AuThursday – Brenda Billings Ridgley

Tour Banner_Lady and the Tribe copyTell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a Colorado girl who spent a decade in corporate America as a human resources manager and then decades more as an entrepreneur with businesses ranging from brick-and-mortar retail to consulting and direct sales. I am an avid networker and connector.

How do you make time to write? 

I set a small daily goal that I can keep up with on a consistent basis. I don’t always get the daily goal done but it kept me on track enough to make up for it within each week. Don’t we all wish we could make more time? I made writing a priority and had to re-negotiate some other things.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I believe that it exists for writers when they are finding themselves less passionate about their work. I have yet to experience it but I am too superstitious to say that it doesn’t exist!

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

For much of my adult life I have been drawn to books that help be grow whether that be in business acumen, spirituality, learning something new or just be happier. I wrote Lady and the Tribe for women so they could rediscover themselves like I did through empowering friendships. I love this genre because I believe we should all choose to be life-long learners.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

I chose to self-publish Lady and the Tribe because I feel the information is timely, our disconnected world needs to remember that our relationships are really what bring joy and meaning to our lives. I didn’t want to wait years for a publisher to pick it up and make it their own.

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

I am an extraverted introvert. A friend told me she calls it an Ambivert. I love to get in front of people, even on stage and present, share, interact… but after I need to go into my little she-shed and re-fill my energy stores. Many are surprised when I tell them I am really an introvert.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

I have two:

Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right. ~ Henry Ford 

“You’ve always had the power my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.” ~ Glinda, Wizard of Oz

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t wait for the perfect time to get started because it may never come! Write about things that interest and excite you and you will never be at a loss for words.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

My website is BrendaRidgley.com and on social media you can find me @BrendaRidgley

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

Book Cover_Lady and the TribeQuest for Wholeness

We all want to be whole. At some point in time, we may find ourselves asking the universe, “What is the meaning of life? What is my purpose? Why do I feel like something is missing?” I found myself asking these questions the year my son was a senior in high school and began planning for college. He had decided to go to a performing arts school in New York, far away from our home in Colorado. I was experiencing some inner turmoil as I realized my life, as I had come to know it, was about to undergo an unwelcome transformation. 

As many mothers do, I had spent the last 18 years focusing on my family and much of my identity revolved around that role. What purpose did I have beyond raising good kids? Oh, how I would miss my son . . . and then I would soon be losing my daughter too. Things were never going to be the same again. Our family of four, my world, was a ticking time bomb soon to implode. I struggled to hang on to every possible MOM-ent that school year.

I felt an unexplainable emptiness creep up on me. My life was great, but something was missing. I wasn’t motivated to do anything beyond clinging to the upcoming “lasts” of a child becoming a young man. I longed for a new goal, purpose, or intention to get excited about, but I was not finding the inspiration. In an attempt to find my way, I wrote this letter to the universe. 

Dear Universe,

I have heard the analogy that our energy stream is like a river; we should work with the current, rather than paddle upstream. We can be or do or have anything we want, believe, and allow. Everything we want is downstream. All we need to do is turn our boat around and paddle with the current, our inspired action, or let the oars go altogether and let the momentum take us to our best life. 

I sometimes feel like I turned the boat around and drifted into a large lake with little current, or my boat was dropped in the middle of the ocean, and I’m lost at sea. The only way out is to paddle. But, I don’t feel the inspirational current, and I don’t see the destination clearly. 

My question to the Universe is: “How long do I hang out in this boat adrift being content but not satisfied?” I love the peace I have found, but I am hungry for inspiration and passion to drive me into motivated action. “When will I hit the rapids again and find the current that makes the journey seem effortless and exciting?” I feel incomplete without a burning desire. 

There it is, Universe. “What do I do next?” I am so grateful for all of the blessings in my life. I have many. Life is beautiful. I want back in the game of contribution and creation . . . eagerness and excitement . . . joyfully making a difference. “Isn’t it okay to want it all?”

All my love,

Brenda

My letter was not immediately answered. It took some time, but months later, I did find my way out of this funk. Pick up a copy of Lady and the Tribe, How to Create Empowering Friendship Circles to learn what happened next.

Thank you Clog Blog for this great interview and opportunity!

author photoAUTHOR Bio and Links:

BRENDA RIDGLEY is an author, speaker, and girlfriend guru who loves helping women connect, find success, and discover joy through friendship.  Her mission is to start a movement: women coming together to build thousands of new Lady Tribes around the globe.  Through her workshops, vlogs, blogs, and book clubs, Brenda helps women connect and communicate with respect, love, and trust. She holds an MA in human resources and has spent decades cultivating her own Tribe.  A Colorado girl at heart, Brenda lives in the Carbon Valley area with her husband, Parker, two kids, Parker Jr. and Gillian, and pooch, Perry.  She enjoys hiking and has conquered Longs Peak and several other 14’ers.  

To connect with Brenda, visit her website at www.BrendaRidgley.com

Invite Brenda to speak at your next event: mailto:brenda@brendaridgley.com.

Order:  Lady and the Tribe  –  https://www.amazon.com/Lady-Tribe-Empowering-Friendship-Circles/dp/1737289709

Subscribe:

YouTube: @BrendaRidgley

Podcast: @TheConnectionConnoisseur   – https://www.podserve.fm/series/website/the-connection-connoisseur,3341/

Blog:  https://www.brendaridgley.com/blog

Follow:

Instagram: @BrendaRidgley —  https://www.instagram.com/brendaridgley/

Facebook: @BrendaRidgleyConnections – https://www.facebook.com/brendaridgleyconnections

Twitter: @BrendaRidgley

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE

Brenda Billings Ridgley will be awarding a Cape Diablo wrap bracelet and a $25 Amazon Gift Card (US ONLY) to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/28e4345f3929/

Author Interview – Kelly Pawlik

TourBanner_Yesterday's Gone

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a mother of three, a mediocre gardener, and an avid RPG player. I live on Vancouver Island, BC with my husband, our three inquisitive children, and two lazy cats.

In addition to writing the Olympic Vista Chronicles novellas, I am a tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG) writer and have released multiple RPG supplements with my husband under our micro-publishing company, Dire Rugrat Publishing. I’ve also contributed to several best-selling works with Kobold Press.

How do you make time to write? 

It can be tricky at times for sure! I often set a timer, carving out twenty minutes here or there. If I’m on a roll with it, I might write longer.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

Yes, and no. I think there can be a bit of a hurdle, but I think sometimes you just have to push through it. Or write something else! Sometimes, when I’m not feeling as inspired with the novellas, I work on short stories. They can be a fun change of pace and a good way to work around writer’s block. 

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

I write YA sci-fi and YA horror. I’m not even sure how I stumbled into it, but I had this story and I started writing it. I love YA. I devoured YA books when I was younger, and at some point, I’m not sure when, I stopped reading YA. And then I hit a reading slump. I picked up some YA books again and it was like finding an old friend. I hope when people pick up my books, they get the same feeling. 

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

I published the books myself. Some people look down on self-published books, but many indie book authors hire professional editors and proofreaders. I did for these books. An upside to self-publishing is retaining more control over the books. Also, Yesterday’s Gone is the first book in a series of novellas and I feel novellas are more difficult to have traditionally published. I have a vision for the series that wouldn’t fit as well with a traditional publisher. 

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

Absolutely an introvert! I’m not sure how much it affects what I write, but it certainly affects my ability to promote the book. Being self-published means I do the marketing and promotion myself, and that isn’t as easy when you’re an introvert. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

“The goal is not to live life perfectly, but to live it completely.”

My philosophy teacher in college said that in one of our classes and it really stuck with me. Sometimes, when I’m paralyzed with a fear of failure, I remember that quote and I push forward. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Just do it. Write. Read. Edit. Practice. 

Read books in your genre, read books outside your genre, read books on writing. 

And just write.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

You can find my website here: http://olympicvistapublishing.com/

But you can also join me on Facebook and Instagram

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

BookCover_YesterdaysGoneLaughter and playful screams echoed across the lake. The light sparkled on the water as Adelaide floated on her back and kicked her feet gently back and forth. She closed her eyes and turned her face up toward the sun. The air was still. Combined with the clear sky and warm sun, it was the perfect summer day, which was a rare feat for Olympic Vista.

She needed to be here today. Rico, her mother’s latest boyfriend, was over. Adelaide hated being around Rico. She sighed in contentment as she stretched her limbs like a starfish and basked atop the water. 

Her eyes snapped open as something wrapped around her ankle. Adelaide tried to kick her leg free, but whatever it was held fast. She opened her mouth to call out, but only took in a mouthful of water as she was pulled below the surface. 

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

kellyKelly Pawlik dabbled with story writing from a young age. She spent her childhood reading, dressing her beloved cat, Midnight, up in doll clothes and hunting garter snakes in the backyard. Her childhood dream was to be a writer and she is proud to have made her fiction debut with the Olympic Vista Chronicles novellas.

Kelly is a tabletop roleplaying game (TTRPG) writer and has released multiple RPG supplements with her husband under their micro-publishing company, Dire Rugrat Publishing. She has also contributed to several best-selling works with Kobold Press.

Kelly lives on Vancouver Island, BC with her husband, their three inquisitive children, and two lazy cats.

Yesterday’s Gone is available on Amazon.com

Songs from the Wood, book two in the Olympic Vista Chronicles series, will be available on Amazon in September 2021. 

You can follow Kelly on:

Facebook: kellypawlikauthor

Instagram: kellypawlikauthor

Twitter: @KellyPawlik84
Or visit her website at olympicvistapublishing.com

FREE SHORT STORY: Sign up to receive Kelly’s newsletter and get access to sneak peeks of upcoming novellas, behind the scenes information and other exclusive content. PLUS, you’ll get “Snow Day,” a short story set in the Olympic Vista Chronicles universe, right away!   Sign up now.

The book will be on sale for $0.99.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE:

Kelly Pawlik will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.
Enter to win a $25 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

AuThursday – KP Loundy

Tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

I am a mom to two awesome little girls. I did not graduate college, as I really loved my job in the restaurant industry. I have been writing since I was in grade school, and had won a few writing contests, but always felt it was more of a hobby than a career. I finally took a chance to put my writing out there for the world and it was extremely liberating! I am now trying to fully commit to seeing if I can make turn my love of writing into my dream job. 

How do you make time to write? 

I write during bath time! The kids are happy and no one can grab my glass of wine. Other than that it’s just stealing time where I can. 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

1000% 

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

I just published my first book a picture book, and am working on publishing a collection of fairy tale graphic novels. I am also working on a YA fairy tale. Fairy tales/fantasy are my jam, as that is what made me fall in love with reading as a child, though eventually I would love to write a good who-dun-it mystery. 

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

Self publishing! I didn’t have the patience for traditional publishing. 

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

I am an introverted extrovert. I like the idea of socializing and being the “life of the party”, but really deep in my soul I want seclusion and sweat pants. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is today. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

If you love your writing someone else will too. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web? 

My website! www.KPPages.com 

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

One monster was plenty! This many were scary.

The monsters as well seemed especially wary.

The silence was so loud you could hear a dropped pin, the quiet dragged on with no sight of an end.

They both were afraid what the other may do, so they stayed still until someone sneezed, ACHOO!

One monster giggled and another guffawed, all their cold feelings were thoroughly thawed. 

AuThursday – Floor Kist

TourBanner_Can Machines Bring Peace gifPlease welcome Floor Kist to the Clog Blog! 

Hi Tina, thank you so much for this interview and for taking the time off of your own writing. I’m really impressed by the diversity of worlds in your novels.

Floor, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Well, I live in a town called Voorburg in the Netherlands. It’s near The Hague. Wife, two kids, two cats and a dog named Monty. And I’ve always been involved in public service. At the moment, I’m an alderman in my town. That’s a member of the city executive council, along with the mayor and three other aldermen.

I think I surprised a lot of people when I wrote and published a science fiction novel.

How do you make time to write?

Planning! Just like for the most of us, I can spend time on a lot of different things. So, just making an appointment with yourself to write can really be help. And is really a wonderful gift to yourself.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I can relate to the moments that I don’t know if the story works or how it continues. I know I can get distracted by all the other things happening in my life. And I’m especially susceptible to wanting to start all the other books I want to write.

So, for me, real writer’s block is the one when I don’t know what to do next in the story. And when that happens, I take a good look at my characters and what motivates them. Because if one of my characters wants something badly enough, they will start moving to get there. Well motivated characters will always keep the story going.

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

For some reason I prefer science fiction over fantasy. Both genres allow you to imagine wonderful worlds, but I guess I like the believable world that may actually happen, intrigues me most.

Jules Verne wrote a story about traveling to the moon, and one hundred years later we did. He wrote a story about an electric submarine, and twenty years later it was built. Isaac Asimov, at an auto show in the 60s, predicted the robocar, and now we are actually building them.

This is why I like science fiction.

How are you publishing your recent book and why? 

My novel is self-published. But that wasn’t my first choice. I had found three publishing houses where I believed my novel would fit. And I’d done my homework on what my audience would be like, so we could target them better. And it also seems that the best time to launch science fiction books is before the summer.

None of them replied. Not even a ‘thank you for your interest’ or ‘thank you, but no thank you’. Nothing, nada, niente.

I can even understand why: because there are about one hundred thousand books being published in the USA alone.

And the idea of spending a year and a half trying to reach a publisher and not hear anything back didn’t sound that appealing. So, I found my way to the Amazon self-publishing service.

Are you an Introvert or Extrovert?

A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I’m an introvert. And one of the most difficult things I’ve had to learn is to go ‘out there’ – even when everything inside me said ‘just stay home, it’s nice and warm here’.

I didn’t mean to overcome being an introvert, because I didn’t like being one. It’s just the way you are. But I did want to experience more than just staying home.

How does this affect your work?

Local politics is probably not where you go to meet introverts. As an introvert, I’m comfortable being me. So, a lot of criticism I get doesn’t affect my self-worth. And being an introvert also helps me talk to everyone in an open and honest way.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

“Even the longest journey starts with the first step.”

I love this phrase. It kept me motivated when I started writing. It kept me motivated when I was trying to make a serious career switch.

It says that no matter how far you want to go in your life, you need the courage or the ambition or the passion to take that first step in what will undoubtedly be a wonderful journey.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Finish your book! Once you start writing nothing else matters. Plan to write, even if it’s just half an hour a day.

Don’t worry about if anyone will like it, or if it’s any good, because that only counts once the book is finished. Don’t worry about how to publish your book; it can only be published once it’s done.

And please don’t fuss about typos. There is no universe in which there will not be typos in the final edition of your novel.

And when your work is done and you don’t think it’s any good or even if others don’t think it’s any good, there is the sheer reward of making something out of nothing, of creating something that wasn’t there before. And no one can ever take that away from you.

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

Cover_Can Machines Bring PeaceCan Machines Bring Peace?

by Floor Kist

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GENRE: Science Fiction

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

BLURB:

Can a machine bring peace? Or are humans built for war?

450 years after Earth was bombed back to the Stone Age, a young diplomat searches for lost human settlements. Kazimir Sakhalinsk narrowly escapes an exploration mission gone wrong and searches for ways to make future missions safer for his people. A festival introduces him to the Marvelous Thinking Machine.

A machine Kazimir believes can change everything

For his admiral it’s nothing more than a silly fairground gimmick. But Kazimir is convinced. Convinced enough to go against orders and build one of his own. Convinced enough to think he can bring peace. Convinced enough to think humanity is worth saving. What if he’s wrong?

He asks his hikikomori sister, a retired professor filling her empty days, the owner of the festival machine and the admiral’s daughter for help. Will that be enough?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTE: The book is $0.99.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Excerpt :

Kazimir hears the beep-beep response to his beacon. The plane is overhead! His breath shortens as he peers through the night. Standard protocol states the plane will land at a safe landing zone within a kilometer radius of ground zero. If Kazimir can find the right direction, he may actually have a chance. There! The shape of the plane against a clouded moon is a beautiful sight. He is afraid to smile, but can’t help himself.

He follows it, stumbling over the thick roots of the trees. Quickly, he looks up.

There she is again. No. ‘That’s… that’s… black flag.’ That means the others are dead.

Standing against the tree, he retches. Cold sweat forms on his forehead and his back. He shouldn’t have left the settlement. He could have saved them. No. He would be dead too. Kazimir gags and coughs. He spits out the sour taste, and wipes his chin. ‘Yuck.’

He looks up, trying to control his breath. The twin rudders and the nose turret machine gun nozzle give the Ki-2 light bomber away. Kazimir has only seen it in the hangar of the Ryūjō. He remembers the pilot telling him about the 500-kilogram maximum bomb load. All headed towards the settlement.

The ground trembles with the explosion. Kazimir sees the red and yellow clouds grow against the dark sky. Seconds later, he hears the wheezing sound of the dropping bombs, followed by the roar of a thousand dragons. Sound travels at three hundred meters per second, so he must be about 300 meters away.

The hot blast wave that follows knocks him down. He hits his head on the root of the tree. ‘Stupid tree.’ He feels a sharp pain. Warm blood dribbles into his hair. Its metallic scent reaches his nose.

Sounds of the explosion die down.

Author Image Floor_KistAUTHOR Bio and Links:

Floor Kist lives in a Dutch town called Voorburg with his wife, two sons, two cats and their dog Monty. He is currently deputy-mayor for the Green Party and an AI researcher. He’s concerned about current divisive public and political debates. But he’s also interested in how AI can be used to resolve society’s big issues.

This is his first novel. He’s been carrying the idea about a story about AI bringing peace for a long time. The Covid-19 lockdown in the Netherlands suddenly gave him time to actually write it.

Link to website:

www.floorkist.nl/author

Link to ebook:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08XK42BMP

Link to paperback:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/151368115X

Blog:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/21225715.Floor_Kist/blog

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

GIVEAWAY INFORMATION and RAFFLECOPTER CODE

Floor Kist will be awarding a $30 Amazon/BN GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

RAFFLECOPTER:

Enter to win a $30 Amazon/BN GC – a Rafflecopter giveaway

AuThursday – Tina Holland (yeah, it’s me)

So I wasn’t able to squeeze in a fellow author, today, so I thought I’d interview myself ahead of Valley Con which begins tomorrow in Fargo, ND. 

How do I make time to write? 

I’m pretty lucky – I’m almost a full-time writer, meaning it’s my day job.   I get up in the morning, eat breakfast and head to write.  I have an office in our guest-room where I write, blog, e-mail, go on Zoom Calls, Stream on Streamyard and craft on Saturdays.   I leave the office between 4 and 5 weekdays.   That’s not to say I don’t sneak writing in at other times, cuz I do.   I don’t write full-time June-August when I’m helping my husband with his crop-dusting business.  I take it easy the month of December because I’ve usually finished NaNoWriMo and also the publishing industry as a whole seems to be taking a break. 

Do I believe in Writer’s Block? 

Yes, but not in the sense there is this great muse that won’t give me words.  I think writer’s block is a manifestation of stress in your personal life or an indication there’s a problem with the story that needs to be fixed.   When I have too much going on, I will cut back on my word count goal for the week and manage self-care along with refilling my creative well.  I find small breaks are helpful in maintaining momentum.  If I step away from a project for more than a week, I have a very hard time getting back into story. So, I find if I at least open the page and stare at it or edit or write a few lines, I don’t lose my place, but I try not to pressure myself to write. 

How am I publishing my recent book and why?

alchemistsofarchangelCurrently my back-list and my most recent work, “Alchemists of Archangel” are published with Book Boutiques.  They are a small distributor that takes care of the copy-editing/line editing, provides a cover, does the formatting and distributes my book on digital platforms.    This removes a lot of components about self-publishing that scare me.   While they don’t do developmental editing, that was unnecessary when I released my back-list as those books were already edited.   I found editors for my two recent novels in the “Archangel Revolution” series to help fix issues with them so the editing was already completed.  

My current manuscript – “The Widow Spy” (this poor ms. has gone through about ten title changes), is being shopped around.  I’m hoping to get in traditionally published but I fear it may be too short for NY and will happily settle for a larger digital press.   I like small presses, but I really want more exposure.  I may Self-Publish it if I have a hard time finding a home, but I still have concerns about doing Indie publishing correctly. 

 

What is my favorite motivational phrase? 

“Just Do It!” 

It’s so cliche’ but when it comes to writing, you have to put butt in chair and muddle through until you reach the end.    

What advice would I give aspiring writers? 

There’s so much, but I think most important is find your tribe of writers.   There are so many out there and the connections can be invaluable.  I’ve found that my writing friends are supportive when you need to be lifted, ground you when you are floating away and commiserate with you through troubles.  It’s no surprise that many have become life-long friends.   

I hope you found this interesting and feel free to ask questions below.  I’ll be happy to answer them.  If you’d like to read some excerpts of my work feel free to hop over to my Books page.   You can find my social links on the About Tina page.

AuThursday – Leslie Hachtel

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

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

How do you make time to write?

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

Do you believe in writer’s block?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

Don’t quit!

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

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

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Website https://www.lesliehachtel.com/

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

Twitter:  @lesliehachtel

Blog: https://lesliehachtelwriter.wordpress.com

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

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

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

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

Spring, 1713

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

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

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

AuThursday – Tracy Brody

Head shot medium cropped

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

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

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

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

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

How do you make time to write?

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

Do you believe in writer’s block?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

If it’s not fun, why do it?

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

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

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

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

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

https://www.facebook.com/tracybrodyauthor

https://www.instagram.com/tracybrodybooks

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

https://www.tracybrody.com/

Series Promo w free novelette

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

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

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

Series Banner

Colombia, South America

Training mission, my ass.

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

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

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

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

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

“Like sixty-meter clearing.”

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

“Never.”

“But helicopters use it?”

“Small ones owned by cartel.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

AuThursday – Judy Ford

IMG_20180908_095815707Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’ve lived all my life in Britain. For the last 40 years, I’ve lived with my husband (also a mathematician) in Cheshire, a county in the North West region of England. We have three grown-up children and six grandchildren.

I first attempted to write fiction when I was a young mother at home with my baby son. I don’t suppose those manuscripts were much good and I certainly didn’t have any success in finding a publisher for them!

I was always good at mathematics as a child and I went on to do two degrees in the subject. I’ve worked in universities and as a research manager in the National Health Service. I began writing again during a time between jobs in 2014. By then, things had moved on a lot when it comes to books. E-books and print-on-demand paperbacks made publishing very different from when I’d first tried to get my novels published – and, now that I had more life experience, I had more that I could write about.

How do you make time to write?

I get up early (my alarm is set for 5.20 a.m.) and devote the first hour and a half (before my husband gets up) to writing. That way, I usually manage to make some progress on my current book every day.

Do you believe in writer’s block?

Because most of my books have a “whodunnit” element to them, meticulous planning is essential before I start writing. This means that it’s unusual for me to be completely stuck when I sit down to write, because I can always go back to the plan to decide what needs to happen next. If a chapter goes slowly, it’s often because I suddenly realise that I need to do more research before I can write it. 

I find the first and last pages of each book the hardest to write and I often have to re-write them a few times. The first chapter is hard because there are always several alternative ways of telling a story and it’s important to find one that will capture the reader’s imagination from the start. The ending is hard because I want my readers to feel that they have finished the story rather than that it has just fizzled out – even if there is scope for developing the characters further in a sequel.

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

I write detective fiction. I’ve always loved traditional “whodunnits”. I suppose, being a mathematician, I enjoy the puzzle element, but I’m also interested in why people do what they do. I like to read about three-dimensional characters with mixed motives and complicated feelings. 

I’m a Methodist Local Preacher, which means that I regularly lead church services. In my sermons, I try to get the congregation to think for themselves, asking questions rather than presenting them with my answers. In my writing, I also try to prompt my readers to think about issues that they may not have considered before. For example, one of my detectives is disabled and this sometimes people make assumptions about him (either that he’s incapable or that he’s a hero for doing ordinary things that others take for granted).

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

I self-publish my books through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), ACX (for the audiobook editions) and Kobo Writing Life. After failing to persuade a literary agent to take on my first two books, I heard from a colleague about KDP and decided to give it a go. Not wanting to be tied exclusively to Amazon, I looked into alternative platforms and found Kobo. Although it means a lot of work, I like the control that self-publishing gives me and I’ve enjoyed teaching myself about type-setting, cover design, narration and audio-recording techniques.

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

I’m an introvert, but one who isn’t fazed by standing up and addressing an audience. Social events scare me, but delivering a lecture or leading a training event is no sweat! I don’t think this affects my writing much – although perhaps it makes me more content to sit alone in my study and write – but it does impede my ability to promote my work. I’m not good at sounding my own trumpet, especially in a one-to-one situation.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

“If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly!”

This is a quotation from one of my favourite writers, GK Chesterton. It’s about not allowing yourself to be deterred from doing something just because there might be someone else who could do it “better”. Everyone has their own unique way of doing things and life would be duller if we handed everything over to the “experts” rather than being willing to “have a go”.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

  • Write because you love it, not because you expect to make a lot of money. 
  • Remember that there’s a lot of luck involved and if your books don’t become best-sellers, that’s not necessarily because they’re no good. 
  • Find one or two people that you trust to read your work before publication and suggest how it could be improved.
  • Be prepared to be ruthless with editing – if you are uneasy about a passage, it probably needs changing (or even eliminating!)

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I have a website where I put information about my books: https://sites.google.com/view/bernie-fazakerley/home

One of my main characters, Bernie, has her own website: https://sites.google.com/site/llanwrdafamily/

I also have a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Bernie.Fazakerley.Publications)  and Twitter account (https://twitter.com/JudyFordAuthor) where I promote my books and post about special offers.

My WordPress site (https://wordpress.com/view/berniefaz.wordpress.com) has more information about the technical side of writing and publishing, including a step-by-step description of how I designed some of my book covers.

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

I hope this passage isn’t too long. It’s a scene from “Weed Killers” which is about the death of a young police officer. In this passage his father, Gavin, also serving in the police, talks with an old friend who has his own earlier experience of the violent death of a loved-one.

You can listen to me narrating this excerpt here: https://youtu.be/HbZsNq1LwfQ

 

9781911083696‘Thank you for coming,’ Gavin murmured apologetically as he let Peter into the house. ‘Come through to the kitchen,’ he added looking down at Peter’s foil-wrapped parcels. ‘We’ll put those in the fridge for later.’ Then he leaned over the bannister rail and called up the stairs, ‘Chrissie darling! Peter’s here!’

Looking round the kitchen, Peter spotted the refrigerator and went over to put away the packets of food. He squeezed them in on the bottom shelf next to a half-eaten meat pie. Straightening up, he turned to see Gavin at the sink, filling the electric kettle.

‘Sit down.’ He indicated a high stool next to a breakfast bar, which extended from the wall near to where the kettle was plugged in. ‘I’ll make us some tea.’

Peter climbed on to the stool and leaned his elbows on the counter. He watched silently as Gavin replaced the kettle on its stand and then crossed the kitchen and opened a glass-fronted wall cupboard containing crockery. While his back was turned, Peter reached over and pressed down the switch on the kettle prompting the power light to come on and the kettle to hiss encouragingly.

Gavin returned with a stainless-steel teapot and three cups and saucers, which he put down on a metal tray that lay on the working surface next to the kettle.

‘I don’t suppose Chrissie will be long,’ he said, reaching for a packet of teabags and starting to count them out into the teapot. ‘She’s in Kenny’s room, sorting out his things.’

‘I thought your sister did all that when she was here at the weekend?’

‘Umm. Well that’s another thing,’ Gavin mumbled miserably, adding two more teabags to the pot. ‘I made her stop. I behaved very badly about it. I don’t know if she’ll ever forgive me.’

‘Of course she will,’ Peter told him emphatically, grasping Gavin’s hand gently in his and moving it away from the teapot, ‘unless you keep giving her tea as strong as the pot you’re making for us just now!’ he added, smiling across the breakfast bar at his friend.

Gavin gazed down at the teapot. Then he turned it over and shook it. A dozen or more teabags fell out on to the work surface. He looked up at Peter and managed a brief grin in return.

‘I don’t seem to be able to concentrate on anything these days,’ he muttered, shaking his head at his own ineptitude. ‘This morning I squirted Chrissie’s face cream on to my toothbrush instead of toothpaste!’

‘Don’t worry. It’s all part of the process,’ Peter assured him gently. ‘That part won’t last for ever. Just try not to let it bother you too much. And seriously: your sister will understand that whatever you did was only because of what you’re going through. I’m sure she won’t hold it against you.’

Gavin put three teabags into the pot and then busied himself trying to squeeze the remaining ones back into the packet.

‘I haven’t shouted at Lorraine like that since the time she deliberately broke the head off my action man when I was seven,’ he told Peter morosely. ‘I don’t know what got into me. It was after we got back from our walk. Remember? You didn’t come in because you needed to get off home, so I said I’d say your goodbyes to Chrissie and the others.’

Peter nodded.

‘I was feeling a lot better for having got out in the fresh air for a bit,’ Gavin continued, ‘and I thought we’d be able to finish agreeing on the funeral arrangements before it was time for them to get off to the station, and then Chrissie and I would have the house to ourselves again.’

The kettle clicked off and Gavin picked it up and added boiling water to the teapot.

‘But then, when I got in, there was Chrissie in the kitchen, weeping buckets into that box of Kenny’s things that Dennis had brought down from his room. Do you remember?’

Peter nodded.

‘She said she wanted them to stop. She said she didn’t want anyone else messing with Kenny’s things. I just grabbed the box and stormed upstairs with it and threw it down on the bed and told them to put everything back where they’d found it and then get out of the house.’

‘I don’t blame you,’ Peter said with feeling, imagining how he would have felt if anyone had touched any of Angie’s possessions uninvited. ‘And I’m sure, when she thinks about it, your sister won’t either,’ he added firmly. ‘She’s probably stressed out too, with thinking about the way Kenny was killed, and I’m sure she thought she was helping.’

‘I know,’ Gavin groaned. ‘That’s what makes me shouting at her like that so awful.’

‘Not at all,’ Peter insisted. ‘Honestly. At a time like this you really can’t be held responsible for what you do. I’m just amazed at how well you’re both holding things together. I still can’t get over how Chrissie coped with that nativity play. She was wonderful.’

‘It was because she didn’t want to let down the kids,’ Gavin told him, wandering over to the fridge and getting out a bottle of milk. He brought it across the room, and set it down on the working surface next to the tray. ‘It was the same this morning. She was up at six getting everything ready for the Homeless party; and then, while we were there, she was pulling crackers and joking with them, almost as if … as if …’

He picked up the milk and returned it to the fridge.

‘Chrissie’s always been the practical one,’ he resumed, leaning across the worktop so that his face was close to Peter’s. ‘She keeps the house running like clockwork, and she always likes to keep busy. I think all the time she had things she had to do, she could push what happened to Kenny to the back of her mind and just get on with getting them done. That’s why Lorraine coming in and trying to take over was such a disaster. And that’s why …’

He wiped his hand across his face and turned away to look for something in one of the wall cupboards.

‘You don’t take sugar, do you Peter?’ he enquired, turning round again and holding up a bag of it.

‘No, but I would like some milk, if that’s OK.’

‘Haven’t I just …?’ Gavin stared blankly at the empty cups and then shuffled over to the fridge again.

‘As I was saying,’ he resumed as he poured milk into each cup. ‘Chrissie was there being the life and soul of the party and I was just sitting in the corner wishing it was all over and we could go home and maybe just sit for a bit and watch a film on the telly. But then, when we got home … I suppose it was the anti-climax, and not having any reason to keep going anymore.’

Peter picked up the milk bottle and carried it back to the fridge to give Gavin time to collect his thoughts.

‘When we walked in the door, the first thing we saw was that teddy bear in the police costume – you know, the one somebody left with the flowers?’

‘Mmm,’ Peter nodded. ‘I remember.’

‘Chrissie had washed it and put it on the radiator in the hall to dry. Anyway, she just picked it up and went upstairs with it. She said she needed to sort out Kenny’s things. I did try to persuade her to leave it for a bit – at least until we’d had a sit down – but she said she needed to feel close to him again. I realised afterwards that Wednesday was her day for tidying Kenny’s room. She used to do it while he was out at the Scouts. I suppose it probably helped her to keep to the old routine. Anyway, I made us a mug of tea and took hers up to her. I know I ought to have stayed with her and helped, but I just couldn’t face it.’

‘Don’t beat yourself up about it,’ Peter said gently. ‘Everyone grieves differently. And if Chrissie always tidies Kenny’s room on her own, she may not even have wanted you there.’

‘The thing is: when I got up there, she wasn’t tidying the room. She was just sitting there on the bed holding that teddy bear and staring into space. I put the mug down on the bedside table and came downstairs again. I’ve been up again a couple of times, but she’s still just the same – staring ahead like she was in a trance. So that’s where she is now,’ he finished. ‘I don’t think she can have heard me call. I’d better go up and get her. She won’t want to have missed you.’

He looked towards the door, but made no attempt to move from his position, leaning on the worktop. Then suddenly he looked up and caught Peter’s eye across the breakfast bar.

‘Why did it happen to Kenny?’ he demanded in an anguished voice. ‘Why was he the one who got sent round the back of the house? With his whole life before him! Why couldn’t it have been me they picked instead?’ He brought both fists down heavily on the work top, staring across at Peter defiantly for a moment before dropping his head and gazing down at the marble-effect work surface.

For a long time, neither of them moved or spoke. Then Gavin straightened up and gave Peter a sheepish grin. ‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to …. I’ll go and get Chrissie.’ He looked down at the teacups.  ‘Could you take those through to the front room? We won’t be long.’

Peter came round to the other side of breakfast bar to pick up the tray. As he passed Gavin, he gave him a pat on the shoulder. ‘Please believe me. It never goes away, but it won’t always be as bad as this.’

AuThursday – William Schlichter

Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Being a published author has always been a life goal. It’s taken me a while to get there, and it was not a straight road—sometimes there was no map. Along the way, I became an English teacher, received a Master’s degree in Theater, and am currently working on a second Master’s in Creative Writing. I am a hardcore sci-fi and horror fan. I will gladly talk about writing, books, and zombies any day. 

How do you make time to write?

Writing comes first. I make time to do the rest of life. When I’m not writing, I keep an audio-book on my phone, because authors should be reading as well as writing. When I ride the bike at the gym, I read an actual book. I always have pages to edit if I get stuck and have time to color purple on my pages. I spend my evening reaching my daily goal of 1,000 words. Sometimes when I’m heavy into editing, I don’t write part of a new story. Teaching writing allows me to talk about my writing. I will toss out questions sometimes just to see how my students answer. Trust me, some of those answers will end up in print. 

Do you believe in writer’s block?

No. Even if I’m having a slow day on one story, I’ll switch to another. I have a couple of side stories. I have too many ideas not to be writing. The so-called writer’s block is a lack of confidence in oneself. I accepted a long time ago that whatever a person is writing will suck. It’s terrible and no one will ever want to read it. Including the author. But once those words are on a page, it can be transformed into a masterpiece. The key is getting the words down and it can be turned into art. No matter what, someone will read and love it and someone will hate it.  

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

Horror and Sci-Fi. I saw Star Wars when I was three and a half and knew I wanted to create worlds. Sci-Fi and horror have no limits. And I can explore a side of people that terrifies and fascinates us at the same moment—serial killers. I enjoy the macabre, and I don’t always chase the monster under-the-bed stories. I find real terror lies in people. I think that is my fascination with serial killers. They are real and that is where terror lies.

 

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

I am publishing my current novel through a small press publisher under a hybrid model. I pay some of the publishing costs and they cover some. It allows for more control on my part but gives me support and access to publishing you may not have with total self-publishing. I would still like to see a traditionally published book—which might be happening soon. And by soon in the publishing world means three years. I fully support Indie authors. I still fall in that category, but before someone goes on full-fledged self-publishing, send it off. Collect those rejection letters. It makes you a better writer. We learn more from failure than success.  

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

I never met a stranger. It helps with book sales. I’ll give you an example; if I want to know how a nurse deals with cancer patients, I’ll ask a nurse. Then I write my scene. I think it makes the moment more real. It is not the medical terms or the science. It’s what would they actually say that makes it feel real to the reader. And it feels real because it’s what a real nurse would say.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

I can fix anything but a blank page (I’ve seen it credited to several authors).

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Through teaching writing, the biggest trap (and what makes them hate me) is the inability to let go of what they have written. The beginning author writes a chapter. They spend weeks, months—even years—perfecting this chapter. It’s the most beautiful piece of writing they will ever create. And it doesn’t serve the story and must be cut. They take it as a personal attack, or they feel they wasted their time. They have not. Every time they write and rewrite, they are getting better at it. But sometimes no matter how good a paragraph seems, it doesn’t fit into the story and must go. And they can’t let it go. When you cut your work to the bones and still tell a good story, it is ready. I recently read a freshman effort by a published author, and he spent pages beautifully describing this Victorian home and it had nothing to do with the story. It destroys the flow of the book and many readers won’t keep reading. The worst offense was that we never returned in the book to this home.  

It hurts but cuts the unnecessary bits.

One other area is the outline. I write the last chapter first. I like to know where my characters will end up. I then do a basic plot outline. And this is where some writers and Comp teachers get upset. I am not married to my outline. It is not a stone-cold road-map; it is a suggestion. If my characters need to go in a different direction, then I follow. If they toss the map, then so be it. Sometimes we get back to the final chapter, sometimes I have to rewrite to match the direction the character traveled. But I don’t get upset because I didn’t stay true to my pre-planning. If anything, it was a direction that wasn’t meant for those characters.    

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

https://www.instagram.com/wschlichter/

https://sandmenandzombies.com/

https://www.bhcpress.com/Author_William_Schlichter.html

https://www.facebook.com/wmschlichter

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

Sirgrus Blackmane Demihuman Gumshoe and The Dark-Elf

1

DEAD PARTNER

The Great War is over, Prohibition is in full swing, and fairies have the right to vote. Sprinkle-dust fae, not those bloody orcs. Don’t give me any “bleeding heart,” “love your enemy” buggery. Ending a war with signatures on a paper doesn’t change what I witnessed. No way. The only good orc is a dead one. Dwarves are born hating orcs. And I’ll die hating orcs. 

Cops would be a close second. I’ve no ancestral urge to butcher them, but I don’t have a desire to cooperate without a warrant either. I’m jammed between two uniformed officers in the back of a coupe. I’m not under arrest, so I don’t appreciate the perp treatment. Sandwiched between them, one thing is clear: I’m not trusted. 

I’ve nothing better to do. My caseload is open. Private dicks aren’t normally called to the busting of a rum-runner ring—especially dwarf detectives outside the Quarters. I’ve got little to do with Prohibition, other than that it’s a law I fail to practice. Mead is a staple of the mountain dwarf diet. 

I slip a golden clam-shell case from the inner pocket of my trench coat and remove a cigarette. I prefer pipes, but in a pinch, a cig will do. If I don’t catch a case after this, I’ll have to roll my own. 

The driver hits every pothole in the road before pulling into a field. They let me out. I crush my cig, using the moment of freedom to grind the cherry into the green grass. I’m not manhandled, but the brusque movement of my escorts suggests I’m expected to follow the officers.

The sight of wooden box after wooden box being dragged from the barn makes me want to cry. Uniformed men outside smash case after case labeled “Perfect Maple Syrup,” and their acts are the true crime. Hard rum vapors hover in the air, wafting from the growing pile of shattered glass and growing pond of brown liquid soaking into the ground.

My escorts bring me to the man in charge.

His suit gives away that he is no patrolman. I can’t get over the paisley print stitched into his blue silk tie. His tie reveals his talents if a person knows what the symbols mean. He’s human, and human mages are a dying breed. Mages have always been feared. Hell, they used to be burned for heresy. 

I light another cig. 

“We found a body.”

Now, a body does pique my interest. Bodies are to be expected when rum-runners are raided, but not always. Most middlemen bootleggers surrender, and the lawyers have them out on bail within twenty-four hours. But other than drinking the product, I’ve nothing to do with such nefariousness. Anyway, I don’t deal with stiffs. They tend to skip out on the check.

 “Agent Edgeangel, since when does the Justice Bureau’s Mage Division enforce the National Prohibition Act?” I speak with disdain, mostly because of the smell. Magic stinks worse than the wafts of spilt rye. 

 “Sirgrus…Blackmane.” He bites off my clan name as if it’s tough, overcooked meat. “Magic crimes are on a downward trend since the end of the war. Drinking-related crimes are rising.”

When you pass a pointless law to help those returning from war to curb their drinking, you create more criminals. The Great War wielded the tools of men over ancient mysticism. Europa suffered, centuries of culture was decimated, and magic failed to restore the old ways. This surly baboon won’t admit mages of any race are going extinct. But I’m here about a dead body, not a dead culture. I puff a series of smoke rings, contemplating how best to remind him wizardry is obsolete. “The trenches gutted the ancient countryside, destroying the old ways. No magic will ever bring it back.”

Edgeangel wags a finger toward the silver rune-etched beads laced into my beard’s braids—a long-standing dwarf superstition. Some claim the runes have a charmed origin. “The technology of men rules the world now. But I didn’t ask you here to discuss the diminution of the old ways.”

“I figured not.” I stand next to the classy G-man. Even on a government salary, his suit is tailored. Mage-users are elitists. I’m not a fan. Mages failed us in Europa. 

The G-man gazes down his long nose at me. 

Not because of my height. Dwarf is a species, not a size. I reach a stature of five feet, without the fedora. 

Edgeangel’s blue eyes reveal his distaste for me. Or perhaps he just thinks all non-mages are beneath him. I don’t need the gift of clairvoyance to understand his assignment was no career builder. Rum-running busting is a job for the common officer, not a master of the Dark Arts. 

Agent Edgeangel marches past the men carting case after case of booze from the barrel-house. They must smash it here onsite. Somehow, if they don’t, it never arrives to be booked into evidence. Another reason the lawyers get the minions out on bail so fast: no proof. 

We continue past a paddy wagon. The shackled men ignore me.

In a back room of the barn—maybe for tools or tack storage—a white sheet shrouds a human figure. The corpse isn’t wide enough to be a dwarf. I had thought maybe a dwarf crossed the line to work outside the Quarter, which might’ve explained my presence here. Edgeangel might have supposed I knew a dwarf. Men always think dwarves know each other. We all look alike to them.

A red bloom of blood is centered over the forehead. Edgeangel kneels, gripping the corner of the blanket. “Prepare yourself.” 

I’ve seen dead bodies before. Dead ones don’t disturb me like some of the living. I crush out my cig.