Tell Me the Secret – Donna Cummings

IDoD_med When I first started writing, many years ago, I tried to discover THE SECRET to writing. I was sure there was one thing I didn’t know that everyone else knew, and once I found that out, I could write the way I wanted to. Naturally, I was convinced this one secret thing was contained in a book.

So I spent most of my time finding/buying/devouring books about writing. They were both liberating and frustrating. I would get inspired by all the ideas, but perturbed that it wasn’t getting me to sit down and write. (Yes, I know — that last phrase contains the actual secret. But it took me a while to embrace the obvious.)

Nowadays when I’m looking for inspiration, I can usually find it in blogs, or tweets, or what-have-you in the vast repository of ideas known as the internet. But recently I stumbled across something that made me say, “Huh, I didn’t know I had that.”

It’s called The Pocket Muse: Endless Inspiration, by Monica Wood, and it contains a variety of writing prompts, and intriguing pictures designed to inspire the muse, as well as some advice and personal writing experiences from the author.

There was one essay titled “Memo From the Department of Just Showing Up”, which is really a variation of THE SECRET (sit down and write). However, it included a phrase that really resonated with me:  “If you keep your hat in the ring, sooner or later somebody’s going to need a hat.”

And I realized that’s the essence of what I love about the indie publishing life. Not only is somebody going to need a hat. It’s very likely they’re going to need the kind of hat that *I* produce.

In the past, writers expended a lot of time and energy trying to discover which hat styles were all the rage, in the hopes they could fill the needs of a powerful consortium of buyers who had rather vague manufacturing specs.

But what we ended up doing was trying to convince people who love fedoras to fall in love with a frilly fascinator. When they didn’t, it was too easy to assume there was something wrong with the hats we’d made. So we’d remove the netting and feathers and squoosh it into a more practical form of headgear, all in an attempt to woo the fedora-loving crowd.

Talk about completely wrong-headed thinking.

The beauty of the indie publishing world is that there is room — as well as avid consumers — for all kinds of hats. Ball caps, knit hats, berets. Even crocheted beer can ones. Heck, we can go mad-hatter-crazy and fashion a never-seen-before chapeau if we want.

All because of another wonderful secret:

People out there will believe you made that particular hat just for them.

And they’re going to love you for it.



Author Bio:

I have worked as an attorney, winery tasting room manager, and retail business owner, but nothing beats the thrill of writing humorously-ever-after romances.

I reside in New England, although I fantasize about spending the rest of my days in a tropical locale, wearing flip flops year-round, or in Regency London, scandalizing the ton.

I can usually be found on Twitter, talking about writing and coffee, and on Facebook, talking about coffee and writing.
Social Media Links:







Buy links:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | iTunes

Amazon AU | Amazon CA




Happy Thanksgiving from a Grateful Writer

The Body on the T FCWe just reviewed Mike Martin’s Walker on the Cape and are privileged to have him back on the blog. Thank you, Mike, for visiting with us!

I am always reminded how grateful I am to be writer whenever Thanksgiving rolls around. I try to be grateful at other times of the year, too, but Thanksgiving is a good time to think about the good things in my life. One of the best of these, for me, is that I am a writer. I just finished the third book in my Windflower Mystery Series, and as it winds its way into the hands of my friendly beta readers, I am reminded how lucky I am to be able to write and to have other people read and comment on it. As Thanksgiving approaches it is a good time to give thanks, even with all of the changes and challenges of the book and publishing world.

I am grateful that I am a seat-of-the-pants writer rather than someone who has to plot the whole story out before they can even begin to write. This way I get to discover the story the same way that readers do. The characters show up and they tell the story. I just write it down. It may be bigger and deeper than that, some great flow of creation and imagination that I’m tapping into, but I like the simple version. They talk, and I write.

I am grateful to be writing fiction. I think that it must be very difficult to write about all of the trials and tribulations of the world. There are so many problems and so few solutions, so many war-makers and so few interested in peace. I can see why some columnists and editorial-type writers seem so bitter. They probably find it hard to find good things to write about. And probably harder to sleep at night. I sleep just fine.

I am grateful that I am a mystery writer. I didn’t know I was going to be one, didn’t even think about it really. I kinda just fell into it. But what a great genre!! There’s tons of great writers and even better readers already here. I try and follow the basic tenets of the genre but I have realized that it’s just another way to tell a story. And that’s what writing is really all about.

Technology also lets me make new ‘friends’ every day on social networks, and to share with them some small pieces of the same journey. I know it’s impersonal and anonymous and people do tell small fibs and major lies on here, but it is a medium to communicate that we never had before. That’s pretty cool.

Finally, I am grateful that anybody, anywhere, can publish their own stories, for free or very little. And for e-books because they have opened the doors to many more writers and many more stories. By the way, my latest book, The Body on the T, is now available in Kindle and Kobo version. Check it out on Oh, yeah I’m grateful that I can come on here and offer a blatant self-promotion. That’s even cooler.

So if you are a writer, or an aspiring writer, be grateful to be alive today. It could be worse. You could be still trying to get a publisher to have a look at your quill and parchment document. Yes, it could be better, but it could be worse.

Mike Martin is the author of the Windflower Mystery Series, set in small communities on the east coast of Canada. His latest book, The Body on the T, is now available in print and e-book formats on


Writing to the Stars with Pippa Jay Green

The indies gals would like to welcome back Pippa Jay Green to the Indies Books R Us blog. She’s here today to share her author journey. We last spoke with Pippa when Cate and I reviewed her book Keir. Since then she’s released another delicious sci-fi adventure with more on the way.

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, from the day I badgered my dad into showing me how to write out my full name–a long WP_001151winded affair to be sure. As for when the stories started…well, they must have come soon after that. From stories about ponies when I went through that stage of my childhood, to fantasy inspired by The Lord of the Rings and The Dark Crystal, then the shift into scifi after Star Wars: A New Hope hit my TV screen one Christmas. I went from wishing to be a magic-casting, arrow-shooting elf to a lightsaber-wielding, mind-influencing Jedi Knight in the space of a hundred and twenty-one minutes.

But it’s another cult scifi with a very British origin that sparked off my first novel. The story behind my debut Keir started as a Doctor Who adventure waaaay back in the 90’s when I was a teenager and a devoted fan. Now, I have seen a lot of controversy over the writing of ‘fanfic’. Some declare it to be ‘not proper writing’ and a waste of time. Others claim it as a writing release, to be able to free write about favourite characters and explore ideas without having to create whole new worlds and people. Frankly I think writers should be able to express themselves in any way they wish, but back then I’d never even heard the term ‘fanfic’. All I wanted was to be the Doctor’s latest time-travelling, non-screaming companion (as the ‘becoming a Jedi and building an X-wing’ ambition hadn’t worked out for me). So I wrote an adventure called The Shadowshaper over a three week Christmas holiday–featuring a red-haired teenager by the name of Quin–and sent it off. It didn’t get published, but it was the first complete book I’d ever finished, and I had some fantastic feedback from the then publishers of the Doctor Who books. Enough to feel that perhaps I wouldn’t completely be wasting my time to keep writing and submitting.

keir (2)

Real life got in the way after that, but the ideas never stopped coming. One night I dreamt of a broken and beaten man trapped in a dungeon. I woke up with the name Keir in my head. I didn’t know why he was there or what had happened to him, but as I wrote I found all that out. He needed someone to save him, and that someone was Quin, my time-travelling, red-haired heroine. Of course, the Doctor himself doesn’t feature in Keir, but he’s there in spirit. Because if it wasn’t for him, I don’t think Keir would ever have existed.d teenager by the name of Quin–and sent it off. It didn’t get published, but it was the first complete book I’d ever finished, and I had some fantastic feedback from the then publishers of the Doctor Who books.

gethyon_300Enough to feel that perhaps I wouldn’t completely be wasting my time to keep writing and submitting.

As for my first love… My latest scifi novel Gethyon pays a passing tribute to Star Wars in feel, more than Keir did. My hero is a young, troubled would-be adventurer with unknown powers, who has to combat his own divided nature as much as he must master his abilities. If it hadn’t been for those early scifi influences, perhaps I’d be writing fantasy now instead. Maybe I’ll revisit that genre one day…

Keir Pippa  Jay GreenBIO:

A stay-at-home mum of three who spent twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay bases her stories on a lifetime addiction to science-fiction books and films. Somewhere along the line a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moments trying to learn guitar, indulging in freestyle street dance and drinking high-caffeine coffee. Although happily settled in historical Colchester in the UK with her husband of 20 years, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.

Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the SFR Brigade, a community of science fiction

Guest post: Alan Kessler


The ancients effectively traversed the separate spheres of logic and myth. They created both science and gods. Thales of Miletus, considered the father of science, was the first Greek philosopher to explain the physical world in terms of natural, not supernatural, causes. The Parthenon, however, is dedicated to the goddess Athena. In pre-modern times religion, and the logos of science and mathematics, existed as independent but not mutually exclusive ways of understanding and ordering the universe. Modernity has brought into its temples of steel and glass the money lenders while casting out into the peripheral wasteland of its culture the religionists, pagan and otherwise, who know there must be more to existence than a material world. There is a spiritual emptiness in the center of our 21st century lives. A new vacuum cleaner or trip to Disneyland won’t explain the fundamental question of why we exist.

What has become of the supernatural?

To help answer that question, let’s examine what has happened to Satan.
 He is a fiction, a boogieman who in movies and books is portrayed in soul stealing caricature as an enemy of God who wants to destroy man. For modern man, the devil doesn’t exist. The purpose of the myth creating him has been lost. We no longer see in him the complexity of his character and what it represents: all of us are fallen angels expressing at different times in our lives subtle and not so obvious moments of manipulation, base desires, perhaps even evilness–the dark part of human existence that is as much a part of us as the good.
When we regard Satan as nothing more than a Halloween character, a pitchfork and horns cliché, we lose a chance to understand, through him, more about ourselves.
In my novel, A Satan Carol, I wanted to take one aspect of his personality, the human feeling of abandonment, and explore its ramifications in a horror story about faith.
A Satan Carol is available at:


Barnes and Noble


For more information on Alan S. Kessler and his upcoming projects, check out his website here.

Guest Interview: Taylor M. Lunsford

Taylor-8 - Version 2Greetings Indie Readers! It’s another T.G.I. Friday post. Hard to believe how time flies. Today I have the lovely author and editor Taylor M. Lunsford. She works with in the small press publishing industry, which is just one of the many publishing routes author’s can launch themselves in. Without further ado, I’ll launch in the questions that Taylor was so gracious in answering.

1.) Why did you choose small press versus self-publishing or traditional publishing routes? 

I went with small press for a couple different reasons. The first is that I wasn’t having a lot of success going the traditional route. Agents are taking on fewer and fewer new writers these days, and there are a lot of romance writers out there. Amanda Green, my editor, encouraged me to try writing a romantic suspense for Naked Reader Press, so I thought “what the heck” and gave it a shot. Small press gives you a lot more control over your work as far as content, timeline, etc. goes, while still having the safety net of an editor and someone making the covers and access to the different storefronts. It’s also hugely helpful when you’re mildly technologically challenged to have someone to do the formatting and coding for e-books. NRP is very writer focused and knowing the editors was also a big selling point. For my first book, it felt like the best of both worlds.

2.) Tell readers a little bit about your latest release. Is this the genre you love to write? 

The Love in Unknown series is small town romance with a strong vein of suspense. I’ve always loved small town romances, but I hadn’t tried adding in suspense before. Book one, Need You Now, is about the ridiculously sexy mayor, Caine Maddox, and his college sweetheart (and best friend’s little sister), Melody Carr. I love stories where the hero and heroine have a past together, and they have to figure out how to work around it. For those of you who know your Jane Austen, Persuasion (aka my favorite book) had a strong influence on the story.

3.) What other genres draw your interest and why?

I love all aspects of romance. I think I’ve read something in every subgenre and written something in a lot of them (historical, paranormal, fantasy). I’m really into biographies right now. I can’t read non-romance books (don’t know why, it’s a mental block), so I’ll listen to biographies when I’m driving to and from work. My favorite is probably ‘Tis Herself, Maureen O’Hara’s autobiography.

4.) You’re also listed as an Assistant Editor for Naked Reader Press, was this planned or something happened upon? 

Well, as I said, I know the folks who run NRP, so as the only strictly romance writer currently on their roster (Ellie Ferguson is another, but she writes more suspense/paranormal than just romance and Sarah Hoyt writes in pretty much every genre), I was invited to join the team.

5.) As an editor what are you looking for in a book? Do you try to implement the same things in your own books? 

I look for the same thing in a book that I want to write and read. I want strong, interesting characters that are maybe a little bit quirky. I like stories with a bit of a twist or interest that I wouldn’t expect. But mostly I just want to read well-written stuff from intelligent, kick-ass writers.

6.) Finally, what can we expect next? 

Well, with any luck, the short story in the Love in Unknown series, We Own The Night, will be out within the next few weeks. It sets up the romance for book three between Caine’s brother Gage and fashion designer Tessa Styles, and gets the hero for book two—Mel’s brother Micah—Ready to Love Again.

Get a copy of Taylor’s latest book at:




Connect with Taylor on her Website or at TwitterPinterest, or Amazon

Finally, thanks Taylor for submitting to an interview. Loved having you here and I encourage readers to ask your small press questions about the experience etc.

Guest post: Huw Thomas

A couple of weeks ago, Huw emailed us about a promotion he was running to benefit ShelterBox, an international relief organisation that provides emergency help to families who have lost their home as a result of disasters. Half of the royalties from his book The Vault will benefit this worthy cause. Check Huw’s blog for more information. 


Vault Kindle Comp CoverWriting a novel can be (relatively) easy. You start with something to catch the reader’s attention, move on to develop the story and let it all build to the climax. Simple, yes?

I’ve managed this approach with several of my books. Problem is, though, my novels generally develop a life of their own and the little critters don’t always do what I tell them.

I do plan to some degree – principally to ensure continuity – but I’m much more of an intuitive writer. I generally know where I want to go but I work from a road atlas, not a detailed map with every contour and feature carefully plotted.

With my mystery thriller The Vault, I think I must have hit roadworks. Either that or I’d got the pages of the road atlas jumbled up.

Shortly after starting my journey, I found myself with a book that involved four separate – seemingly unconnected – sets of route instructions (storylines). And while these four trips overlapped, they weren’t even taking place at the same time.

It’s not that I set out to make life difficult for myself, or my readers. It’s just where the story took me!

Anyway – leaving the road trip metaphor for the moment – whether it’s just because of the complex plot I don’t know but The Vault was probably the book over which I’ve moaned, cursed and despaired the most.

It began with an idea for a scenario describing a night-time kidnapping. This evolved into a longer story about an armed raid on the home of a reclusive billionaire – coupled with a parallel tale involving schoolboys playing in an overgrown wood. (There is a connection, honest.)

I think I got about a third of the way into the book – and had an ending in mind – when I ground to a halt. Something wasn’t working. There was no flow, no ease to the story. It just didn’t feel right.

I shelved the project for a while. Several months later, I went away for a weekend course on screenwriting and, afterwards, decided to try turning what I’d written for The Vault into a film script.

It was a move that transformed the process. I began to think of my story in much more visual terms. What would viewers (readers) see? What did the image convey? How did it relate to the story? What was its purpose?

Thinking in terms of a script also focussed me on the dialogue, something that previously wasn’t one of my strong points.

The Vault never made it into a becoming a full-length screenplay but taking a different approach to the story cleared my mental blockage.

I went back to the novel and wrote the rest of it with real purpose. It was complex but not impossible. I kept thinking in visual terms, imagining the story as if it were scenes from a film or TV show.

I also tried to keep my focus on the purpose of each scene. What was it there for? Was it a complete digression (always tempting) or did it add to the overall story?

I wouldn’t say it made me a completely ruthless editor. I’m not one of those authors who delete every line unless it moves the story on. Personally, I don’t mind the odd moment of humour, romance, background etc.

As a writer you’ve just need to keep a tight grip on the purple prose and make sure any flights of fancy words are little flashes – short enough for those who don’t like that kind of thing to skip over but entertaining for those that do.

With The Vault, I think the end result was a good book. It’s not perfect but it’s a complex, multi-layered mystery that mixes action and suspense and – I hope – brings in some characters that readers will find very real and believable.

I’m not sure I’d chose to write such an involved novel a second time… but there again, I’m only the guide on the tour bus, I don’t plan the itinerary.


The Vault is available at Amazon.


Find Huw at:

Facebook: Huw Thomas Author’s Page

What’s a Reader’s Investment?

Writer’s invest a lot into their stories. Time, brain cells, money for all the little extras, and big money for those self-publishing via editors, cover artists, photo rights, etc. In return each writer hopes that someone, somewhere will enjoy their creation. Until recently, I found my own personal writing aspirations as selfish. I thought only of how I could hone my craft, make it better in my eyes, channel those characters deepest emotions and wrap them to the page. I also delved into the potential pitfalls, the fears, and the agonies that come with not liking someone’s work and the inevitable fact that readers would not like mine creations. Then the light came on and I thought what about the reader’s investment?

Oh, it’s a few dollars. For self-published e-books it may be no more then a gallon of milk or a package of Oreos. Better to absorb reading material then Oreos, right? But there’s more to it then that.


As a reader, I’m investing in your character’s life, their struggles. And yes, if they don’t interest me I can turn away. Yet, for some readers we can’t turn away until we reach the end. No matter how horrible or how painful the experience is. Even if we did turn away there are still remnants of the character that remain in our minds. What we didn’t like. What we wanted to change. So even the story that spurns us still retains a shred of our memory.

As a reader, I’m investing in your character’s future. I want to know what happens beyond the last words of the page. I need closure if there’s a cliffhanger or a resolution to the daunting task ahead of them. There’s no stopping at just one little adventure. Do they die old and alone? Is there a happily ever after? I’ll always wonder and my musings may never be satisfied.


As a reader, I’m investing not only dinero, but my hours. Instead of watching television or cleaning my room, I’m sitting down to absorb your world, your words, and your people. For you to command such a precious commodity is a privilege I’m willing to give you for the chance to get lost in something wonderful.


As a reader, I’m investing my laughter, my smiles, my eyesight and any other physical reaction your characters invoke. Sometimes this could involve throwing practice or even the occasional tear. I’m submitting myself to physical action at the hands of your creation. It may wake people in my house or disturb those sitting next to me in public places.

At the end of it all, as a reader I invest for pleasure. I invest for memories. I invest for inspiration.

Don’t forget… free book giveaway until the end of July.

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