Writing a Sci-Fi Podcast Series

Listen on Spotify

When my daughter was in grade school, one of her best buddies was Rachel Kellum. Even then it was apparent Rachel’s vast imagination and independence of mind kept her from worrying about what others thought. She followed her interests and made friends with those who interested her.

That mindset has led her to collaborate with friends on a sci-fi podcast venture called Second Star to the Left, a 10-episode series you can listen to on Spotify. If you’d rather read the story — or study how to write a podcast script — a transcript is included with every episode.

Here’s the summary:

“Scout-explorer Gwen Hartley has five years to explore and prepare her planet for settlement. With no aid but her robots and the anxious voice of her long-distance scout-minder, Bell Summers, she’s hoping to be ready for anything.”

Created by Aysha Farah and E. Jade Lomax and directed by Rachel, the voice actors are Ishani Kanetkar and Jorin Baas.

If you’d like to learn how to write and produce a fiction podcast, The Podcast Host (a fantastic website!) explains how in How to Make a Fiction Podcast: The Ultimate Guide.

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Now available via Amazon and all other online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.

Book Review: “Small Forgotten Moments”

In her newest novel, Small Forgotten Moments due out Aug. 31, 2021, Annalisa Crawford has brilliantly reimagined the age-old ghost story to create a brand new genre, that of the psychological poltergeist.

The narrator, Jo, is a Londoner who suffers from amnesia severe enough she can’t remember life previous to her last three years. Though unable to envision even her mother’s face, the barista for pay and artist by soul can’t escape the obsession of her paintings, Zenna, the winsome, omnipresent spirit who haunts Jo’s psyche. Though Jo tells herself the sometimes playful, but increasing spiteful spirit is no more than a figment of the imagination, the phantom rapidly threatens to overtake the artist’s mind.

When Jo can no longer tolerate the intrusion, nor accurately tell what’s real, she finds her way back to her mother and childhood home on the Cornish coast. There to discover how she can throw off the weight of Zenna’s increasing power, Jo finds the shocking answers that force her to take the only action possible to save herself.

The author does a fabulous job of conveying Jo’s frustration, disorientation and growing terror at the hands of a soul demon born during her stormy childhood. The wild, windy Cornish coast serves as the ideal backdrop to the narrator’s psychological nightmare, while also serving as the catalyst that may, or may not, set her free.

Wonderfully imaginative and eerie!

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Now available via Amazon and all other online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.

Book Review: “Careless Love”

This is the best deconstructed love story I’ve ever read!

In Careless Love, author Steve Zettler gives us a spectacular love story steeped in rich Hawaiian sunsets and the stark reality of how fleeting moments of love and passion can be.

Though neither the narrator’s name nor gender are mentioned, I pictured him as a man in his 40s. Only a few weeks before his mother dies, she shocks him by saying the man she divorced is not actually the narrator’s father. Instead, his real dad was a man Grace met in 1979 when she traveled to Hawaii, where she planned to vacation, then kill herself as a final exclamation point to her doomed marriage to a famous Hollywood director.

Understandably intrigued by such a dramatic story hidden for so long, the narrator interviewed everyone who played even a small role in that seminal week on Oahu. Then he pours forth what he learned, relaying details so sensory-rich as to vividly portray those brilliant moments of transformation.

The moment we see the spirited, independent Grace meet Lee Corbet, a man haunted by his Vietnam War past, the two are so obviously made for one another that the speed with which their hearts turn away from thoughts of death and toward love proves completely believable.

Most tantalizing — and agonizing — is the question that begins on page one: what happened to Lee? Every sight, sound, gesture and word spoken inches us ever closer until we experience the catastrophic moment that forever changes the lives of three people’s lives.

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An essay about fear — its affect on humans and who uses it and why — just published in Spill It!

Now available via Amazon and all other online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

Book Review: “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness”

I don’t often read dystopian novels because of the claustrophobic doom that often hovers over them. But I’m glad I received an advance reader copy of Jessica Bell’s newest novel, How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness, because the end is so bright.

You’ll find my review below and on Goodreads.


Jessica Bell’s newest novel, How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness is a philosophical tour-de-force dressed as a dystopian journey that brandishes elements of classics such as “The Hand Maid’s Tale” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four.”

Twenty-year-old Icasia Bloom lives in a world overtaken by one ruler, the enigmatic Governor Jacobson. He’s instituted rules that force people to find purpose and happiness in their employment. If they don’t do so by a certain age, they’re terminated with no hope of having their souls joined together with those of loved ones in a technologically-based afterlife. More disturbing, to keep the population stable, girls are artificially impregnated by the age of 15 and then sterilized, including 20-year-old Icasia, who has a 5-year-old son.

Icasia lives on the edge of this rigid society by being a Tatter, or someone who earns a living bartering favors for food and other goods, as in tit-for-tat. Rather than marry either her son’s sperm donor or another man of her choice, she forges her own path with her parents’ support. She doesn’t believe she possesses a passion for any kind of profession, until one day when she meets Selma, the owner of a newly-opened bakery.

Icasia is swiftly drawn into the drama surrounding Selma’s husband, who receives a letter stating he faces imminent annihilation without salvation because he hasn’t found the happiness and fulfillment the government requires.

Ever resourceful, Icasia plunges in with one strategy after another in her attempts to help Selma save her husband. Each effort drives Selma further down a philosophical path of what it means to be human until she finds the source of her own happiness, an epiphany that saves her and those she now loves.

Wrapped in the guise of a gritty world where the government ties a pretty bow around death and pressures people to the point of breaking, Icasia’s story inspires intense thought about human existence and the incredible power we possess to create our own happiness.

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Now available via Amazon and all other online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.

“Winter Light” Book Club Offer!

Buy now!

Thanks, everyone, for your support over the past 6 months in making Winter Light a 2021 Gold Medal IPPY Winner in Young Adult Fiction! Mary Donahue loves you all, even if she’s too cool to show it.

In thanks, I’m offering 1 FREE Kindle copy to any book club that chooses the book for discussion. As always, I’ll be happy to join your book club discussion if that’s something your members would enjoy.

Thanks to Virginia Andrade McPherson, Kelly Spring and others who’ve already chosen my book!

And thanks to Amy Huynh-Chaplick for buying 10 copies to gift to friends.

I appreciate all of you!



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An essay about fear — its affect on humans and who uses it and why — just published in Spill It!

Now available via Amazon and all other online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.



“Winter Light” Earns 2021 IPPY Gold Medal

Buy now!

I just learned Winter Light won a Gold Medal in Young Adult Fiction in the 2021 Independent Publishers Book Awards (IPPY). A virtual awards ceremony will take place June 30.

I’d like to congratulate the other winners in this 25th awards event. I’d also like to give a huge thanks to Vine Leaves Press and all of you friends and readers!

Review: “Truth Like Oil”

By Connie Biewald

Preorder now, publication date of May 25, 2021


I fell in love with Nadine Antoine on the first page of Connie Biewald’s Truth Like Oil, a sentiment that only grew stronger the deeper I sank into the story of an immigrant mother’s plight to keep her two young adult sons on the straight-and-narrow in a foreign culture.

Just watching the exhausted Nadine climb the stairs of her apartment building in Cambridge, MA, after her long shift as a nurse’s aide, I knew immediately she’s a woman who will do anything for her two sons, one a senior in high school and the other a freshman in college. Moreover, Nadine does so without the warmth and loving support of the family and friends she left behind in Haiti, which she fled in her teens due to the actions of a lascivious uncle.

Though Nadine is better off financially in the US, she’s emotionally and spiritually isolated and feels she has no one to consult when her youngest son, Chance, edges toward the life of a street criminal. And though her older son, Henry, is the vision of young man on his way to an upwardly-mobile life, he struggles in isolation similar to that of his mother, caused by being one of the few black students in the elite Midwestern university that offered him a scholarship.

Her sons’ escalating angst forces Nadine to look to others for help.

The author’s ability to interweave conflicting cultures; portray a mother’s willingness to do anything to save her kids; and build two unlikely friendships that arise when Nadine cares for a white woman recovering from a stroke: all make this a story one to savor like the “bannann peze,” or fried plantains, Nadine makes for her sons.



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An essay about fear — its affect on humans and who uses it and why — just published in Spill It!

Now available via Amazon and all other online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.

Review: “Go: A Memoir about Binge-Drinking, Self-Hatred, and Finding Happiness”

On sale now!

As you know, I’ve been exploring the world of memoirs of all kinds, none of which are more poignant than those surrounding childhood and disruptive family dynamics. The memoir of Jessica Bell — singer, writer, publisher, designer — is among those.

I just posted the following review on Goodreads, but wanted to share the piece here, knowing only too well how many of us have struggled with sizable demons and appreciate hearing about those like Jessica who emerge from the fight both stronger and happier.


Tense and Intense Honesty

To read Jessica Bell’s memoir “Go” is to wish you could save her, even though you suspect by her rebellious nature she wouldn’t change anything about her life. That if asked, she’d say every moment in her colorful, yet chaotic youth made her the dynamic person she came to be.

With unbelievable courage and honesty, Ms. Bell, the singer of Keep Shelly in Athens, tells of every twist in the road of growing up the daughter of Erika Bach, who with her second husband, Demetri Vlass, formed two iconic indie bands in Australia during the 1980s and 1990s (see Hard Candy).

Just as her mother doesn’t conform to the ideal of a suburban mum, so the author doesn’t fit into normal kid society from the moment she enters school. In heartbreaking detail, the author goes on to describe the various agonies that befall her, from bullying to rape, binge-drinking to suicidal thoughts.

What really makes her adolescence intolerable, though, is the pain of growing distant from her beloved mother, who falls prey to an unintended painkiller addiction she eventually kicks. Of the many dramatic moments in the book, those between mother and daughter are the most touching. Fortunately the tightness of their early bond proves strong enough to keep them reaching for one another during the darkest times, giving testimony to the resiliency of human connections despite great duress.

The book ends on the high note promised by the title. When the author finally finds her niche among the high school theater and music crowd, her life shifts from aimless and abusive to one dedicated to music, writing and the same creativity that flowed through her home since birth. From there the book launches toward optimism of the kind only borne from acknowledging the cold, hard truth of the part we play in our own demise.

I’m so glad Ms. Bell had the courage, spirit and strength to fight through the hard times to one day shine her bright light on the world!

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An essay about fear — its affect on humans and who uses it and why — just published in Spill It!

Now available via Amazon and all other online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.

2-Memoir Giveaway!

Yesterday I sent out a newsletter offering a Kindle copy of these two fantastic new memoirs. Recommend your favorite memoir(s) below and I’ll add your name!

I know so many great authors who write great stories that I often offer giveaways via my newsletter, so consider subscribing!

Read my Goodreads review of Gina Troisi’s memoir, The Angle of Flickering Light, and my Goodreads review of Scott Gould’s Things That Crash, Things That Fly.

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An essay about fear — its affect on humans and who uses it and why — just published in Spill It!

Now available via Amazon and all other online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.

Las Vegas Writers Conference 2021: April 8-10

Register now!

VIA LAS VEGAS!

Las Vegas Writers Conference (virtual)
April 8 – 10
Register now!

Four years ago I had the pleasure of traveling to Las Vegas to present two workshops at the Las Vegas Writers Conference hosted by the Henderson Writers Group. Hundreds of people attended to learn from dozens of agents, writing coaches and authors.

The conference will be virtual this year and the organization has again invited me to speak.

Here’s what I’ll be presenting. I’ll also be participating in The Blue Pencil sessions, 15-min. meetings where authors can ask about anything related to writing.

I hope you join us!

Flaming Good Dialogue: How to Create Unforgettable Characters Through Exchanges That Singe

11 a.m. PST Sat., April 10

You think you’ve got fantastic, unique, bestselling characters? You’ll have to prove that to readers, not only through your characters’ actions, but also by what they say, how and when they speak almost as important as what words they use. In this workshop, you’ll not only learn how to sidestep the most common dialogue pitfalls, including why characters all too often wind up sounding alike, but also how to employ the five techniques that will make your characters unique and eminently believable.

The Little Red Riding Hood Dilemma: What Kind of Publisher to Aim for, Big, Medium/Small, Self

9 a.m. PST Fri., April 9

10 a.m. Sat., April 10

Over 2 million books a year are published annually in the United States alone. That intense competition pushes authors toward three avenues: publication through a big publisher, a medium or small publisher, or self publishing. This workshop will offer the advantages and disadvantages to each, while helping participants form a concrete path for their current project that includes resources for pursuing that route.

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An essay about fear — its affect on humans and who uses it and why — just published in Spill It!

Now available via Amazon and all other online booksellers.

If you love Mary, review her story on Goodreads, Amazon and BookBub.

For a full list of reading and workshops, visit my website.