Guest Post by Robert Stanek

I’m pleased today to welcome Robert Stanek as a guest on my blog. Robert Stanek is not only the talented author of more than 150 books for adults and children but someone who has been helping other writers ever since his first book was published in 1995.

Back in the early days of the Web, Robert created Writer’s Gallery, Internet Job Center and Internet Daily News to help other writers (archives at These days Robert helps other writers by hosting some terrific writers groups, by blogging about writing-related topics, and through his Read Indie tweets on twitter.

On Facebook, Robert Stanek hosts one of the more popular groups for getting the word out about your promotions and free offerings. It’s called “Free Today” and you’ll find the group at…. On Twitter, you can tweet using the hashtag #freetoday as another way to spread the word about your promotions and freebies.

Go Indie ( is another terrific group for writers that Robert hosts on Facebook. Go Indie is a group dedicated to promoting indie authors, indie books, and indie booksellers. On Twitter, you can also use hashtag #goindie to spread the word about your books.

On, Robert hosts the Read Indies group. Read Indies helps to provide a platform for writers to discuss their books and writing-related topics. Read Indies is at

Robert also writes the Read Indies Blog ( The blog discusses many important writing-related issues and details many of the challenges indie authors face in gaining mainstream acceptance. Some of the more interesting posts:

Taking Your Work from Print to Film –…

Selling Rights to Your Books –…

Viewpoints on Rejection Letters –…

Understanding Bestseller Lists –…

Finding Success as a Writer –…

You can learn more about Robert and his books at

My Middle Is Sagging!

As all writers know, it’s that sagging middle of a manuscript that can make us crazy. My WIP has a great beginning and a bang up ending, but that darned middle looks like a string hanging down between two pieces of wire.

I don’t know how authors put out two, or three, or a dozen books a year!. How do they take the characters from safe and happy in the beginning, through a maze of problems, and bring them out the otherside? Well, I know all about bringing them out the other side. The ending of my WIP is kick butt rock solid. If only I knew what to do with those twenty chapters before the end, that keep the reader on the edge of his or her seat. Well I did it once, so I guess I can do it again. But for the life of me, I can’t remember how I did it the first time.

I’d love to hear from other writers as to how they manage to fill in that middle. I’ve found that it’s not so hard to get the characters in trouble, but getting them out in a believeable way is the trick.

Welcome Guest Blogger Mollie Cox Bryan

 I’m happy to introduce Mollie Cox Bryan as my guest blogger for this week. Mollie has a new book coming out: Scrapbook of Secrets: A Cumberland Creek Mystery. It sounds like a great read and Mollie has agreed to give away a copy to one of the commentors. I hope all of you will enjoy meeting Mollie and  her characters. 

Take it away Mollie!


Meet the Women of Cumberland Creek

   My first novel, SCRAPBOOK OF SECRETS: A CUMBERLAND CREEK MYSTERY has just been published by Kensington.  With publishing schedules being what they are, as I begin to promote this book, I’m expecting edits on the second book and am in the middle of the first draft of the third in the series. Seriously. Now, when I sit down to write, it feels like I’m visiting old friends. I’d like to introduce them to you. 

   My series revolves around a group of women in a small but growing Southern town. They get together to scrapbook, eat, and as it happens, to solve murders. 

   The story is told from three main characters points of view. They are surrounded by a secondary group of women and men. There’s also a third tier of characters I like to call my “walk-ons.” You’ll have to read the book to meet those folks. In the mean time here’s my three characters. 


Annie Chamovitz is 36-years-old and has “retired” from the rough and tumble world of Washington, D.C., investigative journalism. She and her husband Mike moved to Cumberland Creek from Bethesda, Md., a tone suburb.  Her family is the only Jewish family in town.  When the book opens, she is a stay-at-home mom to Sam and Ben.  After being in Cumberland Creek about a year, she is finally invited to a weekly scrapbooking crop. She goes to the scrapbook gathering—reluctantly. Visions of frilly stickers and glitter paper dissuade her. Soon, she is part of the group, finding she loves the “puzzle” aspect to scrapbooking.  Soon enough, she also gets sucked back into freelance journalism.

My favorite quote from Annie:

“I don’t need my husband’s permission, Detective, just his support. This is the twenty-first century,” she said.


Vera Matthews has just turned forty. She is the owner of the only dancing school in town. She has never quite resolved her longing for the stage. So she delights in changing hair color and make-up palettes. She is married to her college sweetheart, Bill. She grew up in Cumberland Creek, went to college in NYC, and danced professionally for a brief period of time. Because she’s childless, she makes scrapbooks for her students and herself.

My favorite quote from Vera:

“I may be a bitch, but I work too hard for my money to go and have some pop psychologist to charge me to tell me about the psychological aspect to a hobby.  Some people just sap all the fun out of everything,” Vera said, taking a bite of the cake.

Beatrice Matthews

Beatrice Matthews is Vera’s eighty-year-old mother and is not a scrapbooker. She is a quantum physicist and has conversations with her dead husband, who appears in ghost form throughout the book—but only to her. She grew up on Jenkins Mountain, one of the many mountains surrounding the town of Cumberland Creek. At the beginning of the book, Bea is stabbed.

My favorite Beatrice quote: “You’re Daddy bought it for me and taught me how to use it. I feel safe with it here next to me in my nightstand. So over my dead body will I get rid of it.  In fact, you can bury me with my gun in one hand and a book in the other,” Beatrice said.


About the Book

Having traded in her career as a successful investigative journalist for the life of a stay-at-home mum in picturesque Cumberland Creek, Virginia, Annie can’t help but feel that something’s missing. But she finds solace in a local “crop circle” of scrapbookers united by chore-shy husbands, demanding children, and occasional fantasies of their former single lives. And when the quiet idyll of their small town is shattered by a young mother’s suicide, they band together to find out what went wrong…Annie resurrects her reporting skills and discovers that Maggie Rae was a closet scrapbooker who left behind more than a few secrets – and perhaps a few enemies. As they sift through Maggie Rae’s mysteriously discarded scrapbooks, Annie and her “crop” sisters begin to suspect that her suicide may have been murder. It seems that something sinister is lurking beneath the town’s beguilingly calm facade – like a killer with unfinished business…


Mollie Cox Bryan is a food writer and cookbook author with a penchant for murder.  Her stories have many forms: cookbooks, articles, essays, poetry and fiction.  Mollie grew up near Pittsburgh, Pa., and attended Point Park University, where she received a B.A. in Journalism and Communications. Her first real job out of college was as a paste-up artist at a small newspaper, where she was allowed to write “on her own time” and she did.

Mollie moved to the Washington, D.C. area, where she held a number of writing jobs, and has written about a diverse array of subjects, such as construction, mathematics education, and life insurance. While working in the editorial field, Mollie began taking poetry classes at the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Md. Soon, she was leading local poetry workshops and was selected to participate in the prestigious Jenny McKean Moore Poetry Workshop. Mollie still writes poetry— not as frequently— and believes that her study of poetry informs all of her writing.

In 1999, shortly after the birth of her first daughter, Emma, Mollie and her husband moved to the Shenandoah Valley of Va., where he took a job at the Frontier Culture Museum and she stayed at home to take care of Emma and start a freelancing career.

Website/blog: Http://

Twitter: @molliecoxbryan




Published Books

Mrs. Rowe’s Little Book of Southern Pies (Ten Speed/Random House, 2009) The Good Cook Book Club; named one of the best cookbooks of 2009 by Rose Kennedy of All Foods Considered.

Mrs. Rowe’s Restaurant Cookbook: A Lifetime of Recipes from the Shenandoah Valley (Ten Speed Press, 2006)

Unsilenced: the Spirit of Women, Commune-A-Key, 1999.  A poetry and essay compilation.

Honey, I’m Sorry I Killed Your Aquasaurs (and other short essays on the parenting life) E-book on Amazon. This is a compilation of my newspaper column, Thoroughly Modern Mollie.

A few publications Mollie’s articles are published in:

 Grit, NPR’s Kitchen Window, The Christian Science Monitor, Taste of the South Magazine. Virginia Living. Relish,

Currently, Mollie is a restaurant reviewer for the Daily News Leader, Staunton, Va. and a frequent contributor for the local NPR-affiliate, WVTF.

Taking Care Of Me First

I can’t believe how hard it is to take care of me. Just taking time out to walk for a few minutes, or do the exercises given to me by the physical therapist seems impossible.

I think this is the first article I’ve posted that really says something deeply personal about me. I’ve tried to concentrate on the art and skill of writing, getting published and promoting. I don’t know that this type of article is of any interest to readers and writers. But after over 100 posts, I think it’s time to share more than the outside, the public, side of me.

When I was an officer at the Sheriff’s Dept., I worked out every day, sometimes at two o’clock in the morning, but I got it done. Twelve years later I can’t do thirty minutes three times a week. Even very slow walking wears me out.

I’m so glad I gave myself several months to prepare for the blog tour. If I had tried to do it in just a few weeks, I would never have survived. I try to do something regarding promotions at least 3 days a week. And I’m supposed to be working on book two of the Trey Fontaine Mystery series but I’m just not able to do it all.

I can promote, or write, or take care of me, but I can’t possibly do all three, and even doing two is a challenge. My own personal health always seems to sink to the bottom, which sets off a chain of events that brings everything to a grinding halt.

I’ve read blogs and books by very successful authors who take time out every morning to work out. I’m not a morning person, and besides, my pain is usually worse when I wake up, and then again late in the day, than in the middle of the day. Since I know this, I’m trying to do my little routine after lunch. Today was a day to walk a few minutes but since I didn’t really get to sleep until after four this morning, I am already behind the eight ball today.

I have a great hubby, but he is not well and I want to spend every moment I can with him, while I still have him. I just don’t know how other writers work it all in without burning out to the point of illness.

I’d love to hear from those of you have overcome illness and managed to continue to write and promote. I know I’ll never give up, but some days I wonder if my tenacity is good for me or not.

#Point of View and The Writer’s View

I’ve been working on a literary romance and it’s driving me crazy. The plan is to write from the points of view of each of the two main characters–hero and heroine in the normal vernacular, though I don’t think these labels fit so well. Both characters are doctors, specialists.

I want to write in first person present for one, and third person past tense for the other. I know this will probably be hard to sell, because it’s not the ‘normal’ way. But I have a very good reason for doing it this way, and I think when I finally get it sold, it will be a big hit. I have a deep belief in this story.

My current publisher doesn’t publish this kind of work, and I have agreed to write book two of the Trey Fontaine Mystery  trilogy, so working on this is postponed, though it fills my mind at times.  But I’m wondering how other writers deal with this process of deciding when to fulfill the vision of the story, and when to do what you know editors and agents want.

Red Herrings

This article is part of the Rolling Mystery Blog Tours Ink rolling tour for Wednesday. Other bloggers who participated in this roll are listed at the bottom of this page, past the article.  Nancy Lauzon started off today on the subject of Red Herrings. Her article can be found at If you haven’t already visited her site, please take the time out today to stop by and take a look.

And now, on to my article: Red Herrings 

Readers of mystery know all about red herrings. They understand the concept of giving clues that lead nowhere to the reader. It happens in every mystery. What readers may  not understand is how hard that is for the writer.

As writers, we have to figure out the plot of the mystery, create the perfect characters, and then put the plot together in such a way that the reader doesn’t really know for sure what  happened, or who did it, or why, or where something is hidden, etc. So we have to create viable suspects, alternate stories that may or may not have happened, or whole sets of goals and motivations for characters who are innocent, or at least not guilty of what they are suspected of.

For me, the easiest way to do this is to figure out enough of the plot to know what the mystery is, who the victim is, who the killer is, and why. Then I create a few more people who have their own reasons for wanting the victim dead. They need two of the three vital parts of the crime: means, motive, and opportunity. Then when I write about these characters, I don’t reveal which of those three things they have, not until the last hundred or so pages, when I start eliminating suspects.

If you’re writing mysteries, remember that the red herrings are what the reader is looking for. They know there will be clues that go nowhere, and readers who love mysteries get pretty good at figuring out the truth before you want them to. If it’s too easy, they will not be interested in your next book. And ditto, if it’s too hard. You have to strike a nice medium.

If your work isn’t too graphic, try having a twelve-year-old read along with your beta readers, or before them. Then give it to your most critical reader and see how that goes. If the twelve-year-old figures it out half way through, you’re in trouble. If the critical reader can’t figure it out, you might need to through in a clue or two. The best learning device is the reading of mysteries. There is no better way to see how it’s done, than to see how it’s done.

Our roll today consists only of Nancy Lauzon and I as our partners are dealing with real life and deadlines. But hopefully several of our partners will return Friday when the new roll will start at Nancy Lauzon’s blog at                                   with the subject of Favorite Mystery Movies and Why?