Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Deep Thoughts, Bruises and All.

First of all, Happy Holidays. No matter your outlook or what you celebrate, I wish you renewed joy and well-being.

Okay. Now. To the pressing matter at hand: keeping on in a time when the world rages and each headline is more bizarre than the next.

Every morning, I tune into the national news. I’d rather ostrich myself. Truly. But I do live in this jumbled period of history and construct stories, so I must, if not understand, at least observe.

I wear deep frown lines. Yes I do.
But I also own deep smile lines. Thank the heavens.

I used to be a blind optimist, the kid who found the pony beneath the pile of poop, the woman who trusted in ultimate peace and universal benevolence.
I’d love to say I am still that person. Alas.

My mother once told me I was a new breed, what she called “a bruised optimist.”  This is true. I still hold to the belief goodness and kindness exist, because they do. I bump into strangers in the grocery store, at the gas pumps, in line at some eatery: those who smile and pass a few moments, who seem to long for gentle interaction as much as I do. No social media post can rival the connection between people, no matter how brief.

In this season where hope and hatred bash against the glass in equal measure, I vow to bring bruised optimism to my work, to my interactions, to my world.

My very best to all of you. Should we meet in line for soup, or in some internet media queue, may we all offer balms for bruises.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Sure, I am Southern, but drop the attitude...

This has been stuck in my craw for a while, so I need to get it unstuck.
There is, of course, a bit of a backstory...

Recently, I enjoyed brunch with a good writer friend at a small local eatery. Wonderful company. Of course we discussed our works-in-progress and an upcoming writers' retreat we attend each year. At the next table--inches away--a clutch of men of varying ages discussed books they were reading, or had read. Couldn't help but overhear.

Being the kind of person who often talks to strangers, I stopped by their table on our way out, to compliment them, as the future of the written word is important to me, as a fellow reader and author. The men smiled and nodded, pleased, I suppose.

I mentioned as an aside, that both my friend and I were authors. The youngest man--the one with the loudest opinions--asked what I wrote. When I replied "fiction set in the South," he leaned back and crossed his arms over his chest. "I'd never read anything Southern." Mean tone. Snarky, huffed laugh. Judgment intended and received. He went on to further talk down this part of the country.

Those of you who know me well, know I am seldom at a loss for words. His comments stunned me mute for a beat. We managed to smile and wish them a good day. After my friend and I stepped outside, all I could manage was "wow."

As with such things, I thought of a handful of rebuttals afterward. How I might have listed notable Southern authors or somehow stood up for us, for myself. I am not one for conflict, being raised to step away from such. Given the current mood in our country, perhaps being able to zip it and walk away is in my best interest, not wanting to wake up dead. I sit with my indignation still simmering. I don't cotton to simmering indignation; it keeps me from moving on to more useful projects, like the current work in progress.

Just because I am from the South, do not EVER decide I am illiterate, racist, or narrow. Yes, there are things I do not like about this part of the country. But there is much to love, too. Biscuits. Big ones--catheads--with butter and Tupelo honey. Chicken 'n' Dumplings and pecan pie and pickled everything. Country roads carpeted with sugary sand. People who will nod and smile, and wish you a good day and mean it. People who'd rather pass the time on a rocking chair porch, shelling peas and listening to the crickets sing. People who will put down the dang phone and actually look you in the face. People of differing races and creeds who are doing their dadgum best to reach across the abyss and forge a better future.

I feel better now. I'll forgive, but being Southern, I probably won't forget. Somewhere down the line, in one of my novels, I shall get the last say.
Writers do that, you know.

Y'all have a good day.

Rhett DeVane
Southern fiction author
Rhett's website

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Writers4Higher congratulates Pat Stanford

Welcome back, Pat! Tell us a little about your new book.

I have been writing poetry practically as long as I could first hold a pencil, and have other poems published in several anthologies. This is my first attempt at publishing a whole bunch of them at the same time.

My mother had several of those little clothbound write-in books filled with her poems. They were mostly simple little ditties, but she still had fun with them and wrote them, matching the ink color to the color of the cover. That is what poetry is to me—just having a bit of fun with words. I never laid claim to being a “serious” poet and I doubt mine are “for the ages” yet there are a few gems here, so say friends.

Much of my poetry rhymes because I like the added challenge, and the fact that many of them came to me as songs back when I could still play the guitar. (Lopping off a fingertip stopped my career as a troubadour.) Most appear in quatrains, couplets, or similar formats, because that is the influence that most stuck with me, although I have been stretched a little by several local poetry groups where we explored new and obscure forms. I most like writing “off the cuff” as we sometimes do in our meetings, but I always go back and “mess with them” some more, simply because I can’t help myself.

Here, I present thoughts on many topics written throughout my “seasons” of life. Some thoughts have changed along with those seasons and I may no longer embrace what was written in the same way. Rather than destroy some poems, I either left them totally alone to remind me how far I have progressed since they were first conceived or have edited them to be more contemporary.

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

      While I was born in Philadelphia, my farming family moved to Delray Beach, Florida when I was one, looking for year-round growing seasons. I lived there until a brief stint in the Air Force took me to California.

I graduated Florida State University with a Secondary Education, which was never used for its intended purpose.

I won second place in the 2004 Seven Hills Contest with my short story, Divorce Sale, and am working on other short stories. Fixing Boo Boo is my first novel length work, which won gold for Florida non Fiction at Florida Authors and Publishers Association Presidents Awards in 2017.

After being introduced to growing roses by my father, I created my own rose garden and frequently photograph them to share in social media. I served as President of the Tallahassee Area Rose Society and am a bronze medal recipient with the national organization, the American Rose Society.

I live in Tallahassee, Florida with my husband, a rambunctious puppy and a quirky cat.

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

I began a fiction set in Mongolia work over ten years ago, but it got bogged down in research, so I put it in a drawer. I now think I am better equipped to finish writing it. The characters are talking to me again after being shoved to the back of the room several times. I hope they will get their chance to be heard in the near future.

Aside from gathering up more poetry for a possible second volume, I am working on a second book about the many types of brain Injury. I’ve met a lot of people who talk to me at festivals and fairs and they have a different story to tell. I interviewed and transcribed over 20 stories and now the real work begins. To make their story interesting and compelling to a casual reader looking for general information. To make them stop and actually think about the stories being real people whose lives were interrupted.
Then maybe a sequel to the Mongolia story. I am open to the muses!

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

With the publishing of Fixing Boo Boo, I begin a whole new chapter of helping people who are not disabled understand what they don’t understand. I have partnered with the Brain Injury Association of Florida and the Florida Disabled Outdoors Association in order to help them in their annual public awareness events and have information at my signing events to help people with questions on disability.  

In my role as President of the Tallahassee Writers Association, I try to encourage new and timid writers to ask the tough questions that will help them become better writers. I also love to see newly published writers in their first experience at the Downtown Marketplace, a chance to be out and talking about their work.

Author Website: 


Rhett DeVane, blogmaster

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Writers4Higher Congratulates Scott Archer Jones

Writers4Higher Congratulates 
author Scott Archer Jones

 Hi Scott. Welcome back. Tell us about your latest project.

Thanks for having me on the blog again, this time to talk about And Throw Away The Skins.

The first question your readers will ask is why they should want to read this particular book.  This is a story of personal triumph, and it takes place in a beautiful place. Its themes include loving that-which-will-kill-you, religion, the Afghanistan war and how it comes home, scars, bankruptcy, infidelity, and a village Santa Eulalia de Mérida. Its setting is aggressively blue-collar and poverty bound–true to New Mexico in general. Its jumping off point is the Church of a Thousand Pews and its finish is in a mountaintop with a blizzard coming in.

And then, I guess, the reader will want to know something of the story shape. The protagonist, Bec Robertson, is starting over. She's broke, recovering from breast cancer, and lives in a rundown cabin in northern New Mexico. Her husband is deployed in Afghanistan and can't stand to touch her. Her villagers are mountain-crazy and take advantage of her good nature, and her hawk Amelia can't keep up with the mice. She lives next door to a dubious veterans' center. As if she hasn't invented enough problems for herself, she has a love/hate connection with an unstable Marine. Being Bec is tough–but she lives under the numinous skies of New Mexico.

All books have a back story, and this one began with a character invented for a short story. The protagonist Bec is named after a famous New Yorker/New Mexican, Rebecca Salsbury James, who rode a motorcycle and taught Georgia O'Keeffe to drive. The story kept growing to fit my Bec's personality. Bec let me know in a hurry that she was opinionated, strong, and completely unsentimental. From that point, I just caused her trouble for four years, and then–bang–we had a book.

Readers also might want to know something about the author. Rest assured, I'm not a serial killer and I don't really believe in Atlantis. The book is dedicated to our Labrador who passed as we were working on final galleys, so I can demonstrate a soft and squishy side. I'm currently trapped within my sixth novel and first novella up here in New Mexico's mountains, after stints in the Netherlands, Scotland, and Norway–plus less exotic locations.  I worked for a power company, grocers, a lumberyard, an energy company (for a very long time), and a winery. I'm currently the treasurer of Shuter Library of Angel Fire, a private 501.C3, and desperately need your money to keep the doors open.

You can get the book at

Or at my author page on Amazon: Scott Archer Jones Amazon Author Page

We even offer the book in Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iTunes, and Smashwords.

Thank you, Scott! Writers4Higher wishes you success as you continue your writing career.

Rhett DeVane
blogmaster and head cheerleader for W4H

Friday, September 21, 2018

Writers4Higher Pays Tribute to Piggy the Muse Cat

Writers4Higher Pays Tribute To Piggy
The Muse Cat

If you are an animal lover as I am, you understand two basic truths: all pets are special, and most are more noble than the majority of humans. Every now and then, one particular critter shares your life, one that can practically read your mind, one that digs deep into your heart and shares your spirit.

Such was my muse cat, Piggy.

He came to our home at eight weeks of age, a fuzz ball, gray tabby born in a lumber mill. The name we provided the vet was Sisko, but he rapidly outgrew that title. For the next seventeen years, he answered to Piggy, based on the fact he never met a food bowl he didn’t love. One of his kitten pictures shows him sprawled across a pie tin half-filled with kibble, face down, satiated, and fast asleep. I posted that picture on Facebook years ago, and it traveled around the globe. A while back, I found Piggy in that full-on face plant pose, nestled among other snapshots of equally funny animals. The title of the slideshow compilation: Have you ever been so tired that . . . ?

Piggy was no ordinary cat. Even folks who normally didn’t warm to felines liked him. He came when called, drank from the bathroom sink, ate nearly every human food allowed, carried on animated conversations, and was happiest when he was close to his people. I wrote thousands of words with him reclining next to the laptop, watching me with huge green eyes, commenting every so often.

In winter, he doubled as a toasty lap cover during TV time and a pillow hog in the night hours. Did I mention he was an alarm clock? Oh yes. When he was young, and could still hear the coffeemaker crank up, he initiated a daily, pacing meow-a-thon that nothing could thwart. In his senior years, when age diminished his abilities, he slept in the threshold to the kitchen so he wouldn’t miss the end triple-beep of the Cuisinart. He saved energy enough to hop onto the bed to awaken the lazy two-legged creatures. Humans do serve a function, you see. They possess opposable thumbs for opening cans: vital, since no edible vermin or birds share the interior of the house.

For the past two years, Piggy battled failing kidneys and pancreatitis. Aided by the kindest veterinarian anyone could wish for, Piggy pushed away from the Reaper time after time, with a fierce determination to live.

But a guy gets tired. And he did.

On his last day, Piggy managed to pad down the hall, meow the alarm, and meet us in the kitchen. But he ate only one bite. And, as he had for the past three days, he barely touched his food and did not drink.

This past Wednesday, on a morning as ordinary as any, we had our final chat. I am not sure what he said, as I am a mere human who can’t decipher his language as well as he could mine, but I believe it was last-minute instructions on how to carry forward without him. Along with the other felines and canines that shared this earthly passage, he will be waiting, and it will only be the swish of a furry tail before we meet again.

Godspeed, Piggy, sir. You were a good cat, a faithful muse, and one heck of a friend.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Writers4Higher Welcomes Cameron J. Quinn

Writers4Higher features
Cameron J Quinn

Hi, Cameron. Welcome to the Writers4Higher family!

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

    I grew up in a small town in New Hampshire. You know the play "Our Town"? It's based on the place I grew up. Seriously. And a lot of the people there are more interested in making sure your historic home is painted the proper shade of white and keeping out drive-throughs than getting to know their neighbors.     
    It was a happy place to grow up (mostly). Whether it was because of the lack of McDonald's or in spite of it, I'll let you decide. As my dad warred with his neighbor, the town zoning board member, about whether or not he could run a scrap metal yard out of his house I was playing in the woods, making up stories, and playing with my three older siblings. This place inspired a lot of my writing. It is truly a beautiful and magical place to grow up with big fields, enormous pines, and mountains on the horizon where ever you turn.    
    My mom is the reason I love reading and books. And the reason I started writing. She used to write these stories for children about a little frog. I literally remember nothing about the frog. I remember sitting in the living room by the computer completely captivated by this story and the woman who'd created it. She was my mother. I've been obsessed with stories ever since. Writing my first series of books in first grade. And attempting a few novels in high school. I always received good feedback for my short stories but I wanted to write a book.     
    When I met V.S. Holmes (Author of the Reforged Series and The Nel Bently Books) and we became close I never imagined we'd end up where we are.    
    After high school, I got married and followed my husband to Camp Le Jeune North Carolina where he was a machine gunner in the Marines. V went to college in Canada, we kept in touch but it was mostly out of sight out of mind. Then, after I had my first child, she reached out to me. "Remember that book I was writing? I finished it" I'd also been working on my book so I offered to exchange first chapters. When I got the email I was incredibly excited. When I finished reading it I was horrified. She'd written these beautiful passages and a compelling story and I'd just sent her a bunch of drivel! She inspired me to keep going and keep honing my craft. And never called me out on the crap I sent her. (Her next chapter was not so polished so I felt better about sending her pieces).    
    Fast forward a few years, I have three kids, have published 7 books (a serial The Starsboro Chronicles), V has published 5 and we own and operate a publishing company.     
    My books are all based on myths and legends. Two things I am absolutely fascinated with. (Except the one that's inspired by serial killers. I wanted to be in the FBI prior to having kids).

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

    On the open ocean. My husband and I have a had a rough go of it. Not that I have a problem with that, adversity helps you grow, but when we decided to shift our focus from living in a house to buying a boat, life's possibilities truly opened up. Traveling with three kids is expensive and well... horrible. But, if we live on a boat, it costs about $25k a year and we get to go where ever the wind takes us.     
    But, you need ways to make passive income. That's where online business and books come into the equation. I write because I love to, but if I can finance the majority of our living expenses with the press and my books, as I write from the trampoline of our Catamaran (they are pretty expensive don't be thinking you can get a Cat for $25K lol that's living and travel expenses) then I will be living the life.

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

    I love marketing. Especially book marketing because it's truly easy to get behind the product. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked to sell something that's really not worth it. You feel gross and just want to run and hide in a dark corner somewhere. Books are different. Working with an author and their books is like working with a puzzle. You need to take their personality and preferences and figure out how to best showcase their talent and their work. Sometimes it's a battle. All authors say they want to sell books but most authors are also scared. Scared that their book isn't worth reading, or scared of rejection and bad reviews. It's sad when they let that fear control them. I had the opposite problem with my first book. I just wanted to get it out there and I didn't understand how editors worked. I thought they were the typo police. The editor I hired for that, left a ton of typos and I had to hire another. And she helped me with the story a bit and I thought all was well but I was rarely seeing sell through. So after a lot of contemplation, I pulled it. And I put it through The Story Grid. And that made all the difference. But I'm not the norm. If you had a structural edit from a true professional, you revised and you went through the steps, your book is worth reading. So swallow your fear, read the one-star reviews of your favorite books, and let's do this thing.     
    I also have a podcast (The Amphibian Press Podcast) where I help readers find authors and vice versa through author interviews and books reviews.  And I have a blog for authors to help them navigate today's publishing challenges.     
    And last (for now) I'm working with a local high school to create a workshop for students so they can see the benefits of being a writer. It's not true anymore that you can't make a living from your writing. So, I teach them different exercises and then at the end, we compile and anthology and I publish it. This is the first year but I'm hopeful about the prospects.

Would you like to find Cameron?
Check out the links to this talented author:

Be sure to visit the Writers4Higher Market! We have gear for the writer in you.

Rhett DeVane
Fiction with a Southern Twist

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Writers4Higher welcomes singer/songwriter Deanna Squeaky Miller

Welcome, Deanna. 

This time, Writers4Higher takes a slightly different direction, highlighting the artistic writing and singing talent of Deanna Squeaky Miller.

Writing and giving back are the backbone of so many artistic endeavors. Enjoy learning a bit about his multi-talented entertainer! 

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

I am a Tallahassee native. My city is my living, and I love it! Family, friends, community, and music is right here for me. Everything here inspires my art as a singer, songwriter, and performer. I truly believe God is Love and we should show love to one another through our actions, and words. My lyrics come from my heart. Some people see it as being too positive, but I think there’s enough negative music adding fuel to our burning fires. Spiritual soul does the opposite, uplifting and inspiring the listener to believe in the power of Love. So, when they hear “Give to You Love”, “Keep On Praying”, and “Good Medicine” the message is about gratitude and living in love.

Where do you see your singing career taking you in the future?
Well, it’s only been three years as an indie artist and this journey has opened some awesome doors. I’ve been blessed to share the stage with artists/musicians like Royce Lovett, Tim Guitargoodness Clark, Cody ChesnuTT, Isabel Davis, D Swint and international opera singer Mr. Curtis Rayam, Jr. ,to name a few, and many others I highly admire.

I see myself collaborating and writing with some big names in the music industry within five years, and want to do some touring , after I release my first full album. Hopefully that will be this year! It’s not an easy thing.... putting an album together. I am learning as much as I can about the art of singing, too.....I just want to be a better Deanna Squeaky Miller in every new opportunity presented to sing for the people!

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

Serving through singing means everything to me! That’s my purpose and I understand what is required of me to fulfill it! You have to have an unselfish mindset to serve, and I  thank God that comes easy for me.

I perform at fundraisers and community events all the time. I mean to witness the joy on individuals’ faces, you know are in need of a moment to forget about their problems just gives me a sense of purpose! I love people and I love to serve. That’s why I call my music “love ministry”. It’s all about showering love in action through music to inspire and heal our community.

Wish to listen to a bit of Squeaky's magic voice? Tune into her YouTube channel or join her on Facebook:

Thank you, Deanna. Best of luck and love to you and your singing career.
Rhett DeVane, blogmaster
Southern Fiction author

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