Meet Jesse S. Smith

This week I have the privilege of introducing you to my good friend, Jesse S. Smith. He’s the author of adventurous novellas The Battle Of Hillsboro and Rise Of The Pagans.

battle-of-hillsboro-cover

Unwilling to settle for lives of quiet mediocrity, a group of local young men decide to take matters into their own hands. They hatch a plan to conquer the world, beginning with a certain small town. Putting their plan into action, they launch a series of heists to fund their army. This suspenseful action adventure is a page-turner that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

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Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, Jesse S. Smith earned his Bachelor’s degree in English from Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. Smith’s first two published works were short stories printed in the college literary arts magazine.

Smith’s most popular work to date, The Battle of Hillsboro, is an action-adventure heist caper novella, self-published in 2009 and currently available through Amazon.com. In addition to Hillsboro, Smith has also written nine full-length book manuscripts; two other novellas; a number of short stories; and a 19,000 word epic poem in unrhymed pentameter. Of those, two of the books have been self-published: Principles for a Self-Directed Society (out of print) and Rise of the Pagans (available on Amazon.com). The rest of Smith’s writings remain unpublished at this time. Smith is currently editing two rather lengthy novels, which he hopes to get traditionally published through a professional literary agent.

Smith presently resides in Oregon with his wife and two children.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

Hi, my name is Jesse. I live in the great state of Oregon. I love trees, chess, and dystopian
science fiction. I have led a varied and interesting life. Currently I am editing two lengthy
novels, and I’ll say more about them in a bit!

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

Books have always been a part of my life. I can’t really remember the time before I learned to read. I do remember that even in elementary school I was a voracious bookworm.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

“Tales of King Arthur” by James Riordan and “A Wonder Book” by Nathaniel Hawthorne are books from my childhood that directly influenced the projects I’m currently working on, *mumble mumble* years later.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

I think in my twenties I had an unhealthy sympathy for Nicholas Urfe, the protagonist in “The Magus” by John Fowles. Nicholas is a guy who makes some poor choices. He also travels halfway around the world to work as a school teacher in a remote location where he doesn’t speak the language. In my mid-twenties I did basically the exact same thing.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

I am almost always reading multiple books at the same time. I recently finished re-reading “A Game of Thrones” (the first one) by George R.R. Martin; and at about the same time, I finished reading “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer-Bradley. Picking one favorite book is difficult, but if you haven’t read “White Noise” by Don DeLillo, go grab a copy. The prose is exceptional; the world view is spot-on; and the satirical presentation is in some ways almost eerily prescient.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

I would like to talk with Ovid and Sir Thomas Malory, to learn the real reasons why the one was exiled and the other imprisoned for life. I would love to discuss philosophy and current events with Don DeLillo, John Irving, and John Fowles. But more than anything it would be fun to just hang out and party with Michael Chabon, Russell Banks, and Hunter S. Thompson.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I was a writer before I could write. When I was very little, I would insist on putting felt tip marker to paper and recording important events, immediately after they occurred. When I was in the third grade my grandparents gave me my first journal for my birthday, and from then until college I wrote in my journal several times a week.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

My very first stories were illustrated fan-fiction retellings based on The Chronicles of Narnia, Star Wars, and The Neverending Story. My first original story was called “Jesse’s Adventures.” It was a third-person sci-fi adventure story about a kid who acquires a rocket ship and flies into outer space with his friends, where they battle evil aliens and the mean kids from school. I started writing that in the fourth grade and continued adding episodes all the way through seventh grade.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

a. Being a writer is often a thankless vocation. Friends and family have generally been… less than encouraging. But the most difficult part of my writing journey has been the crucial step of finding an audience and a publisher who will help me connect with that audience. I’m still working on that.

b. Over the past year I’ve been very fortunate to connect with fellow writers on Twitter. That has been a rewarding, gratifying experience. You know how people get nostalgic for the Paris cafés of the 1920’s and early 30’s, where Gertrude Stein and Anaïs Nin and Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos and Henry Miller and many others would all sit together drinking coffee (or something stronger) and talk about writing all day and night? In some respects, I think today’s “Writer Twitter” community has the potential to be regarded in the same way by literature lovers of the future. There are some fantastic people here, doing amazing things, and supporting each other with encouragement and ideas. Keep it up, you guys!

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

I am such a rule-breaker when it comes to writing advice. I use adverbs constantly (see what I just did there?) including adverbs to modify “said.” My sentences are overly long and convoluted. My writing tends to be a lot of “telling” and not a lot of “showing.” I think the advice that stays in my head the most often when I’m writing is: imagine you’re writing a letter to a good friend, and write the novel to them. That way, you have an audience in mind as you write, and with any luck, at least one person will enjoy reading it when you’re finished!

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

I’m currently editing two novels. Both of them are reimaginings, and both of them are in the 150,000 word long range. The earlier Work In Progress is based on Arthurian legends. I finished the first draft in August of 2016, and have rewritten large chunks of it since then; but it still has a ways to go. My newer Work In Progress is based on Greco-Roman mythology. I began writing the first draft in September of 2016. I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo in July; that accounted for about a quarter of the total length. There are still a couple of gaps in the storyline, but I essentially completed the first draft almost exactly a year after I began it; which is pretty fast, for me.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I have many interests! I am fascinated by science; and I have strong opinions about current events (don’t get me started); and I enjoy photography, and movies, and my family. Like pretty much every other guy I’ve ever met, I consider myself a pretty decent guitar player. When I was in 6th grade I wrote an introductory monograph on computer programming in BASIC. (Yes, I really am that old.) Through a convoluted series of life choices, this eventually led to my work as a web developer, coding in server-side and client-side object-oriented programming languages.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

If I could suddenly become an expert at something, I think I might like to suddenly develop social skills. No, seriously, I’ve read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” something like six times, and yet that objective eludes me…

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world? Where would you go?

I have traveled quite a bit. I lived two years of my life overseas: one in Scotland, the other in Egypt. I have taken quick spins through continental Europe, India, Nepal, and Thailand. I would still like to visit Ireland someday; because Ireland has its own unique and fascinating culture, including a rich folklore and great music. But more than anything, having been to many places, I think I have discovered that there is nothing, literally nothing in the whole world, better than sitting on a tropical beach with a cold mixed drink. More than anywhere else, that’s where I would want to go: a tropical beach.

15. How can people connect with you?

The best way to connect with me is on Twitter! I’m @JesseSmithBooks. Say howdy to me there! I also have this writerly website: jessesmith.me

And to top it off, you can see my self-published books from my Amazon Author page, here: www.amazon.com/author/jesse-smith

I have some other websites and social media accounts, but those are the most important.

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

If you have actually read all of this, then you are a champion! It’s been great talking to you. If you are a writer, be sure to follow @mlmoosauthor and talk to her about her author interview series!

Thanks for sharing a bit about you and for the shout out! It’s greatly appreciated (yes, I like adverbs too). And I can tell you, you’re much more sociable than you give yourself credit for. I can’t wait to read more of your stories! Especially the one inspired by Arthurian legends!

If you’d like to read Jesse’s books, you can find them on Amazon.

The Battle Of Hillsboro

Rise Of The Pagans

Meet Holden Sheppard

First I’d like to apologize for my absence last week. I decided to take an internet break for the holiday, but forgot to let everyone here know beforehand. I’ll try to do better about that in the future and hope those of you who celebrate Thanksgiving enjoyed your holiday. And now to the next interview!

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This week I’d like to introduce you to Holden Sheppard, the author of several deep, thought-provoking YA short stories, including The Black Flower, and the upcoming novel Invisible Boys.

The Black Flower - COVER

Nick’s a binge-drinking redneck; Ashlea’s a wild party girl. It’s a perfect match – until it isn’t. When tragedy strikes, Ashlea grows up fast. But Nick can’t escape the booze – or the ghosts of his childhood.

With Nick out of control, Ashlea delivers an ultimatum – with deadly consequences.

THE BLACK FLOWER is a raw portrait of teenage chaos. It was originally published in Page Seventeen.

holden sheppard - sideways profile oct 2017

Holden Sheppard is an award-winning Young Adult author from Geraldton, Western Australia. Holden’s work focuses on coming-of-age themes and issues such as anger, isolation, masculinity and sexuality.

Holden’s debut YA novel, Invisible Boys, won the ASA’s 2017 Ray Koppe Residency Award, which involves a 2018 residency at Varuna, the National Writers’ House. Holden’s short stories have been published in Indigo Journal and page seventeen, and he has also written for the Huffington Post, the ABC, DNA Magazine and FasterLouder.

After graduating from Edith Cowan University’s Creative Writing program, Holden received a prestigious ArtStart grant from the Australia Council for the Arts. During 2016, he undertook an ASA mentorship to develop his first novel.

Holden is represented by Haylee Nash of The Nash Agency.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

Well, I’m a YA author which kind of makes sense, since I started writing back when I was a kid myself. I think there was some point in my childhood – growing up in a small town in the Midwest of Australia – where I realised boys weren’t supposed to have feelings – definitely not painful ones. I learned by osmosis that articulating these feelings was verboten, so I began to lose myself in writing instead.

I’m currently doing some revisions on my debut YA novel, Invisible Boys, which is a story about gay teenage life and is a hard-hitting manuscript. It recently won the 2017 Ray Koppe Residency Award from the Australian Society of Authors. I’m doing some revisions now and then again in January, when I will be taking up a writing residency at Varuna House, which is the national writer’s house in Australia.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

Really, really young, and I’m talking two or three. My Mum read to me a lot, and I was totally rapt with books from about that age. It started off with those simple Cocky Circle books for little tiny kids, and I think books really got their hooks into me when I started reading chapter books (Enid Blyton, Emily Rodda) around six or seven.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

Depends on which year of my childhood we’re putting under the microscope, to be honest! As a kid, The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis. It was the only book in his Narnia series that didn’t focus on English children visiting Narnia, but rather on one of the characters born in that world, and it is amazing. I could write an essay on why I love this one.

And as a teen, Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden. I would argue it’s his masterpiece. It had an enormous impact on my writing and my thinking.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, without a doubt. I had big dreams of becoming an author from when I was really young, but reading this novel when I was sixteen made me turn those dreams into goals. In fact, this novel is almost a bible to me: it really shaped me as a man.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

The last book I read was either No Worries by Bill Condon (excellent Aussie YA with a rare male protagonist I felt I could really relate to) or World War Z by Max Brooks (very deft storytelling and an interesting approach to the zombie subgenre).

As much as I love Rowling’s Harry Potter series, I think The Alchemist will always pip those books at the post in terms of being my favourite book.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

You know what? I’d love to meet Walt Whitman, partly to suss out whether he actually was a gay bloke or not. Failing that, I reckon it would be cool to meet someone like Banjo Patterson to see what the man was like versus the myth.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

Age seven. It hit me like a thunderbolt when I was staring at the full moon during a night-time road trip through the Midwest. It really was a magical moment. Just like that, I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?  If so, what was it about?

Yes. It was a classic British boarding school story about a twelve-year-old boy named Jake. He went to a stuffy boarding school and got up to a whole bunch of 1940s-style adventures that were incredibly retrograde given I was writing it in the 90s.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey?  The best part?

Man! Just about everything about being a writer is difficult, to be frank. Being poor sucks, but it’s a necessary result of giving up a good job to pursue my career as an author. That’s probably not as hard as feeling wildly misunderstood, which I know is a cliché, but you know, clichés exist for a reason. I’ve faced a lot of naysayers in the past, too, who wanted me to get a real job and give up this fanciful and whimsical author stuff, to whom I gladly say, ‘Piss off.’

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

On Writing by Stephen King kicked me up a notch from amateur to serious author. If you’re a writer, read it. If you want to be a writer, read it. If you are a human being with a pulse, read it.

It might be a bit dated now, but almost everything I know about publishers and agents, I learned from Miss Snark’s infamous blog. It is a work of art and it taught me so much; I am incredibly grateful to her for sharing that.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

My current project is a YA novel called Invisible Boys. My agent has described it as “a work of raw, heartbreaking honesty that is both brutal and beautiful”. It is pure fiction but thematically it is super close to the bone – about gay teenage life. I’d say more, but my agent would want my head, so keep an eye on my social media for more news about this book.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I am a massive gym junkie, so I’m always lifting or running or working up a sweat at my local gym. When I’m actually chilling out, I like reading, video games (I play both Pokemon and COD), catching up with mates and family and good TV show binges on the couch with my fiancé (anything from Game of Thrones to Will & Grace).

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

Understanding other people’s feelings and motivations. You know, like when someone reacts with anger or bullies you or lashes out, or withdraws, it would be incredible to be able to know somehow what kind of pain or trauma or vulnerability belies that reaction.

Maybe this is less a case of expertise and more along the lines of a magical superpower?

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world.  Where would you go?

Somewhere in Italy. I spent five weeks there a few years ago and loved it, especially as I am half Italian and speak a little of the language. I’d love to find myself in Positano or Cinque Terre again, or even in my family’s native (and beautiful) Sicily.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

Definitely follow me on Twitter @V8Sheppard: if you’re a writer, I always follow back, unless you write about something crazily abhorrent like running over puppies or enjoying films with Ryan Gosling in them. I tweet daily and love connecting in that space; I know it sounds a bit naff, but I really enjoy making new mates, especially fellow writers.

I’m also on Facebook regularly @HoldenSheppardAuthor and I have a regular blog at holdensheppard.wordpress.com.

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

My short stories are available as free downloadable e-books, ranging from gritty crossover YA to epic fantasy, so head over to www.holdensheppard.com/books and have a read!

Thanks for sharing a little about you! I’m impressed by the tact with which you’re able to write about these sensitive issues.

If you’d like to read Holden’s short stories, you can find them for free through his website above, or on Amazon.

The Black Flower

The Scroll of Isidor

A Man

Meet Sean R Frazier

This week I’d like you to meet the hilarious Sean R Frazier, author of The Call of Chaos and The Coming Storm, the first two books in the fantasy series, The Forgotten Years.


The Realm has been torn asunder. With the forces of Chaos having overrun the land, besieging cities and infesting them, Cor’il and his friends know the truth—that history has been a lie, that balance must be restored, and that it will all get worse before it gets better.

Magic has returned to the Realm, and not just for the Threadweaver to command. Threadspinners of every variety have emerged, using magic with neither skill nor knowledge, and adding to the chaos. Meanwhile, the Red Swords hunt all magic-users, determined to scour them from existence.

Can Cor’il and his friends restore balance before the Realm erupts in strife and destruction? And, if so, what happens from there?


When Sean Frazier was growing up, he never really paid attention to the written word. It wasn’t necessarily something he enjoyed at the time. Once he graduated college, however, the spark ignited and he decided to write something and try to get it published.

And it was…well, not-so-great. Truly, it wasn’t the highest caliber material ever produced. But the spark was still there, even if it was simply buried deep within.

Eventually, that overly-loquacious, meandering work of wordsmithing became his first book, “The Call of Chaos”. It took many, many years, but Sean finally rekindled that drive and found that he did, indeed enjoy writing.

When he’s not writing, Sean enjoys running, playing video games, and spending time with his family. He is a bona fide Halloween zealot, loves hot wings, is a grand master at telling terrible jokes and, oh, his cat can beat up your cat.

(He’s a total dork.)

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

I’m a runner, a gamer, a husband, a father, and an author (which STILL makes me grin when I say it). Currently, I am currently working on the third Forgotten Years book, Descent Into Madness. I also have a side project going which is not really going very quickly.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

I read Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew during a vacation and couldn’t get enough. My problem with books is that, while I love to read, I don’t read as much as most people. I think my attention span is shot.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

I will always have a soft spot for The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

I’m not sure if a book has changed me, per se, but I do know that Nine Princes in Amber and The Eye of the World placed me on the path to writing.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

I last read Alice: The Wanderland Chronicles. I am slowly making my way through The City Stained Red. My absolute favorite from the last couple of years is Ready Player One.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

I think it’d be pretty great to hang with Brandon Sanderson.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I didn’t really know what being a writer meant until I had already been a writer for years. I started writing in junior high but it was merely something I played with. I didn’t consider it “writing.” Turns out, it was! To be a writer, just write stuff. Boom! You’re a writer! It wasn’t until maybe 10 years ago that I realized I LOVED writing, and it was much more than just dabbling.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

It probably would’ve been for a school assignment. I recall a brief retelling of Cinderella. Skateboards were involved.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

I went into the whole author/indie pub thing knowing next to nothing. Figuring everything out has been the most difficult part, and I am nowhere near feeling like I even know what I’m doing. The best part has been connecting with so many wonderful people and joining them in their journeys alongside mine!

10. Of all the writing advice received, what helped you the most?

I take all writing advice with a grain of salt. What works for one person may not work out for someone else. The ONE bit of advice that helped me the most, however, would be “get an editor, you dingbat.”

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

Descent Into Madness is the third book in my Forgotten Years quadrilogy (if that’s not a word, it is now). It continues the story of Cor’il and his friends as they unravel a hidden history that nobody knew existed. My side project is called “The Last Available,” and it is a comedic take on traditional fantasy. It’s moving pretty slowly, however, because Cor’il and his friends are very demanding.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I love gaming (tabletop and videogames), hanging out with my family, and running. I used to play the guitar quite a bit but that’s taken a back seat to other endeavors.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

I would become an instant expert in figuring out how to make writing a well-paying career!

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

I know you said “anywhere in the world,” but I’d kinda like to go to the moon. But if we’re talking Planet Earth, then I’d probably have to say Europe. There is a lot to see and a bunch of different cultures packed into one area.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

There are several places you can catch my idiocy:

Website: seanrfrazier.com

Facebook: facebook.com/SeanRFrazierAuthor

Twitter: @TheCleftonTwain

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to ramble on your blog!

Thanks for sharing a bit about you Sean! I can’t wait to dive into The Forgotten Years books!

If you’d like to read Sean’s books, you can find them both on Amazon.

The Call Of Chaos: The Forgotten Years Book 1
The Coming Storm: The Forgotten Years Book 2

Meet Melanie Thurlow

This week I’d like you to meet my good friend Melanie Thurlow, author of regency romance Rose By Another Name, the first book of The Blythe Series.


Her marriage has been arranged since her infancy…

Her worth decided over a game of cards, Lady Rosalyn Hayes has accepted her future. She will marry a duke she doesn’t know to protect her sisters’ reputations. But when a year of preparation for her debut vanishes in the blink of an eye, Rose flees her gilded cage in search of unrestrained adventure.

Lord Robert Phillip Clarence, Duke of Brighton, lives a life of debauchery far from his country estate, and even farther from the lady he must marry in order to restore his family’s ancestral lands. But when he is summoned home to meet his future wife, he realizes he hasn’t lived at all. 

Rose and Robert do not meet when their eyes lock across a ballroom swathed in candlelight. They do not meet amid fine clothes, genteel manners, debonair charm, and chaperones. They meet, alone, upon Rose’s near death. It is this near-death experience that catapults the two nobles, disguised as servants, towards a romance that seems destined for failure.

They think they know each other. But when their true identities are revealed at a house party, will they live happily ever after or will the ton be shocked to see a lady run?


Melanie received a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Maine Augusta in 2014 before deciding to pursue a career in writing. As the seventh of nine children, and an avid storyteller from an early age, Melanie has never lacked for inspiration. She lives in her family’s country home in Maine.

Melanie finds the time to write in between being a full-time, homeschooling mom of one and working part-time as a administrative assistant.

Oh, and she enjoys long walks on sandy beaches, and tea. Lots of tea.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

Hi, I’m Melanie Thurlow. I would like to start off by thanking McKenzie for inviting me do this interview. It is very much appreciated. A little bit about myself. Well, I live in Maine. I work part-time as an administrative assistant and full-time as a mom to a lively five-year-old. Right now I am editing the second book in my regency romance series.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

I first fell in love with books the year I graduated college, so 2014. I remember kind of being lost with what to do with my free-time and then my sister recommended I read some book that she had just read, and so I did. And then I became addicted. At first it was with audiobooks. And then all books.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

There isn’t one singular book from my childhood that I could single out as my favorite, however, the Boxcar Children and the Magic Treehouse series both stand out. Those were the years before boys and clothes were important and before reading became a grade and thus a chore.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

Oh, man, which book changed me the most? That’s a hard one. I would have to say The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. It’s a story about a Christian family living in Holland during the German invasion. Their home, the Beje, was properly named as the “Hiding Place.” In the book, as in real life, Corrie and her family develop a network, turning their home into a shelter for Jews trying to escape persecution. It’s an incredible true story in which the ten Boom family helps countless Jews. And then, after several successful years, the Beje is raided and the ten Boom family is arrested and sent to prison, and eventually are sent to a concentration camp. But despite this tragedy happening to this family, incredibly, the six Jews that they were hiding in their home at the time remain safe, and Corrie eventually learns that they were able to escape without detection. It’s an amazing story about faith, perseverance, tolerance, and survival. I cannot recommend it enough.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

The last book I read was Lottie Loser by Dana Brown. I really loved the story line. Dana did a great job keeping me intrigued and making me want to keep reading. My current favorite would have to be Unsanctioned Eyes by Brianna Merritt. The first book is a gripping, action-packed thriller and I just can’t wait to see what happens to Quinn and her assassin friends next.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

I would love to pick the minds of some of the “greats.” William Shakespeare would be really interesting. I don’t know, I don’t think there is just one that I could pick though. I would love to meet some of the authors that didn’t really get recognized in their lifetime, only achieving fame after their death. The people that persevered despite their lack of success in life. Someone like Edgar Allen Poe, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and so many more. I think they would be really inspiring to meet.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I first knew I was a writer in 2014. It was shortly after I had graduated college (about 6 months later). I had been reading like crazy but I couldn’t find anything that completely fit the bill of what I wanted to read. Then one night I was getting my daughter ready for bed and this story started running through my mind. I stayed up almost all night typing out pages of every and all thought that came to my mind. I ended up abandoning the project after writing two and a half books in that dystopian series, but I have every intention of going back to it and one day publishing them.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

The Order was the first book that I wrote, but the first story I remember writing was in 3rd grade when we had to do a project about the Mayflower and I decided to make a book. It was almost more of an art project than a writing one, as I’m pretty certain I spent more time trying to make my cardboard cover look like leather than I did actually writing the story. But I got an A on it so it couldn’t have been half bad!

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

The most difficult part of the writing journey has had nothing to do with writing itself, and had everything to do with querying. I spent about 6 months sending out queries for The Order and I had some interest and requests for my manuscript, but ultimately I always ended up with that standard reply rejection email. That was really hard, because I created something that I absolutely loved, it was (is) like my baby and it was hard that I couldn’t find an agent right off that loved it the way I did. So dealing with that rejection was definitely a struggle for me. For the book I recently published, Rose by Another Name, (a Regency Romance novel and a 180 degree turn from the dystopian series I had been working on) I set myself a timetable. I gave myself three months to send out queries and told myself that if I didn’t gain any interest by the end of those three months that I would begin the process of self-publishing, which is ultimately what I did.

Self-publishing was definitely one of the best parts of the writing journey for me. Being able to hold in my hands something that I created was a dream come true. And being able to read these words and know that I wrote them, that I created this story, it’s remarkable, there’s no feeling like it.

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

The advice that helped the most was to write every day, whether you want to or not. Write. I don’t write every day of my life, but those are words that I live by when I am writing a novel. It just keeps me focused. I have a tendency to procrastinate and so when I am writing a novel I have a schedule and I stick to it. Every morning I write for an hour, and every evening I write for two. And at that rate I’m usually able to finish the first draft in a month. Right now I’m editing and I really need to set myself a schedule because I’ve been procrastinating hard-core.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

So many projects! The novel I’m working on right now is currently untitled. It is the second book in the Blythe Series, my Regency Romance series. It is about the third eldest daughter in the Blythe family, Isabelle, after her sister Rose has run away. She is dealing with the aftermath of losing her sister and is facing a new, completely foreign reality for herself. She’s feeling abandoned, dealing with death, is facing new life and the prospect of marriage, and it all just piles up. She ends up running away—for a specific purpose and with every intention of coming back immediately—but suffers a tragic accident and loses her memory. Lord Thornton, the cause of the accident, unwillingly becomes her benefactor as she attempts to restore her memory so that they can restore her to her family. However, dealing with his own baggage from his time at war, makes him a volatile caretaker. It’s the story of overcoming odds and terrible circumstances. The characters’ personalities I’ve loosely based on Beauty and the Beast, Isabelle being very bright and yet kind, and Lord Thornton being more than just the demons that haunt him and his grizzly exterior.

That’s my main WIP at the moment. But I have also written the third novel in the series which is now waiting it’s turn to be edited, and the fourth has about 15,000 words and probably won’t be completely until mid/late 2018.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

Besides reading and writing, I love hiking. I don’t do it nearly enough, but I do truly love it. I love the fresh air and the feeling of exertion. Plus, the sights and scents are incredible. And I know this is also technically writing, but I love making up songs. I have absolutely no aptitude for singing (take my word for it) but I am always writing lyrics in my mind. My mom laughs and says that I’ve been singing (to my parent’s great dismay) since I could talk. Maybe someday I’ll put the lyrics to music and sell a song, but for now it’s just fun to have fun with it.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

An instant expert. Oh my! There are so many choices. I would have to choose writing. It’s my favorite thing to do, and who doesn’t want their work to be read by the masses? That would be a dream come true.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

Everywhere! Is that an option? No? Okay, I would have to choose Italy. There are so many sites and historical places. I would absolutely love to visit there. I’ve also always really wanted to go on a humanitarian mission, so that would be pretty amazing too.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

The best way to connect with me is through Twitter. My handle is @MelanieAThurlow. I also have an Instagram account, melanieannthurlow and my website is melanieannthurlowauthor.com

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

Aside from writing, I spend quite a bit of time on my hashtag, #WIPTruthOrDare, which is a daily hashtag game in which the participants choose between a truth or dare about their WIP.



This December I’m also bringing back #DecTheShelves. Basically, it’s an open invitation to all indie/self-published authors to post links to their books to the hashtag. I have committed, as I did last year, to buying 1 book per day throughout December until December 25th. Last year it was mainly me and one other who actually committed to buying books and this year I’m looking to expand it’s reach a bit and get more people on board to commit to buying one book per day in December. So anyone who is interested in participating as a buyer just send me a direct message through Twitter. It’s just a fun and easy way to help support other authors during the season of giving, so to speak. So I’m really excited for this to be coming back this year!

Thank you again so much for the interview, McKenzie!

Thanks for telling us about you! I’m already crushing on Robert pretty hard, so I’d say job well done there! I can’t wait to read the next book!

If you’d like to read Melanie’s book, you can find it on Amazon. And if you’d like to take part in #DecTheShelves or have a book you’d like her to get, just send her a message on Twitter.

Rose By Another Name

Meet Paul E. Petty

This week I’d like you to meet Paul E. Petty, author of The Legacy Is Born, the first book in the Shadows Of Light  series.


Edgar Freeman never thought that turning 15 would cause an ancient seal to break, making unnatural powers emerge from within. After a series of accidental events, he learns that he was sent a thousand years through time to be hidden from an evil king. And as if he wasn’t already busy enough struggling to fit in with school bullies, he discovers a lost prophecy that he must play a role in. As Edgar and his friends find the surrounding darkness closer than they think, they must stand together and destroy the one named Henry before they are all overwhelmed.


Custodian by day & writer by night, Paul E. Petty is a Young Adult author from the small town of Ore City, Texas. He is a Grammar Nazi and has a habit of buying books faster than he can read them. When not writing or being a responsible adult, he can usually be found wasting time on Twitter. He currently resides in Gilmer, Texas.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

I’m a custodian at New Diana High School trying to survive this world as I strive to finish the book series that started me out as a writer.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

When I was in 2nd Grade I was addicted to the Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine. I’m not sure why, but something about his writing style, I guess.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. It started as a required book in junior high and easily became a favorite.

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

I may have to say the first Percy Jackson book. After all, it was from there that I really became obsessed with books.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

Mourning Reign by Edward Hancock II was the last book I completely read. Currently, I’m really enjoying Sam Baker’s first book in her Variant Wars series.

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

George RR Martin, because while he may not be my favorite author, he’s the most famous with the most negative critics, so it’d be great to hear how he deals with it.

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I didn’t know until the moment my friends uttered the words “you should turn this into a book”.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

Not really. Most of my early stories were related to schoolwork. But the first one I intentionally wrote was when I was writing about my friends and I as kids, back when we pretended we had super powers. And that’s the one they begged me to turn into a book.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

Finding an illustrator was easily the hardest part. I’ve gone through so many covers by multiple people it’s not even funny. The best part is having something to be proud of myself for.
10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

The first draft is as bad as the book is ever going to be. There’s flawless logic in it.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

I am currently rewriting the 2nd book of Shadows of Light from scratch while also working on a newer series, The Chronicles of Achora.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I like to cook and make YouTube videos.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

I’d be an expert at NOT procrastinating. Why? Because I’d probably get 3 books written every month. Hahaha.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

I would go all over the country meeting all my favorite Twitter people in person.

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

I’m on Twitter @paulepetty pretty much 24/7. Oh, take out 5 hours tops for when I sleep. 19/7. That sounds more like it.

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

 I think I have a coffee addiction. Also, I own over 200 hardback books because I have a horrible habit of buying books faster than I can read them.

Thanks for sharing a bit about you, Paul! I’m looking forward to getting to know Edgar and the whole group more!

Interested in his book? You can find it in Amazon now!

Shadows of Light: The Legacy is Born

Meet J Douglas Burton

This week I’d like you to meet J Douglas Burton; author of Straw Soldiers and Red Cross, the first two books in the Sleepwar Saga; The Star Travels Of Dr. Jeremiah Fothering-Smythe, a series of novellas; and many more.


Book Two of The Sleepwar Saga

The nightmare begins again.

Just when Andy thought it was safe to get back into bed, it happens again. Plucked from the safety of his home, high school star quarterback Andy Flashman is thrown into a chase with deadly consequences. 

The boy. The boy with the powers. If Andy and friends don’t find him before the enemy does, it won’t just be his life on the line. He, Kaz, Jason, Meesha, Samir and Pegah must scour a creepy hospital every night until they find the boy.

No one is safe.

Red Cross, book 2 of J. Douglas Burton’s “Sleepwar Saga” is tense, thrilling, and laugh-out-loud funny. Don’t miss out!

J Douglas Burton is a clever pseudonym for real-life human being ‘James Douglas Burton’ who hopes you’ll never find out his real name. 

Although born in the United States of America, Burton actually grew up on the bonnie shores of Scotland (and inland, as well) but moved back to the States as soon as he could afford it. Sorry Scotland. 

Currently he resides in Lincoln, Nebraska, where he hopes to become a recognized author. Or even just recognized. Seriously, even his friends barely remember who he is. 

Besides YA series “The Sleepwar Saga”, he is the writer of several novellas available for the Kindle, including “The Star Travels of Dr. Jeremiah Fothering-Smythe” whose six installments are also available in collected versions both for the Kindle and in actual paperback form which you can hold in your hands and everything.

1. Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

I’m J Douglas Burton (call me JD!) and I’m an American author from Scotland (long story). My current project is a clockpunk Regency novel in the vein of Jane Austen with an air of Philip K Dick to it.

It will be called: Cogs & Cognizance.

You As A Reader

2. When did you first fall in love with books?

Literally before my earliest memory.

I learned to read at 3, and read my first novel by myself at 4 (The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe).

Books have always been one of the most important things in my life.

3. What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

Gosh. A toss-up between The Hobbit and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Both were read frequently, and delighted my imaginative young mind. But since The Hobbit also made me cry, maybe I’ll give the nod to that one?

4. Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

Not counting The Bible (as I think we’re discussing fiction) I would say most likely David Eddings’s The Belgariad. (A five-book series telling one story, so I’m counting it.)

I’d never fallen so in love with fictional people before. Garion and Ce’Nedra especially are as important to me as my own family members. Possibly more so.

5. What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

Last book? Malignant by Emily Kazmierski, which I’d definitely recommend.

My current and perennial favorite is Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita – the greatest single thing the English language has produced and one which justifies its invention single-handedly.

(Hyperbole? Not a whit!)

6. If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

Philip K Dick on one of his non-paranoid days. How I’d love to trade ideas with someone so endlessly full of them!

You As A Writer

7. When did you first know you were a writer?

I’ve always written; or, as far back as I can remember.

But when did I know I was a writer? Hmmmm…

In college some time, I suppose, when I began to seriously develop screenplays.

Screenplays are still my first love as I understand and gravitate to film structure so much more than that of novels, for some reason.

8. Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

Afraid not! It would have been a two-sentence one in playschool (i.e. before Primary 1) I imagine.

For American readers, Primary 1 is First Grade.

The earliest I can recall any details of was in primary school at some juncture, involving me becoming an owl then waking up to discover feathers on my bed.

I was marked down for the “it was all a dream” cliche – followed by the age-old “or was it?” twist.

9. What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

Most difficult? Writing!

Best? Not writing!

10. Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

The simplest and yet most helpful piece of advice is the oft-given but ever-true:

“Get on your ass and just write, for God’s sakes!”

Nothing else comes close to being as useful.

11. Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

Cogs & Cognizance is about a young woman in 1796 named Hattie Casterbridge, who lives in a version of England where clockwork technology has become so sophisticated and ubiquitous that it rules everyday life.

When an attack on a local clockwork manufactory results in the owner’s suicide, Hattie tries to investigate but is turned away from doing so by the Clockwork Oversight Committee due to a combination of personal bias and sexism.

Not to be deterred, Hattie chooses to stick her nose in anyway, and butts up against the wealthy man her mother would like to marry her off to. Annoyed by this Mr Somersby fellow, but finding herself on the same side as him, she gets caught up in a deadly struggle against an enemy with a lethal world view – and may have to change her views about technology when one piece of physical evidence might prove to have a literal mind of its own.

Fun Stuff About You

12. Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I like to write and perform music – but I suppose that still involves “writing”!

I adore TV and movies – even if I have little time for either these days – and especially enjoy watching anime. Your Lie in April is one of the best TV series ever made.

13. If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

Cooking.

I love cooking, and wish I was better at it.

14. You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

Japan!

I’m theoretically learning to speak Japanese (although I haven’t looked at a lesson in ages!) and would love to visit – especially the countryside (though Tokyo or Osaka might be fun to go to as well).

I’m a super picky eater, so wouldn’t wish to stay long, as it would be difficult to find enough Japanese food that suits my tastes to sustain me for very much time!

Final Thoughts

15. How can people connect with you?

Twitter mainly: @jdouglasburton

You can drop me an e-mail at: drjeremiah@mail.com – if you like.

Or hey, why not leave a comment on my blog? The website is: www.jdouglasburton.com

16. Anything else you’d like to tell us?

I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die.

(Okay, that’s a Johnny Cash song, but it makes me sound cool and dangerous so I’m claiming it.)

Thanks for sharing a little about you! I’m thoroughly sucked into the Sleepwar Saga, so I’ll just tootle on back to the ever so delightful Kaz and the rest of the gang as soon as I’m done here.

Seriously, people. Read it. It’s addicting. I’m even putting the link right here to make it super easy to find.

Straw Soldiers (The Sleepwar Saga, Book 1)

Red Cross (The Sleepwar Saga, Book 2)
Enter The Unknown (The Star Travels Of Dr. Jeremiah Fothering-Smythe, Book 1)

Meet Negeen Papehn

This week I’m introducing author Negeen Papehn. Her debut novel Forbidden By Faith is coming out in spring of 2018 with City Owl Press.


Tell us a little about you and what you’re working on.

A little bit about myself, hmmmm…I am a mom and a wife. I have two boys, they are 8 and 10 and usually keep me on my toes. They are in the “arguing phase” of their relationship right now, so it’s lovely. I am a dentist by day. I know, not a glamorous job, nor is it even close to writing, but I dig it. I get to interact with a lot of people, and I am definitely a social butterfly so it works for me.

I started writing about 4 years ago. I didn’t do it thinking I would ever actually finish a book or that anyone would read it. Growing up, I sang and wrote music and poetry. But then adult life took over and I lost that creativity. A few years ago, I started getting desperate for an outlet; it felt like I was suffocating without it. A friend suggested I write a book after I told her an elaborate recollection of a situation that had transpired.

Two weeks later, I thought, what the hell, and sat in front of my laptop. The rest is history.

You As A Reader

When did you first fall in love with books?

I fell in love with books at a really young age. I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember. My dad loves to read so he instilled that into all of us. I love the ability to escape into someone else’s life, or into a fantasy world, when I read. It’s calming and thoroughly therapeutic for me.

What’s your favorite book from your childhood?

ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME MARGARET by: Judy Blume  

I can’t even remember how many times I read that book when I was young. I identified with it, because although both my parents were Muslim, I too wasn’t raised practicing a secular religion. My parents taught us about God and being good, more spiritual than anything else. And I was in a predominantly Christian community at the time. So I had a hard time figuring out what I believed and where I fit in. We were more spiritual in our learnings and I prayed much like Margaret did, like I was having a conversation. Add in all the pre-teen drama/situations and it was the best book ever, LOL.

Of the books you’ve read, which one changed you the most?

KITE RUNNER by: Khaled Hosseini

I can’t really explain how this book changed me, but I just know that it did. It was the first of a series of books I read taking place in the middle east. It opened my eyes to the horror that so many in this world face, and reminded me of how privileged I actually am to have been born and raised in the States. My life could have gone so very differently had my parents not left Iran to study in America so many years ago. This book’s tragic beauty and heartbreaking devastation has stayed with me from the moment I read it. 

What’s the last book you read and your current favorite?

The last book I read was THE HATE U GIVE by: Angie Thomas

My favorite book, that’s hard. I love ME BEFORE YOU by: JoJo Moyes. It is the one book that made me want to be a writer. I aspire to make my readers walk away with that much emotion over my characters and my stories. I thought about her MC for weeks after I turned the last page. Even now, when the movie comes on, I’m still hit with the same deep sadness in my chest, despite knowing how it will all go.

I also love NIGHTINGALE and NIGHTROAD by: Kristen Hannah. ROOFTOPS OF TEHRAN by: Mahbod Seraji, THE KITCHEN HOUSE by: Kathleen Grissom. All phenomenal books. Truthfully, this list could go on forever. So many amazing writers and books. But I’ll stop J

If you could meet any author, alive or dead, who would it be?

Hmmm…that’s a hard one. I think I’d like to meet Claire Messud. Truth be told, I haven’t read her books (yet) but I had this amazing conversation with one of my CPs (critique partners) about her. I looked her up and read some articles she was interviewed in; all the slack she gets for her “unlikable” female characters. Something she said when asked if she would be friends with her lead in THE WOMAN UPSTAIRS, struck a chord with me.

“If you’re reading to find friends, you’re in deep trouble. We read to find life, in all its possibilities. The relevant question isn’t, is this a potential friend for me, but is this character alive.”

I love this.

My second book, the one I am currently working on, has a heavy storyline and characters that are causing an uproar among my CPs and Betas. Everyone loves one person or hates the other. I’d love to pick her brain on how she deals with the “unlikable characters” and deciphers what feedback to use and what to leave behind when it’s so inconsistent. How does she stay steadfast in her story? If someone “hates” one of my characters, I have a hard time not feeling like that is a reflection on my abilities as a writer. 

You As A Writer

When did you first know you were a writer?

I still don’t think of myself as a writer! LOL. I have major imposter syndrome. I doubt it will ever go away, even when I’m holding my book.

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote? If so, what was it about?

The first story I ever wrote was when I was about thirteen. I remember thinking that I wanted to be a writer then, so I grabbed a notebook and was on a mission. I can’t remember now how far into the story I actually got, but I do know it was about a girl who meets a boy and he breaks her heart. Apparently I had an affinity for emotional love stories then too!

What has been the most difficult part of your writing journey? The best part?

I think the toughest part of the actual process is the beginning brainstorming phase. Coming up with a storyline that’s interesting, different, and deeper than just the surface. Because I feel like such an imposter, I’m always worried I’ll run out of “good ideas” and then this dream will all be over. I almost paralyze myself with it. I don’t get writer’s block too much once I get started, my block comes in the beginning when I’m trying to get it going.

The best part has got to be the relationships I’m making. This writing community is AMAZING! I work in a very competitive field where everyone points out the other’s flaws in hopes to grab one more patient. Or patients that look at us with scrutinizing eyes trying to figure out whether we are “taking them for a ride,” or who blame us for everything that goes wrong, despite our explanations beforehand. Sometimes it’s really tough, and very discouraging. But this writing community is filled with encouragement and camaraderie. There’s no competition, like you would think, just overall happiness at each other’s accomplishments. Everyone pats each other on the back and holds each other’s hands. It’s truly refreshing. I am in awe and absolutely love it!

Of all the writing advice you’ve received, what helped you the most?

“No matter what happens, you’ve already won.” My boss just said that to me the other day. He’s one of my biggest fans. I was having a panic attack over covers and marketing and the idea that this whole thing will flop because I make the wrong choice on color or don’t know how to get the word out there correctly, etc. I was freaking out about failing. He said, “The reason why you were able to go through this entire process so quickly is because you were fierce. You didn’t start this thinking you’d become some big famous author. You told me you did this because you wanted to and you loved it. And because of that you had nothing to lose; you were fearless. Don’t you see, you’ve already won? This has become so much more than you ever imagined. Remember that. Hold onto that. You can’t fail.”

I repeat it like a mantra when I’m having the many panic attacks I have over this whole thing, LOL.

Tell us about your current project and any others you’re working on.

My debut novel, FORBIDDEN BY FAITH will be out February of 2018 with City Owl Press! Here’s a little blurb…

Sara is Muslim. Maziar is Jewish. When she meets him one unexpected night, her world is turned upside down. It seems like fate when he tells her he’s also Iranian. Just as her mind begins to soar with the possibilities, he shatters her hopes when he tells her he’s Jewish. Despite the centuries of unrest behind them, Sara and Maziar embark on a forbidden love affair, attempting to navigate through the cultural and religious prejudices that beat them down and attempt to tear them apart. Deep within the trenches of her battle, Sara finds herself more empowered and careless than ever before. As she tries to find herself, she realizes that choosing who to be could mean losing the people she loves.

My current project WHAT WILL BE is an Adult Upmarket fiction with heavy romantic elements. I am currently in the editing phases and am hoping to have it ready to query in a few months!

Fun Stuff About You

Besides writing and reading, what are some of your other interests?

I love spending time with my family, hanging out with friends, wine tasting, going on vacations. I am pretty easy and low key. I am a social butterfly for sure, but prefer it in casual, intimate settings.

If you could become an instant expert at any one thing, what would it be and why?

I’d be an expert on doing hair and make-up. It’s the one girlie thing I never mastered and I totally suck at it.

You’ve just won an all expenses paid trip to anywhere in the world. Where would you go?

Can I travel all across Europe? That’s what I’d want to do. I’d love to go to Greece, Italy, France, Germany, everywhere.

Final Thoughts

How can people connect with you?

On my website, www.negeenpapehn.comTwitterFacebook, and Instagram

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

For anyone who’s thinking about taking that leap, trying something you’ve always wanted but never have, or finding something you are truly passionate about, JUMP! You have nothing to lose. Take it from me, magic happens when you least expect it!

Thanks for sharing a little bit about you! I’m really looking forward to reading about Sara and Maziar!

If you’re interested in her debut novel, be sure to check back in spring 2018. In the meantime, you can browse City Owl Press’s other titles at cityowlpress.com