Guest Bloggers

Guest Blogger: Maria McCutchen

* Maria shares her incredible story and remarkable spirit through an on-going battle.

When I was diagnosed with a very large brain cyst, called a Posterior Fossa Arachnoid Cyst, in 2004, I was devastated.  But I felt vindicated - finally!  All these doctors would see that I wasn't crazy with the symptoms I'd been having and complaining about. I had something real. Instead, I was treated like a hypochondriac, because seemingly, these cysts are normally asymptomatic - meaning, they don't normally cause problems or symptoms for people. But in my case it did, and now, I had to convince the doctors of this.

I continued to deteriorate and my cyst continued to grow for months before I finally found the one doctor, who not only believed me, but listened to me. He was a world renowned neurosurgeon in Phoenix, AZ, and he wanted to operate. Not to remove the cyst, but to do what is called a fenestration. This is a procedure to knock down all the walls of tissue that had built-up inside the cyst and was trapped inside.

The surgery worked for a while, but not long term, so he had to go back in and insert a shunt. The shunt, I was told, would keep the fluid from building too much. But that proved to be another nightmare.  A different neurosurgeon in my hometown of Albuquerque, NM was supposed to follow my shunt, but instead, he too viewed me as "crazy" and a "nuisance" for needing my pressure adjusted multiple times. The adjustments were necessary to get the extra fluid off my brain. But this doctor hated treating me. He hated adjusting my shunt. So, he lowered my shunt very low to drain a lot of fluid, then refused to treat me. Not even after my brain began to sag, due to too little fluid - causing horrific symptoms - did he see me.

So back to Phoenix we went to see my surgeon. After an MRI revealed that my brain was now sagging and brain stem was now in my spine, he raised the pressure to get more fluid back around the brain, in hopes of floating my brain back up.  This only helped a little.

Today, I still live with my cyst, my Chiari Malformation, brain sagging, and the shunt. It is a difficult life at best. I still live with lots of horrific symptoms like pain, balance problems, vision problems, and more.  It's a tough life, but my consolation is that I am making a difference. I wrote my story, my memoir titled, "It's all in Your Head" and today it is making a difference for others. People are learning from my experience and they know they are not alone when dealing with their own medical conditions, especially brain issues.

"It's all in Your Head" by Maria McCutchen is available through Barnes and Noble, Amazon, through Tate Publishing, and wherever else books are sold. I am trying to make a difference in the field of medicine - to get a message to doctors that they need to listen to their patients. I especially want to make a difference for patients, especially those living with these conditions, to not feel alone. With my story, people can learn how to handle their own condition differently and hopefully better than I did.

I also have a blog titled, " that gives tips and advice for living with these conditions. It is a site where people can feel like they are not alone.

Living with a rare brain problem has been difficult, at best. But I am determined to make the best of it, and most of all, to make a difference for others.

Guest Blogger: Lisa Orchard

Hello Everyone! My name is Lisa Orchard and I’m a Young Adult author. I want to take a minute and thank Stacy for allowing me to visit with you today. Thanks Stacy!

I was thinking about what I wanted to write about in today’s post and after writing three different posts and not liking any of them, it finally hit me. I should write about following your dreams. Even as adults, I firmly believe that this is important to our individual happiness.

One of my particular dreams was to be a published author. I achieved this goal earlier this year. Astraea Press published my debut novel “The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer” in March. (On Sale now for $.99!)

Now as many of you know the pursuit of a dream is rarely a straight line.  In fact, I’ve found that I’ve had to take jobs and put my dream on the back burner because life does get in the way. I’d like to point out that the obstacles that were thrown in front of me by life or karma are really life lessons that needed to be learned. Of course, I didn’t realize this when I was experiencing them. 

I’ve found that even just the idea of pursuing my dream kept me going when I was stuck in a position that I was weary of, but couldn’t leave yet.  Keeping the dream alive gave me perseverance when I needed it. It was the light at the end of a dark tunnel. 

The place where I was at the moment isn’t the place I was going to be at forever and this realization has always given me strength.

And here I am, the second book in my Super Spies series is being released today. It’s titled “The Super Spies and the High School Bomber.” Below is the cover and the blurb. 

My beta readers loved it! I’ve also been told that the Super Spies series is a great way to introduce your teen to the mystery/thriller genre. And the first one is on sale for $.99!

You can find me, Lisa Orchard, at the following social media sites:


This book opens in a small town in Michigan where Sarah and her sister, Lacey, are now living with their aunt and uncle. Still reeling from the fact her parents have disappeared, Sarah starts the school year with her new friend Jackie Jenkins. When Sarah learns the school has been bombed, she’s filled with dread. Uncle Walt is a teacher, and he was in the school when the bomb exploded. Taking matters into her own hands, Sarah decides to search for him. The rest of the Super Spies are right behind her. When a fireman chases them away from the school, Sarah becomes suspicious. She decides to investigate. The FBI arrives on the scene. Sarah realizes this bombing could have even bigger implications. Searching for the bombers, Sarah is introduced to the world of terrorism. She fears that the bombing and her parents’ disappearance are connected and terrorists are involved. To make matters worse, the bombers are determined to finish the job. Can the Super Spies find the bombers before it’s too late?

 Guest Blogger: Jeff Rasley

Meaningful Memoir Writing 

Most writers have kept a journal or diary during some period in their lives.  I started a diary when I was 16.  After two weeks I quit and burned the document out of fear my parents might find it.  There was too much incriminating evidence, and my strict Midwestern, Presbyterian parents would not have allowed me to take the Fifth to avoid self-incrimination.  I didn't take up journal writing again until I became serious about writing adventure travel articles for publication.
Some of my travel experiences, I thought, had value for others and I wanted to share.  Creating a publishable piece required more than simply recording the experience.  For others to find meaning through reading about my experiences I had to recreate events, places and characters beyond the immediacy of the moment.  Eventually I had enough material and confidence to write a book.  My first book was a travel memoir with a purpose.  It offered the reader the wisdom I had gained from people who live in a remote village in the Nepal Himalayas. 
Creating an article or book worthy of publication meant going beyond mere biographical journaling.  If one is a person of historical or cultural interest, then autobiographical writing may be worthy of publication.  (No matter how poorly written, the Kim Kardashians of our celebrity-obsessed culture will find a publisher.)  But fortunately, or unfortunately, that eliminates 99 percent of the rest of us.  Journaling for one's own pleasure, or to pass on to family and heirs, of course has value.  And social media has created the opportunity to bore our friends by posting the quotidian details of our lives.
The personal essays, or memoirs with a purpose, I have been inspired to write are mostly about extreme experiences such as Himalayan mountain climbing or solo sea-kayaking.  I have learned, or had reinforced, great lessons about life from these adventures.  For example, I was inspired to write about the strength and beauty of the human spirit and the willingness to be self-sacrificial after witnessing a Nepalese guide and porter risk their lives to save and care for others who had been trapped by an avalanche.  
Other writers have found meaning worthy of publication in more mundane experiences.  My sister-in-law, Cherri Megasko, writes for the Yahoo Contributor Network.  She uses personal experiences to write about topics of interest to homeowners, parents and a general readership.  For example, her article entitled "Groundhog Wars" is a delightfully humorous essay about the different approaches her and a neighbor applied to dealing with a resident groundhog.  Its wider application for animal lovers is how to deal with what some consider pests and others consider lovable critters.
Essential to making a memoir interesting and worthy of publication is to have a central theme that carries the narrative forward.  Without a thematic narrative, we are back to mere observation or a random collection of insights without a guiding light.  In other words, the piece should make a point.
The narrative must include factual details to make it interesting.  Without interesting, quirky or astonishing factual details, a personal essay is BORING.  A point made in the abstract is likely to be forgotten as soon as the magazine or book is closed or the reading device turned off.
As to publication, well, much has changed in the last decade.  When I first began writing for publication in the 1980s, I would go to my neighborhood library and page through Writers' Market looking for the magazines or journals interested in publishing the type of article I had written.  Now, the neighborhood library has probably closed.  Information about publishers is online, but many print publishers have ceased to exist or been downsized.  The advent of the digital age and online publishing has created vastly more opportunities for publication than ever before.  And I don't subscribe to the view that quantity has reduced quality.  Great writing still happens and is more accessible.  But there are fewer traditional publishers of successful magazines and books.
One significant consequence for writers of the traditional publishing industry's decrepitude is that pay is harder to come by.  For several decades a writer could expect to be paid from $100 to $2,500, depending on the periodical's prestige and circulation, for a feature length article.  And there were multiple publication possibilities for many different categories of articles.  While the multiplicity of online publications (especially blogs) has vastly increased the possibility of publication, the possibilities for remuneration seem to be much reduced.  Writing for "content farms" or guest blogging (thanks Stacy!) did not exist as opportunities in pre-digital history.  Unfortunately, the writing is often done gratis (d***!). 

Rasley's most recent book is ~ 
MONSTERS OF THE MIDWAY:  The Worst Team in College Football?
The book may be purchased at

Guest Blogger: Randall McNeely

Title: Nine Words That Changed My Life
When I was 14, I suffered from an acute case of low self-esteem and, therefore, I wasn’t always the most enjoyable person to be around. You can imagine, then, my utter surprise when my classmates elected me to be our class representative to the student council. I was dumbfounded.
One of my first assignments was to type up an agenda for the upcoming meeting. When the day for the meeting came, I arrived early to place an agenda on each desk. As I was doing so, Wendy Johnson (name changed), a very pretty, very popular cheerleader walked in. I liked Wendy. She was genuine and nice to everyone. That was a big reason for her popularity. 
As she always did, Wendy said “hi,” and asked me how things were going. I’m sure I responded but I don’t remember how.  She then picked up an agenda and looked it over. 
“Did you know that you misspelled the word ‘miscellaneous’?” she asked. 
I looked at the paper and she was right. I could have died.
“Boy, I guess you think I’m pretty stupid, huh?” I replied.
“Oh no I don’t, I think you’re pretty neat!”
Can you imagine the healing balm those wonderful words were for my insecure soul? I felt is if I could fly with the eagles!
Tears were very near the surface, and being the “manly” teenager that I was, I couldn’t let Wendy see me cry so I uttered a quick “thank you,” mumbled something about going to the bathroom, and raced out of the room.
To this day, that simple act of kindness still affects me. It was a turning point in my life.  Whenever I think of it, I cannot help but smile, both inside, and out.


Guest Blogger: Lisa Orchard, Author of "The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer"

Author, Lisa Orchard
Hello Everyone! My name is Lisa Orchard and I’m a Young Adult Author. My book “The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer” was just released in March and the sequel will be available sometime late this summer.  I want to thank Stacy for allowing me to guest blog today. It’s my second stop on my blog tour. 

People often ask me where I got the idea for my book “The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer” and I have to say I got it from my own teenage exploits.  I grew up in a sleepy little town where there was very little crime and people slept with their doors unlocked. I don’t think they do that today, but it was a wonderful atmosphere to grow up in. I had a lot of freedom to let my imagination run wild. And it did!

My friends and I were avid Nancy Drew fans! That’s where I got the idea to form my own detective squad. We didn’t investigate a murder but we did try to solve the case of the vandalized Japanese Teahouse. 

It was one summer when our neighbors had just returned from vacation when they found their Japanese Teahouse destroyed. We were on the case! We searched for clues and questioned potential witnesses, but the case remains unsolved to this day. Now, that was a long time ago… (embarrassed grin), but that is one of my fondest memories of my childhood.  

I wanted to bring that same feeling of anticipation to the young people of today. So, check out my book and let me know if I accomplished my goal, and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to leave a comment! One of you will be the lucky winner of the e-book version of “The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer”!

Find this book at:

This book opens in a small town in Michigan where fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie. The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman. One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death. Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own fact-finding mission.  The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the inquest. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free. To make matters worse, the police don’t even believe them. Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer, or die trying…

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