Wednesday, December 06, 2023

The Insecure Writer's Support Group, Rattlesnake, and Conduction

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

The question for today: Book reviews are for the readers. When you leave a book review, do you review for the Reader or the Author? Is it about what you liked and enjoyed about your reading experience, or do you critique the author?

I confess, I don’t do a lot of book reviews. For the past ten+ years, that’s been in part because most of my reading involves Dancing Lemur Press titles and submissions. (Little unethical to leave a review for a book published through my company.) The past two years have involved reading my own new titles, too. Ultimately, I don’t have time to read much outside of those areas. I have been reading a lot of cookbooks, so I do need to get on the stick and review some of those.

* * *

Now, here’s C. Lee McKenzie and her new book:

Rattlesnake wasn't my first tittle. I think I had three others before I settled on that venomous sounding one. Each previous title had ghosts included—No Such Thing As Ghosts, Ghost Dreams, and one other that must have been so bad I can't remember it. I think the word, Gulch, was involved. Fortunately, I dispatched all of these, and once I settled on Rattlesnake, I was happy. It had the flavor of the desert, a hint of the old west, and it was also ominous.

What the book called Rattlesnake is about:

The desert town of Rattlesnake isn't a destination. It's a last resort. Seventeen-year-old Jonah Guthrie's aunt sold their home in New England and fled to this place to escape the humiliation of his dad's indictment for embezzlement and subsequent disappearance.

While their late uncle left them a house and a silver mine, the house is a shambles and the mine is defunct. They're almost out of money, so they have no choice but to stay in Rattlesnake. And then Jonah discovers they've inherited something else. Her name is Catherine, and she's been dead for over a hundred year. Now, she needs his help.


For a moment, the sun balanced on the tip of the tallest peak, then slipped behind the mountains, turning them black against the sky. They were out of options all except for going back to Old Cemetery Road and dealing with the property. From somewhere far out in the desert came the loneliest sound Jonah had ever heard. That high-pitched yowl caught him at the center of his stomach. Suddenly, he felt eyes on him from every direction, and the shadows grew teeth.

Buy Rattlesnake at Amazon / Smashwords / Kobo / B&N

Find Lee at Website / Substack / Goodreads / Facebook / Instagram / YouTube / LinkedIn

* * *

And Tara Tyler has a new book!

CONDUCTION by Tara Tyler
Sci Fi Detective Thriller or Techno Thriller
Book 4 in Pop Travel series
Preview of MAGNETRON, Book 5 included

In 2085, cutting edge technology is the most valuable currency, and the black tech market offers high pay-offs for diamond-level code. Jared Nertz is an easy-going ex-juicer gone legit working for Pop Travel Technologies, and just when he finishes his long-awaited Conduction project--the process of storing data in the brain--someone immediately steals it and kills his mentor, framing him for the murder. Now it's up to his lawyer/wife Miki and their resourceful friends, Geri and Cooper to prove Jared's innocence by recovering the stolen tech before the criminal killer sells it. But that's only the beginning, as they discover a darker threat when they dig deeper into the case.

Find Tara at her blog

And Conduction on Amazon

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 14, 2023


Buy one book, get one of equal value or lower free.

Applies to both print and eBook – buy one print, get one free; buy one eBook, get one free.

Free book must be same price or lower.

Books must be purchased directly through Dancing Lemur Press site.

After selecting your first book, note the book you’d like free in the “Comments to Seller” section. If not prompted to leave a comment, please send us an email with your free selection. Print books will also receive bookmarks and postcards.

No limit – purchase two books to get two free, etc.

Offer available on books purchased between November 13 and November 24, 2023.

Visit Dancing Lemur Press to make your selections!

Wednesday, November 01, 2023

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group and Clean Paranormal Romance Challenges

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

The question for today: November is National Novel Writing Month. Have you ever participated? If not, why not?

I never have. Too busy with Dancing Lemur Press and life. Maybe someday.

* * *

My next release is In Darkness: The Alien on February 6th and I am looking for tour stops. Any sites that focus on romance or science fiction are best, but any of you who focus on new books would be greatly appreciated. This series is coming in for a landing and I’d like it to be a good one.

One of the biggest challenges I’ve had with this series, both in enticing reviewers and gaining readers, is that it is CLEAN paranormal romance as opposed to the 95% out there that is STEAMY and SEXY. In searching for authors who could provide blurbs, all of the books except one that I found was basically R-X rated. My books are PG at best with one sliding a bit into PG13.

I know there are readers out there who want a more innocent style of paranormal romance. Still trying to find them. (And if that’s you, let me know! Or check out the series: Dancing Lemur Press)

Participate in NaNo?
Are you a fan of paranormal romance?

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group and the Release of Blood Red Steel by Damien Larkin

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Thanks to those who hosted my tour or followed along for In Darkness: The Werewolf! I appreciated the support and hope everyone enjoys my sweet werewolf story.

Today’s question: The topic of AI writing has been heavily debated across the world. According to various sources, generative AI will assist writers, not replace them. What are your thoughts?

I think it will assist them at first, but as it improves, eventually it will replace them. Publishers won’t need authors anymore. They will just generate their own books and keep all the profits. Of course, authors can use AI to produce and self-publish and keep all the profits since the books will all be the same level of quality.

It’s an exciting but very scary time right now as AI is developing faster than we ever imagined.

And I am posting a day early as Dancing Lemur Press has another release!

* * *

Available now!

Blood Red Steel by Damien Larkin

Blood alone decides the fate of Mars

For two years, the Mars Expeditionary Force has held the line against the last remnants of the Third Reich. McCabe, Jenkins, and the Second Battalion long for home. Reinforcements have arrived, but the veterans of the MEF have one final mission. Defend Forward Base Zulu at all costs.

While Generalfeldmarschall Brandt plans a decisive showdown at Forward Base Zulu, Reichsf├╝hrer Wagner celebrates the activation of the first generation of the Hollow Programme. Surrounded and cut off, McCabe and Jenkins once again find themselves in league with the MAJESTIC-12 operatives known as the Black Visors. Now the future hinges on the sacrifices of a few determined soldiers.

Print ISBN 9781939844958 $18.95
eBook ISBN 9781939844965 $4.99
Science Fiction – Military/Alternative History/War & Military

“He takes numerous storylines and threads them together to create a story which never lets up. There is not just action a-plenty. There is non-stop, relentless action. It is breath-taking in its remorselessness. – Phil Parker, author

“The stakes are so high in this one. Larkin is a master storyteller and every plot twist is a punch to the gut.” – Jessa Forest, author

“Exciting, fast paced and as good as, if not better than the previous two books in the series.” – Sue Tingey, author

Links: iTunes / B&N / Kobo / Amazon / Amazon UK / Scribed / Goodreads

Damien Larkin is an Irish science fiction author and co-founder of the British and Irish Writing Community. His debut novel Big Red was longlisted for the BSFA award for Best Novel. He currently lives in Dublin, Ireland. Website

What are your thoughts on AI? And if you enjoy military science fiction, you need to pick up Damien’s latest.

Monday, September 18, 2023

The Werewolf Tour Continues!

This week’s tour dates for In Darkness: The Werewolf:

Sept 18 - Alex J. Cavanaugh and Top 10 Werewolf Movies

Sept 20 - J.Q. Rose and a recipe and feature
I’m also at the IWSG Anthologies site with Why Write a Series

Hope you caught last week’s interesting

Susan Gourley - How the Werewolf Legend Began

Nick Wilford - Interview

Tyrean Martinson - Fictional Werewolves

Podcast with Toi Thomas - the most unique author interview you will ever hear!

Thanks to those who have followed along and purchased a copy of The Werewolf. As I have discovered, the most difficult thing in the world is to promote one’s own work, especially in a new genre. Paranormal romance is hot, but it’s been tough reaching that audience.

Monday, September 11, 2023

In Darkness: The Werewolf Tour Continues with Legends, Fictional Werewolves, and Interviews

Thanks again for following the tour and supporting me and my latest release, In Darkness: The Werewolf.

This week’s stops:

Sept. 11 - Susan Gourley - How the Werewolf Legend Began

Sept. 12 - Nick Wilford - Interview

Sept. 13 - Tyrean Martinson - Fictional Werewolves

Sept 15 - podcast @6:30 pm with Toi Thomas - the most unique author interview you will ever hear!

Hope you caught last week’s interesting tidbits:
C. Lee McKenzie - Not All Werewolves are Vicious Alphas
J. Lenni Dorner - Writing a Werewolf Story
Sandra Cox - feature and review
Reading Nook - feature and excerpt

And next week:
Sept. 18 - Alex J. Cavanaugh - Top 10 Werewolf Movies

Sept. 20 - J.Q. Rose - feature and recipe

Thank you!

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

In Darkness: The Werewolf’s Release and the Insecure Writer’s Support Group Celebrates 12 Years

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Today’s question: The IWSG celebrates 12 years today! When did you discover the IWSG, how do you connect, and how has it helped you?

I believe I joined when Alex first opened up the sign-up list. (And I’m one of the few remaining IWSG administrators – just me, Alex, and Michelle.) I follow and help with the Facebook group, and through Dancing Lemur Press, I follow the Instagram and Twitter/X groups.

How has it helped? How has it not? It’s a great way to connect with other writers, some who need help with this publishing stuff. I always recommend the website when teaching my seminars and I still have business cards that I hand out. #IWSGPit has led me to FIVE authors that signed with Dancing Lemur Press.

I’ve enjoyed these 12 years, even during times when I was frantically busy with DLP stuff and barely to keep up with my duties. Connecting with others who are supportive is so important.

Especially today, as I am posting a day early for a reason!

* * *

Available now!

In Darkness: The Werewolf

Souls shrouded in darkness…
On her own in England, Vicki trains at a prestigious fencing school. Face marred by a birthmark, she’s suspicious of Nicholas’ attention. A dinner date reveals his genuine interest and they begin to connect. Nicholas is attractive and she wonders why he’s so shy and reclusive. 
 Then one evening she happens upon him changing into a lycan. Every werewolf legend is shattered by the gentle, fearful creature before her. Vickie accepts his secret, but Nicholas knows he’s an unpredictable beast. Can they trust love enough to overcome their physical challenges?

“The author's technique of raw, magnetic characters and great plotlines is a gift. A very unpredictable story, my favorite kind!” 5 stars – Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews

“This beautiful short story is both heartbreaking and heartwarming.” – Charlotte Butler, Archaeolibrarian

“Out of the many werewolf books there are to choose from, this is perhaps the sweetest, gentlest story in that genre that you’re likely to find. I’d even venture to say it’s a werewolf story for readers who don’t usually read paranormal books.” - Lori Alden Holuta, SciFi Radio

“I want more. I think that there is so much to discover. This author took time to develop this book and it was worth every second.” – On Review by Sara

“Another cozy romantic fantasy by Diane Wolfe…If you're interested in low stress, genuinely nice characters, a caring sweet romance, this book is perfect for you.” - Nat Kennedy, author

Romance/Paranormal/Shifters, Romance/Paranormal, Fantasy/Paranormal
eBook ISBN 9781939844927 $3.99
Links: Amazon / iTunes / B&N / Kobo / Scribed / Goodreads

I’m excited to share my sweet werewolf story with the world!

And I have a fantastic tour lined up:
Sept. 5 - Reading Nook - release blitz
Sept. 6 - C. Lee McKenzie - Not All Werewolves are Vicious Alphas
Sept. 7 - J. Lenni Dorner - Writing a Werewolf Story
Sept. 8 - Sandra Cox - review
Sept. 11 - Susan Gourley - How the Werewolf Legend Began
Sept. 12 - Nick Wilford - interview
Sept. 13 - Tyrean Martinson - Fictional Werewolves
Sept. 15 - Toi Thomas - podcast @ 6:30 pm EST
Sept. 18 - Alex J. Cavanaugh - Top 10 Werewolf Movies
Sept. 20 - J.Q. Rose - feature and recipe

How has the IWSG helped you?
Like to read a sweet and gentle werewolf story?

Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Bubba and Squirt, Reviewers Needed, and a Furry Star

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Today’s question: Have you ever written something that afterwards you felt conflicted about? If so, did you let it stay how it was, take it out, or rewrite it?

In my first book, I had my morally grounded main character going further than she should’ve. My husband asked if I would let my pastor read it and I said probably not. So, I adjusted that scene and its ripple effect.

In my upcoming release, In Darkness: The Alien, part of the story line revolves around the main character being forced to marry against her will. My husband, the ever patient beta reader, was really angered by that and I wondered if I needed to change it. Fortunately, by the time he finished, he said no, it had a happy ending anyway and was an effective ploy to get the reader really involved in the story and caring about the character. So, that one stayed.

* * *

The Bubba and Squirt series by Sherry Ellis continues!

Bubba and Squirt’s City of Bones

Creepy Underground Catacombs!

Release date – January 16, 2023
Print ISBN 9781939844989 / eBook ISBN 9781939844996

Bubba and Squirt’s Shield of Athena

A Greek Goddess and a Mythical Monster!

Release date – May 7, 2024
$8.95 6x9 trade paperback, 114 pages
Print ISBN 9798988625100 / eBook ISBN 9798988625117

* * *

I am also seeking sci-fi romance reviewers for In Darkness: The Alien.

Tons of sci-fi reviewers out there. Most of them dudes. And even though this has a twist of paranormal to it, paranormal romance reviewers aren’t interested.

So if you review sci-fi/paranormal romance and would be interested in reading this 22,000 word novella (which comes out next February) please let me know.

* * *

And just an overdose of cuteness (and possible hangover) today:

Any conflicted scenes in your stories?

Wednesday, July 05, 2023

Insecure Writer’s Support Group and Garden Update

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Today’s question: 99% of my story ideas come from dreams. Where do yours predominantly come from?

I’ll let you in on a little secret—I came up with that question. Because yes, my stories all come from dreams. I used to always write down my dreams and they’ve inspired many of the books I’ve written.

I dreamed of a beautiful, blonde high school girl who was a swimmer – and that inspired the five book series, The Circle of Friends.

I dreamed of a terrible creature in a tall castle fighting people – and that became The Vampire.

I dreamed of being in a strange place and meeting this mother and son, from which a chase through a vineyard ensued – and that became The Alien.

I have dozens upon dozens of stories written or outlined and they all came from my vivid dreams. Most won’t make it to full story form, as turning a crazy dream into something believable (or sellable) doesn’t often work. But for those ideas that do, I will write them.

Where do most of your story ideas come from?

And on the garden front, green beans are winding down, blackberries still going strong, and I recently harvested my first potatoes ever! (Those are from just two plants.)

I’ve also been drying quite a few herbs – cilantro, oregano, catnip. And it looks like despite the fact I didn’t plant any tomatoes, I’m going to get a bunch thanks to my composter. I’ll take it!

Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Cooking & Gardening, and In Darkness: The Alien

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Today’s question: If you ever did stop writing, what would you replace it with?

I’m getting into cooking, trying new things, which is fun since I have a garden. So that would be another creative outlet. Probably wouldn’t ever tackle cake decorating or anything. But some fancy dishes, more Thai and Chinese, more breads, and lots of pizza.

I love to sheet pan cook and have the most amazing sheet pan cookbook. These are some of my creations:

I’d do even more gardening, too! Here is one of my raised garden boxes:

Cover art for In Darkness: The Alien!

Release date – Feb. 6, 2024
Romance-Science Fiction / Science Fiction-Alien Contact / Romance-Paranormal
eBook ISBN 9781939844972

The Alien is the fourth and final book in the series. It still has a paranormal element despite the sci-fi setting. It’s also loosely based on a story I wrote in my 20’s called The Frozen Soul. So, it was exciting to rewrite and reinvent the story for this series. And I'm just thrilled with the cover!

Two of the In Darkness books are already available:
The Vampire - Amazon / iTunes / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / Scribed / Goodreads
The Shark - Amazon / iTunes / B&N / Kobo / Scribed / Goodreads

And the third comes out Sept. 5:
The Werewolf - Amazon / iTunes / B&N / Kobo / Scribed / Goodreads

What would you do if you weren’t writing?

I'm also setting up dates this fall for The Werewolf tour. I just had a review/interesting thing about werewolves post at Archaeolibrarian last week if you'd like to check it out. But I am open to guest posts, interviews, top tens, whatever! Just let me know.

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

Release Day – In Darkness: The Shark

I am very excited for the second book of my In Darkness series. I love great white sharks. And this one talks!

In Darkness: The Shark
By L. Diane Wolfe

Romance/Paranormal - Fantasy/Paranormal - Fantasy/Romance
eBook ISBN 9781939844910, $3.99

Souls shrouded in darkness…

Focused on her studies and duties at the aquarium, Jewels prefers her solitary life. Burned many times and short on trust, she has more in common with her aquatic friends than the people around her. But she never imagined coming face to face with a shark named Clarence…a shark who talks!

As their friendship grows, Jewels must overcome her deep set mistrust. There are dangers, both in the Australian ocean and on dry land. Can Jewels depend on the great white or will his animal nature betray her?

Links: Amazon / iTunes / B&N / Kobo / Scribed / Goodreads

“I am so shocked because I loved this book so much and it was a book that was so unlike anything I have ever read.” – A Ravenclaw Library

“I wasn't sure what to expect, but it wasn't a warm, sweet story of trust and friendship. I greatly enjoyed this short work and fell in love with Clarence.” – Nat Kennedy, author

“True love and trust can break most spells!” – Beth, Archaeolibrarian

I’m also doing a blog tour. Today I am visiting Tyrean Martinson

Tour dates:
May 8 Alex J. Cavanaugh

May 9 Tyrean Martinson
May 9 I Smell Sheep
May 10 Denise Covey

May 12 Elizabeth Seckman
May 15 Jemi Fraser

Have you ever read a love story with a shark?

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Writing Inspiration, and The Shark Tour Kicks Off

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Today’s question: When you are working on a story, what inspires you?

Sometimes it’s playlists I will put together for a particular story. Most often it’s a collection of images. I created Boards on Pinterest for all four In Darkness stories and I collected hundreds of images that fit the location and feel for the story. (There’s one extra Board for a story about a ghost that just never came together.) I’m a visual person, so images tend to work best for me.

And if you’re curious about those Pinterest Boards:
The Vampire / The Shark / The Werewolf / The Alien

In Darkness: The Shark releases next Tuesday. The tour kicks off today at Lynda Young’s site as I talk about amusing Aussie words & phrases and why I love paranormal romance. I’m also at the IWSG Anthologies site today discussing rapid-releasing a series.

Here is the full schedule:

May 3 Lynda Young
and IWSG Anthologies

May 5 Australian Romance Readers

May 8 Alex J. Cavanaugh

May 9 Tyrean Martinson

May 10 Denise Covey

May 12 Elizabeth Seckman

May 15 Jemi Fraser

What inspires you? Do you create Boards for your stories?

Wednesday, April 05, 2023

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Shannon Lawrence Interview, and Sandra Cox Feature

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, founded by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Today’s question: Do you remember writing your first book? What were your thoughts about a career path on writing? Where are you now and how is it working out for you? If you're at the start of the journey, what are your goals?

I wanted to be an author ever since I picked up the newly-released The White Dragon at aged 13 and pictured my name on the cover. The journey had many starts and stops, a weak beginning, another bit of a pause, and now back in swing with my paranormal romance series, In Darkness. Now is definitely a better place than where I began as author!

* * *

Today I am featuring two very patient authors, both of whom were to have a guest spot on this blog last month – and I totally spaced both! Carolyn Howard-Johnson got Shannon’s spot and then I completely forgot Sandra’s. So, I am giving them both a prime spot here today to make up for it.

First up, Shannon Lawrence and Happy Ghoulidays II:

How did you select the title?

I wanted a play on "holiday" that also conveyed that this was horror, and this is what came to mind.

Why holiday horror stories?
Holiday horror movies are always fun. I like to watch them when the holiday rolls around. Christmas horror is a personal favorite, which is why there are two of those in the predecessor to this book. There's a familiarity to the holidays, and plenty fo fun to be had by playing around with them. In a way, we take the holidays for granted, doing the same things over and over again (tradition). I wanted to shake that up a bit.

The covers of the two Happy Ghoulidays books make one creature. Was that planned and who does your cover work?

It wasn't planned from the very beginning. My husband does my covers for me. Initially, he offered to try because he'd personally wanted to try graphic art (he works in computers, but not in art). It turns out he has a great eye for it! In fact, at a writing event, a publisher came up and asked me to pass their card along to my cover designer. When I was considering doing a second Ghoulidays collection, we thought it would be fun to make it so the covers would form one piece of art when next to each other, and it really helps to bring them together since the two have different holidays in them.

What was different between putting together book 1 and putting together book 2?
In book 2 I already had a process. I made a list of the holidays and researched them until something caught my attention. If nothing inspired me, that holiday wasn't going to be in the book. There are so many holidays! The second book was also more focused. In addition, one of the stories in the second one has my first trigger warning. Typically, I feel like horror brings the implication of possible triggers, but this was a topic I didn't want to cause harm.

Do you have plans for a third book?
At this time, I don't think I'd do a third book. These were both meant to be "fun" projects for me. Something to get the creative juices flowing and enjoy the process. Holidays make great prompts. Not that I wouldn't be able to write more holiday stories or enjoy doing so, but two collections is good. Plus, how would I work the cover in with the others?

Happy Ghoulidays II
The holidays elicit a mixture of emotions, from joy and revelry to despair and rage. In these stories, we examine the dark side of the holidays with a twisted Easter egg hunt, a desperate St. Patrick's Day curse, a monster that's only visible in the light of fireworks, a mother's guilt on Halloween, and more in this follow up to Happy Ghoulidays that embraces the underlying shadows of our favorite holidays.

Available on Kindle, Nook, Apple, Scribd, and Smashwords. E-book universal link HERE Also available in paperback at Barnes & Noble and Amazon

A fan of all things fantastical and frightening, Shannon Lawrence writes primarily horror and fantasy. Her stories can be found in over forty anthologies and magazines, and her three solo horror short story collections and her nonfiction title are available now, with her fourth collection releasing March 2023. You can also find her as a co-host of the podcast Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem. When she's not writing, she's hiking through the wilds of Colorado and photographing her magnificent surroundings, where, coincidentally, there's always a place to hide a body or birth a monster. Find her HERE.

Next, we have the delightful Sandra Cox and Return to Silverhills:

Greetings, Everyone. Diane, thanks so much letting me come to visit and chat about Return to Silverhills.

As far as writing this story, I enjoyed ‘returning’ to Silverhills and getting reacquainted with characters who were old friends. The main problem I ran into writing it was that it had been years since I wrote Silverhills. Seriously, years. So, I had to keep a copy at my elbow to use as a reference. I got all the way through Return and thought I had the perfect ending when I realized my perfect ending didn’t jive with the timeframe mentioned in Silverhills. I wasn’t about to give up my ending so I had to do some fiddling. Hopefully, my fiddling and my ending meshed­čśŐ

Return to Silverhills
A trail boss with a fast gun. A damaged woman. A cattle drive fraught with danger. And a combustible attraction.

The unexpected sound made her heart crash against her ribs, her hands grow clammy and her breath push in and out in sharp gasps. Her horse sidled in response to her nerves.
More gunfire and whoops sounded in the distance.
She flinched. The bang and flash of gunfire. The sight and scent of sulphur. Always a reminder of the night the Comancheros had captured her and slaughtered her family.
Fighting back the painful memories, Lisa Reiner stared into the valley at the ranch below, the mountains behind it throwing off a blinding glitter wherever the sun touched. Alex talked incessantly about those flashes of silver in the hills. Alex. Who’d cared enough to take her out of the mission and bring her to her own home to start fresh, to live with her like a sister.
Slowly. Tentatively. Fear and nerves crawled into excitement. Silverhills.

Foodie Facts:

She spent a number of years in the Midwest chasing down good Southern BBQ. By the time she moved to North Carolina where Southern BBQ is practically a staple, she’d become a vegetarian. (Same here, Sandra!)
Pineapple is a must-have on pizza, along with black olives and onions. (I agree! Plus sun-dried tomatoes.)
She loves pumpkin waffles. Pumpkin cream cheese, not so much. (I will have to try those.)

Sandra, who also writes as S. Cox, is a vegetarian, animal lover and avid gardener. She lives with her husband, their dog and cats in sunny North Carolina.
An award-winning author, her stories consist of all things Western and more.

You can find her at: website / Cowboy Trivia / blog / Twitter

Find Return to Silverhills on Amazon

What are your thoughts on your writing career path?
Have you picked up Shannon’s and Sandra’s books?
And May kicks off my tour for the release of In Darkness: The Shark!

Monday, March 13, 2023

Learning to Love Passive Construction

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers including the winningest in the series, The Frugal Editor, just released in its third edition. 

Writers are often told to avoid passive sentences. Reasons for such admonitions are many because they tend to tug on the forward momentum we are usually trying to create. But passive construction can be used effectively, too. In fact we may find instances where our writing improves when use them. We can try to utilize what they’re good at in our writing and—at the same time—recognize their flaws so we can avoid them when they are just plain ugly.

Luckily, good editors are here to help. And so are many books. 

Your editor may help you avoid passive constructions by making suggestions to “activate” them. There are times, however, when you must do your own editing. In this article we’ll cover both how to spot passives and activate them when that is helpful as well as a few instances where you may want to enlist their help. 

Here are three simple passive sentences. See if you can figure out how to make them active and then read some possible edits in the next section. 

1. "I was offended by the President's proclamation." (This passive is sneaky because the word “I” posing there at the front of the sentence seems like the subject, but it hides the prepositional phrase alluding to “by whom.” Put “the President’s proclamation” at the beginning of the sentence, ditch the helping verb, and you’ll see how the sentence comes alive.)

2. "Catherine was being watched."

3. "Catherine was being silly."

Here is your cheat sheet:

1.   For the first you would, of course, make it "The President's proclamation offended me."

2.   For the second, you must ascertain the intended, unnamed subject that would name who was doing the watching, and plug it into the sentence. It might look like this:

"The fuzz watched Catherine."

(So, maybe you'd be more formal and call them "coppers!")

3.   The third example might throw you a curve. That's because it isn't a passive sentence. Here's the thing. We tend to assume a construction is passive when we see helper verbs and "ing" words. But these are not always passive indicators. That's one more thing for you to figure out in addition to deciding whether you want to avoid a passive construction. (You’ll find a lot more on that topic in the just-released third edition of my “The Frugal Editor.”)

You may choose (probably should) to avoid the not-so-active sounding helper verb with a mini rewrite:

“Gracie thought Catherine was being silly.” 

You might ask, “So, if these slowpoke constructions stall the forward motion of my prose, what are the good reasons for using them? 

Etymologists tell us that language develops in ways that facilitate our need to be more clearly understood. When we recognize what passive construction and its copycats can do for us, we may grow to love using passive—at least some of the time. Here are reasons you might want to intentionally use passive construction:

1.   You want to slow down the movement in a saga sent in the 19th century. I do some of that (very judiciously!) in my This Land Divided now being shopped by my    agent. It proves that the passive ploy worked, it won the best in B. Lynn Goodwin’s’s Scintillating Starts contest. 

2.    You need to set one character’s dialogue apart from another to avoid so many fussy dialogue tags. You can do that by assigning one character a tendency to use passive voice. Just be sure you assign that speech pattern to a character it suits—maybe someone who is slow moving, deceitful or…well, you decide. 

3.     You’re writing political copy and you want to avoid pointing a finger at, say, the FBI because you don’t want to get put on the dreaded US No-Fly list. So instead of saying “The FBI is watching Carolyn.” You say, “Carolyn is being watched.” It’s a way to avoid pointing a blaming finger at a perpetrator.

4.     If you write copy for pharmaceutical TV ads, your career could depend on knowing how to use passive voice. I watch TV commercials carefully because I do some acting. The passive voiceovers behind all those happy, healthy faces make me cringe. The use of passive voice clearly avoids assigning any responsibility for all those side effects and deaths. One actually says, “Deaths have happened.” The pharmaceutical company causing all those deaths gets off the hook nicely. 

We need to know how to make verbs active, when to leave them alone, and, yep. when to use them to our advantage. That way, we can take a red pen to them when they are likely to brand us as amateurs, occasionally put them to very good use, and even learn to love them.


Carolyn Howard-Johnson, a multi award-winning author of both fiction and nonfiction, is celebrating the release of the third edition of the winningest book in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers The Frugal Editor: Do-It-Yourself Editing Secrets from Modern History Press. She is a former publicist for a New York PR firm and was an instructor for the renowned UCLA Extension Writers' Program for nearly a decade. She is also an editor with years of publishing and editing experience including national magazines, newspapers, and her own poetry and fiction. Her The Frugal Book Promoter: How to Do What Your Publisher Won't ( won USA Book News' best professional book award and the Irwin Award. The Great First Impression Book Proposal: Everything You Need To Know To Sell Your Book in 30 Minutes or Less is a helpful little booklet available at It is in its second edition from Modern History Press. And don’t miss another booklet from Modern History Press, Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers: The Ultimate Frugal Booklet for Avoiding Word Trippers and Crafting Gatekeeper-Perfect Copy Carolyn also appears in TV commercials for the likes of Blue Shield, Lenscrafters, Disney Cruises (Japan) and Time-Life CDs. Learn more about her at:


*I'd like to add that Carolyn is a dynamo when it comes to book marketing and just the nicest person you will ever meet - which we got to do several years ago! - Diane