Monday, June 27, 2022

Straight From the Mouth of Susan Berry

Since Susan Berry was a young girl, she loved to write. Her imagination was filled with stories that she couldn’t write down fast enough. But it wasn’t until her grandmother had given her a Harlequin romance novel to occupy her time on a long, boring car ride, that she fell in love with reading romance. The excitement of the characters first meeting, and the dance of the heart that followed, left Susan frantically turning pages. From that day on, Susan spent her free time with her beloved grandmother, reading the latest novels they’d retrieved from a used book store, or the local second hand shop. That reading eventually turned into the writing of her own romance novels. Novels filled with characters who have not yet found love, but eventually find a way to overcome romantic troubles with humor, wit, and the consumption of lots and lots of chocolate.

Susan’s latest book is the clean romance suspense, Promise of the Heart.

You can visit her website at   or connect with her on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.



Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author? Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands?


SusanHey there! I gotta tell ya, it’s been a long time since I was interrogated. The last was when I was seven and my parents wanted to know who ate the last Twinkie mom had saved for my fathers lunch. My money has always been on my

obstinate younger brother Bob as the culprit, but that’s a story for another time.  Anyway, back to your question. I didn’t always dream of being an author, but I have always enjoyed writing. And truthfully, the demands of being an author are pretty substantial if you want to make it your career. You spend your free time thinking about the next book even before you’ve finished the current one. Then there is the developmental edit which is where someone points out to you how unrealistic your characters are and declares the whole book is one big snore. This is followed by a line edit which often resembles the papers you received back from your third grade English teacher covered in red marker pointing out grammar mistakes. When you’ve finally gotten over that punch to your ego (which in my case often means eating an entire package of chocolate sandwich cookies) it’s time for the proofread. At this point you're thousands of dollars in and you haven’t even paid for a cover or formatting. Just talking about it all has me reaching for those sandwich cookies.


But when a reader emails you and tells you how much your story touched their heart and they can’t wait to read more, it is all worth it.


Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like?


SusanWell, after a dozen rejections, I signed with a traditional publisher for my first book. And being a naïve new author, it took me a while to realize that things weren’t quite right. More specifically, I wasn’t being paid any royalties. It was also around that time that I received email warnings from several other authors who had fired this publisher for very same reasons. Leaving this publisher wasn’t easy and unfortunately turned into a year of fighting for the rights to my book back, which I won, and I am now happily self-published. I like the freedom that being self-published affords me and I don’t have to worry about the integrity of a publisher or sending out those nerve racking query letters.


Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you?


Susan: My family loves the idea that I am an author and have been very supportive. As a bedbound paraplegic, I have oodles of time to pursue whatever I want as long as it’s in the confines of my bed. My family knows writing is one of the times in my day where I truly feel free. As I go on each journey with my characters, I find myself living vicariously through them and no longer confined to the trappings of my physical state.


What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process?


SusanAs I mentioned earlier, the fight with the publisher was pretty crazy. And even though I contemplate now and then sending a manuscript to a traditional publisher, ( my dream one is Harlequin), I think I’ll continue to stay with the self-published route for the time being.


How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid?


Susan: I am very active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter if I can fit it in. And my nephew has been trying to convince me to do a TikTok video to which the whole process confuses the bejeebers out of me! But I have little doubt that he will win in the end as he is my favorite nephew and I can hardly refuse him anything.


Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you?


Susan: Well, aren’t we the nosy Nancy. Asking an author about book sales is akin to asking a woman her weight or age. And every author I know, myself included, desires more sales and wishes that her book was so well received that the sales effortlessly come pouring in. But unless you're someone like Nora Roberts, that probably isn't going to be the case. I find it takes a lot of work to make sales happen including paid and non-paid avenues. And there are days that you ask yourself if it’s all worth it.


What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about?


Susan: If rooftop screaming was possible, my message from there would be to all the aspiring writers who get rejection letters. I would tell them to not let it sabotage their creativity and aspirations. If you’ve written a book that’s been professionally edited, and is a story you’re passionate about, those rejection letters should not dissuade you from continuing on. Not every publisher is going to love your manuscript. And to equal the playing field, it’s important to only send your manuscript out to those in the genre that you write. Not to mention every reader has individual tastes and so do the publishers.


Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now...can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above doesn’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?


Susan: How did you know I like Chamomile tea and rolling waves? And I do love the fact that I’m a published author. There's not too many times in your life where you feel the amount of joy like the first time you hold your published book in your hand. All those days of hard work, stressful nights, and inevitable self-doubt wash away as you run your hand over the cover then thumb through the beautifully typewritten words. I’ve finally made it…I’m an author! And even though you know there is little time to celebrate your accomplishment as it’s  onto the next project you go, you truly wouldn’t have it any other way!


Thank you again for the opportunity to “tell it like it is”. And my summer wish is for each of you to have a great one filled with family, friends, lots of memories, and my book at your bedside.

 Promise of the Heart is available at: 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Straight From the Mouth of Randy C. Dockens

   Take Advice from Others Like a Grain of Salt

By Randy C. Dockens


When I first started out on my writing journey, I knew I did not know a lot about how to be an author. Therefore, I took everything I read as gospel and tried to follow what I read to the letter. I began to

discover many “professional” writers, editors, agents, and publishers have a lot of pet peeves about writing requirements and I told myself I was not going to offend any of them. I tried my best to ensure my writing met all their requirements so when they received my manuscript it would not end up in their wastepaper pile. Yet, when I attempted to comply, I found my writing became worse and not better. This is why my novel Mercy of the Iron Scepter went through so many revisions before it was ever published. I was constantly changing how I wrote due to the next pet peeve I read about. I then began to see that some of these “experts” contradicted other “experts.” I was then in a quandary until I began to look deeper. Let me give you some examples and I think you can better understand why I gave this piece the title I did and the reason for why I ended up in my quandary.

Here are some of the things I read, took to heart, and tried to comply completely: (1) the word that should never be used because it is superfluous, (2) the word was should be avoided because it is too vague and imparts passivity to the text, (3) exclamation marks should never be used because good writers can write in a way that will indicate the emotion rather than having to show it with an

exclamation point, and (3) dialogue tags should not be used because they can be distracting and are a sign a writer has weak technical talent.

What I came to realize was that these were just pet peeves of certain writers, agents, editors, and publishers. They are not absolute requirements. Granted, each of these points are useful and can be taken to heart, but they are not gospel. These individuals should have clarified that one should be aware of these pitfalls and not overuse these writing elements. It is the overuse that is the faux pax and not their use itself. Actually, it is impossible to avoid each of these altogether. Well, I shouldn’t say it is impossible, but definitely, there is no need for one to avoid them altogether.

Let’s look at these pet peeves just mentioned. It is true that many times the word that can be omitted because it is superfluous. Yet, that is not always the case. It is true that was can often be passive and a better expressive word can be substituted, but not in every case. Regarding exclamation points, yes, one should write a sentence that a reader can tell it is an exclamatory sentence. Yet shouldn’t one use an exclamation point if the sentence is an exclamation? I think the point is that an exclamation mark does not make a sentence an exclamation if the tone of the

sentence is not written that way. And, finally, yes sometimes dialogue cues are not needed, and dialogue can be written without them. Yet, if there is any chance of a reader getting confused as to who is talking, then a dialogue tag is needed.

My conclusion from my initial struggle in this area is that one should take to heart what others say about writing tips and tricks, but realize they are just that: tips and tricks. You need to be sure your writing style and emotional content comes through loud and clear but in a way that uses good sentence structure, correct spelling, and proper grammar. But, if an element or emotion is needed that dictates not to use spelling, grammar, or sentence structure in their traditionally accepted way, then that is okay if what you write and the way you write it is intentional. Your reader will be able to tell if what you did was purposeful or not. So, you can do anything, just know you did it and that it was a purposeful change to accomplish something special for your reader.

So, yes, study all the proper ways of writing and proper writing techniques. Yes, try to avoid all the pitfalls writing experts warn you about. Yet, remember that the most important thing about your writing is you. If you get lost in your own writing, then your writing is lost. Your writing will be different from that of anyone else, and it should be different—unique to you. It should also be as good technically as you can make it and not lose the essence of you in the process. Even more importantly, you need to be purposeful. Your writing is to engage your reader, so be purposeful in your writing. Ask yourself questions about your writing. Why did I use that word? Why did I use that punctuation at that spot in the sentence? You don’t have to follow traditional methodology, but there is a caveat to that statement. You need to know that you did not follow traditional methodology and that you purposefully chose not to follow traditional writing techniques. Every sentence, every word, every punctuation should be purposeful—chosen by you as the author for a specific purpose, to elicit a specific emotion, feeling, or ambiance.

Study. Learn. Write. Enjoy the process. But most of all, be purposeful. Your readers will thank you for it.

Dr. Randy C. Dockens has a fascination with science and with the Bible, holds Ph.D. degrees in both areas, and is a man not only of faith and science, but also of creativity. He believes that faith and science go hand in hand without being enemies of each other.

After completing his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Auburn University he went on to graduate school at Auburn and completed his first doctorate degree in Pharmaceutics. He began his scientific career as a pharmacokinetic reviewer for the Food and Drug Administration and later joined a leading pharmaceutical company as a pharmacokineticist, which is a scientist who analyzes how the human body affects drugs after they have been administered (i.e, absorbed, distributed, metabolized, and excreted).

Through the years, he has worked on potential medicines within several disease areas, including cardiovascular, fibrosis, and immunoscience to seek and develop new and novel medicines in these therapy areas.

He has also had his attention on the academic study of the Bible. He earned a second doctorate in Biblical Prophecy from Louisiana Baptist University after receiving a master’s degree in Jewish Studies from the Internet Bible Institute under the tutelage of Dr. Robert Congdon.

Randy has recently retired from his pharmaceutical career and is spending even more time on his writing efforts. He has written several books that span dystopian, end-time prophecy, science fiction, and uniquely told Bible stories. All of his books, while fun to read, are futuristic, filled with science to give them an authentic feel, have a science fiction feel to them, and allow one to learn some aspect of Biblical truth one may not have thought about before. This is all done in a fast-paced action format that is both entertaining and provides a fun read to his readers.

Randy’s latest books are in the Christian science fiction series, ERABON PROPHECY TRILOGY.

You can visit his website at or connect with him on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Straight From the Mouth of F.M. Meredith


Spiritual Advisor or Fortune Teller?

By F.M. Meredith

Bernadette Wolfort billed herself as a spiritual advisor and displayed diplomas from the University of Las Vegas for a BA in Social Work, and a Doctor of Human Services from Caldwell University and a certificate declaring her to be a minister in the Universal Life Church in the small home where she lived and conducted business.

What kind of people paid her to advise them?

1.     A college professor from Santa Barbara University who was depressed by his wife’s infidelity

2.      A big-name realtor who paid a lot to rid herself of a curse put on her by her ex-husband.

3.      A female doctor from Ventura who wanted help because of discrimination by the male doctors.

4.      The 70 year-old gentleman who wanted his girlfriend back.

5.      The Bunco player who visited Bernadette because she was a good listener.

6.      The owner of a construction company who thought Bernadette was a babe, and treated her to dinner out whenever she’d agree.

7.      A teenager who wanted help with a family problem and only had $100 to pay for the fortune teller’s advice.

Ms. Wolfort’s other clients paid far more money for the woman’s advice.

When she’s discovered murdered, it is up to Detectives Doug Milligan and Felix Zachary of the Rock Bluff Police Department to investigate the case and find out who the killer is. But as they begin interviewing people, they discover even more suspects than those Ms. Wolfort’s customers.

In my latest mystery, Reversal of Fortune, you can find out all about how the investigation

What about you? Have you ever gone to a fortune teller either to learn about the future or receive help with a problem?

Years ago, a friend who was a new widow asked my husband and me to go to a restaurant that besides a special dinner was offering a few minutes with a fortune teller. We joined her and enjoyed a lovely dinner.

The three of us sat in a booth, my husband, me and then our friend. We offered no information about ourselves.

The fortune teller predicted that in the near future my husband and my friend would be going on a lovely romantic trip. It was obvious she thought my husband and my friend were married and we didn’t bother to correct her. And no, there was no romantic trip for any of us, but we did have a good laugh.

In order to write Reversal of Fortune, I did some research and found spiritual advisors/fortune tellers who advertise on the Internet. I also learned that despite the fact that people pay huge amounts of money for advice from these charlatans and when disappointed, often go to the police. The police usually don’t do much about what’s happened. After all the “victim” chose to consult the fortune teller. If too many complaints are made, the fortune teller may be asked to take her business elsewhere.

I’d like to hear from any readers of this blog if they’ve had any experience with a fortune teller and how it turned out.

F.M. Meredith who is also known as Marilyn Meredith

If you’re interested in reading Reversal of Fortune, it’s available in paperback and on Kindle.

You can visit me on Facebook,


F.M. Meredith, also known as Marilyn Meredith, has had 48 books published as well as two short stories, most are mysteries, but also a few Christian horror, a roman with supernatural elements, and a cookbook. She’s taught writing in many venues including for Writers Digest and many conferences. She lives in the foothills of the Sierra with her husband.

Her latest book is the mystery, Reversal of Fortune.

You can visit her website at or her blog at Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, June 3, 2022

Straight From the Mouth of Roger Stark


10 Things You Might Not Know About Roger Stark

By Roger Stark


1.  Roger was once named Mr Universe in a local Mr Universe contest.

2.  Roger is one of 8 siblings, the 2nd son and 4th child of the family.

3.  Roger and his wife Susan are the parents of 7 children.

4.  Roger served a two year mission for the LDS Church in the New York City area.

5.  Roger has been married to his wife Susan for 50 years.

6.  Roger has been a wannabe bicycle rider and has ridden the STP (Seattle to Portland) a 200 mile, two day bike ride three times.

7.  Roger is a very modest guitar player and loves singing with his daughters.

8.  Roger owned and backpacked with llamas for a number of years.

9.  Roger and Sue love traveling and are anxious to continue exploring Europe when Covid allows.  They were headed to Scotland when the Covid Pandemic began.


10.  Roger was named for his grand mother’s family name, Texy Jane Rogers. Her married name was Weimer and that became his middle name.

I am, by my admission, a reluctant writer. But some stories demand to be told. When we hear them, we must pick up our pen, lest we forget and the stories are lost.

Six years ago, in a quiet conversation with my friend Marvin, I learned the tragic story his father, a WW2 B-29 Airplane Commander, shot down over Nagoya, Japan just months before the end of the war.

The telling of the story that evening by this half orphan was so moving and full of emotion, it compelled me to ask if I could write the story. The result was They Called Him Marvin.

My life has been profoundly touched in so many ways by being part of documenting this sacred story. I pray that we never forget, as a people, the depth of sacrifice that was made by ordinary people like Marvin and his father and mother on our behalf.

My career as an addiction counselor (CDP) lead me to write “The Waterfall Concept; A Blueprint for Addiction Recovery,” and co-author “Reclaiming Your Addicted Brain.”

My next project is already underway, a memoir of growing in SW Washington called “Life on a Sorta Farm.” My wife of 49 years, Susan, and I still live in that area.

We raised seven children and have eleven grandchildren. We love to travel and see the sites and cultures of the world. I still get on my bicycle whenever I can.

You can visit Roger’s website at or connect with him on Facebook or Instagram.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

Straight From the Mouth of Cheryl Carpinello


10 Things You Might Not Know About Grandma's & Grandpa's Tales

By Cheryl Carpinello


1. Each of these picture books take close to year to publish. That’s about how long it takes me to refine the text, find the images, have the artist draw those, and do the cover and the layout.

2. After doing the covers for Books 1 & 2, my cover designer was unable to do Book 3’s cover.

3. I reached out to another designer in England whom I had used before. She was swamped, but her artistic husband stepped up and did Book 3’s cover. He did a fantastic job, don’t you think?

4. I wrote the stories for Book 1 almost 20 years before publishing them.

5. The Book 2 stories were written nearly 15 years before publishing them.

6. I wrote The Not Too Stubborn Humpback Whale on the balcony of my Maui hotel room. I couldn’t see the whales, so I decided to create a story where one Humpback would stay around in the summer so that I could see it.

7. Ideas for the stories in Book 3 came straight from my grandkids. They are such inspirations!

8. I originally published Books 1 & 2 as Grandma’s Tales. When a gentleman was looking at the books, he told me that he wasn’t a grandma. Two weeks later Grandpa’s Tales was born!

9. I’ve had grown kids pick up Grandma/Grandpa’s Tales for older grandparents with memory problems to read since the stories are short and illustrated.

10. Many of my former students have supported my writing by buying my books for their kids.

Cheryl Carpinello
 taught high school English for 25 years. During that time, she worked with numerous students who didn’t like to read for a variety of reasons. However, she discovered that even the most reluctant readers became engaged in the classroom and in reading when she introduced units on King Arthur and the works of ancient world writers. Upon retiring, she set out to write fast-paced, action-filled stories in these setting to encourage young readers to read more. Her success with readers aged 8-16 led her to reach out to the youngest of readers and those readers just starting out. Revising stories she had written for her own children, she created Grandma/Grandpa’s Tales for ages 4-7.  Her four grandchildren’s conversations created the stories in Book 3 of this series.

Visit her on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Straight From the Mouth of Judy Serrano, Author of 'Unorganized Crime'

Judy Serrano graduated from Texas A&M University-Commerce with an MA in English. She is the owner of Make Cents Editing Service and is an adjunct professor at a local college. Currently she teaches high school English and is a freelance writer for certain on-line publications. Judy also writes romantic suspense and paranormal romance novels. She is the author of The Easter’s Lilly SeriesThe Linked SeriesIvy Vines, Visions, and Unorganized Crime.

Although originally form New York, Judy resides in Texas with her husband, six cats and one dog. She is the mother of four grown, successful boys, and she sings and plays guitar.

Make Cents Editing:

Web page:

Twitter: @AuthorJSerrano





Thanks for letting us interrogate you!  Can you give us a go-for-the-gut answer as to why you wanted to be an author? 

I have always loved to write. I started writing songs, poetry and my first book at 12 years old. It’s just always been a passion of mine. I have always loved to tell stories, and

entertaining others is in my blood.


Tell us (we won’t tell promise!) is it all it’s cracked up to be?  I mean what are the perks and what are the demands? 

Publishing has changed quite a bit over the years. There are so many people writing and fewer people reading, which makes the process of finding a high-end publisher more competitive. No, it is not a full-time job for me, which is disheartening. However, there is nothing like seeing your work in print. When people tell me they couldn’t put my book down, the feeling I get is indescribable.


Which route did you take – traditional or self-published – and can you give us the nitty gritty low down on what’s that like? 

Like I said above, I would have preferred to get signed with Penguin or Harlequin, but I do have a small publisher. I am pretty close to being self-published. Make no mistake … I will always try to reach a traditional publisher.


What’s the snarkiest thing you can say about the publishing industry? 

Snarky? (wink, wink) I have nothing snarky to say. I love writing, and I enjoy being published.


Tell us for real what your family feels about you spending so much time getting your book written, polished, edited, formatted, published, what have you? 

They love it. They walk around town recommending my books to everyone they see. I couldn’t have a more supportive group.


What was the craziest or insane thing that happened to you in the book publishing process? 

When I signed with my first publisher, I remember getting my first royalty check. It was soooo small, that I contacted a few of the other authors. One of them posted on his Facebook how he was booking his first vacation with his check. He was joking of course. He made $2 for the first quarter. I made enough money to maybe buy a coffee at Starbucks. I was disappointed, shocked, and awakened. Be careful who you sign with. Make sure the commission is fair and keep track of your sales. That was a lesson learned. I still don’t regret it. I GOT PUBLISHED!


How about the social networks?  Which ones do you believe help and which ones do you wish you could avoid? 

I predominantly use Facebook and Twitter. I feel that Facebook has been my most successful medium.


Book sales.  Don’t you just love them (or lack of?)?  How are you making the sales happen for you? 

Let’s start with lack there of. Let’s face it, most of us are still struggling to write that one best seller.


I often use book tours. I have advertised with companies on Twitter and Instagram, but reviews are the way to go. I obviously don’t make enough money to make this more than just a hobby, but it is a blessing and a pleasure to be published.


What is one thing you’d like to jump on the rooftop and scream about? 

Grab one of my books and review it on AMAZON! I promise you won’t be able to put it down.


Okay, too much sugar for you today!  Here’s a nice cup of Chamomile tea and come on over and sit under the cabana and watch the waves roll in.  Now…can you tell us what you love about being a published author and how all those things above don’t matter because it’s all part of the whole scheme of things and you wouldn’t have it any other way?


I was a born storyteller. (Just ask my mom). There is always a “little” bit of truth hidden in the hysteria, and you simply never would believe which parts those might be. I love entertaining people. I wouldn’t change a thing.


 Unorganized Crime is available at: 

Monday, April 18, 2022

Straight From the Mouth of Tracy Shawn


   10 Things You Might Not Know About Floating Underwater

By Tracy Shawn


Ten Things You Might Not Know About the Novel Floating Underwater

1. The first working title for Floating Underwater was The Girl from the Edge of the Ocean. Author Tracy Shawn decided that Floating Underwater was a bit more poetic, if not a lot shorter!

2. Sunflower Beach is a fictional beach town in Floating Underwater. It was inspired by the small beach towns near San Diego, California, where Tracy has enjoyed several beachside vacations. Also, Sunflowers are symbolic of the hope that we can turn to something bigger than ourselves (as the sunflower turns to the sun) and learn to embrace our authentic selves—themes that run through Floating Underwater.

3. Tracy Shawn named protagonist Paloma Leary’s husband Reed because he eventually learns to be less rigid and “bend with the wind,” as reeds naturally do.

4. Floating Underwater went through so many revisions that it took over nine years to complete. During the last two years that Tracy was working on it, her mom was diagnosed with uterine cancer and later died in 2020 (Floating Underwater was released in 2021). The scenes in which Paloma misses her mom hit Tracy that much harder, and she found that like her character Paloma, she, too felt connected with her mom’s spirit.

5. Tracy’s first childhood dog was named Bonnie and after Bonnie died, Tracy’s mom sang the song “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean” to try and make young Tracy feel better. That was one of the reasons Tracy Shawn included this song in her story, as it has always reminded her of love and loss.

6. Ramiro Summers was inspired by Tracy’s grandfather John, who was quite spiritual and often visited with ghosts over tea in his Devonshire cottage.

7. Tracy wrote Floating Underwater because she wanted to write about a character who is dealing with the grief of miscarriage, while at the same time, learning to accept a life that is different than the one she had planned.

8. The name Serena means calm and serene—and is also very similar to the word sirena, which is Spanish for mermaid.

9. Paloma’s spiritual crisis is due, in part, to her having held back her grief for too long.

10. The cover picture was created to depict a dreamlike state—much like Paloma’s visions.

Award-Winning Author Tracy Shawn lives and writes on the Central Coast of California. Her debut novel, The Grace of Crows, won several indie book awards. Floating Underwater is her second novel. Tracy Shawn’s short stories have appeared in Literary BrushstrokesPsychology Tomorrow Magazine, and Steel House Review Literary Journal. She’s written numerous articles for print and online publications and is currently working on her third novel.

You can visit her website at or connect with her on TwitterFacebook, and Goodreads.