AuThursday – Shelly Sharp

Tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

I’m a business owner with my husband, I have three adult children and one 17-year-old. I homeschooled my kids for twelve years, I have loved to write since I was a child and now I’m finding time to write books. I’ve published two on Amazon, one last April, and one this February. 

How do you make time to write? 

I have a goal of a chapter a day. I make a list of all I have to do each day and I write a page between each chore or project on my list. 

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

No. I write several books at a time so if I get stuck on one book I simply move to another. 

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

I have a goal to write five books, all of them a different genre. I love to read many different genres so I want to try to write a book in each genre that I enjoy. So far I’ve written non-fiction and romance. Right now I’m writing a psychological thriller, a suspense trilogy, and a satire. 

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

I self-publish on Amazon, so Indie I guess.

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

I am definitely an introvert. I think this enhances my work. I can spend a lot of time alone writing. I enjoy my own company and I find my sense of humor hilarious! I am my own best friend and my imagination is amazing which makes for good writing. The books I write are in my mind in movie form, It helps me visualize the characters I write about. 

What is your favorite motivational phrase? 

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”– Helen Keller 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers? 

Publish that book! Hesitation leads to fear. As Winston Churchill said,

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal.” Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web? 

My books are on Amazon.com, I’m also on Twitter and Facebook. 

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

As they descended the hill, the largest bull with the longest horns Dae had ever seen emerged from behind a bush on the path ahead of them.

Jack stopped and stood very still, but the bull noticed him anyway and began pawing the ground and breathing heavily.

Dae moved up to Jack and managed to get in front of him on the narrow path. Dae wanted to put Rose down, but the child was now sleeping heavily and Jack was too small to hold her. Dae shook the picnic basket at the bull and yelled, but that just seemed to make the creature more agitated and focused on them. Dae turned sideways to protect the sleeping child she carried from possible harm and ordered Jack in a quiet voice to back slowly up the hill, gesturing with the picnic basket.

This, unfortunately, seemed to incite the bull, who bellowed and shook its massive head. When the bull began pawing the ground again and lowering its frightening horns, Dae screamed, “Run Jack!” and turned to run up the hill herself, throwing the picnic basket on the ground and moving as fast as she could with one hand holding up her skirt and both arms cradling Rose…

AuThursday – Jacie Floyd

Please Welcome Jacie Floyd to the Clog Blog! Jacie, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

From the time I read my first Nancy Drew mystery, I’ve been an avid reader and writer. The public library was my happy place when I was a child. Throughout my professional career, I utilized my non-fiction writing skills in business and legal writing, but the desire to create my own stories became a secret obsession. While polishing my craft as an unpublished author, I was lucky enough to be named a six-time Golden Heart Finalist and two-time Golden Heart winner by the Romance Writers of America. After years of scraping together whatever time I could to generate one manuscript after another, I gave in to the inevitable, abandoned my day job, and moved away from the chilly Midwest to Florida in order to write full-time and self-publish the kind of stories I like to read. 

How do you make time to write? 

Now that I’m a “full-time” writer, I can structure my writing time to fit my schedule. Outside activities and travel do interfere, but I’m a night owl and don’t need a lot of sleep. I’m often at my desk writing from 10 PM to 1:00 or 2:00 AM. I realize not everyone has that kind of flexibility.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

No, not for me. It’s a real thing that some people do experience, but I always have three or four projects going on simultaneously. If the words don’t flow for the one I’m currently slaving over, I switch to one of the others for a while. I believe that if I just keep writing, the right words will break free.

What are your thoughts on writing a book series?

Since I’m currently writing four series (The Good Riders, Sunnyside, The Billionaire Brotherhood, and The Billionaire Brides), I’d have to call myself pro-series. I prefer to write books that stand alone in the series but are loosely related by some unifying element like setting, club, friend group or family relationship. The main characters appear in multiple books, but their conflict or story arc don’t necessarily overlap. I consider series the most reliable way for an Indie author to build an audience—the theory being that if readers like Book One of the series, they’ll want to read Book Two and so on. Hopefully, if they happen to stumble on Book Four, they’ll go back and look for the previous ones.

I see you are Indie Published.  Why did you choose this route?

I think it’s safe to say that my daughter chose it for me! Back when I started writing seriously, the Indie route wasn’t a viable option. I tried for years to get a traditional publisher or agent interested in my books through standard queries, conference attendance, and contest entries because those were the only options. I got really, really close several times, before receiving soul-crushing rejections. In 2013 I was a Golden Heart finalist, and my brilliant, tech-savvy, librarian daughter went to the RWA conference with me. Indie publishing was really starting to boom, and after attending a lot of workshops, she encouraged me to go in that direction—with her technical help. I sorted and revised my existing completed manuscripts into series, published MEET YOUR MEET in 2014, and things grew from there.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

Now I always have to consider my readership and ways to keep that number growing. I have to determine which characters from the existing series have the most compelling story that needs to be told next. And I have to stick to a schedule, so I write better, sharper, clearer first drafts than I used to. And even when the book is finished, I have to allow time in the schedule for social media, promotion, and even occasional personal appearances. Writing is a business for me now instead of a diversion, but the writing part is still fun.

How do you relax?

Time on a beach with waves lapping the shore, clear, sunny skies, sand in my toes, and a book in my hand is absolutely my happiest, most relaxing place. Luckily, I live close enough to the beach to make that happen as often as necessary.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

I have seven pieces of advice:

  1. Complete a manuscript and then another one. Until you know for sure you can get from the start to the finish, all you have is a hobby. 
  2. Don’t overlook the necessity of learning your craft and polishing your manuscript. 
  3. Whether you’re planning on Indie or Traditional publishing, a competent editor is a must. 
  4. Establish a media presence for your author name BEFORE you have anything to promote. 
  5. Have clear career goals, not just writing goals. 
  6. Join writers’ groups and make friends with other aspiring authors. 
  7. Don’t take rejection too personally.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I’m everywhere! I love to talk to readers and authors, old friends and new about reading, writing, books, travel, cooking, shopping, you name it! Feel free to reach out to me on your favorite social media platform and sign up for my newsletter on my website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bookbub, Goodreads 

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

Absolutely! Thanks for the opportunity to visit with you and your followers. This excerpt is from my latest release ALWAYS ALLIE, the first book in The Billionaire Brides series.

-Jacie Floyd

As Allie slipped into bed, a familiar form emerged from the shadows. Her hand went to her heart, and a gasp escaped her.

But not from fear.

She propped herself on an elbow. “How did you get in?”

A light twinkled in his eye. “It wasn’t so hard.”

“Why are you here?”

Wearing the same jeans and T-shirt he’d had on earlier, Buck took a step toward her. “Wyatt called. He thought you could use a friend. I told him you’d made it clear you didn’t want to see me tonight, but he said that might have changed.”

And just like that, the tears Allie had been holding back all night filled her eyes and spilled over.

He rushed to her side. “Sweetheart! What’s wrong? Don’t cry. Are you all right?”

With her shoulders shaking, she nodded. “I’m fine.” Wiping her eyes with the corner of the sheet, she shrugged. “I’m sorry. That’s not like me.”

“Don’t be sorry. If you’ve had a bad night, you’re allowed to cry.” He scooted her over and climbed into the bed beside her. “How can I help?”

“I’m shocked to be saying this but having you here has helped.”

“Good.”

She’d had to be strong for Xander, and Mother hadn’t been sympathetic.

But Buck was here to support her, not lean on her. He had no expectations whatsoever about how she should behave, and he’d let her vent in whatever way she needed. All of that was a rarity. She knew they had issues to discuss, but for now she just wanted to breathe him in.

He stacked her pillows behind them and put his arm around her. “Can you give me a clue? Is it Xander? Something with the business? Your mother? Are you sick? I’m not trying to pry, I need to know what kind of support to offer.”

“How many kinds of support are there?”

“There’s the goofy, silly kind where I bring you a Beanie Baby.” He pulled a little green frog wearing a crown out of his pocket. “That often works for Bella.”

“Cute, but I don’t think a frog will do it.”

“There’s the huge soul-crushing disappointment where I buy you a Lamborghini.”

“Thanks, but I don’t need a new car.”

“There’s the small heartbreak or scuffed knee where I offer you a chocolate kiss.” Yep, he dug in his pocket and pulled one of those out too. Taking the candy out of the shiny silver wrapper, he held it to her lips. “There’s emotional distress where something unfixable has happened, and I give you a big hug and sit quietly with you while your head wrestles with wrapping itself around the new normal.” He put his other arm around her and pulled her against his chest. Holding on tight, he rested his chin on her head and rocked her back and forth. “Like this.”

“Ding, ding, ding, ding. That one works.” She listened to the reassuring beat of his heart against her ear, but she wanted more. “If accompanied by a real kiss.”

“Happy to oblige, but what kind? Sweet, sexy, comforting, hot?” He stopped between words to bestow a sample of each one.

With her hands cupping his face, she leaned in. “The kind that makes me forget everything else.”

“My favorite.” Sitting up, he pulled off his shirt and tossed it over the side of the bed. “And for the record, that’s always my goal when I kiss you.”

When he tapped her hip, she lifted up, and her gown followed the way of his shirt. “Not fair. I’m naked, and you still have on jeans and who knows what else.”

“Jeans and nothing else, but hang on, we’ll get there. I’m concentrating on you first. I can see I’ve got my work cut out for me.”

“Take your time. I’ve got all night. My trainer doesn’t get here till six.”

“You won’t need him,” he assured her as his lips teased hers. “You’ll get your workout tonight.”

AuThursday – Sofia Sawyer

Sofia Sawyer HeadshotPlease welcome Sofia Sawyer to The Clog Blog.  Sofia, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m a contemporary romance and women’s fiction author based in Charleston, South Carolina. I write about independent women who take control of their destiny.

I was born and raised in a small New Jersey beach town before fleeing to Charleston with my best friend a decade ago. Since then, I’ve lived in Boston for about three years before migrating back to Charleston with my husband and dog.

I work as an employer branding and recruitment marketing program manager for my day job (I’m in the process of leaving my employer to become a consultant and freelancer). When I’m not working, I travel as much as I can. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have gone to so many beautiful places these last few years and I’m looking forward using these trips as inspiration for upcoming books.

When I can’t hop on a plane, I’m usually taking advantage of everything Charleston has to offer. The beaches are gorgeous, and the food scene is hard to beat. Also, as an amateur photographer, the historic buildings downtown give me a lot to work with. 

And, of course, I read a ton.

How do you make time to write? 

I’ve gotten serious about my writing these last few years and work to protect my time. Rather than set daily goals, I focus on weekly goals because it offers more flexibility to account for the unexpected things life throws at me. My goals could be hitting a specific word count, getting a synopsis to my agent, taking an online course, drafting a book outline, creating a freebie for my newsletter subscribers, building a launch plan for a new release, and so on. 

Every Sunday, I identify my top three goals for the week and look at my availability, slotting in chunks of time to dedicate to them. I also wake up an hour earlier before work to write because it’s easier to let the words flow first thing in the morning before my brain turns to mush from my day job.

Where do your ideas come from?

They pop up at the strangest times. Usually, while I’m trying to escape the mundane tasks of everyday life like going to the gym or washing dishes. However, music is the most consistent source of inspiration for my stories. If the lyrics are just right, my mind makes up a “music video” that goes along with the song. From there, I develop a full story from the little snippet of inspiration.

For example, I’m starting to plot a friends-to-lovers romance that was inspired by the song “Blinded” by Third Eye Blind. It popped up on my Pandora station one day at the gym and a clear vision of a story filled my mind. I just knew I had to write it.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I did for a bit but realized it’s something that can be overcome. When I lived in Boston, I couldn’t write a word. Nothing worked and I felt incredibly uninspired. Later, I realized my writer’s block was caused by some sort of challenge rather than lack of skill or inspiration. I found that taking courses, getting involved in the writing community, plotting, and generally building writing skills helped solve those problems. Now, if I feel like I’m hitting a wall, I take a step back and try to uncover what’s really causing the issue and tackle it head on.

Since looking at it that way, I’ve been writing consistently for more than three years after my Boston hiatus. I’m confident this approach will prevent me from running into that issue again.

So, what is you most recent project? 

I’m juggling a few different projects right now. Typically, I try to stick to writing one manuscript at a time but because I have a couple with my agent and a couple that I’m self-publishing, I need to incorporate time to manage the process for all of those too. Here’s a quick run down of what I’ve been working on:

  • Finished edits for a forced-proximity romance that my agent is putting out for submission
  • Started working with an editor for my frenemies-to-lovers romance I plan to self-publish
  • Just completed the first draft of a contemporary romance (a modern Cinderella retelling)
  • Starting to plot my friends-to-lovers romance

Where can we buy or see it?NO PLACE TO HIDE KINDLE EBOOK COVER

My frenemies-to-lovers romance will likely be released in summer 2020. You can subscribe to my newsletter for updates on its release date. Otherwise, my debut novel came out this past October and is available to purchase on Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and iBooks. It’s a romantic suspense based in Portland, Maine. You can read the blurb for No Place to Hide here (the links to purchase are also on this page).

What is your writing Kryptonite?

Probably social media or my phone in general. Because I’ve worked in marketing for years, I’ve had multiple corporate social media accounts on my phone. Even if I turn off the notifications, my habit to pick up my phone and check if I’ve missed anything leads me to mindlessly scroll for several minutes. I started to put my phone in another room when I write, but even then, my computer distracts me with email alerts and what not.

I just finished reading a book called Digital Minimalism that had a lot of great advice about how to manage digital tools in a world where they’re working to grab your attention and keep it there. Although I won’t nix social media altogether because it’s been valuable to connect with readers and writers, I want to be mindful about how I use it. That might mean creating more meaningful posts even if that leads to posting less frequently. I need to put aside some time to think through my approach. I’m really curious to see how taking the social pressure off transforms my writing. Will it allow me to write more openly if I don’t compare myself to others or worry about letting readers down? It will be interesting to find out.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Get involved in the writing community ASAP. For years, I was terrified of putting my work out there. I finally found the courage in October 2018 and started author-focused social media accounts. It opened up a whole new world for me. Not only did I connect with other writers who I could relate to, I joined a writing association, found helpful writing resources, and even discovered Twitter pitch contests that ultimately landed me a literary agent. I wish I had done this back in 2013 when I finished my first novel-length manuscript. I can only imagine how much further along I would have been in my writing career had I done it then.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I’m present on most of the social media channels but I’m mostly active on Instagram and Facebook. Additionally, my newsletter is a great way to get a look behind-the-scenes and exclusive details that I don’t share elsewhere. Subscribers can reply to my emails too, which is a great way to connect.

Here’s where you can find me:

 

AuThursday – Stephanie Patel

Please join me in welcoming my fellow North Dakota author, Stephanie Patel. 

Stephanie, tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born in a little village in Alaska, the ninth of fifteen children, and moved to North Dakota with my mother and remaining siblings when I was nine, after my father and brother died while fishing. I lived in Jamestown, Kathryn and Valley City in North Dakota, graduating from VCHS.  I went to college at the University of Missouri, Columbia and at Moorhead State (now University of Minnesota at Moorhead). I graduated from the University of North Dakota School of Law and practiced law in Alaska for 35 years, minus about seven years creating an alternate junior/senior high school for youth falling through the cracks. I have been writing for many years; however it was only after I retired that I could focus full-time upon it.  My book, Born in the 20th Century: A Novel of the Midwest, was released in eBook form on November 1, 2019 and is now available in print, on Amazon.  

How do you make time to write? 

 I am currently retired and can work 8-12 hours per day if I am motivated. I tend to be obsessive when I am on a project and everything else will fall away. Although I had been working on this book off and on for years, I spent about six months working 6-12 hours per day to get it completed and in final edited form. 

Do you believe in writer’s block?  

Well, I have no reason not to, although I don’t really experience it myself.  I write when I feel the compulsion to do so, and if I don’t feel it, I don’t write.  It’s as simple as that. If I am not writing, it is because I have other things on my plate to which I am giving attention. I have a number of books and other works in progress.  

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

My current book would fit into the “coming of age” genre.  I consider it Literary Fiction. I try to hit all the notes when I write—the entire scale of physical dimension, emotional expression, psychological patterns, intellectual ideas and spiritual context. I love to make people laugh, and so if I can bring humor into what I write, all the better. I like to stimulate thought, assist my reader in getting different perspectives on issues, and most of all give them something that will be interesting and satisfying.

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

I decided to publish my current book myself because I’m a bit of a control freak. Also, it is a long book (almost 225,000 words) and I realized it would be difficult to find a publisher who would take on such a long book, since most traditional publisher’s like to stay in the 150,000 word realm. Finally, although I’d had professional interest in the book while working on it, I did not want to take the time to shop it around.  I did submit the book to Beta readers to test reactions and had such enthusiasm from them that I decided to plow ahead and self-publish, which I did through Kindle Direct Publishing, a branch of Amazon. It’s a pretty simple way to go, involving no expense except for the author copies. 

My current book is  

Born in the 20th Century: A Novel of the Midwest

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

I don’t know that I am either. I like my alone time very much. However, I am not too shy to take the floor when there are issues that are important to me.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

You will know which path is yours because nobody else is on it. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Read and write. Write about what you know. Yes, you can use your imagination and should—however, bring alive your own experience and perspective. Learn the rules of good writing, absorb style from your favorite authors, and then go beyond them. Create your own unique style. As I say, average writers know the rules; good writers know them and when to break them. 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

I am on Facebook under Stephanie Patel.

My book can be found at Amazon under the following link.  https://www.amazon.com/Born-20th-Century-Stephanie-Patel/dp/1698865740/ref=sxts_sxwds-bia?keywords=born+in+the+20th+century&pd_rd_i=1698865740&pd_rd_r=f80c4a4f-b53a-4949-b906-05f57c085dc8&pd_rd_w=ymPaK&pd_rd_wg=uzz6A&pf_rd_p=1cb3f32a-ccfd-479b-8a13-b22f56c942c6&pf_rd_r=06K081K9DES9ZC45NDV3&psc=1&qid=1574191303

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

Cover half of full 11-9-19-page-0By the time we reached Fargo the predicted snow flurries had arrived, along with a good wind. North Dakota highways had a Midwestern personality like their human counterparts: they were straight as arrows, not so bad, and open to the next kingdom. These characteristics did not combine well with wind and snow. Even when there was little of the latter falling, the wind could kick up what was already on the ground, so that often in winter we seemed to be driving through continuous streams and rivulets that ran across our path. It was not a big step from there to whiteout conditions. In fact, visibility was very poor for the last ten miles or so into Fargo, not an unusual occurrence in that part of the country, and Mother kept both hands on the wheel, her eyes focused in front of her. She hated interruptions when driving through difficult weather events. When Yippee tried to get her to take his side on some dispute with me, she barked, “Play nice. I can’t be distracted right now.”

Once we were in the city proper, driving up South University Avenue, visibility improved along with her attitude. She pulled into the K-Mart parking lot to get some aspirin, and gave us some dimes to ride the mechanical horse in the lobby. Then we all had to use the restroom.

When we emerged, the snow was thicker, the flakes bigger. The temperature was still in the high twenties, which meant that the main roads, where there was heavier traffic, were slushy more than slick. We drove up University Avenue to King Leo’s Drive-In, where Mother purchased us each a fifteen-cent hamburger and a ten-cent fries, which was always a treat when we were in Fargo, and always a condiment fiasco. Two hamburgers had to be sent back to be rectified.

Then it was a stop at a gas station to fill up.

The attendant cleaned all our windows and when the tank was full came around to collect payment. “I hope you’re not going far,” he said when he brought back the change. “They say they’re closing down I-94 past Jamestown.”

“We’re going north,” Mother said. “Only about forty-five minutes.”

“Well, I wouldn’t delay then. You can probably still make it.”

“We’re leaving right now.”

“Drive careful.”

Mother put the Bonneville in gear and headed for US 81, which paralleled the Red River north into Canada.

“Maybe we should turn around,” Myra said worriedly. “I don’t want to get stuck in a blizzard.”

“What good would that do?” Mother asked pointedly. “If it’s coming from the west, it’s going to be as bad going back as it is going forward. We’re more than half-way. We should be able to outrun it.”

As soon as we got out of town, however, the visibility dropped precipitously. Approaching cars materialized a hundred feet in front of us; buildings and sign posts alongside the highway appeared ghostly. I was, however, not worried. It was North Dakota in the winter. Snow and fog were part of the season. In fact, I was too busy eating to pay much attention until I heard Mother exclaim in frustration, “Darn it! I can’t hardly see the road!” My attention captured, I looked out the window at the passing scenery, only to discover that it had disappeared. We were floating in a sea of white.

The wipers were going slip-slap, and with each swipe they cleared snow from the windshield and left rivulets draining down the glass. I could see that the snow was falling even heavier now, the flakes clumping together on the glass so that everything but the half-moon scraped by the wipers was opaque. Mother was hunched over the steering wheel, which she held tightly in both hands, her knuckles white. I could see that the speedometer needle was hovering between twenty and thirty miles-per-hour. It was impossible to judge our speed or location by landmarks, which had disappeared. We were flying on instruments.

“How do you know where you’re going?” I asked Mother curiously.

“Blind faith,” she hissed from between clenched teeth. And then she added more kindly, “I look over to the side of the road. I can just see the ditch. However, I have no idea what’s twenty feet in front of me. Or behind.” She opened her window and stuck her head out to the side to see if she could get more visibility without the slapping wipers, the scudding snow and water on the windshield.

The good part about North Dakota roads was that if we went into the ditch, we went into the ditch, not over a sixty foot cliff or into a close encounter with a tree. The not-so-good part was that we might be covered in the ditch by a snowdrift twice our own height and they might not find us until spring—or until the next strong wind blew us clear. Drifts were forming even as we drove—Mother swerved suddenly to skirt the high point of a snow bank that stretched across our lane, like a white seal basking on the road. Our progress slowed slightly as she churned through the tail of it, and then for the length of two Middleton blocks the highway was swept clear as if by a giant broom. The wind was so strong that it rocked our car, unprotected by anything except the wind’s own caprice as it created and swept away drifts.

Occasional cars approached, going south, their headlamps appearing dully out of the maelstrom, passing us with a swish! Once a car overtook us from behind, trailing in our wake until Mother pulled over toward the shoulder and slowed even more, allowing it to pass on our left, throwing snow. “Arggh. Some people,” she muttered. 

At Mother’s suggestion, Myra dug out one of Nonie’s bottles. Sitting on her lap, alternately sucking and chewing on the nipple, he stared fixedly out the window, stunned into stillness by the whiteness, whether through fascination or disorientation.

Yippee curled up in his corner with a couple of his little men, occasionally talking quietly for them as they hiked up his bent leg or over the driveshaft hump in the floor. “I’s berry steep. Keep goin’, you ken do it.” His plastic people were very encouraging to each other, at least until they encountered the enemy in battle—then they slaughtered each other with joy and abandon, rarely leaving more than one or two survivors, and sometimes none at all. He did not bother to look up at the maelstrom outside the car, as secure in his personal safety as his three-inch plastic alter-egos might have been devoid of hope in theirs. 

Myra and I both kept our eyes on what was happening around us. Perhaps nothing so much represented the differences between us as our individual reactions. Myra was clearly troubled by the possibilities and kept glancing nervously at Mother. I, on the other hand, was pumped up with excitement. In fairness, she was two years older and therefore more aware of the downside of death, mayhem and suffering in general. I fell somewhere between her and Yippee, who acted out death, mayhem and suffering with such glee. I wasn’t playing war, but I was drawn to imagining adventure. Whether it was encountering space aliens with ray guns, alligators in the creek behind Gramma’s house, or a tornado on the horizon, it relieved the monotony of 9:30 bedtimes, waking up in the same bed every day and passing the same houses on the way to school, every one of which I could have described in detail, along with the names of the dogs who lived in them. I had, in fact, no experience with being on the losing end of space aliens, alligators or tornadoes. No one close to me had died, the only maiming with which I was familiar was the mangling of Yippee’s hand in the fan—which he didn’t even remember—and suffering was a stubbed toe or being sent to my room when Saturday cartoons were on. My interest in such matters as the orphaning of the Monsen children was more curiosity than compassion.

In order to reach Sheverak we had to turn off US 81 and head west into the maze of dirt and gravel roads that ran like dikes between rippling seas of wheat and corn in the summer and frozen snow clogged stubble in the winter. Mother was searching through the flying snow for the turnoff, certain it was near—if indeed we had not passed it. The wind let up for a moment, enough for her to see one of the mile markers. “Dang nab it!” she exclaimed. “We’ve come too far. I’m going to have to turn around.”

The problem was that there was no obvious place to do that, other than right in the middle of the two-lane highway in the middle of a blind snowstorm, with the potential of getting t-boned by oncoming traffic. 

“Is that a side road?” Mother asked suddenly, peering through the windshield. The defrost was running full blast, siphoning the heat from the spacious car interior, so that I had to curl my feet up on the seat so they didn’t get cold. “Myra! Look! Isn’t that a road?”

At that moment Mother jerked on the steering wheel, determined not to miss the turnoff. The car spun in a semi-circle and came to a stop with a dull thud. We all sat still for a moment. Then Mother pressed on the gas pedal. The back tires spun. The car remained where it was. 

Mother thumped the steering wheel. Yippee stuck his head up over the front seat back. “Are we der?”

“No, Stupid, we’re stuck,” I informed him. I put my face up against my window to try to see.

 

AuThursday – Justin Cancilliere

FB_IMG_1573480310475Please join me in welcoming my fellow North Dakota Author, Justin Cancelliere, whom I met at October’s ND Library Association Meeting.  Justin, Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I was born and raised in Cleveland, OH. As far back as I can remember I’ve always loved writing and had a passion for the arts. In 2017 I took the plunge and self-published my first book, “The Legendary Creature Project: The Gryphon.” In Feb. of 2019, I decided to create the BisMan Writer’s Guild in an attempt to bring together local writers to uplift them and be helpful to them and their work.unnamed (2)

How do you make time to write?

In between working full time, helping my wife with her business, and podcasting it can be difficult to make time for writing. But I try my best to make at least an hour in the day, it usually ends up being an hour a week but… 

Do you believe in writer’s block?

I do, especially when you can’t get behind a story. 

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

I write in science fiction, for the most part. But I love science fiction because it delves into the horror that can come from the advances in science and technology.

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

As of now, Indie. I love Indie publishing because there are no deadlines except for the ones you set for yourself.

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

Believe it or not I’m kind of a combination, but for the most part introvert. I’m not quite sure how it has affected my work.

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

I really don’t have one.

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Whatever you do, never stop writing. It’s very easy to fall into the mentality of “my writing isn’t going to go anywhere, so why bother.” But I beg to differ, if you’ve reached one person with your writing, then that’s one more person that has read your work.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

www.justincancilliere.com

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

From “The Legendary Creature Project: The Wyrm”:

It had been a week since he had injected Steven with a new DNA sequence. It wasn’t too soon after that Steven began to develop scales and large, razor-sharp claws which now protruded out of his fingers. His face had also begun to transform, taking on reptilian-like traits. All of his hair, nails, and teeth had fallen off and laid at the bottom of the tank.

 

AuThursday – Gayle M. Irwin

Please welcome Gayle M. Irwin to this AuThursday edition of the Clog Blog.  Gayle, go ahead and tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Gayle Irwin and Jeremiah_300 dpi_Author Photo 2019I’ve been an author since 2007, and prior to that, I was a journalist for small-town newspapers. I enjoy sharing stories that inspire, educate and entertain children and adults. I am also a freelance writer, contributing stories to newspapers and magazines, and I’m a contributor to seven Chicken Soup for the Soul books. I grew up in Iowa and now live in the Rocky Mountain region, having been in this area for more than 40 years. In addition to writing, I enjoy spending time in nature, traveling, and taking photographs. I am also an advocate for pet rescue and adoption, serving as a volunteer for various animal welfare organizations and weaving that passion into some of my writing, including my new novel, Rescue Road.

How do you make time to write? 

I work part-time, three days a week, and therefore, I use many of my two weekdays and some of my weekend hours to write. My husband and I have no children, except for the four-legged kind, therefore, I have a lot of quiet time to think and compose. My husband has his own business so he understands and respects my need for time to write and work on my business. I’m a morning writer so I use those hours to compose and afternoons for marketing/learning. Adjusting to time change, however, as we did recently when we “fell back” takes a toll on me now that I’m older, so I’m re-synching my body clock again.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

I believe we can all come to a point where we have to put a manuscript away for a while and come back later to work on it. Rescue Road is a product of several years. I would talk myself out of finishing the book, whether self-doubt or a new project “calling me.” Also, during the past year, I’d be so involved in the Rescue Road story that I’d meander or “rabbit trail.” So, I had to stop, put it away for a few days, and come back later to focus again. There are various reasons we can’t always “motor through,” and I think that’s okay. I set myself a deadline to complete the final first draft by early summer and turn it over to an editor (I’m an Indie author), and I met that deadline. Now, the book is out, in both e-book and print formats, and I can see the result of my perseverance. To me, that’s what writing is all about, whether a book, short story, article or blog post – a writer must persevere, because we are distracted by so many things and we have “regular life” to do as well. Setting deadlines works for me, likely because of my journalism background, and even though I planned to complete the novel a few years ago, timing wasn’t right, I guess; I had other (children’s) stories to tell first, which I did. Now is the time for the novel, especially this month as November is Adopt-A-Senior-Pet Month, and since my novel weaves pet rescue and adoption into the main romance story, the release is optimal. I donate part of my book sales to rescue organizations, and I have a shortlist of rescue and adoption groups at the back of the book. Again, this month’s release is a benefit for the type of book I’ve written.

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

I started as a children’s author, writing chapter and picture books, and I still have manuscripts for kids in the works. I enjoy sharing animal stories with children, and each of my books weaves an important life lesson or two into the work, such as courage, perseverance, friendship, and appreciation of nature as well as pet rescue and adoption. I’ve written devotionals based on living with dogs, and now I’m graduating into writing novels. I love each genre because I love to inspire, educate, encourage, and entertain. Stories, no matter the genre, can accomplish those aspirations. Rescue Road is my first contemporary, clean romance novel, and it won’t be the last; I plan a series I’ve titled “Pet Rescue Romance,” with Rescue Road being Book 1. I’m already working on Book 2, tentatively titled Discovering Love at Compassion Ranch, with a release planned for Summer 2020.

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

I am primarily Indie published; I do have one book, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned With My Blind Dog, traditionally published. I enjoy Indie publishing for several reasons, including (1) freedom and (2) publishing more quickly. Perhaps also I’m a control-freak, stemming from being an only child and working independently for many years. Indie fits my personality.

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

I’m primarily an introvert, but the past several years, I’ve become more of an extrovert. I’ve given presentations in schools, for various civic and faith-based groups, and even taught a few classes at the local community college. I’ll be doing some speaking events in the coming months with the release of Rescue Road. I believe “getting out there,” whether speaking or doing other forms of marketing, helps increase awareness and sales of books, therefore, as an author, I need to tamp down my fears, square my shoulders, and let people know about my work, whether through a speaking event, online marketing, or Facebook Live (horrors! HA!). I’ve certainly grown a lot over the past decade, and I enjoy sharing my writings and pet rescue passion with others!

What is your favorite motivational phrase?

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Don’t give up, persevere. We all have a purpose in life, and if you believe you are called to write, then write. Try new things, like article writing and short story creation. A novel, even a picture book, is a big project to undertake; sometimes it’s best to start small. Or, like me, write articles and short stories while you’re also composing your novel, middle grade, chapter or picture book. Grow in the craft of writing as well. Learn from others. Challenge yourself to get better every year and to try something new every year. This work is a journey, not a race, and we can all contribute something wonderful if we persevere and grow. And, have confidence and hope, as Helen Keller said – we need those traits to help us persevere.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Author Website: http://www.gaylemirwin.com/

Facebook Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/GayleMIrwin

Pinterest (under Waggin’ Tales): www.pinterest.com/gaylemirwin

Twitter: wyoauthor1

Amazon Author Central Page: amazon.com/author/gayleirwin

Amazon Buy Link: https://amzn.to/2MCklLl

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

Excerpt from Rescue Road – Pet Rescue Romance Book 1 (750 words)

by Gayle M. Irwin

Rescue Road_Smaller Front CoverRhiann stood on the porch of the mid-century ranch house. Cup of coffee in hand, she watched the blazing orange sunrise. Streamers of light cascaded on the mountains west of the property, casting a rosy glow on the rocks and patches of snow upon the higher elevation. October’s morning danced with the browning grasses of the nearby pastures as touches of frost shimmered upon tan sprigs surrounding the house. Overhead, a flock of Canada geese in traditional V formation honked as they winged their way south. 

Rhiann observed them and whispered, “We have something in common. We’re starting over.” 

 

******************************************************************************

 

            As he drove closer to the ranch house, Levi noticed a small, red dual-cab pickup parked near the building. His eyes squinted. He remembered seeing a similar vehicle at the Twin Bridges Campground yesterday. He parked next to the truck.

            “Who in the world could that be?” he murmured as he exited his pickup.

            He looked at the license plate. He didn’t remember George knowing anyone from Washington state. He saw a heart-shaped sticker on the side. Levi scowled. He meandered to the driver’s side and saw the “Rescue Road” emblem. 

“Can’t be,” he muttered.

He looked up when he heard the front door of the house slam. He stared.

            “What are you doing here?” he and Rhiann asked simultaneously.

            

*****************************************************************************

 

            Rhiann couldn’t believe her eyes. Left hand on her hip and straw broom in her right, she glared at the man she had met yesterday.

            “Well?” she questioned, looking Levi in the eye. “Answer my question. What are you doing on my ranch?”

            “Your what? YOUR ranch? This is my land,” he snapped.

            “Uh, unless your last name is Kelly or McCallister, I don’t think so.”

            Levi stalked toward the front porch. Rhiann took a step back. She looked into his smoldering gray eyes as he said, “George Nelson left this place to me. Just who are you to come claim it as yours?”

            Before she could respond, he rushed on, “Are you related to George? I didn’t think he had any kids or grandkids. Are you a niece or something?”

            Rhiann shook her head. “I didn’t know Mr. Nelson. I’m the granddaughter of Mary Martha McAllister. She was born here, in that log cabin over there.”

            She pointed to the two-room dwelling to her right.

            “That’s my house,” Levi said.

             She detected the curt tone, and she responded in kind.

            “I don’t know why you keep saying you own this property. That cabin, this place, has been mine for nearly four months and was in my family for two generations. I’m just now getting here after settling the back taxes.”

            Levi’s face blanched. “Back taxes? What are you talking about?” 

            At that moment, his cell phone rang. She watched him pull the device from a back pocket of his jeans. He turned away from her.

            “Mr. Williamson, Yes, this is Levi Butler. You have news for me?” He paused in his conversation. “I see.”

Rhiann continued observing him. He gradually turned toward her. His eyes darkened, and his teeth clenched. Rhiann took a step back, holding the broom in both hands. I’ll swing this thing at his head if he takes one more step.

            “Yes, yes, I’ve met her. In fact, I’m looking at her right now.”

            His icy statement sent chills up Rhiann’s spine.

 

*****************************************************************************

            Levi gripped the cell phone tighter. His mind tried to process the words spoken by George’s attorney. A few moments later, he said, “I see. Not the news I expected to hear but thanks for letting me know.”

            He clicked off and stared at Rhiann. He noticed she held the broom as if to fend off an attacker. He wanted to punch something but knew he couldn’t. He took a deep breath and clenched a fist. He exhaled a ragged breath. A moment of silence ticked by. Levi inhaled again, trying to steady himself. As he released the air and unclenched his fist, he spoke in a terse, but controlled tone. 

“Someone who knows nothing about this place, it’s history or the man who lived here … I guess it’s yours after all.”

            Levi stalked to his pickup and jumped into the driver’s seat. He backed the Chevy toward the Y junction and stomped the accelerator. He heard a large spray of gravel as the truck tires dug in, and he drove from the house.

Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Tina!!

Thanks for joining me, Gayle!