Category Archives: Writing

15 Free Book Promo Sites

Author and EMSA Publishing founder Elise Abram writes about her experiences selling her latest novel, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice in a post sharing 15 promotional sites she’s found on which you can post your books for free. Check out the list at

                                        Image made on

I’m on the book promo path again. Newly edited, my last book, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice will be on sale for the month of January 2017 for only $0.99. I threw a lot of money behind it for advertising in the summer when it was released, so this time I’m reluctant to put any new money into the project. To that end, I went searching online and found 15 amazing and free book promo sites. I signed up at all of them, hoping it will help my prospects, and I want to share them all with you.

Without further ado, here are 15 free book promo sites (in no particular order) you can use to help promote your book. Note that I am writing this blog post in advance of seeing my book advertised and having any sales, so I cannot vouch for some of these sites except for the fact that they allow you to upload your book for free… [more]

People DO Judge a Book by its Cover

diy ebook designIf you’ve been following me on Facebook, you know I’ve begun to experiment designing my own book covers, beginning with I Was, Am, Will Be Alice in anticipation of a summer release. I’ve also been banging my head against the wall trying to figure out what to put on my current work in progress, The Carrington Pulitzer Revelations Chronicles Online Extended Playpack (the least of which is how to fit the title and my name on the cover). But after reading Roz Marshall’s DIY e-Book Covers Design Principles for Non-Designers, I think I have a better handle on how to approach it.

DIY e-Book Covers Design Principles for Non-Designers is an amazing resource for authors wanting to experiment with creating their own covers. In her book, Marshall covers the ins and outs of do-it-yourself book cover creation, including layout, colour and typography, concepts of which I was already aware, given my research and background in web publishing. To her credit, Marshall also includes sections on what most authors don’t think about (myself included), like genre markers and imagery (touchstones that help connect a book cover to its genre), colour and typography (which I didn’t realize is also genre-specific), and notions of branding covers, particularly where series are concerned. Marshall offers specific examples for all genres and includes sample covers and design elements, which is invaluable, especially if you are reading the book before creating your first cover.

If you’d prefer to hire an artist to create your cover instead, Marshall also offers pointers for that, things like what to look for in a cover designer, what your designer will need to know about your project and formatting, as well as buying custom and pre-made designs.

If you are an author ready to test your design mettle, Roz Marshall’s DIY e-Book Covers Design Principles for Non-Designers is a great place to start. I know I will be keeping my copy of the book on hand for future reference, and I’m grateful to Roz for introducing me to her book and giving me a chance to review it. Turns out, Roz has taught this old dog some new tricks.

Mamabear gives this book:


Note: I was gifted an eCopy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Author Interview with Lisa Bilbrey

Please join Britbear’s Book Reviews in welcoming author Lisa Bilbrey in an interview about her writing, her books, and her writing process.

AH cover final (1)Hi, Lisa, and welcome to Britbear’s Book Reviews.

When preparing this interview, my research took me to your Goodreads page which lists your genres as romance, young adult, science fiction and fantasy. Which of these is your favourite genre to write in and why?

I don’t see myself as someone who writes multiple genres, even though I do. I simply write the story as I feel it should be told. All of my books have the basis of love overcoming all obstacles. I’m a believer in the power of love, but if I had to pick outside of romance, I would say I love Contemporary Adult books the best.

Your website displays a badge for your status as a 2014 NaNoWriMo winner. Which novel did you work on that year? What did you learn about the writing process by participating?

I actually [worked] on two different books during NaNoWriMo. The first was Forgotten Awakenings, and the second was a new series I’m working on called The Deck of Cards Killer: A Zoe Mack novel. I struggled with both, but somehow managed to snag my 50,000 words. For me, the most important part of NaNoWRiMo is just to keep writing. It doesn’t have to be pretty, and it’s most likely not going to be good, but just to sit down every day and write something. Editing comes after the end of the month.

 Great advice for all writers, Lisa, whether or not the participate in the contest. ASeasonOfChangeNewCover

Your bio says you spend much of your “time trying to improve as a storyteller.” What are some of the techniques you employ in this quest?

Well, I’m one of those authors who loves edits. I love getting a MS back that has been marked with red ink because I always learn something I didn’t know. For me, I find that so helpful in my future writing. When I was a young girl, I really struggled in school. I have a learning disorder and often felt I was too stupid to be able to write, but I always had a story inside of me. So, I finally decided to throw caution to the wind and started writing. And it was bad. Like really, really bad. There were simple spelling errors, punctuation errors, [and] plot holes the size of Texas, but I learned from my mistakes, and it’s made me a better writer. I still have a lot to learn, too. I hope I always will because it pushes me to work harder at my craft.

I think you may have already alluded to the answer to this question, but when did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

I don’t know that I ever sat down one say and said I want to be a writer. I’ve always had stories inside my head. I’d lay in bed and let them play out, or I’d be driving and think of the different plot ideas. One night, I had trouble sleeping, so I grabbed my laptop and started one. At first, it was just for fun. I didn’t really think it would lead to anything, but then I found myself with fifty stories written, or at least started, and I found that I couldn’t stop writing. Most of these were badly written Fanfiction, so then I started writing Angel’s Heart: The Keeper. I had half of it written when I pushed it aside and wrote Life’s Unexpected Gifts, which was my first novella. I fell even more in love with the idea of writing.

journey_collection_frontTalk a bit about your writing process. Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I used to be a [pantser], but I’ve found over the last couple years that I write better with an outline. It doesn’t have to be a lot, just the basic ideas for each chapter. I also have to have noise when I’m writing. Whether it’s my children, the television, or my music blasting, I cannot write when it is quiet.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively since your first novel?

I think my books have gotten deeper, more emotionally charged. I think as I’ve continued to perfect my craft, I’ve gotten better at writing the details that need to be included, while omitting the ones that don’t.

For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books and why?

I can read either, but I will always prefer paperbacks/hard copies. There is just something about the way they feel in my hands, turning each page that makes it so much better.

If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

Honestly, I’d love to have written Harry Potter. The way J.K. Rowling wove all seven books together is masterful.

You have self-published through Amazon. The world of publishing has drastically changed LUG2over the past decade, with the advent of print-on-demand services, such as Amazon’s Digital Service. Where do you see publishing going in the future?

Well, I originally published out of a small publishing house that I co-owned, so I was able to learn the process from the ground up. When I made the decision to sever my ties from the house, I knew that I wanted to be able to fully control my books. I think there are good things, and horrible things, about self-publishing. Too many people take the easy way out by not having their books properly edited and formatted. But I think Amazon has opened a lot of doors for authors who would otherwise never get the chance to see their books in the hands of readers. I see big publishing houses having to change the way they do things in order to compete with the smaller houses that offer authors more control of their work.

Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t asked so far?

I can’t really think of anything. Just that all of my books are written from my heart.

Thanks for that amazing interview, Lisa.

Here’s where readers can discover more about Lisa Bilbrey and her work. 

| Blog | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads |



 About Lisa Bilbrey (from GoodReads):

Obsessive, compulsive, slightly crazed, but enough about her personality. First and foremost, Lisa Bilbrey is a mom to three and a wife to one. She loves to write, and spends the majority of everyday writing. It’s who she is, and what she’s meant to be doing. Words are her life, the air she breathes, and the nutrients of her soul.

Finding a love in the written word, Lisa Bilbrey started writing as a way to express herself and let her voice be heard. From the first word she wrote, she’d found her heart and soul.Always willing to learn, she’s spends much of her time trying to improve as a storyteller.


The Shoulda/Coulda/Woulda of Series Writing

Please welcome today’s Indie Lights Book Parade Author (and mastermind behind the whole, incredible Indie Lights Book Parade extravaganza) Cheri Roman and her guest post, The Shoulda/Coulda/Woulda of Series Writing.

roman bookAbout Sacrifice: Book Two of the Rephaim Series:

Fulfilling one’s destiny requires sacrifice… 

Escaping a global catastrophe, angel-human hybrid, Shahara, lands safely in Babylon with her beloved Volot, an angel with a sacred mission. But the victory is a hollow one, for the world she knew has been obliterated. Battered by the loss of her family and the denial of her most cherished dreams, Shahara’s new life begins to disintegrate as she is lured by promises of power and fulfillment into the violent, blood-soaked ambitions of a ruthless enemy. With her marriage shattered and countless lives hanging in the balance, Shahara must make a devastating choice. Can she survive her decision, or will victory require the ultimate sacrifice? By turns romantic, suspenseful and terrifying, this epic fantasy treads the knife edge of human frailty and superhuman courage. 

The Shoulda/Coulda/Woulda of Series Writing

The realization came to me, about half way through Descent, that the story I was writing couldn’t be contained inside one book. If I tried, the book was going to have to be opened with a forklift. So, I ended Descent with a sigh of satisfaction and started Quest.

By the time I finally finished Quest, all my other characters were giving me the silent treatment. I think it’s because I didn’t write their stories first. Characters can be touchy that way. Turns out they were right. I was writing the stories out of order. Now I’m finishing up Sacrifice, and I finally feel like I’m back on track. Not coincidentally, Quest will have to be completely rewritten, and another book, Illusions, has taken its place as third in the series.

So what could I have done differently from the outset that would have saved me from this dilemma?

I could have started out by deciding how many stories would be in the series and what issues would be addressed in each one. But the truth is I didn’t do that because I didn’t know that there would be more than one story.

I could have done single paragraph synopsis for each book. That way I would know what direction to take at the beginning of each tale. However, aside from reason number one, my plots have a habit of changing as the characters shape the story. So, plot synopsis might have been helpful, but not completely effective.

I could have drawn out a story arc for each character and a series arc or plot thread that connects all the books. I did, in fact, draw out a story arc for the first book. In the end though, this wasn’t as beneficial as I had hoped. Descent’s final draft looks nothing like my original arc. I am actually working on a connecting plot thread and am pretty happy with the results so far.

I could have chosen a different theme for each book in the series. (Again. See reason one.) I may still do that, but at the moment there is the whole silent treatment thing going on.

These are all good ways to start out on a series. I definitely should have used more of them, but as you might have noticed, I didn’t and it’s a little late now. So what am I going to do? Well, first I’m going to invite all my characters to tea and apologize for not writing their story first. (I’m not really sorry. Despite the drawbacks I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way and I’m a better writer for it. But, one makes certain sacrifices in the interests of diplomacy.) After apologizing, I’m going to ask them what happens next. And then I’m going to write it down.

Here’s where you can read more about Cheri Roman and her writing:

| Facebook | Twitter | Website | Blog | Amazon Author Page |



Cheri Roman is a writer, editor, teacher, wife, mother, grandmother and friend, in whatever order works best in the moment. Most days you can find her on her blog, The Brass Rag, or working on the next novel in her fantasy series, Rephaim. Cheri lives with her husband and Jack, the super Chihuahua.


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Advice for New Writers – Guest Post by Author Tracie Roberts

Today’s Indie Lights Book Parade author is Tracie Roberts.

tracie roberts book 1

ECHO by Tracie Roberts

He’s the one she’s been dreaming of…

Tara McAllister has her life figured out: graduate from college, get a job teaching at her old high school, and find a boyfriend that won’t care that she’s a practicing witch. Everything is falling into place…until the visions begin. Tara’s practice has given her a gift–she sees the future. And for her, it includes a gorgeous man that she’s never met but definitely knows. She can feel it. Now all she has to do is find him.

…but is he the one she’s destined to be with?

Derek Williams just wants to get by. He goes to school, works to help support his family, and enjoys the occasional party with his friends—as long as his gift doesn’t create a ruckus. Derek is an empath, born to feel what others feel and able to change their emotions with a touch. His inherited gift comes with an added benefit—the ability to find his soul mate, the one person he’s meant to be with. And he’s found her; he just has to convince her of their connection.

As their relationship heats up and their abilities grow stronger, Tara and Derek must overcome the objection of family and friends, the advances of former flames, and a secret that could ruin them both—if their love is to survive.

Buy ECHO on Amazon.

tracie roberts book 2BLUR by Tracie Roberts

Joined by an ancient magic, their love was predestined. Now, that fragile bond is in danger of being shattered.

Tara McAllister has come to terms with her soul mate being underage and a student in her class. She knows that it’s illegal, but legalities are inconsequential where the heart’s concerned. The soul deep connection that drew them together over the summer has strengthened. Just as she feels comfortable enough to dream about a future with her élan, a tragic accident threatens to rip her happiness from her grasp.

Derek Williams chose to pursue the one woman who made his whole existence worthwhile, despite the fact that she was older and his English teacher. Once he convinces her that they are meant to be with each other, he finally feels at peace planning their future together. Then one night and one misstep jeopardize everything they’ve built and fought for.

Tara and Derek’s love story—the story that explores the balance between what’s right and what matters—continues in BLUR, Book 2 in The Élan Series.

BLUR will be available in February through Amazon.

Advice for New Authors

When I tell my students that I am an author, one of the remarks I get is, “I’m writing a story, too. Do you think I can bring it in and you take a look at it for me?” I always tell them yes because I would never want to crush a child’s desire to write, but ultimately I find that the young writers just want me to praise them for simply getting something scratched out. I’m sure what they share with me is the best they can produce at the moment, but when I offer advice for improvement that’s when the dejected looks come.

I have had some students take the advice I give them and improve their writing; and that’s what I want to share today–some tips for first-time writers who want to go beyond a few pages of “telling” what will happen in their stories. And since I am not far removed from being a first-time writer, I’m only going to address topics I feel I can comfortably give advice on.

First, know your premise. What is the idea behind the story? What do you want to express to the reader? Where do you want the story to take the reader and where will it end? These are questions for you to answer, either before you start writing or as the story develops. For my novel ECHO, I knew I wanted the reader to consider the topic of being responsible for one’s choices. I had an idea that I wanted my story to take my characters down a path that may make readers question if what is illegal is always wrong, but I didn’t know how far I was willing to go to support that point. My characters did, though, and that’ll be discussed later. Also, some writers feel at ease starting a story that they don’t know the end to. I’m not one of them. I usually know what will be tied up at the end of one of my works, just not how. That’s what I work through in outlining. And that’s what I suggest to my students—know what will happen even if you can’t figure out how just yet.

Plus, limiting the amount of “what” will happen keeps your story from getting out of control. When the students in my Creative Writing class were tasked with drafting a short story based on a picture they were given, some of the stories they came up with got out of hand. I had to constantly remind my students that they had a limit of ten pages. Most of them said, “Oh, I can write all that in less than ten. Don’t worry.” What I got was “tellings” of stories, not actual stories. I had trouble with letting my story get out of hand when I first started writing. The two novels I have out now, ECHO and BLUR, (plus the third, BOUND, coming out in May) were originally just one book. I realized as I was writing that there were too many ideas to cover in just one novel, so I broke the story up into two, then three, books. The pacing is better in each novel and no major plot point is rushed in any of the books. So, limiting the number of big events (or plot twists) to a couple or three, even in a novel, helps keep a writer focused on the premise.

Second, know your characters. What makes your character tick? What does a normal day for him look like? What are his hopes, fears, dreams. etc.? Again, questions that, when fully answered, are most helpful in truly representing your characters in all their brilliance and flaws. When I taught Creative Writing for two years, I assigned my students a character biography sheet and a list of interview questions to answer in order to understand their characters and motivations. I’ve included links here and here to a couple of good ones, but a Google search will also pull up useful bio sheets and questionnaires. Should you complete this for every character in your story? I didn’t for ECHO, but I later found myself creating sketches on Scrivener for most of the characters in my series and adding traits as they manifested while writing BLUR and the novella, Whispers.

Third, know yourself. Are you willing to put in the effort to write this story? Are you comfortable with the topics you’ll be exploring? Are you afraid of hurting others with or being embarrassed by this story? Most people don’t want to “write” a novel/story, they want to “have written” one, because face it, writing is tough! I know. It took me five years to finally start The Elan Series, and seven years to publish my first book, ECHO. Now, I find that ideas for stories just come to me, usually as a single line or thought that pops into my head and I get frustrated that I don’t have enough time to get to them all.

And some of the topics are taboo. When I wrote ECHO, I found myself asking, “What will my mom or my husband think of me writing about illicit relationships or witchcrft? Will they be upset?” What I realized is that, though I don’t want to hurt my family, I can’t dishonor myself, my gift, or my story by not telling it. Still, even I shy away from certain topics. I can’t write erotica or horror, but it has more to do with my comfort level than whether I believe those genres should be written or shared. As writers, though, we must push ourselves to explore edgy topics but still feel okay with ourselves for doing it.

As a debut author, these are my suggestions to new writers just starting out: understand your premise, really get to know your characters, and be aware of what you can and will do to get your story out there. You’ll never know if you’ve got what it takes until you try.

Learn more about Tracie and her writing at:

| Website | Facebook | Twitter |

traci roberts


Tracie Roberts is the author of ECHO and BLUR, paranormal New Adult romances and Books 1 and 2 in the Élan Series. She lives in Florida with her husband and two daughters.


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“Beggar Magic” by Heidi Lyn Burke – Author Interview

BEGGARMAGIC - H. L. BurkeIn Beggar Magic, a YA/Steampunk Fantasy, Gelia City, magic is music: a constant ever-changing melody known as the Strains. Hereditary ability to use the Strains divides the city into two classes: the wealthy Highmost, who can access the full potential of the Strains, and the Common tradesmen, who are limited to mundane spells, known as beggar magic.

With the help of the Strains, Common teen Leilani rescues and befriends a gifted Highmost girl, Zebedy. The girls’ friendship opens Leilani’s eyes to the world of the Highmost. She’s intrigued by Zeb’s close relationship with the Strains, and longs to know them as she does. Zeb, in turn, comes to depend on Leilani’s strength and intelligence, making them an inseparable team, ready to take on anything with the Strains at their back.

As their unlikely friendship strengthens and endures, Zeb draws Leilani further into the Highmosts’ intrigues. Beneath the polished, academic façade of the Highmost manors lurks a threat to the Strains. An unknown force consumes their music, leaving only heart-rending silence behind.

Leilani and Zeb will do anything to save their beloved Strains, but as the silence grows, they face danger their previously sheltered lives could never prepare them for. Whoever is behind the death of the Strains is willing to kill to keep their secret safe. To preserve the Strains, the girls may have to sacrifice their friendship, or even their lives.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Heidi Lyn Burke about Beggar Magic and her writing process.

Is there a message in Beggar Magic that you want readers to grasp?

There are a couple, but I think the most important is that being hard working and persistent is more important than being gifted or special. My main character, Leilani, has normal abilities and her best friend is considered gifted, bridging on genius, by their culture’s standards. However, when the world falls apart, Leilani is the one who holds it together, not because of who she is but because of what she does.

There are also important points about not taking people at face value and loving them in spite of differences and difficulties. Mostly it is a book about friendship.

You describe Beggar Magic as a YA Steampunk Fantasy. What is it that draws you to write in these genres?

Fantasy lets me play around with things. It lets me explore possibilities, and I’m a big believer in possibilities. I like fluidity and I like to explore. Steampunk is more a setting than a genre, and that actually came out of playing a lot of Myst when I was thinking up the concept for the book. (Myst is a classic computer puzzle/adventure game with a really immersive world). The aesthetic for those games, being so gorgeous, made me want to play around with something similar, plus I like the mix between technology/hard science and magic/mysticism.

I remember Myst – you’re right about the beautiful aesthetic. Did you do much research while writing Beggar Magic? If so, tell us a few interesting things you learned.

Most of the world of Beggar Magic is made up, but I did have sort of a hot button issue that I knew could be sensitive for some people, in that an important character is deaf. I did do research on this and tried to find beta readers who were either deaf/hearing impaired themselves or had worked with deaf students. I was surprised at how controversial certain things like lipreading were. Even after all my consulting, I’m still afraid I will offend someone somewhere because the community does seem to be divided on some issues. One person simply didn’t like the “mixed” relationship I had between a deaf man and a hearing woman, for instance, which was essential to my plot. I had no idea that would be a problem for anyone, but for at least one beta reader it was.

Really interesting perspective. Give us more insight into the main character(s) in Beggar Magic. What does he/she/they do that makes them stand out in a crowd?

To some extent, Leilani is special because she isn’t special in the eyes of her community. She’s just another “common” girl. No one thinks of her as a threat or an asset because she can’t use highmost magic. However, when the magical system of the world, called the Strains, comes under attack, it is Leilani who has the courage to do something about it.

Of all the novels you’ve written, what is your favourite and why?

It is always the latest one that springs to mind. While I love all my projects (at least the ones I manage to finish. There are some unfinished pieces I’ll never look at again), I tend to finish them up and think about the next piece. However, if I had to pick, it would be Dragon’s Bride, the fourth book in my The Dragon and the Scholar Saga  because I love the ending I made for those characters. I had been with them for four books, so the ending had to be perfect, and I found something that still makes me happy when I think about it (I can’t say what because it would be a spoiler).

What about other writers and/or novels? Which are your favourites and why?

My big three are Tolkien, Dostoevsky, and DiCamillo. They’re just the three I find the most masterful in different ways: Tolkien for the scope and majesty and characters you want to live up to; Dostoevsky because he had this way of taking miserable, wretched real people and turning their lives into works of art, scraping out these huge truths at the same time; and DiCamillo because she always tells a heartfelt story in a simple way.

Those are tough acts to follow. How do you think you’ve evolved creatively since the writing of your first novel?

I’m not sure which to count as my first novel. I’ve been doing this for a long time in one way or another, so if you count the “never to be published” things I wrote when I was in high school, then yeah, in leaps and bounds. I do find I learn a little more with each book, though. For instance, my world building went up several notches between The Dragon and the Scholar Saga which is based in sort of a default fairy tale earth, and Beggar Magic which has an elaborate magical system and society.

Marketing books is tough these days. Do you think that giving books away free as works as a marketing tactic? Why or why not?

I have mixed feelings about it. I find a lot of people grab every free book they see but end up with a huge pile they never actually read. The first few times I did free promotions, I didn’t see reviews out of it and since I didn’t have a portfolio of other pieces to sell, there weren’t any sales from it. However, now that I have a full series available, I plan to put the first book in the series up free. If people like it, they’ll continue on through the remaining three books.

I also think targeted giveaways, to people who are excited about your book and intend to read it, can work to get people talking about your books.

I recently published an article about the significance of character names in literature. How important are names to you in your books? How do you choose character names in your books?

I’m lousy at names. I joke that I look around the room until I see an object and then twist that into a name like Chair . . . lamp. . .desk. . .Charlamdesk . . Chairla! It’s almost that bad. I have a character in my next book named Ketyl because the first thing that caught my eye was the kettle bell I’d been working out with. Sometimes, though, a name will have special meaning, like Zebedy’s last name is Brightly because I want people to get a sunny, effervescent feeling when they think of her, and Brick is strong and dependable, solid as a brick, if you will. With my main character, Leilani, though, I couldn’t come up with a name that fit her. I ended up giving away the right to name her on my blog, so she’s named after a reader’s daughter.

That’s an ingenious marketing tactic!

Moving forward, what are you working on now? What is your next project?

I try to have one piece I’m editing and one piece I’m writing at all times. I’m on late drafts of a middle grade chapter book called Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon, which I wrote for my six-year-old daughter. It’s about a pampered palace kitten who finds himself at the wrong end of a wizard’s spell and has to fight his way back to his beloved princess. However, I’m also about half way through with an epic fantasy with the working title of Lands of Ash, which is the longest most sprawling thing I’ve worked on since I was a teenager. It is a story of survival. The human world is struggling after a prolonged war with a race of fire Elementals. My characters are all a little bit desperate but determined to make what they can out of a ruined world. They’re dealing with the aftermath of lost loved ones as well as lack of resources and the threat of another Elemental invasion.

Thank you so much for sharing your work with us. How can readers discover more about you and your writing?

| Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon Author Page |

Goodreads | TSU |

Buy Beggar Magic and Dragon’s Curse on Amazon.

heidi lyn burke imageBorn in a small town in north central Oregon, H. L. Burke spent most of her childhood around trees and farm animals and was always accompanied by a book. Growing up with epic heroes from Middle Earth and Narnia keeping her company, she also became an incurable romantic.

An addictive personality, she jumped from one fandom to another, being at times completely obsessed with various books, movies, or television series (Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and Star Trek all took their turns), but she has grown to be what she considers a well-rounded connoisseur of geek culture.

Married to her high school crush who is now a US Marine, she has moved multiple times in her adult life but believes that home is wherever her husband, two daughters, and pets are.

She is the author of a four part fantasy/romance series entitled The Scholar and the Dragon, featuring the books Dragon’s Curse, Dragon’s Debt, Dragon’s Rival, and Dragon’s Bride as well as the YA/Fantasy Beggar Magic. Her current projects are children’s chapter book and an epic fantasy trilogy.

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Advice to Up-and-coming Writers

Today’s Indie Lights Book Parade author is Lisa Buie-Collard with her guest post, Advice to Up-and-Coming Writers.

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Genre: thriller/mystery

When a young writer is kidnapped by a man who can’t be seen, her only hope of escape rests on the one London cop who believes in ghosts.

On a cold, white, before-Christmas day, an assassin completes a job only to be pursued by police. Dodging through crowded city streets, the assassin nabs a young woman for cover.

Celia Wight, a reclusive American writer is shopping between engagements during a book tour. When a knife is pressed against her back, she loses her tenuous grasp on her carefully controlled existence.

Assigned to the homicide case, Detective Alban Thain, of the Metropolitan Police, suspects an assassin he calls the Wraith. The problem is, only Thain believes the assassin exists. Disregarding the consequences, Thain, who is the only one who believes there is a connection between the murder and the kidnapping, will do whatever it takes to exploit the Wraith’s first and only mistake: the kidnapping of an innocent bystander—if she is innocent.

Buy The Seventh Man on Amazon.

Advice to Up-and-coming Writers

First: the old cliché, write, write and then write some more is still valid, and will always be, however, there is so much more to it than that these days.  Whether or not you are published by traditional means or Indie published, an author must take on the marketing.  Be aware of this.  Also: for those looking at Indie publishing: Write not only the best story you can but hire a professional editor. Pay to have the inside and outside of your novel formatted properly.  There are SO many ‘Self Published’ books out there that aren’t up to snuff.  Getting past bad writing, multiple typos, and structure that limps is too difficult to ask from anyone who doesn’t know you.  If you are serious about writing and gaining a readership beyond your friends and family, if you want to be picked up by a ‘traditional’ publishing house, be professional and invest.  Indy published titles have an uphill climb because there are so many out there that are NOT professional.  Pay to have the e-book formatted properly as well.

Second: Don’t give up.  Only you can make it happen.  Sounds trite but the truth is, if you don’t invest sweat equity in your idea/story, no one else will do it for you.

Third: Make use of social media to build yourself a name. And blog. Especially use ‘blog hops.’  That’s what they’re there for.  Go online and research reader blogs. Readers are your friends and hopefully, customers. Two I would recommend for anyone are:


On these you will find two of the best “writing/artists” communities out there on the web.

And finally: Write and learn about marketing, in that order.  Pace yourself, always set aside time for writing, no matter what you do with the rest of your day. Research counts only if it furthers the writing. And don’t ever forget to pat yourself on the back for taking on the challenge of writing. Good luck!

Here’s where you can find out more about Lisa Buie-Collard and her writing:

| Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Amazon Author Page |

collardAbout Lisa Buie-Collard:

I am a writer, mother, wife, sister, and daughter. I’ve been a server, dental assistant, teacher, journalist, and gardener. I love to travel and speak French. I’m from north Florida, but now abide in Georgia. I write full time and have completed six novels. Writing is life, life is writing…

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“Great-Grandma’s Gifts” and “The Serenity Stone Murder” by Marianne Jones – Author Interview

Please join Britbear’s Book Reviews in welcoming fellow Canadian, Marianne Jones in today’s author spotlight.


Arlene is a little girl who loves to make things. She begins by making presents for her doll, Maggie. As she grows up, she moves on to creating gifts for her own children and grandchildren.

This is a gentle story that is designed to help children see a different side of the elders in their lives and understand that they were once children, too.



What are two nice middle-aged church ladies doing at a New Age goddess conference? And what does it have to do with the mysterious death of Thunder Bay’s casino manager? Will Mary Carlisle, organist at St. Stephen’s Church, capture the heart of Thomas Greenfield, church gardener?

Find out the answers to these, and other burning questions in The Serenity Stone Murder, a kinder, gentler murder mystery set in Thunder Bay, Ontario, home of the Sleeping Giant, the Hoito Restaurant, and the world-famous Persian cinnamon bun. For those who like their mysteries served up with a side dish of humour.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Marianne about her books and writing inspiration.

Why do you choose to write in so many different genres?

The Serenity Stone Murder is a humorous cozy mystery for adults. I also have written a poetry collection titled Here, on the Ground , written and directed several plays, and done journalism. It must be my A.D.D.! I enjoy so many different forms of writing.

The synopsis for Great-Grandma’s Gifts reads that this story “is designed to help children see a different side of the elders in their lives.” This is a very touching sentiment. What’s the story behind the inspiration for this book?

The story is a tribute to my mother, who never had much money, but used her time, love, talent, and fabric scraps to create clothes, dolls, toys, stuffed animals and quilts for her family. As she was growing older, I wanted to honour her while she was still with us. At the same time, I knew she wouldn’t be around to watch my grandchildren grow up. I wanted them to know what their great-grandmother was all about.

What about Serenity Stone? Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or is it purely based on imagination?

My sister had been urging me to write a murder mystery set in Thunder Bay, our home town. One day she described to me a hilarious experience she had attending a women’s conference with a friend. As she told me about it, the characters of Margaret and Louise came into my mind, and I got inspired. The character of Louise’s dog Vince is based on my mother’s lhasa apso Charlie. Apart from that, and many of the locations mentioned, the rest of the story is pure fiction.

There’s a kernel of truth behind every story, isn’t there?

What is the message you’d like readers to take away from The Serenity Stone Murder story?

I’m not sure there is a message. It’s about middle-aged church ladies, laughter, and the crazy things we get dragged into for our friends.

Besides living there, why did you pick Thunder Bay as the setting for Serenity Stone? I have family members from there but I’ve never been myself.

Thunder Bay is Canada’s best-kept secret! It has all the amenities of a big city with the conveniences of a small town. We have a world-class symphony, numerous theatre companies, fine restaurants, a university doing cutting edge DNA research, a state-of-the-art Health Sciences Centre with some of the best cancer care in the country, a College with an internationally successful film program, and a Law School. All this, right in the middle of spectacular natural scenery and countless freshwater lakes. I thought it was time we started making the rest of the country aware of what a jewel we have.

Your bio on Amazon says there are three of your poems “in permanent installation at Prince Arthur’s Landing.” Tell us a bit about the poems and the story of them being inducted there.

Several years ago, the city decided to develop our beautiful, but mostly underutilized waterfront on Lake Superior. They hired an architectural firm known for their work with city waterfront locations, which resulted in a breathtaking stretch of harbourfront with a huge concert area, a Tai Chi Park, an arts building, a skateboard park, a Spirit Garden for aboriginal events, a sailing marina, restaurant and condominiums. The plan was to include a showcase for the arts, so the call went out across the country to artists to submit their proposals to a jury for selection. At the same time, writers were invited to submit poems and short readings for blind judging. As it turned out, three of my poems were selected, which was quite a surprise and a thrill for me. The poems have been sandblasted onto granite benches placed at different locations throughout the park. This fall I got an email from a runner in Florida, who had been here participating in a marathon. She noticed one of my poems on a bench, and liked it so much, she googled me to tell me she was going to share it with her fellow runners at home. That was quite a delightful surprise.

Such an honour! Congratulations. Your story tells of a time your writing had an impact on someone else. Who has had an impact on you? If you had to choose, which author would you consider a mentor and why?

I’m not sure I can narrow it down to one. C.S.Lewis shaped much of my thinking in my teens. He has a disarmingly simple style of writing that is the hallmark of brilliance. Jesus taught that way, too—telling simple stories that packed a huge punch. I admire the great writers who can say a lot in a few words. I think that has influenced my own writing style, which tends toward economy of words. I can’t promise brilliance, though!

What were the challenges you faced in bringing each of your books to life?

Here, on the GroundWith The Serenity Stone Murder, battling my own doubts about my ability to sustain a credible and entertaining novel-length story was my biggest challenge. I wrestled with the “editor on my shoulder” constantly telling me that I couldn’t pull it off. But I persisted and proved her wrong. The other two books came more easily to me. The poems in Here, on the Ground, were collected over a period of many years. Many had been previously published in literary journals, and some had won poetry competitions. That gave me the confidence to believe in the collection. It was just a question of selecting the best ones. Great-Grandma’s Gifts was originally a Mother’s Day gift for my mom. On a whim, I showed it to Stacey Voss, publisher at Split Tree Publishing. She fell in love with it and asked if she could publish it. She didn’t have to twist my arm too hard! I’m finding it resonating with a lot of people, which would have made my mother very proud.

Speaking about Great-Grandma’s Gifts, tell us a little about the artwork in it, as well as on the cover of Serenity Stone. Who designed it? Why did you go with those particular images?

When I came up with the idea of writing Great-Grandma’s Gifts, I asked my sister, who is a watercolour artist, if she would do the illustrations. She captured the gentle, childlike feel of the story perfectly. Some of the illustrations are from her imagination, but some are actual dolls and toys Mom made that our daughters still have. Toward the end of the book, she has painted Mom’s apartment, with her Bible on the table and her artwork on the walls. On the last page she depicts Mom as we often saw her, sitting on the dock at her cottage, gazing across the lake. With Serenity Stone, much of the story concerns a church garden that the neighbouring casino wants to purchase for parking space. The publisher and I agreed that we wanted to emphasize the “cozy” nature of the mystery. This is not a graphic or violent murder mystery, but a gentler, humorous one appealing to women. Tracy Barr’s lovely picture of the entrance to the garden was a perfect fit.

What a touching story. Great-Grandma’s Gifts is truly a tribute to your mother in more ways than one.

What can we expect from you in the future?

This spring Split Tree will be launching a sequel to Great-Grandma’s Gifts. It is called Where is Peachy Keen? Currently I am ghostwriting a memoir about a woman who survived horrific abuse, a murder attempt, 50 suicide attempts, and life on the streets. She is now happily married, the mother of two, and a frequent speaker on mental health issues. She has been a guest on 100 Huntley Street, and won the 2007 Courage to Come Back award from the Canadian Mental Health Association. When that is done, I want to resume work on a literary novel I’ve started and a sequel to Serenity Stone.  I also plan to keep writing children’s stories for my granddaughters, and another collection of poems.

Many thanks for completing this interview, Marianne.

Here’s where you can read more about Marianne and her writing:

| Website | Blog | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads |

Listen to Marianne’s interview on CBC with Lisa Laco about The Serenity Stone Murder,

_CIP1125Marianne Jones is from Thunder Bay, Ontario. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, Canadian Living, The Globe and Mail, and numerous literary and denominational publications. She is a retired teacher and occasional actor. A member of the League of Canadian Poets, she was named International Christian Poet Laureate by Utmost Christian Writers.

Buy Great-Grandma’s Gifts on Amazon, and Split Tree Publishing.

Buy The Serenity Stone Murder on Amazon, and Split Tree Publishing.

Buy Here, on the Ground on Amazon.

Call for Work – A.C. PAPA Issue #2

front_cover_2015_no1The next reading period for Ancient City Poets, Authors, Photographers & Artists (A.C. PAPA) will be April 01, 2015 to June 30. The focus of this Saint Augustine, Florida based journal is to spotlight Florida artists and art that references the Sunshine State. They will accept submissions of poetry, fiction, fine art and photography. A.C. PAPA is looking for writing and artwork that speaks of Florida, from all angles and all perspectives. They would like to hear from locals, tourists, travelers and residents. Special sections in issue #2 will include: “Saint Augustine History—the first 450 Years” and a number of articles on Florida writers such as Harry Crews.

The next issue of A.C. PAPA will appear in November, and will feature the best work from Florida artists as well as national and international writers who have something to say about Florida. Poet Plant Press is best known for their 2014 title Florida Speaks, an anthology featuring more than thirty writers musing on the Sunshine State. Please email your submissions as a RTF Microsoft Word file as an attachment to For more info and guidelines please go to the Poet Plant Press website at or purchase a copy of issue #1 on Amazon by searching for the title of the publication.

SONY DSCChris Bodor is the Editor-In-Chief of A.C. PAPA Literary Journal, published by the Saint Augustine, Florida based Poet Plant Press. Bodor relocated from New York to Saint Augustine in 2003 after working for ten years in NY City. In August of 2009, Chris started hosting monthly poetry open mic readings on the last Sunday of every month, under the name Ancient City Poets. The name was created by Glenda Bailey-Mershon for a series of 2009 National Poetry Month events. He has also revived his journalism career by shooting pictures and writing pieces for Old City Life, the St. Augustine Record and other national publications.

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You know you’re a writer if…

This is a momentous occasion: Britbear’s Book Reviews first guest blog post. Please join me in welcoming Mary Ellen Bramwell, author of The Apple of My Eye.

cropped high res coverWhen Brea Cass, a young mother, is awakened in the night by the news that her loving husband, Paul, has been shot during a robbery, she is stunned.  Arriving at the hospital to discover he has died shakes her whole world.  When she finally emerges from the fog of her life, it dawns on her that something is amiss in the way her husband died.  What was really going on?

As Brea searches for answers, she discovers things she never knew, things she’s not sure she wants to know.  Delving into the mysteries that surround her brings several questions to the forefront of Brea’s thoughts.  Can I move forward despite heartache?  Am I loved?  Is someone who has made mistakes redeemable?

You know you’re a writer if…

… you’ve ever googled how quickly someone might die from poison.

… you’ve asked your writer friends for help writing a suicide note.

… you’ve asked a doctor how quickly and in what manner a disease will kill instead of how one might survive.

… you’ve taken a vacation and could deduct it on your taxes as “research”.

… you’ve read a good book for work and pleasure.

… you’ve researched how to commit a crime (fraud, theft, espionage, etc.).

… you’ve researched the meanings of your character’s names more than your own children’s names.

… you talk in word counts not page numbers.

… you explore your dreams and nightmares for possible material.

… you’ve ever cried over the death of a character, but killed him or her off anyway!

Please feel free to add your own!

Here’s how you can learn more about Mary Ellen Bramwell and her writing:

| Website | Facebook | Amazon Author Page | Goodreads |

DSC_9671 smaller, cropMary Ellen Bramwell has been writing stories since she was ten years old.  After working in other fields and raising five children as a stay-at-home mom, Mary Ellen has returned to her first love, writing, working for magazines while completing her debut novel, The Apple of My Eye.  She resides in Northeast Ohio with her husband, Allen, and her two youngest children.  You can visit her website at

Buy The Apple of My Eye on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at Black Rose Writing.