Monthly Archives: November 2014

Nov 25 Meet Penny Estelle and her characters, Elizabeth McMurphy and Steve York

The Unwanted Christamas Guest 333x500

Good morning, Margaret. Thanks so much for having me on your blog today. I’m visiting Colorado for the holidays and I would like to introduce two guests I have brought along with me.

This is Elizabeth McMurphy and Steve York.

So Elizabeth, let me start with you. Tell us all a bit about yourself and what you do and what your holiday plans are.

Elizabeth I am an attorney with D.D & D. I am rounding up a high profile case right now. When that is done I am heading out of town.

Can you share with us what the case is about?

Steve I can tell you about it. This snow queen is trying to bring one of the most respected men in Denver to his knees on some trumped up charges.

Folks, this is Steve York and he works for the Denver Gazette.

Elizabeth What Mr. York needs to do is stick to reporting the weather because he has no idea what this case is all about and weather is something his small brain can wrap around.

Now you two, let’s all take a breath and calm down and talk about our Christmas plans.

Elizabeth My plans are to head to the mountains. I have a cabin up there and I can get away from obnoxious, know-it-all reporters who don’t have a clue.

Steve As it turns out, after I get this last story out about certain injustices, I am also headed out of town to spend time with family. I have had my fill of overblown spoiled bitches.

Okay, okay. Let me thank you both for coming in to chat with me and all these fine people and I think we’ve heard enough for now. I hope your holidays are restful and you each get the happiness you are looking for.

The Unwanted Christmas Guest

On Sale for 99 cents!


Elizabeth McMurphy is an up and coming high powered attorney and is after vengeance, involving one of the richest and most powerful families in Colorado. Steve York is an obnoxious reporter that thinks the ice queen has gone too far and does all he can to get under her skin.

When one of the worst blizzards in history, hits CO and leaves a hurt Steve York, stranded with Elizabeth in a mountain cabin. Things start to heat up between the two, thawing their icy relationship. But – Elizabeth guards a secret that must be kept at all costs, even to the point of risking love and her own happiness.


“What’s going on here? Where the hell are my pants?”

Elizabeth practically jumped out of her skin. Steve stood in the bedroom doorway, wearing only some tight fitting pink sweats.

“I found you after your car went nose to nose with a tree.” She crossed her arms. “The question is, what were you doing up here in a snowstorm? Were you coming up here to spy on me?”

“Jesus, my head hurts.” Steve groaned and sat at the kitchen table. “And don’t flatter yourself.” He brought up his hands to rub his eyes and push on his temples. He started to say something when a giggle and a round of undistinguishable sounds caught his attention. Steve stared at the little girl, a whisper of a smile on his pale face. “You have a daughter?”

She chose to ignore the question. “Again, Mr. York, you were headed…where?”

“I was going to see some friends in Granby, then on to Steamboat to spend the holidays with my family.”

“You figured on taking a short cut on Badger Springs Road?”

“Basically,” he muttered. “I had a phone in my pants pocket…” Steve looked down at the pink sweats. “Yours, I presume?” At her nod, he asked with a smirk, “And you’re the one that took my clothes off?”

“Junior, my neighbor.”

“If you’ll allow me to use your phone, I’ll call Triple A and get myself and my car out of your life.” He reached over to Katy and she latched onto his finger, the brightest smile ever illuminating her sweet face.

Elizabeth quickly picked her up, as if he would contaminate her by his touch. “Phones are out.”



“How the hell do you live here?” he asked irritably.

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Nov 22: what’s your favorite food or meal?

Fish, glorious Fish!

I might not have picked fish if I were able to eat it at home, but I’m not. My spouse is deathly allergic to anything that swims in water, so the only time I get to eat it is when I g o out for a meal. Tuna sandwiches at lunch counters, shrimp scampi in fine restaurants, baked stuffed cod or boiled lobster, I dream of you all.

Of course, there are lots of other foods I love, including cheese of all kinds. Not that I should be eating cheese, mind you, but it really is another favorite.

Hmm — now, fish with cheese. There’s a thought.
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Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Skye Taylor
Ginger Simpson
Victoria Chatham
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Anne Stenhouse
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Helena Fairfax
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Rhobin Courtright

Nov 19 Janie Franz interview

Tell us something about yourself?

I come from a long line of liars and storytellers. I enjoy enjoy traveling and good conversation. I find people fascinating everywhere I go.

How did you start writing fantasy novels? thebowdancersagabundle

My fantasy writing is grounded in my Bowdancer Saga that began many years ago. The first scene of the first book, The Bowdancer, a novelette, came from a meditation I had. I continued that story through The Wayfarer’s Road and The Warrior Women. Those three books became the Bowdancer Saga. Three more books followed, The Lost Song Trilogy: Verses, Refrain, and Coda.

I have always been fascinated by cultures and that was why I returned to college as a much older than average student to earn a degree in anthropology. Though I’ve read a lot of fantasy and science fiction, it was always those about another culture that interested me the most—not hard science and not dwarves and elves.

From that first meditation, I saw the bowdancer atop a hill shooting out that first flaming arrow to gather her people into a villager to a wedding. I knew her and what she faced immediately. The details of her culture are revealed through the whole series.

I created a world based on a reverence for the earth and work. The books are filled with herb lore (medicinal and culinary), chants and songs, dance, music (though you cannot hear it), spiritual beliefs, and different lifeways of the people the bowdancer meets in her life.

What is your favorite among your own books?

I am quite fond of all six of the Bowdancer books. I think of them, Warrior Women and Verses of the Lost Song Trilogy are probably my favorites.

Of my other books, Sugar Magnolia, a book about the music industry is a favorite.

What is your favorite fantasy novel?

Hmmm. That’s hard to decide. I’ve read a lot of Marian Zimmer Bradley, Ann McCaffrey (Dragonriders of Pern series), Mercedes Lakey, Ursual Le Guin, and Tolkien, of course, as well as a lot of new writers like Robert Liparulo, Tamora Pierce, and, J. K. Rowlings. It’s really hard to pick just one. I think my whole writing life has been shaped by those authors and others, including some really great mysteries and thriller writers, including Gregg Hurwitz and his page turners.

Can you tell us something about your writing process?

I’m a pantser. I start with an idea and then plunge myself into the story, letting my characters frame the plot. Usually, they don’t lead me wrong. I will do research either before I start a book or during the writing process.

What do you want readers to take away from your books?

I think all of my books deal with empowered women characters, especially those in the Bowdancer books. I deal with themes of isolation, difference, bigotry, independence, and a search for meaning and belonging. Because these themes are worked out in a culture in a created world, it is my hope that readers can look at the characters and what happens to them, especially in their relationships, and see parallels in their own lives and in society today.

What are your strengths as a writer? What do you struggle with?

I think my strengths lie in my ability to create realistic characters even though a lot of them are in created worlds. I think every writer faces the challenge of drawing characters that live and breathe on the page. And it is my hope that writers become emotionally involved with mine.

As a writer, I struggle with life intervening into my writing process. I think that has been why writing my next book has been difficult.

What are you working on now?

My current work in progress is Legacy, the third book of the Ruins trilogy, my archaeology romance thriller series. It’s taken a long time to write this one.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I live in Santa Fe, NM. I love the landscape here. I’ve been struggling with trying to create a garden here. It’s been one of the hardest things I’ve ever tried to do. It’s not the soil, the limited water, or the plant varieties. It’s the intense sun at 7200 feet. My choice is either to force my will on the land or let it influence me. Perhaps I need to take a lesson from my own writing process and that is to let the land tell me what to do.

Besides working in my garden, I love to dance and go to archaeology sites—and there are many of them here.

Where can readers find you on the web?

Here is my author’s page at MuseItUp Publishing where you can read excerpts from all my books:

My author website is here:

Where can readers find your books?

My books can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other ebooksellers, as well as my publisher’s website.

The Bowdancer Saga is being offered as a bundle in a special for two weeks, starting Nov 28. The first three books of the Bowdancer Saga (The Bowdancer Saga, The Wayfarer’s Road, and Warrior Women) will be available for sale as a bundle for a special price of $2.99 for two weeks only. Those books, if sold separately, would cost $12.50

The bundle is available for presale here:

Meet author Amanda Faith



When did you first know you were destined to be a writer?

It was in the sixth grade. That was when I entered my first contest. We had to write a short story and design and make the book cover. The name of the story was “Tallahassee.” It was about a small colt who was an orphan and wanting to find a home where someone would love him. Although I didn’t win, I knew then I wanted to write.

Who would you cite as your influences?

I remember being so excited about the contest. Mrs. Clay, my English teacher in the sixth grade, really encouraged me to write. My grandfather was also a huge influence. He was a music ghostwriter for some really great artists in the Grand Ole Opry and I would sit and listen to his creativity for hours. He always wanted me to follow my dreams.

What advice would you pass on to beginner writers that you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out?

Read as much as you can in a variety of genres. Granted, you should read what is “hot” now, but also read classics. Read across the board. The more you read, the more you expand your horizons, the more your inner writer generates new ideas. Remember, you should not write about what is hot now. Write what you feel drawn to. That may become the next “hot” item.

When it comes to your writing projects, would you describe yourself as a meticulous planner, or a ‘seat-of-the-pantser’

Probably some of both. It depends on what I am writing. For the academic work, I tend to plan more. There tends to be a lot of research in that. For the creative work, I usually have a general idea of where I am going. My outline is not massively detailed, but I do still use paper and pencil for that. I find that writing down my ideas on paper is my creative venue. Even with that said, sometimes my characters decide they want to go their own way. Sometimes I give in to that to see where it goes. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, but if I don’t let them have their voice, I can’t get anything else done.

Tell us about your latest release?

Strength of Spirit is centered on Velvet Moon. She never thought she would have an interesting life. It was ok, just not interesting.

Now her death is another story.

Her and her mother had no idea the day Wren Easton came into their shop would change their lives so much, or that he would involve them in his job with the government.

Did I mention he was like a Ghostbuster 007?

As a ghost, she has to solve her murder, protect her mother, and fight against an evil man that wants to rule the world.

Why not? She has nothing better to do.

This book won the 2014 Gold Global eBook Award for Paranormal Mystery. It’s also UP Author Approved 2013.

You were born in the North and now live in the South.  What would you say are the main differences between these two halves of the US?

I moved South my senior year in high school. It was a major culture shock for me. Granted, all of the US speaks English, but the South has its own “English.” It took me a little bit to get use to the common terminology here, but I love living in South Carolina. It’s friendly and a lot warmer than Ohio. I really don’t miss the snow and ice.

The term ‘Southern Hospitality’ is so true. I find that people are more friendly here than in the North. The lifestyle is more laid back. Here in the South, sweet tea and grits are staple food products and “y’all” really is a word.

I think one of the major differences is the schools. Unfortunately in the South, they tend to be behind the academic growth. I am not sure if it’s because of the slower paced lifestyle here or something else. I wish it were not that way. Our kids suffer because of it.

Your bio says you’re involved in Dragon Con, which is famous amongst geeks as The Con to attend. If you were to convince a con-goer to part with her hard-earned cash  to attend Dragon Con, how would you sell it?

It is the geekiest place on earth. I am constantly amazed at the variety of events and panels available to everyone. It’s not your comic book special. There are so many panels to attend, gaming to play, art to see, stars to ogle over, parties to attend, gatherings to join, people to meet…it is a plethora of everything geek. You can make some really great friends. I have been going for years, even before I was on staff. I have yet to meet anyone nasty. There are so many people there of like mind, it’s like having a huge family. Last year, 62,000 attendees descended on downtown Atlanta, Georgia. That is so mind-boggling. It’s for the young and the young-at-heart. Even though I am 50, I have never been sneered at by the younger generation attending the Con. My students love the fact that I attend every year. They tell me they can see the joy on my face talking about it.

Any works in progress you can tell us about?

I have 2 more books completed, a third more than half done, and another idea I am outlining.

I am trying to finish the edits on the second book in the Velvet Moon series. It is complete. I just need to polish it before I send it out. It has an Alice-in-Wonderland element in it. Velvet definitely has her hands full with this one.

The other I have finished is a science-fiction piece. A young woman discovers her power in art and the control she may have over others for justice to prevail. Again, it’s complete, but I have to do the edits.

I hate editing…lol. I have to get it in gear, though.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I’ve had to recently give up scuba diving and motorcycle riding (due to degenerative arthritis). I loved doing those things. I am an amateur radio operator. I go for walks in the woods and on the beach. I love reading and traveling. I have been to several countries. (The UK is on my list. I can’t wait to go). I am one to try new things. Although I love quiet time, I can’t imagine being in a rut.


2012-10-04 10.09.35



Strength of Spirit Blurb

My name was Velvet Moon. Guess it still is. I never thought I would have an interesting life. It was ok, just not interesting.

Now my death is another story.

Momma and I had no idea the day Wren Easton came into our shop would change our lives so much, or that he would involve us in his job with the government.

Did I mention he was like a Ghostbuster 007? Interesting job.

Now I have to solve my murder, protect my mother, and fight against an evil man that wants to rule the world.

Why not? I have nothing better to do.




What a cool job.

Up until a few hours ago, I never knew a job like Wren’s existed. Now I discover his type of occupation has been around for at least a century. Goes to prove the government does all kinds of things we normal people don’t know about.

Like I would know what normal was. Yeah, right.

 I learned about his training and his testing. He had been targeted at a young age. and under consideration for the job from early in his life. It seems those intelligence tests we took in school are more than just information for the school system. The government wants to see who is “above the norm.” Wren proved himself to be extremely intelligent, physically fit, and had psychic abilities.

Apparently, he remained unaware how much ability he possessed, or he would not have been able to fend off his recent attack the way he did. It seemed his natural abilities took over.

I probed him, gently and in sections. I didn’t want to create more chaos within his head than was already there. His psyche needed healing. This was where my witchy talents came in. It took a little time, but at least I managed to bandage him up, so to speak. I learned more about the current case he was working on.

His latest mission centered on Michael York a businessman always in the papers for one kind of philanthropic work at a hospital, or library, or something. He appeared to be the pillar of the community with more money than any three deities. Not married or having any children, he seemed devoted to his business. Little did anyone know his main source of income were drugs and weapons. He kept that hidden pretty well. At least he thought he did until Wren and his guys entered the picture. It was strictly a fluke the whole operation was discovered at all.

Wren learned how Michael York employed his own supernatural help.

Ghosts can go where they want, when they want to. Somehow, York had a medium enslave a spirit. This achievement meant the medium possessed a spell or icon powerful enough to hold the ghost in thrall. Using the spirit to gather information was too precious a commodity for York to ever release the spirit. The entity sold his soul, so to speak, to York, and couldn’t get out of the bargain.

If a ghost sold his soul, who collected and where did it go?

Better yet, how do you store one of those things?

There was a danger in trying to confine a soul. A spirit would only tolerate so much; then it gets even. If a spirit isn’t free to move on, the spirit will eventually possess the person who trapped them. Theoretically, the controlee becomes the controller. Possession had to be agony for both. Once the possession happened, one soul would not be complete without the other for as long as the human body could stand hosting them. I understood that. No one could control me when I was alive. I would get even in the end if someone tried to control me now I’m dead.

What amazed me was how the spirits communicated with each other. At least it won’t be a lonely life once this situation with Big Burly was sorted. It explained where the voices were coming from. I can hear anyone—anything—close, it would seem. Maybe part of this ability came from being psychic. It’s all so new and not like I’ve had a lot of time to explore this new aspect of my existence. Wren didn’t appear to have any more useful information. He understood ghosts to a degree and how to summon one, but he didn’t have long conversations with one to learn about the inner workings of the spirit realm. He was strictly the hit man.

Apparently, Wren got caught going back to house of Michael York’s medium. Big Burly roughed him up, but Wren managed to escape. The whole thing became evident to me as I realized something.

They let him go.

Wren possessed an item Michael York wanted; a charm of some sort. The talisman was extremely important. York wanted it back. It was worth killing over. Now Wren held the item, he’d hidden it. The importance of the charm wasn’t immediately obvious and I didn’t want to probe deeply since Wren was pretty banged up.

I let go. Wren came back into focus. The link worked both ways, and now he understood me a little better.

Velvet, I’ll see what new information I can find out about the amulet and about Michael York for you. Thanks.”

Wren went into the other room and made a few phone calls. It didn’t matter who overheard what anymore. The cards were all laid out on the table, so to speak.

Nia watched our communication transpire. Even though my probing only took a few minutes, watching it happen to someone you love must have seemed kind of freaky.

Velvet, is he going to be alright?”

Yeah, Momma. He is going to be just fine.” I filled Momma in on what I had learned while she sat there, so quiet and subdued.

Wren came back into the room. “I left messages with some people who can help. I need to go stake out York’s home to see if I can discover anything. I can’t waste time sitting here.”

Nia jumped up. “No. You need time to heal. You’re only going to make matters worse.”

Wren took her into his arms and held her close, kissing the top of her head. My heart warmed knowing Momma will be loved when I leave here. After a few minutes, he released her.

I have to, Nia. You know that I have to.” Without another word, he left.

Five Fun Facts about Amanda:

  1. Believe it or not, Amanda plays 15 instruments and sings, too.
  2. Amanda’s tombstone will probably ready, “She just had to try one more new thing before she left.”
  3. Amanda likes horror things. She has a collection of creepy dolls, skulls & skeletons, zombies, Teddy Scares, and other horror props. A lot of these are in her classroom.
  4. Living out in the country helps her center and refresh her soul, especially after a hectic day at the high school and evening classes at the college.
  5. Amanda Faith entered her first writing contest in the 6th grade (thanks to Mrs. Clay). The story was named Tallahassee. It was about a young colt who wanted a family to love him. Although she didn’t win, she does attribute her love of writing to this teacher.
Amanda Faith was born and raised in Dayton, Ohio, but has lived in the South since 1980. Teaching high school English by day, college English by night, writing, and doing paranormal investigations doesn’t slow her down from having a great time with a plethora of hobbies. Her published credits include short stories, poetry, several journal articles, her doctoral dissertation, and her award-winning book Strength of Spirit. She is a staff writer for The Daily Dragon at Dragon Con. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English, a Masters in Education-English, and a Doctorate in Education-Teacher Leadership.

Interview with Susan Royal, Nov 7th

How did you come to write your novel?

I can never remember a time in my life when I didn’t want to be a writer. I must have Bio photostarted at least 50 different stories at different times in my life, only to set them aside after hitting a snag with the plot, losing interest or getting busy with something else. A little more than 10 years ago we bought our first home computer. My youngest was about to graduate from high school and I actually had some free time. I made up my mind that If I was ever going to write a book and finish it, now was the time. I had the opening scene of Not Long Ago written for at least a year before I went any further with it. It could have gone in a thousand different directions, but the romantic in me knew I had to explore the connection between the man and the woman who saw each other by accident through the coffee shop window.

If you couldn’t be a writer, what would you be?

If I had the musical abilities my children have inherited from my husband, I’d be a musician. I can carry a tune, but that’s as far as it goes. Oh well, someone has to be there to appreciate their efforts.

Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between? Somewhere in between. Too much plotting and I lose my creative flow and stagnate. Too little and my storyline suffers. I always have an idea where I want to begin and where I want to end. The journey from start to finish is an adventure.

What’s your favorite book in your genre, and why? While I have many, one in particular comes to mind. Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Okay, it isn’t just the Scotsmen in kilts, I promise. There’s just something about a love between to people that stand the test of time. I know. I’m a hopeless Romantic.

What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?

Early on I was lucky enough to submit my work to an editor and an agent who took the time to encourage me to continue writing. They told me my strong points and what I needed to develop further. After I got over feeling rejected, I took what they said to heart and learned. I entered and won short story contests and continued reading, writing, learning, editing. I never EVER gave up. In June of 2010, I submitted to MuseItUp and the rest is history.

Do you read books about writing? Why or why not? The only one I ever read from cover to cover was Stephen King’s book. I’ve been known to skim them the same way I do when I’m researching for something to use in a book, but my best way to learn is by trial and error. Somewhere along the line, I find the perfect example of what I’m trying to get across to my reader and it all falls into place.

What do you consider your greatest strengths as a writer? I’ve been told I’m good with emotions, which makes me feel good, because it’s something I constantly strive to achieve. Another thing is characters. I have great fun developing them.

What are you working on now? I’m working on the third book in my It’s About Time Series. I’m about 10,000 words in and it’s going good so far.

What would you like readers to take away from your book? I’d like them to come away with the satisfaction you get when you’ve read something you don’t want to end.

Where can readers buy your book?

MuseItUp, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords

Where can readers find you on the web?

My blog is

My website is (due for a major update as soon as I can get to it!)

Any last words?

Thanks for having me Margaret. Talking about the writing process never fails to give me renewed purpose and the incentive I need for writing. Now I’m chomping at the bits!

A few words from Susan

In Not Long Ago, the first book of my It’s About Time series, Erin has met the man of her dreams, but as usual there are complications. It’s one of those long distance relationships, and Griffin is a little behind the times– somewhere around 600 years. Erin and her employer, March, are transported to a time where chivalry and religion exist alongside brutality and superstition. Something is not quite right at the castle, and Erin and March feel sure mysterious Lady Isobeil is involved. But Erin must cope with crop circles, ghosts, a kidnapping and death before the truth of her journey is revealed. Forced to pose as March’s nephew, Erin finds employment as handsome Sir Griffin’s squire. She’s immediately attracted to him and grows to admire his courage, quiet nobility and devotion to duty. Yet, she must deny her feelings. Her world is centuries away, and she wants to go home. But Erin can’t stop thinking about her knight in shining armor.Not long ago333x500

After I signed with MuseItUp, in June 2011, my daughter, Carrie, read the manuscript to get a feel for the book trailer she was creating. She read the last page and called me immediately. Our conversation went like this:

That’s not the end, is it?”

Didn’t you like it?” I felt as though I’d resolved all the major questions and ended the story in a good place.

Yeah, but…you can’t stop there.”

“What do you mean?”

Erin and Griffin’s story isn’t finished. I want to know what happens next!”

And that’s how it became a series. In Not Long Ago, I pictured a young woman in her twenties hurrying down a busy city sidewalk. One her way past a coffee shop, she notices a handsome stranger through the window. Their eyes meet and what she sees leaves her reeling. Not only does she recognize him, she knows things about the man…but how? Who is he? From there, the story could have gone anywhere. Turns out it did. The idea of time travel has always fascinated me. Imagine getting up close and personal with history. Experiencing what life is really like in another time. My main characters, Erin and Griffin, meet and fall in love in a medieval world. From Now On takes up where it leaves off. Some of my favorite characters from the first book are back. Arvo: the tall gangly young man with a disreputable shock of red hair who becomes Erin’s good friend and confidant. Sir Edevane: Griffin’s fellow knight and friend. Kat: Griffin’s fiesty little sister. Sir Griffin travels across FromNowOn_200x300centuries to find Erin, the woman he loves. Before they can begin their new life together, he’s sent on a mission to a strange island. When he doesn’t return as planned, Erin assembles a group of his friends to search for him. Followed by his strong-willed sister, Kateryn, they travel to Swansea and secure passage with the notorious Captain Akin. Erin discovers firsthand how the island has earned its dark reputation when she battles freakish weather, encounters a race of little people known as “Prowlies” and experiences ghosts of the long departed. Even worse, she discovers there are “ley lines” crossing the island’s mountain peak, creating all sorts of strange phenomena, such as time travel. Yet these obstacles pale in comparison to the secrets Erin uncovers while trying to rescue the man she loves. If you love a time travel adventure with a twist (and a love story) and haven’t read Not Long Ago, please do. You can continue Erin and Griffin’s story with From Now On, coming out in spring/summer 2014. As for what happens after that? It’s too soon to tell, but I can promise you it will be an adventure.

In My Own Shadow (fantasy, adventure, romance)

Book Trailer:

Not Long Ago (time travel, adventure, romance)

Not Long Ago book trailer

Both books available at MuseItUp, Amazon, B&N, Goodreads


Born in west Texas and raised in south Texas, Susan makes her home in a 100-year-old farmhouse in a small east Texas town that comes complete with a ghost who has been known to harmonize with her son when he plays guitar.

Susan is married and the mother of six (she counts her children’s spouses as her own) and five grandchildren who are all unique and very special. Her family is rich with characters, both past and present. Her grandmother shared stories of living on a farm in Oklahoma Territory with three sisters and three brothers and working as a telephone operator in the early 20th century. Her father told her about growing up in San Antonio in the depression, and she experienced being a teenager during WWII through her mother’s eyes.

Susan loves to take her readers through all kinds of adventures with liberal doses of romance. Her latest book is From Now On, a time travel adventure/romance. It’s the stand-alone sequel to Not Long Ago in her It’s About Time series. In My Own Shadow is a Fantasy adventure/romance. Look for her books at MuseItUp/Amazon/B&N. Odin’s Spear, one of her short stories is featured in a Quests, Curses, and Vengeance anthology, Martinus Publishing, available on Amazon.

Born in west Texas and raised in south Texas, I make my home in a 100-year-old farmhouse in a small east Texas town that comes complete with a ghost who harmonizes with my son when he plays guitar.

I’m married and the mother of six (I count my children’s spouses as my own) and five grandchildren who are all unique and very special. My family is rich with characters, both past and present. When I was growing up, I loved listening to family stories. My grandmother shared what it was like, living on a farm in Oklahoma Territory with three sisters and three brothers and working as a telephone operator in the early 20th century. My father talked about growing up in San Antonio in the depression, and I experienced being a teenager during WWII through my mother’s eyes.

Interview with Mary Jean Harris, Nov. 3

Mary-JeanHarris-InverlochyTell us something about yourself

I’ll choose something sort of random and say that the first story I wrote was an adventure story about Neopets (online pets) when I was about 7. When I look back at it, I’m surprised at how much I wrote. I never finished it, and I don’t think I had a plan of where it was going, but it was a neat story in any case. I also used to write a lot in a journal, and I really like reading my entries now. They’re so fun to read!

Your first novel has just come out. How did you come to write it?

When I first started writing Aizai the Forgotten, I hadn’t intended for it to be a novel. It started with me just speculating about a lost world that had come into existence and then had vanished, so I decided to write about it. I added a boy who had read about this world and was trying to discover what it was and if he could get to it. I was also trying to discover what Aizai was, but after a while, I figured it out, and plotted it out more to finish it.

This is the first novel in a series. How much planning did you do for the series as a whole, as opposed to the novel itself?AzaitheForgotten1600x2400

I didn’t have any plans for the series before I started writing Aizai the Forgotten, but as I progressed through the story, I realized that there was a lot more that I could cover for a larger series, both with the main character, Wolfdon, and other characters. So I am planning to follow Wolfdon and a few other characters for a few books and then progress to other times and places (not necessarily on Earth) with other characters. They’ll still be related though in the larger series The Soul Wanderers though.

I hear that some writers create a ‘series bible.’ Did you do this, and if not, how are you keeping track of the series elements from one book to the next?

I really should have a series bible! What I do have is a haphazard mess of papers and tabs in notebooks that refer to different things to do with the series, though I do have some folders for theory, characters, or plot, so I try to put the papers into the right folders. Somehow, working out alright, but since I don’t do any plotting or writing on the computer (except for typing up my story and then editing), the paper organization gets a bit crazy. It’s all fun though!

Are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between?

I’m a mix of both. I do planning mostly on the go. I write a bit, plot a bit, then write more, and plot more… Though even with some planning at the onset, I modify things a lot as I write. I make up new plans and don’t fit in some of my original ones because the events and the characters lead me elsewhere. I get a lot of inspiration as I’m writing, so I can’t really plan everything at the start anyway. For short stories though, I try to plan them more so they don’t all turn into novels. Since short stories usually only cover one main topic anyway, I find it isn’t too difficult to plan before writing, even if the details get filled in as I write it.

What is the best writing advice you ever got? The worst?

I get a lot of good advice from the author David Farland’s “Kick in the Pants” newsletter. One especially good one was about adding plot twists and unique elements to your writing. What a writer should ask themselves is “What couldn’t possibly happen?” You’ll have to stretch your imagination to answer this, and in doing so, you might find a surprising direction to turn your story to.

As for the worst writing advice, I’ll choose a quote that wasn’t actually given to me, but it is about writing all the same. Oscar Wilde said, “There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.”  Normally, I love Oscar Wilde, especially his book The Picture of Dorian Gray, but this quote really annoyed me because books greatly affect people’s personality and outlook on life, and so there is a moral responsibility a writer has to their readers. That’s not to say that the protagonist has to be perfect, but if a novel portrays bad things in a good light or does not exemplify good qualities, the author has failed in an important part with their connection to the reader. Whether Oscar Wilde would like it or not, I found his book Dorian Gray a moral book, not because Dorian was moral, but because his degradation exemplifies the consequences of a luxurious and immoral lifestyle, both on himself and the world around him.

What was the most difficult thing for you about writing your novel?

Finding the time to write. It isn’t “difficult” in the sense that something like plotting or crafting characters is, but when you’re busy with a lot of other things, it’s sometimes hard to have the mental energy to write. When I am at school during the year, I don’t write that much, so get most writing done in the summer. But I do try to write during the year, even if it is just a page a day, because then I still progress, and I always have fun when I do it anyway.

What are you working on now?

I’m writing the sequel to Aizai, which takes up where the first book left off. In the sequel, there is an extra point of view character, and it takes place in different time periods (the seventeenth century in Spain as well as the twelfth century in Scotland). This involves much more research, but since it is fantasy, most of my books are only loosely historical, so I make up a lot of things myself.

What do you want readers to take away from your books?

I don’t plan any particular themes or messages I want readers to take, because I find that these just emerge with the telling of the story. But I do hope that readers gain a sense of hope and inspiration from my stories. I always include magic as a key element, and I make it so that it arises naturally in ways that are in accord with many philosophical and esoteric traditions, so that in a sense, it is possible, and I hope that readers will be more interested in philosophy and the deeper parts of fantasy literature. I think that fantasy has a lot to offer about life and noble qualities, which is something Tolkien talked about in his lovely essay “On Fairy- Stories”.

How much research did you do for your book, and how did you go about it?

Like I said above, I do research more sporadically when it is needed. Depending on what I’m looking for, I might just look online (such as with historical clothing) or get a book from the library (such as with Medieval monasteries, or certain topics in philosophy). For this, I just take notes on things that would be useful or photocopy certain pages. Right now, I’m reading The Philosophy of Ancient Britain for research for my next novel, which is something I would want to read anyway, but it is also useful for things that I’ll incorporate with Druids in my book. Though since I write fantasy, I make up a lot of things myself, so my research is usually just for general historical things such as how people lived in certain times.

Where can readers find you one the web?

(you could just put my website link if you want)

Where can readers buy your book?


Any last words?

For writers out there: find what you really love to write and write that, because that’s the best story for you to tell.

And thanks for interviewing me on your blog!

My Bio:

Mary-Jean Harris writes fantasy and historical fiction, both novels and short stories. Some of her short stories have been published in anthologies and websites, including the upcoming Tesseracts 18 anthology, Polar Expressions Publishing, and Black Lantern Publishing. Two of her short stories have been honourable mentions in the Writers of the Future contest in 2013 and 2014. Mary-Jean is currently a student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, studying theoretical physics with a minor in philosophy. She has an adorable poodle and a rabbit, and has travelled to England, Scotland, and Peru and hopes to travel to many other interesting places.

Blurb for book:

With an otherworldly horse borrowed from an astrologer, and armed with a strange magical device, seventeen-year-old Wolfdon Pellegrin sets off through seventeenth-century France and Spain to fulfill his dream of finding the forgotten realm of Aizai.

One obscure book, by the philosopher Paulo de la Costa Santamiguero, has given him a lead to start his journey—go to the northern coast of Spain, where a portal to Aizai supposedly exists.

Though death and danger loom ever near, nothing can dim the longing for Aizai kindling within Wolfdon’s heart. Yet even as he strives to discover the mysterious realm’s secrets and fate, a frightening truth becomes clear—one that may cost Wolfdon everything, including the future.

Short Excerpt:

“I must be off,” Wolfdon said, deciding that he would try to find these Philosophers and anyone else who knew about Aizai or Paulo.

Fredrick then took Wolfdon’s arm and whispered, “I suppose you have a proper Wert?”

Wolfdon shook his head, having never heard of a “Wert” before. Fredrick released him and took a thick rod from a strap on his belt. At first glance, it might have been a flattened pickaxe. The rod was made of what appeared to be petrified wood, for it was hued with a pleasant entwinement of red, green, rose, and orange, and the bronze head had two blades that curved down the sides of the rod like the drooping ears of a hound so that the top was smooth and harmless. Mysterious runic writing was etched where the rod met the head.

Seeing Wolfdon’s puzzled expression, Fredrick smiled and said, “This is a spare, fortunately for you.”

“What does it do?” Wolfdon asked.

“That is for the bearer to determine. A Wert is what we make of it—its power will shift accordingly. Ay! Rub that skeptical face away! The best men carry a Wert at all times, even Queen Anne Sophie of Norway.