Saturday, December 3, 2016

Writers4Higher features author Diane Sawyer

Hi, Diane. Welcome to Writers4Higher.

1.   Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

Diane grew up in Greenport, a small resort town on the eastern tip of Long Island. She graduated from SUNY at Albany, Seton Hall University, and Fordham University, where she received a Ph.D. She married her college sweetheart, Robert. They lived in Tallman, New York, near New York City, and raised a son and daughter. She taught French, Latin, and English, and for several years was the Coordinator of a K-12 district-wide English as a Second Language Program.

Tired of shoveling snow and raking leaves, Diane and her husband made a big change in their lives. Fond of beaches and dramatic sunsets, they moved to St. Petersburg, Florida. No more snow, but plenty of leaves. She split her time working as an Educational Consultant and writing, but as soon as her first novel was published, she turned to writing full-time, and her long-time dream became a reality. Her short stories have won awards; her novels have been published internationally. She is a frequent guest speaker at writing groups and workshops.

The Tell-Tale Treasure is Diane’s first novel for SYP, Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. Others will soon follow. Her five previous novels—The Montauk Mystery, The Montauk Steps, The Tomoka Mystery, The Cinderella Murders, and The Treasures of Montauk Cove—were published originally in hardcover by Avalon, then in paperback by World Wide Mysteries, and recently in hardcover, paperback, and e-book by Thomas & Mercer, the mystery division of Amazon. She writes a newsletter/blog to family, friends she grew up with, neighbors, fitness friends, volunteer friends, writing friends, and people she meets as she travels the world seeking adventures that often make their way into her stories.

2.   Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

I can’t even begin to predict where my writing will take me.  A story begins forming when I learn something new and different (such as the haunting sound of a musical instrument called an erhu, sometimes called a Chinese fiddle or Chinese violin), then I research the topic to learn much more, and, most interesting of all, I create characters who will live that story and possibly help solve the mystery that is taking place. At that point, the hard work begins: writing and rewriting, discussing my critiquing partners’ advice and, of course, monitoring the characters, who, in every novel I write, seem to vie for a bigger role. That’s when I have to ask myself: who is in control?  Is it me or is it the characters?

For a long time, I reached into my past for memories of Long Island, where I grew up. I branched out to the New Jersey shore after I saw a painting entitled The Woman by the Sea, and created a story. Two years ago, I traveled to Guatemala on an adventure trip, where my group climbed high pyramids, swam deep rivers, learned how to shoot a blowgun, and journeyed through the jungle and onto a balsa raft to travel down an Amazon tributary. I recorded everything and turned it into an adventure story that should be in print next year. I didn’t know what I was writing until I got home and put it all together. So, I don’t know where my writing will take me—and that’s the biggest adventure of all! 

3.   How do you use your talents/time to help others?

Volunteerism plays a very important part in my life. Currently, I volunteer as a Friend (and Secretary) of the South Community Library in St. Petersburg. We organize all the donated books, sell them once a month at a very popular books sale, and with the funds we buy summer programs that take place at the library for the children of all ages. The programs are educational and fun. Most popular this past summer was the “Ranger” who arrived with boxes of every size (with air holes), housing animals that he discussed. The favorite was the amazingly long, bright yellow python.

I also teach creative writing to the Teenage Book Club at the library once a month. I am a docent at the Dali Museum, where I give tours in English and French.

Annual events also occupy much of my time: The Great American Teach-In where I teach 6 classes of creative writing in one day, once a year: First Night (New Year’s Eve Celebration) where my husband and I serve as information people and sell tickets to our popular event for all ages. Over the years,  I have also volunteered at Bayfront Hospital, The Fine Arts Museum, and the Florida International Museum.

Readers can connect with me at my Amazon Page:

My books are available from my publisher:

Southern Yellow Pine (SYP) Publishing:

              Also, online at these vendors:

      and   www.barnes&

Best to you and your writing, Diane!

Rhett DeVane, blogmaster
Southern Fiction Author

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Writers4Higher features author Rick Burnham

Hi Rick. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

1.     Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

I am originally from Jasper, Fla., a small town about an hour or so east of Tallahassee. That is where my heart is, and that is where a few of the fictional towns from my book are located.

The Air Force took me away from all that – at least for 22 years. But I was able to see the world, and visit places that I would almost certainly have missed otherwise. Korea. Panama. Portugal. Washington, DC.

Education came a little later than most. I have a couple of undergraduate degrees: Psychology from Saint Leo, and English from Valdosta State. I absolutely enjoy the classroom. Just a little weird like that, I guess.

I also enjoy writing, obviously. My first attempt, “Lute Casey, Redneck Vampire,” is a curious little cross between Stephen King and Jeff Foxworthy and was more fun to write than I care to admit. The second took a more serious turn. “Moon Over Berlin” follows my father’s trek through WWII, with a nice little fictional jaunt thrown in for fun. It was my intent to get it into his hands while he was still here, and I was very happy to achieve that.

The plot of my third and current book, “Hank: The Storyteller’s Story” is a bit more involved than the first two. At its core, I guess, “Hank” is a love story, though it is more about the bonds of family and friendship than romance. Sorry, no “50 Shades” this time around.

I currently live in Cairo, Ga. with my wife Stephanie, and work at the Florida Department of Elder Affairs. I have been there for two-and-a-half years.

2.     Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

My job at the Department of Elder Affairs gives me the opportunity to meet and talk with a great number of elders living in the state of Florida. I mention that because I believe our elders to be a tremendous source of inspiration. They are an absolute treat to talk to, and their stories and experiences are a veritable treasure trove of material. If there has been one theme with my books, it has been “old folks talking.” I intend to explore that path a bit more thoroughly.

3.     How do you use your talents/time to help others?

A couple of ways. Through the newspaper of the Department of Elder Affairs (The Elder Update), I am able to tell the stories of a few of our citizens here in the state. I enjoy doing it, and if my work brings an enhanced sense of pride and satisfaction for the people I write about, along with those who read my stories, then I have done my job.

Also, I have been blessed with a very (very) vivid imagination, and if the stories I put down on paper offer any respite at all from world events for my readers, then all the better.

Readers can connect with Rick at:

Thank you, Rick. 

We wish you the very best!

Rhett DeVane, author and blogmaster

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Writers4Higher features author Waletta Dunn

Hi Waletta. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

1.     Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

I was born in Bossier City, Louisiana and received my undergraduate degree from Texas College in Business Administration and earned a graduate degree in Public Administration from the University of Oklahoma. I’m an established professional in the Human Resources Department at Florida A&M University, where I have been employed for the last ten years. Before joining the staff at Florida A & M University in Tallahassee, Florida, I  worked for 12 years as a higher education counselor for the military while traveling with my husband before he retired from the Marine Corps after 20 years of service. The breadth of my personal and professional experiences have contributed enormously to my writings. A rich slice of American life is brought to light in my debut novel, More Than Sistersas it moves the reader through the full range of emotions – joy, pain, laughter, tears, and triumph! I am grateful that More Than Sisters was recently ranked among the top 100-rated African American Christian Fiction, Kindle Edition. 
I have been married for 30 years to now retired Marine, Donald Michael Dunn. I am the proud mother of two young, adult children, Michael Stewart Dunn and daughter, Ashley Elaine Dunn.
I was originally interested in journalism until I took my first accounting class in college, which catapulted my career in a different direction. However, inspired by my award-winning sister, screen and play playwriter, Judi Ann Mason (“Sister Act II; Back In The Habit,” ”A Different World," "I'll Fly Away"), I never lost my love and passion of writing.
Set in Bossier City, Louisiana, More Than Sisters, is the story of three siblings, twenty-year-old Olivia, eight-year-old Gayle, and eighteen-month-old Dani.  Olivia promises her dying mother that she will help her father care for the two younger siblings.  Years pass and their father dies of a sudden heart attack.  A series of unexpected occurrences draws the sisters into adverse situations and they struggle with a dark secret that could drive the family apart and test their faith in God

My second novel, Faithful Father, will be available on Amazon October 15, 2016, It begins when a new girl, Danielle Ferguson, comes to the Texas College campus, her sudden arrival piques the interest of Edison Hamilton, a handsome member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
Even as he begins to fall in love, Edison seems determined to guard his heart. He struggles with the pain of abandonment … a pain that has haunted him since his father deserted him and his mother years ago.
Despite his reservations, Edison slowly lets down his guard. Within months, he marries Danielle and enlists in the United States Marine Corps.
With the love and support of his wife, Edison draws closer to God and is determined to live a righteous life. After years of no contact, Edison unexpectedly receives a letter from his estranged father asking for help. Now he finds himself at a crossroad between the man he used to be and the man he's becoming.

The Marines transformed him into a new man.

Faith transformed him into a new creation.

When the new man meets the new creation, will forgiveness be the bridge that reconciles his past to his future?

2.     Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

I pray that my writing will take me beyond my wildest imagination.  I hope to write many more novels that bring hope, faith and love into the lives of my readers.  

3.     How do you use your talents/time to help others?

I write stories that make a difference in the lives people.  I want to share my experiences in ways that will benefit hurting people so they will see there is always a way out and that there is always hope.

Readers can connect with me at:


More Than Sisters is available at
Faithful Father will be available October 15, 2016

Waletta Dunn, Author


Thank you, Waletta! Best to you and your writing.

Rhett DeVane, author and blogmaster

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Writers4Higher features Michael Kinnett

Hi Michael. Thank you for joining us on Writers4Higher!


Tell me about yourself, your book, your life, your inspiration.

I would like to introduce myself; Michael Kinnett, I am a new author at Southern Yellow Pine Publishing. 

 After a working career and raising two daughters, my wife and I moved to the Florida Panhandle. It was in the historic town of Apalachicola that I began creating and caring for the Orman House State Park Museum. When I started, the house was an empty shell. Immersed in local history, I now enjoy sharing Apalachicola’s rich heritage with thousands of visitors from around the world. Apalachicola Pearl was born from my passion for the town’s history and its people. My sincere wish is for you to enjoy reading Apalachicola Pearl as much as I enjoyed writing her.

  Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

When it comes to writing these days it’s not as though I have much choice. With the storyline for Apalachicola Pearl stuck in my head I didn’t sleep for four month until I had it all down on paper. There were times I questioned if a seven year old girl from the 1800s might have been channeling through me. I will continue writing just for pleasure, I love a well told story.

 How do you use your talents/time to help others?

I am a story teller and interpreter for the Florida State Park Service at Orman House State Park Museum. My passion is in sharing the rich heritage of Apalachicola, Florida, with all who would listen. I feel as though I have done my job when young people become inspired by history and want to learn more.

Please visit Michael Kinnett on Facebook

And on Twitter: ApalachicolaPe1 

Michael's  first novel is being published and will be ready to ship on August 18th.

Presales have already begun at  
Apalachicola Pearl will be available on Amazon after August 18th.

Thank you again, sir. Best to you and your writing!

Rhett DeVane, southern fiction author and blogmaster

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Writers4Higher welcomes Becca Engelbrecht

Hi, Becca. Welcome to Writers4Higher!

1. Tell me about yourself. Your books, your life, your inspiration.

I was born in Tallahassee, Florida where I have lived my whole life, except for four years that I lived overseas in Scotland as a missionary. In Edinburgh and Bathgate Scotland, I helped with music and children’s ministries. My passions are music, writing, and working with children.

Although I have a serious side too, I enjoy being funny and making people laugh, feel comfortable, and feel like they belong and are valuable. If you ask nicely, I may even do my “famous” monkey sound for you ;0!

Relationships are important to me. I’d rather be with my friends and loved ones than alone. We can learn so much from each other. I had an awesome relationship with my two grandmothers (My two grandpas died in the same year when I was three, so I didn’t get to know them very well.). I believe that I am a better person today for spending such quality time and learning valuable lessons from both grandmothers. Now, I am watching my two boys build those wonderful relationships with my parents.

My first published book, Birthday Grandpa and Me, was written to celebrate those important inter-generational relationships. It is my hope that the book will celebrate life and bring people together.

I currently teach elementary school which I have done for a total of 12 years. In my free time, I enjoy making music, writing, and going on adventures with my husband and two boys (ages 7 and 3).

I started writing songs in my teens and my love for writing stories and books grew when I had the opportunity to teach writing in an elementary school. I earned a Master’s degree in Publishing from Napier Univeristy in Edinburgh, Scotland in hopes of gaining more knowledge for publishing my ideas. After graduating in 2007, I took some time off of writing to care for my husband (who was wounded in Iraq) and my two young boys. My husband is on the mend, the boys are growing, and I am now back in the swing of things and “making time” for my writing.

2. Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

As a teacher, I have seen a decline in the love of reading due to competition with gaming and a resistance to rigorous standards. I want to help change that. The new educational standards don’t allow for as much imaginative and creative writing as there used to be. Kids want to have fun and enjoy reading fun things that make them laugh and feel good. I want kids and parents to know that they can still master the standards AND have fun loving to read and write at the same time.

I hope to continue publishing more children’s books that celebrate the joys of life, fun, relationships, love, and laughter that will give hope and bring people together. My second book, Goodnight, “I’m Not Charlie”, will be out later this year. It celebrates the joys of bedtime through a resistant little boy who comes up with all kinds of imaginative excuses as to why he can’t go to bed, until Mommy uses a trick of her own to get him into bed. I am actively seeking an agent to represent me so that I can publish traditionally. The company I used for my first two books is a hybrid (Tate Publishing) which I used in hopes of getting a start as a new author.

In addition to writing and sharing books with others, I am interested in providing workshops that will help other up-and-coming writers to gain more knowledge in the writing field.

Other than children’s picture books, I have ideas for chapter books (fantasy) and adult nonfiction relating to being a missionary and an army wife.

3. How do you use your talents/time to help others?

As a teacher, I use my time and talents to help others learn and grow on a daily basis. I enjoy watching students and parents bond in rejoicing over progress. I use my music and writing talents to inspire the families to courageously take on new challenges and desire to better themselves through reading, music, and the arts. I am also involved in the music and children’s ministries at my local church, where I participated as a lead role in our Christmas musical last year as Alice in The Christmas Post. That was so much fun- my first musical ever! Why did I wait so long to participate in one? Another thing I do is write commissioned poetry gifts for friends, family, coworkers, students, and parents. They give me information about someone, and I put it all together in a fun rhyming poem as a gift. 

Where to find Becca:

Barnes and
National Press Release:
Youtube trailer:

Thank you for joining us on Writers4Higher!

Rhett DeVane
southern fiction author and blogmaster

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Writers4Higher features author Ellen Thomas

Hi, Ellen. Welcome to Writers4Higher!

1.  Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

Life is messy, unpredictable and full of mistakes. However, like the puzzle pieces on the autism flag, our happenings usually fit together. I met my husband during my senior year at college. I received a Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education. He was finishing up his Master’s degree in the same field. We had no idea our union of knowledge would be tested years later when we  adopted our daughter, Grace. Before Grace was two, she displayed behaviors we hadn’t seen with our boys. One day, she became angry, piled books on her floor, ripped off her diaper and wet all over the beloved stories. Other times, she screamed for hours. An enigma because Grace was extremely loving. Her behaviors intensified as her body grew. Raging hormones was an understatement. Impulsivity produced shoplifting behaviors. When her psychiatrist gave a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, my head pounded as if someone had hit me with a baseball bat. This was a life sentence for our beautiful, creative, fifth grader. Classmates put her into solitary confinement by bullying her. My husband and I were helpless to explain why no one wanted to attend her birthday parties. Our stress increased when Grace tried to commit suicide at high school. Good can come from bad because that led to her duel diagnosis of autism. She hadn’t seen suicide as permanent. 

I never thought about being an author. It was overwhelming frustration that led me to a keyboard. My fingers struck the keys, releasing feelings of loss, confusion, helplessness, loneliness and anger at God. If my child had cancer, I could yell it from the rooftop. People would have presented us with casseroles and offered prayers. They would have brought their children over to visit. “Mentally disabled," “bipolar disorder,” and “autism,”  scares people. Bewildered parents try to hide their special needs child under a blanket of secrecy. It might work if those pesky, odd behaviors didn’t pop out in public places. Glory to God for holding us in his hand. He chose my husband and I, our sons, and extended family to make a great team. Grace has grown into a successful young woman. 

2.  Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

I’ve written two books about our life with Grace. THE BIPOLAR EXPRESS STOPS AT AUTISM STATION: One Christian Woman’s Life Journey In The Company Of A Child With Bipolar Disorder And Asperger’s Syndrome chronicles her adoption and life through her freshman year at high school. The Bipolar Express Stops At Autism Station is the sequel. Readers see Grace's idiosyncrasies of autism, her fight to control her range of emotions, and our struggle to get her a free and appropriate education. Our daughter is on the right track so I’m working on a children’s series. This series will be lighter on my heart but just as challenging.  Writing fiction is a huge leap of faith. 

3.    How do you use your talents/time to help others?

My daughter is my hero. She has allowed me to make her private life public in the hopes of inspiring others. It’s our family's desire to let parents of special needs kids know they are not alone. We hope to educate the public about mental disabilities. People shouldn’t be so quick to judge the parenting of a child throwing a tantrum in the grocery store. He or she might not be spoiled but is having a meltdown due to sensory overload. 

There are many fantastic teachers, schools, and school districts, however, parents need to understand their child’s educational rights. To effectively work with teachers and administrators, parents should familiarize themselves with their county's procedural safeguards, understand the laws pertaining to a 504 Plan and the Individuals with Disabilities Educational Act (IDEA).

It’s difficult to work on a relationship with your spouse when a battle rages inside your child’s brain. My husband and I began ballroom dancing. Working as partners on a dance floor has helped us be partners in life. It’s provided exercise, stress relief and new friends. I became a yogi a year ago. Yoga helps me to remember to breathe deeply and stay in the moment. When I’m tied up in knots, I tie knots with knitting needles. I’ve knitted a few scarves and hats and have become a Knitwit. Scrapbooking brings happy memories to the forefront. 

I try to remember the instruction given while flying on an airplane and apply it to everyday life; put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others. Prayer continues to sustain me. 

You Are Not Alone,

Ellen Thomas


Would you like to find out more about Ellen Thomas?




Thank you for visiting Writers4Higher.
Do come back! You are among friends.

Rhett DeVane
Southern Fiction author and blogmaster

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Writers4Higher features author Darlyn Finch Kuhn

Hi Darlyn. Welcome to Writers4Higher!

1.       Tell me about yourself. Your book(s), your life, your inspiration.

My seven-year-old brother taught me to read when I was three, and I remember writing anthropomorphic stories shortly after that. “Arthur the Antelope” was the first one, and, since my father was a visual artist, I remember sketching Arthur frolicking among some flowers as an illustration. I’m not sure how many letters of the alphabet I made it through before abandoning that project, but I’m sure I could count them on one hand.

Old Yeller was the first book that inspired me to write a novel, though that goal was not accomplished until I was in my mid-fifties. I remember thinking the people in that book sounded like the ones who surrounded me in my daily life growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, and being excited that people who talked “real,” like my family and friends did, could exist in a novel.

I wrote plays as a child (and saw them produced, both at school and at the Daughters of the American Revolution), moved into a passion for poetry, and wanted, with all my heart, to write for a newspaper, like Lois Lane. I got an AA in Journalism from Florida Junior College and sold a few freelance stories to the Florida Times Union/Jacksonville Journal before getting married and settling into a “real job” at a bank. Other jobs followed, some writing-related, some not, including a stint in the Sports department at the Orlando Sentinel.

I raised a wonderful daughter, finished my bachelor’s degree at Rollins College, got divorced, and then was selected as a writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House Project of Orlando. Those three months of putting my writing first literally changed my entire life.

Shady Lane Press, affiliated with the Kerouac Project, published my first short story and poetry collection, Red Wax Rose. I met a man from the project’s board of directors in the dining room of the house at a party, and married him five years later on its front porch. We published (through our label, Scribbles) a collection of our love poems, called Three Houses.

I went to Spalding University for an MFA in creative nonfiction and poetry, and then workshopped my first novel, Sewing Holes, with Connie May Fowler’s Remembering Blue retreat group. Joan Leggitt of Twisted Road Publications made my dreams come true by publishing the novel in 2015. We came full circle by holding the launch party at the Kerouac House.
2.       Where do you see your writing taking you in the future?

My husband and I have a PR content firm called Brad Kuhn and Associates, where we keep the lights on by writing corporate pieces and making beautiful video book trailers. On the literary side, I am currently writing the screenplay for Sewing Holes, because I think it would make an excellent and inspiring movie, and I would also like to take it to the stage at some point.

What I want most for the future is for the book, movie, and play to encourage others with its message of love and resilience.

3.       How do you use your talents/time to help others?

I write a blog called Scribbles that serves to encourage writers and booklovers to gather together in support of one another around literary events. It has been called The Heartbeat of the Central Florida Writing Lifestyle. I believe it contributes to a sense of community for writers, in what can be a tremendously solitary pursuit.

Where to find out more about Darlyn: 


Twitter: @FinchKuhn

Thank you for visiting the Writers4Higher blog.
Please do, come again!

Rhett DeVane
Southern fiction author and blogmaster

Deep Thoughts, Bruises and All. First of all, Happy Holidays . No matter your outlook or what you celebrate, I wish you renewed ...