AuThursday – Alexander Vayle

Author Photo II (2)Please welcome Alexander Vayle to the Clog Blog.  Alexander and I are both members of The Moorhead Friends Writing Group.  So Alexander, tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

I’m a father of four, a former paramedic, and a registered nurse. I grew up in the country and I believe the quiet and calm out there helped nurture my imagination. I wrote my first story in elementary and writing has been a hobby of mine off and on ever since. A few years ago I found an excellent writing group and really buckled down to produce some work. Since then I have published my first book, a collection of Supernatural suspense titled “Among the Stray”, and I have a novel in the works. 

How do you make time to write? 

Early morning has always been my best for clarity and creativity. I try to get up around 5am so I can get in an hour or two of writing before the rest of the house starts waking up. 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I haven’t found it yet. If get stuck on something I simply change gears, free-write, whatever it takes. I don’t believe in beating my head against a story until it starts to work. I’ll think about my book or other stories at night, as I’m falling asleep, so I usually have pile of ideas ready to go by the time I sit down in front of a keyboard. 

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

Supernatural suspense, drama, Syfy, Murder mystery. It’s hard to pin down a genre I enjoy the most. As long as the characters are real and story draws out emotion from the reader, I’m happy. 

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

My first book was published traditionally through All Things That Matter Press. If I can, I will always go traditional. The amount of advertising and the work they have done getting my book out is something I simply wouldn’t have time for on my own. Working with professionals also gave me a better grasp of how the industry works. 

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work? 

Introvert. I’m comfortable by myself and I always have been. I think it comes from growing up in the country where we didn’t have a lot of neighbors. My sister and I made up a lot of stories to entertain ourselves and it became a big part of who I am. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

Hard to pick a favorite, but one that I’ve always liked is:

“If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you.”

Getting up early is not always easy. Trying to find time to edit other people’s writing and my own and come up with new material isn’t easy either. But it certainly is satisfying when I lean back and look at what I’ve accomplished. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

FIND. A. WRITING. GROUP. Seriously, it made all the difference for me. Working on your own is fine, but getting feedback from other people takes writing to a whole new level. I think some people feel like their work is not good enough to be reviewed by their peers, and that hesitancy is what stops their work from becoming as good as it can be. I’ve had my writing reviewed by a lot of other writers and most of them have been very gracious with constructive criticism and compliments. Writers, in my experience, love to help other writers. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

@Alexandervayle on Twitter

email me at Alexandervayle@gmail.com, check out “Among the Stray” on Amazon, booksamillion, and basically any site where books are sold.

For those who prefer brick and mortar you can find “Among the Stray” at any of the Ferguson Book Store locations, Zambroz in Fargo, or at the Fargo Public Library. 

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us? 

You bet! Here’s a few lines out of Back From Where You Came, the final story in “Among the Stray” 

Among the stray“Getting in the house was the easy part. The streetlight on their block was out. The back door, the one going out to the detached garage, wasn’t locked. It seemed like … like everything was set up just for me that night. I walked right in. Little mud room off the kitchen. Kicked off my shoes so I be quiet. I even set them on the rug so I wouldn’t get the floor dirty. Imagine that, huh? There to shoot somebody and I didn’t want to get the floor dirty. Habits, I guess.” 

AuThursday – Cass Scotka

Cass-at-Pride-e1615253907974Tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

I’m a born and bred military brat turned military wife, a Texas Longhorn forever, and California is my soul’s home. I have a clinical doctorate in Audiology and by day work for a global hearing amplification company. By night, once my kiddos are in bed, I read, write, and create new worlds. I was chosen for PitchWars in 2016, landed my agent with a different manuscript in 2019, and my debut novel REVOLUTIONARY LOVE came out August 23, 2021. I’m also a die-hard Oxford comma supporter and will never give it up! 

How do you make time to write? 

I don’t sleep! Kidding…kind of. I do primarily write in the evenings after my kids are in bed. I’m not much of a morning person. I also take time on weekends to carve out a few hours and when I take the occasional work trip (pre-pandemic) I also snag the extra alone time for writing, too. 

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Yes!! I’m a pantser by nature so writer’s block can be a bit tricky. I’ve learned to use a very loose outline to help have at least a vague idea where I’m going with a story, and I’ve also learned it’s okay to skip sections or simply put [INSERT SCENE HERE] and circle back later. The main thing to keep in mind is don’t let it stop you from finishing your story! 

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it. 

I write Romance! Contemporary, paranormal, historical – as long as it has love and an HEA I’m here for it! My debut novel is a historical romance set during the American Revolutionary War, I have a contemporary romance on sub, and am drafting a romance with light paranormal elements. My PitchWars manuscript is a YA paranormal romance that I hope will one day see bookshelves, too. I am a sucker for a good love story and I *have* to have a happy ending! Uncertain or sad endings are not my jam. I go into writing (and reading!) with the excitement of seeing how my MCs are going end up happily together! 

How are you publishing your recent book and why

My first book was published through Champagne Book Group and it was a great experience! As with many authors, I hope to land a deal with one of the big five and their imprints one day, but the Indie route was great for having easy and quick communication, one-on-one attention and mentoring, and CBG has been a great group to launch with! 

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work? 

Introvert for sure! Writing is a great way for me to recharge and have alone time while still getting the vibes of spending time with friends. I always know I’m writing the right plot idea when my characters feel real to me and I look forward to my writing time to see what happens next! 

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” – Maya Angelou 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Keep writing!! Keep writing, keep querying, and keep participating in mentor contests and Twitter parties. Keep going with all the things and YOU WILL BE SUCCESSFUL! 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Website/Blog: https://www.cassscotka.com 

Twitter: @CScotka; https://twitter.com/CScotka 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/cass.scotka/ 

Instagram: @cassscotkawrites; https://www.instagram.com/cassscotkawrites/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2129915.Cass_Scotka 

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

revolutionary-love-cover-512x716-1

“This world?” A small shake of her head set the moonlight shimmering in her dark tresses. “As if we are living in two different places.” 

His voice turned hard. “We are. You have no idea what I’ve seen. What I’ve done in this blasted war.” He released her arm and looked away, afraid his sins would somehow show on his face. 

She touched his shoulder, but he refused to meet her eyes. “And you’ve no idea what I’ve seen and endured. The British soldiers in New York…they are not kind or decent men. I’ve seen how prisoners are treated. I’ve firsthand experience in how they treat women. Whatever you’ve done, the soldiers I know you’ve killed in battle, is all for the greater good of America.” 

He spun back to her, eyes flashing. “You don’t know what I’ve done! I murder men, Verity. Murder. Not fight in battle, but sit atop hills and cliffs three hundred yards away with my long rifle and shoot men without warning. They have no means to fight back against me. They never see me coming. My sharpshooting skills are exceptional and I’ve been singled out as Washington’s private killer.” His chest heaved from the force of his breathing. Hands shaking with rage and regret, he balled them into fists. “Go to bed.” 

Stay. God, he wanted her to stay, but he’d stain her sweet innocence. He wasn’t worthy of her attention. Not when she discovered— 

“Oh, you are too hardheaded!” She snarled with all the ire of a wet kitten. Plunking her hands on her hips, she scowled. Theo choked back his guffaw at the indignation she displayed. Even angry, she was delightfully charming. Her jaw clenched tighter, brows lowered a fraction more, and her eyes burned. 

Unease stirred within him. Perhaps he’d underestimated her vexation. “Don’t you dare patronize me.” She stepped closer so they were chest to chest. Her chin tilted up to keep their stares locked. “You believe General Washington is so morally corrupt he’d use someone as a trained killer on a whim?” 

“No, but—” 

She sliced a hand through the air. “Tell me, these men you’ve shot from afar, were they key soldiers leading troops into battle?” 

“Yes, but—” 

She poked a finger into his chest. “Did their deaths mean swift victories for the Continental Army without additional bloodshed?” 

“Most of the time, but—” 

“Then you saved lives, you daft man! By working with Washington to choose when and whom to target, you are saving countless American and British soldiers from death on the battlefield. I spent one dinner with the general and I know without qualms he is the very best of men. His Excellency would not be our chosen leader if he did not inspire unwavering trust in his decisions for the good of our country.” 

Theo blinked while his mind whirled over her words. A few points were fair, but still these men did not have the hope of fighting back against him. They did not see their deaths coming at his hands. “They could not fight back! The soldiers I’ve murdered did not even know from which direction death struck.” 

A frustrated growl filled the air and Verity stamped her foot. “As is so for most of us. Not everyone is fortuitous enough to see Death approach and have an option to fight back. People die every day and there is nothing to stop it. My father is proof. Redcoats dragged him from our field without warning. Tortured him for information. Beat him when he refused to pledge allegiance to the king. Hanged him and burned our home to the ground. All while I cried and begged for mercy. The only mercy I found was when they left me to spread the news of what happens to so-called traitors.” Theo’s eyes grew round as horror swept through him. The strength she held inside her tiny frame. It shamed him further to think of how he hid from afar behind his gun. His teeth ground together. He was a worthless coward. A worthless coward who could not provide her the life she so deserved. 

Her face softened. Shaking her head, she lifted a hand to his cheek. “You cannot blame yourself. No matter what your mind tells you, you are a good man.” 

Theo jerked his head away from her touch, afraid to sully her. “You are too naive, Verity.” 

“Stop treating me as a child. I am a full-grown woman, in case you hadn’t noticed.” 

Before he registered it, Theo reached out and swept her into his arms so their bodies touched from chest to thigh. “I am all too aware you are no longer a child.” He shifted his hips against her belly and she gasped as his erection pressed 

there. “There is no mistaking your lush female curves.” 

Their eyes locked and held. In the moonlight, he saw her pupils enlarge, her pulse flutter at her throat, and the small parting of her lips as her breathing quickened. Her body softened and relaxed into his embrace. “Theo,” she whispered and the tip of her tongue peeked out to wet her lips. 

AuThursday – Darrah Steffens

Tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

I am a trained as a geologist and paleontologist. I work as a curator at the Pioneer Trails Regional Museum in Bowman, ND. My first book “Rise of the Dragon Queen” was released March 9th. I am also an avid board gamer, enjoys playing music with my husband, and cuddling with my pets. 

How do you make time to write?

I write in the evenings and on the weekends. I tend to carve out times in the evenings to work on my projects. I also take advantage of days when my husband has conferences and school. And I never underestimate the power of carrying a notebook with me for spontaneous inspiration 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I definitely believe in writer’s block. I don’t think that you should force your writing. Sometimes you will have days that you cannot come up with the plot. These are times that you need to go out and find new inspiration! 

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it. 

I write in the fantasy genre. I love this fantasy because anything can happen. It stretches the limits of your imagination. 

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (Indie, traditional or both) 

Indie, I like the freedom and autonomy available in Indie press. 

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?

I am an introvert. I think that this helps because I am fairly observant. I sit in the background taking in other people’s actions and use them to build the interactions between my characters. I think it can hurt my work a bit because I do not always understand the motivations of people wanting to be around others all the time. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

Don’t wait for an opportunity. Create it. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

Write what you are interested in. Chances are someone is going to be interested in it too! 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

darrahsteffenwrites.wordpress.com 

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Prologue for “Keepers of Knowledge” Book 2 of “Legends of Ethota” series 

Akamon stood in the trees. His concentration focused perfectly on the spell he was conjuring. Black magic seeped up from the ground around him. The magic took the form of different creatures. 

Akamon gave them an unspoken command. The creatures moved to different points around the forest and waited. The air reeked with the scent of the Elvateth. She was carrying something very dear to Akamon. He would find out who those humans were. 

Jennica crept forward along the path. She muttered in elva connecting with the forest. The wind whistled urgently to her ears. 

She had more acute senses in the human world. Everything in Mythral had a voice. None of the humans seemed to hear them. Whenever Jennica visited, they assaulted her with their voices. 

The wind tugged at her hair. Jennica ignored it. It pulled sharply at her. She realized it was trying to speak to her, and she let go of her mental block. She listened carefully. The wind whispered, “Danger! In danger… Black magic!” The wind whipped away from her, leaving the forest silent. Jennica slowly surveyed her surroundings. A shadow sat by a tree that did not belong. Jennica stared at it for a moment. The shadow pulsed. Jennica sprinted away as it leapt toward her. 

The panther was stealthy. It kept pace just behind her. Jennica gritted her teeth. It was toying with her. The beast would attack her, but only after it tormented her. 

Jennica whispered to the wind, asking it to rampage. The wind whispered listlessly around her. She cursed the human realm. 

Her Power was useless. She could hear the voices, but she could not command anything as she could in Ethota. 

Jennica raced down the dirt path. She had to make it to the glaret. If she could only get there in time. Jennica ducked behind a large tree and grabbed her bow. She nocked an arrow. 

The panther darted into the trees. Jennica didn’t relax her bow. She watched the shadows. The darkness shifted in the trees. Jennica stepped out from her hiding spot. She carefully aimed and released. 

The panther leapt from the tree. Her arrow slammed into its eye. It exploded. 

Black magic seeped into the ground. 

Jennica gripped the bow, satisfied. She listened to the wind as it beckoned her. She raced along the path. She would be able to make it before the glaret closed. Akamon cursed. He clutched his walking stick, his knuckles turning white. Pain coursed through his body. He muttered curses under his breath. Akamon ordered his creatures out amongst the trees. They quietly surrounded the fleeing girl. Akamon wanted those papers. 

Jennica skidded to a stop. The land did not look much different from the rest of the trail she had been following. Jennica tossed sand into the air before her. The air shimmered and pulsed. Jennica whispered a string of words in old Elva. The portal opened. 

The old growth forest called to her. She took a step toward her home. A growl pulled her back to the park in which she now stood. The black magic creatures stepped out of the trees. The wolf howled at her. It swiped at her with its large paws. 

Jennica glared at it. This was not the first time she had encountered its ilk. She took another step toward the open portal. A spider jumped in her path. It hissed. 

Jennica pulled a small bronze ball from her belt. She kept her eyes locked on the two creatures before her. She cupped the bronze ball in her hand. She tapped it three times with a single finger. 

Jennica glanced at the portal behind the spider. It reared at her. Jennica took a step backward and launched the ball into the portal. 

The spider screeched. It released a web of silk after it. The ball slammed into the portal crackling as it passed between the worlds. 

The black line of silk burned on contact with the pulsating portal. The spider writhed as the fire trailed up the web and onto its abdomen. The spider fell. The wolf leapt. Jennica stumbled backward. The wolf fell atop her. Jennica kicked the beast off her. She rose to her knees muttering in old Elva. She raised her arms above her head and dropped them. 

The portal closed with a bang. The wolf sprang at her. Jennica rolled out of its way and jumped to her feet. The wolf clamped down on her leg. Jennica fell to the ground, howling. She thrashed in its grip. Blood flowed from her lacerated leg. 

Akamon stepped out of the trees and waved his hand. His phantom creatures froze in place. They seemed to melt into the background. The wolf dropped Jennica. 

Jennica pulled herself to her feet, grimacing. Akamon simply looked in front of her. The spider moved to block her.

Jennica limped back. She frantically searched for an escape. With her damaged leg, she would not be able to outrun the creatures. 

Akamon sneered. He moved with unexpected speed and seized her by the neck, “Where did you send it?” 

Akamon dropped her and turned his back to her, “Tell me and I won’t have to harm you.” 

The wolf snapped its jaws in anticipation. Jennica rubbed her throat. She steadied herself on her damaged leg, “Why would I ever tell you?” Akamon spun, a dagger appearing in his hand. He pressed it into her neck. She gasped as the cool iron bit her skin. 

He growled, “Let’s try this again. What did it say?” 

Jennica said nothing. Akamon laughed, “I am not afraid of hurting you, Princess.” 

Jennica winced as he nicked her skin. Jennica glared at him. Akamon threw her to the ground. The wolf stepped on her chest and lapped at the trickle of blood on her neck 

Jennica turned away in disgust. He kneeled down at her side. He pressed the dagger to her throat once more, “Tell me or pay the price.” 

Jennica said, “Poor Akamon. You will search the world, but you will never find what you are looking for.” 

The old sorcerer’s yellow eyes burned hot. He muttered in an old language. The creatures disappeared, pulling into a black ball hovering in his hand. Akamon said, “Ah, yes. You should be afraid, Princess.” 

Jennica whispered to the wind. The wind whispered back, crying for her. Akamon pressed the black ball to Jennica’s face. Her screams echoed throughout the park. 

Akamon stood over her limp body. He stared down at her and smiled. 

AuThursday – J.E. McDonald

JEMcDonald_2020SquareTell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born and raised in Saskatchewan, Canada, and I live there with my husband and three girls ranging in ages from 3 to 10 year old. I’m a coffee addict and a Mine-craft junkie, and I adore spending time with my family, especially at the
lake.
I love writing books infused with humor, mystery, and steam. My series, the Wickwood Chronicles, is set in the fictional
town of Wickwood where the unexpected keeps happening. Book three in the series, Ghost of a Summoning, will be
coming out on September 14th, and it’s all about a prophecy that needs to be stopped or the gates of hell will be opened on Earth. (It’s funny too, I swear!)

How do you make time to write?

I wake up early in the morning and join the #5amwritersclub on Twitter. Sometimes it’s hard to make myself roll out of
bed and sometimes I wake up before my alarm. It’s the best time for me to write because everyone else in my house is
asleep and I find I’m the most productive in the morning.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I think writer’s block can be attributed to either a lack or inspiration or a lack of motivation. If you really want to, you can
get around those. The biggest dry spell I had with my writing was because of depression. It took a while, but I got back
into my routine a step at a time. Even if I sat down and only wrote fifty words, I did it daily, and eventually returned to my regular pace.
When I feel a lack of inspiration, I read a lot. I’ll return to old favorites, or binge on something new.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

I write paranormal romance, and I absolutely love ALL romance. Paranormal is especially exciting because I love
mythology and the fantastical paired with high stakes and spice.

Ghost Enchantment DIGTIAL coverNew (quote)How are you publishing your recent book, Ghost of an Enchantment, and why?

I’m with a small press called City Owl Press, and I love being one of their authors. They’re supportive and energetic and I
hope to be working with them for a long time yet.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?

I’m an extroverted introvert. I like meeting new people, but it can be draining, and I have no problem spending time on
my own. I think my biggest challenge is on social media. It’s hard for me to connect with new people, but I work at it a
little bit at a time.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

Let’s do this!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Reach out to people in the writing community and make connections. Other authors can be some of your greatest allies,
and you’ll never know what opportunities might come up.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Lots of places! My website and newsletter sign up at https://www.jemcdonald.net/

And here are my social media links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JEMcDonaldAuthor/?modal=admin_todo_tour
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JEMcdonaldSk
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jemcdonaldsk/

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

I’d love to! This is the beginning of Ghost of a Gamble, the first book in the Wickwood Chronicles.

Her tote bag hitched on her shoulder, Bree picked up her pace as she weaved in and out of the early morning shoppers.
Late. Late. Late. So damn late. One or two hours she could get away with. But three? Even Theo couldn’t be that
forgiving. Could he?
The eviction notice she’d found on her door that morning burned a hole in her back pocket. Trying not to dwell on it, she
trotted through the bustling morning crowd of old downtown. She skirted around a young family, then bumped into a
man with a camera pointed at the clock tower.
“Sorry!” she shouted as she dodged between a dog and bicycle, breezing past the advertisement board. Her short jog
finished in front of Theodore’s Bakery.
Bree inhaled the scent of fresh baked bread and thrust open the door. Chimes tinkled overhead. A line of customers
snaked through the shop, every table full with coffee-drinking, scone-eating patrons.
“Hey, Fran,” she said as she rushed to toss her tote bag on the back counter and grab her apron.
Behind the cash register, a harried Fran, her white hair coming out of her bun, shook her head, unsmiling. “I tried to call
you.”
“I turned my phone off.” As usual when I’m sleeping.
“Theo wants to talk to you.”
Bree glanced at the lineup, then back at Fran.
“Go,” Fran said, jerking her chin to the kitchen.
Tying the apron around her waist, Bree pushed through the swinging doors and found her boss taking a batch of buns
out of the oven. “Hey, Theo. Sorry I’m late. Fran said you wanted to talk to me?”
Theo’s bald head gleamed as he slid the pan into one of the cooling racks before meeting her gaze. “I can’t do it
anymore, Bree. I’m going to have to let you go.” His eyes held regret.
No. No. No. Not again. This wasn’t happening. “I’m sorry. I won’t be late again. I promise.”
He wiped his brow with his forearm. “I thought maybe it could work, but you’re not made for mornings.”
Bree smoothed her apron with shaky hands. “Then I can come later and do the shop work like Fran. I can clear tables
and serve people.”
He shook his head. “That’s what I have Fran for. I hired you for the back and that’s the person I need. I can only hire one
other person and I need that person here at six.”
From his quiet voice and the hard set of his shoulders, Bree knew he’d already made up his mind. She gave him a small
nod and forced her chin not to wobble. “I understand.” She stared at the tips of her sneakers. “I’m sorry I didn’t do a
better job.” Being yelled at would have been so much easier than dealing with his disappointment.
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
A heavy sigh made her head snap up. Maybe he’d changed his mind? But the expression in his eyes told her not to get
her hopes up.
“Look,” he began. “I’ll give you a recommendation if you need it. I’ll keep an eye out if there are openings anywhere.”
Her breath hitched. “You’d give me a recommendation?”
“Hey, when you’re here, you’re a good worker. It’s these early hours that don’t suit you.”
If it were only the case. Bree’s stomach squeezed. Nine o’clock. Ten o’clock. It didn’t matter what time her job began.
She’d lay awake at night, wanting to fall asleep, willing herself to fall asleep, and nothing would happen but her brain
playing the haunting sound of the wind whispering through the pine trees in her ears.
And now she’d lost another job because she couldn’t wake up in the morning. Her eyes drifted over the pans stacked in
the sink, all the dough that hadn’t been rolled out yet. Failure had her shoulders slumping. She turned to leave, then
stopped. “Um, I hate to ask this, but my paycheck?”
Another sigh. “Fran’s got it up front.”
“Thanks.” She pushed the swinging door open and paused. “You were a good boss,” she said over her shoulder. The
sound of dough smacking the counter followed her into the storefront.
The line in the bakery had diminished some, but every table had someone at it. Fran gave her a sympathetic smile.
Guess she knew I was getting fired when I walked in the door. Bree took off her apron, grabbed her tote bag, and waited
until the last person in line had paid. She sidled up to the counter, hip pressed against the glass housing everything from cinnamon buns to focaccia, and gave Fran a half smile. “I’ll get an Americano to go.”
Fran rang her up. Bree scanned the patrons, trying not to let the gloom of being fired set in. She needed a new job or
she’d be living on the street in a week. Her eyes darted to the advertisement board full of flyers and posters outside the
bakery. Maybe she could find something there, something that didn’t involve a morning shift.
Fran passed her a coffee and her check. Bree glanced at it and a little of the tension in her chest eased. Just enough to
cover what she owed her landlord.
She dug into her pocket for a five to pay for the coffee. She knew she had one. She’d put it there yesterday and hadn’t
spent it. Or had she? Her front pockets were empty. She quickly checked her back pockets, but only found the eviction
notice. Her cheeks heated. Her bank account probably had enough in it for her to use her card, right? It would be a
gamble. She swallowed and met Fran’s brown eyes.
Fran waved a dismissive hand. “This one’s on me. Consider it a going away present.”
Bree barked out a laugh. “Like, ‘Please go away and never come back’ kind of present?”
Fran’s hand flew to her chest. “Oh, my, no! I’m just sorry it didn’t work out. Now Theo’s going to be a person short until he
finds someone more suitable.”
More suitable. Bree had heard that one before too. The door chimed and a new customer received Fran’s attention. Bree
lifted her cup. “Thanks for the coffee.”
Fran gave her a small smile, then turned her attention to the man in a suit. Bree eyed her check, a hard knot solidifying in her chest. She still needed another full month’s rent in three weeks.
The check wrinkled between her fingers as she squeezed it. One option would be to take the money and run. It was
enough that if she packed up and left tomorrow, she could settle in a new town and not look back. She’d already paid
her last month’s rent when she’d signed the rental agreement. And no one would miss her here.
Inaya would.
The door chimed behind her as she left the yeasty smells of the bakery. Bree inhaled the crisp air of the street, people watching as they bustled around her, trying to focus on anything but the unease in her chest. She sipped her coffee and
winced when it burned her tongue.
Rubbing the sting away on the back of her teeth, she strolled the five steps to the advertisement board. From beneath
the half-wall, she saw someone on the other side in combat boots and black jeans. Bree scanned the ads. Most were
college students searching for roommates. Others were for concerts coming up in the Wickwood area.
The hard knot in Bree’s chest mutated into a hot burn. She really needed a job.
Thunk. Thunk. A stapler hit the other side of the board. She straightened. Thunk. Thunk. Slowly, she edged to the side
and peeked around the board to check out what Mr. Combat Boots had posted. Probably looking for a roommate.
She noticed his hair first. Brown with a hint of red, it swept across his forehead to stop below his chin. A dusting of
stubble showed through his tawny skin, but nothing you could call a beard. And his clothes matched his boots. All black.
He’s cute. Her heart did a double thump. Really cute.
Straightening, she stepped around the board to get a better look at his flyer. His golden eyes tracked her, then quickly
looked away. He stepped back to admire his handiwork, and she stood beside him, shoulder to shoulder. Her body
hummed. Acting casual, Bree took a cautious sip of her coffee and read the flier.
HELP WANTED IMMEDIATELY
PART-TIME FIELD ASSISTANT
RESILIENT PERSONALITY PREFERRED
AVAILABLE NIGHTS
*NEEDS TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND*
She pursed her lips. “What do you do? Make pornos or something?” She wouldn’t want to star in a porno—not that she
didn’t have the skills—but taking a leap into adult entertainment wasn’t a life goal. She wasn’t a prude and could
probably be an assistant.
“What?” He turned so abruptly, he hit her elbow. She managed to hold onto her coffee, but some splashed out of the lid
and landed on his jacket with a splat.
“Oh, my God.” Bree set her cup on the ledge of the advertisement board and dug around in her tote for a tissue. “Are you
hurt? Are you burnt?”
Eyes wide, he shook his head.
“I’m so sorry.” Bree kept digging in her bag. There must be a napkin or something in here. “Not that it was my fault, mind
you, since you hit my hand. But I am sorry I poured coffee on you.” She found a used, crumpled up tissue, stared at it for
a full two seconds, shrugged, and wiped at the front of his jacket. “At least I didn’t get your boots wet.”
As she turned to reaffirm her coffee was secure on the ledge, she hit the cup with her tote. The cup tipped, tipped…she
reached…and it fell to the ground with a dull thud. The lid flew off and coffee splattered her sneakers and his boots.
“Oh my God, I can’t believe I did it again.” Easy come, easy go. That’s how it was with free pity coffees. She went to a
knee and swiped at the moisture on his boots. The embarrassment ringing in her ears made it hard for her to hear.
“Please stop,” he said, the words finally making it through.
She peered up to see his wonderfully beautiful face twisted in distress. Glaring at the tissue, she grimaced, and shoved
it in her tote before hopping to her feet.
“Sorry,” she muttered. Had she ruined her chances?
Most likely.
She glanced at the flyer. She really needed a job, but if he was wanting a fluffer, that was probably a deal breaker.
Probably.
“So, um, you’re needing a field assistant? I’m actually looking for a job.” Best not to mention she’d been fired five
minutes ago.
Instead of saying yes or no, he stared at her with bewildered eyes. She cleared her throat. No change in his expression.
She cocked her chin to the flyer. “The porno thing? I haven’t worked at a porno shoot before.”
“Porno thing?” That snapped him out of it. “What? No.” He shook his head. “No porno thing.”
From the completely shocked look on his face, she knew he had to be telling the truth. She swallowed hard. But was it
something worse? Her mind scrambled to fill in the blanks left by the flier. Grave digger? Grave robber? Neither fit.
No matter what it was, she worried at her bottom lip, believing she might have just ruined her shot at making sure she
didn’t end up homeless.

AuThursday – Leslie Hachtel

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Years ago I was cleaning house and I thought I can change the sheets or write a book. I have no idea where that thought came from, but I wrote a book. It was a terrible book, but it ignited my passion.

How do you make time to write?

I get up early every morning and write while the house is quiet. Then I tend to my other stuff.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

No. Nora Roberts spoke at a conference and said (and I’m paraphrasing…) if you wait for the muse to strike, there is no muse. It’s just ‘sit your butt in the chair and write.”

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

I write romance – historical, historical paranormal, romantic suspense, crossover. I guess I just love love and a happily ever after.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional, or both)

I’ve written fourteen books so far and I’ve published both traditionally and indie. I think I’ll try traditional again and if that doesn’t work out, I’ll self-publish.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?

I’m actually both. I can talk to a room of 1000 people just fine, but I am shy at small parties. I tap into both for my characters.

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

Don’t quit!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read everything you can in your genre and then read some more. And take workshops. There is always so much to learn. And each book you write should be an improvement over the last one.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Website https://www.lesliehachtel.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/lesliehachtelwriter/

Twitter:  @lesliehachtel

Blog: https://lesliehachtelwriter.wordpress.com

Bookbub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/leslie-hachtel

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/leslie_hachtel

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

This is from the first book in my “Morocco” series, Bound to Morocco… 

Spring, 1713

The throbbing was relentless. Shera, Lady Edgerton, squinted and reluctantly peeked out from beneath her eyelids. She immediately regretted it. A thousand needles of light stabbed her with brutal fury and she quickly closed her eyes again to ease the misery. She drew in a deep breath, trying to quell the pounding in her head. Mindful of the pain, she very slowly opened her eyes again, fighting the agony of vicious brightness that assailed her. Sunlight pierced the room through a narrow slit in the wall high up in the small space and pooled about her. Nausea threatened but she swallowed hard and stiffened her spine.

Gathering her senses and forcing herself to focus, she looked around. Where was she? A small room made of wood? The walls were bare except for four sets of chains attached to the wood by rings hanging a few inches from the floor. Was this an area used to confine prisoners?  But that did not answer why she was here. She was an innocent. Her being here must be a terrible mistake.

          She heaved in a deep breath and listened carefully. Naught but a kind of creaking. Raising herself gently, she sat up. Her head spun and she took in a few shallow breaths to ease the dizziness. The space around her gradually took shape. She was indeed in a small room with walls of horizontal planked wood. Beneath her, the floor swayed gently back and forth. And the smell? It was the scent of despair. Someone had been held here before her. Or many someones. And there was also the unmistakable odor of the sea. I am aboard a ship? How is that possible? A slither of terror crawled up her back. Had she been kidnapped? Was her life at risk? Who did this and what did they want? The lack of answers was tormenting.

AuThursday – Tracy Brody

Head shot medium cropped

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was one of those kids who loved to read and loved library day at school. I was also the daydreamer whose mind would wander and create stories. I thought everyone did that. 

However, I went to college and studied business because my dad told me I should so I could get a job when I graduated. Yes, he was a business guy. I worked in banking, got married, had two kids, but was always spinning stories in my head. Usually, they involved me as a character on a TV show opposite my current celebrity crush. 

Then I came up with this story that I couldn’t get out of my head. I finally decided to write it as a movie script. Remember, I was a business major. The longest thing I’d written was a ten-page term paper. But when I’d tell people the story, they’d listen to the whole thing. I had a gift for storytelling, but I had to learn the craft of writing. I did that for script writing but after two friends told me they’d love to see the story as a book, I switched gears to writing novels and had a lot to learn. I joined RWA and my local chapters and spent several years learning and taking classes and entering contests to get feedback.

That original story still lives in the recesses of my mind and a hard copy in a drawer, but it would need a total rewrite. I did a lot of research for the first movie script turned book as the hero was an Army Ranger, and that research got me involved supporting troop and my heroes all tend to be in or have served in the Army.

How do you make time to write?

I’m fortunate not to have an outside job. While my kids were home and in school when I started writing, both have graduated college. My son is married and lives across the country. My daughter is living with us during this fun time known as the CO-VID Pandemic and my husband has been working from home – which has presented some challenges and changes in process this past year, but I typically spend most of my day in my office writing (okay, and playing some games and spending too much time on Facebook) but I also love writing retreats and go on one or two a year from a few days to a week. However, I really miss meeting up with my writer friends at Panera!

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I believe in it, however, I don’t suffer from a lack of ideas. I have a folder of story ideas that pop in my head and may write someday. My problem is focusing and writing fast enough — which is where the retreats come in handy.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

I have four books published in my romantic suspense series. It features the Army Bad Karma Special Ops team whose love lives are as dangerous as their missions. It hails back to my start with screenwriting which got me involved in troop support. Many secondary characters are based on military friends I made, however, they rarely tell me mission stories so those are all from my overactive imagination. I love being able to honor our troops with stories of their heroism and give them happily-ever-afters. I also like writing smart, strong, kick-ass heroines with lives far more exciting than my own. 

I’ve just finished my first romantic comedy, FAKING IT WITH THE BACHELOR, which is based on a reality TV dating show. The hero just got out of the Army and is ready to find love, so his sisters nominated him to be on the show. He lost the bet with them and is now cast to be the lead, only tears are his kryptonite and once he realizes what he’s got himself into, he’s having major second thoughts. He’s also crushing on the producer planning the fabulous dates for him and the women battling for his heart. It’s full of drama, snark, villainesses, and more drama.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional, or both)

I indie published my romantic suspense series after parting with my former agent and my second agent sharing how the big traditional publishers were not signing debut romantic suspense authors. I wanted to release the three books I had written fairly quickly and felt I could make more money and enjoy the process more as an indie. I wrote a prequel novella and published the four books in 2020.

I just sent the Rom-com to beta readers and may query agents and possibly traditionally publish it – but only if I’m offered a sweet print deal to get on bookshelves and expand my reach. 

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?

I’m an extrovert who can talk to strangers and in front of groups. That’s helped me network with other authors and I enjoy interacting with readers and fans. It’s also helped when it comes to research as I made friends with many of the troops I supported, and they are my go-to men and women for military questions – though I still haven’t managed to get a ride in a Black Hawk helicopter. The nice thing is, even with CO-VID and not getting to be around a lot of people, my characters keep me company, so I don’t get lonely. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

If it’s not fun, why do it?

That’s probably why I like having the control of doing it indie. I can keep it fun. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

One person’s opinion is their opinion, however, if two or three people, especially contest judges or critique partners, tell you the same thing, pay attention. Learn. Develop a thick skin. Be patient and persistent. Your first book may be practice and have to be rewritten (like a dozen times) and still not sell but move on to the next book. Don’t give up after five or ten or fifty rejections, because writing is subjective and finding the right agent or editor is like finding a person you want to spend the rest of your life with – and it doesn’t always work out. The dream and affirmation of publishing traditional isn’t as romantic and picture perfect as you might think, so be open to publishing indie, but take the time to learn craft and hire professionals to do the things you are skilled to do or don’t enjoy doing.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

https://www.amazon.com/Tracy-Brody/e/B083G9NHTL

https://www.facebook.com/tracybrodyauthor

https://www.instagram.com/tracybrodybooks

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/tracy-brody

https://www.tracybrody.com/

Series Promo w free novelette

And if you sign up for my author newsletter, https://www.tracybrody.com/newsletter-signup you can get the free novelette, UNDERCOVER ANGEL, which is the backstory or how Sergeant First Class Tony Vincenti met FBI Special Agent Angela Hoffman. 

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Of course. Here’s the opening from DEADLY AIM, the first full length in the Bad Karma series.

Series Banner

Colombia, South America

Training mission, my ass.

Kristie Donovan banked her Army Black Hawk to the right and pushed the helicopter to max speed. It wasn’t the time for an I-knew-it moment over her suspicions that there was more to this assignment than being sent to train Colombian Army pilots on the electronic instrument systems in their newer Sikorski UH-60 Black Hawks.

Command radioing new orders to pick up a “package with wounded” had Black Ops written all over it. Especially when the coordinates took them right into the heart of an area known for cocaine production. Army “need to know” at its best.

“How far to the LZ?” she asked her Colombian co-pilot trainee.

Josué checked the GPS. “Thirty klicks. If I am right, this is not what you call ‘landing zone.’”

“Meaning …?” Even with the tropical heat and full uniform, goosebumps erupted over her arms.

“Like sixty-meter clearing.”

“You use it for practice?” She could hope.

“Never.”

“But helicopters use it?”

“Small ones owned by cartel.”

Josué might be a relatively inexperienced pilot, but he knew the players here, and his wide, unblinking stare told her more than she wanted to know about who used this clearing. And for what. Great. Let’s use a drug lord’s landing pad. I’m sure he won’t mind. He might even send a welcoming committee—a well-armed one.

Sixty meters—if the jungle hadn’t encroached. Drops of sweat trickled down her neck the closer in they flew.

She pulled back on the cyclic stick and slowed the helicopter. The blur of the jungle came into focus. She leaned forward, her gaze sweeping left to right through the windscreen at the terrain below. Nothing but trees, trees, and more trees. The thick veil of green hid anything, or anyone, on the ground. 

“Do you see the LZ?” she asked her crew chief and gunner.

“Negative,” they reported from their vantage points on either side of the aircraft.

“We’re not giving anyone extra time to make us a target. Not in daylight.” She keyed the radio mic to hail the package on the ground. “Ghost Rider One-Three to Bad Karma, come in.” Energy drained from her limbs as she envisioned the scenario that would keep them from answering. “Ghost Rider One-Three to Bad Karma, come in.” 

Continued silence saturated the air. No, she wasn’t too late. She refused to believe—

AuThursday – Angelique Migliore

Tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

Religions and Linguistics are my first true loves. I hold degrees in Hospitality and Religious Studies, but food and cooking for others is my love language.

How do you make time to write? 

Writing is my primary occupation. 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

Yes and no. I believe in creativity-block. If I stall when I write, I’ll move to another form of creating rather than walking away in frustration. I’ll craft or draw or even indulge in some self-care time. When I give my conscious mind over to something else, that usually results in my subconscious working out the block. 

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it. 

I write Romances in Contemporary, Mythological Fantasy, Science Fiction and Dystopian. I love the flexibility of Romances and the sub-genres I can work with, and I have to have the hope of a better life.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional, or both) 

I have three Erotic Romance novellas traditionally published with a small press, Tirgearr Publishing. But as Amazon likes to hide ERs in a dungeon so-to-speak, my name and the titles of my books are unsearchable [without a great deal of trouble]. So, I’m currently writing a Paranormal Romance novella for the sole purpose of making my name searchable.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?

I am an Extrovert, and in the company of most writers, that makes me such a rare breed, I might as well be a unicorn. I like meeting with my critique partners regularly, and, pre-pandemic, in person. I also LOVE conferences!

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

I’m really not much of a motivational-loving person. It’s my job to get my ass in gear and do what I need to do to get my writing, marketing, and business done, and I’m very hard on myself about it.

That being said, if I had to choose, Benjamin Franklin said,

“…there will be sleeping enough in the grave…”

This quote has stuck with me since I was a teenager.

And more recently, when Lizzo’s “Water Me” comes on, I’m the one singing at the top of my lungs

“I am my inspiration!”

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

  • Write whatever genre you love; forget about other people’s opinions on that.
  • Read widely and voraciously.
  • Have fun.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web? 

Everywhere!

Here’s my Linktree: https://linktr.ee/angelique.migliore

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Sure! We just celebrated ONE NIGHT IN TAMPA’s one-year book-iversary, so we’ll pull from it. It’s a modern-day, subverted-trope, Cinderella retelling. This is toward the beginning of the book, when our hero and heroine meet.

She vanished into the crowd of photographers, who were gone by the time she returned with waters and bananas. “Thank you very much,” I said. “For everything.” And I meant it. I held up my medal for closer inspection of the skull and cross bones. “Does this mean I’m a pirate now?” 

She smiled at me, and for the first time, I could see cinnamon-colored corkscrew curls escaping from her ponytail at random points. “You’re welcome. And what’s your real name, Cinder-fella?” 

“Since you’re into formal introductions with complete names, I’m Salvatore Convivio Ricco, ma’am, but my friends just call me ‘Viv’.” 

“Ha!” she barked. “I have about five more names than what I gave you.” Her eyes roamed freely over me. “Salvatore? Who are you saving? And Convivio? In Spanish you’d be a feast or a banquet.” 

I leaned back in my chair and gave her a better view at the whole package. “In Italian, Convivio takes on a bit more of a philosophical meaning. It’s more like, to celebrate life full of joy or living life to the fullest.” 

She half-peeled a banana and handed it to me. “You Italians. Why use one word when you can use ten?” 

I smiled from my heart and wagged my eyebrows at her. “Yeah, well, the good news is we make love the same way. You know a lot of Italians, do you?” 

She sat in the chair next to me and took a drink. “Of course—this is Tampa Bay. Are you not from around here?” 

I swallowed a large bite of banana. “Nope. And please explain ‘Mariposa del Pilar’ to me. Isn’t that a bit sacrilegious?” 

“My father is the most devout Catholic of the family and wanted to name me after Santa Maria del Pilar. My mother is the more free-spirited of the two and changed my name with the nurse in the birthing room as soon as my father left to get some Cafecito. My mother said I should have wings, not a yoke.” She peeled her own banana this time.  

AuThursday – J.M. Stebbins

Please welcome my fellow North Dakota author, J.M. Stebbins.   Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I grew up on a small farm, outside of Bowman, North Dakota. I began reading John Grisham books in 5th grade, and decided I wanted to become a lawyer. I was a political science major in college, and became very active in the Democratic Party. After law school, I began working at a small law firm in Bismarck, North Dakota, and later started my own law firm with a partner. I predominantly practiced in the areas of family law, criminal defense, and civil litigation, for almost ten years. Admittedly, I was a workaholic, but I loved what I did. In 2018, after a grueling and prolonged onset, including a 48-hour stint in the psychiatric ward where I was misdiagnosed, I was diagnosed with autoimmune encephalitis (AE). AE is a rare and can be fatal brain illness wherein the patient’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy brain cells. I recovered from the disease in near isolation for over a year. It blew my life to smithereens, and it took away my career as a lawyer. But, it also opened up some doors for me as a writer and motivational speaker. I am proudly in remission from AE, and am excited about where life takes me next. I am a mother of three. I have an 8-year old girl, a 9-month old girl, and a 5-year old boy, who is a middle child, just like me. My husband of twelve years, Sean, is my love, friend, and supporter. My mom is my confidant. 

How do you make time to write?

It is my preference to write in the morning, but my preference isn’t always conducive to my reality. I began writing my first (and probably only) book, the day after my one-year anniversary date of having a grand mal seizure, which was the grand finale of my AE diagnosis. When I began, I woke up early, and peacefully wrote in my home office in the morning. Months later, when my kids went to school, I wrote a lot during the day. My book was mostly finished by March, 2020, when the world went into lock-down for Covid-19. Which was great, because Covid forced my family to be in our home 24/7, and I had a miracle baby in April. Since March, 2020, I write on the weekends, or during any hour or two I can muster with all the chaos in the house!

Do you believe in writer’s block?

If you write novels, I’m sure writer’s block is a true thing. My book is a memoir. It’s a reflection on my life leading up to AE, the horror story of the onset, and the daunting challenges I faced after. It’s the no holds barred story of who I was when the disease hit and who I became after. I’m a humorous storyteller by nature, and I’m really long winded. I have a gift to make short stories long. Thus, writer’s block hasn’t been a challenge for me. I struggled a bit with how I would end the book, but as my surprise pregnancy unfolded, the ending just came to me. It was at about the same time that I met my friend, Clay, for lunch and began to ask him questions about writing a book (I started my venture completely in the dark). He asked me about word count and we realized that the beginning of my book alone, was about three books. The problem for me in my writing is always cutting, and never adding.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.

My rare and devastating illness prompted me to write a book. I hadn’t given much thought to it before. I don’t have the imagination to write fiction, as I know anything I would attempt would sound an awful lot like Harry Potter. And, I never believed I had enough of a story to write some type of biography, until I woke up from amnesia and learned about my illness. I loved writing this memoir, because it allowed me to put my life down on paper. It was therapy for me when I needed it the most. It gave me time to self-reflect and heal. I want this book to help spread awareness about AE, so others don’t suffer my same fate. I want to share my interesting story with a wide audience. I want to be proud of this book, and make it something that my children are proud of when they grow up and read it. My friend, Tony, told me that writing a book is a college education in and of itself, and I believe he’s correct. I loved this project, but it also frustrated me. Writing about my life in this way made me very emotional. Every time I read or edit it, I go back through hell. It’s also a challenge to literally, write a book! Putting together a story that’s sensical, enjoyable, informative, emotional, scary, true, and (hopefully) a page turner, is one thing, but recalling (looking up) rules of grammar and punctuation, is a real challenge. And then figuring out what to do with it when you’re done writing …

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

I’m goal oriented, and I always have big dreams. Thus, when I began writing, I did set one goal for myself: I wanted the book to be traditionally published. I’d like to stick to that goal as long as I can. But, the world seems to live and die by Amazon, so I could always self-publish through there, and would still be proud of my accomplishment. I’m currently working on finding a publisher.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert? How does this affect your work?

I am a very extroverted introvert. I’m a people person, and I’m very outgoing. I love to be in the center of groups, I love having a vast network of friends, and I love to tell stories. However, I’m also very introspective, especially since my illness. I like to have time to myself to contemplate my life and the world around me. I like time to write, whether it’s a blog or in my various journals. And, I love quiet time to read books. Being introspective helped me pen my story, but I had to exercise a lot of self-restraint to not show anyone the project until it was “complete.”

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

The “old” me would have said:Do it one way, the right way, and do it that way every single time.  The “new” me would say Julian of Norwich’s: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” Writing this book has forced me to reconcile my achievements with my past mistakes. My intense and driven personality has served me well, but it has also been destructive. I’m learning to temper myself by putting these two quotes together, which will be a lifelong process.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

The same advice that I often heard from my old senior partner, David, who wrote a great novel. If you want to write, you must write. Just start writing! He also recommended Stephen King’s book, “On Writing,” which I read during my recovery and really enjoyed. Overall, I took on this book in my own way, and then asked for advice and help later. I don’t regret that.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

In October, 2019, I founded JM Stebbins, LLC, as a place to share my story through my speaking and writing. My website – jmstebbins.com – has all of my contact information, stories about me, news and events, my blog, and my AE podcast, Brain Fever. You can download Brain Fever where you subscribe to podcasts.

You can also follow me on Facebook @JM Stebbins; on Twitter @jmstebbs; on Insta @jmstebbs84, and on LinkedIn @Jackie Stebbins.

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

May 15, 2018. Psychiatric Ward, Sanford Hospital, Bismarck, North Dakota. ~ I called Sean. Sean said he would call him and ask him to come and visit me. I need a priest. 

He’s on his way now. I’m sitting here waiting for him. I feel like I’m in a closet. There are shelves and clutter around me. Everything before me is dim, and everything swirls around me. I keep getting confused. I never really know where I am at.

He’s here. I meet him at the door. I know that I look like a mess. I’m in shorts and a t-shirt. Or wait, I’m in t-shirts and leggings. I don’t even know what I’m wearing. I’m bawling all over him. He’s frightened of me. I can see it in his face. Is he afraid of me because I’m in here? Maybe he’s embarrassed of me. I hoped he would understand.

We talk for a while and then he asks me if I want him to hear my confession. I don’t even believe in confession. Yes, yes, I desperately want to confess my sins. I cannot say the prayers with him, I can hardly even follow along, but I can tell him what I’ve done wrong. I can tell him that it’s all my fault. I did this to myself. I’m here because of me. I finally did it. I overdid it so much that I harmed my mind. It was being a lawyer. I let go of all my priorities. I look like this and sound like this, because of what I have done.  

I cannot say the final prayer after I confess my sins, but that’s okay, he can do it while I sit here and cry.

~The Lawyer Who Wasn’t Crazy, by Jackie M. Stebbins. Copyright © Jackie M. Stebbins 2020.

AuThursday – Ashlyn Drewek

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?  

My name is Ashlyn Drewek. I live in northern Illinois with my husband and my daughter. I have degrees in American History, but my actual day job is being a first responder. So I channel all of my odd loves, like history, and literature, and macabre things into my writing. 

How do you make time to write?  

It’s hard, especially when you work full time and have a family. When it’s slow at work, I squeeze in as much as I can. I also try to get some of it done either before my daughter wakes up or after she goes to sleep. Even if I’m not physically writing, I’m usually plotting in my head or figuring out scenes, so when I do get time at the computer, I can get it all out quickly. 

Do you believe in writer’s block?  

Yes, and no. I know what it’s like to not be inspired to write, but know you have to do it anyway. I also know what it’s like to have a vague concept/idea for a story or a character or a plot-line and you just have no freaking clue how to weave everything together to get your point across. That’s why I tend to have multiple stories going at once, so if I’m stuck on one, I can bounce to another and at least be productive in some sort of way. 

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.  

At the heart of it all, I’m a romance writer. I love the interaction between couples, the push, the pull. I love all the warm fuzzies that go along with the newness of a relationship. But, more specifically, I write dark romance. Hallmark will never make one of my books into a movie, that’s for sure. I write about the paranormal, murderers, and mentally ill characters. I love tortured characters and “love” is the ultimate torture method. 

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional) 

Indie all the way. I am too, um, controlling shall we say, to turn my book baby over to an agency. I like working with my cover designer and formatting my own books and all of the behind-the-scenes work that goes along with it. Plus, the larger royalty payment is nice too. 

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?  

Introvert. It’s great for the actual writing part. I’m quite comfortable sitting at a computer, whiling away the hours making up stories. Being an introvert only becomes an “issue” when it comes to promoting my work. I have a hard time “selling myself,” so that is something I’m working on. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase?  

“To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself.”

~Anne Rice

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?  

Do it! Don’t hold back. Write your first copy for yourself. Do NOT edit it until it’s finished. Be as crazy and outlandish and terrible as you want. Then, with each successive round of edits, tighten it up and polish it and present your originality to the world. There is literally an audience for every type of book, but you’ll never know if you don’t put your work out there for people to find. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web? 

www.ashlyndrewek.com

www.instagram.com/ashlyndrewek

www.facebook.com/ashlyndrewek 

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

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From THE MYSTERY OF LEANDER WELLES, a dark, psychological romance about a criminal psychiatrist who falls in love with her patient.

“It’s ok to be afraid sometimes. Everyone has fears. It’s not a weakness. It’s human — a natural response to the threat of danger programmed into us over a millennia.” 

He tilted his head, considering me. “What are you afraid of, Doctor?” 

Blinking, my brows furrowed. I supposed I walked right into that one. “I don’t know. The usual things I guess. Snakes.”

He smirked. “That’s a phobia.”

Damn it. Leave it to Leander to know the difference. “You tell me since you’re so perceptive.”

“Failure.”

Nodding, I motioned for him to continue. I wanted to see how clever he thought he was. 

He leaned forward, his exquisite gaze fixed on mine. “Surrender.”

The hair on the back of my neck stood up and my breath caught in my throat. “The last time we talked about surrender, we were talking about suicide. Are you having suicidal ideations again?” 

He jumped to his feet. I stood just as swiftly, blocking his path. He moved in the other direction. I sidestepped with him, putting my hands up to help keep him from escaping. He could have easily shoved me away, but something about his mood this morning told me he wouldn’t. 

“Let me see your arms, Leander.” 

He scowled yet remained where he was.

I reached for his left wrist and touched it gently, hoping he didn’t explode. He let me lift his arm and take out the silver cuff-link, flinching only when I began pushing the sleeve out of my way. His chest rose and fell in quick succession the higher the fabric went. There were no new marks on his arms, just dozens of old scars. 

I repeated the process on his other arm, satisfied to find fewer scars than the first. None of them were fresh. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel a sense of relief. “Are you cutting somewhere else? Somewhere you think I won’t look?” 

“Would you like me to undress for you?” His words were so soft that if they weren’t being uttered near my ear, I might not have heard him. 

“That’s—” I cleared my throat, staring straight ahead at the smooth whiteness of his throat. It was safer than looking up at his mouth or his eyes. “That’s not necessary.” 

“I didn’t ask if it was necessary.” His fingertips grazed the side of my hand, trailing down the length of my pinky. He toyed with the very edges of my fingers, sending a spasm of yearning through me. The memory of his body against mine came back, along with the butterflies dive-bombing my stomach. 

“Leander…”

AuThursday – Valerie Tobin

Please welcome Val Tobin to the Clog Blog!  Val, tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Thank you, Tina, for giving me this opportunity to share about myself and my work.

I grew up in Willowdale, Ontario. That seemed like the big city to me, but for those who lived in Toronto, it was the boonies. I went to elementary and high school in Willowdale, and graduated from Earl Haig Secondary School after grade thirteen, which they offered at the time.

After a semester of Book Editing and Design at Centennial College, I studied general arts at the University of Waterloo, then went to DeVry Toronto and got a diploma in Computer Information Systems. I worked in the computer industry as a software and Web developer for over ten years.

In October 2004, I became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher. I acquired ATP® certification in March 2008, in Kona, Hawaii from Doreen Virtue, Ph.D. I started work on a bachelor of science in parapsychic science from the American Institute of Holistic Theology in March 2007 and received my degree in September 2010. After obtaining my master’s degree in parapsychology at AIHT, I returned in 2008 to Kona, Hawaii to complete the Advanced ATP® training and in April 2010 to take the spiritual writing workshop and the mediumship certification class.

In the meantime, I wrote for tech site Community MX and for Suite101, and I was Topic Editor for Paganism/Wicca and Webmaster Resources at Suite.

I’ve published over ten books and contributed a story to Doreen Virtue’s Hay House book Angel Words. My novels are available on Smashwords, Amazon, and from other retailers in both e-book and paperback.

How do you make time to write?

I dedicate time in the day to writing a targeted number of words. Some days, that target is as low as fifty words. Other days, the target is as high as 2,000 words. I’ve done NaNoWriMo almost every year since 2012, which helps me to at least once a year dedicate thirty days to writing 50,000 words.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Yes. Sometimes I lose focus or inspiration. The way around it, for me, is to read. Reading a story I enjoy from an author whose work I love motivates me to write. Or reading books about the craft of writing inspires me. Or working on aspects of my WIP that have nothing to do with adding words to the story, such as delving into a character’s motivations, trigger ideas for the story. Writer’s block is real, but it’s never permanent.

Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it. 

I write in a variety of genres: horror, fantasy, romance, science fiction, and I’m also working on a non-fiction book. I love stories and I love writing, and the story I want to tell at the time decides the genre. 

My first novel is The Experiencers. It’s book one of the Valiant Chronicles series. It’s technically (literally) science fiction, but it’s also a thriller with a love story. The aliens and the technology make it SF. The non-stop action makes it a thriller, and the relationships add the love. I say love rather than romance because romance doesn’t drive the plot, and there’s no guarantee any of the relationships forged through the book will end happily.

Storm Lake, a short story, and The Hunted, a Storm Lake novel, are classified as horror because of the horrific creatures. They’re also SF because of the genetic manipulation integrated into the story. The relationship between Rachel and Hound Dog adds a romantic thread, but that’s not the story’s focus.

Injury, Poison Pen, Walk-In, Gillian’s Island, and You Again are all primarily romance, with Walk-In containing a paranormal element based on the new-age concept of the walk-in but with evil undertones, Poison Pen (a howcatchem story) and You Again (a whodunit story) containing murder, and Gillian’s Island having a mystery component (who’s sabotaging the resort?) Injury is pure romantic suspense and deals with a young actress who discovers the narrative she believed about her past is a lie.

What I love about these genres is they all have action, suspense, and relatable characters. My tastes have changed over the years, and I want more action and a faster pace in the books I read, so I inject that into my writing. Perhaps it’s a result of the tech boom and how everything happens so fast—often instantly. We don’t wait long for much of anything, and while I still appreciate reflective moments in a story, and do include them in my own works when required to move the plot forward or develop character, I enjoy short chapters and a fast pace.

I love writing about characters with a variety of traits, some I might share and some I don’t share at all, and exploring the world through their eyes and lives. For example, what I loved about Gillian in Gillian’s Island was showing how her thoughts differed from what she said because she was always afraid to speak her mind. The results were at times humorous. 

How are you publishing your recent book and why? (*e.g. Indie, traditional)

Indie. I have one story in a traditionally published book (a non-fiction book by Doreen Virtue and Grant Virtue called Angel Words and published by Hay House), but all my other books and stories are indie published.

An author friend who was traditionally published in the 1970’s and now indie publishes helped me make up my mind when I wrote my first novel. We discussed the pros and cons of both, and for me, indie made sense. My educational background, experience, and skills I’ve developed over the years make it possible for me to publish my work myself. I also am lucky to have found a great cover designer and team of beta readers and editors.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?  How does this affect your work? 

I’m an introvert, so it’s difficult for me to network and socialize. It’s an asset during quarantine though. Stay home and avoid people? That’s my default.

It affected my work positively, too, by triggering an idea for a story. The novel Gillian’s Island came about because I’m an introvert. I can remember the moment I got the idea, and for anyone who wants to know where ideas come from, here it is:

We have a friend who owns an island resort near Temagami, Ontario. We don’t hear from him often, but one day, sometime in 2015, he called us up. I’d never seen the resort, so I looked it up online. It occurred to me it would be difficult to run a resort if you’re an introvert. You have to deal with people constantly.

From there, my mind leaped to “but if you have a spouse to handle all that, you can deal with all the administrative stuff and leave the people stuff to him.” Then I thought, “But what if you get divorced, and you’re left holding the bag?”

You can see where this is going. I thought, “This was a great jumping-off point for a new story.” I could already see my main character taking shape: an introverted woman who runs an island resort with her husband. She does all the admin work and manages the place while her extroverted husband schmoozes and deals with all the people aspects. Except he leaves her for another woman, and now my MC is left to run the resort. Except hubby wants his share of the money from the resort, so now my MC—Gillian, her name will be Gillian—must sell the resort.

And she loved the resort. It’s an island, and aren’t many introverts islands? I thought it was perfect that she lived on an island and wanted to stay there but was forced off of it. Her journey in this story is to find herself, to learn to be an island among people. The point isn’t that she must stop being an introvert; the point is that she must accept who she is and allow herself to trust other people so she can build healthy relationships.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

When you make music or write or create, it’s really your job to have mind-blowing, irresponsible, condomless sex with whatever idea it is you’re writing about at the time.” — Lady Gaga.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write the first draft for you. Second drafts are for your inner editor. Give yourself permission to suck on that first draft. You’ll find it liberating to realize no one needs to read it but you.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Like me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/valtobinauthor

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/valandbob

Subscribe to my blog: http://bobandval.wordpress.com/

Follow me on BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/val-tobin

Check out my profile on ALLi: https://www.allianceindependentauthors.org/members/val-tobin/profile/

Visit my website and sign up to receive my newsletter: http://www.valtobin.com/

Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?

Yes, thank you. I’ll share an excerpt from my latest release, You Again. It’s a second-chance romance about an accounting tech for whom complications arise when she’s assigned her former lover as a client and his company’s previous financial controller is found dead.

At five o’clock, Ellen walked into the Foundation Saloon and, when she gave her name, the hostess led her to a table with a booth near the back of the dining room. Gabriel was already there, a half-empty stein of beer in front of him.

“Got an early start?” she asked. The hostess set a menu in front of Ellen, who took a seat across from him.

He waited for the hostess to leave and then said, his expression serious, his tone dark, “We have a problem.”

She smiled—a cross between a smirk and amusement. “You being dramatic?”

“No. You ever hear of Francesca Newton?”

“I trained her on the financial software BRI uses. She replaced me as controller when I quit.”

He leaned toward her and said in a low voice, “She’s dead.”

Cold dread washed over Ellen. “What do you mean dead?”

“When I got to the BRI offices today, a detective was there. He told me her husband found her body in their apartment. Looks like suicide, but the police are investigating and treating it as a suspicious death.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. She seemed like a nice woman. Young. What a waste. I’m sure it’s just a routine investigation. They do that for any death that isn’t natural, don’t they?” And why would this be a problem for her, or more specifically, them? There was no “them.”

“He said there were indications she was murdered.”

The oxygen in the room seemed to vanish and Ellen gasped. “What indications?”

“He wouldn’t tell me. But if they think someone killed her, they likely have evidence.”

She nodded, unable to speak. Francesca had been a pretty woman in her late twenties. She’d been so full of life. Yes, that was a cliché, but in Francesca’s case, it was an accurate description. The young woman had been eager to start the new job and had learned the software quickly. Ellen had been positive she’d work out well.

“What could’ve happened?” she said aloud though she spoke more to herself than to Gabriel.

He replied anyway. “I don’t know.”

She recalled his comment at the start of the conversation. “Why is this a problem for us?” The publicity might be bad for him, but she’d left that company too long ago for anyone to associate her with it. Unless she took over their books, as Carol had assigned her to do.

She needed to clear this up immediately. “It won’t be a problem for me. I’m not taking the account. Are you really thinking only of the bad press over this? A woman died. She either killed herself or someone murdered her. Isn’t that more important than what the media might say about you over it?”

Anger flared in his eyes and he scowled. “That’s not where my mind went. How could you think that?”

“Why wouldn’t I think that? I don’t know you anymore. What else is there?”

“Don’t you think it’s strange that such a successful company went downhill after you left?”

Before she could respond, the server, a perky, petite redhead with braids and freckles, arrived to take Ellen’s drink order. Deciding she needed one, she ordered a glass of red wine—the nine-ounce rather than the six-ounce option. When the woman left, Ellen picked up the menu. She didn’t feel hungry, but stress eating was one of her go-to coping mechanisms, and the news of what could be the murder of an acquaintance had definitely stressed her.

“Want to order food?” she asked.

When he remained silent, she peeked up from the menu. He stared at her, his lips pressed together.

“What’s wrong?” Did he think her callous for wanting to order food? “I stress eat, Gabe. I’m not heartless.”

He set his palms on the table, bracketing his mug of beer, and said, “It’s not that. I have to leave soon. I’m going somewhere else for dinner.”

Her whole body went cold. “You have a date,” she stated. “On a Thursday.”

“Yes. One I made two weeks ago. I’m sort of seeing someone …”

“Sort of?” Francesca’s death popped into her head, and she waved a hand at him. “Never mind. I don’t care. You’re free to see whomever you want and do whatever you want with her. What matters is what happened to Fran.”

He gave her a slow nod. “Right. So, answer my question.” 

“What question?”

“The company was prosperous. They had substantial revenues. Still do, from what I can tell. Their problems started after you left.”

She gasped. “You pinning that on Fran? Is that why you think she killed herself?”

“Or was murdered.”

Ellen brushed a hand through her hair, pulling errant strands off her face. The server arrived with the wine and set it in front of her.

“I’ll take an order of sweet potato fries,” Ellen told her. “Nothing for him,” she added with a nod in Gabriel’s direction.

After the redhead left again, Gabriel checked the time on his phone. “I have to go. Drinks and your food are on me. I’ll settle the tab on my way out. Order anything else you want. They’ll put it on my card.” He gazed at her contemplatively for a moment. “Don’t use it to get revenge on me.”

“Wow. Don’t worry. I can pay for my own food.”

“That was a joke, Ellen. Can we please forget the past? I’m sorry for what happened. We’ll figure it out. In the meantime, help me with BRI. Take on the account. Maybe, together, we can figure out if anything in the records could’ve triggered her death, whether by her own hand or someone else’s.”

“I don’t know. What I’ll do is think about it tonight and give you an answer in the morning. If I decide we shouldn’t work together, I’ll tell Carol to give it to someone else.”

“But you know the company already. If anyone can spot inconsistencies or anything that’s not right, you can.”

“You think she was deliberately cooking the books?”

“How would I know? It could be anything. You’d find the issue faster than anyone else. Will you do it?”

She pictured herself working with Gabriel, perhaps for weeks. She’d see or talk to him every day, given the unusual situation. But he was correct she’d find errors faster than anyone else. Plus, if it helped the police catch a killer or helped them understand why Francesca killed herself, didn’t Ellen owe it to everyone to do anything she could to figure it out?

Reluctantly, she said, “On one condition: When I’ve post-mortemed the files, when I’ve cleaned them up and everything’s in order, you turn the account over to someone else.”

“No problem,” he blurted. His expression told her he thought by that point she’d change her mind.

Ellen swore to herself she wouldn’t. She’d give him no choice but to put someone else on the account. By the time this was over, she’d find another job and remove herself from Gabriel’s life the way he’d removed himself from hers three years ago.

She reached out her hand. “Deal.”

They shook on it, and he walked away, her gaze following him out of sight.