is just not working (plot, character, setting). Have you ever hit this sharp, pointy snag and if so, how did you escape? We’re you battered and bruised or a bloody mess?

This happens a great deal to me, but after reviewing and editing and slicing off bits, and chunks, and ending up a bit bloodied and bruised in the process, the story survives stronger and better than it was before. But what a chore it was to get there. Not to mention the endless amount of gauze and tape. Oh my! *fist bump offered*

What is some of the best advice you were ever given?

That’s an easy one. The best advice I was ever given was by the late great Jackie Collins. She had a passion for writing that was contagious and helped me regain my passion for writing when I thought I had lost it. When I needed encouragement the most, she told me, “Keep your writing passion on fore.” Don’t let anything get in the way of your writing.

What is the best advice you can share with others?

I’d like to build on what Jackie Collins told me. Never stop learning. Never stop reading. Never stop writing. If you want to write, just write. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. As long as you believe you can write, you can. Discouragement lurks behind every corner. You are going to want to quit. Don’t. Never give up. Never let fear win. Never. For the day you do, you will give up. Don’t let anything or anyone get in the way of your writing.

Our infamous bullet list is next, and SJ handled it beautifully…

Blades, guns, fists or feet?

For me, it’d be anything I can get my hands on. Pens, pencils, knives, even a fork can be used as a weapon by me.

Favorite Fairy Tale of all time?

The Ugly Duckling.

Three titles and their authors sitting on your nightstand/bookcase/table/floor waiting to be read? Which do you prefer? The ones on the nightstand, bookcase, table or floor?

Let’s go with nightstand. 1)Haunted Britain and Ireland, 2)Agatha Christie-Hercule Poirot Short Stories, again, and 3)Heather Neff’s Leila II: The Moods of the Sea.

Greatest one liner of all time?

“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Because, sometimes, I just really don’t.

Sarcastic witticism, Southern sweetness or Geeky disdain?

I think I’m more Southern sweetness. (Bless your heart…)

Strangest item currently taking up space in your writing cave?

A ceramic egg. According to Fen Shui or something, having an egg in your work space is supposed to be good luck. We’ll see……

Favorite supernatural creature?

I have to say Werewolf. Therewolf? No. Werewolf. I’d like to ask a rotten human try and hurt a werewolf. It’d be interesting. (How about a Direwolf for even more fun IMO.)

To celebrate the launch of SHATTERED LIES, SJ is offering a free book giveaway. To all those who leave a comment during her blog tour at her website, you will automatically be entered into a drawing to win a personally autographed paperback copy of her debut novel, Shattered Lies. Two copies are available giving two of you a chance to win. To keep up with her stops on her blog tour please visit her website.

Just leave a comment at her website and drop her a line with “Giveaway” in subject line at:


Be sure to leave a valid, working email address in case you win. Good luck and thanks so much for stopping by. She loves to connect with other authors and readers.

FYI: The drawing will take place at the end of my blog tour on Saturday, December 12, 2015. I will contact the winner at their email address at that time to request your mailing address to send you the printed copy of Shattered Lies.

Author Badge (Small)S.J. Francis is a freelance writer with over three hundred publication credits, a University Lecturer with doctorates in English, Mass Communications, and Law, and most recently, a novelist. Francis writes for many publications, as well as regularly contributing to the local newspaper. Francis’ first novel, Shattered Lies is a women’s fiction/mainstream/family saga novel. In the end, it’s all about family.

You can hunt SJ down at any of the following virtual links:

Website    Black Opal Books      Amazon        Facebook       Twitter      Goodreads     Google+      Pinterest


What Did I Agree To? #lifesurprises #writing

I recently joined my local RWA (Romance Writers of America) chapter, because after waving good-bye to my critique group of multiple years, I felt this was a necessary move to help grow my writing skills.
It was a good decision. I enjoy the people, the monthly meeting where information of all kinds is shared, and the people (did I mention them?). I joined to soak up the wisdom of those who’ve been waging the Word Wars much longer than little ol’ me.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself somehow roped by a magical lasso I never saw coming, into doing a table talk. For those that don’t know what those are, it’s where a topic is presented by an individual for the rest of those gathered at the table, and this topic should be able to interest writers from newbie to advanced.

Ummm, okay…

My topic choice as my brain scrambled to follow along: Post-apocolytpic world building.


Yeah, say that three times fast. Why, you ask, would you choose such a topic? My answer: because I was in the midst of world-building a new series and it came out of my mouth before my brain clicked in.

So now I must prepare an interesting presentation on the world ending for discussion. Right then.

Once the shock wore off, and the nerves set in, I pushed up my sleeves and jumped in. Who knows how it will go over, but I broadened the topic to include alternative world building. Let’s be honest, that is a key element for any writer who wants to dive into any genre that includes the words: fantasy, paranormal, or heck, most of the fiction genres. Isn’t that what we do when we write? Create worlds that aren’t quite ours.

Here’s to hoping I don’t bore my table.

Keep The Words Coming #writingtips #wordcount #NANO


The climax of the word battle is just around the corner, the looming specter of NANO. Yes, indeed, November’s National Writing Month, where word warriors start out in formation and thirty days and (hopefully) 50,000 words later they emerge battle-scarred and victorious. I shall be baring witness from the sidelines this year.

NANO was a wonderful way to kick my butt when I was first starting out. It was a weapon (think guilt-trip inducing) to hit a targeted word count each day. I did it for four years. Year one was an epic failure, year two I managed to crest the hill and was about to plant my flag, then was overwhelmed by the last minute reinforcements. Year three, I tromped the syllable fiends into their places and dominated with 50K+ victory. Year four, I got half way through the battle and then my special forces unit was recalled to fight on a different battlefield.

This year, I’ll be in the midst of carving out MARKED BY OBSESSION, the third book in my PSY-IV Teams series, so I shall lift my head occasionally to watch younger word warriors who’ve not been hardened by multiple conflicts, take the field and set it alight with their zealous passion. I will offer encouragement because I do think every author should at least step on to the NANO field at least once in their writing career, because such experience will help the pen warrior define their skill set.

To the ever asked question of how I manage to get two full-length books out each year with family/day job/life in tow, I offer the critical weapon I won from my NANO wars: daily word count and a plan.

These two strategies keep me on track, and allow me to ensure that my writing soul is fed and not allowed to starve. I try to hit a daily word count, five out of seven days a week. Some days it’s like pulling teeth, set in cement, without painkillers while fire ants make a meal out of your trembling limbs. Some days, the set amount becomes merely a suggestion you blow past early in the skirmish. Either way, it’s my time with my characters, and it is just as important as the time I set aside for my day job or family or friends.

I have other warriors I’ve traveled with who use a set amount of time versus an actual amount. Doesn’t matter how many words (2 or 2000), so long as they keep that time slot sacred to writing. Still, the point remains the same, and it is the same point NANO is essentially trying to provide writers: write, every day, something, or that dream of a castle made of words and fantastical stories will crumble to dust.

If you’re looking for something to kick you in the ass and get you moving, join NANO and free the fierce word warrior that exists in you.

Good luck!


Halloween and Poe #halloween #edgardallenpoe #poetry

Since Halloween is creeping closer, I decided to share one of my favorite poems. Good women and gentle sirs, may I present to you Edgar Allen Poe’s ULALUME:


Edgar Allan Poe (1847)

The skies they were ashen and sober;
The leaves they were crispèd and sere —
The leaves they were withering and sere;
It was night in the lonesome October
Of my most immemorial year;
It was hard by the dim lake of Auber,
In the misty mid region of Weir —
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

Here once, through an alley Titanic,
Of cypress, I roamed with my Soul —
Of cypress, with Psyche, my Soul.
There were days when my heart was volcanic
As the scoriac rivers that roll —
As the lavas that restlessly roll
Their sulphurous currents down Yaanek
In the ultimate climes of the pole —
That groan as they roll down Mount Yaanek
In the realms of the boreal pole.

Our talk had been serious and sober,
But our thoughts they were palsied and sere —
Our memories were treacherous and sere —
For we knew not the month was October,
And we marked not the night of the year —
(Ah, night of all nights in the year!)
We noted not the dim lake of Auber —
(Though once we had journeyed down here) —
We remembered not the dank tarn of Auber,
Nor the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.

And now, as the night was senescent
And star-dials pointed to morn —
As the star-dials hinted of morn —
At the end of our path a liquescent
And nebulous lustre was born,
Out of which a miraculous crescent
Arose with a duplicate horn —
Astarte’s bediamonded crescent
Distinct with its duplicate horn.

And I said — “She is warmer than Dian:
She rolls through an ether of sighs —
She has seen that the tears are not dry on
These cheeks, where the worm never dies,
And has come past the stars of the Lion
To point us the path to the skies —
To the Lethean peace of the skies —
Come up, in despite of the Lion,
To shine on us with her bright eyes —
Come up through the lair of the Lion
With Love in her luminous eyes.”

But Psyche, uplifting her finger,
Said — “Sadly this star I mistrust —
Her pallor I strangely mistrust: —
Oh, hasten! — oh, let us not linger!
Oh, fly! — let us fly! — for we must.”
In terror she spoke; letting sink her
Wings till they trailed in the dust —
In agony sobbed, letting sink her
Plumes till they trailed in the dust —
Till they sorrowfully trailed in the dust.

I replied — “This is nothing but dreaming:
Let us on by this tremulous light!
Let us bathe in this crystalline light!
Its Sybillic splendor is beaming
With Hope and in Beauty to-night: —
See! — it flickers up the sky through the night!
Ah, we safely may trust to its gleaming,
And be sure it will lead us aright —
We safely may trust to a gleaming
That cannot but guide us aright,
Since it flickers up to Heaven through the night.”

Thus I pacified Psyche and kissed her,
And tempted her out of her gloom —
And conquered her scruples and gloom:
And we passed to the end of the vista,
And were stopped by the door of a tomb;
By the door of a legended tomb: —
And I said — “What is written, sweet sister,
On the door of this legended tomb?”
She replied — “Ulalume — Ulalume —
’Tis the vault of thy lost Ulalume!”

Then my heart it grew ashen and sober
As the leaves that were crispèd and sere —
As the leaves that were withering and sere,
And I cried — “It was surely October
On this very night of last year
That I journeyed — I journeyed down here —
That I brought a dread burden down here —
On this night of all nights in the year,
Oh, what demon has tempted me here?
Well I know, now, this dim lake of Auber —
This misty mid region of Weir —
Well I know, now, this dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir.”

Said we, then — the two, then — “Ah, can it
Have been that the woodlandish ghouls —
The pitiful, the merciful ghouls —
To bar up our way and to ban it
From the secret that lies in these wolds —
From the thing that lies hidden in these wolds —
Had drawn up the spectre of a planet
From the limbo of lunary souls —
This sinfully scintillant planet
From the Hell of the planetary souls?”

Dive into a Romantic Adventure with Susan Royal #romadv #timetravel #museitup

Today we welcome Susan Royal, fellow authoress at MuseIt Up. She’s bringing along her fantastical romantic adventures, including her latest new release: Xander’s Tangled Web! To help celebrate she’s giving two lucky commenters a copy of their choice of NOT LONG AGO or IN MY SHADOWJust share your favorite genre to read with your email, and one of those winners could be you. We’ll announce our lucky comment winners on Wednesday, Oct. 28th, so check back!

While we wait for her latest release to hit shelves in Fall 2015, you can indulge in her books: In My Own Shadow and the first two installments in her time-traveling series, Not Long Ago and From Now On


Talk about the worst day ever! Lara lets her friend Carrie talk her into a blind date, only it turns out the handsome stranger waiting for Lara after work isn’t Carrie’s cousin after all. And, when they’re chased through a portal to another world, Lara realizes Rhys really is out of this world.

Lyra, her alternate in another dimension, has left clues to the whereabouts of the Book of Secrets that explains the mystery of time travel in Lara’s subconscious. Or so Rhys thinks. Power-hungry telepaths pursuing them will stop at nothing to get it, even if it means breaking Lara’s mind. To complicate matters, Lara gets tangled up in her feelings for Rhys while exploring her connection with Lyra.

With Rhys as her guardian, a bear of a man named Azle to guide her, and the spirit of Lyra haunting her dreams, Lara must find the Book of Secrets before it falls into the hands of those who want its power. Only then can she return to her world safely.

Not long ago FromNowOn_200x300

Erin has met the man of her dreams, but as usual there are complications. It’s one of those long distance relationships, and Griffin is a little behind the times– somewhere around 600 years.

Along with her employer, March, Erin is transported to a time where chivalry and religion exist alongside brutality and superstition. Something is not quite right at the castle, and they are certain mysterious Lady Isobeil is involved. But Erin must cope with crop circles, ghosts, a kidnapping and death before the truth of her journey is revealed.

Forced to pose as March’s nephew, she finds employment as handsome Sir Griffin’s squire. She’s immediately attracted to him and grows to admire his courage, quiet nobility and devotion to duty. Yet, she must deny her feelings. Her world is centuries away, and she wants to go home. But Erin can’t stop thinking about her knight in shining armor.  

From there, the story could have gone anywhere. Turns out it did. I never expected it to become a series, but my daughter insisted the story wasn’t finished, and she was right.    

From Now On takes up where the first book left off. Some of my favorite characters are back. Arvo: the tall gangly young man with a disreputable shock of red hair who becomes Erin’s good friend and confidant. Sir Edevane: Griffin’s fellow knight and friend. Kat: Griffin’s feisty little sister.

Griffin travels across centuries to find Erin, but before they can begin their new life together, he’s sent on a mission to a strange island. When he doesn’t return, Erin assembles a group of his friends to search for him. Followed by his strong-willed sister, Kateryn, they travel to Swansea and secure passage with the notorious Captain Akin.

She discovers firsthand how the island has earned its dark reputation when she battles freakish weather, encounters a race of little people known as “Prowlies” and experiences ghosts of the long departed. Even worse, she discovers there are “ley lines” crossing the island’s mountain peak, creating all sorts of strange phenomena. Yet these obstacles pale in comparison to the secrets she uncovers while trying to rescue the man she loves.

If you love a time travel adventure with a twist (and a love story) and haven’t read Not Long Ago, please do. You can continue Erin and Griffin’s story with From Now On. As for what’s going to happen to them in Book 3? It’s too soon to tell, but here’s a hint. As the relationship between the two love birds grows, they’ll have more obstacles to overcome. In addition, you’ll likely see something about the caves in Wales, blood moons and ghost stories.

Now that we’ve added some great titles to our TBR piles, time to grill Susan…

As children we tend to have an idea of what we want to be by the time we’re ten. Before you decided to pursue the artistic dream of being a writer, what did you want to be and why?

My list was lengthy: a singer (love making music) a comedian (love to make people laugh) a teacher (not too sure about that one)and an artist (I love drawing and painting)

If your character(s) came with a warning label, what would it say?

Sarcastic, Impatient, persistent, stubborn, independent, quirky

If you turned your laptop/computer/pen/typewriter (yes, some of still use these!) over to your character(s), how would they describe you?

Sarcastic, impatient, persistent, stubborn, independent, quirky.

We all have favorite characters, either main or secondary, and there are always bits and pieces of them we don’t share with our readers, but keep close to our hearts. Choose your favorite from your cast of characters and tell us a couple of things that you haven’t shared in your books/writing.

It’s no secret the tailor’s son, Arvo, has a thing for Erin, even though he knows how she feels about Griffin. He’s come to terms with the situation, but he’s searching for the same kind of relationship they have, and he’ll do just about anything to get it.

Personally, I tend to be a bit on the introverted side so the thought of being in the actual presence of one of my favorite writers makes my heart race, my knees shake and tangles my tongue (yes classic fan girl behavior). Who could reduce you to such a level and how do you imagine your initial meeting?

I would love to have sit down and have a conversation with Ray Bradbury. I’ve long admired the way he painted pictures with his words. He made me want to live in Greentown, Illinois and be friends with everyone who lived there.

Growing up, what was your favorite book, comic, game or movie and did you create a character/player that might resemble you?

I was Jane in all the Tarzan movies, Peter Pan’s Wendy, Jo in Little Women and Dr. Watson to Sherlock Holmes.

Many writers have that first novel which will never see the light of day. Out of curiosity, do you have one stashed somewhere?

I had the idea for a novel in high school. After many false starts and revisions, I finally finished it a few years ago and I’m happy to say In My Own Shadow ended up being a lovely adventure. Inquiring minds want to know: what was your first attempt at writing and how old were you? When I was 6 or 7, I wrote a book about our vacation, complete with illustrations, bound with a red ribbon. In fact, I still have it.

Whether we’re plotters or pantsers (outlines not needed), creating our stories takes us on very memorable journeys. Sometimes we may be part way through before we realize some major aspect of our story is just not working (plot, character, setting). Have you ever hit this sharp, pointy snag and if so, how did you escape? We’re you battered and bruised or a bloody mess?

I’m a pantser who does a little plotting, so it happens at least once with every story I write. I get about 60,000 words into it and wonder what in h-e-double-toothpicks I’m doing. What was I thinking? Where do I go from here? How do I finish this thing? I’m completely overwhelmed. I have to go back to the beginning and read it like a reader and not an editor. Eventually things click, and I realize how the story plays out. The rest is history.

What’s the one genre you won’t ever try and why?

I’m not much for writing contemporary pieces, unless it’s something like urban fantasy. My time travel starts out in the present, but not for long. I’d much rather write about some other time, some other place in the universe.

What is some of the best advice you were ever given?

Once I was crying on a fellow writer’s shoulder, whining about a plot hole in my WIP big enough to drive a truck through and he said, You’re the author. It’s your story. So fix it. You can change it and make it whatever it needs to be. And he was right.

What is the best advice you can share with others?

Keep writing, keep learning, keep submitting and never ever give up

Hang tight as we have Susan step up and face our bullet list. Ready? Aim…fire!

Blades, guns, fists or feet?

All of the above, along with explosive devices

Favorite Fairy Tale of all time?

Peter Pan

Three titles and their authors sitting on your nightstand/bookcase/table/floor waiting to be read?

Magic Breaks by Ilona Andrews, Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stievater, The Shadow’s Edge by Jami Gray (These are only a few on my TBR list)

Greatest one liner of all time?

Don’t quit your day dream.

Sarcastic witticism, Southern sweetness or Geeky disdain?

Sarcastic Witticism

Strangest item currently taking up space in your writing cave?

A gnome from the Isle of Man

Favorite supernatural creature?


Big thank you to Susan for taking time to come visit.

Bio photo

     Born in west Texas and raised in south Texas, Susan makes her home in a 100-year-old farmhouse in a small east Texas town. She shares it with a ghost who likes to harmonize with her son when he plays guitar.

She is married and the mother of six (she counts her children’s spouses as her own) and five grandchildren who are all unique and very special. Her family is rich with characters, both past and present. Her grandmother shared stories of living on a farm in Oklahoma Territory with three sisters and three brothers and working as a telephone operator in the early 20th century. Her father told her about growing up in San Antonio in the depression, and she experienced being a teenager during WWII through her mother’s eyes.

When she isn’t writing, she works as a secretary in education and does her best to keep up with her grandchildren. Music and painting are two of her passions. She is a firm believer in getting what you want without breaking the bank. She loves to bargain shop anywhere there’s a sale and began repurposing long before it was popular. She paints, crafts and sews. Her office/craft/sewing room is littered with her latest projects.

Susan loves to take her readers through all kinds of adventures with liberal doses of romance. So far, she’s written two books in her It’s About Time series, Not Long Ago and From Now On. They are time travel adventures with romance about two people who fall in love despite the fact they come from very different worlds. In My Own Shadow is a Fantasy adventure/romance. Out this fall is her YA fantasy, Xander’s Tangled Web. Look for her books at MuseItUp/Amazon/B&N. You can also find Odin’s Spear, one of her short stories featured in a Quests, Curses, and Vengeance anthology, Martinus Publishing, available on Amazon.

Want to know more? Visit susanaroyal.wordpress.com or susanaroyal.moonfruit.com for a peek inside this writer’s mind and see what she’s up to. You never know what new world she’s going to visit next.

What Keeps a Writer from leaving Reviews #authorreviews #bookreviews

I’m going to tempt the gods of arguments and broach the topic of authors reviewing books. Stepping outside my comfort zone of live and let live is not easy for me, but I’ve been pondering this point for a long time. Much like last week’s post, I’ve tucked away my writer hat and kept my Reader Bowler on for this post.

There is a heated and long discussion revolving around Amazon and Goodreads review policies, and many valid pros and cons have been raised. That isn’t what this is about. This post is a peek into why I worry about leaving reviews, and why I’m hoping to kick that worry’s ass to the curb.

As a writer, you are encouraged to remember your professionalism at all times, to not engage in arguments in social media regardless of topics. Part of that is not wanting to alienate your potential and existing audiences. Part of that is just being a professional in this day and age where nothing is every truly deleted. This professional tightrope writers cross is strung over a minefield pitted with incendiary devices, to the point some of us are loathe to even step foot on the ladder leading to the tightrope.

Ozzy - Fastest Crossing Of A Tightrope By A Dog Guinness World Records 2013 Photo Credit: Paul Michael Hughes/Guinness World Records Location: Norfolk, UK

Ozzy – Fastest Crossing Of A Tightrope By A Dog
Guinness World Records 2013
Photo Credit: Paul Michael Hughes/Guinness World Records
Location: Norfolk, UK

I have my umbrella and I’m going to venture out a few feet, and hopefully I’ll make it across with all limbs attached and not smeared across the battlefield below.

As reader, I share my enjoyment of stories through reviews. As a writer, if I share that same opinion, I’m courting disaster. How is that fair to the plethora of well-written books out there or me? Why should I have to stifle my opinion on a book because I happen to write stories? Why do whispered warnings of “be careful what you say, because if you upset the wrong person, they’ll tank your books” make my stomach clench? And at what point did I think it was okay to bow to that?

When I first started out writing in 2011, I did so under a pen name. This was before the mega rise of ebooks, so my reviews under my name were few and far between. Then as I began collecting more and more books, I wanted to share my “You have got to check this out!” excitement, but other, more experienced veterans warned me to reconsider. Too many had felt the backlash of leaving an honest review and then getting shredded or accused of abusing their “writer” status against another. Even worse, some became victims of retaliatory reviews.

Here’s the thing. Writers are readers. Did you get that? WRITERS ARE READERS. Not only are we part of one of the most supportive artistic communities, but if we discover a great book, we want to share far and wide. Nowadays, too many of us are hesitant to do that. Why? Because we’re told if we’re a writer, we must know this other writer and therefore are biased in our reviews. Or, on the flip side, we failed to give a five star review, ergo we must be green with envy at the brilliance shining before us. Or, even worse, we only did that review to bribe someone to give us one.

Yes, there have been situations like these, but that is not the majority. There will always be those whose sole goal in life is to reach for the stars and never pay attention to whose toes or backs they step on, but that is not the majority. That is the minority. And as writers, and readers, we can’t let the minority control what we, the majority, do. It’s not right.

So I’ve decided to begin leaving more than just the starred reviews I normally leave. If I feel a book deserves a line or two of gushing praise, I’m going to give it. Not just under my real name at Amazon, but under Jami Gray’s name in Goodreads, because readers, regardless if they’re authors or just readers, should not quail from sharing their love of a great book.

Us authors, we write for you readers, and we want to make sure our stories touch you and leave an impression. It’s why we write and continue to write.

So no matter if you moonlight as an author, a pink alpaca or bookworm who can devour faster than the speed of light, leave a review for your favorite reads. Show your love and maybe we’ll manage to give the Negative Nellies a sunburn.




Treasure Hunts or Finding New Reads #indie #ebooks #newreads

During my summer promotion experiment, there were varied opinions on why or why not offering one of your books for free was a good or bad idea. I shall leave that in the arena of personal opinions, because truly that is where it belongs. Today I’m removing my “writer” hat and replacing it with my “reader” hat. *switches to jaunty bowler hat*


Right then, readers, tuck in, because I’m going to share a list of fantastic authors discovered during free or 99 cent sales, that I proudly claim to stalk follow while nabbing every new title as it hits the airwaves. Granted, there are some misses, but again, it all comes down to personal taste. Just because I like an author doesn’t mean my co-cospirator and writing partner in the Windy City will as well, but I’ll still share.

As a reader I don’t discriminate between print or ebook, but due to limited shelf space (currently Knight has asked we stop adding to our collection of 7 bookshelves) most new author treasures I collect are in e-format. I keep my pretties in a nifty program called Bookpedia (think iTunes for books). So I’ve scanned my records for a complete list of books I would have never known about had I not decided to take a change and pick up their preciouses when they were gallantly offered.

Enough background, ready for my list? Great, and if any tickle your interest, I’ve given your your first clue for your own treasure hunt, and may I suggest using Amazon to find the rest of your route?

  • Kristen Ashley
  • Christi Snow
  • Kennedy Layne
  • Lynn Raye Harris
  • Tonya Burrows
  • KA Salidas
  • Debbie Christiana
  • Catherine Mann
  • Joanna Wylde
  • Kaylea Cross
  • Cynthia Eden
  • Jeffe Kennedy
  • Cora Seton
  • Cristin Harber
  • Megan Mitcham
  • Lisa Marie Rice
  • Rebecca Zanetti
  • Katie Reus
  • Elizabeth Hunter
  • Suzanne Halliday
  • Nicole Jacquelyn
  • Joseph Nassise
  • Trish McCallan
  • Suzanne Wright
  • Bailey Cunningham
  • Carolyn Crane
  • Chelsea Cain
  • Christy Reece
  • Cindy Gerard
  • Elaine Levine
  • Elisabeth Naughton
  • J.L. Saint
  • Jennifer Lowery
  • Kathi S. Barton
  • M.L Buchman
  • Martha Bourke
  • Natasza Waters
  • Pamela Clare
  • Rachel Bach

Now here’s the deal, had these great writers not offered at one point in time, a free or drastically discounted price, I may have stumbled along my reading way, never realizing they were tucked away just off my route. And how disappointing would that be?

So from this reader, my I offer my humblest thanks for all those who take a chance on potential readers and offer their precious works for consumption, and suggest to my fellow reading addicts to take a chance on that free or discounted books, for you may discover your next great love.

Read on!

The Reality of Starving for your Art #writing #survivablewage


You want to be a writer, and you want to earn a living, so you’re going to spend the next year or so creating your pièce de résistance and set it loose on the world. After many hues and cries at the marvelous beauty of your work, you shall then move to Paris (or insert your country of choice) to a lovely little artist studio and begin your life as an Artiste. For this is your dream.

Ready for a reality check? If not, stop reading now, because this is going to hurt.

First, huge congrats on getting a single book completed and out, regardless of publishing route you’ve chosen. Not everyone can claim such accomplishments.

Second, before you dash off on your trans-continental journey, you may want to start the second book, and perhaps make plans for your third title as well.

Third, whatever you do, DON’T GIVE UP YOUR DAY JOB. Not yet, and (brace yourself) probably not for many, many years to come.

Short of being a miraculous outlier, your first, and most likely, fifth and maybe sixth book are NOT going to earn you enough to keep both a roof over your head and food on the table. They might keep you in coffee, though.

Yes, there are those who’ve managed to snag their brilliant star and be dragged in the glorious trail of rocketing to the top from the get-go, but they are very, very, very, very few and far between.

Let me share a couple of statistics, because as much as my relationship with numbers is “complicated”, those digits are hard to argue with…

There’s an article by Author Earnings that did an in-depth study from Feb. 2014 – Sept. 2015 regarding author earnings (CLICK HERE) that provides some interesting insight. They started their study with 200,000 authors and close to a million different titles and their data collection program was only able to capture between 35% – 50% of all ebook sales at the time of the snapshot. (Bare with me, I just want to put this perspective.) In order to maintain an accurate study on long-term sales, they pulled out what they called “one-hit wonders” or “i.e. authors whose author earnings from Amazon-bestseller-listed Kindle ebooks were not above a $10,000/year run rate in at least 2 different quarterly snapshots out of our 7.” Do you know what that 200,000 author number dropped to?

Any guesses?

Yep, 5,643 authors were left, a bare 2.8% of the original pool of candidates. These are the success stories because they earn at least $10,000 per year. No, I didn’t leave out any zeros. That’s $833.33 per month, $192.30 per week, $27.40 per day.

Granted, this is barely scratching the surface of author earnings, because this just looked at Kindle and Amazon, not across the board (iBooks, Smashwords, etc.), but if you’re hoping to make writing commercial fiction your “day job” or what most of my writer friends call, “the job that pays the bills”, you’re in for a challenging journey. I wish you all the luck.

And that’s not the only challenge you’ll face. A recent article (The Plot Twist: E-Book Sales Slip, and Print Is Far From Dead) from The New York Times, tried to paint an even more grim picture on ebooks. Let me tell you a secret, they’re a bit lost, since they’re looking at traditionally published authors who are charging $14 for an ebook. (I know, stop laughing so hard, no one can hear over your guffaws.) What this article can provide, is insight into the highly competitive world you’re about to dive into, and maybe serve as a warning to figure out how you’ll rise above the tide of incoming writers. You need to set yourself apart–have a unique, strong voice, compelling characters, and create a compelling world readers crave to visit.

Even more of an eye-opener, I can think of at least five NY Times best-selling writers that still have a day-job because (gasp) their fabulous books don’t make enough to keep their families. Advances or royalties, it will take a lot of shiny to keep you in the life you’d like to be accustomed to.

For those who follow my posts, you know earlier this year I was laid-off my 18 year “job that pays the bills”. For the last eight months, I’ve focused (when not submitting resumes for “day jobs”) on my writing. It has been both rewarding and discouraging, and I can attest the journey is daunting. There is no doubt, if you decide to publish any piece by yourself, your job just gained teeth. After putting out my collection of short stories independently, I’ve got the bite marks to prove it.

Thankfully, I recently accepted a new “job that pays the bills”, so my writing can continue to be a way to feed my artistic soul, and not carry the extra burden of supplying shelter and nourishment. Still, I wouldn’t change the past months for anything. While it allowed me a chance to see if I could make my writing take the place of my “day job”, it also taught me that yes, with a lot (we’re talking a couple of years) of dedicated work, it probably could. Unfortunately, I don’t have the luxury of years, months was pushing it. It did cement my leaning to stay a hybrid author, to split my writings between small publishers, myself, and eventually larger publishers. Whatever avenue works, I’ll be trudging alongside my project.

I haven’t shared this information to discourage you, but to help shine the light of reality on your dream. That glitter you see on the edges, those are yours to gain, but it’s going to take, and work. LOTS and LOTS of work. If you’re in this for cash, babe, you’re in the wrong art. If you’re in it to share those voice in your head, welcome to the word-filled battlefield, we can always use another warrior.

Fight on!

The Pay Off of #BookMarketing, Part III: Getting New Readers Hooked #bookpromo

Gather round class, we’ve finally hit the last week of dissecting my summer marketing experiment. After three months of offering my first book, Shadow’s Edge, as free to readers, what happened?

Let’s start with sales ranks. The graph below shows my sale rank on each book from end of May when the free status “unofficially” went into effect, through the end of August. August is on top, then July, then June, and the end of May. Sales ranks are along the bottom, so the short the line, the better.

Month Rank

Now, I’m going to share an image with the same information for just June. The days are along the left, and sales rank along the bottom. Again, shorter the better. You’ll note that Hunted By The Past followed a pattern: each week it cycled up and down the sales rank, higher earlier on, lower later on. You can’t even see Shadow’s Edge because it ranked 181 at the beginning of June, and ended at 5400.

So, to see Shadow’s Edge on it’s own we have these nifty charts. The breaks are days I biffed recording the rankings:


Cool, uh? Unfortunately my publisher and I can’t get actual numbers on Shadow’s Edge, but obviously people were picking it up since a handful could cause a jump, and enough were downloaded to keep it above the 10K rank.

Now, here’s what convinced me this whole experiment was worth it. The chart below shows a comparison of how many books I’ve sold since their release dates against how many were sold during end of May and June. I won’t have July and August numbers until November.


And that’s just The Kyn books. This means, when readers picked up Shadow’s Edge, they were engaged enough to continue with the series, and that was my main goal from the beginning. I was so excited when I saw this.

Next time you’re wondering, is it worth it to offer my precious for free? Feel free to use this information to help make that decision. For me, the increase of sales on my other books was worth luring them in with my first one.

An additional note to this campaign: I timed this promotion to end a month before I released a collection of short stories in the Kyn world (Tangled in Shadows). My hope is that my new readers will be eager for this book and the buzz will continue to grow.

Will I do a similar promotion in the future? You betcha, but first, I need to make sure there are enough books on the shelves to make it work.

If you’re heading out on the marketing route, I wish you all the best. For those who’ve traveled it before, share your adventures in the comments below. We are always open for suggestion.