Wednesday, December 2, 2020

A Flashback and Perhaps a Reveal

Where has this year gone?  It seems like mere weeks have passed since the Insecure Writer's Support Group announced the winners of the 2019 Anthology Contest, not a year ago.

Flashback to December 4, 2019: 
Coming May 5, 2020 - Voyagers: The Third Ghost 
Middle grade historical/adventure

Featuring these stories and authors:
The Third Ghost – Yvonne Ventresca
Winter Days - Katharina Gerlach
Feathered Fire – Roland Clarke
The Ghosts of Pompeii – Sherry Ellis
Dare Double Dare – Louise MacBeath Barbour
The Blind Ship – Bish Denham
A World of Trouble – Rebecca M. Douglass
The Orchard - Beth Anderson Schuck
Return to Cahokia – L.T. Ward
Simon Grey and the Yamamba - Charles Kowalski

That was certainly a thrilling day for each of us ten authors featured in Voyagers: The Third Ghost!

I hope that the winners of the 2020 Anthology Contest will be revealed tomorrow on IWSG Day.  But like everyone else, I'll have to wait and see.
I'm out of the loop this year.

If the winners of the 2020 Anthology Contest are announced tomorrow, 
I'll come back and add them to this post.

Meanwhile, as blog coordinator for the 2019 winners, I'm giving my fellow authors a last twirl or leap in the spotlight.  They are a wonderfully diverse and talented group, and I am honored to be included among them.

One of the pleasures I have enjoyed most during this past year has been reading books published by the Voyagers authors.  If you, as a reader, have not treated yourself to the Voyagers stories or published books by these authors, you are missing out.

Here for a final bow are the ten authors who showcased their talents in the 2020 Insecure Writer's Support Group anthology Voyagers:  The Third Ghost.  Their juvenile fiction stories that earned them a place in the anthology are exciting, suspenseful, and surprising, and they range throughout time and place from from Hoboken to Pompeii, Port Royal, and Cahokia.

Yvonne Ventresca
"The Third Ghost"

Yvonne Ventresca is the author of the award-winning young adult novels Pandemic and Black Flowers, White Lies. In addition, Yvonne has written two nonfiction books and several stories selected for collections, including the previous IWSG anthology, Hero Lost: Mysteries of Death and Life. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. You can learn more at, where she features resources for writers.

Katharina Gerlach
"Winter Days"

Although Katharina Gerlach was born in the late sixties, she’s still a child at heart. She inherited her love of fairy tales and words from her mother, an ex-secretary and avid reader, and her love of all things nature and science from her father, an ex-forester. Memories of her rather interesting life in Germany flow back at the smallest trigger, even though she tends to merge her three brothers into one when she tells stories about their childhood adventures. And more often than not, she recalls events truthfully. Supported by her husband and her three children and distracted by her dog and grandchild, she currently writes stories of varying length in fantastical and historical genres. She runs the Indie Authors’ Advent Calendar each year, a free for all story feast.  Learn more about Katharina at

Roland Clarke
"Feathered Fire"

After diverse careers, Roland Clarke was an equestrian journalist and green activist when chronic illness hastened retirement. But he hasn’t stopped exploring rabbit holes and writing - mainly mysteries and alternative history. Roland and his wife – both avid gamers - now live in Idaho (USA) with their four fur-babies, although their hearts are in North Wales (UK).  His equestrian thriller Spiral of Hooves is an engaging mystery.  Learn more about Roland  at roland

Sherry Ellis
"The Ghosts of Pompeii"

Sherry Ellis is an award-winning author and professional musician who plays and teaches the violin, viola, and piano. when she is not writing or engaged in musical activities, she can be found doing household chores, hiking, or exploring the world.

Ellis' books include  Don't Feed the ElephantTen Zany BirdsThat Mama is a GrouchThat Baby Woke Me Up, AGAINBubba and Squirt's Big Dig to China; and Bubba and Squirt's Mayan Adventure.

She lives in Atlanta, Georgia. For more information about her work, she invites you to visit her website at

Louise MacBeath Barbour
"Dare Double Dare"

Born in Nova Scotia and raised throughout eastern Canada, Louise is a writer and blogger who now lives in Colorado.  She writes fiction and nonfiction with the encouragement of her supportive husband.  A passion for reading, photography, geology, and travel round out her enthusiastic embrace of life.  "Dare Double Dare" is her first published middle grade story.  Learn more about Louise at her blog Standing Into Danger.

Charles Kowalski
"Simon Grey and the Yamamba"

Charles Kowalski invites you to read the full story of Simon, Oyuki, and their adventures through haunted Japan in Simon Grey and the March of a Hundred Ghosts (Tokyo: Excalibur Books, 2019), and keep an eye out for sequels. In addition to middle-grade fantasy, Charles' thrillers for adults, Mind Virus and The Devil's Son, have won prizes and nominations including the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers' Colorado Gold Award, the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award, and the Adventure Writers Grandmaster Award. Charles lives in Japan with his wife and two young Muses.  He invites you to his website

Bish Denham
"The Blind Ship"

Bish Denham is from the U.S. Virgin Islands, where her family has lived for over a hundred years. The author of two middle grade novels and a collection of retold Jamaican Anansi stories, she says, “Growing up in the islands was like living inside a history book.”  Learn more about Bish at her blog bish-randomthoughts.blogspot.

Rebecca M. Douglass
"A World of Trouble"

Rebecca Douglass grew up in Idaho, Arizona, and Washington states, and now lives and writes in California. Her imagination resides where it pleases, in and out of this world. Her passions include backpacking, hiking, books, swimming, biking, and moderately adventurous travel. Rebecca has two grown sons and a husband with whom she travels. Rebecca is the author of the delightful Ninja Librarian books, as well as a picture book for outdoor families, a mystery series for the parents, and her middle-grade fantasy, Halitor the Hero. After more than seventeen years working at the library, she has retired still without learning all the secrets of the Ninja Librarian.  Learn more about Rebecca at her blog


Beth Anderson Schuck
"The Orchard"

Beth Anderson Schuck is a retired librarian who believes reading can take you anywhere. She writes historical fiction featuring willful female characters. Being in nature whether hiking, birdwatching or gardening makes her whole.  Visit Beth at

L.T. Ward
"Return to Cahokia"

LT hails from the Land of Corn, otherwise known as Central Illinois, where weather inspires her literary works. When not writing speculative fiction shorts and novels, she spends her days raising a brood of plague monsters (a.k.a. her children) as well as satisfying her never-ending thirst for knowledge through reading, meeting people, and first-hand life experiences.  Visit LT at Twitter: @Ltward

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

* * * * * * * * * *

Check out the holiday special of free books from our publisher 
Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.  You can buy a copy of Voyagers and get another book free:

Buy 1 print book, get 1 print book free
Buy 1 eBook, get 1 eBook free
Buy 1 audio book, get 1 audio book free

Print & eBooks – must be purchased directly from Dancing Lemur Press’ website; free book must be same price or lower; when paying, note your desired free book in the comments section; free swag provided with print orders

Audio books – purchase from Audible, iTunes, or Amazon and send us your receipt stating your desired free audio book and we will send you a code for a free audio book; free audio book must be same price or lower
Inquiries AT dancinglemurpressllc DOT com

Offer good through December 10, 2020

Visit Dancing Lemur Press and explore our titles.

You can also order a copy of
VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost 
at the links below.

Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99

Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure /
Fantasy & Magic

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Twitter Pitch With Gusto!

The Insecure Writer's Support Group has a special event coming
on January 20, 2021:  Its annual IWSG Twitter Pitch!

And today we have just the person to explain all things Twitter Pitch,
IWSG founder and science fiction writer Alex J. Cavanaugh.
His expertise can help you pitch your manuscript to publishers and agents.

Twitter Pitch With Gusto!
by Alex J. Cavanaugh

If you are a writer preparing to query your manuscript or you’ve been in the trenches awhile, you’ve probably heard the term Twitter pitch party. Maybe you’ve participated in one with no results. We can help you prepare and get the most out of an event.
What is a Twitter pitch party? It’s an event put together by an organization for writers to pitch their manuscripts to agents and publishers on Twitter. Writers pitch their manuscripts in a tweet with the appropriate hastags, and agents and publishers heart the ones they are interested in seeing. It usually occurs over the course of a day, allowing time for multiple pitches and time for agents and publishers all over the world to check the feed. It gives writers an advantage over those sending in unsolicited submissions because when they query a manuscript that received a heart during the pitch, it’s been requested!
Each Twitter pitch party has its own set of rules, but here are the general guidelines:
* One pitch per hour. Writers can send multiple pitches if they are for different 
* Use appropriate hashtags. Those pitching should use the hashtag of the 
   Twitter pitch (for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, it’s #IWSGPit), 
   the hashtag of the genre (#SF for science fiction, #R for romance, etc.), 
   and the hashtag of the age group (#YA for young adult, #A for adult, etc.).
* Only agents and publishers interested in a manuscript are allowed to heart
   the tweet.
* Writers can retweet their fellow writers’ pitches.
* No images allowed in tweets.
Who is a Twitter pitch party geared towards? Any writer with a complete and polished manuscript that is not committed to an agent or publisher. Writers should also check the guidelines and be sure their manuscript’s genre fits the event. No need to pitch a young adult adventure book during a science fiction Twitter pitch!
Before the event, compose several tweets. There’s not any room for fluff in a 280 character tweet. Plus all appropriate hashtags need to be included, which makes it even shorter. A pitch needs to convey the story in one to three lines and pack a punch in the process.
What needs to go into the pitch? Debra Dixon says to always include Goal-Motivation-Conflict in any manuscript pitch. You probably also heard about including the “who-what-where-when-why-how” in a pitch. But in approximately 200 spaces, you need to identify the main character, his motivation or goal, and the crisis. Composing several different pitches lets you try each one several times during the day, and you’ll know by hearts which ones are the most effective.
Before the event, it’s also best to run those pitches past others. Send them to your critique partners or a couple trusted writer/author friends. The more pitches you can compose for them, the better. They can help you narrow down the best three or four. There are also online groups and forums where you can post your pitches for feedback. Polish those pitches right up until the day of the party.
The day of the event arrives – you’re ready! Be sure to double-check the times and the rules. When the pitch opens, send out your first pitch, and pitch again at the appropriate intervals. Remember, no images and only retweet your fellow writers’ pitches – don’t heart them. Keep an eye on the feed to see what is being pitched and who is hitting the heart button on those tweets. Check on your own pitches periodically for hearts. If you get a heart, that means some agent or publisher is interested in your manuscript. Get excited!
The event will end, but that’s not the complete end. Don’t send out any more tweets, but do keep checking earlier ones. Some agents and publishers can’t tune in the day of the event but they search the hashtags later for manuscripts of interest. A heart could turn up several days after the party.
It helps if you can research agents and publishers before the event, but that’s not always possible. (You can research them during the event as their hearts appear on pitches.) But if you’ve received some hearts, check out those agents and publishers before sending them anything. Check their site and Google their name. You can search Critters Workshop and SFWA for them as well. Make sure it’s someone you can trust and that they offer what you want in terms of publishing.
After receiving a heart, go to their Twitter page. Often agents and publishers will post exactly what they want to see if they have clicked the heart on your Tweet. Then go to their submission guidelines on their website. Just because they hit the heart button doesn’t mean you can just query them any old way. Follow their guidelines on their site and for the Twitter pitch event. Unlike an unsolicited query though, yours has been requested! So be sure to note in either the subject line or in the email that they hit the heart button during the pitch event.
Several things can happen after a Twitter pitch party. Those with hearts on their pitches get to send in queries. Those queries can turn into partials or full requests. They might even turn into a signed contract for a manuscript! (My own publisher has signed four authors from Twitter pitch parties.) But what happens if there are no hearts? That usually means one of two things—either timing was bad and the right agents and publishers weren’t watching the Twitter feed or that the pitches still weren’t quite right. Don’t despair! Learn from the event. Keep polishing those pitches. Get outside help to make them shine. (And of course, keep sending out query emails and letters.) There is always another Twitter pitch party on the horizon.
Ready to try your hand at a Twitter pitch? Then join us January 20, 2021 for #IWSGPit - And polish, polish, polish those pitches. Good luck!

     IWSG's Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh

Alex J. Cavanaugh works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, which hosts #IWSGPit every January. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars. The author lives in the Carolinas with his wife.

Visit Alex at 

* * * * * * * * * *

Coming on Wednesday, December 2, 2020 . . .
Our next post will be on IWSG Day in December.  A number of us are participating in this year's NaNoWroMo during November, so it's going
to be a busy month.  Have a great November and enjoy Thanksgiving!

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

* * * * * * * * * *

If you haven't read this year's IWSG anthology 
VOYAGERS:  The Third Ghost, you can find it here.

You can order a copy of
VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost 
at the links below.

Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99

Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure /
Fantasy & Magic

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Voyagers Author Beth Anderson Schuck and a Labor of Love

Today our blog showcases 
Beth Anderson Schuck, 
the author of "The Orchard" 
published in the
2020 IWSG anthology
Voyagers:  The Third Ghost

Beth is sharing her current WIP,
a middle grade historical novel 
with the working title 
Alma’s Recipes for Life.

A Labor of Love
by Beth Anderson Shuck

     I have been working on a middle-grade historical fiction manuscript since I retired a few years ago. The story is based on my Norwegian grandmother’s teen-age years, which occurred in the early years of the 20th century. I have combined her life events with my research on the setting and time period in Marshalltown, Iowa where the story takes place. It has been a labor of love to bring her story to light. 

     I have always loved historical fiction especially stories set long ago and those involving women taking on new roles in society for their time period. I suppose I believe in the adage that if you don’t understand history, you are doomed to repeat it. Thus, it seems reading about history even via fictional works, is a great idea for young people.
     The setting for the story allows me to showcase some topics that still challenge our society today and so I hope this personal story will resonate with readers. Child labor and the accompanying lack of formal education and the challenge for new immigrants to assimilate while retaining their ethnic identities are some of the issues I raise in the manuscript. It includes some adult themes such as death and a bit of romance so I would call it upper middle grade appropriate, for ages twelve to fourteen. 

     The story focuses on Alma, my paternal grandmother as she experiences working as a cook for a wealthy family. At age 13, she quits school to work full time, as her family needs money. Her employers, the Sowers live a life very different from hers and she compares their experiences with her own.  Alma begins to realize her parent’s preferences for her differ from her own goals especially as her world expands via her work. Through the story, Alma determines how to balance her family’s beliefs with her own and what she wants to carry forward into her adult life.

Beth's Grandparents, Frank and Alma, in their Easter Finery
Photo Courtesy of Beth Anderson Shuck

     There is a tragic element to the story as Alma’s younger sister dies from tuberculosis, (TB). During this time period, TB was endemic in some urban areas often affecting the poor. Treatment prior to antibiotics was isolation often at a sanitarium. To avoid sending their young child away and to avoid the stigma associated with the illness, the family hides the diagnosis. This, of course creates issues for Alma. 

     My grandmother’s sorrow from these events wasn’t evident or even known to me, her youngest grandchild. I appreciated her love, of course, and her baking, sewing and sense of humor. My grandfather grew up just a few blocks from her and was friends with her brothers. He was a ‘railroad man’ from an early age. He won Alma over after a long courtship and they were married for 74 years! He plays a role in the story, as does a ruby ring they gave me when I turned thirteen. It was a special ring my grandfather gave to Alma’s sister as a birthday gift. Since she died young, it was returned to Alma and she chose me to have it.  I treasure the ring and the story behind it. 

     I’m in final editing mode with the help of my critique group and hope to shop the manuscript in 2021.  The current title is Alma’s Recipes for Life as her recipes play a role in the storyline and I’ve included them as part of the manuscript.

Alma's Recipes, Ring and Spices
Photo Courtesy of Beth Anderson Shuck

Beth Anderson Schuck is a retired librarian who believes reading can take you anywhere.  She writes historical fiction featuring willful female characters. Being in nature whether hiking, birdwatching or gardening makes her whole.

Visit Beth at Instagram | Twitter 

* * * * * * * * * *

Coming on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 . . .
Would you like a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents?  Well, you're in luck, because on January 20, 2021 the Insecure Writer's Support Group will be hosting its next Twitter Pitch.  Come back next Wednesday, IWSG Day, to get some great information on twitter pitching from IWSG founder and science fiction author Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

* * * * * * * * * *

If you haven't read Beth's short story "The Orchard" 
in VOYAGERS:  The Third Ghost, you can find it here.

You can order a copy of
VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost 
at the links below.

Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99

Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure /
Fantasy & Magic

"The Orchard" ~ A mystical story with young protagonist Nels, 
whose magical powers connect her to nature in rugged, remote Utah.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Yvonne Ventresca's Compelling Young Adult Novel "Pandemic," a Great Read for This Trying Time

Today our blog showcases Yvonne Ventresca, the author whose short story 
"The Third Ghost" won the top honor in the Voyagers anthology, giving the book its title and cover.  Yvonne is sharing the backstory to her award-winning young adult novel Pandemic.

Winner of the Crystal Kite Award
given by The Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators


Behind the Scenes:  Researching Pandemic Before the Current Pandemic

My young adult novel, Pandemic, is a contemporary story about a teenager struggling to survive a deadly flu outbreak. Although it was set in present-day New Jersey (before the current pandemic), I spent time researching the Spanish Flu of 1918 and used that disease as a model for the fictional one in my book.

Here are a few things I learned while researching Pandemic:

The influenza pandemic of 1918 is commonly called the Spanish Flu, but it didn’t originate in Spain. In March of that year, known cases occurred among soldiers in Kansas. But in June, Spain informed the world of a new disease in Madrid, and the Spanish Flu was belatedly named as it spread worldwide. It killed more Americans than all of World War I. 

The Spanish flu had a different mortality pattern than previous flu outbreaks, with the highest death rates occurring in adults between the ages of twenty and fifty. The reasons for that pattern are still not entirely understood, but according to the US, the 1918 virus “evolved directly from a bird flu into a human flu.”

In 1918, sanitation measures included wearing face masks, blow-torching water fountains, hosing down streets, and locking public phone booths. 

In a time before technology, colored ribbons were placed on doorways to indicate a flu death in the household. The color of the ribbon indicated the age range of the dead. White, for example, was used for children.

Katherine Anne Porter’s short novel, Pale Horse, Pale Rideris set during the 1918 Influenza. It’s a work of fiction (published in 1939), but was no doubt influenced by Porter’s memories of the pandemic and her own illness. The tragic story provides a sense of the war, the disease, and the desperation of that time.

Beds with patients in an emergency hospital in Camp Funston, Kansas.
The flu struck while America was at war, 
and was transported across the Atlantic on troop ships. 
Date: circa 1918 

Excerpt from PANDEMIC:

At this point in Pandemic, there have been local cases of the Blue Flu, including one death. Lil visits her best friend, Megs, who is getting dressed to meet a boy she has only corresponded with online. This scene is a snapshot of both the mundane aspects and the very deepness of their friendship.

I found Megs surrounded by a dozen shirts heaped on her bedroom floor.

“What should I wear?” she asked. “I need something to go with my favorite jeans.” She plopped on her bed, face flushed.

I hesitated, torn between worrying about her safety and wanting to support her romantic longings. “You’re sure you want to go through with this?”

She nodded.

“Then don’t worry, we’ll find something. You have great clothes.” I glanced at her alarm clock. It was 6:15.

She followed my eyes. “I’ll be fashionably late.”

I pulled out a turquoise blouse that had fabric cutouts in the back.

“I need to look good from the front, not when I leave,” she said.

“Right.” I told her about Ethan while I searched her closet for something better.

“Are you sure you want to start with him again?” she asked.

“I don’t know. He made it sound like, how could I not give us one more chance?” My phone pinged. “Ugh.”

“What’s the matter?”

“Ethan’s already texting me.” I sighed. “He’s looking forward to tonight.”

“Ah, it’s nice to see he hasn’t lost that stalker-ish quality.”

I glared at her.

“Lil, you know I’m right. If your heart’s not in it, don’t go.”

“I miss my old life before . . . everything.” I kept flipping through her closet.

“But dating Ethan again won’t magically turn back time. It won’t make the other stuff vanish.”

“I guess you’re right,” I said.

“Hmm . . . at least we both have dates tonight.”

“It’s not a date. I’m going over to his house.”

“I’m sure we’ll have a lot to talk about tomorrow,” she said. “I can’t believe I’m finally meeting him.”

Near the back of the closet, a black top with three-quarter sleeves was lodged between two camis. I didn’t even take it all the way out before Megs shook her head. Her face was shiny and I realized she was sweating. “Are you nervous?”

“A little. I’m not feeling great. I think it’s all the excitement.”

“You shouldn’t go if you don’t feel well.”

She scowled at me. “I have to go. I can’t explain it. It feels like part of something bigger, like destiny.”

I pursed my lips together to keep from spouting my opinion. After pulling out a pale blue shirt, I held it against her. “This will look good with— ”

My fingers brushed against her arm. She was burning hot. I put the back of my hand against her forehead the way Mom always did to me. “You feel feverish.”

“I’m fine.” She swayed as she tried to stand.

“Megs, you’re sick.” Fear made my voice quiver.

“You can’t go. This is crazy.”

“It’s too late to cancel.” She sank onto her bed, coughing. “Can you get me a glass of water while I change?”

“Sure.” I hurried to the kitchen. Mrs. Salerno sat at the counter, a newspaper spread in front of her.

I had to tell her about Megs. She’d forgive me for missing her date, eventually. “Mrs. Salerno, I . . .”

She looked at me, waiting.

Then we both heard it: the crashing sound from Megs’s room.

We raced up the stairs. Megs lay sprawled on the floor next to her toppled bedside table.

“I felt dizzy, and then . . .”

Mrs. Salerno scooped her up and laid her on the bed. “Let me get the thermometer.”

After her mom left the room, Megs looked at me, pleading. “I need you to do me a favor.”

I knew what she was about to ask. “No way.”

“Please? You don’t have to talk to him. It’ll be crowded, so he won’t notice you. Look for the guy carrying a book, something that would have meaning to me. Then I’ll tell him later how sick I was, that I couldn’t make it.”

“I’m supposed to meet Ethan soon. And a crowded shop mean germs.”

“Could you tell him you’re running late? It wouldn’t take much time. If you walked in and out, it’s like two minutes of exposure.” She widened her eyes, pleading.

This was important to her, no matter how much I disapproved. I considered it. For my best friend, I could probably handle a few moments in a public place.

More about Pandemic:
In Pandemic, only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder's sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. When people begin coming down with a quick-spreading illness that doctors are unable to treat, Lil’s worst fears are realized. With her parents called away on business before the contagious outbreak, Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness. With friends and neighbors dying around her, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.

To connect with Yvonne: Website | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter 
To buy Pandemic: Indiebound | Amazon 

More about Yvonne:
Yvonne Ventresca is an award-winning author dedicated to writing suspenseful stories that readers can’t put down. Her Crystal-Kite-winning YA debut, Pandemic, continues to be a timely read about surviving a widespread deadly virus. Her second novel, Black Flowers, White Lies, explores toxic relationships and won a Gold “IPPY” for best YA fiction. Her latest short story, “The Third Ghost,” is now featured in the latest IWSG anthology, Voyagers: The Third Ghost, a collection for nine to twelve-year-old readers. For more information, and for free resources for writers, visit her website at

A 2017 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Winner!

A Last Word:
Over the past two nights I was up very late devouring Yvonne's book Pandemic.  
It was a strange feeling to be reading about a pandemic while in a pandemic.  
What I kept thinking over and over was how eerily prescient the novel is.  
Yvonne's portrayal of an epidemic is vividly real, and I liked the juxtaposition 
of Lilianna's story with the objective quotes of officials on the Blue Flu 
pandemic at the beginning of each chapter.  Lil's voice is authentic.  Her 
experiences put me right back into the angst of being in high school, the 
rollercoaster ride of young love, and the drama of close friendships.  I'll join 
Booklist, School Library Journal, and Kirkus Reviews in recommending this 
fast-paced apocalyptic novel.  It touched me deeply, and I will not forget it.      

I'll be back on October 28th with another post.   

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

* * * * * * * * * *

If you haven't read Yvonne's short story "The Third Ghost" 
in VOYAGERS:  The Third Ghost, you can find it here.

You can order a copy of
VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost 
at the links below.

Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99

Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure /
Fantasy & Magic

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Voyagers Author Roland Clarke and His Thriller "Spiral of Hooves"

Currently the IWSG Anthologies blog is featuring posts from the winning authors in Voyagers:  The Third Ghost, and today you are in for a treat!  Today Roland Clarke shares his novel Spiral of Hooves and his WIPs.

Roland Clarke at His Writing Desk

Why a treat?
Because Roland introduces us to an equestrian world that many of us never get to experience firsthand.  This is a world Roland knows intimately and writes about vividly.  Before I read Spiral of Hooves, I knew zilch about equestrian eventing. Heck, I'm terrified of horses.  They are magnificent creatures, but I admire them from a safe distance.  Roland's memorable novel captivated me and makes me want to connect with a gentle horse.

Borde Hill Horse Trials Publicity Shot: 
Penny Sangster jumping Greenbank Harlequin
in front of Borde Hill, Roland's family home – 
Photo by Roland Clarke


Spirals and Beginnings
by Roland Clarke

No viable corpses just dead ends to convoluted plots. Not a great start for my first novel, which was to take another forty years to finish and share with readers.

The seeds for ‘Spiral of Hooves’ were sown when I was living in Canada during the 1970’s, so it was inevitable that the tale opens in Canada and one of the main characters is a Quebecois rider.

However, Quebec was just a seed. IWSG Anthology fellow author and blog-co-ordinator, Louise MacBeath Barbour recently asked, “I think it would be awesome for you to share how ‘Spiral Hooves’ came about and your work as an equestrian reporter.  This is, well was, an unknown world for me.”

Roland Interviewing riders for Eventing Magazine
with Jane Perry of Horse & Hound
at Tweseldown Horse Trials
 Photo by Nick Perry
(Nick is Jane's husband and a H&H photographer, 
who took the photo adapted for the cover of Spiral of Hooves.)

The plot did evolve through my experiences as an equestrian journalist, initially from my early years in the media. First though, I grew up in a privileged hunting-shooting-fishing family and from a young age was encouraged to ride. But as the family groom said, “You’re like a sack of potatoes on that pony” – a sack who fell off too often.

So, I gave up riding as soon as I was permitted. My grandfather, a Master of Foxhounds, wisely told my mother not to worry as one day I’d meet a girl who would persuade me to get back on a horse. In brief, I did and took a summer job putting up fences in the main arena at the All England Jumping Course, Hickstead – owned by her father, Douglas Bunn. A few years later, in my first regular job as a sub-editor on The Field magazine, I wrote an article about Hickstead.

During my brief time at The Field, I was also introduced to the equestrian sport of eventing aka horse trials – made up of three phases: dressage, cross-country, and showjumping. I was hooked for various reasons, and within a few years, I was travelling all over England to photograph events. And the rough plot of a novel appeared, involving the tragic romance between a Canadian cross-country course designer and an English rider.

But I failed to make photography pay, although my rivals flourished – one for decades. A few careers and many decades later, I was researching a TV documentary on equestrian sports, and the Press Officer for the British Horse Trials Association rekindled my career as an equestrian journalist.

Roland's Most Profitable Photo:
 Zara Phillips (Princess Anne's daughter) falling 
during the Windsor Three Day Event in 2004
Photo by Roland Clarke

From short news items for the sports pages of a local paper on their local Olympic equestrienne, I found various newspapers wanting reports on their local riders. So, I attended horse trials in the South East of England, interviewed winners from the SE and wrote about them in my columns.
The coverage boosted eventing in the region, and one event organiser, Ian Bareham helped me devise an innovative ranking competition – the South East Eventers League – which has become a major fixture. My involvement with the SE events culminated in me co-organising an event at my family home – Borde Hill Horse Trials is another ongoing fixture.
I also began contributing reports to Eventing Magazine, the sport’s premier monthly, as well as other media, including one of the first online equestrian websites, Equest – the first to cover Badminton Three-day-event live.

Roland with his mother Nidia Clarke at Borde Hill Horse Trials 
Photo by Tony Warr

I wrote a few articles on other equestrian disciplines, including profiles of leading competitors and reports on Horse Driving Trials – modelled on horse trials using carriages. I attended many driving events and even rode in the passenger seat – ‘suicide seat’ – of a four-in-hand [carriage pulled by four horses] driven by GB Team member, Pippa Bassett in the marathon [cross-country] phase at two major national events.

Although all this material sparked ideas for my novel, my mind was on my press work. Until I was covering a show-jumping class at the winter indoor international show, Olympia in London. Then the ideas took shape and the revised plot was born. Of course, there were more dead ends and discarded chapters, characters, and threads, especially as I started with a volatile plot.

Dick Lane and his team of Lipizzaners at Brighton Driving Trials
This was the team Roland rode in the suicide seat with previous owner, Pippa Bassett. 
Photo by Roland Clarke

The Tunbridge Wells & District Writing Circle helped me hone the novel, but it wasn’t until multiple sclerosis had forced me to retire that the novel was published by a small US press, SPMG on Kindle. When SPMG was bought out and the rights reverted to me, I self-published in 2017 as a paperback as well as Kindle.

Cover design by Jonathan Temples. Cover photo by Nick Perry

Unfortunately, sales have been disappointing for both editions, despite some good five-star reviews from colleagues involved in the sport. However, many who kept clamouring for me to release the novel didn’t respond. I wonder if any competitive riders have read the book – just critics who question my equestrian knowledge.

Hopeful for expectant readers, I have written the first draft of a sequel – ‘Tortuous Terrain’ – set in the US. Although the new novel has some eventing, the focus is on endurance – long-distance – events, with some rodeo. But there are two main characters and a secondary character from ‘Spiral of Hooves’ involved.

So, that’s the end of the road? No more horses?

Well, Louise Barbour also asked, “…I’d like to include your current work in progress with your characters Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai.  Such cool characters!” 

Sparkle and Kama are the central female protagonists in my proposed series, ‘Snowdon Shadows’. Their tale originated with a draft novel, ‘Fates Maelstrom’ set in South West England in which neither appeared. But then I relocated the story when my wife and I moved to Snowdonia, and Sparkle Anwyl of the North Wales Police got involved. Then her sexuality evolved when an American male flirted with her.

Making her a lesbian has been challenging. Her differences emerged at school, but her relationship with Kama Pillai is at the heart of the novel and its sequels. Her Welsh family is important to her, whether her mother’s farming ancestors or her police sergeant father.

Kama and Sparkle
Graphics by Jonathan Temples

The backstory developed into a novel, ‘Fevered Fuse’ – set before ‘Fates Maelstrom’. Yes, there are horses and a link to my debut novel via that secondary character mentioned above. The clue is Zoo – for those like Louise who have read ‘Spiral of Hooves’.

And if you are wondering, there will always be horses – if there isn’t a phoenix. 

After diverse careers, Roland Clarke was an equestrian journalist and green activist when chronic illness hastened retirement. But he hasn’t stopped exploring rabbit holes and writing - mainly mysteries and alternative history. Roland and his wife – both avid gamers - now live in Idaho (USA) with their four fur-babies, although their hearts are in North Wales (UK).

For a preview of Roland's Spiral of Hooves, Amazon and Goodreads links, interviews with characters, plus more go to
For a deeper look at Roland's life go to

       After Roland retired, his company Seahorse Equestrian Agents presented
       him with The Seahorse Achievement Award for outstanding behind-the-
       scenes contribution to SE England eventing. 

Coming on Wednesday, October 14, 2020: 
Next up is Yvonne Ventresca whose short story "The Third Ghost" won the coveted top honor in the Voyagers anthology.  We'll learn the backstory to her young adult novel Pandemic.

Till next time ~
Fundy Blue 

* * * * * * * * * *

If you haven't read Roland's short story "Feathered Fire" 
in VOYAGERS:  The Third Ghost, you can find it here.

You can order a copy of
VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost 
at the links below.

Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99

Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure /
Fantasy & Magic

Roland's Story

The Second Sun
by llifi-kei