MARISA FIFE – A Halloween Story

Marisa Fife is a registered nurse, medical editor, and public health writer. She holds a BS in Pre-Veterinary & Animal Science from the University of Massachusetts and a BSN in Nursing from Johns Hopkins University.
Her work experiences have led her from monitoring songbirds for biological surveys, to rehabilitating wildlife, to caring for oncology patients on bone marrow transplant floors. Her first fiction novella, The Woman in Brown, was published in 2022. Her first children’s novel, Will and the Clan of Shadows, is now available.

She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Mystery Writers of America (MWA), and Sisters in Crime (SINC) professional writing organizations.”

Crisp, tart, red apples. Cool nights. Slinking black cats. Orange, red, and gold leaves. Melted caramel, sweet spices, and chocolate perfume the air. Warty, squat, saffron-hued pumpkins with shriveled, twisting green stems lurk on mossy brick steps. Hulking, angular Victorian houses filled with creepy shadows, their front yards decorated with enormous plastic skeletons. (My favorite display was a life-sized plastic skeleton horse pulling a cart filled with cheerily waving faux human skeletons).

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. There’s just something playful, mischievous, and youthful about the season that I love. The costumes crack me up. So do the purple frosted cupcakes with candy monster eyes, bat-shaped sprinkles, and raspberry filling designed to look like blood. As a child, I loved movies like The Addams Family (1991) and books like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz. Vincent Price enthralled me as much as Alfred Hitchcock, and I still adore the film Dracula (1931), even if Castle Dracula is infested with armadillos. There are no armadillos native to Transylvania, alas. Perhaps Dracula had an affection for delightfully odd, armored, nocturnal pets with the ability to spread leprosy and dig deep holes in his garden.

Growing up in New England, with Salem and its witchcraft history close by, Halloween was an all-out event. Trick or Treaters, young and old, would gallop, skip, and walk the leaf-littered sidewalks dressed as werewolves, witches, and Wednesday Addams. Colorful candies would fill our pillowcases as we went house to house in the dark. The stars would sometimes burn bright, and the air buzzed with anticipation and magic. If we were lucky, a full moon would grace us with a ghostly silvered world, and the wind would play tricks by making the shadows move––or was there some thing actually lurking there?

I always hoped it was a thing.

I became enamored with Halloween when I was small, helping my mother prepare our carved pumpkin. She cut a spooky face with a knife, and I scooped out the pumpkin’s slimy innards. We toasted the seeds and ate them by the window while watching the trick or treaters go by before we went out in the night ourselves in whatever costume we had begged our parents for that year.

These experiences were the inspiration for my newest novel, The Curse of the Devil’s Purse Inn, a paranormal mystery for ages nine and up. The Sanglier family plans a relaxing vacation in Witchville, Massachusetts, but encounters eerie incidents at the ominous Devil’s Purse Inn. I wanted to write a book that captured things I love about Halloween: magic, mystery, mischief, and fun. And, of course, it also includes lots and lots and lots of candy.

I must leave you now to set up my life-sized skeletons in the front yard. This year’s theme is Jason and the Argonauts (1963). Wishing you all a fantastic Halloween season.

Best site for book purchasing/links to me:



  1. Michael A. Black

    Great description of what makes Halloween so special to so many. Best of luck with your new book.

    • Marisa

      Hi Michael,

      Thank you, appreciate it! And Happy Halloween 🙂

  2. Brian

    You sold this at “warty, squat, saffron-hued pumpkins…” ! Like a character.

    • Marisa

      Hi Brian,

      Thank you so much for your comment! I love this type of pumpkin and get a kick out of describing them in writing.


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MICHAEL A. BLACK – Veteran – Police Officer – Western Author

Michael A. Black is the award winning author of 50 books. A retired police officer, he has done everything from patrol to investigating homicides to conducting numerous SWAT operations. He wrote eleven novels as Don Pendleton in the Executioner series and many Westerns in the Gunslinger series under the name A.W. Hart. His recent novel is in the Trackdown series, Devil’s Lair.

Devil’s Lair – With witnesses falling and a federal case against the cartel in ruins, ex-army ranger Steve Wolf and Special Agent Lucien Pike head to Mexico, chasing both a traitor and an irresistible reward. But betrayal thrives in the heart of darkness, dragging them into a merciless battle where survival is a blood-soaked quest with no mercy given or expected.

When death comes knocking, there’s no quarter given or expected.

Do you write in more than one genre? Most of my stuff is in the mystery and thriller genres. I’ve also been published in other genres, including westerns, sci-fi, horror, pulp fiction, young adult, and sports. Mysteries and thrillers will always be my first love, but I also believe in genre blending. My Western novel, Gunslinger:          Killer’s Ghost, is a Western but also a monster story.

What brought you to writing? I’ve been writing all my life. I wrote my first short story in the sixth grade. I was always begging the teacher to let me write a short story. One Friday, she relented and told me I’d have to read it in front of the class on Monday. I struggled all weekend. After I read it aloud, the teacher gave me a “D—Poor Work” grade and told me never to do it again. I look back on this experience as invaluable. It foreshadowed my entire writing career: I got my first assignment, my first deadline, my first writer’s block, and my first rejection, all in three days.

What are you currently working on? My latest book in the Trackdown series is Devil’s Lair. It follows the continuing adventures of ex-army ranger Steve Wolf, who served time for a war crime he didn’t commit and has been trying to clear his name while working as a bounty hunter. He also has some very powerful enemies who set him up and are trying to kill him. In this entry in the series, he gets to strike back a little.

Who’s your favorite author? If I had to pick a single writer who influenced me more than most, I’d have to say, John D. MacDonald. He was a real pro.

How long to get your first book published? My first one never got published. Looking back, It was that bad—a lot of rookie mistakes. I’d gotten some short stories published, so I knew a bit about writing. I wrote a second manuscript and felt it had legs. I sent it off with high hopes and optimism and started a third novel. I’d written the opening line one morning: It had been a year of ups and downs… Then the mailman came, and I found my second manuscript had come back with a rejection letter. I sat down and stared at the computer screen for a long while, trying to decide if I wanted to continue. After a time, the second line came floating to me: More downs than ups. I liked the sound of it and made a solemn vow right then and there that I was going to finish writing the manuscript and I was going to make it the best I could, even if I was the only person who would ever read it. This one eventually became my first published novel.

Do you ever kill a popular character? If so, what happens to your story? A few authors have done this, and I always thought it was a dumb move. I suppose you could make a case for your hero to die heroically, but it would pretty much end any chance of a continuing series. Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes and eventually had to bring him back.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist? It’s a simple formula: introduce conflict and make things worse as the plot progresses. Then, when it reaches critical mass… BOOM! You have your climax.

What obstacles do you face when writing about historical figures? The biggest problem is avoiding anachronisms. I just read a book set in 1913, and the author still had Maximillian as the emperor of Mexico. He was executed in 1867. Naturally, this ruined it for me, and I didn’t finish it. This unfortunate practice of rewriting history started a few years ago and needs to stop. It’s not only irritating, it breeds stupidity.

What is the best book you have ever read? I’d be hard pressed to pick just one, but I’d have to say James Dickey’s Deliverance is in my top ten. Dickey was a nationally recognized poet who spent ten years crafting the novel. The imagery is stunning, and the writing is lyrical. After I read it, I reread the opening and realized he’d foreshadowed the entire story in that first line.

Do you have any advice for new writers? You can’t be a good writer unless you’re first a good reader, so read all you can and learn from it. Take the time to perfect your craft, get feedback on your work, and try to write every day, even if it’s only one line.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? If you’re looking for a good thriller, I’d appreciate it if you’d check out my new one, Devil’s Lair. It’s got a little something for everyone—action, thrills, and romance. And many thanks to you, Big George, for this opportunity to be on your blog once again.

How do our readers contact you?

Give me a shout at

I’m a member of the VFW, the FOP, the WWA (Western Writers of America), and the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association).


  1. Thonie Hevron

    A wonderful interview, George and Michael! I loved Michael’s tips on craft and his insights into process. I also have read many of Michael’s books and he’s the real deal.

  2. Vicki Weisfeld

    Laughed out loud at your first writing foray. Very efficient getting to that rejection! Thanks, Mike and George!

  3. Violet Moore

    The Westerns are my favorites too.

  4. Marilyn Meredith

    I’ve read many of Mike’s books–he’s definitely a pro. His Western series i my favorite.
    He’s also the program chair for the Public Safety Writers’ Association.


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Millicent Eidson creates mystery/romantic suspense/women’s fiction mashups where the criminals are invisible disease organisms. Her previous blog is MILLICENT EIDSON – Veterinarian – Epidemiologist – Author – Author George Cramer ( After a career as a public health veterinarian with CDC and two state health departments, she uses fiction to communicate One Health | CDC. She’s a member of Sisters in Crime ( and Vermont-based Burlington Writers Workshop ( Her indie publishing company Maya Maguire Media released novels “Anthracis” (2021) and “Borrelia” (2022), plus “Microbial Mysteries: A Story Collection” (2023).

Her latest novel, Corona (Aug. 2023). Veterinarian Maya Maguire nears the end of her training as one of CDC’s epidemic shock troops. Assigned to the pandemic, her origin story comes full circle like an ouroboros—a dragon eating its tail.

As an author of medical thrillers, I’m often asked, “Why are you independent?” My short answer: Time, money, and control.

Retired from full-time public health work, I relish the independent author process—writing, publishing, and communicating with readers through promotion and marketing. Typically, I perfect a book for two years before release. I dedicate lots of time to writers workshops and editing to polish what I hope is a gem.

Like many authors, I initially explored traditional publishing by reaching out to small presses and literary agents who work with large publishers. But the more I learned about the process from my personal experience and the travails of other authors, I realized I’d have to make too many compromises.

Some fear that indie authors will publish inferior work without traditional publishers acting as gatekeepers. However, the amount of time and expertise these agencies bring to each author’s work can be variable. The book will be released on the publisher’s schedule, may take several years on the publishing timetable even if all goes well, and will earn the author a fraction of its sales revenues. Too many authors start out excited when they get an agent, then have to start over with changes in the agent, editor, or publisher. Depending on the contract, an author may not fully own their book.

Assistance and quality control can be obtained in multiple ways. Workshops, academic classes, support groups, social media, blogs, and podcasts offer ways to improve a writer’s craft. Some elements can be contracted out, one at a time or as a bundle, including editing, cover design, and printing/distribution. Hybrid publishing combines elements of traditional and self-publishing. I highly recommend the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi),, including its list of approved services. Some individuals or companies charge too much and deliver too little—be careful.

Learning the steps required for indie authors is daunting but fun. If approaching creative writing through the lens of lifelong learning, every aspect can be a joy. I’m a photographer and love spending hours editing my photos with Adobe Photoshop when designing my book covers. I’m a control freak who hates hyphens breaking up words at the ends of lines. I can turn those off and format my print books using Adobe InDesign, so each page looks exactly as I want, almost like the old typesetting process where every letter was placed in a tray. But I have even more control—through kerning (proportional spacing), I decide how close I want the letters next to each other, in a line, page, or the entire novel. I chose a 12.5 font to make the print easier for older readers.

Another major decision point is where and how to distribute one’s books. I’m a ‘wide’ author, which means I abhor exclusivity. I want to give readers every chance to find my books, no matter how they want to do that. I publish ebooks through Draft2Digital (D2D), which creates an EPUB file from Microsoft Word and distributes ebooks everywhere. At the same time, I upload directly to Amazon Kindle (not Kindle Unlimited, which prohibits publishing anywhere else). For print books (paperbacks, hardcovers, and large print), I publish through Amazon KDP and IngramSpark, which distributes to bookstores and libraries. That means I have two companies to work with in submitting each format for publication and receiving sales income, so four processes overall.

Indie authors who want even greater control, especially for the broadest access to promotions, prefer working with more publishers directly. So they’ll submit books to Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google Play, etc., then stay with D2D and IngramSpark to reach the remaining outlets. An indie author has total control over their bandwidth for working with many book distributors.

Every day, it’s my choice to start creating chapters for the latest novel in my alphabetical series. Later in the day, I can work on editing and formatting my most recent novel, that’s finished the workshop process and is ready for publication. Finally, I can choose how much time I spend reaching out to readers through my newsletter, social media, book clubs, or other options. I can prioritize free promotional activities that require much time (like blogging) versus costly advertisements. Depending on other aspects of my life, I have complete flexibility in these decisions—work-life balance.

Each author can determine which part of the writing business they wish to commit to. But every time parts of publishing are delegated to someone else, the author spends money and loses control of the process. I enjoy tweaking my books and republishing them in the middle of the night if I get an idea of how to improve them. This week, it was adding a direct link at the end of each ebook to the subsequent one rather than just a link to my website. Have fun figuring out your own game plan!

website: HOME | DrMayaMaguire: “Pariah,” an experimental mystery/magical realism short story, is free with signups to my Reader list

Millicent Eidson | LinkedIn
Millicent Eidson (@EidsonMillicent) / Twitter
Millie Eidson (@drmayamaguire) • Instagram photos and videos



  1. Marisa Fife

    “I enjoy tweaking my books and republishing them in the middle of the night if I get an idea of how to improve them. This week, it was adding a direct link at the end of each ebook to the subsequent one rather than just a link to my website. Have fun figuring out your own game plan!”

    I’m a fellow Indie author and public health advocate (Oncology RN here, but I have an Animal Science background and I adore the Veterinary side of things as well).

    I love that you encourage people to have fun developing their author game plan. This is one of the fun aspects of being an Indie author that I enjoy. I like the adventure of the unknown, the creative control, and the independence. And the middle of the night is the best publication time : )

  2. Michael A. Black

    Wow, you sound like a dynamo, Millicent. You’ve given a lot of good information on being and Indie. Keep up the good work and best of luck to you.


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Do you remember the Fifth Dimension singing, “Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon?” I always thought this uplifting—pun intended—song was about setting goals and dreaming of a better future. The lyrics inspired my imagination. How did you interpret the lyrics?

How important is imagination? Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” I don’t think he was saying knowledge was unimportant but rather that it was limited to what we currently know and understand. Imagination is unlimited and allows us to explore new ideas and discover more knowledge.
Thus, it’s not surprising that child development experts stress the importance of encouraging the imagination of kids. Jean Piaget, probably the most famous child psychologist, thought imaginative play was necessary for a child’s emotional and intellectual development. For example, children using stones, leaves, and dirt found in the garden as they pretend to cook like Mom is an example of imagination and problem-solving in children.

Books can encourage imagination and problem-solving skills in children. In essence, a good children’s book should resemble the song lyrics— “Up, up, and away in my beautiful balloon.” It should spark a child’s imagination and encourage a child to think about goals.
A book can’t meet its goal if it’s not fun. That means successful books for two-to-eight-year-old kids must:

• be colorful,
• have an engaging plot with some humor,
• have pretty or exciting illustrations and
• Perhaps it contains several repeatable phrases. Think of lines from The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss. “And then something went BUMP! How that bump made us jump!”

Children get an added benefit from books. Adults must read the book to children under five at least the first couple of times.

Books are perfect gifts for the kids in your life. The holidays—Halloween, Christmas, Hannukah—are coming. Books are perfect gifts. Books don’t need to be assembled like complex mechanical toys. They won’t let kids destroy teeth like candy. They don’t make obnoxious noises that drive adults crazy. They don’t break or stop functioning before the holiday is over. Books are easy to wrap and ship. Books are the perfect gift for the kids in your life.

Writers of novels get an added benefit when they buy a book for a child. They’re building a potential future audience.

Come Fly with Elf is a new picture book for children. In this book, Elf is a tiny, energetic dog with big ears who dreams of flying in a hot air balloon. The protagonist of Come Fly with Elf is based on my naughty, five-pound Papillon named Elf.

Why does Elf have this dream? Elf and I live near Albuquerque, and every year, the city sponsors a Balloon Fiesta. In 2023, it was from October 7 to October 15. Some dogs are afraid of hot air balloons when they sail overhead. The real Elf watches them without barking.

Children will identify with Elf. He pouts when he doesn’t get what he wants and complains, “I’m on a shelf – all by myself.” Elf is sassy and manipulates his mom by barking, as shown in the illustration. Eventually, in the book, Elf gets to ride in a hot air balloon. During the process, he and the child reading the book learn about hot air balloons. They also learn an important life lesson. Elf says hear the end, “I want to be free. I want to be me. But I want Mom to be happy.”

The illustrations were done by someone who loves dogs and hot air balloons. She gave Elf different expressions to match his moods. The real dog can move his ears to match his feelings. The illustrations not only show Elf but also various aspects of ballooning. The illustrator and I also tried to introduce humor in the book with Elf’s sassy comments.

I think you’ll find Come Fly with Elf appeals to kids-at-heart (whether three or eighty years old) who have impossible dreams and love dogs.

COME FLY WITH ELF is available at

My website is:
My Amazon author page is:
I can be reached at:


  1. J. L. Greger

    Mike, Thanks for the kind comment.

    George, thanks for letting me appear on this blog.

    Unfortunately the real Elf has been very ill. He has an autoimmune disease that’s destroying his muscles. He’s distracted me from writing. Sorry I’m so slow in responding.

  2. Michael A. Black

    Janet is one of those rare authors who can write books fro both children and adults. She’s also one of the smartest people I know. I’m glad to see her getting the exposure on George’s fabulous blog. She’s also scheduled to be one of he featured speakers at the next PSWA Conference.


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FELICIA WATSON – Life Long Writer

Felicia Watson, author of the ground-breaking romance Where the Allegheny Meets the Monongahela and the award-winning sci-fi novels, The Lovelace Series, started writing stories as soon as they handed her a pencil in first grade. She’s especially drawn to character-driven tales, where we see people we recognize, people who struggle with their mistakes and shortcomings, acknowledge them, and use that knowledge to grow into wiser human beings.

Where No One Will See:  Lucia Scafetti, a Philly private eye, has tried to move out of the shadow of her infamous crime family. But her life is upended when her notorious hitman father disappears while in search of the diamond he stole from his last victim. Lucia races to unravel the mystery of her father’s disappearance before a crooked and powerful cop beats her to it. Though Lucia’s allies are scanty and her enemies numerous, she tries to resist the questionable help on offer from her Mafiosi family. It looks like Lucia must finally decide on which side of the law she truly belongs, knowing the wrong choice could send her to prison – or an early grave.

Where No One Will See won Gold in the 2023 CIPA EVVYs, Mystery/Crime/Detective Category. The CIPA EVVYs are one of the longest-running book award competitions on the Indie publishing scene, running for nearly 29 years. The annual contest is sponsored by the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA), along with the CIPA Education and Literacy Foundation (ELF).

Do you write in more than one genre? I’ve written in three (romance, sci-fi, and now crime/mystery) genres. I read voraciously, almost every genre except horror, so I’m prompted to write in more than one genre.

What brought you to writing? I’m a born storyteller and love reading, so writing was a natural outcome of that. As soon as I started reading books in first grade, I couldn’t wait to tell my own stories, and I’ve been writing ever since.

Tell us about your writing process: I’m the plotiest plotter who ever plotted. My process is to ruminate on the story until I have my MC, their motivation, and a theme. From that, I write out a short plot summary. I do my research and then write a chapter-by-chapter outline. If scenes or snippets of dialogue come to me, then I stick them into the appropriate chapter as I outline. Next I make a calendar and plan out the plot beats on it and make sure the timing makes sense. Then, I write character sketches for all major characters and draw maps for important locations. Finally, I start to write. As I write, things always change, so I go back and update the outline and calendar, always saving copies of past versions.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I tend to under-write my first draft. Especially when it comes to visual description. I’m big on dialogue. I hear my characters more than I see them, so my first big edit involves fleshing out a lot of details.

What are you currently working on? I’m putting the finishing touches on the sequel to ‘Where No One Will See‘ and starting the process for the 3rd book in the Scaffeti mystery series.

Who’s your favorite author? I have three very different authors I love: Ursula K. Le Guin, Jane Austen, and Hunter S. Thompson. If forced to choose, I’d pick Le Guin.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave or run wild? They generally behave, but there have been times when I’ve tried to write a character doing or saying something that goes against their nature (to serve the plot), and I always get bogged down in those scenes. Once I figure out the problem, I have to re-write because if you know your characters, staying true to that knowledge is essential for portraying well-rounded people.

Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? No, but I did have a secondary character who did. I initially wrote him as the support for my MC in a moment of deep anguish before realizing he’d actually be angry at her and had no support at all in that moment. One of my beta readers even said he was disappointed in the character but felt the scene was true to his nature.

What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? That’s such a great question. One for me would be C. J. Cherryh. I think I was a little too young when I first tackled ‘Brothers of Earth‘ and found it slow-going. I wrote her off until ‘Downbelow Station‘ won the Hugo Award in 1982, and I decided to give her another chance. I had matured enough as a reader to be enthralled by her emphasis on character rather than action. In fact, Cherryh probably paved the way to my appreciation for Le Guin.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I plan to finish my 3rd mystery novel and then return to my sci-fi series. There are so many stories left to tell there.

Do you have any advice for new writers? My advice is the same as, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Practice, practice, practice. There’s nothing like practice to improve your writing. Find a low-stakes arena (a class, a writing group, fanfiction) and experiment with everything: tragedy, comedy, erotica, slice of life, thrillers, all dialogue, no dialogue, drabbles, short stories, novels. Get feedback on everything you produce and listen to that feedback.

Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and your books? I love hearing from my readers! Comments, questions, concerns, or complaints – hit me up!

Contact info is:

Buy links:
Barnes and Noble:



  1. carol willis

    I am encouraged that you write across genres. I’ve also written everything from psychological thriller, mystery, and romance, to sci-fi and everything in between. And I agree with you: There are so many stories to tell! Thank you for sharing.

    • Felicia Watson

      That’s great to hear, Carol. I think there are a lot more of us multi-genre authors than people realize. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Felicia Watson


    Many thanks for featuring me on your blog!


  3. Felicia Watson

    Thanks, Michael – good to hear from a fellow plotter!

  4. Michael A. Black

    Your writing process sounds a lot like mine, Felicia. Congratulations on the new book and best of luck to you. I’ll keep an eye out for your stuff.


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