All posts by laelbr5_wp

Melissa Sell—Author

Melissa has written many short stories, novels, and poems, but her favorite creations are the ones who call her “Mama.” The mother of four was born and raised in Kentucky, residing in the city of Louisville, and is married to her favorite nerd. When not writing she loves to beta read for fellow authors, bake delicious treats, and watch Doctor Who.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc., and how you track character development, logistics, and details throughout a series.

My writing schedule is more of moment stealing adventures. Usually when the kids are asleep, or busy with a craft, is when I find my writing moments. My bedroom is my main writing area, and usually on my bed, with either music playing, or I have the TV streaming one of my fave shows for background noise.

Dreams and music give me the most inspiration, and I do keep a journal for all the ideas they inspire. Sometimes it’s just a scene, a specific character, or even one line of dialogue. I keep a separate and detailed notebook for every story. It starts with the full synopsis and then goes into each chapter and what will happen within them. I have a binder with character names, (some are used and some aren’t) and their backgrounds. Anytime I see or hear a name I like, I add it to my collection for further use.

As for magic spells…lol, well, you’d have to get your hands on my Book of Shadows for those. 😉

Walk me through your submission / publishing process from “final” draft to final product, including who does what when, and marketing that you do as the author.

For Stormy Island Publishing—it’s a team effort in a rotating process. (We have taken a break from the company during this time and hope to resume once life has calmed down.) We read submissions when we were able. During free time we read submissions. All submissions were download to a site we have in order to read and vote on them without knowing who wrote them. This goes for our own stories if we chose to submit something. You have to get the majority of votes to pass through to the next round. Decisions were based on plot first, so we read them as a reader not a publisher. Once we narrowed those down, we read them as editors. Something authors overlook more often than not is the editing part. There were submissions we didn’t accept because they contained major editing issues and as much as we may have liked the story, editing it would have taken major work. If the story was strong enough, we would invest the extra editing time. All editing takes a lot of time and slows the process down quite a bit when a story doesn’t read well. There are authors that can make that process difficult, and as an author I understand why that can be, however, good editors won’t change your story or your voice; they will help you build it instead.

One rule we have at Stormy is if you edited a piece for submission you can’t vote on it which keeps it from being biased.

Three of us at SIP are editors, so we all look them over to be sure we catch as much as possible. Sometimes those pesky mistakes still make it through—no one is perfect—and that’s okay; you just go over it again.

I hate editing my own work since, as all authors know, you read what you think you wrote and not what is actually there. A couple decades ago, when I was in my early teens, I met a local romance author. She was the mother of a friend of mine and a delightful lady. She told me to write the story and put it away for at least a month. Forget about it and go back to it only when you can’t remember all its contents. Reading it after that time is like reading it for the first time and if you don’t love it, either scrap it or fix it. Repeat the process until you have something you feel is great.

I still do this. However, I prefer to have my computer read it to me. Reading aloud or by text speech option on your computer is a great tool to use when editing for yourself. You catch a lot during this process. I’m not one of those authors who gets offended by critique, because honestly, in this business you need a thick skin, or you’ll crumble. I’ve worked with the public for decades so not much bothers me, and I know not to take anything personally. It’s important to know you will never please everyone and it’s okay. If you love it then it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Also, it’s a good reason to be thankful for online publishing places such as Amazon.

I edit for authors and others in my own side business as well. I do love helping people with their work. I have a couple regulars who come to me when they have submissions they want tightened up before they send it off. I love that they also keep me informed when the work is accepted or rejected. You become a part of their world and that’s my favorite part of it all!

Marketing is very time consuming for all areas. My author friends, family members, and followers share my posts as much as they can. I post things in groups on shareable days and on other pages where I’m able. Whenever I see an opportunity to share, I do it. I had more luck doing local advertising, but now, with the virus, things have changed. I have put books in little book-nooks here and there for free reading since exposure is key. Put yourself in every area you are able, even if you think nothing will come of it, do it anyway.

Talk about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

Online I have several author friends who are absolutely amazing! Honestly, if we lived closer to one another we would most likely cause a lot of chaos. Lol. They are wonderful to bounce ideas around with and I love their honesty when it comes to what they do or don’t like about a story.

At home, I have a longtime friend that reads everything I write and so does my mother-in law. I know I can send them stuff and ask their opinion and get an honest answer. They are big cheerleaders for me and advertise my work as often as they are able. I appreciate them more than they know.

How does life influence your writing and vice versa?

I’ve had a semi-interesting life according to my oldest child, and so there are experiences I have incorporated into my work. Sounds odd since most of my stories are fantasy, but it’s true. The Chronicles of Fey started as a dream and is the same dream my main character, Kesta, has in the first chapter. Her name is also from the same dream. Writing is my therapy. I’ve always loved to read, but writing has been a passion since I was in elementary school. No matter what type of day I have had I can write and feel 100% better afterwards. It centers my mind and calms my soul. It relaxes me more than a glass of wine does. It was my escape as a child, just like reading, and always will be.

What do you love most about your creativity?

I love the way you can create something that evokes emotions in someone else. I cried writing a scene in Death’s Door and I know several who read it cried at that same scene—not that I enjoy making people cry (lol), maybe a little, but knowing they felt what I did is rather remarkable. Authors are all a part of their story and reading their work is just like reading their spirit. It was once said we open our hearts and bleed on the pages, and it’s true. I write mainly for myself, since I need to get it out of my head, but I love sharing my world of words with others. If I’ve made some smile, or brightened someone’s day with my work, well, then that’s all its about, isn’t it? 😊

Connect with Melissa:

Friday Flash Fiction: The Beast

She was just a girl.

With a trust fund none knew about.

A girl born into the wrong time.

I should have lived in Victorian America, when melancholy was in high fashion—she’d whisper as I lay spooned around her. More often than not, I found her curled up in bed, staring at the wall. Only I witnessed her bravery in rising after days of feeling like nothing. She remained alive by sheer will.

And my cooking. I loved to cook for her. She ate everything and delighted in it, even when the beast held her tighter than I ever could. Food comforted her, and kept her alive, if not lively.

She rarely left her little home overlooking the river. The little house hung like an afterthought upon the bluff, threatening to come unmoored at any moment and tumble into the river. Incredibly, she worried not at all about the inevitable possibility. Her reason—This house will fall when I’m ready.

I love this house—she said quietly—Did you know it used to be a hermitage before this area was developed? I did, but shook my head, encouraging her to continue with the story about our local river king, whom most called a saint for the miraculous happenings during his time in this home.

Susurrations of gossip followed her through town as she walked, head up, eyes straightforward, never lingering to purchase anything beyond necessities.

Until I followed her home one day and she invited me in as though she were expecting me. From that day on, I made her purchases along with my own, but nothing staved off the beast, her modern day melancholy. The conversation that first day immersed us in an ongoing dialogue of slightly differing philosophies and worldviews, with matching intellectual curiosities. Love blossomed that day.

I saw it happen.

On my way up the switchbacks with an angelfood cake and a handful of wildflowers, the ground trembled. A cracked formed on the edge of the bluff just under the overhanging edge of the house. It shook, and slowly shifted downward.

Until it tumbled and slid down into the river. A hand may have appeared out the window. Perhaps not.

There’s no explanation for my continued climb to what was now the top, where I found the beast dangling. It lives in me. I shall not love in that way again.

Rain: A Collection of Short Stories by Steve Carr

From a dystopian Earth of radical climate unlivable for humans, to a ghost exacting payment in the form of a child, these stories will plunge you deep and whip you back up into the air. Carr writes about the human condition while delving into fantasy, science fiction, and psychological horror, bringing readers to the edge and nearly dropping them. Neighbor fears neighbor in a world gone nuclear, an old man brings life back to the soil through magical wind chimes, and a neglected wife flies away on a hummingbird. Carr’s style is intense, lingering with readers. I highly recommend all of his books.

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

Shay finds herself taken in by the glamorous Moore sisters, astonished at being included in their circle. A circle that turns out to have been founded for an insidious purpose, for which the Moore sisters turn Shay’s life upside down. She must go off the grid to clear her name and protect herself. These authors write very well together, though it seemed at the end to become a different story. This made it not so much confusing as simply delving into an undeveloped subplot that turned highly significant. Still, this is a good story about loyalty, friendship, and deceit, a dark take on feminism. I received a digital copy of this novel from the publisher St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

Flash Fiction Friday: That Little Lock

In the quiet of twilight, when everyone else was gone, I went out to Dad’s garage behind the house. He was working on our old Ford Ltd.


Sitting on a stool in from of his worktable, I posited, “Daddy?”

“Yes, baby?” He responded while putting parts together. He’d tried teaching me mechanics, but it didn’t take, leaving him so frustrated that he yelled at me to go back inside and learn how to cook. I can’t cook neither.

“Daddy, I need a lock on my door.” The silence expanded to fill my head with his rising anger.

“What the hell do you need a lock for? You’re not locking me and your mother out of that room. We pay the rent here. Whatever you’re hiding we’ll find out anyways.” Holding the part, he dropped onto the creeper and rolled under the car.

“Daddy, I’m tired of Sam coming into my room without knocking. He comes in when I’m dressing and won’t leave no matter how much I scream. I gotta grab my clothes and go past him to dress in the bathroom.”

The creeper flew out and Dad sat up, looking at me with his crazy eyes that scared me, but I held my ground. “Are you serious?”

I nodded.

He stood up, wiped his hands on a red rag, and paced the room, shouting, “That little sonuvabitch! That little bastard! I didn’t raise no son of mine to be a pervert. I didn’t raise him to be peeping at his sister.” Daddy stopped, looked me straight in the eye, and asked, “He never touched you, has he?”

“God, no! Ain’t it enough that he’s looking at me? That he’s coming in my room without permission?” I hugged myself and shivered, having not thought of that possibility.

“Alright, baby, I gotcha,” he reassured me as he looked for a lock in his tool box. After picking up his drill, he left the garage, me following him inside and down to my room. A simple latch lock went onto my door in a few minutes. Daddy kissed my head and returned to his garage.

That evening, I was reading in our downstairs family room when my brother got home from his after school job. Daddy was waiting for him. Soon as the door opened, he launched into him, reamed him out clean. He didn’t even show up for dinner.

Halfway through dressing the next morning, Sam’s voice boomed through my door, “You awake in there, Serena?” A little chuckle turned into a BAM as he hit the door that wouldn’t open. I stood quietly in front of my closet, one leg in my pants, as he pounded the door and hollered to be let in.

My journal is filled with possibilities of what coulda happened without that little lock.

Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer…pub date April 14, 2020

Believing she is a bad mother, Beth does not address her postpartum depression. After she and her siblings move their father into a care facility due to his deepening dementia, she volunteers to clean out their family home. Behind the padlocked door to their childhood playroom, Beth discovers her father’s mysterious paintings that seem to correspond to notes left by her mother, unlocking a family secret that may provide a connection with her mother and become her saving grace. Rimmer presents a complex family dynamic to which many could relate, and then explodes it with a secret so horrifying, it remained hidden for decades. Anyone who has discovered their family secret will definitely identify with the feelings of betrayal and questioning their identity. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from the publisher Graydon House through NetGalley.



September 14, 1957

I am alone in a crowded family these days, and that’s the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. Until these past few years, I had no idea that lone­liness is worse than sadness. I’ve come to realize that’s because loneliness, by its very definition, cannot be shared.

Tonight there are four other souls in this house, but I am unreachably far from any of them, even as I’m far too close to guarantee their safety. Patrick said he’d be home by nine tonight, and I clung on to that prom­ise all day.

He’ll be home at nine, I tell myself. You won’t do anything crazy if Patrick is here, so just hold on until nine.

I should have known better than to rely on that man by now. It’s 11:55 p.m., and I have no idea where he is.

Beth will be wanting a feed soon and I’m just so tired, I’m already bracing myself—as if the sound of her cry will be the thing that undoes me, instead of something I should be used to after four children. I feel the fear of that cry in my very bones—a kind of whole-body tension I can’t quite make sense of. When was the last time I had more than a few hours’ sleep? Twenty-four hours a day I am fixated on the terror that I will snap and hurt someone: Tim, Ruth, Jeremy, Beth…or myself. I am a threat to my children’s safety, but at the same time, their only protection from that very same threat.

I have learned a hard lesson these past few years; the more difficult life is, the louder your feelings become. On an ordinary day, I trust facts more than feelings, but when the world feels like it’s ending, it’s hard to dis­tinguish where my thoughts are even coming from. Is this fear grounded in reality, or is my mind playing tricks on me again? There’s no way for me to be sure. Even the line between imagination and reality has worn down and it’s now too thin to delineate.

Sometimes I think I will walk away before something bad happens, as if removing myself from the equation would keep them all safe. But then Tim will skin his knee and come running to me, as if a simple hug could take all the world’s pain away. Or Jeremy will plant one of those sloppy kisses on my cheek, and I am reminded that for better or worse, I am his world. Ruth will slip my handbag over her shoulder as she follows me around the house, trying to walk in my footsteps, because to her, I seem like someone worth imitating. Or Beth will look up at me with that gummy grin when I try to feed her, and my heart contracts with a love that really does know no bounds.

Those moments remind me that everything changes, and that this cloud has come and gone twice now, so if I just hang on, it will pass again. I don’t feel hope yet, but I should know hope, because I’ve walked this path before and even when the mountains and valleys seemed insur­mountable, I survived them.

I’m constantly trying to talk myself around to calm, and sometimes, for brief and beautiful moments, I do. But the hard, cold truth is that every time the night comes, it seems blacker than it did before.

Tonight I’m teetering on the edge of something horrific.

Tonight the sound of my baby’s cry might just be the thing that breaks me altogether.

I’m scared of so many things these days, but most of all now, I fear myself.

Excerpted from Truths I Never Told You by Kelly Rimmer, Copyright © 2020 by Lantana Management Pty Ltd. Published by Graydon House Books.

Erin Crocker—Novelist, Award-winning Short Story Author, Editor, Creative Writing Coach, Actress, and Women’s Advocate

Erin was born in Missouri and moved to the East Coast in 2007. She holds an A.A.S in General Studies with an emphasis in Police Science, a Certificate of Education from Germanna Community College and a Bachelor’s of English, Linguistics, and Communications from the University of Mary Washington. She enjoys writing, acting, dabbling in the stock market and cryptocurrencies, and playing instruments. An introvert to the core, Erin self-identifies as a doughnut enthusiast and in her free time if she’s not price shopping for lye, she enjoys long walks in dark forests carrying her favorite shovel.

Tell me about your writing process: schedule, environment, inspirations, magic spells, etc.

Most of the time I write between phone conferences with various celebrities while I’m traveling on my private jet. I find that it’s the optimal place to write, up in the clouds, on my way to a tropical coast. Joking…

I can’t say that I have a process. I write. That’s pretty much it—one word and then next and the next. I never force myself to write; I don’t keep a set schedule or judge myself on the plethora of days and times I should be writing and I’m not.

On warm days (spring, summer, early fall) I have an outdoor spot where I write. It serves as fantastic inspiration, but I won’t say where it is.

As far as magical spells go, the fairies keep stealing them. Every single time I concoct a new one those thieving little jerks come along and take it from me. So, I would be more than happy to divulge the spells, but I no longer have them. Perhaps interview the fairies. They will tell you…maybe.

Walk me through the publishing process as an editor of anthologies, from soliciting submissions to marketing the final product.

I wouldn’t call the publishing process ‘walking’. The better term would be stumbling. It’s not an easy feat. Publishing an anthology would be my excuse for turning to alcoholism. But really, I think it’s a matter of being very clear on the submission call…VERY clear in terms of what I’m looking for, what I expect in terms of formatting, word count, content, etc. Doing this seems to help.

It’s working with a large number of artists, all with different tastes, styles, and trying to combine everything into a single volume; it can be fun and challenging particularly because it is multi-genre. I’ve really been fortunate to have worked with extremely talented authors and poets which has helped make publishing both “Cocky-Tales” and “Rejected” wonderful experiences.

Marketing is always a tough one. I approach it a bit differently. I don’t do what they call “link drop”. I’ve always worked to build a relationship with my audience from participating in real-life events to going Facebook Live, I appreciate everyone who takes time to leave a comment or follow my page, and I enjoy interacting with them as much as possible. When I market an anthology, I want my audience to also get to know the authors here and there—bios are important to me. I loved posting the rescue pet photos that a few of our authors had sent in.

Talk about your support system online and IRL; who are your biggest cheerleaders?

I feel like I have a larger support system online than in real life. Per the last question, I’ve taken time to try my best to build genuine relationships and express my appreciation because, wow(!), sometimes the interaction blows my mind! I’ve made a number of great online friends who are also authors or aspiring authors, and they are wonderful.

In real life I wouldn’t say I necessarily have ‘cheerleaders’. Although, I’m not opposed to cheerleading uniforms (i.e. Dallas Cowboys…anyways, that wasn’t the question. Was it?) I have a handful of friends, and I think if I ever wanted to quit writing, they’d probably try to talk me out of it, lol.

Purchase series at Amazon

How does life influence your writing and vice versa? Feel free to share anything you want about When She Walked Away. Also, blatantly exploit this opportunity to advertise all your freelance work.

I think every piece of fiction is sourced from bits and pieces of reality. My life influences my writing in significant ways. While the experiences don’t exactly parallel, I think there’s parts of me in overall situations or traits in characters. If it wasn’t personal on a certain level, I wouldn’t write it.

When I write I also find I’m discovering myself. Maybe not in the initial piece, but once I am finished and I step back and see the complete picture, I find something new within me that I hadn’t recognized. Art is cool in that sense.

Purchase series at Amazon

What do you love most about your creativity?

It’s a good way to escape. My creativity allows me to process situations in abstract and escapist dynamics; otherwise, I don’t know that I could deal with some things through the lens of “normal society”.

Author Extra: Tell us how you get acting roles! Don’t leave out the unglamorous, hard work parts.

Luck? Accident? I turned down my first role two times. I felt I was gracious and polite about it, having recognized the opportunity to be involved in something as big as Netflix, but it wasn’t where I thought I wanted to go in life. Finally, I ended up taking it.

After that, I decided I’d do some background roles. I only ever meant to stand in the background as ‘popcorn eating patron number 137’, but at my second job which was “Unmasked”, the director pulled me and gave me a speaking role. Then and there I made an important decision: Nothing is worth doing if it doesn’t scare the hell out of me.

Acting is practice, practice, practice…it’s investing time and finances into the craft. It’s driving to audition after audition, most are spur of the moment. It’s coming home from the gym, sweaty, at ten o’ clock at night, changing my shirt, putting on makeup, fixing my hair, and self-taping an audition or several.

It’s rejection after rejection, and sometimes you don’t even hear that “no”. What I do is submit and move on. Dwelling and checking email every second of the day is like concrete. It holds you back. Submit, move on, move forward, let go, because if it is meant to be, it’ll happen. And when I do hear a “yes” (YES!) it is so worth it, the entire process is worth it.

Connect with Erin:
instagram: @authorerincrocker

I Know How This Ends by Amy Impellizzeri

Journalist Rory Garcia struggles in her relationship and her career, seeking stability in both. On her way to cover a protest, she is thwarted by roadblocks, yet she finds herself investing in a story that calls to her despite her skepticism of its veracity. Kate and Ian return in their friend Dee’s tale to Rory of their time-bending romance, as they make their way to their daughter Hope’s graduation, valedictorian of a special class, those born on or close to 9/11. Impellizzeri moves her characters in and out of time and dimensions and lives carefully and credibly, so that by the end, Dear Reader is fully satisfied by not only the romance at the crux of the tale, but by all the connections and possibilities. I received a digital copy of this wonderful story from the author for an honest review. Although I was a bit confused throughout the story, the ending pulled it all together beautifully and left me with a book hangover.

Flash Fiction Friday: Escape

Gabriella, aka Gabriel, dashed through the alleys and over fences, easily evading the militia. She prised the top off the faux ammo urn, the sign behind it proclaiming it the property of the Fortnite Militia. Inside she shirked the clothes off and whispered the spell. The mercenaries jerked off the lid and peered inside, seeing nothing at first in the darkness. They turned aside and inspected the lid. Gabriella pulled herself out of the urn and slowly backed away, as quietly as possible, completely naked and invisible. Again, the soldiers looked in, and this time, they saw the shed clothing. Snatching up the shirt and pants, they guffawed at the audacity of the young man to think he could escape them, and yet they were at a loss to explain returning with only his clothes and an unbelievable story.