AuThursday – M.S. Ocampo

Please welcome M.S. Ocampo to The Clog Blog, Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I’m an indie writer and tutor in the process of publishing my YA urban fantasy novel, My Ex is a Vampire.
How do you make time to write?
I join up with writing sprints. I usually write around the same time every day.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yep. It usually means I have to take a break or talk things out.
Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.
My debut novel is YA urban fantasy. It’s a love letter to Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Filipino-American protagonists. I love mixing up high school drama with action.
How are you publishing your recent book and why?
Indie
Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?  How does this affect your work?
Introvert
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
“Bird by Bird.”
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Lean into what you love. Don’t be afraid to put a lot of yourself into your writing.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Twitter and Instagram as well as my blog.
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
Inconceivable! Some vampires had the gall to go out in the daytime, risking their undead existence for the sake of a meal.

AuThursday – Amber Thorne

Amber1
Please welcome fellow BisMan Writer Amber Thorne to The Clog Blog!  Amber, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I live in Minot with my husband Zach and our 3 furry children-Fish, Amiro, and Binx. I’m currently teaching 4th grade in Surrey, ND. I’ve had career changes ranging from National Park Service ranger to Pepsi sales so I come with lots of life experience! I’ve been writing since I could string my spelling words into sentences-I would sometimes write a story with all 20 words instead of 20 plain sentences! I met Eric Kimmel in elementary school at a Young Author’s Conference and knew I wanted to do what he did. I started publishing fanfiction online in 2006 in fandoms from Avengers to Zorro. I’m currently working on a YA novel and time will tell if it ever gets finished – the fanfiction plot bunnies are pushy!
How do you make time to write?
If I’m not working, cleaning my house, or out of the house, I’m writing. I can often be found parked in front of the television with my laptop, and I’ve also dictated stories into Google Record on my phone while driving. I think it’s more ‘how do I make time to do everything else when all I want to do is write?’!
Do you believe in writer’s block?
It’s been said that ‘writer’s block is what happens when characters get fed up with you and go on strike,’ and I completely believe that’s true. I think it’s a combination of plots and character beats running out of gas and trying to find a way to get them kickstarted again.
Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.
I’m primarily in fanfiction. I like looking for those missing scenes in a show or a movie, wondering ‘what were they doing in the commercial break?’ or ‘what came after that scene?’ I like expanding characters on the screen-sometimes they can be very one-dimensional. My novel is Young Adult Fiction, and I’m convinced that half the things written for my 4th graders to high schoolers is much more interesting than anything written to appeal to me as an ‘adult.’ Most of what’s on my bookshelves at home that I read on a daily basis is YA. Kids have bigger imaginations and deal with so much-reading things meant for them is really eye-opening for me.
How are you publishing your recent book and why? 
If I had one to publish, I would go with whatever would have me! The debate over indie vs traditional publishing is always an interesting read out on social media. All of my fanfiction is posted online.
Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?  How does this affect your work?
Which one means I’m a people person in small doses? I think it reflects in the kind of characters I gravitate toward –  a lot of my favorite characters have secrets or double lives-they present themselves one way in public but another among close friends or by themselves.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” Jack Kerouac.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Write what you want to write. Don’t try to write what you think other people would like. Write what makes you happy, and the audience that needs to find it will find it.
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
Since I don’t have my fiction completed, all of my fanfiction can be found at
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
BisMan Wr (1)Adam jumped off the ladder, a chill racing up his spine that had nothing to do with the weather outside. “Nick’s not up there.”
Sarah made a slow circle, looking around the two-room house. There were no places for a seven-year-old to hide.
“You don’t think….”
Adam was already shrugging back into his coat, certain now he knew exactly where their son was. “That book of his,” he realized. “We were reading it together before bed. It was the chapter on Bigfoot, and I was telling him that Clancy in town had sworn he’d seen one just the other night.” He reached for his boots, shaking his head. “It was only a joke…but of course, not to Nick. I’ll lay you ten to one that he’s out there…” he pointed out the window, “on a search for one.”
From, “The Search,” available in the anthology, “Seasons in the Dark.”

New Release – A Tortured Temptress

Title: A Tortured Temptress
Series: Knights of Purgatory Syndicate book 2
Author: E.M. Shue
Genre – Dark Mafia Romance
Release Date: January 17, 2023
Cover Design: KL Donn with Alluring Write Productions





Breathe. Push forward. Step one foot in front of the other. This has been Giselle’s mantra every day since the day she died and was reborn as someone new. In order to remain hidden, Giselle knows she can never love. She can never get attached. She must bury her pain and live a lie. But all that changes the moment she crosses Shane’s path.

War has left Shane hating life and searching for a reason to live other then duty. When he spots Giselle, he sees around the shroud she hides behind. He sees the pain and lies that mar her skin. Her darkness mirrors his own. She is meant to be his. His to love. His to heal and protect. His everything.

When Giselle’s previous life catches up to her, Shane will do anything to protect her from the horrors of her past. Even if it means he must let her go.

From award-winning author E.M. Shue comes the next installment in her dark mafia series, Knights of Purgatory Syndicate











E.M. Shue is an Alaskan award-winning romance author. She is proudly featured in K Bromberg’s Everyday Heroes World, Aurora Rose Reynolds’ Happily Ever Alpha World, KL Donn’s Mafia Made Series, Susan Stoker’s Special Forces Operation Alpha World, and the soon to be released Devil’s Handmaidens MC Collection.

She published her first book in 2017 after having a dream that later became the Beverley Award winning, Sniper’s Kiss. Since then, she has gone on to win this award three more times with different books and has published over thirty titles.

Join Surprises from E.M. to be kept up to date on all her new releases and appearances.




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Chapter Reveal – Cougar From Hell by Marika Ray

Title: Cougar From Hell
Series: Hellman Brothers Series
Author: Marika Ray
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Small Town Romance
Release Date: January 12, 2023
Cover Design: Jennifer Olson


Daxon gently pulling my hand away from my face was what woke me up. I let out a soft groan that had absolutely nothing to do with the pain radiating from my forehead and everything to do with the beast of a man sitting right beside me, taking care of me like he was my personal nursemaid instead of the biggest irritant in my life at the moment. Sadly, he’d put a fresh shirt on at some point while I slept.

“Please tell me you haven’t been sitting there watching me sleep like some creep,” I croaked. Man, he hadn’t been kidding about the adrenaline crash.

Daxon snorted and let go of my hand, more’s the pity. “No, of course not. But you were snoring so loudly you interrupted my work. Figured I’d wake you up and make you lunch. Anything to stop that incessant racket.”

I shoved myself up to sitting, ignoring the way that made my head pulse painfully. “I don’t snore. Just admit you have a protective streak a mile wide.”

The side of Daxon’s mouth threatened to pull up into a smile. “I do not.”

While he was in such a good mood—normally he’d be crossing his arms over his massive chest and snapping at me by now—I wanted to address the thing that had been bothering me.

“Daxon, I have to clear up something.”

He stilled, his expression instantly guarded. “You hate that ridiculous G-wagon too?”

I slapped his arm, mostly just to have a reason to touch him. “No! I love that car.”

He looked on the verge of smiling again, which might have been a record for almost-smiles in a conversation with him. “I always thought you had much better taste.”

“My late husband and I had a business arrangement.”

Welp, that wasn’t how I meant to address things, just blurting it out like that.

Daxon blinked, his jaw hardening. Clearly he didn’t want to discuss this, but I had to get it all out. I couldn’t have him believing that I’d cheated on my husband. That Daxon was just a convenient male. Like I did that sort of thing all the time. Like what happened between us meant nothing to me.

“We were never in love. We married as a business deal, agreeing that it would be an open marriage. He was always discreet and respectful about it, which I appreciated, especially after Ruby was born. We became friends, building a life together, but also separately. The night I slept with you was the day after he went into hospice care and we knew it was just a matter of time before he was gone. My world was being flipped upside down and I just needed to feel something other than lost.”

Daxon sat there staring at me, his face devoid of any emotion. I could feel waves of tension pouring off his body. I wanted to explain more while also snatching back every word I’d already said. This didn’t appear to be helping things between us. By being truthful, I’d somehow made things worse.

“We didn’t sleep together.”

I…was not expecting that response. “No? I could have sworn we did.”

“We fucked, kitten. There’s a big difference,” Daxon growled. 

He stood abruptly, the movement of the couch cushions jarring my head. I swung my legs off the couch and tried to stand too. The room got fuzzy around the edges and I sagged backward.

With a bit-back curse, Daxon grabbed my arms and guided me back to sitting. He followed, settling next to me on the couch with at least a foot of space between us.

“For fuck’s sake. Take it slow. You know what, let’s take you to urgent care. You probably have a concussion.”

I waited until the black dots faded from my vision. “I don’t have a concussion. Callan already ran me through some tests for that and said I was all clear.”

Daxon frowned harder. “He could be wrong.”

I huffed. This man was infuriating. One minute he’s sweet and protective. The next he’s growling at me, demeaning that night two years ago. The same one that had stayed with me through the hard months that followed.

“I just haven’t eaten anything yet. My bagel is back in the car at the base of my driveway.”

More curses flowed as he stood again. “Stay there.”

I rolled my eyes. He sure loved barking orders. But he still didn’t get what I was trying to say. Maybe I didn’t even know what I was trying to say.

“I’ve only slept with two people in my whole life, so I’m sorry if I use the wrong terms.” Apparently I’d become a blurter. The blurtiest of blurters.

Daxon froze. Every single muscle the man possessed—and good gravy did Mother Nature gift him with so much of it—locked tight. I lifted my hand to pull him back, but left it there hovering in the air between us. For half a second I had the fanciful thought that if I touched him, he’d surely break.

He spun around finally, ignoring my hand in the air. His eyes were snapping, devouring my face. “You what?”

Oh, so now he wanted to have this conversation.

I pulled my hand back in my lap so quickly it sounded like I clapped for his ridiculously short question. “I slept with Anthony once. It was not long after we got married. We both thought we’d try it out and see if there was any chemistry there.” I grimaced. “There was not. We went back to being friends immediately, putting that little experiment behind us. And then…then there was you.”

Daxon scrubbed both his hands over his face. I wanted to reach up and smooth the dark slashes of eyebrows back down. Why did he have to look like a male model posing as a lumberjack? It was an unfair advantage when a woman was trying to think around him.

“I don’t understand any of this. You’ve had two one-night stands in your whole life? You were married, but kind of not really?”

I wobbled my head back and forth. That was about right. Crazy and crazier. That had been my life, which was why I’d sought out a small town I could sink into with Ruby. A place I could be normal for once. “Will you sit down for a second and just let me explain?”

He sighed and moved to sit back down.

“And not bark one-word questions at me?”

“I don’t do that.”

“Yes, you do.”

“No, I— You know what? I’m just going to sit here and let you talk. How about that?” Daxon leaned sideways against the armrest, about as far away from me as he could get and still be on the same piece of furniture.

“Thank you,” I said with no small measure of sarcasm. “I know our marriage wasn’t conventional, but it worked for us. I was a small-town girl with absolutely no money but a stubborn insistence that I’d make it in a big city. Anthony needed someone to go to awards shows with and business dinners. Our pairing made more sense than most Hollywood marriages. He was my friend, and I grieved when he died.”

I hadn’t meant for my voice to shake when I got to that last part, but I hadn’t been able to talk about Anthony’s death. I’d tried to be there for Ruby, but no one had been there for me.

Daxon reached across the couch cushions and grabbed my hands where they’d been twisting the blanket. His hand was warm, fully enveloping both of mine. He gave me a squeeze and held on.

“I’m sorry,” he finally said, his voice scraping across the inches that separated us. “Thank you for explaining. I, uh, have a bit of a hang-up about married women.”

I tried not to smile too hard. “I could tell. You looked ready to find your nail gun and nail my toes to the foundation.”

“Definitely wanted to nail you…”

My gaze shot over to his. “Are you flirting with me, Daxon?”

“I’m hurt it was subtle enough you had to ask.” His lips were doing that thing again. What would it take to make the man smile fully?

“It’s not you, it’s me.”

Daxon winced. “Ouch. That’s even worse. The pity excuse.”

I talked around the giggle. “No, it’s true. I’ve slept with two men, had one orgasm, and somehow mother a preteen with more attitude than me. I wouldn’t recognize flirting if the dick pic slapped me in the face.”

Daxon huffed what could have been the start of a laugh. “First of all, a dick pic is not part of flirting. And secondly, one orgasm? I’ll be forever wounded if you say that one wasn’t from me.”

Was it getting hot in here? Or maybe it was the low blood sugar combined with the blow to the head making me woozy. “It was definitely you.”

“Of course it was,” he said smugly.

I tried to pull my hands out from under his. “Jeez, ego much, Daxon?”

He held on tighter, somehow inching closer to me on the couch. “Not ego. Confidence. Maybe you need a refresher?” 

He was so close I could pick up on the soap he used and the smell of wood. That combination would forever make my stomach swoop. And not because I was hungry. “Daxon!”

He shrugged, his thumb sweeping out a rhythm against the back of my hand. I could feel that touch everywhere. I really was pathetic, finding a simple thumb touch a source of pleasure.

“Would it be so bad? At least you wouldn’t be married this time.”

I was shaking my head before I’d even catalogued all the ways that would be a very bad move to make. Without even putting sex on the table, I was overwhelmed by this man. I could barely be around him without tripping, or putting my foot in my mouth, or having to come home and seek out my trusty vibrator. One drunken encounter in a dirty bathroom had made me obsessed with him for months. Sober, intentional sex might break me.

“Absolutely not. No. Nuh-uh.”

Daxon smiled then, the kind of slow smile you feel across your skin. Like the sun rising over the mountains and heating up your whole body inch by inch. “So what you’re saying is you’ll think about it?”

“No!” I shook my head so hard it started being a heartbeat again along my cut. “That’s not at all what I’m saying!”

Good God, the man could smile. I could be ruined by that smile.

Daxon squeezed my hands one last time and let go, getting to his feet. “Let’s go make some lunch and then we need to get Ruby from school.”

I stood, taking slow deep breaths this time so I didn’t pass out. “I can get her on my own. I just need you to drop me off at my car.”

Daxon led the way to his tiny kitchen. “Can’t.”

I sighed, trying to keep myself from eyeing his backside. He had a really lovely backside. “There you go with the one-word answers again.”

He stopped at the refrigerator and pulled it open to peer inside. “Can’t take you to your car because it’s already been towed to the shop. I texted Clyde while you were sleeping, in case you were worried all I did was watch you sleep.”

Well, shit. There he went again, doing something nice. “I assume Clyde is a tow truck driver and not a car thief?”

Daxon shot me a deadpan glare. 

“In that case, thank you. Maybe you could drop me off at a car rental place so I can get a loaner?”

“Can’t.”

I threw my hands out to the side. “For fuck’s sake, Daxon!”

And that’s when I heard it.

A real live laugh from Daxon Hellman.

And it was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.






I have my fresh start in a new town, this time a widow with a preteen daughter who rolls her eyes enough to make them stay that way. Too bad my past mistake is also here to greet me.

Daxon Hellman. Town a-hole. Hot young contractor hired to build my house in the woods.

It’s only when I’m face-to-face with him for the first time that I realize he’s the mystery man from two years ago. It’s a long story of too many drinks, grief that made me resort to acting out, and an encounter in the dirty bathroom of a bar. Try as I might, I can’t forget that night. And now I have a name to go with that hot body.

Daxon growls at me…I irritate him with my constant social media posting. He orders me to do things…I trample all over his ridiculous commands with a smile and a choice finger in the air. He builds my house with that tool belt slung low on his hips and my cat steals his construction plans. We fit together like rain and exposed drywall.

Between insults and hot stolen kisses, Daxon and I reach a truce: to let our bodies do the talking and keep our hearts locked down. I’m older than him, which means I’m smart enough to keep a clear head. Until I realize when it comes to love, age and common sense do not go hand in hand.

This crazy town has more surprises up its sleeve to drive us apart, which makes me think this might not be our forever home after all…




 


Marika Ray is a USA Today bestselling author of steamy and sweet RomComs, spending her time behind a computer crafting stories, walking any beach she can find, and making healthy food for her kids and husband whether they like it or not. Prior to writing novels, Marika held various jobs in the finance industry, with private start-up companies, and then in health & fitness. Cats may have nine lives, but Marika believes everyone should have nine careers to keep things spicy. All her books come with a money-back guarantee that you’ll smile at least once with every book.

More information can be found at www.marikaray.com



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AuThursday – Todd Ford

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m in my early sixties, married with two grown daughters, you know, a classic empty-nester. We have a menagerie of cats, five as of this moment, although the one that’s pawing at me as I type is aged and on twice-a-day meds to keep her from withering away even more rapidly. We’ve had dogs as well. We’re happy to no longer have dogs. They’re a lot more work.

I grew up in Southern California, Santa Barbara, and thereabouts to be exact. I have a lot of lazy beach bum and listening to “Hotel California” on the radio 27 times a day in my DNA. I’m pretty liberal as well. I studied mechanical engineering and landed my first job in the Seattle area in 1984. I was there for ten years, long enough to learn I don’t much like the reality of engineering work, to discover an affection for cinema, and to meet my wife through a personal ad.

We’ve lived in Mandan since 1994. Why Mandan? Why North Dakota? My wife grew up in Williston and her parents had retired in Mandan. I got laid off from Boeing in Seattle. The dots become pretty easy to connect from there.

How do you make time to write?

Short answer: I don’t, not enough anyway. I always think I should establish a daily routine, but I’m too easily distracted. I read a lot. I watch movies constantly. I daydream.

Long answer: I write constantly when I’m inspired. I’m a writer who first needs something to say, I guess. When inspiration strikes, my wife starts to wonder what’s up because she hardly sees me for days—and our house isn’t large. (Maybe that’s why she’s constantly dreaming about tiny homes and campers. I would have zero opportunity for escape.) Part two of the long answer is I do write almost every day. I always have something burning a hole in me to share on Facebook. You know the sorts of posts. The ones that pop up on your feed X number of years later and make you wonder about your mental health on that day long ago.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I believe frustration over sitting for hours and not being able to find words is a real thing. Happily, I don’t experience it often—if at all. I seldom sit down to write unless I already have words ready to go. I also tend to rehearse them during water-heater-draining showers, out loud (yes, I’m one of those talking-to-himself types). It usually takes me longer to make a cup of coffee than to move that blinking cursor halfway down my computer screen.

Also, the two types of writing I’ve specialized in are movie reviewing and memoir. I always have something to say about a movie by the time the end credits scroll. (That was a good thing. My first writing “job” was as a movie critic for the Bismarck Tribune. To earn my $8.00 a week (don’t get me started, and, yes, I’m daring to nest parenthesis within parenthesis (I’m also a computer programmer)), I would watch a movie on Sunday and have to have my review finished and emailed to the editor by Tuesday.) And I can always find stuff in my life to write about. For instance, I’ve never written about the time, I was maybe nine or ten, when I took off with a friend carrying only matches and candles into a culvert, you know, to see where it went. Exiting the other end into Narnia was our hope. Long after the light of day had vanished, wind was causing the candles to flicker, like two stupid kids our boxes full of matches were actually nearly empty, and hot wax was burning our hands, we tripped over something. We looked down in the flickering shadows to see the remains of a rattlesnake. (There. Now I have written about it.)

My story for the SEASONS IN THE DARK anthology titled “The Whites of My Eyes” is filled with true stories. My book-length memoir THS DATING THING: A MOVIE BUFF’s MEMOIR is, of course, also littered with remembrances of my sordid past.

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

Yes, I consider myself a memoirist. I fell in love with the genre while reading THIS BOY’S LIFE by Tobias Wolff, CHERRY by Mary Karr, and KING OF THE HILL by A.E. Hotchner. I’m also fond of FARGO ROCK CITY by Chuck Klosterman. I’ve since accumulated three shelves of memoirs and autobiographies. I’m pleased I wrote one of my own because it makes all of these favorite authors feel in a way like kin. What I love about the genre is how it allows you to sort through all the stuff that’s happened, make sense of it, and find meaning. You might say it’s like a form of therapy—for free. I keep starting to turn the corner toward writing fiction. I always just end up on a new sidewalk through my past.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

I self-published my books on KDP. The aforementioned THIS DATING THING as well as a collection of my favorite movie reviews titled SEE YOU IN THE DARK: TWO DECADES OF MY CINEPHILIA IN NORTH DAKOTA. I didn’t make much effort to try to find a traditional publisher for either book. I knew the movie review book had less than zero commercial potential. My main goal was to rescue the reviews from oblivion and have a copy for my own bookshelf. I’m fairly confident that at least three or four copies exist on other bookshelves, somewhere. I know a copy resides in Mumbai because that young reader ecstatically emailed me half a dozen times to tell me how much he enjoyed all three times he read it. I also know that at least one copy has changed hands because a friend cautiously informed me she’d spotted a copy in a box at the Bismarck Public Library used book sale. I did, briefly, have a small publisher lined up for my memoir, but that publisher kinda went out of business, a fate that I imagine awaits many small publishers. At least I can rest easy knowing it wasn’t the publishing of my book that killed them.

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

I’m an Introvert. That probably goes without saying. I read a lot, watch movies, talk to myself in the shower, and experienced 2 ½ years of COVID by seldom leaving my house—and not noticing anything being different. It helps my writing, for sure. It’s easy for me to sit alone at a computer for hours with nothing but Chopin and Liszt to keep me company while I type away. Introverts are also good at looking inward; so, I’m not sure if I found memoir or memoir found me.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”—James Joyce

You know how when you go through a draft and find mistakes scattered everywhere? I enjoy making a game out of it. I trust that Freud was at least onto something when he wrote about slips of tongue revealing unconscious truths. I don’t always fix my mistakes at first. I look for ways to use them. Some of my favorite slips of phrase have started with typos—like typing “slips” when I meant “turns.” (Okay, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I have to fix the damn thing and move on.)

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

If you enjoy it, do it. If you don’t enjoy it, stop doing it. If you have a change of heart, start doing it again. It’s best if it feels like play. And no matter what, try not to fret over past work. In fact, I find it best to not even read my stuff after it’s published.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Nowhere, really, other than looking my two books up on Amazon.

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

I sure do. I’ll end with this passage from my memoir describing my dad:

During the following two years after arriving back home, Dad became fanatical about new trends. After my lifetime of never seeing him exercise, he lingered in the master bedroom puffing and sweating through morning push-ups, squats, and sit-ups in his underwear—and not just any underwear, but bright red, teeny tiny briefs. I’d see him on the floor sweating before taking his shower, hair on his chest and back, his pot belly, his graying and receding hairline, and how his thing barely stayed out of sight. Cheryl could walk in at any moment! Mom could walk in! It horrified me his wife might see the outline of his… thing. His efforts paid off. The pot belly melted away.

But the effect was short-lived, and he soon found a way to re-pack on the pounds. We were the inaugural family in our cul-de-sac to purchase a microwave oven. After hauling the Amana monstrosity home, attempting to shimmy it from the box before losing patience, cutting it free with a steak knife, and plugging it in, Dad demonstrated how we could bake apples in record time—a mere minute and a half.

He removed a green apple already cored and filled to overflowing with brown sugar from the fridge, ready to go on a paper plate. He lowered the heavy, spring-loaded door and placed the apple in the oven. He released the door and it closed on its own. He pushed a few buttons and the machine whirred.

“HEEERE WE GO!” he said, resembling an infomercial.

(When I recall his words, now, they sound more like “HEEERE’S JOHNNY!”)

We’d never had baked apples before, so I’m not sure if the brown, bubbly messes he created were typical, but over the next few weeks, we—well, mostly he—ate a lot of them. He invited neighbors to experience the miracle of instant baked apples. He entertained the idea of going into the instant baked apple business, but soon the fashion wore off. Until we discovered quick popcorn, the fast cup of tea, and the art of bringing leftovers back from the dead, we simply became the house on the block with the least amount of usable kitchen counter space.

As if changing channels still again, Dad switched to color television. He didn’t buy one, not exactly. He mail-ordered one through a company called Heathkit. The ads declared, “Announcing the first solid-state color TV you assemble yourself!” as if it were a prize-worthy idea.

Our “television” arrived in several boxes. To Dad’s excitement and everyone else’s dismay, the boxes contained a jumble of wires, tubes, screws, and twisted scraps of metal and plastic. The objects giving me hope and promising future enjoyment were the picture tube and the cabinet.

“Do you guys have any idea how much a twenty-five-inch color set costs?” he asked, and continued without waiting for an answer, “I’m sure you don’t so I’ll tell you. A lot.”

Every Saturday morning for weeks, I stared at the corner of the living room—a makeshift workshop—and hoped to see something capable of playing cartoons. Each time, I turned away disappointed and returned to watching Bugs and Elmer in black and white. Making matters worse, the television once “finished” never fully worked. It always had strange bands of indistinct colors running through the picture. Dad didn’t—or couldn’t—see them, so captivated was he by his accomplishment. (He never truly completed it. A few parts left over didn’t fit anywhere. He considered them “extra” parts and tossed them into a drawer.)

He talked to us less and less the closer the “television” came to being a semi-television. One day, I walked into the living room to check his progress and saw him mounting the picture tube into the cabinet. From where I stood, I saw his two legs sticking out from beneath the set. He’d been consumed by the TV. It reminded me of the Wicked Witch of the East after Dorothy dropped the house on her. I swear his socked feet curled and disappeared.

I don’t remember the moment the project was “finished,” the black-and-white set was banished, and the intruder assumed its post in the center of the living room wall. I do remember our old set sitting on the floor of my parent’s closet facing the corner. It had been placed in a time-out. A few times, after trying to watch the interloper for a while, I snuck into their room, slid the closet door open a crack, and patted my old pal atop the head.

After Dad’s labors, I don’t recall him ever once sitting and watching his Heathkit. Always “at work,” he spent his days at IBM, but he never talked about what he did there, and I never thought or cared to ask. I knew it had to do with something futuristic and electrical called “computers,” assembling them, fixing them if they broke. My one experience of him working on electronics had been our television set. I pictured his desk at work cluttered with “extra” bits and pieces of computers he’d later stash in drawers. I imagined him as not a particularly competent computer whatever he was and, given his lack of shoptalk and general grumpiness at home in the evening, not in love with his job either.

Mom was terrified when he came home early from work one day and announced he had been “let go.” His income and future retirement prospects had gone poof, but he looked oddly relieved.

He increased the intensity of his bedroom floor, semi-naked workout sessions. He washed his cherished Oldsmobile Cutlass daily. He wore shiny silk shirts unbuttoned to his navel. He dangled a gold chain around his neck and experimented with hair dyes and comb-overs. He eventually bought the SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER soundtrack album and wore it out. He embodied a walking, talking, dancing cliché—the dad in the movie DAZED AND CONFUSED who thwarts his son’s attempt to throw a keg party. Richard Linklater set his marvelously researched movie in 1976 and Dad found polyester in 1977. Despite his efforts, Dad always lived a bit behind the times.

One detail did separate him from the father in DAZED AND CONFUSED. Dad never would have prevented a keg party. He would’ve joined in and smiled at all the girls. Cheryl told me, “When Dad helped me move in during my freshman year in college, he went away for a while, returned, and stocked the fridge with four cases of beer, one for me and each of my roommates.”

These behavior swings were all barely noticeable at the time, but they were accumulating in my mind. Eventually, in Dad’s increasing absence, I had to mow the lawn and it grew shaggier by the week. All the excitement about instantly hot food dissipated. The television’s picture worsened until it stopped working entirely and our small black-and-white set returned atop the otherwise useless Heathkit cabinet. We ate at the coffee table—and even in our bedrooms.

Cover Reveal

Title: Cougar From Hell
Series: Hellman Brothers Series
Author: Marika Ray
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Small Town Romance
Release Date: January 12, 2023
Cover Design: Jennifer Olson



I have my fresh start in a new town, this time a widow with a preteen daughter who rolls her eyes enough to make them stay that way. Too bad my past mistake is also here to greet me.

Daxon Hellman. Town a-hole. Hot young contractor hired to build my house in the woods.

It’s only when I’m face-to-face with him for the first time that I realize he’s the mystery man from two years ago. It’s a long story of too many drinks, grief that made me resort to acting out, and an encounter in the dirty bathroom of a bar. Try as I might, I can’t forget that night. And now I have a name to go with that hot body.

Daxon growls at me…I irritate him with my constant social media posting. He orders me to do things…I trample all over his ridiculous commands with a smile and a choice finger in the air. He builds my house with that tool belt slung low on his hips and my cat steals his construction plans. We fit together like rain and exposed drywall.

Between insults and hot stolen kisses, Daxon and I reach a truce: to let our bodies do the talking and keep our hearts locked down. I’m older than him, which means I’m smart enough to keep a clear head. Until I realize when it comes to love, age and common sense do not go hand in hand.

This crazy town has more surprises up its sleeve to drive us apart, which makes me think this might not be our forever home after all…







 


Marika Ray is a USA Today bestselling author of steamy and sweet RomComs, spending her time behind a computer crafting stories, walking any beach she can find, and making healthy food for her kids and husband whether they like it or not. Prior to writing novels, Marika held various jobs in the finance industry, with private start-up companies, and then in health & fitness. Cats may have nine lives, but Marika believes everyone should have nine careers to keep things spicy. All her books come with a money-back guarantee that you’ll smile at least once with every book.

More information can be found at www.marikaray.com



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Teaser Tuesday – Cougar From Hell by Marika Ray

o Kindle Unlimited on January 12th!
Add to your Goodreads TBR: https://bit.ly/3Gdb0Wk
💞 Ten-year age gap with an explosive mee-cute💞 Hero is the town a-hole, hired to build the heroine her dream cabin💞 Heroine is widowed and now a single mom, looking for peace, not love, and certainly not a fling💞 small town RomCom hilarity

𝘐 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘺 𝘧𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘩 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘪𝘯 𝘢 𝘯𝘦𝘸 𝘵𝘰𝘸𝘯, 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘵𝘪𝘮𝘦 𝘢 𝘸𝘪𝘥𝘰𝘸 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘢 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘦𝘦𝘯 𝘥𝘢𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘳𝘰𝘭𝘭𝘴 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘺𝘦𝘴 𝘦𝘯𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘵𝘰 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘸𝘢𝘺. 𝘛𝘰𝘰 𝘣𝘢𝘥 𝘮𝘺 𝘱𝘢𝘴𝘵 𝘮𝘪𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘢𝘭𝘴𝘰 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘰 𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘦𝘵 𝘮𝘦.

Daxon Hellman. Town a-hole. Hot young contractor hired to build my house in the woods.It’s only when I’m face-to-face with him for the first time that I realize he’s the mystery man from two years ago. It’s a long story of too many drinks, grief that made me resort to acting out, and an encounter in the dirty bathroom of a bar. Try as I might, I can’t forget that night. And now I have a name to go with that hot body.

Daxon growls at me…I irritate him with my constant social media posting. He orders me to do things…I trample all over his ridiculous commands with a smile and a choice finger in the air. He builds my house with that tool belt slung low on his hips and my cat steals his construction plans. We fit together like rain and exposed drywall.

Between insults and hot stolen kisses, Daxon and I reach a truce: to let our bodies do the talking and keep our hearts locked down. I’m older than him, which means I’m smart enough to keep a clear head. Until I realize when it comes to love, age and common sense do not go hand in hand. This crazy town has more surprises up its sleeve to drive us apart, which makes me think this might not be our forever home after all…

“𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙝𝙚𝙢𝙞𝙨𝙩𝙧𝙮 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙗𝙖𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧 𝙗𝙚𝙩𝙬𝙚𝙚𝙣 𝘿𝙖𝙭𝙤𝙣 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙍𝙞𝙩𝙖 𝙬𝙖𝙨 𝙖𝙗𝙨𝙤𝙡𝙪𝙩𝙚𝙡𝙮 𝙚𝙡𝙚𝙘𝙩𝙧𝙞𝙘.”
#CougarFromHellMarikaRay #CougarFromHellTeaserBlast #TeaserTuesday #ComingSoon #JanuaryRelease #AgeGap #RomCom #SmallTown #MarikaRayAuthor #MustRead #TBR #EnticingJourney
Hosted by Enticing Journey Book Promotions

AuThursday – T.J. Fier

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

My name is Tiffany Fier, but I write under T.J. Fier. By day I’m an associate professor of set design at NDSU, and I write when I can around my hectic professorial schedule. I have several short stories in several anthologies, and my debut novel has recently been released: THE BRIGHT ONE.

What does your writing process look like?

Each project is a little different. Sometimes I put together a detailed outline primarily to get to know my characters better. Other times I pants my way through a story. Or, especially with short stories, I’ll give myself a few guiding notes and plot points and work the story around those ideas.

Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Depends on the project and the task at hand. Sometimes it’s incredibly energizing, and sometimes, it’s not. Sometimes the story pours out, and sometimes you need to drag it out by its ears.

 What genre are your books and what draws you to this genre?

I oscillate between contemporary fantasy, dark fantasy, paranormal fantasy, urban fantasy, and horror. There is a dark undercurrent to most of my writing. It’s just how I’m wired. However, I often try to throw in a touch of irreverence to my stories or a bit of humor to keep the mood from sinking too deep.

What are your current projects?

BisMan Wr (1)Too many! My debut novel, The Bright One was recently released by my publisher Three Little Sisters. It’s a contemporary sci-fi/fantasy adventure with a surly unicorn named Una. I have a short story in a recently-released anthology, Seasons in the Dark, from Bisman Writers Guild. I’m reviewing edits on another short story for the second Moorhead Friends Writing Group anthology. I’m sharing the sequel to The Bright One with some of my writing group AND another story of mine is in the beta-reading phase of review.

How do you relax?

I read, hang out with furry friends, and curl up on the couch with one of my favorite “comfort shows.”

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

You get better the more you write. Also, having a critique partner or a writing group has been vital to my progression as a writer. Surround yourself with a support system. It takes lots of time, patience, and hard work to have success with writing.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Check out my linktree:

https://linktr.ee/tjfier

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

From the end of Chapter One of The Bright One:

“Holy crap.” 

The beast flicked a lion-like tail with a cascading plume of white hair. Long enough so strands brushed the floor. The hair shimmered fine as silk threads and light refracted off flaxen curls. A radiant blue eyes stared back at her with a mixture of fear and defiance.

Alexa’s head seemed to disconnect from her body, unable to process what stood before her. She refused to accept the creature and backed away, heart racing beneath her trembling fingers.

The smeared light couldn’t manipulate the shape she had seen, nor could it change the animal in anything but what stood before her.

It was a unicorn.

A real, live unicorn.

AuThursday – P.A. O’Neil

Please welcome P.A. O’Neil to The Clog Blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
I was born in southern California but mostly raised in a small town in Washington State. I have been writing for as long as I can remember, but it was only recently that I decided to try my hand as a professional. In fact, it was six years ago this month I wrote my, as yet unedited, novel, Finding Jane.
How do you make time to write?
When I was working, I would squeeze my writing time between my shift work. My husband was still working then, so I found it easy to write between Noon and 5:00 pm. I never wrote on weekends out of respect for him. Now that we are both retired, I write whenever I can, provided he doesn’t call me to hold something while he nails, glues, or clamps something in his workshop. I never write in the evening because I find it difficult to see, no matter how many lights I have on.
Do you believe in writer’s block?
No, I don’t, for there is always something to write about. Just because you haven’t had the opportunity to compose your “magnum opus”, doesn’t mean a poem or a journal entry can’t be written. Using my own personal experience, writer’s block is actually a form of writer’s laziness. Even if all you did that day was send out a submission, you wrote. Did you write a review? You wrote.
Did you jot down some notes for your WIP or a future project? You wrote.
Tell us a bit about the genre you write and why you love it.
After monkeying around with what I thought were various genres, I discovered they actually were variations of Literary work, just set in different genre themes (Western, Romance, Cozy Mystery, etc.). I write so that the reader will recognize the character as someone they might’ve known who now must face an unusual situation to overcome. If I can resolve the protagonist’s difficulties satisfactorily, then my story will have been a success.
How are you publishing your recent book and why?
I have only had one book published so far, Witness Testimony and Other Tales, and that was done by a traditional publishing house as I had won the contract. The majority of my stories have been published in anthologies and online journals. I am presently working on a three-story book that I would like to have traditionally published but just might offer it on my own.
Are you an Introvert or an Extrovert?  How does this affect your work?
I am a loud person. I have no qualms with talking to strangers or speaking before a large crowd. Truth is though, I consider myself an introvert. Being larger-than-life is a shield, and that crowd frightens me if I have to be in it instead of in front of it. My public persona, P.A. O’Neil, has an image to maintain that is a job in and of itself. My personal persona, though very loving with lots of friends, is far from an extrovert.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
“There are no accidents.”
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If you want to be a writer, then write! Don’t allow doubt to hold you back. Learn all you can from other writers. Share your work for review, improvement comes from the recognition of repeated errors. Above all, if you chose to set your writing for publication, hire an editor!
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
P.A. O’Neil
https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B07BF2D8SP This is my Amazon Author page. https://www.facebook.com/p.a.oneil.storyteller This is my Facebook Author page. https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/17994233.P_A_O_Neil This is my Goodreads Author page.
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
From the story, “Witness Testimony”:
As we approached the light of the street with its foot traffic and vehicles, Bill said, “Well, that’s not exactly what I had planned for the evening.” I believe he was trying to make light of the situation, hoping it would ease the stress of witnessing such a violent and deplorable act. It was then, that I started to shake. Shake like I had been in the deep snow without a coat. The hairs on my arm began to stand up as all I felt was a wave of panic flow from top to bottom on my body.
“Hey, hey there … it’s going to be all right.” He wrapped his arms around me, not out of any romantic gesture, but more to prevent me from running away. That’s when I started to cry. Not bawling like an angry baby, but silent tears which ran down my face as I looked to him for direction. “C’mon, there’s a park up ahead. Let’s find a place to sit down.”
We walked a short block and a half until we came to the wide grass-covered expanse of Beacon Hill Park. The shadows had begun as the sun approached the horizon. We sat down on a park bench under an unlit streetlamp. His arm was still around me as I buried my head in his chest, this time allowing a fountain of tears to flow onto his shirt. All the while, he rubbed my arm and back and said, “… Atta girl, let it all out.” Eventually, I pulled up my head and apologized for making a scene. “Naw, you didn’t make a scene. Here—your make-up is a little smudged.” He handed me his handkerchief and smiled that soft smile I had so wanted to be meant for me alone.
“Thank you. Oh, look at your shirt. I hope all that color can be washed out,” I said with sadness as I wiped my face. “Looks like I’ll have to work on getting the color out of the handkerchief as well.” I gave a soft laugh, “Oh your poor wife; she’s going to think you’ve been playing with circus clowns.” Then it hit me, “Your wife, does she know? Did you get a chance to call her yet?”
“No, I’ll call her when I get back to the hotel.” He leaned forward with his elbows on his knees. “I wouldn’t know what to say to her.” He put a hand up to his face to mime a telephone receiver, “Hey, Honey, yeah I got here all right. Do I like the city? Yes, I got to see three people die today.” Then he stopped, dropped his hand, and stared at the grass at his feet. “I don’t feel so well, excuse me.”
“Bill?”
“No please, I have to go.” He got up fast and walked twenty feet towards some nearby bushes where he leaned over and began to throw up. I could hear him wretch, again and again, but with his relatively empty stomach, it soon became dry heaves. I cautiously walked towards him but stopped at a respectful distance as he stood up and turned back to me. Instinctively, he began to pat down his hip pocket as he reached for his handkerchief.
“Is this what you’re looking for?” I handed back the once-white cotton cloth now stained with tears and makeup. “It’s a little soiled; sorry.”
He took it without question and wiped his mouth, turned away to spit into the grass, and then wiped his mouth again before pocketing the cloth. I reached up to touch his cheek. He didn’t pull away. I put my arms around his neck and pulled him close. He, in turn, put his arms around my waist to hug me back. We stood there for several minutes; just holding each other, supporting each other was more like it. A young couple quietly laughed as they passed. They must have thought us aged lovers. Little did they understand that we were just survivors.

Cover Reveal – Alpha Mike Foxtrot by Giulia Lagomarsino

Title: Alpha Mike Foxtrot
Series: OPS Protector Romance Book 5
Author: Giulia Lagomarsino
Genre: Alpha/Protector Romance
Release Date: December 26, 2022
Cover Design: T.E. Black Designs
Photographer: Reggie Deanching – R+M Photo
Cover Model: Vince



They call me crazy, lethal—psychotic.
I’m all those things and more.
The darkness calls to me, sending me spiraling out of control.
But one woman calms me, bringing me back from the edge when I’m about to lose it.
She’s my savior in every way possible.

But she doesn’t even know I exist. Yet.

I see the way she struggles, trying to maintain her sanity.
I won’t let her go down the same path as my mother.
She won’t be another statistic.
There’s only one thing for me to do—take her.

It’s not kidnapping if you know the person.

She didn’t believe me when I said that.
But I’m not worried about it. She’ll soon find out there are worse things than being hitched to my wagon.
I’ll cherish the ground she walks on for the rest of my life, whether she’s in it or not.

She is my priority, the only reason I continue to live when the darkness takes over.

I’m not naive. Just because I want Anna doesn’t mean I can have her.
I am not a good man, but I am the man for her. I will protect her with my life, slaughter anyone that tries to take her from me.
And when an enemy threat looms, I’ll remove them just like any other baddie.

There is no surviving when The Phantom is calling to me.








I’m a stay at home mom that loves to read. Some of my favorite titles are Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Horatio Hornblower. I started writing when I was trying to come up with suggestions on ways I could help bring in some extra money. I came up with the idea that I could donate plasma because you could earn an extra $500/month. My husband responded with, “No. Find something else. Write a blog. Write a book.” I didn’t think I had anything to share on blog that a thousand other mothers hadn’t already thought of. I decided to take his challenge seriously and sat down to write my first book, Jack. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed writing. From there, the stories continued to flow and I haven’t been able to stop. I hope my readers enjoy my books as much as I enjoy writing them. Between reading, writing, and taking care of three small kids, my days are quite full.



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