Great Contest Opportunity for Self-Published Authors

A Fellow-writer shared this newsletter with us:

Half Price Books Is New Sponsor for Shelf Unbound Writing CompetitionI’m pleased to announce that Half Price Books has come on as the sponsor of the 2013 Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Independently Published Book. As such, Half Price Books has generously offered to stock and promote this year’s winning entry in their 115 retail stores in 16 states.

Half Price Books started as an indie bookstore in 1972 and is now the nation’s largest new and used family owned bookstore chain; their commitment to literacy, readers and writers makes them the perfect partner for our competition.

“Half Price Books is proud to be a part of this competition and to help support and bring recognition to the independent and self-published writer community,” said Sharon Anderson Wright, president and CEO of Half Price Books (

We invite all independent and self-published authors to enter the competition, and we’ve extended the deadline to October 1. Details are below and on our website, Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Margaret Brown
Shelf Unbound

Participating in the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition was one of the best decisions of my writing career. Not only did I receive valuable, personalized coaching from Publisher Margaret Brown, winning the contest led to a popular feature article by Amazon and CreateSpace, interest from one of New York’s top literary agents, and a wide audience of indie book lovers. The entry fee to last year’s contest was the best money I’ve ever spent!

— Jennifer Bresnick, author of The Last Death of Tev Chrisini



Shelf Unbound book review magazine announces the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Independently Published Book. Any independently published book in any genre is eligible for entry. Entry fee is $30 per book. The winning entry will be selected by the editors of Shelf Unbound magazine.

“Independently Published” books include self-published books (such as those published through CreateSpace,, iUniverse, etc.) and/or books published through small presses releasing less than five titles per year. Books entered in last year’s competition are eligible for re-submission in this year’s competition. There is no limit to the number of books an individual can enter; each book is a separate entry.

The official rules for the competition can be found at here.

To submit an entry, email a PDF or Word Doc of your entire book, including the cover,, subject line Contest Entry (or mail a physical copy of your book to: Shelf Media Group, PO Box 852321, Richardson, Texas 75085-2321), and send a check for $30 made out to Shelf Media Group to Margaret Brown, Shelf Media Group, PO Box 852321, Richardson, Texas 75085-2321, or pay via PayPal (click on this link and select “Competition Entry Fee”: All entries received (and entry fee paid) will be considered.

The top five books, as determined by the editors of Shelf Unbound, will receive editorial coverage in the December/January 2014 issue of Shelf Unbound. The author of the book named as the Best Independently Published book will receive editorial coverage as well as a year’s worth of full-page ads in Shelf Unbound (rate card value $6,000). The book will also be stocked and promoted in all 115 Half Price Books retail stores in 16 states.

The deadline for entry is midnight on October 1, 2013. The winners will be notified by November 2, 2013. Additional information and rules can be found on our contest rules page at

For further information, please feel free to contact Margaret Brown, Publisher, via

Shelf Unbound book review magazine, a 2013 Maggie Award finalist for Best Digital-Only Publication, reaches more than 125,000 avid readers in the U.S. and in 59 other countries around the globe. Subscriptions to Shelf Unbound are free

Shelf Media Group
3322 Greenview Drive

On the aisland

Autónomo at its most arduous

makes me consider islas.

A haven or retreat for the aislado

or solamente a solitary must?

Some islands desaparecidos dear distractions

aún, I sit alone, pondering la situación

solely myself, la es mía

is it self-creación or deprivación?

Without one to articulate

estoy como un soul separado

desperately trying for refuge unfound,

Stuck inside secretos construidos.

The unclear cosas that I brought

useless crumble, como rena por mis dedos.

determine my enclave, jail enclosed

mi aislamiento, more thoughts of my credos.

When haya terminado con mis pensativos

perhaps I would build un puente

partitions to place me in society

a resolution, no man es una isla, en la mente.

Source of my confusions

conocido con clear torment

distant no longer, porque

con ambos I am fluent.

by Rachel Barnard – Author, Poet & Dreamer  Posted with Permission Learn more about Rachel Barnard, Featured Author

Palms Outward

oppression-sketch-onlyHe walked the roadway to another town, dust rising to meet his sorrow.  He knew it would come to this.  Though their hands had given and their faces had smiled, he knew they would push him out someday.  They took his land as if he were nothing.  Despair filled the houses and grew up barren in the fields.

The day the white men came, his village had welcomed them with song.  The mist of the hills parted for the sun.  The children were eager for the gifts that were held out to them as the white women squatted to look in their wide open eyes.  They looked at life beyond what they knew.  If only they had known—as he did—that it would come to this.

Kusudi could find work in the city.  Though his heart ached, he walked with Hope by his side.  He was a strong man—his elder put fortune on him.  He would remove the dust from his mouth and his eyes.  He would bathe and clean his clothes in the River Amini.  And he would speak of his new purpose and see the place of his mother’s dreams.

Sala told him since he was a root-high boy that he would know his way and could find his place amongst Yeweh’s great men.  She saw in her child a mighty man to be.  He didn’t chase or fall down like the foolish boys.  He saw beyond.  The elder, Zamani gave him the kumbuka—the richly carved ruling stick—granted to only one of each generation.

Kusudi held the kumbuka as he followed the long road.  He had left his village in the hills only one time before.  He knew that along the roadway he needn’t go far before the ways of Uzima were not known.  But he held them in his heart.  He held the hand of his mother who had gone from the earth, though he left her body buried in the dirt of Uzima.  He held the hands of his clansmen who had left for the city long before.  They had set them palms outward with fingers to the sky so he could take their soul’s offerings to sustain Uzima in the troubled times.  But their feet had left him abandoned—empty.  And now he left Uzima abandoned to usurpers—full.  Full of grief and shame.  The kumbuka a rod of discipline, chafing against his failure to keep their land for his people to reclaim.

His people—many were not as strong as he.  If no work could be found in the city, would they travel on?  Despair pushed Hope aside.  Kusudi walked with pain though his young body was sound.  They had been scattered like their crop seed to the wind, over fields that offered no nurture in a time of no rain.  The land could not sustain them as the white men churned its bowels.  Uzima left behind—exposed and raped for the oil that lay beneath.

Kusudi knew, the day the crude erupted into the newcomers’ hands and they closed their palms grasping, their fingers turned like claws to the ground—he knew it would come to this.

He reached the next town and pressed on to the city, Fiwa.  The road wound along the River Amini, and he continued to hold the kumbuka as he followed its turns.  His shattered heart held pieces for each of his people.  He journeyed to the east end of Fiwa as each palm outward had pledged to do.  Kusudi would gather them there.  If they had survived.  If they had not traveled on.  Hope held his hands—clinging to fortune and the kumbuka.

In Fiwa Hope left him as he touched his palm to too few of the scattered ones.  Only the strong men could be found at the port on the east end of the city.  Their backs were bent in labor and bowed by Despair.  The kumbuka strengthened them no more.  They said the others had dispersed throughout Fiwa, palms held outward with fingers reaching for a share.  Begging without Hope, for survival.  The ways of Uzima were not known here, even in the hearts of the sons she had birthed.  They had left their soul’s offerings to the ravaged soil of her lost domain. The kumbuka held no sway in ruling the chaos of Fiwa.  The elder’s stick brought no peace for the pieces of his heart scattered in the wind.  The women and the children were lost to time.

Kusudi cast the kumbuka in the River Amini.  Hope drifted away, swirling in helpless desolation from the stick’s floating tip.  He stood palms outward fingers to the sky, his soul’s offerings falling to dust in the streets of Fiwa.  His mouth spoke of no purpose.  He saw nothing in this place of broken dreams.

by Sheri J. Kennedy All Rights Reserved

Image by Sheri J. Kennedy – copyright 2013 From Sketchbook Project ‘ONLY HUMAN’

Find out more about Sheri J. Kennedy a.k.a. Kennedy J. Quinn, Featured Author


Anna Louise Lawrence nee Schmidt’s grey eyes were focused on the knapsack she was hurriedly packing. Time was short. Her black curls refused to stay in the braided bun and five-month-old Augustuv, called Auggie was protesting his filled wet diaper. Her stomach and lower regions were warning her that the danger was almost here. Twelve-year-old Margareatha stepped into the doorway carrying the other canvas bag from the barn when the screech of four-year-old Lorenz racked through her system.Horses

She turned to see both boys on the floor. Eight-year-old Daniel was on the bottom, his eyelids blinking up and down, his arms at his side as though unable to move them. Lorenz was landing blow after blow on his brother, screaming, “It’s mine.”

Anna stepped forward and heaved Lorenz upward. Then she found herself screaming, red rage boiling through her at the thought of being delayed and that her handsome grey-eyed son had the same abilities as her husband. Lorenz might hurt his brother and was too young to realize what he had done.

“Du cannot do such things. Du cannot ever, ever get so angry again. Do du hear me?” She shook him. Hurt, fear, anger from the knowledge that her beloved son could do to his brother what their two-hearted father was capable of doing to other people shook her to her core. Margareatha had not shown any such abilities although she also had two hearts. How could she or Margareatha control Lorenz?

Lorenz’s grey eyes were looking at her with hurt and surprise.

“Margareatha, take Lorenz and go to the corn patch and some early ears pick.” Anna was frustrated, but both her husband and twin brother insisted she must speak English not German to the children. Auggie was wailing louder. Daniel had pushed up on his elbows and then scrambled to his feet. She had to get them out of the house; them, Auggie, and herself.

“Daniel, your father go help in the fields.” Surely Mr. Lawrence would protect his own son. That cold, somber man with the two hearts and golden circles around his eyes couldn’t be that unnatural.

Auggie continued his lusty crying while Anna piled bread and rolls into the other canvas sack. She added a sack of sugar and salt. She would put the ears of corn that Margareatha picked in there. She added a flint box and turned to Auggie. Poor baby, his diaper was full.

She grabbed the basin, rag, and cloths to change him. She dug the cornstarch sack out, wiped and washed him, and quickly sprinkled his pink little bottom. At least this baby didn’t have the two hearts and there were no gold circles around his eyes. He was a normal baby like Daniel and they would grow into normal men. What was she going to do about Lorenz? He was so smart, so quick, and he could use his mind on people just like her husband. She did not let Mr. Lawrence into her mind. She could stop him. He had tried it when she first told him she was pregnant. She became so angry that the force of it threw him out. She learned to set her mind and he was blocked.

Outside a whoop cut through her thoughts and she snapped the last diaper pin into place and put Auggie back into the crib. Auggie promptly resumed his screams.

His screams were covered by the whooping going on outside and the whinny of a horse. Anna ran for the front door ready to face whatever was out there and yet she knew.

She looked upwards over the door to two empty gun racks and knew it was futile. Mr. Lawrence had taken both the rifle and the shotgun. She grabbed the broom set by the door and rushed out. Three Comanche warriors sat there looking at the small ranch house and buildings. It was as if they knew there was no one inside but a woman. Comanche women didn’t fight. They were trained to grab their children and then run and hide.

As Anna ran out the door one of the men slid down from his horse and started up the one step onto the porch. She was holding the bottom end of the broom and swung the hard hickory shaft against his knees. They had not expected her to fight; nor had they expected a woman taller than they were. The man’s knees buckled and he went down. Anna swung the broom again with all her strength and smashed it into his head. Her next blow was straight down into the ribs and she heard one crack. She whirled to face the next man coming towards her.

The first man’s horse had reared and fled towards the cornfield. It wanted no part of the flailing broom. The horse next to it began to rear and back away, but his rider had it back under control. He was grinning as though this were some sort of fluke; a woman downing a Comanche warrior. The other man was up on the porch. He was watching her, waiting for her to swing the broom again. Anna realized he was waiting to catch it, sure that his masculine strength was more than hers.

She edged to the side. Perhaps she could draw them away from the house. Her teeth were set, the lips drawn tight. She would stop them somehow and she started to swing and then hurriedly pulled the broom handle back. The Comanche grabbed air and she swung the broom into his arm, side-stepped, and slammed the hickory handle into the man’s head. He went down to his knees.

The other Comanche stepped out of the house carrying the squalling Auggie by one heel, swinging him back and forth. Anna’s mouth dropped and her eyes widened. The man looked ready to bash Auggie’s head into the doorframe. All the while he was looking at her, his head cocked to one side.

Anna dropped the broom and held out her arms for her baby. The Comanche stepped up to her and started to let Auggie drop. She grabbed him and held him tight. The other one had risen and approached with a knife, but the man that had held Auggie shook his head and said something in their language. He directed the man to go inside. He motioned Anna to walk over to the other one. He nudged him with one foot. To Anna his words had no meaning.

The one with the broken rib pulled himself up and looked for his horse. It was gone. His voice rose in anger. The one in charge said something to him. Anna was able to understand the contempt in his voice. There was no pity for a warrior bested by a woman.

She saw movement coming from the field. Was Mr. Lawrence coming to rescue them? And her heart sank. It was two more Comanche warriors and Daniel was riding in front of one.

Excerpt from EARTHBOUND by Mari Collier  Posted with Permission

Find out more about Mari Collier and her Sci-Fi trilogy



I’m gone, and if you need proof…

I’m gone, and if you needed proof, you’ll find my driver’s license all cut up in your sock drawer.
You didn’t believe me four months ago when I said it was temporary. “No, you’ll change your mind once you meet the others,” you said. “They’re nice – not like your old friends. They’ll like you.”

And at first they were. We had fun, you know. I thought I had met my soul-mate. We shared a love of French philosophy, Dutch Old Masters, and Italian sports cars. You in your white sundress that day on the beach, clutching your hat to your head against the breeze which threatened to blow it out into the bay beyond Cap d’Antilles. The sun sparkling on the water, reflecting the blue of your eyes. It was then I knew I loved you – loved your face, your body, your mind. We spoke that night late of the essence of being, of wanting, of desire, of knowing and surety. You dropped chocolates one by one into my mouth as I lay there quoting Sarte, laughing at me as I mangled his complex French, misquoting hilariously to the point where I had granted dormice the dignity of essence.

You gave me the complete bound works of Cassini on car design, which you saw me eyeing in that used bookstore in Berkeley Square. We listened to the chimes of Big Ben and shared a lunch on the quay, and I marveled then – as I still do – at the lean, long lines of the cars, the blues and yellows and whites all proclaiming fun and youth and happiness. We went to the sport car dealership and pretended we’d be rich enough some day to buy a car off the lot, perhaps a Lamborghini or a Renault, rich enough to pay cash without another care in the world.

And then you became rich – or rich enough. Your uncle Pierre – long-lost and long unknown – died, leaving you the family fortune. Not that you’d be flying to Sao Paulo for lunch and skiing at Gstaad by moonlight, you said, but enough to breeze along the canals of Venice or idle through the canopied walks along the Seine. Come with me, you said, let’s be free and just do what we always wanted.

But then the counting started, and the fights, and the long, long discussions about saving and investing and money, money, money. How everything cost something. Where we used to scrounge around the Tivoli fountain for coins while the Italian cohort was distracted, now you had ATMs to worry about and wallets and cashier’s checks and IDs. Everywhere an ID. Passports for hotels, for bank accounts, for passages through border crossings. Everywhere you became more chained to your life here and your riches and your wealth and your possessions. You packed and saved and held where once we were carefree and daring, leaving behind silly souvenirs because we knew, we knew that memories are the best souvenirs.

And last night we fought over the silliest of things – whether to have one more bottle of Cloquet ’98. We had several empty bottles already. Perhaps we should not have had the third. But it was a lovely evening, soft, warm, dreamy with moonlight. The light behind the cathedral from the candles rising into the air. It was magical in Warsaw, and we talked of the future. And then you asked the waiter for the price of the Cloquet. The first time you’d ever brought that into a conversation. Money. Riches. Prices. What something cost and not what is was worth. I was upset, I agree. But you and your focus on the future, on the vagaries of chance and fortune. I wanted to live for now, as we’d always done. And then you got up, spilling the wine onto my lap, daring me to follow you. But I did not.

You cried that night. I could tell when I got in, late, smelling of beer and cigarettes. I was angry, yes, but I wanted it to go back to what it was. And then there was the bill – the bill – for our evening, with my share circled in red.

I don’t need your riches and your fortunes and your possessions and your IDs. Your silly connections to this world, the identity you’ve chosen for yourself, a person that no longer includes me.

And so I will return to the carefree life we once had. You can find all that you hold dear in the cabinet. My driver’s license, in pieces, next to the socks you made me wear.

by Stephen J. Matlock  Posted with permission

Find out more about Stephen J. Matlock, Featured Author

Persnickety Pursuit


Click for photo credit

Penelope, though pretty, was particularly picky and perused the proffered products at Pittsburgh’s Provincial Plaza with practiced precison to procure the perfect pair of pumps. She persisted in poking and prodding prolific piles of plastic and patent. There were paisley, pink, puce, and platinum. She was partial to the pastel purple pointy plush, but she put priority on price and pushed them to the posterior. Peeved, her pulse palpitated.  “Please provide a pleasant proposition,” she pleaded to Providence. Presto! She pinpointed a perky plaid prize precariously perched on a pedestal. She was poised to pounce when a peculiar pesky patron perpetrated a perplexing play popping the pleasing platforms from their post into her pernicious paws, provoking Penelope and parting Poof! preventing proper pardon.

Portly Paul peered through the pane into Polly’s Posh Primping Pavillion perceiving that Penelope was profusely perturbed. He pivoted in place pounding the pavement in perpendicular patterns, patiently pacing, prepared to plod for a prolonged period.

Penelope persevered in plundering the plain and perfunctory piddle plying for the paragon of prissy polish. The purity of her pursuit produced a prime praiseworthy pick. Proud of her proficiency, Penelope pried the pittance of pence from her purse to pay the prim proprietor.  “The pinnacle of palatable pretentious preference!” Polly pronounced as she presented the pristine package. Penelope preened.

Paul promptly pulled to prodominant position with their Porsche and plucked his pompous paramour and her precious pearls from the public parking place. The passenger peeled her prestigious purchase from its packing and pushed in her plump professionally painted piggies. “They pinch!” she proclaimed with a perilous pang. Penelope pummeled them to a pulp and pined pathetically, “That was positively painful.”

Paul planned a prospective plane passage pronto to pamper his poor Penelope in a palatial Parisian paradise to purge the petrifying proceedings from her person. Placated, Penelope passionately purred.

by Sheri J. Kennedy    All Rights Reserved

Story of Success

FreeValley will usually bring you fiction, but today’s story is one of success for the founding authors. We shared our novels with the public for the last couple days and discovered many more writers, some already published authors and some great stories that are emerging in our area. We were thrilled to have several book sales too. Some writers are interested in connecting with us for consultation, promotional reasons or best of all encouragement and camaraderie. We can’t wait to talk to them more.

We’d love to connect with you as well. FreeValley was named such because it encourages communication between writers in a wide virtual valley. It came together in the Snoqualmie Valley in the Cascade foothills, but FreeValley is worldwide and reaches for the worlds of imagination to let stories run free and be shared with readers. If you’re here for reading, we welcome you too!


Writers, we’ll soon be asking for your stories to be submitted here for posting. We’ve enjoyed meeting many writer’s this weekend and will look forward to hearing from you.