Celebrate the Small Things! And Stephanie Faris’ Piper Morgan!

Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here. CelebrateSmallThings_Badge

Today I’m celebrating getting my van fixed, though I’m definitely not celebrating the large hole it made in my finances. I’m also looking forward to VT Comic Con coming up this weekend! Can’t wait to see the cosplay and all the exhibits! Last year, we had a lot of fun and sold some books. Hopefully, we can repeat that this year.

And now I’d like to welcome the fabulous children’s author, Stephanie Faris! She’s celebrating the release of her Piper Morgan books, and she’s here to share some tips on how to balance writing and the dreaded marketing. Don’t miss the Giveaway at the end!

Take it away, Stephanie!


Writing While Marketing Your Books: Finding the Right Balance

by Stephanie Faris

For authors, writing a book is only the beginning. We go through multiple rounds of revisions before our books see the light of day. In the weeks before and after release day, life is chaotic as we do everything we can to get the word out about our books. Children’s authors do school visits in addition to social media marketing, mailings, and bookstore schmoozing most authors do. It can easily become a full-time job, even if you already have a “day job” that takes up 40 hours of your week.

At the same time, though, most book marketing experts will tell you that the best marketing you can do is to write another great book. When a reader discovers one of your books, she’s more likely to look for other things you’ve written. But how can you find time to write when you have a book to promote? Here are a few tips to help you with the juggling act.

Set a Schedule

One option is to set time aside every day to work solely on writing or marketing. You may find that you do your best writing first thing in the morning. If so, set your alarm clock to wake you an hour before everyone gets up and find a quiet place to write. Dedicate 30 minutes to an hour each day to working solely on your marketing efforts, as well.

Use the Pomodoro Technique

Many professionals now use the “sprint” method to ignite productivity. With the Pomodoro Technique, you work for a set period of time (generally 25 minutes), then take a short break before working for another interval. Don’t allow yourself to do anything but the designated task for those 25 minutes. You’ll be surprised how much you can accomplish in a given day.

Write AND Market

At some point in your career, you’re going to find yourself sitting awkwardly at a table alone in the middle of a bookstore. Customers will walk by, smile at you, then ask where the restroom is. If you’re lucky, they’ll stop and ask you some questions about your book. This interesting article from author Peter Damien says when you stare at passersby, they see you as the equivalent of the DirecTV salesperson at Sam’s Club. He has found that people are much more likely to approach if you look moderately busy. So take a pen and paper and write longhand. Or catch up on your reading.

Learn to Say No

This is one of the hardest things for all of us, but my freelance-writing friends are always pointing out that, “’No’ is a complete sentence.” As your schedule gets busier, become more selective in how you spend your time, turning down things that won’t sell a minimum of ten books (unless you simply want to do them for fun).

No plan is perfect, but hopefully these tips will help you find a little more balance in your writing/marketing life. If you have any tips for being more productive, I’d love to read about them in the comments!


PiperMorgan Joins the Circus

Piper Morgan In Charge


Piper Morgan

By Stephanie Faris

When Piper Morgan has to move to a new town, she is sad to leave behind her friends, but excited for a new adventure. She is determined to have fun, be brave and find new friends.

In Piper Morgan Joins the Circus, Piper learns her mom’s new job will be with the Big Top Circus. She can’t wait to learn all about life under the big top, see all the cool animals, and meet the Little Explorers, the other kids who travel with the show. She’s even more excited to learn that she gets to be a part of the Little Explorers and help them end each show with a routine to get the audience on their feet and dancing along!

In Piper Morgan in Charge, Piper’s mom takes a job in the local elementary school principal’s office. Piper is excited for a new school and new friends—and is thrilled when she is made an “office helper.” But there is one girl who seems determined to prove she is a better helper—and she just so happens to be the principal’s daughter. Can Piper figure out how to handle being the new girl in town once more?


Rafflecopter Giveaway Link



Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive.


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What other celebrations are going on out there? Any tips to add? Don’t forget to enter the Giveaway!





© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2016. All rights reserved.

Celebrate the Small Things!

Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here. CelebrateSmallThings_Badge

Today was such a gorgeous day that I just had to be outside. I was finally able to get some much-needed gardening and yard work done. Yay!

I’m also celebrating the fun time I had talking with a writers’ group in a neighboring town. They had asked me to come in and speak to their group about my books and writing in general. They were a fun, lively bunch, and I had a great time. I was there for over an hour and a half. The best part was that the organizer of the group said several times that fantasy was not her usual genre to read but she loved my first book and couldn’t wait to read the second one!

And one other celebration — Trouble By Any Other Name received a 5-star review from Readers’ Favorites Book Reviews! Whoo, hoo! Here’s the link for anyone who’d like to read it: https://readersfavorite.com/book-review/trouble-by-any-other-name.

What other celebrations are going on out there?





© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2016. All rights reserved.

New Release! Jacqui Murray’s Thriller: To Hunt a Sub

Happy Release Day to Jacqui Murray as she launches her new thriller, To Hunt a Sub!

Be sure to check out the exciting excerpt below!

THAS cover--large


Title and author: To Hunt a Sub by J. Murray

Release Date: August 15, 2016 by Structured Learning

Genre: Thriller

Cover by: Paper and Sage 


The USS Hampton SSN 767 quietly floated unseen a hundred fifty-two feet below the ocean’s surface. Despite its deadly nuclear-tipped arsenal of Trident missiles, its task for the past six months has been reconnaissance and surveillance. The biggest danger the crew faced was running out of olives for their pizza. That all changed one morning, four days before the end of the Hampton’s tour. Halfway through the Captain’s first morning coffee, every system on the submarine shut down. No navigation, no communication, and no defensive measures. Within minutes, the sub began a terrifying descent through the murky greys and blacks of the deep Atlantic and settled to the ocean floor five miles from Cuba and perilously close to the sub’s crush depth. When it missed its mandated contact, an emergency call went out to retired Navy intel officer, Zeke Rowe, top of his field before a botched mission left him physically crippled and psychologically shaken. Rowe quickly determined that the sub was the victim of a  cybervirus secreted inside the sub’s top secret operating systems.  What Rowe couldn’t figure out was who did it or how to stop it sinking every other submarine in the American fleet.

 Kali Delamagente is a struggling over-the-hill grad student who entered a DARPA cybersecurity competition as a desperate last hope to fund a sophisticated artificial intelligence she called Otto. Though her presentation imploded, she caught the attention of two people: a terrorist intent on destroying America and a rapt Dr. Zeke Rowe. An anonymous blank check to finish her research is quickly followed by multiple break-ins to her lab, a hack of her computer, the disappearance of her three-legged dog, and finally the kidnapping of her only son.

 By all measures, Rowe and Delamagente are an unlikely duo. Rowe believes in brawn and Delamagente brains. To save the America they both love, they find a middle ground, guided with the wisdom of a formidable female who died two million years ago. 


Available on Amazon


Preview Chapter from To Hunt a Sub


Three days before present


Ten hours and thirty-seven more minutes and the crew of the USS Hampton SSN 767 would be home. Seasoned submariners, the six-month covert intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance tour down the eastern seaboard of South America had gone flawlessly and silently. The Atlantic is a large ocean and the Los Angeles-class sub’s noise footprint small. Once the boat cleared Cuba, the crew would relax.

The Captain sipped the morning’s fourth cup of burned coffee when the hair on the back of his neck prickled. He glanced around, trying to identify what bothered him.

“Captain,” the Watchstander’s gaze bobbed from the Executive Officer to his watchstation. “Navigation is non-responsive.” Confusion tinged his words.

That was it. A change in the deck’s subtle rumble. Before the Captain could react to the impossibility that guidance controls had crashed, every monitor in the sub’s nerve center shut down.

He hadn’t seen this in twenty years of driving subs. All personnel made a hole as he rushed toward the Control Center, shadowed by the XO.

“Sonar readings?” The Captain called to Sonarman Second Class Andy Rikes in the compartment just aft of Control, barely larger than a broom closet but elbow-to-elbow with operators, fingers flying across keyboards and eyes locked onto screens that blinked a dull grey.

Rikes answered, “Negative, Sir. The hydrophones are working, but aren’t sending raw data, like someone pulled the plug and flushed everything out to sea. Trying to fix it.” His voice was hopeful.

If the screen had worked, Sonarman Rikes would have seen the ping, a final gasp before everything electrical collapsed.

The COB—Chief of Boat—interrupted, “Captain. Reactor Scram!” The sub’s nuclear power had evaporated. “Nuclear technicians isolating the problem. Battery back-up is being attempted.”

“Shift propulsion from main engines to EPM,” an auxiliary electric motor that could turn the propeller.

“Negative, Captain. Non-responsive.” Fear leaked from his voice.

The depth meter no longer worked, but the XO guessed that the sub was angled downward at 10 degrees.

“Blow main ballast tanks!”

“No response, Captain.”

“How deep is the ocean floor in this sector of the Atlantic?”

The Sonarman answered, “It varies between 1,000 and 16,000.”

16,000 feet was well below the sub’s crush depth.

“There are seamounts and ridges spread throughout. We could get lucky and land on one. Or not.”

“Inform US Strategic Command of our situation.”

“Sir, comms are down.”

“Release the message buoy,” though all that told the world was they were in trouble. It could quickly drift miles from their position.

The Captain continued, voice calm, face showing none of the worry that filled his thoughts, “I want all department heads and Chief Petty Officers in front of me in five minutes. I want the status on every system they own and operate. Wake up whoever you need to.” He had a bad feeling about this.


“Gentlemen, solutions.” The Captain looked first at XO, then COB and finally NAV, the Navigation Officer who turned to the senior chief of navigation.

“It’s like an electromagnetic pulse hit us, which can’t happen underwater…” then he shrugged as though to say, I have no idea, Sir.

They practiced drills for every sort of emergency, but not this one. No one considered a complete electrical shutdown possible.

“We’re checking everything, but nothing is wrong. It just won’t work.”

“Where’s CHENG?” The Chief of Engineering.

“Troubleshooting, Sir.” COB’s voice was efficient, but tense.

The Captain didn’t wait. “Condition Alpha. Full quiet—voices whispers, all silent, no movement not critical. Defcon 2,” the second-highest peacetime alert level.

No one knew who their enemy was or why they were under attack, but they had one and they were.

“XO, get lanterns up here.”


Within an hour, the massive warship had settled to the ocean floor like the carcass of a dead whale. It teetered atop an ocean ridge, listing starboard against a jagged seamount, and the gentle push of an underwater current from a cliff that plunged into a murky darkness. Every watertight door was closed. As per protocol, the oxygen level was reduced to suppress a fire hazard. Without climate controls, the interior had already reached 60 degrees. It would continue dipping as it strove to match the bone-chilling surrounding water temperature. Hypothermia would soon be a problem. For now, though, they were alive.

The hull groaned as though twisted by a giant squid.

The Captain peered into the gloomy waters that surrounded the sub. “Thoughts, XO?”

“We’re stable for the moment, barring a strong underwater current.”

Based on the creaking protests from the hull, they were at or beyond crush depth. Any deeper, the outside pressure would snap the HY-80 outer hull and sea water would roar into the living compartments. Everyone would be dead in seconds, either drowned or impaled on the ragged remains of the sub by a force in excess of a Category Five hurricane.

“We’re beyond the depth of the Steinke Hoods,” escape equipment that included full body suits, thermal protection, and a life raft. Budget cuts had eliminated funding for more advanced solutions.

XO pointed toward a darker expanse of black just yards from the sub. “No telling how deep that crevice is.”

“Gather the crew in the Forward compartment. Seal all other compartments. Ration water. Start O2 candles when levels reach 50% normal. Did the message buoy launch?”

“Yes, sir.”

That was a relief. The Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) deployed in emergencies from shore couldn’t assist if it didn’t know they needed help.


jmm picJacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer,  a columnist for TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. You can find her books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning.

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Celebrate the Small Things — Weekend Edition!

Celebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here. CelebrateSmallThings_Badge

This week I’m celebrating Family! We had a great time visiting with my parents and my brother and his family up from PA. We watched the Olympics, played indoor and outdoor games, and went go-kart racing, indoor rock climbing, and mini-golfing. The kids beat the heat and humidity with a water balloon fight and by spraying each other with a garden hose.

We also helped fix my Dad’s dryer that quit working in the middle of everything. It was a fun collaborative effort, and after replacing one small part, the dryer was up and running again like new.

Times like these are precious. So often we get caught up in the busyness and hassle of everyday life that we forget what matters most. I learned a long time ago that life is short, and every moment spent with family and friends is to be treasured.

What other celebrations are going on out there?





© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2016. All rights reserved.

Play the Blurb Game with Tamara Narayan!

To celebrate the release of her super scary new book, Heart Stopper and Other Stories, Tamara Narayan is here to share a unique way of creating book blurbs. Have fun trying it out!

The Blurb Game


Image: winnie’s human

To write a book description, the advice is clear. Introduce the genre, the protagonist, and the main conflict. Don’t get bogged down in tiny details. Keep it short. Choose your words carefully for maximum impact.

On Amazon, you can pick seven keywords or phrases to help readers find your book. Adding them to the book’s description will also help direct internet traffic your way.

Powerful, specific key words and short, abbreviated language. Sounds like poetry. In fact, when I tried to compose a book description with my keywords, it came out as a poem. Now poetry books aren’t exactly flying off the shelves, so why would anyone use poetry to sell fiction? It’s ridiculous! It’s mad! (But so is self-publishing.)

Before I share my poetical blurb, let’s play a little game. Can you guess what books are described by the three poems below?









Image: Nicholas Raymond


Young love comes with a price

Each new kiss as cold as ice

As she begs to leave this mortal coil

Resisting her blood is his greatest toil.











Image: Brave Heart


Behind the balloons and white grease paint

Hides something deadlier than a simple haint.

Imaginations strong, seven children almost defeat it

Reuniting as adults, their epic fight must be completed.










Image: Joshua Zader


One man bound and paralyzed

A girl employed to open his eyes

If love should bloom, can she change his mind?

To leave this world and his pain behind.



Now here’s mine (each story gets its own verse):


Four tales I present to tingle your spine

Four seasons of suspense to let you unwind.

Lives at a crossroad, a breakdown of order

Between life and death, it’s a tenuous border.


Halloween comes, and the Day of the Dead

For one man this custom brings heartache and dread.

As belongings disappear, a child makes her shrine

Is it a ghost? Perhaps. Or a shattered mind?


A couple spars, and fear invades

An abused coed flees on a spring escapade.

Across Florida’s searing and pocked landscape

Sinkholes will assume many a shape.


Another dreams of feathers, wings of might

Yet experiences terror at a meager height.

This phobia takes every dear thing away

Then, in a brutal twist, saves a dark summer’s day.


Peppermint, mice, and a cold-as-winter voice

A mother must make a desperate choice.

Heeding her instincts to save the child

What’s lost instead, the pain won’t be mild.


Four tales I present to tingle your spine

Four stories of suspense to let you unwind.

Read on to learn more before you order

Between art and madness, it’s a tenuous border.


For contrast, here are the more traditional blurbs for these four:

Heart Stopper: Honor the dead…  On November 1, the spirits of children pass through the gates of heaven and return to their homes. Dallas Radner doesn’t celebrate The Day of the Dead, and he never speaks of his sister’s death all those years ago. Instead he christens his only daughter Tessa as a promise and a reminder, to do better, to be vigilant.  Pray for the living…  Bearing her aunt’s name may be a curse rather than a blessing. On November 1, Tessa’s heart stops on the operating table and she nearly passes through the pearly gates to join her aunt.  Decipher the clues…  Now, as the one-year anniversary of Dallas’s worst nightmare approaches, he has resigned himself to a lifetime of pills, shots, and doctor’s appointments to keep Tessa safe and well. However, this routine is disrupted when seemingly random things start disappearing in a mysterious countdown to that dreaded day. Ten plastic bags, nine ballpoint pens…what’s next?  Before it’s too late.  If the pattern holds, one thing will vanish forever on November 1, Día de Muertos, the day the gates of heaven swing open again. Tessa can’t be the one, can she?

Detour: Two weeks from college graduation, Chloe Langley’s dreams morph into a sinkhole of despair. With no job prospects and a volatile boyfriend’s control issues dragging her down, she takes off in a borrowed car for the safety of home. She’ll never make it.

One Step Away: Acrophobia ruined Darryl James’s marriage and stole his son. To get Andrew back, Darryl must undergo desensitization therapy. Just as success is within his grasp, a relapse strikes with shocking consequences.

Monitor: Perched on a mountain with a view to die for, Laura and Paul Alderson have it all: new home, new baby, and new challenges. It’s the American dream, but when the baby monitor whispers urgent warnings to Laura about the garage and the safety of her infant son, her new life takes a nightmarish turn.




Heart Stopper and Other Stories is available now on Amazon. See the book trailer here. You can find me blogging about books and other random stuff at http://www.tamaranarayan.com.



What do you think of writing a poem to describe a book? Madness? Fun? What books did you guess for The Blurb Game?




Celebrate the Small Things! And C. Lee McKenzie’s Sign of the Green Dragon!

CelebrateSmallThings_BadgeCelebrate the Small Things is a weekly celebration created by VikLit and now hosted by Lexa Cain to celebrate the happenings of the week, however small or large. You can learn all about it and sign up for it here.

This week I’m celebrating blue skies, mowed lawns, and the upcoming visit of my brother and his family from PA.

I’m also celebrating the arrival of C. Lee McKenzie’s latest —


Sign of the Green Dragon!




Three plucky sleuths. A crumbling skeleton. A buried treasure.

After six months in a new school, Sam’s finally fitting in. He’s the one kid with enough talent to hit the winning home run and bring the baseball trophy back to Haggarty Elementary. But Sam’s guardian is shipping him off to boarding school before that can happen.

When teammates, Joey and Roger, hear his bad news, they plot to hide him until the big game. Their secret cave is a perfect place until an earthquake shatters a wall and reveals a wooden chest with a red-eyed dragon carved into its top. Inside, a bony hand clutches a map with a note, promising treasure.

 With Joey and Roger, Sam sets off to track down the clues and hopefully discover treasure. When some puzzle pieces start to make sense, the boys become lost in a labyrinth of underground tunnels, trapped by dangerous thieves and sealed inside an airless tomb.

Sign of the Green Dragon gets a high five for fantasy, fun and some fearsome adventure. If you like intrepid would-be knights on impossible and dangerous quests, you’ll love this story. As one reader says, this book, “has more twists than a dragon’s tail.”

Buy now to jump into the adventure.



Lee20_250 I love to write for young readers, and I write both young adult and middle grade fiction. I fall into the hybrid author category with four traditionally published young adult novels–Sliding on the Edge, The Princess of Las Pulgas, Double Negative and Sudden Secrets–and three self-published middle grade adventure/fantasies. Sign of the Green Dragon is my third Indie out August 3. Alligators Overhead and the sequel, The Great Time Lock Disaster were my first two. It’s fun to know both sides of this writing business. Italia Gandolfo represents me, and I’m about to send her my latest young adult story. Fingers crossed.

 I’m very fortunate to have some great five star reviews from readers and reviewers. And I’m really pleased that I’m learning this business. Promotion has been my biggest challenge. I’ve had to learn how to schedule, so I can still write and do the promo I need to do for my other books. It’s a full-time job.

 When I’m not writing I’m practicing yoga, doing sun salutations in my garden (AKA weeding) or scratching my head over how all of this writing stuff started. I’m still not sure, but the ride has been exhilarating and so much different than I’d expected.

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What other celebrations are going on out there?

IWSG — Question of the Month

Today’s the day for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) where, on the first Wednesday of every month, writers get together to share their insecurities and offer encouragement. The IWSG was created by Alex J. Cavanaugh, and you can learn all about it and sign up for it here. Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

I really don’t have a lot of writing insecurities this month other than the usual trying to balance writing and marketing, so I’m going to go right to the Question of the Month.

The August 3rd IWSG question: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

I’m happy to say that my first piece of writing has been published! After many years of hobby-writing and revising and then a year of serious revising and editing, my first piece — my novel, Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble — was published on February 27, 2015.

For anyone slogging in the trenches of whatever stage of writing you’re at, be it drafting, revising, editing, querying, or looking into the self-pubbing process, I’m here to say, Don’t give up! Keep going, you’ll get there.

During all those years working on my story, I had many doubts that I’d ever see my book in print. It was a dream I chased without much hope of success, but with hard work, persistence, and determination, I brought that dream within reach. It is possible to make dreams come true. I have the book in my hand to prove it.

Keep chasing those dreams, and never, ever let them go.








© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2016. All rights reserved.