The Main Problem With Indie Publishing Today by Chris Mason: Guest Post

Hello, my name is Chris Mason and I would like to thank Vicki before I start off for giving me a platform to speak with you today.

Today’s topic is “The Main Problem With Indie Publishing Today” The answer is indie authors themselves. Now before you get your torches and pitchforks and try to run me out of town hear me out.

I have been writing since 2008 and publishing since 2013. Almost all newbies authors form bad habits that are hard to break.

These bad habits include:
1. Idol worship of Amazon
2. A lack of professionalism and yet wanting to be taken seriously by the big 5. The Big 5 is slang for the big 5 publishing companies.
3. Not treating being an author as a real job.
4. The over-reliance on social media for marketing.
5. The inability to see the Longview and the big picture. What I mean by this is the lack of a plan or believing everything done in marketing is based on the acquisition of money. As an indie author, I have found I do a lot of things whose purpose is not going to lead to money.
Since each one of these could have its own blog post I will only be focusing on one of these points today. If Vicki invites me back I would be happy to cover the other points, However, today I Will cover idol worship of Amazon.
Don’t get me wrong Amazon accounts for one out of every two dollars spent in the United States and I am impressed at the empire that Jeff Bezos has created but one thing to keep mind is that Amazon is not your friend. I hear the following statement from many new authors “I just put my book on Amazon when should I expect the royalties to start rolling in”. Amazon is not a lamp you rub and money comes out. I will now cover the problems with Amazon and other alternatives authors can use without the pitfalls Amazon intentionally puts in the way.
The problems that will come up when using Amazon include:
1. The push towards exclusivity with Amazon. Amazon gives the new author the idea they can make more in royalties(70% per sale) if they are exclusive to Amazon. While this is technically true there is a high cost to pay. First off 70% is only 10% more than the standard royalty of 60%. The cost for the extra 10% is exclusivity with Amazon and I don’t think the lack of eyeballs is worth it. Don’t kid yourselves selling books is like any other type of sales, it’s a numbers game. There is even an old saying don’t put all your eggs in one basket. That saying applies to selling books just like to anything else.

Next problem with Amazon. The circle of death. If you have never heard of The circle of death it goes something like this. Every day an author’s book sells it moves up in the rankings of Amazon.However, every day that same book doesn’t sell it goes down in the rankings. For the average author just starting out no one knows who they are. The new author hasn’t built any social proof as to the quality of his or her book or credibility of the author to help sell the book in mass quantities. Therefore the book’s ranking will plummet like a rock till the book is so low in the rankings at Amazon that Waldo will be easier to find then the book in question.

The next problem is Goodreads. I will not go into detail about the problems with Goodreads here but understand all books will wind up at Goodreads whether the author of the book wants it there or not. I sure didn’t want any of my books on Goodreads. For more information about the issues with Goodreads please read the free book Authors versus Goodreads by Zoe Desh free at Smashwords
Next, let us cover the problem with the ISBN assigned by Amazon. I know a lot of authors choose to go with the free ISBN that Amazon will give them mainly because it’s free. First off nothing is free.Everything has a cost and this ISBN is no different. If an author chooses to use the ISBN supplied by Amazon to publish their book through CreateSpace. The author may find several doors close to them. Here are some of the drawbacks when using the Amazon issued ISBN number. First off the ISBN issued by Amazon locks your book into only being able to be sold through Amazon’s distribution chains. This means you can only sell on Amazon. I understand that a lot of people claim Amazon can get their book into a library or a bookstore. This is not true. First, most libraries do not consider it a real ISBN because it’s not. It’s issued by Amazon. It is an ASIN. These are not real ISBN numbers.

Only Bowler is authorized to sell ISBN numbers in the United States. Authors can purchase ISBN numbers at this website. ISBN Org at
I suggest buying in bulk to receive volume discounts. It is my understanding that Nielsen does the equivalent in the UK. Here is their website, . Libraries and bookstore need official ISBN numbers to be able to catalog all books in libraries and bookstores. Without an ISBN both of these options will be closed to the average author. I have many more problems with Amazon’s business practices and their treatment of authors in general, however, let’s move to a much more pleasant topic.

The importance of diversification. Now listen to me very clearly. While I am completely against exclusivity and I personally don’t like Amazon and their business practices I would recommend using them as one of your distribution channels. Keep in the back of your mind that sales is a numbers game and you as an author need as many eyeballs looking at you and your books as you can get.
I’m going to quickly run down how to turn your one product into many products and how to get seen in wide release as fast as you can instead of choosing exclusivity with Amazon.
Let’s say you as an author wrote The Joy of flying. It’s a great book on how to get your pilot’s license. You have worked hard on it and you want to sell it to as many people as you can. So here are the steps.
1. Let’s make an ebook . First I’m going to make an assumption that you have a Word document. I’m also going to assume that you have paid for a proofreader and copy editor. Those two jobs by the way or different. A proofreader will look for grammar and spelling errors in a manuscript all a copy editor will actually change aspects of the manuscript. Next I’m going to assume that you have paid for a cover. While the cover is very important to book sales please be realistic in what you’re going to spend and do not spend more than $60 for a cover.

Now that we have all the necessary parts for an ebook let’s go shopping for a distributor. There are three major players for ebook distribution. They are Kindle Direct Publishing, Smashwords, and Draft2Digital.

I have already discussed the problems with Amazon so I’ll be moving on to the pros and cons of Draft2Digital.

Draft2Digital will distribute your book to all the likely suspects of book retail.These include Amazon, iTunes, and Barnes & Noble. The benefits of Draft2Digital are they are easy to use, have phone support, and will pretty much take any manuscript and help an author format the manuscript into a book. On top of that while Drafr2Digital doesn’t do a lot in the way of print books, they will help format a book into a 6 by 9 perfect-bound paperback. The website is located at .

Remember back I mentioned everything has a cost. The cost of having Draft2Digital format a book is that the book will not be distributed to as many retailers as possible.

Moving on to the last ebook retailer on the list Smashwords. Smashwords is my retailer of choice as they are the largest ebook retailer in the world and they have the widest distribution possible.

The cost of the incredibly wide distribution of a book is that you as an author have to use the Auto Vetter system. The Auto Vetter will automatically check for errors in formatting. However, using the Auto Vetter is going to be painful to use. The Auto Vetter is so hard to use because the books that Smashwords distributes have to be available in a variety of file formats and each format has its own specific requirements that must be met to be included in that retailer’s catalog. Some of these file formats are for e-readers that are no longer being made.

There is an easy way around the painful Auto Vetter. Outsource the format work of the book. If an author uses a service such as Fiverr he or she can get their book formatted for about $15-$200 depending on length. Author’s worried about losing sales to people who have Kindle devices don’t worry. All Smashwords books are available in Mobi format. the Smashwords website can be found here .

Both Smashwords and Draft2 Digital offer free ISBN numbers. In both cases the author keeps the rights and for filing reasons the company is put down as the books publisher.
Congratulations the author now has an ebook. This will be invaluable when review copies or ARCs( advanced review copies) are needed.

I hear what someone in my audience is saying. “What about print?” The print field is somewhat larger than the e-book field.

The main players are as follows: Amazon’s CreateSpace, Bookbaby, Ingram, Lulu and Print Ninja. unless the author in question has thousands of dollars we can knock some of these options off the list right now.

CreateSpace gets knocked off for its lack of distribution options.

Bookbaby and Print Ninja get knocked off due to price. Ingram gets knocked off due to complexity so that leaves us with Lulu.

I hear somebody out there saying “wait somebody told me Ingram was a great company why shouldn’t I use them”. Ingram is a great company. They are the Microsoft of books. Ingram prints about 99 percent of the world’s books.For this reason, their criteria for formatting is tedious and time-consuming they also charge fees up the wazoo. There is a fee to set up an account with Ingram and there is a fee every time a change is made to a manuscript. So for our purposes, they were removed as an option for a paperback.

Bookbaby was removed due to cost. While they will do both ebooks and print their fee is about $2,500 for a 25 book minimum. That leaves Lulu as the only player left in the game.
first off let me tell you I’ve heard on the web that Lulu is more expensive than its competitors. I believe Lulu has more benefits to offer than its competitors. For example, Lulu can offer hardcover, comic book, photo book, calendar and many other print options. Lulu also offers two types of paper. Create space in comparison only offers one. Lulu also offers flat-rate royalties. This means you set your royalty rate in dollars not in percentage.

For example, you may want a $4 per book royalty rate. if so Lulu will build that into the price. Lulu does offer to distribute your book to brick-and-mortar retailers for an additional fee. I personally do not take this option as I don’t think it’s a good return on investment. That being said, it’s still an option that most other book printers don’t offer. Lastly will do bulk printing and give authors volume pricing. Another good benefit to Lulu is its ease of use. For example, if you have all the documents you used for your ebook you have all but one document necessary to get your book up and ready to go at Lulu. the one missing document, of course, is the back cover. Once you have that it should take you no more than about 10 minutes to put your book up and have it ready for sale at Lulu.
Now onto audiobooks. If your book is suitable for audio you can open up several more markets by just making an audiobook.

The two major players in this Arena are ACX owned by Amazon and Authors Republic owned by I understand the attraction to Amazon’s ACX. I mean who wouldn’t want their audiobook done for free. However, as mentioned before everything has a price.

Just like with Kindle unlimited and the exclusivity clause that prevents you from selling your ebook or paperback anywhere( including your own website) but Amazon the same goes for ACX. However, instead of a 90-day exclusivity clause use for Kindle Unlimited. The exclusivity clause for ACX is seven years. It should also be noted that just like Kindle Unlimited the only distribution you get with ACX is

It is, for this reason, I suggest going with authors Republic. They can get you into Amazon as well as many other audiobook retailers. think of Authors Republic as the audio equivalent of Smashwords. They have tools like ACX to help you make your audiobook or you can submit an audio track already made. the latter is what I recommend. Since I use them I also know for a fact that authors Republic allows you to attach bonuses to your audio files.

For example, one of my audiobooks comes bundled with the companion e-book. I have built the ebooks price into the cost of the audiobook so I don’t lose money. It’s a kids book which is in essence a book and a tape bundled together. the Authors Republic website can be found at the following web address. . A word of caution. just like every author should know the audience for their book. They should also be aware that not every book is suitable for every format. Well as an author you have written the joy of flying. It is in all available formats. This includes audio, ebook, and audiobook.

If you distributed through authors Republic, Lulu, and Smashwords your book should now be available in about 31 different retailers around the world. How is that for eyeballs?

I could give you some more retailers to sell the Joy of Flying but I will save that for another day.

I have a homework assignment I would like everyone reading this blog post to do something for me. I would like you to read the free ebook Why Authors Fail: 17 Mistakes Self-Publishing Authors Make That Sabotage Their success( And How To Fix Them). The book is available at Smashwords. .I just think this is a really good book for helping Indie authors get set on the right path.

I would like to thank you all for letting me share my experiences with you today. Thank you again Vicki for letting me speak and share my views. I hopefully will be able to talk to you all again real soon. thanks for stopping by.

Here’s where to connect with me and learn more about me and my books

Link to my books in e-format:

Link to my books in print:

Link to my books in audio:

Social media links


Twitter @Chrismason9595

Bio: I live with my wife on a big rig that goes cross country. I mainly write in three genres. Children’s picture books, coloring books for both kids and adults and internet reference guides about free digital resources on the internet.


A special visit to the Art Gallery of Nancy Z. Quinn, Wildlife Artist and Author








      What happens when an internationally known Florida wildlife artist moves to the wild and woolly west?  Well, first she finds a cougar on her swing set and a moose in her driveway!  But that’s only a small part of the adventure.  Nancy was born in Michigan but grew up in Florida, where she developed a great love of animals and nature.  After college, she worked as a conservation law enforcement duty officer for the state, while volunteering her spare time at wildlife rehabilitation centers where she brought their birds and reptiles into the schools to educate children of all ages.  Over the years she has handled many domestic and exotic species, including snakes, cougars, leopards, and tigers.

   She left law enforcement to pursue her passion for wildlife art, and after receiving two World Wildlife Art Championship Awards, her new vocation became a fulltime career.  But once she married an Air Force officer and moved to Washington, D.C, all this suddenly changed when, a few months later, her husband survived the September 11th attack on the Pentagon.  Their life would never be the same as the months turned into years, and she found herself raising two small girls while her husband devoted his efforts to the war.  Finally, the day came when he retired and they were at last able to enjoy a new life, this time in the mountains of Montana.

    Here they discovered a new world of exciting and unusual adventures.  They soon learned how unprepared they were for the challenges ahead, both comical and adventurous.  The humor of their early encounters with cattle and local customs merely masked the more ominous confrontations yet to come with predators and nature.  Through their journey they discovered the true meaning of the “Code of the West,” a concept which has not entirely vanished from the American way of life.

     Encouraged by friends and family alike, Nancy recently published her first book, Go West, Young Woman!, and now is working on its sequel.  She still happily resides on her mountainside with her husband, daughters, dogs, and horses, while continuing to paint and write about her experiences living in the west.  The book can be found on,, and in bookstores.  Personalized, signed copies are available through Nancy’s website at

Here is the gallery of her artwork.  This video will show you the highlights of her talent.  Scenes from her homestead in Montana, and animals she has met along the way.


Find Nancy Quinn in more places around the Web.

Visit her website, Quinn Art

Learn more about her first Book or view the Video Book Trailer

Books are also available through Amazon and her Publisher

Find her on Facebook or Goodreads

Subscribe to her YouTube Channel

Take a moment to comment so that the Princess of Montana can get to know you. She is one of the most genuine and kind women I have had the pleasure of knowing.  One of her readers recently called her Princess of Montana, and I knew I had to find a way to fit it in this post.  Enjoy meeting Nancy Quinn and sharing her talent.

Neespaugot by John Mugglebee


Excerpt from Neespaugot by John Mugglebee

Della gave the two boys another looking-over. One broad and muscular, the other short and wiry. One Slavic, the other Mediterranean. Brothers. Interesting.

“All right, you two. You’ve come here to know something, so here’s my deal. I’ll answer your questions if you promise to leave me in peace for good. Do you agree?”

“Yeah, sure, whatevah,” said Ezra.

“Good. Now, you, the little guy, you go first.”

Zeke nodded. “How old are you, ma’am?”

“Seventy-four. How about you?”


“Anything else?”

“How come people say you’re a commie?”

“Because labels are simpler than the truth, young man. I was a newspaper editorialist for many years, defending those without a voice against those with more than their fair share. In particular, I wrote against federal anti-immigration laws aimed at Southern and Eastern Europeans, Middle Easterners, East Asians and Asia Indians. In short, anybody who wasn’t a WASP. My enemies labeled me an agitator, a Bolshevik—that’s a communist with an attitude. None of it was true, but that’s the thing about smear tactics. In this country, when it comes to race, religion, gender and politics, the label always sticks. I hope you’ll never have to learn that hard lesson, Zeke. Now, I’ll give you one more question, and then we’ll let Mr. M.I.T. have a go.”

The boy vacillated. His brother started to speak for him, but Della tapped her cane on the floor to silence him. After turning it over in his mind, the smaller boy blurted proudly, “Do you know our ma?”

“You idiot,” said Ezra, groaning.

“Hush, you. No, Zeke, I don’t know your mother, not really. She was born at the end of the First World War, by which time I was no longer having anything to do with your grandmother. I moved to France shortly thereafter. Okay, Zeke, normally it’s your brother’s turn, but due to his rudeness, you can have another.”

“No way!” said Ezra.

“Says the boy who broke into my house. Proceed, Zeke.”

Zeke looked to Ezra for a clue but got shut out, so he was on his own to come up with a question.

“Oh, yeah. Are you a lesbian?”

“Do you even know what a lesbian is, Zeke?”

“Women kissing each other?”

“It’s an orientation, child, a sexual orientation. A woman feels a pull towards other women. But I have never felt a pull towards other women—or men, for that matter. The fact is that I have only ever known one passion for another human being in my entire life, and she happened to be a woman. Before meeting her, I had no interest in a relationship of any kind. Since her death twelve years ago, I have lived comfortably and gratefully alone. So, my answer to your question is no, I’m not a lesbian. I’m not a label of any sort. I’m, well, nothing at all.”

“How did your friend die?”

“Sorry, Zeke. You’re moving off the subject. Your turn, M.I.T.,” she said, turning a critical eye on Ezra.

“Well, I don’t give a rat’s ass about ya dead girlfriend, that’s fah sure. My Ma’s a big fat liar, so I need you to put somethin’ straight for me. You got the Indian’s coin?”

The question, totally unexpected, hit Della sideways. “Who put you up to this?”




By John Mugglebee


My novel Neespaugot tracks a colonial coin across the historical landscape of New England in order to trace an ancestral line of ethnically and racially diverse characters. One of the more frequent questions I’m asked is if my characters are based on real people. The simple answer is “yes, no and maybe.”

Countries, communities and families bond over lore, and my family was no different. I grew up hearing tales woven from our ancestry, colorful in a literal sense, stitched from Native American, African American, Scots-Irish, Chinese and Russian Jewish cloth. Very little of it was verifiable, but that meant nothing to a young boy in search of an identity. Mythology is not a statement of facts but a quest for hidden truths. The storytellers’ words were good enough for me, and all the storytellers were women. The men juggled two, sometimes three jobs at once and had little to say about anything, so it was up to the women in my family to dole out love and lore. It seemed only natural that those who carried life into the world should dispense its lessons.

My mom would have answered “yes” to the question of whether or not my characters are based on real people, and she would have backed it up with a small tintype portrait of a young Ching Archung standing on the Salem pier circa 1867, and by a picture of Bridget Griffin, Ching’s Irish wife. Mom left the tall tales of Native tribes and implausible births to Great-aunt Alice and Aunt Helen.

Aunt Helen, my mom’s older sister, lived four miles north of Boston, in Everett, a working class city of 40,000 predominantly African-American, Hispanic and Asian residents. Aunt Helen and my mom looked nothing alike. Mom was dark-skinned and sloe-eyed; Aunt Helen passed for white (their two brothers looked Chinese). The two sisters married outside their supposed racial demographic, Mom settling down in all-white Beverly, Massachusetts, with a second generation Russian Jew, and Aunt Helen wedding a black sheriff from Everett. Aunt Helen was a kind woman subject to bouts of hysteria. Once, I heard her screaming at a house plant. On another occasion, she assaulted a living room wall with a broom handle. But of the hundreds of boyhood visits I made to Everett, that was the extent of my first-hand experience with my aunt’s psychological withering. Aunt Helen told me the story of Lydia Freeman, an African-Native American woman who would form the basis for the eponymous character in Neespaugot. According to Aunt Helen, a middle-aged Black-Indian spinster went to work in the mid-1800s for a bachelor doctor of Scottish descent, either as his maid, gardener or midwife – Aunt Helen couldn’t make up her mind which one. Miss Freeman soon became pregnant in her 50s, and she and the doctor were married a decade before the Civil War.

Even to a kid, the yarn sounded hokey. I was prepared to accept some embellishments if they coated kernels of self-worth, but Aunt Helen’s claim was really out there. So, I took the matter to the two other dispensers of family lore, my mom and the family doyenne, Great-aunt Alice, whom we all lovingly called Aunty. Mom refused to demean her kooky sister in the eyes of a seven-year-old, instead choosing prevarication, neither confirming nor denying any aspect of the tale. “Ask your Aunty the next time you see her.”

Great-aunt Alice, an elderly woman of bark-brown skin and golden generosity, lived alone in Salem, in a small one-bedroom walkup near Salem Willows Park, a seaside grassland where the amusement rides were. We kids would fight over who got to sleep over at Aunty’s and get spoiled rotten the next day at the park. Aunty would walk us down Essex Street to the Common, passing by the witch houses and the House of Seven Gables and gazing across the bay to Marblehead where the woebegone Naumkeag tribe lived until small pox wiped them out in 1617. On one such walk, I asked Aunty what she thought of Aunt Helen’s tale of the doctor and midwife. She said she didn’t know how plausible the doctor bit was. “On the other hand,” she said, “my grandmother most definitely did conceive my father when she was 50.”

Years later, between the passing of my three storytellers and the writing of Neespaugot, I got ahold of a copy of our family’s genealogical tree. It dated back to 1794, beginning with Freeman, Lydia, who was married to George Sylvester Osborne with whom she had one child in 1846. The record validated Aunty and Aunt Helen’s assertion that Lydia Freeman gave birth to her one and only child at age 50, at a time when child mortality ran at 50%. As for the rest, the record remained mum. Was Osborne a doctor? Was Lydia Freeman an African-Native-American? Freeman sounded suspiciously like free man, a common and administratively lazy last name given to ex slaves, but it’s all conjecture.

As I perused the pre-20th-century fruit of my tree, I realized that most of the names were completely foreign to me. I had the impression that I was walking through a cemetery, staring at tombstones chiseled with appellations that used to apply to somebody who breathed and expired and sank into oblivion. I refused to accept that. Sometimes, it’s all you have to go on, a name, and it’s up to a storyteller to make something of nothing. Love and lore demand it.

Neespaugot: The Legend of the Indian's Coin

  • Print Length: 380 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0974260797
  • Publisher: Brandt Street Press (May 20, 2017)
  • Publication Date: May 20, 2017

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

My review: 

Reading an epic family storyline like Neespaugot brings so many emotions into play.  I loved so many of the family members. I loved Lydia and her Scottish Husband. I loved at least one person from each generation, many times more.  I cried for the pain inflicted on innocent people and I laughed just as often.

Powerful and fascinating men and women that carry out the vision of their ancestors are only the beginning.

Families with their strengths and weaknesses displayed actually allow for more intense feelings. Not everyone is all good or all bad and this book teaches that point through the relating of brother against brothers and sister against sister.

There are petty grievances and insurmountable odds in these families and it paints the history of the country and the world in the telling of the family dynamics.

Part history and part mystery there is something so compelling about these generations of people that kept me utterly entranced.

Without a doubt, this book is a testament to strong family histories, the good, bad, and the ugly.

You can find a copy here. It is certainly a great read. Amazon

Scat Cat! by Nancy Quinn: A Featured Fun Guest Post

Scat Cat!

    When we left the urban lifestyle of Washington, D.C., for a more tranquil existence in the rural mountains of Montana, one of our adjustments was learning to live with the new neighbors.  Our home was in a different kind of neighborhood.  Instead of being surrounded by men, women, and children, we had cougars, wolves, and bears.  These predators rarely comprehend the idea of boundaries, or the notion that good fences make good neighbors, so we find them roaming about our property, often very close to the house.  

    Our most frequent nocturnal visitors are cougars that seem particular interested in our daughters playhouse swing set.  Perhaps it is just the curiosity of all felines, but I often wonder what they would do if I left out a ball of string.  It’s doubtful they would play with it because it isn’t food.  As stunningly gorgeous as they are, we don’t want to encourage their visits.  For the safety of my family, dogs, and horses, our goal has always been to discourage predators.  As an example, one particular night stands out in my memory.

    On the second floor of our home we have a large bedroom window that provides a grand view of the back of our property.  While admiring the stars one dark evening the motion detectors suddenly activated the perimeter lights, nearly blinding us.  Once our eyes adjusted, we saw standing in the middle of the yard a very large cougar.  He paused only long enough to realize the brightness was nothing to fear before walking over to the swing set.  This had me wondering how many times he had visited us before, unnoticed.  He sat regally in the play area, surveying all about him, like a king overlooking his kingdom.  Being a wildlife artist, I was enamored with his beauty and grace, temporarily forgetting what a potential threat he was to our family.  It would be dangerous to allow him to believe this was part of his territory.

    I was about to comment on this fact to my husband, but when I turned to speak, he was not there, having immediately retreated to the closet.  He ransacked it, searching for his rifle and ammunition.  As he fumbled to load it, I continued to admire the feline in his pose.  My husband opened the window, but was blocked by the mesh screen.  As he tugged fruitlessly to remove it, the cat rose from his perch and began to walk toward the woods.  On my last look at him, the cougar, who seemed completely unaware of the flurry he had created only a short distance above, slowly and confidently sauntered into the tree line, still secure in the knowledge that this world was his.

    We tried to follow his movements through the darkness with a flashlight, but the battery soon died.  My increasingly frustrated husband, incensed by the attitude of the beast, rushed downstairs and out onto the patio where he fired a single shot into the air, then shouted, “And stay out!” as a warning for the puma not to return.

    I have no wish to harm this mountain lion or capture him, except in spirit on canvas and paper.  I have handled many cougars in captivity, but seeing them in the wild is a thrill I will never tire of.

For more stories in our western adventure read “Go West, Young Woman!”  

Book website:

Art website:

In the Zone by Saralyn Richard: A Featured Fun Guest Post

In the Zone
Guest Blog by Saralyn Richard

Anyone who has dedicated himself to writing a book knows that it takes large portions of inspiration, perseverance, and focus to bring a story to life. The act of writing a book requires many hours of concentrated effort. Sometimes an author is able to concentrate so fully on the setting, characters, and plot of a story that he is transported to “the zone.”

What is this mystical “zone” authors talk about? It can be likened to a runner’s high, a surgeon’s precise focus, an actor’s immersion in a role. It happens quite fluidly, without intent. It has happened to me several times when I become completely engrossed in the story I am telling, so engrossed that I could not tell you whether it is night or day outside, where I live, or even who I am. Instead, I am inside of a scene. I am not just one of the characters—I am all of the characters. I am the pictures on the wall, the rugs on the floor, looking in all directions and observing, no, participating in all of it.
Naughty Nana by Saralyn Richard guest post on The Path of the Writer with Sojourner McConnell
When I wrote Naughty Nana, a children’s picture book about my wild and crazy Old English sheepdog, who “just wants to have fun,” I went into the zone so deeply that I became Nana. Since she is the narrator of the book, I had to know what she was thinking in that goofy canine brain of hers. I had to walk on all fours and communicate with nudges and rollovers, digging with my paws and jumping with exuberance. I didn’t actually crawl on the ground, but mentally, I was in her body and mind, envisioning the world from her point of view. When I was able to do that, I did my best writing.
Writing an adult mystery novel, Murder in the One Percent, required a different form of empathy, but again, I had to get into the heads of several diverse characters. One night I was so deeply into the zone that the plot ran away with me, taking me to an unplanned event involving a horseback riding accident. This event turned out to be pivotal in the overall plot of the book, and I owe it all to being in the zone.
How does one go about reaching the zone? There is no surefire route. We hear of writers who are transported by alcohol or drugs, but I wouldn’t recommend relying on those. I have had some zone-like experiences when dreaming or exercising, times when my mind empties itself of distracting thoughts and allows me to focus on my story. I tell my creative writing students to write as if they were the actors in the screenplays of their stories, fixed in their settings, driving the action of the plot. Then, if they are lucky, the zone will take over to transform the writing from good to great.
Does writing from the zone make a difference in the quality of the book? I’ll let my readers answer that question.
Author Saralyn Richard's guest post on The Path of the Writer with Sojourner McConnell
Naughty Nana is available at, and Murder in the One Percent, published by Black Opal Books, will be available later this year.
For more information check my author website: or contact me at

Romance at the Do-Drop-In by cj Petterson: A Featured Fun Guest Post.

Romance at the Do-Drop-In

cj Sez:  I think I could make a story out of this:  There once was a love quadrangle (of sorts) going on at my house. A few years ago, my patio became the go-to place for food. I had a habit of putting out dry bread for the birds, and one night a little nubbin of a kitten showed up and ran off with a piece of crust in its mouth. I figured that was one really hungry feline because the cats I knew didn’t generally eat hard, dry bread. The kitten came back the next evening and the next, so I started putting out cat food, knowing it would cost me in the long run because I’d have to trap it out and get it spayed or neutered, whatever the vet determined.

Didn’t take long before a yellow cat appeared, and Son and I learned Nubbin was a female because she started courting Yellow Cat. Yep, SHE did the pursuing. I watched the little flirt follow him around the yard and rub her face against his. So, because I didn’t want to populate the neighborhood with kittens, we made a trap. We aimed for Nubbin but caught Yellow Cat first and had him neutered. A few weeks later, we caught Nubbin and had her spayed. That was the end of their budding romance. Both of them lost their alluring hormone scents, and as a result, she’d panic and run to hide every time she saw Yellow Cat. Confused him all to pieces.

A couple of years later, a big, grey cat with white feet showed up, and there was no question about him being a tomcat. Nubbin fell in love with Boots’s manly scent and began to pursue him. His interest in her was akin to that of a big brother. He’ll tolerate her face rubs with an occasional push away, and he’d chase off Yellow Cat when she got nervous and ran. Boots imprinted on me, but I had become partial to Yellow Cat who purred and let me rub his tummy. I couldn’t touch the other two.

The big surprise was that Boots imprinted on me. He followed me around like a dog when I was out in the yard and sat like a sentry at the back door where he could watch me work in the kitchen. He also bit me hard twice when I wasn’t paying attention to him (two courses of antibiotics for infected hands/wrists). He was very feral and very smart. He avoided all efforts to trap him out to have him neutered.

About the same time that Boots arrived, a little turtle came into the yard to feast on fallen fruit from the fig tree. Mr. Turtle also loved the cat food—as did (and still do) the cardinals, blue jays, thrashers, the occasional curious wren, raccoons, and ’possums. If Mr. Turtle happened to be in the area when I was refilling the cat food bowls, he came running (truly) when he heard my voice. I once had to rescue him because he had straddled one of the water bowls and was hanging there spread-eagled, all four feet off the ground, unable to move.

So there we were: Yellow Cat in love with Nubbin, Nubbin adoring Boots, Boots wanting to own me, and me partial to Yellow Cat—Mr. Turtle just stopped by for the food.

I’ll admit that if I hadn’t put out that first crust of bread, none of that would’ve happened, but I’m blaming that little hussy, Nubbin.

Nubbin and Boots eventually disappeared from the yard, I hope to a higher-class restaurant, but Yellow Cat is still with me . . . an old bachelor and quasi-tame. Mr. Turtle still stops by for the food.

Okay, you-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same.


PS: I know it was “Mr” Turtle because I happened upon him and his girlfriend one evening after a romantic fig dinner.


Author “cj petterson” is the pen name of Marilyn A. Johnston. Retired from corporate life in the automotive industry and now living on Alabama’s Gulf coast, Marilyn takes her pen name from her paternal grandmother in Sweden.

As cj, she writes contemporary romantic suspense and mystery novels as well as fiction and non-fiction short stories. Her latest short story, “Bad Day at Round Rock” is in the 2017 Western anthology THE POSSE. Her strong protagonists and supporting characters will take you on a fast journey through stories filled with suspense, action, and sassy dialogue.

Marilyn/cj serves as a judge for the Romance Writers of America’s Daphne du Maurier contests. She is a member of the international Sisters-in-Crime writers organization and their online Guppy group, the Alabama Writers Forum, the Alabama Writers Conclave, and a charter member of the Mobile Writers Guild.

“Bad Day at Round Rock” a short story in  The Posse, a Western anthology of tales of action, romance, myth and truth.   

Learn more about cj petterson at:


Simon&Schuster Author Page

Amazon Central Author Page  

Choosing Carter  — Kindle  /  Nook  /  Kobo   /  iTunes/iBook

Deadly Star  Kindle  / Nook  / Kobo

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