AuThursday – Marie Johnston

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

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

What are your current projects?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

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

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

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

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Website mariejohnstonwriter.com/

Twitter twitter.com/mjohnstonwriter

Facebook facebook.com/mjohnstonwriter/

Instagram Instagram.com/mariejohnstonwriter

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

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

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

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

Still there. 

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

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

No. It couldn’t be a person. 

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

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

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

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

The lump didn’t move. 

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

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

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

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

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

No movement.

“Sir?” She took a step closer. 

No response. 

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

Nothing. 

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

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

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

The man groaned as he settled on his back. 

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

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

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

“What’s your story?”

 

AuThursday – Brian Barr

IMG_4457Please welcome Brian Barr to The Clog Blog, who like me is a member of Writer Zen Garden.  Brian, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I’m an author of speculative fiction: science-fiction, fantasy, and horror primarily. I write novels, short stories, and comic books. The first novel of my Carolina Daemonic series, Book I: Confederate Shadows, was released in 2015, followed by Book II: Rebel Hell last year and Book 0: The Daemonic Civil War this year. I co-created and co-wrote the comic series Empress with Chuck Amadori in 2014, drawn by Sullivan Suad and Zilson Costa, which I would love to resurrect after we can garner more interest and possibly get a comic publisher behind. So far, my most-read books have been The 3 H’s Trilogy, which starts with The Head.

What draws you to the genres that you write in?

I’ve always loved speculative fiction since I was a kid. I grew up in a household where Stephen King, John Saul, and Dean Koontz were on the shelves. By the time I got into Clive Barker as a teenager, I knew the main type of fiction I wanted to write- dark fiction with a mix of the bizarre. When it comes to science-fiction, I’ve always leaned towards cyberpunk since I watched Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, which is one of my favorite stories.

I’m almost scared to ask but, where do your ideas come from?

Dreams, my life, and out of nowhere. I believe in writing what you know and what you’re passionate about, but my best ideas will just come when I least expect them.

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

I submit to other places or publish the works myself. Rejection letters can be helpful when the editors tell you the things you could work on to improve the story, even if they liked them. I’ve had editors who rejected my stories but asked me to change a few things, then accepted them. I’ve had other stories that had been rejected by other houses by accepted by others. So I’d tell any writer not to get bummed about rejections- it doesn’t mean that your work isn’t good or that you’re an inept writer; most of the time, a work doesn’t fit an anthology or publisher and there are always other places where you can submit.

What are your current projects?

I’m writing the last Carolina Daemonic novel, Book III: Union. Be on the lookout for it! I’m also planning on writing some more short stories, including a sequel to my short story Hover.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I’ve become more aware of what I like to write, how I like to write it, and which audiences work best for me.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Amazon is the main place you can find my works, but I’m also on Barnes and Noble, Comixology for Empress, and other book retailers.

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

Sure! Here’s an excerpt from my Carolina Daemonic series:

Novel Excerpt:

“Remember.”

Many final scenes and memories flashed in Zev’s spiritual sight, as he slowly rose from his induced coma; his hands ripping at the cocoon of chaotically pulsing skin and tissue wrapped around him. He could remember the feel of the amulets on his neck and in his hands, the summoning of great golems sweeping the Southern landscape, disguised as Union soldiers with Hebrew letters on their foreheads, giving each earth-made man their own name and number. 

Figures formed from American dirt and clay rose from the earth, wearing blue uniforms and carrying guns of their own, while the South played the hand with its own collected brand of zombie soldiers. The dead and the supernaturally conceived blended in well with the horrors of war, fighting alongside their human comrades; farms burnt to ash, slaughtered civilians rested in mud pits, and along dirt roads. 

I had been commissioned, the rabbi’s son remembered, commissioned, and given asylum. 

Back in the President’s office, in hidden rooms behind brothels, in the homes and tents of generals… everything was coming back in flashes, in stretched moments of time. Zev had sat in backrooms with war strategists, watched them draw up maps of Gettysburg, Appomattox, Yorktown, and New Orleans. A usually drunk Ulysses S. Grant had offered the magician a swig of liquor and scowled when it was politely refused. Zev had drawn up his own images to show the generals that had hired his services, explaining the intricacies of the Etz HaChaim, the powers of the Melakhim… most of the time, the men offered blank stares to the rabbi’s son, but none of them thought he was crazy. They knew of his great reputation, and they had already seen his powers on the open field, along with the other occultists they had a pleasure to work with.”

 

AuThursday – Seelie Kay

As I will be running a Spotlight with Seelie Kay tomorrow I wanted to share an interview originally posted July 7, 2019.  

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

When I write depends on my work schedule. I also ghostwrite and edit for clients, and their needs have to come first. So, I write my books around those assignments. I keep a regular work schedule, though. I am at my desk at 8 a.m. and work until 5 p.m. unless I have appointments out of the office and need a break. 

Where do your ideas come from?

I find inspiration everywhere. A news story, a conversation with a friend, a Tweet, the grocery store, a funny sign. As a journalist, I am a natural observer. Wherever I am, my mind is recording and cataloging ideas. 

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

I start with an idea and really have no idea where it will go. The stories just seem to flow and when they don’t, I know I’m headed in the wrong direction. 

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

I have a lot of colleagues I am touch with online, primarily those associated with my publisher, eXtasy Books or the Marketing for Romance Writers group. I have found my fellow authors to be exceptionally helpful in responding to questions, providing assistance with marketing, and just generally serving as cheerleaders.

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

The only rejection letter I received was for a book I wrote many years ago. It wasn’t very good and I didn’t know what I was doing, so it was a kick in the butt. After that I decided to get serious and learn about writing books, actually following the rules for submissions. eXtasy Books was the second publisher to offer me a contract for my first book. The first sent me an incredibly one-sided contract and as a lawyer, I knew it was unacceptable. We haggled, then I began to submit to other publishers. So, I guess the answer is that I took the rejection to heart and learned from it.

Do you believe in writer’s block? 

My problem with that term is the definition. For example, sometimes I get stuck in a story, so I take a break and work on something else, or shut down my computer and head into the kitchen to bake. But I have never taken more than a day off, so I’m not sure that was writer’s block. I know people who, for various reasons, have been unable to write for weeks, months, even years, but again, I’m not sure if they were actually blocked or simply distracted by other things. To me, writing is pretty instinctual, so it is hard for me to imagine that part of my brain shutting down. However, if someone else claims to have writer’s block, who am I to doubt them?

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I think I care much less what people will think about my books now. I am not self-editing my words and thoughts anymore. When I first started writing, I got some negative feedback about the fact that some of my stories were erotic. I finally realized that if I was going to enjoy writing, I had to write for me and hope that I could find an audience. 

How do you relax?

Many years ago, I participated in a study about how people relaxed. I was required to wear a “mood dot” 24/7 and record the color and what I was doing at certain times throughout the day. Guess what? I was most relaxed while I was writing! However, my fingers would fall off if that was all I did, so I also enjoy cooking, reading, gardening, live theatre, light opera, and just chatting with friends.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

Website: www.seeliekay.com

Blog:  www.seeliekay.blogspot.com

Twitter: @SeelieKay https://twitter.com/SeelieKay

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/seelie.kay.77

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Seelie-Kay/e/B074RDRWNZ/

 

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 – Christina Lynn Lambert

christina-lynn-lambert-author-bio-pic.jpgPlease welcome author Christina Lynn Lambert to the Clog Blog!  Christina, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I didn’t originally plan on being a writer. I went to school for psychology and then got an MBA. I worked in sales, then as a case manager for people with disabilities. I was also a running coach and a personal trainer. I liked to write poetry and short stories in my spare time but considered any writing I did just a fun hobby, not something to ever share. When I was studying to take a certification in personal training, intending to take my small business to the next level, I had this idea for a story. The idea wouldn’t leave me alone until I began to write it out in my composition notebook. 

Love, courage, hope, and second chances are a few of my favorite themes. I look forward to writing many more stories with strong heroines and imperfect but determined characters. When I’m not writing, I enjoy spending time outside and finding ways to avoid cooking. I live in beautiful Virginia with my husband, two daughters, and a sweet, hairy monster of a dog. 

Where do your ideas come from?

For me, the ideas always begin with the characters. I create heroes and heroines who have survived tragedies, who have made mistakes but haven’t lost their humanity. Working in sales and other hectic jobs helped me see the uglier side of human nature. The greedy, lost, warped out villains I create are often caricatures created from different interactions I’ve observed.

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

The books I have written so far are a paranormal romance with a major suspense element. I like the paranormal genre because I can bend reality to create a strange, extraordinary version of our world. I add a dose of suspense to everything I write because I have always loved to read stories that keep me wondering what will happen next.

How do you make time to write? 

It’s hard to find the time I need to go into the deep concentration mode it takes to create the plotline for a story and write the first draft. My kids interrupt me repeatedly even though they can clearly see me at the computer, either lost in thought with my head in my hands because an idea is evading me or I’m trying to push a pen across paper or type as fast as the words are forming in my mind. I try to manage my writing time carefully and use moments where I am doing something solitary like going for a run or taking a shower to reflect on ideas. 

Do you ever get Writer’s Block?

When I get stuck in writer’s block hell, I try to do something else other than stare at a blank page. Often, I’ll work on another book or poem when I can’t figure out how to move forward on a current work in progress. Sometimes I fall into the procrastination trap and avoid the writer’s block issue by cleaning my whole house, reading a book, or watching something on Netflix.   

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

Rejection is all part of the process. The first book I wrote received a rejection but the letter I received had some really helpful suggestions on how to make the book better and I used those suggestions. The rude rejection letters that basically say “thanks but no thanks, your work is trash” aren’t fun for anyone to receive and I recommend not taking that kind of thing personally. After any type of rejection, I look at my work again to see if there’s anything I can do to improve the manuscript and after changes are made, I start sending it out again elsewhere. 

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

I’m probably closer to being an introvert. I’m not really shy but I am quiet, though I find that works out alright for me. I get a lot of story ideas just by observing the ordinary things people do and how they do them, then I ask myself how those people would react if something amazing or catastrophic happened right then and there.  

What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Joining writers’ groups can help put aspiring writers in touch with people who can share great advice on writing, publishing, and marketing. Joining groups, whether online or locally also helps writers connect with one another, which can make the writing journey seem less daunting and isolated. I also suggest reading books about all aspects of the writing process, including marketing. Take writing classes if you can. Most importantly, don’t give up. 

There are days when I want to throw my computer out the window because I’ve rewritten the same sentence twenty-five times and can’t think of what should happen next in the story. When this happens, I take a step back, maybe work on a different story or find any number of other ways to distract myself. Every stage of writing has the potential to be hard or overwhelming, but don’t stop writing. Even when you’re faced with piles of rejection letters, keep writing! 

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

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

WordPress: https://christinalynnlambertwordpress.com 

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/chris4lamb

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15900423.Christina_Lynn_Lambert 

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Christina-Lynn-Lambert/e/B01MCYK0K7

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

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

I would love to share an excerpt from steamy, suspenseful paranormal romance, Bear’s Edge, which is book 2 in my Stranger Creatures series.

Bear's Edge-sc-Amazon-NEWWhat is it about Grant? Looking at the man beside her was no hardship; that was for damn sure. He had the tall, broad body of a heavyweight UFC fighter, but he never used his size to intimidate the people around him. Shayla wanted to sweep his wavy, slightly shaggy dark hair out of his gorgeous brown eyes. His dark hair and eyes complemented his bronze skin. He was hot, in a serious, dangerous kind of way. But in the two and a half years he had worked for her, she had hardly learned anything about him. 

The waitress at the popular nature-themed restaurant, the Greenhouse Effect, showed them to their table. The plants growing around all the walls and columns made the place look like a wild garden. The smell of lavender and jasmine mixed with the delicious scents drifting from the kitchen. She tried not to drool, but breakfast seemed like eons ago. Shayla sat next to Sydney and across from Grant. A too-tall centerpiece of yellow-and-purple flowers blocked most of her view. Being short occasionally sucked. Grant moved the centerpiece to the side and gave her a shy smile. His smile made her want answers, among other things. 

She knew he was from New Jersey and had gone to school in Wisconsin before moving to Richmond, Virginia, to work with Brook’s Comprehensive, a huge company that did everything from urban development projects to financial management for celebrities and politicians. 

“Why do you want to make such a big change from a large corporation to a simple start-up company?” she’d asked him in the interview. 

“Honestly?” He had paused then, the question hanging. 

“Yes,” she’d assured him. She’d take honesty over smooth-faced, calculated interview answers any day. 

“I want to live somewhere I can have a house and some land. Maybe spend more time outside. Also, I want a job where I can do more than just run numbers for projects where I never see the outcome.” 

The last part had seemed to come as a surprise to him. Maybe he hadn’t really known he wanted something more than a change of scenery until he had said it out loud. 

His answer had been simple and honest instead of a long, drawn-out elaboration about the projected success of new companies in the area or an extensive list of projects he had helped to fruition. She could look at his résumé for those kinds of details. He had wanted to be there, so she’d hired him. Simple as that—after a clean background check and drug screening, of course. 

Grant the mystery man—a delicious mystery Shayla would like to unravel, piece by piece, layer by layer. Ah, but I can’t. I’m his boss. In a different lifetime, if we didn’t have the whole boss-employee obstacle going on…. No harm in looking, though, just a little, since he sat so close. She promised herself to keep her thoughts G-rated—okay, maybe PG-13. Grant had a talent with numbers and paid attention to detail. Also, he was a little shy and standoffish to a lot of people when it came to anything other than work. Shayla wondered where he sometimes went in his head, because, every now and then, his smile slipped from his face, just for a second, before being replaced with one a little harder. None of my business, she reminded herself. 

She had really wanted to hug him this morning after seeing him so frustrated but decided it might be wiser and more appropriate to show him there were a few people on his side. Seeing him break things and try to be all strong and humorous about it made Shayla want to unravel the Grant mystery even more. It kind of hurt to watch him pretending to be fine, but all she could offer him was lunch and good conversation. Hopefully, Mr. Strong and Silent—Sydney called him that sometimes, although never to his face—knew Shayla and Sydney cared. And Shayla did care. Because he’s a friend. Just a friend. 

Grant raised his soda in a toast. “To things not being worse,” he announced with a rueful half-smile. “And, uh”—he cleared his throat—“to good company.” He nodded at Sydney, and when he met Shayla’s gaze, he held it. In his dark eyes, she saw hunger, wide-open desire, and about a million other things she couldn’t puzzle out. Grant looked at her that way sometimes, and she did her best to ignore it. He might have a small crush on her, or he could have a thing for petite, small-breasted girls possessing a great fashion sense. 

Sydney broke the silence. “To good food and even better friends.” She clinked Grant’s glass, and Shayla came back to reality and smiled, pretending she wasn’t experiencing several different kinds of inappropriate thoughts and feelings for a sexy, complicated man who was her employee and also her friend. She needed to behave and remember things could never go any further than a panty-melting gaze.

 

AuThursday – Anna Hague

annahagueTell us a little about yourself and your background?

Well, in my other life, I’m a freelance sports journalist, and I’ve done that job for years. I’m a big fan of auto racing, and I’ve had the privilege of covering the Indianapolis 500 for nearly 20 years. Right now, because I’m spending more time as an author, I cover a lot of high school sports, and I love it. To me, high school sports are the purest form of athletics. My husband and I live in central Indiana. We were both born there, but have moved around the country several times and landed back here. We don’t have kids, but have three parrots and a puppy, but we’ve hosted eleven foreign exchange students which has been one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done.

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

I try to keep a structure, but with the animals in the house, there are a lot distractions. I usually write three or four hours in the morning, be it my current WIP or my stories for the paper. I’ll take a lunch break and then either go to the gym or get some chores accomplished. I’ll write again until around 4 p.m. I don’t write a lot in the evening. I prefer to spend the time with my husband having dinner or watching a little TV. Sometimes I think I’ll write into the night, but honestly because I’m up in the morning around 5:30-6, by 8:30 or 9, I’m ready for bed.

Where do your ideas come from?

Everywhere. The song Counting Stars by One Republic was a real catalyst for me when I was toying with the idea for Captured Hearts. Things from the news, or an interaction I’ve had with someone. I’ve seen a car drive by me on the interstate and my curiosity of where they might be going popped an idea into my heard. My hometown, Indianapolis was a setting I wanted to use. I finally had to start keeping a file with my ideas because they just keep coming. I wish I could write as fast.

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

I’m such a pantser. I have a general idea where I want things to go, but as I write, sometimes the story takes a big turn. Although taking notes is important in being a reporter, I rarely make too many notes about stories other than the main plot.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block?

Yes. Just recently. I was working on the third book of Love Strictly Tested trilogy which deals with a murder trial, and we had a family tragedy involving a murder. I had been doing research about what happens during a murder investigation and trial, the whole thing became way too real, and I couldn’t write a word for about three months. Luckily, the publisher of this book was not quite ready for it to be finished, and I was able to get back into the story. I’m still a little freaked out by what happened.

You run your own publication company, what would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

I’ve lucky to have been both self-published and through a publisher. There are definite pluses and minuses to both. In self-pubbing, you have total control over everything, the story, the covers release dates, and royalties. The downside is you have to pay for all of the services like editing, cover design, formatting and most of your marketing.

With a publisher, they incur all the initial costs which is great, but your royalties aren’t as high. You can’t control the release date, and you don’t have a whole lot of input on the covers. I get to describe what I think I’d like on the cover, but I don’t get a lot of say so. And while they market the book, I’m still responsible for a fair amount of marketing. I really like this publisher, so it’s not anything against them. It’s pretty much the industry standard. I’ve learned a lot from both, and I think I’ll continue to do both if the opportunity is there.

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.

For Captured Hearts, I gave the designer, Kellie Dennis, some stock photos that I thought conveyed some of my vision. She sent me back two designs, and they were both phenomenal, and I had a hard time choosing, but I love what she did. For the second book, Stolen Hearts, I sent her the cover she had done and then gave her a brief synopsis of the story and characters. She came back with another amazing cover. For Angel’s Collar, I gave my input about the characters and that I thought black and white was sort of my vision, and that’s what the designer did. I like it, an am anxious to see the one for the second book in the series.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

www.annahague.com

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

This is from Captured Hearts, the first book in the Heart series.

Even though blasts of icy February wind bulldozed through Louisville, Jamey wiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve.

Cigarette smoke and stale bourbon permeated the worn leather jacket, making him recoil at the smell. His rapid breathing and tense muscles made him second-guess himself. Something about this Allee Jones was not right. A week’s worth of surveillance had provided more questions than answers. Every day, he watched her apartment, and at nine thirty in the morning, she tentatively descended the three concrete steps to begin the walk to her job about fifteen minutes away. Her gaze, always focused on the sidewalk, only lifted to check her progress. She never spoke to anyone. She waited to cross the street until she was alone. Every time a group started to form at the crosswalk, she moved away so fast, he watched her stumble. Some days, she stood by the crosswalk for several minutes until the path was completely clear of people. Often she leaned against the wall of a business watching the people hustle by, never making eye contact with any of them. Women completely ignored her, but men would look at the attractive blonde-haired woman who tried to fade into the bricks. When a man would talk to her, she spoke a few words but never looked him in the eye. They all shrugged and walked away from the strange, but beautiful girl.

Jamey thought she was a stunner with waist-length honey-colored hair down to the middle of her back. Maybe she was about five foot seven, but he couldn’t tell since she hunched over most of the time. This girl’s mesmerizing actions forced Jamey to reconsider his own choices, but too much was at stake. Watching her every move, he tried to understand why someone so attractive would go out of her way not to interact with people. Those thoughts flooded his brain, and his real mission became cloudy. Something about her reached out to him, despite the fact he had never been closer than twenty yards.

He could not shake the attraction.

 

Tina’s Touring – Darla M. Sands

I’m over at my fellow Writer Zen Gardener and friend Darla Sands today talking about my book, “Finding Your Path to Publishing”.   Please join me.

http://darlamsands.blogspot.com/

Tina fnl

AuThursday – Sue L. Hamilton

Please welcome my fellow ND author, Sue L. Hamilton to The Clog Blog.  Sue, tell us a little about yourself and your background?

Growing up on a family farm in north central ND provided a strong work ethic that lead to a 20-year corporate career, encompassing direct sales, upper management, employee training, customer service, and business development. 

For the last 15 years, I’ve redirected my passion by encouraging others through the gift of speaking and writing.  This allows others to be motivated and energized and bring them hope.

I’m an eternal optimist that loves life.  On a personal note, I love gardening, cooking, and classic cars and is especially fond of being a wife of 31 years and mother of two grown sons.

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

The structure I use on a regular basis while writing is the following:

  • Personal Story
  • Thoughts about the problem
  • Lessons learned – teaching
  • What to inspire or to move to action
  • Prayer

Do you ever get writer’s Block?

Yep!

Okay, I’ll say a little more.  I’ve felt like I’ve had writer’s block ever since I completed my memoir Carried by Faith in the fall of 2017.  I worked at it for seven years. In the last two of those years, I worked at it every day, even if it was for fifteen minutes.  Now I have to force myself to write a weekly blog and most recently have went to an every other week blog because I just don’t feel like writing. UGH!!

What genre do you write, and what draws you to it?

Blog posts are geared mostly to middle-aged women working on self – improvement.

Memoir Carried by Faith is a wide range audience from male or female, age 16-70 years old.

How do you come up with the idea for your book?

I was forced into writing!  While doing a lot of public speaking I use my life stories in the presentation/training and afterward people would ask me if I had a book or a website that I shared my stories in detail.  The answer was always a resounding, “No!” I continued to hear it and decided to begin writing even though I wasn’t a writer. So, the idea for my memoir was my life stories from around the age of 5 – 30years old and a tragic motorcycle accident I survived.

My current project is a self-help book with the “rest of the story” from where I left off in the memoir.  

How do you publish your book(s) and why?  (Indie, traditional or small press)

Self-publish.  I used TLC Design https://www.tlcbookdesign.com/ which allows for a la carte or packaged options.  I’ve chosen this route because of the cost and the control of timing in producing a finished product.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Start writing and keep writing!  Huh – maybe I need to take my own advice.  

Find your writing voice and style.  The only way I’ve found this is by continuing to write and seeing what I like and don’t like.  In addition, I suggest that you get used to being told you need to improve and change things that you thought were wonderful and after someone else reads it they give you feedback for improvement.  Be ready for constructive criticism because it will help you and improve the end product.

Where can readers find you on the World Wide Web?

www.suelhamilton.com

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

Walls as a Way of Life

Excerpts from Carried by Faith: From Substance Abuse to a Life Filled with Miracles page 40-42

Author – Sue L. Hamilton www.suelhamilton.com or www.carriedbyfaith.com

The high, thick walls of protection became my life; they bordered my heart, so no one could enter.  Others didn’t understand what I was living in, this living Hell.  The walls hid the pain and unspeakable things associated with the hard years of alcohol and drug abuse.  

I believed no one would understand, so it was easier to keep everyone away with high, cold walls of silence and no emotion.  No form of light, goodness, or happiness was allowed in. Alcohol and drugs filled the silence.

It was nice and quiet in the walls of protection, I didn’t have to explain myself, but then again, I couldn’t explain myself.  The silence was best, and that is why I would use the “liquid forgetter,” alcohol and drugs. I craved the effect they gave me, and they kept my level of chaotic thinking at bay.  They did for me what I could not do for myself.

I ran after the effect and did whatever I needed to get my supply.  The concoctions of alcohol and drugs along with the need to keep my supply met took me to some very dark places.  It can be explained like this – wickedness danced in the darkness of night, moving in and out of its hiding places and drunkenness was the painful bondage that took over my mind and body.  When I would awaken from its stupor, I would wonder, “Where am I?” “What happened to me?” “What have I done?”

“What was to become of my miserable life?” “Why was I here anyway?”

I looked for a way to escape my life, even a slit to my wrist one dark night would not stop the pain.  I had no answers. It felt like a knife stabbing in my heart. The pain would dull occasionally, but I always felt its continual throb, reminding me of my bondage.

I was constantly trying to get back to the original first feeling of catching a “buzz” or “getting high”.  It would not come back.

Nights turned into weeks, then months, and years of crying and sobbing into my pillow.  The pillow stopped the loud wail coming from deep within my soul. It silenced the fear and absorbed the tears that I couldn’t vocalize.  

No words would ever reach my lips to explain my hopelessness.  I continued to repeat in my head, “Why God…why am I here?”  

I didn’t have any answers, so I continue to hide behind my protective walls.

 

Writer Wednesday – A few of my favorite things

A lot of writers get asked what kind of tools they use when writing and editing.  Here are a few of mine:

Books

The Romance Writer’s Phrase book by Jean Kent and Candice Shelton – It’s a handy little phrase book, used for tag lines, body language, etc.

A more updated version would be The Emotional Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi.   I use these books when I’m in the layer process of my book.   I used to use them during the rough draft, but found I got too bogged down with particulars rather than just writing the damn book.

The Novel Writer’s Toolkit by Bob Mayer – I have an old copy of this, but found it useful for understanding aspects of the business like Sell-thrus and royalties.   I believe he has an updated version.

And of course I have a Thesaurus, Dictionary and Two Style Guides.

Online Tools

Pinterest – I use Pinterest to store a lot of my pictures for characters, setting, clothes, etc.   Of course you can totally get lost on there.

First Draught – I have to give a shout-out to these ladies, because they cover a range of topics and they talk about everything from craft to publishing.  I love their Vlog!

Jenna Moreci – Jenna is a YA Indie Writer and she has this Vlog where her topics are humorous and based on her writing experience.   I highly recommend this if you are exploring Self-publishing or are a YA writer.

Google Keep  – I sort of stumbled across this recently and use it in place of Scrivener.    I make up all these little notes on characters, settings and scenes I need to write and then I can have it on the side of my Google Doc.   I’m sort of envious of Scrivener, but the feature I was really wanting was to replace my post-it plotting system that I learned from Cherry Adair.

Last week I covered the importance of finding your tribe, and of course my tribes are some of my favorite things.

~Tina

 

 

 

Writer Wednesday – Find your tribe

Writing-GroupOn my writing journey, I know I would not be where I am today without the tribe of writers around me.

Having a supportive partner and family is important too, and I’m fortunate to have that as well.

But when I write myself into a corner, cuz I’m a pantser and we do that, DH is of no help.   But I can call my friend Arden Richards, whose not yet published but is the best plotter I know.

I belong to a number of tribes –

The F-M Word Weavers – This is my local critique group.  Arden is a member as well.  Also in my group are published Authors Maddy Barone and Mary Jean Adams.  The wealth of knowledge in this group is wonderful, and my writing has greatly improved over the years thanks to these ladies.   I found this group on Meet-up and It helps that most of the group is made up of Romance Authors.

Romance Writers of America – I highly recommend this group if you are looking to establish a career in the Romance Writing Industry.   I’ve been a member since 2004 and belong to an online chapter.   I met my first critique partner Holli Winters through RWA.    If you want to learn more about this particular tribe I recommend, if you have Netflix, that you watch “Love Between the Covers”.  First time DH watched it with me he said, “Sounds like your writer friends.”  Yes, yes it does.

Of course there is also Mystery Writers of America, Horror Writers Association and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers or America.  As I do not write in these genres, I’m unfamiliar with their membership. 

Romance Divas – I’ve recently joined Divas, but I have friends who have been members for years and rave about the mentorship and learning there.   It seems too that Divas is on the leading edge of trends within the Romance Industry.    Also they are FREE, so that is helpful for those watching their budget.

Marketing for Romance Writers – Despite the name, more than Romance Writers belong to this community.   If you follow my AuThursday interviews, many of the writers are from this group.  This group is also FREE. 

Writer Zen Garden – I’ve been with Writer Zen Garden for about five years, brought in by my friend and founding member, A. Catherine Noon.   Writer Zen Garden has authors of different genres.   They are wonderful for writers just starting out and maybe not so Romance focused.   To me the focus is very creative and  wonderful  cheerleading group. And Guess what – also FREE.

I continue to join groups as I see what they have to offer and if it is a good fit for me.   I highly recommend that if you aren’t a member of a tribe that you join one.   There is something about the writing journey that shouldn’t be done in a bubble.   I mean you can, but there are so many options to connect with people and learn, why wouldn’t you. 

The groups above have helped me through Writer’s Block, Rejection, Plotting, Marketing, Networking, and supporting me through my writing journey.   I can’t imagine writing without my tribes. 

~Tina