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Journaling as a Coping Device with S. Kelley Harrell

As an author and pastoral counselor, I often encourage clients to write as a way to express feelings.  I know firsthand from penning my memoir, Gift of the Dreamtime – Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma, that often the synaptic processes fired in the creative act of writing stir emotions, memories, philosophies.  Journaling can be a very catabolic undertaking, though the results can be intensely cathartic.  From a spiritual standpoint, blending the chronology of events of your life with art is deeply empowering.

Often in response to my suggestion to journal as a means of coping with stress I’m met with conflict around why it won’t work.  “I don’t like to write.”  “I can’t write well.”  “I stare at the paper and nothing comes.”  “I don’t have anything to say.”  I get some stern looks when I encourage folks carrying these ideologies to write even more than those who greet the opportunity openly.  Why?  Not because I, personally, love to write, but because if you can put something into words, you’ve already made progress in eliminating the stress.  The ability to associate thoughts with feelings goes a long way in taking the charge out of those feelings.  Once free of emotional involvement, you can make clearer choices about how to proceed in the dynamic.

Even if you don’t write, give journaling a try.  Sit down and write whatever comes.  There are no rules or boundaries.  Your journal doesn’t have to be your deepest, darkest secrets.  You don’t have to approach journaling with any specific intention other than to offer yourself the outlet.

And if nothing comes, write your grocery list.  Write you To Do list for the day.  Write about how you have nothing to write about.  All it takes is getting started.  Before you know it you tap into a stream of consciousness and start forming opinions about what you are writing.

Maybe you start writing your grocery list and the thought occurs that for your evening meal you’d rather have mashed potatoes than cabbage, but you have to make cabbage to satisfy your visiting uncle.  In making that menu item concession, you have an emotional reaction.  You don’t really want to concede the mashed potatoes because since he’s been visiting he’s already taken over control of the television remote, and you’re mad that you missed your favorite show…

This free association is your avenue into cathartic journaling.  The synaptic process of writing taps into something primal, personal, pivotal.  It appeals to our most basic emotional urges in the limbic system—where we blend metaphor with reality, symbolism with structure.  How you react to what comes out gives meaning to your overall need for journaling.  Follow where your awareness leads you.  Just write it out and let the words come as they will.  The more you practice journaling, the easier it becomes.  Before long, you will anticipate the luxury of that release.

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About S. Kelley Harrell

Kelley is a neoshaman and author in North Carolina. She has been on a shamanic path since 1988, and since 2000 has served her local community and an international client base. Her book Gift of the Dreamtime: Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma chronicles her pivotal step into the role of modern shaman. To support her shamanic work, she draws on energy work, hypnotherapy, and flower essences. A modern Druid, Kelley is an ordained interfaith minister. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English, and is currently pursuing a Masters of Divinity.

Kelley writes for several publications, including the Global Goddess Oracle and The Huffington Post, and has been published in many journals and anthologies. Her shamanic practice is Soul Intent Arts, and a major focus of her work is helping modern intuitives assimilate spiritual emergency through private sessions and mentorship in The Tribe of the Modern Mystic Mystery School.

Find a Reader’s Companion to Gift of the Dreamtime at KelleyHarrell.com. Traipse with Kelley around the Internet:

Websites

Official Author Website

Soul Intent Arts

Intentional Insights Blog, Q&A From Within

About Gift of the Dreamtime – Awakening to the Divinity of Trauma

With a foreward by modern shaman and founder of The Last Mask Center, Christina Pratt, this fantastical memoir chronicles a modern shamanic journey from pain, to healing and accepting a calling to work as a soul healer of others.

Groundbreaking at the time of its first publication in 2004, still no other modern shamanic work shares an experience of soul healing told from within the shamanic narrative, bringing relatable and credible insight to contemporary soul healing.

Through that rare glimpse into her experiences traversing the spirit world, Harrell’s story becomes the reader’s adventure.

Not always easy to read, there are unflinching passages examining hurtful childhood memories, confrontations with overzealous spirit guides, and challenging personal obstacles she must overcome in order to heal.

The book combines Harrell’s personal journey with instructions for creating similar soul journeys to help the injured child in all of us look at the hurt, understand it in a spiritual context, and forgive both ourselves and others.

Praise for Gift of the Dreamtime

Let S. Kelley Harrell guide you on a very special spiritual journey — destination your healed soul!  ~ Donna Henes, author  of The Queen of My Self

Harrell draws you into the dreamtime as an expert novelist draws you into a great novel and shares with you her experiences and knowledge of the world beyond the veil from the time she was very young. ~ Innerchange Magazine

Harrell’s gift of sharing offers readers insight into how we can learn to understand those things that are beyond our control while gaining control of our own destiny. ~ SageWoman Magazine

In this book that hunger and fear that nibbled and clawed at you and me for years is explained in poetic, experiential detail. Kelley guides us into our own souls, turning the “whys” into wise. ~ Bridgett Walther, author of Conquer the Cosmos

Gift of the Dreamtime is a unique book, an artefact of Harrell’s explorations, valuable to other potential explorers and the curious. ~ Spiral Nature

SEO keywords:  animism, shamanism, neoshamanism, S. Kelley Harrell, memoir, sexual assault survivor, totemism, earth religion, Gift of the Dreamtime, North Carolina, soul retrieval

Bronwen Evans interview and INVITATION TO SCANDAL giveaway

Thank you for visiting Manic Readers Bronwen.

Congrats on INVITATION TO RUIN being nominated for Best First Historical Romance in the 2011 RT Reviewers Choice Awards.  Bet that was exciting.

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Hi everyone. Waving madly from New Zealand. Thanks for having me over today.

My nomination was so unexpected and exciting, I couldn’t believe it. It was more than I’d ever dreamed of for my debut. I think my mum was more thrilled than anyone.

You’re also part-time CEO of a surgical association.  I would think that CEO, part- time or not, would be demanding.  How do you balance that with writing?

At times it is stressful. Why is it that you always get busy at work when you’re on deadline? Sigh, I shouldn’t complain. I LOVE both of my jobs and I’m extremely lucky to have both of them!  I am quite an ‘organized person’ (that’s a polite word for saying I can be a bit anally retentive). I have to be to juggle jobs, promotion, and have a live! I don’t have any children, so that makes my life much easier. I have set routines for the days I don’t work as a CEO. I work Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday writing. At night I do PR and other marketing, and sometimes at the weekend, I write too. It’s busy but I love it. It helps that the surgeons I work for are also busy people. They understand when I have to change days or take time off.  It really is a great job.

Can you tell us about your INVITATION TO series, the first INVITATION TO RUIN, and your latest release, INVITATION TO SCANDAL?  They sound sooo good.  I really like the teaser about Rufus’ struggle with the true meaning of honor.

I have always loved the Regency period and when I decided to write about these four men I thought about what things in the period could have affected each man. I had just seen Amazing Grace (William Wilberforce movie about Abolition) and instantly had a clear picture of what sort of human being could make his living from selling people. Then I imagined what kind of father he would be. For Invitation to Ruin, I imagined a son growing up under such a father, and Anthony Craven was born. Anthony has to battle great cruelty and I think that’s what I love about him the most, his ability to still have a wonderful heart.

Another aspect of the period is honor. Men defended it rigorously and could end up on the dueling field if said honor was maligned. In Invitation to Scandal, Rufus’s late father was accused of treason and so Rufus lives his life all about honor to the point of seeing the world in black and white. So, what would happen if he’s forced to choose between love or honor?

Here’s a snippet about Rufus’s past:

 

He was so beautiful. His chest and stomach glowed golden in the sun. Her hand rose to touch the sparse auburn hair sprinkling his chest. Only when he was silent did she notice the jagged scar that sliced down his left side, destroying the perfection. She couldn’t imagine any woman wanting to mar such beauty. She had to curl her toes up tight to stop herself stepping forward and planting kisses on the scar’s jagged length.

“Who was she?” Rheda asked in a quiet voice.

The pain drained from his eyes. He quickly lowered his shirt. “She is of no consequence.”

“That’s not true. She hurt you.” She tentatively touched his chest. “Why?”

“Why?”

“Why did she knife you?”

He looked away, his mouth set in a firm line. “Because I was a fool.”

“You’re a fool if you judge all women by one bad experience.”

He tugged at his cuffs. “Says the woman who judges all men by her father’s standards of honor.”

She turned away before he could see the pain in her eyes. “You did not know my father.” Then she swung back to face him. “If you had, you’d probably have liked him. He, too, loved bedding as many women as he could, while never engaging any other emotion than lust.”

Rufus’s lip curled up in disgust. “Lust is an emotion men cannot hide. A woman can see and feel a man’s lust. On the other hand, women can fake lust as easily as they can fake every other emotion. That is what makes women so dangerous.”

Rheda watched the play of emotions roaming his features. She saw hurt, pain, and something that looked a lot like guilt. “The woman who knifed you—you loved her.” It wasn’t a question. “You surprise me, Rufus. I never would have imagined a man like you being capable of love. Interesting . . .”

He narrowed his gaze. “I never make the same mistake twice,” he warned. “Don’t play games with me, Rheda. You won’t like the outcome.”

She moved until her hand pressed against his side where he had been wounded. “Only yesterday you were expertly demonstrating how pleasurable games could be. Why the sudden change of heart?” Her hand crept up his chest until she could feel a beat under her palm. She looked into his warm brown eyes and saw her answer. Her heart suddenly seemed to swell and try to own her chest cavity. Did he have feelings for her? Was that why Rufus was determined that she believe he was not sleeping with Lady Umbridge? She could neither help nor hide her victorious smile. “Perhaps with me more than simply your lust is engaged.”

She could feel the rapid rise and fall of his chest under her hand. His breathing increased, and his pulse raced. She licked her lips and stood on tiptoes to place a gentle kiss upon his sensuous mouth. He groaned and pulled her hard against him. Just as he’d stated, Rufus could not hide his lust for her. But was he hiding other feelings? She longed to find out.

BUY

Invitation to Passion, due out early 2013 is Anthony’s twin brother’s story, Richard Craven. Everyone keeps emailing me asking when this story is being released – early 2013! Richard feels like he has to save everyone, because he didn’t protect his brother from their father’s cruelty, while growing up. I also have a fascination with the concept of a lady being compromised and therefore forced to marry. What happens when the compromise is a misunderstanding with your best-friend? How awkward would that be? Richard’s story is a love triangle and a friend to lover journey where Richard learns not everyone can be saved.

For the last book in the series, I wanted a real swashbuckling escape. I was fascinated with the Ottoman Empire and wondered what would have happened to Englishmen when they were caught by the Turks. So finally, in Invitation to Love, I look at the opium trade and addiction. Recovering drug addict, Alex Montford has to return to the Mediterranean to honor a debt. He has to face the demons of his past to save the woman he loves.

There’ve been a lot of intelligent and independent historical heroines, especially of late.  Rheda Kerrich is the first I’ve read that wanted to start a business breeding horses.  Even with their love of horses and horsemanship, wasn’t this on the scandalous side for a woman at the time?

Unfortunately Rheda already has a blemished reputation; through no fault of her own I should add. But yes, you’re right, it is somewhat unusual and scandalous, although breeding horses for the cavalry was different than breeding race horses for example, which was a men’s club. Women were not allowed to enter horses in the General Stud Book. But cavalry horses are bought by each individual Officer, not the army. Rheda could breed quality horses and discretely sell them. A man’s horse could save his life, so Officer’s would overlook almost anything to ensure a quality mount.

What about your foray into self publishing, the Wicked Wager series novellas?  A bit about them and the experience, please?

 My agent suggested I release some novellas in-between my novels, I thought it was a great idea. However, I found it hard to write shorter stories and each novella sits at around 39,500 words, almost the size of a short contemporary. I came up with the Wicked Wagers trilogy while watching a TV program where the characters played truth or dare. Suddenly I saw three handsome rakes – To Dare, To Wager and To Challenge. It’s been such an amazing experience. The first novella, To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield, reached #3 on the Amazon Best Seller Books Regency. [CLUE SEVENTEEN REPEAT: CAPTURE]

 

 

To Dare the Duke of Dangerfield sees Harlow Telford, Duke of Dangerfield, put in an awkward position. He’s won a house in a card game, only to learn that the house was actually held in trust for the man’s daughter. Caitlin Southall dares the Duke to let her win it back. Throw in the fact Harlow only won the house on behalf of his illegitimate brother (Caitlin’s unknown half-brother), and the fact Harlow is falling in love with Caitlin, and you see why Harlow is now trapped. Someone he loves is going to lose. It’s a hilarious, sensual game of three challenges.

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The second novella, To Wager the Marquis of Wolverstone is a classic revenge story. Ten years ago the woman Marcus Danvers loved, eloped with another man. Now she’s back and wants his help. He has her exactly where he wants her. He offers her a wager, he’ll help her and if he succeeds in delivering on the favor she’s requested of him, she becomes his mistress. When he wins, he’ll have Sabine exactly where he wants her—in his bed and at his mercy. However, all is not what it seems. Marcus doesn’t know that by helping Sabine he’ll also be getting his revenge.  For there are some secrets best left buried…

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The third novella, To Challenge the Earl of Cravenswood is much lighter and a comedic ‘Cinderella’ story. Henry St. Giles, the Earl of Cravenswood, is the only one of the trio still unwed. His two, recently married friends Harlow and Marcus, challenge him to find a wife by the end of the year or marry Amy Shipton (a character in Marcus’s story). A drunken fumble in the dark, a lost earring, two friends who love to interfere and a woman, who is determined to only marry for love, leads Henry on a sensual chase.  

 

 

 

 

 

I was part of a discussion once where someone said they didn’t need to relate to any of the characters in a book.  If I don’t relate to any of the characters, the book doesn’t appeal to me.   (Fiction that is, admittedly non-fiction is a whole other ball of wax.)  What’s your stance on this?

Well, I can only comment re: romance stories. Romance is the happy ever after. How could I write them if I didn’t think the characters deserved a HEA? I couldn’t even write the book if I didn’t LOVE the characters. As you’re writing or reading, you’re willing and hoping that they find the HEA. Or you should be. If you’re not, then the characters have not grabbed you. And that can happen. Let’s face it, not everyone you meet will end up being your best-friend. Some just become a friend or even an acquaintance. We all have individual tastes.

Would you care to share some of your travel adventures with us?  How exciting was it to go to London for 6 months and have it turn into years while you worked and traveled the world?

VERY! I had a huge support network there. My twin sister lived there too (she went to England the year before me) and I had a huge group of friends who I’d been at University in New Zealand with, also living there. However, I fell on my feet when I hit London. I decided I wanted to ‘share’ with English people rather than kiwis, so I answered an advert in the Evening Standard newspaper for a roommate. This led me to Simon, who owned a beautiful flat on the top floor of a mansion block on river in Putney. He’s a property developer. He was from a very wealthy family and I never dreamed he’d agree to the ‘kiwi’ backpacker moving in. Plus, he really only wanted the company and the rent was so low for what I got. I think that might be the reason I stayed so long in England – life was good! Simon and I hit it off (as Aries and Aries often do) and I moved in. I shared with Simon for almost four years, until his marriage to Caroline, his girlfriend who I made friends with. In fact, her sister married a really good friend of mine.

I don’t realize how much travelling etc I have done until people ask me about it and are amazed at where I’ve been in the world and what I’ve seen. I think travelling and seeing different cultures made me a more tolerant person.

One of my most memorable trips was an African game parks safari with my mother and twin sister. Mum’s a biologist and zoologist and it was fascinating travelling in the game parks with her. Mum and I also did Italy one year, and mum took Latin at University so she could read all the old inscriptions at the ancient sights like Pompeii.

I also did a trip through Russia in 1989 which was amazing. There was no MacDonald’s, coke-a-cola or anything like that in Russia at that time. We had to go on designated buses, which had to drive on designated roads. There were queues of people lining up for food and I got mobbed on the street when I brought a can of coke out of my bag. I traded it for Russian doll earrings and caviar. The Russians’ loved anything American!

My camel safari through the Sahara was another memorable trip – big tip – don’t ride a fat camel, they are really uncomfortable. Pick one who looks lean.

Just, WOW….I’d love to do Italy, all that history.

Your list of Auto-buy authors, what one quality of their writing or books put each on your list?

I’m a lover of dark, tortured heroes, who have been really wounded. I prefer these types of stories to more comedic romances. I guess I love the angst in these stories. So, if you give me a hero I can feel for, cry for, lust after, want to be with, then I love your books. One of the books I read over and over again is Princess by Galen Foley. The hero is to die for and the writing sublime.

Really?  I’ll have to check that out. Just what I need, another title added to my list…

What’s the easiest and hardest parts of research?

Hardest part is verifying facts. You need to find multiple sources that say the same thing before your sure it’s an actual fact. The easiest thing is how internet and email make this job easier. I find that when I email organizations, and let them know I’m an author seeking information, everyone is very helpful.

Writing?

When I write a book, I split the job into threes. 1/3 plotting (includes research and character development), 1/3 writing. And 1/3 editing.

The fun part for me is the plotting. I love strategizing the external and internal emotional journeys of my characters. The most satisfying part is when you have finished the book and it’s ready for publication.

The last book you read that left an indelible mark?

How to Please a Pirate, by Mia Marlowe, a fellow Kensington Brava author and one of the authors on www.rockitreads.com. I love a book where the hero is being forced to marry anyone other than the woman he truly loves in order to do his duty.  It’s the love conquers all bit I like.

What can we look forward to next from you?

Well, I have a little surprise. I’m releasing a contemporary romance, The Italian Conte’s Reluctant Bride, in the fall, with Entangled Publishing. I’m pretty excited about this. I think the Entangled Publishing business model is very exciting for authors and readers.

I’m very familiar with Entangled.  Their proofing is excellent. I didn’t find a single error in the book I read.  That’s extremely rare.

Also book three in the Wicked Wager’s series, to Challenge the Earl of Cravenswood, is out August and Invitation to Passion early 2013.

I’ve also just finished book one in a new six book series called the Disgraced Lord’s. My agent has that one so I don’t know what is happening with that yet. Life is busy!!!

You aren’t kidding!

You can learn more about me and my books on my website

Thanks heaps for taking the time to stop by, Bronwen.  I’ve enjoyed it!

 Thank you for having me! It’s been fun. Don’t forget, it’s not too late to join the Invitation to Romance blog tour. Closes 30th June.

The Book Tour Grand Prize – A $200 Amazon, or B&N, Voucher PLUS… A Book Basket of 30 ‘SIGNED by the AUTHORS’ books…  

Bronwen is generously offering one (1) lucky commenter a copy of INVITATION TO SCANDAL, their choice ebook or print.  Giveaway ends @midnight (12am) est July 6th. Winner will be announced shortly thereafter.  Good luck!

Interview with John Heldt author of THE MINE

Thanks for taking the time to visit Manic Readers, John.

You’re currently a reference librarian. You’re a former newspaper editor and have won awards for your sports writing. Have you always had a love for the written word?

Yes. It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words. But I am someone who would rather see the words. There is a reason why consumers of good stories prefer the book to the movie. You can do so much more with words.

Did you start reading at an early age?

Not particularly early. I don’t remember reading before first grade, but I made up for lost time. While my classmates read Dr. Seuss and Dick and Jane, I went through the World Book Encyclopedia and reference books. My parents thought they had a prodigy on their hands until I started bringing home average report cards. You can imagine their surprise when they discovered I was just a kid who liked facts and articles on people and places. 

 

 

How do you go from newspapers and sports to THE MINE, a time travel with romantic elements novel?

It was a natural progression. Even when I covered sports for a living, I wanted to write a novel that addressed all of my interests, experiences, and vocations. THE MINE covers college life, journalism, librarianship, education, sports, outdoor recreation, and travel throughout the Pacific Northwest. I had a lot of fun tying them together. The romance part came later. When I began writing THE MINE, I had time-travel tale in mind, a coming-of-age adventure story. But somewhere between Chapters 28 and 34, my adventurous protagonist fell for a blue-eyed blonde, lost his way, and a romance novel was born. Rather than shy away from that element, I ran with it and have never regretted it. I’ve come to believe that a novel without a love story is incomplete.

Can you tell us a bit about THE MINE?

This is a book that defies labels, in part because I did not write for a particular genre. There is humor in THE MINE, as well as adventure, history, time travel, and an old-fashioned love story that I think will resonate with those who yearn for a simpler time. My protagonist, Joel Smith, is a pretty pampered guy. He has a good heart, but he is spoiled. He has movie-star looks, an encyclopedic mind, a loving family, and all the toys and opportunities a modern man could ask for. He has never known want and sacrifice. But that changes when he wanders through a time portal to 1941. THE MINE chronicles Joel’s evolution from a shallow, self-absorbed college student to a thoughtful, even courageous young man. The book also raises issues that those of us stuck in the present will never have to address. It prompts us to ask what we would do if we were thrown into the past and carried our knowledge with us. Would we willingly, even forcefully, change the fate of others or let destiny take its course? Joel struggles with that and other ethical questions throughout the book.

Do you have a work in progress you can talk about?

I am working on another time-travel novel. In this one, a middle-aged widow returns to the time and place of her senior year in high school and befriends her younger self. I expect to have it finished by April.

Is there anything you require to write? Do you have a muse?

Music. When writing about a particular time period, it helps to listen to music from that era. I listened to a lot of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey when I wrote THE MINE.

Who’s in control when you’re creating, you or the characters?

That’s a great question. I’m tempted to say that I’m in control. After all, the author creates the characters. But once I become deeply immersed in a work, the characters come alive. They are real and have demands. They insist on consistency and authenticity. In the end, they run the show.

How do you feel about e-books?

I have mixed thoughts. As a reader, I still favor books in print. I like the feel and convenience of paper. But as an author, I’m quickly warming to digital media. And, as a self-published author, I appreciate how e-books are tearing down barriers.

What kind of fishing do you enjoy, deep sea, fly, plain ol’ rod & reel from a bank or boat? What’s your opinion of cane poles with orange bobbers?

I have done all kinds of fishing. I once caught my weight in salmon off the Washington coast, pulled a 14-pounder out of Lake Michigan, and have fly-fished the south fork of the Flathead, one of the most scenic rivers in the country. But I’m mainly a rod-and-reel-from-the-bank kind of guy. Cane poles and orange bobbers? Let me at ’em.

Do you have a favorite book?

“Wildfire” by Nelson DeMille.

What’s the last book you read that blew you away?

“Pillars of the Earth” by Ken Follett.

Currently reading anything worth mentioning?

 I’m giving Nicholas Sparks a whirl. “The Lucky One” is interesting.

Anything you really want to accomplish in the near future?

I’d like to see more of this country, particularly New England and parts of the South.

I can highly recommend some parts of the South.

Favorite way to relax?

I like to walk – sometimes with the family dog, sometimes without. Walking is a great way to exercise and clear your mind. Some of my best ideas have come from very short strolls. 

Buy THE MINE

Visit John’s Blog

ATOMIC SUMMER, Elaine D. Walsh and cancer charities

Atomic Summer, my debut novel, hit the book scene on June 21, the first day of summer.  Given that it is #11 on Amazon’s list of Hot New Releases in Coming of Age, after the first two days, I like to say it “exploded” on the book scene.  This might be a firecracker to an A List multi-published already bestselling author, but for this Indie Author just learning to navigate the world of social media and self-marketing, it was a small nuclear blast. 

Speaking of nuclear blasts, let’s start with the title and cover.  Three girls gathered, unaware a nuclear bomb is falling on top of them.  BOOM!  What is your reaction women’s fiction, coming of age, historical fiction reader?  I have done my job if it is to download it onto your Kindle, Nook, e-reader, or pick up the book and turn the pages, or visit my website to find out more, or look for an online review, because something explosive is going here.  You read it in the title and see it on the cover.   

THREE friends, TWO secrets, ONE lie, and the summer that changed their lives.

The world is ripe for destruction in 1953.  The Korean War drags on and the Rosenbergs are executed as spies.  Senator Joseph McCarthy convinces the country communists are infiltrating the government, and the threat of nuclear war festered in the collective consciousness of the nation.

While the nation worries about communist bombs, sixteen-year-old Bernadette Vaughn holds court in the family bomb shelter, finagling a way to read Kinsey’s groundbreaking work on human sexuality.  She obsesses about boys and big city life.  Her best friend, Faith McNulty is a devout Catholic who dreams of staying in their small town, marrying Allen Hanlon, and raising a family.  Their awkward and unattractive friend, Octavia Mansfield doesn’t have room in her life for boys, dreams, or God.  She spends most of her young life caring for her severely disabled brother.

Their conversations about what each of them would do if the end of the world were imminent become the catalyst for a prank that spins wildly beyond control and draws in an entire town.

 

Left behind in the wake of that summer’s events are their unrealized dreams and open wounds.  In 1973, a reunion trip to the small town of their youth returns them to the summer of 1953 and the passion and betrayal that changed their lives.

 

What would you do if you thought the end of the world was imminent?  Spend the rest of the time you had with your family?  Make amends with others?  Go to church?  A bar, perhaps?  Walk out on your job and see as much of the world as you could before it disappeared into oblivion?  Follow some queues from TimMcGraw’s song Live Like You Were Dying and ride a bull named Fu Man Chu?  If you are sixteen versus sixty, will the answer be different?  And if you did something you would not ordinarily do because the end was near and therefore no consequences could follow, would your answer be different?  For those who believe in an afterlife, maybe not.  For others not even thinking that way, maybe. 

How didBernadette, Faith and Octavia answer that question?  What happened that summer that changed the course of their lives?  And why do they return in 1973 for a reunion trip to the small town of their youth?  You will just have to read the book to find out.

And when you buy the book, 100% of the profits from my book sale royalties in 2012 will be donated to cancer related causes and charities.  It was my mother’s story about her and her friend’s conversations about what each of them would do if the end of the world was imminent that was the creative spark for Atomic Summer.  This book is dedicated to her memory.  She passed away in 2008 at the age of sixty-three after battling primary peritoneal cancer.  It is a rare and aggressive cancer with few warning signs.  She had already beat breast cancer when she was thirty-eight.  Most of us will never receive the diagnosis “you have cancer”.  Some of us will.  Few will hear it repeated to them as my mother did. 

I didn’t publish Atomic Summer to make money.  Writers want readers.  The page is our stage and readers our audience.  Our works are performances for our reading audiences to enjoy.  To perform for the reader was always my dream.  I published Atomic Summer to realize that dream.  If I can take my dream and turn it into a way to help other’s realize their dreams of cancer free lives, what better way to honor my mother’s life?  My initial goal is to find many readers for Atomic Summer, sold out performances, and write many checks to charity.  My bold goal is to have a bestseller and create a foundation to carry on charitable works.  I hope others will join me in this goal and enjoy a good read while accomplishing it.

Faith:  1973

I dislike peaches.  Cling, whole, half, frozen, or in pies.  It doesn’t matter what kind or any way they’re served, they’re still peaches.  Savannah Vaughn served peaches twelve months of the year.  She was vain about her peaches.  Truth be told, she was vain about everything.  Her appearance.  Her money.  Her home.  Even her Cadillac.  I imagine she figured anything that touched her life others desired for their own.  That extended right down to her peaches.

In the winter when a primer coat of snow dusted Port Pompeii, every living soul contemplated how many inches we’d be digging out of in a few hours; all the while hoping the electricity would hold up to the storm.  Except Savannah Vaughn.  She thought about peaches.  Before the snowfall buried the cellar door, she would send Bernadette and Peter out to their bomb shelter to fetch jars she had canned in the spring.  Then she would go about making peach pie in the middle of a snowstorm.  I knew not to be caught at the Vaughn’s house when the snow was getting deep enough to provoke a “might as well stay here until the weather passes” comment.

The Vaughns were the only family in town with their very own bomb shelter.  In the event of nuclear war, the rest of Port Pompeii’s citizens were to head to the courthouse basement.  The whole town would vie for a spot in a place we knew wouldn’t hold us all, plus the ration of supplies needed to tide a town over while the radioactive atmosphere became safe again.  First come; first serve.  I shudder just thinking that thought today, but that is what it would have been, everyone racing to beat his or her neighbors there.  Except for me.  I was Bernadette Vaughn’s best friend and therefore entitled to a place in the Vaughn’s shelter.  After all, Savannah declared her children would need friends after such a horrible event, which we all knew was not just a question if it would occur, but when.  And when it did, I would be saved.  Savannah Vaughn expected those she invited in to her world to feel privileged, and for this one honor, I did.

Besides being a sanctuary that would save us when the inevitable nuclear war came, the Vaughn’s shelter was a favorite place to lounge around, cool off, grow bored, and grow up.  It afforded us the privacy that sixteen-year-old girls believe they need from their families.  The shelter was stocked with all the necessary supplies nuclear holocaust survivors needed: first aid kit, chemical toilet, gas masks, flashlights, tools, water, an air blower, and a generator.  An entire wall housed wooden shelving stocked with canned goods and glass canning jars crammed with peaches.  After escaping radiation poisoning, we wouldn’t escape Savannah Vaughn’s peaches.

 

Visit Elaine

Atomic Summer @Amazon

B&N

 

Nimitz Highway and River Street is an intersection on the island of Oahu in Hawaii.  This is where Elaine impatiently came out of the womb ready to start on her own personal history.  She grew up in upstate New York against the backdrop of the flowering women’s rights movement with different ideas from my mother as to what life as a woman should be.  In college, she majored in psychology with the intent of being a “death & dying” counselor.  This would be her paying job while she wrote the next great American novel.  Plan B kicked in and she graduated with a B.A. in English, packed her car, and upset her parents by moving to Florida in search of her destiny.

Without ever having taken one business course, she created my own brand and became a successful business executive by day and women’s fiction writer by night.  So far, she has have lived a Lifetime Movie Network life, a mixture of extraordinary, ordinary, mundane, and terrifying, providing her great inspiration and fanning her creative flame.

The most powerful influences in her life and her stories are being a daughter, mother, friend, and soul mate.  But as a successful women’s fiction writer, does this surprise anyone?

Robin Covington, A NIGHT OF SOUTHERN COMFORT and a giveaway

So, I’m sitting here in my writing cave and I’m stumped with a topic for this blog psot. My writing buddy Kimberly Kincaid has been dying to interview me (she’s a fabulous 2012 Marlene winner, a 2011 Golden Heart finalist and the most awesome yoga instructor ever) – so in between my contorted downward dogs and planks, she posed the following questions to yours truly . . . . 

KIMBERLY:  What are your go-to’s for inspiration? Can you tell us a little about your process once the muse lights that spark?

ROBINMusic, photographs, poetry – they all get my creative juices flowing.  My process starts with the first line of the WIP and that is what I use to unfurl the entire story.  I write a one-page, bulletized plot outline of the book and then I start on page one in a Word document. I also write in order – no skipping around for me!  It gives me the hives to think about writing one scene out of order.

KIMBERLY: You are having a dinner party and can invite five characters from any book(s). Who do you invite and why? (and the foodie in me wants to know what you’re serving, too!)

ROBINWell, I know the foodie in you is dying to know what I would serve as well. 

KIMBERLYYou know it!

ROBINI like simple, country food.  I’d probably have a casual BBQ with pulled pork (NC style), cole slaw, beans, fried chicken and cold beer. Yum!

As for my guests . . .  Adrien and Jake from Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English series.  I’d love to talk books with Adrien and well . . .  Jake is easy on the eyes. : )

Wrath – the blind vampire king from J.R. ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood – because that would be just pure awesome. 

Elizabeth Bennett Darcy from “Pride and Prejudice” because I love witty conversation and laughter.

Victor Bayne from Jordan Castillo Price’s “Psycop Series”  because he can see and talk to dead people.  That is something I’d love to talk about!

 

KIMBERLY: Describe your ideal writing day.

ROBIN: Oh – just long uninterrupted hours to write in my writing cave with unlimited food that I love and no worries about what isn’t getting done with the house, kids, laundry etc.  I would also love to have a couple of writing friends with me and we could have a little retreat.

 

KIMBERLY: What is the craziest/most fun thing you’ve ever done in the name of researching a book?

ROBIN:  I actually called my Aunt and asked about our family history to get more information on the bootlegging business.  The Covington’s in VA were a crazy, entrepreneurial lot who made some good money purveying the illegal hooch.  So, I called her to get the dirt so that I could weave it into my story and also got a few fun stories about illegal stills and moonshine flavors.  Good stuff.

KIMBERLY: What’s next on tap for you?

ROBIN:   I just completed a Christmas novella and now I’m working on the sequel to “A Night of Southern Comfort” – working title is “Southern Temptation”.  It’s Lucky’s story (Jackson’s best friend) and he’s a naughty ladies man who has now set his sights on his best friends little sister! Fun ensues  . . .

 Thanks for having us at the blog today! This was fun.  In honor of the amazing Manic Readers site, I’m giving away a copy of “A Night of Southern Comfort” to a lucky commenter!  

 

Thank you, Robin, that’s so sweet of you to say!  

Ok y’all. Pertinent comments, giveaway ends @midnight 6-29-12 with the winner announced shortly thereafter.  Good luck. Keep reading for a taste of what you could win. 🙂

 


One night of passion… 

Detective Jackson Cantrell never imagined that one night with an irresistible stranger would turn his life upside down. He’s spent years living in the shadows, but Dr.Michaela Roarke awakened a passion inside him he’d buried years ago. 

He never expected the woman would turn out to be the governor’s daughter…and his next assignment. The governor blackmails Jackson to secretly watch over Michaela and protect her from a stalker, or kiss his dream job at the FBI good-bye. Swearing to keep things strictly professional,Jackson moves in with Michaela. Too bad his heart can’t keep the same promise. 

But when the stalker’s attacks quickly escalate beyond mere photographs to bodily harm, Jackson must race to save Michaela’s life. And he’ll have to figure out how to keep her once she discovers his lie.

@Amazon

 

@B&N


Mr. Sex-on-a-Stick took his last shot and accepted the congratulatory thumps on the back from his friends. He didn’t smile in response, just quirked his full, sensual lips and turned to face her head-on with an expression full of hot promise. Catcalls and low whistles from his friends drifted across the crowded bar.

Come on, handsome. Don’t let me strike out at my first real bar pickup.

The breath she didn’t realize she was holding whooshed out as he separated himself from his friends and headed over to her. His movements were precise, controlled, and deliciously predatory. He possessed the confident demeanor of either military or law enforcement. He definitely wasn’t a paper-pushing warlord or a politico. Years of experience trained her to spot those guys a mile away. No, his mask of control was one born of the need for survival, much like hers.

Okay, big boy. You let me peek behind yours and I’ll let you peek behind mine.

He stopped in front of her, his thigh brushing her leg and setting off a series of sparks underneath her skin. His chocolate brown eyes met hers, filled with the assurance of decadent possibilities.

Michaela opened her mouth and shut it again. Now that he was here, she had no idea what to say. What would Angelina do? Channel your inner Jolie.

She cleared her throat. The result was a sultry, sexy voice she didn’t know she possessed. “May I buy you a drink?”

He glanced at the glass in her hand and nodded.

“A Southern Comfort.” She spoke in the general direction of the bartender, unable to tear herself away from her companion. “Neat.”

He slid onto the stool next her, his leg still against hers and her temperature hovering near the boiling point. He leaned on the bar, creating their own intimate circle as the noise of the busy bar faded into the background. His lips curved into a slight smile.

“Is there something funny?”

“No. Not at all.” His deep voice rumbled in her ear, his warm breath grazed her cheek. “I didn’t take you for the whiskey type.”

“And what type am I?”

He leaned back, examining her ice-blue satin, strapless cocktail dress and matching Manolo Blahnik pumps. She squirmed in her seat as her body responded to the desire pulsing between them.

“Honestly?” He cocked his head. “You strike me as the chardonnay type. A proper drink for a proper lady.”

She laughed. Any other night, his description would have been close to the mark. “Whiskey’s a drink of control and power.” She took another sip and caught his stare over the rim of her glass.

“I see.” He lifted his glass and downed the contents, then turned his full attention back to her. “So…why are you drinking alone?”

“I’m not drinking alone. Now.” Michaela gestured toward his drink and ordered him another when he nodded.

“Okay, so you’re here…?”

“Celebrating my new life.”

“Aahhh.” He lifted his glass to her in salute. “Let me be the first to say that your ex-husband is an idiot.”

 

 

On her fortieth birthday,Robin Covington decided that having a mid-life crisis and finding a boy-toy were far too tacky, so she delved a little deeper into the “bucket list” and pulled out the long-shelved dream of becoming an author. Now, she spends her time writing sizzling romance where the hero and heroine can’t keep their hands off each other.

 

She doesn’t miss the boy-toy at all.

 

Robin is a member of the Romance Writers of America, the Washington Romance Writers, a faculty member at Romance University, a member of the Waterworld Mermaids, and a guest contributor to the Happy Ever After blog at USA Today.

Robin lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband, brilliant children, and ginormous puppy.  You can find Robin on her website, Facebook,  and Twitter (@RobinCovington).

 

Right on the Edge of Hinky with Wendi Zwaduk

I happened to be talking to a friend of mine. The conversation had me in stitches because of something he said. My friend said he’d read all my books and was thrilled that I’d written a book with MM and BDSM.  My DH said, well, you don’t think she does that? She’s not a guy. Of course my friend laughed and replied, duh. Now that wasn’t what made me laugh, it was what he said next.

“You’re right on the edge of hinky.”

I laughed and agreed with him. I am. I’m not getting the publicity of say, that popular book, but mine have just as much kink in them. So yeah, I’m on the edge of hinky.
He laughed at me for agreeing. “So do you do that stuff?”

I grinned and said nothing.

“Do you?”

I might write kink and I might take part in such things, but I’m not going to blurt out all the things I do in the bedroom. I’d like to think I’ve got some decorum.

But here’s the thing, whether you get into kink or not and whether you decide to talk about it is up to you. More power to you. I look at it this way, as long as there’s respect and you’re both getting pleasure, more power to you.

Is there anything wrong with being on the edge of hinky? Nope. Well, within reason. Let me explain. I’m not going to condone all kinks. There are some I just don’t get and others that do nothing for me. Doesn’t mean they are wrong (unless they are against the law – but that’s a whole ‘nother post), it just means they aren’t my kink. But that also doesn’t mean that being spanked or playing with sex toys is wrong.  Hey, whatever works (still that pesky within reason).

I’m proud to admit I’m on the edge of hinky. I write about sex, bdsm, spanking, toys, ménages and I don’t hide that fact. I like to read such books, too. If you are proud to admit the same, let me know.

 

 

 

Here’s a little bit about my forthcoming recent historical, Sunshine of Your Love
It’s 1970. The world is in upheaval. Can two people really make a difference and find love at the same time?
Noel Flynt signed up for the Army to carry out his family duty. He never expected the travesties of Vietnam to take their toll on him. He’s coming back to the world he thought he knew. With everything changing around him, he’s going to have to learn he can’t live in the past.
Cindy Stephens couldn’t wait for Noel to return. She sees the man within the uniform and has loved him for as long as she can remember. But times have changed. She’s not the timid school girl any longer. Can she accept his changes, too?

 

Available soon at Total e-bound

More info

 

 

 

 

Want to know more about Wendi Zwaduk? Here you go:
I always dreamt of writing the stories in my head. Tall, dark, and handsome heroes are my favorites, as long as he has an independent woman keeping him in line. I earned a BA in education at Kent State University and currently hold a Masters in Education with Nova Southeastern University.
I love NASCAR, romance, books in general, Ohio farmland, dirt racing, and my menagerie of animals. I’m published with Total-E-Bound, Changeling Press, Liquid Silver Books, Turquoise Morning Press and The Wild Rose Press. Come join me for this fantastic journey!

Find me here:
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Meet the cast of PROMISE ME by Tara Fox Hall from their POVs with giveaway

What better way to introduce my novel Promise Me than a paragraph of introduction by each of the central and supporting characters, from their own POV?

 

 

Sarelle McGarran

Independent human heroine  

My name is Sarelle McGarran. I live on an old horse farm in New York, and work part time at a metal fabrication shop. Having lost my husband close to a year ago, I’m just starting to pick up the pieces. My rural life isn’t the easiest, and I admit, turning thirty has put my priorities in harsh perspective. While I admit to liking vampire shows, I really never expected to meet a real one. It wasn’t long before I began falling for Danial…it was so hard to resist him, with the way he swept into my life and gave me hope again. But I’m not sure that everything he tells me is on the up and up. If he thinks he can lie to me and still have me as his lover, I’m going to have to break the reality down to him, with something pointy for emphasis.

 

Danial Racklan

Reserved yet romantic vampire 

I am not usually taken unawares. But my chance meeting with Sarelle (or Sar, as she prefers to be called) was a most fortunate consequence of the attack I suffered. I find her refreshingly outspoken, and treasure her loyalty and forthrightness, so different than most of the vapid social climbing females that frequent the human corporate world. But I fear that if I can’t get her to commit to me soon, I’ll lose her. It is not easy for a human to accept most of my needs as a vampire: the night schedule, the blood donors I must use, the history I have witnessed and lost, my company which I love even as it demands much of my waking time, and the dismal fact that I will likely outlive her. I have no power to make vampires, unlike my licentious brother, Devlin. Will my love be enough to hold Sar to me, to sway her to pledge her promise to be mine?

 

Terian

 Vengeful half-demon 

Danial is not to be trusted, no matter what feelings he professes for Sar. I believe he killed my brother, Keriam, and he tried to kill me. Yes, he did tell me the truth about myself, in our fight that night he came to rescue her from me. But that doesn’t mean I trust him with Sar. She was kind to me, and helped me when she didn’t have to. I owe her for that. She’s also the first human who didn’t look at me like I was an abomination. I’ll do whatever I can to show her the truth that Danial is lying to her, and get her away from him before he gets her killed.

 

Theo

Uncompromising werecougar 

Danial is my best friend. He saved my life years ago, and gave me a place in his business, Solutions, Inc. In the ten years I’ve known him, he always treated me with respect, as a partner. But now all he talks about is this Sar woman. I’m happy that he’s in love, but I’m also worried that she and he aren’t going to work. They have more than a little to overcome, with him being vampire and her being human. Worse, I know Devlin’s going to go after her; he always tries to get Danial’s loves to leave Danial for him, after some feud they had centuries ago. That bastard Terian is just another problem we’re going to have to deal with, too. But keeping Danial safe is my job. Whatever it takes, I’ll find some way to put Terian down for good.

 

Cia

Loyal, reticent werefox 

I’m one of Danial’s werefoxes, assigned with protecting him and his personal effects. Now, Sar falls into that category, as its usual that people looking to hurt Danial goes after whomever they think is his current girlfriend. I’ve never really known a lot of humans, being born werefox. But I’m happy to spend time at her place, guarding her and getting to know her. Sar is accepting of me, and has also been showing me how to bake, something I appreciate, as I am very interested in another of Danial’s werefoxes, Aran. Sar is nice, and treats me as an equal. I’d give my life for her, not just because it’s my job, but also because I’m protective of her. I hope she and Danial make a go of it. She’s the nicest human I’ve ever met.

 

Devlin Dalcon

Seductive and relentless vampire 

At last, the moment I waited for all these last 50 years…my brother Danial is again in love. He hid it from me at first, knowing what I would do. But I am Vampire Ruler here in these States, and it was a matter of time before I commanded that he bring her before me for an introduction. Strangely, my charms failed me the night I first met Sar, and she resisted my efforts to seduce her. I will have to redouble my efforts to win her away from him…perhaps add in some poetry, or flowers, along with my passionate embraces. It shouldn’t take much to have her swooning at my feet, offering her body up for my eager penetration as all his other loves did.

I will never forgive Danial for taking Anna from me those many years ago. Danial’s heart will break once again over the loss of his beloved, just as mine did almost two centuries ago. Is that a threat? No, my darling readers…that’s a promise.

 

Metal shop worker Sarelle “Sar” McGarran is the ultimate tomboy and considers herself capable of handling whatever life throws her way. Recently widowed, she takes refuge in quiet country life until the day she stumbles upon an unconscious vampire on her property. Unable to leave the wounded man, she takes him in.

 Danial Racklan is a sexy bad boy with a complicated past and questionable motives. Yet before long, he has Sar completely captivated. He introduces her to his secret, supernatural world, in the process reawakening emotions and desires she hasn’t felt since her husband’s tragic death. Soon Sar finds herself drawn into a dark, dangerous reality in which her desire for Danial is second only to her wariness that he may break her heart. Yet Sar must soon face there is much Danial has kept from her, even as she begins to love him. When Danial asks her for an Oath of forever, will Sar give Danial his greatest desire?

 

When your lover is a vampire, a promise of forever takes on a whole new meaning…

PROMISE ME  

Danial was dying.

He could feel it in his blood, the burning in his flesh. He pulled the truck onto a side road and accelerated. His pursuer couldn’t be far behind. He glanced at his arm, at the small gash that was even now healing. It might be better for him if he opened it up again. He’d cleaned it the best he could, but it wasn’t like he’d had time to do more than pour water on it. It felt as though a razor had cut him and was working its way deeper into his flesh.

Had to be poison. And no run of the mill arsenic or derivative.

His mind worked frantically. What poison had been on the tip of that arrow? Who had that been in the shadows? Who’d known he’d been working on the Donaldson contract that he’d be there tonight, watching? And most importantly, who had dared attack him?

It was possible the attacker hadn’t known his name. But whoever had done this knew the breed of man he hunted and had prepared a special end for him. He’d gotten a glimpse in the shadows of what had hunted him; red eyes and a masculine form moving at supernatural speed. In his world, that still left a long list of possible suspects. For certain, it had been another of his kind.

He came to a crossroads and went west, then to another and headed south. There were no headlights behind him, at least so far. Best to leave the most complicated trail he could.

With some bitterness, he wondered why he was fighting so hard to survive. His life had been pointless for the last half century. Modern books and novels talked about how fun it was being a creature of the night; so romantic and glamorous. What a crock of shit.  If he hadn’t had his business, he’d have gone crazy. And as for there being so many women who wanted to be with . . . someone like him . . . for the most part, it was a phase girls in their twenties went through. Looking for a bad boy to titillate and seduce them. Not one had been anything of substance. It never lasted very long. But the ones who wanted in for the long haul were worse. There was always the vow of doing anything for him and the promise of eternal devotion. Until they found out that he couldn’t give them what they wanted. Then it was wheedling and hints of what he would do if he really cared for them. He’d stayed away from any serious commitments lately, say the last thirty years. Why bother, when they were doomed to fail?

Enough of depressing thoughts! God, wasn’t death at the end of the night depressing enough? He smiled at that and checked the rearview mirror. Still no lights. His attacker was either a master tracker or an amateur.

Maybe his life wasn’t everything he’d hoped for when he was young. But he’d be damned if he’d give it up without a fight.

He felt a wave of nausea, and swallowed. If there was going to be a fight, it had better be quick. He could already feel himself getting lightheaded, and it was getting worse by the second. He had to pull in somewhere and get out of the open. The night was more than half over. He’d never make it to the campsite he’d planned on, not how he felt.

***

            Terian paused, full of righteous triumph, a wide smile on his face. This was going perfectly. He’d hit his target, and it would all be over in a matter of hours. If he was lucky and had gotten the arrow deep enough, it might be only one hour. That poison was damn effective. Better yet, fate had done him a favor. The killer had been calling on his cell when he’d been hit, and in his shock and rush to get away, he’d dropped it.

Slowly, red eyes gleaming, Terian held the phone in a taloned hand and crushed it to pieces. No help coming tonight.

He still had to be careful. After all, he’d never done anything like this before. This was no time to get cocky. It wouldn’t be over until he’d either seen a body or a nice mound of ashes bathed in daylight.

Better get a move on. The night was already half over and his prey had a big head start.

***

            Where the hell was he?

Danial looked around and saw only cornfields and wooded areas. Small houses were interspersed here and there, some with barns or paddocks. Livestock were in some of the pens; if only that would work tonight.

The muscles in his arm suddenly contracted. He swerved, barely missing a truck coming the other way. He overcorrected, sending his truck almost into the ditch. But then he saw a turnoff. At least, he hoped it was. His eyesight was going dim, and he knew his time had run out.

He swung the truck into the opening among the trees, evoking a loud clank from the front fender. Nothing like a metal chain to scratch paint, not to mention leave evidence of a trail. The road seemed little more than a path, and he maneuvered as best he could; but his strength was failing fast. He slumped over the wheel, and the car rolled to a stop.

He had to get to safety. At least, in the trees there’d be darkness and shadows, where he might be able to find shelter.

Exhausted, he pushed against the door, momentarily forgetting how to work it. He fell against the passenger side door, disengaging the lock, and opening the door. In slow motion, he fell, the ground rushing up to meet him.

The door, at an angle, remained open for a moment, illuminating his body in a pale glow. Then the door succumbed to gravity and swung slowly shut with a soft click, leaving the vehicle and Danial’s still body in darkness.

 

Chapter One

 

            Yawning, I saw it was close to eleven p.m. It was Monday night, and I was curled up on my couch, cats sharing my lap. Sipping a glass of wine, I read the latest DeMille thriller. Jessica, my male cat with gender-identity issues, and my black cat Cavity had persuaded me to stay up past my self-appointed bedtime in order to provide some warmth and company. My slightly feral cat, Asher, was also there, hiding beneath the sofa, while two dogs, Ghost and Darkness, slept at my feet.

            It had been a long day, but I was used to that. Living alone at thirty on fifty-plus acres of both forest and rich-yet-rocky soil with pets and a job, even a part-time one like mine, meant long hours. And the work could be brutal. Today, coupled with visits to both Flora, my pseudo-grandmother, and my best friend, Kat, I was exhausted. But chain sawing and wood splitting tended to do that to me. Worse, this would be an extra hard week for me. That dentist appointment today had upset my work schedule, meaning I’d need to go in on Wednesday this week to make up the time.

            I probably shouldn’t have bought those flowers for Flora, I thought sheepishly. But she loved them, and she was only going to turn ninety-eight once. I could get by with waiting another month to make my first foray back into the dating world. What would it hurt, to wait another month?

            Flora, of course, had taken the opportunity to remind me to get on with my life in her usual fashion: “People come in and out of your life. It’s the time you have here with them that matters, not that they may not be around forever.”

            To make matters worse, Kat had then reminded me that we were both getting older.      I’m worried about you, she’d said, taking my hand. You need to let go, Sar.

            I’m okay, I’d replied a trifle coolly. I feel good.

            We aren’t getting any younger, she’d replied, her tone a little sad. It slips away so fast.

            It matters how you feel. I feel young, and good. I’m okay.

            But the truth was I’d lied. I did feel good most of the time. But I wasn’t okay. When I was twenty-something, I’d thought of thirty as “old.” I’d been sure that by the time I was thirty, I’d be married, with two cats, and maybe even a kid or two. At the least, I’d figured on knowing who I’d be with the rest of my life. I’d found out too late that even the best laid plans could fall in on me like a house of cards with one fateful gust.

            Maybe that was a good sign, that I knew I was missing something, unhappy living alone. I missed having a man around, both in my life and in my bed. I’d lost someone I loved. But I wasn’t dead, and maybe it was time to stop acting like I was. There was that singles thing coming up in town…

            Suddenly, my comfortable and reflective mood was interrupted by distant snapping and crunching sounds. They were faint enough to register with my challenged brain that all wasn’t as it should be. The cats didn’t act as if anything was wrong, but they were unreliable. If the house was burning, they might only move when the heat became unbearable. But the dogs at my feet were motionless, their heads raised. Dogs have ears that don’t fail.

            I stepped to the window just in time to see headlights slowly following the road. That was the sound I heard: a car driving on the property edge, along my neighbor’s access road. Whoever was out there at this time of night was most likely not traveling the road to inspect the gravel pit at the end for safety violations.

            Some jackasses were out looking to have some fun. My neighbors would have no idea that anyone was there, their home being a good ten minutes by foot through the trees, not to mention roughly a hundred feet higher in elevation. Many a truckload of raw earth and gravel had been dug out of the hillside, providing a perfect depression in the land to conceal any telltale lights from anyone’s view but my own. No one else could see them from the road, and even if they could, no one would care. Most people minded their own business out here, unless you wanted to make trouble and were prepared to deal with the business end of a shotgun.

            The decision was now mine: did I want to involve myself with this? Whoever was up there was just going to smoke a little grass or drink a little, or have the kind of fun that involves little plastic square wrappers. But it might well be something worse they were doing, like crack or meth, and that could be dangerous for me to interrupt.

            I cursed aloud and decided I’d better take a look.  Whoever had decided to take a little side route to adventure had first gotten through the heavy steel chain that blocked the access road. Bolt cutters would have been needed to cut through that thing, and who carries bolt cutters in their car? Someone had planned this, and if they were willing to cut a chain, they might be planning worse than some drinking and partying.

            Throwing on some clothes and collecting my waist-length hair in a plastic clip, I gathered a flashlight and my keys. I debated taking a weapon, but I talked myself out of it. Then, on the way to the door, I talked myself back into it, and got my .38 Special revolver. It was loaded. Depending on the size of the car, there could be six people at the most. Six bullets were enough.

            I buckled on my gun belt and knife and went out the front door.  Walking to the barn, it occurred to me that I might be overreacting. But I wasn’t one for hiding in the house, waiting to see if someone would leave me alone. It wasn’t my way and had never been.

            The first fall I’d owned the farm, I’d seen a hunter parked by my barn during deer season. I hadn’t called the police, hoping they would show up before he either left or put a bullet through one of my windows. I’d loaded my shotgun and walked over to his truck. I’d racked the weapon within hearing range, and when his head had whipped around, I’d asked him what the hell he thought he was doing. He’d been properly apologetic and left. More importantly, he’d spread the word, and I didn’t get many trespassing hunters anymore. People who wanted to hunt on my land respected me enough to ask me, and if I thought they hunted with care, I let them.  That was that.

            Tonight, I hoped I could just ask them to leave nicely and have them agree. Most times, despite my worries, that’s exactly what happened. But I didn’t hear the usual sounds I expected: loud talking, music, the sort of giggling that meant sex was a definite possibility but not a surety. Odd that whoever was in the quarry wasn’t laughing it up. 

            I got to the barn. Its outside light was on and welcoming. I slid the door open and walked into the darkness inside. I knew the barn in and out, and I wasn’t afraid. There was nothing that was going to hurt me in there. I’d never been afraid of ghosts. I believed in God, and I had faith. And what my faith couldn’t handle, my .38 Special was sure to be able to take care of.

 

For those with a kindle, PROMISE ME will be available for free download beginning 6-24 @ noon.

 

Tara is generously offering one (1) lucky commenter a print copy of PROMISE ME.  Ends at midnight est June 26th. Winner announced shortly thereafter.  Good Luck, sounds like a good one!

 

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Email: tarafoxhallATgmailDOTcom

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For info on my recently published books click here: Lash and here Promise Me.

What Makes a Good Story with Greg Ballan

I was invited to speak  to a local book club that decided to read and discuss my second novel, HYBRID: FORCED VENGEANCE.   As a writer I found the opportunity to get direct feedback from a several readers at once a unique opportunity and jumped at the chance to get some face time and exposure as well as try and promote my upcoming book and my first novel, HYBRID.  As the day of the book club meeting approached I was struck with a horrible realization; what if they hated the book?  What if nobody found it enjoyable?  I was going to a meeting with perfect strangers and opening myself up to a complete unknown.  After several hours of nervous anxiety I arrived at the host’s home and rang the doorbell.
My host was most gracious and seated me at the head of a very long table facing several strangers all with copies of my novel filled with yellow sticky notes and pads full of questions.   I gratefully accepted a cup of coffee and began fielding a vast array of questions regarding character motivations, possible meaning behind particular actions and a plethora of questions I’d never imagined.  I spent an hour and forty five minutes engaged with readers that had taken a great deal of time and effort to get to know the world and the people I’d created in the pages of that book.   They were thrilled to have the author of their novel at the table to answer the questions they bantered around a table every other month and I was fascinated to see how readers interpreted my story and was amazed at how the message and visuals I was trying to convey through written words created such different images from person to person.
Three hours had passed and after a complete dissection of Detective Erik Knight, Colonel Ross and the entire cast of characters in Forced Vengeance, I received the one question I never expected and was stymied for several moments.  “Greg, as a writer,  what makes a good story?”
There it was, a simple question that one would assume a writer could answer instinctively with no hesitation.  ‘What makes a good story?’  After buying a few moments of composure by sipping my now lukewarm coffee and rubbing my chin like a pseudo intellectual, I found my answer.    My reply was simple and I believe accurate, if not somewhat desperate in my attempt to sound like I was going to impart some well kept secret.

“The answer depends on you, the reader, and what you look for in a story.  As a writer I have my own ideas of what makes a story compelling.  I use a recipe of interesting characters, unusual circumstances and human emotions that I hope will hold a reader’s attention.  I want these characters to be believable and real, the hero is NOT perfect, he/she is human and flawed but made a hero by how he/she reacts to crisis, not by shrinking from it but rather rising up to meet and overcome the challenges and obstacles set out before them.   The antagonist is NOT completely evil or blindly motivated by nasty motives. They too are human and imperfect, compelled by an opposing force from the hero but just as motivated and driven.  The elements that drive a hero or villain to react is what make interesting and enjoyable characters.   I dream up unusual storylines and create a world for these characters to use as a playground hoping that a wide variety of readers will see some or all of what I’ve created in the words I’ve placed on a page.  I try to build believable but fantastic events and place these normal, imperfect people into these events and let them react as any person would.   Seeing normal people rise or fall to challenges and obstacles allows a reader, in my opinion, to identify and relate on a more personal level.   In my novels, HYBRID and HYBRID: FORCED VENGEANCE, it’s not so much one element, but blending characters with normal human failings in fantastic situations and letting these characters react as I would or as I believe anyone would react.  That is my recipe for not just a good story but a story that will captivate a reader and bring him/her back to the book and want to stay up well past midnight to see what happens next.  If one of my books entices a reader to ignore the television and stay up too late reading then I’ve done my job as a writer.”

I took a moment to breathe and waited for the reaction to my answer.  What I discovered was a wealth of information that will serve to help me as I try to perfect my craft.    I had answered with my specific recipe for a story but I hadn’t realized how different readers valued each aspect of my recipe.  One reader was more inclined to stick with a book that had a faster moving plot and not as much character development while the person sitting next to her wanted to get intimately involved with what drove each character and enjoyed seeing the characters develop through each trial.  My host was firm in his opinion that stories with multiple plots that build and spiral together keep him glued and turning pages while his wife preferred a single straight forward plot that followed a smaller group of characters from beginning to end.  What followed was a great deal of interesting discussion about what readers look for in a story.  As I drove home, well close to midnight, I realized that even though I had the general ingredients for “making” a novel, there were multiple recipes that these ingredients could create.   My book writing cookbook had just grown exponentially and I had a much clearer understanding of how complex and diverse an audience of readers can be.  As writers we’re challenged to meet and exceed the expectations of our readers with each work we publish.  Knowing what our “Audience” looks for helps us adjust our recipe in each creation and ultimately makes us better writers and story tellers.
Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to express my thoughts and ideas.  I hope readers will take an opportunity to sample my “Cooking” in the future.

Hybrid

Erik Knight, a small time private investigator, always knew he was different from everybody else. Keener senses, heightened awareness and an enhanced physical strength that could be called upon by his sheer will.

Erik becomes involved with a team of high profile investigators and local police trying to locate a girl who was kidnapped in the middle of a playground amongst dozens of adults and children. None of the adults saw anything and what the children claim to have seen is too far fetched to be believed. The search evolves into a full-scale manhunt into the dark and desolate woodlands of the Hopedale Mountain.

      After a lethal encounter and a fatality, Erik, the investigators and police realize that what they’re dealing with isn’t a man and possibly isn’t of this world. What they’re dealing with is a sentient evil that has an appetite for young children.

 

 

 

 

 

Hybrid: Forced Vengeance
Human/Esper detective Erik Knight has kept his bargain with the United States Government by functioning as an undercover operative and CIA Cooler for over two years. Erik has been using his inhuman abilities to clean up terrorist hotspots and break narcotics trafficking rings throughout the United States and countries with US political interests. While away on assignment, Erik’s life is shattered when he learns his wife died in a car accident.  Though he attended her funeral and burial, Erik can still feel a subtle trace of his beloved in his mind.

Threats against the life of the French President’s daughter by terrorists result in the grieving Knight being assigned to protect her. After he foils two attempts on her life, he discovers that the radical group accused of the act is not involved. He joins forces with the group’s leader and discovers the termination order originated inside the beltway in Washington DC.  As the CIA Cooler digs deeper he learns that there may be a connection between the assassination attempts, his deceased wife, and a threat against the entire planet from outside the solar system.

 

Hybrid and Hybrid Forced Vengeance are available at Lachesis PublishingFictionwise,  and Amazon.

About the Author:

Greg Ballan is a graduate of Northeastern University holding Bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and Management.  He lives in Hopedale with his patient, tolerant and sometimes bewildered wife, Teresa and his three children; Tom, Rachel and Christie.  Greg enjoys several outdoor activities such as hiking, archery and shooting.  He’s also been spotted square dancing (poorly) with his talented ten year old daughter.  When he’s not working his full time job as a Senior Financial Greg Ballan is a graduate of Northeastern University holding Bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and Management.  He lives in Hopedale with his patient, tolerant and sometimes bewildered wife, Teresa and his three children; Tom, Rachel and Christie.  Greg enjoys several outdoor activities such as hiking, archery and shooting.  He’s also been spotted square dancing (poorly) with his talented ten year old daughter.  When he’s not working his full time job as a Senior Financial Greg Ballan is a graduate of Northeastern University holding Bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and Management.  He lives in Hopedale with his patient, tolerant and sometimes bewildered wife, Teresa and his three children; Tom, Rachel and Christie.  Greg enjoys several outdoor activities such as hiking, archery and shooting.  He’s also been spotted square dancing (poorly) with his talented ten year old daughter.  When he’s not working his full time job as a Senior Financial Greg Ballan is a graduate of Northeastern University holding Bachelor’s degrees in Marketing and Management.  He lives in Hopedale with his patient, tolerant and sometimes bewildered wife, Teresa and his three children; Tom, Rachel and Christie.  Greg enjoys several outdoor activities such as hiking, archery and shooting.  He’s also been spotted square dancing (poorly) with his talented ten year old daughter.  When he’s not working his full time job as a Senior Financial Analyst or getting lost in some unknown woodlands, he’s crunched over his laptop putting his warped imagination into words or penning a column about politics, hunting humor or his latest tale about avoiding house work and yard work.

Greg on Facebook

 

Chatting about Accidental Intent with Desi Moon

Accidental Intent is a romantic murder mystery that has gone to the dogs and some really killer footwear. My lead character Lucy is a dedicated dog trainer. Maybe a little too dedicated– it kind of puts her into life threatening situations.
When I sat down to write Accidental Intent, it was just after my first e-pub, Summerland, had been released. Summerland was a contemporary romance set in the wilds of the L.A. fashion district. So I had it in my head to write another romance set in Colorado. Lucy began whispering in my ear immediately. She showed me her dogs, a bloodhound named Rufus and a St. Bernard named Baloo. I was hooked.
Lucy had to have a love interest of course. It wouldn’t be much of a romance without one. Nicolai emerged out of the shadows. Tall, muscular with shoulder length, jet black hair and startling ice blue eyes. Without a word, he stood there in the mist with his Greek godlikeness *sigh*. He had me with a finger wave.
Well there it was, I had my female lead, her romantic love interest an fun opening scene (which now starts Chapter Two) now all I need is a conflict. It didn’t take long for one to show up in the form of a dead body.
GREAT! A dead body in the middle of my off to a good start contemporary romance. Nicolai stepped forward. “Oh,” he said. “Did I mention I was a homicide detective?” He tried to give me one of his seductive half smiles. Seriously? Did he think that was going to help me? A dead body was not in my pliable storyline. Like any good writer, I began typing away, waiting to see where the story took me.
Bad guys started to emerge and I had no idea who they were. The body count began to rise and in the wake of their carnage I had to try and figure out what was going on with this story. I had to really try and channel my inner James Patterson for answers.
Three months later I typed The End on a fun murder mystery romp that holds danger, intrigue, hot romance, goofy dogs, annoying exes, a lot of coffee and some incredibly fashion forward footwear.
Desi Moon

****

Blurb:
When drugs and murder invade sleepy Longmont, Colorado, Lucy Lafferty, resident dog trainer, finds her quiet existence turned inside out with her name added to a rising body count. And that wouldn’t be good for her four-legged furry family or her prized designer shoe collection.

During the rising heat of summer, Lucy Lafferty reaches the conclusion that men aren’t worth the effort, especially with an ex-sex partner who pushes to revive a relationship that never existed. But when she’s thrown together on a murder investigation with Detective Nicolai Petrovski, the mercury rises to dangerous levels that have nothing to do with the season. Investigating a backwoods dog rescue unknowingly puts them both into dangerous territory and Lucy, despite all her bravado, can’t help falling for the magnetic cop.
****
                                                                     BUY ACCIDENTAL INTENT

Conversation filled the large meeting hall. Glasses clinked, laughter mingled with the perfumed air, and Lucy Lafferty stewed. Surrounded by a group of self-absorbed entrepreneurs, Lucy mentally reaffirmed she didn’t like people.
Looking at her watch for the tenth time in as many minutes, Lucy wondered where the hell Bryan was. She called him half an hour ago. For a casual lay, Bryan was becoming fairly dependable. Maybe a little too dependable. Lucy glanced at her watch again. Bryan was a no show.
Candace and Janie, two of her best friends, were also no shows. Damn them. It was their idea to come to this thing. A phone call would have been nice, Lucy had better things to do than stand around with a bunch of strangers making small talk.
A small high pitched voice broke into Lucy’s thought process. “Lacey, what do you do?”
“It’s-uh- Lucy, actually.” She couldn’t tear her eyes way from the wall of cleavage coming at her. The woman standing next to her smiled a perfect lipstick smile, not knowing or caring that her “girls” were threatening to abandon the sequined ship they had been stuffed into.
“Oh, Lucy, oops.” The woman covered her mouth with mock embarrassment. “I was close. What is it that you do, Lucy?”
“I own a dog training facility,” Lucy pointed to the embroidered logo on her navy blue polo shirt.
“Dog training?” One of the gentlemen in the group barely hid his distain. “What are you doing here?”
“Well, seeing as I’m a business owner,” Lucy squared her shoulders and silently cursed her friends again for standing her up. “I thought this was the Chamber of Commerce Business Hour.”
“Well, yes,” the woman replied, her eyes fluttering dramatically. “But it’s for actual business owners.”
“Oh,” Lucy tried to put on her most apologetic face. “I’m sorry. What was I thinking? Showing up here and trying to look respectable.” She thunked her head with the palm of her hand. “I’d never dream of associating my dog training facility with your brothel.” She shook her head as she moved out of the group. “What would people think?”
“What?” The woman’s jaw dropped into her swelling cleavage. “I own a catering business!” She yelled at Lucy’s retreating figure.
“I shudder to think what your specials are,” Lucy said quietly as she scanned the room for something that resembled a coffee maker.


Desi (Moon lives in Boulder, CO with her husband Eben, two kids and an ever growing menagerie.
She has two full length books out right now. A contemporary romance, Summerland and a romantic suspense, Accidental Intent. Desi also has a short story in the Tempting Cupid Anthology titled “My Humiliating Valentine” and in June will be a part of the Dad Plan Anthology with a short titled “For the Love of Mac”
An animal activist and a Project Runway junkie, Desi is also an avid Muay Thai kickboxer and loves to bake decadent “plant based” desserts.

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Bonnie Bliss and the skill behind erotic writing

When I sat down to do this guest post, I realized I didn’t want to write another post on erotica or erotic writing. I didn’t want to talk about what it is like to write about sex for a living, I wanted to write about the skill behind it.

As an author, mother, and wife, I sometimes find that my muse extinguishes during the busy times in my life. It is like a drought run totally dry, and here I am struggling to get it back. I try many methods to keep myself from falling into this week long spouts where I just can’t write because so many other things are going on at once. Generally, if my daughter is busy, I can’t, as an erotic/erotica writer keep the juices flowing, so to speak. I have tried a few methods, but the most helpful one of all came recently from my daughter’s karate Sensei.

My daughter is trying to get her black belt, as a little one, they not only focus on the skills of actual combat and self defense, but they focus very highly on academics. They are given homework each month, and they are taught a series of lessons. One of the lessons that they were told, was that when they do something, they should do five more things. For example: if they have math, they should try to do five more problems. If they have spelling, write their words five times each just for extra practice, and if they have to swim, do five extra laps. When they are practicing their Code, say it five extra times.

Now, this got me thinking. As adults, we often forget the value of focus. We forget that we need to make lists and get our self moving, so we don’t get behind. Then, I really started to think, for those times that I get behind when my muse is just exhausted and can’t put together a creative new BDSM scene. If I used this trick, and did five extra of everything, I could get ahead, and therefore, never fall behind. So, I decided to utilize this skill. I have taken this skill from my daughter’s karate and put it into my word count for each day that I write. If I write 5000 words more, I will never fall behind. If I believe, and push myself to do this, I can write a couple of short stories a week sometimes, and have them ready for when I work on my really long Erotic Romance projects; if I visit five extra blogs of fellow authors, and drop a comment, and share the posts out, at least one of those authors will return the favor for me.

In short, we all have our little things that keep us in good form. It just so happens that my good form, came from my 8 year olds karate instructor.

If you continue to read down, here are the two most current releases that I have.

Blurb: D.G., Dorothy Gale, has spent her whole life wanting something more. Knowing there is a great big wide world beyond the state of Kansas, D.G. has spent the good part of her life saving to leave that boring little town she calls home. Slumming it in a sports bar for mediocre tips in a slutty little uniform, she is almost to the finish line.
One day, after work, after getting a little fresh with the hunky farm hands, D.G. escapes to her bedroom to get some relief on the hot summer day. Only to discover, reality, may just be the stuff dreams are made off. Knocked out, and seemingly taken away on the tip of a violent twister, D.G. wakes up in a sexually charged land of magic—Oz.

With the sexual help of Glinda, The Good Witch, D.G. will begin her journey with a Ruby Red Collar, and follow the yellow brick road.

 

 

Blurb: Marie, a happily married woman is overcome by arousal when a good looking and very eager Postman comes to her door with a special package. In a moment of weakness she seduces the unknown Postie until he turns the tables and takes her hard and fast. Come join Marie, as her ultimate fantasies are realized in a short erotica tale ensured to tantalize.

Warning: This story contains some forced submission, heavy Dominance, and a fantasy that is too hot to handle.

The Postman is the first in a new series of fantasy tales involving Marie from the Dominance series.

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