Your Success Stories: Erica Miner


Formerly a violinist with the Metropolitan Opera, I am now a full-time award-winning author, screenwriter and lecturer. I started out writing screenplays and romance and YA novels, but some “nefarious” happenings at the Met inspired me to take the leap into the mystery genre, and I’ve just released my third “Opera Mystery” novel. I am motivated simply by the burning desire to tell stories, which I’ve always done since I my childhood, when I was place in an afterschool program for Creative Writing at my grade school. The hardest part of writing for me is facing the blank page and creating something meaningful out of it. Like most other writers, my initial challenge was finding a publisher who was willing to take a chance on a subject that many people find too esoteric, i.e., opera. What I enjoy the most about writing is the process of rewriting; of honing and perfecting the language, the plot points and the character portrayals. To me, making the story as compelling as possible is the greatest reward.



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Your writing journey:

My first book took 3-6 months; the second, much longer, I think about a year. Both of these were based on my journals, so the material was already there, just waiting to be mined. I admit to having just one beta reader/editor read my first two manuscripts. It was very early in my writing journey. If I had known better, I would have sought much more input before publishing those first two books. That said, the critiques that editor provided were absolutely worth their weight in gold, especially the first book, which turned out much differently—and much improved— than it would have otherwise. This editor happened to be one of my screenwriting consultants and offered to help with the books. I can’t emphasize how valuable their feedback and guidance were.

The first book, Travels with my Lovers, was published POD, so the company provided specific steps to follow and complete in order to prepare for publishing: editing, proofreading, working closely on the cover image, the formatting, etc. Since it was my first effort, it took several months, but the time I put in was totally worthwhile. The first time is always the hardest! I was totally inexperienced and had no idea what I was doing! But the result was really quite good. The second book, FourEver Friends, was with a small independent publisher, who gave me some basic guidance but pretty much left me on my own when it came to editing, polishing and the like, though the cover art was a joint effort. In fact, I was very happy with the results for both covers. Writing from the perspective of a woman in a career that traditionally had been dominated by men, i.e., that of a professional classical musician, and being utterly frank about such women’s issues as inequalities in pay, single motherhood, sexual harassment et al, was the most difficult of all. The third, fourth and fifth books have been with a traditional publisher, who was very demanding in the amounts of editing required and put me together with some fantastic editors, who helped teach me how to perfect every detail of story and character and welcomed my input on the cover art for each book.

Something very important that I learned with the first book was to stay away from writing in the first person. A number of agents I approached told me the story read too much like a memoir, though I meant it to be fiction. Every novel I’ve written since has been in third person. Again, I was inexperienced and didn’t realize I needed a marketing plan and a support network of other writers who were experienced—a big disadvantage of starting by self-publishing—and in retrospect I think I was totally unprepared. The smartest thing I did with Travels was to enter a contest, the Direct from the Author Book Awards. To my surprise, the book won the Fiction Prize! I’ve been using that recognition to the hilt ever since, and I mention it every chance I get.

It wasn’t until Travels was published that I started to connect with other writers who basically told me if I didn’t get out there and talk about my book, no one would read it! Astonishingly, I was up to the task and managed to get lots of reviews, most of them quite positive, as well as author interviews on radio shows and eventually online. But tooting my own horn has been difficult for me, and I had to really push myself to get out there and promote.

This prepared me for the books that followed, and now I feel like my “author savvy” has improved exponentially, as I have been able to schedule a number of author events such as readings and book signings. Even though my latest book, Staged for Murder, was released in the middle of this pandemic, I’ve been able to promote it virtually, via Zoom events and YouTube interviews. I feel now that my ability to promote myself grows and improves each day. Book promotion guru Dan Poynter has said that writing is 5% writing and 95% promotion. Truer words were never said.

The idea for my first “Opera Mystery”, Murder in the Pit, came to me when I was writing a screenplay in the mystery genre and was having such a difficult time with it—I truly believe the mystery genre is the most difficult to write successfully, especially from a plot point perspective—I decided to try writing it as a novel. I was able to solve all my genre-related problems and ended up finishing the screenplay and both the novel simultaneously. The book was a success with readers who like mystery and opera, and they started asking me for a sequel. Thus, a series was born. The second in the series, Death by Opera, garnered more attention and requests for another sequel, which led to Staged for Murder. In spite of the pandemic, I aggressively pursued virtual venues for promotion of the third book in the series and am happy to report that in the few months since the book’s release I already have received as many royalties as for the entire run of the previous two novels, not to mention much buzz about yet another sequel. When it comes to “the points and possible causes when your book was doing exceptionally good or bad” the reasons are pretty clear. “Exceptionally bad”—not enough promotion; “exceptionally good”—promoting till the cows come home. Dan Poynter knows what he’s talking about!

Anything else you feel like sharing:

Writing is its own reward. Telling stories, creating characters and plot points, is one of life’s greatest pleasures—but Getting attention for your writing, if that’s what you seek, is also one of its greatest frustrations. It is a constant process; but if you can succeed in being recognized, and even praised, for your efforts, it’s a great feeling. That said, you don’t have to seek recognition; just the act of writing can trigger certain regions of the brain that can have a wonderful, positive effect on your heart and soul. I especially recommend journaling to accomplish this; you can do it just for your own edification, without any judgment. What could be better?

Your books:

Staged for Murder:

Publisher’s web page for Staged for Murder:

Death by Opera:

Murder in the Pit:

Travels with my Lovers:

Scott Coon’s Advice for Writers To-Be

Since it has taken me longer than I wanted to find success with my writing, I would like to offer some advice based on what I’ve learned along the way and wish I’d known all along.

First, writing is hard, but it gets easier the more you do it. Writing everyday will teach you how to write every day. Life is a never-ending series of issues and dramas. Don’t let them become your excuse to not pursue your goals. For years, I isolated myself at lunch so I could get some writing done. I dedicated my weekend mornings to making up for lost hours during the week. Other writers have used their train commute, got up early, or stayed up later after the rest of their family went to bed. Find what works for you and train yourself to expect to write at that time.

Dedicate yourself to the art and business of writing. You must learn both. Not learning the business side dooms your writing to being a hobby, not a career. You must learn the rules for your kind of fiction, including word count, POV, and structure. Learn how to approach an agent, publisher, and audience.

There are an endless number of ways to write a novel. You can only learn how YOU write a novel by writing a novel. Learn how others approach it and from them develop your own. You can expect to write and throw away your first three novels. Use them as a training ground. Fan fiction or mimicry is a good start for practicing. My first novel was an Ann Rice knockoff, and you will never ever read it. While mimicking others, your goal must be to find your own voice in the end. Another good way to build your skill and an audience is by writing and submitting short stories. As a Sci-Fi writer, I have a lot of places I can submit short stories. I’ve even built a relationship with a contest and a magazine. You can too.

While you are developing your skills and knowledge, I recommend you BUILD YOUR PLATFORM NOW. Have a website, blog, email list, and social media presence including sites like GoodReads and NaNoWriMo. Become a member of the writing and reading community, attend conventions, and join groups so you will have the connections you need to let the world know you wrote a book. The best way to be a part of a community is to contribute to it. I contribute through my On Writing and Little Creative Interview pages. I also have a YouTube channel for animated readings of my published short stories and for writing advice. My newsletter provides writing news, contest news, and links to the latest from me (including this post).

In addition to learning the art and business of writing, be a generalist, a curious intellectual who feeds on knowledge. The more you know the more you can write about. My head is full of random information that feeds into my stories. Learning has never been easier than now. Writer’s Digest, YouTube, book forwards, and reference material like the Emotions Thesaurus are waiting for you. And once you’ve learned it, RELEARN IT ALL, especially the business side of writing. Tastes and standards change so stay pugged into what tropes are overdone or how query letter writing has changed, amongst other things.

And above all else, you can’t win if you don’t play. So, once you write something and polish it to the best you can make it, SUBMIT!

Your Success Stories: Victoria Liiv


I was born as a second daughter to a loving and caring mother, when she was 19 years old. Although she was struggling at the time I consider my childhood a very happy one. We were living in a three room apartment in the capital city of Estonia for the longest time. During that period we tried our hands in caring for pets, we had a turtle and a cat at one point, but neither of them stayed with us for very long (due to no fault of ours, I still dare to think!) There was a time we moved around a lot, until we settled into a semi-detached house with a big garden. I always wanted a dog and it was a perfect place for one, instead I managed to bring home a rabbit, who enjoyed hopping on the grass as much as a dog would have!

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Your Success Stories: Gordon Clark


I began my working life by joining the British Army at the tender age of 16 and qualifying as an
avionics engineer. The forces exposed me to many things, including sport and travel, two things that
stayed with me throughout life.
Leaving the army at 30, I joined a German manufacturing company, moving through technical
management to sales, and spending more time than ever on travel, something I didn’t complain
I’ve always loved the written word and tried my hand at it in various ways over the years before
eventually completing my first book in 2013. Gone on to complete another 7, with the next one now
in the edit phase. My books tend towards what I would call ‘action-fiction’ and I try to weave my
military and travel experiences into them.

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Your Success Stories: Trana Mathews


I’m Diane Hildebrandt; Trana Mathews is my pen name. A limited edition of my third great-grandfather’s diary was published in 1932. When I read it as a teen, I found it fascinating and thought someone should write a novel, never dreaming I’d be the one to do it!

After I retired and moved to beautiful southeastern Arizona, an online friend suggested I try writing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I decided to participate by writing my family history and managed to meet the monthly word goal, but my first book was far from finished. It needed a lot more research and fact checking. The following year I again joined NaNoWriMo, added another 50,000 words, and still wasn’t done. My initial novel metamorphosed into a trilogy, a family saga of three books.

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Your Success Stories: Amy L. Bernstein


Can’t take “no” for an answer. Learning the definition of “faith” is ignoring the odds. Pushing the boulder up hill, every day. Trying scary new things. Writing because I must, not because I can.

These are the reasons why I have three traditionally published novels coming out between 2021 and 2023.

Getting even to this point: That’s the real story.

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Your Success Stories: Wendy H. Jones


I was born and brought up in Dundee, Scotland, which has a huge literary tradition. In fact, the first lending library in Scotland was established in 1680 and you can still visit the library to this day. Books, reading and libraries were a part of my life from an early age and I first joined the library at the age of three. An early reader, I read voraciously, and cut my reading teeth on all the Enid Blyton Books, especially the Famous Five and Secret Seven. I also read Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys; I am sure you can see a pattern forming here. By the age of 10, I was on to adult books and read my way through all the classics and started on Agatha Christy books. P.G. Wodehouse was also a favourite. All of these shaped not only my life, but my future life as a writer. I wrote stories from an early age, writing fan fiction as a child, long before fan fiction was a thing.

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Your Success Stories: Shilah Ferr


I grew up in northern New Jersey with my brother and sister. We share treasured memories of high school, the Jersey shore, and tons of family time with cousins, all of which became part of April’s Heart! My romance novel is set in high school in the eighties and although a work of fiction, basically follows the skeleton of my life, especially my dysfunctional family!

I have been a teacher for thirty years, so writing, language and vocabulary are definitely in my wheel house. Once I finally got started, writing the story, then editing it, was the easy part. I love the romance genre, and after reading so much of it, I felt like I could do it too! I work full time, but became very immersed in my eighties world, and would write whenever I could.

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Your Success Stories: Leslie A. Sussan


My journey was perhaps the reverse of what many authors follow. I did not start out wanting to be a writer and then spend time finding good stories to tell. Instead, I was bequeathed a story that demanded to be told and spent time struggling to learn how to be writer who could effectively tell that story. In one sense, I have been writing all my life. I practiced law for decades and have been an administrative appellate judge for 14 years, so words have always been my tools. And I have been a voracious and eclectic reader since I was a toddler. I did think that background would make it easy for me when I decided I needed to write a book. I thought wrong. My father’s crew took the only color footage of the aftermath of the atomic bombings and he spent his life trying to get access to the footage to show the American people the true effects but the footage was classified as top secret for decades. His last wish was to have his ashes scattered at Ground Zero in Hiroshima.

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Your Success Stories: Tom Gormley


Born in eastern Ohio, Tom grew up tossing newspapers, mowing the cemetery and camping with his family in a tent trailer. Banging on a bass drum and running student council scared the principal enough to allow Tom to graduate from high school. He then migrated to Columbus to attend The Ohio State University where he ran student government while completing his B.S. in Industrial and Systems Engineering.

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