Quality Comes First: IWSG

It’s time for my September contribution to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog. I decided to make a slight variation from this month’s IWSG question, What publishing route did you take and why? Instead I plan to discuss writing as a self-published author.

Be sure to click on the #IWSG icon at the end of my post and check out the responses from dozens of interesting writers.

There are those who believe the advent of self-publishing has given rise to the rampant publishing of books lacking the editing, substance, and quality that has traditionally come from “published” authors. While there may be examples where this is the case, my experience as a self-published author and my familiarity with other self-published authors convinces me this is not the norm.

If book sales are any indication of the quality produced by self-published authors, there are many examples of authors who have broken through the best-selling barrier without the aid of a big publishing company. Here is just one of many articles that makes this case:  https://publishdrive.com/self-publishing-success-stories/

Most self-published authors engage the skills of editors and beta-readers to hone their manuscripts. The complex and detailed process of producing a quality novel is not limited to published writers. I have one personal example that illustrates my point.


Uninvited Visions was my second book and my first and only attempt at a YA fantasy novel. It was about Midwest teens in the 1970s having unexplained premonitions of frightful events. After discovering they were not alone with these powers, they worked together in desperation to stop their deadly images from coming true and to rid themselves of their uninvited visions. Sounds like it might have possibilities, doesn’t it?

I spent over ten months writing the manuscript. Claudia, my wife and editor, tried her best to help make the story work. In the end, it just didn’t measure up to what I had planned, nor did it fit into the genre I had selected to write–suspense/crime novels. At over 300 pages, the book still sits on my laptop’s hard drive with only one proof copy ever printed. At times, I think about revisiting the book, but I have instead moved on to other novels.

While the self-publishing process may have few checks on the quality of the books produced, most writers going this route know that quality counts. Writing, publishing, and marketing your own books has many benefits over traditional publishing, but taking shortcuts on editing and settling on inferior results are not among them. It’s a lesson I spent nearly a year learning.

Many thanks to Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler for hosting this month’s blog hop.  To follow nearly 200 writers participating in this week’s IWSG blog hop, click on the icon below.  You can also follow on twitter @TheIWSG  or #IWSG.

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While you’re here, please check out my new release, At the River’s Edge The unsolved murder of Mayor Hank Richards and rumors of moonshine money buried in the foothills of the North Carolina mountains take center stage in this thriller.

Headsone in Creepy Cemetery with Bridge in background


Times Like This


It’s times like this past month that encourage me to continue writing. Leading up to and during the first book signing of At the River’s Edge, I met dozens of people with active interests in reading, writing, and my new book.

Best-seller status is the ultimate reward for an author, but there are many events that occur along the way to make writing fulfilling. One such event happened at a recent book signing.

Her name was Lisa and she came with her young son. She told me she’d been waiting a week to pick up a signed copy of my new novel. She’d recently read my first book, Corrupt Connection, which she’d checked out of the library. I usually bring a few copies of all my books to signings but don’t feature them. Seeing Lisa’s interest and enthusiasm, I had to offer her a signed copy of my first novel. She was overjoyed as she departed the library.

Several minutes later, Lisa returned with a small stuffed bear under her arm. “Would you take a picture with me and my friend?” she asked. I was a little perplexed as she took out her phone and pulled up several snapshots. The photos were of her and her bear with other writers, including the likes of Nora Roberts.

I proudly posed for the picture.

** Photo from Pixabay.com

Do Authors Have Favorite Characters?

Emily 2I’ve been asked which characters from my new murder mystery, At the River’s Edge, are my favorites.

I planned for the story to get its early energy from Emily Edwards, a young, spunky mountain woman.  She’s the granddaughter of a deceased moonshiner who reportedly buried his illegal gains on Sunset Peak Mountain, where Emily now lives with her floppy-eared coonhound, Rufus. Attractive and petite with flowing blond hair, Emily’s appearance doesn’t reflect her self-reliance and toughness.

Suspense not only builds around the unsolved murder of Sunset Peak’s mayor, Hank Richards, but also around Emily and her ongoing battle with treasure hunters, convinced she possesses a map to her grandfather’s rumored fortune.

Emily and James Wolsey, her brave, well-meaning boyfriend, continue to find themselves entangled in danger and at the center of the book’s tension.  More often than not, it is Emily who rises to the challenge.  It’s my hope readers become immersed in the threats facing the young couple, and by the end of the story, are as captivated as I am by Emily.

Click HERE to learn more about At the River’s Edge.

*Emily’s Image from Pixabay

Time for a Deep Breath: AuthorToolBox

It’s time again for my contribution to this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of writers share their writing experiences.  I encourage you to check out their thoughts by clicking on the icon at the end of this post.  This month I consider a break from writing.


Today I released my first murder mystery, At the River’s Edge.  Pre-orders could have been a little better, but all-in-all, it’s off to a good start.  The book took nearly a year to complete, and I’m considering taking some time away from writing novels.  I don’t imagine the break will be long, but it should be long enough for me to recharge before digging into my next major project.

I’d set a goal some time ago to produce a new novel or short story collection every year. I’ve been able to exceed this objective, publishing six novels and two short story collections since 2011.  But self-publishing eight books back-to-back is a tiring process, and I believe it’s time to take a deep breath and consider what’s next.

What does taking a deep breath mean? The business of writing never really stops.  I’ll need to dedicate time to marketing my new book on social media and at book signings.  I should also send a few more query letters to see if any agents are interested in a murder mystery set in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

I belong to two author blog hops (including this one), so that requires two blog posts each month. I also send out a monthly newsletter to my valued email subscribers.  And earlier this year, I joined a local writers’ group, Alleghany Writers.  We meet monthly to discuss various writing topics and write a 500-word short story that we critique at each meeting.  The writing projects associated with the author blog hops, my newsletter, and the writers’ group are evidence that my writing never really stops, nor should it if I’m serious about improving.

When I do dig back into writing my next novel, I haven’t decided if it will be the fourth in the Miles Stevens CIA investigative series, another murder mystery, or maybe pulling together a collection of short stories. I’ve asked my email followers what they think, and they’re leaning toward a murder mystery.

I’m not sure I want to delay the next book in the Miles Stevens series for another year, but then I did enjoy writing my first murder mystery.  Maybe I can write both in parallel.  If I do that, I’d better get started soon.  What the heck, it’s been a couple of weeks.  I think I’m ready.

typewriter - pixabay - Copy

To enjoy other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click HERE.  Happy blog hopping!Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2


Check out At the River’s Edge by clicking on photo below.

Headsone in Creepy Cemetery with Bridge in background

Publishing Pitfalls: IWSG

It’s time for my August contribution to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog.  The question my fellow writers have been asked to answer this month is: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Be sure to click on the #IWSG icon at the end of my post and check out the responses from dozens of interesting writers.


This month’s question specifically asks about the pitfalls faced on my publication journey, and not on my writing journey.  The two are vastly different. Writing is challenging, but it’s fun and exciting. Publishing is also challenging, but not so much fun.

I chose early on to self-publish.  I’d read horror stories about the vast amount of time spent writing query letters, chasing agents and publishers.  I understood the clear advantages of traditional publishing, but preferred to write at my own pace and select my own genres and subjects. Also, when I began writing, my focus was to spend my time writing and engaging other writers to learn from their experiences. Publishing was something far out on the horizon.  I’d worry about that later.

Here’s the pitfall.  When you elect to self-publish, you are chief cook and bottlewasher, and the toughest of the bottlewashing tasks is marketing.  I completely underestimated the time and expense required to market myself and my novels. I still fall short dedicating the necessary time and resources.

Self-publishing is equivalent to running a small business on your own. You create, package, market, and deliver the product. You can subcontract pieces of this process, but this comes at a price.  Unfortunately, there is little to no money coming in until you’re successful, and it costs time and money to be successful—a true chicken and egg dilemma.

The question is: How much money do you spend on marketing trying to be successful?  I’m still spending, both time and money, and have no answer to this question.   I’m hoping it’s all a numbers game, and when I reach a critical threshold on reviews, email subscribers, and Facebook followers, the dam will break loose and the sales will flow.  But this is probably just wishful thinking.

For my new novel, At the River’s Edge, I’m spending more time on marketing, and I’m even sending out a few query letters.  I enjoy running my small business, but I’ve reached a point where I need to be more successful selling what I spend so much time producing.  It’s a pitfall I must conquer.

Many thanks to Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover, Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery for hosting this month’s blog hop.  To follow nearly 200 writers participating in this week’s IWSG blog hop, click on the icon below.  You can also follow on twitter @TheIWSG  or #IWSG.

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Using Props in Fiction: AuthorToolBox

It’s time again for my contribution to this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of writers share their writing experiences.  You can check out their thoughts by clicking on the icon at the end of my post.  This month I discuss the use of props in my soon-to-be-released murder mystery.

At the River's Edge Vehicles

What do a 1950 Ford pickup and a ragtop Jeep have to do with writing?

Just as movies and plays use props to provide dramatic interest and depth to characters and scenes, so do novels. A prop is anything movable or portable on a stage or set, distinct from the actors, scenery, and costumes. I use a Ford pickup and a Jeep as props in my upcoming murder mystery, At the River’s Edge.

James Wolsey is a 26-year-old college graduate who returns to his hometown of Sunset Peak, North Carolina to help his single mother run the family hardware business. After mysteriously killing off the historic town’s mayor in chapter one, I introduce James. Most of what you learn about the dark-haired, former high school quarterback is from dialogue and interaction with his mom, friends, and newfound love interest, Emily Edwards.

Readers discover James had planned a career in corporate America, but couldn’t turn down his mother’s request for assistance.  He’s trying to make the best of the situation when he meets Emily, the granddaughter of a moonshiner. The spirited, green-eyed blonde is haunted by rumors of moonshine money, allegedly buried by her late grandfather in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Misguided fortune hunters are obsessed with Emily and what she might know.

It’s at this point where James is revealed as the proud owner of his grandfather’s restored, jet black, 1950 Ford pickup, and I place Emily in a red ragtop Jeep. Why bother describing the vehicles James and Emily drive?

The vehicles allow readers to form their own opinions about the characters who own them. Without putting it into words, driving a vintage pickup strengthens James’ image as a rugged fisherman and outdoorsman.  It paints him as a man’s man not swayed by fancy cars.  You learn that James is proud of the craftsmanship and hard work his late grandfather put into the pickup. It’s his most prized possession, not because of its value, but because of the family history the truck represents.

Emily may be a petite, attractive blonde, but driving an open-air Jeep portrays her as unafraid to travel across rough terrain with the wind in her face. The vehicle fits her spunky, mountain girl demeanor and warns others that she can, and will, take care of herself.

Other props are used throughout the novel to help readers paint their own pictures of the characters and the scenes.  What better way to show and not tell.

To enjoy other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click HERE.  Happy blog hopping!Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2

You can learn more about AT THE RIVER’S EDGE by going HERE:

At the River's Edge Vehicles


Writing Goals: They Evolve #IWSG

It’s time for my contribution to July’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog.  The question my fellow  writers have been asked to answer this month is: What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time? Be sure to click on the #IWSG icon at the end of my post and check out the responses from dozens of interesting writers.


When I began writing nearly ten years ago, I’m not sure I even had a goal.  If I did, it was to remain sane.  I’d taken early retirement, was recently widowed, and I lived alone with my dog in a mountain home that I purchased less than a year earlier.  Writing filled my days, and often my nights.  Looking back, it’s clear.  My goal was sanity.

I met Claudia shortly thereafter. A practicing paralegal and a former editor, she immediately took interest in my projects, polishing my writing and providing valuable feedback and encouragement. My writing improved. I hadn’t published anything by that time, nor had I considered doing so, but that changed.  My new aspiration was to finish a novel and publish it.

I completed the first draft of Corrupt Connection in late 2011.  It’s a crime/suspense novel about a Central American drug cartel attempting to steal biocomputer technology from a U.S. corporation.  The cartel targets the male and female protagonists with the intent to develop futuristic, mind-altering, and deadly drugs.

My latest novel is much better written, but to this day, I think Corrupt Connection is one of my better stories.  Even so, I was nervous about putting the book out there for others to read.  With Claudia’s help, I self-published the novel in June 2012, and my new goal became finding readers.

I’d spent years in marketing, but I was uncomfortable telling people I was an author.  My nervous laugh would typically follow mentioning my writing to friends and family. I realized that finding readers would have to wait.   I first needed to become comfortable and confident as a writer.  My new objective became learning and applying what I learned to my writing.

I focused on writing contests, author forums, and writers groups, both online and in person.  My writing improved.  I won a few short story competitions.  I’ve become more at ease around other writers, and more confident discussing my writing.

I still sell fewer books than I’d like, but I’m comfortable with what I’m doing.  While I have a long way to go to reach the goals I’ve set, I’m proud of what I produce. I’ve self-published five novels and two short story collections, and my objectives are much loftier today.  I’m very excited about my new murder mystery, At the River’s Edge, which I plan to publish in August.

For the coming months, I’m turning my attention to marketing my new novel, as well as my earlier books.  I’ve been spending time learning about social media (the good, the bad, and the ugly) and the role it plays in successfully marketing books.  My goal is to  sell thousands of copies, not hundreds.

For the past few years, I’ve been donating profits from my two short story collections to North Carolina animal shelters.  It’s not much.  In fact, I supplement the contributions to not disclose how slow my book sales really are.  My current goal is to develop a marketing plan that works.   I’d like to sell enough books that my contributions become meaningful to homeless pets and the good people who care for and adopt them.

I still write to stay sane, but sanity is no longer my only objective.

Many thanks to Nicki Elson, Juneta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne for hosting this month’s blog hop.  To follow more than 200 writers participating in this week’s IWSG blog hop, click on the icon below.  You can also follow on twitter @TheIWSG  or #IWSG.

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