Laine Cunningham

Laine’s work has won multiple national awards, including the Hackney Literary Award for $5,000 and the James Jones Literary Society fellowship for $6,000. In past years, the Hackney Award was received by Horton Foote and William Styron, placing Laine in the ranks of Pulitzer Prize-winning authors. Break the Bow was shortlisted for the Pirate’s Alley William Faulkner novel award. Laine has received additional fellowships totaling $6,250 and residency slots from the Jerome Foundation, the Vermont Studio Center, the New York Mills Cultural Center, Wildacres Center for the Humanities, the ecumenical Blowing Rock Convention Center, and regional arts councils in different states. For several years she has chaired the advisory board for The Blotter, one of the few literary magazines to still have a monthly print circulation of 8,500 copies. The magazine will soon go to 10,000 copies as it enters new markets in the Midwest. The Blotter also administers The Laine Cunningham Novel Contest, now entering its fifth year. The competition accepts book-length fiction, including short story collections, and judges all entries according to genre, market worthiness, and writing quality. Cash prizes for first through third place total $1,750. Laine is the final judge. Her media engagements as an author and a publishing consultant include First for Women, CNN’s Money,,, Media Bistro, dozens of regional papers including Awareness in Southern California, The Sydney Morning Herald, Die Presse (Austria’s largest daily newspaper), and Insight (Australia’s largest spiritual magazine). During national and regional television and radio show bookings in three countries, she discussed the native perspective on the swine flu pandemic, the true secret of success based on the Hawaiian Huna minds, different cultural perspectives on love and relationships, and women’s issues like empowerment, stress reduction, and living a meaningful life. For twenty years she has worked as a publishing consultant. Through her company, Writer’s Resource, she helps fiction and nonfiction authors develop, write, revise and pitch their books to agents and publishers. In addition to ghostwriting, rewriting and editing services, she provides in-depth assistance with query letters and book proposals. Her opinion has been sought by national and international media on issues ranging from The Oprah Effect to the end of the Harry Potter series and Sarah Palin’s ghostwriter. She conducts writing and marketing sessions for authors through a variety of programs. She has presented for The Loft, the nation’s largest independent literary center; the National Writers Union; The Writer’s Workshop in Asheville, NC; the North Carolina Writer’s Network; regional writers’ conferences; elementary and high schools; and independent freelance organizations. Her spiritual and cultural programs have been booked by the City of Sacramento, CA, Guilford College, NC, First Woman Foundation at White Earth Reservation, ND, Cherokee Full Circle in NC, Oak Park Multicultural Festival in CA, regional libraries and conferences, interfaith churches, independent spiritual groups, and elementary and high schools in several states. All of Laine’s works utilize the core components of thrillers while keeping a strong focus on the elements that appeal to women. Their opening pace is strong enough to propel readers into the story while providing the character development that links readers to characters…and characters to each other. In Message Stick, a biracial Australian Aborigine is stalked across the outback by the shaman who killed his friend. The Hackney Literary Award committee called Message Stick “one of the best novels in ten years.” To boost the novel’s platform, Laine created a collection of essays that tie into traditional Aboriginal stories. Seven Sisters: Spiritual Messages from Aboriginal Australia teaches readers that the dreaming is a timeless energy that can address modern issues with love and relationships, friendship and community, illness and joy. Her second novel, He Drinks Poison, pits FBI agent Priya Conlin-Kumar against a serial rapist and a serial killer working the same city. Visions from The Ramayana and a passionate love relationship provide her with the power of the goddess Kali. The justice Priya metes out satisfies both the laws of man and spiritual laws. Laine currently resides in Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she is drafting a novel called Light and Purple Blooms.

Message Stick: A Novel of Australia
Message Stick: A Novel of Australia

Cover for Message Stick, a novel of Australia. 

One of the best novels in ten years.

Hackney Literary Awards Committee


In this fast-paced suspense novel, Gabriel Branch leaves his home on the Queensland coast to search the rugged outback for his best friend. Although Gabe is a biracial Aborigine, he lost all ties to his culture when the government forcibly removed him from his family when he was a child. Everything about the red desert seems alien including the artifact, a message stick, that is his only clue.


While crisscrossing the unforgiving terrain he draws the attention of Dana Pukatja, a Pitjantjatjara shaman who runs the smuggling ring. Using his traditional knowledge and many tricks, he stalks Gabe to keep him from discovering the truth. As Gabe struggles with the loss of both his friend and his biological family, the shaman draws closer. The men clash on an arid plain of twisted mulga shrub far from any law except that of the outback itself.


Message Stick provides a panoramic look at Australia, its land, its peoples and the social issues that continue to this day. The novel won two national awards and was supported by The Jerome Foundation, the New YorkMillsCulturalCenter and CornucopiaArtsCenter. 


Ms. Cunningham shows an Australia beautiful and brutal. You know it isn’t going to be a gentle ride but you’re still not expecting to be kicked out of your seat onto the desert floor, rolling to a stop in the sharp-as-glass spinifex. Don’t be surprised when you want to put it down but can’t.

– Garrison Somers, Editor-in-Chief, The Blotter literary magazine


Message Stick demonstrates a mastery of psychological introspection and an uncanny feel for the spirit of place. The novel hit us all very hard.

– James Jones Literary Society President

Laine Cunningham's Author Website

Find information on all the books in print and ebook versions, awards, readings and more. Also see pictures from the novel award contest I judge every year. 

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel

The Ocean at the End of the Lane: A Novel - Neil Gaiman, Neil Gaiman This work proves that Gaiman is a master storyteller. I don't say those kinds of things lightly so this is unique praise. The work is compelling throughout and the ending...well, it couldn't have happened any other way and yet so few authors would have thought to end it this way.

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband

The Journal of Best Practices: A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man's Quest to Be a Better Husband - David    Finch I really enjoyed this work. The author provides a very clear look at what it's like to be in a relationship with an Aspie...and he manages to be quite funny along the way!

The Bone People: A Novel

The Bone People - Keri Hulme After I got used to how the author handled the dialog and internal monolog, I really fell into the world she'd created. I was as fascinated by the boy as the primary character. I felt like I was there, in that world, looking through the protagonist's eyes. This is a real triumph for any author. I WILL be reading more by Hulme!


Spider - Patrick McGrath I picked this up after watching the movie. I wanted to go deeper into the character's head and wasn't disappointed. This is really a unique experience for any reader.

THE COLLECTOR ( Vintage Classics )

The Collector - John Fowles I picked this up because it is crime fiction and was delighted to discover something more. The walk alongside this protagonist's suffering is intense, frightening and absorbing. One of the best thrillers I've read.

Southern Fried Women

Southern Fried Women - Pamela King Cable From the depths of violence to the heights of humor...each of these stories offers something entirely new in the Southern storytelling tradition.

Night Train

Night Train - Martin Amis This is one of those books that sneaks up on you. As the pages turn, even though the story is short, it drives forward until it packs a big punch.


Frankenstein - What a classic. I've read it several times and every time find something new to admire. And at the heart, that great message that the real monster lies within.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi - Yann Martel Although the spiritual message was great, the writing was too didactic. Good enough but not something I'd want to repeat.

American Gods

American Gods - Neil Gaiman Loved this from beginning to end. The author isn't afraid to take risks, offend too-delicate readers, or worry about fitting in. A unique work that whisked me into a world I want to visit again.

Big Brother: A Novel

Big Brother: A Novel - Lionel Shriver I feel cheated. There was a feeling all along that this novel was written in too-journalistic a way. That is, it felt more like nonfiction, a memoir, than fiction. There were moments when Shriver hit her usual stride with the prose and I kept reading in part hoping there would be more of that.I would have given this book 3 stars if that was the only issue. There was quite a bit of unique, thought-provoking material she mentioned in here...the twisted relationship between siblings that can come when they live together as adults, the desire to leave a marriage yet not divorce, and other subtle threads. But she left most of those undeveloped.I wonder if she left them undeveloped because of how she handled the time when the two lived together. The fact that SPOILER ALERT the middle portion never happened would explain some of this style choice. But in the end, when it turned out that the middle part never happened, I was more than disappointed. I felt cheated out of the time I'd spent reading. It feels like an easy way out for the story. I wanted to like this book because I was so impressed with Kevin. But this one fell flat in a very disappointing way.

Heart with Joy

Heart with Joy - Steve Cushman Really a lovely book. Find a quiet corner to enjoy this one.


Televenge - Pamela King Cable Gothic, Southern, and as in-the-headlines as an author can wish. Televenge takes you on a dark ride through the cult-like aspects of Christian megachurches. Along the way, the protagonist finds herself...and realizes how powerful she truly is.

Nellcott is My Darling

Nellcott Is My Darling - Golda Fried A coming of age story that goes deep into the emotions and thoughts of a young woman searching...for herself and her true darling. Lovely, thoughtful, with a prose style worth savoring!

Journal of a UFO Investigator

Journal of a UFO Investigator - David Halperin A coming of age story with a twist. At times funny and often pleasantly strange, this story still creates that heartache so familiar to fans of this kind of story.