Author Spotlight: Mike McPhail

  • a writer of military and science fiction short stories, graphic designer, editor, and publisher!

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Mike McPhail.

Nowadays, Mike McPhail is the graphics designer for eSpec Books and freelance as McP Digital Graphics; he handles cover art/text treatment, interior illustrations, and pre-press layout of covers. He still writes and publishes, but the design work pays the bills.

He’s best known for his military/science fiction short stories, many of which were seen in the early Defending The Future anthologies, of which he’s now the series editor and publisher!

Mike, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Less as a pet, and more as a friend and comrade; in my series we have what are known as Parr (named after the researcher that used them for the animal-testing stage of a mind/machine interface device). So imagine a house cat that can communicate via a wireless computer system. Yes, they are intelligent, but still driven by cat-nature.

That sounds pretty awesome!

What do you write and how did you get started?

I’m known for my military/science fiction short stories, many of which were seen in the early Defending The Future anthologies, of which I’m now the series editor and publisher.

I started as a technical writer as part of my engineering degree in aeronautics and that evolved into game design for FASA and Star Trek back in the 80s. Primarily, it was due to my wife (Danielle) that I became a fiction writer. She wanted to write a story set in my MRPG The Alliance Archives (which ran for about a decade, once again in the 80s). So I wrote a short story that was heavy with technical and terminology points as a reference for her. She read it and proclaimed I was a writer, and that I should do this for myself. My first pro-rated story was sold in 2004.

That’s pretty impressive! You went from the person submitting, to the person making the anthology happen. And you clearly have a supportive and amazing wife. And thank you for sharing a truth about being in the publishing industry — where the writing isn’t always where the steady paycheck is.

What do you like to read?

In the early days it was hard science fiction, with Arthur C. Clarke and Larry Niven at the top of my reading list. Much later, I was introduced to Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. I spent two decades tracking down and reading all of the books in the series (I miss Terry).

Clarke and Niven are basically classics. And I think we all miss Terry.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Write until you reach The End – Once you start, just keep going until you get it all in the computer, then come back and make corrects and changes.

That doesn’t work for me. I often have to stop and check facts, both real-world and fictional (I’m still using my MRPG as background for my stories).

I’ve been known to fact-check along the way, but I’m curious if the push for the end is less critical when working on a short story?

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Do Your Research/Check Your Facts.

Verify the details whenever you’re unsure (or even if you aren’t) about any real-world or near-future aspects to your story. Better to check, even if you think you know for sure, than to risk being wrong and ruining the story…and your credibility.

Definitely! I hear a lot of talk about not throwing readers out of the story, and getting your facts wrong is one of the easiest ways to do this.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

I’m not writing much right now (though Danielle keeps bugging me to). Most of my time is focused on graphic design and project editing.

Right now we are working on To Hell and Regroup, the final book in The 18th Race trilogy by David Sherman (author of the Demontech series, coauthor of StarFist, StarFist: Force Recon, and Star Wars: The Jedi Trails).

Devil Dancers, a collect of short stories by Robert E. Waters (author and contributor to Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire universe).

And In Harm’s Way, book 8 in the Defending The Future anthology series, a collection of combat rescue stories.

Thank you.

Author Spotlight: Keith DeCandido

  • a prolific and award-winning author of fantasy novels and media tie-ins

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Keith DeCandido

Keith DeCandido's profile picture. He's a white male with wavy shoulder-length brown hair, with a neatly trimmed beard and moustache, wearing a red shirt and rectangular glasses.

Keith R.A. DeCandido is celebrating the silver anniversary of his fiction writing career, having sold his first short story in 1994. He has written extensively in the world of media tie-in fiction, having penned tales in the worlds of TV shows (Star Trek, Doctor Who, Farscape, Supernatural), movies (Alien, Cars, Kung Fu Panda, Resident Evil), comic books (Spider-Man, Thor, the X-Men, the Hulk), and games (World of Warcraft, Dungeons & Dragons, StarCraft, Summoner’s War).

His original works take place in the fictional cities of Cliff’s End (Dragon Precinct and its sequels) and Super City (The Case of the Claw and several shorter works), as well as the somewhat real locales of Key West (his various tales of Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet) and New York City (his new urban fantasy series which debuted this year with A Furnace Sealed).

Keith is also a critic, writing regularly for the pop-culture site, as well as for his own Patreon; a martial artist, having achieved his third-degree black belt in 2017; an editor, having worked for clients both corporate and personal; and a musician, currently playing percussion for the parody band Boogie Knights.

Keith, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

A small dragon, kinda like Lockheed in the X-Men comics.

Classic. Most writers of fantasy prefer dragons, you clearly have good taste.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries, with a bit of horror thrown in. I got started, actually, as an editor. I was one of the SF/F editors for the late Byron Preiss from 1993-1998. During that time, I got lots of writing opportunities, and I took advantage, pitching stories to Spider-Man, Silver Surfer, Magic: The Gathering, and Doctor Who anthologies.

Wow! So you learned the market and what to look out for. What a great way to learn the business. And it’s definitely worked out for you.

What do you like to read?

I wish I had more time to read. On those rare occasions when that happens, I tend toward mysteries and books about baseball.

I hear you on the lack of time to read! I can see the influence of the mysteries in your procedurals. And I’ve talked to you for more than five minutes, so I’m REALLY not surprised about the baseball.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

If you are struggling with a scene, skip to the next one and fill the current one in later.

I simply cannot work like that. My first draft has to be linear. There have been times when I’ve realized that a scene needs to be inserted later on, but that’s different—when I’m going through on the draft, I can’t skip ahead, I have to stay on the track I’m on. It’s maddening.

I work the same way. I can do little vignettes that help me world and character build, but I’m not sure how I’m going to get where I’m going and I have to just write through.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

The first draft is allowed to suck.

Just power through and finish it, then you can go back and make it better when it’s a completed work.

If it weren’t for this guidance, I don’t think I’d’ve ever finished a draft. It’s so freeing.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

I have three new novels and five new short stories out in 2019:

A Furnace Sealed, launching my new urban fantasy series set in my home borough of the Bronx, came out in February.

A Furnace Sealed: The Adventures of Bram Gold Book 1 by [DeCandido, Keith R.A.]

Bram Gold is a Courser, a hunter-for-hire who deals with supernatural creatures, mystical happenings, and things that go booga-booga in the night. Under the supervision of the Wardein—his childhood friend Miriam Zerelli, who is in charge of all magical activity in the Bronx, New York—he’s who you hire if you need a crazed unicorn wrangled, some werewolves guarded while they gallivant around under the full moon, or an ill-advised attempt to bind a god stopped.

The Bronx is the home to several immortals, who are notoriously hard to kill—so it comes as rather a surprise when one of them turns up murdered, seemingly by a vampire. In addition, binding spells all across town are either coming undone, failing to work, or are difficult to restore. As Bram investigates, more immortals turn up dead, and a strange woman keeps appearing long enough to give cryptic advice and then disappear. Soon, he uncovers a nasty sequence of events that could lead to the destruction of New York!

The first in a new series of urban fantasy thrillers taking place in the Boogie-Down Bronx from best-selling, award-winning author Keith R.A. DeCandido.

Mermaid Precinct by [DeCandido, Keith R.A.]

And Mermaid Precinct, the latest in my fantasy/police procedural series, came out in June.

Humans and elves, dwarves and gnomes, wizards and warriors all live and do business in the thriving, overcrowded port city of Cliff’s End, to say nothing of the tourists and travelers who arrive by land and sea, passing through the metropolis on matters of business or pleasure—or on quests. The hard-working, under-appreciated officers of the Cliff’s End Castle Guard work day and night to maintain law and order as best they can.

My Alien novel Isolation will be out in July, and is available for preorder. And I’ve got stories in the anthologies Footprints in the Stars, Brave New Girls: Adventures of Gals & Gizmos, Unearthed, Thrilling Adventure Yarns, and Release the Virgins!

You can find me online at, which is a handy guide to all my online homes, including my blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, plus links to my Patreon, ordering links for my most recent books, and links to my work for

Author Spotlight: Deborah Maroulis

  • an author of contemporary novels

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Deborah Maroulis

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, eyeglasses, outdoor and closeup

Deborah Maroulis is an author of powerful and moving contemporary novels for teenagers. Born and raised in a small town in Northern California, she resides with her husband, two children, and her daughter’s semi-retired service dog.

She also teaches English and mythology at her local community college and studying myth and depth psychology in her Ph.D. program. She is represented by the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency in New York.

Deborah, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Hmmm, any pet I want… honestly, and I know it’s cliche, but I would get a cat. I’ve had at least one cat my entire life except for the last eight years because my husband doesn’t like them. I miss being treated like a second class citizen by something that fits in my lap. What can I say?

Cats are pretty restful. I have allergies, but I’m still wishing I had one again…

What do you write and how did you get started?

I write issue-driven YA contemporary novels loosely based on Greek and Roman myths or mythological archetypes.

One Halloween, roughly three and a half years ago, I made the rash decision to try NaNoWriMo. I’d heard of it from some friends and was completely overwhelmed at the idea of writing 50,000 words in thirty days.

I mean, who does that?

I had to see if I could. After I handed out the last of the candy, I shut off the light and pulled out an old idea I’d been playing with—a story about what happens to the quiet girl when her best friend suddenly isn’t there anymore. That story turned into WITHIN AND WITHOUT!

Ha! I think there’s a lot of us out there who got our starts with NaNoWriMo. It’s a set timeframe and goal that can be the push to finally write that novel you’ve got in there!

What do you like to read?

I love reading historical fiction and YA contemporary most, but I try and read from a lot of different genres and age groups. This year, I’ve delved into gripping middle grade novels and novels in verse. I’ve also read some women’s fiction and noir. And, of course, as a grad student, I have to read a ton of academic books. At least they deal with all kinds of mythologies and psychology.

I try to read historical fiction and YA contemporary, but am mostly into fantasy and science-fiction. When I branch out, though, I find myself devouring them. Yay for getting to study mythologies!

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

Use beat sheets.

I know they are super valuable for a lot of writers and I get why. My issue is I get so bogged down trying to get everything perfect and in the right spots that I lose the story. It’s better for me to follow my outline and then go back and edit for pacing. (Shout out to my CP, Dante Medena for being the pacing queen!)

I use beat sheets sometimes when doing my super-high-level outline at the start, and after writing my first draft to check my pacing. But, I can understand not using them. They can feel constraining.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Plot using the hero’s journey

It may be my degree talking, but I will always use the hero’s journey to plot my stories. It’s so universal that even the “other” plot maps follow the same structure. Once you get the basics down, it’s easy to vary it a bit to keep people guessing.

Ha! No wonder beat sheets don’t work for you! With the hero’s journey to help with your pacing, you’d be doubling up.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Yay, my favorite part! (Juuuust kidding.) If you’d like to find out more about me or WITHIN AND WITHOUT, you can check out my website at or follow me on Twitter @yaddathree or on Instagram at @deb.maroulis.

Within and Without by [Maroulis, Deborah]

Some people go to great lengths to fit in. But how far is too far?

Described as “unflinching and authentic,” WITHIN AND WITHOUT is a stunning debut that touches on a teenage girl’s emotionally haunting journey to self acceptance “that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.”

Author Spotlight: Danielle Ackley-McPhail

  • an award-winning author, editor, and publisher with over 25 years experience in the publishing industry. Her passion is creating, whatever form that may take. Currently, it means she makes books, flavor- infused candied ginger, and costume horns.

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Danielle Ackley-McPhail

Danielle is an award-winning author and editor who has worked both sides of the publishing industry for longer than she cares to admit. In 2014 she joined forces with husband Mike McPhail and friend Greg Schauer to form her own publishing house, eSpec Books.

Her published works include six novels, seven solo collections, the non-fiction writers’ guide, The Literary Handyman, and is the senior editor of the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology series, Gaslight & Grimm, Side of Good/Side of Evil, After Punk, and In an Iron Cage. Her short stories are included in numerous other anthologies and collections.

In addition to her literary acclaim, she crafts and sells original costume horns under the moniker The Hornie Lady, and homemade flavor-infused candied ginger under the brand of Ginger KICK! at literary conventions, on commission, and wholesale.

Danielle lives in New Jersey with husband and fellow writer, Mike McPhail and three extremely spoiled cats.

Danielle, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

Ooh…tough call. Something equine related…a unicorn or Pegasus or hippogriff…but not centaurs… people are not pets. I’ve always loved horses and mythology both so I can only imagine combining those two loves. I mean, cats are already magical and I have three of those, so time to branch out, right? For now, I content myself with turning real horses into fake unicorns with judicious use of polymer clay 😉

My first favorite animal was the unicorn. In fact, my mom still tells the story of my first time at the zoo, calling out for the “unis!” I’m not sure I knew what horses were.

What do you write and how did you get started?

I hear this a lot from other authors, but it is true for me as well. I started out with poetry. I think that is because at a early age our focus is suited to writing something short and moving and fun. It doesn’t feel so much like work. It isn’t always good, and it isn’t always easy, but we have the attention span for it.

As I grew up, though, I transitioned to short fiction. Partly that was due to English class, but also because I read so voraciously that my mind was never satisfied and so often when I ran out of book and didn’t have something else to read I would continue the story in my head (of course, writing myself in as I went.) It did wonders for my creativity and storytelling skills. Not so good for getting a good night’s sleep (mostly I did this when I went to bed at night.

The older I got the more fiction I wrote and less poetry, right up until I graduated from college.

Unfortunately, I had gotten so use to writing for assignments that I found without that incentive I wasn’t writing anymore. I tried having a friend give me assignments, but she was not a speculative reader. She tried…it didn’t go well, so instead I found a writers’ site online and hung out there. They did two themed contests every week and that was decent motivation. The prize was a free month of AOL. Eventually I became a volunteer (free AOL every month!) and that lead to me writing my first novel, Yesterday’s Dreams.

At first it was all teen angsty type stuff, but eventually transitioned into speculative fiction. Mostly fantasy, then, but now I write most speculative genres to one degree or another, from urban fantasy to military science fiction and most points in between.

I’ve definitely had my poetry phases, but I’m pretty sure I started off with fairy tales. And we all have those supportive friends who promise more than they can deliver. I’m so glad you found a home for your writing and that you’ve gotten to branch out, wherever your interests lead.

What do you like to read?

See above. LOL… I love anything with a speculative bend. After all, real life is all around me, why would I want to escape to there too? Give me new worlds to explore, or new dimensions.

Of course, I have to admit that my guilty pleasure is romance, speculative or otherwise. Now…this is definitely not meant as an insult, but mostly these are easy reads. If they are straight-up romance there aren’t even any tricky details to keep track of, just the journey to the happily ever after. Some of the paranormal romances, particularly by Sherrilyn Kenyon or Patricia Briggs, require you pay close attention, but your basic Harlequin of any assortment doesn’t. That means several things to me: I can relax and enjoy a good tale without having to think too hard; and I also won’t be confusing what I am reading with what I’m writing, if you know what I mean.

Sherrilyn Kenyon was my gateway drug into paranormal romances, but I’d argue Patricia Briggs’s Mercy Thompson series is more straight urban fantasy, with a strong romance (Anna, I’d categorize the other way). But yes, I definitely understand the appeal of a light book that’s a quick read.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Write every day.”

Sorry…I don’t roll that way. It would be great if I could, but there are
too many demands on me to let me fall away into my own worlds every day. I want to. There are times I need to, but it isn’t happening. Does that mean I’m not a “real” writer? Does it mean I’m not serious?

Heck no! I’m just busy!

I have a crazy number of books to my name for someone who doesn’t write every day. Not bragging, but they are there. I am up to six novels (you can find her published list here on Amazon) (Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, Today’s Promise, The Halfling’s Court, The Redcaps’ Queen, and Baba Ali and the Clockwork Djinn (co-written with Day Al-Mohamed)), five collections (A Legacy of Stars, Consigned to the Sea, Transcendence, Flash in the Can, and Eternal Wanderings (a novella turned collection)), and two non-fiction books (The Literary Handyman and The Ginger KICK! Cookbook). My stories and poetry also appear in about fifty or sixty anthologies. Of course, I’ve been at this professionally for over eighteen years.

Would I be more productive—and perhaps even more successful—if I did write every day? Very likely, presuming the muse cooperated all the time. But I have to accept that life just won’t let that happen, so I build my career slow and steady, like most other things!

You’re not the only one. I think most of us agree that life comes first, but writing is a big priority.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Everyone needs an editor!

I have been writing forever. I am a professional editor. I still make mistakes. I still have blind spots, there is no one who does not need at least one other set of eyes. See, what most people don’t take into account is that as the author, I know what I intended to write. And as far as I know, I did, because when I am reading over that story or novel my mind is filling in the gaps on the page. My understanding of the story inhibits my ability to notice what I forgot to say. Of course, that doesn’t mean I can’t find any of the mistakes—I’d be a piss-poor editor, if that was the case. But I can guarantee I won’t find all of them, and neither will any other author without someone else’s help.

Now as an editor I would say…follow the darn guidelines! There are standards out there for a reason. If the publisher doesn’t have guidelines posted, look for what is standard. The more difficult and annoying your submission is, the more inclined an editor is to put it down as not worth the time.

Regardless of how well written it is. And I’m not just talking about formatting here. I’m talking about basic details! Be professional. Include your contact information, title, pen/proper name, and word count at the top of every submission…even if you know the person you are submitting to!

It is not just about professionalism, it’s about respect and not giving an editor any reason to pass on your story. After all, at the very least it is pretty darn hard to pay you or even accept your story to begin with if we don’t know whose story it is or how to contact you!

It’s so true. So often, writers — especially starting out — focus too much on their art and aren’t as comfortable with the business side of things. Details matter!

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

I have two things I would love everyone to know about right now.

The first is a new release. My first solo fiction release in at least five years, (remember the part about life and the muse cooperating…that). It is
called Eternal Wanderings, the novella-turned-collection I mentioned above.

This is a the start of a series related to my Eternal Cycle trilogy of novels, Yesterday’s Dreams, Tomorrow’s Memories, and Today’s Promise.

The original trilogy is urban fantasy based on Celtic mythology…basically Irish elves in New York City fighting evil demigods. Eternal Wanderings literally takes up where the last book left off. Kara O’Keefe—the protagonist from the original series—runs away with a Romani caravan. Well, not really runs away, but she does start traveling with them to fulfill a vow she made in the novels, and to continue her journey of self-discovery.

(Don’t worry, you don’t have to read the three novels to enjoy the novella! I make sure to recap the relevant details and the story stands well on its own.)

In the novella we follow a few tertiary threads that weren’t fully wrapped up in the novel and we also explore the culture and beliefs of the Romani people. A very difficult thing to do when trying to remain respectful and accurate, but necessary because of things set up in the novels (written well before concerns over cultural appropriation became as widespread as they are now.)

This novella is intended to be the first in a series of on-going tales. In fact, the subtitle is The Continuing Journeys of Kara O’Keefe. By the end of the tale she gains a new quest that will take her across the world and back again, a journey I cannot wait to make.

The second thing I’d like to mention—and here I should add, “Now for something completely different!”—my publishing house, eSpec Books, is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund three science fiction books. We have already met our base goal, so the first book, In Harm’s Way, is funded.

Project image for In Harm's Way - The Defending the Future Series

This is the eighth book in the award-winning Defending the Future military science fiction anthology series and all the stories are based on the theme of rescue and recovery. It contains stories by Brenda Cooper, Bud Sparhawk, David Sherman, Robert E. Waters, Jeff Young, James Chambers, Lisanne Norman, Robert Greenberger, Aaron Rosenberg, Christopher M. Hiles, Eric Hardenbrook, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

Right now we just UNLOCKED the second book, Footprints in the Stars, a traditional science fiction collection with the theme of the discovery of evidence of other life in the universe and how those discoveries impact humanity. We aren’t talking first-contact (or even twelfth) this is about the first confirmation that we are not alone.

And can I tell you, our authors came up with some amazing approaches! This collection will contain stories by Jody Lynn Nye, James Chambers, Robert Greenberger, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Aaron Rosenberg, Christopher L. Bennett, Dayton Ward, Judi Fleming, Russ Colchamiro, Vincent Collins, Bryan J. Glass, Gordon Linzner, Ian Randal Strock, and Danielle Ackley-McPhail.

I won’t tell you how far we are from unlocking the third book, Robert Water’s single-author collection, Devil Dancers, let’s just suffice it to say we need the help of every sci-fi fan we can get to make all these books happen. We have just under two weeks, and there are loads amazing bonuses and pledge rewards to be had!

Anyone interested can check it out here on Kickstarter!

To learn more about Danielle’s work, visit!

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For her publishing company, check out ESpec Books or on facebook.

And for her craftiness: Horns and Ginger Candies

Author Spotlight: Kelly Brakenhoff

  • a writer of contemporary mystery novels

Readers! Let’s give a good hearty welcome to Kelly Brakenhoff.

Kelly Brakenhoff

Kelly Brakenhoff is an American Sign Language Interpreter whose motivation for learning ASL began in high school when she wanted to converse with her deaf friends. The mother of four young adults, a cranky old dog, and a rambunctious puppy, Kelly and her husband call Nebraska home.

Kelly, thanks for agreeing to be here today. Most interviews start off with bios and such, and while I’ll get to that as always, let’s start with the important stuff!

If you could have any pet (real/fantasy/no-allergies/no worries about feeding it) what would it be?

After giving this question serious consideration, I just can’t imagine coming home to my pet hedgehog no matter how cute its little face is. I’m boring and I love dogs. I love dogs so much, I’m even willing to overlook the occasional pile of puke on my dining room rug, or the chewed up sock left in the backyard all winter until revealed by melted snow.

I had a friend’s whose mom raised hedgehogs. They’re not really domesticated, just sort of caged wild animals that do their own little thing. But they are awfully cute.

What do you write and how did you get started? ANDWhat do you like to read?

I don’t remember not loving to read, and then writing followed soon afterwards. Mysteries are my favorite to read and write. I plan to publish the second in my series later this year. I’m also working on a children’s picture book series that has a deaf dog as the main character.

My book club has met for nearly 19 years. I love when my friends choose books I’d never know about otherwise. We’ve read nearly every genre and age group, mostly fiction and a few non-fiction. We meet at a different restaurant each month, so one bonus is I’ve tried lots of great local eateries. Our friendship bonds are strong after so long together, but everyone still laughs about that time they all absolutely hated the book I chose.

I haven’t really been in a book club since high school, but it was with my english teacher and some of her friends. But I completely understand how reading and writing go hand-in-hand.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that doesn’t work for you.

“Write every day.”

Trying to keep it real, here.

My day job is mentally challenging, I’m married, and I have four mostly grown children and a grandson. Of course, not writing every day has its repercussions, like how it’s taken me 4+ years to finish my first novel. When I don’t touch the manuscript for more than a couple of weeks, I waste valuable time getting back into the story.

I do try to think about my WIP every day. I jot notes that occur to me while dreaming, driving, or running. Keeping work/life balance is such a high priority for me, I just can’t write every day.

Do I feel guilty about it and cringe every time some expert preaches this advice?


Will I continue to write at my (snail’s) pace.


Hear hear! Life comes first, but writing is a priority.

Name one commonly accepted piece of writing advice that they can pry out of your cold, dead hands.

Beginnings matter.

I re-wrote the beginning of Death by Dissertation at least 20 times. I don’t think you can overdo attention to a great opening line and first chapter.

As a reader, I have a strict 50-page limit. If you don’t grab me by the 50th page, I will not finish your book.

I also don’t like it when authors switch time or point of view too frequently before I’ve gotten to know the characters and can keep them all straight. I read to escape, not to work hard.

I probably can count the number of books I didn’t finish on one hand. But most of that is due to my lack of impulse control and my fast reading speed. Good for you for not wasting time on books that aren’t proving themselves.

Shameless Self-Promotion time!

Kelly’s novel, Death by Dissertation, debuted April 22nd! Get it while it’s fresh.

Death by Dissertation (A Cassandra Sato Mystery Book 1) by [Brakenhoff, Kelly]
Death by Dissertation by Kelly Brakenhoff

Ambitious Cassandra Sato traded her life in Hawai’i for a dream position as Student Affairs VP at Morton College in tiny Carson, Nebraska. She expected the Midwestern church casseroles, land-locked cornfields, and face-freezing winters would be her biggest challenges, but it’s her job that’s rapidly becoming a nightmare.

A deaf student is dead and the investigation reveals a complicated trail of connections between campus food service, a local farmer’s beef, and the science lab’s cancer research. Together with her few allies, Cassandra must protect the students caught up in the entanglement.

Dealing with homesickness, vandalism, and a stalker, Cassandra is trapped in a public relations disaster that could cost her job, or more. No one said college was easy. 

I’m not used to self-promotion so let me take this moment to publicly thank you Morgan for being such a great team-building cheerleader of the Facebook groups you administer. Your tireless efforts were the motivation I needed during the dark days when I wanted to give up. I’m sure there are many other lurkers out there who are like me and really appreciate your positive energy. If it’s true that the good you give comes back to you even more, you will be a best-selling author some day!

In honor of checking the “Publish a novel” box off my bucket list, I’m donating part of the proceeds of Death by Dissertation to a nonprofit that will buy books for classrooms with deaf and hard of hearing children.

Please help me promote early literacy by ordering the book before May 10th. Also I’m offering a fun “Afternoon of Reading Getaway” package and I’d love for you to enter the contest and share the link with your mystery-loving friends.

Thanks for having me, Morgan!

Awww! Thanks. Knowing how much a little support helps me, I’m always glad when I can give others the encouragement they need.



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