Thursday, January 17, 2019

Awakening to the Dream of Publishing

With many publishing houses closing and with the growth of Amazon books and other retail online outlets available for e-books as well as print, many authors I know have stopped waiting for contracts with big publishing companies. They have decided to go on their own and publish their own books. While I have done it for non-fiction, others are doing it for their fiction books, to great success.  Today's guest in My Writing Corner, Cyndie Zahner,  has a new book out that caught my attention. When she told me she was publishing independently, I wanted to know more about her publishing journey.  
 Why did you decide to publish independently?
Publishing a book on my own was fate. When I quit my full-time job and began writing novels, the best advice I received from a published author was don’t wait to secure a publisher for your first book. Begin your second.

I took her advice and began writing my second book, Dream Wide Awake, as soon as I finished my first. I completed Dream Wide Awake’s first draft not long after I signed a contract with The Wild Rose Press (TWRP) to publish my first novel, The Suicide Gene.

Instantly, I loved TWRP. They were a wealth of knowledge. But like all publishing presses, TWRP’s road from submission to publication was long. So, while I waited for “release” day of my first novel, I worked long hours on Dream Wide Awake.

Fate has a funny way of aligning life’s puzzle pieces. I came across a class taught by that same author who originally offered me that initial advice to “keep writing.” This time? She was teaching self-publication. I took that as a sign. (Read Dream Wide Awake and you’ll find I don’t believe in coincidences.)

Another influencing factor? Prior to TWRP accepting my first novel, several small presses turned it down. While most encouraged me, none offered publication. Then I happened across a great little writing competition called Ink & Insights. I submitted my first novel to that competition. What sets them apart from other competitions is that for a reasonable fee, they give extensive feedback from four editors. (Love Ink & Insights.) I heeded every word those editors offered, revised my book with their suggestions, submitted the final draft to TWRP, and they accepted it.

So, now with one novel on the path to publication, I submitted my second novel to Ink & Insights, 2018. My scores came back high. I took every suggestion of the editors again, revised Dream Wide Awake, edited it again and again, and hired a fabulous proofreader. She cleaned up the novel, and I sent it to ten beta readers. They loved it. So, when The Wild Rose Press contacted me and asked to read my second book, I had done so much work on the book already I couldn’t bear waiting another eight months for publication.

I jumped in and self-published.

What are the biggest obstacles?
 First, being on your own with no one to ask questions of. 

Having a publisher for my first novel helped. When I decide to try self-publishing, I felt a bit disloyal to TWRP. However, when I told them I was self-publishing my second novel, they were understanding and supportive. Through them, I had met other authors, some who had also taken both routes: traditional and self-publishing. A few answered questions for me. I can’t say how much I owe to TWRP. If I hadn’t gone through the process with them, the road would have been tougher.

Second, you must do everything a publisher does.
 That means your workload doubles. Researching how to place my book on multiple websites was time-consuming alone. I also had to find a conversion program to change my word document to pdf, epub and mobi files (Jutoh, love it); decide what to do about ISBN numbers (botched that, purchase a block of ten on your own if you self-publish); find review sites (this I learned from TWRP); find a cover artist (thank you to my niece, Amanda Filutze); clean up my social media and learn more about the internet (thank you to my daughter, Jessie Zahner Grieshober, who walked me through this maze of misery); track my links (, I love you); and worst of all, research margins and design my print book. (I hate gutter margins.)

Thirdly, Dream Wide Awake is a totally fictitious novel, but some of the information is based on my life experiences. Chapter three, for example, was very personal. I based the experience of one of my characters on something that happened to me as a child. I did not want a word of that chapter changed and with self-publishing? I was the boss.

Last but certainly not least, I alone had to decide when my book was ready, which was to put it mildly, nerve-racking.

What do I like best about indie publishing?
 My freedom. I’m in charge. If I want to lower my price, I can. Up it? I can do that, too. I’m able to try different book blurbs to see which ones sell more books, and change key words at will.

I also have the opportunity to use Kindlepreneur (I’m purchasing Kindle Rocket), and Kindle Select (in which I will set up a ninety-day test period).

Do I like traditional or self-publishing more? I still can’t answer. There are advantages and disadvantages of both. TWRP has been wonderful to work with and my indie book, Dream Wide Awake, just finished third in Ink & Insights, 2018 Apprentice competition. So, I’m not complaining.

The bottom line is, publishing is secondary to writing. As long as I can continue creating stories to keep people up at night, I’m happy.

What a great story.  Let's find out about your new book -- Dream Wide Awake. Here's the blurb:
Dream Wide Awake 

Is someone looking for six-year-old Mikala Daly?

Mikala has visions. Years before she was born, her father, detective Jack Daly, married into a family rumored to see dead people. Jack didn’t believe in their psychic abilities until that gift—curse—befell his daughter.

Now their normal, mundane life spirals into mayhem as Mikala relays her dreams to him about three missing boys. Jack struggles to keep her visions secret. Is he risking her life?

He works to locate the boys before American government officials realize Mikala’s sixth sense is aiding his search efforts. Jack knows that in 2002 after 9/11, the CIA expanded an adult remote-viewing program to include children. When the project’s results stunned the White House’s secret commissioners, the adult program was discontinued and the childhood program, Project Dream, was born.

One daunting question haunts Jack. Is it true? Is death the only way out of Project Dream?

This sounds like a wonderful story! Thank you for bringing it to us and for sharing with us your road to independent publishing.   Here are the information links for Cyndie as well as the buy links for her new book. 

Author Links:
Author website:    
Author interview: 
(Hear about my 9/11 premonition that influenced Dream Wide Awake.)

Purchase Links:
Author website:    
Barnes & Noble:    

Again, thanks for sharing your story. Any questions or comments for Cyndie?

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Setting a Romantic Precedent

This is definitely the time to sit in a cozy chair and read a wonderful romance novel. It's the season of long nights, hot chocolate (or a good glass of wine) and a wonderful book.  When I read the description of today's book in My Writing Corner I knew I had found a wonderful choice for just that sort of pleasurable evening.

My guest today is Amber  Cross and her latest book is Precedent for Passion. 

Their attraction set a precedent no one else could match…

Abby’s imagination hadn’t been playing tricks with her memory. Fifteen years after meeting him in a court room, Glen Plankey is still so attractive he makes her toes curl. And that voice! Deep and authoritative, she practically melts into a puddle at the sound of it. She can’t wait to see more of him.

He can’t get away fast enough. Everything about her reminds him of that terrible day, yet his brain turns to adolescent mush when he looks at her curvy body and his heart skips a beat each time she smiles.

Soon undeniable attraction leads to scorching passion and grows into a true love affair. But is it strong enough to survive when he thinks she has played him for a fool?

Both of these characters sounded extemely intriguing so I wanted to know more. I just had to ask them a few questions about their current situation:

Abby, what is great about your life right now?

My life is almost perfect.

Professionally, I have it made. Once a month I serve as family court judge at the Essex County Courthouse in Guildhall. The rest of the time I have a small law practice in Somerset. That’s my new hometown in the northeast corner of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. I can get to Canada quicker than I can get to the interstate, but I fell in love with the place as soon as I saw it.

I live in a beautiful condo on the third floor of my office building. Every morning I swim at the Somerset Academy pool-before school starts, of course-and my stepbrother David just bought Somerset Gables. That’s the town’s hilltop resort. When our brother Romney is in town, he stays with David and we all hang out together.

For the first time since college I have a social life. Okay, let’s be honest, it’s the first time in my life that I’ve had one. Just call me Miss Overachiever. I finished high school at sixteen and college at twenty. There wasn’t time for social gatherings with that kind of schedule. But better late than never, right?

My first friend in town was Jason. He lives in the condo across the hall and we serve on the planning board together. Once I thought he might even be the guy for me, but he had other interests and I don’t know if anyone will ever measure up to my dream man, anyway.

I don’t know much about him. I have no idea where he lives. I doubt he even noticed me when we did meet, or that he’d remember, but my memories of him keep me up at night.

What was your earlier experience with Glen?
I was clerking for Judge Henry between college and my first year of law school. I hadn’t figured out yet what my ideal man would look like until he walked into the courtroom. Tall, with dark hair and blue eyes and a deep voice that turned my insides to mush, he made the rest of the room fade away.
He was fighting for his life that day. For his son, his unborn daughter, and any shred of dignity he could salvage. It was an ugly battle. His wife accused him of deviant behavior in the bedroom and an appetite for sex that couldn’t be quenched. She probably thought her stories would guarantee sole custody for her and ruin him in the eyes of anyone present. What I saw was a father whose main concern was his children’s well-being. A man whose only fault was falling for the wrong woman. He needed someone who could appreciate his brand of commitment, his depth of passion; someone like me.

What do you think about him now?
My late-night fantasies didn’t do him justice.

What worries you about him?
I’m afraid he doesn’t have a place for me in his life. Even if he does, even if he’s ready to try commitment again, how will we make it work? He lives in New York City. That’s six hours from me when the roads are clear, and no state troopers are out on patrol. He has two teenagers to raise. I want to have a child before it’s too late. Will he want to start all over again? Has he truly recovered from the damage his ex-wife did? I’m afraid timing and geography might not be on our side.

What excites you?
Everything! I know that sounds silly, and a thirty-five-year-old judge should have something more profound to say, but there isn’t anything about him I don’t like. He’s a great father, a good brother and son. He tackled his biggest fear-public speaking-to make a toast at Jason’s wedding that moved everyone. Including me. Especially me.

He’s really smart. Every night we play chess by telephone. He’s a worthy adversary. His moves are almost as challenging as trying to get to sleep after we end our calls. The verbal foreplay we share is so exciting it sometimes keeps me awake for hours.
The man is perfect. To me. Perfect for me.

Oh, Abby! It sounds like you have a good reason to be smitten! Now we want to hear from Glen:

What are your thoughts on seeing Abby again?
I’m cursed. Of all the people I could have run into at my best friend’s wedding, why did it have to be her? I’ve never forgotten the shock in her gray-green eyes when my ex-wife all but castrated me at the Guildhall courthouse. Seeing her again, even after fifteen years, just brings it all back to me. I lost my dreams that day. My future.

What is it that draws you to her?
You mean, besides thick chestnut hair I want to sink my hands into? Or lush curves that belong on a WWII locker poster? A better question would be what doesn’t draw me to her?
The woman is sexy as hell. Smart and feisty, too. Once we get past our fifteen-year history, I simply can’t get enough of her. She’s intelligent, independent, and quirky. She keeps me on my toes. Keeps me up at night. I feel like a teenager experiencing his first crush every time I see her or hear her voice.

It’s not just a hormonal reaction, though. I like everything about her. She adores her brothers and the feeling is mutual. She’s great with my kids. Just as devoted to her grandparents as she is to her profession.

I love that she has a career of her own. She doesn’t want me as a meal ticket. Doesn’t view me as a sperm donor. She likes me for me.

What is it that makes you want to stay away from her?
I can’t trust myself. When I fell in love the first time, which I realize now wasn’t love at all, I was taken for a ride that won’t end until the kids are out of high school. Or college. Or married. I couldn’t see it coming then, and fifteen years later I’m not sure I’m any wiser. I’m a genius. No, really, I have the I.Q. tests to prove it, but where my heart is concerned, I’m about as dumb as they come.

Where do you think she fits into your future… or does she?
Freedom is so close I can almost taste it. In three years, my kids will both be out of high school. I won’t have to stay within a certain mile radius of their mother. I won’t have to hold onto the job I have, even though I love it, just to carry health insurance for them. I can get a telecommuting job and move home.

I used to dream about living in Somerset again. Helping my father and brother on the farm. Playing basketball with Jason. I still look forward to those things, but now the dream has changed. Grown to include chess games with Abby in the same room instead of miles away. I want to swim with her in the mornings and wrap myself around her at night.
I’m just afraid to hope.

Thank you Abby and Glen. Now if you want to read more about their story, here are the buy links:

If you would like to reach Amber and find out more about her work:

Thank you, Amber, for being my guest and to Glen and Abby.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

A New Year of Intrigue & Romance

Welcome to the new year! 2019 promises to be another year of great reading and discovering some wonderful new authors as well as enjoying the latest works of some of our favorite writers. We're starting out the year in fine fashion, spotlighting an international thriller that mixes intrigue with romance:  For the Love of A Spy by M. S. Spencer.

Although she has traveled in five continents, M.S. tells us that she has spent the last thirty years in Washington, D.C. as a librarian, Congressional assistant, speechwriter, and non-profit director. She has two grown children and a perfect granddaughter.

Ms. Spencer has published twelve mystery/romantic suspense novels, and currently divides her time between Florida and Maine.

In an era electric with possibility and peril Maris Graystone and Michael Kinder meet under oddly conventional circumstances. Despite the instantaneous sparks, they both sense there is more between them than physical attraction.

Their love affair intensifies against the backdrop f the dramatic world events of 1991 -- a disintegrating USSR, Middle East peace talks and Vietnam's re-emergence on the world stage. Michael appears and disappears at unpredictable moments, leaving Maris limp and lovelorn. n her quest for answers, she is yanked into the dangerous world of Michael’s work—in Washington, DC, in France, and in Spain. Looking for safe harbor for her emotions and her body, she accepts the advances of a dashing French diplomat. 

Will she embrace the luxury and comfort of Emile and his chateau or the romance of international intrigue with Michael?

Something is wrong. He cares about me, of that I’m sure. So what is it?
In the beginning, a lifetime ago and before they surrendered to their desire, he had said something about it being neither the time nor the place. What did he mean? She didn’t want to know just yet, but she would ask him. Yes, when he wakes up.
Over his shoulder, she glimpsed the clock—five p.m. We’ve been in bed for four hours! She sat bolt upright. He hadn’t fixed her air conditioner. He hadn’t called his office. She hadn’t finished her column. What on earth were they thinking? Or on what other planet? Did we beam up to Mars, where this sort of behavior is acceptable?
She shook him. “It’s late. You have to go.”
He came instantly awake. His azure eyes fastened on hers; his arms went automatically around her.
She felt herself slipping into their world but fought it. “You have to go!”
He kissed her tenderly. “I know. I have to…pack. I have to go.”
“I’m leaving Thursday. I told you.”
“No, you didn’t.” Maris wanted to be indignant, but in the back of her mind, a little voice nagged that he was right. “But—where are you going?”
He opened his mouth and closed it. He peered at her, his eyes questioning. Finally, he said flatly, “To Zagreb.”
“Zagreb? As in, Yugoslavia? Why?”
“It’s not important.” His serious tone told her that it was indeed important, but it also stopped her from asking any more questions. She watched while he dressed quickly. As he fastened the few remaining buttons on his shirt, he bent over her to kiss her nose. “I’ll be gone a while.”
She caught his hand. “I need to know one thing before you go.”
He smiled tenderly. “Yes, I am.”
She blinked in confusion. “Are what?”
He seemed perplexed. “Why, crazy for you, of course. Don’t ask how this happened either since I don’t have a clue.”
“But, but…” She had to ask, even if it made her look ridiculous. “What I want to know is, what’s your name?”

At that, he threw back his head and roared. All the worry coloring his features just moments before fled. He sat down on the bed and touched her cheek. “I suppose that could come in handy, in case you want to send me a Christmas card or something.” At her look of apprehension, he replied quickly, “Michael. It’s Michael.”

Want more:  Here are the buy links:

If you would  like to get in touch with M. S. or learn more about her, here is her social media information and contact info:

Amazon Author Page:

I Heart Author Page:

Thank you, M. S.. for introducing us to your latest book and two wonderful characters!