Wednesday, May 5, 2021

IWSG: May 2021


Welcome to the May version of IWSG. Thanks to Alex J. Cavanaugh and his team of administrators, we can share our victories, woes, and experiences the first Wednesday of every month. Find the entire list of participants here

The May 5th question, if you'd like to answer it, is:  
Has any of your readers ever responded to your writing in a way that you didn't expect? If so, did it surprise you?

This has happened a few times. One reviewer admired a deep theme that hadn't really been the theme as I wrote it, but it was a legitimate interpretation. I really enjoyed that.

Yesterday, IWSG's latest anthology was released. Dark Matter: Artificial appears to be another winner. I purchase all the anthologies in print and have them on my keeper-shelf. Congrats to all the authors.

Many of you know that I'm the current president of Pennwriters, a state-wide multi-genre writers organization. Our yearly conference was once again stepped on by the pandemic. This year, we took the chance and went virtual. Just seven days from now, we'll be running the biggest online event I've been involved with. It's been a lot of work for many people. The list of workshops is incredible. We have three agents and four small presses taking pitches. There is still time to sign up here if you want something inspirational to do from May 14th to 16th.

And because I have nothing else to do, we're putting our large 6 bedroom home on the market. We weren't quite ready, but the down-sized home we wanted came on the market. I'm not a collector but there is still a lot of things to sort, pack, or pitch. And when you have 6 children and a big house, they leave a lot of things behind. If you live in PA and want a really big, country house, put a bid in.😊

My 4-year-old granddaughter keeps me busy and wears me out most days. A few months ago, she started singing along with the radio in the car. I realized that somewhere over the past few years, I stopped singing in the car. My mind is always busy with other stuff. That beautiful little girl brought that small joy back to me. Sometimes we're loud and sometimes soft, but we're always having fun.

I enjoyed The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Shadow and Bone was okay. Debris on TV has been interesting. Mostly, I'm too busy to even care what's on the screen.

I am looking forward to having some time to write when the conference is over and we manage to move into a smaller home. 

"You fail only if you stop writing." Ray Bradbury

Have you attended online writing events? Ever had your work misinterpreted, good or bad? Do you sing in the car? 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

IWSG: April 2021

 Welcome to April's IWSG. This blog hop was started by our energetic leader, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Join us in supporting each other in all our writing endeavors. Find the entirety of the list of blog participants here.

This month's optional question:

Are you a risk-taker when writing? Do you try something radically different in style/POV/etc. or add controversial topics to your work?

No. I avoid controversial topics though I've been told by another writer that some of my work does involve controversial science. I don't agree. Science is science to me. I have a minor degree in science and I use it in my writing all the time. I don't believe there is anything controversial about scientific facts, but then again, there are people who don't trust science. I guess I should say I don't write anything controversial on purpose. 

"Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent." Arthur Conan Doyle

Most of my writing time has been dedicated to planning and promoting the Pennwriters 34th Annual Writers Conference. Since the event is being held virtually this year, May 14th to May 16th, anyone can attend without great expense. The highlights are 36 workshops covering everything about a writing career, 2 amazing Keynote speakers, a free pitch session with an agent or editor, a Read and Critique opportunity, and 2 pre-conference intensive workshops on Thursday, May 13th. Read all about it here.

I'm so happy about the warmer weather. Hopefully, spring isn't as wet as last year. There have been a few TV programs that have caught my interest though not with great enthusiasm. Debris is very mysterious so far. Magnum and FBI are okay. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been excellent. 

My husband and I received our first Covid vaccine and will get our second next week. That will leave only three members of my immediate family waiting for their turn. I'll feel better when we're all vaccinated. I'm not sure what the summer and fall will look like. What is normal anymore? I do want to see my daughter soon. We had plans that have been waiting for more than a year now. 

"In three words, I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on." Robert Frost

One of our plans is a 3 or 4-day writing retreat for the two of us plus one of her friends. We're starting to look around. Right now, it all depends on whether her summer work in Jordan is approved by her university. I want her to get to do what she wants, but I don't want her to go. Typical mother's conflicts.

Hope you're having an enjoyable spring with sunshine and health.

Are you purposefully controversial in your writing? Do you like to read controversial writing? What is keeping you busy? 

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Dead on the Delta by Sherry Knowlton

Please welcome my friend, Sherry Knowlton to my blog. I love how her books are located in a part of the control well known to me. And who hasn't heard of Three Mile Island and Carlisle, PA? Thanks for being here, Sherry.

Going Beyond the Seasons

As I began to write my latest book, Dead on the Delta, I was confronted with a dilemma of my own making: how to approach and title Book Five in the Alexa Williams series. The first four books could be grouped together as the Seasons of Suspense with their titles: Dead of Autumn, Dead of Summer, Dead of Spring, and Dead of Winter. But now I’d reached the end of the seasons. What to do?

 The first four books are set primarily in the Carlisle area of South-Central Pennsylvania and feature thirtyish attorney Alexa Williams. Alexa has a tendency to stumble across dead bodies and dangerous situations, exacerbated by her boundless curiosity and passion for social causes. Each of the books deals with current hot news topics, like sex trafficking or terrorism, but contains a parallel historical story that intersects with the present-day mystery. The historical fiction plots range from a child murder during the Great Depression to the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster.

 Although I’d run the course of seasons, I wasn’t ready to stop writing about Alexa. I’m still exploring her story and those of her close friends and family. Thinking about Book Five, I had two decisions to make, which ended up growing to three.

 What’s the focus and where does it take place? My husband and I have gone on safari to Africa multiple times, and I’m passionate about preserving the dwindling populations of many wild animal species on the African continent. In the books, Alexa’s boyfriend Reese works for a wildlife advocacy organization, so I decided to break away from the previous books and base the new novel in Botswana.

 What’s the historical story? This is where the surprise third decision came into play. Although there is some important history that plays a prominent role in this new book, a full historical plot just didn’t seem to work with the contemporary story I wanted to tell in Botswana. So, I dropped my parallel story format altogether.

 Where to go with the title? For continuity, I wanted to keep the DEAD part of the title, even though I’d exhausted the seasons. I toyed with times of day (Dead at Dawn), African seasons (Dead in the Dry Season), and even weather (Dead Wind) among many other concepts. In the end, I thought, why not reflect the book’s wonderful, exotic setting, Botswana’s Okavango Delta? Thus, the new book is Dead on the Delta.

 I’m anxious to find out whether my readers think I made the right decisions with book number five in the Alexa Williams suspense series, Dead on the Delta. I’m looking forward to the feedback.

Dead on the Delta

When Alexa Williams agrees to spend four months doing lion research with boyfriend Reese, she looks forward to witnessing the elemental life and death struggle of the African wild. But she never imagines she’ll become one of the hunted on the famed Okavango Delta. In the latest Alexa Williams suspense novel, the kick-ass lawyer tangles with elephant poachers and conservation politics on the African continent.

Sherry Knowlton is the author of the Alexa Williams series of suspense novels including Dead of Spring and Dead of WinterPassionate about books at an early age, she was that kid who would sneak a flashlight to bed at night so she could read beneath the covers. All the local librarians knew her by name. When not writing the next Alexa Williams thriller, Knowlton works with her health care consulting business or travels around the world. She and her husband live in the mountains of South Central Pennsylvania.

 Praise for Sherry Knowlton’s Dead on the Delta

 “Every page of Dead on the Delta radiates Knowlton’s love and knowledge of this unique part of our planet and highlights its potential for disaster. Knowlton’s suspenseful book sets the beauty of the Okavango against the dangers that lurk there.” – Michael Stanley, author of the Detective Kubu series, also set in Botswana

Dead on the Delta is a gripping new adventure for Alexa Williams. Set against the backdrop of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, Alexa faces brutal poachers and a frightening conspiracy that reaches all the way to the top of Botswana’s elite. The situation comes to a head in a terrifying confrontation that requires all of Alexa’s strength as she fights for her own survival. A satisfying read set in a gorgeous landscape. – Michael Niemann, award winning author of the Valentin Vermeulen thrillers

 A well-balanced and intelligent thriller…Suspense and thriller fiction fans have plenty to look forward to with Dead on the Delta.- Independent Book Review

 ★★★★ – “full of action, adventure, politics, and, of course, animals” – Manhattan Book Review

 ★★★★★- “great cast of characters and a fantastic female lead. Now I want to read the other books in the Alexa Williams series.” – San Francisco Book Review

Monday, March 8, 2021

Daytime Drama by Sarahlyn Bruck’s

It gives me great pleasure to introduce fellow PA writer, Sarahlyn Bruck and her newest book release. I love a story about mature women dealing with the real life issues of work, family, and all the mess that goes with it. 

Daytime Drama is a Stirring Journey of Self-Discovery Where a Soap Opera Star Struggles to Reinvent Her Career and Personal Identity

 Daytime Drama is a compelling narrative focused on Callie Hart, a famous daytime soap star, as she navigates a potential career change, an interfering mother, and a stalled relationship. This journey of self-discovery will not only greatly appeal to female readers in general, but because it is a fun, fast-paced beach read, those who enjoy Hollywood stories, soap operas, and stories about families and relationships will eagerly fly through the novel’s pages with hearty abandon.

Calliope Hart  has been known to soap opera fans as Napa Valley’s resident diva, Jessica Sinclair  for 25 years. Once work is done for the day, however, Callie takes on the mantle of a flustered and harried
single mother, scrambling to provide for her 12-year-old son and her own mother. As such, when the network announces that her show will be cancelled, Callie is beyond shocked, and finds herself contending with an identity crisis. Driven by financial concerns for her family that includes blackmail payments to her son’s biological father, she quickly rallies fans to save the show. However, when she learns that her mother has been driving her son to auditions Callie’s strictly forbidden – and worse, that he’s been offered opportunities – Callie sees her own son’s youth and drive in competition with her age and experience. Callie must, in the end, decide whether to play it safe and continue fighting to keep her show alive and kicking, or summon the courage to take a risk and start over from scratch – and, for the first time, test her mettle as an actress and a mom.

  Maureen Joyce Connolly, author of “Little Lovely Things” explains, “With her sophomore novel, “Daytime Drama,” Sarahlyn Bruck builds on her reputation as a master craftsman of relationships. Prepare yourself for a compelling journey as Bruck’s characters plunge into the depths of self-discovery when love and trust are brought into question by circumstance…Bruck’s deft approach and keen eye for nuance is both clever and ultra-relatable, creating a story and characters that stay with the reader long after the book is done.”

About the author

Sarahlyn Bruck is the author of two novels, “Daytime Drama” (TouchPoint Press, 2021) and “Designer You” (Crooked Cat Books, 2018). “Designer You” won the Indie Star Book Award for 2019 and was included on the 2018 “35 Over 35” list. When she’s not writing novels, Sarahlyn moonlights as a full-

time writing and literature professor at a local community college. A California native, she now lives in Philadelphia with her husband, daughter, and cockapoo. For the latest book news, events, and announcements, check out her website:

 About the Publisher

TouchPoint Press is a traditional publisher of fiction and nonfiction. Our staff is comprised of professionals whose collective experience in publishing, editing, journalism, design, and marketing set the stage behind our growing list of published titles. We are proud to work with talented authors and strive to be as innovative and energetic as possible from acquisitions to promotion before and after publication.


For interview and review requests, contact Chelsea Pieper at

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

IWSG: March 2021

Welcome to the monthly blog hop by Insecure Writer's Support Group. Thank you to our founder, Alex J. Cavanaugh, and all the other wonderful admins who keep this group not just going but thriving and growing. Find the entire list of blog hoppers here.

This month's optional question:

Everyone has a favorite genre or genres to write. But what about your reading preferences? Do you read widely or only within the genre(s) you create stories for? What motivates your reading choice?

Well, I read everything though I write only fantasy or science fiction. I read creative nonfiction, mysteries, thrillers, historicals, horror, and most other genres too. My reading choices are motivated by recommendations from friends and family as well as from such publications like Book Page. I'm also pretty loyal to authors that I've read and enjoyed before.

On the professional front, the world is spinning faster than I can keep up. I feel like I'm going to fly off somedays and float away. Or maybe that's what I wish to do. I'm buried with work for Pennwriters, the writing organization where I'm currently serving as president. We're still putting our conference together and it's only a little more than two months away.

Fortunately or not, there's little that appeals to me on TV or any of the streaming services. I haven't had anything on my calendar to remind me of something new coming out since The Expanse. At least I'm not distracted.

My dear granddaughter is turning 4 today. It's really fun now that she's old enough to anticipate her day. We bought a cake that is totally covered in sprinkles, just the way she likes it. Wish you were here.

My own writing is simmering while I deal with Pennwriters stuff, but I have a plan or maybe 12% of a plan. Kudos if you know where that is from.

I hope I get to visit more of you today than I have the last few months. Stay safe and look for that light at the end of the Covid tunnel.

"Time is what we want most, and what we use worst." William Penn

Do you read outside the genre you write? Is time flying for you? 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

IWSG: February, 2021 Edition

 It really can't be time for the monthly IWSG blog hop, can it?  Apparently so. Thank you, Alex J. Cavanaugh, our founder, and all the admins who keep this group of supportive and inspirational writers joined in the sometimes frustrating and sometimes uplifting career.

This month's optional question:

 Blogging is often more than just sharing stories. It’s often the start of special friendships and relationships. Have you made any friends through the blogosphere?

Of course. I expect the timing of this question isn't coincidental to the upcoming blog hop honoring Jo Wake this Saturday. I still choke up writing her name. I won't talk about Jo here, but I know anyone who visited her blog often considered her a friend and an inspiration. I feel like I've known some of you who visit my blog for years, and it has been years. I've purchased and read your books. Benefited from your expertise and learned from your experiences. I always feel like I've received more from you than what I've given. The loss of Jo really brought home to me how much the blogging community has come to mean to me.

"You’re never wrong if you love and help people." Maxime Lagacé

I'm busy with editing. Actually, going over the last edits that Jo Wake returned to me. I'm lingering over her comments and suggestions. 

My romance publisher is creating new covers for my one series to re-launch them. Small presses are really struggling and being strangled by Amazon. It's been a while since anyone I know has had book sales to crow about. Writing is a tough way to make a living, or even enough to pay for the coffee and wine needed to keep going.

I hope some of you have been able to get the Covid vaccine. I'm not even qualified in any way to get in line. I'm thinking summer at the earliest. My husband is old enough, but he hasn't been able to make an appointment yet. What a mess.

I'm busy working with Pennwriters, the statewide multi-genre writing group I'm currently serving as President. It's been a stressful year. We had to cancel our large conference last May and recently made the decision to go virtual this May. We knew it was a possibility, but the disappointment is real. And now there are a lot of moving parts to organize despite everyone's recent forced education in online learning and virtual meetings. 

"It always seems impossible until it's done." Nelson Mandela

Good news: I have a number of guests scheduled over the course of the next month. Some authors I really respect and admire. I've been doing more reading than writing or watching TV, so I'm always on the lookout for some good books and new authors.

Have you made friends through blogging? Have you received your Covid vaccine? Have a spare dose? Are you spending more time online for work or education?

Stay safe, friends.

Jo Wake, Love and Friendship

If love and friendship had a name, it might be Jo Wake. I tear up even writing this now. Jo was a strong, amazing woman. We've all heard that getting old isn't for sissies. Jo was no sissy, though I hate that term. She remained independent right up until the last few days of her life.

Her interests were so wide and varied, one can not name them all. She was a life-long learner like we all should strive to be. I can't tell you how many shows and musical videos I watched because she recommended them. She also loved to recommend books.

I was one of the fortunate ones for whom Jo read and edited my books. She was excellent at it. But once or twice every book, she would suggest an edit that was changing my American wording to something British or Canadian. It always made me smile.

Jo loved to cook and experiment. She convinced me to buy an instapot so I could try some of those delicious recipes. She encouraged me to start with something simple and sent me her Mac-n-Cheese recipe. It's delicious.

Instant Pot Mac and Cheese
This macaroni and cheese is every family's favorite comfort food pasta recipe made easy in the Instant Pot!  You can have creamy, mouthwatering, homemade mac and cheese for dinner in about 10 minutes!
8 oz Uncooked Elbow Macaroni
2 cups Chicken Broth
1 Tbs Butter
1 tsp Hot Pepper Sauce
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Pepper
1/2 tsp Salt
1 cups Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
1/4 cup Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1/2 to 1 cup Milk
1. Add the uncooked macaroni, chicken broth, butter, hot sauce, garlic powder, pepper, and salt to the Instant Pot.
2. Place the lid on the pot and set to sealing.  Cook on manual function, high pressure for 5 minutes.  Then, do a quick release.
3. Stir in the cheeses and milk until smooth.  Season as necessary to taste.
4. Notes
5. NOTE:  The cheeses listed in the recipe have produced the best flavor that I have found.  Feel free to use your family's favorite cheese combination.
6. NOTE:  For the milk, start with 1/2 cup and add up to one cup if you find it needs to be thinned out a little bit more.
7. IMPORTANT: Empty pot before sitting down to eat otherwise it will be difficult to clean as cheese sticks.
Servings: 4

I cherish my friendship with Jo and will never forget her. My instapot won't allow it. Cheers, Jo. I think heaven is eating a little better with you there.