Monday, March 25, 2024

Spy on Your Competition to Succeed

by Sharon Ledwith

Spying is a catchy way of saying “do your research and stay tuned in.” Regardless of what you call it, it’s a mandatory part of being successful. It’s also a great way to build connections. There’s an old saying that to be successful you have to stop obsessing about the competition. I agree with that to a certain degree, but to be unaware of what other authors in your genre are doing is never a smart idea. 

Regardless of what you write you need to be dialed into the competitive landscape. Knowing what others in your target market are doing, writing about, and promoting can be key to your success as well. Not that I would ever encourage copying, but being in tune with your genre and market can be a fantastic idea generator, not to mention it gives you the ability to stay ahead of certain trends that haven’t even surfaced at the consumer level yet. 

First rule of spying: study your target market, the books as well as other authors in the industry. It helps you to also differentiate yourself from them in products, services, and pricing. Again, you don’t want to copy, you just want to be aware. Another lesser known reason for doing this is that if you’re struggling with your social media (like me)—both from the aspect of what platform to be on to what to say to drive more engagement—keeping these authors on your radar will greatly increase your marketing ideas. Living in a vacuum never made anyone successful. 

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, you want to know who else is writing on your topic or in your genre. Google search is a great place to start. The results will not just turn up names and book titles but also show you the best ways to interact with your reader. Google is packed with names of authors who write about your topic or genre. As you begin to compile your list, I want you to do one thing: ignore big brands because it’s likely that they can do anything they want and still be successful. If you’re a middle grade writer, names like Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull come to mind. These authors are big, powerful brands. You want the smaller names—the people you may not immediately recognize. Why? Because they have to try harder. If tomorrow Riordan or Mull decided to put out a book on poetry, while their fans might be surprised, they would likely still buy it. But if a lesser-known author did that they’d look like they have writer-ADD. Not good. 

So start putting your list together, as you do sign up for their mailing lists, and follow them on Twitter and any other social media site they use. That’s what I do. Aside from the obvious reasons why you want to do this, I’m a big fan of supporting other authors in my market. Share their Facebook updates, retweet their great Twitter posts, and like their Instagram images. 

One of the hidden gems of this research is it will also show you what social media sites to be on. If you've been struggling to figure out where your market resides, this strategy should really clear that up for you. Why? Because if you’re plucking names off of the first page of Google you know one thing: whatever they are doing to show up in search, they’re doing it right. Google has made so many changes to their search algorithms that you simply can’t “trick” the system anymore to get onto page one. Look at their updates. What are they sharing and why? How often do they blog? Are they on LinkedIn instead of Facebook? Is there much going on for them on Pinterest or Instagram? Really spend some time with this. Not only will it help you tune into your market but it will cut your learning curve by half, if not more. Successful authors leave clues. 

Are you following their bread crumbs? 

Here's a glimpse into one of the books from Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls, my teen psychic mystery series.

The only witness left to testify against an unsolved crime in Fairy Falls isn’t a person… 

City born and bred, Hart Stewart possesses the gift of psychometry—the psychic ability to discover facts about an event or person by touching inanimate objects associated with them. Since his mother’s death, seventeen-year-old Hart has endured homelessness, and has learned ways to keep his illiteracy under wraps. He eventually learns of a great-aunt living in Fairy Falls and decides to leave the only life he’s ever known for an uncertain future. 

Diana MacGregor lives in Fairy Falls. Her mother was a victim of a senseless murder. Only Diana’s unanswered questions and her grief keeps her going, until Hart finds her mother’s lost ring and becomes a witness to her murder. 

Through Hart’s psychic power, Diana gains hope for justice. Their investigation leads them into the corrupt world threatening Fairy Falls. To secure the town’s future, Hart and Diana must join forces to uncover the shocking truth, or they risk losing the true essence of Fairy Falls forever.

Sharon Ledwith is the author of the middle-grade/YA time travel series, THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS, and the teen psychic mystery series, MYSTERIOUS TALES FROM FAIRY FALLS. When not writing, researching, or revising, she enjoys reading, exercising, anything arcane, and an occasional dram of scotch. Sharon lives a serene, yet busy life in a southern tourist region of Ontario, Canada, with her hubby, one spoiled yellow Labrador and a moody calico cat. 

Learn more about Sharon Ledwith on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook and Twitter, Google+, Goodreads, and Smashwords. Look up her Amazon Author page for a list of current books. Be sure to check out THE LAST TIMEKEEPERS TIME TRAVEL SERIES Facebook page.

Monday, March 18, 2024

We Hate When That Happens

by C. D. Hersh 

Writing is full of challenges, from the perfecting the actual craft to getting the book published to mastering marketing. Along the way, if you’re like us, you’ve probably had your share of writing mishaps-things you hate to see happen. Here are ten of our We-hate-when-that-happens moments. 

1. When we miss the wrong word in a sentence that spell check didn’t catch and send the piece to the editor for publication. Sliver and silver—both are spelled correctly but can’t be used interchangeably. 

2. When we see the transposed letters of a word in our blog comments AFTER the comment has been posted and you can’t get to it for a do over. 

3. When our hero’s eye color changes mid-book because somebody forgot to check the character sheet. (No we won’t identify the “somebody”) 

4. When the find and replace option in Microsoft Word replaces ALL the spaces between the words, instead of the one extra space after every sentence targeted, turning the manuscript into one loooooong run-on sentence. Yes,ithappenedtous. That’s why we don’t recommend using the replace all function. 

5. When everyone in the critique group hates our favorite part of a scene. That usually means there’s going to be a lot of rewriting. 

6. When your finger finds the delete key instead of the save key. Thank goodness for the UNDO function! 

7. When you realize the whole chapter you just finished doesn’t go anywhere, doesn’t move the plot forward, and that chapter has to be slashed from the book. 

8. When the critique partners love the secondary characters more than the hero or heroine. Ugh! 

9. When we love a secondary character more than a hero or heroine. (One solution is that means a second book.) 

10. When you close down the computer and it crashes the next time it‘s opened. This is why Catherine prints out a hard copy every time she creates new pages and stores them in a three ring binder. Paper is her friend. (She has the file drawers full to prove it. 20 at last count. Do you have an I-hate-when-that-happens moment? We would love to hear it. Please share in a comment below so we don’t fell so inept.

Putting words and stories on paper is second nature to co-authors C.D. Hersh. They've written separately since they were teenagers and discovered their unique, collaborative abilities in the mid-90s. As high school sweethearts and husband and wife, Catherine and Donald believe in true love and happily ever after, and that’s why they write romance. 

The first four books of their paranormal romance series entitled The Turning Stone Chronicles are available in e-book format on Amazon. Can’t Stop The Music, their standalone romance novella currently out of print, won the 2018 Uncaged Book Reviews Contemporary Music Raven Award. 

Ghosts and Gardenias, the first book in their time slip romance series Ghosts of Garnoa Road, will come out in the spring of 2024. 

In addition to writing Catherine and Donald love antiquing, traveling, singing, and going to the theatre. Catherine is also an avid gardener and has drawn Donald into her garden as a day laborer. They figure the couple who plays together and works together, stays together—and that's just what they aim to do.

Amazon buy links: The Turning Stone Chronicles series page The Promised One (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 1) eBook Blood Brothers (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 2): eBook Son of the Moonless Night (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 3) eBook The Mercenary and the Shifters (The Turning Stone Chronicles Book 4) eBook 

Learn more about C.D. Hersh on their Website, Soul Mate Publishing, Amazon Author Page. Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads. Be sure to follow their Blog.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Dinner the St. Patrick’s Day Way

from Sloane Taylor

Presenting the traditional St. Patrick's Day meal most North Americans will enjoy with a cold Harp Lager, Guinness Stout, Killian's Irish Red Lager, or Smithwicks Ale. But here's a newsflash, Boyo, except for the beer you'll never find corned beef served anyway on the Old Sod. That's right. Our Irish brethren look at us in amazement, but that's never stopped us Yanks from creating traditions. So pour another wee dram and let's get cooking.

Corned Beef
Bakery Rye Bread
Horseradish Sauce
Irish Beer and plenty of it

Corned Beef
1 5lb. corned beef brisket*
2 med. onions, peeled and quartered
4 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
3 bottles of beer
water to cover

Preheat oven to 300 F°.

Place beef in a Dutch oven. Add remaining ingredients, including spice packet that comes with the beef.

Bring to a boil on stovetop. Place in oven and roast for 3 hours or until meat is fork tender.

*Don't stint on the beef. It cooks down to approximately half. I learned this lesson the hard way.

Here's a tip from my butcher Raoul. Always buy corned beef flat cut. It has less fat than the point. Therefore you get more meat for your money.

6 med. red potatoes, peeled and quartered
6 carrots, scraped and cut into 2" pieces
1 celery stalk, cut into 2" pieces
1 med. green cabbage, cut into 8 wedges
1 cup corned beef cooking liquid

You can prep all the veggies and store in a large container covered by cold water until you're ready to cook them. Refrigerate so vegetables remain crisp.

Place veggies in a large pot. Stir in corned beef cooking liquid. Add water to cover vegetables by 2 inches. Cover pot. Set cooking temp at medium. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat so the pot doesn't cook over, but maintain a soft boil. Cook about 30 minutes or until veggies are fork tender.

Horseradish Sauce
1 cup sour cream
2 tbsp. prepared horseradish
1 tsp. fresh chives, snipped short

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Stir well.

Transfer to a serving dish, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Dea Ithe!


Friday, March 08, 2024


Romance author Stella May kicks off her new series, Rostoff Family Saga, with New Dawn. This engrossing novel touches your heart as well as your spirit. 

Love wasn’t part of their agreement. Neither was being caught in a brutal web of lies.

International playboy and owner of a jewelry empire that spreads across three continents, Dmitry Rostoff holds a memory close to this heart that not even his best friend Vlad Albrecht knows. When Dmitry learns the Russian ballerina, he had a passionate affair with died in childbirth, bitterness and hate overrule all other emotions.

Taking the baby out of Russia is an impossible snarl of red tape, but Dmitry gets his way, even if he leaves a trail of chaos in his wake.

Natasha Sokolova planned to turn over the baby to Dmitry then walk away. Instead, she is on a plane to San Francisco with the baby and a cold, emotionless man who makes her heart pound with scorching attraction.

The family matriarch and evil to her core Elizabeth Rostoff plots to gain control of the baby, no matter what it costs or who it hurts, and will do anything to make that happen. She blackmails Marie Dubois, the manager of their elite Paris store, to seduce Dmitry. But Marie reneges on the deal when former Special Forces officer Vlad Albrecht storms into her life.

Once in America, Natasha finds herself entangled in a sticky web of lies created by the brutally calculating family matriarch. A web that forces Natasha to make a heartbreaking deal with the devil to protect the children—and man—she’s come to love.



Stella May is the penname for Marina Sardarova who has a fascinating history you should read on her website.

Stella writes fantasy romance as well as time travel romance. She is the author of 'Till Time Do Us Part, Book 1 in her Upon a Time series, and the stand-alone book Rhapsody in Dreams. Love and family are two cornerstones of her stories and life. Stella’s books are available in e-book and paperback through all major vendors. 

When not writing, Stella enjoys classical music, reading, and long walks along the ocean with her husband. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband Leo of 25 years and their son George. They are her two best friends and are all partners in their family business. 

Follow Stella on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Monday, March 04, 2024


By Leigh Goff

Wine tasting and writing fiction may seem like two very different realms, but when you look closer, you'll see that they share intriguing similarities. Both experiences involve sensory exploration and the art of storytelling.

I recently began a journey into wine tasting and am now studying for my level 2 certification (yes, the homework rocks). How wine tasting appeals to me was similar to how I feel about writing. After some research, I discovered there was a connection. Just as a wine taster engages their senses to explore the intricacies of a wine, a fiction writer harnesses the power of sensory details to bring their story to life.

A highly skilled winemaker tends to the grapes and the winemaking process to produce a wine like a Napa Cabernet that boasts flavors of ripe blackberries, velvety dark chocolate with subtle hints of cedar, culminating in a full-bodied magical experience on the palate. When I craft a story, I construct compelling plots, drawing on my sensory experiences to enhance them and then refine the work through editing and revision. In my first novel, 
Disenchanted, the story I created was filled with sensory details. I wanted to immerse the reader in the magic of Sophie's world, her star-crossed romance, and the haunting history of Old Wethersfield.

Some writers through the centuries, such as Jane Austen, were known to imbibe on too much wine. Research from the University of Graz shows that drinking wine enhances creative thinking for writers. Of course, it does! Now winemakers are harnessing the art of storytelling to enhance their connection with consumers. Using a new phone app called Winerytale, the user can read the story about a wine of their choice and learn about the winemakers.

While wine tasting and writing fiction may seem unrelated, the parallels are undeniable. Both pursuits involve sensory exploration, layered complexity, subjective interpretation, storytelling, and a blend of artistry and craftsmanship. The next time you savor a glass of wine or dive into a captivating novel, take a moment to appreciate the shared essence of these two worlds, where sensory delights and imaginative tales intertwine. 


Leigh Goff
writes young adult fiction. She is a graduate from the University of Maryland and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).

 She has three published novels, DISENCHANTEDBEWITCHING HANNAH, and KOUSH HOLLOW. She is also a member of SCBWI and a graduate from the University of Maryland.

Learn more about Leigh Goff on her website and blog. Stay connected on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Goodreads.