Reading, wRiting, and Roaming with Author Valerie Biel

October 8, 2019

I'm pleased Amanda Zieba is able to join us again. Amanda is an author, a word nerd, a mom, a wife, a teacher, and so much more. Today she gives us excellent exercises for creating great characters. I think designing characters and all their traits (quirky or not) is one of the most fun parts of being a fiction writer. These exercise will definitely get you started.

Character Creation with Amanda Zieba

Character. Without it, your story is meaningless. Your reader needs something to care about, SOMEONE, to root for, empathize with, and emotionally invest in.

Two of my current fiction projects are demanding that my attention be focused on character, which got me thinking about how to better understand who my characters really are. How do you get to know someone you... Continue Reading

October 1, 2019

Eight Excellent Reads! Mystery, suspense, historical fiction, romance, nonfiction, and dystopian . . . a little bit of something for everyone. 

The Flats Junction Series

Wisconsin author Sara Dahmen has penned a series of book set in the fictional Dakota Territory town of Flats Junction. (I’ve been lucky enough to read some of these books in their beta form—so I know what’s yet to come, and let me tell you, it’s excellent storytelling!) You can check out the series website HERE. So far there are two books released.


This book has a wonderful and rich cast of characters (some who will recur in the following books). You’... Continue Reading

September 23, 2019


Indies vs. Amazon? Maybe It’s Time for a New Game by Maggie Stiefvater

Amazon Publishing: The Road to Conquest and How Bezos Razed New York by Kristen Lamb


Indies vs. Amazon? Maybe It’s Time for a New Game

YA fantasy/paranormal author Maggie Stiefvater is spot on (in my opinion), when she talks about how the Indie Store vs. Amazon book sales’ battle is destined to fail (for the indie stores). Instead, she discusses how and why Indie Stores need to embrace what they do better and capitalize on THAT rather than attempt to compete in the losing battle with Amazon. Smart stuff! http://... Continue Reading

September 16, 2019

Happy autumn, writers!

What a wonderful time to reside in Wisconsin. I believe my home state rivals the Northeast regarding fall color, but then I’m biased. Recently, I spent a week in the Northwoods and the respite provided clarity that I didn’t expect. The tiny cottage where I stayed felt like a step back in time. The decor was mid-Fifties, the cell service was spotty, and while there was a television, I rarely turned it on.

I used the time away as a break from the busy-ness of life. I didn’t even expect to have a mini-vacation; it happened because my husband had to go out of town and he suggested it. Why not?, I thought. I packed a suitcase, a stack of books, and my laptop computer, and a short... Continue Reading

September 10, 2019

If you’re going to independently publish your work via one of the many publishing platforms available to authors, I highly recommend that you set up your own publishing imprint. Yes, just like traditional publishers, you will want your work to be published under a company name—other than your own author name—for a number of reasons.

What IS an imprint? An imprint is a trade name that you create for your independent publishing business.

Why you need an imprint name.

Credibility: You don’t want your independently published book to be immediately recognized as such. (The words Independently Published will appear by default—for instance—if you use the free ISBNs from Kindle Direct Publishing.) Even though the stigma of independent publishing has lessened, there’s no... Continue Reading

September 3, 2019

Many of us toil in private for years before we are ready with both our skill level and emotional fortitude to submit work for publication. But where can we submit our precious pages? Depending on what you write and which audiences you’re trying to reach, the answer to that question differs.

For the scope of this article, I’m focusing (mainly) on publishing houses who will accept un-agented submissions, contests for works of all lengths and types, and literary journals looking for everything from essays to short stories to poetry. None of us have the time to search for these locations one by one. Instead, I advocate signing up for handy newsletters that provide lists of reputable publishers and journals. These are my favorites!!

... Continue Reading

August 26, 2019


Top U.S. Publishers Sue Audible for Copyright Infringement

More Copyright Infringement on Amazon


Top U.S. Publishers Sue Audible for Copyright Infringement

The story has progressed since last month’s news that publishers were not happy with Audible’s newest feature. Now, publishers are suing to block the new feature called ‘Audible Captions’ that shows on-screen text as a book is narrated. Publishers are angry because the authorization Audible has to produce the audiobook doesn’t extend to the text of the story. We’ll see how this plays out in the coming weeks. The full article is available... Continue Reading

August 19, 2019

Earlier this year, I wrote “Are Writing Contests Worth the Fees?” – sharing a five-step approach to determine if a contest was legitimate to enter. If you missed that post, you can access it HERE. Or for a more detailed discussion on this subject, you may wish to take my course: Are Writing Contests Worth the Fees? It is a 30-minute video, including how to make the most of a contest win, along with a resource sheet for $25. Click HERE or on the image below to access the full course... Continue Reading

August 12, 2019

I spent August 8 - 11 at the Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine near Dallas where more than 150 authors signed books, memorabilia, and other keepsakes for 2200+ enthusiastic fans. The authors also presented great information at panel discussions, which I really appreciated as a writer. This is primarily a charitable event and while final numbers are still being tabulated there will be between $70,000 and $80,000 donated to amazing charities doing great work.

(By the way, the pic above is indoors . . . inside the vast atrium of the Gaylord.)

If you’ve never heard of Book Bonanza, here’s the scoop: 

Book Bonanza is the creation of Author... Continue Reading

August 5, 2019

I am nearly to my 60-book reading goal for the entire year! Here are my favorite 17 (yes 17) from the past two months.



The Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Purchase HERE.

This is a delightful book narrated by the neighborhood’s 200-year-old oak, an special tree where people leave their wishes tied to its branches. When a young Muslim girl moves in next door to the tree, she writes her own wish that she’d like a friend, but not everyone is welcoming in their new home. The sweet storytelling and cast of characters, which includes many animals, will keep you turning the page to find out if everything turns out... Continue Reading