Pages & Paws

Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


AUTHOR INTERVIEW: ‘Dear Hero’ Authors Talk Co-Writing

Ever wonder how two people co-write a book? Where do the ideas come from? How do they coordinate the characters, action, pacing, dialogue and plot? What about details like who are the real heroes and villains? What about that “fine line” between love and hate?
We heard some answers to these questions and learned a little more about the process with YA authors Hope Bolinger and Alssya Roat. They co-wrote the new YA title, Dear Hero. This “superhero hero” romance was released on September 28 by INtense Publications.
Let’s listen in:

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GUEST POST: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at ‘Walks With Sam’ With Author David W Berner

Good Morning, Friends!


Kimber here. Mom and I are delighted to share a guest post by the author of one of our favorite books, Walks With Sam. Sam is a dog. A very astute, reflective dog. Ya know. Like me. In fact, I think Sam’s my new best friend!


Anyway, in this guest post author David W. Berner “walks” us through why and how he wrote this rich and wonderful memoir about contemplative walks with Sam. (Psssst! It started with a blog. No kidding!)


Walks With Sam will be officially released tomorrow, September 1! Don’t forget the virtual book launch on September 13. Details below!

Take it away, David!


An Idea

More than two years ago, I had an idea. What would it be like to reinvent the dog walking experience? Not so much for my doodle, Sam, but for me. All the experts say walking is a meditative, contemplative endeavor. Ask any of the great walkers—Henry David Thoreau, Charles Dickens, John Muir. But this time, what would it be like if the dog led the way? What if Sam was my guide?


A Chapter Change

It was a new time in my life, a chapter change, if you will. My only sibling, my younger sister had recently died after a long battle with alcoholism, my mother and father had died years before, and now I was what remained of the family of my youth. What is one supposed to do with that? I was also turning 60, a milestone age, and considering what would come next, how might I move in the world in my final years. A sabbatical from my position at the college where I teach had given me some freedom, and although I had projects to complete—a manuscript to finish and edit—I decided that I would dedicate myself to daily walks to allow my mind to find balance. And Sam, my young dog, would join me. She, too, needed those walks.

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Inspiration Across the Ages: John Mernone Talks His Personal Connection With His Debut Historical Novel, The World Turned Upside Down

Happy Wednesday Friends!

Author John Mernone joins us today to discuss his debut historical novel, The World Turned Upside Down. You’ll want to listen in.  Says John:


John Mernone’s debut historical novel has a personal connection.

How many times have you heard someone say that history is boring?

If you only see it as a list of names and dates and facts to be memorized, it is boring. I was lucky enough to have a few truly amazing teachers who taught me to look at history through the lens of personalities and situations. Take George Washington. In school, we’re taught about this legendary hero who led the colonists to independence. And maybe we hear about his wooden teeth.


We don’t learn about his many mistakes on the way to victory. We don’t learn that he wasn’t always patient or a brilliant strategist. He had very real flaws. But he was driven by an unshakeable belief in the cause, and he possessed a level of humility and conscientiousness that inspired devotion and admiration in everyone around him. I’ve always believed that George Washington was the greatest man in history, flaws and all.

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GUEST AUTHOR: The Ultimate ‘Insider’s Guide’ to New York!

‘Mom! Wake up!’


“Mom! Mom! Wake up!”


“Gah….! Wha… Huh?” Crash. Stumble. Stubbed toe. “Dadgum it!”


Mom’s nothing if not quick. Especially when it’s 0500. And I’ve got a  cool new book to show her! It’s like an illustrated time travel thingy. Through New York City! I’m don’t know where that is. But it sounds good. So does a soon-to-be-released book, 400 Years of New York History: A Pictorial Guide.

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GUEST AUTHOR: 6 PAWsome Historical Fiction Re-Readables

PAWright historical fiction fans! Grab the bacon and buckle up. Cuz we’re ready to launch into that genre with 6 Pawsome titles you’ll want to dig up, pronto!

Hey! It’s summer, okay?

Yes siree, Lassie! Mom and I are hosting a guest post on the subject from a promising new author, John Lawrence.

John’s memoir about his medical training, Playing Doctor: Part One-Medical School (Stumbling through with Amnesia) debuts on August 24. He’s also an avid reader with a taste for historical fiction. (More about John in a min. So kindly keep your tail tucked, okay?)

PLAYING DOCTOR - Part One: Medical School: Stumbling through with amnesia by [John Lawrence]

Anyway, John says during medical school and his residency years, the escape historical fiction provided was a “much loved respite from my otherwise fluorescently lit, fast-paced reality of medical school.” John adds:

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On the Lookout for Guest Authors

Do you have a story to share?  An excerpt from your next great American novel?  Tips for fledgling (or even seasoned) writers?  What have you learned about editors, query letters, traditional vs. alternative publishing venues?

Roads Diverged is accepting guest posts on these and other writing-related topics.  To submit, just leave a comment and we’ll connect.  The more we connect, the more our readerships grow and the more opportunities for all.

That said, here are a few ground rules and guide lines. First, you don’t need to be a professional writer or have the publishing “big boys” banging down your door to post at Roads Diverged.  Just a passion for writing and the desire to learn and share.  If accepted, your post will include a byline and a link to your blog or website as applicable.
Submission guidelines:

  1. I prefer content that’s fresh and original.  That is, content that hasn’t been previously published elsewhere.
  2. Yours truly is partial to “short and sweet.”  Stories should be between 300 – 500 words.   (Tip: humorous and/or true-life “slice of life” vignettes as well as travel stories always catch my eye!) A longer post may be accepted if I really, really like it.
  3. If your post is accompanied by an original photo or two, so much the better!
  4. I do not accept anonymous posts.  You may use a pen name if desired, but it must be specified as such and your real name must accompany your submission (withheld from publication upon request).
  5.  This blog is G-rated.  I reserve the right to reject any submission, for any reason.  Likewise, posts that include links or references to sites that are not G-rated or include spam and viruses will not be accepted
  6.  There is no compensation for any posts.  As in, zip.  Your “compensation” is boosted traffic and exposure for your work.  Roads Diverged is connected to LinkedIn and Twitter.  I’m also on Facebook.   You are encouraged to promote your submission via your own social network.  More exposure for Roads Diverged means more exposure for you.

Ready? Set? Go to the comment section below. Type “I’m in.” I’ll get back to you.



Guest Post: ‘Why You Should Never Skimp on Editing Services’

How Professional Editors Can Help

cropped-writing-photo.jpg          Professional editors became editors for a reason: they want to make better, grammatically-accurate content. They want to help writers reach their goals and love to take weak sentences and polish them into a shine. Professional editors know the market, what sells and what doesn’t, what their readers want to know about, and what style of content best suits their needs. If you’re self-publishing your novel, an investment you should not try to skimp on is editing.

When you become too familiar with your work, you can glaze over obvious errors, miss key plot mistakes, and end up publishing work that lacks readability. A professional editor can look at your work from an outsider’s perspective. They can see what you’re trying to achieve and help you reach it while also helping make it sell to readers. Their experience and knowledge is honestly, invaluable. They see cracks that you may not and their services are worth the high dollar they charge.

Why You Should Pay the Most You Can for the Best Editor

Low-balling or offering less money than you should for editors will show in your work. If you grab a freelance editor that will read your novel for $20, they won’t spend the necessary time to understand it and will give you bad advice. You may save money in the short-term, but your work will for sure suffer.

A great editor is worth the cost because of their reading and editing skills. You can read your work 100 times and still miss the spelling mistake on page 125. They understand where you need changes, what should be cut that doesn’t forward the story, and know the market. If you can only afford $200 for a good editor, make sure they have the best skills available. You want to have someone who will work with you to change your work into something great. You want an editor you can feel comfortable asking stupid questions to that you know will give you the right answers. Someone you can continue to use for any writing you have in the future. Editing really can change your story from a great promise to a throw away.

Online Proofreaders for Penny Pinchers

Money may be tight for you right now and hiring a good editor is out of reach. There are free proofreading tools, such as Grammarly, that find mistakes in your work while teaching you how to overcome your most common errors. Although it doesn’t cost a dime, Grammarly provides top tier services to writers. It can check for plagiarism, grammar, punctuation, offer stylistic changes, teach you how to avoid mistakes, and teach you new writing techniques. It also offers a community for writers to connect through their question and answer boards. I’ve used the boards a few times and the response was fast, friendly, and correct. Grammarly offers everything a writer needs without the expense.

Editors are Here to Help

Editors want to help you and can push you to be a better writer. Many famous writers, including Stephen King, have been using the same editor for years. They find a good fit and stick with them. Editors also offer excellent advice on where the market is going, style, and PR. They can help you find the right people to promote your book while making it your best possible material. Cheap editors may not always know what’s the best direction for your material and they don’t offer all the same quality services. You don’t have to break the bank to get a great editor but you also shouldn’t sacrifice the quality of your manuscript over a few dollars.

By Nikolas Baron


About Nikolas:

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.


‘Training Sammie’

One of the purposes of this blog is to give new writers an opportunity to share their work and give them some visibility*. Every so often I come across an up-and-coming writer who’s a real “diamond in the rough.” Gib Check is one of them. That’s why I’m re-publishing this post from 2011.  Enjoy! Don’t forget to thank him in the comments section. (And thanks again, Gib!)

By Gib Check

           Can you better-informed cat owners tell my wife and me how to train ours? Sammie, our part-Siamese, was already house-trained when we got her, or so we thought. We figured she’d do fine with adjusting to our household routines. Instead, she’s had us jumping through her hoops ever since.

For openers, how does she know to wait until exactly 4:30 AM before she starts pawing insistently at the bedroom door? Cats are too dumb to read the time on our clocks, right? Yet, give or take a few minutes, that’s when she wants us up to start her day.


As I make the bed, she circles my feet meowing impatiently to tell me it’s time for our wrestling match. And yep, I said wrestling. Her previous owner also had a dog with whom he rough-housed a bit. Jealous of the attention the dog was getting, Sammie would join in. So, growling like a wrestler, I tumble her around atop the bedspread for a few minutes. If I don’t, she pesters me until I do.

Next is her water and food bowl ritual. Even if they’re full, I must at least pretend to add more, otherwise she’s displeased. Once I’ve made a big show of dribbling in more of each, she’s satisfied.

Oddly, she thinks using the water bowl is boring at times. Whenever we forget to drop the cover over the toilet bowl, she finds it far more entertaining to scoop up water out of there. Ruthie will head for the john, only to cry out a minute later, “Gilbert! Your dumb cat splashed water on the seat!” (Whenever Sammie is naughty, she’s my cat).

A glutton for being fussed over day and night, she absolutely hates it when we leave on trips. Thinking Uh-oh! at seeing suitcases appear, she begins sounding off and keeps it up as we’re heading out the door. She’s mollified not at all by our friend who cat-sits for us. Upon our return, Sammie scolds us unmercifully the rest of the day.

Contrarily, whenever her snooty Siamese aloofness kicks in, she keeps to herself as if our presence has suddenly become bothersome. During one of her disappearing acts, we realized we hadn’t seen her all day. Suddenly worried she might have escaped outside somehow, we spent until dark looking up and down our block, but no Sammie. Even though she could be a pain in the butt at times, we’d grown quite fond of our temperamental little critter.

Making a final search indoors, I heard sounds coming from behind a dresser set diagonally into a corner. When I peeked in back, there she was! While playing around atop the dresser, she’d fallen behind it and gotten trapped. Totally unconcerned, she must’ve spent the rest of the day catching up on her beauty sleep. Glaring down at her, I exclaimed with a mix of exasperation and relief, “You little goof!” Ignoring me, she nonchalantly began licking a paw to groom her furry face. Beautifying herself is also very important, you see.

Carrying her to the den, I showed her to Ruthie. “Look who I found behind the dresser!”

Blowing out her own sigh of relief, Ruthie laughed, “Can you believe this cat? Back there all this time and never made a sound!”

It’s clear her stubborn streak of independence has convinced her that our house is actually hers and that she can darned-well do or not do whatever she pleases. And so, is there hope Sammie can be re-trained? On second thought maybe I should be asking; is there some way my wife and I can escape being trained by her?

Author Gib Check

Retired from construction, I live on a Wisconsin lake with wife Ruthie and am finally exploring being an author. When I write about our travel adventures, I focus on the fun we have meeting people and exploring these places. I’m also big on hiking, biking, canoeing, and thrill to stargazing. (I keep hinting to Ruthie and the kids about a new ‘scope). But always, it’s the writing I love.

* Have a short story, anecdote, travelogue or “slice of life” piece you’d like to see featured on Road Diverged? Let me know in the comments section or shoot me a line at:

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Lessons Learned in Self-Publishing

Attention fellow writers and readers:

Check out: 7 Lessons in Self-Publishing I Learned in the Seventh Grade  by Mainak Dhar.  This guest post on David Gaughran’s blog,Let’s Get Digital: How to Self-Publish and Why You Should, is a bit long-ish, but it’s well worth the read.  Plenty of practical tips, perspective and ‘food for thought’ here.

Speaking of which, have you self-published?  If so, what was your experience?  Positive or negative?  What are some of the pros and cons you’ve encountered in self-publishing?  Would you recommend this route for publication?

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Author Spotlight: Carol Stratton and ‘Changing Zip Codes: Finding Community Wherever You’re Transplanted’

Today we’re getting to know Carol Stratton, author of Changing Zip Codes: Finding Community Wherever You’re TransplantedCarol has moved twenty-two times and has a passion for newcomers, “as I’ve been one many times.” She says, “I started out in the SF Bay Area and now live in North Carolina.”

Carol has kindly offered Roads Diverged readers a sweet slice of her book via the following devotional excerpt, All Dressed With Somewhere to Go.  Her bio and contact info. follow. Enjoy!

Changing Zip Codes CoverRejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not

be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and

petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Philippians 4:4-6 NIV



All Dressed With Somewhere to Go

Out in front of his Bible school, David Weaver perched himself on top of a suitcase that held most of his worldly possessions. Even though he was sure he wanted to be a missionary, he didn’t have next semester’s tuition. Consequently, he found himself moving out of the dorm room and onto the school’s front lawn.

If it had been me, I would have been kicking the side of my suitcase, calling home to cry on my mother’s shoulder, or writing a very self-righteous letter to the president of the school.

Not David. A man of strong faith, he sported a large smile and a positive attitude. He had tried every other means to raise funds and nothing had worked. So he just sat outside with a grin, knowing God would come through with a miracle.

 Maybe you need a housing miracle. It might be selling a home and finding temporary shelter before you can move on. It might be an affordable mortgage. But whatever it is, know that God is paying attention. Even though heaven seems mute, He has not forgotten your need. But our part is spelled out clearly in Philippians: we are to rejoice, rejoice again, and rejoice always. After we do that we are to present our requests to God in a thankful manner. So let’s review. Rejoice, rejoice again, and pray with thanksgiving—end of discussion.

But when we are talking about a major relocation in our lives, it’s a very difficult thing to do. That’s when we bring God our “sacrifice of praise.” It’s a sacrifice because we have to give up our normal way of handling things—whining, worrying, and stressing. But to use David as an example, getting our attitude right opens the door for God to work. Want to hear the rest of the story?

As David perched outside the administration building, a lady from the office ran out to tell him they’d found him a place to stay. Two bachelors had a room in their house and David could room there for free. In addition, the house was right behind the school, within walking distance.

As he hauled his gear into his new home, the phone rang. One of the owners picked it up and with a puzzled look, motioned to his new roommate, “It’s for you.” Someone from the school’s office had called to tell him there was a job available and he’d better get over there, pronto. David explained how he was in a grubby T-shirt and jeans, but the caller insisted he needed to get there immediately. He rushed over to the employment office. Standing in line with other applicants, he felt foolish in his grungy work clothes among the suits and ties of the other young men. Suddenly he saw one of the interviewers pointing at him. “Hey you, come up here right now.”  Shocked, he walked to the front of the line. “I need someone in construction and see you are dressed for work. Can you start right away?David shook his head in amazement. In one day he’d gone from being homeless to landing a good roof over his head and a job. What an awesome God.

Today as we feel overwhelmed with a move, let’s remember God does pay attention. Our part is to keep a faithful attitude. You might try pulling out a suitcase and putting it by the front door as a reminder that God does provide.

Taken from the book: Changing Zip Codes: Finding Community Wherever You’re Transplanted

Published by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Available at


Carol Stratton PhotoCarol G. Stratton has been a freelance writer and speaker for over a decade in publications including  InTouch magazine,, Kyria, Forsyth Women Magazine and the Grand Rapids Press as well as two anthologies, Writing so Heaven Will be Different (Wine Press) and Extraordinary Answers to Prayers (Guideposts).

She speaks to MOPS and other women’s groups about life transitions and personality temperaments. She is currently under contract for a women’s inspirational novel called Lake Surrender.

Contact Carol at: or through her website: ChangingZipCodes.

You can also find Carol on Facebook at Changing Zip Codes, or on Twitter at @CarolGStratton.


Interested in being  a featured author? Shoot me a comment. Tell me a bit about yourself and your work. I’ll get back to you by email. (Anonymous comments will not receive a response.)