We’re Rolling Out the Red Carpet!

Story Empire has some great news to share today! D. L. Finn is joining the group and I know you’ll be as happy about that as I am. Please stop by to welcome her, and then share this good news far and wide, thanks! Welcome to Story Empire, Denise! 🙂

Story Empire

Hi, SEers! Mae here. 2021 is bringing a lot of excitement to a lot of people. Who isn’t exhilarated to put 2020 in the rear view mirror? Here, at Story Empire, we have our own reasons to celebrate. Foremost, we are kicking off the new year with a brand new SE member.

Rolling Out the Red Carpet with gold posts on either side, words in elegant script

Please welcome D.L. Finn! Denise is a talented author of fiction, poetry, and children’s stories. She’s also a voracious reader, a wonderfully supportive blogger, and someone who brings a dose of sunshine with her beautiful spirit. We’re thrilled to have her join our group and we’re rolling out the red carpet in welcome. We hope you’ll do the same. Drop her a comment and say hello!


Ciao, SEers! Staci here. It is cause for celebration, and I for one, couldn’t be more excited! I “met” Denise online a while ago and grew familiar with her through her writing…

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#GuestDayTuesday – TRILLIUM: Narrated by Voice Actor, Jens Hansen – Written by Canadian author, Margaret Lindsay Holton

Today, we are featuring something a bit different for you, a newly released audiobook. I’m going to let author Margaret Lindsay Holton tell you all about her fabulous Voice Actor and her novel. Take it away, Lindsay!

As an award-winning and mid-career Canadian author, I am thrilled to announce the AUDIOBOOK version of TRILLIUM, the juicy historical fiction set on the southern shores of Lake Ontario in Canada, narrated by the incomparable Jens Hansen! 

In choosing the best narrator for this uniquely Canadian story set throughout the beautiful Niagara Peninsula, I was searching high and low for a broad ‘Mid-Atlantic’ accent that could reflect the undulating tones and intonations of the varied descendants of the English-speaking inhabitants. Finding just the right person was proving very difficult until I heard Jens’ wonderful voice.


… Needless to say, Jens has a colourful ‘Anglo’ background …

Jens Hansen was born in 1964, in Dordrecht, #Holland, to a Dutch mother and #Danish father. At 3 months of age, his family moved to #Nigeria#WestAfrica, where he was raised on a variety of farms while his father worked for the Ministry of Agriculture. In the late 1960’s, his family moved to Isfahan, #Iran, where life continued on a new farm. Jens spoke Dutch at home but he was taught English when placed in a small nearby ex-pat school. His parents would also treat him to English-speaking movies at the nearby US military base. (‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘The Jungle Book’ became childhood favourites.)

Iran, for a wide-eyed rural boy, was filled with glorious sights, sounds and smells. Jens explored nearby mountains collecting snake skins, tortoise shells and fossils. He visited nearby villages, drank tea and ate delicious exotic meals curled up on the floor mats with locals. He also spent many happy hours on the beach with his family on the Persian Gulf. Unfortunately, this idyllic childhood life came to an end when his mother was killed in a car accident. Jens and his younger sister were sent back to Holland to live with relatives for several months. They soon reunited with their Danish father after he had secured new employment at an agricultural college in #England.

By this point, Jens’s English-language skill was a bit rusty, but he soon got the hang of it again as he continued his education in the south-western seaside county of #Cornwall – a rugged and deeply rooted Celtic land – famous for knights, smugglers and pirates! His father re-married a Cornish woman who proved instrumental in developing Jens’s further appreciation of the English language. Jens was soon fascinated by ALL those different British accents! – Aye, shiver my timbers! – His new step-mum also had a great love of theatre and encouraged Jens to join various community groups. After leaving college, he apprenticed in the printing trade, eventually moving to #London. But big city life wasn’t for him and he moved to #NorthDevon to be near the ocean again. 

His life changed dramatically when he was offered employment in the paradise islands of #Bermuda. He jumped at it. After settling in his new island home, he readily joined the local dramatic society and even began to appear in newspaper, magazine and tv ads, modelling for local department stores and the Bermuda Department of Tourism. — (Ha! Mid-Atlantic to the T!!)

Mid Atlantic to a T!

While in Bermuda, Jens met and married his late Canadian wife. During their 11 years there, they were blessed with two fine sons. In late 2001, the Hansen males moved to the #Niagara region of #Ontario, #Canada, and settled into the small village of #Beamsville. Jens continued to work in print and performed in amateur theatrical productions where his unusual ‘Mid Atlantic’ accent proved on-point in local historical plays.  

Adding to his social repertoire, Jens also became a sought-after wine tour guide in beautiful Niagara-on-the-Lake. (#NOTL). Often seen commandeering either a classic Rolls Royce, Land Rover or London cab around the region in the playful guise of a famed ‘007’, Jens continues to this day to escort inquisitive visitors to the region’s many local restaurants and nationally-acclaimed wineries. 

In 2019, Jens moved with his new partner to the northern end of the mid-sized city of #StCatharines. After nearly two decades living in the Niagara area, Jens loves being surrounded by the sprawling vineyards and century-old fruit orchards so typical of the region.

For those who may not know, the famed Niagara peninsula is situated between two of the Great Lakes of North America, #LakeOntario and #LakeErie. The grand Niagara River links the two massive inland freshwater waterways and crescendos at the world-renowned #NiagaraFalls. There, cold waters from Lake Erie plunge over the ancient #NiagaraEscarpment into the gorge below before gushing out to Lake Ontario.

The novel, TRILLIUM,  starts here, at this waterfall gorge, when a young, bright-eyed British foot-soldier, Tom Hartford, gazes out over the rainbow-tinged falling water … 

After narrating this “epic” 14.5 hour story, Jens says he often thinks of the diverse, dramatic and droll characters who have come to life in the undulating country-side of Niagara so eloquently portrayed in TRILLIUM. This deep-rooted agricultural region of the peninsula proved fertile ground for the fictitious – yet delightful – Hartfords, the hard-working Di Angelos and scheming O’Sullivan clan!

To give you a taste of what to expect in this up-coming TRILLIUM – AUDIOBOOK, watch and listen as Jens transforms into revered Scots-Canadian poet Robert Service to perform an outstanding rendition of Service’s well-known poem: The Cremation of Sam McGee’ … 

Clearly, narrator Jens Hansen is a raconteur: a lover of language!

Jens has now brought his masterful story-telling skills to the diverse multi-cast of TRILLIUM. He hopes to enthrall you as he takes you on an journey through this unforgettable family saga filled with local history … 

Now on Audible – or iTunes – for all to enjoy! 
Follow the well-travelled voice of Jens Hansen. DIVE IN! And, ENJOY!!!

p.s If new to audiobooks, try Audible for free for 30 days using this link.  Listen to this spell-binding and timely tale whilst knitting, wood-working, house-cleaning, exercising or just soaking up some sunny golden rays. Tune in! Your first download is FREE!


TRILLIUM by author, Margaret Lindsay Holton
(Also available in Ebook or Paperback  – #ReadAlongWithJens)


Insightful, compelling, engrossing and enlightening, TRILLIUM intimately portrays the intertwining evolution of three very distinct families in the wine-making region known as Niagara in the Golden Horseshoe region, Ontario, Canada.

… It all starts when a sandy-haired foot-soldier, 19-year-old Tom Hartford, crosses over the mighty Niagara River in the 1750s …

Readers will meet Maaka, an ingenious indigenous trapper; Franco, a dirt poor Sicilian labourer; Paddy O’Sullivan, a sweet-talking Irishman and sweet Cate, the Hamilton Harbour prostitute. And that’s just the beginning!

All unfolds with a pair of motherless red-headed twin brothers, a diabolical hate-filled drunkard, two devoted raven-haired sisters, an obsessed land developer, hard-working Mexicans, a kind blind man, a handsome Italian-Canadian wine-maker, a blessed treasure trove of attentive mothers, one demented vineyard-wandering wife – and a startlingly beautiful, simpleton savant, Anna.

A 250 year-old story about three families: expect the good, the bad & sometimes the very ugly …

Margaret Lindsay HoltonAward-winning Canadian Artist

Lakeside Studio Open by Appointment Only
Phone Number – 905-393-5106
Lake Ontario, Canada

MLH visual blog: https://canadadaPHOTOGRAPHY.blogspot.com

Award-winning The GILDED BEAVER – by MLHolton, 2nd Edition, June 2020
E-Book & Paperback on Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B089T7QJ5B/


TRILLIUM – by MLHolton. Finalist, 26th Hamilton Literary Awards, 2019


Ebook & Paperback on Amazon CA: https://amzn.to/2q0iEeL  
New Audiobook coming to Amazon USA: TRILLIUM  – Narrated by actor, Jens Hansen.
A Sound Celebration – CANADADA: TAKE TWO – https://canadada.bandcamp.com
Watch The Frozen Goose – OFFICIAL TRAILER & FILM – https://thefrozengoose.vhx.tv/




How To Animate your Book Cover

Ever wonder how all those animated book covers you see on Twitter, etc, are created? Well wonder no more. Stop by Story Empire today and let Harmony Kent show you exactly how it’s done, step by step. Then, if you will, pass the post along so others can learn, too. Thanks, and THANK YOU, Harmony, for such a helpful post! 🙂

Story Empire

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Hi SErs! Harmony here. Animated book covers have become all the rage for social media promotion. So, today, I’d like to show  you how to animate a book cover. I’ve discovered both free and fairly cheap Apps to achieve this. At first, I found it a steep learning curve, but once I got the hang of it, I could come up with a great graphic in minutes and have fun into the bargain.

What You’ll Need:

  1. Tablet or Smart Phone
  2. Pixaloop App
  3. Canva App (or any other app where you can generate and save an Instagram-sized PNG.
  4. Video Editing Software (Optional)

On your tablet or smartphone, download both the Pixaloop and Canva Apps. Canva has both free and paid options. The free option offers plenty of scope, so you don’t necessarily need to go for the paid option if you’d rather not.

Pixaloop costs me £17.99…

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Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – 10th – 16th January 2021 -1960s music, Breakfasts, Anti-Aging, Book Reviews and Funnies.

Stop by Sally Cronin’s fabulous Smorgasbord blog today and check out this week’s round-up. Some great stuff included: invitations, funny videos, food & recipes, and other fabulous goodies. After you’ve enjoyed looking around, be sure to pass it along so others can enjoy it too, thanks! And as always, thanks to Sally, who (also as always) ROCKS! 🙂

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the round up of post on Smorgasbord you might have missed this week.

There seems to be little let up from either virus or weather this week and apart from a trip the supermarket and a few turns around the garden I have not ventured out relying on indoor exercise options. I am grateful apart from an inquisitive robin who sat on the windowsill one day, nobody has seem me bopping around the kitchen to Status Quo and Tina Turner with a carrot peeler and wearing my apron.

In case you are wondering this is not a new trend of mine.. here I am the first Christmas in our first home 40 years ago. Only I seem to have a glass of sherry in my hand rather than a carrot peeler. For some reason I thought a goose was a good idea for Christmas dinner..more fat than meat…

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#FirstLineFriday Submissions Are Now Closed! Here’s the Answer to Our Quiz, and the Name of Our Winner!


Submissions for #FirstLineFriday are officially closed now. My thanks to all who emailed me with their guesses. Today, I’m sorry—but maybe not surprised– to say we only have one winner. While I was hoping I’d be wrong, I had a feeling this would be a tough one, even though it’s a title sure to be familiar with most, if not all, of you. Still, I think it’s fun and interesting to study these opening lines, and I hope you enjoy this little quiz as much as I do.

Congratulations to our winner today, Jeanne Owens, who blogs HERE.

Now, without further ado, here’s the answer to today’s quiz:

“Left Munich at 8.35 pm on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but train was an hour late.” is the opening line to Bram Stoker’s classic novel, Dracula.

While I know each of you is very familiar with the character of Dracula, whether you’ve read the original story or not, here’s what Wikipedia has to say about Stoker’s book. Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker. It introduced the character of Count Dracula and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula’s attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of people led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literaturehorror fictiongothic fiction, and invasion literature. The novel has spawned numerous theatrical, film, and television interpretations, and none more famous than the 1931 Hollywood film starring Bela Lugosi.


The hunt is on! Dr. Van Helsing and his accomplices begin the chase to track down the infamous vampire Count Dracula before he completes his quest of moving into England and further spreading the undead disease. Even with the garlic, the crosses, and the holy water, the Count manages to entrance a fellow lady vampire hunter and bring her to the undead side. An invincible foe Dracula may appear to be, but Van Helsing and his group will stop short not even to death itself until they have conquered the most notorious villain of all time.

From Transylvania to England and then back again, this classic 19th century Gothic horror became the cornerstone for the horror genre that boomed in the century to follow.

You can download numerous versions of this famous book on Amazon, including the leather bound version HERE.

And that’s it for this week’s #FirstLineFriday. I’ll be back with another in a couple of weeks, if the bridge don’t go, an’ the creek don’t rise. 😉 Hope you’ll join us then, when the line may turn out to be one you recognize at once.

Thanks for taking a look today! See you next time!

Co-Authorship Part II: Shared Vision

Today’s Story Empire post is by Gwen Plano, and she does a bang-up job of explaining how she and fellow author John W. Howell made co-authoring a book work for them. If you’ve ever considered writing a book with someone, you really should read this post (and John’s earlier one) to get some tips on how to make it all work smoothly. Check it out, and then please remember to pass it along so others can learn, too, thanks. And thanks to Gwen for such an enlightening post. 🙂

Story Empire

Hello SE readers, Gwen with you today, and it’s my pleasure to offer Part II of the four-part series on co-authorship. Last week, John Howell mentioned that he and I wrote a book together. Using examples from our experience, he introduced co-authorship and explained some of the essential components. Today I’m going to build on his post and focus on creating a shared vision. If you missed John’s post, you can see itHERE.

Let’s start with a question. By chance, have you contributed to an anthology? If you have, you know that expectations are explained. You’re given word count limits, a theme, time-frame, and general dos and don’ts.

Authoring a book with another writer has similarities. Instead of multiple stand-alone tales, though, there’s one overarching story that might include a romance, a murder, or an adventure. These subplot threads must be seamlessly interwoven into the one story…

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#FirstLineFriday #GiveawayContest #FreeDownloads

Welcome once again (FINALLY!) to #FirstLineFriday, a little quiz designed to help us appreciate some of the best opening lines in literary history. From the classics of long ago to the latest best-sellers, everything is fair game.

As always, the rules are simple:

  1. Be one of the first five people to email me before the game ends at 4:00pm EST, with the title and authorof the correct book. 
  2. Do not reply here on the blog. Email only: marciameara16@gmail.com
  3. Honor System applies. No Googling, please.
  4. Submissions end at 4:00 P.M. EST, or when I receive 5 correct answers, whichever comes first.
  5. Winners who live in the U.S. may request a free download of any one of my books for themselves, or for someone of their choice. OR, if they’ve read all of the offered books, they may request a free download of my next publication.
  6. Winners who live elsewhere may request a PDF file of the same books, since, sadly, Amazon won’t let me gift you from the site.

And now, the moment you’ve been waiting for! I’m predicting this one will be a challenge, but my predictions haven’t been right yet, so who knows? Either way, here’s today’s opening line: 

“Left Munich at 8.35 pm on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6.46, but train was an hour late.” 

Remember, email answers only, please. Thanks! And now off I go to await your guesses. 

When You’re Stuck: WIP Staying Power

Mae Clair has a wonderful post on Story Empire today, entitled “When You’re Stuck: WIP Staying Power,” and I’m sure it will be of interest to many of you. Check it out to see some of Mae’s ideas, then join the conversation to let others know how you handle this sort of thing. (And of course, don’t forget to share far and wide afterward, too, thanks!) Also, my thanks to Mae, for such a super post! 🙂

Story Empire

Hi, SEers. Mae here today for my first post of 2021! I hope all of you had a spectacular New Year. Let’s hope 2021 is going to be FAR BETTER than the wretched mess that was 2020.

I’m going to start this post with a question, and it may seem like a strange one given we’re talking about new beginnings, but—how long do you stick with a problem WIP before abandoning it for greener pastures?

We’re all acquainted with the first flush of love for a new project—the excitement of jotting notes, working up character profiles, and choosing our setting. If you’re a plotter, you’ve worked out all, or most of, the details. If you a panster or planster, you have a general idea of where your novel is headed. Either way, you start with a bang like a racehorse bursting from the starting gate.

And… you’re off!

Riderless horse with racing saddle in full gallop

For a…

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Using a Character Bible – Is it worth it?

Brand new year, brand new chance to work on a new book. But you might want to check out Don Massenzio’s timely post on Character Bibles first. I know some of you are diligent about this, but for those (like me) who have been careless in this regard, Don’s post is a good place to start thinking about getting organized so you don’t forget those important details from earlier books. Check it out, and then please consider passing it along so others get the reminder, too. Thanks, and thanks to Don for giving me a nudge in the right direction. Great post! 🙂

Author Don Massenzio

As I embark on my next writing venture after a 2020 hiatus, I realized something. The equation of my age plus the stress of 2020 and the length of time since I’ve written a Frank Rozzani book has added up to me forgetting the details of many of my familiar characters. I remember reading a while back about having a character bible, a book of character profiles. The article I read talked about how this is especially important if you write a multiple-book series with the same characters.

At the time, I said to myself, “I’ll never forget these characters. They’re part of me.” Well, as I get older, I’m pretty sure there are actual parts of me that I’ve forgotten.

As I try to write for my tried and true characters, I find myself searching my previous books for things like dates, names, hair and eye color and other…

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#GuestDayTuesday – Subject A36 by Teri Polen

Today, please help me welcome our special guest, author Teri Polen, featuring her latest book, Subject A36. I’ve read this one, Folks, I can tell you it is terrific. It’s Young Adult written so that we “OLD” adults can enjoy it, too, and I did, every minute of it! In fact, I’m eagerly awaiting the next in the series. So, without further ado, let’s let Teri share some fun information about herself and her work. Teri, the floor is yours!

Thanks, Marcia!

If you’re a regular visitor at my blog, you know that every October for the past several years I’ve hosted Bad Moon Rising, which features thirty-one indie authors of horror, paranormal, and supernatural (or really any genre that falls under that umbrella).  Other than the book info, there’s also a short interview with both fun and writing-related questions.  While brainstorming ideas for this guest post, it occurred to me that I’ve never answered any of my own writing-related questions from October 2020, so I decided this was my chance.  I guess it’s me interviewing me.

If you had to give up snacks or drinks during writing sessions, which would be more difficult?

Definitely drinks.  I don’t snack while writing, but I’ll always have either a Diet Coke or water beside me.  If I’m writing at night, you’ll find a glass of red wine.  Sometimes I sneak in a hit of chocolate before I start—dark chocolate Hershey Kisses or Reese’s Thins.

Do you write to music?

Yes!  I usually have a playlist for each book.  Music inspires me and helps me visualize the scene as it plays out.  Sometimes lyrics give me ideas.  When I wrote The Gemini Connection, the twin brother main characters had different musical preferences.  Evan wanted my favorite genres—hard/alternate rock, but Simon demanded classical, a type I don’t mind, but it’s not something you’ll find in my music library.  Those boys were polar opposites, but I sure miss them. 

What was the hardest scene to write in your featured book?

It’s hard to describe without giving away spoilers, but I’ll try.  My MC, Asher, lost his family at a young age, but is now part of a found family.  There’s a scene where he experiences devastating pain that just ripped me apart.  It took me several days to write it, and I still wonder if I got it right.  The intensity was hard to convey.

I’m thrilled to say that Subject A36 was voted one of the 50 Best Indie Books of 2020 on Readfree.ly.com!  With the quarantine and silent characters plus recovering from COVID, the sequel has been a long time coming, but I promise I’m working on it.  Hope you enjoy the A36 excerpt below.  It’s from Asher’s point of view when he was eight years old. 


“Asher!”  Mom gripped the porch railing and called for me.  Her voice cracked and was laced with tears.  Dad vaulted over the porch railing, landed solidly on the grass, and frantically scanned our expansive yard. 

My stomach clenched.  Something was very wrong.  “Over here!”

Dad’s gaze locked on mine.  “Code Exodus!  Now, Asher.  Run!”

Was this another drill?  We’d practiced twice a week, the times always unexpected, without fail for as long as I could remember.  Drills were a regular part of our life, like eating, sleeping, and homework.  Protocol was pounded into our brains.  There could be no hesitation. 

But this felt different.  Dad’s expression was tight and urgent.  Tears streamed down Mom’s face, and I knew.  This was no drill.  It was real this time.  We’d been found.  Code Tribe—we leave together.  Code Exodus—we leave without our parents. 

Code Exodus rules.    

Grab the backpack.

Leave immediately. 

Don’t stop for anything or anyone.

Run to the Wallaces.

When my sisters could no longer keep up, hide them and keep running.


If genetic engineering could guarantee you and your family perfect health and unparalleled beauty, would you pay top dollar for it? Would you kill for it?

Residents of the Colony would. And do.

Only the Insurgents can stop them.

Seventeen-year-old Asher Solomon is a premier operative with the Insurgents. He and his team have rescued countless hostages, saving them from painful deaths in Colony labs as desirable genetic traits are stripped from their bodies.

He’s also suffered more losses than anyone should have to.

Then Asher gets intel that might give his people the upper hand. The Colony is searching for Subject A36. If the Insurgents determine the subject’s identity first, they might be able to turn the tide of the war.

Asher and his team embark on their riskiest mission ever, and the stakes have never been higher. But even if he survives the physical dangers, the devastating secrets he uncovers might destroy him. 

Buy Subject A36 HERE

Teri Polen, Author

Teri Polen reads and watches horror, sci-fi, and fantasy.  The Walking Dead, Harry Potter, and anything Marvel-related are likely to cause fangirl delirium.  She lives in Bowling Green, KY with her husband, sons, and black cat.  Her first novel, Sarah, a YA horror/thriller, was a horror finalist in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards.  Visit her online HERE

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