AuThursday – G.M.J.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Hi! My name is Gordana Mucha Jakelic. I go under the pen-name of G.M.J. I come from a small town, Split, on the coast of Croatia. I wrote this book, ‘Aurora . . . and God’ when I was 17.  I was still in high school then, and I just got inspired like many teenagers as I was daydreaming about romance. But eventually, it felt like as if someone took my hands and wrote the book through me, making it all about faith and something deeper. I don’t know; I just let it come out of me like it was a spirit guidance or an old inspiration – But I wrote it like that. 

How do you make time to write?

Well, my whole day is usually packed with a schedule. So, when I get up, I usually have coffee in a café first. Then, I go to the Gym, and after that I head to work. During the evening hours, I relax, and I write depending on the current book project I am working on. Sometimes my writing can go on for two months straight. Sometimes I do not write anything for another two months. Because, I usually go by inspiration. 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

Well, I don’t really see it as a writer’s block. I as usually go by inspiration, I guess maybe you can say that writers block comes when the inspiration runs dry?

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

There are a lot of genres in my writings. But I am always trying to celebrate life, whether it’s the one we are living in now, or the one where we departure to another world. I like to write about faith because I experience some miracles and I saw other people experiencing the same too. I like to write about those experiences and real-life sample stories where people struggle, and how through their struggle, they reach to find faith and God. In that way, I like theology as well, so, I am always trying to mix these two up and make a book with a strong message and motivation. 

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

I self-published my recent book, Aurora . . . and God, on Amazon. However, my first book was published by a traditional publisher 11 years ago in Serbia. That book was titled ‘A handful of nothing’. Since Aurora . . . and God was translated to English, I decided to publish independently on Amazon, but I am still not sure if it is a good idea to push and try for a traditional publisher too. 

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

I am an introvert, but it does not affect my work. Because my work is affected by faith and my believe and love for people. I try to be objective in my writing and not thing about being an introvert or extrovert. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

Beside a few biblical ones, I would say

“Be good to yourself”.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Write whether you are trying to publish or not. Always write because it feeds your soul. You become a better person when you do something good when you feed your soul. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I do not have a website currently, and I am still contemplating if I should start one. However, you may find my ‘About the Author’ page on Amazon. My book is also on Goodreads, and I am on Instagram too. 

Amazon Link: bit.ly/AuroraandGodGMJ

Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/53450198-aurora-and-god

Instagram Link: https://www.instagram.com/the_curious_editor/

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

Maybe I could share a …(blurb)… of my book: 

Aurora and God GMJ400A young troublesome addict, Aurora, and a priest on a mission, Sebastian, form a beautiful friendship. Slowly their friendship takes a turn when Sebastian starts to slowly distance himself from Aurora, hiding his true reasons.

This book delves into the depths of one family’s struggles to reveal the core of human existence and the basis for all human life; the love of God. We long for it, even if we do not admit it, even though it is all around us. We run from it, even though we want it. We push it away, even though it is life sustaining. No matter how hard we deny it, push it away, or run from it, it is always there. Because God is always there. Simply waiting for us to accept it.

First Friday Lunch – The Courtesan of Constantinople

This month I’m talking about the process of querying, rejections and why I chose a small press for this project.

AuThursday – Shivon Gunalan

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Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I have always been working in the corporate sector for years and have loved building relationships. I am passionate in working with women and young adults and have been active in helping women build their confidence and rediscovers themselves. On a personal note, I love to read, cook, travel and just enjoy hanging with my friends.

How do you make time to write?

I used to enjoy writing short stories as a teenager but due to work commitments did not pursue writing. During the COVID-19 Circuit Breaker in Singapore, I had more than enough time to dabble in writing.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Yes, I do. I think every writer, will face that some point in their life. It will be a time for them to retreat, re-calibrate and just rush into it again.

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

I am writing romance stories, but with a little twist. I absolutely love drama, and I enjoy the interactive characters portrayed by people. I wanted to translate that into a book, where people can enjoy the romance not from a reader’s perspective but actually able to go on that journey with the characters in the book.

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

Indie, as it shortens the whole process.


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

Extrovert. I think its always a challenge to sit still in a place and work on my book, so I try to give myself time limits, and also breaks in between days so I am not too affected.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

 “I can’t think of any better representation of beauty than someone who is unafraid to be herself” -Emma Stone

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Take the tips of established writers, but find your own pace and comfort level. Enjoy the process of writing and not rush to pass a dateline.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I am available on social media platforms like FB, Instagram, Twitter and also on my website www.shivongunalan.com

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

Yes! Rosella meeting Ian for the first time.

51Smgb9tuoL._SY346_Rosella removed her sleeping mask and took a peek when the flight came to a halt. It was a long flight, at least fifteen hours from Rome. She could feel her muscles ache. She couldn’t wait to get out of the plane so she can walk around more freely. The man next to her was unbuckling his seat belt. “We have finally arrived! I am going to head down to the casino first,” he said gleefully. Rosella rolled his eyes at him. She was not able to get a decent hour’s sleep because the man would not stop talking. He kept going on even when she had her headset on pretended to watch a movie. Her ears had ached throughout the journey but thankfully she managed to sneak in a few winks when the man fell asleep.

Rosella has never traveled so far in her entire life. She was both nervous and excited at the same time. When her parents passed away in a car accident, she moved in with her sister, Rina and her husband Hunter. They moved from the city to the small town to take care of Rosella. Rina and Hunter were fifteen years older than her. As they were childless, they doted
on Rosella who was only nine years old at that time. Hunter took on the role of her father and adored her like his own daughter. He always affirmed her so she grew secure in her identity as someone who was cherished. Under their care, she grew into a confident woman of God.

Rosella spent a lot of her time in their local parish church as she grew up. She enjoyed singing to the Lord. Rina will often joke that she started singing even before she was capable to construct full sentences. The local pastor signed her up to be part of their choir team.  During her spare time, she will twirl around the garden with her tambourine, singing hymns unto the Lord. She accepted the Lord as her saviour at the age of sixteen. Hunter and Rina held a massive celebration for her. After the celebrations, Rina came up to her room that night to present her with a beautiful purity ring with the inscription “My beloved is mine and I am His.” Rina had taught Rosella the importance of keeping herself pure for the man the Lord will bring into her life.

She loved the feel of the ring around her finger, as it made her feel valued and important. It has been ten years since Rina gave her that ring, and by the grace of God, she had kept her end of the bargain. She twirled the purity ring around her finger. Her friends had started dating in their teens. But Rosella spent her time teaching the local children in her neighborhood. She was very skilled in arts and was very good at needlework. The Lord had
anointed her with talent in that area and she didn’t want it to go to waste. She wanted to be a good steward of those talents. She also taught the older children in the school to teach and write. When the opportunity to teach at an international school presented itself to her, Rosella was quick to jump at the opportunity.

She shared her desire to work in an international school with Hunter and Rina. She explained how it will give her the advantage to learn how the education system was being structured in a foreign country. She was eager to start her own school in their town one day, and she will benefit from this experience gained. After much persuasion, her guardians relented and gave her their blessings. Rosella had enough savings to help pay for her flight and living expenses.  Hunter offered her some money but she wanted to be independent. After booking her plane ticket with the local agent, Rosella started doing her research on Singapore. The city was vibrant and it featured many interesting sights. She was fascinated with the statue of the merlion and began to list down the names of the attractions that she wanted to see upon her arrival.

The country was also famous for its diverse cuisine. Some of the foods looked too spicy for her taste, but she was ready to begin a new adventure. She will be staying with her friend, Ashley who had moved from Italy a couple of years ago. Her friend was an auditor and she worked in a reputable audit firm in Singapore. The international school was her client and she found out about the job vacancy through them. The school accepted Rosella’s application because of her good credentials and referrals. But she knew in her heart it was the Lord who had opened the door of opportunity for her. She had talked to Him about her dreams of starting her own school one day.

The moment she exited from the plane, Rosella plugged on her earpiece. Music was her life, and it was also her way of finding her escapism. When she was back home, she had loved the old hymns they sang in church. Recently, Ashley had introduced her to some new worship songs that have been gaining popularity. Her friend has been part of the worship team in a church that was based in Singapore. She always sends her new songs for her to listen to. “I am reaching out, I will chase you down. I dare you to believe how much I love you now.” She was humming the lyrics of the song as she headed to collect her luggage. “Jesus! I know you are going to guide me every step of the way,” she prayed under her breath. She placed her luggage on the trolley and headed out the gate.

She pushed the trolley towards the nearest chair and plopped herself on it. She stretched her legs and massaged the back of her neck. She placed her handbag on her lap and started to rustle around for Ashley’s address. She did not want to trouble Ashley to come and pick her up. She was very grateful to her for offering her a place to stay rent-free for the first two months. “You can start paying rent after the third month when you have settled down,” Ashley told her. As she was looking for the address, she noticed a man seated next to her from the corner of her eye. He was talking animatedly on his mobile phone.“Ia adalah masalah kecil. Jangan risau. Nanti, kita cakap, ya.” Rosella surveyed the man, trying to figure out the language he spoke. She knew the people in Singapore spoke different languages like Mandarin, Tamil, or Malay.

From the side view, the man looked very handsome and had a dimple on his left cheek. He was dressed neatly in a blue checkered shirt and black tailored pants. The Patek Philippe watch on his right wrist looked very costly. Rosella had tried to purchase a watch for Hunter on his birthday. It was so expensive that she decided to buy him a wallet instead. She knew that a watch like that can be very expensive. She heaved a sigh, wishing her future husband could be someone well dressed like this man. She stopped herself quickly and knocked herself on her head to come to her senses. What if he was someone’s husband or fiancee? It was really hard to tell these days, and she did not want to be caught up in any drama. She tore her gaze away from him and started rummaging through her handbag again. She was so occupied with her search that she did not realize the man next to her, had left his seat.

“Finally!! Thank you, Jesus!!” She smiled gleefully holding the address victoriously in the air. Rosella checked her wallet to ensure she had enough local currency for a taxi fare. She had two hundred dollars which should be more than enough for her taxi fare and her meals over the next few days. She stood up, slung her handbag across her shoulder, and started to move her trolley. She then noticed the empty seat next to her. Mr. Fancy Pants was nowhere to be found. As she was about to leave, something on the seat of the chair caught her eye. It looked like a card from afar. She looked around and saw no one nearby. She picked up the card. From the back, it looked like a membership card. She flipped it around and saw Driving License spelled out on the top. The name on the card read, Ian Jacobs.

She looked closely at the picture on the card. He looked familiar. “Aayyy” she exclaimed when she realized it was Mr. Fancy Pants who was seated next to her earlier. “Ian!” So, that was his name. She stood up and walked around with the trolley trying to track him down. But he was nowhere to be found. She looked at the clock and realized it was going to be 10 pm soon. It was getting late and Ashley will be waiting up for her. She did not want her to worry.  Without thinking much, she stuffed the license into her handbag. She proceeded to drag her luggage to the assigned taxi stand. Even as she was waiting for her turn, Rosella kept looking around to see if she can spot him. When her taxi arrived, she got in and told the driver to drive her to Bencoolen Condo.

AuThursday – Luke Ganje

 
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Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
 
I don’t think there’s anything I hate more than talking about myself, so I’ll try to make this as painless as I possibly can. I’m Luke Ganje and I’ve been writing seriously for over a decade, not just because I love to do it but also because a writer is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to be. It wouldn’t be any great exaggeration or burst of dramatic flair to say that I have no interest in a life that doesn’t include telling stories. It is, in a sense, everything I am. As such, I’ve written five novels (seven if you count the two I’m not proud of), somewhere in the neighborhood of seventy short stories, and hundreds of poems, and they range in tone and genre from absurdist humor to horror to contemplative fiction. Someone asked me once what I want out of this, what the goal of my artistic pursuit was, and to be honest the answer was simple enough: In time this life will end and in the blink of an eye who we’ve been and what we’ve done will be lost to an inevitable decay. I write because, while I’m here, I want to experience this life just a little bit more and feel and understand things I might have otherwise missed.
 
 
 
How do you make time to write?
 
For me, it’s all about routine and dedication. I set aside two hours a night to work and no matter how trivial the project of the day, I fill that time. I no longer work a day job on Fridays, having set aside that day for a sort of mini marathon in which I can make significant headway in whatever novel happens to be my primary focus, and that’s been a joy to experience. In those moments I almost feel like the full-time writer I aspire to be, whether it’s a self-constructed illusion or not. The time to write, to pursue what you love, is always there. Sacrifices simply need to be made or else that pursuit and the work that stems from it will only ever wind up being hollow, empty, and dead.
 
 
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to see where an idea takes you?
 
My process in this regard has changed over the years. When I first started, I spent a great deal of time wandering down the unmarked roads of exploratory writing but as the years go by and my attention span and memory continue to falter and fade, I find myself having to outline a little more each time. These days I tend to write all my dialogue in a notebook, filling pages as if I’m script-writing, and then rewrite the entire thing as a finished and detailed experience on my laptop. It works well enough and tends to give my dialogue a lived-in edge that I prefer, so I’ll continue down that path until I have to tinker with my process again for the sake of clarity and not driving myself completely insane. 
 
 
What are you working on at the minute?
 
Frustratingly enough, I’m torn between two projects that both demand my full attention and yet I haven’t quite decided which one to focus on. I don’t mean to treat trivially the perils of wartime, but I’m almost positive this is precisely how Meryl Streep felt in Sophie’s Choice. As it stands, I’m splitting my time between my first ever horror novel and a more quiet and contemplative piece of magical realism. The former will be bitter, vicious, and unforgiving. The latter is a character piece about a young man whose life begins to fall apart because he continually sees one small thing no one else can, and believes without a shadow of a doubt that it is real. Both deal with family, loss, and our uncomfortable relationship with mortality, but neither is the clear front-runner and so I’m a bit adrift at the moment. I keep trying to reach out to Mrs. Streep for advice, but sadly she won’t return my calls.
 
 
I’m almost afraid to ask, where do your ideas come from?
 
I suppose it would be abhorrently trite to simply tap the side of my head, doubly so seeing as how this isn’t that kind of visual medium. Nevertheless, this is something that I think about a lot. Sometimes you write things that push you to places you don’t want to go and yet you have to for the sake of the story, so in that sense a French term comes to mind: l’appel du vide. The Call of the Void. Known also as “High Place Phenomenon”, it’s the little trigger in your mind that kicks in when you’re standing on a ledge and tells you to jump, or while you’re driving down the highway and you suddenly have the urge to whip the steering wheel into oncoming traffic. It’s an ordinary part of the human experience and something I’ve felt in waves my entire life, heightened as it is by anxiety (of which I have plenty), so it weaves almost constantly in and out of the stories I tell. Complicating things is the manner in which I tend to process even the most mundane aspects of everyday life, where everything shows as infinite spirals in which I find myself reliving conversations dozens of times right after they happen, following them down rabbit holes until I find myself having visceral emotional reactions to things that never happened and words that were never said. That’s probably where my stories travel from, I suppose. Out of the void and along an incessantly spiraling road.
 
 
Do you ever get Writer’s Block?
 
Put simply, no. I view writing not just as my passion but also as work, as a job, and the funny thing about work is that responsibilities don’t just magically go away if you’re not feeling it. So I’ve had bad days where the words don’t flow quite like they should and there are definitely days where I haven’t managed to write much of anything at all, but it’s never been a lingering thing in the form of that towering “Writer’s Block” wall. Doing what you love is hard work and I’ve never once found that it gets any easier by avoiding thought obstacles that inevitably pop up along the way.
 
 
 
It looks like you independently published “It Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time”. What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?
 
Put simply, I have a hate-hate relationship with self-publishing. It’s not something I ever really saw myself doing as I tend to see life as overcoming obstacles and there’s little about the process that I see as anything more than an end-run around the publishing world’s absurd hurdles. It’s like running a marathon and then taking a taxi from mile three to mile twenty-five, expecting the same accolades when you cross the finish line as those who’ve traveled the road of the established process. So that’s my annoyed sense of the disadvantage. There’s a stigma around the whole affair and, while there will always be exceptions, the framework of stigmas exists for a reason. Then again, there’s a fairly sizable advantage as well and one that made me put all my annoyance and irritation into my anthology that was released in August: It takes away the chance of you dying before any of your creations are unleashed on the world, and that was always an odd little fear of mine. So it’s not how I saw things going and to be honest I’m unsure whether or not I’ll self-publish anything again; there might be another anthology but my novels are reserved for the traditional road I will always pursue. That being said, it was a nice experience and for the most part it was undertaken so that all the people who’ve supported me over the years could have a memento of my time here sitting comfortably on their bookshelves. In a way, I couldn’t ask for anything more.
 
 
What is your writing Kryptonite?
 
I have two actually, which would make me the world’s worst version of Superman. It’s basically a two horse race in which both the horses have to be euthanized because they’re rabid and ate a jockey. But I digress. The first is that I will always possess a crippling self-doubt when it comes to my work, to such an extent that (with one exception) I’ve never finished anything without feeling like it’s the worst thing ever committed to printed page by a functioning adult. That may sound like an exaggeration but it’s not. As much as I’m driven by the love of the written word, I’m just as driven by the creeping sense that I’ll never write anything of note and anyone who’s said differently has been lying for the sake of some strange social etiquette I don’t understand. As you can imagine, this makes me a joy at parties. The second piece of Kryptonite is at least functionally more problematic and can be found in the slow but inevitable decline of my memory. It’s frightfully true that, no matter what I write on a given day, I will not remember what it was by the time I sit down again twenty-four hours later. Characters, plots, names, descriptions…they vanish as soon as I close my eyes, and so every day when I sit down at my desk, my process begins with an hour spent re-reading all that I wrote the previous night and hoping I still know where I’m going. It’s scary, in a way. What a terrifying thing to forget the friends I’ve made.
 
 
Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?
 
My work is most prominently displayed on my website www.keywordnovelist.com and that’s where you can find a lot of my short stories and poetry. There’s also a blog, because blogs go with writers about as reliably as pumpkin spice lattes flock to their own comically specific demographic. There’s some good stuff on there and, if all you know of me is the absurdist comedy found in my anthology release, it’ll be sure to raise some eyebrows. I can also be found on Twitter and Instagram under that very same moniker: Keywordnovelist.
 
 
Do you have an excerpt you’d like to share with us?
 
Certainly. This snippet is taken from the story that leads off my catastrophically absurd debut, “It Seemed Like A Good Idea at the Time.” Author’s Note: It only gets weirder from here.
 
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“Hello? Hello? How’s the reception up there?”

Artemartedoxtorix, called Art by his friends, squinted at the blood in the sand as it rolled like the weeping tides of humanity and also heavy cream. It danced with static before it eventually flared to life when the sound of screaming filtered through. Art looked around but no one was really paying attention. He covered his blood screen anyway because he wasn’t the type to make a scene if he could help it. Some jobs you just don’t want to draw attention to yourself while performing and his hallowed position of receptionist was one of those jobs. 

“Art? Is this Art? I was told to call Art,” screamed the voice from the other end of the line.

“What? Well yeah of course it’s me. Is this…” he looked at his sheet of paper. “I’m sorry, I can’t pronounce your name.”

“It’s Dave.”

Art stared blankly at the dancing blood. “I’m sorry, that doesn’t help,” he said. “What does that rhyme with?”

“I don’t know…Cave?” 

“What about Potato?” asked Art. “I know that one.”

“My name doesn’t rhyme with Potato, Art,”

“Ah…” said Art. “Well can I just call you Potato? It’d make this a lot easier.”

For a long moment there was silence on the other end of the line. 

“Can I talk to someone else?”

“I’m afraid not. Everyone else is out on assignment,” said Art. “What’s the problem?”

“Well, I put the kid in the burlap sack but he doesn’t seem to be drowning and now the whole thing is wet,” said Dave, also known as Potato. 

“Do you have the blood already?” asked Art. 

“The what?” he asked.

“The blood. You know you can’t kill him until you have his blood, right?”

“Oh yeah. For sure. Totally,” said Dave. “I was just about to do that.”

“While he’s underwater and suffocating in a sack?”

“Yep. I’m thrifty,” said Dave.

Art looked around the receptionist center and threw a rock at a winged adder. This wasn’t his fault. The project had been passed on to him by someone with a better castle in the aftermath of one of Potato’s many mistakes, at which point his superior decided that temptation and possessions were more his bag. He’d said Art was on track for a promotion if he succeeded, so the receptionist who’d always seen himself as more of a hero type leapt at the opportunity. It was only a matter of time until greatness was his. 

“Look, Potato,” said Art. “We’re in this together so all I need to know is one thing.”

There was silence on the other line. “What?” asked the human.

Art rubbed his temples and winced when he pricked himself on a horn. 

“Can you find a rock?” he asked. “I just threw a rock at a flying adder and that seemed to work.”

“What’s an adder?”

“A snake,” said Art, and for a moment Potato was silent. 

“Wait. There are snakes down there?” he asked finally. “If there are snakes down there I don’t think I can do this.”

Art looked up at the swarms of flying adders that soared through lakes and clouds of fire. 

“Are there what?” he asked, a master of changing topics. 

“Snakes. Are there snakes in hell?”

If a demon could look awkward, Artemartedoxtorix, Demon of the Fourth Degree, definitely looked awkward. 

“What? Oh yeah no, definitely not,” he said. “You misheard me.”

“Well what did you say then?

Art looked around for anything his mind could seize on. 

“Pits of endless despair,” he said finally when his eyes fell on the pool of weeping where acid carved canyons in the faces of the suffering.

“Well hold on now, that actually sounds worse.”

“Look, Potato. Do you want eternal glory or not?”

 
 
 

AuThursday – Eliza Peake

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I write steamy, heartfelt, small town contemporary romance. I like to call it happily ever afters with sexy times, a healthy dose of snark, and all the feels.

I’m also a podcaster, co-hosting The Misfits Guide to Write Indie Romance with Adrienne Bell.

For fun, I read all the panty-melting romances I can get my hands on and drink gallons of coffee. I also love tacos. And the beach.

Currently I live in North Georgia, but I hope to move to the beach in the next few years. 

By day, I work in finance. One of the things I like about being an indie is that I’m able to use my business skills and created a small press that I do all of my book things through. 

How did you come up with the idea for your “Madison Ridge” series? 

Originally, it was going to be set in a small island resort town off the coast of GA. But then I had this idea that ended up being Trouble Me, which was what if a recovering alcoholic is forced to work in a winery? So I moved the setting to the small mountain town I live in that is touristy and has several wineries. It was great fun researching and easy since I’m about a ten minute drive to about a half dozen wineries and tasting rooms. As much as I love the beach I don’t live near it right now, so it made research a little more difficult.  

What are your current projects?

Currently, I’m working on a story that will be part of Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward’s Cocky Hero World as well as a novella for the Madison Ridge series. I’m also getting the process started to have my second book in the Madison Ridge series turned into an audio book. So I’ve got my hands full!

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

Not really for me. I think that your mind can make you believe you don’t have a word to say, making you feel “blocked”. But in my case, that’s usually a symptom of some other issue I’m having. It can be a story issue I can’t see yet or it can be an issue with the story that I don’t want to acknowledge for whatever reason. Once I get past that, I’m good to go. But getting past that is the hard part.

I see you wrote a non-fiction book, “30 Days to the End”.  Do you actually write most of your books in 30 days? 

No, I wish! But I have done several novel length stories in 30 days. The purpose of the book was to offer writers 30 days of inspiration. It can be a long and sometimes tedious road to write a novel in that time-frame. We all need a little cheerleader!

I see you are Indie published, what would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

Advantage: being in control of what you publish, when you publish, how you publish, being able to pivot and keep up with trends while they are happening. Better royalty rates. 

Disadvantages: being responsible for what you publish, when you publish, how you publish, and having to cash flow it yourself.

What is your favorite positive saying? 

To help remind me with time management and priority, I say

“I can make more money, but I can’t make more time.”

So when I’m short on time, I try to prioritize the things that I know will move the needle (such as writing) over items that need to be done (like admin items) but can be done when I have more time.   

But my all-time favorite positive saying that I apply in all places of my life is

“One Day at a Time.”

You can apply it to anything and in reality, it’s really the only thing we have semblance of control of, the present time. If I think of the past, I get depressed and if I think of the future, I get anxious. So I try to stay in the one day at a time. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

Take the time to learn the craft and a process that works for you. You can save yourself a lot of time and frustration if you do that first.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web? 

They can find me at elizapeake.com and on Facebook where I have a page and a reader group, as well as Instagram.

AuThursday – Sadie Torrance

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I have always been a creative type even as a child. I would write to entertain myself. It was my favourite pastime as a child and remained my favourite pastime as an adult. When I started my own family, I shared my love of stories with my children. I would write fantastic tales of magic and adventures and regale my kids with stories designed just for them. At the same time, I would write books to amuse myself. When my kids became adolescents, they discovered Wattpad and suggested I post my work so others could enjoy it. I gave it a go, and it took off. Within a year, I was approached by an editor from Dreame and was signed as a paid author on their site. Again, my work was well-received by readers. Encouraged by this small success, I decided to try publishing and hopefully build a professional writing career.    

How do you make time to write? 

I find it easy to make time because it something I love and am passionate about. Even when the day demands, my attention be focused on family, work, or errands; the writing is always in the back of my mind. When I am genuinely inspired, and on a roll, I will sacrifice sleep to write.  

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I absolutely believe in writer’s block. I have suffered from it many times. It’s frustrating when you sit there and stare at the black page, knowing you should write, but nothing good comes to you. When I’m faced with writer’s block, and I can’t work past it, I turn to other amusements. I have a passion for music almost as much as writing. So, I put on my headphones, crank up the music, and lose myself in the private concert in my head. More often then not, it gets my creativity flowing once more and sparks inspiration, curing my writer’s block. 

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

My chosen genre is Romance/Adventure. I don’t limit myself to one type of romance style. I have written historical romances, contemporary romance, science fiction romance, and even paranormal romance. I like romance because I enjoy the emotion and the banter between the characters. I love throwing in aspects of adventure and plot twists to keep things exciting. I find a story is always more gripping when the reader has no idea what is going to happen next.

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

I chose self-publishing. I had often tried to publish traditionally but found it impossible to get any publisher or literary agents to even speak to me. It was incredibly frustrating and discouraging. Every time I thought about giving up, I told myself, “even Harry Potter was rejected thousands of times before it was published.” Just because someone else couldn’t see my worth didn’t mean I wasn’t a good writer. So, I decided to do it myself. I went online and collaborated with professional freelance editors and formatters, making sure my book was polished and professional. It took some time, but once I had a professional finished product, I uploaded it and put it up for sale.  

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

I am an introvert. I enjoy my own company and the company of family and close friends. I keep my circle small. Since I spend most of my time at home with my husband and children, I have plenty of time to write. I choose the people I interact with carefully. Those I let into my life are all interesting and wacky people. Their life stories and crazy antics often inspire characters and situations in my work. 

What is your favourite motivational phrase? 

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” ―Confucius 

It reminds me that the only way to succeed is never to give up. Setbacks happen. Obstacles present themselves. The only people who reach their goals are the ones that fall, but get up and try again. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

Write for yourself. If you love the story, someone else will love it too. Believe in yourself, because if you don’t, no one else will either.  

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web? 

I have four e-books available on Smashwords.com and AmazonKDP.com.  

https://www.smashwords.com/THE BARBARIAN KING SAGAS (historical romance) 

PROJECT HELLFIRE (contemporary science fiction romance) 

RUTHLESS (contemporary crime romance) 

THE CARIBBEAN’S MOST WANTED (historical romance) 

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

The Barbarian King Sagas: 

“She is not a witch; she never was. She lied to me, and my father paid the price.” He confessed, knowing that Finn would keep his confidence. 

“Oh,” Finn sighed as he finally grasped the gravity of his woe. “Cain, do not dwell on it. I know you wanted to save him; we all did, but Regin was very sick, and he was going to die no matter what you did. He knew that, we all knew that, the only person that had not accepted that was you. Do not hate the girl. She did what she had to do to survive. She is a strong woman and a strong man needs a strong woman behind him.” 

“I cannot excuse her lies.” His father was dead, and it was Zahra’s fault. 

“You threatened to kill her if she were not a witch. What would you have done in her position? 

“I would have fought,” he said with defiance. “And I would have won.” 

Finn snickered, “Well, that is because you are a man, but she is but a small, frail woman.” 

“I will never forgive her.” 

“Forgive her or not unless you throw her overboard you, my dear friend, are stuck with her. The joys of marriage.” Finn laughed and slapped Cain on the back hard. 

He was right. Why his father chose Zahra for his wife, Cain would never understand. What about her made his father believe she would make a good queen? “Throwing her overboard has merit.” He grinned, knowing he would never do it. Zahra’s deception left him fuming, but he did not wish her harm. After all, she had saved his life when the snake had bitten him. She could have let him die and escape, but she had saved his life and stayed even though she had no reason to. He supposed not tossing her overboard was a fine way to make them even. 

“Come now, lad. It is better to kiss and make up. War is fine, but when women are concerned, peace is preferred.” 

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 – Jennifer Wilck

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Jennifer started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. Pretty soon, her head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Even as an adult, she thinks about the characters and stories at night before she falls asleep or walking the dog. Eventually, she started writing them down. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with happily ever after.

In the real world, she’s the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men she knows. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate. 

She writes contemporary romance, many of which feature Jewish characters in non-religious settings (#ownvoices). She’s published with The Wild Rose Press and all her books are available through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I’ve tried writing to an outline and it really doesn’t work for me.  So I do a deep dive into my characters and then I write and see where they take me. I do outline afterwards, though. It helps with editing and making sure the story makes sense.

Do you ever get writer’s Block?

Oh yes! As well as being convinced I’m no good at what I do and will never succeed. Best thing for it is to just keep writing. If I can lose myself in the story, even going back to what I’ve previously written, then I can move on from there.

How did you deal with Rejection Letters if you received any? 

I allow myself to get into a funk for the day. And then I move on and keep writing. This is a subjective business and no one is going to like everything I write. But someone will. Hopefully a lot of someones. And there’s always a good review to make me feel better.

Can you tell us your story of getting “the call” (or e-mail)?

My current publisher, The Wild Rose Press, sent me an email telling me they loved the story I submitted and wanted to publish it. I was so excited, I called everyone I knew. It was a wonderful feeling. And I love working with them. They truly care about all their authors, and super communicative, and always make sure my books are the best they can possibly be.

What are your current projects?

I’m currently working on three stories right now. One I hope to entice an agent with, one I’m self-publishing as part of a multi-author anthology (mine comes out in the fall), and one, well, I’m not sure what I’m doing with it yet. All are contemporary romance. Two feature Jewish characters, one is the first in a four-book series.

How do you relax?

Hanging out with friends and family, mostly.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up, and learn from as many people as you can.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Website: http://www.jenniferwilck.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jennifer-Wilck-201342863240160/

Newsletter: https://www.jenniferwilck.com/contact.html#newsletter

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JWilck

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/authorjenniferwilck/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/jennifer-wilck

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

This is from my upcoming book, Whispers in Washington, that will be published as part of a multi-author anthology, in September.

Naomi wanted to finish, but she was full, and with reluctance, she pushed her plate away. “That was amazing. You can order for me anytime.”

A shard of interest sparked in Max’s eyes and he leaned forward. “Does this mean you’ll go to dinner with me again?”

Her stomach fluttered. Warning lights flickered in her brain, but something else whispered, “’go for it.” She paused. “I will.”

He smiled, his look of satisfaction somehow attractive, instead of arrogant. She liked confident men, and Max oozed confidence. Except Max carried confidence with ease, his broad shoulders emphasizing good posture, rather than a puffed out chest. Whoa, I might have had too much to drink. She looked at the wine bottle. Had she drunk three or four glasses? She couldn’t remember. Her neck was warm and she felt the same glow she felt after drinking. Maybe she should slow down.

What she did know was Max was sexy, and she liked the attraction sparking between them. After such a long time of feeling like a prop, and a duped one at that, it was nice to have a man look at her like she was worth something.

He rose, and she realized he’d paid the bill while she was woolgathering. He held out a hand to her and she took it. His grasp was warm and firm, and her skin prickled beneath his touch. Was this what her daughters felt when they met a new guy? God, it had been ages since she’d done this. Rising, she met his gaze. His brown eyes were attractive—there was depth there, kindness, and interest.  Depending on the light, the color changed from gold to walnut and shades in between. He smelled good, too.

She squeezed his hand, and he kept her palm in his as he led her out of the restaurant. They stood in the doorway, her body only inches away from his, heat zinging between them, as he walked the few blocks to their apartment. He still didn’t let go of her. She concentrated on the tensile strength of his fingers wrapped around hers. 

He didn’t lead her around or pull her in a particular direction. Their hands together joined them. It felt natural. Holding hands with Malcolm always made her feel like a prop. 

She didn’t want to think about Malcolm now, and she shook her head.

“Problem?” Max asked. They’d stopped in front of their building.

She turned so fast, her hair caught on the stubble at his jaw. 

“No,” she said, and brushed the hair away from his cheek. His lips parted and he leaned forward. 

Was he going to kiss her? Did she want him to? She shouldn’t, she barely knew him, but try telling that to her libido. It was practically doing back-flips in its excitement.

He didn’t kiss her. Instead, he reached his free hand out and stroked the side of her head, smoothing her hair in place.

“Yes,” he whispered.

She frowned. “Yes, what?”

“Your hair is as silky as I wondered.”

He let his hand glide down her neck to her shoulder, and the contact brought out goose bumps.

“Are you cold?” he asked.

She didn’t know how to answer. Was it okay for her to say, “no, I’m attracted to you?” Or should she say “yes”?

As if understanding her dilemma, he let go of her hand, slid his arm behind her shoulders, and drew her into the warmth of his body.

The man was a furnace and she wanted to groan in pleasure. They stood toe to toe, his hand running up and down her spine, her breasts pressed against his chest. Would he kiss her? Should she kiss him? This close, she couldn’t think straight. All she could do was focus on the warmth flooding through her, the soothing sound of his humming something she couldn’t quite catch, and the zings of desire running through her body. 

Too soon, Max pulled back, the cool evening air doing little to stop the yearning for the man. Once again, he took her hand, and without speaking, he led her into the elevator, down their hallway to where their front doors met. Her legs were wobbly, and she leaned against the wall. The last thing she wanted to do was fall at this man’s feet.

“I liked getting to know you better,” Max whispered, leaning his free hand against the wall next to her head.

She was boxed in between the wall and Max, in her own little cocoon. He’d said there were limits to how far a reporter should go. For some reason, she felt safe. His eyes were dark—more mahogany than walnut, his forehead touched hers, and his breath was warm and minty. Her mind drifted to when exactly he’d taken a breath mint, and why, and should she. She opened her mouth to tell him how much she’d enjoyed it too, and to ask for a mint, but he didn’t let her utter any words.

Instead—finally—he took her mouth in his and kissed her. 

AuThursday – Amalia Theresa

Playing to Win banner4 less negative space FINAL FINAL violet edit

Please welcome Amalia Theresa to The Clog Blog!  Amalia, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

All my life, I’ve wanted to be a writer. Even as early as second grade, I was getting up for show and tell with tiny little “books” I’d written and illustrated on scratch paper and stapled together to share with three classes of kids, and now I’m the author of nearly two dozen novels/novellas and a handful of short stories spanning the genres of historical fiction, fantasy, and romance, building off my degree in Classical Studies and English, both. 

I was raised extremely Catholic in upstate New York but realized Thor had been knocking on my door for maybe the whole of my life sometime in my early twenties, and after writing a sprawling romantic fantasy series to make sense of it all within the context of how I was raised and what I was supposed to believe, I embraced Norse Paganism/Heathenry, and now I continue to write about what it means to be pagan as I continue a spiritual journey I never expected to take. 

Of course, I also just write fun stuff, too, which is why this year I launched a THIRD pen name, Amalia Theresa, for sexy rom coms that don’t fit under my Amalia Dillin (fantasy) or Amalia Carosella (historical fiction/women’s fiction) brands.

How do you make time to write? 

I’m a full-time author so making time both to read and to write is literally my job and has been since 2009! But I find that making sure I start putting down words FIRST THING when I sit down at my laptop makes a big difference to my productivity for the day. And, it’s taken me a long time to realize it, but making time to refill the well with reading and enjoying other story-telling formats and let myself have fallow periods is just as important as the time I spend writing.

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

As Amalia Theresa, I’m writing sexy rom coms for the sheer JOY and DELIGHT of accompanying these characters on their romantic journeys. I’ve always enjoyed reading romance, and I’ve particularly fallen in love with contemporary rom coms in the last five to seven years or so, so while I was in denial for a while, it really isn’t a surprise to find myself writing a few, myself. They’re just FUN, and I needed a little bit more fun, to remember that writing, for me, is about the fun of discovery and spending time with characters I enjoy as much as it is everything else.

Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?

As Amalia Carosella I took part in the History 360 Team’s A SEA OF SORROW: A NOVEL OF ODYSSEUS, which was a collaborative novel comprised of a novella by each contributing author that when read together form a complete narrative (but said novellas can also be read individually as well!) It was a lot of fun to find my way back to the Bronze Age and an interesting challenge to incorporate the perspectives of a handful of other authors alongside my own! 

I also wrote a goofy, just for fun series on my blog with Mia Hayson, called Thor in Zombie Land—it’s comprised of two adventures, Wheels on the Bus and Aesir Legal, both about the girls Amalia and Mia, who get caught up in a lot of trouble thanks to their thundergod and their zombies respectively. We had a BLAST writing it together! (And periodically talk about writing more, someday.)

Do you ever get writer’s Block?

Not Writer’s Block, no, but periods in which I am tapped out and need to recharge and refill my well creatively, absolutely. There have also been times when writing a particular story was not something I could emotionally take on because it became too real or too resonant to something that I was experiencing or echoed unfortunately somehow in another respect, but I’ve found each time that there were bigger reasons in addition for why I had to break from that project and work on other things instead—that the project was enriched by the time I spent away from it, writing something else because the lessons I learned in writing those other things meant I was better able to do the story I had to put aside justice. 

For example, one book that I had to step away from and came back to YEARS later and feel I did absolutely right by in doing so, was FROM ASGARD, WITH LOVE. If I had not written DAUGHTER OF A THOUSAND YEARS between starting and finishing FROM ASGARD, I could not have written the book it needed to be—and I’m incredibly proud of how it turned out as a result.

I see you have three pen names, Amalia Dillin, Amalia Carosella, and Amalia Theresa, why do you choose to write under a pen name and why three? 🙂 

To be fair, I’m not sure I really chose my second pen name (Amalia Carosella) so much as it was deemed necessary by the industry in order to launch myself in historical fiction after publishing fantasy as Amalia Dillin (I had published with a micro-press and my sales were not Traditional Publishing Impressive). My Carosella books and my Dillin books, though the former are historical fiction and the latter are fantasy are thematically not SO different from one another—I’m asking and answering a lot of the same big questions about what it means to be a human and engage with myth and the divine, I think, under both names. 

That said, my sexy rom coms were such a huge break from what I had previously been writing that I felt like I did definitely need to distinguish them from the rest of my work, and by using the names we shared (Amalia Theresa) I also wanted to honor my great aunt, who said once that if I wanted to be successful as an author, I needed to learn to write the sex!

In my PLAYING TO WIN rom-com series, I think I can confidently say that I have, in fact, learned how to write the sex! *fans self*

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

Publishing is such a tricky business. 

The Short Answer is: Since PLAYING TO WIN, the first book in the series skewed toward the New Adult end of the romance spectrum and the traditional side of the industry has not quite figured out how best to capture that market, especially not at PLAYING TO WIN’s length, I opted to self-pub/indie-pub my PLAYING TO WIN series. 

The Long Answer involves the ghost of my great aunt and some spiritual experiences that felt as though they were telling me to just get the books out into the world because they mattered, but I think it is probably a lot to get into in this kind of interview! Ha. (I am getting weirder and weirder the longer I live this author life.)

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Build time off from writing into your writing discipline/practice. It is JUST as critically important as the time you spend doing the actual writing. Do not fall into the trap of “I should be writing” guilt that sucks all the joy out of any scrap of time you have to enjoy your other hobbies. Yes, show up for your writing time, but make the time you spend NOT writing, refilling the well of your creative self, just as sacred. Burn out isn’t something I’d wish on anyone.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I’m most active on twitter as @AmaliaTd and @AmaliaTheresa, but you can also join me on Patreon https://www.patreon.com/Amaliad and of course my main website/blog www.amaliadillin.com, and on Facebook, too, at https://www.facebook.com/AmaliaDillin 

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

Thanks so much for having me and I’d be THRILLED to share a taste of my third rom-com: From PLAYING HOUSE, releasing today! August 13th!

 

Playing House CURLY VI FINAL FRONT FLAT web“Hey, Mom,” Abe said, pressing his phone to his ear and sliding his cereal bowl back onto the table. He’d settled onto one of the stools at the breakfast bar like he belonged there, watching me fish out silverware and dishes as if he were waiting for the pop quiz on where to find things later. Until his phone had started buzzing, anyway.

Now his eyes had locked on mine from across the room, narrowing slightly. “Sel called you?”

I grinned. It had been simple, really. Shoot a couple texts to Sully talking about how spooky the house was at night. How I’d scared myself awake because of some stupid shadow on the ceiling, woken myself up screaming the night before and it had taken me hours to get back to sleep, knowing I was alone, thinking about how if anything happened to me if someone tried to break-in, we were too far from any neighbors for anyone to hear my scream.

Of course, Sully wouldn’t be able to resist. He called Will his fixer, but Sully had the same impulse. Always wanting to help. Ready to lend a hand or do a favor for the people he loved, whether they wanted him intruding or not. Pair my (totally real, for the record) nightmare with what Sully would of course know about his brother’s ambivalence in returning home, and it was a no brainer. He’d call his mom, tell her I needed some extra support and oh, by the way, since Abe was in town maybe he could offer it, and then Dr. O’Sullivan would connect that with what I’d told her over Abe’s phone the night before—and here we were. Abraham O’Sullivan on the phone with his mother, staring at me with something like awe.

“Yeah, we didn’t really talk about it, but I can see that. She was pretty jumpy about keeping the lights on,” he said, then paused, listening for another span. “No, I don’t have any solid plans. But you can’t really think Midge is going to want me hanging around, imposing myself…”

He trailed off, listening again. “Yeah.” He shook his head, his eyes bright with amusement now. “I mean, I can only offer. It’s up to her to say yes.” Silence again. “All right,” he said, pretending doubt. “I’ll leave that up to you, then.” Quiet again. “Love you, too, Mom.” Pause. “Bye.”

“Well?” I asked.

“Should I be afraid of you, Violet?” he asked, his lips twitching. “Because I’m starting to wonder.”

I laughed. “If you needed to be afraid of me the question of whether you should be would never have crossed your mind. Didn’t we go over this last night?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said. “Don’t let the people you’re trying to dupe cotton on to the fact that you’re duping them. But you also said Sully knows what you’re capable of, and from where I’m sitting, you just worked him and my mom like puppets on strings.”

“Then I guess you’re just going to have to take your chances,” I said, lifting a shoulder. “But either way, a bet is a bet, and I own you for the next two weeks.”

“Not quite, Midgelet. You’ve still got another call from my mother to field,” he said. “Without giving away the game.”

“Pfft.” I waved that away. Dr. O’Sullivan may have been a psychologist but getting her to come up with the plan of having Abe stay was ninety percent of the battle on this one. And even if she thought I might be manipulating her, as long as she didn’t realize it was Abe who was looking for an excuse not to go home, I was still in the clear. “Child’s play.”

“Wouldn’t want you to get cocky, there, Champ,” Abe said, laughing. “Are you sure you’re not some kind of psychopath?”

“Nah,” I said. “I definitely care about people’s feelings. But working in the restaurant business, you really hone your people skills. Learn how to work them so they leave happy, even if their meal or their service wasn’t perfect. Will’s pretty good at it too, when he wants to be, and if you’d ever seen my Gramps in the dining room…” I kissed my fingers and raised them in salute to the genius that was my grandfather’s talent. “The man could have sold fur coats to sunbathers on the hottest day of the year. That Fowler charm was legendary.”

“Seems like you’re not so far behind him,” Abe said. “Little Miss Snake Oil Saleswoman.”

“Are you calling me a conman again, Abraham?” I asked. “Because once again, I must remind you that I’m doing all this for your benefit.”

He shook his head. “I don’t believe that for a second, Midgelet. If I were a betting man—” (Which clearly he was.) “—I’d put money on the fact that you really are getting jumpy alone at night in this house. Did you have some shitty customer give you a hard time after your parents left or something?”

I flushed, spinning on my heel and opening the fridge as if I were looking for something more to eat while my stomach twisted in memory. It was kind of inevitable. There was always one asshole who took doing my job as an invitation of a more personal nature. And once in a very great while, even after I had them thrown out, they might linger in the parking lot around closing. But that could happen to anyone, in any service industry. In any industry at all, really, where you worked with other human beings. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t dealt with before—and I certainly wasn’t going to admit that coming home to an empty house with my skin crawling from a close encounter had turned my resting state of anxiety up a notch. I didn’t really need Will worrying about any of that. He’d probably try to come home if he found out.

“Hey,” Abe said, and suddenly he was behind me, his hand covering mine on the refrigerator door. Closing it and urging me back around. “You know we’ve all got your back, right? If some asshole is creeping on you, just point me in the dude’s direction and it’s done. He won’t even so much as look at you again without his balls trying to climb back up inside his body.”

I made myself laugh. “It’s not anything I can’t handle.”

He ducked his head, catching my eyes. “I’m not questioning your ability to handle it, Midgelet. But if you want a little back-up, there’s no shame in asking for it. Or using me for the purpose while I’m already houseboying, for that matter. If I’m going to be running errands and providing maid service, why not add bodyguard to the mix?”

“I don’t need a bodyguard,” I said firmly, stiffening. “I don’t need help or support, but it would sure be nice if people stopped acting like I can’t handle myself or the problems that come with running a restaurant when I’ve literally been training for it my whole life.”

“All right.” He backed off, holding his hands up. “You don’t need help or support; you’ve got this all by your onesie. I’m sure that’s all true—but it doesn’t mean that a little help or support wouldn’t make it easier. That having a team doesn’t still help, even if you can skate circles around the rest of us.”

I shook my head. “The minute I even so much as think I need help, you know how it’s going to be. My parents and Will all worrying about me, feeling guilty for leaving and immediately making plans to come back. I have to do this, and right now I have to do it alone.”

“Well, if you ask me, that’s bullshit,” he said and when I straightened, opening my mouth to argue, he hurried on. “Bullshit of them to make you feel like you don’t have any other choice but to do it all by yourself, without any kind of support, because otherwise they’ll think you can’t. Everyone needs a hand once in a while, even when they’re pros.”

“So why are you so pissed about having to accept some help of your own?” I asked. “You’re doing everything you can to drag out moving back home.”

“I haven’t turned you down, have I?” he asked. “I’m accepting your offer to stay here instead. At least for a couple of weeks. You help me, I help you—I don’t see what the problem is.”

I didn’t really know, either. Why shouldn’t I accept Abe’s help? It wasn’t like he was going to run home to his mother and spill all my secrets. Clearly they didn’t have that kind of relationship. And even if he did, Dr. O’Sullivan wasn’t going to break his confidence. That wasn’t how she operated, and she’d understand that I wanted to do this without giving my family reason to doubt.

It was just that he was Abe. I didn’t want to get used to having him around. And telling him he could stay here—that had already been a lapse in judgment. As good as he looked, and as ridiculously kind as he’d been (this Midgelet nonsense aside), I was basically asking for heartbreak.

“No one ever finds out,” I said despite myself. “Not that you’re trying to avoid moving back in with your parents, and not that I was nervous about being alone because of one asshole at Fowler’s. The story is that I’m just a little afraid of the dark, and you just happen to have nothing better to do with your time.”

“Suits me just fine,” he said. “Whatever you need to feel safe the next two weeks, I’ve got you.”

“How do you feel about dropping in every evening for a beer or whatever, and then walking me out?” I asked. “That and knowing you’re in the house at night should be all I really need. I don’t think anyone is going to be loitering around the parking lot if they know you’re with me.”

“With you or with you?” he asked.

I shook my head. “No fake relationships. That never ends well for anyone.”

Abe laughed. “All right. Just physically nearby. I can do that.”

“In addition to being my house and errand boy,” I said. “A deal is a deal, after all.”

He grinned down at me, so beautiful I practically melted into the floor. “Assuming you don’t still manage to tip off my mother, of course.”

But I think we both knew that on that score, I’d already won.

Playing House #bookqw wait

 

AuThursday – Marie Johnston

Please welcome my fellow North Dakotan and Romance Writer, Marie Johnston, to The Clog Blog!  Marie, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I started out as a science geek, and I guess I’m still one. I left full-time lab work ten years ago when we had our third kid (we now have four), worked for almost five years part-time, and then wrote full-time in the last few years. But COVID has drawn me back to the lab and I’m really enjoying it. Now that my kids are older, I’m determined to juggle both my writing gig and my med tech career. It won’t be easy, but I’m too social to work at home during another North Dakota winter. 

What are your current projects?

I’m usually working on more than one book at a time. I have a paranormal romance that releases in July that I’m finishing edits on. It’s the last one planned in that series, which spawned from my first series ever. I’m in the middle of writing a contemporary romance that will be published by K. Bromberg in her Everyday Heroes World in December. It’s been a bit harder (a whole lot harder) to find the time to write while I’m working. I miss those long stretches where I can really sink into the story.  

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?

I’m fortunate to be a versatile writer. If needed, I’ll write on anything, anywhere. I prefer to sit for long, uninterrupted stretches, usually before noon. Some of my best writing has been done while waiting in the car with my computer propped on the steering wheel outside of one of my kids’ practices. No one’s called the cops on me yet for sitting in a dark, almost empty, parking lot of a school for over an hour. 

When I don’t have my computer or space is limited, I’ll type out an email to myself on the phone. If I’m really time-crunched, I’ll dictate, but I don’t prefer it. I like physically typing. If I only have a pen and paper, then I’ll plot even though I’m typically a linear pantser. I like to write from beginning to end and let the story unfold, which works better for me since I don’t care for the editing stages, which I have a lot of if I jump around to write different scenes and then seam them all together. 

You’ve written over forty books, where do your ideas come from?

Anywhere and everywhere. I’ll hear a song, a phrase, anything that evokes emotion and puts a scene in my head. From there, I’ll ask questions and more of the story will be revealed. Sometimes, all I have is that scene or idea and I’ve incorporated those in my stories. One of them was the idea of the heroine sitting in a coffee shop, eavesdropping from a booth on a lovey-dovey couple who are ordering. When they leave, the barista makes a comment to her about how she loves seeing a guy dote on his girlfriend like that. The heroine thinks to herself She isn’t his girlfriend. I am. I used that as an opening scene. I even paired it with a what-if idea I had. What if the scorned heroine had to move out of her place and one of the guys helping her move is the new love interest? That became the second scene and I felt like I got two hooks for one. 

Thankfully, I don’t lack in ideas. Just the time to write them all. 

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

I’ve always been indie. I started that way because I needed a shot at an income now and not maybe years from now. Little did I know how fickle both routes can be. Shortly after I started, I wrote a couple of manuscripts and pitched agents and nothing came of it. I self-published those books and I love the flexibility of that route. I can change prices and covers and blurbs within minutes, or days depending on the retailer. I’m changing a three-book series I have—new covers, new blurbs, new titles, and I’m even switching a series from 3rd person POV to 1st person POV. 

This year, I’ll be writing two books in other authors’ worlds. I have one releasing in September in the Cocky Heroes World and one in December in K. Bromberg’s Everyday Heroes World. It’s not quite like traditional publishing. I used my own editors and my own cover artist, but they publish it under their brand. Their audiences are huge so I’m hopeful I’ll find new readers. It’s been a good experience, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. I’d rather put that effort into the worlds I built. (Unless they sell like kettle corn and make a lot of money. Then I’ll totally do more!)

I wouldn’t mind being hybrid but I think I’d try that again with a non-romance book. I have too many romance books I want to get out in the next year and a half, so I’ve tabled those plans for a while. 

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

I mentioned the flexibility with pricing and advertising, but I think the speed is a huge benefit. I’m a fast writer and I’ve built up a sizeable backlist. While I’m working heavier hours at the lab, I can ease off the keyboard a little and play with what I have. I can repackage different boxsets, run them for a limited time, and take them down. I can change covers and do special edition sales. For me, the biggest benefit is that if I’m not earning royalties, I can do something about it.  

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

I love any review I can get. Somehow, my book resonated enough with someone for them to go through the time and effort of a review. As long as the book’s average stays above 4.0, I don’t worry about it. But I never read them. They are by the readers, for the readers, and even the good reviews stifle my muse. The bad ones echo in my head for months. Some authors read reviews and gather information about how to improve their writing, but it’s not good for me and I leave it at that.  

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

There’s so much, but the best advice I got was Just Write. Even after 45 books, it still comes down to that. It’s what I have the most control over. It’s what drives my business. Just write.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Website mariejohnstonwriter.com/

Twitter twitter.com/mjohnstonwriter

Facebook facebook.com/mjohnstonwriter/

Instagram Instagram.com/mariejohnstonwriter

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/11248716.Marie_Johnston?from_search=true

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

This is from my upcoming release A Shifter’s Salvation. It (was released)… on July 20th. Enjoy!

A lumpy bundle in the ditch captured her attention. Patience was past it before she braked. Frowning, she peered in the rearview mirror and waited for the dust cloud to settle. 

Still there. 

What was it? Too large to be a dog. Maybe a bear? A garbage bag? It wouldn’t be the first time some idiot tried getting rid of their trash on the side of a rural road. 

Squinting, she couldn’t make out what it was, but she swore part of the blue appeared to be denim material. 

No. It couldn’t be a person. 

Looking around, she couldn’t see a motorcycle or anything that suggested an automobile wreckage of any sort. 

She ran her tongue along her teeth. Good thing she fueled up. Someone had to check this lump out.

She stepped out of her car and blinked in the sunlight. It was a cool day, typical for late spring. Dirty snow was still piled in the ditches, but it’d been a mild winter, and whatever the bundle was hadn’t landed in more than dried grasses. 

“Hello?” She inched closer to the edge of the road. If it was garbage, please be old rags. Something that didn’t ooze. Picking up other people’s trash was full of icky surprises.

The lump didn’t move. 

“Garbage dumpers,” she muttered and crept closer. A mop of rich brown hair caught her gaze. 

The pile wasn’t small. And it had hair. 

Her heart rate kicked up. A person. But there was no vehicle around. Was he dumped?

She knew it was a he because of the size. Not that women couldn’t be that big. But this was definitely a guy. Because the more she studied him, the better able she could make out that he was on his side and had incredibly broad shoulders. 

“Excuse me?” she said, sounding more timid than she cared to.

No movement.

“Sir?” She took a step closer. 

No response. 

She closed the distance between them and stood over him. His shoulders moved in time with his steady breathing. Good, he was alive at least. Before she could wonder about her personal safety, she crouched as far away as possible but close enough to reach out and nudge one heavily muscled arm. “Hey?”

Nothing. 

Circling him, she had a dying need to know what he looked like. If she was getting taken down by a stranger, she wanted to see his face. 

Admittedly, this stranger didn’t seem like he’d attack anyone any time soon. 

A leather coat flap obscured his face. Since he was breathing, she pushed him to his back. A normal person would call an ambulance, but there was no way she’d risk that. With her luck, Damian would be on duty, and she couldn’t risk running across him. The restraining order had expired and he hadn’t bothered her—yet. 

The man groaned as he settled on his back. 

Her lips parted. He was a mess. But he was a hot mess. Bits of grass mixed with rich brown strands. A neatly trimmed beard framed his chiseled face. Everything about him screamed strength and power. Quite a feat for an unconscious man. She didn’t have to move his jacket and shirt around to know that he had a great body. 

But she had no wish to touch his shirt. Blood was spattered across it. She couldn’t see any open wounds. Not his blood? Her gaze swept his long body. No major injuries other than bloody knuckles. 

Her jaw tightened. He was in a fight before he ended up here. Self-defense? Or was he a mean bastard? 

“What’s your story?”