Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Room Fifty-Eight - Book 5 in a Shared World Anthology

With Room Fifty-Eight about to go live following a period of pre-orders, I wanted to talk a bit about the story, the anthology, and what it's like writing in a shared world antho.

First, though, an apology. It's been a LONG time since I updated this blog. Things in my life exploded a bit, and something had to fall through the cracks. Sadly, this blog is what fell through. I'm back now, and as an Independent, or "Indie," author. Winlock/Permuted and I have parted ways on amicable terms, and I plan to self-publish all my romance works now, starting with this one.

When fellow author Gwynn McNamee approached me about this anthology, I jumped at the opportunity. For one thing, Gwynn is a highly successful Indie romance author, and brought in a cast of similar successful authors. So I got to ride on their coattails. Second, I've always wanted to write a shared world story, and this anthology is completely set at the Last Resort Motel, in the middle-of-nowhere, Nevada. It contains just about every sub-genre of romance, with mine of course being a Supernatural Romance.

The story's also a bit different from most romances, as it is a framed story. The best way to think of a framed story is that it's a story inside another story. Think of The Princess Bride. There's the story of the boy and his grandfather, and the actually story itself. In Room Fifty-Eight, the main story is that of Claire, an elderly woman waiting for her husband to celebrate their anniversary. The frame, or the "smaller" story, is that of Maggie Peck, and her hesitant romance with a local biker. The interactions between Claire and Maggie help each one in their romantic journey. I also wrote Claire's portion in present tense, in order to raise the tension. You see, Claire is suffering from a disease, and is on the edge of death for much of the story. The present tense adds to the urgency of her situation. We'll see how that plays out with romance readers, who are used to a different formula.

Room Fifty-Eight goes live at midnight, in both e-book and paperback formats. Here's where you can get it:


Barnes and Noble


And while you're at it, grab copies of the first four books, too!

That's it for now. I promise to keep this up better from here on out!


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Paper Books or E-Readers?

I had this talk with my dad the other day: whether it was better to read on an e-reader--like a Kindle, Nook, etc--or paper copies. I do both, and hadn't put much thought into the methodology behind which one I choose for particular reading items. After the talk with dad, I now have things all racked and stacked.


I have an 8-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab with both the Kindle and Nook apps on it, and honestly, for reading fiction, I don't see too many downsides to using this over traditional people. It's amazingly convenient for traveling--I can take dozens of books in something the size of a paperback. I can bookmark, make comments, highlight, and so on. I don't have to worry about the paper fading or the cover tearing or anything. I can't dog-ear a tablet, and I can easily put in my backpack when I go mountain biking, so I have my choice of books to read during breaks.

However, I do NOT like reading from my tablet at bedtime, which is the time I most commonly read, because the blue light from the screen is known to disrupt sleep patters. Since I already have trouble sleeping, doing something that makes it harder right before bed is not the best idea for me. I do have a blue light filter, but I find reading off a paper copy more relaxing anyway. Also, e-readers have batters that run out, often need updating, and provide their own distractions, with the web and email just a touch away.

And e-books are generally cheaper than their paper counterparts, for obvious reasons, so there are some monetary gains from buying them.


I much prefer paper books if I know the author, so I can get the copy signed. As I pointed out above, I also like them for bedtime reading, and for all around relaxation. I take paper books on airplanes, since you have to turn off electronics during takeoff and landing, and that's just more time to read. I also use paper books where I think the light of a tablet might disturb other people, or in bright sunlight.

I'm also not a fan of electronic magazines. For some reason, holding a magazine in my hands--being able to roll it up, thumb through the pages, and so on, is more appealing to me than swiping on a screen. Besides, I can't roll up my tablet to smash a spider. Gets too expensive. (Note; I do subscribe to Fantasy and Science Fiction on my Kindle app and love it...)

Paper books also look much better lining the bookshelves in a writer's home, something all of us like to do. Putting a tablet on the shelf just doesn't have the same effect.

So I guess I'm a hybrid reader, using e-books in some situations and traditional paper ones in others. They both have their place. A good story is a good story, be it in ink or ones and zeroes, so whatever lets me read it the best is what I'll use.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Meet Mike Tolbert - Smothered Excerpt

Since I missed my excerpt post on Sunday, here it is today instead. Meet Mike Tolbert, handyman and former U.S. Marine. In this scene, we get a peek into the demons that haunt Mike's mind.
Mike swerved around a Prius that pulled out of a 7-Eleven on his right. Apparently the driver didn't care about right-of-way, choosing to place his tiny hybrid in front of Mike's five-thousand-pound Ford pickup just to make Mike swerve. As Mike cruised past him, a hipster with a scruffy beard and a frown flipped him off and shouted something about Mike's gas guzzler.
Typical Prius owner, Mike thought. More interested in making a political statement than learning how to drive.
It wasn't like Mike drove a pickup by choice. It was simply the vehicle best suited for a handyman's job. The truck was clearly marked, too, so the jerk had to have known it was a work vehicle. Some people protested just to have a cause.
Traffic on East Colfax had thickened more than Mike expected on a holiday, making his drive to his next job site slow-going. He hated working on Memorial Day, but he needed the money, and his customer—an older woman whose husband had just passed—needed help. This day he normally reserved for remembering his fallen comrades, the men he'd lost in that God-forsaken, overheated litter box called Iraq. Men—boys in some cases—who'd died in gruesome, horrible ways, usually screaming or frightened out of their minds.
Guys Mike would never forget.
Guys like Kyle.
They'd been on patrol in a suburb of Fallujah, a squad of Marines working to keep looters at bay and insurgents hunkered down. Corporal Kyle McElroy had point, with Mike following about ten yards behind. The sun turned their Kevlar into slow cookers, boiling their bodies and simmering their minds. They were professionals, but even pros struggled in that kind of heat.
Mike was looking up at a rooftop when the car bomb detonated, slamming him to the ground. His ears rang, and his vision blurred. He struggled to his feet to find Kyle on his back beside him, blown backward from the blast. Where Kyle's right leg had been only a bloody stump with a jagged spear of bone remained, the rest gone from just above the knee. Blood oozed from Kyle's nose and ears, and his left arm was bent underneath him, twisted almost beyond recognition.
Mike knew what would come next. The staccato firing of AK-47s erupted all around them, bullets whizzing past, ricocheting off the street, surrounding buildings, and vehicles. Mike managed to drag Kyle's limp body into an alley, while the rest of the squad ducked for cover. Mike applied a tourniquet to Kyle's leg, stopping the loss of blood, but they needed help fast. Kyle was alive, but not for long.

He heard Sergeant Ortiz on the radio, calling for air support to suppress enemy fire. Mike raised his M-4 carbine, peeked around the corner, and found himself staring down the barrel of an AK. A lone insurgent, scarf covering his mouth and nose, aimed at Mike's head.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

What I'm Reading October 6th, 2016

I'm a slow reader. Like, hear-the-words-in-my-head slow. So I don't make enough progress to blog this particular topic weekly like I should.

But this week, I do have a new addition, Barbara Nickless' fantastic new mystery Blood on the Tracks (buy it HERE) from Thomas and Mercer, the crime imprint of Amazon. This is Book One of the Sydney Rose Parnell Series, and tells the story of a former Marine with PTSD who works as a railroad cop, trying to solve a brutal murder by a hobo. I'm about a quarter of the way through, and this one is a TOUGH book to put down at the end of the day. If I'm not careful, I'll find myself still reading at midnight, having to get up four hours later for work! I'll let you in on a little secret--Barb and I have been friends for a good fourteen years or so, and everything of hers I've read, I've enjoyed, but this is a step up even for her. Gritty, tense, and real. A strong female lead with realistic flaws, and a gripping story.

I'm also still reading the Alien Artifacts anthology from Zombies Need Brains, and it certainly lives up to the standards they set with their previous anthos. Wonderful stories of humans finding alien artifacts throughout the universe and how those affect the people finding them. Again, it's hard to build a themed anthology that's interesting, since the reader already knows at least some of what's going to happen, but ZNB's editors pick diverse stories that keep you reading.

And I finished Christine Feehan's Shadow Rider. Great story! I love Christine's writing, and her characters are both over-the-top and believable, something that's really tough to do. I struggled a little with the role of the female lead in this story, though, as she entered into a relationship with a male who dominates her completely. She's not QUITE submissive, but close, and seems to enjoy being told what to do, both romantically and otherwise. My suspicion, though, is that Francesca is going take on a bigger role in the family's shadow riding business as these books go along, meaning her character arc will bring out her feistier side, and make her a more active participant in her own life. Don't get me wrong -- I loved the book, and I have faith Christine will bring Francesca along nicely.

That's it for today. Read on!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Smothered Excerpt - October 2nd

Sundays mean excerpts! This is a scene in Mike's point of view from Chapter Seventeen, when he finds out his ex-wife's new beau has hit his daughter:

Mike stepped out of his truck and into the oppressive heat and smothering humidity. He looked at the house in front of him. Sitting on a cul-de-sac, it looked exactly like the ones on either side of it, just with different paint and facings. Even the grass, with mosquitoes floating up from it to greet him, had been cut to the same length.
Mike saw the damage right away. The front gutter had ripped from the roof over the garage and now hung from one end, blocking the door. The homeowner—a twenty-something woman with her blonde hair in a ponytail—stood inside her garage, talking on her cellphone, gesturing wildly for Mike to come closer. Mike left the truck unlocked and strolled up the driveway, mopping at his brow while she chatted.
Denver technically sat on a high plains desert, so humid days were a rarity, but today he could have sliced the air with his packing knife and eaten it like pizza. With the heat came the mosquitoes, another rarity at 5,280-feet elevation. It made him love Denver even more: the lack of mosquitoes and cockroaches. They were around, but not nearly like they were in other places he'd lived.
Still, on this day, with leftover rain pocketing in low spots and still dripping from trees, the city had turned "muggy and buggy," according to one local meteorologist. And this neighborhood in Centennial had taken the brunt of both.
"Oh, thank you for coming so quickly," the blonde said, said, stuffing her phone in her back pocket. "My husband is deployed and I need to get to work. My boss is already pissed. I've had to take so much time off since Brad deployed. I think they might fire me. I'm Christine Stanley."
Mike looked around the garage. Posters of F-22 Raptors, B-2 bombers, and other aircraft plastered the wall. Hanging by the door into the house, a dark blue jacket gathered dust. A tricycle sat in one corner next to a two-seat stroller.
"Your husband's in the Air Force?"
"Air National Guard," she told him. "F-16 pilot at Greeley. They sent him to the desert again, covering for some active guys to come home. Of course, like every deployment, they botched up his pay. I hope you take credit cards."
"Well, to thank him for his service," Mike told her, "I'll get this fixed and you won't owe me until he comes home."
The relief on her face transformed her. Gone was the stressed-out woman trying to make ends meet while her husband was gone, and in her place stood a woman who seemed, for that instant, to have everything together.
"Thank you," she said.
"From one veteran to another," he said, "it's no problem. Now let me get this out of the way so you can get your kids to daycare and yourself to work."
Mike held up the gutter while she backed out under it, her kids waving. When she was gone, he surveyed the damage while cars whooshed by outside and birds sang in the trees. It looked like someone had jumped up and hung on the front lip of the gutter, pulling it down. The gutter was bent in the middle, forming a "V," and all the nails holding it had torn loose from the roof edge except for two at one end where the downspout held it up.
Mike set up his folding ladder and had climbed three steps when his cellphone rang. Normally, he'd have ignored it, but the ringtone was assigned to Maria. He never ignored her calls.
"Hey, munchkin," he began. The sound of sobbing stopped him.
"Daddy, can you come pick me up?" she asked through choked-off sobs.
"I'm on a jobsite right now, sweetie, what's wrong?"
She said nothing, which by itself put Mike's senses on high alert. In the background he heard Michelle's shrill voice yelling, the same shrill voice that had been directed at him more times than he could count.
"Maria, what happened? Where are you?"
"We're at Pitt's house." Now Pitt was yelling, presumably back at Michelle. Mike couldn't make out the words, but he knew rage when he heard it. "Daddy, he hit me."
Mike's world stopped. He no longer heard cars passing by, birds in the trees, or anything. His mind filled with the sound of Maria's voice and nothing else.
"He did what?" He kept his voice as even as he could, but his hands were shaking and he had somehow stepped down off the ladder without knowing it.
"He slapped me."
"On my butt. There's a hand print, Daddy. I took a—"
The sound of a scuffle reached Mike over the phone, and he held his breath until he heard Maria yell, "That's mine! You can't take it!"
She sounded distant, so Mike knew she didn't have her phone.
"Who pays for this phone, you ungrateful brat?" Pitt's voice still quivered with rage. "I do, so I will take it anytime I want, you understand?"
"That's my dad on the phone." Her voice was quieter this time. Confident. She knew Pitt stood on thin ice. Too bad Pitt didn't.
"Oh, so that's how it is? You go running off to your daddy every time things go wrong here?"
"At least he doesn't hit me."
Mike had heard enough.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


Thought I'd do something a little different tonight and post up some tunes from my playlist. I listen to these while working the day job, and while writing, since music with lyrics doesn't really impact my writing too negatively.

I use Amazon Prime Music for my music, choosing to either shuffle all my songs (currently only 133 on the list...I just did a clean-out), or listening to a specific artist. Since I'm going to see Halestorm live in October, I've been listening to them a lot lately, but here are the first ten songs that come up on a random shuffle of my list:

1. I Miss the Misery - Halestorm
2. Angels Fall - Breaking Benjamin
3. Inhale - Stone Sour
4. Gone Sovereign - Stone Sour
5. Bring It - Trapt
6. Amen - Halestorm
7. Heaven Knows - The Pretty Reckless
8. Bitch Came Back - Theory of a Deadman
9. Silence and Scars - Pop Evil
10. Lydia - Highly Suspect

As you can tell, I'm a bit of a rocker, though there are some softer songs on my list. They just didn't come up this go-around.

And while I don't find lyrics affecting my writing, I do find the kind of music affecting the mood/tone sometimes. If I'm writing a love scene, for example, I wouldn't likely tune in any of these songs, but would opt for something more upbeat. If I'm writing a fight scene, though...

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Excerpt - Smothered

One archetype character in most romances is the "best friend" of the female protagonist. She often takes the form of a sister, best friend, co-worker, or even a mother, but I wanted to be a little different with Annie's BFF, so I made it a gay man, Jason. Here's a little tidbit from a scene where he shows himself to be the friend she needs:


Annie fought back a sneeze as the smells of mildew, dust, and alcohol assaulted her nose. She shouldn't have been surprised, since her mom had been an accomplished drinker, and the house had sat empty for a year since her death. Sunlight sliced through the curtained windows in dusty blades of gold, lighting up the sitting room to their left, but leaving the hallway ahead of them shadowed and dark. Stairs rose to the left, carpeted with a red-patterned runner, leading up to the second floor. Annie led Jason down the corridor, peeking in the dining room, living room, den, and kitchen before stopping at the end of the hall.
Despite the smell, the interior was cool, as Annie had convinced her mother to install a central air conditioner during her last year. It had made her mother's final, bed-ridden days less painful, she thought, though her mother had never admitted it.
"No one home," she said. "Just furniture covered in sheets, some moving boxes, and dust."
Jason moved around her, his nose wrinkled. "And mice. I think I just stepped in their poop."
"You're such a girl," she told him, walking back the way they'd come.
"You should try it sometime," he said. "You might hold onto a guy."
She was about to wheel on him when the front door opened and the foreman peeked in. He looked like a child peeking into his parents' bedroom, wide-eyed and nervous. Apparently, he was a simple man from a farm, too.
"The men said you must go upstairs," he said, pointing. "Madre Muerta was there."
Then he disappeared like a mouse from the kitty's lair.
Annie sighed and put her foot on the steps. She paused, turned to Jason, and laughed. "We could run out like they did and scare them."
"Then who's going to carry all your furniture upstairs?" her friend quipped. "I know you sure won't do it. And that leaves me, so get up there and talk to your mom's ghost or whatever you need to do. Those sweaty men need to finish their job."
Annie chuckled and climbed the stairs, their wood complaining with every step. The house had been built in 1913, so some creaks were to be expected. Still, Annie knew each step's whiny voice, having grown up listening to them whenever her mother stumbled up to bed. They'd grown quieter, as if afraid now that her mother had died, or perhaps no longer protesting as much.
The upstairs hallway had four doors. On the left stood doors to the second and third bedrooms, with the second bathroom in between. On the right, the door to the master bedroom suite sat open, dusty light spilling out into the hallway from the tall window on the street-facing wall. Closing her eyes—a habit she'd acquired as a little girl who wasn't supposed to see inside that room—Annie tugged the door closed, letting out a breath she'd been unaware of holding.
Jason looked at her like she'd gone crazy, but she ignored him. He didn't understand. Couldn't.
"I closed that before the movers showed up," she told Jason. "One of them must have opened it after I told them not to. Remind me to yell at them."
"Oh, leave the poor men alone," Jason chided. "What harm is there in looking?"
No, he definitely didn't understand.
She peeked in the first bedroom on her left, the one where the movers had been stacking her things. The patterned wallpaper her brother had favored as a boy would have to go, sunlight having faded its hues, its corners peeling. Annie had managed to talk herself into taking the room, as it was a little bigger than her old space. She told herself that if she couldn't quite make herself take over her mother's old room, she at least deserved more than she'd had growing up. She was a successful marketing specialist now, not a frightened, bashful little girl, and Daniel had no claim on the house—Annie did.
Other than boxes and furniture, the room was empty, as was the second bathroom, with its outdated green toilet, matching sink, and shower. She liked the old, cracked subway tiles in that bathroom, and made a mental note to keep them when having the bathroom renovated. The room smelled of mold and had no heater vent, making it cold during the rough Denver winters, but she still couldn't make herself use the more modern master bath.
The third bedroom, at the end of the hall, held her paintings and boxes of art supplies, all stacked and piled like puppies dumped at the pound. The portrait of her mother had been covered again, but Annie had to shrug off the feeling that even through the thick, rough canvas, her mother somehow watched her, those cold eyes piercing material and flesh to see inside her heart.
Satisfied those three rooms held no supernatural threats, Annie took a deep breath, screwing up her courage, and faced the door to the master bedroom. Its cool, mahogany surface gleamed in the dim light of the hallway, showing a faint, twisted reflection of her face. She wondered how the door had remained so polished and shiny during the year since her mother died, but had not even completed the thought when something clattered on the hardwood floor inside. She jumped, grabbing Jason's shoulder for support. Her friend raised an eyebrow, but said nothing.
Annie gripped the chilly metal of the brass doorknob and eased the door open, peering through the growing opening. She felt like a little girl again, peeking inside the mysterious room, forbidden to both her and Daniel, fearing she might find her mother glaring back at her, ready to deal a slap or at least a sharp reprimand.
Something rushed at her on the floor, darting for the opening with a skittering sound. She jumped back, feeling stupid the instant she recognized the mouse. It dashed into the hallway and down the steps, leaving Annie panting like she'd run a marathon.
Jason laughed. "We probably shouldn't tell the men they were scared of a tiny mouse. Their machismo might cause some hurt feelings."
"Probably not," she said. "I'm hoping they'll finish this job just to avoid looking more frightened than a woman."
"You're a devious one," Jason said with a wink.
Annie hesitated at the door, her heart pounding, breath quickened. It had been a year since she'd gone inside, since her mother lay dying in the large, king bed. It seemed like an invisible force field blocked the door, pushing against her ever so gently, growing stronger the closer she came to entering, coalescing into an almost solid barrier that she couldn't force herself to step across.

"She's gone, Annie," Jason said, touching her shoulder. "It's all right."