A Field of Poppies by B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Sharon Sala


Two families. One secret.

Separated by a river and twenty years of lies.

Five minutes changed Poppy Sadler’s life forever. Tick. The hospital called. Her mother’s battle with cancer was finally over. Tock. The police showed up at her door. Her father’s body has just been pulled from the River. Tick. Murdered.

Tick, Tock. Five minutes and a secret is coming undone.

Across the river, Justin Caulfield’s vast fortune can buy him anything but more time. Tick. A deadly disease is stealing his daughter’s life. He needs a miracle. Tock. The person he never doubted names the price he never knew he owed. A price more than one man can pay. Tick. Betrayed. Tick, Tock. Twenty years of lies may cost him his very soul.

indieBRAG Website

After The Rising by Orna Ross


After the Rising by B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Orna Ross

Book Description: CAN WE EVER ESCAPE THE PAST THAT MADE US? When Jo Devereux returns to Ireland after an absence of 20 years, the last thing she expects is to end up writing a family history. Growing up in Mucknamore in the 1970s, with her village riven by the divides of a previous time, Jo found family pride brought her nothing but heartbreak and loss. Now, unearthing seventy-year old secrets of love and revenge in a time of war, and a killing that has haunted three generations, she begins to understand why.

In revealing astonishing truths about her mother and grandmother, Jo is brought face-to-face with her own past and her intense relationship with Rory O’Donovan, who still lives in Mucknamore.


Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author J.B. Hawker


Freed from a stifling marriage by her husband’s sudden death, Bunny Elder struggles to find herself in a maze of romance, moral dilemmas and murder.

Bunny Elder’s safe, secure world comes crashing down when the death of her pastor husband thrusts her into a surprising and dangerous world that challenges all her preconceptions and beliefs.

Join her as she becomes entangled in a series of grisly murders and untangles the threads of her true self.

Will her adventures lead her into the arms of her first love? Or into the clutches of a madman?

Stephanie: Hello, J.B.! Thank you for chatting with me today and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, Hollow. Firstly, please tell me how you discovered indieBRAG?

J.B.: This is going to sound ridiculous, but I don’t remember submitting my book to indieBRAG. I must have found it through one of the sites I follow for independent authors, submitted the book without much thought of being selected, and forgotten about it. I was completely taken by surprise when they contacted me to tell me I’d gotten the award.

Stephanie: Why did you chose a rural mountain community in Northern California as your setting for your story? And by the way….I love the name, Hollow, for your title.

J.B.: Thank you, when I named the community Clark’s Hallow, I planned to call the book, “Hallow,” but the more I thought about its multiple applications to the story, I knew “Hollow” was the right choice. I grew up in a rural Northern California community, so the setting was a natural.

Stephanie: What are some of the characteristics of your main character, Bunny Elder?

J.B.: Bunny is a woman of a certain age, like me, who spent many years as a pastor’s wife. She is a woman of faith, but no paragon. Bunny is sort of a late bloomer when it comes to knowing what she wants of out of life, but she always wants to do that next right thing.

Stephanie: And how did you chose her name?

J.B.: In my years in the world of ministry, I noticed how many pastor’s wives had unusual first names, hence Bunny’s given name of Leveline, which is not only unusual, but difficult to pronounce correctly. I decided anyone with a name like that would have a nickname and “Bunny” just seemed to fit. I’ve known of a number of ministers with names like Rev. Scripture, or Pastor Deacon, so I gave good old Eustace the surname Elder.

Stephanie: How does her faith help her in her struggles with the death of her husband and her survival?

J.B.: Bunny simply trusts that everything is in God’s hands, so it will work out for her good and His glory. She still has fears, of course, and knows her faith is no invisible shield from harm and pain, but it helps her to keep going in the face of danger. It helps her avoid panic and despair.

Stephanie: Who is Eustace and what is an example of his role in this story? What is a few of his characteristics?

J.B.: Eustace was Bunny’s pastor husband who dies in an apparent accident before the story begins. He was a rigid, stereotypical preacher more interested in keeping his flock on the straight and narrow than himself. He dominated and bullied Bunny throughout their marriage. He is at the heart of the story, since he holds the key to the motive for the murders.

Stephanie: Was there any challenges in developing your characters?

J.B.: These characters were composites of people I’ve known, for the most part, and that made development fairly easy. I already knew how they would speak and react.

Stephanie: Which one are you partial to and why?

J.B.: Well, I love Bunny, of course, but I found myself liking the eccentric horror book writer, Dinks Dodd, more than I expected to.

Stephanie: How long did it take to write your story and what was your process?

J.B.: From the first idea to publication took six years. I had the first draft completed in under a year, but kept putting it aside and going back and revising. I submitted it to a couple of publishers a few years before deciding to go independent and their rejection slowed me down a bit. The story kept tugging at me, so I finally forced myself to do a final edit and self-published. The day it went live was one of the scariest of my life. The next three books in the Bunny Elder series each only took six months from outline to publication. I outline my story and the main characters, then dive into Chapter One. I try to write at least 1000 words per day when I’m working on a book. I write two or three chapters, then go back to the beginning to re-read and rework the first part before jumping off on another group of chapters. I find that helps me keep track of the characters, etc.

Stephanie: Have you written mysteries before?

J.B.: I’ve written a couple that I never published. They were written more for therapy than for publication. I may go back and rework them someday, though.

Stephanie: And what is it that intrigues you the most about them?

J.B.: I love a puzzle and the challenge of trying to give the reader enough information to keep interested, without giving the plot away too soon.

Stephanie: When I asked you in my questionnaire to you about what message you are trying to convey to your readers, I was intrigued with your answer. So you mind sharing with your readers what that is?

J.B.: There are three messages. One is that Christians are simply people trying to please God in their lives, not saints or caricatures. They make mistakes, but keep trying. The second is that there is no hierarchy for sin. Homosexuality is not the unforgivable sin, any more than lying, or gluttony, etc. The final message I’m trying to get across is women don’t stop being women on their 50th birthday.

Stephanie: Are you currently working on another mystery story?

J.B.: I wrapped up Bunny’s story with the fourth book in the series and have begun a new book featuring a few characters introduced in that series. It is set on the Oregon coast. And when do you expect it to be released? I decided a book every six months was too much pressure, so I am shooting for publication in the spring of 2015.

Stephanie: What is some advice you could give to someone who wants to write in this genre?

J.B.: My advice to anyone who wants to write is just to sit down and write. Read tons of books in your chosen genre to get a feel for it, then write your heart out.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

J.B.: My books are published through Amazon for Kindle and in print. The print copies are available or can be ordered from any bookseller. They may also be borrowed from your local library.

The second book in the Bunny Elder series, Vain Pursuits, which takes Bunny to Italy, is currently being featured in a Kindle bundle of five full-length novels, all set in Italy, by five different well-reviewed authors, “Under the Italian Sun.”

This bundle is a special summer promotion of five books for only 99 cents. It would be a good opportunity for those who like Hollow to get the next book in the series at a bargain price. Right now it is featured by Amazon as a “hot new release.”

Stephanie: Thank you, J.B.! It was a pleasure chatting with you.

Thank you, Stephanie.

About Author:

Raised in the northern end of the Sacramento Valley in California, J.B. Hawker’s early life was framed by mountain ranges. While her physical vistas were bounded on almost every side, her imagination was free to soar without limits.

“I’ve made up stories my whole life,” said Hawker when interviewed. “While other children might need a flashlight to read under the covers after bedtime, I simply made up my own stories, many of which lasted multiple nights, having intricate details and characters drawn both from my life and my imagination.”

After twenty years serving small churches from Alaska to South Dakota as a pastor’s wife, she returned to her California roots to start over in mid-life as a single business woman and author.

J.B. has published many articles on faith and ministry. She served as on her denomination’s women’s ministry national executive committee as the coordinator for the western United States.

She is a motivational speaker and leadership trainer.

“Hollow” the book awarded the BRAG Medallion, was her first published fiction.

J.B. has three grown sons. Her oldest, the father of her three beautiful granddaughters, lives in northern Italy, the other two live closer, in California.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview J.B. Hawker, who is the author of, Hollow, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Hollow, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.




Interview with Author Susan Spann


June, 1565: Master ninja Hiro Hattori receives a pre-dawn visit from Kazu, a fellow shinobi working undercover at the shogunate. Hours before, the Shogun’s cousin, Saburo, was stabbed to death in the Shogun’s palace. The murder weapon: Kazu’s personal dagger. Kazu says he’s innocent, and begs for Hiro’s help, but his story gives Hiro reason to doubt the young shinobi’s claims.

When the Shogun summons Hiro and Father Mateo, the Jesuit priest under Hiro’s protection, to find the killer, Hiro finds himself forced to choose between friendship and personal honor.

The investigation reveals a plot to assassinate the Shogun and overthrow the ruling Ashikaga clan. With Lord Oda’s enemy forces approaching Kyoto, and the murderer poised to strike again, Hiro must use his assassin’s skills to reveal the killer’s identity and protect the Shogun at any cost. Kazu, now trapped in the city, still refuses to explain his whereabouts at the time of the murder. But a suspicious shogunate maid, Saburo’s wife, and the Shogun’s stable master also had reasons to want Saburo dead. With the Shogun demanding the murderer’s head before Lord Oda reaches the city, Hiro and Father Mateo must produce the killer in time … or die in his place.

Hello Susan! Welcome to Layered Pages and thank you for chatting with me today.

After reading your book description, I don’t think I have read a story quite like this one. What sets your story apart from others in this genre?

Susan: First: thank you for inviting me here today. I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you!

I think the key difference is my detective, Hiro. He’s a shinobi (aka “ninja” – shinobi is the actual Japanese pronunciation of the word), which is something I hadn’t seen in detective fiction before. As a trained assassin, Hiro has a better understanding of forensics than most people who lived in medieval Japan, which gives him a special ability to look at a crime scene and deduce what might have happened there. I love “translating” forensics back through the centuries, and seeing the facts through Hiro’s eyes.

Stephanie: Your story looks really involved and you have quite a cast of characters….was there any challenges writing your story or keeping up with what each character was doing?

Susan: It’s definitely a challenge to keep up with a pack of liars—and generally speaking, every character in a mystery novel is a liar (to one degree or another). I usually write two outlines for each novel, one that shows the “onstage” action the reader sees on the page, and the other to keep track of the “offstage” action—so I know when a character is lying and when he’s telling the truth!

Stephanie: Did you use an outline for your story?

Susan: I do! In fact, I use two. Once I start writing, however, the characters take on a life of their own, so the finished novel usually has some fairly significant departures from the version that appeared in the outlines. So far, I’ve never changed the murderer’s identity—but several of the subplots ended up very different from my original plans.

Stephanie: Which character are you partial to?

Susan: I love Hiro and Father Mateo—no surprise there—but looking only at Blade of the Samurai, my favorite character from that novel is probably Ichiro, a young samurai who’s the son of the murder victim. Ichiro wasn’t in my original outline—he “rode onstage” in the first draft and I loved him too much to cut him out again. He captured my heart for many reasons, and I hope readers will like him too.

Stephanie: Please tell me about your research and conflicting opinions/interpretations from historians? If so, how did you deal with it?

Susan: When historical facts conflict, I try to find a reasonable version of the “truth” and go with it. Ultimately, historical fiction is still fiction, and though I try very hard to avoid significant errors, in the end we all have to write the best novels we can and accept that even in modern non-fiction, differing viewpoints and errors happen.

When I divert from historical fact, I try to add notes to that effect on my website, to help readers separate “fact from fiction” – but I try very hard not to change anything that’s historically significant.

Stephanie: What era does your story take place in and why did you chose this period and culture?

Susan: The Shinobi Mysteries are set in the mid-16th century (Blade takes place in 1565), which the Japanese refer to as the “Muromachi Era.” In the West, we consider it the medieval age. Japan was ruled by an emperor, though the shogun was in charge of the military, and had become the actual head of the government too.

I chose this era for a couple of reasons. First, the real, historical ninjas were at the peak of their strength in the 16th century. During that time, the shinobi clans were powerful forces within Japan, as spies and assassins for hire. The mid 16th century was also the time when foreigners (particularly Portuguese traders and Jesuits) were first making inroads in Japan, and that clash of cultures makes an interesting backdrop for fiction. This was also a tumultuous period in Japanese history, when many warlords vied to become the shogun. Taking all of those things together, it seemed like a great time to set a mystery series!

Stephanie: Did you face any challenges writing a murder scene?

Susan: I consider the murder scene a pivotal part of the novels—it’s the fountain from which the rest of the story flows—so I always take a lot of time in planning and writing it. The murders in my novels happen offstage, but before I write the novel itself, I actually write the scene in which the murder happens, to set the details in my mind and to help establish which clues the killer left behind. Those scenes I keep to myself, of course, but they’re just as important—if not more so—than the pages which do become part of the novels.

Stephanie: Who long did it take for you to write your story and where in your home do you like to write?

Susan: I write the first draft of a novel in 30 days, but that’s only the start of the process. That initial draft gets two full rounds of revisions before I insert the chapter breaks, and then two more (five drafts total) before it goes to my college-age son, who is my alpha reader. After I integrate his comments (and run another draft on my own) Draft 6 or 7 goes to my critique partners, and then draft 8 (or sometimes 9) gets sent to my agent for comment. By the time that first draft gets to my editor at Minotaur, it’s been through 9-10 rounds of revision, at least. The entire process takes about nine months.

Stephanie: Do you need complete silence and alone time to write or can you write surrounded by noise and a few people in the room?

Susan: It depends on the draft. I typically write first drafts in silence, and alone (though I can work in a coffee shop, if the need arises). Noise bothers me less now than it used to, though my favorite environment for writing and editing is definitely my home office, with the burble of my reef aquarium as the soundtrack.

Stephanie: What are you currently working on?

Susan: I’ve finished the third Shinobi Mystery, Flask of the Drunken Master, which is scheduled for publication in July 2015, and I’m currently revising the fourth book, Blood of the Outcast. It’s a wonderful thing to spend more time with Hiro and Father Mateo!

Stephanie: Thank you, Susan!

Susan: Thank you for having me here today!


Susan Spann acquired her love of books and reading during her preschool days in Santa Monica, California. As a child she read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie. In high school, she once turned a short-story assignment into a full-length fantasy novel (which, fortunately, will never see the light of day).

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts.

Susan’s interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest. When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, horseback riding, online gaming, and raising seahorses and rare corals in her highly distracting marine aquarium. Susan lives in Sacramento with her husband, son, three cats, one bird, and a multitude of assorted aquatic creatures.

For more information please visit Susan Spann’s website and blog.  You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Blade of the Samurai Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, July 7 Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Tuesday, July 8 Review at Closed the Cover

Wednesday, July 9 Review at Staircase Wit Guest Post & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Thursday, July 10 Review at Boolover Book Reviews

Monday, July 14 Review at Bibliophilia, Please

Wednesday, July 16 Review at Buried Under Books

Thursday, July 17 Spotlight at Reviews by Molly

Friday, July 18 Review at History Undressed

Monday, July 21 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Tuesday, July 22 Review at Judith Starkston Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, July 23 Review at The True Book Addict

Thursday, July 24 Interview at Layered Pages

Monday, July 28 Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Tuesday, July 29 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Wednesday, July 30 Review at Princess of Eboli

Thursday, July 31 Review at A Fantastical Librarian

Friday, August 1 Review at Reading the Ages

Susan Spann Book Tour Banner



Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Author Adrienne Austermann


Stephanie: I would like to introduce B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree, Author Adrienne Austermann. She is an accomplished artist, writer and art educator. As a graduate of the School of Visual Arts in NYC, her career has crossed multiple disciplines which include graphic design, advertising, art direction, writing, and photography. She is an independent blogger for the Huffington Post, and now adds author/illustrator to her resume with the release of her new children’s book The Sleepy Star

Please tell me about, The Sleepy Star and what genre it falls under?

Adrienne: The Sleepy Star is a hardcover children’s bedtime book. It is about a little star who stays asleep while all his friends are playing and has an incredible underwater “dream” adventure. The book was written to promote a positive bedtime routine while maximizing parent/child interaction. The Sleepy Star is as educational as it is entertaining. It is written in rhyming verse with text to visual connections which help to promote word recognition for early reading readiness. The nice surprise in all my feedback to date is how much a book which is categorized as the Juvenile fiction is being enjoyed equally by adults.

Stephanie: Is this your first children’s book?

Adrienne: Yes! However it is designed to be a series. Every time the star falls asleep he has another adventure.

Stephanie: What inspired you to write this book?

Adrienne: Actually, the initial seed of the idea came from a school assignment when I was studying art education at The School of Visual Arts in NYC. We had to create a visual story without words, and I kept imaging a star falling from the sky splashing into the ocean and becoming a starfish, it fit perfectly. The written story came a bit later when my daughter was two years old and I wanted an engaging bedtime story for her. I was working as an advertising art director at the time and pictured this fabulous world of The Sleepy Star things such as the pillow doll, bedding, wall covering and nightlights!

Stephanie: Who designed the book cover? Did you create the illustrations? 

Adrienne: I designed the cover and created all the illustrations. This was the most daunting task for me, as I never considered myself an illustrator.  I was everything but, a graphic designer, a painter, writer etc…Illustration was a specific discipline that I was never comfortable with and avoided like the plague.  As an art director I always hired the perfect illustrator for various projects and always imagined doing that with this book when I landed a publishing contract!  However as a single working mom, that became a daunting task, querying publishers was a full time job in itself, and anything that put my kid’s needs on the back burner got shelved.  I unearthed the project 20 years later and decided to finish it after realizing the story had completely withstood the test of time. I dedicated it to my daughter and published it in time for her 22nd birthday.

Stephanie: What is the age group for this book?

Adrienne: Although it was written as a child’s bedtime book making it appropriate for birth though the pre and early primary grades, I am finding readers of all ages are enjoying it.

Stephanie: Will you publish more children’s books? 

Adrienne: Yes!  As I mentioned earlier, The Sleepy Star is designed to be a series and The Sleepy Star Goes to Heaven is in the works hopefully to be released this holiday season. It is designed to be a comforting and uplifting “must read” story for anyone who has lost a loved written in the same style as the original book. It address a difficult subject in a positive and inspiring way.

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Adrienne: I discovered indieBRAG when a friend was telling me about her neighbor who was a self published author and when I looked up the book title I saw it was an indieBRAG medal honoree.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Adrienne: Readers can find my book online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

More information and some interior illustrations can be found at The Sleep Star

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Adrienne Austerman, who is the author of, The Sleepy Star, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Sleepy Star, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.



Q&A About Beta Readers with Author M. Louisa Locke

Stephanie: I would like to welcome, M. Louisa Locke to Layered Pages today, to take part in my Beta Readers Series.

Do you use beta readers?

M. Louisa: Yes. They have been a very important part of my writing and editing process as an indie author. As a college professor, I had training and decades of experience in writing non-fiction. What I didn’t have was any experience or training in writing fiction, so I knew I was going to need help. However, when I was getting my first book, Maids of Misfortune, ready to be published in 2009, self-publishing was relatively untested—and I didn’t have any way of knowing if I would make any money at it. Consequently, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money upfront on professional editing so I turned to beta readers.

By the time I wrote my second book, I was making enough income from my writing to hire a professional editor. Nevertheless, I had found the process of using beta readers so rewarding that I have only used a professional editor for the last copy editing for my books and short stories (I had my editor go over Maids of Misfortune, after the fact. One of the wonderful elements of being an indie author is being able to easily put out a revised and corrected edition.)


Stephanie: I know of a few authors who use beta readers for different phases of their manuscript. How many do you use and in what phase of your WIP do you require them?

M. Louisa: For all three of my books, I have used from between six and ten beta readers. I use them at every stage, between every draft.

My first round of beta readers are the members of my writers group. These three writers read the first draft of my first novel, Maids of Misfortune, over twenty years ago, and they read it again when I rewrote it to self-publish. All three are published authors with decades experience in writing, editing, and publishing. I trust them to do the first round of developmental edits that address plot structure, character development, pacing, etc.

However, none of them are fans of the more cozy style mysteries I write, they are uncomfortable with the romance genre, and they aren’t experts in the Victorian era. Therefore, I knew from the beginning I would need other beta readers to address other elements of my writing.

I have several academic colleagues who are fans of the kinds of historical fiction I write, a few who are also experts in my historical period. I will usually send them a copy of the manuscript early on in the process––often at the same time as I send it to my writers group or after I have done my first rewrite.

What I didn’t use for the first book, but I used for Uneasy Spirits and Bloody Lessons, my second and third books in the Victorian San Francisco Mystery series, were beta readers from among fans of the series. Frankly, these have been the most rewarding beta readers because they are almost as invested as I am in getting the finished product just right. I tend to use them after my first major rewrites.


Stephanie: What is it that you look for in a beta reader? And what is the importance of them?

M. Louisa: I look for varied skills. For example, when I reach out to fans of the series who have volunteered to read the manuscript, I ask them whether or not they are the kind of reader who reads very quickly and doesn’t get caught up with detail, or if they are slow, detail-oriented readers who are likely to catch any typo or misplaced commas.

I ask those who fall into the first group to read the manuscript earlier on in the process because I know I can get feedback quickly from them and that they won’t get side-tracked by small errors. What I ask them to do is tell me when they find the story dragging or confusing, what parts they specially liked, and their overall impressions.

I reserve beta readers who fall into the second group for reading the manuscript after it has been rewritten several times. I am really asking them to do my first round of copy edits––fine-tuning language, catching grammatical or typographical errors. If I have done my job well in responding to the earlier feedback, this round of readers are generally positive about the over-all plot and character development.

Stephanie: How do you choose your beta readers?

M. Louisa: For my first developmental edits, I am looking primarily for people with expertise—in writing and in history. For my second round of developmental edits I am looking for people who are fans of my genre. For my last rounds of copy editing, I am looking for people who are fans of my genre, but are detail oriented. I then send to a copy editor—because I have found that even with multiple reads errors still creep in and because I want a more definitive professional read through for the final grammatical decisions.

Stephanie: What has been your experiences with them?

M. Louisa: My experiences have been very positive. I have learned that I need to ask if the reader has time to get back to me by a fairly short, defined deadline. The process of getting feedback, rewriting, getting more feedback, etc. can be very time consuming as it is (I finished the first draft of Bloody Lessons in early May 2013, and the book was back from the final copy edit late August) so it is important that the reader understands that if they don’t get their feedback to me in time, I won’t be able to use it.

I also have found it helps if I give them a general guideline about what kind of feedback I am looking for (particularly at different stages in the process.)


Stephanie: How often do you take their advice and what is the impact they have had on your writing?

M. Louisa: I look for places that my readers agree, particularly in terms of developmental edits. If several people are confused, or feel that a section drags, or want more information––I definitely know I need to work on these section. I might not always use the solution to the problems that they offer, but I will take the problem seriously. On the other hand, when there is a difference of opinion between beta readers (for example most of my beta readers loved the ending of the last book, but a few didn’t), I am much more likely to choose the advice that I agree with (I didn’t change the ending.) For tiny grammatical corrections, this is easy—unless I absolutely know that they are wrong (which happens), I will make the changes—knowing that ultimately the professional copy editor’s decisions will be what I rely on for the final version.

What my beta readers also have done is help make me a better writer with each book. Having been through multiple rounds of feedback, I now catch problems earlier myself.

Victorican San Stories

Stephanie: Do you use them for every book you write?

M. Louisa:Yes. I can’t imagine sending a book or short story to be copy edited until I have gotten feedback from beta readers and done at least two or three rewrites based on that feedback.

About Author:


M. Louisa Locke is a retired professor of U.S. and Women’s History, who has embarked on a second career as an historical fiction writer. Her Victorian San Francisco Mystery series is based on the research she did for her doctorate in history at University of California, San Diego about women who worked in the far west at the end of the 19th century. The series features Annie Fuller, a boardinghouse owner and pretend clairvoyant, and Nate Dawson, a San Francisco lawyer, who together investigate murders and other crimes. In the first book, Maids of Misfortune, Annie goes undercover as a domestic servant, in the second, Uneasy Spirits, Annie and Nate investigate a couple of fraudulent trance mediums, and in the third, Bloody Lessons, they try to determine who is attacking San Francisco teachers. Her short storiesgive secondary characters from this series a chance to get involved in their own minor mysteries and can be found in the collection Victorian San Francisco Stories. She is currently working on the fourth book in the series, Deadly Proof, which features women in the printing industry in San Francisco. Dr. Locke is an active member in the Alliance of Independent Authors, and a Director of the Historical Fiction Authors Cooperative. For more about M. Louisa Locke and her work, see http://mlouisalocke.com/ or follow her on twitter, facebook, and pinterest.



Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Susan Waterwyk


Stephanie: Hello, Susan! Thank you for chatting with me today and congratulations on the B.R.A.G. Medallion. Please tell me about your story, “Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy.”

Susan: Lantamyra is a sanctuary world terraformed by Keepers of Akosh (alien caretakers) to give refuge to endangered sentient beings from two nearby worlds, dragons from Lanluong and humans from Eadlan or Earth as we call her. The dragons are giants, carnivorous, and because they learned the secrets of Akoshic crystal power, they are more intelligent than the human population. However, a few select humans are allowed to learn the secrets of crystal powers and link their minds with the myra crystal. They become keepers or wards of the dragons and serve the three great Houses that rule Lantamyra.

Tylya Lansing is the main character (pronounced Ty-lee-ah) a nineteen-year-old that lives in a small town in California. Her grandmother Lenora is a keeper of dragons that was stranded on Earth. After learning her grandmother’s secret, Tylya becomes obsessed with finding the crystal scepter lost in a rugged Sierra Nevada canyon. She enlists her boyfriend, Josh Hamilton. and together they find it. Now Lenora can return to Lantamyra, and Tylya is determined to go with her. Josh is too much in love to just let her go, he desperately stows away. Once there, he joins Tylya in the training for crystal power. They meet friends, have adventures, attend a moonlight masquerade and eventually finish the training. The mind link with the crystal is a dangerous process that almost kills them. It also has side effects that alter the personality. Josh and Tylya acquire crystal power but could end up losing their love.

Stephanie: Is Lantamyra a name you created and how did you come up with it?

Susan: I didn’t want to bombard my readers with a lot of fantasy-foreign words and names, but, I did create an ancient language, Akoshic. I applied a few simple rules and created words and names. Lan means world or mother. Myra (mear-ah)means crystals. Lantamyra means world of crystals or mother of crystals. Earth was called Eadlan meaning garden mother. Lanluong means world of dragons. Atlantis means port of the world.

Stephanie: Tell me a little about, “Keepers of Akosh.”

Susan: They are an ancient race from a world many lightyears from Earth but located in our own    cosmic neighborhood (Sagittarius arm of the galaxy). Myra crystals led to discovering the crystalrealm (dimension of pure energy), and the axiomatic evolution pattern for physical law (Akoshic Ways). Using doorways through the crystalrealm, they traveled the stars searching for living worlds. They became cosmic gardeners that believe the highest form a sentient life can evolve into is gardener. “There can be no higher form of existence, only greater gardens to grow.”

Susan: Please tell me about Tylya and her grandmother. Do they have a special bond? How do they help each other…..?

Susan: Tylya always admired her grandmother, Lenora, as a strong, artistic, and intelligent woman. However, after the tragic death of her father, Tyler Lansing, the bond with her grandmother increased and the bond with her mother, Deanna, decreased. This was partly due to the rebellious stage that teenagers go through with their parents, and partly because her mother blamed her grandmother for her father’s death. He died in an accident searching a rugged canyon for the scepter Lenora lost. After his death, Tylya confronted her grandmother and found out about the scepter. Like her father, she became obsessed with finding it. Right after high school, she moved into her grandmother’s house and worked in Lenora’s curio shop. The bond with her grandmother strengthened to the point that Tylya was willing to leave her mother and her lover, Josh, and go with Lenora to Lantamyra.

Stephanie: Why is Tylya so determined to become,” keeper of dragons”?

Susan: Tylya was an excellent student in High School graduating half a year early. She was intrigued with the idea of linking the mind with the myra crystals and becoming a highly intelligent super-being. When Lenora demonstrated some of her crystals powers, Tylya then became determined to go to Lantamyra and learn the Secrets of the Akoshic Ways from the dragons. All forms of power are tempting to people, but crystal powers and a mind expansion were too tempting for Tylya to resist.

Stephanie: What is your favorite scene you have written in this story and what was your inspiration?

Susan: In Chapter 17, everyone on Lantamyra is celebrating three days of the summer solstice (Litha). The Keeper’s Ball on the Eve of Litha is an elegant formal dance that Tylya and Josh attend with friends. Inspired a little by the story of Cinderella, I spent weeks and dozens of re-writes to craft a dance scene that was believable, beautiful, romantic, and sweet/sad because Josh has informed Tylya that he is no longer the same man that fell in love with her then he ended their wedding engagement. A few minutes later, a song is dedicated to Tylya and tradition requires the couple to dance the first part of the song alone on the dance floor. Josh realizes that this dance may be their last, and he tries to make it as memorable as possible.

Stephanie: Is there a particular message to your story you would like the readers to grasp?

Susan: In every language in the Universe, the strongest word is Truth, and nothing is more precious in the Universe than Life, and, of all the forms of life, nothing is more rare and precious than a living world. It nurtures and protects us all from the harmful radiation of the sun and cosmos; we should always respect our “Garden Mother,” and that’s the truth.

Stephanie: How long did it take you to write your story and will there be others in this genre?

Susan: From the first paragraph to the date of publication, Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy, took seven years and four months. I was determined to produce quality. 2008 was a terrible stressful year. My body suffered several maladies over the next two years including arthritis which disfigured and crippled my hands. My wonderful daughter and my husband helped type the pages for me. A shortage of funds made me decide to paint my own book cover, and that took several months. Two things you can’t hurry—art and old people.

Susan: I have already published A Tale of Two Worlds, which continues the story of Tylya and Josh. At this time, I only foresee one more book: The Prize of the Survivors. I hope to publish it this Fall.

Stephanie: What are you currently working on?

Susan:The Prize of the Survivors is my third book. The living world has awakened. Massive quakes, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and superstorms threaten to decimate the population of Earth. The Keepers of Akosh cannot prevent the devastation. They can save a few humans and selected species of plants and animals. The final gathering of refugees has begun. The U.S. Government wants to capture a crystalship and/or the keepers that fly them. Keeper Tylya Lansing is in charge of the last mission to Earth. Meanwhile, her lover, Josh Hamilton, is suffering crystal sickness from working in the crystal mine, and the hungry ghosts of dead crystalseekers have been feeding on his living energy. They threaten to trap him in a web of dreams and bleed him to death. “Tomorrow is the prize of the survivors.”

Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?

Susan: My dear, daughter handles most of the marketing. She found out about indieBRAG while surfing the net. She submitted Lantamyra for me. Let me honestly say that being awarded the BRAG medallion is my proudest achievement to date. I know that very few of the indie books submitted are fortunate to receive a BRAG award. The quality standards of indieBRAG are high. The award confirmed my hopes of creating a quality story for readers to enjoy.

Stephanie: Where can readers buy your book?

Susan: Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy is available at Amazon and at Smash Words

About Susan Waterwyk

Susan Waterwyk 2

As a child I’d make up stories and act them out. As a teenager I made up stories to put myself to sleep at night, something I still do today. My other creative outlets included music (playing the piano), and sketching and drawing pictures, which eventually led me to painting landscapes. My husband taught me how to compose poetry, a real challenge and I struggled for years trying to grasp the various meters used in conventional poetry. I understood meter in music, but iambic-pentameter? What’s that? Anyway, I never thought of myself as a writer, much less an author of novels. However, I loved to read all types of stories, fantasy/sci-fi especially, and an occasional classic. I believe that extensive reading is an author’s best investment. Input before output.

Living in California’s Sierra Nevada, brought me closer to Nature, and I experienced her living beauty daily. Inspiration is a magic spell enchanting us all to create, and I was inspired to create a sanctuary world, a refuge for readers to escape to when the chains of reality are too heavy to bear.

Now, I’m an author and a graduate of the University of Hardknocks, a storyteller first and writer second.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Susan Waterwyk, who is the author of, Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy, one of our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Lantamyra: A Tapestry of Fantasy, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.