Reading and writing are two of life’s great pleasures

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

If you’re an avid reader, I have some exciting news: in the month ahead, you can look forward to another limited-time book giveaway! Make sure to subscribe to our e-mail updates so you don’t miss the announcement.

If you’re an aspiring novelist, I have just the opportunity for you. Are you ready to finally make it happen? Join us in the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, which starts on March 1st. That’s right, we finally have another session starting! Take the next year to write an outstanding novel, edit it, publish it on Amazon, and set up a social media strategy to build your author platform. Let’s make this March the start of your career as an independent author of novels.

When you enter the Challenge, you’ll be joining a community of dedicated writers who want to help each other achieve their goals. Of course, everyone’s goals are different, but the first step in becoming a prolific author is getting your first book out there, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on.

For now, let’s dig right in and explore 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!


On the cover is critically acclaimed author KC Grifant, whose first book, Melinda West: Monster Gunslinger, comes out this month. Even though it’s her debut novel, KC is no newcomer to the literary world, with numerous shorter works appearing in magazines and anthologies. Even at young age, KC’s mind was buzzing with imaginative story ideas. “I started writing around fourth grade,” she says. “My first stories focused on fantasy stories, including one about a girl who shrunk to pilot a paper airplane.” In our interview, KC talks about some of the biggest influences on her writing, how she squeezes every minute out of each day, and how a card game led her to discover the “weird west” genre and eventually create the two main characters that feature in her novel.

Next, Diane Bator tells the story of how she became a published author and admits it wasn’t easy. “Even when the writing path is what someone has dreamed of their entire life,” she says, “it takes a lot of work and determination just to get started, let alone keep going.” Find out how Diane went against well-meaning advice—from people close to her—that she give up writing, why she thought of her first book as a “Franken-novel,” and how she dealt with some of the bumps along the road, including the brilliant move that turned one of the lowest points in her career into one of the highest. It’s a motivating story for anyone with lofty goals—in any area of life.

Then, award-winning author Val Collins takes us into the past to explore how women have been portrayed in thriller stories since the mid-nineteenth century. “The authors of these stories were men of their time,” she explains, “and the early female detectives had very different lives from their male colleagues.” There have been ups and downs, but the situation has mostly improved over the years, and the female characters in books today are quite different. “I am particularly drawn to psychological thrillers that show what ordinary women are capable of,” Val says. “Their only weapons are their intelligence, courage, and determination to survive.” Take a journey through history and see for yourself.

And finally, author Nzondi (Ace Antonio Hall) has some helpful advice for authors who are seeking a traditional publishing deal. Turns out, agents and publishers are looking for very specific things when they read your manuscript, starting with the name of your main character. “There is nothing more irritating to the agent or publisher reading your manuscript,” he says, “than not knowing who the protagonist is.” Many industry professionals are buried under piles of submissions and don’t have time to read very far, so if you wait too long to reveal certain information, you risk not grabbing their attention. Learn nine of the most important things you should include right up front in your story.

As you know, reading and writing are two of the biggest pleasures in life, so in the coming weeks, be sure to carve out some time for both. And of course, save 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!

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A new year, with new stories to be devoured

Books & Buzz Magazine, January 2023, Volume 5 Issue 4Happy New Year, Books & Buzz readers!

From our growing Member-Only Reads section at ChapterBuzz to our lineup of fantastic authors for the cover of this magazine, I am pumped for what lies ahead in the coming year.

2023 promises a plethora of brand-new novels, gripping stories, sudden twists, and big reveals—and if you’re a writer, plenty of tips on how to do all this.


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 kick off with this month’s featured author, Edward Willett, an award-winning, U.S.-Canadian author of science fiction and fantasy who also works as a freelance editor, hosts a podcast, runs a publishing company, and performs as a professional actor and singer. Edward’s way with words showed up when he taught himself to read at an early age—and even skipped a grade in elementary school as a result—before completing his first short story at eleven. “Like most writers,” he says, “I began as a reader. I read everything under the sun, but because I had two older brothers who read science fiction and fantasy, I gravitated toward that.” I caught up with Edward to ask him why he wanted to become an author, what challenges he overcame, and how he comes up with his stories, the latest of which involves both outer space and a wisecracking cat.

Next, author Kim Lengling shows us how to engage readers with all five senses in our writing. “We’ve all read a book where we feel as if we were there, within the pages, hanging out with the characters, getting to know them, and feeling a personal connection,” she says. The secret to this level of realism in your own work, Kim tells us, is employing all the senses as you write your story. Turns out, the easiest way to dial in to this mindset is to pay close attention to everything that’s going on around you. Kim uses a trip to her local coffee shop as an example of how to connect to your surroundings and ignite your senses.

Then, Joel McKay, award-winning horror author, is happy to announce that the novella—a book that fills that sweet spot between short story and novel—is poised to make a comeback. “The industry seems to be embracing an old-school format,” Joel writes, “that just a few years ago had a reputation as a reliable money loser.” This comeback is enabled, in part, by print-on-demand technology, which turns the economics of production on its head and allows writers to easily publish novellas for an audience that is increasingly hungry for the format. Find out the other reasons for this shift in reading habits and why Joel thinks novellas are here to stay.

And finally, author and poet Belinda Betker cautions us about getting so wrapped up in “the rules” of writing that we find ourselves unable to actually write. “The proverbial blank page or blank screen staring back at you can feel intimidating, accusatory, judgemental,” she writes, adding that even the number of rules there are is unclear. “There are ten rules to know and follow,” she says. “Or eight, or sixteen, or eleven, or twenty-five, or maybe just five, depending on the source you choose to believe.” And if you still end up with writer’s block, Belinda has some excellent tips to help you move past it and get on with your creative pursuits.

Now that you’ve seen the last of your holiday guests off, tacked a brand-new calendar up on the wall, and lit a hot, crackling fire, it’s time to settle in, get cozy, and enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine.

Happy reading,

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

As the holidays approach, our imaginations aren’t taking any time off

Books & Buzz Magazine, December 2022, Volume 5 Issue 3Welcome, readers and writers, to the December issue of Books & Buzz Magazine!

This month, an international news correspondent talks about how he started writing thrillers; Christmas arrives, and an author must work through painful memories of holidays past in order to stay focused on his writing; another author celebrates how independent publishing allows for a diversity of thought that traditional publishers might not approve of; and we learn how to publish a book on your own without spending a lot of green.


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!


Let’s find out how this all comes together:

First, bestselling author and journalist Humphrey Hawksley has been covering news stories around the globe for the BBC since the early 1980s, and writing thrillers about fictional (but plausible and quite frankly, terrifying) geopolitical scenarios since the mid-1990s. The protagonist of his current series, Rake Ozenna, was modeled after people he encountered while on assignment on a small island just miles from the U.S.-Russian border. “I was living among some of the toughest people,” Humphrey says, “whose sense of environment and survival is second to none.” He goes on to talk about the moment he knew he wanted to be a foreign news correspondent, a meeting with a publisher that didn’t go as planned, and the hardest part of making the leap from journalism to fiction writing.

Next, we hear from author Doug Lawrence, whose feelings around this time of year are mixed. While it’s a season filled with excitement, it also brings up painful memories for Doug after his wife passed away from cancer in 2021. But even though it’s difficult, he knows he needs to concentrate on his work as best he can. “It has been easy to lose sight of the goal line,” he says, “and the fact that if I don’t stay focused, no one else will.” Find out how this author strikes the balance between gathering material for his writing and gathering family for the holidays.

Then, author Mark Everglade believes that independent publishing offers a diversity of thought not found in traditional publishing, mainly because big corporations refuse to publish material that threatens their business models. “Now is the time for the indie community to rise,” Mark says. “Now is the time for democracy in action—and nowhere is that truer than in the books we write.” Since the top five publishers control 75% of the industry, it’s harder for certain worldviews and narratives to see the light of day. Mark explains how big the problem is, then offers a simple solution.

Finally, author Stephanie Ellis has some sound tips for self-publishing on a budget. “Word-processing software, paying for covers, proofing, editing—the costs add up,” Stephanie writes. “There may be times when you have to pay out, but you can reduce costs considerably. Don’t let fear stop you.” Self-publishing can be a long process with a lot of moving parts—especially if you are doing everything yourself—but there are plenty of products and services available to help you do it for a lot cheaper, if not altogether free, while still releasing a quality product.

May your holidays be full of good cheer, good company, and good food—and may you find a few moments to slip away from it all, revel in the quiet, 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 man wakes up naked in an NYC park, the future of cybercrime, and a traveling cat

Books & Buzz Magazine, October 2022, Volume 5 Issue 1Happy October, readers!

I’m excited to feature Mark Leslie this month, an award-winning horror and speculative fiction author who’s also played integral roles in the publishing industry for decades. Ever since childhood, Mark’s active imagination has led him from the most intriguing “what ifs” to the darkest possibilities. “I would tell myself serialized stories that would last weeks and weeks,” he recounts in our interview. “Sometime in my childhood I discovered the magic of putting my stories down on paper. That way, when I moved on, those stories remained.” Find out how Mark’s imagination has led him to a prolific writing career, what he wrote about in the “gigantic epic” he penned at age fourteen, and how a trip to New York City inspired his latest series.

To start with, a bit of news: the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, a guided, year-long “zero to published novel” program, is kicking off its fifth session, and there’s still time to hop on the writing train with us.

For now, settle in, because you’re going to love these superb articles:


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!


First, Philip Fracassi, award-winning author and screenwriter, sees his writer friends posting about their success every day and wonders if this causes some writers to overestimate everyone else’s level of success and underestimate their own. “I’d like you to remember that many writers, myself included, tend to only post when Good Stuff happens,” he writes, “leaving the Bad Stuff for some of our ‘offline’ circles to hear about.” No matter how you feel about what you’ve achieved as a writer, you’ll be inspired by this motivating piece, which ends with a quick pep talk reassuring us that all of our hard work will pay off.

Then, Carrie Carter tells us the story behind the story: how Asti, a petite, opinionated cat, became such an enormous part of her life and ended up with a starring role in her debut novel. “Her cat personality never failed to amuse me,” Carrie writes, “and I found myself so enthralled with her that it made me want to write about her fictional journey.” In this entertaining article, you’ll get to know this tiny kitty with an outsized personality, hear about Carrie and Asti’s pre-writing ritual, and learn why she ultimately had to force herself to write two sentences a day to finish her novel.

Finally, authors Charles Breakfield and Roxanne Burkey are full-time technologists who write about emerging technologies and the growing threat of cybercrime. “As storytellers, we focus on real technology as today’s cyber threats in our novels to alert folks that bad actors are ready to attack them from the dark net,” they write. Check out the four predictions they make about how our world will adapt to accommodate these technologies.

Kick back in your most comfortable reading spot, let the aroma of your favorite pumpkin spice beverage carry you into our world of literary adventure, 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 a novel

Learn more about TimWhen it comes to writing a novel, different authors write at different paces. Sometimes wildly different.

Michael Crichton, for example, took 20 years to write his novel Sphere.

Meanwhile, other writers are setting land-speed records in NaNoWriMo, clocking in at just one month.

But there’s a happy medium, and it’s one year.

This is just what the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge is all about, and here are the reasons I argue it’s better to take your time when writing a novel (especially if it’s your first):

1. It’ll just be better. I suppose you could write your first draft in a month-long frenzy, but it’s risky. What you end up with could be difficult to work with, as many writers have found out. By putting more time into fleshing out your ideas, learning why story structure is so important, and taking care with the words you put on the page, you’ll have a more solid foundation to build on.

2. You’ll come up with more ideas. By spending more time with your story and your characters, new ideas will come to you. Perhaps as you’re writing, one of your characters will take you on a side adventure that you’ll decide should feature in the main plot. Your story just got better!

3. You’ll get to know your characters. As you write a novel, you’ll probably find, like many other authors have, that your characters take on a life of their own and become real to you. Sometimes they’ll even speak to you! Let them lead the way at times and see where they take you.

These are the discoveries that await you when you put time into your novel. In the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, we spend the first 30 days just writing our first chapters, and the first six months creating our first drafts.

Come learn with us, and get ready to become a published author this year!

Your chance to have a published novel … for the holidays!

Learn more about TimIf you’d like to have a published novel, ready for people to order by holiday season 2023, get started writing now!

And the best way to get started? The 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, starting October 1st.

This will be the last start date of the Challenge for this year, so don’t put this off!

You’ll love the writing group dynamic, the discussions in our writer forum, daily lessons and tips, and the feeling of getting closer to a published book every single day.

Not to mention holding your published book in your hand by this time next year!

This is a free Challenge, so now you have every reason in the world to push yourself, connect with a friendly group of writers, and spend the next 365 days writing a brilliant novel.

We’ll get it published on Amazon and ready to sell for Holiday Season 2023. You can sign up here and we’ll get started on October 1st!

Novelists: How to write a first chapter that rocks!

Learn more about TimWriters, are you interested in attending a webinar?

I’m putting together a FREE, live webinar:

How To Write A First Chapter That Rocks

I’ll be moderating a panel of experts who will teach you everything you need to know about writing the perfect first chapter!

You’ll learn all sorts of tips and tricks, including:

-How to turn your vague ideas into a workable premise for a whole novel
-How to make your opening sentence and paragraph as intriguing as possible
-When you should first introduce your main character
-Why you might (or might not) want to end on a cliffhanger
-Beginner mistakes you should avoid because they can turn readers off

Sign up for details here

I would like to conduct this free webinar before the start of the next 365-Day Indie Author Challenge (starts on October 1st) so you can come into the Challenge even more prepared to tackle your first chapter during the first 30 days.

This free webinar will take place live within the next couple of weeks, but a recording will be saved in case you can’t make it to the live session.

We just need 25 interested writers! If we can get 25 interested writers, we’ll get the green light for the webinar!

Sign up for our newsletter and I’ll send out details about when and how to sign up for the free webinar (or how to access it after the fact).

Share this & let’s reach more writers!

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To your writing success,
Timothy Pike (Tim) | About me

Questions about writing a novel

Learn more about TimWhen it comes to writing a novel, I want to know …

What do you want to know?

You’ve probably wondered about what it takes to write a good novel. There are plenty of ins and outs of writing and publishing a quality book, and it can feel overwhelming at first.

That’s why I want to get your most pressing questions, no pun intended!

Here are some things you might be wondering about …

  • The first steps
  • How to write a catchy opening
  • Character development
  • Dialogue
  • Pacing
  • Self-publishing
  • Book promotion

And really, the list could go on and on.

But what’s at the top of your mind? Let me know in the comments below (or send your question to me via e-mail).

And of course, you’ll want answers … sign up for our brand-new newsletter, The Informed Indie Author Newsletter, and I’ll be answering as many questions as I can on a weekly basis.

I want you to be successful in your novel-writing efforts!

What happens when writing dreams become reality?

Books & Buzz Magazine, September 2022, Volume 4 Issue 12Of the 1,100 or so hardy souls who inhabit Denman Island—a chilly slice of maritime paradise resting just off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia—fiction author JP McLean, otherwise known as Jo-Anne, figures among the most prominent.

It was a frigid winter day on the island when Jo-Anne fired up her laptop and began writing her very first novel. “I recall sitting in our living room with the wind howling outside and the rain hitting our windows horizontally,” she tells me. “It was cold and dark, and I didn’t know how I was going to get through an entire winter cooped up in the house.” In my interview with her, Jo-Anne talks about how she ended up living on this small island, her simple goal every time she sits down to write, and how she based her debut novel on a recurring dream about being able to fly.

Speaking of chilly weather, fall is a great time to write a novel, isn’t it? That’s why I’m offering two autumn start dates for the 365-Day Indie Author Challenge, our free, year-long writing program. It’s your chance to end the year with a published book, and we’re starting soon!


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!


If you’re more into reading than writing, you’ll love ChapterBuzz, where you can keep up on the works-in-progress that these groups of authors share with us over the next 365 days.

And now, here’s what awaits you in this month’s issue:

We start with bestselling author David D. Schein, who wants to save you time and frustration by revealing how he is able to coordinate the large amount of effort—and teams of people—it takes to write his non-fiction books. “I have multiple writing projects in process at any one time,” he says. “It would take years that I do not have to produce each article and book, so I work with researchers for most writing projects.” David lays out his system in detail, with tips for tax write-offs, “work for hire” agreements, and fact checking.

Next, Nicole Fanning, author of the Heart of the Inferno series, admits that she, like many other writers, has experienced impostor syndrome, the feeling of trying to be something you’re not. “It’s the inexplicable urge to rewrite everything you’ve already written because it suddenly doesn’t feel good enough,” Nicole explains. After exploring possible reasons we might find ourselves afflicted, Nicole concludes her article with a number of simple ways to overcome impostor syndrome, which she calls the “uninvited house guest.”

Finally, Cari Lynn Webb, USA Today–bestselling author, understands that despite our best intentions, life can get hectic and totally derail our writing plans. “The one thing I do know is those deadlines come no matter what else is happening,” she writes. “Until the chaos calms, I’ve landed on three sanity savers that also keep me writing.” Cari shares these with us, and also quips about what she does when all else fails.

With the kids back in school, take advantage of the peace and quiet. Find a cozy nook, pour a glass of your favorite beverage, and enjoy this month’s issue of Books & Buzz Magazine.

Happy reading,

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

Starts tomorrow! The 365-Day Indie Author Challenge

Learn more about TimCalling all writers!

If you’ve been wanting step-by-step guidance on writing a novel—and are brave enough to give yourself a deadline of one year from now—this new writing challenge is the way to do it.

In just 365 days, our small group of writers (and you?) will write their novels and become published authors.

The 365-Day Indie Author Challenge starts with Chapter 1, and takes you all the way through self-publishing your book to start your new life as an independent author—along with plenty of tips on how to get the word out about your novel.

This challenge starts tomorrow, so join us!