Lilly Maytree is in Alaska today...

Lilly Maytree is in Alaska, today...looking for adventure and divine appointments. Want to follow along? Enter her ARMCHAIR TRAVELERS PORTAL


Blogging Secrets...

This week, I am so excited to have Elaine Stock, author of the EVERYONE'S STORY blog as my guest. As writers, most of us wrestle with blogging of some type. But why are some so much more successful than others? 

While there aren't any "silver bullets" to answer that question, I have found that successful blogs have certain things in common. The most important of which is take-away value. Something Elaine's blog has plenty of. How does she do it? Well, here's a few questions I just had to ask her, to find out...

Welcome, Elaine, it's great to have you here. You have such an uplifting blog, what gave you the idea to have other people's stories as a blog theme?

Oh, thank you so much, Lilly, for your kind words. And thanks for having me as your guest. A couple of years ago as a pre-published author I felt the heated push to establish and grow an internet presence in addition to joining social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook. I was plagued by the thought: who would really want to know anything about “Me”? So, fascinated by the dynamics of what makes people the way they are, and wanting to encourage others, I started to invite weekly guests. Since I’m a writer and reader, and seem to hang out with other like-minded people, I targeted EVERYONE'S STORY for readers, writers, and all those in-between.

Well, it was an inspired idea, that's for sure. How do you find so many people with the encouraging kind of stories you like to write about?

I have a confession to share: I’m addicted to seeing what has shaped people, and seeing how they’ve risen from unenviable circumstances. Actually, what I think I’m truly addicted to is encouragement. I think one needs more constructive and kind feedback, especially as the world seems to be getting tougher and rougher these days. Hooking up with people and sharing on Twitter, FB, or through one connection or the other, introduces me to many beautiful people. I am grateful when they accept my invitation to be my guest. I also have received queries of people asking to be on my blog…who would have thought?!

With so many positive responses, I'd say it proves you're on the right track. Were you a "novice blogger" when you first started EVERYONE'S STORY, or had you already enjoyed blogging on other subjects?

EVERYONE'S STORY is my first blog—I was definitely a novice. Actually, I’m still learning so much about blogging. For instance, take formatting. If you look at the first year of my blog segments I think the formatting was pretty hideous, or at least unprofessional. I’m not saying it’s gold right now, but I do try to make it presentable.

I’d also accepted guest spots on others’ blogs about the same time as I started blogging, giving me a feel for things on the other side of the table.

That was a good move, too. Mind if I ask why you choose to go with Blogger? Are you happy with that decision?

My neighbor, who sat beside me and “held my hand” while she helped me set up my blog, showed me Blogger vs. WordPress. There are probably other private blogs available via website designers, but at the time I wasn’t ready for that, nor had the means to cover design expenses. I chose Blogger because to my eye, it has a more cozy appearance to it that seems more suited for one’s individuality. But, that’s only my opinion. Many writing industry professionals seem to bow down to WordPress, but Blogger works for me and my present needs. It’s a personal choice.

Definitely the right one at the right time for you. Other than the technical side of things, what factors do you think have contributed most to your success?

Although I receive praise for EVERYONE'S STORY, my head isn’t swelling with “success.” But, thank you, Lilly, for thinking that! Blogging is the proverbial labor of love. I put a lot of sweat into it, though I’ve discovered a few ways to conserve time. I think the biggest tip I can give anyone who wants to blog—since blogging is an invitation to others to comment back—is to thank/acknowledge each commenter for bothering to take a couple minutes of their time to pay a visit. It’s very humbling and necessary. And nice.

It is, indeed. What is your opinion about sticking to one style and subject area for a blog, as opposed to branching out? Do you have any opinions on maintaining multiple blogs?

Power and blessings to anyone who has the time and energy to run their own blog or blogs and engage on multi-contributor blogs. I do not have time. I can only handle so much. Whatever works for you, go for it! Just enjoy it. Have fun.

A very important ingredient, I'm sure. What have you enjoyed most about writing your blog?

The interaction with my guests and commenters. I have been so blessed by their generosity, compassion, support, and the sharing of life lessons. 

Sort of one of those "the more you give the more you get" type things, right? You know, Elaine, so many bloggers start out strong, get tired of the same-old-thing, and then fade away. Do you have any advice for staying in it on a long-term basis?

Make it work for you. Enjoy it. If you’re feeling too pressured and bored by it, maybe time to reconsider things—like anything else.

Well, you definitely have a great thing going with EVERYONE'S STORY, and it's a blessing to me whenever I get a chance to stop by. Meanwhile, what are your plans for the future?

I daydream of publishing these stories floating around my head and when I do I’d like to establish an eye-appealing website that is linked to my blog. Maybe somehow expanding on this whole interaction thing that seems to be developing on EVERYONE'S STORY. Please, don’t laugh. Indulge my dreams.

Wouldn't think of laughing, as all success starts with dreams. Thanks so much for visiting with me, Elaine, and here's wishing you many blessings and much success with those dreams! 

Meanwhile, dear readers, you can check out some of these encouraging stories, yourself, by visiting EVERYONE'S STORY.


Famous People...

There's a reason I write about famous people. It's because I have walked awhile with them and heard, in their own words, about some of the experiences that shaped their lives. Described so perfectly, that I usually feel as if I had been right there beside them. 

Some of these experiences have tugged at my heart (often moved me to tears), and I've come away having learned something so deeply profound that I wanted to make it a part of my own life. Never wanted to forget it. Most of all, these unique experiences have made me want to be a better person. To maybe do something worthwhile with my own life. At the very least, I have wanted to introduce them to others, so that others might experience these things, too. I didn't care that they were dead (these famous people). It didn't matter to me in the least. 

Because the experiences themselves are not dead. 

One day, a young woman (barely twenty-thee), wanted a job on one of the most prestigious newspapers in New York, so badly that she offered to get herself committed to the most notorious "insane asylum" of her day. In order to "get a look at it from the inside out." This because there had been rumors of the deplorable treatment of patients within those walls that were hidden away on Blackwell's Island, which stood in the East River of New York City. It was said, that even if you were put there by mistake (which an alarming number of people were, especially if they were vagrants), there was no way to get out, again. Oh, and what a sensation of a story that would make for the great newspaper!

The publisher said if she could actually pull it off, she could have that job.

She only required one thing. The famous man must do whatever it took to get her out, again, after two days. Which he promptly promised to do. Except he had no idea when he made that promise, that it was practically impossible to get anyone out of there, no matter how much influence they had in the city. Here, in her own words, is some of what Nellie Bly was feeling on the night she went out to get herself arrested, and subsequently committed...

"I remembered all I had read of the doings of crazy people, how first of all they have staring eyes, and so I opened mine as wide as possible and stared unblinkingly at my own reflection. I assure you the sight was not reassuring, even to myself, especially in the dead of night. I tried to turn the gas[light] up higher in hopes that it would raise my courage.

...when I thought of what was to come, wintery chills ran races up and down my back in very mockery of the perspiration which was slowly but surely taking the curl out of my bangs.

…who could tell but that the strain of playing crazy, and being shut up with a crowd of mad people, might turn my own brain, and I would never get back. But not once did I think of shirking my mission. Calmly, outwardly at least, I went out to my crazy business…"

Well, she barely did get out, and very nearly went mad waiting for that rescue. Because it was a whopping ten days (with no word from the outside) before the publisher finally succeeded in appealing to the highest authorities in order to get her released. But because of her daring mission, Blackwell's Island was exposed, laws for the treatment of the insane were changed, and Nellie Bly rocketed to fame. Which was only the beginning of her many audacious ideas.

To read Nellie Bly's writings is to be influenced all over, again by her daring and her nerve. Under which she had the golden heart of an amazing Christian woman. Which is why I wanted to introduce her to more readers by way of THE PANDORA BOX. Because, you see, I was wondering just what might happen if someone were to try and do such things, today. I might even go so far as to say I am making a small effort to do some of those things, myself. In my own way, of course. Except I found out I'm not half so brave! But more importantly...

I found out that part doesn't really matter.

Have you ever been influenced by a famous person? Tell me about it in the comment section to have your name (and email address) put into the Captain's Hat. The winner of a complimentary ebook copy of THE PANDORA BOX will be drawn out, next week (don't worry, he's very fair, and promises you won't be put on any lists for anything else).


The Story Behind the Story...

Week Two of 

I don't always have such an interesting "story behind the story" for the plots I think up, but for THE PANDORA BOX, I do. It happened a very long time ago. A time when the Captain and I were, once again, living aboard a boat. That one was a forty-three foot sloop that we also shared with our three teen-aged children, and one derelict cat.

I never liked that cat. Mostly because it was some half-wild thing my daughter dragged home that she found living under a house one winter. It was not a kitten, just some scrawny feline that never trusted anyone but her. Ever. I won't go into why we even considered letting her bring that cat aboard the boat. Suffice it to say that when you have a tender-hearted daughter you do all kinds of things you never would have thought of.

Anyway, that left me as the cat caregiver when daughter was away. Which didn't amount to much more than leaving a porthole open so she could come in and out for food and such. However, once the glories of catching minnows off the docks was discovered, we didn't even cross paths for meals. Even the litter box was clean. Hmm... 

Which is why, one night, when I was coming home late from the newspaper (I was a journalist back in those days), I happened to see that cat come out of the porthole of someone else's boat. Not just any boat. A beautiful classic ketch from days gone by. Rather run down, but you could tell it had once been luxurious. So, there in the moonlight, I climbed aboard and peeked inside. Not that I could see much of anything. But I immediately got a horribly distinct whiff of cat. I felt mortified.

The next day, I hunted up the secretary at the marina office and confessed that my cat had been using someone else's boat as a litter box. So, what could I do to make things right as I couldn't exactly fit through the porthole. Could she give me a telephone number for the owner, maybe? 

"Oh, that old thing?" She replied after seeing the one I pointed out the window to. "Don't worry about it, honey. It's going up for auction, again, at the end of the month, but no one ever buys it because it used to belong to Hermann Goering. Everyone thinks it's cursed. Sailors are superstitious about things like that."

At which point, my writer antenna began to inch up like a periscope in dark waters. Which led me to some intensive research, and the discovery of the infamous man's strange fetish for hoarding stolen jewels. Of how he would even carry a vase of them around on his wartime travels during WWII. How he liked extravagant living, and would often charter local boats in various countries for several days at a time. And especially how most of those cases went unsolved because nearly all of the owners were dead. In fact, a lot of that stolen plunder was still missing. Not to mention there are still old Nazi war criminals being caught and prosecuted for their war crimes to this very day.

Anyway, that's how the story of THE PANDORA BOX got its beginnings. Of course, it immediately took off in directions of its own, but that's the mysterious part of writing fiction. Because for the most part, I really don't know where all these ideas come from.

Don't forget...

Did you get your free copy of NIGHT VISITORS, yet? It's the story of how Dee Parker (my heroine of THE PANDORA BOX) met the best friend she took along on her great adventure (they say there's safety in numbers). There's also a recipe in there for one of my favorite... oh, but I'll just let you find that out for yourself.

Meanwhile, my first winner of the four complimentary copies of the ebook version of THE PANDORA BOX is Kathleen. Congratulations,  Kathleen! I hope you enjoy reading this story that was more than a typical story for me... in many more ways than one!


The Big Day...

THE PANDORA BOX releases today... and I am very excited about that. It's the book that got me on a boat and sent me off on my next great adventure! 

   By way of celebration, I am giving away an ebook called NIGHT VISITORS. It's the story of how Dee Parker (the main character in THE PANDORA BOX) met the best friend she took along on her amazing adventure. 

You can download it, compliments of the wonderful Pelican Book Group (that I call "home of the great escape"). Just click on the book cover to go there, and get your free copy. Thank you ever so much for being one of my readers, and I'll look forward to hearing what you think about THE PANDORA BOX

Meanwhile, Here's the book trailer and a short excerpt to let you know a little more about the story...

A short excerpt...

The Assignment

"How will you get me out," I asked my editor, "after I once get in?" 
                                                                          ~ Nellie Bly

It was visiting day in the psychiatric hospital. Dee Parker sat at her usual table in the lounge, next to a foot-wide floor to ceiling window that allowed only a narrow view to the outside lawn. No need to attract any undue attention. It was not an opening window and there was no way of escape. There was that word again. Kept popping up every time she turned around. Honestly, if people could read each other’s minds, they’d all be staring at her right now.

Better get a grip. This was the day. The real deal.

Today, she was going to help Nelson Peterson escape from Wyngate State Hospital. Of course, that was not part of her original assignment, and her editor would probably hit the roof when he found out. But she would deal with that after she got Peterson safely out of here. For weeks now, she only had to come as far as this visitor’s lounge to talk with the old gentleman. Just the thought of having to live here was enough to give her nightmares. But it would soon be over.

Dee felt again for the sprig of miniature roses she had tucked into the band of her straw hat (the smell of roses was supposed to have a calming effect on people) and forced herself not to look around so much. There were too many people here who were getting used to her weekly visits and might engage in conversation if they caught her eye. Today, of all days, she did not want to stand out or be remembered. Except this afternoon, there was something troubling in the atmosphere. She could sense it...


Running With the Idea…

There are a lot of great ideas around. So many, one could say they are as abundant as rain. How many times have I picked up a book with a "great premise" (or idea) and then been disappointed because it didn't pan out the way I first perceived it. 

My most classic example of this was many years ago, when I was hurrying through a library on a busy schedule, and a title on a shelf in the children's section jumped out at me. ONE DROP OF BLOOD. In the children's section? It stopped me in my tracks. Turns out it was about how blood flows through the human body. Which still had my interest enough to page through because I was  taken with the idea of the importance of "one drop of blood." The shear drama of it. But alas! Other than a few good illustrations, it fizzled into something incredibly boring. 

Since then, I have not only seen this happen over and over, I would have to say that it happens (though not as drastic) about eighty percent of the time I read books of any kind. The story does not live up to the original great idea. The one the title put in my head. Truth is, I can see it even in my own books. What's up with that?

Then it occurred to me that the ideas are inspirations. We grab them and run. Excited to see what we can make of them. But I have lately been wondering what would happen if we "hung around" where we got those ideas for awhile to see if there was anything else that might come with them. Like an outline. Or a line or two of instruction. And oh, what I wouldn't pay for a consultation with that source when I'm stuck in a "sagging middle" or all tangled up in plot-knots of my own making.

Hmm… I wonder if that's possible?

And I wonder if the great books that are around (those lasting ones that keep selling generation after generation) aren't so much written by great people, as by those who decided to hang around the source of their inspirations a bit longer than most. Or, maybe even went back there. Seems to me, a relationship of that kind would be priceless to both the writer and the reader.

What an idea!

Good News...

This summer, I had visions of long idyllic hours to work on my current manuscripts without any interruptions from the outside world. That busy one, where there's always something else that needs to be done. After all, I was going on a cruise.

No animals to feed, no house to clean, no meetings to attend. No traffic noises and no TV. Truly an author's dream. But there is a great space between the way things are, and the way they ought to be. Instead of my uninterrupted idyllic hours, I have traded all those other things for near collisions, actual collisions (most of which were my fault for not moving fast enough), mechanical breakdowns, the boat filling up with various things like oil one time and water the next, and finally ending up hard aground. None of which was life-threatening, or as serious as it seemed at the time. I think.

At least, that's what the Captain tells me. 

Meanwhile, I have not finished one project (much less all) that I planned on. My poor characters are scattered all over the place. Even the kids. I have taken to not believing my calendar rather than accept there are things on it I've missed entirely and didn't notice until weeks later (what's up with that?) And whose idea was it to go on this crazy trip in the first place? 

While most people are planning book tours in well-populated areas, I had to take mine right off the map. How many business cards and bookmarks was I figuring to hand out in wilderness places? After a while, I even started worrying that divine appointment I was trying not to miss might be something of a personal summons from the Lord, Himself, to find out why I wasn't busy doing that thing I was asked to do in the first place. 

To which I would have to admit that I have lost my focus, here, and seriously need some help to fulfill all those obligations. Because the ability to work twelve to sixteen hours a day that I was banking on, was no longer functioning. At least not right now. Yes, I had gotten myself into this mess, but there was no way I could get myself out. 

Mostly because I would have to go the speed of light to get through the mountain of work that had piled up while I was off on my own agenda. An absolute impossibility for someone who normally moves at the pace of a turtle. Of course, I felt guilty. But I asked anyway. After all, if there is nothing too hard for God, this should be no problem for Him. Right?

But would He do it?

So, while I sat at my computer with a horrid case of reality setting in,  and sputtering like a cold engine, I happened to notice that somebody--days, or maybe even weeks ago--had nominated my novel GOLD TRAP for fiction Book of the Month voting over at The Book Club Network. And I began to see a glimmer of light ahead. A way where I could possibly catch up virtually to where I had "gone off the road" physically. I could see a way out!

Now, a lot of people might argue whether, or not, that was a miracle. But I will tell you how I know that it was. Because before I prayed, I was in a big confused mess that was impossible to deal with. And afterward, I not only saw a way out, I had the confidence to take it. Not to mention how many wonderful people over there who are willing to share help and advice. At any rate, I am feeling wonderfully, incredibly blessed by it all.

Thank you, God.


Are They Alive?

Once, I left two women locked in a basement for months on end, because life distracted me. Real life. If the two women had been real, too, I probably would have gone to jail. But as it was, I simply found them more interesting when I returned, on account of they had adjusted to their environment.

They were sitting on a literal mountain of food (one of them was a prepper), still arguing about who had, or hadn't, locked the door on them. They didn't look any worse for wear, and they even had the same clothes on. I remember exactly what they were wearing when I left, because one of them got a rip in her jeans bending down for a a case of canned ham. I have since considered changing it to a case of tuna, after learning how unhealthy that stuff is.

Which just goes to prove that setting a story aside for awhile really does have its benefits. That's my theory, anyway. The one about characters taking on a life of their own and getting out of hand is a bit too creepy for me. Imaginary people breaking into real life could really complicate things. So, that's why whenever any of my creations complain about being left somewhere too long, I get right on it. 

Because it's more acceptable being a writer than to talk to yourself.

Any different opinions from my writer friends out there?


The Boat That Left Without Me...

It takes me a long time to write a book, and even longer for it to be released. The first time that ever happened to me, I didn't mind a bit. I was too happy and excited to mind about much of anything. If the publisher said I would have to shave my head for the first few months, I probably would have done that, too. I had a lot of great ideas for marketing, and the extra months just gave me that much more time to work on them.

Imagine my shock to discover (after the big day finally arrived), that most of my marketing opportunities were already over. Over? I hadn't even seen them pass by! From that time forward, I was swamped with a deluge of missed opportunities, sold-out tickets, and vital activities I didn't even know the meaning of. Not to mention being technically challenged. Like having a beautiful website (you have to get one of those), except that none of the social network buttons went anywhere, on mine, because I didn't know how to connect them.

So, why am I telling you all this?

Because I just finished reading:

 INDIE AUTHOR BOOK MARKETING SUCCESS: Proven 5-Star Marketing Techniques From Successful Authors and Book Marketing Experts by Shelley Hitz and Heather Hart. 

And I'll tell you something. If this book had been available when I was wasting all that time waiting for my “boat to sail,” things would have been a whole lot different for me. Seriously. For the simple reason this book doesn't just tell you what to do, but exactly how to do it. Without a lot of vague terms that leave you wondering things like if a blog blitz is something you eat, or something you do. The thing is, there are a lot of other books out there you can find the same information in.

So, what's the big deal about this one?

Well, I'll tell you. It's not all written by the same person. Each chapter of INDIE AUTHOR BOOK MARKETING SUCCESS is written by someone who is already a success in their particular specialty. Many of whom tell you exactly how they did it, in very definite terms, and step-by-step descriptions. Fourteen successful people who have been chosen to share their particular strong points.

When I read a “how to” book, I'm usually pretty happy if I come away with even one useful thing that I can add to my own knowledge base (that collection of things that actually make a difference for me). Mostly because it's unusual to find many people who are an expert on everything. INDIE AUTHOR BOOK MARKETING SUCCESS is a collection of experts. All sharing their strongest points. So, I didn't just come away with something useful, this time, I came away with a whole personal marketing plan. One that I can understand and see myself using for a long time to come. To me, that's priceless.

Which is why I can recommend it to anyone who finds marketing as mysterious as I do. Oh, and when the next book of mine comes out, I can guarantee I won't miss that marketing “launch,” again. Because I got my reservations in early, this time. And my tickets? Already have them in hand.


Shelley Hitz

About Shelley Hitz

Shelley Hitz is an award-winning and internationally best-selling author.  She is also the founder of and consultant to individuals, organizations and small businesses who want to multiply their impact through self-publishing.  Shelley offers many free resources to authors at her website.

And she teaches from personal experience.  She has been writing and publishing books since 2008 and has published over 30 books including print, eBook and audio book formats.  

Heather Hart
About Heather Hart...

Heather Hart is a book marketing expert and manager at She has authored and contributed to multiple books, including "A Year of Book Marketing." Helping other authors since 2009, Heather lives in Texas with her husband and four children where she fills her days typing away on her keyboard and brainstorming new marketing ideas..Visit her excellent Author's Assistant blog.

Shelley and Heather are also affiliated with the ever-growing and dynamically helpful community of readers, authors, and bloggers over at:



If you're looking for MAN OVERBOARD! the account of that little experience, along with my new video log, can be seen over at Lilly's Armchair Travelers Portal. Sorry about that. It always takes a little time to get back to normal. I still like adventuring though!