Friday, September 19, 2014

Interview with psychological suspense author Maggie James

Today’s special guest is British author of psychological suspense novels, Maggie James. We get to hear a bit about her newest book, Guilty Innocence, and other fun things.

Maggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol. She writes psychological suspense novels.

The first draft of her first novel, entitled His Kidnapper’s Shoes, was written whilst travelling in Bolivia. Maggie was inspired by an impending milestone birthday along with a healthy dose of annoyance at having procrastinated for so long in writing a novel. His Kidnapper’s Shoes was published in both paperback and e-book format in 2013, followed by her second novel, entitled Sister, Psychopath. Her third novel, Guilty Innocence, has now been published, and like her first two, features her home city of Bristol. She is currently working on her fourth novel.

Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background! When not writing, going to the gym, practising yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love!

Welcome, Maggie. Please tell us about your current release.
Guilty Innocence is a psychological suspense novel. It’s a gritty story examining child murder and dysfunctional families; the novel tells of one man’s struggle to break free from his past.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was intrigued by the idea of how it would feel to discover that someone you love has a secret past, especially if it involved a horrific crime. The characters of Natalie Richards and Mark Slater were thus born in my head and hassled me endlessly until I wrote their story. Mark was once wrongly convicted of child murder, a fact he conceals from everyone, including his girlfriend Natalie. The truth, of course, will out, and it will devastate Natalie as Mark struggles to confront his demons.

From Chapter 1 – The Letter

Natalie Richards’s first reaction to the letter in her hands is one of suspicion. A response fuelled by her misgivings, the ones prompting her to search through her boyfriend’s possessions, like an addict seeking a fix. Who the hell is Joshua Barker, and why does Mark have a letter addressed to him?
She first discovers it at the bottom of his bedside cabinet, when she’s almost given up on finding anything. From the outside, the letter holds no clue as to the explosive nature of its contents. She almost misses it; it’s tucked away at the very bottom of the last drawer, under a pile of bank statements. Natalie flips through them quickly; what she’s seeking isn’t likely to be concealed amongst cash withdrawals and direct debits. She goes to replace the bank statements and close the drawer, when she notices the envelope. It’s lying face down, almost as if it’s hiding. In the interests of being thorough in her search, she pulls it out.
She reads the letter, the name of Joshua Barker nagging at her as she does so, its vague familiarity teasing her. As the contents sink into her mind, the realisation of who Joshua Barker is claws its way to the surface in her brain, exploding through her skull in a myriad of disbelief and denial.
Natalie hurls the letter from her grasp as though the paper has burned her. Which, in a way, it has. It lands near the door, the momentum causing it to slide partly underneath, as if to crawl away from her. A low moan escapes her as she sinks to the floor, her stomach clenching in rebuttal of what’s hammering through her brain. She stares at the cheap melamine bedside cabinet as though it has betrayed her by offering sanctuary to Joshua Barker’s letter. Would to God she’d never decided to search through Mark’s things. She’s been expecting to find shit, but not something that stinks this bad. Nobody could have anticipated the contents of the letter taunting her from the other side of the room. You screwed up again, Natalie. Drawn to bad boys, aren’t you? Well, they don’t come much worse than this one.
She huddles against Mark’s bed, which is neatly made, of course. Everything with Mark is always tidy, regimented, in its place. The almost antiseptic neatness of his cramped flat reveals little about the man she’s been dating, on and off, for the last four months. The on part is mostly down to her; she doesn’t let herself wonder if Mark ever contemplates pressing the off button.
Natalie’s come here today because she suspects her boyfriend may be seeing another woman. Given her track record with men, it’s the obvious conclusion when Mark seems distant, evasive, oblivious to her hints about taking their relationship further. Getting their own place. Perhaps a baby in due course. So far Natalie has only given the vaguest of suggestions on the baby issue; Mark’s abrupt withdrawal when she does so silences her immediately.
Finding a man who wants what she does - commitment, togetherness, stability - doesn’t come easily to Natalie. She knows men like that exist. Take her cousin Janine, for instance. Married for five years now, with a two-year-old daughter and another baby on the way, her husband Gavin the archetypal faithful adoring partner. Janine, though, has the shining example of her parents, happily married for thirty years. Not so with Natalie. Before the divorce, her father seems determined to bed every available woman in Bristol. Eventually he walks out on his wife and eleven-year-old daughter and doesn’t come back. His contact with Natalie is reduced to sporadic Christmas and birthday cards that eventually peter out. Callie Richards, angry and embittered, is left to bring up her daughter alone.
No wonder Natalie has a track record of always going for the bad boys. A psychologist might say she’s on a mission to find and reform her errant father. The finding’s not been a problem; it’s the reforming that’s proved a fruitless quest so far with the men she dates.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’ve written my fourth novel, provisionally entitled The Second Captive and am currently engaged in revising and editing it, ready for publication in October 2014. I seem to be unusual amongst writers in that I really enjoy the editing process. The novel examines the fascinating psychological condition known as Stockholm syndrome, in which victims become emotionally attached to their abusers. I’m drawn to dark themes and unusual psychological issues for my novels.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Before I wrote my first novel, His Kidnapper’s Shoes, I wrote some short stories, which I published online and which received very favourable feedback and reviews. I guess I started to believe I was a writer back then. Writing is something I’ve always wanted to do, but I went for decades without doing anything about it. Believe me, I’m making up for lost time now!

What’s your work day like?
In the mornings, I work on all matters writing-related, whether it’s writing, revision, editing or getting my work formatted for publication. Although I’m more of a night owl, I find I’m better at creative pursuits first thing in the day. Can’t explain why, but that’s the way it is, so I don’t fight it! After lunch, I tackle marketing-related projects, such as scheduling promotions, writing blog posts, having fun on social media or sundry stuff such as updating my website. I don’t normally work evenings or weekends, although when life gets hectic around publication time that can change.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmm, I’m not sure I have any quirks as such! Or maybe I can’t spot them? I do like to be very organised about writing – I’m a planner rather than a pantser – and that seems unusual amongst writers, as is the fact I tend to write linearly rather than skipping around in the plot when writing. For real quirks, ask me again in ten years – I’m sure I’ll have acquired a few by then!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a novelist. Nothing else, just that. So when I found myself approaching a milestone birthday and I still hadn’t written anything, it was time for drastic action. I quit my job and went off travelling for a year, with a secret agenda I didn’t reveal to anyone. That was to come back with a novel completed to first draft stage – and that’s exactly what I did. I spent two months in the beautiful city of Sucre, in Bolivia, writing His Kidnapper’s Shoes. The sense of achievement I experienced after I typed the final words will stay with me forever.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
I blog regularly about all things fiction-related on my website, so come along and say hello! I really enjoy blogging, and I welcome guest posts; I have guidelines for bloggers available on my website. I also love interacting with my readers, so do connect with me via any of my social media links.

Other ways to find out more:

Buy links for novels: 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Book excerpt from contemporary romance novel Breaking His Rules by Alison Packard

Today I’m featuring a book excerpt from Alison Packard for her new contemporary romance novel Breaking His Rules.

As part of her virtual book tour, Alison will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner. To enter, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Blurb about Breaking His Rules:
Losing fifty pounds is an incredible achievement. But for Melissa Atherton, progress doesn’t come with praise—a scathing comment from an evil cousin at a bridal shower threatens to crush her new self-esteem. Who will she bring to the upcoming wedding? Showing up without a date would be humiliating. It just isn’t an option.

Personal trainer Jake Sawyer was attracted to Melissa before she lost weight, but her progress has him floored. When she admits she plans to hire a male escort—and why—his heart all but breaks. Melissa’s come too far to be knocked down, especially by her own family. He’ll go as her date…and figure out a way to keep his hands to himself.

But when a steamy hotel room encounter takes them both by surprise, Jake balks. He’s sworn never to date one of his clients, not again. And Melissa can’t bear to be just friends with the man who treated her so tenderly, even if it was only for a weekend. Jake’s helped her see she’s strong enough to stand up for herself, but will she find the strength to pursue the only man who’s ever seen the real her?

“Jake. There’s something I have to tell you.” Melissa pointed a pale pink-tipped finger at him. “It’s important.” She paused to stare deeply into his eyes and when her tongue stroked her lips with a soft sensual lick, Jake had to fight the urge to lower his head and do what he’d wanted to do all night. Taste that tempting mouth of hers.

“You gotta fight for your right to party.” Her impish smile and the sound of the elevator doors opening snapped him out of the sexual undertow that had almost pulled him under and he guided her out of the elevator and onto the carpeted hallway of the second floor of the hotel. “I love that song,” she added, oblivious to the effect she was having on him.

“Yeah. I could tell by the way you were belting it out in the truck.” Jake pulled the room key card from the back pocket of his jeans as they reached their room.

“Thanks for letting me pick the radio station.”

He let go of her to slide the card into the card reader and open the door. “You’re welcome.”

“Whoa, Nellie.” Melissa clutched at his arm as she swayed to the side. “Sorry. It’s the shoes,” she said as she steadied herself.

“I think it’s the tequila shots.”

“No. It’s the shoes,” she said emphatically as she let go of him and moved into the room. “I don’t normally wear heels this high.”

Jake grinned and shook his head as he closed the door and tossed his keys and the card on the dresser. Melissa’s tolerance to alcohol was much like that of his brother, J.T., who after a couple of beers was pretty much toasted. Odd for a guy J.T.’s size, but true nonetheless.

“And you normally drink two beers and four shots of tequila?”

“It was only three shots.” A cute frown furrowed her brow. “I think.” She flung her purse on the bed and put her hands on her hips as she turned to face him. Her eyes raked boldly over his body. “You know what? I bet I could teach you to dance.”

“I know how to dance. I’m just not good at it.”

“That’s because you don’t practice.” She snapped her fingers and did a little shimmy. Jake’s breath jammed in his throat at the sight of her full breasts bouncing under her form-fitting top. “You can’t improve if you don’t shake what your mama gave you.”

Author bio and links:
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Alison now lives in Southern Nevada where she’s still getting used to the blistering summers and the slot machines in every grocery store.

When not working at the day job that pays the bills, keeps a roof over her head, and supports her book and chocolate habits, Alison spends most of her free time writing. But when she takes a break, she enjoys reading, watching movies, and spending time with her family and friends.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Interview with memoirist Paige Strickland

Today’s special guest is non-fiction writer Paige Adams Strickland to tell us a bit about her personal story, Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity.

While Paige does a virtual book tour, she's giving away an e-copy of Akin to the Truth at each stop to a lucky commentor. So if you'd like a chance to win a copy of this book, leave a comment below, the e-version type you'd prefer if you win, and a way for me to get in touch with you if you win!

Paige Adams Strickland, a teacher and writer from Cincinnati, Ohio, is married with two daughters. Her first book, Akin to the Truth: A Memoir of Adoption and Identity, is about growing up in the 1960s-80s (Baby-Scoop Era) and searching for her first identity. It is also the story of her adoptive family and in particular her father’s struggles to figure out his place in the world while Paige strives to find hers. After hours she enjoys family and friends, pets, reading, Zumba™ Fitness, gardening and baseball.

Welcome, Paige. Please tell us about your current release.
In 1961, adoption was still one of those private and taboo topics. Not much identifying information was provided for adoptive families or for birth parents by the agencies. In Ohio, records were sealed forever. Adoptees and birth mothers were supposed to be thankful for the adoptive family and never look back. Adoptive parents thought their deal was signed and sealed.

As a child and teenager, growing up adopted was like another Scarlet Letter "A" if anyone ever found out the truth. At least, that's the way I felt as I muddled through social situations and other interpersonal relations. I always loved my adoptive family, but realized I wanted not just more, but what other "regular born" people had: real roots, accurate health history and authentic family lore. I wanted freedom from shame, more dignity, authenticity and a full identity.

Then, through random chance, a local TV talk show in 1987 revealed that certain records were open if you were born before 1964 in the state of Ohio, and my life was never the same after that program.

During my quest, (pre computer), for my identity, my adoptive father struggled with his own self image and sense of belonging, so both father and daughter embarked on separate and unique parallel missions to find what was missing in their lives.

This is the story of how being adopted affected me growing up in the 1960s, 70s and early 80s. It shows how one adoptee has embraced and learned to view family more globally. I tell the saga of a loving but dysfunctional family of both blood and choice, trying to cope with typical and not so typical life alterations during the decades of social revolution, free love and knowing that the most fascinating family stories are discovered by those passionate enough to search.

What inspired you to write this book?
My inspiration began when my children, who were young at the time, began to ask me all sorts of questions about my family. One time, when we were visiting my mother in Florida, I got out the old family slide projector and showed them what the 70s were really like! Haha! That sparked a lot of memories and stories. The book project started out small for them and then grew as I studied other writers’ memoirs, attended a wonderful writing group and realized that I had a for-real book that was not just for my “’tween-aged” kids but other readers, especially those who might be interested in adoption issues.

Chapter 1
When I asked my parents the classic question, “Where did I come from?” Mom and Dad began by telling me that I came from God. I found that piece of information very confusing because the first picture they have of me was of a dark-haired woman holding me with her back turned. My baby face peers over her shoulder. Bare trees and a sky-blue Volkswagen with Ohio license plates can be seen in the background. For a long time I wondered if God was a brown-haired lady from Ohio who drove a classic Beetle.
I hated how the story was so nondescript and lacking in information. It wasn’t exciting and filled with humor and tenderness like scenes on television. Everybody else had pictures of sleeping babies in mothers’ arms, related stories of all the visitors who came, and told the dramatic stories of how their dad frantically loaded the car, backed out of the driveway and knocked over the trash cans as he sped off in a blizzard during rush hour to deliver Mom to the hospital 20 miles away while she sat beside him panting and yelling, “Honey, hurry faster! The baby’s coming now!” I didn’t have a father who nervously paced around in a waiting room, wearing a tread into the flooring with his big feet, sporting a five-o’clock shadow across his weary face. No doctor in scrubs came out after many hours to shake his hand and say, “Congratulations, Mr. Adams, you have a daughter.”
No one threw a party to shower my mom with receiving blankets and tiny booties while she sat in a chair with a cup of tea, a bulging belly and a romantic glow on her face, either.
Instead, I was born prematurely in both time and weight and had to spend about a month in the hospital until I grew and gained enough to be released to foster care. Then my parents came along in 1962 and adopted me from Hamilton County Welfare when I was 13 months old. Their social worker informed them very little about my start in life, only that the birth mother was a minor, and she couldn’t keep me.
They noticed that I had some sort of “lazy eye” condition. My adoptive grandmother was quite concerned that my feet were pigeon-toed, so she and my mother took me to doctors in downtown Cincinnati for examinations. Both specialists told my family that everything was just fine, and that eventually I would grow out of these perceived deformities between my eyes and my feet. I just needed extra time. That gap between my birth and the 13 months it took to have me placed in a home setting set me back, and the welfare agency told my parents that I might lag behind in my development. It was HCW’s version of “Buyer beware”. When I was eventually adopted, I didn’t walk or crawl. I could sit up but not yet walk. I used a bottle, but I could not feed myself finger food. I rolled around and cried, “Waa,” but I couldn’t do much else. I was a blob, even at slightly over one year, until people began to spend enough time with me and allow me freedom to explore scattered toys, books, messy cookies, hallways and the gooey jowls of our family dog, like a sensorimotor-staged baby needs to do.
My first actual memory is sitting in the side yard of our house throwing a bunch of leaves in the air at some lady. I can still recall the clear autumn sky and the crunchy mounds of just-raked leaves of rust red, dusty orange and brown, spiraling in the air as they landed around us. Maybe the lady was my mom who raised me. I wish I could know for certain that my first memory is of my mom.
I don’t remember John F. Kennedy being shot, but I do know that when it happened in November of 1963, Mom and Dad were in the process of packing up the house and moving to a new place over that somber weekend. We were staying in the same town, but it would be a larger home on a street with a lot of young kids and sidewalks for bike riding and walking to school. My parents were among the few in the nation, it seemed, who were not JFK fans. Mom and Dad had their own agendas and were more focused on packing boxes, loading cars, making runs to the new house and meeting deadlines. Their priorities at the time were primarily on my father’s emerging career in management with the phone company, and setting up house. They were constantly going, growing, changing and making improvements to their lives, such as adopting a child, moving to a better place and buying nicer cars. They were go-getters and never stayed satisfied for very long.
I spent a great deal of time with my Grandma Frances, my mom’s mother. She lived in walking distance, so we spent many days and nights together. Grandma Frances, who had an incredible sweet tooth, was also the provider of endless sugary and starchy treats like big cookies with icing, hard rolls, sweet rolls, chocolate pudding and her homemade sodas with vanilla ice cream, Hershey’s syrup and 7 Up. When she made them at her house, they were the best because she even had long spoons with handles that were actually straws. In all the sugar we consumed, not a soul in our family ever turned up diabetic. No one cared about carbohydrates or fat either. We simply ate and enjoyed.
When I was small, I was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz. I spent hours pretending to be Dorothy, roaming my block with a stuffed dog and a basket. I re-enacted scenes from the movie so much that my nursery school teachers were baffled by my need to live in an imaginary world and by my extreme creativity. The movie scene in which Dorothy stands at the gate of her farm, while the wind howls was mesmerizing as I watched the incredibly real-looking twister spin closer in the background. It was amazing and terrifying.
There were two major problems when I was little. One was being short. I had a very intense complex about this condition. I hated the word and anything synonymous with it. For whatever reason, to me, short or little equaled inadequate, and I dreaded being unworthy. I was a small child in a world full of important adults, who ruled everything. Adults in charge of me held the secrets to the universe. They knew all the answers to information I wanted to know, like where I really came from. I surmised that if I could be physically bigger, I would have the authority to know more about myself and anything else I wanted to learn, but little people like me were stupid and couldn’t handle it. From cookie jars to closed legal records, everything was out of my reach.
My other shortcoming to contend with at the time was my first name, Paige. I absolutely hated it. It was different. My parents picked my name because my Aunt Nora, (my dad’s sister), had heard it somewhere, and she liked it. Aunt Nora did not have children of her own. I don’t know if my parents were trying to include her or felt sorry for her or what, but because of her idea, they decided not to go with the name Cindy, and my name became Paige.
I withstood endless days of teasing on school playgrounds. I hated all the jokes and silly remarks about my first name, and I wished I’d been given a normal name like Julie or Mary. I’d become angry and yell or cry, and that intensified the taunting of the other children. Having a temper did not do me any favors.
Unknowing people misspelled my name. I was sick and tired of going through it with anyone who couldn’t treat my name normally. No one else had confusion about his or her moniker. My name was the only identity I did have, and it pissed me off when someone got it wrong. I was ready to scream and punch out the next person who said, “ page in a book.” When I was small, I couldn’t tell the difference between honest mistakes or if this was another way for people torture me for having an odd name. Once, when we had to write business letters in third grade, I received a reply to mine addressed to Mr. Paige Adams. The stupidity and thoughtlessness of people would never end, even with adults!
I hated being different. Around school, peers would crucify and senselessly hate you for being different. All I wanted was to blend in with people. Instead, I saw myself as a feisty, short person with a weird name, who had an odd start in life and a bad haircut to boot. My goal was to cruise along, unnoticed, and be treated the same as everybody else. However, that wasn’t easy for a little person with an uncommon name, and ugly, crooked pixie bangs, who often felt left out when childhood friends discussed how do babies get born.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I have a couple of projects I am working on. One is a collection of essays / reflections about my work as a teacher. I am also writing a sequel to Akin to the Truth since a lot of people have asked about that.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That probably happened in 4th grade when my L.A. teacher loved my creative writing stories and often shared them with the class. That got me hooked.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I am a teacher / tutor full-time. I also teach Zumba™ Fitness. During the school year, I am out the door by 6:30 AM sometimes. If I tutor or teach fitness class, I might not be home till 8:00 PM. I write a lot / market my book in the PM and on weekends. It’s good to be a night owl!

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know that I have one, but often I am accompanied by one of my four cats who squeeze into the chair behind me, flop around my feet or paw at the keyboard. /,,,,K7ih…(See? Just like that!)

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a mom, a teacher and a writer. Being an artist would have been cool too.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Lisa, Thank you so much for hosting and helping to promote me.


It’s been my pleasure, Paige. Thank you for sharing your story!

Readers, don't forget if you'd like a chance to win a copy of this book, leave a comment below, the e-version type you'd prefer if you win, and a way for me to get in touch with you if you win!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interview with fantasy romance author Marsha A. Moore

I’m happy to have fantasy romance author Marsha A. Moore here today to tell us a bit about her newest novel, Shadows of Serenity, and a bit about herself and her writing life.

Marsha A. Moore loves to write fantasy and fantasy romance. Much of her life feeds the creative flow she uses to weave highly imaginative tales.

The magic of art and nature often spark life into her writing, as well as watercolor painting and drawing. She’s been a yoga enthusiast for over a decade and is a registered yoga teacher. After a move from Toledo to Tampa in 2008, she’s happily transformed into a Floridian, in love with the outdoors. Marsha is crazy about cycling. She lives with her husband on a large saltwater lagoon, where taking her kayak out for an hour or more is a real treat. She never has enough days spent at the beach, usually scribbling away at stories with toes wiggling in the sand. Every day at the beach is magical!

Welcome, Marsha. Please tell us about your current release.
Shadows of Serenity is a novel that can be described as women’s fiction paranormal fantasy/magical realism.

Joyce Runsey spends her life savings to open a yoga studio in an historic Victorian St Augustine house, only to discover the property is haunted. A female ghost’s abusive and very much alive husband still tortures her by using dark witchcraft. The disruptive energy thwarts Joyce’s ambition to create a special environment to train students to become yoga teachers.

Joyce engages in a deadly battle with not only the tormented spirit, but also the dangerous husband. To protect her students from harm, she must overcome mounting obstacles. An unknown swami pays an unexpected visit to give advice on how to free the anguished ghost. Can Joyce comprehend and follow the wise man’s guidance in time to save everyone who depends on her?

What inspired you to write this book?
Shadows of Serenity was inspired by my experiences while completing a yoga teacher training program. I was overcome with joy seeing the incredible, positive transformations of my classmates. I wanted to create a story that would show this amazing growth. To do so, I created a force of evil that the power of yoga must overcome. The negative energy manifested through a ghost who haunted the yoga studio and was tormented by her former husband, a man capable of dark witchcraft.

Excerpt from Chapter One:
“Stop looking outside.” Eric slipped behind the main desk, a curved leg Queen Anne piece that had been a business-warming gift from her previous clients and teachers, and powered up the computer. “Do what you always tell your beginning teachers to do when they fidget while waiting for students to show up—go lay out mats for the number of students you want to show up tonight.”
Joyce straightened her posture and marched to the mat storage bin. She grabbed two armfuls without counting. In the classroom, she quickly unrolled a front row of five. Progressing to the second row, she hesitated and slowly laid three more in the middle. Looking at the pile of remaining mats, she took a breath to steady herself. It caught in her throat as a muffled cough. Thirty-five had enrolled in her last training session at the other studio. She wondered what had made her take a chance on this rundown, more-than-century-old property and mounting debts. She fingered the corner of a pink mat, its pebbled surface clinging to her skin. Surely more than eight would sign up. She unfurled the pink one and then four more. As she fought with a green mat that curled at the corners, the motion of Eric entering the room caused her to jerk her head in his direction.
“Only thirteen?” he called to her with a smile. “Where’s the confident Joyce I know? How about twice that number?”
She glanced at the clock—seven minutes until starting time—and gave a shrug. She turned toward one of the paired bay windows trimmed with wide, dark Jacobean-stained woodwork.
A pair of rain-bedraggled white egrets huddled unsheltered on the bank of the pond. They stretched their necks toward her, tilting their heads to gain a better view inside the studio. Joyce sensed their concern, but couldn’t meet their gaze.
She surveyed the canopy of pines and shivered. Mid-winter evenings set in early, even sooner with today’s gray skies. The rain that calmed her moments ago now seemed to be a destructive force. The cement mixer’s tracks were now mud holes. The deluge cut short the daylight and seemed to be doing the same to her dreams. Had she taken on too much? She’d trusted her business sense from her college training and previous corporate career, but the world of yoga touched lives in unpredictable ways.
The creak of the door in the foyer startled her from her thoughts. She and Eric battled each other to be the first to pass through the doorway.
A tall blond-haired woman greeted them with a wide smile. Rather than yoga clothes, she dressed in jeans that were stylishly frayed and holey. Joyce wondered if the girl walked in by mistake.
“I’m Joyce Runsey, the owner of Serenity Woods Yoga.” She extended a hand. “Are you here for the information meeting about yoga teacher training?”
“I’m Tara.” The girl accepted Joyce’s handshake. “I didn’t bring my yoga mat. I wasn’t aiming to come here tonight until I noticed a brochure for your new studio that I must’ve left on my front seat. I’m glad I saw that in my car since today’s the deadline.” She glanced down at herself, then leaned her head to one side and fluffed her long, golden hair. “Sorry I’m not in yoga clothes. I was on the way to the grocery store.”
“That’s not a problem. We’ll just be talking tonight. I’m so glad you’re here.” Joyce’s face lit with a grin, then fell as she noticed a single mourning dove fluttering on the porch outside the door. Doves seldom left their mates. The solo bird alarmed her, and she peered around Tara for a closer look. Even stranger, the bird clutched a flower stem in its beak.
Tara glanced over her shoulder, and the dove whipped its wings closer to the screen. “That bird’s trying to get in, and look, it’s carrying my favorite flower, a daisy,” she said with a laugh. “Where would it get a daisy in January?”
Joyce shivered and studied Tara, wondering why the lonesome dove needed to deliver that special flower to comfort her.
Footsteps reverberating on the porch chased the bird away, and two smiling women, who appeared to be in their early thirties, peered through the window of the front door.  A brunette with a bouncy ponytail stepped through the threshold first. “Sorry we’re late.” She juggled a purse and a large bag. A yoga mat stuck out from one end of her tote. “I’m Megan. I made a wrong turn…my daughter called, and I got distracted. She’s not used to being apart from me; I’m a stay-at-home mom.”
“You’re not late. Welcome. I’m Joyce, the program director.”
Arms full, Megan smiled and nodded.
“I’m Katie,” the other woman said, extending a hand to Joyce.
“Hi, Katie. Welcome back.” Joyce took her hand into both of hers. “I’m so glad you decided to sign up.” She motioned toward her partner at the desk. “This is Eric. You’ll see him helping out in just about every way here at Serenity Woods Yoga, teaching our new men’s classes, helping at the desk, and—”
“Doing the endless yard work,” he added with a warm smile.
“Please make yourselves comfortable in the classroom.” Joyce waved a hand to the open door. “Find a mat. There are blankets on the side you can fold to sit on.”
“I remember where everything is and will help them.” Katie brushed her light brown hair behind her shoulders and steered her friend down the hall.
As soon as the three entered the classroom, Eric nodded toward the door and gave Joyce a wink. “Look! Laying out mats did the trick.”
A slim gray-haired woman opened the door, and, beyond her, Joyce glimpsed several people walking in from the parking lot.
The laughing gulls continued to swoop at the porch, narrowly missing the gingerbread fretwork.
The approaching students shooed them away, but not one person turned back.
Joyce shook her head and blinked back tears as she welcomed each new arrival.
When she walked to the front of the classroom, eleven students sat up straighter on their mats. She stood near the bay windows and made her usual opening remarks. “In the teacher training program here at Serenity Woods Yoga, you will be embarking on a journey where new doors to self-exploration and discovery will open.” Familiar words she’d said many times during the past three years at her other studio spilled from her lips, while a new energy burst from her heart. Her cheeks rose with a smile. “The ancient art and science of yoga will help you access your inner wisdom to prepare you to share this experience with others through your own teaching.”
The two empty mats caught her attention. The green one now lay perfectly flat despite its earlier fight and the pink one, which wouldn’t let go of her fingers, gleamed orange at its edges. She wondered why those two particular mats remained.
Eric appeared at the door and escorted two students into the room. One was a trim, middle-aged woman. Despite being carefully dressed, she seemed ill-at-ease. The lady fidgeted to take a seat on the folded blanket while keeping her attention fixed on Joyce. When asked, she replied in a soft tone that her name was Susan.
“Sorry I’m late.” A black woman quickly took a seat on the green mat, her long braids falling across her face. “It’s been a hard day.”
“I’m glad you’re here. I’m Joyce.”
“I’m Ricca.” She curled her legs to one side and sprawled onto an elbow.
“Make yourselves comfortable,” Joyce replied, pleased to see the latecomer so at ease. Most beginning teaching students sat rigid and stiff to display their best postures. “It’s been a hard day for many of us. Let’s take a deep breath to center and relax before we begin our talk.”
As Joyce exhaled, she exchanged smiles with Eric who stood in the back of the room.
He grinned ear to ear. He’d been right, just like when she advised her beginning teachers who laid out empty mats that were filled with exactly that number of students. Thirteen students, eleven women and two men, in her first yoga teacher training class in the new studio of her dreams, lucky thirteen.
A single gull cried at the window, and Joyce whipped around. Its beak hung open, gaping in her face. Past the wiggling pink tongue, a message emerged from the dark depth of its gullet: Thirteen steps to a gallows. As quickly as it came, the bird flew away.
Joyce sucked in a sharp breath. She turned toward the egrets, but they had gone. Without looking at the class, she stepped to the stereo, taking an awkwardly long time to select a new song. She inhaled slowly, filling her lungs completely, then released with an extended exhale. The soothing music helped prana flow into her. But as she scanned the room, her hands still trembled. No one’s face showed any sign of surprise. Instead, they waited patiently for her to continue. With a shaky smile, she got everyone on their feet and led a quick asana routine to throw off any lingering negative energy.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m working on the beginning book of a new series, Coon Hollow Coven Tales, which will be a new adult paranormal romance. Set in present-day southern Indiana, there is an illusion of time travel with the coven living in a separate village that follows customs of the 1930s. Interesting things happen when folks of the two groups interact!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve followed a circuitous path to end up as a fiction writer. I graduated with a degree in Biology, minoring in English. I wanted to pursue Literature and Fine Art, but my parents encouraged me to study Biology, so I might eventually find a reliable job. That was fine, since I liked that subject also. I wrote essays as a fun break from my full load of Science. Yes, weird that I thought writing essays was fun…still do!

Along the way, I picked up a hobby of writing music reviews for record companies. During that time, I was inspired by some of those experiences and tinkered with fiction. Initially, I wrote fiction based on the world of rock music. Through a lucky happenstance, a man who worked for a major book publishing house read my first attempts at fiction, which were posted on a music forum. He repeatedly encouraged me to submit my creative writing to publishers. Over time, I came to believe him and did. After that, a new world opened up and it’s been a wonderful time.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I mostly write full-time, but I also keep busy as a yoga teacher. I’m certified in Restorative Yoga and have trained in Trauma-Sensitive Yoga for veterans through the Warriors At Ease program. In yoga classes I teach, using sensory enhanced yoga, adaptive yoga, and trauma-sensitive meditation, I help veterans and all my students reconnect to a sense of wellbeing.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I get a lot of positive and amazed comments about my imagination, usually, “Where do you get these ideas?” or “You are talented storyteller,” or “How do you drive with all these wild ideas in your head?” I honestly have no idea—it’s just me and how I think. I see odd stuff in nature, like portals and strange creatures.  I’ve been this way as long as I can remember. It does make for some great tales though!

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I was always, and still am, happiest when being creative. I wanted to be an artist. When I entered college, I wanted to pursue Literature and Fine Art, but my parents encouraged me to study Biology, so I might eventually find a reliable job. That was fine, since I liked that subject also. I wrote essays as a fun break from my full load of Science. Yes, weird that I thought writing essays was fun…still do! And I still paint and draw, creating my own cover art for my books.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?

Thank you, Lisa, for this fun interview!

It’s been my pleasure, Marsha. Thank you for being here!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Interview with YA sci-fi author J.P. Lantern

Today’s guest is author J.P. Lantern to chat about his new novel, a YA sci-fi titled Up the Tower.

J.P. will be awarding a backlist e-book to a randomly drawn winner at every stop during the tour and a Grand Prize of a $25 Amazon gift card will be awarded to one randomly drawn winner during this tour. To be entered for the chances to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit his other tour stops and enter there, too!

J.P. Lantern lives in the Midwestern US, though his heart and probably some essential parts of his liver and pancreas and whatnot live metaphorically in Texas. He writes speculative science fiction short stories, novellas, and novels which he has deemed "rugged," though he would also be fine with "roughhewn" because that is a terrific and wonderfully apt word.

Full of adventure and discovery, these stories examine complex people in situations fraught with conflict as they search for truth in increasingly violent and complicated worlds.

Welcome, J.P. Please tell us about your current release.
Up the Tower is a YA dystopian romp through a futuristic slum. Basically, six strangers end up teaming together through circumstance to escape this catastrophic earthquake that suddenly rips through the city they’re in. Each of them is suffering from some sort of loss or abandonment, and part of their escape is metaphorical, with them trying to leave behind the wreckage of their past.

What inspired you to write this book?
Oh, lots of things. I’ve said in other places that I was inspired by the simplicity of the movie Sorcerer, which is true. I also care a great deal about class and gender and feminism and police militarization and the increasing corporate control in the world, and all of that sort of bled into the story. I really love very simple stories in very complicated universes, and this book is a great example of that.

Excerpt from Up the Tower:
“Hey, Smellson!”

Samson ignored the jeer, focusing carefully on opening the box. He was twelve years old and he did not want to screw this up; being twelve was important, and people took the things you did seriously so long as you did them well.

“Smellson, hey!” The Crowboy banged his crowbar on the dusty ruins of the factory line where they had set up the six crates from their haul that morning. “Don’t blow us up, okay? I don’t want to die with your stench clogging me up, yeah?”

Again, Samson ignored the other boy, trying to concentrate as he eased his longtool through the gap in the crate before him. He very well could blow himself up; he could blow them all up. Inside the GuaranTech crate he tinkered with was a copbot.

Copbots blew up all the time. If their main processors or power source were damaged, they blew up. If they were being captured, they blew up. If they ran out of ammo and couldn’t refill within about ten minutes, they blew up. When they blew up, they incinerated everything in about a hundred foot radius. The warehouse was not big enough for the Crowboys to keep their distance and still work in the role of protection as they had been hired. So they were in the blast zone as well as Samson.

The copbots, deactivated, were precious and valuable. Strangely, they were valuable precisely because they were so hard to deactivate. A copbot was made almost entirely out of self-healing nanotech, and with enough time, it could repair from almost any wound to its metal shell. So, to keep this sort of power out of the hands of the gangster conglomerate that ran Junktown, the Five Faces, and any other sort of competitor, the copbots had a very liberal self-destruct mechanism.

This is what Samson worked against.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m not sure at the moment! I was sort of taking a break for a little while and refilling the well with lots of good sci-fi and history from other writers. I have some thoughts about space cannibals, but that’s about it.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I had this job one summer where I was working in landscaping, and it was just miserable. At the time, it was one of the hottest summers on record in Texas (though I think they’ve beaten that record consistently every year since). Anyway, I was breaking these bricks apart for some asinine reason, and at that time I had been writing consistently for about four years. The one thing that made me feel better was that I knew that, if nothing else, I was a writer, and that nothing could take that away from me.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I do and I don’t. I have a part-time job where I help other people with their writing. Thankfully, this allows a lot of time for me to work on my own writing much of the time. So, I get a lot done at that job, but I also end up having to work from home quite a bit on my writing. So I think I regularly put in a slightly-more-than-full-time schedule, but it varies from week to week and what needs getting done.

At any rate, usually my day starts with checking emails and trying to keep up with social media happenings. Then I read for a bit, refilling that well. Then I write on one given project, and then another. In between all of this, I’m doing my best not to get up and stretch often and also not spend all my time reading about Transformers or politics.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Oh, gosh. I don’t know if I have too many. Usually when I sit down to write, I’m just sitting down to write. I have a lot of pain from some nefarious business in my neck and a lifetime of playing mouse-and-keyboard videogames, though, so I have to get up and stretch fairly often. My writing areas are littered with all these little rubber bands and gyroscopic balls for wrist pain, shoulder pain, neck pain, back pain. Is that a quirk or is just pathetic?

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Probably a hobbit. They seemed to have their stuff together pretty well, and they were always going on crazy adventures.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
If you’re looking for a great, fun, fast read, pick up Up the Tower! And make sure to leave reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to let others know what you think—your voice matters!

Thanks for stopping by, J.P.!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 12, 2014

Interview with psychological horror author Charlie Jack Joseph Kruger

Today’s guest, Charlie Jack Joseph Krugerwrites psychological horror. Don’t be afraid to read a bit about him and his newest novel In Stark Weather. I promise that no monsters will leap off the page and follow you around.

Welcome, Charlie. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a storyteller. It has always been the one calling that has screamed out for me the loudest, I feel. So it is only logical, I feel, that I would find myself on the scary side of a typewriter, clicking away and vomiting out all of my emotions and ideas. I feel weird when I am asked for a ‘bio’ or a little ‘rundown on who I am’ because I feel like the stories I write paint a truer image of who I am than anything I can actually say about myself…

Please tell us about your current release.
Well, In Stark Weather is my most recent novel. It is a tri-narrative, following three characters, a failed musician, a terrified author, and an abuse victim who has fallen into extremely unhealthy coping mechanisms. These three lost souls all rip out into America from different starting points, trying to find sanity, safety, and sanctity. Along the way, their own monsters and fears victimize them, each other, and others. I really felt like I was able to purge not only a lot of my own thoughts, but also a lot of my own monsters and fears through these three unwilling heroes. I would say that it this novel is a ‘psychological literary horror’. It has more to do with Chuck Palanhiuk than Stephen King, you know? haha.

What inspired you to write this book?
I was inspired by some of the people I have known, some of the people I have been afraid that I am, and some of the people I know I have almost become. I feel like writing, although you twist and bend life to make it become the story you want, is something that must be approached with honesty and reverence. I believe more in this novel than I do in myself as an author, if that makes sense. And as such, I feel that I should only write when something, the spirit of the story maybe, moves me to do so. So with this novel, I just felt these characters in my head, they built themselves up Franken-stitched together out of ideas and moments from my life. People I have worked with, or heard speaking… and once the characters were real to me, once I could see them and hear them in my head, I had to give them a story to live within. I knew the emotional resolve I wanted the story to have, but I didn’t know how the plot would work to get me there, or what the physicality of that emotional finale would be, so I just started writing.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Well, I'm working on a draft of my next novel, it is so far existing under the title ‘A Junkyard God With Broken Legs’, and it has to do with love, blindness, and deification. One of the main characters is in love with an idea, not a person, and so he smears that idea onto people so that he can love them, but… I don’t want to give too much away yet.

I'm also working on a short story, and getting a few stories put into literary ‘zines and collections.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I go back and forth on this. In a way I guess it could be when I was in 6th grade and I wrote a whole notebook full of a story… but no one else ever read that. And maybe it was when my first poems were sold for publication. Maybe when I saw my name on my first novel in person. Maybe when I had my first official book signing. I don’t really know. I feel like I am almost constantly feeling more and more like an author. I mean, with five other books in print, when my latest In Stark Weather came out… I felt more like an author than ever before. Or when my publisher created a commercial for my new novel… that was an odd moment of adulthood. I guess I don’t have a good answer. But I have always felt like I was supposed to be a writer, and with every passing day, I feel like I am closer and closer to that goal.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
Well, I would say I am a full-time creator. I paint, I write, I play music, I review movies/books/music for the underground website and I do a little work on the side as a graphic designer for a few friends’ bands. I also co-coordinate a food outreach program in Olympia, Washington with a few other awesome folks, to make sure that three days a week there is free, healthy food available to those in need of it, and I work part time as a trauma and abuse counselor. I'm also working with a few other outreach groups on some other projects. So… I do have a full schedule, but I love everything I do. I do these things because I believe in them and they fulfill me. They all drain me in different ways, but with the amount of things in front of me, I try to make sure I never feel too burned out on one thing, when I am feeling a little dry, I try to change over to a different field so that I don’t end up resenting the work. And I find time to do the things I love, because they each deserve time. So I just have to make it work.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Hmm… I guess I use a lot of truncated/fragmented sentences. I like to write in a conversational tone for the most part, and as a result, when it comes to personal or challenging moments in a story, I sometimes end up shattering up my paragraphs like glass, leaving little slivers of sentences here and there.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An artist. I think for a short while there I wanted to be Swamp Thing, but for the most part I have always wanted to be an author, and a creator. I just want to be able to get all of the things and ideas out of my head…. So that there is space for more to grow.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes, thank you so much for sitting and doing this interview with me! I hope you will mosey on over to my website and check out some of the work I have posted there. My books are available through local retailers, Barnes and Noble,, and my own website. If you get them from my website they each come autographed and with an inscription. So… I recommend that! But thank you for interviewing me, and for all of you reading, thank you for taking the time and reading this!

Happy to have you here today, Charlie. Enjoy the writing!