Posted in authors, characters, children, Christian, coming of age, fiction, Indie, KIndle, mystery, novels, parents, readers, teaching our children, Young Adult

Cheryl Abney writes Middle-Grade Historical Fiction

cheryl abney

Cheryl Abney is a retired educator with over 30 years’ experience as a teacher and counselor at all levels—college, high school, middle, and elementary. She is a current member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Florida Writers’ Association, Gulf Coast Writers’ Association, and the Society of Children’s Writers and Book Illustrators. Cheryl loves to create historical fiction stories and has written two middle-grade readers set in the Florida Lake Okeechobee area, circa 1918—Belle of the Glades, and its sequel, The Bone Field Mystery. She lives in the Florida Glades area of her story’s setting with her husband, two Jack Russell terriers (Zoey & Ditto), and her tortoise (Theo). She loves her current freelance position of creating short historical fiction stories for, and she hopes you’ll like reading them as much as she has enjoyed writing them.

Cheryl Abney weaves a new adventure in the old frontier as a young city girl meets rustic fish camp in her book Belle of the Glades. When recently orphaned Isabelle Lacy, is sent to live with her uncle on the shores of Lake Okeechobee in 1918, a whole new world is opened to her–a world shared with snakes, alligators, outlaws, and a new Indian friend.

 The Bone Field Mystery is the sequel to Belle of the Glades, and it takes Belle on an adventure to solve whether there is a Bigfoot at the Bone Field. Both Christian oriented middle-grade readers can be purchased online at as an e-book or softcover through links to Amazon and Barnes & Noble (iUniverse for Belle of the Glades only).


 The_Bone_Field_Myste_Cover_for_Kindle Cheryl Abney

Cheryl, do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

I think I inherited my note-writing from my father, who would leave these small manila- work-tags scribbled with notes on his desk (the top of the refrigerator). I kept diaries when younger and still journal, was PTA secretary a number of years, and loved English and shorthand classes. My first remembered interest dates back to a fourth grade activity of creating a class poetry book—which I still have. We each had to create three poems for this hard-cover book. I was ecstatic.
What type of writing do you do?

I have written nonfiction articles for magazines, newspapers, websites like The Parenting Network and Kids Faith Garden, but my books and short stories are historical fiction for middle-grade readers. That’s where my heart is.

Why did you choose the self-publishing Indie route? Why did I choose this publisher and would you recommend that same Indie publisher?

I was probably premature to self-publish BOTG, because I’d only submitted it half a dozen times, and was encouraged to hang tough by a writing mentor. I retired in 2011 and I wanted to see it in print…felt I didn’t have the advantage of youth to wait years. I chose iUniverse after speaking with a friend who used them, and I did my homework researching the different Indies. My sequel, TBFM, was published through CreateSpace. It involved more work on my part, but I had more control over the product price…which dictates our profit margin.

I know that feeling of wanting to hold your book in your hands. I don’t think patience is an easy virtue for authors.

Do you always write in the same POV or do you switch it up.

I have always written my books in third person POV. It wasn’t until this year, when hired to write historical-fiction short stories for middle graders in first person, that I attempted this POV. It was definitely a learning curve, but I do feel it more effective in getting your reader into the story—as if they’re experiencing it.

I am also working on my adult historical romance, but keeping it in third person POV; so yes, I’m switching it up. I find I have to edit the short, first-person stories carefully so I don’t slip back into my books’ POV.

Are you a pantser or a planner?

I have done both, but I tend to grab an idea and jot a few notes, then write, write, write. I usually end up stopping at some point and creating a plan. But over all, I’m a pantser. I must admit to trying some excellent planning programs, but don’t follow through with them. However, I think it’s extremely important that you do lengthy character sketches of each main character before starting to write. I clip pictures from magazines for images. I’ve heard it said that you don’t “write what you know, but who you know.” Personalities, I steal from people I know. I heard one author assigned character names starting with the letter of the known person’s name, who she could relate the character’s personality to. Important thing, is to get to know your character well, before writing.

What advice would I give to new writers just started with their first manuscript?

Two notes of advice—join a supportive, productive writers’ group and an editing group; and practice discipline. Set a definite, nonnegotiable time of the day to write, and write most every day. I’m most productive when I treat my writing like the business it is—showing up regularly.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I enjoyed reading Patrick Smith’s A Land Remembered, and Zora Neale Hurston’s There Eyes Were Watching God, both about the everglades; I thought it’d be enjoyable and educational to write about the area I reside in from a young reader’s view.

How did you come up with the title?

When I was a young college student first introducing myself to a class, the professor kiddingly referred to me, that one instance, as “Belle of the Glades.” I’ve never forgotten it, even though I now know the label was referring to Belle Glade (my residence then) by its original name.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

May sound corny, but I like to think it says “home is where the heart is.” Home has nothing to do with money, possessions, popularity, location—but a lot to do with security found in family, faith, and friendship.

How much of the book is realistic?

The dates and locations of the islands and settlements bordering Lake Okeechobee, the Palm Beach Canal, 1918 flu epidemic, and environment are realistic. I’ve created the Glades Runner, Sam’s store, and Hayes’s Fish Camp—but representative of the real things.

Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

Pieces of every author creep into their writings. In BOTG, my youth was more like Belle’s after she came to live at her uncle’s fish camp. I loved wading and catching pollywogs, frogs, and turtles in the pond near home. My friends and I climbed the sand hills and wandered paths in the woods.

What book are you reading now?

I enjoy historical books like BOTG. Right now I’m reading the second in a series that started with an historical time-travel plot—Tomorrow & Always by Barbara Bretton. It’s captivating, as I hope Belle of the Glades is.

Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.

I belong to several writing groups, but Gulf Coast Writers Association (Fort Myers) has definitely been the most interactive and rewarding. They meet the third Saturday of every month. I also meet with three other ladies, Critique Critters, to edit each other’s work once a month.

Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

Francine Rivers is my favorite author. I just finished her current series that starts with Her Mother’s Hope (Marta’s Legacy). It is historical and crosses three generations. This Christian author, whom I’ve heard and met at conference, writes detailed accounts of another time and place, so that the reader is transported to that era.

Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)

No, because I’ve lived in the area of my setting, Lake Okeechobee, for 43 years. I have, however, visited many of the museums within driving distance to research the material in BOTG. Have you learned anything from writing your book?

I’ve learned how difficult it is to publish and market a book for profit. I’ve learned to stress less and enjoy the journey. An author needs to enjoy the accomplishment—the fruition of their efforts. Enjoy the kind comments and support from readers, and keep their eyes on the original goal to share knowledge and pleasure. I would advise young writers to follow their dream now—for it’s true that “tomorrow never comes.”

Writing for profit has a long learning curve, so take advantage of writing clubs, online seminars, workshops—and write. Google “young author publishers,” and check out CreateSpace. Parents can encourage their children’s writing by helping them navigate CreateSpace and publish 5 copies of their book for a minimal fee.

Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

A link to a short-story sample can be found at, as well as book purchase links. I hope you enjoy Belle’s adventure and will contact me.

Thank you so much for a wonderful interview.  Cheryl’s  books are available through:

Create Space:  The Bone Field Mystery:

Her Amazon Author Page:

iUniverse :

Her website:






Posted in authors, books, conflict, environment, KIndle, love, memoir, political injustice, remember, support, writers, writing

In the Footsteps of a Palestinian Refugee

October, 2012-Ghazi holding up out of the box the first copy of his Memoir

Welcome Ghazi, you have such an amazing story. Your memoir is an important story, not just for you, but also for the thousands that others have struggled in countries with conflict affecting the daily lives of everyone.  I am so pleased to have you on Author Interview Friday.  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

Very early while in my teens. I had an unusual life. I saw first hand the struggle for Palestine Vs. Israel (1935-1948). Because of this, I felt impelled to record my experiences. I learned to write by doing it. My hopes are that the reader will feel the  direct channel to my emotions, feelings, thoughts, etc. I spoke directly to the reader naturally and from the heart.

What was the hardest part of writing your story?

Building the narrative coherently.

Have you done anything special to help promote your book?

So far, through personal appearances, talks to social or book clubs, sending out sale sheets to individuals or groups, organizations, etc. Joined social clubs: Facebook, twitter, Linked-in, associated website.

What has been your primary drive to write?

To believe in the worth of the story to many others; that it is going to do some good to a significant number of people. Also, that the process is beneficial emotionally (cathartic) to me and enjoyable at the same time.

What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?

Humanity is progressing toward better universal values, which will diminish wars and promotes harmony and peace.

Walking Out Into the Sunshine

Please the give the readers a peek into your story by giving us a small excerpt.

“I saw the fragmentation of the world along racial, ethnic, religious, or national lines is an outcome of past history, full at times of misconceptions and misunderstandings, that will not stand for long against the accelerating influence of the information and transportation revolutions worldwide; the result of which is that diverse groups of peoples are getting to know each other more quickly and intimately in positive ways, and work better together. I saw human beliefs about nationality, religion, and related identifications are useful practical models for good and righteous living, culturally intertwined, functions of time, history, and place. They are relative, subjective and evolving.”

 “It is in the context of celebrating diversity in humanity, combined with the underlying universality of man’s spirituality, manifesting faith, love, and brotherhood, that I have been able to liberate myself from much of past burdensome inner conflicts and traumas. I have done so with considerable effort over a long time, and against great odds. Yet, I feel blessed to have been able to do so.”

Windy City Publishers. Kindle Edition. …..


The website is:

Buy Link: Print Edition:   Walking Out Into The Sunshine

Kindle Edition:



Posted in authors, books, characters, coming of age, editing, fiction, KIndle, novels, proof reading, writers, Young Adult

Young Adult Novelist and Editor, Sarah Towne

Sarah Towne

Sarah walked in to Marco Island Writers and stole everyone’s heart.  She is a breath of fresh air among most of us grey haired (if we were honest – only L’Oreal knows for sure.) To my great surprise, Sarah was anything but a novice.  Tell the readers a little of your background.

Sure. When I was an undergrad, I took several creative writing courses. I took two or three poetry classes, one fiction, and one creative nonfiction course. I majored in English and had a creative writing minor. After undergrad, I earned my Master in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I took two years of creative writing courses and finished my degree by writing a thesis that was a full-length book. My first book, The Other Summer Girl, was not my thesis but I did get started on it while in grad school.

The Other Summer Girl - no cover

How long did it take you to write The Other Summer Girl?

From first starting the book to pressing Publish on Amazon, it took about a year and a half – I wrote the first 60 or so pages while I’m grad school, took almost exactly a year off from writing The Other Summer Girl, and then finishing writing and editing in six months.

Tell us aboutThe Other Summer Girl.

If I could say which shelf in the bookstore my book would appear, I’d have to say Young Adult. Some might consider this YA Romance, some might say just YA, and others might consider it New Adult (NA) because the protagonist is a freshman in college.

I do think that my book would speak most to a YA audience because I feel like it speaks to the issues a freshman might experience – homesickness, social anxiety, love, being in a new place, growing up and so on. When you’re a freshman in college, you are technically a new adult but I think there’s a blurred line between this YA/NA genre labeling. Melanie Collier, the main character in The Other Summer Girl, is very much a young adult – yes, an older young adult but still a young adult – when she enters college. Her naïveté and social hesitations make her a character that I think a lot of high school students could look to and get an idea of what college is like – I wish there had been a book like mine or like Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl when I was freaking out about leaving home and being in a whole new town. It is my hope that the YA audience will connect with Melanie on some level and be able to go on this college journey with her. I am working on the sequel, The Fall Of Us (working title), that will be out by late summer.

Let’s talk about writing  style. Do you always right in the same POV?

I started writing The Other Summer Girl in 1st person and discovered that I wanted the story to be told with more uninhibited  observation, so I moved it to 3rd person past tense. I felt like 1st person, especially in present tense, didn’t offer the reflective distance I was looking for the main character to have. I also feel like the 3rd person/past tense gives the story the feel that the character can make it through her social struggles in the end and that there is a summer after that first year to regroup and grow and move forward.

I sometimes write poetry in 1st person, and I think I will experiment with 1st person in future novels. But for now I like the 3rd person POV.

Sarah, what makes you tick? In other words, why do you write?

I write for many reasons but if I had to choose I would say because there’s something about it that fulfills me. When write a sentence or paragraph or scene of dialogue that just clicks and reflects exactly what the feeling is for that moment, it makes me happy and I hope that others can gain something from my story if it’s something as simple (and amazing) as just enjoying the story.

My favorite place to write is anywhere that serves fresh coffee and a has large windows. But there are those nights, especially when I was finishing The Other Summer Girl, I wrote on my big comfy couch with my laptop into the early hours of the morning. I also have to play music while I write – there’s something about it that makes the writing flow easier.

I hope you all will check out my debut novel, The Other Summer Girl, available for 99 cents on Amazon. If you want to learn more about the book and read some of my blog posts, head on over to my website:

In addition to writing, I am also an editor. I co-founded E&E Literary Services with my mom; we work with writers on developmental editing, copyediting, and proofreading. We also have been beta readers and can help you with your social media creation and management. If you would like more information, you can visit our website or email us

Posted in authors, characters, conflict, fiction, Indie, KIndle, love, romance, WFWA, writers

International Consultant and Author, Jerilyn Willin

Today on Author Interview Friday, I have Jerilyn Willin. She writes both fiction romance and non-fiction self-help books. Jerilyn is an international consultant, author, and speaker. She helps organizations and individuals discover their unique strengths, develop their talents, and deliver solid, more satisfying results.


Joanne:  Jerilyn, when did you first know you wanted to be a writer and was there a particular inspiration to get started?

Jerilyn: I have been writing various things since high school. In fact my current novel, Unless A Love Be Free was born from a story I wrote as a high school senior. My college and grad school years saw me take a hiatus from writing for pleasure, but soon after graduating from grad school, I collaborated on a play for YA that was actually produced at a local Jr. High. Seeing my characters come alive on stage is what got me back on the track of writing for pleasure.

Joanne: Do you have a background in writing or take any special writing courses that helped you along the way?

Jerilyn: I took some seminars at the Iowa Writer’s Festival in the early 2000’s. They really bolstered my confidence. I’ve also had seminars with Debra Dixon and Jennifer Greene.

Joanne: How long did it take you to publish your first manuscript?

Jerilyn: Do you hear me laughing? In 2001 I signed with a NY agent and just as she was beginning to shop Unless A Love Be Free around, Sept 11 happened. All of NY (and the world) was in shock. Needless to say, nothing happened with my manuscript. In 2003, I received a breast cancer diagnosis and for a year I did nothing but work to get and stay well. When I got a clean bill of health, I worked to re-build my consulting business. In 2008, a colleague and I collaborated on a journaling/self-help book titled Deep, Deeper, Deeper Still. It is a “guided journey for people who journal”. We went directly to POD. The relative success of that book and what I learned when I joined a writer’s marketing group got me re-interested in having Unless A Love Be Free see the light of day. I decided to publish it via CreateSpace for paperback and as an ebook through Barnes and Noble (for Nook) and Kindle Direct Publishing. I started that process at the start of 2012 and Free came out in May 2012.

 Unless a Love Be Free

Joanne: Why did you choose to go the self-publishing Indie route in lieu of traditional publication? What were the deciding factors to choosing your publisher? Would you recommend that same Indi publisher to a colleague?

Jerilyn: I would definitely recommend CreateSpace to a friend. I choose a professional to format and upload the manuscript for me. His name is Donnie Light. He came highly recommended and lived up to his reputation. He formatted and uploaded both the paperback and the ebook. I chose the indie route because basically I was tired of rejections that said, “we love your story, but it is not right for our line.” It’s true that Unless A Love Be Free is not a typical romance. It is not set in England/Ireland/Scotland, and while the hero is noble, he is not a nobleman. Traditional publishers are skittish to go with something different than the tried and true. The writer’s marketing group I joined ( opened my eyes to indie publishing. As a member of RWA I thought traditional publishing was the only way to go. Thank goodness groups like RWA are seeing that indie publishing is a viable alternative today. While it would be wonderful to be on the shelve of Barnes and Noble, I am “on the shelf” of and and that is just fine.

Joanne:  Do you always write in the same genre?

Jerilyn:  In terms of fiction, yes. I love historic romance. As I said earlier, I have also written a non-fiction book.

Joanne:  Many of us cross over genres and it is difficult to pinpoint one to fit our books. For the book we are promoting today, what shelf would we find it on if it were in a bricks and mortar bookstore?

Jerrilyn: It would be in Romance area. I call it an historical romantic adventure.

Joanne:  Do you always write in the same POV or narrative or do you switch it up in different stories?

Jerilyn: Right now I don’t have different stories.

Joanne:  Author, Jennie Nash was quoted on Writer Unboxed that she reads other novels to study structure. Do you follow a structure pattern such as staying in chronological order, or alternating points in time or different POV’s

Jerilyn:  One of the things that makes Unless A Love Be Free different is that the “prologue” and Part II of the book are set in the same time period. Part I takes place five years earlier. There are four point of view characters in Free: the hero, the heroine, the antagonist and the heroine’s best friend. When I change POV, the POV character gets the entire scene. I work hard not to head-hop.

Joanne: What was the hardest part for you in the writing process; the outline, synopsis, query or building the story itself?

Jerilyn:  I don’t use an outline. I am a seat of the pants writer. The hardest part for me is the synopsis. Yuck!

Joanne:  It is not enough to write a book and wait for the money to start rolling in. What marketing techniques do you implement to increase your sales?

Jerilyn:  Social media, signings. Had a few days of free books through Kindle. Literally thousands of people downloaded it. I was shocked. Hope they all read it. Wished most would have reviewed it on amazon! I travel a great deal for my job and confess that I leave bookmarks in magazines in the seat pocket.

Joanne:  What advise would you give to new writers just getting started with their first manuscript?

Jerilyn:  Keep writing. NEVER say, “What makes me think I can write?” and don’t listen to people who say it. We all have stories inside us. One of my favorite quotes is “Most people go to their grave with their songs still in them”. Song or story…get it out there.

Joanne:  What is the premise of your novel we are promoting today?

Jerilyn:  That everyone deserves a second chance and many times we don’t give it to ourselves. Free is a story of redemption and love through self-acceptance.

Joanne: Where can readers go to buy your book and learn more about your writing.

Jerilyn:  I have a blog as mentioned below. I also have FB and amazon links below. The books are available at and If a reader would like an autographed copy, they can contact me at I add $3 to the cost of the book for postage.




Joanne:  Thank you Jerilyn.  I am sure authors that are considering the Indie route will be very interested in your comments above.  I am sure that the romance buyers will want to get a sneak peak into your story. Can you share a few paragraphs from your book with us?

A “taste” of

Unless A Love Be Free

“Wait.” McKenzie closed the distance between them, laying a restraining hand on his arm. “Garrick, I…there is something I must say.”

Her look wrapped him in soft velvet, warm, rich. It got inside him, and set his blood racing. Did she know what she risked touching him like this, looking at him as she did? His defensives, already weakened, shook with the pounding of his heart.

She looked away, and he knew she was changing her mind, backing away from what she wanted. “Say it, McKenzie.”

“I realize circumstances might have been quite different these past weeks. I want you to know I’m grateful for…your honor and protection. You have nothing to fear from me, Garrick Stuart. Whatever happens, I won’t betray you. I know the man you are.”

Before he could stop, before he could warn himself that to act on his feelings would bring disaster, Garrick brought his lips to hers. To his amazement, she did not pull away. The havoc her response wreaked stunned him. Rocked by a surge of emotion, he could contain neither his will nor his words.

“There is something powerful between us. Do you feel it?”

“Since the day on the dock.”

She tilted her head and their lips met again. This time he kissed her as he hungered to, deep, long, filling his senses. His arms came around her and his heart missed a beat as her body melted into him. His loneliness and need poured forth. It was too much. As quickly as he embraced her, Garrick pulled away. He needed time to think, distance to clear his head. Ignoring the questions in her eyes, he left her standing in the circle of light.

Garrick didn’t stop until he reached the ledge just above the water mark. He crouched down, watching the incoming tide. The canoe fought the ropes securing it, battling to join the tide surging around it on all sides.

“Damn it all!” Garrick ran fingers through his hair in frustration. Caring about this woman was not in his plan.