Review of “What the Dead Fear” by Lea Ryan

WhattheDeadFearWhat the Dead Fear by Lea Ryan

Summary:  “The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where one ends, and where the other begins?” –Edgar Allan Poe

Juniper Townsend died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the ripe, old age of 22.

However, death isn’t the end. In Limbo, she finds a foggy wasteland and strange creatures. She also discovers that during night hours, she can walk among the living. But there are rules. Never influence destiny. Never interfere, because the consequences are dire.

Will she sacrifice eternal freedom to save the innocent?

Recommendation: Love it!

Review:  This is one of the best novellas I have read in a long time. It’s quick (unfortunately too quick for me) and eerie and fun at the same time.

Juniper (the protagonist) along with all of the other characters were so real, I felt as if I knew them. From the moment the story starts, the author begins building a world that is both recognizable and bizarre.

A recently deceased Juniper wanders through this strange existence searching for answers and purpose. As she does, she encounters Cricket, but although Cricket appears harmless, is she really what she seems? Juniper also runs into a man named Gareth, who, while seemingly friendly, hangs around with jackals and has claws for hands.

While Juniper struggles to figure out not only where she is, but why she hasn’t moved on to whatever lies beyond death, she decides to attempt to interfere in the ‘real world.’ Her best friend is being abused by her boyfriend, so Juniper decides to intervene. However, things don’t work out exactly as planned. The more Juniper tries to interfere in the real world, the more trouble she creates for herself in the strange between-world in which she is trapped.

The world and characters that the author built are believable, exciting, and above all, relatable. In fact, they are so relatable that I wanted to jump in and help Juniper achieve her goals. That’s the kind of writing that makes a great story.

Unfortunately, the story ended much too soon, and I had to say goodbye to Juniper, Cricket, and everyone else in this marvelous land of the dead that Lea had created.

So, if you get a chance, grab a copy of What the Dead Fear (it’s free on Amazon) and read it through. You won’t be sorry.

About the author:  

Lea Ryan is the author of several books and stories. She writes about the strange and the dark, as well as the light and love and strives to immerse readers in vivid fictional worlds. She currently lives in Indiana with assorted family members and various pets.

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When in Doubt…Keep Writing

Sometimes we doubt ourselves. Believe it or not, it happens to almost everyone. But then, how do you convince yourself that you have the talent, the skill, and the reasons to continue with your creative endeavors? Nick Maccarone has written an excellent article that explains how to get past your self-doubts and keep moving forward with your writing (or art).

How to Grab Your Reader

handbookDo you want that story you just wrote to pull in your reader? Do you want your characters to jump off the page and into your readers’ minds?

Intriguing your readers so that they want to continue reading your book is not easily accomplished. You need to pique their curiosity by asking a question, setting up some unique and interesting situation, showing them something relatable, or engaging their senses.

While many an author tries (and while most authors think they have succeeded), the truth is, a lot of authors fail miserably. It isn’t something that is easily done, and it isn’t something that is easily taught.

Finding just the right opening to your book can happen easily or not at all. This isn’t because you’re not a good writer. More often, it’s because you’re trying too hard. Most new writers overthink that opening line instead of letting the story flow naturally. If you allow the story to lead you, you have a much better chance of coming up with an organic and meaningful first line.

One of the best opening lines that I have ever read is from the first Rachel Morgan book, Dead Witch Walking by Kim Harrison. This opening line not only hooks the reader, it introduces the main character in a way that makes her unique and relatable.

I stood in the shadows of a deserted shop front across from The Blood and Brew Pub, trying not to be obvious as I tugged my black leather pants back up where they belonged.

deadwitchwalkingTo me, that line not only gives me a sense of place, it tells me this story isn’t ‘normal.’ After all, how many pubs do you know with blood in their name? And it begs you to find out why this character is standing in the shadows casing some pub. Is she the protagonist or antagonist? At this point, it’s hard to tell, but I’d like to know more. Yet, at the same time, I find myself relating to her tugging at the pants. (I mean, how many times have you found yourself having to do the same thing, when your pants just won’t stay where they belong?)

However, what constitutes a good opening line (or even a good opening paragraph) seems to be quite subjective. After all, every reader and every author is different. So, what intrigues me, may not intrigue you. But I’ve included some more opening lines (and paragraphs) with my opinion as to why they do or don’t work.

When I think of my wife, I always think of her head.

That line is so odd that I can’t help but read further to find out why the character, Nick Dunne, would make such a bizarre statement. (Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn)

The primroses were over. Toward the edge of the wood, where the ground became open and sloped down to an old fence and a brambly ditch beyond, only a few fading patches of pale yellow still showed among the dog’s mercury and oak tree roots.

Between overdone descriptions and long sentences, this is not an opening that would intrigue or inspire me to continue. (However, I will admit, I did push on and finish this book. It was interesting despite it’s overblown descriptive passages.) (Watership Down by Richard Adams)

It was either Thomas Jefferson—or maybe it was John Wayne—who once said, “Your foot will never get well as long as there is a horse standing on it.”

Again, the oddity of the sentence makes me want to read more if just to find out what (if anything) that statement has to do with the overall story. I love a bit of quirky humor, so this just sets my mouth for more. However, someone who is expecting something more in tune with the book’s promised premise may simply close the book and walk away. (The Grass Is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank by Erma Bombeck)

It must have been 1963, because the musical of Dombey & Son was running at the Alexandra, and it must have been the autumn, because it was surely some time in October that a performance was seriously delayed because two of the cast had slipped and hurt themselves in B dressing-room corridor, and the reason for that was that the floor appeared to be flooded with something sticky and glutinous. (At Freddie’s by Penelope Fitzgerald)

Unfortunately, this run-on and extremely boring sentence left me wanting to close the book, not read it. All I kept thinking was that if the opening sentence was this long and convoluted, then I didn’t want to wade through the overdone prose to find the story.

And my favorite opening line (I have to say that because it’s from one of my own books), is:

Have you ever thought about what happens when we die? (Escorting the Dead by TA Sullivan)

It’s succinct, clear, and just begs you to read more.

Escorting the Dead
Cover Design by DL-Design and Digital Art

But as you can see, the success or failure of an opening line is quite subjective. And that’s why hooking your reader has more to do with the author’s ability to craft a good story using just the right cadence and words, than it is has to do with a single sentence or a single paragraph. After all, not every reader is going to be moved by the opening line to your book any more than every reader is moved by the following opening line, “Mr. Phileas Fogg lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814.”*

So, don’t overthink the opening to your story, but do craft it well enough that it invites the reader into your story.

*This is the opening line to Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne


What Helps You Through Life?


While this post has little to do with writing, it has a lot to do with life. I read it and thought the author had some interesting insights. I especially think that the thought-provoking questions at the end were something that we should all be contemplating during these tumultous times. So, please enjoy this shared post:




Independent Authors Who Made It

pexels-photo-261734.jpegIf you’ve ever lost faith and wondered if it was at all possible for an independent author to be successful, then you need to read this article. Jessical Ruscello shows us 10 independent authors whose books actually made an impact. And (best of all) most of them even made it to the top of the list in their genre–not an easy feat when you’re doing the writing, publishing, and marketing.

So, perk up and take heart…being an independent author is not easy, but it is still possible to be noticed.

[to read more…]

Interview With Dr. Bob Rich

I’ve asked Dr. Bob Rich, author, conservationist, and professional granfather, to join me today. After reading two of his books and sharing a number of long conversations, which covered a multitude of esoteric topics, I thought it would be interesting to share some of his insights and witticisms with my readers.

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Tricia, I am delighted to accept your invitation for a chat at your blog. I hope to give your visitors a few laughs, and plenty of food for thought.

You live in Australia and are passionate about conservation and improving the quality of life for everyone. Can you share some thoughts about that with us?

I currently live in two realities.

One is utterly crazy, and I stay sane by occasionally escaping into the other one.

To illustrate the crazy reality, let me tell you about a phone call yesterday. It was from a computer asking to survey me about politics.

It then asked me to push a button to indicate which of 6 options would influence my vote if an election was held today. The options were 6 different ways I might be bribed, so I disconnected.

If I’d written that survey, the questions would have addressed matters like species extinctions, climate change, the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, homelessness, wealth inequality, the toxic role of money in politics… real issues.

So, I spend considerable time and energy in doing my little best to address such things.

The other reality hides within my computer, and it’s a much better place to be.

What are you currently working on? (If it’s another book, give a short summary of it, please.)

At the moment, I am in the middle of processing a steady stream of entries for my free book edit contest.

The prize is the free edit of a book-length manuscript.

The deadline is October 15, so I expect the stream to increase to a flood.

An entry consists of a 200 word book summary, and the first 1000 words of the manuscript. (If the entrant follows instructions. I am surprised at how rare that is). I edit this approximately straight away, stuff it full of helpful feedback, and send it back. I can then feel good: even people with no chance of winning will benefit from our contact. I enjoy being a teacher.

In between, I visit my young friend Bill Sutcliffe, and his little son, Albor. This is in the 4th volume of my science fiction series, The Doom Healer. I want to finish all 5 volumes before having the first published, so they can follow each other in rapid succession. As a reader, I hate getting captivated by the start of a series, then having to wait for the sequels to drag themselves out of the author’s mind.

Bill is the Doom Healer. His task is to well, heal the doom hanging over our planet. You know: species extinctions, climate change, greed and cruelty… the list of issues in the imaginary world outside my computer. In the real world within, there are solutions, and Bill is their champion.

He achieves his aim at the end of the third volume, and now I am working toward finishing the fourth, The Prince of Light. That’s Albor, who is 2 days old at the start of this volume. My current task is to wait for him and his friends to tell me how his 5th birthday was celebrated. I know the end of the story. It’s when he turns 15. I just have to fill the intervening 10 years.

How has writing changed your life (for good or for worse)?

I don’t know!

Some people’s lives may well be like a plate of food with visibly different components: a steak, 3 vegetables and a side salad. My life is more like a stew, or to jump to a different metaphor, a symphony orchestra rather than a bunch of soloists.

That is to say, writing is an organic part of life. From infancy, I’ve always solved problems and exercised my creativity intuitively, in the background while doing other things. Since writing has become the main expression of my creativity, it’s the ideas I need to record that simmer away in the pressure-cooker of my mind. Actually pecking at keys on my computer is not writing, but documenting the result.

Certainly, I have changed enormously. I feel that in this life I have grown spiritually, and have had the privilege of helping a great many other people to do so. Much of that was through my decades of psychotherapy practice, and hopefully also through my books and stories.

Here is my take on how writing can be meaningful without preaching: “What Makes Writing Memorable?

Do you prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?


Sorry, I can’t help it. That’s my invariable answer to any disjunctive question.

Nonfiction is bread and butter (though I haven’t put butter or margarine on my bread for 32 years). You work out what you need to say, organize the material in a logical order, then say it.

Fiction is the chocolate icing on the cake of life. You create a reality, introduce some people, then become one of them, or one at a time if you switch from witness to witness.

So, I mix them. There is plenty of nonfiction even in my fantasy and SF writing. And there is plenty of creativity and imagination even in my nonfiction.

My upcoming book (From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide), which is nonfiction, is designed to help people overcome depression using some self-guided lessons. One of my beta readers has already sent me an advance review. She concluded it with “All of Bob’s novels I’ve read are full of therapeutic lessons. Here is a book designed as a set of therapeutic lessons that is as enjoyable to read as any novel.”

What question do you ask yourself most often?

When I  was a severely depressed young fellow, the question was, “What the hell am I doing on this planet?” This eased off in my mid-30s, when I left a high-status, high-paying job in order to work on self-sufficiency, enjoying the benefits of voluntary poverty, and becoming effective as an activist for a better world.

In turn, my education in practicality started my writing career. I wrote regular articles for a marvelous magazine, Earth Garden on building your own house, and this resulted in my first book, published in 1986. The fourth edition went out of print in early 2018.

I actually got an answer to this question in 2007, when I recovered a few of my past lives. The story is told in fictionalized form in my novel, Ascending Spiral.

For perhaps 25 years, my most frequent question was “How?” rather than “Why?” I was, and am, a problem solver.

During this century, “How?” has expanded into “How can I be of service?” An example is my nightly meditation. An invariable part of this is sending healing thoughts. Sadly, there is a long list of targets. I have no idea if my activity is effective for them, but it’s guaranteed to be more effective than not doing it.

Sometimes I am on my list, since I am old enough to be working toward a body transplant, but then, it’s OK to be of service to yourself, right?

When I answer the phone, I typically say, “Bob here. How can I be of service to you?”

What part of your writing has improved or changed the most over the years?

I’ve always had the knack of explaining complex issues in simple words. That’s why my self-help magazine articles took off.

I’ve always had way more empathy than is good for me. Empathy is the major tool in psychotherapy — and in creative writing like fiction and biography. So, getting into a character’s reality, and putting the experience into words, was a strength even in my early fiction writing. Here is my first prize-winning short story, way back in the 1980s: “Peace for the Joker.

Having a tight storyline was a problem early on. Two or three attempts ended up going nowhere. Then I started explicitly plotting, which helped. What I found, though, was that as I gained experience, I departed from the original plot, and let my characters guide me. By the late 1990s, writing was fully organic. My first novel to win an important award was written entirely without a prior plot. Oh, the plot was still there, only I didn’t know it until it emerged. This was Sleeper, Awake.

Actually, a reader has sent me a new review of this book (, and it’s in the October issue of my newsletter, Bobbing Around.

Beyond that, several of my fans have written to me that my most recent book was my best to date. This was after the publication of each of Ascending Spiral, Guardian Angel and Hit and RunBeing a scientist by training, I have the urge to ask three groups of people to read the three books in different orders. Perhaps each group will judge the last read to be the best?

In any case, this is evidence that my writing is improving, but I am not sure what aspect tickles these lovely people’s fancy.

What (in life) brings you the most joy?

Only one thing?

Human puppies would have to be the top of a long list. That’s kids from 0 days to 25 years old. They give me the greatest joy, and the worst heartache, which I need to handle using Buddhist equanimity.

They are all my grandchildren. That’s why I am an environmental and humanitarian activist. If I had a magic wand, I’d transform our insane society into one that will last indefinitely into the future instead of rapidly heading for extinction — and one worth surviving in.

During school term, twice a day bunches of teenagers walk past my house. I enjoy the sound of their chatter. Without being obvious about it, I watch the way they interact with each other (or don’t).

Tiny kids consider me to be funny. Whenever I capture the gaze of one, the little mite laughs at me, or at least smiles. Maybe they like the light glancing off my scalp?

I love storytelling to kids, to get a laugh, to open little minds to ideas.

Having a serious discussion with a teenager or young adult is wonderful, whether it’s face to face or via email. I often learn a lot from such exchanges.

Oh, why the heartache? When encountering a youngster, one of my frequent automatic reactions is inner grief because of the coming world. I wish for them to have a good life, knowing that a series of environmental and economic disasters is far more likely. In part, that’s the motivation for my latest book, which is waiting within my publisher’s computer: From Depression to Contentment: A self-therapy guide. It shows how I can live a GOOD life even though I struggle with this issue on a daily basis.

Ari Bob Casey reading 1507

Tricia, thank you for the honor of being here. I look forward to chatting with your visitors via comments.

To purchase his books or to read more of his articles and insights on depression, mindfulness, conservation, and other topics:

Bob’s Writing:
Writing showcase:
Anxiety and depression help site:
Conservation and practicality:

To contact or follow Dr. Bob Rich:

Twitter: @bobswriting