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!

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!

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!