Characters in Motion: On the Way to Boise

By Laurie Boris 

PrintTwo and a half hours to Boise. Margie and Wes had already gone over the calls from their last game, the weather forecast for today’s matchup, and the story of how three of Wes’s sisters had met their husbands. He said she could take a nap if she wanted, and he’d enjoy the scenery, but she was too wound up from coffee and nerves to sleep. The last time they’d umpired in that stadium, she never stopped hearing it from the home-team dugout—the insults, the catcalls, the words she couldn’t say in front of her mother. “Baseball guys cuss,” Mom might say. “What the frig did you expect?

“We could practice your interview skills,” Wes said.

“I told you.” Margie tightened her grip on the thermos of coffee between her knees. I’m done giving interviews.”

Wes drummed the fingers of his left hand against the steering wheel. “That’s it? One negative experience with a bad reporter and you’re giving up. If you’d thought like that in the academy, you wouldn’t have lasted through the first day.”

She knew exactly what he was doing. With those tapping fingers. With those soft, challenging words. He was goading her into having what he called a learning opportunity. And damn it, it was working. “Fine,” she said. “Let’s go.”

Margie capped the thermos and held it out to him like a microphone. “Wes Osterhaus, what’s it like to work with one of the first women crazy enough to put up with this crap?”

A faint blush rose into his freckled cheeks. “I don’t think she’s crazy. And I really like working with her. She loves baseball. She hustles on every play, and she’s always looking for opportunities to learn and grow.”

She grinned. “Because you keep shoving them in my face.”

“No. Because we’re a team. We’re supposed to challenge each other, but in a good way. To make each other better umpires. Now I get to ask you a question.”

Margie handed him the thermos. “Shoot.”

But he kept both hands on the wheel and focused intently on the road ahead. The mountains. The tall pine forests. Finally, he spoke. “As an umpire, especially in the minors when you’re being monitored and judged so frequently, looking strong and confident is very important. You have to project an image of being completely in charge. But how do you do that…when you feel so different? When you feel isolated. Like everyone else is speaking a different language, when they’re even talking to you at all?”

Margie couldn’t find her voice for a moment. And in that moment she wondered if he was referring to her or to himself. In the academy, she’d seen how the other guys treated him. They made fun of him behind his back. Called him names. All because he was smart, and had a lot of questions, and wanted to know the answers to everything. Because instead of going to dollar beer night, he was outside with his telescope, looking at the stars. So what if he was a little different? He was a damn good umpire, and he’d been the only guy in the academy who’d gone out of his way to be nice to her. She could have been partnered up with anyone that spring, and she knew how lucky she was to have ended up with him.

“You just…do it,” she said. “You ignore the jerks. You do the best job you know how. You keep looking for those learning opportunities. And you keep telling yourself that you are strong. That you’re confident as hell. And one day…maybe your insides will figure out that they matched your outsides all along.”

Margie caught him just beginning to smile, and she leaned back in the seat. “Or at least that’s what people keep telling me.”


Laurie Boris is a freelance copyeditor. She’s also been writing fiction for almost thirty years and is the author of seven novels, two novellas, and a collection of flash fiction. She’s the recipient of several awards including two indieBRAG medallions. When she’s not playing with the fictional people in her head, Laurie enjoys baseball, cooking, and avoiding housework. This post was based on two characters from The Call, Laurie’s most recent novel.





Award Winning B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree of, Don’t Tell Anyone & A Sudden Gust of Gravity

Book Description of The Call by Laurie Boris:

As one of the first female umpires in the minors, Margie puts up with insults and worse from people who think women don’t belong in baseball. Forget making history—Margie just wants to do her job and be part of the game she loves.

She’s ready for the rude comments. The lousy pay. The endless traveling. But when she suspects a big-name slugger of cheating, she has to choose: let the dirty player get away with it, or blow the whistle and risk her career…and maybe her twin brother’s major-league prospects, too.

Now it’s up to Margie to make the call.




Historical Fiction Goodness


Throwing Clay Shadows by Thea Atkinson

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

It’s 1807 on the Isle of Eigg. Four-year old Maggie believes she has killed her mother by saying bad things and now she won’t say a word. It’s true that Ma’s voice stays in the cottage even though Da says she’s gone, and sometimes Maggie can see her in the shadows, but it’s not the same thing as having a real ma. She’s worried if she says anything, she will kill her da too.

She doesn’t want him to die, and so no matter how much he tries to get her to, she won’t speak.

The trouble is, the consumption that really took her ma and her premature sister, has marked Maggie too. It forces Da to marry Janet so Maggie can have a woman to look after her.

It gets harder for her to stay silent, though, because Janet tries just as hard to get Maggie to talk. She’s not sure she can hold out when this new ma reveals secrets that make her squirm, that make her feel like Da is doing things he shouldn’t be.

It seems there is more to worry about than a few words. He is indeed in trouble and much of that danger comes from the things his new wife isn’t saying.

If she can just understand what Ma is telling her from those corners, Maggie will be able to face her fears and find her voice and true power. The question is: will that power be enough to bind the family together even against the darkest secrets?

Author Website

Manic Monday & Bookish Delights

me-iiAs we all know Mondays can be pretty manic and generally I look forward to Monday’s nonetheless. Last Friday I normally post my Bookish Happenings but I decided to take a day off and this past weekend I was able to read some in-between shopping for Christmas and what-not.

I was really hoping to start reading, Roma Amor by Sherry Christie this weekend but I am still working on finishing up another story. I won Sherry Christie’s book in a giveaway on-line. Hopefully by Wednesday I can. So many books…so little time…

 Check out my book review for Girl In Disguise by Greer MacAllister HERE and my review for Ruler of The Night by David Morrell HERE


Be sure to check out and follow these amazing book bloggers! They do a tremendous job in supporting authors and books.

Flashlight Commentary

The Maiden’s Court

A Bookaholic Swede

A Literary Vacation

Let Them Read Books

2 Kids and Tired Books

Celticlady’s Reviews

Reading the Past

A Bookish Affair



This week at indieBRAG, there will be special posts from our readers and authors starting today through Friday HERE

And don’t forget to check out the great selections of books from indieBRAG! They make great holiday gifts!

Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today and please be sure to come back tomorrow for a great interview with Award Winning Author Helena Schrader! She has recently won a B.R.A.G. Medallion for her book, Envoy of Jerusalem.

Stephanie Moore Hopkins

Manic Monday & Bookish Happenings

me-iiAs we all know Mondays can be pretty manic but nonetheless I was looking forward to it. Why? Because I want to share all my bookish happening for last week and over the weekend! What can be more exciting for a book blogger? Well, besides reading books and discovering new books to read. Every single day!

Today I am combining two post. Last week- due to the Holidays- I did not post Bookish Happenings. However, last week was a great Thanksgiving at indieBRAG with lots of wonderful guest post from our award winning authors. Be sure to check them out here.

In the last week and over the weekend I received several ARC’s from NetGalley and I am so excited about them. Here is the list:

  1. Bardwell’s Folly: A Love Story by Sandra Hutchinson
  2. We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter
  3. The kaiser’s Last Kiss by Alan Judd
  4. Out of Reach by Elizabeth McGregor
  5. His Kidnapper’s Shoes by Maggie James.

For my reading pleasure this week I am hoping to get to, A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain. Julie is one of my favorite new authors and I have had the pleasure chatting with her about her first book last year.



Here is a few of my fellow book blogger’s book highlights from last week! Be sure to check them out. These bloggers are dedicated to their craft of sharing stories and a big support to the book world. I highly recommend you follow their blogs. #supportbookbloggers

return-to-taylors-crossing-iiHeather’s interview with award winning author Janie Dempsey Watts at Maiden’s Court, here.

Colleen’s book review of The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins at A Literary Vacation, here.

Magdalena’s book review of The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin at A Bookacholic Swede, here.

Erin’s book review of The battle of Seattle by Douglas Bond at Flashlight Commentary, here.

all-i-want-for-christmasHolly’s All I Want for Christmas…Review at 2 Kids and Tired Books, here.

And my feature Layered Pages post from last week, Wish-List 5: A little of This & A little of That, here.


Thank you for visiting Layered Pages today. It is always a treat to be able to talk about books with you all. Be sure to stay tuned all week long for more great posts. Happy reading and God Bless.

Stephanie M. Hopkins


Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree S.L. Dwyer

Sharon Dwyer BRAGI’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Hi, S.L. Dwyer to Layered Pages today! S.L., thank you for visiting with me today to talk about your B.R.A.G. Medallion Book, The Fantasmagorical Forest. Please tell me about your story.

The story centers on 15-year-old Katelin who has not been able handle her grief over her father’s death. She is devastated when told she will be spending part of her summer, along with her younger brother, at their great-grandmother’s home in the Appalachian Mountains. With no malls, no TV, and no cell phone service, she not only brings her physical baggage, but her emotional baggage. Thinking her life is a total mess now, she fights the beauty of magic they find in the forest that surrounds Nana’s home. But not her brother Simon, who drags her along, willing or not, on his adventures exploring the wonders of the land. Faeries, talking birds, and gentle trolls fail to bring Katelin out of what her brother calls her “baditude”. When Nana is kidnapped, Katelin must organize a race to save her using all the magical beings they met even though she has been rude to all of them.  It’s a story about how a teen reacts to the death of a parent and the road she must travel to realize she still has the love of the rest of her family and it’s okay to grieve.

Describe Katelin and Simon’s great-grandmother’s home in a valley in the Appalachian Mountains.

Nana’s home sits alone in a valley surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and a lush forest. The house is wood with a large front porch and a smaller back porch facing the forest. Although the house seems small from the outside, once you step inside it appears much larger due to Nana’s personality, with a living room filled with family pictures and a rocking chair next to a large window looking out onto the valley, a rarely used dining room and a cozy kitchen where everyone spends most of their time. There is always fresh lemonade on the table and the aroma of fresh baked goods.  Near the house is a shed made from the remnants of the original log cabin her parents had built and the old well where, as a child, she drew water. Although alone in the valley, the house is cozy within the environment it sits.

The Fantasmagorical Forest BRAGHow did you come up with the name, Fantasmagorical?

The original title was Nana’s Enchanted Valley, but the more I wrote the story the more I didn’t like the title. I wanted the title to reflect the main characters. During one of my writer’s group meetings we threw some words around to get an idea of a new title. The Fantasmagorical Forest was born and it fit great with the young characters. Simon always makes up words (baditude, awesomity, fantasmagorical) so it fit with the story.

What is the world of Dhumfeld like?

The land of the gentle trolls, where everything is big, is bordered on three sides by tall, formidable mountains, cut in half by a river filled with giant snakes, and covered for as far as you can see with tall, golden grass. Warm with a mild breeze, it has subtle beauty intertwined with danger. Green, cool woods shaped like circles plunked down in the plains are inviting but deadly in the truest sense. There are no houses or villages as the trolls live in a huge cave within a mountain. Their mountain is the portal between the two worlds.

What is the mood or tone your characters portrays and how does this affect the story?

Katelin is consumed with grief and it shows in everything she does and says which plays well off Simon’s, happy personality. They bump heads at every turn with Katelin’s need to take her pain out on all those around her and force the story by creating situations that they must work together to resolve. As with all opposite personalities, they come to a point where they must confront each other and say what is in their hearts – good and bad. This becomes the turning point in which the story goes from fighting with each other to joining together, heart and soul, in their race to find Nana.

Often times the best inspiration comes within us. How do you flesh out your characters to drive the plot?

I become each character as I write their actions and dialogue, especially in this book and my previous book, Dirt. Writing about young characters gives me the opportunity to forget about how adults would react to situations and go back to how I dealt with emotions as a teen. It’s amazing how our mind never forgets all those years spent becoming an adult.  Emotions are like freckles; they may fade but never really go away. I can’t believe I just thought about freckles, they bothered me as a teen and I couldn’t wait for them to disappear. Memories tend to show up in our writing without us being aware of it. Back to the question… as I become that young person, I get to say what I want and do what I want and not care or worry about what anyone thought. The abandonment of thinking about doing things right (or being PC) sets me free. I go back to when I was a teen and think about how I would react in the same situation, or at least how I thought I would react, if I want to be angry and not care who got hurt, or be a daredevil and never think about the consequences. I become that character.

Personality helps to drive the plot because as I know my character I am able to put them in positions that require some action, whether it be passive or active. They become three dimensional by using good and bad traits. I love writing young adult stories. Young teens have such a great way of dealing with situations. They are so “in your face” with their emotions. I try to make the characters as real as possible and hope I get it right.

Who designed your book cover?

The picture is actually a photograph of a forest in Nettuno, Italy by Moyan Brenn. I came across it on the internet and realized this was my Fantasmagorical Forest and contacted the photographer. He is a great photographer and gave me permission to use it. Joleen Naylor did the title work. I guess you can say I designed it with a great deal of help by these two wonderful people. I’ve already picked out one of his photographs for the cover of the next book in the trilogy.

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

I took about a year since I wrote while taking care of my 91-year-old father 24/7. I really can’t schedule a specific time to write since I never know what will be happening that day. An idea comes and I think about it for awhile until a see a story forming then I take 3×5 cards and use one for each chapter writing the main scene and notes for things I want to include in that chapter. As I’m writing, if I find something I want to include in a previous chapter, I write a note on the corresponding chapter card in red and use them when I edit and rewrite. This system works for me because I don’t have to go back to previous chapters to put something in and end up losing my train of thought as I write.

Favorite food or drink while you write?

Anything I can eat or drink with one hand. When I’m on a roll and the writing is flowing, I don’t want to stop and fix something that stops my train of thought.  Lots of water and yogurt. If I’m energetic, I’ll make a plate of cheese and crackers.

Are there any new writing habits you have developed with each book you have written?

Absolutely. As writers, we all hope to grow as we tackle each story, find new ways to work that produces our best writing. I never plotted or wrote an outline for my first two books.  I sat down and wrote until I felt the story was complete. I knew the beginning, middle and end. This worked only up to a point. I ended up throwing out over one hundred pages and totally rewrote the first two chapters in my first book.  It was a good learning experience.  By the time I got to my third book, Dirt, I used the 3×5 cards for the first time and realized how much easier it was to keep the story on track and to go back and add things or take them out. When I wrote The Fantasmagorical Forest, I used the cards but left out the last chapter thinking I wasn’t happy with what I had envisioned at the start and waited until I was almost finished before deciding on the ending. The second book in The Fantasmagorical Forest trilogy, I used the 3×5 cards and left the last few chapters open. As it is, I’ve already deviated from my cards by chapter 3 and now I am catching up to the original story line.  That’s the good thing about using the cards, I can move away and catch up without losing the story I originally envisioned. I never used to go over any of my chapters until I finished the story. I am now going back over the last chapter I wrote, rereading it and doing a little editing before writing the next chapter. This gets me into the story faster.  I’m evolving.

Where can readers buy your book? 

All my books are on Amazon. I’m getting ready to add them to Barnes and Noble.

What are you currently working on?

Book 2 of The Fantasmagorical Forest. I love this story because Katelin is now almost eighteen and her views of the world are a little different. She makes decisions and worries about the consequences later.  It seems as if some of her brother, Simon, has rubbed off on her.

Thank you, S.L.! A pleasure to talk with you today.

About Author:

Born in Connecticut and raised in Florida, I still consider myself a New Englander and miss the scenery. I’ve worked at several different professions from nursing to engineering to finance until I realized writing is what makes me the happiest.  The joy of taking a single idea and turning it into a story people want to read is exhilarating.

People ask me where I get my ideas for my books. Well, as most writers will tell you, they come from observing life around you. I am a people watcher and find stories where ever I look. I am also a day dreamer – which sometimes gets in the way of my writing.

I am currently working on my third YA book and having fun staying in the heads of a fifteen-year-old and eleven-year-old. The freedom to shape these characters is enormous and I have fun going back in time and being that child again – without all the problems inherent to teenagers. I would never have thought this is where I would settle in my writing. My first book was action/adventure; shoot-outs and chases were fun along with exotic locales. My second book was mainstream drama and left me feeling drained from the emotional baggage that came with the story.

So, putting those books behind me, I have embarked on a wonderful journey writing stories with children being my main characters and finding all sorts of trouble for them to get into. And, I plan on sticking with teen and YA stories, at least for now.




A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview S.L. Dwyer who is the author of, The Fantasmagorical Forest, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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 Fantasmagorical Forest, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 indiebrag team member

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree J.D. Faulkner

JD Faulkner

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree J.D. Faulkner to talk with me today about her book, Mirrored Time. J.D. lives in Seattle, Washington. She spends her time reading anything she can get her hands on; studying Greek and Roman mythology; and avoiding the rain whenever she can. MIRRORED TIME is her first novel and book one of the Time Archivist Novels.

Hello, J.D.! Thank you for chatting with me today. Tell me, how did you discover indieBRAG?

As a self-published author, I spend a honey-bunches-of-crazy amount of time researching ways to promote my book. I discovered indieBRAG on one of my searches and thought: “Hey, what could it hurt?” I’m really honored to have been chosen to receive an indieBRAG medallion.

Please tell me about your book, Mirrored Time.

I stumbled upon the idea for Mirrored Time almost by accident. I was just finishing law school and was trying to think of what I wanted to do after graduation. So, I was imagining my dream job and I thought “Doesn’t everyone really just want to find out that they are special in some way?” And then Gwen walked into the Time Archives.

Mirrored Time is a story about a girl who is just trying to find a job but, instead, finds out that she is part of a time travelling order. There are dangerous secrets, an imprisoned god, an ex-gladiator thief— you know, normal things. I really wanted to tell a story that I’d enjoy reading. But at the heart of it, it is also a story about trust, and family- the one you are born with, and the one you chose.

Mirrored Time

What are some of the challenges in writing Time Travel?

I wish I could say that I haven’t tossed and turned in my bed in the small hours of the night, figuring out the theory of time travel. But that would be a lie. More than once, I wrote myself into a corner. In order not to end up with a gaping plot hole, I had to perform some pretty impressive mental gymnastics. There are rules to the world of time travel that I have created, but then there is also a god involved. And he doesn’t necessarily play by the rules. So it gets complicated.

What are some of the periods the story jumps around in? Which one is your favorite?

With my college major focusing on Greek and Roman history, those are my favorite time periods. The majority of Mirrored Time is set in some modern universe (I purposefully kept it vague so people could fill in the blanks as they wanted). But not everyone is what they seem at first glance, and certainly not everyone is from this modern age. The next installment takes place a large part in Ancient Egypt, and I can’t wait to play in that world.

Tell me a little about Gwen Conway. What are her strengths and weaknesses?

Honestly, I struggled a little bit with Gwen. Out of all the characters, she’s the one into which I poured the most of myself. She isn’t fully me, but she is a piece of me. I think most authors would admit their characters come from a part of themselves. Gwen is meant to be somewhat difficult: She doesn’t trust easily, which is a weakness that both gets her in trouble, and one that is exploited. But I also tried to make her very loyal. It might take her awhile to open up to people but, when she does, she is fiercely protective of those she cares about.

I think your premise is extraordinary and very unique. The idea of an ancient force being imprisoned behind a mirror-made-prison is fantastic! What was your inspiration for that?

Mirrors intrigue me. Ever stare into a mirror that has the reflection of another mirror inside— and the two reflect off each other in an infinite repeating pattern? I’ve always been fascinated by that. The imaginative part of my brain always wondered what would happen if I stared into the pattern for too long. Or when you catch a mirror in the corner of your eye? Ever expect to see something there that shouldn’t be?

So, to me, the mirrors naturally became a portal through time. It’s what a lot of my characters use to time travel. It also felt right to be the prison for my half-mad god. If a mirror could take you anywhere in time, how awful would it be if it could also imprison you in one single space?

What are your favorite Greek and Roman legends? What is an example on how they play a part in your story?

I do like playing with Greek/Roman themes of the myths; fitting little hints/nods to my favorite myths in my writing is always fun. Maybe I’m the only one who notices, but I enjoy it!

Mirrored Time was part homage to the myth of Pandora’s Box. There is this struggle to prevent a dangerous force from being released upon the world, but it still focuses on the idea that there is always hope.

In the current book I’m working on, Fractured Time, I’m playing with a few different myths. But I’m especially exploring the story of Persephone and Hades (maybe a more PC friendly one). In the myths where Hades is cast in a more positive light, a kind of romance can be found. I’ve wanted to write my own version of it. I like that conflicting love between a creature of dark and one of light. I think it makes a love story more interesting and more tragic.

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

I am lucky to be part of an amazing writing group called the WorldWiseWriters. Most of us like to refer to ourselves as seat-of-the-pants-ers. Although I usually plan to stick to an outline and write during certain hours, by a certain spot, that gets thrown out the window. When the motivation hits, I have to write. Sometimes I’m lucky and I’m at my desk (usually with my two cats avidly watching me). Most of the time it’s in less convenient locations— anyone else get the writing bug in the middle of the night?

Please tell me what WorldWiseWriters is all about.

The WorldWiseWriters started as a group of mostly unpublished writers who all entered the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. We’ve never met in person as we all live in different places (Washington, Idaho, Vancouver BC, Georgia, and England), but we all connected and quickly grew to depend on each other. I would recommend every independent writer out there to find a support group. It helps so much to have a constant source of encouragement. I know that my journey as a writer would have ended long ago without these amazing women. If you want to learn more about us, we have a website:

Who designed your book cover?

The amazing Rebecca Sterling designed both my first cover and the new cover, which I absolutely adore. She is very talented, very reasonably priced, and so patient to work with. She was able to perfectly capture my vision for a book cover and I can’t sing her praises enough.

How fantastic! Does she have a website you can share with us?

I would love to! I’m always willing to brag about my spectacular designer; I’m so honored to have worked with her. You can find her site here

What are you working on next?

Currently I am working on what will probably be a novella in my series, the Time Archivist Novels. One of the character’s backstories has kind of morphed into a complex knot that is becoming a bit difficult to unravel. I think writing it out in its own story will give it the room to shine that it needs.

Do you stick with just one genre?

I don’t really consider genre when I’m writing. Ultimately I just write the story that I feel needs to be told. Struggling to fit the story into the appropriate genre box comes later. It could be because I love reading books of all genres: There are so many great ideas out there, how do you limit yourself to just one?

Author Websites:


World Wise Writers

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview J.D. Faulkner who is the author of, Mirrored Time 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, Mirrored Time, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experiences

Janet Stafford BRAGI’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree, Janet R. Stafford today to talk with me about her experiences in Self-publishing and what she has learned in her endeavor thus far. Janet was born in Albany, NY, but spent most of her childhood and all of her teen years in Parsippany, NJ – so she thinks of herself as a Jersey Girl. She went to Seton Hall University (South Orange, NJ) where she received a B.A. degree in Asian Studies. She also has a Master of Divinity degree and a Ph.D. in North American Religion and Culture, both from Drew University (Madison, NJ). She worked for eight years as an adjunct professor teaching classes in interdisciplinary studies and history. But Janet’s primary call has been serving six United Methodist churches over the past 24 years, where she has worked in the area of spiritual formation and ministries with children and youth. Her current passion is multi-generational worship and learning.

The publication of Janet’s first novel, Saint Maggie, led to the creation of a series by the same name. She followed up with Walk by Faith in 2013 and After the Storm in 2014. Heart Soul & Rock ‘N’ Roll, a contemporary romance, was published at the end of April 2015.

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

I had tried attracting a publisher and/or agent years ago, to no avail. At that point I gave up trying to publish and focused on creating dramatic materials for the churches in which I worked. I realized that self-publishing was a possibility when a friend of mine, Rich Melheim of Faith Inkubators, announced that he was publishing a book through Lulu. I thought, “Well, if Rich can do it, so can I!” So I polished SAINT MAGGIE and began my self-publishing adventure.

What has your experience been like along the way?

My experience has been a major learning curve! I’ve learned so much about publishing in general – everything from formatting and editing to cover design, to distribution and eBooks, to marketing and publicity. Self-publishing is not about writing one’s book. It’s about writing the book and everything else that goes into putting the book into the public’s hands. However, I’ve got to say that I am enjoying the experience. I’ve made some interesting goofs along the way, but every time I mess up, I learn something and am more empowered.

What are some of the challenges you have faced?

The big challenges have been marketing and publicity, and I freely admit that I still am not very good at either of them. I’m just not good at tooting my own horn. It’s hard for me to say “This is the most moving book you’ve ever read” or “This book will sweep you into the conflict and pain of the Civil War.” The Saint Maggie series is an inspiring story about a family, but it’s not going to change anyone’s life. My upcoming romance, HEART SOUL & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL, is fun and engaging, but it’s not going to bring about world peace. Advertising and marketing is all about exaggeration in order to get people’s attention, something I find disturbing and difficult to do. Also, marketing on social media, while free, takes a significant amount of time – time that I would rather spend writing. So the marketing and publicity aspects are quite challenging for me.

Saint Maggie Book with BRAG Medallion

What have you learned in this industry?

I have learned to do what’s best for me and my books. I started out with Lulu then tried a few other publishing/printing platforms, only to come back to Lulu. My reasons are simple: even though the books cost more to print through Lulu, I find that they give better, more personal service and I have easy access to my files. I even run copies for beta readers by uploading drafts to Lulu and printing them while keeping the material private. The process also helps me work on the cover. When the book is complete, I change the setting so that it will be available to the public, add my ISBN, and it’s ready.

I have also learned the value of old-fashioned public relations. One of my favorite things is to give talks and make public appearances. This past February I spoke to one group that was excited to have an author in their midst. Let’s be honest, most indie authors are unknowns, but if you offer to speak to a group for no charge, as long as you can bring your books to sell and sign, many book clubs, discussion groups, and community groups will be happy to have you. People want to pick authors’ minds, discover why we write, how we write, how we come up with characters, and so on. Best-selling authors don’t or can’t do this for local groups. But relatively unknown authors can. Groups and clubs appreciate it if you take the time to converse with them and sign books. It’s a slow-track in the world of publicity and marketing, but for me it’s the more rewarding track.

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

1) DO find someone to help you with editing, story continuity, etc. If you can’t afford to purchase someone’s services, then find friends who are avid readers, or school teachers or college professors. Also find people who will be honest with you. You cannot do editing all on your own. I use volunteer beta readers at present.

2) DON’T believe deals that look too good to be true. A simple adage: if it looks too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. There are countless people and agencies out there looking to separate you from your money. They will tell you that you’ll get x-number of readers or x-amount of publicity if you use their services for x-amount of money. But experience has taught me that there is no magic bullet. I have been taken a few times and I’d like spare you. Be judicious with your money.

3) DO celebrate with the few indie writers who have become well-known and/or wealthy; but DON’T allow their success to make you doubt your own value as an author. Remember, people who write best-sellers are a minority who probably had some phenomenal good luck and/or good friends in the right places. What about talent? They have it – but many little known or unknown authors have talent, too. Don’t forget that.

4) DO work on becoming a better writer. Read work by other authors, be critical when reviewing your drafts, and ask for helpful criticism from others.

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

Know why you’re writing. If it is to get rich and famous, forget about it. You’ll quickly get discouraged when it doesn’t happen. However, if you’re writing because you need to and because you have a story or stories to tell, then go for it – but be prepared to do the hard work and don’t expect to be thrust into the wonderful world of a best-selling book. Instead, look for your rewards in the “small” things. At a recent book club, one reader gave me some helpful criticism of my second book, and then finished up by saying that she could see my growth as a writer throughout the three books. I loved that. Another reader told me on Facebook that I was her favorite author. Are you kidding, with all the other authors out there? That is some kind of compliment! Rewards should not be confined solely to income, book sales, popularity, or number of reviews. Find your joy in the process of writing and publishing, and in your readership.

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 use Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, and have a website for my micro-publishing company (I will be publishing work from another author soon) and one for me as an author. I’m also on Goodreads, but I’m inactive and really should drop it. I found it was just one site too many for me to handle.

Since I also work 25-30 hours a week as an assistant minister at a United Methodist church, ideally I want to devote 15 hours a week to research, writing, and publication. I’ve never really tracked how much time I spend on social media. I suppose now that I’ve got four books under my belt, I should log my time to see. My sense is that social media and website work can suck up a fair amount of time.

As for promotional techniques, I do a few things. For instance, I enjoy putting up impromptu games and offering a book as a prize to the first one to give the correct answer. I did that recently on Facebook with HEART SOUL & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL. On occasion, I run special deals on my author page. I will drop the price or ship for free. However, I don’t care to do deals on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, because it is klutzy to change pricing. Also, I don’t go in for things like KDP Select or Matchbook on Kindle – which probably explains why I don’t get much traction on Kindle or Amazon! But I do not like having to make my eBook “exclusive” to Kindle. For WALK BY FAITH and A TIME TO HEAL, I used a crowdfunding platform called Publish to get the word out and raise money for publishing expenses. Crowdfunding also raised awareness about the books. Occasionally, I have used advertising on the web through Yahoo or Google. The ads did get my work exposed to a wider audience, but I learned that you must watch the daily expenses, as they can pile up quickly.

Finally, I have done giveaways on Goodreads. These were comprised of an offer to give away ten books to ten people who enter the giveaway. I got tons of interest and gave away the ten books, but the follow-through from other potential readers was negligible. I am wary of doing too many giveaways – first of all because they cost money, and at present my company is always short of that! The second reason comes from seeing what has happened to music. Easy access to free music has led many people to expect that all music should be free, forgetting that someone had to create that song. The music did not spring forth from the ether. Of course, the work of musicians, authors, and other artists should not be priced out of the average person’s reach, but neither should a person’s creative work be taken for granted and expected to be free on a regular basis.

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

I don’t think of self-publishing as an “industry.” It seems to me that we are so many little ants out there creating books and trying to get readers’ attention. So perhaps self-publishing will become an industry as more small publishing companies and/or authors’ support groups come to the fore. At the present, self-publishing reminds me of the frontier – anything goes until the sheriff, pastor, librarian, and schoolmarm come to town.

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

Perhaps we need to have author support groups. Oh, I know writing groups are out there – but my “day job” (or more correctly, my “other vocation”) is demanding. I often work Saturdays, am always busy on Sundays, often at the office on weekday mornings and sometimes doing things on weekday evenings. So hooking up with a face-to-face group doesn’t work for me. But it would be helpful to have online groups where people could exchange experiences, give and get advice, and so on. Hey, maybe I should start one of those! Anyway, the emergence of more organization might make self-publishing an industry.

How long have you been an indie author?

I published SAINT MAGGIE in 2011, so I have been an indie author for four years. I’m a baby in the field! That said, I have published two more books in the Saint Maggie series, and have just launched my first romance. Whether or not I become a “best-seller,” I’m in this for the long run!

Author Link:



Twitter @JanetRStafford

Squeaking Pips (my publishing company)