A 365-day writing challenge, a story about sacrifice in war, and 5 tricks for finding time to write

Books & Buzz Magazine, June 2023, Volume 5 Issue 9It’s happening again, writers!

By popular demand, the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge is back—with a start date of July 1st.

If you’re hoping to get crackin’ on your novel—and actually get it published by this time next year—this is your chance! We only do a few of these each year, so stop by to register before it’s too late.

It’s free to participate, so crack your knuckles and roll up your sleeves … this year is all about writing!

I’ll give you a minute to sign up before we go on.

This is the Letter From the Editor in the latest issue of Books & Buzz Magazine. Not a subscriber? Start getting all of our great articles by subscribing for free!

Back now? Great, let’s take a peek inside the June issue:

First off, I’d like to welcome back to the cover award-winning thriller author Tosca Lee. She’s here to discuss her latest release, The Long March Home, a fictional story about a real-life historical event: the Bataan Death March that took place in the Philippines during World War II. Co-written with bestselling author Marcus Brotherton, The Long March Home is a story about friendship and sacrifice set against the backdrop of history. It also depicts, sometimes graphically, the atrocities of war. “What a sobering education researching this story has been,” Tosca says, admitting that until she partnered with Marcus and started digging into it, she didn’t know about this horrific chapter in World War II. “What an honor it is to share it with others who, like me, may not be aware of it or its heroes,” she says. In this fascinating interview, Tosca talks about how she felt while researching the era, tells us what she most wanted to know about the characters in the story, and reveals what’s true—and what’s not—in this riveting historical fiction tale.

Next, award-winning author G.S. Gerry has some encouraging words for writers. “If you have ever had a desire to write a book, or have been on the fence for some time about whether to write a book, the answer is clear,” he says. “It can be summed up with three simple words: just do it!” As Gerry explains, even though everyone has a unique story to tell, fear is a common reason many writers never get started. Because we’re all shaped by our experiences, positive and negative, a simple shift in mindset and asking the right questions of yourself—such as “What can I learn from this?”—can give you more control over the unpredictability of life, and transform you from dreamer into achiever.

Then, Randi-Lee Bowslaugh, author and mental health advocate, walks us through the steps she uses to write non-fiction books. The first step? Have a clear, solid message to convey. This lays the groundwork for the rest of the book, making it easier to complete your first draft. “Non-fiction manuscripts can force an author to think back years—even decades,” she says, “which is why the first draft is to get out whatever you can remember. As you write, more memories may surface that can be added.” When the story is personal, it may be emotionally tough to put the words on paper, but the final product will be an engaging narrative that readers will be invested in.

Finally, horror author and first-time contributor Sarah Budd comes to us with tips for squeezing more writing time out of your busy days. Spending less time on social media and waking up earlier might be obvious places to start, but what you may not have tried is honing your ability to switch on your writing mind at will. As Sarah explains, this allows you to make better use of small windows of time throughout the day, such as a lunch break. “The first step,” she says, “is to set yourself a small writing goal of what you want to achieve within a set time.” What I found most encouraging about Sarah’s piece is her advice not to despair when you don’t hit those goals. “We all have bad weeks, and that’s fine,” she writes. “The main thing is to keep going!” Find out the other tricks Sarah has up her sleeve for being more productive.

As Day 1 of the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge approaches, excitement builds, and the ideas start flowing, be sure to set aside a few minutes to enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine.

Happy reading,

Timothy Pike
Editor-in-chief, Books & Buzz MagazineSubscribe now for free!


A newly minted author shows off her published book, on breaking all the rules in fantasy, and how to be sensitive when writing about disabilities

Books & Buzz Magazine, May 2023, Volume 5 Issue 8Welcome, readers and writers, to another issue of Books & Buzz Magazine!

There’s exciting news about one of our ChapterBuzz writers: Tiffany S. Doran is now a published romance author! For years, this talented storyteller has been working hard to prepare her manuscript for publication—and prepare herself for the life of an author—and she finally achieved it. As one of her longtime mentors, I couldn’t be more proud. I’ve been working with her for the last several months to create the book and release it for sale on Amazon. Check out how it all came together.

This is the Letter From the Editor in the latest issue of Books & Buzz Magazine. Not a subscriber? Start getting all of our great articles by subscribing for free!

You can read her novel, Desires of the Heart, on Kindle Unlimited or order it as a paperback. Either way, Tiffany would be thrilled to have your support.

Want to get going on your own novel? If you’ve ever had writer’s block, or feel like perfectionism or a tendency to procrastinate has been holding you back, join creative writing expert Nancy Strauss in this free writing class via Zoom. Nancy has helped hundreds of writers bring out their full potential, and the valuable information in this free class can help you, too.

Let’s take a look at what’s in this issue:

This month, we’re proud to once again feature award-winning fantasy author Sebastien de Castell on the cover. Sebastien set out to defy reader expectations in his most recent release, The Malevolent Seven, after noticing the fantasy genre was becoming overly formalized, with strict conventions emerging for characters and settings. “I was pushing back against that,” he says. “writing an unruly fantasy novel that would barrel along without regard for more modern sensibilities. I was going to write not to entertain someone else’s expectations but instead to entertain myself and refuse to worry about whether the book would ever sell to a publisher.” In our interview, Sebastien tells me how much his novel changed from first draft to last, why he needs to be able to identify with all of his characters, and how he celebrates finishing a book.

Next, illustrator and thriller novelist Joanna Vander Vlugt explains what comes next once you’ve typed “The End” on the first draft of your story. “Now the challenging work begins, prepping that manuscript for publication,” she says. “You’ve decided to self-publish. What does that entail? A lot.” Joanna recommends hiring professionals to design and edit your book—and that’s just the beginning. Connecting with other writers in online groups, promoting the book with the help of a publicist, and producing an audiobook version of your novel are also items she insists you should add to your to-do list, as they can be effective ways of getting your name out there.

Then, author Katie Marie calls our attention to an injustice she often sees in horror stories: people with disabilities being portrayed in a way that makes them out to be monsters. “They themselves are the threat, the horror, or victim of demonic possession,” Katie writes. “This kind of horror minimizes the suffering of … a tragic disease for thrills and scares.” So what’s the solution? For writers, an awareness of the problem and a commitment to fair portrayal of people with disabilities is a good start.

And finally, we hear from authors Charles Breakfield and Roxanne Burkey, who write thrillers that center around technology. It’s one of those fields that lends itself to exciting stories, but can also expose the dangers of a world that’s constantly evolving as it moves forward. “Our professional career taught us that the benefits of technology outweigh the risks,” they write. “We also find it only takes one conniving manipulator with evil intentions to ruin it for the rest of us.” But other than the presence of a villain, there are several more elements a story needs in order to be great. Find out what they are and how your stories can benefit.

It’s time I stopped talking about it and let you get into it! Take a break, find a cozy place to curl up, and enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine.

Happy reading,

Timothy Pike
Editor-in-chief, Books & Buzz MagazineSubscribe now for free!

Stop procrastinating! Let Your Writing Flow …

Timothy Pike

“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
—Author Richard Bach


As writers, we all know we should be persistent, yet we’ve all probably been in situations where we gave up too early.

For example, writing a novel. It’s not easy but you know it’s something you can do.

But what if your best intentions to stick with it are always getting derailed by being too much of a perfectionist?

Or by struggling to think of ideas?

Or perhaps the worst of all, by procrastinating to the point where you get nothing done?

Believe me, I’ve been there.

Nancy Strauss

Nancy Strauss

To help you move past these obstacles, I’ve partnered with Nancy Strauss, a seasoned creative writing pro and founder of Creative Writing Now, to bring us her expertise in a free Zoom class on May 3rd.

This class is 100% free and contains plenty of valuable information, but should you decide to purchase any of her other courses, our partnership allows me to receive a commission (at no extra cost to you). This helps me keep our writing community up and running, so thank you for your understanding and support!

If you write fiction, this upcoming class, called Let Your Writing Flow, is perfect for you.

In this FREE, live class, Nancy will cover topics like how to:

  • avoid procrastination
  • control perfectionism
  • generate great story ideas
  • make it easy to start writing
  • prevent a story from running out of steam in the middle
  • keep the words flowing easily!

The information in this FREE Zoom class could mean the difference between tossing your manuscript into a drawer only to forget about it … and finally finishing your first draft.

And what a great feeling, finishing that first draft. It’s a huge achievement that means you’ve come a long way as a writer.

It’s also when the light at the end of the tunnel appears.

And all because you were able to focus and hang in there.

Enrollment is limited, so learn more and enroll here. Again, this writing class is free!

This month: How to live like a medieval monk, what I wish I’d known about literary agents, and preserving Jack Vance’s legacy

Books & Buzz Magazine, April 2023, Volume 5 Issue 7Welcome, readers and writers, to the April issue of Books & Buzz Magazine!

Before we get started, I’d like to invite you to join our ChapterBuzz community, where there’s something for everybody. Writers can share their work, both works-in-progress and published books, and readers can delight in a growing library of exciting stories.

Let’s take a look at what’s in this issue:

This is the Letter From the Editor in the latest issue of Books & Buzz Magazine. Not a subscriber? Start getting all of our great articles by subscribing for free!

We start with the cover, where you’ll find author and medieval historian Danièle Cybulskie, who is on a quest to make the Middle Ages as fun, entertaining, and engaging as possible. Her latest book, How to Live Like a Monk, explores how applying some of the traditions and practices of medieval monks to our own lives can lead to better living. “This book illuminates the day-to-day of medieval European monasticism,” her book teaser tells us, “showing how you can apply the principles of monastic living, like finding balance and peace, to your life.” In my interview with Danièle, you’ll hear about how she became a writer by accident, the surprising feeling her fans get from reading her work, and why she sometimes looks to Madonna—the singer—for inspiration.

Then, since he was thirteen years old, award-winning author Matthew Hughes has been a huge fan of science fiction writer Jack Vance’s work. Now, a decade after the legendary author’s death, several writers, Matthew among them, have been given license to create new characters and stories that take place in the universes Vance made popular, as part of a new series. “Which is a wonderful idea,” Matthew says, “because those milieus of fantasy and space opera are far too good to be left to dwindle in SF’s rearview mirror.” When it’s far too easy for tribute stories like these to have a mass-produced feel, Matthew is happy to have built the best castle he could while, as he puts it, playing in another author’s sandbox.

Next, when award-winning author Jane Baird Warren‘s first agent agreed to part ways after losing enthusiasm for the novel Jane was writing, she was crushed. “I’d expected that answer,” Jane says, “but it was still a knife to the gut that she didn’t fight to keep me as a client.” Although she struggled to pick herself up and continue writing, she eventually finished her novel, found a new agent, and landed a book deal—proving that sometimes, the second time’s the charm.

Finally, children’s author Diann Floyd Boehm recounts how her social media routines—which she refers to as “The Beast”—became overwhelming as she joined more social networks. But it didn’t happen all at once. “The Beast crept up on me,” she writes, “promising much but steadily devouring more and more of my time, attention, and energy.” It started with blogs, but when Facebook came along and then Instagram, they were all placing demands on her time in different ways. In her helpful article, you’ll learn how Diann managed to “tame The Beast”—while harnessing the power of social media to connect with her fans.

No need to wait … dig right in and enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine!

Happy reading,

Timothy Pike
Editor-in-chief, Books & Buzz MagazineSubscribe now for free!

This month: a novel-writing challenge, creating fantasy worlds, and why short stories are so hot right now

Books & Buzz Magazine, March 2023, Volume 5 Issue 6Welcome, readers and writers, to the March issue of Books & Buzz Magazine!

The biggest news out of our community is the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, which kicks off today. The Challenge takes writers on a year-long, guided journey through writing and publishing a novel, and it’s still open for registration as we gear up. But it won’t be for long, so if you’re an aspiring novelist, seize this opportunity before the doors slam shut!

For now, let’s flip through the virtual pages of this month’s issue:

This is the Letter From the Editor in the latest issue of Books & Buzz Magazine. Not a subscriber? Start getting all of our great articles by subscribing for free!

We start with Hank Phillippi Ryan, award-winning author and Emmy-winning investigative journalist, who’s out with a brand-new thriller, The House Guest. In our interview, Hank talks about how she came up with the premise: “I started thinking about how many couples are shocked when one of them is accused of some crime and the other one says those very words: ‘Oh, I had no idea!'” Hank says, admitting that in her own marriage, she can only hear bits and pieces of her husband’s work conversations while he’s in his office at home. “My husband could be doing who knows what in the other room, and if the feds swooped down on him, I would be utterly shocked.” Read our interview with Hank to hear how this new tale of greed, gaslighting, and female empowerment—with healthy doses of betrayal and revenge—took shape from there.

Then, fantasy author Zachary Hagen gives us a crash course in building a fantasy world that really works. “These ideas are the products of hours of worldbuilding and creating a lore and system that made sense,” he says. “Let my process guide and inform, but don’t think that you can’t reinvent some things for yourself and your own process.” Zachary has some helpful suggestions on how to gather ideas, decide what happens in the world you’ve created, then fill that new realm with all manner of people and creatures.

Next, we hear from author Fern Brady, who insists that a less-than-glowing review of your novel can actually be a good thing. Since the art you produce as a writer isn’t going to please everybody, knowing that it stirred a strong reaction—positive or negative—in a reader is an achievement in itself. “Like a painting or a piece of music,” she writes, “there will always be those who connect to it and those who don’t.” Unqualified praise feels better, of course, but don’t dismiss the many upsides of a thumbs-down review.

Finally, science fiction and horror author KC Grifant explains why now is the time to be writing short stories. One big advantage compared to writing novels, she says, is that it takes much less time to go from start to published work. “Finishing a story of any length in and of itself is rewarding,” KC says, “and can get you into the published world more quickly than a novel.” In her article, you’ll learn what all short stories should include, how much you can make as a writer of short stories, and the number of words that puts you in the “sweet spot” for most markets.

Settle in, treat your literary mind to the delights we have on offer, and enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine.

Happy reading,

Timothy Pike
Editor-in-chief, Books & Buzz MagazineSubscribe now for free!

3 reasons you should take your time writing Chapter One

Timothy PikeThe first 30 days of our 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, which starts on March 1st, are dedicated to writing the first chapter of your novel.

But wait … if it takes a month to write one chapter, won’t it take years to write the whole book?

Nope! In fact, after Chapter One, you’ll be on track to get your first draft done in just six months.

Why is this? It’s because when you invest some time in writing Chapter One, it brings 3 big benefits:

1. Lays the foundation. A lot of the fun, imaginative work is done in the first chapter—dreaming up settings, introducing characters, and developing your writing style. As you move on to the next chapters, and new ideas start coming to you left and right, you’ll be able to stay focused by building on what you already have.

2. Hooks readers. There are moments in Chapter One that are totally key: your first sentence, first paragraph, and first page are of utmost importance for pulling your readers in, and the very last scene is your chance to end on a cliffhanger, so readers can’t help but keep turning the pages. During the first 30 days, you’ll learn how to do all this!

3. Confidence & momentum. Once you’ve written a solid first chapter, it gets easier from there. As you get more comfortable with the basics of novel writing, you gain the confidence and motivation you need to pick up the pace.

Starting March 1st, join us in the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge and take the first 30 days to write your first chapter.

In just the first 14 days, you’ll learn about:

  • Turning your idea into a story
  • How much planning should you do?
  • How to write an elevator pitch
  • Where to find inspiration for more ideas
  • Creating your first setting
  • Why write a synopsis?
  • How to write a killer first sentence
  • How your first paragraph can draw in more readers
  • Breathing life into your main character
  • How to write a first chapter that pops

Sign up for FREE for all of this … and much more!

The story you’ve always wanted to tell is waiting for you. All you need to do is tell it!

See you there,
Timothy Pike (Tim)
Founder of ChapterBuzz

Join our writing group

Learn more about TimIn just under two weeks, we’ll be firing up our laptops (or blowing the dust off our notebooks or opening up our dictation apps) and gathering all of our best story ideas.

For what?

For the golden opportunity: the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, the excuse you’ve been waiting for to sit down and write that novel you’ve always wanted to write.

You know, the one your gut tells you could be a bestseller? The one readers will be telling all their friends about? The one that will kick off your career as a prolific author of independent novels?

Yes, that one!

You’ll get a lesson a day, covering everything from how to write Chapter One to how to publish your book—and everything in between.

It’s a step-by-step guide to writing a novel.

We’ll start with how to turn an idea into a plot … and by the end of the first 30 days, you’ll have your first chapter written. From there, full speed ahead!

The Challenge starts March 1st, and it’s free. Register now and join us in our writer forum so we can start getting to know each other before the Challenge starts!

Your 365-day guide to writing a novel

Learn more about TimIt’s time to achieve your biggest writing dream!

If you’ve always wanted to write a novel and publish it for the world to read, here’s your chance.

The 365-Day Indie Author Challenge is a year-long, interactive course that will take you from blank page to published book—in other words, the start of your career as an indie author!

We kick off on March 1st this year, and it’s free to join.

In just the first 14 days, we’ll cover:

  • How much planning should you do?
  • Turning your idea into a story
  • How to write an elevator pitch
  • Where to find inspiration for more ideas
  • Let’s create your first setting
  • Why write a synopsis?
  • How to write a killer first sentence
  • How to make your first paragraph entice readers
  • Breathing life into your main character
  • How to write a first chapter that pops

The rest of the year teaches all aspects of writing a novel, editing, self-publishing, social media for authors, and book launch.

Join us for the Challenge and you’ll have access to all 365 daily lessons for free.

But you’ll also get to meet other writers who are just as motivated as you are to write & publish their novels this year in our writer forum, a friendly place for us to meet, share, and learn.

This year, let’s get it done!

The 365-Day Indie Author Challenge is back, and we are ready to rock

Learn more about TimReady to finally write that novel?

The 365-Day Indie Author Challenge is just around the corner, and it’s designed to help you write an excellent novel and publish it on Amazon.

This could be the start of the lifelong career you’ve dreamed of as an independent novelist!

It all starts with one book.

Once you have that first published book under your belt, it gets easier to add more and build your readership while increasing your income from book sales.

Check it out here … the Challenge starts March 1st, it’s free to sign up, and I’d love to see you there!

I’m losing sleep over this story ending. Help me out!

Books & Buzz Magazine, February 2020, Volume 2 Issue 6Editor’s note: This story comes to us courtesy of Cynthia A. Jensen, independent author and occasional columnist for Books & Buzz Magazine.

I found myself intrigued with the ending, and wanted to invite our readers to come up with their own endings—so I can stop losing sleep over this!

Have a read, and be sure to leave a comment afterwards:

The Letter
by Cynthia A. Jensen

A letter arrived, and the news was not good. At least for Lani, anyway. I didn’t know anything about it until she came home from work and ripped the envelope open.

“Oh, no. No, no, no,” she cried, putting her head in her hands.

“What is it?” I asked, getting up from the sofa and approaching her. I put my arm around her shoulder. “Let me see.”

She moved away from me and started stomping around the living room. “Why?” She threw her hands in the air and shook the letter. “This is so unfair!”

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” I sat back down on the sofa and picked my book back up.

My sister flopped beside me and reread the typed print on her letter. I bent over towards her to try and catch a glimpse of what she was having a spaz about, but she pulled it away to the other side of her so I couldn’t see.

“What are you doing?” She asked, glaring at me with a look in her eyes I rarely saw.

“Just trying to see what is making you so upset.”

“It’s not any of your business,” she screamed. “You may be my sister, but you don’t have to know EVERYTHING that goes on in my life!”

“You’re right,” I scoffed and left the living room and headed for the kitchen. Guess who followed me in.

“I don’t believe this!” She said waving the letter around.

I got the pitcher of iced tea out of the refrigerator. “Want some?” I asked.



“Yes, please,” she mocked. I poured two glasses of tea and placed them on the kitchen table. We sat down and each took a sip.

“Needs sugar,” Lani commented.

I got up and grabbed the box of sugar and two iced tea spoons and put them on the table. I measured out two spoonfuls of sugar and stirred my tea. My sister poured a ton of sugar in hers and stirred. There was so much sugar in her glass it looked like a snow globe.

“Nice.” I said, rolling my eyes and taking a sip from my glass.

“I don’t care about anything anymore. I wish this was a whiskey sour. I can’t believe they would do this to me.”

She was talking about the letter again. I kept trying to steal glances, but she noticed every time and moved it further away from me.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on, or are you going to be a drama queen for the rest of your life?” I asked.

Her cell phone rang at that exact time, and she answered it with tears. “Hi, Kellie. You won’t believe what came today in the mail.”

I thought I would finally find out what was going on. My sister looked at me and picked up the envelope and left the table, unknowingly leaving the letter behind. Finally, I thought. Now I can see what the hell she was having a conniption about. So, as I reached out to pick up the letter, I knocked my iced tea over on it.

Picking up the wet letter, I saw the words all smeared together. Now it was my turn to throw a fit, because I would never know what the letter was about.

The End

Can you come up with an alternate ending? Leave a comment below with your version of the ending, along with a link to your site!