Monday, January 24, 2022



“Hope is the hardest love we carry.” –Jane Hirschfield

Spring, 2020. The Covid epidemic surging. I awoke the morning before my birthday with a clear and urgent message: my novel, Messenger, had to get out to people—to bring them hope. Now! But how? My talented agent had pitched it to numerous editors during fall, 2019, with many reads but no takers. With lockdown and businesses grinding to a halt, there had to be another way.


A Podcast? Really?

Messenger tells the story of a mysterious woman giving life-changing messages to people all over New York City and Alana, the young journalist who seeks to tell her story. As Alana soon learns, you pay attention to messages—take them seriously. I took my message very seriously indeed!


My first idea was to create a website or blog, because I knew I wanted the story to be free and easily accessible.  I also had the idea of a serial—releasing a portion of the novel each week—to build momentum.


After querying valued creative friends, especially Rachel Pater (, I received another clear message: make it a podcast.

By then everyone’s eyes were already fried with 24/7 screen time and Zoom meetings galore. Podcasts were a welcome relief. When Rachel, an experienced podcast producer and voice actor, offered to narrate, it was a done deal!


Timing is Everything

Messenger, the novel’s mysterious main character, not only delivers life-changing messages to random people but the key to these messages is always timing.


Timing was also crucial to the birth of MESSENGER: A Podcast in 16 Episodes. Rachel had relationships with Wells Hanley, a musician and Wells had a relationship with Lance Koehler, from a local recording studio. Also, I knew a designer, Brandon O’Neill, a talented graphic artist as well as a musician with experience creating podcasts. Lucky for MESSENGER, all these local Creatives had the time and talents needed to make the podcast a success.


Connection, Connection, Connection

The power of connection is another major theme of Messenger’s story. As the plot unfolds, Messenger teaches Alana the deep and mysterious level at which we are all connected—whether we realize it or not. In fact, Messenger tells Alana the greatest illusion you can hold is that you’re alone because that’s something you can never be. These connections have the potential not only to save us but to propel us forward into a bright future.


Would our podcast have the power to connect people in a meaningful way? My goals for MESSENGER: A Novel in 16 Episodes were the same as for the novel—to comfort, encourage, motivate, and inspire my listeners/readers. To provide perspective and hope. To connect people and to keep them company during this most challenging time.


Just three months after I received the message to get MESSENGER out, we launched the podcast on a beautiful podcast website designed and maintained by Brandon O’Neill (, narrated and produced by Rachel Pater (, with original music by Wells Hanley (, and recorded by Lance Koehler ( We released one episode a week for 16 weeks, including two bonus episodes.


Readers’ Responses

Messenger tells Alana we can all be messengers for each other. Anyone can do it. To build connection, I wanted to involve listeners in the story and its characters, and to encourage them to pay attention to their own lives. I hoped they’d share messages they’d received from unexpected sources and would ask themselves when and where they could be messengers for others.


One listener told me she hadn’t received a message yet but was watching and listening. Another said she’d received what felt like messages in the past, but found they were multiplying because she now noticed rather than dismissed them as coincidence. Many listeners reported they fell asleep listening to MESSENGER (a compliment). One loyal listener falls asleep to an episode, then in the morning finds she receives an appropriate message for the day.


Real-life Messages

Listeners were so generous in sharing real-life messages they’d received from unexpected sources. Some of their messages came from others—some strangers, some friends. Some received internal messages—as I did. For some, the messages came from loved ones from the other side. For one woman, a strange little boy on the playground delivered a message that set her mind at ease about her daughter’s upcoming heart surgery. A friend gave one listener valuable advice just in the nick of time. And an apartment resident’s unexpected welcome let another listener know she’d found her new home.


We featured many of these real-life messages on two bonus episodes.


A MESSENGER Podcast Community

By the time the last episode dropped late October 2020, we’d gathered a strong core of listeners and more were joining each week. Word of mouth, social media presence, and our well-designed and informative podcast platform and liner notes built interest. I attended virtual Book Club meetings featuring MESSENGER. Our Simplecast platform soon revealed that people all over the world were downloading Messenger.


At a time of isolation, confusion, and change, MESSENGER gave people a message of hope to look forward to each week, plus the soothing effect of listening to a story read out loud. MESSENGER: A Podcast in 16 Episodes serves to do what a dear friend says is our primary purpose here on Planet Earth—we’re just here to walk each other home.


Even though Messenger found a print publisher and the book debuted in October 2021, the entire podcast is still up, still free, and gaining new listeners globally.

Find it wherever you get your podcasts or on my website:


More about Liz Keller Whitehurst

Liz Keller Whitehurst is the author of her debut novel, Messenger, and author/creator of the serial podcast MESSENGER: A NOVEL IN 16 EPISODES, which she launched in 2020. Her short stories have appeared in many literary magazines and journals, including Gargoyle, The Portland Review, Five Fingers Review and Nimrod International Journal. She was a finalist in Nimrod International Journal’s Short Story Competition. She earned an MA in English from The University of Virginia. In addition to fiction writing, Liz has spent her professional life writing and teaching. She’s done corporate, non-profit and freelance writing and has taught English and writing at Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Richmond and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. Her last teaching post was co-leading a memoir writing class at the city jail. Though born in Ohio, Liz grew up in Winchester, Virginia and has lived her adult life in Richmond, Virginia. She shares her current 1891 home, located in one of Richmond’s oldest neighborhoods, with her husband. Her second-floor writing desk overlooks the James River.

Follow Liz around:

Instagram: @lizkellerwhitehurst

Facebook: @lizkellerwhitehurst


Monday, January 17, 2022

The Clock Is Ticking

The title of this article sounds ominous, but really I’m only trying to sound trendy, cool, whatever the term is for fashionable is these days. Besides, I wanted to catch your attention. According to a Time magazine article a few years ago, a writer has seven seconds to keep readers focused, and by now, I’m sure the time is much less. Goldfish pay attention longer than that, but that’s for another article.

Today, I want to head into the topic of TikTok. For the non-social media inclined, that would be spelled Tick Tock. In China where it was created, it’s called Douyin, and it’s owned by the Chinese company, ByteDance.

So what is this semi-newbie of the online community? It’s another social media platform where you can create and share videos, but with a difference. Other people can not only see your video, they can use it to recreate their own videos. They can use the features called dueting and stitching to cut and paste bits from your video and react to it as they wish. 

I see danger, Will Robinson! But then I’m not a teenager. Therein may lie the difference.

Thomas Cizauskas on Wunderstock (license)

TikTok’s For You page is an interesting feature. You don’t have to wait for someone to share what you post for it to spread across other communities and networks. Also, you don’t have to follow someone to be privy to their posts. TikTok obliges you by showing you content based on the interests you’ve demonstrated and the activities you’ve engaged in. 

Hmm. Something else has gathered a lot of data about you, so now you can expect your every desire to be anticipated with the stroke of a key. Are you excited yet?

Indonesia and Bangladesh aren’t excited and neither is India. They’ve banned TikTok, citing illicit content. India says it’s a threat to national security. Cyber security folks don’t give it a thumbs up on the secure side of things, but still, TikTok has surpassed three billion downloads worldwide.

Obviously, there are a lot of people who are eager to embrace this platform, and many of them are writers who are catching on to some of the benefits TikTok offers.

The #BookTok hashtag gives a lot of writers with small budgets a shot at some widespread publicity. If you’re a writer who can create or “harvest” videos to use, you just might have a shot a going viral with your next book. Take a look at the Barnes & Noble video of a book table (on TikTok now). Someone holds up each book, reads the title, and moves on to the next book. In one TikToc you have the potential for thousands of eyes on your book.  

While I’ve pointed out the downside of an algorithm that gathers data to tailor the relevancy of content to the individual, there’s also an upside for those trying to sell books. The dog catcher who follows you, but makes clear s/he only reads the dog catcher manual (no disrespect to dog catchers intended) won’t see your video about your 100K novel set during the fall of Rome. The avid reader of historical fiction will.

So, that's as much as I know about TikTok right now, but I'm looking at it, and perhaps my better judgment will be overruled by my desire to enhance the marketing of my books. Maybe I'll sign up just to irritate the fourteen to twenty-five-year-olds. In fact, if you're over forty, I think you should dive in. As I see it, that's one way to ensure the youth of the world will abandon TikTok. It’s no fun for teens to be online with their parents commenting and sharing their posts. Facebook is a good example of teen exodus due to parental guidance.

Monday, January 10, 2022

5 Tips to Engage Readers Online by Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur

Successfully engaging readers online is a big challenge for authors. What techniques can you use to engage with fans and readers that will make you stand out from the crowd? 


In this article, I will cover five different techniques you can use to engage with your audience on social media, email marketing, etc. 


Using these tips, you should be able to better engage with your audience while standing out among other authors!

Tip #1: Have Fun on Social Media

Social media doesn't have to be hard. While I don't recommend overdoing it, and trying to spread yourself too thin over multiple platforms, I do think that you can take one or two platforms and really run with it.


Social media is a way to share more about yourself, and more importantly, a way to learn about your readers. In fact, social media is one of the best ways to interact directly with your fans.


And not only that, but social media is a place where readers can interact with each other as well, further increasing the engagement that you want.


So what should you share on social media? I would recommend keeping it light and fun. Sharing reader memes, updates on yourself, cool artwork that you commissioned, etc. all of that is great for increasing engagement.


Tip #2: Write Related Blog Posts


Apart from social media or your email list, a blog is another great way to engage readers in a different way from your books. For example, you could write about topics that are related to your books. If you write about fantasy, you could write reviews of other fantasy books or the mythology that influences your story. If you write science fiction, you could do a detailed analysis about a particular piece of futuristic technology. All of these are subtle ways to provide content that readers of your genre will like.


This, of course, requires more writing, and a lot of authors will not want to spend that much time writing something other than their story. But keep in mind that engaging with your fans will take time, and you should allocate some of your time to do this properly.


Tip #3: Give Your Readers Bonus Content

Readers love free things. The more bonus content that you can give them the better. This ties in slightly to what I talked about in the last tip, but bonus content can take many forms.


You can always write a free novella or short story that ties into your work, but you can also do this through other forms of bonus content. For example, let's say a lot of your readers use e-readers as their primary form of consumption. You could write a review about new versions of the Kindle that could be directly relevant to your readers. Not only does this provide another way for you to connect with them, but it provides genuine value to their lives.


Tip #4: Pets and Babies

Everyone loves pets, and everyone loves babies. If you have one or the other (or both) pictures of them will go a long way on social media, in your email list, or blog.


Now of course, bear in mind that there may be privacy issues, and if you have a problem with sharing photos of your baby online, that is something for you to consider. My point is that people love them, people share them, and people interact with them. Thus, it is a great way to increase reader engagement.


The great thing about pet/baby photos is that none of it has to do with your books, it's something that almost anyone can do regardless of what genre you write in.


Tip #5: Go Live

A lot of authors get into the business because they are introverts, and the idea of writing alone and producing fabulous works of art is appealing to them. So it becomes a problem when I suggest forms of marketing such as going live.


In actuality, going live on Facebook or YouTube or Twitch is a great way to engage with fans, and is actually more introvert-friendly than most would believe.


Even though other people are able to see you and interact with you on some level, you're still just sitting in your room at home. So in a sense, it's the best of both worlds. It allows you to remain alone and still interact with other people.


The best part about going live is that readers get a chance to see your face, make that human connection with you, and  that can go a long way in terms of engagement. Plus, you get to answer any questions that they might have about your work or the industry in general.


The Bottom Line


There are countless different ways to interact with fans. These five are just a few that I would consider focusing on. However there are many more, and you should experiment to find what works for you.


My recommendation is to pick up one to three of these options and really give them a try. If you initially fail, don't worry, that happens to all of us. Keep going until you are absolutely sure that that method is not right for you, then go on and try some others.


I can promise you that by the end, you will have a series of tactics that work well for you, increase reader engagement, and improve your book sales.


Wednesday, January 5, 2022

IWSG Anthology Contest Winners and #IWSGPit Coming Soon!

It’s time for another group posting of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group! Time to release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic. If you’d like to join us, click on the tab above and sign up. We post the first Wednesday of every month. I encourage everyone to visit at least a dozen new blogs and leave a comment. Your words might be the encouragement someone needs.

The awesome co-hosts for the January 5 posting of the IWSG are Erika Beebe, Olga Godim, Sandra Cox, Sarah Foster, and Chemist Ken!

January 5 question - What's the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

The Seventh Annual IWSG Anthology Contest Winners!

The genre was sweet romance and the theme first love.

Thanks to all who entered – it was a record amount of entries this year.

Now we present the authors of First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts:

The Art of Making Doughnuts - Linda Budzinski
Paper Faces - Sylvia Ney
The Real Thing - Sammi Spizziri
My Heart Approves - Melissa Maygrove
Oliver’s Girl - Michael Di Gesu
Clyde and Coalesce - Kim Elliot
My First Love(s) - Templeton Moss
How to Save a Princess - Katie Klein
The Castle of Ohno - SE White
Marmalade Sunset - Denise Covey

A special thanks to our official judges:

Author Nancy Gideon

Nancy Gideon is the award-winning bestseller of over 70 romances ranging from historical, Regency, and series contemporary suspense to dark paranormal and horror, with a couple of produced screenplays and non-fiction writing books tossed into the mix. She’s also written under the pseudonyms Dana Ransom, Rosalyn West, and Lauren Giddings.

Agent Caitlin Blasdell, Liza Dawson Associates

Caitlin Blasdell has been a literary agent with Liza Dawson Associates since 2002 with a focus on commercial fiction. Before becoming an agent, she was a senior editor at HarperCollins Publishers.

Author Susan Gourley

Susan Gourley is traditionally published in fantasy and science fiction romance using the name Susan Kelley. She is currently serving as the President of the Pennwriters writing group renowned for the annual conference.

Author Jennifer Lane

Jennifer Lane writes sports romance and romantic suspense with a psychological twist. She has published nine novels and two short stories, including Behind the Catcher’s Mask as part of the IWSG Masquerade Anthology.

Author Meka James
Meka James is a writer of adult contemporary and erotic romance. A born and raised Georgia Peach, she still resides in the southern state with her hubby of 16 years and counting. Mom to four kids of the two legged variety, she also has four fur-babies of the canine variety. When not writing or reading, Meka can be found playing The Sims 3, sometimes Sims 4, and making up fun stories to go with the pixelated people whose world she controls.

Author Loni Townsend

By day, she writes code. By predawn darkness, she writes fantasies. All other times, she writes in her head. People call her peculiar with a twisted sense of fashion, but don't let those understatements fool you. Her behavior is perfectly normal for a squirrel disguised as a human.

First Love: The Art of Making Doughnuts will be published by Dancing Lemur Press' imprint, Freedom Fox Press, later this year.

This is our seventh anthology! Previous titles include Dark Matter: Artificial, Voyagers: The Third Ghost, Masquerade: Oddly Suited, Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime, Hero Lost, The Mysteries of Death and Life, and Parallels: Felix Was Here.

#IWSGPit is this month!

If you’ve never participated in a Twitter pitch party, this is your chance.

Dozens have signed book contracts as a result – you could be next.

Visit the #IWSGPit page for the rules and hashtags. And then join us on January 26!

What do you regret? Joining us for #IWSGPit?