Sunday, October 16, 2016

I'd rather be writing but...

I used to have more time to write before I was published.

It's true. Most this is because, once you're published, you have to promote your books. That means appearances at stores, libraries and, if you're very lucky, book clubs. It mean creating, or having created for you, bookmarks and other things you can hand out at these events. And it means maintaining a daily presence on social media.

[Note to writers trying to get published: develop your social media platform now.]

In order to effectively use social media you have to be... well... social. You can't just keep saying "buy my book". You have to engage. And that's another thing that can cut down on writing time.

I know it happens to other authors besides myself. Sometimes I think, I'd rather be engaging via social media than writing. To a person who spends hours alone in front of my computer (since most of my day jobs require it) getting virtually out and connecting with people is a nice change. Where else can an author directly interact with fans and fellow authors on a daily basis?

Social media can be addictive. Fortunately, for me at least, so is writing.

Find me on these social media venues:

Thursday, October 13, 2016


"This is a complex and intelligent murder mystery with intriguing personal conflicts and a sparkle of wit. Guelph writer Alison Bruce has obviously done substantial research into policing and private investigations. Her style? Mix some Richard Castle with some Dashiell Hammett, add a dash of Max Headroom and garnish with murder. Serve iced with a Agatha Christie-worthy finale."
K-W Record

"Deadly Legacy is a masterful who-done-it mystery. The suspects are many. The characters are all well developed, and the dual protagonists are extremely engaging."
Lee Holtz

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Guest Donna Galanti with FREE BOOK


A HIDDEN ELEMENT, book 2 in the Element Trilogy
by Donna Galanti


Laura ran to the window. Cold gusts blew in like stinging daggers on her skin. She looked down at the short drop to the ground. Part of her wished Charlie had run away. Maybe he went to the forest to let loose his rage. With all her heart she wished he was in the forest finding comfort in the darkness.
Anxiety clawed up her throat.
“Charlie.” She called to the wind and the dark. Nothing but the forlorn wind returned her call, taunted her. She ran through every room calling his name. Sharp pains tore at her abdomen. She doubled over and gasped. Loss welled in her from the place where her deepest love resided. She wailed with grief as she searched the house for some sort of sign of where Charlie had gone.
Or who had taken him.
She accepted the truth she had wanted to banish. They were being hunted. And her son was the first taken. The man in her dreams was real. He had controlled Ben and tried to kill her using his strength. And he had taken her son. As he had taken her baby in her dream. Oh, my God! Her baby. He had come back for her baby.
“Charlie,” she screamed. Something caught her eye on the floor of his room. Something that didn’t belong in their home. She snatched it up. A leather whip. Its handle was braided with nine leather strips tied to it. Red tinged the ends of the strips. A torture device. She held it in her shaking hands and closed her eyes, not wanting to see the images it carried. But she had to. For her son. For Ben.

Evil lurks within…
When Caleb Madroc is used against his will as part of his father’s plan to breed a secret community and infiltrate society with their unique powers, he vows to save his oppressed people and the two children kept from him. Seven years later, Laura and Ben Fieldstone’s son is abducted, and they are forced to trust a madman’s son who puts his life on the line to save them all. The enemy’s desire to own them—or destroy them—leads to a survival showdown. Laura and Ben must risk everything to defeat a new nemesis that wants to rule the world with their son, and Caleb may be their only hope—if he survives. But must he sacrifice what he most desires to do so?

"Chilling and dark…a twisty journey into another world."
J.T. Ellison, New York Times bestselling author of When Shadows Fall

FREE On Amazon Kindle 10/9 – 10/13:

Donna Galanti writes murder and mystery with a dash of steam as well as middle grade adventure fiction. She is an International Thriller Writers Debut Author of the paranormal suspense novel A Human Element and its sequel, A Hidden Element, the Element Trilogy story collection The Dark Inside, and the children’s fantasy Lightning Road series. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. She now lives in Pennsylvania with her family in an old farmhouse. It has lots of writing nooks and fireplaces but sadly no ghosts. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving

“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
- Maya Angelou

“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.”
- Alphonse Karr


Monday, September 26, 2016

Everything I Needed to Know About Grief I Learned from Harry Potter

Book cover

"Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light." (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

Harry Potter came into my life at an interesting juncture. My mother had died of aggressive small cell lung cancer a year and a half before. My sister Joanne had just been released from hospital after almost dying. And I was coming to terms with the fact that my postpartum depression wasn’t going away any time soon.

In order to be allowed to come home, Joanne needed constant care. That meant I had to move in with my toddler son and preschooler daughter. My nieces also came home. They had been staying with their father while Joanne was in hospital. The living room transformed with the addition of a hospital bed, oxygen machine, commode, and lift chair. There were a lot of changes and huge helpings of stress. The Harry Potter books eased the tension.

"There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other." 
(Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone)

This was our “best of times and worst of times.” When my sister first came home, we weren’t sure whether she would get any better. In addition to twice daily visits from a nurse, she had Hospice Wellington volunteers helping out.

At the same time, my sister and I connected at a level deeper than I could imagine… and we were always close. She encouraged me to start writing again and, a bigger step, submitting my work for publication. My nieces became my other children, my daughter their little sister. My son forged an alliance with the dog… but that’s another story.

My niece Sophie had just discovered Harry Potter and Joanne wanted to find out what all the excitement was about. We worked our way through the series from The Philosopher’s Stone  to The Goblet of Fire. Then we had to take a break to read The Lord of the Rings while we waited for The Order of the Phoenix to be released.

We didn’t get through all of that while living with Joanne. She got well enough to take care of things on her own and we moved out of her bedroom. We didn’t go far, though. Me, the kids and my dad moved into the same townhouse complex. When things got bad, as they did, on and off, I could take care of my sister and still go home to my own bed.

"It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."
(Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets)

There came a time when I was carting a Harry Potter tome (the books were getting weighty now) between hospitals. I’d been taking books to read to all my sister’s treatments and post-op visits. When my dad had a major stroke, I was going back and forth between two hospitals to read to both of them. 

In our family, it was a series for all ages.

You can probably see where this is going. My sister never got to read… or hear the end of the series. My father read or heard all but the last book. We stopped reading the books aloud. Sophie preferred reading and her sister Claire wasn’t as interested in the magic world. She had twinkling vampires on the brain.

It doesn’t matter. Harry Potter was there for us. The books carried the kind of messages we needed to hear at the time, messages that still resonate.

"We must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on."
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

(Re-posted - more or less - from Pop Culture Divas.)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Judy Penz Sheluk: Skeletons in the Attic

Please welcome guest blogger Judy Penz Sheluk with her new book, Skeletons in the Attic.

Judging a book by its cover

In an ideal world, we would never judge anyone by their appearance, and yet most of us do. The impression may change if we get to know the person (and in fact, often does), but if we don’t get to know the person, that first impression, good or bad, will stay with us.

The same is true of book covers. See a book cover with at white picket fence and a cat, and it’s a fair bet that it’s a cozy. Now if you enjoy cozy mysteries, you’ll probably read the back cover blurb. If that grabs you, you’ll probably by the book.

As you can imagine, a lot of thought goes into designing a book cover, from the background color to the font and imagery used, and that process is left up to graphic artists, albeit with input from the author.

When it came to the cover design for Skeletons in the Attic, here’s how it went:
Publisher: What kinds of images do you imagine on your book cover? What elements from your novel would be important to represent?
Me: I think a skeleton would be too obvious, and the Skeletons in the Attic also refers to all the things Callie finds in the attic that lead her to learn more about her mother’s life. One major find was a locket from a man named Reid. I’ll send a jpeg of the locket that inspired the one described in the book. Callie also found six tarot cards: III: The Empress; IV: The Emperor; VI: The Lovers; The Three of Swords; XIII: Death, which are important to the story. The neighborhood itself might also provide inspiration; a typical 1970s subdivision in a suburb, where all the streets are named after wildflowers. Callie’s house is at 16 Snapdragon Circle.
The locket.
Armed with that information, artist Ryan Thomas Doan designed my cover. Notice how he’s used the attic as the backdrop (can’t you just imagine the secrets buried in there?), but he’s also included the tarot cards, and the locket.

Making the title pop is every bit as important as the rest of the artwork. You want folks to be able to read it from a distance, and there’s lots of experimenting with the size and color before making a final decision.

Next up: the cover endorsements by other authors. I was so fortunate to have several authors read my ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) and provide reviews. Selecting what goes where (front cover, back cover, inside the book) is debated between author and publisher.

Last but not least is the back of the book blurb. In the case of Skeletons in the Attic, there were nine revisions before we were satisfied. And here it is:

What goes on behind closed doors doesn’t always stay there… 
Calamity (Callie) Barnstable isn’t surprised to learn she’s the sole beneficiary of her late father’s estate, though she is shocked to discover she has inherited a house in the town of Marketville—a house she didn’t know existed. However, there are conditions attached to Callie’s inheritance: she must move to Marketville, live in the house, and solve her mother’s murder. 
Callie’s not keen on dredging up a thirty-year-old mystery, but if she doesn’t do it, there’s a scheming psychic named Misty Rivers who is more than happy to expose the Barnstable family secrets. Determined to thwart Misty and fulfill her father’s wishes, Callie accepts the challenge. But is she ready to face the skeletons hidden in the attic?

Judy Penz Sheluk’s debut mystery novel, The Hanged Man’s Noose, was published in July 2015. Skeletons in the Attic, the first book in her Marketville Mystery Series, was published in August 2016.

Judy’s short crime fiction appears in World Enough and Crime, The Whole She-Bang 2, Flash and Bang and Live Free or Tri.

Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, International Thriller Writers and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.

Find Judy on her website/blog at, where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.

Find Skeletons in the Attic:

Find Judy on Facebook (, Twitter (@JudyPenzSheluk), Pinterest ( and Amazon (

Monday, August 15, 2016

An Author Confesses

One of the problems with being a published author is that people start asking you how you managed it. There are certain general expectations, like taking writing and/or literature courses, and some specific ones, like having a past career related to what you write. (Being a former teacher or journalist is acceptable across all genres.)

Well, here's the truth about me...

I hated English class. The only good thing about high school English studying the requisite Shakespearean play. The only English course I took that that didn’t involve Shakespeare, was Science Fiction. The only reason I took it was because it had a writing component.That was the only writing course I ever took.

I’m not dissing writing courses. Had I the time and the money, I probably would have taken them. Unfortunately, student debts put the kibosh on that. When I had time, I had no money. When I had money, I had no time.  And then there were those periods when I had neither time nor money.

Everything I learned about writing I learned by reading, listening and doing.

Long before the blog, authors were using their introductions and author’s after words to share their process. Some even wrote books on the topic. Even if they didn’t, everything you need to know about authors can be divined by reading their books. 

Although I had road blocks to taking formal courses, I took every opportunity I could to listen to authors I respected talking about their craft. This might be at a conference or author appearance or while sitting around drinking coffee with friends (who happen to be authors and one even teaches writing). I only hope listening to me has been as beneficial to them.

Actually writing stuff is key, of course. Almost anything will do for a start. I started writing fan fiction before I knew what it was. In my early teens, I'd write myself into adventures with the crew of the USS Enterprise. My sister would read these stories aloud, exactly as written, which really brings home your mistakes.

At university I'd write mash-ups, bringing two or more fictional worlds together. The most elaborate was the epic tale I co-wrote with my roomie that brought together all our favourite TV action heroes with our own creations and, of course, the crew of the Enterprise. I still have most of those stories, all handwritten, many with class notes written in the margins. Some of the storytelling was good and most was entertaining. A lot was embarrassing. But all of it was good practice.

Ever since I realized that I wasn't going to be an overnight success as a novelist (after the first few publisher rejections for my first original stories) I knew I'd have to get a day job. I planned to become a teacher, but I picked the worst time to graduate for that. Instead, I learned layout and copy writing as part of various jobs I took during and just after university. I taught myself web design back when it was brand new and learned graphic design by necessity. When I was between jobs, I started to work freelance. Not an illustrious career, but a useful one.

Meanwhile, I kept reading, listening and above all, writing.