Confessions of a Squeamish Horror Writer

Happy Wednesday, y’all! You want to talk about horror? Let’s talk about the snow outside when Spring is less than a week away! Where was that snow a month or 2 ago when I wanted it to be here? Now I’m ready for the flowers and the warmer weather. (Warm, not hot.)

This week, we’re continuing the Confessions series with an interesting post from a horror writer … who doesn’t like zombies. Frankly, I’m with him on this. Most of the time. Well, you’ll have to read on to see what I mean … Welcome, Randall Allen Dunn!


Confessions of a Squeamish Horror Writer

by Randall Allen Dunn


I hate zombies.

They’re just so gross.

Don’t get me wrong. As a writer, I like the idea of a bunch of monsters attacking innocent people, some of whom then gear up to destroy the monsters in a mass bid for survival. I just wish the monsters weren’t a gang of dead whatsits crawling from the grave, eyeballs hanging out, hungering for people’s brains while half their limbs fall off.

Seriously, how disgusting do they need to be?

It might not surprise anyone that I hate zombies. Until they discover that I’ve written my own version of a zombie story, in which werewolves attack people in a fairy tale province. Or until I mention that I love horror stories. That’s when people might ask, “How can you love horror, but hate all the gross things that come with it? And aren’t you supposed to be a Christian?”

Yes, to all those things. Love Jesus, love horror. Hate zombies.

It only makes sense when you discover, as I did, how to recognize a horror story.


What is a Horror Story?

In high school, I was cast in the play, Dracula. The vampire story concept fascinated me. A handful of people try to defeat a demonic beast, when they need an army to even survive. But since no one will believe them about the threat, they must fight the vampires on their own.

Which makes them desperate. So desperate they’ll do things they might never do, or imagine themselves doing, under any other circumstances. To defeat a vampire and save humanity, these heroes would steal a car, tell lies, travel great distances in the most severe weather or darkness. Even dig up someone’s grave to chop off their head.

That’s commitment. Blechhh.

The point is the threat of that horror – whether it’s a vampire, ghost, demon, savage animal, or even psychotic killer – reveals the true nature of those heroes. This, to me, is the core of horror and the reason it appeals to me. Horror reveals a person’s character better than any other genre.

Take an example from the film, Jurassic Park. (Yes, Jurassic Park is mainly a science-fiction story, but it’s also a horror story like Jaws, Alien, or Dracula, in which people must fight to survive against a monster that cannot be reasoned with.) When the T-Rex first attacks, the lawyer flees his car, leaving the children unprotected to save himself. Dr. Grant, having clearly established how much he loathes all children, leaves the safety of his car to distract the T-Rex and rescue them. The horror of the T-Rex forced both Dr. Grant and the lawyer to discover their true nature, as a coward or as a fatherly hero.

A horror story is similar to a suspense thriller, except that the threat can only be dealt with in limited ways. The enemy of a suspense thriller is usually a human or an organization that threatens the protagonist. That person or group can be persuaded to relent or can be imprisoned. These same methods won’t stop a horror story threat. Even when the threat is human, like the deadly killer in Halloween, no one would feel safe if this “monster” were simply jailed.


Horror Endings

There are only three ways a horror story can end. Either a.) the monster is destroyed, as in Dracula or Jaws, b.) the heroes permanently escape from the monster, as in Poltergeist or the film version of Jurassic Park, or c.) the monster wins.

The reason many people – especially those of us who love Jesus – can’t stand horror stories is because the only horror stories we know about are the third version. The one that Hollywood filmmakers often choose. Why do filmmakers want horror stories in which the monster wins? Because if Dracula or Freddie Kruger survives, they can continue to star in several money-making sequels. That’s why.

But this third option isn’t always bad. Several cautionary tales like those in The Twilight Zone have sad endings in which the supernatural phenomenon – the horror “monster” –destroys the protagonist. Yet the best of these stories still reveal the character’s true nature, exposing flaws that result in that person’s destruction. (For those who don’t know, a few minutes after fleeing the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, the lawyer gets eaten. Abandoning the kids was a bad moral choice.)

As for me, I don’t usually want the monster to win. Which is one of the reasons I don’t like most popular horror movies. In classic horror films like Dracula, the monster is vanquished. When evil wins instead, it sends an uncomfortable message. (Made even less comfortable by gross effects and falling zombie limbs.) In cautionary tales, we see a protagonist who makes bad moral choices get their comeuppance, showing that a supernatural justice is served, even though it is often severe.

Horror deals with the worst threats we can face. Seeing characters deal with these threats shows us what they’re made of, and what we ourselves can choose to become. Even when evil wins because of a protagonist’s poor choices, we know that that person could have chosen differently and saved themselves. Even in a tragic ending, we know there’s always a chance for good to overcome evil.

That chance – and that choice – is what makes horror such a valuable genre to me.

So if I tell you I love horror, don’t show me blood or gore or falling limbs. Show me a story that reveals a character’s true nature, lurking beneath the surface. Show me whether, in the face of the most severe challenges, they become a hero or a human form of monster.

I would love to read a story like that.


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About the Author:

Randall Allen Dunn, ThrillerWriter, writes action thrillers that read like blockbuster movies. You can find his books online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers. You can also follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and YouTube, and follow his Packing Action blog at


Social Media links (Facebook, Twitter, website, Amazon page, etc.):







Packing Action blog:


Confessions of a Falling Father

Welcome to my blog in 2018 and the continuation of the Confessions series. You’ll be seeing some changes around the blog in general in the coming months, but I so love the Confessions posts that those will keep coming! I hope you get as much out of them as I do.

Due to life stuff, which I won’t go into right now, I was unable to get Confessions posts up in January and February, although I had super posts from people. For the next few weeks, I’ll be doubling up on the Confessions posts in order to “catch up” and share the wisdom from these wonderful people. 

First up, a good friend and amazing father, Chris Morris …


Confessions of a Falling Father 


Hi, I’m Chris Morris and I have seizures.

Wait, maybe that’s the wrong type of confession. No, let’s go with it—let’s just start with the brutal truth. For about the last 5 years, I have averaged 2-4 seizures every day of my life. As a result of this, a number of unusual things are now a part of my normal:

  • I don’t drive. Loss of consciousness while driving is generally frowned upon.
  • I try to avoid stairs. Falling up or down them is not exciting.
  • I run my own business now, because I have to. My previous employer and I agreed that I am not very employable right now.
  • A swimming pool is a terrifying place to have a seizure, so I rarely swim even though we have a pool in the backyard.

I don’t mean to sound whiny, and I’m not complaining. I am giving you the warp and woof of my days so you can understand the depths from which I’m speaking about my life.

Most weeks, I fall to the ground at least once during a seizure. When I have seizures, my body often goes limp. If I am standing, this means I fall to the ground. So it’s up to my 5’2” wife and my three teenage kids to figure out how to catch me. Or deal with the guilt of not catching me (which is far worse for all of us).

Because I am a falling father.


Falling vs. Failing

And if I’m honest, it kills me every time I wake up and see them looking down at me. I have to battle the lie that says that they are looking down on me and thinking less of me. I have to almost forcibly tell myself every time that being a falling father doesn’t make me a failing father.

I used to lose that battle for my mind almost every day. Culture and Scripture tell me that my job as a dude is to be the protector of my family. That I am called by God to rise up and keep them safe. Instead, almost every single day, they have to protect me.

So the thoughts fly fast and furious in my head:

What kind of man are you when you can’t even keep yourself safe, much less your family? How can you expect to ever amount to anything? You’re a loser, a wimp, a coward. You just plain suck!

These whispers can overwhelm if I let them.


Dealing in Truths

Nowadays, I am getting better at fighting back. The anti-depressants really help, but even more powerful are a couple truths I’ve grabbed hold of lately.

I am not defined by any diagnosis. Yes, I have a diagnosis of psychogenic nonepileptic seizures, and it’s true that a lot of doctors don’t even know what this diagnosis is or how to treat it. But, this is only a part of who I am—not the totality of my identity. The core of my identity is found in my faith in Christ. I am a child of God, even if I’m a falling, sometimes failing, child. He doesn’t love me less because I am ill.

My family is for me, no matter what. I have learned to be okay with shedding the façade of American masculinity that tells me I have to be strong and have it all together. My wife and my kids want to know what’s happening in my life and heart. The more I am able to let them in, the stronger our family is. In other words, I am not the only source of strength in this household.

I don’t pretend to understand the bigger questions about my health condition. I don’t know the source of my seizures, even though I haven’t given up hope in finding that out. I don’t know exactly how God fits into all of this, but I take it by faith that He is good, every day, all the time—even when He seems absent.

Instead, I hold tight to what I do know. I know that I am a beloved child of God, through and through. And I know that no seizure will cause my family to abandon me or tire of me. Most days, that’s enough.


About the Author

Chris Morris writes about the juxtaposition of faith and chronic illnesses on his site and conducts interviews with others in the chronic illness community. He is also the founder of Llama Publishing, a micropress that intends to influence the world of Christian thought with books that challenges the status quo.


Confessions of an American Expat

by Jebraun Clifford


In February 2003, my husband and I packed up all our household goods and our young family and moved halfway around the world to New Zealand.

We’ve lived here for almost fifteen years and it’s been an exciting adventure with both its triumphs and its challenges (as well as a whole lot of contradictions!). I thought it would be fun to share on Ralene’s ‘Confessions’ posts.


Confession #1 New Zealand is home.

Even though we came here to plant a church, we decided from the beginning to view ourselves as immigrants rather than missionaries. This place and its people are part of me now. I can’t imagine living anywhere else. I get asked all the time here how often I ‘go back home.’ For me, the answer is always the same: New Zealand is home. When I go to the States, it’s only for a visit.


Confession #2 But I’ll never really belong here.

I’ve made some amazing friends and am fully immersed in New Zealand life (we even hold dual citizenship), but I still feel like an outsider sometimes.

For one thing, there’s my accent. Even though I’ve picked up a heap of new terminology (rubbish for trash, car boot for trunk, standing in a queue instead of standing in line) and now prefer British spelling (theatre, favourite, tyre), I’m unmistakably American as soon as I open my mouth. It makes for interesting conversation opportunities, though. People want to know what I’m doing here. Why would I leave California for New Zealand? When I say God led us here, they often want to hear more about our journey.

And there are the cultural differences, too. I naively thought that NZ would be just like America. We were both once British colonies, and we both speak English, right? How different can it be? The correct answer is way more reasons than I can mention, but I’ll share one I’ve noticed.

In my old mindset, to quote Benjamin Franklin, time is money. Which to me meant time was a precious commodity not to be wasted, so I’d better get things done quickly. In New Zealand, time is people. It’s much more important to build relationships than to tick off the to-do list. I’ve learned to appreciate having endless cups of tea with someone without really accomplishing anything other than solidifying a friendship.

Of course, every time I think I’ve finally cracked the code, I make a cultural faux pas. Thank goodness Kiwis are a gracious bunch.


Confession #3 There are some things about America that I don’t miss.

While we’re basically a two-party political system here, there doesn’t seem to be the same level of animosity toward opposing viewpoints. Oh, there’s debate and disagreement. But it doesn’t seem to be as mean-spirited and downright nasty as the last American presidential election.

And the amount of gun violence in America is also troubling. I’m not here to debate the pros and cons of the Second Amendment, but I’m thankful I live in a country where even the police don’t carry guns.

We’ve also got a pretty good health system here. Our taxes are higher, but you’re not going to get into thousands of dollars of debt because of a car accident.


Confession #4 But sometimes I miss friends and extended family so much it hurts.

Years ago, I was back in the States for a visit when I ran into an acquaintance. She made an off the cuff remark about how living in New Zealand was a cushy missionary job. I was too stunned at first to answer her properly, but, as soon as she walked away, I wanted to rage against her insensitivity. New Zealand is the most beautiful place on the planet (in my opinion), but it’s also all by its lonesome at the far edges of the Pacific Ocean.

I’m a twelve hour plane ride from some of the people I love the most. And with my daughter studying in California, it often feels like my heart is split in two. There’s really no way to make the distance smaller. Facebook, Viber, email, and Skype all help. But it’s not the same as physically being there.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve stood at my kitchen sink and cried because I haven’t seen my nieces and nephews grow up or because I missed celebrating another birthday, anniversary, major family holiday, or any other major milestone. God has always been faithful to comfort me during those times, and I’m thankful for the opportunities I have had to be able to go back to catch up with the people I love.

Thanks for joining me as I’ve shared my reflections as an expat. I’d love to answer any other questions that might be out there or hear about your experiences. Connect with me on social media or comment on this post.


About the Author:

Jebraun Clifford always wanted to step through a door into an imaginary kingdom, so it’s no surprise she now calls Middle Earth home. Too short to be an elf and too tall to be a Hobbit, she lives in a gorgeous town smack-dab in the centre of New Zealand’s North Island filled with thermal activity, stunning lakes, and enough Redwoods to make her Californian heart swoon. Her unpublished YA fantasy, The Two Queens of Kyrie, won both the American Christian Fiction Writer’s 2015 First Impressions contest and the 2016 Genesis contest. She loves coffee, tree ferns, dark chocolate, and Jesus, and harbours a secret penchant for British spelling.



Confessions of a Workaholic

I have a confession to make. I like my work. No, I love my work. I am obsessed with it. And I’m beginning to think that’s not such a good thing.

But I love it. I really do.

Since July 2015, when Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, LLC was born, (and even months and months before that, actually, as I was building my team and doing market research) I have been obsessed with perfection.

That is, after all, our motto: “Where Fun and Perfection Meet.”

My work is such fun! I get to sit down with some of the most talented authors I have ever met and listen to their dreams. Then I get to read their prose and fall into each unique world created out of love, passion, and hope. Then if they find a home for their manuscripts with L2L2 Publishing, I get to work with them for months, perfecting their stories through editing and gentle suggestions to continue to build their story worlds (and platforms, if we’re being honest). Then I get to work several more months with my team, creating the perfect cover, writing up ad copy and back cover copy, deciding on the best marketing plan for their book, and letting my team have at it.

Then the author and I get to hold the finished product in our hands. A perfected product, thanks to my perfectionism tendencies. It is the most inspiring moment of my job.

See? Best job ever!

I love it. A little too much.

The hardest part of this for me is to find balance between owning a publishing company, freelance editing (which I have slowed way down on since the business has taken off), writing my own beautiful words, and being a wife, mother, and friend to those I hold dear.

You see, I’m the teeniest tiniest bit an introvert—okay, an extreme introvert—and people scare me. I’m terrified of saying or doing the wrong thing. I’ve actually woken up in the middle of the night, sat straight up in bed, and freaked out over something unfeeling I said or did in high school, for crying out loud! (I actually apologized one of the times this happened—and yes, it happens all the time—and the person didn’t even remember it! Thank you very much, Miss Introvert and Perfectionist Self. Sometimes I don’t like you…)

Wow, tangent! Back to the point.

Balance is hard for me. I want to work all the time. Books are my friends. They don’t judge, backstab, or fight like my darling children whom I adore but cannot understand how their screeches can reach such decibels at times. (Or should I say, all the time? Does this happen to anyone else, or is it just me?)

Monday I received a wake-up call from a well-loved resource, K.M. Weiland’s blog. (Here is the link in case you want to read it for yourself: She experienced burnout this past year, something I am beginning to feel the effects of. And I desperately need to do something about it.

I have already put several things in place to combat this, but I need to up my game. Ensure I can do this for the long haul.

One, I take one rest day a week. Saturday evening to Sunday evening, I can’t be found online. I’m hiding. 😉 No work, nothing. If it involves my business, it sits until 24 hours have passed. God created Sabbath rest for me because He loves me and wants me to enjoy His beautiful world, not keep me from the things I want to do. (Ahem, my work. Because it calls to me. Constantly.)

Two, I try to only work during naptimes, playtimes where my children are engrossed and do not need me, or after they go to bed and I have spent time with my husband. In other words, five minutes a day. (Just kidding!)

Three, I try to take time for me, not just my job. And yes, that’s usually reading a book (though it really should be some form of exercise, right?), but it is something I want to read, not something I have to read. There is such a lovely difference.

So this is me, publisher, editor, author, combating workaholism, perfectionism, and introvertism (Is that even a word? Lol!) to enjoy all God has given me in this precious life. Seize the day, my friend! Follow the lead of the Holy Spirit and make this day the best one yet!

In Him,

Michele Israel Harper

Author, Editor, Publisher



Michele Israel Harper, acquisitions editor of Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, LLC, is on a mission to discover and publish professional, gripping, and wholesome speculative fiction. Currently obtaining manuscripts for their 2019 production schedule, Michele and her team seek stirring tales from both new and established authors. Her company strives to create an exquisite publishing experience for their authors and to produce quality fiction for their readers.

L2L2 Publishing is a small traditional press, dedicated to clean or Christian speculative fiction. The L2L2 Publishing team tackles every new project with relish, and their goal is an uplifting company where each author, reader, and team member puts others’ needs before their own.

Michele now leads the Heartland Christian Writers’ group and is treasurer for ACFW’s Indiana chapter. Author of Wisdom & Folly: Sisters, Zombie Takeover, and the soon-to-be-released Kill the Beast, Michele prays her involvement in writing, editing, and publishing touches many lives in the years to come.

Visit or if you wish to know more about her.

Confessions of a Music Junkie

by H.A. Titus

Music has always been around me. As a kid, I grew up with the sounds of Petra, Michael W. Smith, DC Talk, the Newsboys, and Steven Curtis Chapman mixing alongside Kansas and Rush. As a teen, I discovered Skillet, Relient K, and Kutless while playing flute in an orchestra and singing in a classical choir. So it’s no surprise that music has played and continues to play a large part in my writing process.

I don’t remember when I first started listening to music as I wrote. I used to listen to it a lot when I was brainstorming or before I wrote certain scenes. I have a very strong memory of being fifteen and listening to a song from the first Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack before writing a pirate scene. I do remember the summer I was seventeen, I received my first laptop and my first mp3 player, and from then on, every time I was writing, my earbuds were glued to my head.

I recently went back through one of my old stories that I wrote as a teenager, HalfBlood, about a guy who became a dragon rider. There are still scenes in that book where I remember exactly what part of The Lord of the Rings soundtracks I was listening to as I wrote them.

In 2013, as I began to seriously revise and worldbuild my very first series, I sometimes found it hard to get into my story. I’d just become a new mom, and every time I snuck away as my newborn was sleeping and sat down at my computer, guilt would start nagging at me. “You should be doing the dishes, not working on a hobby that brings in nothing.” “The apartment’s a mess. Why are you sitting on your butt doing nothing productive?”

Despite my husband’s assurance and support, those voices were loud. So in order to shut them up, I took to blasting music with lyrics in my earbuds. That had some really funny results at first–sometimes I would forget what I was doing and begin writing down the lyrics of the song at first. It definitely took time to get used to writing to music, but after a while I discovered that I could get into a zone where my guilty thoughyts and the music would kind of fade into a background noise, and my brain was free to spill onto the page. It also had an effect I wasn’t anticipating…sometimes, if the scene and the song worked together, it ramped up the emotion in the scene dramatically.

About the same time, I began watching the TV show Supernatural. Not only did it renew my love of classic rock, but I started noticing how the songs would fit with the scenes. Between watching it work on a TV show and watching it work in my own writing, I knew I had to leverage this. I began YouTubing and Googling artists that writing friends suggested, then moving on to the artists suggested by those lovely Internet algorithms once they figured out I loved Audiomachine and Skillet. Nowadays I’m on Spotify, and I often given their suggested playlists at least a onceover, even if it’s not necessarily my genre.

These days, I rarely write without music. One of the first things I do when I begin to brainstorm and plot a story is to build a playlist for it. The playlist, just like the storyline, is allowed to evolve and grow as my vision for the story solidifies. Sometimes I find songs that surprise me–I had no idea I’d be sticking a dubstep song into the classic rock and symphonic metal playlist I’d built for my urban fantasy series, but it just fit. I usually end up with an eclectic mix, some of which reminds me of certain characters or iconic scenes, and some of which just sets the mood for the story, but the playlist generally becomes so necessary that I can’t write without it.

It’s fun to see that other writers occasionally do this as well. During a recent re-read of a Brandon Sanderson novel, I discovered he’d created a playlist for his third Stormlight Archive book. I immediately turned it on as I re-read those novels and enjoyed how well most of the songs fit into his words on the page. There’s just something so cool about snuggling down with a book and a playlist of songs specifically put together for that book–the author’s own personal soundtrack to their story. I love how songs can help set me into the tone and feel of a scene, or how the lyrics can provide an even deeper meaning to a character’s feelings.

As a reader, do you ever listen to authors’ playlists while you read their books?


About the Author

H.A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head. She first fell in love with speculative fiction when she was twelve and her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young sons, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world, usually for some kind of adventure. When she’s not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, mountain biking, or skiing. She is the author of the Celtic urban fantasy Forged Steel.




*Forged Steel

Confessions of a Poop Wrangler

By Bokerah Brumley


Sometimes life seems a series of strange and twisty events. It wasn’t that long ago that we were a home-schooling family of seven, living in a rental house in small town, Texas, USA, across the brick street from the Mayor. Then a dream happened …

These days, I wake to roosters crowing before the sun crests the horizon and a flock of free-range turkeys that knock (peck) on the back door—the door nearest my bedroom—while it’s still dark out. On the odd days, when I’m coherent before coffee, I even toss a scoopful of feed to them. They have the sweetest purr-trill when they’re happy. Their enjoyment is my thank you.

I manage a 150-200 animal homestead. The numbers vary with the seasons, births, sales, and butchering. I keep tabs on the health of sheep, goats, livestock guardian dogs, turkeys, peafowl (peacocks), chickens (both broiler/meat and layer/egg), ducks, cats, and quail. We both want to work from a backyard office in our own version of a self-sustaining Eden. So far, it’s been a twenty-four month crash course of information until our eyes bulged with details.

As one would imagine, a big portion of our time is spent managing the waste of 150-200 animals. That part is not quite as glamorous as the last three paragraphs probably seem. I never post pictures of the mountains of excrement the creatures leave behind them or how we use the manure as we repair our depleted soil and “grow dirt.” I save the sharing for the tomatoes or kale we manage to grow because of it. In essence, some day, we’ll be professional poop wranglers, king and queen of a system where all waste is utilized in the production of something else, something useful.


It’s not been easy.

Through mistakes, I’ve learned that goats need copper and how to gauge parasite loads in them by how pink their eyelids are. I’ve learned the best way to tame a herd of wild, deer-like sheep is to pray twins on the ewes then take one of the babies. The whole herd now comes closer because I’m just another mama in the fold. I’ve learned how to butcher poultry, and I’ve grown confident enough in it that I know I can stock our freezer with food to eat, if our need calls for it. I’ve learned how to put chickens to work for me instead of against me. Now they scratch and prepare next year’s garden beds.

In the past two years, I’ve also learned some harsher truths that grow fruit in the other parts of our lives. I’ve held newly hatched quail babies in the palm of my hand as they’ve breathed their last. I’ve lost lambs to opportunistic coyotes, and I’ve had to make the heart-breaking choice to end the suffering of creatures in my care.

But my bottle babies still call for me when they see me trudging across the fields, hiding my weary tears from my children. Sweet Pea, Mountain Girl, and Butterscotch still follow me as though I’m the best thing they’ve seen all day.

I always watch the next sunrise. Then the goat nannies surprise me with triplets on a day that’s not circled on the calendar or the skittish ewe finally eats from my hand. Life can be unyielding, and unhappy things are often unwanted guests. Breathe through the hard. Plant again and again; something will bloom.

No matter how many times failure comes to visit, we get up, dust off, and try once more. 

The big picture isn’t shattered if a “no” or a “not yet” comes around for a time. Gentle hands turn wild things into four-legged friends, and treats make a difference. Persistence always pays off.

In the end, we keep on. It’s our dream. We’ve been gifted the opportunity to build it.


Poop Wrangler Funnies


Some of the weirdest things that I’ve said… 

“Do you think I could put the goat in a baby carrier? Would the organizers mind? I could pretend it’s cosplay.” 

“Don’t pee on the chickens.”



About the Author:

Bokerah Brumley is a speculative fiction writer making stuff up on a trampoline in West Texas. When she’s not playing with the quirky characters in her head, she’s addicted to Twitter pitch events, writing contests, and social media in general. She lives on ten permaculture acres with five home-educated children and one husband. In her imaginary spare time, she also serves as the blue-haired President of the Cisco Writers Club. 

In 2016, she was awarded first place in the FenCon Short Story Contest, third place in the Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest, fifth place in the Children’s/Young Adult category for the 85th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, and selected as a 2016 Pitch Slam! finalist. More recently, she accepted novel contracts with Clean Reads Press and Liberty Island Media. She also moonlights as an acquisitions editor for The Crossover Alliance. Follow her farm tales on Instagram.


Confessions of a Biker Chick

by Virginia Smith


I’ve had many goals over the years, a lot of items on my bucket list. I wanted to learn to scuba dive. (Check.) I wanted to publish a novel. (Check.) I wanted to travel to other countries. (Check.) Riding motorcycles was not on my list. I’m not particularly coordinated, so why would I want to fly down the road at high speeds balancing on two wheels, vulnerable to traffic and exposed to weather?

Then I married a motorcycle enthusiast. If I wanted to spend time with him, I had to ride. And guess what? The very first time I climbed onto the back of his bike and wrapped my arms around his waist I became a dyed-in-the-wool Biker Chick. What freedom! What fun! I could take pictures, plot books, sing at the top of my lungs, and spread my arms wide to the wind and embrace the world. A few years ago I decided I wanted my own motorcycle, so I bought one and named her Kelly. Which leads me to my first Confession.

Confession #1: I am a control freak.

Though I love riding with my husband, I want to be in charge. I love the challenge of seeing a sharp curve up ahead, of leaning the bike into the curve, slowly pulling the throttle to gain speed as O reach the apex, and zooming out to the straightaway. Though I do still sing (and often pray!), I can’t spend brain-power plotting stories or gazing at the scenery because…I’m in control! And that’s the way I like it.

Confession #2: I like speed.

Only a biker can fully understand why dogs hang their heads out the window. The sensation of wind as you zoom down the road is a rush you can’t get in a car. But it isn’t only the speed that’s appealing. From a car you see your surroundings; on a motorcycle, you experience them. The scent of pine trees as you ride through a forest, the feel of the cool breeze blowing across a mountain lake, the warmth of the sun and the chill of the shadows. Nature is closer, more intimate when nothing separates you.

That isn’t always a good thing. A spray of rocks on the road takes on a whole new meaning when you’re zooming along at 50 mpg with nothing between you and the pavement but couple of tires made of a half-inch of rubber. Driving through a herd of buffalo in Yellowstone National Park is pretty cool in a car; on a bike it becomes a heart-pounding encounter. Seeing a doe and her fawn on the side of the road is exhilarating, but on a bike you know at any time she might dash into your path. You have to be super-aware of your surroundings and constantly alert. So yeah, there’s the thrill of conquering potential dangers too. I guess that makes me a thrill-seeker.

Confession #3: I like the clothes.

My helmet is covered in flowers and butterflies. My riding jacket is purple Kevlar with pads in all the critical places. My boots are leather and super-stylish, as are my gloves and chaps. I have a Harley Davidson black leather vest. And under all the protective gear I get to wear bling! Biker chick clothing usually displays elaborate designs and is often covered with rhinestones and glitter. And you don’t have to be shaped like a Barbie doll to wear it. Lady bikers love to show off their clothing, and nobody cares if you fill yours out more than somebody else.

Confession #4: I like to belong.

Motorcycle riders belong to a brotherhood (I use the term inclusive of both genders). There’s even a secret hand signal! Okay, not so secret, but we do have a sign we give each other. I call it The Wave. It isn’t a normal wave, with your arm over your head shaking your hand back and forth. Oh, no, it’s much cooler than that. When a motorcycle approaches in the oncoming lane, each biker drops his or her left hand, fingers loose, with two extended like a relaxed peace sign. The other fingers are also loose, not tightened into a fist. The arm is not stiff or extended too far, just kind of swung out from the side a bit. The gesture is laid back. Relaxed. Casual. Unperturbed.  Very cool, ‘cause bikers are cool.

This brotherhood became real to me three years ago when I went to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota. I was a passenger on my husband’s bike and we were leaving Buffalo Chip, which is a huge campground packed with more than a hundred thousand motorcycles each day during the rally. It was late at night and pitch dark, and we inched along in a line of a gazillion motorcycles heading back to their hotels. The road consisted of packed dirt. We came to a stop. My husband put his foot down to balance us, and stepped into a rut he couldn’t see. The motorcycle tipped, and as we fell, I thrust my arm out to brace myself. Mistake. I broke my shoulder badly. I laid there on the ground in terrible pain while our friends called an ambulance. Traffic stopped, of course. At first people were irritated, and I could hear horns honking in the distance—until they realized a biker was down. The next thing I knew motorcycles circled me, their headlights shining on me so my friends could see to help me. Other bikes created a lighted path for the ambulance to navigate the dark campground roads to find me. When the paramedics arrived they had no trouble seeing. The place was as bright as day from the motorcycle headlights.

Do you know why they helped? Because I’m a biker. I’m part of their family. I love knowing I belong to this amazing community.

Motorcycles do show up in my books occasionally. A Deadly Game ends with a suspenseful motorcycle chase scene on an icy, curvy mountain road. And the hunky handyman in The Most Famous Illegal Goose Creek Parade rides a Harley, much to the dismay of his girlfriend’s father. It’s fun combining my two passions and sharing the stories with my readers, most of whom have no idea that Virginia Smith is a also a Motorcycle Mama.



About the Author:

VIRGINIA SMITH is the bestselling author of thirty-five novels (and counting!). An avid reader with eclectic tastes in fiction, Ginny writes in a variety of styles, from lighthearted relationship stories to breath-snatching suspense. Her books have received many awards, including two Holt Medallion Awards of Merit.



Book Links:

The Most Famous Illegal Goose Creek Parade




A Deadly Game






Confessions of a Geyser Hunter

by Grace Bridges


There’s a city in New Zealand, where my father was born, where as a child he bathed in backyard thermal springs and steaming ponds in the public park. These days I live a few hours away. Imagine if you will, after a short roadtrip, cresting the rim of a caldera and coming face to face with a crater lake containing an island formed by later eruptions. Imagine descending to the town at the lakeside and blinking at steam that rises from the roadside drains and gardens. Imagine wandering a path by a boiling stream that leads to a grey pumice beach; dig your toes into the rough sand, encountering hot water that surges from just below. Imagine sleeping on grass warmed by thermal currents underneath it, to the lullaby of a blubbering mudpool. Imagine the inescapable scent of minerals weighing down the air. This is Rotorua. And this is why its utter strangeness has captivated me since I was small.

My country is full of thermal excitement, from the hot crater lake on top of snowy Mt. Ruapehu to the Coromandel beach where one is well advised to bring a spade and settle into a warmed sandhole for the day; from the Waiwera spa near my home, to Lake Taupo’s huge crater and nearby geothermal power plants. But nowhere is it so concentrated as Rotorua. Springs bubble all around its lake, on its island, through the suburbs, pockmarking Kuirau Park by the hospital, appearing and disappearing in yards and streets and concrete alleys. Several of the geysers are reliable, shooting off every hour or so – others erupt from the lake’s edge to frighten nearby residents with towering fountains at uncanny hours. Sometimes a hotspot in the park explodes, splattering the vicinity with ashy mud. Locals brag of boiling an egg in thirty seconds, when lowered into certain springs. Not far out of town there are strings of thermal arenas with jewel-coloured pools, self-combusting stones, pathways warmed not by the sun. Hot rivers, secret swimming holes in deep forest, myths and legends surrounding the spirits who watch over the springs.

I suppose it was inevitable that all of this should lead me one day to create a story where these thermal forces, these spirit guardians, bestow supernatural powers on certain humans when they come into contact with mineral-laden waters, gases, or mud. Each spring with its own unseen creature and its own flavour of gift for the initially clueless human. I took all of the most mysterious, most fascinating facets of Rotorua and made them into the story that I wanted to read. As someone said to me while I was working on it, the setting was totally begging for a superhero tale. Not of the usual kind; here we have no capes, no flying or immense strength, but a gentler kind of natural gift that helps our heroes use their minds more fully, connecting with nature, with the earth they live on.

When I had written three local stories for my gang of unlikely worldchangers, my thoughts turned to what else they could do. The answer was right in front of me: there are geothermal hotspots all over the world, along with volcanic and seismic action, all things now linked to the spirit world in my stories. The Pacific Ring of Fire, of which we are a part, where new islands even now rise from the sea as bare black lava. Tonga. Hawaii. Iceland. Italy. Yellowstone.

And thus I became a geyser hunter. It was Yellowstone that proved the next most attainable goal. I wanted to see how America’s primary thermal area compares to Rotorua, which I know so well. A few days was all we could manage; we signed up for bus tours, because we had no clue what to see and wanted to trust some expert guidance. I knew it would be different, but just how different…

Yellowstone blew me away. Not literally, thank goodness. But where we in New Zealand have planted a myriad of towns and cities over our live thermals, Yellowstone is empty of civilisation except for tourists and those who provide for them. Vast wild hills threaded through with only occasional roads; strict instructions not to touch the thermal waters. Some of the sights reminded me of home, like the coloured pools and terraces, the geysers and steaming rivers. Other times, it was all I could do not to let my mouth hang open, such as at the incredible Mammoth Terrace site – the biggest single thermal feature I’ve ever laid eyes on, dwarfing man and beast alike and set in a mind-boggling mountain gorge.

Wyoming’s thermal features are more dangerous than ours, which our people have used for centuries to bathe, to cook, to heal. Eruptions and earthquakes are the actual danger rather than the springs in most cases. The caldera in Rotorua is about one-third as big as Yellowstone’s rim, and Taupo two-thirds, although the active area is comparable in size, spanning from the mountains south of Taupo all the way up to Tauranga, Miranda and Ngaruawahia. Each caldera could erupt again at any time. Ours are smaller, but then, they say they heard it in China when Taupo went off.

They’re all only dormant, these volcanoes and faultlines of ours around the world. A perfect illustration of the fragility of life and just how dependent we are on their continued silence – but also a source for imagination. If the forces in the earth have such powerful physical effects on the land, why couldn’t the same be true for people?

I have many more geysers to hunt down and write about, all around the world. But for now, I’ll visit Rotorua again, imbibe its unique thermal urban atmosphere, and dream of the gifts that minerals might bestow.

Links & files:

Earthcore: Initiation (free story with video):

Rotorua slideshow embed code:



About the Author

Grace Bridges is not only a geyser hunter, but a semi-professional cat herder and kitten adoption facilitator. Indie publishing and freelance editing have been her focus for the past ten years, including 40+ titles in her Splashdown Books brand. She has written several novels in space opera, Irish cyberpunk, and in 2017 the EARTHCORE science mythology YA series set in New Zealand. Her short stories and non-fiction appear in various anthologies and online magazines. See for more information.


Confessions of a Pessimist Dreamer

by Rebecca P. Minor


As I sought to boil down the most succinct description of my artistic persona, I think I blundered into why I’m always feeling a little at odds with myself. I mean, “pessimist dreamer?” What IS that?

Maybe there are more of us out there than just me. Since the internet loves self-diagnosis, let’s make a hypothetical profile of one of these odd creatures.

  1. Every idea you have grows at a rate that rivals a thirteen-year-old boy. While you go about your day, sitting in the car line at school, power cycling your modem, and checking Facebook for comments on your orange tabby photos, that little story idea that you thought up this morning has expanded like Great Stuff into a tetralogy with awesome movie potential. Because Chris Evans would make a spot-on high elf warrior…
  2. But before a word of that tetralogy hits the page, you’ve also come up with 14 reasons why you don’t have the chops to write it and how you’ll never amount to anything as a writer, because have you read anything about the book market lately? Will people even still READ by the time you get this thing done?
  3. While you’re berating yourself about your general hackishness, you drive by the perfect piece of commercial real estate where you could house your little writers’ cafe and donut shop called Plot Holes. You can envision just where the little outdoor couches will go and where the counter…
  4. But you don’t even know how to make donuts. In fact, when you bake without a box mix, the result is something better suited for loading a slingshot than eating. And aren’t you going gluten free anyway?
  5. So you need to do something with your life that has an actual return-on-investment. Be normal for a minute, would you? It’s perfectly acceptable to provide a needed service to other normals, doing things like running a register at Kohl’s or maybe even going back to that corporate job you left to be with your kids more and pursue your creativity.
  6. But … cubicles. Fluorescent lighting. Viruses. Your gypsy soul has no hope of long term survival behind faux stone walls!

And so it goes. You’re a pin- pong match of self-contradictions. But your mind is always moving. And if one of the dreamer sides of the chimera that makes up your persona gets passionate enough, she manages to speak up and tell the pessimist to do her real job: keep you from taking some kind of really stupid risk.

This being a confessions blog, I’ll have to come clean and admit that pretty much all the above profile items have some basis in my actual life. But even though I often lament that Eeyore is my spirit animal, I have come to terms with the reality that the pessimist at least manages to help me weed through the 23 ideas I have per day and forces me to pursue only the ones that have me by the throat and won’t let go.

So maybe I won’t ever launch a Classical Christian school with a robust focus on the visual and performing arts. Or invent a special mesh bag for putting your cat in when he needs a bath but is a master of stretching his legs to the side ledges of the tub. But for now, there will be a growing writers conference, a truck and trailer full of books headed to fantasy and sci-fi cons, and maybe, just maybe, some novels of my own to put in that trailer someday.


About the Author:

Becky Minor lives by the continual mantra, “If you’re going to be a geek, go all out.” From serving as Drum Major of the junior high and high school marching bands, to founding the University of the Arts Gaming Society, to establishing Realm Makers, her pattern of bringing geeks together has a long history.

Besides directing the Realm Makers Conference with her husband Scott and amazing committee of volunteers, Becky occasionally writes fantasy novels of the sword and sorcery variety. Her serial fiction, Divine Summons, is currently available on Amazon, as well as a couple of short works set in the same story world. Her remaining five completed novels are currently seeking publication homes, either with traditional publishing houses or as further self-published works.

Becky makes her day-to-day living as a freelance artist, currently focusing on sequential art (which is a fancy term for comics and graphic novels.) No matter what the vehicle, though, she has a passion for the storytelling arts.

The Minor family makes their home about an hour outside Philadelphia, PA, where foam sword fights on a trampoline are just part of a normal Saturday afternoon. You can connect with Becky on FacebookTwitter, and

Confessions of a Lovelorn Romantic Novelist

by Kristen Stieffel


In the 1984 film Romancing the Stone, mousy Joan Wilder braves the jungles of Colombia to help her sister. After a bus wreck, she meets adventurer Jack T. Colton and introduces herself as a romance novelist. Later, when the villains come for her, he says, “Romantic novelist my —”

As much as I’d like to give the whole quote, Ralene runs a clean blog here.

The point is, without my intending to, I seem to always wind up writing romantic stories. I may start out with a science fiction idea or a fantasy idea, but the romance always winds up in there. One time I got an idea for a story that was just pure historical romance, and after I sketched out the plot, Jack T. Colton’s voice rang in my head. I never actually wrote that story. Still have the synopsis, though.

The romance in my first published novel, Alara’s Call, is one of my favorites. Alara and Dorrel are friends as well as sweethearts, and their relationship is built on mutual respect as well as affection.

I once wrote a novel that, for all I tried to make it science fiction or women’s fiction or something else, is honestly just a straight-up contemporary romance. It even won first place in the Inspirational Romance Unpublished category at the Florida Writers Association’s Royal Palm Literary awards.

“Hi, I’m Kristen, and I’m a romantic novelist.”

Hi, Kristen.

The crazy thing is, while I was doing all this romantic novel-writing, my marriage completely fell apart. My second marriage.

So now I’m trying to reconcile myself to the cognitive dissonance of being a romantic novelist who has two failed marriages on her resume. I’m not here to point fingers at my exes or dissect why my marriages failed—if I did, we’d be here all day. Besides, that’s what I pay my counselor for.

I told her I felt like a failure at marriage. She asked me to reflect on why I feel that way. I still haven’t come up with a solid answer. I mean, I did all the things I knew to do. I read the books and followed the advice and still came up short. But ultimately, what it really comes down to is that I somehow know how to craft lovely relationships in books, but I don’t know how to craft them in real life.

When I was trying to decide whether to leave my second husband, a friend who had an up close and personal view of our marriage was helping me talk it through, and at one point she said, “You’re young. You could marry again.”

I’m not sure I want to. I’m not sure I should. Because even though I could technically wear the label “award-winning romance novelist,” I’m apparently really lousy at the whole marriage thing.

One of the last things my second husband said to me before I moved out was, regarding our dysfunction, that “we will always be this way.”

I had no words for that.

Later—don’t you hate that it’s always later you think of the right thing to say?—I realized I should have said, Speak for yourself.

I don’t want to always be that way. I don’t want to shrug off my dysfunction as if it were an inescapable part of my personality. I want to overcome it. I want to improve in relationships.

Maybe, by experimenting on paper to see what functional relationships look like, I can get better at relationships in the real world.



Kristen Stieffel is a freelance editor specializing in science fiction and fantasy and is associate editor of Havok, a flash fiction magazine focused on the speculative genres. She provides a full range of editorial services and has worked on all sorts of projects, but she is a novelist at heart. Her first novel, Alara’s Call, comes out September 19. Kristen is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association and Christian Editor Connection and is a Word Weavers International mentor. Website: