Today’s Featured Author – J. D. Horn

Today I welcome my first author of 2018 – J.D. Horn – to my blog. His latest book, The King of Bones and Ashes, will be released Tuesday, January 23. Be sure to check out the excerpt after his author interview.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a Wall Street Journal bestselling author. My first published book, The Line, came out in February 2014, and earned me a spot as as an official nominee in the category of best debut author in the 2014 Goodreads Choice Awards. Three other titles (The Source, The Void, and Jilo) have been published as part of the Witching Savannah series. The Witching Savannah series has now been/is being translated into eight languages (Russian, Polish, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Turkish, Romanian). I have also had one standalone novel (Shivaree) published. Shivaree is kind of my ugly baby. Not nearly as popular as the other books, but in my opinion either ties with or comes in second to Jilo as my best published novel to date. Fingers crossed that The King of Bones and Ashes outdoes both.

I’m married, have two step-daughters who both graduate from law school in 2018, and I’m the proud pet father of the world’s most wonderful Chihuahua. He was a rescue boy who rescued me. (Adopt, don’t shop.)

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

I’m going to use a quote from the great television writer, Agnes Nixon, to answer this one. “The Great and the Least, The Rich and the Poor, The Weak and the Strong, In Joy and Sorrow, In Tragedy and Triumph, You are ALL MY CHILDREN.” (sic)

My characters are all on some level reflections of me, even if the relationship is limited to my aspiration to share a character’s better qualities, or my battle to keep from giving in to their worst.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I’m currently working on the final round of edits on The Book of the Unwinding, second book of the Witches of New Orleans series, and writing the first draft of The Final Days of Magic, the third in the (so far) trilogy. Writing a trilogy is a bit like juggling. In the first you hope to catch attention by throwing the balls high into the air. The second, you’re keeping them in motion, and the third you have to catch them all without dropping any. The Book of the Unwinding feels like a good “bridge” book between the other two, progressing the story, but taking it in hopefully unexpected directions. Three minor characters from the first book become huge players in the second.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Dreams can come true, but it may not feel the way you expected it would when they do.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?

No. At least hardly ever. I get critiques from a team of trusted professionals, and I do the best work I can. I know I am neither the best nor the worst writer ever, regardless of what a five or one-star review might say. That being said, my publisher forwarded me Publishers Weekly’s and Booklist’s reviews. You darn well know I read those.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

Rarely. The character most solidly based on a real person appears in the new Witches of New Orleans series,  Nathalie Boudreau rises from a minor character in the first book to a lead in the second. I’ve borrowed several characteristics from a woman I used to know way back in the 1990s. Nathalie’s inspiration was, and hopefully continues to be, as tough as nails, but as sweet as sugar.

Oh, but that may not be quite true. It all depends on whether you count cats as people. If you do, then Sugar Caissy wins. I based the character on our beloved, departed Sugar. I know it may sound goofy, but trust me, Sugar Caissy is one of the major characters and helps drive the plot. It’s actually been wonderful writing her as a dramatic heroine, as it’s made me feel like I have her back on some level. Got to give her a tenth life, if you will.

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

I’m going to borrow from the answer I gave when we were discussing Jilo. I start out with a broad summary—basically what I’ve promised my editor I’m going to write—and then sit at the keyboard until the characters tell me what’s really going to happen. As I tell my publisher whenever I present them with a proposal, my writing process resembles what happens when you store your carry-on luggage in a plane’s overhead bin. At the other end of the journey you find pretty much what you expect, but the contents may have shifted during flight.

One of the characters, actually the first POV character we encounter, came out nothing like I’d intended. Alice Marin had secrets, and she made me dig deep until I discovered them.

Excerpt

Lisette Perrault

Just over the blonde’s shoulder, through the window, Lisette caught sight of a familiar head of closely cropped gray hair. Her father, Alcide Simeon, came weaving down the sidewalk, threading his way through the throng of tourists, stopping and bowing theatrically before a young girl, stepping into the street and ceding the sidewalk to her and her parents. The girl’s father reached down and swooped the girl up into his arms as a car horn blared a warning at Alcide. The driver swerved around him, and he stepped backward onto the uneven sidewalk, stum­bling but righting himself. The glint of something silver in his hands caught Lisette’s eye.

Lisette’s father did not take drugs. He did not touch drink. Always said he’d watched too many of his buddies lose it all down those roads. But here he was, stumbling toward the shop. Still, seeing her teetotalling father drunk was a lesser shock than the sight of the strange instrument he carried. Bessie was his “brass belle,” the horn such a familiar sight that it seemed an extension of her father’s hand. Seeing him with this new horn cradled in his hands made her feel like she’d caught him car­rying on with a strange woman.

“You’ll excuse me for a moment,” she said without looking at the women. “You all just keep on looking around as much as you would like.” She stepped around the counter and brushed past the blonde. She grasped the door handle, and, walking through the bell’s protest, slipped out to the street.

She strode up to her father, whose lips tipped into a smile as he threw his arms wide to welcome her.

“There’s my baby girl,” he said. “I was just coming by to see you.”

She stopped just beyond his reach, and his stupid, drunk glee faded—but only a touch. For the first time in her life, she felt ashamed of him. “Why are you all lit up?” she said, her hands on her hips, unin­tentionally mimicking her mother. “And what are you doing with that horn? That isn’t yours.”

“Oh, it’s mine all right. I bought it special this morning.” He raised it to his lips and ran up a quick scale, ending with a flourish.

She held her stance and narrowed her eyes. “Special for what?”

His head jerked and his eyes widened in genuine surprise. “You haven’t heard?” He turned to a passing stranger. “She hasn’t heard!”

She stepped forward and grabbed his forearm. “No, she has not heard,” Lisette said, her words breathless, angry, “but she is standing right here in front of you, so maybe you should get busy with the telling.”

He looked at her, his lips drawing into a thin line. Then his face loosened, and he began to laugh. “Celestin Marin,” he said, his eyes twinkling, “is finally dead. Funeral’s day after tomorrow.” He winked at her. “Gonna be a band and all. This tin horn and I are gonna join in right before they cut the bastard’s body loose,” he said and laughed. “May end up a devil of a second line.”

“Celestin wasn’t a musician. Why would anyone throw him a jazz funeral?”

Her father didn’t respond with words, but a wide smile crept across his lips.

“You did not . . .”

“I sure did. I arranged the whole thing. How the hell else do you think it could happen?” He wagged the offending horn at her. “Just rang up a few friends. Charles Delinois made up a little white lie for me about how Marin was a secret donor for years to a charity to keep music in schools, and how it’s the least we can . . .”

“You lied to Vincent,” Lisette cut him off, regretting it before she could draw her next breath. It was ridiculous. Even after twenty-five years, the mere thought of Vincent darn near took her breath away . . . like someone had kicked her hard in the gut. She loved her husband. She loved the family they’d made together. Still, it hurt to speak Vincent’s name. It hurt like hell.

“Yeah. I reckon I did a bit,” her father said, sobering, Lisette could only surmise, from having witnessed the expression on her face. “The boy ate the story right up. Seemed kind of hungry for any kind words about his defan papa.”

“Vincent’s a good man. You’ve got no reason . . .”

“Vincent’s a Marin.” Her father’s jaw stiffened, the mirth in his eyes turning to hatred. “Reason enough.”

“You were friends once, all of you. Mama and you and the Marins.” She hoped her words would summon a happy memory for him, but he remained stock-still and silent. “All right,” Lisette said. “So how about you tell me why. What do you get out of this parade?”

The smile returned to his face, but it had come back cold and cruel, making him look less like the father she knew and loved. He held the horn to his lips and blew a few bars of the “Cross Road Blues” before lowering the horn. “I’m gonna play that son of a bitch’s soul right into hell.”

Lisette felt her jaw drop. It took her a moment to find words. “What kind of fool nonsense are you talking?”

“It isn’t nonsense,” he said, clutching the trumpet to his chest. “You aren’t the only one who learned a thing or two from your mother. Gonna use this horn to blow his soul straight to the lowest pit of hell, then I’m gonna toss it in the river. Make sure it never gets played again. Would be too dangerous to let it fall into innocent hands afterward.”

Lisette raised her hands to her temples. She shook her head. This could not be happening. Her father really couldn’t think himself capable of speeding another man’s descent into the fiery pit. She’d come so close, so many times, to telling her father that she no longer believed. That she knew none of this, not the vèvès, not the candles, not the gris-gris bags—especially not the table of premade ones at the shop now marked down to $19.99 each—was real. She’d only held her tongue out of respect for him and her mother’s memory.

Dropping her hands, Lisette glanced back over her shoulder at the shop. She almost gasped, sure she caught the image of her mother mov­ing behind the vèvès painted on the windows. No, that could not be. It was just a creation of her mind—more fodder for her next therapy appointment. Blinking the apparition away, she turned back to her father. “Listen, Daddy, even if you could . . .” She stopped herself, choosing her words more carefully. “Even if you do know how to do what you’re planning, what good would it do? What happened with Mama and Mrs. Marin was so long ago.”

“Maybe to you, but not to me. To me, it still seems like yesterday.”

“But, Daddy, Celestin didn’t have anything more to do with it than you or I . . .”

“Oh, he had something to do with it all right. I know it.” Tears brimmed in his eyes, and he pounded on his chest with his free hand. “I know it in here.”

What harm can it do? Lisette thought. Might even do him some good. Do all of us some good. Bury this damned animosity between the families once and for all. Lisette looked up at him. Patted his chest. “All right, Daddy. You do what you need to do.” She leaned in and kissed his cheek.

As she pulled back, she noticed his eyes were reddening. His bot­tom lip began to quiver. For a moment, she wondered if the storm had passed, but then he raised his chin, his expression hardening, defiance growing in his eyes. “You could help, you know.”

She traced her hand down his arm. “No, Daddy,” she said, turning, heading back toward the shop. “I really couldn’t.”

Book Blurb

Magic is seeping out of the world, leaving the witches who’ve relied on it for countless centuries increasingly hopeless. While some see an inevitable end of their era, others are courting madness—willing to sacrifice former allies, friends, and family to retain the power they covet. While the other witches watch their reality unravel, young Alice Marin is using magic’s waning days to delve into the mystery of numerous disappearances in the occult circles of New Orleans. Alice disappeared once, too—caged in an asylum by blood relatives. Recently freed, she fears her family may be more involved with the growing crisis than she ever dared imagine.

Yet the more she seeks the truth about her family’s troubled history, the more she realizes her already-fragile psyche may be at risk. Discovering the cause of the vanishings, though, could be the only way to escape her mother’s reach while determining the future of all witches.

Author Bio

J.D. Horn, the highly praised and bestselling author of the Witching Savannah series, now debuts a new contemporary fantasy series, Witches of New Orleans. A world traveler and student of French and Russian literature, Horn also has an MBA in international business and formerly held a career as a financial analyst before turning his talent to crafting chilling stories and unforgettable characters. His novels have received global attention and have been translated in more than half a dozen languages. Originally from Tennessee, he currently splits his time between Central Oregon, San Francisco and Palm Springs with his spouse, Rich.

You can find out more about J.D. on his website or Facebook.

You can check out a trailer for The King of Bones and Ashes here and pre-order it on Amazon. (The book comes out Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018.)

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Today’s Featured Author – Amy Elizabeth Davis

Today I welcome author Amy Elizabeth Davis. Her humorous book, Darcy Bites: Pride and Prejudice with Fangs, came out in 2015. Here is an excerpt from her book. And don’t miss the book trailer posted below!

Excerpt

As Elizabeth walked, she experienced a peculiar feeling as if someone were following her. At first, she dismissed this as her imagination and merely increased her pace, but the sense of danger grew stronger until she could no longer ignore it. Someone—or something—was approaching, something evil. In vain did Elizabeth try to convince herself of the improbability. Logic and reason deserted her. Every instinct, every part of her being, clamored for her to run.

Disregarding modesty, Elizabeth lifted her skirt and ran as fast and as hard as she could. At first, she continued in the direction of Longbourn but she soon felt a second evil presence coming from that direction and changed course, running she knew not where. Her cloak, flying out behind her, got caught on something and the bindings pulled against her neck, almost choking her. She undid it and ran on.

Elizabeth was in excellent physical condition but she had never run so far or for so long. She knew she would not be able to continue much longer; the evil presences were getting closer by the moment. She could now hear as well as sense them. Gathering her wits, she forced herself to remember her training.

The words of Elizabeth’s master came back to her, “You cannot outrun a vampire, save your strength.” Elizabeth stopped running. Before releasing her skirt, she bent down and retrieved the silver dagger she always wore strapped to her calf, reflecting with gratitude that she had never given up the practice. She held the dagger tightly in her right hand. As she turned to face her attackers, she took hold of the silver cross her father insisted she always wear around her neck. With her left hand, she gave it a strong tug so that the chain broke and she could hold it in front of her at arm’s length.

Elizabeth’s pursuers had slowed down and were approaching her more cautiously. They were now close enough for her to make out the details of their appearances. There were two men dressed in dirty tattered clothing, their hair a mass of knots, and they each displayed large fangs, leaving Elizabeth in no further doubt as to what she faced.

Growling and hissing, the vampires separated, approaching Elizabeth slowly from different angles. She had been expecting this. With her left hand, she used her cross like a shield to keep one of the vampires at bay while she lunged at the other vampire with her dagger. Her aim was true and she had the satisfaction of seeing it fall to the ground screaming, her silver dagger embedded in its heart. But she had misjudged how hard it would be to withdraw her dagger and when the vampire fell, she lost her hold on it. The second vampire was quick to move between her and his fallen comrade; Elizabeth had no hope of retrieving her weapon. All she could do was use her cross to keep the vampire from getting too close—a cross that suddenly seemed very small.

***

The Netherfield gentlemen had ridden out to do some shooting. As dusk fell, they returned to the house. Just after the sun disappeared below the horizon, Darcy froze and his expression became grave. “Something is wrong!”

With no further explanation, he abruptly turned his horse and took off at top speed.

“Darcy, what…?” Bingley quickly took off after him, calling some of his dogs to follow even though Darcy’s horse was much faster and he already had a lead.  Mr. Hurst judged it best that he return to the house so that he might acquaint the others with the situation and let them know not to wait dinner.

***

Elizabeth was so focused on fending off the vampire that she could not spare any attention for the sound of approaching hoof beats, nor did she think to cry out in an attempt to obtain help. She held the cross in front of her with two shaking hands, blocking the vampire’s attempts to swipe at her as it snarled and growled. The creature was so menacing that she could not prevent herself from taking a step backwards. She stepped back again.  She tripped. As she felt herself falling, Elizabeth’s arms flew out to her sides. She hit the ground. The fiend was on top of her. Its hands were grasping her shoulders. Its fangs were… It was no longer on top of her. There was a scream. In an instant, Elizabeth was back on her feet, unaware of how she had been granted this momentary reprieve. She only knew that the vampire was coming toward her and she had dropped her cross.

The vampire came closer. Without thinking, Elizabeth delivered an unladylike kick to the location where a kick might be calculated to do the most good. With another scream, the creature collapsed in front of her doubled over in pain.

Suddenly, Elizabeth realized the kick should not have worked. Lydia had attempted it once during training and their master’s reproach had been severe, “That is not only a low class form of self defense but it would not work on a vampire! I have taught you the only ways a true vampire can be harmed! If you kicked it like that it would feel nothing and would only grab your foot and put you off balance!!”

Now that Elizabeth had a moment to catch her breath, she realized, to her mortification, that the creature lying at her feet which she had taken for a vampire was actually “Mr. Darcy!”

Book Blurb

In a world where the existence of vampires is a truth universally acknowledged, most would be surprised to learn they had ever invited one to tea.

Elizabeth Bennet is no damsel in distress. Mr. Darcy cannot help but admire her fighting skills and lively mind but he struggles against his attraction to her as he struggles against his own nature. Elizabeth finds it most inconvenient to be indebted to Mr. Darcy for having saved her life. Elizabeth never suspects that there is a reason Mr. Darcy is such a gifted vampire slayer. When the truth is revealed, they find they each have a lot to learn about each other and themselves.

Book Trailer

About the Author

Amy Elizabeth Davis is a fan of Sci-fi and fantasy who became obsessed with Jane Austen in her mid-forties. She lives in Mercerville New Jersey with an orange cat who often jumps on her keyboard to add his own contributions to her work. 

You purchase Darcy Bites: Pride and Prejudice with Fangs Amazon .

WANTED – Authors for Featured Author Spot

wantedNOW Looking for August, September & October! 

Are you an author looking for some additional publicity for your latest book?

I host guest authors every Friday – any genre, both traditionally and self-published. In the past 5 years, I have hosted 288 authors on my site!

The Featured Author post can take one of three formats: author interview, book excerpt or a guest post on any aspect of writing, publishing, or book marketing.

Sign up is on a first-come-first-served basis, though I do have a few Tuesday openings to accommodate special requests for dates related book tours, book releases or cover reveals. (Click the Featured Authors link on the left to check out past authors.)

If you are interested, send me a message along with any date requests, and we’ll take it from there.

Today’s Featured Author – Melissa A. Woods

Please welcome Melissa A. Woods to my blog. She released her novel, Getting Past Anxiety, last year.

Excerpt – Getting Past Anxiety Chapter 3 

For those who suffer from mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression, often one of the hardest steps in healing is admitting to yourself that you need help, and then actually seeking out that help. Seeing a therapist or trying different methods of treatment, such as Chakra therapy, can create anxiety in itself. In my novel Getting Past Anxiety, the main character Stella experiences this for herself.

After finally deciding to see an energy healer, she sets off to her first session and discovers all of the nervousness, peace and healing that comes with it. This chapter in the novel gives a detailed account of Stella’s first brush with striving towards help.

A short, fifty-ish woman with shoulder-length gray hair entered the room. She smiled at Stella; her smile was wide and genuine, as if Stella were the person she most wanted to see right then. She took her hand. “ I’m Rachel,” she said. “ I am so happy to meet you.” Her voice was soft, yet clear and penetrating. Letting go of Stella’s hand, she plumped down in the bag chair. Thank God I didn’t sit init, Stella thought. Stella had looked up the name
Rachel. She was very interested in the meaning of names. The definition was from the Bible, meaning, “ ewe” or “ little lamb.” In the Bible, Rachel had been a beautiful and cherished wife of Jacob, and the mother of Joseph and Benjamin.

Stella’s anxiety increased and her mouth became dry. Her heart started palpitating. She had been in therapy before, but it felt different now. This wasn’t an office; there weren’t any desks orchairs to sit in while Stella discussed her problems. Maybe this form of therapy isn’t for me, she thought; then she answered herself immediately. The other forms didn’t work either, did they? And she knew her anxiety was getting more and more out of control, to the point where her normal life had vanished. She’d had to leave her sales job; she was always anxious when she left the house by herself and it was hard for her tobe alone at any time. She had tobe willing to try anything. Had to. While Stella had this internal dialogue sitting on
the futon, Rachel spoke softly.

“Stella why are you here?” “ Well, I am afraid and anxious all the time,” Stella said while Rachel busily gathered objects from the room, placing them on the floor next to her. “ I have always felt this way since I can remember, but it seems like the apprehension is getting worse.” She watched Rachel spread a white blanket on the floor, big enough for a person to lie down upon. On top of this, Rachel arranged a shawl that had a deep eggplant-color background with a delicate design in lighter purple woven through it. It had long slender fringes, making her arrangement look like waving fronds of purple seaweed in a white ocean. “ Oh, that looks good,” Rachel said. As Rachel wandered around the room, she explained how she was building a space for Stella, and she continued to gather up items like a doll and a pink flower; then she went outside and took a piece of bark off her cedar tree. Back inside she picked up a purple cord, like something used to tie back curtains. She placed the objects around the perimeter of the eggplant shawl.

“Okay; that’s good,” she said. Stella sat on the futon and stared at the space Rachel had created. She didn’t get it. This is weird, she thought. What does she want from me? Rachel was silent, gazing at her creation on the floor. Was she meditating? After what seemed like a long time, but was probably just a minute or two, Rachel smiled and Stella heard her warm soft voice say, “ This is your space. I’ve created it just for you, a womb if you like. When you are ready, you can enter it.” Stella immediately froze. Her arms and legs felt like they belonged to a robot. Not knowing what else to do, she got up and placed herself inside the circular space on the floor. She lay down on the purple shawl. Her head and her toes lay on the white blanket.

It was quiet, but Stella did not feel peaceful. She felt uncomfortable; she was probably doing this—whatever this was—wrong. Rachel wasn’t saying anything, so Stella just lay there. She closed her eyes. After a while, she had a vision—she guessed it was a vision; she didn’t know what else to call it. Stella was a bird, a big bird like an eagle with a huge wingspan. She was flying, soaring over the mountains. She felt the lift of the wind. She could see rivers below; she even saw ripples on the rivers and fish in the depths—her eyesight was that keen. Stella perched on top of a mountain just to look around, and then she heard a voice. “ Where are you?” “ Huh?” Stella asked. She was herself again. The eagle was gone. “ Where did you go?” It was Rachel’s voice. Stella didn’t answer because she didn’t know what to say.

“Are you comfortable in this womb?” “ Not really.” “You can get out if you want to.” Rachel’s voice was calm, peaceful, like an angel’s voice. Stella got up and went back to the futon. They sat in silence for a few minutes, and then Rachel asked Stella to describe her experience. “ Well, I felt like a bird flying around,” Stella said. “ Was this a new experience for you?” “No, when I was younger, I would dream about being a bird, but I haven’t had those
dreams in a long time.” “ That was your way of detaching from your environment,” Rachel said matter-of-factly. “ Oh, okay,” Stella said, not really understanding what it meant. Still, she felt tears start to build in her eyes. But Stella couldn’t allow herself to cry because she
was afraid she wouldn’t stop. She had just met Rachel, and she couldn’t cry in front of someone she had just met. She shifted around on the futon. She didn’t want to talk about flying anymore. Rachel said nothing for a while. They just sat there in silence. Stella heard the birds chirping outside and the wind blowing through the trees. It was springtime and the buds on the grapevines were starting to unfurl into leaves; she gazed at them through the glass door. They were that pure spring green, so fresh, so new.

“We’re almost done for today,” Rachel said. “ Here is what I picked up. I think your mom probably drank alcohol when she was pregnant with you. She didn’t want to be pregnant. She didn’t want another baby at that time. That’s why she drank. “ You know, Stella, not being wanted is one of the deepest wounds a person can have. This wound is responsible for your loneliness in this world, and it’s also responsible for your toughness, your ability to survive. You had to be tough to survive in your mom’s womb.” As Rachel talked, a picture rose in Stella’s mind. She saw her mother, Shirley, sitting at the kitchen table, wearing a camel-colored dress and smoking a cigarette. A brownish drink in what Stella thought was called a “lowball” cocktail glass was in front of her. Her rounded belly pushed against the table. Stella wanted to cry; she could feel the tears pushing their way forward, but she clamped down hard inside so she wouldn’t. It was hard for Stella to cry in front of people she didn’t know. “ It’s okay,” said Rachel. “ You’ll cry when you cry. You will learn to let goof all this grief. This is the start of your healing work. You will replace all your old beliefs with new ones.” Somehow, Stella had held the grief in, but she knew she was on her way. And underneath the grief was an odd sense of relief—she wasn’t crazy, she wasn’t wrong; everything she had felt her whole life was true: the feeling of being a burden, abandoned, not important, not loved. It was all true because her parents had not wanted her. They still didn’t.Stella got up to go. Rachel picked up the eggplant-colored shawl from the floor and handed it to her. “ This represents a womb,” she said. “It is yours now.” Then she gave Stella the purple cord.

“This is our connection to each other,” she said. “Wear it whenever you feel anxious, and bring it to our next session.” “ Thank you,” said Stella as Rachel hugged her goodbye. Stella walked out the gate onto the street and back to her car. Her tears finally began to fall as she sat in her car. She thought how unusual this form of therapy was. Stella had never experienced anything like it before. She felt comfortable with Rachel and was optimistic. On her drive home, Stella passed by her old high school and saw that it was being torn down. She smiled and thought, The death of an old script!

Book Blurb

Getting Past Anxiety is an inspirational novel designed to help you reclaim your life. Follow the story of Stella Maris, a thirty-seven-year-old professional woman in the Pacific Northwest who is fighting to escape the shackles of anxiety. Stella’s inner prison is built on childhood trauma, and anxiety is its gatekeeper. In desperation, she reaches out to Rachel, a transformative healer, to help her find the key to reclaim her life. Stella’s story is ultimately about how we choose the quality of our life. This book will inspire you to start your own healing process so you can break the shackles of your anxiety and reclaim your life.

About the Author

Melissa A. Woods is an author, professional keynote speaker, life coach, and expert on anxiety disorders. She is also a licensed massage practitioner for over twenty years and successfully worked on clients with anxiety issues. Melissa spent years studying anxiety and learning how to heal from it. Her formal credentials and expertise include life coaching, therapeutic massage, creative writing, and sales and marketing. She received a Certificate of Memoir from the University of Washington and published works in Memoir Anthology of Writing from the University of Washington. What makes her expertise stand out is that Melissa had her own up-close-and-personal experience with anxiety disorder—she couldn’t get on a plane for twenty years, so she feels the pain of others when it comes to dealing with anxiety.

You can learn more about Melissa on her website.

You can purchase Getting Past Anxiety on Amazon.

Today’s Featured Author – L.A. Lewis

Today, I welcome author L.A. Lewis to my blog. Her book, Double Down and Dirty, was released in October 2016. Check out an excerpt after the interview. You can purchase Double Down and Dirty on Amazon.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is L.A. Lewis. I’m a mother of two children and the wife on a very supportive husband. I’m also the proud author of three novels, two inspirational books, one daily devotional, and contributing author to three very successful anthologies. I’m also a new blogger and I’m currently working on a Youtube series based off of my blog series titled “Secrets From the Bayou.” I have a crazy life, but I’m enjoying every moment of it.

Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born in Bogalusa, Louisiana, but I now call Baton Rouge home.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

My dream is to one day write full time, but my life’s not set up that way right now. I’m an Instructional Specialist at a local elementary school. Finding time to write is a big challenge because both of my children are very active in sports, so time is something I don’t have a lot of at the moment. I use what’s available. Sometimes I type on my iPhone while waiting on one of my children to finish practice, other times I’ll stay up late, not a morning person so rising early isn’t an option.

What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

The best advice I received was to read as much as I write. The worse advice I received came from a NYT bestselling author who let me know her advice isn’t free. She offered nothing.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

Life is my biggest fuel. Writing is an escape for me. Sometimes real life can become a bit too much, and I need an outlet, something I can somewhat control, I say somewhat because the characters are really in control.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

I get ideas from everywhere. Normally, it’s from a conversation or a real-life experience. I also get ideas from reading other books. Not that I’m stealing, but sometimes something will happen that will spark a “what if” in my mind.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I just start writing. For me, outlining stifles my creativity. I start typing and allow the characters to take over from there. I type as they speak.

Please tell us about your current release.

My current release is titled “Double Down and Dirty.” It explores the life of Jade Bordeaux who escaped her Southern Baptist family and moved to New York. Jade knew her family would never respect the choices she made or the secret she kept. The Big Apple and her new modeling career proved to be more adventurous than her life in Baton Rouge. Excitement flowed through everything ,especially in the form of handsome CEO Sean Wright. Dating him takes an unfortunate turn when his sister’s dance to the rhythm of revenge becomes a tune she’s hell-bent on sharing with her family and the people they love.

In a matter of weeks, Jade’s life takes an uncertain and dangerous turn. Nothing prepared her for the call which stirs emotions Jade thought she’d buried. The former Governor of Louisiana has denied her existence since birth and now makes a life-altering request that fills Jade with resentment. Jade built her success and happiness by making hard choices, even ones that cause heartbreak. Unfortunately, she never imagined that any of those choices could lead to the death of someone she loves.

Jade soon learns in the game of life, sometimes playing Double Down and Dirty is the only way to win.

What inspired you to write this book?

When I first started, this was not the story I intended to write. I was writing a story about two sisters, one moved to New York and the other one stayed in Baton Rouge. I was telling their story, but then I realized that storyline has been written to death, so I needed to come up with something different. I kept Jade, and started thinking of why she moved to New York and what’s her life like. The more I started thinking, the more the ideas started flowing.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I did a ton of research for this book. I’ve never been to New York so I had to talk with Facebook friends who live in New York and watch a bunch of Youtube videos. I also stayed on Mapquest to make sure my distance from one place to the other was accurate. Writing this book was much harder than the others that’s based here in Baton Rouge.

Which of your characters is your favorite?

Do you dislike any of them? Jade is my favorite character. I love that she’s feisty and determined. She fears nothing and goes after what she wants no matter what.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

I would definitely be Jade Bordeaux. Jade’s fearless, she’s determined, she says whatever’s on her mind. She’s the opposite of me in terms of speaking up for herself.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I like to write with my laptop in my bed.

Excerpt

An electric kind of energy flashed throughout her body. That was certainly a concern.  She had learned when and how to play it safe.  And Sean was as dangerous as they came. Having been an employee of an upscale escort service, she knew the hard fact that those at the top of the food chain were equally as slimy as those who were willing to do whatever it took to get there.

Jade had shielded herself from unwanted advances—of which there were many.  But years of going without a human touch had built up something inside of her that needed to be extinguished. A man like Sean Wright would be a perfect choice, but there was no way she would go there. Being with a man like him came with too many problems.

She steadied her breathing and her voice. “Go ahead.”

“You care to tell me the real reason you don’t want to work with me?”

“Is that why we’re here?” Jade questioned, trying to keep her voice level. “I hope not because my time is valuable, and I don’t need to waste it by entertaining that question.”

“I believe in making the most of an opportunity. If I have a question, I ask. So, do you plan on providing an answer or should I just assume that you don’t have a reason at all?”

Her eyes met his. “I didn’t make it clear the first, second, and third time?”

“You don’t feel it’s the right job for you,” he smirked. “But we both know that’s not it at all.”

“Okay, then I’ll be honest,” she shot back. “I don’t like the way you do business. I don’t like that money means more to you than people. You’re not the type of person I’m interested in dealing with. Does the truth satisfy you?”

Sean was silent for a few spells, then, “And you came to this conclusion based on what? Because if I recall, you’ve never done business with me.” He closed the distance between them. “So cut the bullshit and tell me what is it about me that frightens you so much,” he snapped.

“Nothing frightens me,” she countered. “But I am wise, and wisdom tells me to steer clear of you.” She stepped back and didn’t realize how close she was to the wall.

“So that’s it.” He inched closer. “You’re not afraid of doing business with me. What scares you is the fact that we’re very much alike. Isn’t that right? We both know what we want and would risk it all to make it happen. What frightens you the most,” his mouth nearly touched hers, “is knowing what will happen if you let your guard down.” His lips lightly brushed against hers and she trembled with an anticipation so strong she almost reached up and pulled him to her.

Then he abruptly moved away, walked toward the circular staircase, but tossed over his shoulder, “I believe you said there was more for me to see.”

Author Bio 

L.A. Lewis, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is the author of Dirty Little Secrets, Dirty Little Secrets II: Expect the Unexpected, and Double Down and Dirty. She’s a contributing author to Motherhood Diaries, a literary award-winning anthology. L.A. Lewis is a member of M-LAS, Macro Literary All-Stars, a writing support group formed by National Bestselling Author, Naleighna Kai. Together they’ve published a reference book for authors and aspiring authors titled, Baring it All: The Ins and Outs of Publishing.

You can find out more about L.A. on her website or her blog. You can purchase Double Down and Dirty on Amazon.

Excerpts from Books Released in 2016

In 2016, I hosted 52 authors on my weekly Featured Author spot (to sign up for 2017, contact me) and quite a few more authors for book tours or new release announcements. Since I hope many people received new tablets or e-readers this past holiday season, I thought I would post some excerpts of the books that came out in 2016.

I have sorted them by genre and included just the first few paragraphs of the excerpt. If it intrigues you, read more by clicking the link. A link to purchase the book is included with the rest of the excerpt. Please enjoy! (And if you are an author and want to be featured, please let me know!)

Fantasy

Elves: Battle at Baader Hill by Danny Williams

Aken slipped out from behind the hedge. He felt naked as only intermittent darkness cloaked his movement. He wondered if going in a straight line would be better or trying to sneak to the objective by going from shadow to shadow. Just then a figure moved out from the hedge and he came face to face with a mercenary. But the flickering firelight revealed him to be a boy about his own age. Fear and surprise glistened in his face. For a moment Aken thought he recognized him as one of his school friends “Kill him!” buzzed Merlin’s voice in Aken’s head.

Aken’s sudden reaction to Merlin’s orders to draw his sword prompted the other boy to action. He pulled his own sword and swung it overhand in an attempt to cleft Aken in twain. Fortunately, Aken was quick to mostly block the blow with his own blade which caught Aken on the top of the head with enough force to draw blood. The pain was sharp and at the same time terrifying because there was someone at arm’s length trying to kill him. Aken swung his sword in a clumsy arc that glanced harmlessly off of the boy’s padded shoulder. Blood trickled down Aken’s face from the cut on his scalp; his breath was heavy and fast. Aken blocked another wild swing from the boy and countered with a slash that counted. Aken had swung this sword hundreds of times in practice and it had never felt like it did when the sword cut through actual flesh. The boy let out a scream as the blade cut into his neck, but not deep enough. Aken knew that all the commotion was sure to flush the other mercenaries. (To read more, click here.)

The Circle of Candles by Jessica Rowan

circle-of-candlesGrey wasn’t a young dog. That’s not to say that he was old, certainly not, but he frequently nodded off in front of the television, his joints ached a little more than he would have liked and he definitely preferred to sleep uninterrupted through the night. None of this would stop him from protecting Amy, of course. Nothing would ever stop him from protecting Amy.

So when this not-young but certainly-not-old dog was roused in the middle of the night, he felt just a little bit grumpy. He pulled himself up out of his basket to pace the attic room, tail moving low and slow. He pressed his nose to the wooden floor and sniffed back and forth, casting a furtive glance at the bed. Amy was fast asleep as usual, her tousled hair escaping in blond curls from the top of the duvet, her breathing deep and regular. (To read more, click here.)

Paranormal Romance

Ariel: The First Guardian by Sydney Scrogham

I never wake up and think today’s the day I’m going to get dumped.

February wind chills my shoulders, and I tug the pink and blue patterned quilt snug around me and keep walking. The quilt is soft under my fingertips, smoothed from years of rubbing in my mother’s absence. One of the pink polka dot squares is frayed and flapping free.  I could wear a coat, but it’s a jab against my father to sneak out in just a quilt. He thinks he can control me, but he can’t. He especially can’t control who I’m going to meet. Ryan, a.k.a. saintly pastor’s kid, is the first human being to make me feel like I’m made of more than slime.

The trail under my feet is brown and well-worn from countless walks to the river.  Yellowed grass struggles to survive on either side of my path. My knee-length floral print dress ripples around my legs and my exposed skin prickles where the wind bites. I hate flowery anything. Just seeing my reflection in clothes so feminine puts cinderblocks in my lungs. But this was mom’s hand-me-down. I wish she could’ve met Ryan. He’s reserved his whole day for me today. I can’t stop the stupid smile that smooths over my mouth. Maybe I’ll get kissed for the first time—but do I really want that? (To read more, click here.)

Romance

After the Pain (Latter Rain Series Book 1) by Adrienne Thompson

ATP2_smMy tea cup rattled on its saucer at the sound of his voice. I didn’t dare look up at him as I set the cup down and forced myself not to rush to him and wrap my legs around his waist.

“Thank you, August. Want some tea?” Ms. Dorcas asked.

“Yes, ma’am, I’d love some,” he replied, and then he did something that made my entire body stand at attention; he sat right next to me on the loveseat. From that point on all I could do was sit there and remind myself to breathe as my body temperature began to slowly rise. I shoved my unsteady hands under my thighs and fixed my eyes on the floral-patterned rug beneath my feet. I could smell his sweat, a scent that was beginning to become both familiar and appealing to me, and though I kept my eyes away from him, the image of his face dominated my thoughts. (To read more, click here.)

Science Fiction

Hero, Book 1 of The Hero Rebellion by Belinda Crawford (Book 2 came out in 2016)

It was windy on the foredeck, and cold, but the air smelled like freedom and Fink was warm against Hero’s back.

The ruc-pard purred, a rumble that vibrated from his giant chest into hers, and all the way down to her toes. She snuggled deeper into the hollow between his fore- and mid-quarters, enjoying the feel of his thick winter coat. Golden-red and silky, she sank into it, the hairs brushing her bare arms with every giant breath he took, the longer, coarser hair on his ruff tickling her cheek. Fink’s black, hairless tail wrapped around them both, the heavy weight of it draped across her feet, warming her toes.

Lazy images swam through her mind, carried on the distinct pink and mawberry of Fink’s thoughts – the taste of them sweet, the touch of them a soft fizz winding through her brain. She might have stopped and played for a moment in his memories, if the huge skytowers of Cumulus City weren’t spread across the horizon. (To read more, click here.)

No Net by Noah Nichols

NoNetFCTo her, the glow of the screen was intoxicating. Undeniably addicted, she was glued to her phone almost like an infant would be to its mother’s breast. Anyone who became attached to their device of choice simply couldn’t detach the way a child could. It was a phenomenon that truly overtook the lives of the vast majority.

Twenty-eight-year-old Scott Hadaway was presently being ignored by his mildly younger wife, Gwen, who was comfortably tucked in bed, blissfully unaware of anything in three-dimensional space. Digitally, mentally, physically, and spiritually, her entire being belonged to the black mirror.

“I just don’t understand how you constantly have to have that thing right up to your face,” he said angrily. (To read more, click here.)

Suspense

Jilo by J.D. Horn

“Thank you, Pastor,” Jesse’s mama said, placing her hand on his shoulder. Pastor Jones looked at her, Bible still held high, seeming to deliberate whether or not he should shrug her off and carry on. “I do so appreciate you coming out today,” May added in a sincere tone. Jesse knew his mama, though, and despite her calm demeanor, he knew she’d heard enough. The preacher had been given more than enough time to speak of wheat and chaff and wise virgins with well-trimmed wicks. The look on her face was the one she used when placating anyone in authority—usually the buckra, but occasionally one of their own. “We need to be getting the babies and the old folk out of the sun before one of them falls ill.”

The young man searched her face for a moment, then acquiesced. “Thank you, sister,” he said, taking a step back from the head of the grave. (To read more, click here.)

A Flash of Red by Sarah K. Stephens

afor-front-cover-comp-high-resAnna’s heart skipped a beat in a wave of involuntary fear. There were only two eggs in the refrigerator.

Five minutes before, Anna came down the stairs, perfumed and fully dressed, ready to begin her day. She would make pancakes for her husband, who was still asleep in their bedroom. She would wash fresh raspberries to put on top. She would lay the table with care. All of this to set a pattern of comfortable predictability for Anna, ensuring the day would unfold in a way she could control. But now, everything was skewed by yet another ordinary situation somehow turned inexplicable in Anna’s life. Or at least she preferred to see these blips in her daily horizon as having no reasonable explanation, because the most reasonable explanation of all was unacceptable.

She’d checked last night before going to bed–everything she needed was there. A full carton of eggs, their twelve white orbs nestled neatly in the divots on the side of the refrigerator door. Anna always took them out of their cardboard container after returning from the grocery store and moved them lovingly to their designated place. So where had they gone? (To read more, click here.)

Historical Romance

The Judas Pledge by Margaret Brazear

Her plan was put on hold indefinitely when one morning a messenger arrived on horseback asking to see Richard.  The man seemed to be in a panic and Bethany ordered refreshments for him, but he refused to tell her his message; that was for His Lordship’s ears only.

A few minutes after he had gone, Richard came to join his wife in their bedchamber where she sat on the bed, wondering why the messenger had been so secretive. Her heart sank when she saw he was buckling a sword at his waist.  He strode across the room and took her face in his warm hands, then they dropped to her shoulders and he lifted her to her feet.

“King Edward is dead,” he announced. “Jane Grey has been proclaimed Queen in London.” (To read more, click here.)

Historical Novel

Trade Winds to Meluhha by Vasant Davé

trade windsSwells higher than a man’s height rocked Captain Paravar’s ship. His sailors sniggered as Sam sat at the base of the mast, gripping it like a child hugging its mother. Although he was used to the howling desert winds, he had never heard such ominous rumbling every time the lightning stabbed the darkness. The waves slapped the vessel whose woodwork screeched eerily, making Sam wish he could shut his ears just like his eyes.

Had fate saved him from execution only to drown him at sea? (To read more, click here.)

Young Adult

Ignominy – Chapters of Chargin by MRoyale

Chagrin – The intense feeling of mental unease, as of annoyance or embarrassment, caused by failure, disappointment, or disconcerting events.

When Mr. Aggressive met Ms. Passive (Ace and Ms. Phoenix), it was an all-out get-down-with-ya-bad-self smoking and drinking, do-not-tell kind of party. Soon thereafter, Roxie was born. She was a tiny, sick looking baby at the time of birth. See, Ms. Phoenix hardly ever took care of herself during her pregnancy. How could she?  Especially with all of the mental, emotional, and physical abuse she tolerated from Ace. She barely ate and never took her prescribed prenatal vitamins. She refused to receive the proper medical care she needed when she was pregnant. Ms. P seemed to be hiding bruises and ugly black eyes, under huge designer sunglasses, from all the doctors—knowing that they would alert authorities. Soon thereafter, an unplanned Alex was born. (To read more, click here.)

Six tips for selecting a book excerpt

books uid 1269725Authors are often asked for an excerpt of their book, whether it is for a feature on a blog, to be run in a magazine or even just for their own website. And many authors have trouble selecting a passage of their book to feature.

An excerpt is designed to give the reader a sample of your writing style and a bit of the story to entice them to want to keep reading your book. It is certainly worth putting a little thought into choosing the right sample. Here are six tips to help you make your decision.

1.) Do not give away what the reader can already get for free. Don’t show them the prologue or first chapter that they can easily be found on Amazon, Smashwords or Barnes & Noble. Give them something else, something exclusive.

As with any rule there is an exception. I find that with short stories, there sometimes are fewer choices of scenes. With my own fantasy short story, The Search, I only have the opening scene as a sample because there is not another scene that could stand alone without confusing the reader.

2.) Choose a passage that represents the book. Don’t choose the only funny scene if the book is not meant to be humorous. Don’t show a quiet moment if you have written an action-adventure novel. You want something that is interesting and will draw the reader in. Make sure not to pick a page-long description but rather something with dialogue and action or conflict. And it should end with a cliffhanger or a dramatic moment that makes the reader want to read more.

3.) Don’t give away big secrets. Some authors worry too much about giving anything away but it is okay to give away little twists in your story, Just make sure you don’t give away any big spoilers.

4.) Keep the selection short. You want to give them just enough to hook them, but you do not have to let the whole scene play out just as you don’t have to start at the beginning of a scene either. When selecting an excerpt, keep it short – a few pages at most.

5.) Choose a scene that doesn’t require context. You need to select a scene that the reader can understand without having read anything before it. If necessary, you can alter the scene slightly to make it more understandable to the reader. This can be especially useful if your story takes place on another planet or where you might be dealing with non-human characters.

6.) Offer a way to purchase the book. This is probably the most important part of your excerpt. You need to be sure to include the purchase information – preferably a direct link to several online stores so the interested reader can select their preferred electronic format.

So definitely take some time to pick an excerpt that highlights your writing AND will entice the reader to want more and buy your book. It will be well worth it.

And in case you want to check out an excerpt of my stories….

Excerpt of The Search (Opening Scene for my short story.)

Excerpt of Summoned: Book One of The Elemental (Prison scene – two-thirds of the way through the book – this scene is kind of long, but I have used a shorter version of it on other websites.)

Excerpt of Quietus: Book Two of The Elemental (Destruction of the Land – from the beginning of the book and probably an example of too much description and not enough action.)

Excerpt of Destiny: Book Three of The Elemental (Selda’s trap – This scene happens over halfway through the book and I had to include a quick note before the excerpt that two of the characters were dragons who were speaking telepathically.)

Excerpt of The Heir to Alexandria (Cabin escape – Again this happens over halfway into the novel. It shows a good amount of action and suspense.)