Dawn Kirby lives in West TX with her husband of 17 years and their three children. Thanks to Twisted Core Press, she has published two of the seven novels planned in the Serenity Series, Secrets and Deceit. The third, Tribulations is slated to be released sometime this spring.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Lisette. It’s always such a pleasure to chat with you.

Lisette: It’s my absolute pleasure, Dawn!

What is your latest book?

My latest is Tribulations. It’s the third book in the Serenity Series. Edits are forthcoming so I hope to be able to announce a pub date sometime soon.

In the meantime, I’ve begun work on a new book. For once I’ve decided to steer clear of vampires and werewolves. This one is all about finding your destiny in the most unlikely place…Dreams.


Is your recent book part of a series?

Heaven on Earth is going to be a stand alone title. I’m enjoying it so much, it won’t be my last.

What else have you written?

I’ve written several shorts for 7DS Books. The first, Sinful Pleasures (LUST) in Seven Deadly Sins II is probably my favorite and dearest to my heart. Others include stories in Seven Deathly Soles, Seven Dress Sizes, A Man’s Promise and Linger.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

The part I enjoy the most is finishing it so I can hand it off to my betas. I love the relationship I have with mine. They aren’t afraid to tell me what they like and what they don’t. At the same time they know I won’t change the storyline simply because they don’t want a specific character to go through a specific thing. It is fun to see my characters from different POV though. One reader may connect with one while another might connect with another. Either way, both betas are passionate about the ones they love.

The part I hate is probably waiting on edits. It’s a nerve-racking experience no matter how many times you’ve gone through it.


Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

The title? Yes. The ending? Not so much. I’m a punster. Most of what I write I write on the fly. If I do plot out the ending it usually turns out to be the ending I want to avoid.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

For me it depends on how the flow happens to be that day. If it’s good I keep going. There’s always tomorrow to go back and check for mistakes. If it’s a stare-at-the-screen kinda day I tend to go all the way back to the beginning and slowly torture myself.


Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

Don’t quit. This is a tough row to hoe. Connect with people who are as passionate as you are. Seek out people who can teach you how to navigate all the different paths that lie in front of you. Never assume you know everything there is to know. This is a constantly changing profession. Something new will always be right around the corner.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

I’ve met some fabulous people through Social Media. Some I’ve met, some I hope to meet in the future. These are the people that have really helped me put my writing career on the right track. Some have touched me personally and I can’t imagine not having them in my life. Distance be damned. There have been a few people who I’ve had to block, but for the most part I’d have to say I’ve had a great experience—so far.

Meeting people is my favorite part. Trying to keep up with all the different outlets is the hard part. Sometimes you just don’t have anything to say. Other times writing takes precedence. It’s taken me a few years to realize that having a presence online doesn’t mean having to post something every single day. It means posting something relevant. Something people can discuss. An image that makes people smile or think. Sure we need to toss in a link now and then to our work, but I honestly believe building a rapport with people is a lot more important than blasting them with one link after another.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

Until five years ago I never considered writing. I’d had my hands full taking care of my kids, my nieces and nephews and daily life in general. The last thing I needed was something else drawing on time I didn’t have. I loved to read when I was in school, but I hadn’t picked up a book in over ten years at that point. Then this idea I had when I was in school started to grate on me. Over the course of months I couldn’t shake it. It woke me up at night until I finally sat down and put it on paper. By the time I finished I’d been sitting at the kitchen table for 8 hours and was determined to write more. Once I finished it I knew writing was something I had to do.

Having our work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling a negative review?

Handling a bad review is as easy as realizing that not every book is for everybody. Good reviews are great. Bad reviews can be too. Especially if the person reviewing the book takes the time to explain what they didn’t like. Look at them as another beta. If it’s something a writer can fix while writing their next book (editing, plot holes), work on it. If it’s the genre or an element of the story the reviewer couldn’t get into, shake it off. At the end of the day our books are our stories. Only we can tell them. We can’t control what happens once they leave our protective hands.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

I’m a night owl. There’s something about the dark that helps the words flow. Add a little music to the calmness of the night and you’ve got the most magical environment possible to create a new world.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in West Texas. I honestly don’t think I’d ever leave for good. My family is here. BUT there are so many places I’d like to visit. If I could, I’d start here in Texas and work my way out to other states. After that—look out world!

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Automobiles definitely. Planes just scare me. It would take one hell of a journey to get me on one. Boats? Unless the water is crystal clear and I can get out quick, count me out. I want to see what I’m swimming around with or possibly away from. Trains could be fun, but they aren’t really an option here in Wt. Texas.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

My favorite is Hot Tamales. Pure cinnamon heaven.

Least favorite? Potato chips. Any kind of chip.

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?

I would go to my favorite park and spend the day there. With three kids to keep up with it’s not often I get to slow down and really enjoy the beautiful things that surround us everyday.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Honesty. Give me that and you have a loyal friend for life.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

Country music makes me cry. Whether the song is happy or sad doesn’t matter, it brings me to tears every time.

What makes you angry?

Political Correctness. I understand where it came from in the beginning, but it is so far out of control it’s led to most of the people in this country wearing their feelings on their shirtsleeve. Are we entitled to have our own opinions? Yes, as long as those opinions come with a filter that wipes out anything that could possibly offend another person.

If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?

An office. I’d love to have a place that I could write, leave and come back to find everything as I left it. Research as you know takes up a lot of space. Kids take up even more. Those two things tend to clash when your office space consists of a corner of your living room couch.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

Being lied to.

What music soothes your soul?

I listen to all types. In a way it all speaks to me in some way. Lately though I’ve been listening to more instrumentals. Classical or contemporary, it doesn’t matter. It’s absolutely amazing to me how much a single song can change your whole perspective.








BOOKTASTIK: Helping Authors Sell Books


BOOKTASTIK: Helping Authors Sell Books by Dionne Lister

Hi, Lisette, thanks so much for having me as a guest today. I’m excited to be here representing a fun new site that connects readers with books — Booktastik.

Did you know that there are hundreds of thousands of new ebooks being published each year? So if you’re an author, it’s obviously becoming harder and harder to get your book to stand out from the crowd. As a self-published author, I know the difficulty in getting a book noticed — if no one knows your book exists, they’re not going to buy it.

In my desperate scramble to sell books, I’m always looking for new ways for my books to be seen. I’ve tried a few different avenues; including guest blog posts, interviews, Twitter, Facebook, podcasts and paid advertising. Paid advertising has given me the largest sales numbers, but there aren’t many sites that actually work. And if you Google “advertising for authors” there’s not much out there to point you in the right direction.

Call me crazy, but I’ll share with you the site that has worked for me, the site I consider Booktastik’s largest competitor: Bookbub. If you’ve been around the traps as an author, you probably know someone who’s used them — and they work. But how does it work? Well, readers sign up for free to receive a daily email for books on sale in genres they choose. When an author pays to advertise with them, your book goes in a once-only email and appears on their website. That’s it. Simple.


The problem is that they are pricey — a few months ago I advertised my Fantasy book, which was on sale for $1.99. That cost me $270, and since then the cost has risen to $330 — figures that not many self-published authors can afford (and fantasy is a cheaper genre than, say, mystery or romance), especially if you’re just starting out. To add to that, the last three times I’ve applied, I’ve missed out, and it’s also been impossible for most of my friends to get approved because Bookbub is always booked out.

How annoying! I’d finally found something that worked, but now that avenue seemed to be closed too. Trying not to get depressed at times like that is hard, so I was having a rant to another author friend about my frustrations (ranting to other author friends who understand is a great way to keep your sanity). During that conversation I said something that set me on the course towards Booktastik: “It’s just not fair. If you want anything done, you have to do it yourself. I’m going start my own company so us indie authors have somewhere to advertise!” And so the journey to creating Booktastik began.

I knew that if I was going to do this, I had to do it better and offer more than what was currently out there. I contacted a web designing friend of mine and told her what I wanted — a friendly, welcoming site that didn’t just deliver ebook deals, but had other relevant stuff like vetted book reviews and a blog. I pictured Booktastik becoming a community, rather than solely a middleman. I also knew that authors didn’t just need a place to advertise a book that was on sale or free, but we often wanted to get the word out about our new release or competitions and giveaways, so I added those categories, which have been very popular with the subscribers.

I know no one really wants to know the nitty-gritty of what it takes, but we spent months designing the site and getting it functional (with a few nightmares along the way), although if it was easy, I guess everyone would do it. We’re spending money on advertising to get subscribers who authors can’t normally reach — readers who are outside the social media sphere of Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook, and I’m happy to say that after just one month we are getting over 500 visits a day (and growing), and we’re already selling books for our advertising authors.

And that’s our story so far. We’ve got exciting plans for stage two of Booktastik, but that will have to wait a while. But right now, I’d like to extend an invitation to you all to come and check out There’s lots to see and read, and I hope you love our little animal icons (there’s one for each genre) as much as I do. See you there!

 Follow Booktastik on Twitter

 Like Booktastik on Facebook


An avid reader of many genres, including fantasy, for as long as she can remember, Dionne also loves writing and has attempted to emulate such greats as David Eddings and Raymond Feist – with … interesting results. Dionne has studied creative writing at Southern Cross University, works as an editor, runs Booktastik, and counts cats and panthers as her favourite animals and dragons as her favourite flying creature (notice ‘flying’ not ‘mythical’). Dionne writes young adult fantasy, women’s fiction and thriller/suspense. In 2013 iTunes Australia named her one of ‘ten emerging fantasy authors you must read.’ You can find out more about Dionne and her work at


Chat with Dionne Lister here at Lisette’s Writers’ Chateau


Who would you turn to if your love life, or life in general was a mess? Jemma’s not sure, but she’s lucky that Doris is looking out for her. Who’s Doris? Doris is Jemma’s vagina, and she’s determined to help Jemma put her life on track, but is the job too much for one vagina to handle?

Meet Doris, Jemma and their friends in this hilarious romance/chick lit. Here’s what some readers had to say:

A delightful, funny, and heart-warming read!

…a charming book, fast-paced and funny, with a very brave concept.


Close Call: A Doris & Jemma Vadgeventure

Amazon U.S.







Jan Romes is a hopeless romantic who grew up in northwest Ohio with eight zany siblings. Married to her high school sweetheart for more years than seems possible, she is also a proud mom, mother-in-law, and grandmother. She likes to read all genres, writes contemporary romance with characters who give as good as they get, is a part-time fitness trainer, and enjoys growing pumpkins and sunflowers. Jan is a member of Romance Writers of America.

Time to chat with Jan!

What is your latest book?

In December I published, Married to Maggie, book number 1 in my Texas Boys Falling Fast series.


What are the special challenges in writing a series?

Texas Boys Falling Fast is my first series so this is a well-timed question. I think the biggest challenge for me is carrying over certain details from one book to the next without slowing down each story. I want the books to connect but not so much that if someone was to buy book number two or three they wouldn’t be completely lost if they didn’t read book one first. The challenge is to connect them yet make each story distinct so they can also stand alone.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

Such a great question – again, well-timed. Normally, I have to write scenes in order. For Married to Maggie, that wasn’t the case. I jumped around a bit. There were a few scenes that begged to be written out of sequence. I was afraid if I scribbled them down on paper I would lose the flavor and excitement of what I wanted to say.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

A solid YES to both questions. For me, knowing the ending ahead of time is like writing the book backwards. I need to know what prize will be waiting for my characters once they resolve all the obstacles I throw in their way. That unique ending in turn helps me figure out the obstacles. Like I said, it’s a back to forward approach. I think it’s also important to at least have a working title when you start your book. The title can help drive the story.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I would love to boast that I’m one of those authors that keep writing until I get all the way through the story before I tackle editing, but that would be a big fat lie. The truth is, I’m a writing neat freak. I fuss over a paragraph or line until I get it the way I want it. It’s a nasty habit. I need writing-rehab. *grins*


Do you write anything besides novels? Care to share?

I like to write short stories too. I was fortunate to have sold two stories to Woman’s World Magazine. (Not recently, however)

How would you define your style of writing?

I like to read books that move along quickly so I think I’ve naturally developed that style of writing. I place a lot of emphasis on sense of humor in my stories but there is always serious love at stake.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

I didn’t have to think hard about this question. Near and dear to my heart are these three things: making sure no one goes to bed hungry, no one should live on the streets unless they choose to, and recycling everything we can. I have been blessed to have the things I need and I want to give back. I currently give 10% of my royalties to organizations that feed the hungry and house the homeless. Someday I hope I can up that percentage. Regarding recycling, I’m a fanatic about it. Burying stuff in landfills doesn’t make sense when it can be broken down and reused.









Michelle Anderson Picarella is the C.E.O. & Founder of 7DS Books and Twisted Core Press, L.L.C. She and her partners run 7DS Books as an invitation-only anthology collaboration helping dedicated authors build their platforms with new and unique themed titles as well as bridging authors together for successful cross-promotion. Michelle is also a published author, former director of publicity, author advocate and proud indie supporter.

Time to chat with Shelly!

What is 7DS Books?

7DS Books is an invitation only short story collaboration publishing imprint of Twisted Core Press. Along with my partners, A.T. Russell and Daniel Picarella, we create unique themes each title and personally invite authors we have met through social media to join. It is instant author networking when placed in a private chat with seven authors. They help each other with pointers and beta reads before it hits our editor. After print, they are connected with every author on every previous 7DS title with means for cross-promoting, blog tours, getting together for literary events, etc. We truly believe the best way to succeed in the world is to work together. We want to do what we can to help authors connect, promote, and build their platform. A new phase of 7DS will be coming into play in 2014. We are very excited about this and will announce the new chapter of 7DS soon. Currently, our popular sellers are Seven Dress Sizes, Seven Deadly Sins II, and Linger.


What are the special challenges in running collaborations?

I think the hardest part has been working in a close group with so many brilliant and talented authors. Overall, it is great and the outcome shows this. But, sometimes when multiple people come up with fantastic ideas that do not flow into each other, it is hard to only pick which route is best if we cannot mesh all the ideas together.

Have you ever written characters that you truly despise?

Yes. Most certainly. I like darker tales. I love the depth and layers behind the most despised characters. It is pointless to ask why a person is good. Everyone wants to know why someone is bad.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

As far back as I can remember, I was writing stories. Even when none of my words made sense to anyone else, my jumbled crayon rambles were my life. I remember first getting a reaction from my writing in second grade when I wrote about self-sacrifice in order to save a turkey from the pilgrims. I loved coming up with the story. That was easy. Predicting how readers will react is the fun part.

Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?

I am a firm believer of publishing matches. I wish there were a place for matching authors with publishers like a dating site. It is a business, but it is a relationship. An author is handing their dreams over to a publisher and that publisher is investing hope, faith, time, and finances into this work. I do not think one route is better than the other. I see indies run neck and neck with trads. I think research is the best key for new authors. We assume so much when we are new and then we listen to people that appear to know the gospel but as much as this industry is changing, the only thing that remains gospel is the need to provide a quality product. This can be obtained using either route. Going trad does not mean you will be in a brick and mortar store. Being indie does not mean you are going to have the best selling ebook. Either way, an author has to work. This is a business. The difference between writing a book and being an author is work and growth. The route you choose to become an author is just that… A choice.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

I am an indie book fanatic. Nothing against traditionally published material, but most trad publishers know exactly what they are looking for before it hits the slush. Indie and self-published books tend to carry a flare and flavor not as predestined in many (not all) cases. I love main characters that break the common stereotype of what a main character should be. I love the button pushers. Many people fuss at me for my limited attention span with books. If you don’t grab me within the first few pages and show me something refreshing and bold, you’ve lost me. Minus those indie/self published authors that attempt to mimic the mainstream, odds are good, if you pick up an indie read you are likely going to see something with that boldness. What do I like the least? This is something I see commonly no matter where the book comes from… the main character is a female, likely white, she has a tough life in one way or another but at the core, it is good. She is faced with a challenge that likely holds the fate of many other people around her. Sometimes, it is life and death. Either way, amongst the dire complexity of pressure this female MC must tackle, she also has to choose between two guys. Oy with the love triangles! Kill it with fire!

What have you done to market books and what did you find the most effective? The least effective?

The most surefire way to market is and always will be word of mouth. I could speak of each social media site, ads, publicists, etc.. but the difference in the literary world and a reader: A reader loves hearing someone they know talk about a book. If a reader is inspired by a book or even disgusted by a book, it is the passion in either direction that creates a craving for new readers to seek this book and their desire to derive their own opinion. I’ve seen ads, commercials, book trailers (not in the least saying they are pointless. Keep doing that!) but the books I’ve had to read came from feeling the passion brewing from a reader. The best way to pour gasoline on that fire is to cross-promote. This is a core reason we run 7DS Books; instant pool of cross-promoters, if utilized properly. You can scream the word of your book on every single social media outlet and maybe sell a book or two, because of course you think it is a great read. A publicist can do it for you and gain you some new readers, but that burns out quickly when they are also claiming one hundred other books are also the best book of the year. Now take an author, published, well read and already reached their connections and family with their word of their book and suddenly, they are reviewing your book and telling Aunt Sally and Bob from the office about this great new author they’ve discovered. Well, wow. Aunt Sally just told everyone in her book club, and they told their friends, and those friends mentioned it over dinner and Bob is at the table next to them and that title sounds familiar so he brings it up to his wife and she has PTA after dinner and….see what I am saying? Just like air is always going to be the best thing to breathe, word of mouth is always going to be the “it” thing in marketing.

Now the worst: BAD Facebook event parties. You can do this well but most people do not. People love free things… “Swag”…but how are you going to have a Facebook release party for your book and give away something to the first person that knows the drink a character they’ve not heard of is sipping at the bar in chapter thirteen of the new release? What is that about, authors?  If you want to thank your beta readers, just send them the swag, don’t invite us to the event to see it. Nobody wants to buy your book after that. Also, keep it family oriented if you want participants. Even if it is a gritty down and dirty erotica, nobody is going to like an X-rated photo or comment with the best caption with their family and friends online to see it in the newsfeed. Common sense goes a long way in Facebook events.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Trains. Always a train. The kid in me comes out when I get the chance to travel by train. Somehow, I always end up in the most random of conversations with these fantastic strangers. I even have train buddies on my social media to keep up with them and we message each other to see if the other is traveling near dates of upcoming trips. LOL. The chill when traveling overnight, the personalities you come in contact with, and seeing the world fly by outside your window are my favorite parts. Now I want a train trip. Where are we going?

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People scratching heads. I am a total lice phobic. I can handle spiders, bees, mice.. anything (maybe not snakes and alligators so much) but the thought of lice makes me cry. I hate the thought of itching. I will count how often someone scratches and after that third one, I will offer to check your head. This tends to be a bit more awkward with strangers.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Three: Walk away from agenda: Embrace the differences in people. We tell our kids not to bully every single day just to turn around and bash anyone that does not see things our way.

Two: Reboot and Recharge: Never allow timidness with new ideas, feelings, beginnings, or dreams. I mean this in every aspect of daily life.  We can take this from the business and marketing aspect and approach sales or job performance with a blank page. Your friends and family- we all grow and change; take time for a dinner and get to know the people you’ve all grown to become since meeting. Take it to the polls and stop voting for the lesser of two evils- collaborate a majority write-in candidate that could really make some changes.. Maybe it is you! Take some you time. As much as it helps to get to know the people your loved ones have become, when is the last time you escaped and bonded with the you that you’ve become throughout the years?

One: Love: This one is the most simplistic human operation and we allow ourselves to complicate it. Love has a million degrees. Love strangers. Open doors. Nod to a passerby. Make a silly face at a kid. Tip an extra dollar. Love acquaintances. Congratulate. Compliment. Offer condolences when needed. Friendships are love. Listen. Talk. Laugh. Take time to openly speak the words of appreciation for them just existing as a part of your life. Love the one that holds your heart the dearest. This is not about an obligation or a responsibility. When the love is right, it doesn’t feel like such a chore. Love is never a debt. Love flourishes freely where love grows. Maybe there is not just “the one” maybe you have a series of “the ones” until you find the final one. Each love helps you grow and you do the same for them. Appreciate the love even after it forms into a different type of love; you never un-love someone. Your heart just rearranges. Know when it is time to admit a love has altered into something different but never pretend a love is an apple tree when it has grown into a weeping willow. Both are beautiful, but one has the fruit of life and one has the shade of the past. Embrace them both, differently.  Family: Family is a bond we never ask for. Our parents won’t be around forever and as you age, you will become them. When they are no longer around, you will see them every time you look in a mirror and every missed lunch or shrug with lack of interest will haunt you. Sometimes, just telling them you love them will end up being a favorite memory. Your kids– the best way to love your kids is to show them how to live. Kids learn everything by example. They learn and live just as we show, not as we say. So chase those dreams, so they will. Take care of yourself, so they will do the same. Educate yourself, educate them. Cuddle them. Laugh with them. Be completely silly in public. Talk to them, not at them.. and your grandchildren will be in great hands. Above all ways to love your kids and the most important way to love you must start with one thing. Love yourself. If you don’t learn to love yourself for everything you are in darkness and light, you’ll never truly show love to anyone else. The end.








Twisted Core Press official site

7DS official site





Five Ways to Stay Sane as a Writer – (by an author who lost her sanity a long time ago)

1.      BE PATIENT: If you’ve just written a novel, you may, like others, be eager to share it with the world, even though the prospect of doing so can be as daunting as it is exciting. Unfortunately, in their excitement, many authors query agents or self-publish way before their manuscripts are ready.

Take a deep breath. Relax. Remember, it’s much better to wait to put out your best work than to rush and put out a sloppy version of what could have been really good. Take time to edit and rewrite, then have a professional editor work on it. Putting out your best work will be a great boost to your mental health. Kicking yourself for not waiting isn’t helpful. Besides, you might hurt yourself.


2.      COMPETE WITH YOURSELF FIRST: It’s easy to look around to see what everyone else is doing and wonder why your books aren’t selling as well as Joe Author’s books are. While you can learn a lot from watching how successful authors do things, don’t let the success or failure of others take over your thoughts. Don’t try to outwrite other authors; instead, outwrite yourself. Remember that you are a unique product. You’re not a carbon copy of anyone else and you shouldn’t be. Compete with yourself. Be the best writer you can be.

3.      FIGURE OUT HOW YOU WORK BEST: Some writers, while crafting their masterpiece, find it helpful to share with critique groups both on- and offline, as well as with family and friends. For others, the input of outsiders during the creative process can be stifling. Will the editorial critique help you more during or after the process of writing? What works best for you? Don’t make the mistake of sharing your work with ten different people and getting ten different opinions, unless you know it will galvanize you and not shut your muse down in frustration.

4.      DON’T LET SOCIAL MEDIA CONSUME YOU:  Building a platform on social media is very important. It’s not something that you should do when your book comes out; it’s something you should do at least six months prior to publication. That said, it can be addictive, exhausting, stressful, confusing or all of the above. Find a balance that works for you. Decide what amount of time is reasonable for each platform and try to adhere to that. Use the rest of your valuable time to create your product. Balance. Balance. Balance.


5.      REMEMBER THAT NO WORK OF ART IS LIKED BY EVERYONE—EVER:  There is no book, no song, no painter, no singer, no movie, no TV show, no poet, no anything that is liked by everyone. Keep this in mind as you put your work out there. In a parallel universe, we want to believe that everyone will like our work, but they won’t. Do your best, define your style, put out your best work, and your readers will come.

Tell me, what methods have you attempted to keep your sanity? Have they worked?





Ellis Shuman was born in the United States but moved to Israel as a teenager. He served in the Israeli army, was a founding member of a kibbutz, and now lives outside Jerusalem. For two years, 2009-2010, Ellis and his wife lived in Sofia, Bulgaria. Alongside working a day job in online marketing, Ellis writes frequently about Bulgaria, Israel, books, travel, and the craft of writing.

What is your latest book?

This past year has been a very exciting one for me. I self-published my suspense novel, Valley of Thracians, and it has done remarkably well. I’ve been very pleased with readers’ responses, as the book is not your typical suspense novel. Some readers have described it as ‘travel fiction’ as well as an introduction to Bulgaria, a country that few have visited, or know much about. In my novel I strongly emphasized the setting of the story. The book deals with a Peace Corps volunteer who goes missing during his service in Bulgaria. His grandfather comes to the country to track down the missing young man and ends up learning about Bulgaria’s history and culture as he travels.

I’ve been particularly excited with the reaction of Bulgarians who have read the novel. Some have claimed that it is the Bulgarian version of a Dan Brown thriller, while others said that this was the first time any international author had featured normal Bulgarian citizens in a novel. I have to admit that I made a number of small corrections in how I depicted life in Bulgaria in response to comments received from my Bulgarian readers.


What else have you written?

I published a collection of short stories, The Virtual Kibbutz, ten years ago. The stories were based on my experiences as a founding member of Kibbutz Yahel, in Israel’s southern desert. As part of my Israeli army service, I served on the kibbutz when it was established in the 1970s. During my years as a pioneer, I worked in agriculture – driving a tractor, picking vegetables and sorting them for market. It was amazing to see our successes in growing bumper crops of tomatoes, onions, and peppers. However, as my wife and I began raising a family, we realized that we were interested in more independence and control over how our children grew up. Also, living in the desert, so far away from our families, was a challenge. We left the kibbutz after seven memorable years, and moved to a small community near Jerusalem. I returned to the unique kibbutz way of life in my writing nearly two decades later and introduced readers to this lifestyle with the stories in my book.


How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

After publishing my short story collection, I realized that I lacked the drive to write another work of fiction based in Israel. This was what hampered my creativity for several years. And then, I was given an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have my job relocated to Bulgaria for two years. My wife and I made the most of our time in Sofia. We traveled extensively around the country, learning about Bulgaria’s history, culture, traditions, cuisine, and most importantly, its people. Little did I realize at the time, that everything I was experiencing was actually research for my novel.

Bulgaria is most definitely off the beaten track for western tourists, which is a shame, as its landscape is picturesque, filled with traditional villages, mountains perfect for wintertime skiing, and endless shorelines of sandy beaches. Few international authors have used Bulgaria as the setting for their novels, and Bulgarian authors are rarely translated into English, if at all. My fiction, based in Bulgaria, is therefore quite unique. Even now, three years after returning to my permanent home in Israel, I return to Bulgaria daily in my writing.

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

In my day job I am an editor, and actually, editing is my most favorite part of writing a novel. I enjoy writing, but I absolutely adore editing. Editing is the stage that makes your writing come alive. With writing you create a manuscript, but with editing, you transform that manuscript into a book. As I edit, I add details to my scenes, character to my characters. Dialogues come alive during the editing process. I am currently editing my second novel and I am enjoying every step of the process.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

My wife is my alpha reader, the first person who is exposed to my fiction. She is hardly an editor but can easily find mistakes and typos in my writing. I shared my first novel with my wife as each section of the book was finished. Unfortunately for her, that meant long intervals between reading the different parts of the story. With my new novel, I have already completed a quick, first draft. As soon as I finish editing the draft into something presentable, my wife will get an opportunity to read it. I will also share the novel at that stage with a number of other beta readers and look forward to their remarks and suggestions.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

I work a long day at the office with a one-hour commute in each direction. By the time I get home in the evenings, I am completely washed out, with no creativity left in my body. I look forward to weekends, but that is the time when I enjoy my family, travel, reading, and relaxation. So, when do I find time to write?

I managed to add on an extra hour to my day and I use it to pursue my creative endeavors. I leave an hour earlier each morning for work, but instead of going directly to my office, I sit down for a one-hour session at a nearby coffee house. While I drink my morning cappuccino, I tune out all the noise around me and make a lot of progress in my writing.

Were you “born to write” or did you discover your passion for writing later in life?

I was inspired to write by my father, who worked as a journalist while I was growing up. With his encouragement, I created, managed, wrote and marketed a neighborhood newspaper, going door to door asking for news of my neighbors’ summer plans, and the activities of their children and their grandchildren. Afterwards, I sold the paper at ten cents a copy. I never got rich with this childhood pursuit, but I developed a desire to write and tell stories. It would take me many years until I was able to publish my stories as a book.

What have you done to market your novel and what did you find the most effective? The least effective?

Even before I published a novel, I started a writing blog where I regularly post articles about my travels in Bulgaria and Israel, as well as book reviews and other opinion articles. I also began blogging for The Times of Israel, a leading online news source. All of this became part of my campaign to market my novel.

I published Valley of Thracians with the KDP Select Program at Amazon. Last March, in an attempt to build up readership and get additional reviews, I offered the book for free. A total of 8,900 copies of the book were downloaded in a five-day period, temporarily making the book a best seller.

In October, I reduced the price of the book for five days from $4.99 to $0.99. This time I advertised the book in BookBub. Thanks to this advertisement, I managed to sell 910 copies of the book in one week. Those authors considering BookBub should also know that my advertisement was rejected twice, and I think this is because at the time of my original submissions, I didn’t have enough reviews of the book posted on Amazon.

Please, tell us about your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least-favorite parts of it?

I decided to focus all my marketing efforts on one social media platform – Twitter. I have never developed an author’s page for Facebook, nor have I devoted efforts into establishing a presence on Goodreads. But with Twitter I have become quite successful, with over 14,000 real followers.

My success on Twitter is due, in part, to my not marketing my books there. I never tweet to my followers, “Buy my books” but instead tweet value-added information and links to the articles on my blog and elsewhere. My followers are particularly interested in my writing tips, as I freely share all of my experiences during the writing and self-publishing process. I follow back fellow authors and writers, and actively hook up with them all the time. I have made many good friends on Twitter.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in a small community in the forested hills west of Jerusalem. It is a perfect location, not far from Israel’s international airport. My wife commutes to Jerusalem while I commute to Tel Aviv. We’re close enough to enjoy the best of both cities as well as explore the rest of the country, which, admittedly, is not very big.

I would never consider moving to another location in Israel or elsewhere. I had the amazing opportunity to live for two years in Sofia, Bulgaria, and that gave me a chance to travel around Europe. That experience also became an inspiration for my writing.

Care to brag about your family?

I have three wonderful, adult children, and all three of them live in the Tel Aviv area. My eldest daughter is married. She and her husband have two beautiful daughters. My wife and I enjoy being with our family, and especially our granddaughters, as much as we can.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

In my day job, I promote online poker. I have traveled to Manila, London, Las Vegas, and Bulgaria as part of this job, and in 2005, I played in the World Series of Poker (in a celebrity/media event). I only promote online poker where it can be legally played, so Americans, Bulgarians, and Israelis are not the focus of my marketing efforts. I sincerely believe that poker is a game of skill and adults should be free to play it whenever and wherever they want, no matter if it’s in a Las Vegas casino or in the comfort of their own home on their computer.


Ellis Shuman Writes (Blog)


Valley of Thracians (Amazon U.S.)

The Virtual Kibbutz (Amazon U.S.)