Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Traveling to Sumatra with Nancy Raven Smith!

I'm delighted to welcome Nancy Raven Smith to my Travels today and visit...Sumatra! I don't believe I've ever read a book set there. Read on to see how she delved into some fascinating research.

Writing About an Unvisited Location
So you want to set your new writing project in a foreign location you’ve never visited?

Not an unusual occurrence for a writer, and one that happened to me with my debut novel, Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra.
The area around Sumatra was important to my story for it’s history of identity theft and counterfeit identity via forged passports and identity papers. A recent example of this was when two passengers (not involved with its loss) on the Malaysia Airline that disappeared tragically a few years ago, were discovered to be traveling under fake passports bought in adjacent Thailand. Since my new series is all about scams, cons, and frauds, Sumatra was a perfect place to locate my first book.

Then there was the actual island itself. Sumatra is the third largest of the 13,677 islands that make up Indonesia and is the sixth largest island in the world. Physically, it is about the same size, shape, and population as California and full of wild beauty. It’s a rich environment, filled with possibilities that fill the imagination.

What more can a fiction writer want than an island whose western side is lined with ninety-three volcanoes - fifteen of them active. Imagine California with fifteen active volcanoes. On a tiny island just off the southern tip of Sumatra is Krakatoa, one of the most infamous volcanoes in the world. You may have heard of the latest eruptions of Sumatra’s Mount Sinabung. It’s in the northern third of the island and a stratovolcano, as is Krakatoa and Mount Saint Helens in the US. Mount Sinabung has been spewing gas and ash clouds as well as lava for the last two plus years with no sign of stopping. It’s located to the North of Lake Toba, which is a super volcano like Yellowstone.

 Rainforests, marsh, and shallow rivers cover a third of the entire island and dominate the topography on the eastern side. 

The flora is as fascinating as the topography. There are over 35,000 known plant species in Indonesia. It’s the home of the infamous corpse plant, which smells like purification, and Rafflesia which produces the world’s largest bloom. Hibiscus, jasmine, bougainvillea, lotus, and frangipani are common. Sumatra’s rainforest trees grow over sixty meters tall.

The animals are unique too – 176 different mammals, including orangutans, Sumatran tigers, rhinoceros, elephants, sun bears, clouded leopards, and tapirs as large as ponies. The orangutan exists only in Sumatra and neighboring Borneo.

Reptiles, insects, and aquatic life are just as varied as the mammals. Luckily the fierce Komodo dragons live a fair distance away on a different island. The rare and colorful bird species number 523 including Birds of Paradise, Black Ibis, Sunbirds, pheasants, owls, nightjars, parrots, hornbills, cuckoos, and hawks. The bird population alone fills volumes of books.

The people of the island are as diversified as everything else. Although there are a large number of ethnicities, more than eighty-six percent of the population is Muslim. Christians are the next largest group at a distant second. They are followed by Buddhists and Hindus. Local tribes still exist such as the Batak people in the north.

But sadly, I’ve never been there. So I researched. Researching is definitely a wonderful part of writing. Here’s how I went about it. First, I bought several current travel books on Sumatra. In the front of travel books is always a section on the abbreviated history on an area, a section on flora and fauna, and a section on the people, culture, government, and food as well as descriptions about travel and money. I read these carefully and took notes. Then I bought a large wall map. From it, I got a sense of topography and distances. I picked where I thought the story might take place and zeroed on that specific location. The location changed as I learned more, and I repeated this process several times before finalizing my choice. At the same time, I was still taking notes, searching on the internet, and following things about Sumatra in the news. 

Then I went to Amazon and Ebay to see what was available about Sumatra. I ordered and read several first hand accounts of living on the island. I also ordered videos of the area. These actually give you a true visual of the area, especially if you look at the background and not just at what the video focuses on. You also can see how the people sound and look. One video I’ll mention that was absorbing for me was called The Ring of Fire: An Indonesian Odyssey filmed by the Blair brothers as they journeyed through the islands of Indonesia for ten years. It’s old and on VHS (1991) as a 4 tape set, but they also kept a diary and published it. Another program I watched was a much more recent Globe Trekker episode, a Nova episode, and several programs on orangutans. (All on DVD). Another thing I’d recommend if you have the opportunity is to interview someone who has been to the location.

Then I wrote my book. 

Thank you Kaye for letting me share how I research a location with your readers.


Nancy Raven Smith grew up in Virginia where she ran horse sport events. Later in California, she worked in film and studied screenwriting at UCLA. Her scripts have won numerous awards, but she decided to write one idea as a novel. To her surprise, she discovered a passion for writing mysteries. Raven Smith realized that she found her true creative home in writing mysteries/romantic suspense. Land SharksA Swindle in Sumatra is her first mystery/romantic suspense novel. She hopes people will enjoy reading it as much as she did writing it. She was thrilled when it was chosen as an Amazon/Kindle Scout Program Winner.


In Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra, a bank fraud investigator goes undercover in Sumatra to find a young heiress who may or may not have been kidnapped. Her job might be easier if she didn't have to deal with her boss's untrained son who has a crush on her and the unexpected appearance of an ex-boyfriend who’s a conman with his own secret agenda.         – Mystery/Romantic Suspense

The ebook for Land Sharks is on sale for the month of August, 2016 for $1.99 on Amazon.
Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra Amazon Link -
The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill Amazon Link -

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Short Bit of BSP

BSP=Blatant Self-Promotion

But I'm actually promoting for all eight authors, our independent editor, and our publisher.

Our anthology, which began on a whim and took on a life of its own, has been named a finalist for a Silver Falchion Award at the Killer Nashville conference, taking place this next weekend!

Stories and authors:

A NICE SET OF WHEELS, by Kathy Waller
FAMILY BUSINESS, by Reavis Z. Wortham
ROTA FORTUNAE, by V. P. Chandler
MOME RATH, MY SWEET, by Gale Albright
BUON VIAGGIO, by Laura Oles
APORKALYPSE NOW, by Gale Albright
HAVE A NICE TRIP, by Kaye George
HELL ON WHEELS, by Kathy Waller
RED’S WHITE F-150 BLUES, by Scott Montgomery

Editor: Ramona DeFelice Long

Publisher: Wildside Press

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Healthy Eating?

I recently noticed two different articles on somewhat the same subject, both from the same publication, and was struck by them in juxtaposition.

First, there’s this one showing how many people eat fruits and veggies, by state. My present state, Tennessee, looks pretty abysmal. Third for the bottom for vegetables and dead last for fruit! I hope your state does better.

Then there’s this article from last year on the state of the drought in one of our most productive places.  

So, I thought to myself (well, who else would I think to?), maybe Tennessee is ahead of the curve. Maybe we’re trying to preserve what vegetables there are so everyone can have some. Yeah, right.

So, to console myself, I think I’ll heed this article.

All photos from

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Guest Today, Laurel Peterson Around the World

I welcome Laurel Peterson here today. She's a fellow Barking Rain Press author with an unusual book (see below).

by Laurel Peterson

Thanks so much for having here, Kaye. I’m delighted to be part of your blog for the day.

A writer—too vague, I know, but I can’t remember who said it—said that one can spend a lot of money justifying one’s travel as a tax write-off. He was talking about researching his books, and I know what he means! My husband and I once spent a weekend in Atlantic City so I could research a book that was never published. On the other hand, I have written a collection of poems about art I’ve seen in Sydney, Paris, and Madrid museums that’s coming out from Futurecycle Press next year (

The protagonist of my mystery novel Shadow Notes, Clara Montague, has spent fifteen years traveling around the world, looking at gardens because she is a landscape architect like her father, and because she and her mother had an (epic) argument after her father’s death. While sending her off into the world solved some narrative problems for me, it also offered an opportunity to use the places I’ve been (and the places I want to go) in my books. And no matter where I travel, I am drawn to the landscapes and the different ways in which people use their patches of earth. Starting locally, above are the rather perfect herb gardens at the Cloisters in New York City, which overlook a wide sweep of the Hudson River.

Last year, we were fortunate enough to be in France, where people garden like this:  

The window box is in Paris. The other is the cutting garden at the Chateau D’UseĆ© or Sleeping Beauty’s castle (where supposedly the story was written) in the Loire Valley. I love the color combination in the window box, and the idea of having an entire row of calla lilies just to cut for flowers for the house? Heaven!

But travel is expensive, so I indulge my obsession by reading books about travel: I’ve just finished Robert MacFarlane’s The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot¸ although I can’t imagine Clara, a luxury hotel kind of girl if there ever was one, trudging through the wilderness and sleeping in sheep shelters. (Where’s the blow-dryer??) But MacFarlane opens up the world on an essential level, a level that makes me think about soil composition (chalk, granite, clay), snow, ice, and the paths formed by generations of walkers across the land. He suggests that “the places we inhabit shape the people we are”—rather than the other way around. Certainly, the places I’ve travelled have shaped me, hopefully making me more tolerant, curious and observant, and reminding me (and Clara) that those people are really my people.

Related to that, I think the greatest charm of travel is that it makes me other; I don’t belong so there’s a sense of disorientation, of discovery, that just around the corner I am going to see something I have never seen before—and how cool is that? If I can communicate that internal emotional journey for my readers, I think I have succeeded. And perhaps, saved myself a bundle of money, tax-write off or no.

Why do you travel? How do your travels relate to your writing—or do they? I’d love to hear from you, and thanks for reading.
Follow me on Twitter: @laurelwriter49 and on Facebook.
Shadow Notes is available on Amazon:
or from Barking Rain Press:

Meet Laurel and find out a bit about her new book.

by Laurel S. Peterson
Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Clara suspects she and her mother share intuitive powers, but Constance always denied it. When Clara was twenty, she dreamed her father would have a heart attack. Constance claimed she was hysterical. Then he died.
Furious, Clara leaves for fifteen years, but when she dreams Constance is in danger, she returns home. Then, Constance’s therapist is murdered and Constance is arrested.
Starting to explore her mother’s past, Clara discovers books on trauma, and then there’s a second murder. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?   

Laurel S. Peterson is a Professor of English at Norwalk Community College. Her mystery novel,Shadow Notes, was released by Barking Rain Press in May 2016. In addition to writing mysteries, she has published two poetry chapbooks, That’s the Way the Music Sounds, from Finishing Line Press (2009) andTalking to the Mirror from The Last Automat Press (2010), and a full length collection, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer You?” will be released by Futurecycle Press in 2017. In 2016 – 2017, she is serving as the town of Norwalk’s Poet Laureate. She also co-edited a collection of essays on women’s justice titled(Re)Interpretations: The Shapes of Justice in Women’s Experience (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009).

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


I’m putting 3 copies of DEATH ON THE TREK into a Goodreads Giveaway. It’s a firecracker of a deal, starting July 4th! 

I’m including US, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia, so if you’re in one of these last three countries, you don’t have to feel left out.

Mark your calendar. Or, better yet, put the book on your “want to read” list so you’ll get notified when the giveaway starts. It will go for a week, so there’s leeway, but don’t miss it completely!

What better time to hop over there than right now?

I hope to see you there.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Guest today, Brad Smith, Accidental Author

My guest today is Brad Smith, husband of mystery and screen writer Nancy Raven Smith, and an author himself. Although he swears it was an accident. Please enjoy this charming post.

My First Book was an Accident
by Brad Smith

My wife, daughters and I were writing a memoir, a light-hearted love story about early years of my marriage with a wife, two youngsters, 26 horses, 12 cats, 10 dogs, and a cow, plus 2 suburban teenagers. I read that to get an agent and attract a traditional publisher, we would need a large online platform to help market the book.

So about five years ago I found myself in a social media class thinking through an assignment to start a blog. Now I come from an engineering background and like the idea of passing along some of the things I’ve learned to others, but where could I find content that would be useful to a reader. Being a jewelry teacher in the Santa Monica adult-ed school, I opted to document many of the little pieces of advice I give my students. These are solutions to common problems you run into when fabricating jewelry and tips that help to increase productivity or show how to avoid accidents. I called it the BenchTips blog.

I vowed to post short tips to the blog twice a week, and it turned out to be quite popular. BenchTips was hosted as a Facebook page and was adding followers at about 120 per month. I was amazed at the reach that social media could provide. Part of me kept polishing our farm life manuscript, doing research for the book proposal, and learning how we could find an agent while the other part of me was reading about the exciting world of ebooks and self publishing.

As my followers on the blog approached a couple thousand, I started thinking about publishing the bench tips as an ebook - first because there was an eager audience, second because there were few competing books, and third because it would teach me a lot about publishing in the rapidly changing book market. I read all I could on how to create an ebook and discovered there were print on demand companies like CreateSpace that would let me put out a paperback as well. So why not do both?

Editing the blog material into a book format took about two months, mostly for learning how to use Word functions like styles, page breaks, page numbering, and generation of TOC and Indexes. I also had to re-shoot a lot of the photographs, resize them, and adjust their resolution - there were 82 in the Bench Tips book. I shot my own cover, went over the proofs, made final changes, and OKed the paperback for release to Amazon. It was September 2012, and the realization hit me - I was actually an international author, published on Barnes & Noble and eleven Amazon country websites. I had learned a lot about publishing, but it was not with the book I had started to write.

But I now had what it would take to publish my full length, true love story “The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill” and I’m excited that it is currently in Kindle pre-sale and will be available in paperback and ebook formats on June 29, 2016. Catch it on Amazon - - or read a sample chapter at

Here's a bit about the book:
We all know the saying—opposites attract. But the real question is how long can such a relationship endure? That’s what troubles animal-phobic, robotics engineer Brad about his recent marriage to animal-lover Nancy. According to the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test, their union is doomed. There’s only one problem: they took the test after the wedding.

Whether he’s chasing a steer named Pork Chop through the woods with a lasso, locked in a tack room by the family pony, or trying unsuccessfully to manage their barn using his robotics experience, the odds are stacked against him.

Come enjoy the warm, unique, and hilarious stories of Brad’s early marriage and the bumpy road from his robotics lab to rural Virginia.

Bio for Brad Smith:
Smith’s early professional career with the U.S. Navy and the Department of Commerce in Washington, D.C. focused on manufacturing technology and computer-aided design. The resulting technologies developed by Smith are now widely used in the aircraft and automotive industries worldwide. He helped write numerous industry and government publications, and has presented speeches all over the world. As an adult school teacher, he has self published two how-to-books to support his students.

While his work environment was highly technical, his home life was not. With his family, he built and managed Whimsey Hill Farm. Smith partnered with his wife in a horse show business which included annual sporting events with over 1000 equine competitors. The couple was frequently featured in equestrian-related magazines, newspapers, and local publications. Smith says that the contrast between the farm and technology gave him the best of both worlds.

Please visit Brad at

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

REQUIEM IN RED giveaway!

3 copies to give away on Sunday!
Just comment below with your email address, please.