Roman à clef at Play: An Interview With Author, Donna M. Zadunajsky

As an undergrad, I listened to my professors gush about “The Rape of the Lock” and Dharma bums–famous roman à clef titles of the serious literary wold. From the minute I learned what roman à clef  was, I was intrigued with the idea of writers disguising their real lives within the folds of their work and so, it’s refreshing to note that Donna M. Zadunajsky, a contemporary author, continues to write in this tradition.

Read on for the interview but definitely check out her latest novel, Hidden Secrets (Secrets and Second Chances) (Volume 2), for a phenomenal adventure that explores the complexity of the relationships we all share with others.

 And expect a review of this novel soon!

Q: What inspired you write this book? I started out writing a book about three best friends, but after writing 50,000 words, there was no way I could finish the book the way I was writing it. Each character had their own story to tell, so I decided to break them up into a series of books related only by the character being written in the book before it.

Alexis in Family Secrets, is my best friend Jill in real life. She chose the character’s name and career. Carla in Hidden Secrets is me with my life as a school teacher, and some real life events intertwined in the story. In book 3–that I’m writing now–is my best friend Angie, known as Ashley.

I would say that the question would be, what inspired me to write this series, lol.

Q: What challenges did you have while writing it? Making sure everything fit together in the end. I had to make sure that Carla’s husband and the timelines matched with the story. I had to draw a graph and write down dates about what happened so that further in the book the reader wouldn’t question my dates.

Q: What do you want readers to take away from reading your book(s)? That’s a good question.  I would have to say I want my readers to feel satisfied and that the story is complete with the ending filling in all the gaps. I do like to add a little twist at the end of my books to surprise the reader. I don’t want my readers feeling like they’ve already read a book similar to mine.

Q: If you could live in the story of a book, which one would you live in? My all time favorite movie and book is Anne of Green Gables. The location and people would be to me, an amazing place to be. It looks so beautiful and calming there and I just love the characters.

Q:  When you’re not writing what do you do? Three days a week I go to pilates before writing in the morning. I read, clean the house, do my daily chores like taking care of the pets; we have two dogs and two cats. I have a fifteen year old daughter who consumes my time after she gets home from school. I also work at a veterinary three days a week in the evening, so I can write in the morning. I also clean other people’s homes in the afternoon on various days in the month. So, I guess you can say that my writing comes first and then everything else comes after I have written some words. I love to keep myself busy.

Q: What else have you written? What else do you write? I started out writing seven children’s books, which are about my daughter and her life journeys. I accomplished and published my first novel, Broken Promises, in June 2012, and then went into writing my second novel Not Forgotten, which was published late Spring for 2013 and is now owned by Custom Book Publishing.

With my daughter entering Junior High, I went into writing about some true events in my first novella, Help Me!, which is a subject about suicide, cutting, and bullying.

My third novel Family Secrets: Secrets and Second Chances, is first in a series I’m writing, and have recently published book 2, Hidden Secrets.

I have written 7 children’s books, 4 novels, and 2 novellas.

Q: What’s your “writer studio” like or where do you feel inspired to write?

I write in the office that my husband and I share. When he’s at work and my daughter’s at school the house is quiet and it’s just me and my imaginary friends. Absolute quietness is what I love and need in order to write.

Q: Of all the character’s you have written, do you have a favorite? That’s another good question. To be honest it is actually the character I’m working on now. Her name is Lily, she’s 5 years old. She’s a smart little girl for her age, and I can actually see her in her very own book in the near future. In all of her scenes, my heart wraps around her and feels everything she feels and goes through. I absolutely loved creating her.

Q: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer and how long have you been writing professionally? When I was 13-14 years old. I couldn’t stop reading Stephen King books. I could always come up with bizarre stories, but just never pursued the writing craft until I was 33 years old. My daughter inspired me and I started writing about her adventures that she and I would go on. My passion was always to write mystery novels, but I also like writing young adults books as well. That is something I started getting into last year when I wrote about teen suicide and bullying. I have written a second book in the Help Me! series titled Talk to Me,  which has been selected as a Finalist in an unpublished contest. The winner will be revealed on September 15th in Denver, Colorado, which I’ll be.

I have been writing for at least 8 years.

Q: Where do you think book publishing will be in 10 years from now? I do believe that printed books will still be around because it has become more popular lately. A couple of years ago I would have told you that it wouldn’t exist because I read nothing book ebooks, but as of this year, I’d say I like printed books a lot more now.

I hope you enjoyed this interview! Again, catch her novel here. Follow her on Twitter @72Zadunajsky and find out what she’s currently working on by visiting her blog at

The Art of the Query Letter

So, you want to get published and you’ve been sending what feels like–or may even really be–hundreds of queries to publishing houses (big and small), editors, and agents and no one’s biting the line you keep throwing into the water.  Have you ever considered that it may be your query letter that is putting your manuscript straight into the slush pile? If your manuscript is ready and you’re presenting something that is at least somewhat unique into the literary world, it could be your query letter.

Even small publishers go through hundreds of submissions a month. You’re lucky if you even get a response back. And it’s not because publishing houses are filled to the brim with jerks with no common courtesy, it’s just that everyone is busy. Some editors hold full-time jobs or swing other side projects just to keep afloat. Think it’s a financial struggle being a writer? Well, guess what a lot of writers do as a side hustle–they edit at publishing houses. We’re trying to put bread on the table just like everyone else. Sure there are those few hotshots that work in publishing and never have to monitor their bank accounts but they don’t represent the majority. Publishing houses are also committed to giving the authors that they’ve signed on as much attention as they can. Working with a publisher is a joint-effort of success between an author and publishing house.

Okay, so how do you get your query letter through the cracks so that an acquisitions officer becomes interested in taking a look at your manuscript? Sure, I’ll tell you the secret. Are you ready? You may want to sit down because I’m about to blow your mind. The secret is: keep it short and to the point, for the love of God! Of course it’s not that easy, but seriously, keep it focused.

  1. Address the editor/individual by name. This shows that you’ve actually taken the time to read the submissions guidelines and put some effort into looking through the website. “Dear acquisitions editor” just sounds like a control, copy, paste job that you’re sending to everyone. You already look like you’re just another writer looking for a quick way to get in and don’t really care about what you’re doing. The last thing you want is to give the impression that you’re just like everyone else in the slush pile.
  2. Open with a one-sentence blurb about what your book is about. There’s really no need for these overly polite introductions because the editor already knows what you want—you’re selling and pitching a manuscript. I’ve seen query letters with the first paragraph going on and on about everything but what the manuscript is about. This opening sentence is supposed to peak the editor’s interest so they want to read more and learn more about you.
  3. Immediately follow your one-sentence blurb with more details about your book in a short paragraph. Please don’t add pages of excerpts. If the editor wants to see your work they’ll go through your manuscript.
  4. The next paragraph should be about you.  What else have you written? What makes your book special? Why is it going to be successful? What’s your background? What makes you, as an individual, special? What are your strengths as a writer? What are your weaknesses as a writer? This is where you plug in any more information you want known. At this point in the letter, the editor is interested in knowing who’s behind the manuscript so share what you think could close the deal.
  5. End it and offer that you’ll follow up but understand that the review process could take weeks to up to a year. 
  6. Under your signature, put all your contact information there so that the editor isn’t digging for it through the text later. Include, “Author of, the title of your book“, followed by your phone number, email, and link to your website. If you mail your letter, the envelope will probably get lost. If you e-mail the letter as an attachment, it’s likely that the attachment will be printed and the original e-mail will eventually drown in hundreds of other e-mails. Just guarantee your contact information is there when needed. Even if you think they have it, give it to them again.
  7. Revise and proofread your letter. Also, edit the letter so that it fits on a single page.


Best of luck,


Proofreader vs. Editor

The basics:

  • A proofreader will examine while an editor will make direct and deliberate changes to your text.
  • A proofreader will make marks because something is wrong with the punctuations used, grammar, and typos were found. An editor will do that and also make marks because the text can be written/communicated better. 
  • A proofreader won’t tell you that your manuscript is lacking or your writing hasn’t matured enough to be presented to an audience. An editor will attempt to develop your manuscript if they feel it flatly sucks. 

• Who do you need?

  • Are you confident that your manuscript is structurally sound and that people are ready to read it? 
  • Are you an experienced  writer who gets their work critiqued?
  • Do you just want someone to review your work?

You need a proofreader. 

Main idea:

a proofreader’s job is to perfect bodies of work that are already well-written to enhance its delivery.

  • Do you think your manuscript is ready for publication but are having doubts about somethings? 
  • Have you gotten bad feedback about your work that you hadn’t expected?
  • Is your writing not getting the attention from readers you had hoped for? 

You need an editor. 

Main idea: an editor’s job is to make your manuscript something people want to read. Their main job is to elevate writing.

• Price Differences

Proofreading costs less and in most cases, a lot less. This is mostly because an editor is offering more than just the technical stuff. They’re giving up their good ideas for you to use and to take credit for. They’re also giving you their technical and industry experience on what works and what sells.

Main idea: proofreading costs less.

• Project Time Differences

proofreading a standard 200 page book can take 2-3 weeks on average. This depends on what agreements are made and the proofreader of course. Editing can take anywhere from a month to even 9 months, depending. 

Main idea: proofreading takes weeks and editing takes months.

Happy writing!


Photo via Visualhunt

The Business of the Business Card

Not much has changed with how useful business cards can be. At this rate, they’ll probably always be relevant. Let me explain. Business cards have been around since the 17th century! Back then, members of polite society were expected to carry these pocket-sized introductory cards to announce their arrival. You’d show up to someone’s door and place your card in a silver platter and a doorman or servant would take it up to the owner of the house.

Business cards play a part in how you network with other people. For the modern person it serves as a way to provide a newly met friend, work associate, colleague, or possible employer with a lasting impression of your encounter together. Most importantly the card leaves  them with multiple ways to get and keep in touch.

Its very design should be used to communicate something about who you are. Design your card to communicate to an audience and keep in mind what impression it will give long after the encounter. It could be months before you hear from them.

Basic Card Trading Etiquette

  1.  When receiving a card it’s polite to look at it. Don’t just shove it in your pocket.
  2. Have translated business cards in the language of the country that you’re in if you’re traveling.
  3. Make appropriate eye contact during the hand off and avoid handing off your card in a handshake.
  4. If you can help it, don’t give out cards that have been previously written on or are in poor condition.
  5. It’s common to make business cards for your book titles but, this can relate some information about you that you don’t exactly want being easily known.
    • First, it reveals that you’re new to the game. Experienced authors will have a web address on a personal business card where you can find a list of the books they have written. I’ve found that they won’t bother making exclusive cards for each book.
    • Second, it doesn’t help to build a personal connection with you as an author, it just helps others remember your project. If that’s what you want, then great. If you’re networking and looking to build a following or relationship, then this isn’t great. If you want to make business cards for your book then that’s up to you, just don’t forget to include all of the other information people need to get in touch!

This is a follow-up (after two years) to an article I published with Elite Millennial Magazine on how to use business cards to network. You can read the original article by accessing this link here: The Business of the Business Card.

The image attached to this post is the business/networking card I’m currently using, with some of my personal information taken out.


Advice For Writers or What I Wish Writers Knew

I have been asked a few times what my personal advice is to writers. I’m sure a lot of this will be redundant to writers who have been writing for some time, but, that’s probably because it’s good advice.

Here goes:

  1. Create a platform online, on social media, and in your community. To be brutality honest, there are tons of authors and books out there! Competition is brutal in this market and if you don’t make it easy to get noticed, readers will just plant their attention elsewhere. Even really great books get kicked to the back of the line because lack of readership. The average author has to start off small and starting off small is better than not starting at all. Creating a platform or audience of people interested in your work increases the likelihood that this won’t happen. Start small and start quick because it takes time to build an online platform. This is most essential for those writing non-fiction work.
  2. Take packaging your book seriously. Sure it would be great if we didn’t, but, we live in a world that judges books by their covers.The book cover, editing, and proofreading process are integral parts to creating a product worth buying. I know that many authors don’t have much capital to begin with but taking extra focus on book packaging will be worth it in the end. A good book cover is the first form of marketing! And a polished manuscript is important to how readers experience your book.
  3. Commit to writing everyday. Treat your writing time like appointments you make with yourself. Writing 1,700  words (7-8 pages) everyday for a month will produce, more or less, a 200 page book at the end of the month. Ask the writers at NanoWrimo! It’s possible!
  4. Even if you think it sucks, write it down and save it. We have hundreds of straying and creative thoughts a day; when they’re gone, they’re gone. Carry around a notebook! Save everything you write so you have a collection of original work to read through when you need inspiration.
  5. Two heads are good, but, three or more are better.  Share your work with others, join groups, take classes, meet other writers, read articles, and engage your (or your potential) readers. Not only is it healthy to have positive people in your life, it will make you a better writer. Including other people in your writing provides insight and information outside of your own, keeps you accountable of finishing your projects, and provides you a sounding board when you need to talk about your work.
  6. Being critical pays. Through experience, I have learned that having a university degree or a great story doesn’t make a good fiction writer. Knowing if your work is good or not is the first step in knowing if you need to get in touch with an editor or ghost writer.
  7. Believing in your story pays. Write because you have a story to tell and want to share it with the world. Sometimes you’ll share your work and receive rejection. Sometimes you’ll share your work and no one will care. So, if you’re going to write, write because you believe that the story you’re writing is important enough to write down.
  8. Fight for a big dog. Trying to make it as a writer takes a lot of crass. Try to get your book in with a big publishing house before opting to go with an indie publisher or self-publishing. Big publishing houses, like Penguin or Harper Collins, have the finances and professional team to push your work into the market in such a way that it’s financially beneficial and time saving. Sure, competition is steeper, but, try anyway because you never know.


Photo credit @ Devanath/Pixabay

Review of Nicholas Paschall’s The Ghost of O’Leary House

This book is about a young guy named David and his transformational journey after he finds out that he has witches in his family. Intrigued? Well, you should be! This is a book about witches, family secrets, and stalking phantoms! There’s intrigue and drama everywhere!  I gave this book: 4/5. You should get your copy here.



Here’s why.

Can we just get the bad stuff out on the table first, so, we can focus on the good stuff? The only tiff I have is that there were issues with content, grammatical errors, and a need for proofreading. Sometimes the inconsistency in the content had me going in circles.  Here’s just two examples, that drove me nuts. First, the main character is described as a preteen (117) but the reader is lead to believe that he’s in college early on (7). If he’s gifted and skimming through academics, that’s cool, but it would’ve been nice to know. Second, the misuse of a foreward. Forewards are written by someone who’s not the author. A preface, though most commonly used in nonfiction pieces, is written by the author. Hence, the loss of stars! It sounds more dramatic than it really is.

Anyway, there’s a lot of good stuff to focus on in this book! Paschall is definitely talented at forcing his readers to keep reading. There’s no denying that Paschall is a great storyteller. Each chapter ends with a cliff-hanger! It’s cruel, but it’s true. Honestly, I really enjoyed this book. The horror factor won’t completely plague your dreams if you’re used to the hardcore gore stuff, but, there’s total creep value here. A few things the spectre does in the book made me cringe! There’s a bathroom scene where the ghost is crawling up a wall–I had to look away. There’s character complexity! You’ll be shocked to learn what’s been going on with this family over generations. If you like stories about transformation, witches, ghosts, and secrets, Nicholas Paschall won’t disappoint!

Purchase your copy here.


  • I personally contacted the author to get a copy of his book to review it.
  • I hate reviews that reveal too much, leaving nothing else to discover. If you want deep details, you can read the book yourself!
  • The book is 288 pages with short, 3-4 page chapters so it’s great for busy people!
  • This review correlates with electronic versions of this book.

Beta Readers: Why You Need Them

What’s a beta reader?  Someone who agrees to read your book to offer feedback, much like a professor does with papers before students submit them for grades. A beta reader works a lot like a manuscript consultant because they read the manuscript and talk to the author about their work without making hard edits the way a proofreader and editor will. Unlike a proofreader or editor, they won’t sweep through your manuscript for errors but focus on the core of your story. They should be familiar with the genre they are beta reading and be a part of the author’s target demographic. They should also be tied to details in the book to see how believable the manuscript really is.

Who should consider getting a beta reader? This is a good option for writers who need honest feedback they’re worried they won’t get from friends or writing groups. It’s a smart way to see how readers respond to your work before going through the publishing process. Self-publishers should definitely consider asking a beta reader to go through their manuscript if the manuscript won’t go through a proofreader or editor.

Where to look: Twitter, writing forums like and, blog sites, writing groups, LinkedIn, and doing an internet search.

Cost: Normally beta reading is done for free, but, remember someone is taking a lot of time to critique your manuscript so be nice! Don’t expect them to line edit or reorganize your manuscript! A beta read also has the potential to become a book review. Book reviews mean publicity, publicity means sales!



Photo via Visual Hunt