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A Tale of Three Settings: The Story Behind ‘The Cavalier Spy,’ by S.W. O’Connell

TheCavalierSpy_medIn many ways, The Cavalier Spy should have been an easy book to write. After all, it is the sequel to the first book in the Yankee Doodle Spies series, The Patriot Spy, so many of the characters, themes and settings were in place when I began the book. But ironically, that made the book all the more difficult. Why? Because I wanted The Cavalier Spy to stand on its own. I wanted readers who had not read the first book in the series to enjoy The Cavalier Spy as much as those who did read The Patriot Spy. I had no idea how hard that would be. And starting out, I had no idea how I would do it. But then I began to write and the story took over, as it often does.

The story has three general settings. I think that helped. In fact, the settings are essential to the building of the tale. This is, after all, a historical novel and I am trying to portray history through fiction. And history is about places, as well as people. The first setting is New York. The second is the area around the Hackensack Valley of New Jersey. The third setting is “western Jersey,” the area along the Delaware River. During the time of the American Revolution New Jersey was often referred to as “the Jerseys.” The Jerseys were east and west Jersey. East Jersey is that part of the state that borders New York and the North (Hudson) River. West Jersey is the portion that borders Philadelphia and the Delaware River.

Since the first setting was the same as that of The Patriot Spy, and as I began to draw out the plot, I used the setting to refer back to events that unfolded in it. I did not plan this. It just came to me as I wrote. An example is when the protagonist, Jeremiah Creed and his men are sent behind British lines he decides to go by the post house in Yorkville. There he “re-recruits” young Thomas Jefferies to the cause. I use those scenes to flash back to how they originally met, and the events that drew them together. As Creed drives deeper into British occupied New York, people he encounters and venues provide opportunities to briefly let the reader in on what happened in book one. Another challenge for the writer is to do this without making things tedious for those who read the first book. The trick is to keep the flashback short. Usually a couple of sentences. The trick is to do this without tying up the story too much and break the flow. As the story progresses to the other two settings, the need and opportunity to do this fades away. Soon the story is standing on its own legs and the reader is caught up on what happened.

Another interesting challenge I faced was telling the tale of how my protagonist arrived in America. In The Patriot Spy I hinted that he was an immigrant. In The Cavalier Spy, I show it. But how to get there without distracting too much from the main plot, Washington’s desperate attempt to avoid defeat and his use of intelligence to aid those efforts. The idea came to me suddenly. I would have Washington and his fictional “Senior Intelligence Advisor” conduct what is essentially a “subject interview” of Creed. They confront him on his mysterious past and want to “vet” him. He decides to tell all in a “confession” to his commander in chief. Don’t worry. He doesn’t really tell all. Some things have to be saved for future books. But we do get a several chapter flashback out of it. And I had a lot of fun writing it.

By time I got to the Hackensack Valley setting, I was thoroughly enjoying myself. I was able to create a fictional village and spin some interesting characters in and out of it. But in doing it, I reveal an interesting and little noted fact about the American war for Independence. It was a complex struggle and a local one. New Jersey raised some impressive Loyalist troops for the King and one of those regiments plays a role. The Hackensack Valley had a significant Dutch populace. After all, East Jersey was part of the Dutch colony (along with New York) of New Amsterdam. This provided me some rich characters to develop. It is in this setting that I bring the strange case of “Mister X” into the story. Weaving a controversial historic figure into the plot was intriguing to me, the writer. I hope it is for the reader as well.

The last setting is West Jersey. This is the iconic “times that try men’s souls.” The new nation’s hopes are all but dashed. Washington escapes the British but is now ignominiously holed up on the far bank of the Delaware River and his army has evaporated. To have any hope of saving his army and the cause, Washington must send Jeremiah Creed back into the bosom of the enemy. A key ingredient, almost a character, in this setting is, believe it or not, Mother Nature. A cold winter is gripping the Delaware Valley and it has a role in everything. The characters (and their horses) are affected. The Continental Army is affected. And most importantly, the British Army is affected. The despair that unfolds in the first two settings culminates in desperation. And this desperation sets in on both the fictional and historical characters. Washington is desperate to save his Army and the Revolution. Creed is desperate to do his duty. And the British are desperate not to lose what they have achieved. But desperation breeds valor and resourcefulness. But it can also breed mistakes. And ultimately, the fortunes of men and of nations, can turn on mistakes.



S.W. O’Connell is the author of the Yankee Doodle Spies series of action and espionage novels set during the American Revolutionary War. The author is a retired Army officer with over twenty years of experience in a variety of intelligence-related assignments around the world. He is long time student of history and lover of the historical novel genre. So it was no surprise that he turned to that genre when he decided to write back in 2009. He lives in Virginia.


Title: The Cavalier Spy

Genre: Historical

Author: S. W. O’Connell


Publisher: Twilight Times Books

Purchase link:

Amazon / OmniLit 

About the Book:

1776: His army clinging to New York by a thread, a desperate General George Washington sends Lieutenant Jeremiah Creed behind British lines once more. But even the audacity of Creed and his band of spies cannot stop the British juggernaut from driving the Americans from New York, and chasing them across New Jersey in a blitzkrieg fashion. Realizing the imminent loss of one of the new nation’s most important states to the enemy, Washington sends Creed into the war-torn Hackensack Valley. His mission: recruit and train a gang of rogues to work behind British lines.

However, his mission takes a strange twist when the British high command plots to kidnap a senior American officer and a mysterious young woman comes between Creed and his plans. The British drive Washington’s army across the Delaware. The new nation faces its darkest moment. But Washington plans a surprise return led by young Creed, who must strike into hostile land so that Washington can rally his army for an audacious gamble that could win, or lose, the war.

“More than a great spy story… it is about leadership and courage in the face of adversity…The Cavalier Spy is the story of America’s first army and the few… those officers and soldiers who gave their all to a cause that was seemingly lost…”

~ Les Brownlee, former Acting Secretary of the Army and retired Army Colonel

“Secret meetings, skirmishes and scorching battles… The Cavalier Spy takes the reader through America’s darkest times and greatest triumphs thanks to its powerful array of fictional and historical characters… this book shows that courage, leadership and audacity are the key elements in war…”

~ F. William Smullen, Director of National Security Studies at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School and Author of Ways and Means for Managing UP

Special Guest: Five Things I Have Learned Since I Self-Published by Tom Stacey #selfpublish

44Five things I have learned since I self-published

By Tom Stacey

In my relatively short career as a self-published author, I have found the learning curve a steep one. For anybody who is considering self-publishing — or somebody who has already self-published and wants some solidarity — here is a list of the key lessons I have learned so far.

Exile 4You’ll be amazed by the support you receive

The internet is a funny place, and since you want to publish and promote your book to people other than your immediate family, you’ll be spending a lot of time on there. Sure, some people might not like your book, some people might even hate it, but what will surprise you is the amount of good feedback you can get. Everything from helpful critiques, offers for review exchanges, book recommendations, free promotion — the self-publishing industry is stronger than it ever has been and that is evident in the depth of the community’s kindness. Be active on social media like twitter and goodreads and promote others as they promote you. My favourite moment so far is when I was touched by a bit of hubris and decided to google my book. I found it on somebody’s list of their top five favourite books. That’s the kind of thing that drives you.

There is a lot of work required

Everyone who wants to be writer imagines a world where they can sit in a wood-walled office with an open fire and write, perhaps with quill and ink, perhaps with a tumbler of good scotch within reach. Alas, the modern self-published writer cannot just be a writer. You have to be an editor, a formatting expert, someone who understands the software your using to the nth degree, and most importantly, a marketeer. It’s no good writing the next Lord of the Rings if nobody is going to read it. You have to sell yourself, and that is difficult stuff. In short, as a self-published author, you’re going to be doing all of the things that a traditionally published author has done for them. If you tie that in with a day job and (potentially) friends, family, general fitness, etc, it actually leaves you very little time to do the thing you want to do: write. Good thing you can always sacrifice sleep! Of course, if you want to pay people money to do these things for you, then that’s great and will hopefully be very effective, but for those more budget conscious among you, you better start reading up on marketing techniques.

The importance of cover art

The saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ is absolute nonsense. Sure, you shouldn’t make assumptions, but if you break the saying down into its literal sense, you have to remember that a book is a product, a piece of entertainment. ‘But this is literature!’ I hear some of you cry. ‘It’s art, nothing so grubby as a microwaved meal.’ Unfortunately, I’m afraid that’s not true. A book is something that people will exchange money for, consume, and then ultimately discard or store. Therefore it has to be good: well-written and, above all, presentable. That’s how you get your foot in the proverbial door of somebody’s attention. That’s why cover art is all-important. The amount of self-published books I see with awful covers upsets me. It’s sad to think that great content could be hidden by pedestrian cover art. Cover art is the hook. It catches the reader’s eye and makes them pick your work up. I said previously that you might need to wear many hats as a self-published author, but leave something as subjective as artwork and design to the professionals. I paid money for my cover art, and I’m so glad I did. People love it and I have had many compliments — it looks great in print too, almost indistinguishable from anything you would find in a quality bookstore. If you’re great at drawing, then fine, but I am not, and for a one off price I managed to get a custom drawn piece of artwork that does my book justice. Know your strengths and funnel your funds where you are weakest, but do not try and save on cover art.

If anybody is interested, here is the website of the illustrator I used:

Also, here is a great article on cover design and why it is important to get it right:

You will find errors in your work — get over it!

I have almost lost count of the amount of times I have read Exile (it’s a good thing it’s so great!). In writing, editing, editing again, editing some more and so on, I have probably read it cover to cover about twenty times. I can tell you what happens in chapter seventeen and what Beccorban’s response is when Riella asks him about his past. I can recite whole passages of text and describe the great coastal city of Kressel almost word for word. But still I find mistakes. Okay, not mistakes, rather things I would do differently. I like to think that in my constant editing I have eliminated 99.9% of grammatical and spelling errors in my work (you can never be 100%), but in recent re-reads, I have spotted sentences that I don’t like or would phrase differently. I’ve come to accept that this is perfectly normal. As a writer you evolve. I am not the same writer now as I was when I started penning Exile and hopefully I’ve improved. There is a saying that no work of art is ever finished, simply abandoned. This holds true to writing, and there comes a point when you have to let go and lock the text so it can go to print. Of course you can make revisions at a later date, but usually not for free (unless it’s an ebook). I’ve gotten over that, and also realised that the things I see as mistakes will not be viewed as mistakes by my readers. They are reading my work for the first time, learning from fresh who I am as a writer. Hopefully when they come to read the next one, they will recognise my work, but see that it is a step up.

You will make mistakes in general so don’t be afraid to ask for help

It seems like an overly simply statement but you will. Whether it’s in formatting for an ebook, in paying money to a shady company for ‘marketing,’ there are things you will do now on your first time out that you will never do again. I came moments away from approving the proof of my cover design with a glaring spelling error in the blurb. I had a proof copy printed and realised that I had made a new moon become a full moon in the space of two days. Luckily I changed it before it went to print. These things happen and will happen, especially when you are the only person checking things. Get a trusted friend to read your work and edit as many times as you can. Another really good trick is to wait until you are happy with your story, then lock it away for about two months. Work on other stuff and then come back to it and read it fresh. You’ll be amazed what a new perspective you gain. That’s how I managed to cut down Exile into a more acceptable size.

My experience with self-publishing has been a good one so far, and it is by no means unique. I hope this has gone some way to giving any potential self-publishers a ‘heads up.’ Thanks for reading!

Tom StaceyTom Stacey is an English author of the fantasy novel, Exile. Tom was born in Essex, England, and has lived there his whole life. He began writing at school, often taking responsibility for penning the class plays, or writing sketches with his friends. While attending university to read history, Tom developed his writing by creating several short stories, some of which would later become to basis for his debut novel, Exile.

Tom self-published Exile in summer 2014 and is currently working on the sequel as well as another unrelated novel. He earns a living as a video producer in London in the day and writes at night, a bit like a really underwhelming superhero.

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Guest post: The Inspiration Behind ‘When Shmack Happens’ by Amber Neben

When Shmack Happens coverWhere did I get the inspiration to write When SHMACK Happens? I hit the wall, and I hit it HARD!!  My life, my goals, and my next steps were redirected in a span of a few seconds.  Prior to impact, I was on target to win that huge race at The Tour of California, and I was plotting ahead to more cycling goals, maybe even the 2016 Olympic Games.  After the impact, I laid on the pavement while my body screamed at me because it hurt…  SEVERELY.  Blood poured out of my nose and other parts of me.   I was scared and messed up.  But I was awake, and I could move.

In the midst of the pain and fear that filled me on the side of the road and then in the ambulance, I clung to Jesus.  I didn’t understand why or what had just happened.  I didn’t want to be headed to a trauma center, and I definitely didn’t want to have my dreams cut short by another obstacle.  But I clung.  And He filled me with His strength.

Honestly,   it was a miracle to walk away, and a miracle how fast I recovered.  But even more incredible was that in the aftermath of the crash, I had a peace and a stillness of spirit that was beyond me.  I was very limited to what I could do.  Simply moving was difficult for a few weeks.  However, in spite of the physical trauma I was dealing with, my mind was incredibly clear and crisp, and my heart was not anxious.

I began to think about writing my story, and then God began to pound on my heart “write the story that I have written into your life.”  I had always wanted to write a book, but I had never felt the inspiration to do it until the initial days after the crash.  Although there was a definite tug on my heart to write, I still continued to doubt that I could do it.  I also wasn’t completely convinced I was hearing God accurately, and I only wanted to embark on the journey with His help.  So for two weeks, I prayed often about the idea.

Finally, or desperately, after two weeks of talking to God about everything, I prayed a Gideon like prayer at 5AM.  I know it was 5AM, because I remember checking my phone before getting up to use the bathroom.  My prayer when I laid back down was, “God, if I am hearing you correctly, have Jenna Sampson email me.”  Jenna had written some articles about me for Sports Spectrum, and she would occasionally check on me.  She had promised almost 7 years prior that she would help me write if I ever wanted to.  I hadn’t heaAmber Neben photord from her in almost a year, but when I got out of bed that same morning, I had an email from Jenna arriving at 5:16AM.  Confirmed.  I needed to write.

And yes, I needed to write!   There was no way a ghost writer or another author could truly understand my journey or share those intimate lessons I had learned as I had been walking, struggling, or standing firm in Christ through all the storms.   So I met with Jenna, who agreed to act as my editor, I started praying for words and eloquence, and I embarked on writing WHEN SHMACK HAPPENS.

Link to crash:


Amber Neben is a decorated international road cyclist with victories in 11 countries and multiple UCI Category 1 stage race wins. She is a 2x Olympian, 2x World Champion, 2x Pan American Champion and 2x National Champion. She holds a B.S. from The University of Nebraska and an M.S. from UC Irvine. Amber and her husband, Jason, reside in Lake Forest, CA. For information on speaking engagements or coaching visit


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The Living Memories Project: Healing by Doing by Meryl Ain

7 beyond the books guest postThe Living Memories Project: Healing by Doing

By Meryl Ain

It has been 50 years since The Beatles first visited the United States, but their music is as alive as ever. Although the Beatles stopped performing as a group in 1970, and John Lennon and George Harrison have passed, their music is today enjoyed by both those who saw them perform, and their children and their grandchildren.

The power of music to evoke memories is great, and one of the most moving of the Beatles’ songs is Let It Be, Paul McCartney’s tribute to his mother, Mary, who died from an embolism when he was 15. After his mother came to him in a dream during a difficult time in his life, he wrote the song to share her advice with the world. Each time the song is performed, played or heard, it keeps alive the The Living Memories Project 7memory of his mother: “And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me, speaking words of wisdom, let it be…”

Not everyone can write and perform a song, but when my mother died after a brief illness, I wondered how I could pay tribute to her – in my own way. So I decided to ask others how they carry on the values and legacies of their loved ones. I enlisted my husband, Stewart, and my brother, Arthur, to join me in researching and writing The Living Memories Project: Legacies That Last.

The book shows how others have harnessed their grief, transforming it into meaningful action and living legacies. The Living Memories Project describes through interviews, anecdotes, essays, poems and photographs, the many ways that 32 individuals – celebrities and others – keep alive the memories of loved ones.  Some are huge projects; some are small ones.

For example singer/songwriter Jen Chapin, the daughter of the late folk rock icon Harry Chapin, tells how she keeps her father’s memory alive through his music and his commitment to social justice.

“I have so many ways of communing with him and I know he is proud of me. I have an ongoing dialogue with him and read his speeches about social justice and they are so much today—what he wrote about and sang about—they are so current and I feel so connected. I have ongoing dialogue through my own work. So in a way I am privileged he was a public person and, almost every time I perform, someone comes up and speaks of him and remembers him.…”

Others in our book have established foundations, endowed scholarships, relied on favorite sayings, created works of art, made recipes, or simply looked at photographs. The point is that there is no such thing as closure; those we love are in our hearts and minds forever. Carrying on their work or doing something positive in their memory not only serves as a fitting tribute, but also is a powerful healer.

The research and writing of The Living Memories Project has been therapeutic and cathartic for me and for my coauthors. We hope that it will help others by showing readers how to find comfort and meaning through honoring the memory, values, and legacy of their loved ones.

About the Author:

Meryl Ain holds a BA from QueensCollege, a MA from ColumbiaUniversityTeachers College, and an Ed.D. from HofstraUniversity. She began her career in education as a social studies teacher before she became an administrator. She is also a freelance writer specializing in Meryl Ainissues related to education, families, parenting, and children and has contributed to Huffington Post, Newsday, the New York Jewish Week and The New York Times. She embarked on The Living Memories Project after she lost both her father and mother within a year-and-a-half. She and her husband Stewart live on Long Island and have three sons, three daughters-in-law and three grandchildren.

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Why Educating America’s Incarcerated Class is Smart on Crime by Christopher Zoukis

Why Educating America’s Incarcerated Class is Smart on Crime

By Christopher Zoukis

When many think of prisoners they think of those who have violated the social contract, of those who have victimized their communities. They think of those who deserve whatever they have coming to them, and that any form or amount of punishment they receive is just. There is some validity to these points. But there is also a fatal flaw in this logic.

The Fatal Flaw: Punishment, but no Reformation

Directory of Federal PrisonsWhen we as Americans think of punishing prisoners, we think of just consequences and just desserts. We think of an action occurring and a reaction being required. But we often don’t sit down and realize that prisoners will one day be released from custody. As such, we think of harming those who have harmed us, but not of welcoming them back upon the fulfillment of their punishment (i.e., their sentence). And this is the fatal flaw: we punish those deserving of punishment, but fail to prepare them for life after prison (the point at which their punishment has been fulfilled). We fail to provide them with the tools required to put crime behind them. This is where prison education comes in.

Correctional Education: What is it?

Correctional education is the technical term for education provided to prison inmates. This education can consist of basic literacy (reading, writing, mathematics, etc.), high school equivalency (GED classes), adult continuing education (either technical/career skills or life skills aimed at adult learners), vocational training, or even college education. By far the most prevalent, high school equivalency courses are provided to any prisoner who has not earned a true high school diploma. This is important because research shows that most prisoners possess merely a 6th grade formal education, and many are plainly illiterate.

These courses are often provided inside an education department within the prison itself. The teachers are prison staffers who hold teaching certificates, but more often than not, they merely supervise the more educated prisoners who actually teach the classes. While these prisoners are often called “inmate tutors,” their job is often to plan lessons, teach the classes, and administer sample tests, which help to gauge when the incarcerated student should sit for the true GED examinations or end-of-course tests.

Why Should We Want to Educate Prisoners?

The simple truth of the matter is that correctional education is the single most cost-effective, proven method of reducing recidivism (the act of a person going to prison, serving their time, being released, and returning to crime). The reason for this is because education helps the traditionally disadvantaged prison population compete in the workforce. And this is important because most former prisoners who return to crime do so because of economic reasons. They sell drugs or rob banks or engage in identity theft because they need money. As such, finding ways to make them employable is of paramount importance.

Let’s face it, a high school diploma is the cornerstone of an employable worker. Not many employers are interested in hiring workers without one. But, true high school diplomas are not feasible in the prison context (they simply take to long to earn for learners who’ve had a poor track record in formal education). As such, GED classes are what are made available to incarcerated students. While not the best option, this is a tremendous start for those who, on average, have a 6th grade formal education.

The simple truth is that with each new level of education attained, the recidivism rate is slashed. While this fact is not a feel-good one, it is crime reduction and cost savings in practice. It can only take a year or two for most incarcerated students to earn a GED. The cost of this is negligible compared to additional years of reincarceration. And the value of reduced crime is incalculable.

Dividing Retribution from Reformation

The starting point for many Americans when discussing prisoners is to become angry; angry about the seemingly undeserved privileges being offered to those who break the law. Americans become angry when they find out that prisoners sometimes live in air conditioned housing units. This is seen as a privilege, even though prisoners have been known to die from heat stroke in those housing units which lack AC, and the reason for the climate control is to deny prisoners access to windows that open. Americans become angry when they find out that prisoners sometimes have access to cable television, even though this monotonous form of entertainment is a valuable correctional tool, and has been shown to drastically reduce prison violence by occupying prisoners who would otherwise find trouble. But today we’re not advocating for televisions or air conditioning. We’re advocating education for the incarcerated.

It’s time that the American people stop thinking of education as a privilege, but as a tool. Education is a tool which helps prisoners learn to think, compete in the workforce upon release from prison, and not return to a life of crime. Education for the incarcerated will reduce victimization, burden on social services, and the current prison overpopulation crisis. Education will change lives by changing minds and the ways former prisoners live their lives.

But if this isn’t enough, don’t support prison education because it helps those incarcerated. Support prison education because it is in our best interest. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 95 to 97 percent of prisoners will one day be released from custody. These are our future neighbors. The question shouldn’t be, “Do prisoners deserve an education?” No. The question is, “Would you prefer your future neighbor be educated, employed, and a law abiding citizen who is not engaged in a criminal lifestyle, or would you prefer for your future neighbor to merely be waiting for their probation or supervised release officer to violate them and return them to prison?” These are the choices. I, for one, chose education, not reincarceration.

Christopher ZoukisChristopher Zoukis is an impassioned advocate for prison education, a legal scholar, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and articles.  His articles on prison education and prison law appear frequently in Prison Legal News, and have been published in The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, and Midwest Book Review, among other national, regional, and specialty publications.

Mr. Zoukis is often quoted on matters concerning prison law, criminal law, prisoners’ rights, and prison education.  Recently, he was the focus of an article at concerning America’s broken criminal justice system and potential solutions to the current crisis.

When not in the thick of the battle for prison reform, prison education, or prisoners’ rights advocacy, Mr. Zoukis can be found blogging at,, and

His latest book is The Directory of Federal Prisons:’s Federal Bureau of Prison Facility Directory.

10 Little Known Facts About Past Medical History by Don Stewart

10 Little Known Facts

We have a great guest today!  Don Stewart is here to tell give us 10 little known facts about his latest book, Past Medical History!

Don Stewart has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Art, with honors, from Birmingham-Southern College, and an MD from the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He also served a year-long surgical internship at the Mayo Clinic, where he publishedDon Stewart some of his first composite drawings, and won awards for poetry and short fiction.

Dr. Stewart’s short stories have since been published in Pulse–voices from the heart of medicine, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Placebo Journal, and The Journal of Irreproducible Results, where he is listed as honorary Art Editor. For four years he served as Contributing Editor to Informal Rounds, the newsletter of the University of Alabama Medical Alumni Association.

For the past quarter century he has made his living as a self-styled Visual Humorist, hammering words and pictures together at the DS Art Studio Gallery in Birmingham:  You can also find him at

His latest book is the autobiography, Past Medical History.

10 Little Known Facts About Past Medical History

1. The author left medicine the same day he earned his license to practice.

2. After finishing medical school and a surgical internship, the author decided to become a full-time artist instead.

3. The author never saw patients again – he paid for medical school with picture money.

4. The book was entirely funded by an Indiegogo campaign.

5. More than 100 books will be given away free to pre-meds and medical students.

6. The author used to be a professional ventriloquist.

7.  Having M.D. on your resume makes it awfully difficult to get a regular job. You’re automatically overqualified for just about everything other than self-employment.

8. A surprising number of of doctors have told the author in confidence, “I wish I had some kind of talent. If I did, I’d leave medicine in a heartbeat.”

9.  A used copy of Past Medical History is selling on Amazon for $999.00!

10. Every copy of Past Medical History is guaranteed to be high in fiber, and low in calories.

About the Book 2

Past Medical HistoryPast Medical History is a compilation of short stories chronicling the life of Dr. Don Stewart, who grew up with the singular goal of becoming a physician, then quit the day he earned his medical license to make a life and a living as an artist. It’s The Devil Wears Prada meets The House of God, with a character who sees his own career circling the drain, pronounces it DOA, and turfs himself to an art studio for treatment. It’s Patch Adams, with an attitude; The Things They Carried, dressed up in scrubs and a white lab coat.

This series of stories draws a clear picture of a doctor who recognized the pitfalls of his chosen profession, discharged himself from the hospital, then took his life in a more creative, and far healthier direction.


What Makes a Good Suspense? Guest Post by Kaylin McFarren

Hush Hush Sweet CharlotteWhat makes a great suspense story?

By Kaylin McFarren, author of BURIED THREADS

Although I’m a relatively new author when it comes to writing romantic suspense, one suggestion that immediately comes to mind for fellow authors is to begin your story by stating what’s at stake while providing a glimpse at the challenges your hero or heroine are forced to overcome. I love a good mystery Buried-Threads-2and have discovered that mystery authors tend to be more closed mouth and secretive about ultimate sacrifices and goals in their stories. Suspense authors, on the other hand, risk giving too much away by divulging all the elements of their stories way too early, which makes writing in this particular genre a bit of a balancing act.

Secondly, suspense needs to grow through the actions of a strong protagonist while detouring away from the story’s predictable outcome. This is not an easy task to pull off but allows the author the ability to explore multiple points of view while giving insight into the vulnerabilities or flaws of their characters. The suspense author might even draw sympathy from their readers for the villain who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks or the bitter woman who’s been abandoned all her life and is hesitant to trust an ex-lover.

The ability to see inside the minds of characters in this style of writing makes it possible to add thought processes and complex layers while providing the motivation behind pitting the antagonist against the protagonist. Mystery writers are at a distinct disadvantage in this regard as they’re required to keep the antagonist’s identity hidden to the very last minute to extend the drama and excitement of their stories. But whether mystery or suspense, the trick to mastering a great story is to ensure that the reader ultimately has a thrilling experience.


Kaylin-McFarren-2About the Author:

Kaylin McFarren is a California native who has enjoyed traveling around the world. She previously worked as director for a fine art gallery, where she helped foster the careers of various artists before feeling the urge to satisfy her won creative impulses.

Since launching her writing career, McFarren has earned more than a dozen literary awards in addition to a finalist spot in the 2008 RWA Golden Heart Contest. A member of RWA, Rose City Romance Writers, and Willamette Writers, she also lends her participation and support to various charitable and educational organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

McFarren currently lives with her husband in Oregon. They have three children and two grandchildren.

Her latest book is Buried Threads (Book 2 of the Threads series).

Visit her website at

‘Revelation’ Morrie Richfield: What it means to be a self-published author

Revelation banner

We’re delighted to have Morrie Richfield, author of the inspirational fiction, Revelation, here with us today at Beyond the Books.  Morrie’s guest post touches a familiar chord with all self-published authors.

2893What it means to be a self-published author

By Morrie Richfield

“Amazing” “Never read anything like it before” “Wow” “They have to make a movie out of this” “You must have sold a millions copies this is so damn good” “You must be rich after writing this.”

Those were only some of the comments made about my first novel Mr. Breeze. I wish all of them were true, but the unfortunate reality for a self-published writer is that 99% of us never get any recognition and if we do we must either hire firms to get the word of or become skilled at self-marketing.

So here I am my second novel Revelation: the Return of Mr. Breeze has just been released and already I am hearing words like “monumental” to describe it.

As I embark on my second publicity tour, I find that my expectations are muted as I have learned a great many things about the publishing and the movie industry over the last year and a half.

A movie treatment for Mr. Breeze is even as I write this is in the hands of studios and production companies in Hollywood. Would Mr. Breeze make a better film than 90% of what is being brought to the screen these days? Yes it would, I and many, many others have no doubt of that.

Will there be a film? That remains to be seen.

Now back to the novels, and the “you must have sold a millions copies of those” comment. I told that person that a book is sort of like if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it analogy. If no one knows about your book no matter how good it is you will never sell a single copy.

This is what it’s like being a self-published author.


Morrie Richfield 3Morrie Richfield lives in Pennsylvania with his two sons, his dogs and his cat. He is working on his next novel, and he still dreams that someday the world will be a better place for all of us to live.

His latest book is the inspirational fantasy novel, Revelation: The Return of Mr. Breeze.

Visit his website at


Revelation 2About the Book:

Mr. Breeze is back; so is Michael Ryan and Rover, the magical dog.

MR. BREEZE fans can rejoice. REVELATION, Morrie Richfield’s much-anticipated sequel to his novel MR. BREEZE, has arrived. Readers new to the strange but inspiring tale of a super being and his attempt to set mankind on a straight and moral path for its very survival can immerse themselves in what critics and readers alike are calling an “inspirational fantasy” with important lessons for all of us.

In MR. BREEZE, published in 2011, Richfield introduced readers to Zackary, aka Zack, aka Mr. Breeze, an ancient being who claimed to be mankind’s creator and who still exerts a powerful force on the human race and its very existence. Zack appeared on earth as a powerful man who did miraculous deeds. He chose journalist Michael Ryan to tell his story in a book that, he hoped, would show mankind how to stop its self-destructive ways and bring paradise on earth. With man’s fate hanging in the balance, Zack disappeared, leaving humans to their fate and Michael wondering what his role really is.

REVELATION moves the action two years into the future. The situation looks bleak. Mankind has slipped back into its old, destructive ways and Michael has become a dissolute recluse. There are people who view Michael as a savior and others who see him as a threat to be eliminated.

Along this strange trip, Michael meets new friends and reunites with old companions, the most significant of which is Rover, an abused dog whom Zack endowed with superpowers. Rover becomes Zack’s messenger to Michael, as Michael tries to get Zack’s original message out to the world: If mankind doesn’t straighten out, he will destroy the human race.

Richfield plays down the description of REVELATION as an “inspirational fantasy.” He calls it a “self-help book, a textbook, a reality series on paper. It is what we see when we look in the mirror.”

If MR. BREEZE focused on Zack and his message, REVELATION focuses on Michael, following his struggle to understand his role in Zack’s master plan and to find his soul, Richfield says. “Michael’s final revelation is that we just don’t learn. Without the threat of destruction, we go back to our old ways. Our time is almost up and we need to do something. We need to show Mr. Breeze the human race deserves a chance to continue to exist.”



Book Excerpt:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Yes, it is me, Michael Ryan. I’m sure you remember me. After all, for a short time, I was about the most famous man in the world. For those of you who have forgotten, let me fill you in on what has happened in the two years since I last saw Zackary Breeze and Rover.

Of course you must remember Zack Breeze and Rover. Zack as he called himself is this time is our maker. He cured our diseases told us our religions are nothing but of our own making and turned a normal German Sheppard dog whose name is Rover into the second most powerful being on the planet. Let’s not forget that he used me to write his story and threatened our immediate destruction should I refuse.

I wrote the book that Zack asked me to write. It sold more copies than any book in history, and you all read it. I was oh so pleased with myself. I was rich, famous, and revered. You could not open a newspaper or magazine without seeing my name in it somewhere. It was my fifteen minutes of fame, so to speak.

For a time, there seemed to be hope in the world. The wars and fighting stopped—it was as if no one knew if the next shot fired would be the one that would bring the human race to an end. People seemed to like that I was somehow partly responsible for all of these remarkable things that had happened. I was admired by many, but what I did not know at the time was that I was hated by an equal number.

It seemed that once people heard Zack’s words, most of them stopped going to churches, synagogues, mosques, or any public place of worship. They prayed on their front yards and in alleys and at any time they felt the need. Only now, they prayed to Zack, and a somewhat zealous few even prayed to me.

For those fanatics, you see, I was the messenger of God. Through me, they thought they could find salvation, and, boy, did they try. They camped out on my street, in my yard, and even in my neighbors’ yards. They also built structures to honor me out of stuff from my trash and the trash of everyone else on the street. As you can probably imagine, my neighbors were not pleased, and neither was I. I was like a movie star; I couldn’t go out in public without paparazzi on my tail and people asking me to touch them. My fifteen minutes of fame had turned into twenty-four hours a day of hell.

Then the reaction from the religious community came. They finally realized that without worshippers and money, they would not survive. For them, Zack meant the end of their existence, and I became their target for retaliation.

“The devil comes to us in many forms” became their rallying cry, and as for me, I became the devil’s minion. I guess I couldn’t blame them for trying to bring their followers back, but I was astounded by how many people believed them. They quickly forgot what they had seen and what Zack had done. They even managed to convince the majority of the world that Zack cured all of their diseases just so he could fool them into thinking he was our maker.

Let’s also not forget how the pharmaceutical companies chimed in. After all, no more diseases meant no one needed medication, so no more business. They jumped right on that bandwagon and within a few months had almost everyone believing their miraculous cures were temporary. So back on the drugs they went, and back came the profits.

I suppose I should have expected there would be some reaction; after all, I always believed religion was nothing more than a very profitable business whose main currency was either hope or fear. If they could not get your money by making you believe in one, they would threaten you with the other. Just like any other business, they needed their customers to survive.

Suddenly, my home, my yard, and my street became the focal point for the battle between those who thought Zack was our savior and those who thought he was the devil. It was not a pretty sight. At first, there were just signs and lots of chanting, but then came the physical confrontations followed by the police in riot gear. I was a prisoner in my own house—that is, until someone decided to throw a Molotov cocktail through one of my windows and burn my house down.

How to Write a Good Zombie Book by Colin M. Drysdale

For Those in Peril on the SeaHow To Write A Good Zombie Book


Colin M. Drysdale

When Max Brooks’ best-seller World War Z was first published it not only re-energised the zombie genre, it also introduced to a whole new audience to the world of the undead. With the film of the book coming out this summer, starring no less a figure than Brad Pitt, it’s likely that the audience for zombie fiction will explode as those who wouldn’t usually consider themselves zombie fans start dipping their toes into the genre. And to cater for this increased audience, we’re likely to see a whole slew of writers, both first-timers and more established authors, being tempted to give the zombie genre a go just to see if they can get their own slice of this burgeoning market.

But, many of those hoping to pen the next World War Z will soon find that writing a good zombie book isn’t as easy as might seem. This is because you can’t just throw together some random characters, pile on the blood and gore, and pump out an instant classic. Instead, you need to put effort into creating a world where zombies exist that’s not only believable but that feels so real the readers are left looking over their shoulders just to check there’s nothing sneaking up on them.

With this in mind, here’s my six tips for writing a good zombie novel:

1. Come Up With An Original Idea: If you’re going to write a successful zombie book you can’t just follow the well-trodden route of having a group of survivors trying to get out of a city as the undead close in. This idea have been done to death and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to anything with it that hasn’t been done a hundred times before. Instead, you need to come up with an idea that’s in some way different from all that have come before. You want it to stand out from the crowd; you want people talking about it round the water-cooler, and this will only happen if you do something new and distinctive. This was the beauty of World War Z (the book version at any rate). Instead of focussing on a single small group (as almost every other zombie book does), it took a wide lens to tell it’s tale of apocalyptic downfall and salvation through vignettes which showed how many different individuals survived or died. However, with so many other zombie books already out there, coming up with a truly original is easier said than done.

2. Decide On The Rules For Your World: All zombie books have rules that govern things like how people become zombies, what happens when one of them bites a human, how the undead can be killed and what causes the dead to rise in the first place. However, not all zombie books follow exactly the same rules; some have fast zombies, some have more traditional slow zombies, some don’t even have true risen-from-the-dead zombies but rather have living humans infected with a disease that make them act like zombies. This means that as a would-be zombie author, you need to set out the rules for the zombie world you’re creating; and then make sure you stick to them! Nothing puts readers off faster than a zombie book where the rules seem to change from one scene to the next.

3. Develop Your Characters: A good zombie book isn’t just about blood and gore. If people are going to connect with it, it has to also be about the characters. These characters can’t be two-dimensional stereotypes; instead they need to feel real. The readers need to like the nice ones and hate the nasty ones; they need to feel the pain when a characters loses someone close, or even worse gets killed by the undead. If you don’t develop your characters, you’ll find your book just won’t come to life in the readers’ minds and they’ll end up either not caring what happens to them, or worse, cheering for the zombies.

4. Research Your Locations: To be successful, zombie books need to feel real. After all, part of the fascination with zombie stories is seeing the world your so familiar with turned upside down by the arrival of something as unthinkable as the undead. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use real world locations to give your reader reference points. In World War Z, one of the key scenes is the battle for the New York suburb of Yonkers. By setting it there, Max Brooks didn’t need to describe the area in detail. Instead, anyone who’s ever watched TV or seen a film can instantly know what it would be like. This means you need to choose on a distinctive location and then research it so that you can place your story into the local landscape in such a way that the reader will believe it could really happen there.

5. Avoid Clichés: The zombie genre is riddled with clichés: the little girl zombie who surprises someone at the start of the outbreak, the fact that almost anyone can pick up a gun and start popping off perfect headshots instantly even if they’ve never held one before, the baseball bat, the lone zombie lurking amongst the shelves of an apparently deserted supermarket and so on. Avoid these like the proverbial plague as they’re one of the quickest way to alienate your would-be readers.

6. Think Of Imaginative Ways To Kill Zombies: This follows on from the previous tip. Readers of zombie novels want to see the undead dispatched in new and interesting ways rather than the same ones that have been used over and over again. Smacking them in the head with a baseball bat? Yawn – read that a thousand times already. A hockey stick? That’s a bit more original but not by much. How about the urn with your dead grandmothers ashes in it, grabbed off the mantle piece and brought down on the head of an attacking zombie? That’s more like it. Or what about mowing down a whole horde with a combine harvester? Messy but it’ll get people talking, and that’s what you want.

So now you’ve read my tips for writing a good zombie novel, why not give it a go?

If you do a good enough job, you never know, next time it might be the movie of your book that Brad Pitt’s starring in. The only thing that’s certain is that this can’t happen if you don’t write it in the first place!


Bio: Colin M. Drysdale is the author of his own zombie book For Those In Peril On The Sea, which was selected as one of only five finalists in the ForeWord Firsts Winter 2013 competition for debut novels. A professional marine biologist, he first ventured into writing when the idea for a zombie book set around the sailing community of the northern Bahamas came to him while he was working there. He now splits his time between writing zombie fiction, and studying whales and dolphins. You can find out more about his fiction at

The Hills by ‘Age Re-Defined’ Robert Henry

Age Re-DefinedThe Hills

Yesterday was a non-training day. However, I felt the need to do some physical activity and decided to “go for a walk”. I had two choices: walk along the beach or take the hills. I chose the hills, which at the top offer a panoramic view of the beach and the Santa Monica Bay. Catalina Island was also visible yesterday.

I re-booted my fitness regimen 4 years ago. Before the re-boot, the steepest part of the hill climb would cause a dramatic rise in heart rate and breathing, and sometimes the need for a short break before continuing.

Yesterday, the hill looked just as steep, but my legs welcomed the challenge. My heart rate and breathing increased only slightly and my pace didn’t slow. No need for any kind of rest.

I had done the hill climb another time after the re-boot, too. On that occasion, I decided to do multiple sprints up the hill,  since walking it wasn’t the challenge it used to be. Yesterday, I didn’t do the sprints, but I decided instead to do additional walking climbs and descents at the steepest part after I finished the full walk. The additional climbs and descents had a twist: I did them backwards.

The physical activity was great. The cool air was invigorating. And the reminders of the progress I’ve made fitness-wise were great, too. When it comes to physical activity and exercise, challenge yourself. Make progress. And enjoy the process and the results.

So, what did I do for physical activity yesterday? It was a day off from training, so I went for a walk.


Robert F. HenryAs a Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Coach, and Wellness Coach, Robert Henry motivates individuals to transform into healthier, fit versions of themselves and to explore the mind-body connection.

As a writer, blogger,  speaker, and media commentator he informs and inspires his audience to commit to a healthy lifestyle by reminding them “you can get better instead of getting older”.

At 52, after years of enjoying good health, Robert was challenged when a visit to the doctor’s office revealed his health profile had changed and he was no longer the emblem of health he had been. That alarm, that wake-up call, that unprecedented need to lose body fat and the doctor’s statement “You’re not getting any younger” ignited something within him.

Robert was challenged for the first time with the need to lose weight and re-boot his commitment to fitness or be at risk for potentially serious health issues.

He refused to accept age alone as the determining factor of his health going forward.

Fitness became such a priority and passion that working out was no longer enough. He began studying and learning as much as his could about fitness, nutrition, and wellness. His appetite for learning led him to earn four certifications: Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist from the National Strength and Conditioning Association, Certified Personal Trainer from the National Council on Strength and Fitness, Certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition from the International Sports Sciences Association, and Certified Wellness Coach from Spencer Institute, an affiliate of the National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association. He has also recently taken additional course work in Sport and Exercise Psychology at California State University. To learn more about Robert’s certifications, click here.

His law school education (Juris Doctor, Southern Methodist University) and his experience as an attorney distinguish him with analytical skills, which he now applies to his study and work in health, fitness and wellness. While still in his teens, Robert progressed from Student Pilot to Certified Flight Instructor. Later, he became a professional jet pilot. In the fitness realm, he has been a training client and is now a trainer with multiple fitness certifications. All of this gives him unique perspective as both teacher and student, and as both trainer and client. To Robert, learning is a lifelong process.

Robert’s latest book is the health/fitness how to book, Age Re-Defined.

Visit his website at

Connect with Robert:



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