Silver Line: “Outstanding Plot and Appeal” says Writer’s Digest Judge

When I entered Silver Line in the 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards competition, I did so as much for the promised review as the possibility of recognition in “Genre Fiction.”

While I didn’t win any awards, I’m delighted to have received a very encouraging, thoughtful, and insightful assessment, with some decidedly high marks.

On a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is “Outstanding” and “1” means “Needs Improvement,” Silver Line was rated “5” for plot and story appeal, with the next highest grades for production quality, cover design, and copy editing.

This judge constructively pointed out that I’d do well to lengthen scenes to add character depth and improve pacing, which I will certainly aim to do in future writing. Happily, no grades were below 3.

Although I rely on multiple beta readers per title, and up to 13 editorial reviews, fresh perspective is a wonderful thing.

Judge’s Commentary:

“I thought you did a great job in building two very interesting characters. The personalities were plainly developed and understandable. The characters resonated with me, and I felt that you’d created a fantastic bond between them.”

Judge, 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards

That, for me, was a priority.

I hope to have an opportunity to converse further with this judge about ‘voice’ and ‘style’ as I intentionally wrote Silver Line in a conversational tone, as if telling a tale. To me, this felt relaxed and comfortable, in keeping with the folklore that inspired the long-ago plot. I’m not sure this judge was a fan of that approach, but what do you think?

Please post a comment wherever this book is sold or on sites like Goodreads. (You can enjoy the first chapter of Silver Line on Reedsy Discovery by going to Science Fiction/Time Travel, and if you like it, give it an up vote.) Getting feedback is one way we writers can learn what readers like and strive to produce the most gratifying experience possible.


The Plant That Came From Nowhere

October 7, 2019

I’m not sure if writers view the world differently – perhaps seeking deeper meaning or symbolism in simple things – but something happened that made me think:  in my garden, a strange plant sprung up that I didn’t recognize and had not planted.

I took a photo and posted it to a local Garden Exchange group on Facebook, and the first responses suggested either Swamp Milkweed or Rabbit Tobacco, neither of which was familiar to me. Of course, I Googled those names, and have concluded it may be the latter, because there is a very subtle sweetness to the leaves.

However, in my research, I find that Rabbit Tobacco is surrounded by mythology which increases my puzzlement as to why it suddenly appeared. While some sources say Rabbit Tobacco is native to midwestern fields, others say it thrives where rabbits gather. In that I do not have a midwestern field in my front yard and have seen only a couple bunnies in recent years, I’m not sure of either.

In trying to learn more, I watched a YouTube video by an herbalist and spiritual practitioner, who praised the plant for its medicinal properties, but also warned against bringing it into the house without proper spiritual safeguards. Why? Because this plant, also known as “Sweet Everlasting,” is said to connect the worlds of the living and the dead, supposedly because its fragrance ‘comes to life’ when it is dying.

With that bizarre thought, I turned to a website that focuses on Alchemy and learned more about the mystique surrounding this plant. According to this site:

The Latin name is pseudognaphalium obtusifolim, and the plant is well known in Native cultures. The Sioux credit this plant with acting as a “psychic collector” in picking up the good or evil attributes of people near it. The Creek use a decoction of the leaves to wash elders who cannot sleep well. The Cherokee and Menominee (who honor the plant’s power by calling it ‘Owl’s Crown’), smudge their homes with its burning leaves to evict spirits of the dead. The Yuchi and Seminole mix Rabbit Tobacco with eastern cedar to help ghosts move on and to protect babies, new to the world of the living. One modern interpretation of its unusual persona is based on the herb’s role in treating asthma, connecting life (breath) with death (suffocation). Another theory touches on the herb’s reputed ability to treat insomnia, very much a twilight between wakefulness (living) and sleep (a symbolic dying).

What all this has to do with my garden is unclear, but now that I know of the magic surrounding this plant, I eye it warily. I’ve since learned that it is harvested by the Yuchi during the day, while facing east, following a night of fasting and prayer. But I’m not inclined to pick it at all. I’m still trying to figure out how it got there. The closest I can guess is that it either rode in on the wind or hitch-hiked in the soil with some dill that I bought at a local nursery. Unfortunately, the dill didn’t make it, but this unexpected visitor is thriving — with its airy stalks and white flower heads, sitting happily among Liatris, oregano, nasturtium and a random dahlia.

Considering this plant as a writer might, I’ve decided its spontaneous appearance is like an idea which springs up out of nowhere to crystalize a plot or connect one’s characters. That lone idea stands out in a garden of clutter and clichés, attracting passersby and hopefully, rising above the rest.

Fact is, plants do infiltrate my writing and require considerable research when mentioned. The one thing I learned is that, as a writer, you can’t be casual about plants. There are specific seasons in which they bloom, regions in which they grow, differences in species, and dates when they were imported to certain locations. So, in Tory Roof, when I say that Sarah returned to the house in 1765, to find clumps of orange day lilies growing along the field, I had to verify that day lilies were indeed common in Colonial times. And when she makes a poultice using plantain, I had to confirm that it was used to heal wounds. When in Silver Line, I mention Mormon tea growing in the crevices of an arroyo, and Ocotillo bushes reaching skyward in the dry landscape of the southwest, I do so from having seen them firsthand. And when Jared, as a student in Silver Line, sees hydrangeas “morphing from white to late-season pink behind wrought iron fences,” I was able to write that because the ‘snowballs’ in my yard also change color, and I’ve seen the confined plantings in front of Boston brownstones.

Book No. 3, Absent, however, is really testing my botanical knowledge, as my main character, Carter, is treated with some unusual elixirs in a sprawling Victorian manor amidst lush gardens and topiaries. It was important for me to learn about the psychedelic and deliriant properties of many plants and to understand the differences between those of similar appearance — such as the lovely Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia) and the more deadly Devil’s Trumpet (Datura) — which reminds me, if you have a green thumb, you’ll feel right at home with this book, due out soon.





What Are The Odds of Randomly Meeting Two People Who Document The Supernatural?

September 2019

During the summer, I met two complete strangers, at different events, who share an unusual pastime. Because these encounters seemed more than coincidental, I decided to write about it.

I’ve posted an article to LinkedIn because the subject is relevant to people considering side gigs, but I thought it might also appeal to readers who like to test the boundaries of time and life as we know it.

Click to enjoy.



Thank you, readers, for the reviews


Just wanted to take a moment to thank those people who have posted reader reviews of Tory Roof.  I know it takes time and does not come easily to everyone, so I really appreciate the effort and thoughtfulness.

Would love to get some for Silver Line.

For professional reviewers, please note that through Publish Drive, my digital distributor, I can easily provide links to review copies (ebooks) on Apple Books and Google Play Books. These are protected copies, available for download for 28 days, that cannot be forwarded or copied beyond the intended recipient.

Or contact me with your credentials to receive a review copy in a different format.


eBook Sale Extended

October 2019

Take advantage of special seasonal ebook pricing on Tory Roof and Silver Line.  We originally reduced the price to $3.99 each to celebrate the joy of beach reading but have extended the offer to cover blustery autumn afternoons when people want to hunker down with a good book or plan their holiday gift giving.

Here are direct links to the most popular online stores.




Meeting & Greeting at the New England Authors Expo

June 30, 2019



Yesterday we participated in the 2019 New England Authors Expo in Haverhill, MA. Met so many great people — writers, publishers, readers — and even traded a few books.

Our booth featured a glowing lantern to set the stage for Tory Roof and Silver Line. For those who have read the books, you’ll recall that a lantern signals Terrence’s return in the first book, and that Red uses a lantern in the Mattie Howe mine, in the second.

We also created a loop of 35 screens (am calling these “Visual Excerpts”) to help illustrate the first story.  Here are a few examples:



To watch the presentation in its entirety, click here:

Powerpoint of Tory Roof Slide show FULL SCREEN

I’ve saved it as a PDF, so you will have to advance it manually, but you will not need Powerpoint to view.



Tory Roof is in Reedsy’s Discovery feed — Please vote!

June 11, 2019

We’re excited!  Tory Roof is appearing as a “to-be-discovered book” on Reedsy’s Discovery platform. This is a great resource for authors and readers alike — celebrating new work, bringing it to the attention of the public, and giving book enthusiasts an inside scoop.

This week, Tory Roof is being introduced under Historical Fiction. (If the cover image does not appear, simply click “Recent” at the top right)

Readers can enjoy a chapter by clicking through, can follow the author, buy the book, or simply Like it. The more “up votes” an author receives, the better the chance for additional publicity.

So, folks, please give us an Up Vote if you’re so inclined.  Here’s a link to my personal Reedsy page if you’d prefer to go there directly.  Thanks!



Meet Me at the New England Authors Expo June 29th

Books! Browsing! Conversation!

The 2019 New England Authors Expo is free to the public and promises to be fun for authors, publishers, and readers alike. I’ll be participating as part of Sudbury Publishing Group, located in the main hall. Just look for the glowing lantern, and you’ll find us.

We’ll have autographed copies of Tory Roof and Silver Line on hand, along with a sign-up sheet for future communication.  Enter to win a $25 Amazon gift card. Say hello and tell us what you’re working on, what you like to read, or where you need help with your own publishing ventures.

We look forward to meeting you and celebrating the written word.



Silver Line Chosen by BookLife for best “First Lines”

Publishers Weekly indie arm, BookLife, invites authors to submit the first lines of their books for consideration. Each month, they select a few examples that are particularly intriguing.

I’m honored that the opening of Silver Line was chosen for recognition. The content is referenced in the tease, as the editor writes, “This month we’ve got soiled doves, symbolic assassinations, and more.” The book begins this way:

“Let me be perfectly clear. I was never a soiled dove, a lady of the night. I was a dance hall girl, an entertainer — there’s a distinction.”  You can read more of the intro in Media Mentions:  Excerpts.