How a Newbie Writer Navigates Completing a Novel Without a Compass









As a veteran, I learned early in my career that you need to plan to succeed, or you’ll fail from the lack of planning. But I didn’t adhere to this mantra when it came to writing. To me writing starts with an idea, a nugget of inspiration, or a pearl of wisdom. Actually, for me it started with the knowledge my cousin had written a story. It was a cozy murder-mystery set in the California wine country. But alas, he left it, unfinished, never to see the light of day. I mentioned to my wife that writing should end with the story being released to the masses. I decided I would write my own story, which I took on as a form of therapy from my day job, oddly enough, as a technical writer.

With my wife’s encouragement, I dove into the deep end. With a snippet of guidance from an online blurb on ‘writing your first novel,’ I started at the end, the dramatic finish. I soon realized I had no idea how to begin, having just created my ending. So, staring at the blank page of MS Word, I started to type what floated about between my ears. Soon, I realized, I had lost my way. My trouble lay before in not keeping track of characters, locations, scenes, and most importantly, time.

But, each evening, I would sit at my laptop, headphones in place putting a string of words together. After receiving feedback from fellow writers, I realized my passion had become a monster, and I had pantsed my way to nearly 113,000 words. After a moment of soul searching (and a few drams of Scotch), I pared my story in half. With each passing verse from ABBA to ZZ Top, I soon found myself reaching that first chapter I had written, the dramatic finish. After five and a half months, and over seventy-five-thousand words, I was finally able to type ’THE END’ to my first novel “The Irishman’s Deception.” Along the way I also took some of the fallen pieces and created a second novel, “Suspicious by Design.”

Over this time, I learned there is a 3-Part Act, there are emotional needs and inciting events, all parts of the story that should be included. Though I didn’t follow the ‘rules’ which so many others cite in their own terminology, I did learn that even though I enjoy the thrill of spewing forth words unencumbered on my laptop, it pays to have a few cheat sheets.

I now use a single sentence to establish my scenes, a sheet listing my characters and their relationships, and several shelves burdened with references. And thankfully, the ever-present hot key linking me to the internet, which allows me to view a myriad of information that the famous writers of yesteryear could only dream of.

Even though I’ve grown and continue to learn about the craft of writing, for me, the pleasure still remains in the act of writing what I’ve dreamed of, what inspires and intrigues me. And to think, it all started with an idea.


By Anthony J. Harrison



Irishmans Deception image


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Suspicious by design image


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Can You Structure If You’re a Pantser?

Common Pantser Writing Challenges





Book Review: The World Beneath by Rebecca Cantrell






Introducing the Joe Tesla Thriller Series







Goodreads Description


***Winner of International Thriller Writers’s Best Ebook Original Novel award!*** Award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Rebecca Cantrell drops you into a vast, dark world: 100 miles of living, breathing, tunnels that is the New York City underground. This subterranean labyrinth inhales three million bustling commuters every day. And every day, it breathes them all out again… except for one. Software millionaire Joe Tesla is set to ring the bell on Wall Street the morning his company goes public. On what should be the brightest day in his life, he is instead struck with severe agoraphobia. The sudden dread of the outside is so debilitating, he can’t leave his hotel at Grand Central Terminal, except to go underground. Bad luck for Joe, because in the tunnels lurk corpses and murderers, an underground Victorian mansion and a mysterious bricked-up 1940s presidential train car. Joe and his service dog, Edison, find themselves pursued by villains and police alike, their only salvation now is to unearth the mystery that started it all, a deadly, contagious madness on the brink of escaping The World Beneath.















My Rating






You’re going to love Joe Tesla! A brilliant programmer and millionaire debilitated by agoraphobia, a gripping fear of crowds and public places. Throughout his journey to discover the truth about a hidden presidential train car hidden in the depths of New York’s tunnels, you’ll see his flaws and his strengths. Accompanied by his faithful dog Edison, they embark on a journey to discover the truth that might cost them their lives.

I found Joe to be a very compelling character. The mysterious settings and circumstances make this an intriguing adventure. I actually missed him when it was over! What more can you ask for?


  • Characters 10/10
  • Story 10/10
  • Settings 10/10
  • Mystery 10/10
  • Emotional Resonance 9/10
  • Antagonist 8/10
  • Resolution 10/10


Reading this book brought to mind the importance of creating great characters. Memorable characters. It wasn’t so much the action, or plotting per se, but it was Joe and Edison. A man and his dog confined to a myriad of hidden tunnels in New York City. You throw in a mystery with that and you have yourself a bestseller.

Joe Tesla stands for a certain group of people. People who have fears and weaknesses. Yet this man became a hero when it counted most. In the midst of life or death circumstances his brilliance in programming, resourcefulness, ingenuity, and will to survive are exemplary. That’s why I love Joe Tesla.

People are a combination of strength and weaknesses. Flawed virtues and quirky traits. But I found Joe’s character to rather refreshing and teeming with originality. Simple, yet resoundingly profound. Most of the ‘flawed’ characters we see today are very heavily flawed, troubled individuals. Those aren’t bad by any means, but maybe too much on the extreme side of things. Joe was certainly flawed but it seemed within reason.

Then you have his trusty companion, Edison. You can sense the love he has for his dog. Much more than a dog to him though. As he’s resigned by no fault of his to the dark tunnels beneath the city, he’s accompanied by no except Edision. Faithful Edision. What a team!

























Benjamin Thomas






Blog Tour: Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis







By Randall Silvis



Title: Two Days Gone

Author: Randall Silvis

Publication Date: January 10, 2017

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Format: Trade Paper

ISBN: 9781492639732

Paperback: 400 pages




A unique literary suspense novel that reveals the killer as the plot unravels…




Praise for Two Days Gone


A January Indie Next Great Read

“…a suspenseful, literary thriller that will resonate with readers long after the book is finished. A terrific choice for Dennis Lehane fans.”—Library Journal, STARRED review

“Beneath the momentum of the investigation lies a pervasive sadness that will stick with you long after you’ve turned the last page.”—Kirkus Reviews

“…skillfully written thriller.”—Publishers Weekly

“…impressive novel…an intriguing thriller.”—Booklist

…this novel [will] linger in readers’ minds well after Two Days Gone.”—Shelf Awareness

“Two Days Gone is a quiet, intense, suspenseful mystery about a man who has lost everything. Rich with descriptions and atmosphere….Two Days Gone is relentless in its suspense, and the final twists in the novel are sure to not disappoint.”— Foreword Review

“An absolute gem of literary suspense, pitting ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances and told in a smooth, assured, and often haunting voice, TWO DAYS GONE is a terrific read.”

Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Wish Me Dead












The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone now.

Thomas Huston, a beloved professor and bestselling author, is something of a local hero in the small Pennsylvania college town where he lives and teaches. So when Huston’s wife and children are found brutally murdered in their home, the community reacts with shock and anger. Huston has also mysteriously disappeared, and suddenly, the town celebrity is suspect number one.

Sergeant Ryan DeMarco has secrets of his own, but he can’t believe that a man he admired, a man he had considered a friend, could be capable of such a crime. Hoping to glean clues about Huston’s mind-set, DeMarco delves into the professor’s notes on his novel-in-progress. Soon, DeMarco doesn’t know who to trust—and the more he uncovers about Huston’s secret life, the more treacherous his search becomes.


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About the Author:

Randall Silvis is the internationally acclaimed author of more than a dozen novels, one story collection, and one book of narrative nonfiction. His essays, articles, poems, and short stories have appeared in various online and print magazines. His work has been translated into ten languages. He lives in Pennsylvania.

Mr. Silvis is also a participating author in this year’s Mystery Thriller Week celebration along with 200+ authors from around the globe! Don’t miss out on all the fun. If you’re a fan, book lover, bibliophile, vlogger, blogger then definitely don’t want to miss this one.

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First Chapter Excerpt

The waters of Lake Wilhelm are dark and chilled. In some places, the lake is deep enough to swallow a house. In others, a body could lie just beneath the surface, tangled in the morass of weeds and water plants, and remain unseen, just another shadowy form, a captive feast for the catfish and crappie and the monster bass that will nibble away at it until the bones fall asunder and bury themselves in the silty floor.

In late October, the Arctic Express begins to whisper south- eastward across the Canadian plains, driving the surface of Lake Erie into white-tipped breakers that pound the first cold breaths of winter into northwestern Pennsylvania. From now until April, sunny days are few and the spume-strewn beaches of Presque Isle empty but for misanthropic stragglers, summer shops boarded shut, golf courses as still as cemeteries, marinas stripped to their bone work of bare,splintered boards. For the next six months, the air will be gray and pricked with rain or blasted with wind-driven snow. A season of surliness prevails.

Sergeant Ryan DeMarco of the Pennsylvania State Police, Troop D, Mercer County headquarters, has seen this season come and go too many times. He has seen the surliness descend into despair, the despair to acts of desperation, or, worse yet, to deliberately malicious acts, to behavior that shows no regard for the fragility of flesh, a contempt for all consequences.


He knows that on the dozen or so campuses between Erie and Pittsburgh, college students still young enough to envision a happy future will bundle up against the biting chill, but even their youth-ful souls will suffer the effects of this season of gray. By November, they will have grown annoyed with their roommates, exasperated with professors,and will miss home for the first time since September. Home is warm and bright and where the holidays are waiting. But here in Pennsylvania’s farthest northern reach, Lake Wilhelm stretches like a bony finger down a glacier-scoured valley, its waters dark with pine resin, its shores thick on all sides with two thousand acres of trees and brush and hanging vines, dense with damp shadows and nocturnal things, with bear and wildcat and coyote, with hawks that scream in the night.

In these woods too, or near them, a murderer now hides, a man gone mad in the blink of an eye.

The college students are anxious to go home now, home to Thanksgiving and Christmas and Hanukkah, to warmth and love and light. Home to where men so respected and adored do not suddenly butcher their families and escape into the woods.

The knowledge that there is a murderer in one’s midst will stagger any community, large or small. But when that murderer is one of your own,when you have trusted the education of your sons and daughters to him, when you have seen his smiling face in every bookstore in town, watched him chatting with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, felt both pride and envy in his sudden acclaim, now your chest is always heavy and you cannot seem to catch your breath. Maybe you claimed, last spring, that you played high school football with Tom Huston. Maybe you dated him half a lifetime ago, tasted his kiss, felt the heave and tremor of your bodies as you lay in the lush green of the end zone one steamy August night when love was raw and new. Last spring, you were quick to claim an old intimacy with him, so eager to catch some of his sudden, shimmering light. Now you want only to huddle indoors. You sit and stare at the window, confused by your own pale reflection.

Now Claire O’Patchen Huston, one of the prettiest women in town,quietly elegant in a way no local woman could ever hope to be, lies on a table in a room at the Pennsylvania State Police forensics lab in Erie.There is the wide gape of a slash across her throat, an obscene slit that runs from the edge of her jawline to the opposite clavicle.

Thomas Jr., twelve years old, he with the quickest smile and the fastest feet in sixth grade, the boy who made all the high school coaches wet their lips in anticipation, shares the chilly room with his mother. The knife that took him in his sleep laid its path low across his throat, a quick, silencing sweep with an upward turn.

As for his sister, Alyssa, there are a few fourth grade girls who, a week ago, would have described her as a snob, but her best friends knew her as shy, uncertain yet of how to wear and carry and contain her burgeoning beauty. She appears to have sat up at the last instant, for the blood that spurted from her throat sprayed not only across the pillow, but also well below it, spilled down over her chest before she fell back onto her side. Did she understand the message of that gurgling gush of breath in her final moments of consciousness? Did she, as blood soaked into the faded pink flannel of her pajama shirt, lift her gaze to her father’s eyes as he leaned away from her bed?

And little David Ryan Huston, asleep on his back in his crib— what dreams danced through his toddler’s brain in its last quivers of sentience? Did his father first pause to listen to the susurrus breath?Did he calm himself with its sibilance? The blade on its initial thrust missed the toddler’s heart and slid along the still-soft sternum. The second thrust found the pulsing muscle and nearly sliced it in half.

The perfect family. The perfect house. The perfect life. All gone now.Snap your fingers five times, that’s how long it took. Five soft taps on the door. Five steel-edged scrapes across the tender flesh of night.







Thanks for stopping by!





“A good book is the best of friends, the same today and forever.”-Martin Tupper










Benjamin Thomas



Watch “7 Steps to Write Your Novel. Plus How to Write a Novel in a Year” on YouTube





















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Benjamin Thomas




Eye Opening Interview with Historian and Author JB Richards



Everyone Please Welcome the Talented International Author JB Richards!










“More than anything else, it is important to study history.”-B.B. King












JB Richards is an historian and international award-winning Amazon, Goodreads, and Xlibris author. Her debut novel, “Miriamne the Magdala – The First Chapter in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series”, was recently voted a Top 10 Best Historical Fiction Novel, Top 20 Best New Adult Novel, and Top 50 Best Young Adult Novel, and received a nomination for Best Romance Novel in the 2016 Summer Indie Book Awards (SIBA’s). “Miriamne the Magdala” has also been awarded a Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Seal and has continued to be nominated in multiple book award venues. Richards is currently a nominee for Author of the Year in the upcoming 2016 Indie Author Books Readers’ Choice Awards, while “Miriamne the Magdala” has been nominated in the Goodreads Self-Pub or Indie Books Worth Reading Awards. Her upcoming second chapter in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series, “Yeshua the Christ: The Silk Road”, is due for publication in 2017.









Recipient of 5-Star Seal
Reader’s Favorite

2016 Summer Indie Book Awards

“Miriamne the Magdala” voted 

Top 10 Best Historical Fiction

Top 20 Best New Adult Novel

Top 50 Best Young Adult Novel

Best Romance Nominee











What began your love of history?

My great uncle, Antes Boudreau, was an avid book collector. He kept stacks and stacks of books, novels, almanacs, newspapers, magazines—you name it, he had it—lined up along the walls, floor to ceiling, of his tiny, single-occupancy, one-bedroom apartment. At the age of 21, he had lost his wife in a tragic fire. He never remarried, and had no children, but he considered my dad as his son. Uncle was sort of a curmudgeon. He always led a solitary life, preferring to mingle with the pigeons in the local park rather than share breakfast and a cup of coffee with a friend. But because of his special relationship with my dad, he was always present at family gatherings where he felt most comfortable sitting on the sidelines wistfully observing everyone else having fun. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that my uncle was anti-social. Certainly, a few stiff shots of Canadian Club loosened his tie to the point that he’d enjoy playing the odd card game after dinner, or even regaling present company with all the precious knowledge he gained from his beloved books. As a young, impressionable 9-year-old feminist, whom Uncle thought would either be a future candidate for president or the first female astronaut, I absolutely adored him.

So, why am I telling you all about my uncle? Uncle taught me about the Classical Era, the “Hellenistic” period, Homer and Cato, the founding of Rome, Cleopatra and Marc Antony … and I was a sponge, absorbing everything and anything he cared to share with me. As I grew older and began college, I visited him frequently, avidly engaging in raucous debates about religion, theology, and philosophy. He was a self-proclaimed atheist, and we often focused on the historical lives and the times of the great prophets and sages, rather than writings which tended to glorify them. We often honed in on the life of the Buddha and the man called Jesus, the “Christ”. Because of my uncle, I developed a passion for this era, earning degrees in both History and Psychology. Decades later, when I could no longer work a 9-5 job due to chronic health issues, I happened upon some old books of his pertaining to the missing years of Jesus. Once I reread these books, did a huge amount of research on my own, and gathered all my notes, I finally found a place to start. That’s when I began writing the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series!


Wow. It’s amazing how those close to us can leave such an impression. Thanks for sharing!






Did you read historical fiction growing up?

It’s funny, but the great majority of the books I read—and there were many borrowed from the local library as well as my Uncle’s extensive personal collection—were textbooks, journals, and almanacs. My preference was always for fact, not fiction … even when I was a little kid. I was only 7-years-old when my dad’s employer offered the Golden Book Encyclopedia for Children to their employees at a discounted fee. Each Friday evening as my dad left work, he bought one letter from the collection (A-Z) and took it home. Night after night, I loved pouring over the pages of each volume before bedtime! I was barely able to contain my anticipation as I wondered what would be waiting for me between the pages of the very next issue. My love for history, science, and nature took hold when I began to read those wonderful encyclopedia volumes.


That’s awesome! Your love for history and science is infectious. 











What’s your favorite time period and why?

I think you can pretty much tell by now which historical era was my favorite! The centuries preceding and subsequent to the 1st century CE represent one of the true apexes of intellectual and philosophical evolution in modern human beings. Five-hundred years before the Christian Era and 500 years afterward, mark an early renaissance in humankind’s development. Our view of God and the Universe shifted in a big way, and we began to question what our place was in relation to Creation. It was during this time that sages, magi, prophets, philosophers, teachers, gurus, and bodhisattvas—enlightened beings like Jesus and the Buddha—flourished. These “Great Teachers”, as they are known to History, revolutionized science, astrology (which included the study of the stars, predicting fortunes and fates, and the marking of the changing seasons along with other astronomical data), mathematics, philosophy, culture, the arts, and—most importantly—religion. Although the list of advances in various genres goes on and on, it was during these accumulated 1,000-years in the history of humankind that represented a key turning point—a great shift in attitude—that completely altered our belief system. There was a great shift in how humankind perceived the Divine—not as a bullying and judgmental God/gods who remained impassive and far removed from the world, but as an inner spiritual force with each individual manifesting as an extension of the Divine. The Buddha and Jesus taught that we each hold within us a Divine “spark” (some call it the “Soul”), and that part of our Selves exists both separated and in conjunction with the Divine Itself. As Jesus taught, we are all sons and daughters of the Divine.


I’m probably not your typical person. I believe human beings are inherently tripartite beings as created by God. Having three distinct parts. Body, soul and spirit. In the old and new testament there are several references, but 1 Thess. 5:23 sums it up in one verse. 











What did you experience researching you first novel?

I discovered that the telling of a story is not so much a dictation of the facts as it is the interpretation of a life subjected to all the outside influences put upon it. That realization alone can make for a story that is insightful, compelling, and terribly funny! For example, in choosing to become incarnate, Jesus (Yeshua, in his native Aramaic tongue) not only gained the ability to walk among us and teach us about becoming better individuals, he learned a lot about what it was to be an actual human being—to be subjected to the laws of both Man and Nature. Think about that and put yourself in his sandals for a moment … What a revelation it must have been for Jesus when he gained a corporeal form—a body—with all its natural … functions! I can’t help but be amused sometimes when I think about the first time Yeshua suddenly realized the end result of catching a stomach-flu, or getting a cold, or simply eating a meal! I’m sure he found it all quite … fascinating.

We tend not to see Yeshua as a human being. And one thing I was sensitive to in developing the storyline for “Miriamne the Magdala” was that he, the Magdala, and certain individuals in the early Christian community are seen by the members of many faiths as sacred beings who are to remain unsullied by everyday life and an everyday existence. Many of the faithful see them as pastoral, benign peasants that had an unwavering belief in God and their religion. The truth about Jesus and his followers, however, couldn’t be further from the truth. The profile of Yeshua that I uncovered in my research is vastly different from the idealized “Good Shepherd” modern-day Christians derive from the Synoptic Gospels. I doubt many would recognize Jesus the actual man—the Galilean rabbi who wanted to change the status quo and reclaim his homeland from the Roman Empire and the Hasmonean dynasty that had been put in place to rule Galilee and Judea. In researching the “historical” Jesus, I found that Yeshua—for that was his true name—was most certainly not a Christian. He was a Jew. He was born a Jew, grew up a Jew, lived the life of a Jew, worshiped as a Jew, and died a Jew.

Today, far removed from his time, many have a tendency to view Jesus as a Christian. But Christianity never even existed until decades after his death. James, who was named as leader of the disciples by Yeshua himself should anything happen to him, strongly upheld the tenets of Judaism and Jewish culture because that was what his brother wanted. In fact, James, and the disciples who were with him, continued to worship in synagogues that were accepting of their particular manner of worship as long as it maintained its roots in Judaism. It was Paul who radically departed from Judaism to form his own idealized version of what Jesus had taught. Sure, his theology was still based on the teachings of Jesus, but geared toward the Gentiles who were flocking in droves to him and his own cadre of disciples. Shortly after he began preaching, Paul had sought to gain the approval of James to relax the rules, but James would not wander from the tenets of his Jewish faith and culture just to please a self-declared Apostle. Eventually, the disagreement between Paul and James escalated to a standoff, and caused a great schism between the two communities. This is what led to the formation of a more popular belief—Christianity—Paul’s version of Jesus’ teachings.

I also found that my own view of Jesus changed as my research continued. Yeshua grew up in Roman-occupied Galilee, and like other young Galilean men who matured under these same conditions, he yearned for his people and homeland to be free. He was not, according to our traditional view, some passive, itinerant preacher wandering about the countryside performing miracles, encouraging people to be kind to one another, and patiently telling them to wait for the coming of the Kingdom of God. No … Yeshua was a rabble-rouser, a revolutionary, and an outspoken challenger of the status quo. He, like most of the other Jews in his homeland, wanted the Romans gone—expelled from Galilee and Judea. They wanted the right to practice their religion and maintain their traditions freely—without the scrutiny of Rome, or come to mention it, the Temple Priests, the Pharisees and the Sadducees who put–what Yeshua saw as—ridiculous restrictions on the Jewish people. Yeshua was so vocal in his preaching and forceful in his choice of words, he became an outlaw—a man on the run from the authorities—and for three long years he carefully planned out how he was going to avoid capture as he went about fulfilling his Mission. This purposeful, determined, and passionate young champion of a suppressed and beleaguered people is the Yeshua that I present in “Miriamne the Magdala” and the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series.


Wow. Sounds like you learned a lot!



Did you almost give up after 20 years?

No way! Never!












Tell us about the main characters.

Miriamne, aka Miri, is a 12-year-old entitled aristocrat—daughter of Commander Micah bar Abram, the former Hekatontarchus of the Hyperatai (the Holy Temple Guard) and his lovely wife, Salome—when she first meets her bedraggled and estranged Galilean cousin, Yeshua bar Joseph, at the Grand Marketplace in Sepphoris. At first sight, she thinks he is a simple peasant and wonders how he could possibly be related to her family. But as she comes to know the story behind their family’s estrangement, and begins to see Yeshua as a charming and sensitive boy with a keen intelligence and wit to match, she quickly falls in love.

Young Yeshua is the fifth son in line, youngest among his four brothers—James, Joses, Judas, and Simeon. His four older brothers come from the union of Joseph bar Jacob and his first wife, Miriam. He also has two younger sisters, Sali and Mara, who are both born of the union between Joseph and Mary. Yeshua’s own mother, Mary, does not consider Joseph to be Yeshua’s natural father, and this causes problems with the local villagers in Nazareth who label her son a “mamzer”—a bastard. The family has just returned to the region after a trip to Jerusalem, where Yeshua has only recently made his Bar Mitzvah. The ceremony awakens the inner soul of the 13-year-old, and Yeshua comes to recognize that His Mission is fast upon Him. Weeks later, Yeshua considers it a mitzvah—a token of good fortune—when his family is suddenly reunited with their estranged cousins from Bethany. He finds a pleasant distraction from his woes in his beautiful young cousin, Miriamne, and the two begin a friendship that binds them together in some surprising and unexpected ways. When a family tragedy suddenly strikes, Yeshua is sorely tested, and He is suddenly torn between using His miraculous powers and keeping His allegiance to His Divine Father intact.


This should be an interesting read. Especially from a historical standpoint!











Tell us about the setting of the 1st century in the common era.

“Miriamne the Magdala” takes place in Roman-occupied Galilee, only a decade after a Jewish uprising ended in the razing of Sepphoris—the main hub of commerce near Nazareth, Cana, and Nain. In retaliation, the Romans not only burned the city to the ground, they crucified 2,000 rebels along the main roads connecting the small towns to the bustling city on the hill. The remaining population of Sepphoris—men, women, and children—were all rounded up within days of the rebellion and were sold off as slaves.

Not a stone lay upon a stone when the Romans left the hilltop burning like a bonfire that terrifying night as the villagers of Nazareth hid their children and themselves away in the maze of secret tunnels burrowed beneath their little town. By the time Miriamne’s family returns to the region, and her father, the Commander, takes over his deceased father’s huge estate, Sepphoris is a newly rebuilt city perched on the top of the hill overlooking the Kaveelah—the Bar Abram paternal family home. It is in this city—recently populated with Jewish aristocrats sympathetic to Rome, and dubbed “The Jewel of the Galilee” because of the newly-built King’s Palace and Grand Marketplace—that Miriamne, her mother, Salome, her older sister, Martha, and her 6-year-old brother, Lazarus, meet Yeshua.


This will be a great history lesson. Admittedly my worst subject!












Can you tell us some factual elements of history that aren’t in your book?

Oh, my goodness, where should I begin? There was so much going on in Judea and Galilee during Yeshua and Miri’s childhood and early teenage years, and I tried to be as thorough as possible in explaining the Roman influence on Jewish culture during that time. One thing I might not have gone into detail about, which I will cover more extensively in the subsequent 4 novels in the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series, is the divisions that existed between the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Zealots—the three main groups who provided the Jews with an interpretation of the Law of Moses in that era. These three factions will have a more important role in the third chapter of the Yeshua and Miri Novel Series, “Thomas the Twin: The Sefer Revealed”.

Oh, that would be a good one to explore. The differences between the Jewish sects of the time. 




Name 3-5 customs or traditions of 1st century CE.

One of my favorite Jewish customs is hanging a mezuzah. A mezuzah is a small piece of paper or parchment inscribed with a Hebrew prayer that is sealed inside a tiny decorative box affixed to the front doorpost of a home. In “Miriamne the Magdala”, everyone touches the mezuzah and recites a short prayer before entering their home.

One custom that bothers the girls—Martha, Miri, and Sali—in “Miriamne the Magdala” is the tradition of arranged marriages. It was common in those days for girls who had started their menses, as young as 9-years-old, to be lawfully betrothed, then wedded to a man who was in his 30’s or much older. Fathers were in complete control of the arrangements, and betrothals were sealed between the father of the bride and the bridegroom with a Ketubah—a marriage contract. Once the dowry was presented, the terms of the marriage were haggled over, and a Ketubah was drawn up by a scribe. It was reviewed and signed by the fathers of both families and the bridegroom. The Ketubah could not be broken without severe and irreparable damage to the withdrawing party’s family reputation.

Another Jewish tradition that Yeshua, and all Jewish men, were careful to observe was the Shaharit—the Morning Prayer. Each day when he arises, Yeshua follows a specific ritual, donning his tallit—prayer shawl—and his phylacteries in a step-by-step, prescribed manner. He then recites the prayer, “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God is one!” It’s a beautiful custom, and I sometimes find myself thinking of the words of the Shaharit each morning when I arise.

I love the mezuzah tradition! That sounds quite lovely. Pass on the arranged marriages part, the Shaharit is agreeable. Prayer is always good!









Tell us about the upcoming 2nd book.

In “Yeshua the Christ: The Silk Road”, Yeshua and Miriamne leave their home in Galilee to join their uncle, Joseph bar Abram, and his Caravaneers on the road to the Far East. The wonders of Syria, Persia, the Sind, and the Indus fascinate and delight the young couple who, as guests of their sponsor, Prince Ravanna of Orissa, are shown the grandeur of the Far East as they are treated to the luxuries of palace life.

As a sponsored scholar, Yeshua discovers a whole new system of beliefs among Persia’s Magi, and the Brahmana of the Indus. At the Temple at Jagganath, the priests are highly impressed with their young protégé and they entrust him with their most sacred and secret teachings usually granted only to a privileged few. Yeshua, however, believes no one, including the lower castes, should be excluded from this important teaching, and he challenges his teachers, insisting that—just like the Torah—these sacred writings were meant to be shared with all the people of the world.

When Yeshua decides to leave the Temple after a heated argument with his mentors and sets out on his own, the brash young preacher brings down the wrath of the Chief Lama who immediately censors him and orders him to cease his public teaching. But Yeshua has a will of His own. And when he continues to preach the doctrine to the Sudras of the lower caste, and refuses to bow down to the Lama—even upon penalty of death, an assassination plot is hatched by the Brahmana, placing his life, and the lives of his family and friends, in mortal danger!

Will Yeshua escape the Indus unscathed, and if he does, who will pay the price for his betrayal of the Brahmana? Find out in my upcoming novel, “Yeshua the Christ: The Silk Road”—due for publication in 2017!


Let us know when you’re up for publication and we’ll help promote it. 










Name 3 things you really enjoyed about writing this book.

The humorous, and sometimes farcical, situations that Yeshua and Miriamne find themselves in, particularly when the Commander or the Brothers Bar Joseph get out of hand. Writing the love scenes between Yeshua and Miriamne—that always seemed to end up in some sort of embarrassment for both, or either one, of them—was a lot of fun, too!

Dreaming up the various dishes that Haggah, the Head Cook for the Bar Abram family, would prepare for the Commander, his family, and guests were also quite challenging. But it was fun to research all the ingredients that would have been available in the region of Galilee during that time and put them together in a dish that Haggah would have been proud to serve at the Bar Abram dinner table.

Last, but certainly not least, coming up with the personality clashes between siblings; the testing of brotherly bonds and sisterly love; and the strange and curious circumstances of everyday life at the homes of Yeshua and Miri, was sometimes difficult to conceive, but writing these types of scenes was always an eye-opener! It’s nice to know that there are good days and bad days for both the Bar Jacob and Bar Abram families, but in the end they always seem to pull together, take things in stride, and carry on!


Oh clashes between siblings is always a good one. 











Name 3 of the most difficult aspects of writing this book.

Writer’s block is a plague for most authors, but when you’re trying to come up with situations to put “the Boy who would be Christ” in, while trying to remain sensitive to the fact that—for some people, much of this material might be considered heretical—it can be downright agonizing. I spend a lot of time getting into my character’s heads, but Yeshua always seems to speak louder than any of the other characters—including Miriamne. While I wrote Miriamne, he always pointed me in the right direction, and I in the editing process, I found that he was seldom wrong. He even sent me signs! Many times, I wanted to remove certain scenes from the final manuscript because I was worried how the scene would affect my readers. Inevitably, some chance encounter with an old friend or a certain song on the radio would tell me that I was on the right track. Truthfully, Yeshua was pretty hard to ignore. Eventually, I just gave in and wrote what he gave me.

I was also very worried about the size of the novel. Let’s face it, at 850 pages, Miriamne is big enough to use as a booster seat for a toddler! I consulted with editors and several other authors, but no one could figure out where to cut the book in half, or what to take out. Believe it or not, there are whole chapters that were cut from the end product, still wasting away in a huge bin up in my attic! All those pages in “Miriamne the Magdala” explain the history, cultures, and traditions that support this story, and each is as necessary to explaining the rich and detailed tapestry that is Yeshua and Miri’s lives as they are essential to understanding their purpose and Mission. And “Miriamne the Magdala” is just the beginning of our Journey! She is the introductory chapter that will lead us through to the conclusion of Christ’s life and the centuries beyond. In essence, she’s really two books in one, and neither part can be presented without the other.

Now, here’s a True Confession … I found it a tremendous and oftentimes overwhelming challenge to understand, interpret, and explain Jewish culture and traditions to my readers. You see, I’m not Jewish. I was raised as a Roman Catholic, attending parochial schools that had little to no exposure to Judaism. I didn’t even know there were Jews in my hometown until I attended college! My second confession is that I don’t speak Hebrew or Aramaic—the native language of Yeshua and Miriamne. Although I can, now and then, adeptly turn a phrase or two thanks to a wonderful and generous young man in—of all places—Hobart, Tasmania who volunteered to translate dozens of phrases from English to Hebrew for me via online communications.

I was lucky in that I had the pleasure of connecting with some amazing people on social media who helped guide me through any cultural traditions I found confusing or difficult to understand. These individuals are mentioned in the Acknowledgements section of my novel, and I am indeed fortunate that they are still standing in the wings, ready to assist me with “Yeshua the Christ: The Silk Road”! It is to them that I owe my deepest gratitude and thanks because Miriamne would not have a single shred of authenticity without their cooperation and hard work.


Well, I highly commend you on such an achievement. Really, I find that utterly amazing.














What 3 things from history would you bring into our society today?

First and foremost, I would bring forward the strong sense of family exhibited in “Miriamne the Magdala”. Too many families today are split-up and living great distances apart. I had a huge family when I was younger, and I remember family get-togethers, picnics, and beach parties that would last from morning to late at night. Those sorts of regular family reunions just don’t happen anymore, with family members so busy with personal and professional lives and homes scattered all over the country.

Next, I would bring back some form of proper etiquette. I’m not talking about the stuffy, highbrow manners authors like Emily Bronte exemplify, but a small taste of plain old chivalry and civility. There was a time when a man wouldn’t hesitate to dash out of his house in his slippers to help the elderly woman across the street drag her trash out to the curb. There was a time when a teen would cheerfully hold the door open for a pregnant woman loaded down with grocery packages so she could easily pass through. There was a time when kids went door to door offering to shovel neighbors out after a big snowstorm. Nowadays, people are too afraid to glance at one another, let alone speak to anyone. Today, suspicion and rudeness prevail. No one sees a fellow human being standing at their front door, but an enemy with a hostile intent to pillage whatever meager assets one might hold dear. We need more enmity in our world today.

I often wonder what society would look like if we had maintained, from days gone by, a strong belief in the Divine. How different our lives would be if we still believed that there was some Thing or some One greater than ourselves running our Universe (or as science seems to dictate … Universes). Considering all the scientific advances mankind has made–the discovery of the Higgs-Boson particle, the development of the Big Bang and the Big Crunch theories, and cracking the code for the human genome, just to name a few—we still have no explanation for what Life represents. We don’t know what the true essence of Life is, or where it comes from, or where it goes once a creature ceases to breathe. In the past, things were much simpler … Humanity seemed guided by Fate, steering mankind toward a Destiny. Today, many people shun their belief in a Higher Power. And those who do believe are often much too embarrassed to admit it. All in all, there seems to be no guidance, no dream, no ultimate goal for humanity nowadays, and it causes me to wonder whether we really have advanced as much as we think we have, or if we have lost our Selves in the process.


All great thoughts here. Thanks for sharing. 












Would you like to be a time traveler?

Only if I could return to my own time whenever I wished … I’d enjoy taking a peek or two at life in the past or in the future, but the present is Home, and Home is where I belong.


There’s no place like home!













Favorite quotes?

Wow, this is a toughie! There are so many great and awesome quotes that have come down to us through history, and it’s hard to single any one of them out! But, if I have to choose, I suppose I’d have to go with Anais Nin – “There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” This one quote exemplifies my entire life in a nutshell.



“There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”-Anais Nin





Thanks JB!!















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Benjamin Thomas



Storytelling with the Master Steven James












Steven James is a national bestselling novelist whose award-winning, pulse-pounding thrillers continue to gain wide critical acclaim and a growing fan base.








TROUBLESHOOTING YOUR NOVEL: Essential Techniques for Identifying and Solving Manuscript Problems








  • Paperback: 360 pages

  • Publisher: Writer’s Digest Books (September 20, 2016)

  • Language: English

  • ISBN-10: 1599639807

  • ISBN-13: 978-1599639802

  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches






Take your story to the next level of excellence!

You’ve completed the first draft of your novel–now what? Chances are, it’s not perfect…at least not yet. In order to increase your chances of getting a literary agent, selling your manuscript to a  publisher, or garnering an audience for your self-published work, you need targeted, practical instruction on tackling the problem areas and weak spots in your story. You need Troubleshooting Your Novel.

In this hand-on, easy-to-use guide, award-winning author Steven James provides helpful techniques and checklists, timesaving tricks of the trade, and hundreds of questions for manuscript analysis and revision. You’ll learn how to:


  • ADJUST elements of story progression, from causality, tension, and setbacks to plot twists, climaxes, and endings.

  • DEVELOP authentic, riveting characters by exploring their attitudes, desires, beliefs, and more.

  • LEARN narrative techniques for elements such as dialogue, flashbacks, suspense, voice, subtext, and flow.

  • ENSURE reader engagement by aligning with their expectations, fulfilling promises, and instilling trust.

  • CHECK issues with context and continuity.

You owe your book more than just a polish and a proofread. Strengthen your story, prepare it for the marketplace, and make it the best it can be with Troubleshooting Your Novel.




















1. What exactly is organic storytelling and can it be learned?
Many people I speak with are simply not interested in or very good at outlining a book. For all of us, there is another approach.
Organic writing is the process of allowing the story to emerge as you work on it rather than plotting it out or outlining it beforehand. It’s a more natural and intuitive way of approaching any art form than imposing predetermined constraints on it. As far as learning it, unfortunately there are few books that really teach it. Most offer a repackaging of the traditional approach of structure and plot. I offer one approach in my book  Story Trumps Structure: Who to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules. 

This is awesome! Two words stick out to me in this statement. Emerge and organic. Trusting the story to emerge as we’re writing it is very intuitive.  


100 Percent Organic Food on Price Label Tag
2. In another interview someone asked how you keep track of plot because you’re an organic writer. You stated the following: “I’m a big believer in context determining content”   Can you expand on this? 

Within every scene you will find a variety of narrative forces pressing in on the narrative. For example, believability (the scene needs to remain believable within that story world), causality (every event has an impetus and an implication), escalation (tension continues to tighten), and pace, flow, voice, and so on. The context that precedes a scene will affect the emergence and affect of these forces. Really, any scene edited out of context will suffer in one of these areas. Writing great fiction does not consist of filling in the blanks, but in allowing the context and the unfolding promises and their payoff to inform the direction that the story takes.

I love it. Can’t wait to get more into this. 

“Writing great fiction does not consist of filling in the blanks, but in allowing the context and the unfolding promises and their payoff to inform the direction that the story takes.”-Steven James

3. What are the major facets of storytelling?

Beyond the ones I mentioned early would be implied and explicit promises. So, is you start a story by showing how perfect Anna’s home life is, with her doting husband and obedient children and daily yoga lessons, it’s an implied promise to readers that things are about to go very wrong very soon. You’re not telling readers this, but they understand the movement of a story and anticipate it. I strive to always give readers what they want or something better. And much of that comes from making big promises. And then keeping them.

This sounds simple yet profound. I totally agree with readers understanding the movement of the story. When all is well in the beginning there’s a certain amount of anticipation and suspense built up. Excellent.





What is your story Concept

4. What are the biggest hindrances to storytelling?

It’s lonely. Every novel I write requires at least a thousand hours of solitude. At times it’s hard to feel motivated, especially on a project that’s so large and daunting. So, many of the hindrances deal not with content or ideas, but with words and perseverance.

That’s amazing! A thousand hours of solitude rounds out to be 41.6 days steeped in the organic writing process. You just elicited the Wow factor.




Wow Surprised Word Astonished Surprising

“Every novel I write requires at least a thousand hours of solitude.” -Steven James

 5. What do you love most about telling stories?

Not going insane by keeping them caged up in my imagination. If I keep them chained up, they start looking for their one way of escape.

I can totally relate to this. This is the real escapism for authors. To gladly unleash our imagination to the world.


Here’s a short poem I couldn’t help but write after hearing about the writing process of Steven James. Here it goes…






He gave himself;
to the power of solitude, willingly.

A thousand hours
fiercely burned, consumed, only knew 


He gave himself so;
to multitudes  

of words, unsparingly.

Now the masses consume them.

 Benjamin Thomas



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Benjamin Thomas


Interview with Story Coach, Author and Ghostwriter Kevin T. Johns











Kevin T. Johns is an author, writing coach, ghostwriter, and podcaster who is passionate about helping  writers.











Were you born and raised in Canada?

Yup. I’ve lived in and around Ottawa, Ontario, most of my life. I did a brief stint in Toronto after high school, but, for the most part, Ottawa has been my home.

I’ve yet to go to Canada. Can’t wait to tour the country!










What sparked your love of literature?

Comic books and Stephen King. I wasn’t a big reader before the age of ten or eleven, but around then I started reading super hero comics and Stephen King books and it just took off from there.

I started with a comic bent too, but I didn’t start with novels until much later.  I should’ve asked you about your favorites.










After studying literature in college what 3 things have you come away with? (Besides debt)

1. An understanding that we all bring different lenses to our reading experiences, i.e. a book can be read with a feminist lens, a structural lens, a post-colonial lens. No one point of view is the “right” one. Each lens will provide different take-aways from a work of literature, all of which will be valid.

2. Literature (and art in general) plays a massive role in defining the culture we live in. We generally think of storytelling as escapism or just entertainment, when, in fact, it’s often key to formulating the world around us and how we understand it.

3. The analytical skill-sets used by literary scholars are applicable across a wide range of disciplines and situations, and are, therefore, well worth developing.

I love it. These 3 are great nuggets to chew on and appreciate. 










What drives you to help other writers?

I believe books and stories are profoundly important to our world and to people’s happiness in general. But books, and novels in particular, are exceptionally difficult to create. If I can help make the writing process a little bit easier for someone, I feel like I have a duty to do so. Shawn Coyne said something when I interviewed him for The Writing Coach podcast that I totally agree with: “When you learn a particular craft, it’s kind of your responsibility to share it so that we can take storytelling to a new level.” Sharing what you know, helping others as a teacher and a mentor, is how we all get better. So there’s a certain moral responsibility to sharing what I know about writing. I also just love working with writers. For whatever reason, it’s the thing that lights me up and makes me happy.

That’s awesome! I’m all about taking storytelling to the next level. It’s fun to work with writers!




~A brand is a story that is always being told- Scott Bedbury





Can you name up to 5 common problems you see most in writers?

1. Not writing (procrastinating, overthinking, delaying, giving-in to resistance,          avoiding doing the work, etc.)

2. Not having a regular writing schedule

3. Thinking software and tools will solve their problems

4. Taking themselves too seriously

5. Perfectionism

I’m definitely guilty of some of these. But if you don’t know the problem then you can’t fix it. 




The only mistake you can make is not asking for help.-Sandeep Jauhar





What are some of the ways that you help them?

The great thing about being a writing coach is that I can tailor my help to the individual writer’s situation. While there are certain common challenges every writer struggles with, the way each writers overcomes those challenges is totally unique to them. I don’t have a one-size- fits-all approach to helping authors. There is no secret answer or push-button solution. My job is to work with writers to explore options and find solutions that allow them to excel in their own special way.

I like the tailoring approach to helping writers. That’d be the most beneficial because everyone is so different.









Tell us about some of your own writings.

My novels The Page Turners and The Page Turners: Economy of Fear are young adult horror/sci-fi/fantasy mash-ups about a group of teenager who accidently unleash their favourite fictional villains into the real world.

Rocket Princess vs. Snaggletooth the Dragon is a children’s picture book for rebellious young ladies who want to be more than just another princess. It’s beautifully illustrated by Rich Lauzon.

Smash Fear and Write like a Pro is a short self-help manual for writers grappling with self-doubt.

The Novel Writer’s Blueprint: Five Steps to Creating and Completing Your First Book is a writing instructional book that helps aspiring authors craft their first novel.

I also blog regularly about writer’s craft.

AWESOME. I’d definitely like to check out some of your writings!  




































Who are some popular Canadian authors?

I certainly wouldn’t consider myself an expert on Canadian literature. My reading tastes are more focused on the cannon of “great literature” without much concern for the nationality of the author. There are, of course, certain Canadian authors everyone knows and reads like Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje, but that’s not really my thing. I guess some of my favourite Canadian writers would be indie comic book guys from Toronto like Chester Brown, Joe Matt, and Seth.

Just wondered. I’ve been meeting so many writers from Canada I couldn’t help but ask. 



How can we sign up for your podcast?

On my podcast, The Writing Coach, I speak with all sorts of people who, like me, work with authors, be it editors, coaches, or book marketing experts. You can check out the full archive of past episodes and subscribe via iTunes right here.

Sweet. I listened to one these a while back and really enjoyed the production and audio quality.









Tell us about some of the services you provide.

My one-on- one coaching offers support, accountability, and expert advice to authors via weekly video-conference coaching sessions. Each week, I hop on a call with the writer and we dive deep into their writing, goals, and challenges.

My group program is similar to the one-on- one coaching, but takes place in a group context. I have an amazing collection of authors in the program right now who have created a wonderful community of support for one another.

I also have an online course, The Novel Writer’s Blueprint Master Class, which consists of video tutorials that walk aspiring authors through the entire process of writing a book, from idea creation all the way through to completed manuscript. I’ve set up a coupon code for your readers, so if they use the code WRITINGTRAIN at the checkout, they’ll get $200 off the course.

I also work as a ghostwriter. Successful entrepreneurs, coaches, and business people hire me to help write their self-help, business, or other non-fiction books and articles.

Sounds like a great deal that offers a lot of good services. You sound really busy! 











Are you currently working on a project or novel?

This fall I’m releasing my latest novel, M School. It’s an action thriller with an all-girl cast. It deals with issues of violence and mental health, and I’m super excited to share it with the world. Folks can get some free goodies if they join the book’s early notification list here.

I just signed up. Curious about your new novel!




M School by Kevin T. Johns













Favorite inspirational quotes.

I often come back to the Ernest Hemingway quote: “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”






GET $200 OFF The Novel Writer’s Blueprint Master Class  when you use the coupon code WRITINGTRAIN at the checkout. 



















Amazon Author page










Benjamin Thomas



Unlocking Worlds a Reading Companion by Sally Allen





Featuring Sally Allen author of UNLOCKING WORLDS a reading companion for book lovers








  • File Size: 1760 KB
  • Digital Length: 172 pages, Paperback 248 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Griffins Wharf (November 11, 2015)
  • Publication Date: November 11, 2015
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B017VOU7NC

















Have you ever wondered what life is like through the eyes of another? To see what they see, know what they know, experience as they do? Do you yearn to participate in another’s inner life journey as they learn to navigate through it? Well, today we have an excellent resource in talented author and book lover, Sally Allen. Her book Unlocking Worlds, does exactly that. Unlock worlds in book after book with amazing protagonists, heroes and supporting cast. I’ve already added several (and counting) of these books to my Goodreads account. Which seems to be growing like kudzu on steroids at the moment.

I love books, and I also yearn to experience the the world view through the eyes of voracious readers, bookworms and book lovers. To get a taste of what they appreciate and how books have shaped them over the years. Whoohoo! Fun stuff! Unlocking Worlds will introduce you to the familiar and uncharted territories of lands waiting to be explored. To boldy go where no man has gone before…(sounds like Star Trek).


Now we get to enjoy an interview with Sally! Yippee!! Take it away Sally…






Who affected your reading habits as a child?

My family was my strongest influence. My parents restricted screen time (meaning I wasn’t allowed anywhere near screens from Monday through Friday), and my parents and older siblings were all readers. So from house rules to house habits, I learned to turn to books for entertainment. And I did!

We do the same thing at our house and our kids hate this. My childhood was quite the opposite with unrestricted screen time, yikes!  Wish I could’ve read more books back then. 









Which stories, characters, or themes became part of your core values?

The two that first come to mind I read (and reread often) as a child: A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The All-of- a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor. Both embodied the values my family instilled in me – community, family, empathy, and compassion – though in very different ways. They’re books I still think of, draw inspiration from, and enjoy rereading to this day.

These are very good values!  










How did your reading affect you in high school?

Reading was how I would relax and unwind. I remember spending countless hours lying on the floor of my room reading and rereading my favorite contemporary novels. High school was also when I first fell in love with classic literature Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and learned to embrace a broader range of literary genres and styles.

I often hear these as sources of inspiration, especially Austen.











What did you appreciate about literature throughout college?

I most appreciated building on the close reading skills introduced in high school and learning how to research and discover more about the story behind a book. These highlighted how much we don’t understand and how much we have to learn. They taught me to have patience, to listen, and not to rush the judgment. Incidentally, all excellent life skills as well!

Reading is one thing, but learning the nuts and bolts behind it is another. Gleaning solid virtues such as patience, listening and understanding are excellent.




Who can find a virtuous woman for her price is far above rubies -Proverbs 31:10 




What was your goal in writing this particular book?

I wanted to share a way of reading for personal pleasure and enrichment. Reading preferences can be incredibly personal, driven by what we’re trying to figure out and by our personal experiences and preoccupations. I wanted to honor that and to show how books of all kinds can bring us both pleasure and growth, depending on how we approach them and why we’re drawn to them. I hope that readers will discover both books they’ve read and not read and that my book will inspire reflection and conversation.

Yes I’ve definitely appreciated reading your book and I’ve added many to Goodreads account already. Personally I believe we could benefit more from reflecting and conversing about what we’ve read and experienced. 








Tell us about your fascination with “aspects of wonder” from “Criticism” by Matthew Goulish. 

I encourage everyone to find and read Goulish’s beautiful essay! There is so much to treasure in and learn from it. What captured my imagination about “aspects of wonder” is the idea of being transported by beauty. In a way, it seems like it should be obvious that engaging with art is about transcendent moments. But that’s not always what happens in practice.

I’ll have to do some more digging to find it. Thanks for the reference!



…”it takes a keen mind and an open heart to recognize and value beauty.” I really enjoyed this quote and Ghoulish’s view of the critic changing, and not the work of art.

Thank you! Goulish’s view reminds me of the saying (I believe it’s Carl Jung’s), “You are what you do.” How we approach and engage with art can mirror how we approach and engage with the world around us. If we enter into an art experience with an openness and sense of possibility, it can change what we allow ourselves to get out of it. And that approach to books can translate into how we approach the world around us as well. So how we read matters a great deal.

I find this very fascinating. How we approach and engage with art mirroring how we engage with the world around us. EPIC!









How do you feel about the current 5 star rating system for books?

I am not a fan. Reading is such a rich, transformative, dimensional experience. To reduce a book to five stars has a way of draining the complexity, life, and beauty out of it for me.

Wow. I love your statement on this. It provides a totally different mindset when it comes to books. 








If you had to choose another time period in which to live in, which would you choose?

So many of the books I love were written in the 19th century. I’m also fascinated by ancient Greek literature and by all that we can’t know about that time. It would be interesting to visit and experience everyday life in either of these times. Though I must admit, I’m quite happy to read about the past from my comfortable perch in the 21st century!

Hah! True enough. Greek is pretty fascinating, love the language. The 19th century sounds cool…but I’d rather read about it. 




How does reading shape and transform us?

Reading allows us to see the world through another set of eyes and from another position in space and time. It introduces us to new ideas and new ways of looking at the world. Research is beginning to help us understand how reading experiences can rewire our brains. Having felt changed by my experience of books – Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and Zadie Smith’s White Teeth come to mind – I can believe it!

I’m very intrigued how reading affects our brain development and experience. Recent books have touched on this using cognitive science. It’s affects are amazing!













Tell us about your favorite literary Mom.

The first one I thought of is Marmee from Little Women because she’s such a steady, comforting presence. But I also adore Miranda’s mom in When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. She’s quirky, gives great advice, challenges Miranda to think harder and be kinder, and she is 100 percent devoted as a parent.

Moms are the BEST! Like you said, steady and a comforting presence. That’s a mom. I’ll have to add these books to my ever-growing TBR list.












Do you have a favorite father figure?

My favorite literary father figure is Joe Gargery from Great Expectations. He’s kind, loving, patient, loyal, forgiving. My favorite literary dad is Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird. He never talks down to his children, and he embodies empathy, even when it is most difficult (and therefore most valuable).

Splendid. Empathy can be rather challenging at times, but it’s definitely worth it.



If you had to pick a protagonist to marry who would it be?

I love Hamish Macbeth from M. C. Beaton’s murder mystery series. He has the right priorities: the desire for a peaceful life (somewhat ironic, since he’s constantly having to solve murders!) and deep care for his community. Another favorite is Obinze from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Americanah. He’s patient, loyal, and an empathetic listener, (and he’s a reader!).

This was a fun one! Hamish Macbeth and Obinze. By the way, thanks for recommending Americanah. It sounds like a very moving story. 










If you had to pick a hero for president, who are your top 3 choices?

I agree with Albus Dumbledore that those who want power are probably the least to be trusted with it. So my choices would lean towards those who have neither expressed a desire for power nor pursued it. My three picks will stick with the Harry Potter theme: Kingsley Shacklebolt’s focus, discretion, and principles put him at the top of my list. I would also vote for Hermione Granger, who is highly rational, clever, and has a strong sense of justice. Finally, Mr. Weasley seems happy to sacrifice prestige for doing the right thing. He would get my vote.

Great picks! Love your philosophy on this. Sounds like it would make a great book, or perhaps fan fiction?










If you were a damsel in distress, who would you call on to rescue you?

Hopefully, I would be able to rescue myself. 🙂 But in a pinch, Hermione would be a good person to have in my corner.

Being rescued is more fun 🙂  I’m noticing a pattern here. If Hermione would become president, then rescued you, that would be a blockbuster.









Do you have any other books in the works?

I’ve been working on an idea for a book on classic literature. It’s still in the beginning stages, so we’ll see where it takes me.

Stay tuned!

Absolutely. A book on the classics sounds great. 







Sally Allen is an award-winning author who holds a PhD in English Education from New York University, with an emphasis in writing and rhetoric, and an MA in English Language and Literature. She has taught writing and literature at New York University and Fairfield University, and is the recipient of New York University’s Willy Gorrissen Award for Dedication and Skill in the Academic Development of Student Writing. Currently, Allen is a faculty member at Post University where she teaches literature, writing, and communications. She is the founder of Books, Ink at HamletHub, a website dedicated to Connecticut books news, where her writing has earned her three Connecticut Press Club awards.

Unlocking Worlds (Griffins Wharf, 2015) can be purchased from Amazon

and other booksellers nationwide. More information about Sally Allen can be

found at, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Goodreads.







Benjamin Thomas





Book Review: Saving Phoebe Murrow by Author Herta Feely















Women’s Fiction, Adult Fiction

Paperback 425 pages, Kindle edtion 416 pages

Published September 2nd, 2016

Publisher: Upper Hand Press LLC

ISBN13   9781785770326






A timeless story of mothers and daughters with a razor-sharp 21st century twist, this heart-wrenching debut for fans of Kimberly McCreight (Reconstructing Amelia) and Liane Moriarity (Big Little Lies) will make you question how you and your family spend time online. With Saving Phoebe Murrow, acclaimed writer and longtime children’s activist Herta Feely introduces readers to Isabel Murrow: a suburban mother precariously balancing her busy career as a D.C. lawyer and her family, who she would do anything to protect. In a world of bullies and temptations, all Isabel wants is to keep her thirteen-year-old daughter, Phoebe, safe. But with her hectic schedule, Isabel fails to recognize another mother’s mounting fury and the danger her daughter faces by flirting with a mysterious boy online. A cyber-bulling incident aimed at Phoebe, with horrific consequences, finally pushes Isabel to the edge. Smartly paced and equal parts shocking and sadly familiar, Saving Phoebe Murrow is a riveting addition to the contemporary women’s fiction landscape that will resonate with parents, teens, and anyone compelled by timely and beautifully crafted stories







Five golden stars isolated on white background




This was a stellar read about the teenage tragedies that exists throughout our society. Gripping, riveting, and deeply disturbing on many levels. This one will stick with you for quite a while. Author Herta Feely does a excellent job of capturing the fragile relationships, peer pressure, and split-second decisions that our young people have to make in order to navigate the world. Front and center is Phoebe’s loving mother and stout attorney, Isabel Winthrop.




CHARACTERS:  5 stars  The Characters were all too real.

PLOT: 5 stars     Masterful and wrought with emotional intensity.

STORY EFFECT:  5 stars  A very powerful story with a lingering effect.


Notes:  The depth of each character is amazing. From adolescents, parents, friends, antagonists it was captured perfectly.

















Herta Feely is a writer, full-time editor, and the co-founder of Safe Kids Worldwide. Her short stories and memoir have been published in anthologies and literary journals, including The Sun, Lullwater Review, The Griffin, Provincetown Arts, and Big Muddy. In the wake of the James Frey scandal, Feely edited and published the anthology, Confessions: Fact or Fiction? Awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and an Artist in Literature Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for The Trials of Serra Blue, she has also received an award from American Independent Writers for best published personal essay for a piece on immigration. Feely is a graduate of UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University. She has two grown sons and lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and cats.






Q&A with Isabel Winthrop, mother of Phoebe Murrow in Herta Feely’s new novel, Saving Phoebe Murrow



*If you had to do one thing over in life what would it be?

I would have taken a year off from work when I learned about the extent of Phoebe’s problems – the bullying and the cutting. And then I would have made a point of getting to know my daughter’s friends, Jessie and Emma. Not doing that was a mistake on my part. Definitely. And I believe if I’d done that, what happened to Phoebe in the fall of her freshman year would never have happened.

Well, you know what they say, hindsight is 20/20. I certainly enjoyed meeting Jessie and Emma!











*If you had a chance to do it over again would you homeschool Phoebe, or take your chances in public/private school?

I don’t happen to believe in homeschooling, nor do I think I would be any good at it. But don’t get me wrong, my hat’s off to people who are capable teachers and can provide a solid education to their children by homeschooling. It’s just not for me. I know my limits.

And yes, I would stick with private and/or public school. In the end, I believe you cannot protect your children from life. They will have to go out into the world at some point, as flawed as it sometimes is, and as dangerous as it can be. It’s also a wonderful place…the world, and you just have to help your children navigate the difficult parts.

I bet you could have pulled it off though, Izzy. Your’re fully capable, methodical, determined and very considerate in your way of doing things. 

Your’re right, we can’t protect our children from life. We have to help them navigate through the storm and focus on the beauty in life. But after the storm is over and gone, there’s always the sweetest calm.










*If you could impart a missing virtue into Phoebe what would it be?

I don’t believe Phoebe has any missing virtues. She is a bit over-sensitive, but that’s far better than being insensitive. She is a wonderful human being.

Well said. Over-sensitive, yes. She’s only 13! There’s so many things going on in your head at that age. 




*If you could add a missing virtue to yourself as a parent what would it be?

I’ve learned a lot about being more open-minded and less judgmental. I assumed that Phoebe’s close friends were a bad influence on her, but I think that was wrong. I made those assumptions without really knowing either Jessie or Emma very well. So before judging other people it’s important to actually know them!

Well, you had good reason to be judgmental from the beginning considering what happened. Being open-minded is always a plus, but it’s hard not having a knee-jerk reaction under those circumstances.











*If you were a friend Phoebe’s age, how would you protect her?

It’s difficult to protect someone else at that age, except to be a good and loving friend, there in good times and bad. Maybe in Phoebe’s case, it would have been helpful for her friends to stand up to the children who bullied her in eighth grade (which, I believe, Jessie did as much as possible), and then in ninth grade to counteract the cyber-bullying by writing Facebook posts that are supportive of Phoebe. Even to call Phoebe and suggest she get off of Facebook/the Internet. Or to contact an adult and ask them to intervene. But that’s a lot to ask of 13- and 14-year- old girls and boys.

Having supportive friends in times of trial is certainly a big help. But I suppose that’s asking a lot from a 13 or 14 year old!



*What is the most challenging quality of Phoebe? 

Her emotional volatility. She is a bit too sensitive and reactive to other people’s opinions. But I’m sure she’ll outgrow this once she establishes a firmer sense of herself. This comes with maturity. It also comes from us, her parents, by helping her through this period in her life.

It’s tough being a teenager. Especially managing your own reactions to peers who should be your support group. 
















*What do you cherish most about her?

I cherish Phoebe’s basic goodness. She is a loyal friend; she’s smart and kind and considerate. What more could anyone want?

She’s a sweet kid.



*What from your past has affected your parenting style?

(Isabel arches her brow at the interviewer.) You need to ask? It’s the same for most people, I believe. One’s own parents’ behaviors and parenting styles often influence us, their children. So my father was rigid and uncompromising and so was I. But now I see what that cost me. What that cost us. Phoebe. And I’ll never be that way again. I don’t mean that I will compromise my values, no, but I will listen more closely and try to understand what my children are going through before deciding what’s best in the way of limits, consequences and so on. I’ll even listen to my husband. No doubt there will still be disagreements, but I won’t rush to judgment or to decision so quickly.

I can totally relate to this, Iz. My mother was the rigid disciplinarian type. I know it all too well. But two heads are better than one. Talk it over with Ron, he’s the more easy going type. Tell him I said hello and let’s hook up for coffee sometime. 











*What frustrates you most about other parents?

I can’t help it, but parents who allow their children to do whatever they want without any consequences, well, that drives me crazy. They are trying to be their children’s best friends, and that means they are abdicating their role as parents. You may not believe this, but I’ve actually heard girls say that they wish their parents were stricter and not just let them do everything they ask. Sometimes kids need to be able to say, “No, sorry, my parents won’t let me do that.” They actually want limits, it’s a great way for them to be able to say no but place the blame elsewhere.

YES. This is so true. Children on one had test the limits, but they also want them apparently. Sounds ironic doesn’t it? But it matches my experience. Sometimes I feel bad being the “policeman” all the time but they appreciate and respect the boundaries that are set. 














*If you could encourage other parents, what would you say?

Learn from my mistakes. I was too rigid in upholding rules and not listening closely enough to what my daughter was trying to tell me.

This is such a hard lesson for a parent. It’s almost a science; knowing when to be compassionate and pliable, or when to apply rigidity. I’ve often made the same mistake as you, Izzy.  

Raising children is the most wonderful and difficult experience  we’ll ever have. As they grow up we may not realize that we need to grow along with them. They have their own little personalities and needs….And we need to listen to them. 



















Saving Phoebe Murrow [Upper Hand Press, September 2 2016] is available in paperback and e-book formats via all online and select brick-and- mortar book retailers.

Get your copy today on Amazon




Connect with Herta on Facebook, Twitter,

Goodreads and her website:













Twitter: @hertafeely

Facebook: Saving Phoebe Murrow

Goodreads: Herta Feely







Thank you Herta and Smith Publicity, INC. for a great blog tour!






Benjamin Thomas


Author Kevin Cady Introduces the Warren Files Trilogy




Everyone please welcome KEVIN CADY




Kevin Cady



Kevin is the author of the Warren Files Trilogy, a high school teacher from Colorado Springs who loves climbing in the mountains.









A Solitary Awakening



A Solitary Awakening: Book One of the Warren Files



Where are you originally from?

I’m originally from Oxford Ohio, a red-bricked college town tucked in the southwest corner of Ohio.

YAY Ohio! Woohoo!  I’m from Ohio and currently in the Dayton area. I’ll be going to visit a family in Oxford this weekend! 




Ohio wooden sign with agriculture landscape on background




Have you always wanted to be a writer?

I have certainly not always wanted to be a writer, but writing was the one subject in school I deemed tolerable. I wasn’t a great student and wasn’t a great reader. Writing novels came to me as an adult because of the ideas I want to consider and convey. With how I work, writing makes sense, because it helps me understand, and ultimately manage the world I’m in.

I can certainly relate to this. Writing didn’t really take off until late adulthood. Everyone’s path is a little different, but that’s the beauty of it.




The right destination




Which authors have influenced you the most in your career?

Writers, and writing which has influenced me is a tough question to answer, because I don’t necessarily want my work lined up beside those people (half lighthearted and joking). But there are certainly writers who have influenced me, and writers whose work I greatly admire. I hope I can someday stack up. The people I admire (I feel) have written their own way, in their own style. I think Chuck Palahniuk, author of Lullaby and Fight Club (among others) is a perfect example of someone, who isn’t writing in the same genre as I am, but is a perfect example of someone who creates amazing narratives in their own way, almost as his own genre. When you pick up a Palahniuk book, you know who wrote it. I feel the same about a man named William Sloane, who published a couple of Cosmic Horror novels in the 1930’s, light years ahead of his time in my opinion. These two have surely influenced my writing, but a shortlist of others would include… Mark Danielewski, Steven Hall, and Alex Garland.

I haven’t heard of any of these but I always enjoy learning of new authors. 



What attracted you to crime writing?

I love crime writing because it generally centers around the darkness that lives inside people. I think this darkness is something interesting, and the idea that people do horrible things for a slew of reasons can be an exciting combination. What happens if we agree with motive but disagree with action? It can create unique moral dilemmas, and it can push big-picture questions out into the world.

YES. I love it. It’s quite fascinating isn’t it? The darkness of the human condition, legal grey areas and the impossibility of moral dilemmas are all too intriguing.




Moral dilemma ahead





Can you give us an introduction to Elijah Warren and the Warren Files Trilogy?

Elijah Warren is a man who lives for his job. He breaths and sleeps the FBI, and it might seem due to his lack of personal life. In fact, he lives the FBI to avoid a personal life. He’s cast off relationships and (since a tragic accident as a child) unofficially vowed to focus on the Bureau’s issues. When he is forced to work alongside Aurelia Blanc, an erudite detective whose vast intelligence isn’t superseded by her beauty, a twinge of something finds him affected, and when they’re pushed to find the esoteric, “Poetic Murderer,” the quandary becomes all the more real.

In the first book our protagonists chase the Poetic Murderer across the United States. They’re twisted and turned around, and rarely are gaining evidence it doesn’t appear they were set up to find. The first book focuses greatly on why things happen, and sets up the key pieces for the remaining two books.

The second book, Crooked Principles, takes the (now former) detectives to remote Grizzly, Alaska, where they’re snowed in and forced to track a killer who has killed a person per year for twelve years, leaving the town’s population at less than a hundred. It’s a very personal story, and as the detectives feel more and more stranded, more and more paranoid, their relationships are put to the test. New relationships pop up and affect theirs. Elijah Warren starts to feel like maybe he’s out of his depth, and comes ever closer to losing Aurelia as they search for Grizzly’s Secret.

The final book brings characters from both novels together, and the narrative becomes bigger than all they’ve done. Unbeknownst to them, their prior actions have begun a series of events that will come to  affect every human in the world. There is still a serial killer, one indicative of the Poetic Murderer’s work, but that’s not the greatest challenge this time. The protagonists are separated and pulled all across the globe, chasing a new enemy that threatens civilization at its core, and has for nearly a century. Elijah and Aurelia and their collective crew are the ones that must intervene.

AWESOME! I can’t wait to see how the story develops. 












When can we expect the next installment of the series?

The second book in the Warren Files Trilogy, Crooked Principles, is in the final stage of revision, and it’ll be available next summer!

AWESOME. It already sounds intriguing. 



Who are your favorite characters or protagonists, or sleuths?

One of my favorite characters ever written is Lisbeth Salander from the Millennium Series, by Stieg Larson. I was immediately captivated by her terse impassiveness, in combination with her unique technological skills. It made her immediately intriguing, and I wanted to know all I could about her. I finished all his books because I needed to understand Lisbeth and her story.

Another character I loved reading about was Hannibal Lector. His intelligence, way of thinking, and ultimately his relatability made him an unforgettable antagonist.

Wow. These are all noteworthy. I love how you felt compelled to understand Lisbeth Salander and her story. I don’t think an author could ask for more from a reader. Crafting an unforgettable antagonist is one of my hidden ambitions. BROUHAHAHAHA.




Child reading a book, wearing large glasses





What’s it like being a teacher?

Being a teacher, and the experience of it, is something I could have never foreseen. As mentioned, I didn’t like school, and didn’t do that well. I try to teach in an engaging way, one that pushes all students to critically think. I try to teach the power of thinking, and this year I’m getting to do so through a series of novels I’ve chosen. It is a senior level English class, and it is a unique year because I’ve taught these kids 6 years in a row.

I came to Atlas Preparatory when it was just beginning as a school, and each year we have added a grade (we started in 5 th ) . I’ve taught my students various courses, but I’ve moved up with them each year, and this year I’ll finally shake their hands at graduation.

It must be rewarding to see them grow and develop before they’re sent off into the world. 









You think you’ll ever write a YA series?

I’m certainly not opposed to a YA series, but I don’t know if it’d be anytime soon. I love some of the newer YA series because they’re able to engage thinking toward high-level societal issues, and so, if I was to write a YA novel or series, it would have to be deliberately tackling some sort of worldly dilemma. I would want people to be engaged by and love the story, but I’d want a greater purpose for it.

Well put. I can tell you put a lot of thought behind your writing. Excellent.



Favorite quotes?

Do the right thing. (It’s the motto I give my students.) We don’t know what we don’t know.







Your time is much appreciated!







“Remember that guy that gave up? Neither does anybody else.” -Unknown






“Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.” -Mark Twain





The book to read is not the one that thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. – Harper Lee






Over and out….












On the train….





Benjamin Thomas