Sunday Book Highlight: The Serpent Sword by Matthew Harffy

The Serpent Sword Cover


Certain that his brother’s death is murder, young farmhand Beobrand embarks on a quest for revenge in war-torn Northumbria. When he witnesses barbaric acts at the hands of warriors he considers his friends, Beobrand questions his chosen path and vows to bring the men to justice.

Relentless in pursuit of his enemies, Beobrand faces challenges that change him irrevocably. Just as a great sword is forged by beating together rods of iron, so his adversities transform him from a farm boy to a man who stands strong in the clamour and gore of the shieldwall.

As he closes in on his kin’s slayer and the bodies begin to pile up, can Beobrand mete out the vengeance he craves without sacrificing his own honour…or even his soul?

The Serpent Sword is the first novel of the Bernicia Chronicles.

Book Excerpt:

THE MAN STOOD IN THE SHADOWS preparing for murder. He pulled his cloak about him, stretching muscles that had grown stiff from inactivity. It was cold and his breath steamed in the autumn night air. It was uncomfortable, but he would wait. His mind was made up. His suspicions had been aroused before, but now he knew the truth of it. He had followed them here, had seen them go inside together. Soft sounds of a woman’s laughter drifted from the stable. His jaw clenched. His hand gripped the antler hilt of his seax. Holding the knife reassured him. But he would not use it tonight. No. There would be no fight. No clash of metal. No battle glory.

No deeds for the scops to sing of.

Warriors’ acts were recounted by the bards in the flickering light of mead hall fires. There was no light here. It would be a secret death. In the darkness.

What he must do was clear. But none could ever know of what happened here tonight. His life would be forfeit should he be discovered.

Somewhere, off to the land-facing, westward side of the fortress, a dog barked, then all was still again. From the east, he could hear the distant rumble of waves hitting rocks far below.

On the palisade, some distance away, he could just make out the silhouette of a guard.

A cloud scudded in front of the moon. The all-seeing eye of Woden, father of the gods, was closed. On such a night the gods slept and a man’s actions could bend his wyrd to his own ends. A great man could seize what was rightfully his. His mother had once told him he would be a man to dethrone kings and topple kingdoms. Great men were not governed by common laws.

Clinging to that thought, he girded himself for what he was about to do.

He shivered and convinced himself it was because of the chill. He moved further into the shadows.

From the building came a new sound. The rhythmic gasps and cries of coupling. He recognised the sound of Elda in those guttural moans.

How could she be so fickle? He had offered her everything. By Woden, he would have made her his wife! To think she had spurned him and then opened her legs to that young upstart. The anger he felt at her rejection bubbled up inside him like bile.

And him! Octa. The man Elda was rutting with inside the stable. Octa had all a warrior could want. A ring-giving lord who looked upon him with favour. He had land and treasures. And of course, the sword. The sword that should never have been his. The blade was named Hrunting and had been a gift from their lord, King Edwin. He had bestowed it on the man he thought had saved his life in battle. But he had given it to the wrong man. The battle had been confused, the shieldwall had broken and the king had been surrounded by enemies. It appeared all was lost until one of the king’s warriors, one of his thegns, had rallied the men and turned the tide of the battle.

Afterwards, Edwin had given Hrunting to Octa. It was a sword fit for a king. The blade forged from twisted rods of iron. The metal shone with the pattern of rippling water, or the slick skin of a snake. The hilt was inlaid with fine bone and intricate carvings. All who had seen the weapon coveted it.

But the man who waited in the shadows knew it should have been his. It was he who had smitten the leader of their enemies. He who had led the men in the charge that brought victory.

He who was destined for greatness…


Matthew Harffy lived in Northumberland as a child and the area had a great impact on him. The rugged terrain, ruined castles and rocky coastline made it easy to imagine the past. Decades later, a documentary about Northumbria’s Golden Age sowed the kernel of an idea for a series of historical fiction novels. The first of them is the action-packed tale of vengeance and coming of age, THE SERPENT SWORD.

Matthew has worked in the IT industry, where he spent all day writing and editing, just not the words that most interested him. Prior to that he worked in Spain as an English teacher and translator. He has co-authored seven published academic articles, ranging in topic from the ecological impact of mining to the construction of a marble pipe organ.

Matthew lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife and their two daughters.

When not writing, or spending time with his family, Matthew sings in a band called Rock Dog.

Author Links:






Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences

Joseph K BRAG

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Joseph G.  Krygier to talk with me today about his self-publishing experiences. Joseph is the Pastor of New Covenant Baptist Fellowship in Buffalo, New York. He has written about and been engaged in cross-cultural ministry for over thirty years. He has taught in Poland, Ukraine, Romania, Australia, Canada and the US. His current overseas ministry, since 2009, is TheosDoulos Church Planting Movement; training pastors, overseeing relief and education projects in the Philippines on the island of Mindanao.

Joseph has attended the Belfer Holocaust Educator’s Conferences in Washington D.C. the past two summers. He hopes to be a part of the International Conference for Ministers at Yad Vashem in April 2016. As a result of the book, he has been giving lectures on the Holocaust as well as the book and on Memorial Day 2014, was the guest speaker at the WWII Museum in Eldred, Pa. to celebrate the opening of their Holocaust Remembrance Room.

Before becoming ordained, eight years after his Christian conversion, he was an actor, dancer and lighting designer. He is currently writing a one-man play, Chagrined, based on this book. He plans to do author readings of the play while seeking theater companies that would be interested in producing it. He is glad to do these as fund-raisers for organizations. He is also in the process of laying out the book for an audio book production for the research libraries that have copies of the book, using a number of experienced and possibly some well-known actors. Joseph and classical guitarist, music copyist and composer Scott Ouellette are composing music for both the play and the audio book.

He has ideas for three other books at present and is helping a woman, through his company TOLIFE…Ink, to publish her memoirs.

He feels greatly blessed to be able to interact with so many different kinds of people in so many different situations.

He is married to Deborah, who works for the Buffalo Public Schools, is an accomplished Bible teacher and an actress and has recently been seen in plays in the Buffalo area. Their son, Aaron, is a technical writer for a web support company and is pursuing a career as a writer, director and an actor. An original play of his won a Best Drama Award at a theater festival in New York last spring. He is currently working on the first stages of a film project in Buffalo and has been seen on stage recently and will be again in the fall season.

Joseph, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?

That decision was made when I considered our subject matter and the time it might take for us to write Victor’s story. When we began meeting, first by phone in October of 2009, we were only discussing a play based on Victor’s life. After our first week together at his home in Florida in February of 2010, the decision to make it a book caused us to have a different strategy to get Victor’s story to an audience. He was 82 when we began.

As I began considering how long it might take us to write the book, and knowing from previous experience the difficulties of getting one published by traditional means, even when you have the head of a non-fiction department at a major publishing company pushing for your book to be published by the company … and it was not, after 9 months of holding the manuscript, I thought self-publishing would be the way to go.

A Rage to Live

What has your experience been like along the way?

It has been illuminating and beneficial. It was never frustrating but it was challenging.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

The first was to decide on which self-publishing company to use. I had decided from the beginning that we were going to do a print and an e-pub version. After that, there was the fact that we would be using numerous photographs in the book in a non-traditional way and that in the print copy we would have to go black and white but with the e-pub we could do it in color. That was all a budget consideration. The other initial decision was whether or not to form our own publishing company and purchase our own ISBN or let a self-publishing company provide one for us as part of a package.

What have you learned in this industry?

All self-publishing services are not the same. You must do you research and decide which one or combination of companies will best serve your ideas of how and where you want your book to find an audience. Since we began our project, I have seen major improvements in some of the more prominent companies.

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?

Do the research as I mentioned. Have a plan as to what you want your book to look like, read like and feel like. You may not be able to do what I did and write it, edit it—with the help of my wife Deborah—design the overall layout internally, choose all the photos and design the cover. I had also discovered D.K. Lubarsky, a Holocaust sculptress, who wanted to help our project when I asked her if we could use photographs of them in our book and for the cover. David Lubarsky reworked all the original negatives to optimize them for both black and white and color. So, this was a team effort. If I had not hesitated about finalizing the book, about 7 months earlier than I did, I never would have discovered the sculptor and the layout of the book would have been very different. You may or may not have some folks who will read portions as you go along to see if the “voice” of the book is what you want it to be. For example: I did not tell anyone that I wanted our memoir to read like a novel, but I was told by many that that is exactly the experience they had. Decide what help you need from all the above. Can you get that help from friends or do you need to get some of it from one of the self-publishing services. I did use a service for some sample chapters to get a critique of formatting and use of punctuation at the very beginning. From then on we were on our own and followed the suggested patterns of the service we used.

The total cost of this and purchasing our own ISBN and using two separate services for each type of publication and setting up distribution and printing through both was $700.00. Do not spend thousands of dollars. Do the hard the hard work. Connect with great forums like Layered Pages. Read the stories of others who have self-published. Work with a small self-publishing company that for a lot less in fees will help to guide you through the process and point you to the various routes you can take. We started TOLIFE…Ink to do that and are in the process right now of helping a lady publish her memoirs. She has done all of the writing, editing and so on and now needs to make the final choices of how to get it into print and in the market place. We can save her a lot of time. She came to us for help after reading our book and seeing that it was not a traditional approach to a memoir.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

Do not even consider publishing until you have a book that you are satisfied with. You do not need that pressure of pushing to that goal. We began Victor’s story as a project for just his family. Then it began to grow into something else. I had so much source material to choose from I knew we could publish something. Everyone does not have that advantage.

Do not be discouraged in the process. Take advantage of understanding all the mistakes that those of us who have gotten there have made along the way and run away from them. But, don’t be afraid to break some of the rules once you are clearly seeing the way you are going.

Our company philosophy can be summed up this way, “Write the book that you want to read.”

If writing is about hoping to make lots of money, reconsider. You might be the next Jonathan Livingston Seagull, or you may have a smaller audience but one that truly appreciates your hard work and the subject matter you have chosen.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?

I have done a giveaway on Goodreads; 411 people signed up for the 4 signed copies.

192 said they put it on their “to read” list. That has not translated into sales, but that is not all that important. It showed that the subject matter had an audience. We have a Facebook page and a good number of followers as well as a website. I have also done giveaways on Noise Trade Books. The topic of our book lends itself to reaching out to people for educational purposes and I do lectures about the Holocaust, not just the book, at various venues. I am currently in the process of contacting a number of privately owned bookstores within a 200-mile radius to see if they would be interested in scheduling a talk or lecture and a book signing. I would also suggest that you enter your book in a few book award contests that are not expensive. You may not win, but you may get a good critique/review like we did from the judge at Writer’s Digest Annual Book Writing Contest. And of course, there was the surprise of being selected by IndieBrag for an award and then the interview with Stephanie. I will also be doing an audio version of the book (I am in the process of a production schedule) and may be able to use some well-known Broadway and film actors to participate in the project. I also have the benefit of adapting the book into a one-man play. It is almost completed. That will give me the opportunity to do author readings of the play. I do have the experience as an actor.

I don’t spend a set amount of time on a weekly basis, but as I see opportunities, I pursue them with whatever time it takes.

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

I think it can only improve and if more really good authors and small businesses to help authors get involved in the process for the sake of helping writers, the opportunities will be endless. It would be interesting if the indie business so affected the traditional publishers that some of their unfriendly and only for profit ways could be changed.

If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

Getting the word out that it exists, that it is cost effective and that it can produce a book as good as any traditional publishers can do and possibly even better. Sometimes breaking a few of the rules is just what a book needs.

How long have you been an indie author?

I started in 2009. I have the beginning outlines for a novel, a Holocaust history related book and I am revisiting the book that never got published that I mentioned earlier.

Author Links:



Amazon US

Amazon UK

Barnes & Noble

Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences

Carrie Beckort

Carrie Beckort

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Carrie Beckort today to talk with me about her self-publishing experiences. Carrie has a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Purdue University and a MBA from Ball State University. She spent seventeen years in the corporate industry before writing her first novel. She lives in Indiana with her husband and daughter.

Carrie, when did you decide you were going to self-publish?

After I finished the manuscript for my first novel, Kingston’s Project, I started researching the publishing process. I didn’t know anything when I started since I had not planned on writing a novel, let alone publishing one. Early in my research, I went back and forth on what I felt would be the best path to take—traditional or self-publish. Ultimately, my decision to self-publish came down to two factors: (1) I’m too impatient for the average traditional publishing timeline, and (2) I’m too much of a control freak to hand over my work to someone else.

What has your experience been like along the way?

Self-publishing is the scariest thing I’ve ever done, including the times I’ve skydived! Each time I release a new book I go through a ‘What am I doing?’ phase. Despite those moments of panic, I know I’m doing what I was meant to do. While it’s the scariest, it’s also the most rewarding. I’ve learned so much and met so many wonderful people.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

I could talk about some of the common self-publishing challenges, such as finding and connecting with readers, but I wouldn’t add anything new to that discussion that hasn’t already been pointed out. Instead, I’ll focus on my challenge of accepting my identity as an author.

Many authors have expressed that they started writing about the time they could hold a pen. Some talk about the years they spent trying to get an agent. Then there’s me—I didn’t start writing until I typed the first word of Kingston’s Project in 2012. I know I’m not alone, but I do think I might be in the minority. I didn’t spend years dreaming of being an author. Really, it found me rather than me seeking it out. It’s taken me a long time to accept that I’m not only an author, but I’m a pretty good one. I’ve struggled with the ‘imposter’ syndrome more than any other challenge self-publishing has brought my way.

What have you learned in this industry?

I’ve learned that the best thing (for me) is to just follow my instinct and forget most of the rules. I was thinking about this the other day. It’s similar to the first time I ever played golf. I borrowed my roommate’s clubs and went out to play a round with a few of the other summer interns. It was the best game of golf I’ve ever played. I didn’t focus on the rules, because I didn’t know any of them! I didn’t stress myself out over how I was holding the club, or if I was using the right one. I just picked up a club, looked for the hole, and swung. Years later when I took lessons, I became weighed down by all the rules. It became frustrating, and I ultimately decided golf wasn’t the game for me.

It’s the same with my writing. When I didn’t know anything about writing a book, I just wrote from my heart. I used my instinct and the knowledge I held as a reader to guide my process. By the time I got to writing my third novel, I worried about certain things I’d read—such as word counts and level of descriptions for the characters/settings. I felt as if I were losing the connection with the story that I had with my first novel. I took a short break from writing to release my dependence on the rules, and my writing is so much better as a result.

Kingston's Project with Medallion

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?

Figure out your budget and then allocate to the most important aspects (cover, proofing, editing, etc.) I think some authors get so caught up in the appeal of publishing a book for free that they don’t think about what that really means. I have enough experience in marketing and sales to know that if you’re not willing to put money into making your product the best it can possibly be, then it will be difficult to convince customers to spend their money to purchase it.

You should always network as much as possible. Reach out to other authors. Develop relationships with book reviewers and your readers. Attend conferences or writer’s groups. Visit your local book stores. Nothing operates in a vacuum. Contacts and connections are needed to not only grow your business, but to also grow you as a writer.

Always be professional. You may get a review you don’t like. You may deal with a rude blogger. You may not agree with the results of a contest. You may be frustrated with someone who isn’t responding to you in the timeframe you feel is appropriate. That’s all OK. What’s not OK is responding in a way that’s rude or disrespectful. If you remain professional and treat everyone with respect, then you will earn a positive reputation—and that’s something that will take you far (both in the literary world and in life).

You should never sign up to work with anyone without researching them first. There are so many people out there trying to take advantage of self-published authors, assuming they’re easy targets because they don’t know anything about the process. If you are contacted by someone (publishing company, graphic designer, web developer, etc.) who is promoting their services, always find out more about them before you agree to anything. If you can’t find any information on the Internet, ask around or post on author forums. It’s likely that someone will know something that will help you.

Never lose sight of why you became a writer in the first place. It will help you though the low moments of the process.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?

You have to be willing to put in the work. Self-publishing is not easy, especially if you’ve never managed any type of business. Because that’s what you’re doing when you self-publish—you’re managing a business. You are responsible for all aspects, from production to distribution and everything in between. It’s up to you to determine how much of it you do yourself and how much of it you will contract out to others, but you still own the entire process. If you want to be successful, you need to be willing to accept full ownership and accountability.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work? What are the different sites you use to promote your book?

I don’t track how much time I spend per week on promotion, but I probably should because it’s easy to spend too much time at either end of the spectrum: some days I spend too much time on it and other days I don’t spend enough. Rather than tracking time, I’m a fan of check-lists. I make a list of all the things I need to do and try to get a many of them done in the week as possible.

I have a dedicated website for my author business, as well as a Facebook page, a Goodreads author profile and a Twitter account. I am on Instagram and Pinterest, but I haven’t yet used them to promote my books. I’d say I spend the most time on Facebook, even though I know there are limits to who can see my posts. Right now it’s an easy way to share information, and that’s where most of my readers are. With my third novel I did pay for a Facebook ad the week it published. They jury is still out as to the success of the promotion. Beyond Facebook, I spend a lot of time on Goodreads. I host giveaways, post answers for their ‘ask the author’ questions, and interact in some of the reader groups. I’m least active on Twitter, mostly because I don’t really ‘get it’! I’m trying though, and have set goals to post more than just the automatic feeds from my Facebook page.

I also blog on three blogs: my author blog, my health and fitness blog, and on a blog with several other authors. Some authors don’t want to get involved in blogs for fear of it taking up too much of their writing time, but it’s been a great success for me. I’ve gained readers as well as strong connections with other writers.

Another way I try to promote is through book bloggers. I research and then reach out to those I think might like to read my book(s). This is a great way to not only reach readers, but to also gain an honest review of my work.

Finally, I occasionally have a sale on my ebooks. When I do this, I promote through some of the on-line services that are dedicated to spreading the word about discounted ebooks, such as Ereader News Today, Bargain Booksy, and Book Sends.

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

I think that we will only see more growth in the self-publishing industry. I envision there will be more tools and services to help self-published authors produce quality books, making it even more enticing than it is today. Yet, it’s hard to predict the exact direction this industry will go. It’s clear that Amazon wants to be the sole service provider for ebooks, which is where a lot of self-published authors focus their efforts. Personally, I think the landscape of the future is dependent on whether or not another company is willing to put in the effort to keep this from happening. If Amazon becomes the only ‘easy’ option, then the self-publishing industry will look very different than it would if we had several to choose from.

If something can be improve upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

It seems to me that a wide gap still exists between the traditional publishing world and the self-publishing world. It’s as if it has to be one or the other, with only a few authors trying to function in both worlds. Unfortunately, there is a stigma that still exists implying that you have to be traditionally published to have any ‘credibility’ as an author. It may be better than it was before, but it’s still there. I’d like to see more traditionally published and self-published authors working together and helping each other succeed.

I agree with you completely, Carrie. There definitely too wide of a gap still…

How long have you been an indie author?

I published my first novel in February of 2014, so just over a year! It’s been an amazing journey so far, and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

Author Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM | Indie Bound

For other locations, please visit Carrie’s website



B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Interview with John Riha

John Riha

John Riha

I’d like to introduce John Riha to talk with me today about his B.R.A.G. Medallion Book. John was born and raised in the Midwest. He visited the West several times and finally resolved to stay there, with the big mountains and clear rivers. He is married to a beautiful, funny woman he doesn’t deserve, and he is father to two sons who certainly must have done something right to deserve such a generous, understanding, and doting father.

Hello, John! Welcome to Layered Pages and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, Rookies in the Wild (Fear and Gloaming on the Pacific Crest Trail). That is praise indeed! Please tell me a little about your book.

It’s about backpacking with my son, Nick, on the Pacific Crest Trail in northern California. It’s much about the West, the scale and the majesty, and it’s filled with natural history anecdotes that underscore the raw beauty and mystique of America’s last remaining wild places.

As novices, we had a lot to learn, so a good portion of the book is devoted to preparation, getting geared up, and understanding the challenges we might face. That gave me plenty of time to develop a healthy paranoia, so Rookies in the Wild is also about facing fears: man-eating cougars, intestinal parasites, shoddy parenting, and mortality. But it’s also a story of grace: How nature forgives, forgets, replenishes, and enriches the spirit. And why the wilderness is so essential, and how it makes us better humans.

Do you have a picture you can share of your hiking experience?

Me on the Trinity Alps

Me on the Trinity Alps


Nick Riha on trail

Nick Riha on trail

What is one of the biggest challenges you faced while on the trail?

As backpacking newbies, everything seemed challenging. Did we have enough water? Did I hang the bear bags properly? Would a spark from our campfire set the woods ablaze? The Forest Service deliberately keeps signage to a minimum in order to enhance the true wilderness experience, so wondering if we were on the right trail or maybe had wandered onto a side trail leading to Saskatchewan was a constant nagging thought. Actually, vigilance and awareness of your surroundings are excellent characteristics to have as a backpacker. But the real challenge wasn’t dealing with potential danger, but dialing back any paranoia and simply enjoying the experience. Luckily, Nick was blissfully confident in our abilities and he kept everything in cool perspective.

What made you decide to write about your adventure?

The whole backpacking trip, from first thinking about it until the day is was all over, was so protracted and endlessly comic that I knew there was enough material to write a book about it. So even in the early outfitting stages I began to take notes. The nice thing about this type of book for the writer is that you don’t have to invent a plot; you just have to survive.

Also, I’d read enough true adventure literature that I was wondering, How do tales of extreme circumstances motivate ordinary folks to step outside their comfort zones, even a little bit? There’s so much written about heroic, death-defying cliff jumping and K2 climbing and sailing solo around the world, but how can people truly relate? Lots of people want to try something new and challenging and have a meaningful experience but they don’t necessarily want to walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. So this book is a soft-core adventure for those folks especially.

It’s also about being a father. Fathers are a bit underserved in today’s fiction and non-fiction, and for me the father-son bonding experience was every bit as fulfilling as I’d hoped. I’m not sure Nick absorbed it in the same way, but he loved backpacking and our time together. And after it was over and we were coming down out of the mountains we stopped at a little out-of-the-way cafe and had a terrific burger and that really put everything in the plus column for him.

Rookies in the wild BRAG

Why did you choose the Trinity Alps Wilderness of northern California as your destination? What are a few of the historical significance?

There’s no shortage of hiking ventures to consider, and I pored over so many guidebooks and Backpacker magazine articles that my head was swimming. Then I read a passage from the book, Hiking California’s Trinity Alps Wilderness, by Dennis Lewon, who eloquently praised a particular section of the Pacific Crest Trail for its unmatched beauty and relative obscurity. That section of trail became our grail.

The fact that we’d be backpacking the Pacific Crest Trail, one of the most-storied hiking venues in the world, added to the appeal and provided some interesting background for the book. The trail took more than 60 years to complete; the southernmost section is home to some 10 species of scorpions; the Douglas-fir was named after the early 1800s Scottish botanist, David Douglas. Don’t get me started.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I have a little cubby in one corner of our master bedroom with a narrow desk and an iMac. About 6:30 in the morning I take a cup of coffee and cram myself in there and do some serious thinking about how nice it would be if cool books just wrote themselves, and all I’d have to do is sit and watch as the ethers cranked out page after page, occasionally interrupting to point out a grammatical error or gummy phrasing. But that doesn’t happen, so I’ll check my email. Then any important sports scores. Then the unimportant scores. Then maybe just the headlines at and Salon. Then I think about breakfast because all this activity has tweaked my appetite. So we’ll have breakfast, either eggs or a smoothie. Then I’ll come back to the cubby and write my brains out until the garden calls to come get dirty.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

Someone Tweeted it to me, I think.

Who designed your book cover?

I did. I was seeing a lot of expressive covers being produced, very artistic, and I wanted to try something different that might stand apart. So I let the typography sort of take over, and the story line becomes little hints on the mostly black background. Whether it’s a winner or not, I don’t know. But I like fooling around with InDesign and Photoshop, so I had fun.

What are you working on next?

It’s a historical fiction set in southern Oregon in 1920. It’s based on a true story about the murder of the area’s first game warden, and how life unfolds for the family he leaves behind. I’m not going to get into too much detail—as you probably know writers can be unnecessarily superstitious when it comes to talking about their next projects. But I’d be glad to share more as it gets closer to publication.

Have you written historical fiction before and what do you like about it?

I like historical fiction a lot—I really enjoy research and getting the details right. I wrote a substantial book on Frank Lloyd Wright’s personal life but as I was finishing it two books on the same subject came out and took the wind out of my FLLW sails. I’m biding time for the right moment to re-energize all that work. I like non-fiction—witness Rookies in the Wild—and I have a tendency to self-deprecating humor. I have projects teed up on trout fishing and wildflowers. And I write home improvement articles and video scripts.



 A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview John Riha who is the author of, Rookies in the wild (Fear and Gloaming on the Pacific Crest Trail) our medallion honoree 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, Rookies in the Wild (Fear and Gloaming on the Pacific Crest Trail) , merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.



Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences


I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree N.D. (David) Richman today to talk with me about his self-publishing experiences thus far. David is the father of four teenage children – Christopher, Michael, Thomas and Katherine. He has been married to his high school friend, Tracy, for thirty years. David is a dedicated husband and father, and wrote his first book for his children, wanting to ensure they were interested in reading. When not writing David is a self-employed Automation Engineering Technologist. He loves the wilderness, in particular the Rocky Mountains to the west of his home in Calgary, Alberta. David is a graduate of an Outward Bounds wilderness survival program.

When did you decide you were going to self-publish?

I decided to self-publish after submitting my first book to agents over a one year period. The manuscript was getting rave reviews from those who read it and the agents were not able to tell me what was missing. I felt I’d learn more about my writing and the book if I presented it to the market.

What has your experience been like along the way?

The Indie experience has been excellent. I’ve received a great deal of support from other writers and some excellent feedback and suggestions for improvement. The positive response gave me the confidence to continue. I enacted some of the suggestions which improved the book and my writing. Self-publishing is much more rewarding than waiting for replies to query letters. And my book received two awards of recognition. It can’t get any better than that.

Brother, Bullies and Bad Guys Kindle AIA BRAGG

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

It would be really nice to sell a million copies. 😀

Outside of that challenge the biggest is getting written reviews. I won’t pay for reviews or trade reviews because I’m concerned about conflicts of interest. I did pay for a service that distributed the book to a number of volunteer reviewers, which worked extremely well, but there’s not been much review action since then.

What have you learned in this industry?

Dream big, expect little, be patient and have fun.

What are the do’s and don’ts of self-publishing?


  • Understand this is a long term game.
  • Keep writing and publishing and grow your author brand through social media and book signings.
  • Hire a professional editor.
  • Be patient. There’s no quick solution.
  • Don’ts
  • Don’t blanket post advertisements for you book on your friends’ walls.
  • Don’t pay for five star reviews.
  • Don’t rush.

What advice would you give to a writer who is considering the self-publishing route?


If this is your first book have it critiqued, a lot. And even if you disagree with the critique comments, act on them. Although critique comments and suggestions may not sit well with you, implementing them is great practice and usually kicks off other ideas that ultimately improve your writing. The biggest improvements to my writing came from the most vehement critiques. Consider that these people are taking an emotional risk for you. Respect their time and effort.

Once you’re sure the book is as perfect as it can be, have it professionally edited before publishing.

What are the promotional techniques you use via social media and how much time a week do you spend promoting your work?


Time runs faster when on social media. I’d like to say an hour a day but it’s much closer to two. I love to connect online and I enjoy promoting other authors and artists. My technique is to find people with similar interests, become familiar with their work, and support them through shares and retweets.

What are the different sites you use to promote your book?


I’m frequently in touch with the following sites:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Tsu
  • Litpick
  • Our Parenting Spot
  • LinkedIn
  • WordPressI less frequently use these sites (Though I may one day):
  • Pinterest
  • Google+
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr
  • MarsocialGoodreads is a great website and a must for Indie Authors.

Where do you see this industry in five to ten years?

I expect Indie book publishing rates will grow. Sites like B.R.A.G. and Awesome Indies will grow in number and size, and readers will rely on these sites more in their search of high quality reads. I expect more best sellers will originate from Indies. There will always be a market for professionally published and Indie books but I hope to see more collaboration between these two delivery methods.

If something can be improved upon in this industry, what do you think it should be?

I think a mainstream retail outlet for high quality Indie books would improve the industry. I think combining Indie publications with the knowledge of traditional publishers would go a long way in accomplishing this. And if there’s money to be made there’s no reason traditional publishers shouldn’t jump on this opportunity.

How long have you been an indie author?

 I published my first book in 2013.

Author Website

A Song of Sixpence: The Story of Elizabeth of York and Perkin Warbeck by Judith Arnopp

A Song of Sixpence

In the years after Bosworth, a small boy is ripped from his rightful place as future king of England. Years later when he reappears to take back his throne, his sister Elizabeth, now Queen to the invading King, Henry Tudor, is torn between family loyalty and duty. As the final struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster is played out, Elizabeth is torn by conflicting loyalty, terror and unexpected love. Will Elizabeth support the man claiming to be her brother, or will she choose the king? Set at the court of Henry VII A Song of Sixpence offers a new perspective on the early years of Tudor rule. Elizabeth of York, often viewed as a meek and uninspiring queen, emerges as a resilient woman whose strengths lay in endurance rather than resistance.

London – Autumn 1483

Ink black water slaps against the Tower wharf where deep impenetrable dark stinks of bleak, dank death. Strong arms constrict him and the rough blanket covering his head clings to his nose and mouth. The boy struggles, kicks, and wrenches his face free to suck in a lung full of life saving breath. The blanket smothers him again. He fights against it, twisting his head, jerking his arms, trying to kick but the hands that hold him, tighten. His head is clamped hard against his attacker’s body. He frees one hand, gropes with his fingers until he discovers chain mail, and an unshaven chin. Clenching his fingers into a fist, he lunges out with a wild inaccurate punch.

With a muffled curse the man throws back his head but, keeping hold of his prisoner, he hurries onward, down narrow, dark steps, turning one corner, then another, before halting abruptly. The boy hears his assailant’s breath coming short and sharp and knows he too is afraid.

The aroma of brackish water is stronger now. The boy strains to hear mumbled voices, low and rough over scuffling footsteps. The ground seems to dip and his stomach lurches as suddenly they are weightless, floating, and he senses they have boarded a river craft. The invisible world dips and sways sickeningly as they push out from the stability of the wharf for the dangers of the river.

The only sound is the gentle splash of oars as they glide across the water, far off the clang of a bell and the cry of a boatman. He squirms, opens his mouth to scream but the hand clamps down hard again. The men draw in their breath and freeze, waiting anxiously. A long moment, a motionless pause before the oars are taken up again and the small craft begins to move silently across the surface.

River mist billows around them; he can smell it, feels it seeping through his clothes. He shivers but more from fear than cold.

He knows when they draw close to the bridge. He can feel the tug of the river; hear the increasing rush of the current, the dangerous turbulence beneath. Surely they will not shoot the bridge, especially after dark. Only a fool would risk it.

The boy wriggles, shakes his head, and tries to work his mouth free of the smothering hand. He strains to see through the blinding darkness but all is inky black. The boat gathers pace and, as the noise of the surging river becomes deafening, the man increases his hold, a hurried prayer rumbling in his chest.

The whole world is consumed in chaos, rushing water, clamouring thunder, biting cold. In the fight for survival, the boy continues to battle fruitlessly for breath, struggle for his freedom. The body that holds him hostage tenses like a board and beneath the boy’s ear beats the dull thud of his assailant’s heart. The blanket is suffocating hot, his stomach turning as the boat is taken, surging forward, spinning upward before it is hurled down again, between the starlings, shooting uncontrollably beneath the bridge.

Then suddenly, the world is calmer. Somehow the boat remains upright on the water. It spins. He hears the men scrabble for the oars, regain control and his captor relaxes, breathes normally again. Exhausted and helpless, the boy slumps in the soldier’s arms, his fight defeated.

All is still now; all is quiet. The oars splash, the boat glides down river, and soon the aroma of the countryside replaces the stench of the city.

His clothes are soaked with river water; his stomach is empty, his body bruised and aching. Defeated and afraid, the man releases his hold and the boy lies still in the bottom of the boat.

He sleeps.

The world moves on.

Much later, waking with a start, the boy hears low, dark whisperings; a thick Portuguese accent is answered by another, lighter and less certain. This time when he blinks into the darkness, he notices a faint glimmer of light through the coarse weave of the blanket. He forces himself to lie still, knows his life could depend upon not moving but his limbs are so cramped he can resist no longer. He shifts, just a little, but it is too much. His kidnapper hauls him unceremoniously from the wet wooden planks.

The boy’s legs are like string. He stumbles as they snatch off his hood and daylight rushes in, blinding bright. He blinks, screwing up his face, blinking at the swimming features before him, fighting for focus. He sees dark hair; a heavy beard; the glint of a golden earring, and recognition and relief floods through him.

“Brampton!” he exclaims, his voice squeaking, his throat parched. “What the devil are you doing? Take me back at once.”

Brampton tugs at the boy’s tethered arms, drawing him more gently now to the bench beside him.

“I cannot. It is unsafe.”

“Why?” As his hands are untied the boy rubs at each wrist in turn, frowning at the red wheals his bonds have left behind. His Plantagenet-bright hair glints in the early morning sun, his chin juts forward in outrage. “If my father were here…”

“Well, he is not.”

Brampton’s words lack respect, but the boy knows him for a brusque, uncourtly man.

“But where are you taking me? What is happening?”

“To safety, England is no longer the place for you.”

The boy swallows, his shadowed eyes threatening tears. Switching his gaze from one man to the other, he moistens his lips, bites his tongue before trusting his breaking voice. “Where is my brother? Where is Edward?”

Brampton narrows his eyes and looks across the misty river. He runs a huge, rough hand across his beard, grimaces before he replies and his words, when they come, spell out the lost cause of York.

“Dead. As would you be had I left you there.”

JA Picture

Judith Arnopp is from Wales in the UK, is the author of seven historical fiction novels. Her early novels, Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd, are set in the Anglo-Saxon/Medieval period but her later work, The Winchester Goose, The Kiss of the Concubine, Intractable Heart and A Song of Sixpence, concentrate on the Tudor period. She is currently researching for her eighth novel about Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. Judith is also a regular blogger and author of historical articles.

Buy the book:

Amazon US

Amazon UK  

Author links:

Amazon Author Page

Author Website

Author Blog



B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Savanna’s Treasure by C. Behrens in Barnes & Noble Stores


Despite losing his family, his home, and his best friend, Shamba, an African field mouse, refuses to give up. His courage, determination, and wit help him forge an unlikely friendship with Kali, a baby elephant who also loses her family. Separately, they would surely die. But together, Shamba and Kali brave poachers, out-of-control fires, and savage dogs in one of the wildest places on earth: Africa’s Serengeti region. And just when their struggles appear to be over, they find themselves fighting pirates aboard a ship bound for America. Can they survive their toughest battle yet? Or will their incredible journey come to a heart-breaking end?

About Author:

C. Brehens

C. Behrens grew up in Pearl River, N.Y. and graduated from Dominican College (Blauvelt, NY) in 2010. In his last semester at D.C., Chris wrote his debut short story, The Paladin, in a creative writing class that was taught by Author Stephanie Stiles. While The Paladin didn’t earn any awards in the Lorian Hemingway Contest that same year, Lorian praised the story and said it was in her top 100. Chris followed that up with another top 100 story in 2011. Chris recently finished two more short stories: “Balls & Strikes-Learning to Hit” & “One More Day”. And he had a poem accepted to be published in “Sunflowers and Seashells”.In June 2010, Chris was a guest-blogger for Kathy Temean, the head of the NJSCBWI. Chris loves spending time with his daughters, who were the biggest inspiration for his children’s book. Chris continues to work for a small town government and coach H.S. basketball in his spare time.

Savannas treasure at B&N

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree – Savanna’s Treasure is in Barnes and Noble now! Be sure to grab this one for your children – our indieBRAG Kids loved it!!

Author Links:

Digital Journal



Midwest Book Review

B.R.A.G. Medallion

Interview with Stephanie Hopkins at Layered Pages