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.)

Today’s Featured Author – Danny Williams

Please welcome author Danny Williams to my blog. I want to add a special thanks to him for filling a sudden opening in my featured author spot.

His book, Elves: Battle at Baader Hill, just released last week. (You can purchase it on Amazon.) Please enjoy this excerpt.

Excerpt

Chapter Five: Leviathan

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.

“He’s making a mess of it!” A different voice buzzed in his head that sounded like Celahir.

Aken knew that the only way to get help was to dismantle the rock pile. Seizing the opportunity his opponent was momentarily giving him and bolted for the objective. The boy, however, wasn’t about to quit his post and took off in hot pursuit of the interloper. Perhaps it was the adrenaline or the fact that he was in better overall shape but he was able to catch up to Aken at the rock pile. The boy stood his ground between Aken and the pile of rocks. Both boys, out of breath and bloodied were in a game that they had only played at before. Anger began to boil up in Aken’s body and his vision was replaced by a flame. With a grunt more associated with beast of burden he charged the boy and bowled him over the pile of rune stones dispersing them. Unfortunately for Aken, the boy was quick back to his feet and began to swing his sword recklessly at Aken who dodged and rolled away. Noises of activity from the tents in front of him denoted the other mercenaries had been alerted and were at that moment gearing up for action.

After another series of dodges, Aken was able to regain his feet and face the boy for what he somehow instinctively knew would be the last time. His thoughts went back to what Merlin had said. Merlin’s prophecy has been fulfilled, blood had been shed. Was Merlin’s reticence a way of cloaking some horrible future? As he thought about such things he heard the word “DROP!” buzz in his head which he complied with immediately, face first. A mere split second after he hit the ground there was a whoosh and a sickly thud. He hazarded a look up and saw the boy with whom he had fought, standing, as he gently swayed back and forth. He stood there with a perplexed look on his face and about half a length of arrow going into his left eye. He then slumped to his knees and collapsed in a heap. Aken laid there staring at this boy who could have been his school mate. A boy that probably had similar hopes and dreams that he himself entertained. He probably had a mother somewhere that worried about him. These thoughts, among others, shielded Aken from the realization that the other mercenaries were exiting their tents in full battle gear. Eight of them began to approach Aken and the dead boy. Their approach was cautious because their man had been felled by an arrow and the lad they saw was carrying a sword.

“Why did you kill him?” One of the mercenaries asked.

Aken looked up in shock. In a split second three arrows were in flight and homed in on three of the mercenaries almost simultaneously. Two others took a defensive posture toward where the arrows had come from and received fatal shots of their own. The other three bet on discretion and ran for it and two of them were cut down by Celahir’s arrows. Aken quivered on the ground with the dust of conflict still settling as Celahir and Merlin walked onto the killing ground. As they approached, Aken could hear them talking nonchalantly and Celahir was making gestures mimicking an arrow in flight and smiling. Smiling was something that Aken had never seen Celahir do in the short time he had known him.

“You need more practice with that sword sport. I guess those pells don’t swing back.” Celahir said in a jovial manner and slapped Aken on the back as he crouched over him. Both ranger and Mage chuckled. Merlin was the first to regain his composure and went to help Aken to his feet.

A moan from one of the mercenaries indicated that there was a little life left in him. Celahir went over to the man. Aken assumed that Celahir was going to render some type of help. Instead a dagger thrust to the wounded man’s throat brought forth unearthly gurgling and then silence. It left Aken even more traumatized.

“I’ll check the tents for anymore bastards.” Celahir said as he scurried off.

“Here boy, let me help you up.” Merlin extended his hand.

Blood of the vanquished foes had splattered all over Aken’s face and outfit.

“I didn’t think it would be that way.” Aken said in a trembling voice as he reached for Merlin with equally trembling hand.

“It’s never like how you expect it to be. And that, my young friend, goes for just about everything in life. Now, let’s get you cleaned up.” Merlin replied as he heaved the boy to his feet.

“Did the Duke get away?”

“Only in a metaphysical sense, he was the first one Celahir downed. It was a good thing you looked up when you did.” Merlin said as he used his foot to overturn one of the dead men at their feet, “Meet Duke Charon-”

It was the man who had spoken to Aken. What Aken remembered the most was what he had said. It wasn’t angry accusations of curses or threats, but ‘why’? Aken was also confused by the fact that the Duke was one of the first to go down. Aken had formed in his head, without much effort, what the confrontation between Charon and Celahir would’ve been or should’ve been. Merlin had said that Celahir would indeed kill Charon but Aken was expecting something a little more…dramatic. It should have been a duel or perhaps an epic battle. It bothered Aken that an admittedly well aimed shot, robbed the Duke of his chance to go down fighting. The introduction was interrupted by a call by Celahir.

“There is a hot bath in here!” Celahir announced.

“There you go lad, get cleaned up and we’ll clear up matters out here.”

Aken went into the tent and began to disrobe. The blood on his leather armor made it sticky slick and made it difficult to unbuckle his breastplate as his fingers slipped trying to gain purchase. As he settled into the nice warm water he began to notice things. There was a letter on a desk that would never be finished or posted, food on the table partially eaten in futility and a warm bath drawn for a dead man. But try as he might he could not get the face of the boy out of his mind, Celahir’s dreadful execution of the wounded man or the stink of blood out of his nostrils that wafted up from the bathwater.

Merlin poked his head into the tent “Hurry lad, exciting things are afoot!”

Aken, momentarily startled, called out “Merlin!”

“Yes boy?” He said as he stepped into the tent.

“What’s wrong with Celahir?”

“Wrong?” Merlin asked with a quizzical expression.

“He’s acting strange.”

“Well I suppose it could be those magical arrows I gave him.” And then he leaned down to whisper as if to keep a secret, “Sometimes magically enhanced items have an unintended effect.” With that he put his finger to his lips as if to say hush, “But I think it’s more likely that he is in a better humor because he has satiated his blood lust. You see, warriors kept from fighting are not happy warriors.”

“Do you think he likes me more now?”

“Like? I’m not sure Celahir will ever ‘like’ any human or any creature. But I think he has a modicum of respect for you now that he did not have earlier. You stood your ground.”

“I ran.” Aken confessed.

“But you ran to your objective. That was a smart thing to do and Celahir respects that also. I wouldn’t worry about it. Now get dressed, we’re in for some interesting times!” With that, Merlin exited the tent again.

“Merlin!” Aken cried out again.

“Yes?” Merlin answered slightly anxiously.

“That man…the one Celahir…”

“Put out of his misery?” Merlin finished Aken’s sentence the way that Merlin wanted to answer.

“I guess…Was that…right? I mean, what if the roles were reversed?” Aken tried to get a grasp of this new reality.

“In war, right and wrong are not so easy to determine and you rarely have the luxury to reflect on situations for very long. Celahir made a decision and acted on it without hesitation. That is why he is as old as he is. If you were to ask him the ‘what if it were you?’ question, I can already tell you his answer. He would say ‘I would want it done quick!’” With that, Merlin departed.

The bath had grown a little tepid and the bloodstains on Aken’s hands were still there. He also tried to clean the blood off of his leather armor which was now stickier than it was slick and had taken on a more pungent aroma. He was also very hungry and the meat and mead that were on the table looked tempting but the mere thought of eating it made him even sicker to his stomach. Turning away from the table, he quickly got dressed and went to join his mates.

Book Blurb

ElvesThe story of a young man coming of age cast against the backdrop of a war that will determine the future of magic and mankind.  Chronicling the struggle between the noble races and the evil that would enslave mankind.  Elves: Battle at Baader Hill showcases the battle between magic and technology and a weapon that somehow uses both.  Heroism, cowardice, greed and sacrifice.  Forgotten heroes and lauded fools.

About the Author

dannyI am a writer, photographer, and adventurer.  I’ve conquered the Transylvanian Alps, strolled down the Champs Elysee, stormed the beach at Normandy, waltzed by the Danube and rode the Transfagarasan pass on a mountain bike.  I was a middleweight boxer for seventeen years and have a penchant for Cuban cigars and European Absinthe.  I’ve worked on drill rigs, been a truck driver and have been in the movie industry for the last three years.  In living life on the edge I’ve experienced and seen things most people haven’t and wouldn’t want to see or experience.  Nearly everything in my stories is fictionalized accounts of real events.  Producing professional level books is one of the most challenging things I’ve ever tried. And I’ve been in the ring with heavyweights.

You can find out more about Danny on his Facebook page. You can check out all his books on Amazon.

Today’s Featured Author – Susan Leigh Noble

Yes – today I am the featured author on my own blog. So welcome to me! Actually I had an author flake out on me so instead of scrambling to find a replacement I decided to share an excerpt from The Heir to Alexandria. (You can read the first chapter here or check out another exciting excerpt here.)

Excerpt

Alista gasped, her eyes flying open. She pressed her hand to her chest as if to slow her pounding heart. The room was dark. The high window allowed in a sliver of light. As her eyes adjusted to the dim light, she began to recognize the room she was assigned in Aberdeen. The sound of Raynor’s heavy breathing comforted her.

It had only been a nightmare, she reassured herself. But it felt so real. It had been a cool evening. She had rushed forward as someone screamed. The scream was that of a woman. In the woods, she saw someone stabbed in the back. The woman perhaps? She didn’t know as she was grabbed from behind and dragged away. The last thing she remembered was the dragon, its pale body diving toward the ground, toward her.

Alista closed her eyes. She couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that had settled over her. Sighing, she rolled over, trying to push the dream from her mind. Her eyes popped open as she heard a faint creak. Red tinted her vision as she saw a dark figure beside her bed. The figure raised a knife high above her. Someone nearby began chanting softly.

Alista screamed. She rolled off the bed. The knife swished down, missing her by inches. As she fell to the floor, she struck the man’s legs. He stumbled backward.

Raynor leapt out of his bed. She saw his dark frame quickly cross the small room. He grabbed the man’s shoulder, whirling him around. Alista sat up. The dark figure pulled back his arm to ram the knife into Raynor’s gut. Alista rolled across the floor, crashing into the man’s legs. He tumbled onto the floor, dropping the knife. She scrambled back onto the bed, reaching for the lantern on the table beside the cot.

Footsteps pounded in the hall. The door slammed open. Alista lit the candle as Grayson burst into the room. Her attacker scrambled to his feet and ran straight at Grayson, slamming him into the wall before disappearing down the hall. She heard someone shout at the man and more retreating footsteps.

Now that the room was lit, she saw the other man who had been chanting at the edge of her bed. He still stood there, a surprised expression on his face. He looked at her. Their eyes locked for a second before he dashed for the door. Grayson grabbed his shoulder. He spun him, slamming him into the wall. The man struggled as Grayson pressed his arm against the man’s chest.

“Who are you? What are you doing here?” he demanded.

The man jerked his head away, avoiding Grayson’s gaze. A bead of sweat trickled down his face.

“We cannot let this monstrosity happen. By the name of the all-knowing Hoc, the redhead must die,” he muttered as he pulled something from his pouch.

“Stop him,” Raynor yelled, leaping forward.

The man plunged the knife into his side. He gasped, his eyes bulging. A strangled sound escaped his lips before his body went limp. With a look of disgust on his face, Grayson released him. The man slid down the wall, landing in a heap on the floor. Grayson pulled the knife from his side. He lifted the blood-drenched blade to his nose and sniffed.

“Poisoned?” Raynor asked.

Grayson nodded. “Dragon’s bane.”

Footsteps sounded in the hall. Suddenly, Sanders appeared in the doorway. Winded, he leaned against the doorframe. His face was already beginning to bruise.

“The other one?” Grayson asked.

Sanders shook his head. “I didn’t expect him. He got a good hit in before taking off down the hall. Asher went after him.”

“Guard Alista,” he ordered as he ran out the door.

Raynor crossed the room to her. “Are you all right?” he murmured as he pulled her into his arms.

Alista nodded, afraid to speak. Her heart raced from the scare, but as she closed her eyes, it wasn’t the knife coming toward her that she saw. It was the look of contempt on the face of the man who had been chanting. The coldness of his eyes would stay with her for a long while.

Book Blurb

HeirAlexandria_ebookcoverBelieved the descendants of the Gods themselves,

The Alexandria line ensured peace,

Until they were brutally murdered.

But rumor spread a maid escaped with the youngest daughter.

Now as the world rushes toward a period of unrest, the nations’ Kings continue their 200-year-long-search for the Heir to Alexandria – the one person who can bring peace and stability through divine power.

Alista has her own search – for the parents who abandoned her as a baby years ago. When her only lead proves to be a dead end, she heads to the capital with a reluctant escort. Grayson is just following his aunt’s order, but he would rather be on one of his solitary scouting missions for the Landra Guard. However, when Alista unintentionally curses a guard in front of the King’s court, everything changes for both of them.

Now forced to travel to Covington for testing, danger lurks at every turn as a secret society strives to prevent the return of the Alexandria line. Are Alista’s visions of the future enough to save herself and those traveling with her?

You can purchase The Heir to Alexandria on Amazon, Smashwords or Barnes and Noble.

Today’s Featured Author – Margaret Brazear

Please welcome author Margaret Brazear to my blog. Today she is sharing with us an excerpt from The Judas Pledge, the first book in her Holy Poison historical romance series.

Excerpt

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.”

She knew at once why he was wearing a sword and her heart almost stopped in her chest; he had come to say goodbye.

“Mary has gathered forces at Framlingham and is even now on her way to London with an army.  I will join her in Sawston where she will stay the night.  There is little time, but you must promise me that you will not put yourself in any danger while I am away.”

All she could think of was how to stop him, how to keep him here and safe where he belonged. But there was no way and she knew it. She felt certain these gloriously happy weeks would never come again.

“What sort of danger?” She asked at last.

“Rely only on Anthony for news, please. It is a dangerous time and if you say the wrong thing to the wrong people, it could be construed as treason.”

Treason? He could speak to her of treason while he risked his precious life for the little papist woman?

“Aren’t you the one in danger of being condemned for treason?” She was shivering with fear now and did not realise she was digging her fingernails into his arms.  “You are going to support Queen Jane’s enemy against her. You are planning to ride into London with Mary Tudor, right into the lion’s den. The next time I see you could be in the Tower.” She reached up and kissed his lips, held her arms tightly about his waist, desperately trying to make him stay. She could not stop the tears which were brimming over and falling down her cheeks. “Please, Richard, do not go. I think I would die myself if I lost you.”

So she had said it. She had taken those feelings out of their little box and thrown them at him, despite wanting very much to keep them safe inside, where he would never see. They had an agreement and this was not part of it.

He held her away from him to look down into her eyes and smiled gently as he hugged her close. She could feel his heart beating rapidly against her cheek, could feel the shuddering sigh as he breathed in deeply.

“You really love me,” he said, but with a little puzzled frown on his brow. “I had not expected that, but you do. You really love me.”

Then he returned her kiss, a kiss that went on so long she thought she would faint, a kiss that took her breath away and aroused in her that longing she had so recently discovered. And she was so afraid it would be the last kiss.

Gently, he took her arms from around his waist and pushed her away.

“Pray for me,” he said swiftly, and with that he was gone while she wondered miserably if she would ever see him again.

***

When the messenger had gone, Richard sat for a moment wondering why his heart failed to sing at the news of the King’s death. If only Mary had been declared Queen, as her father’s Will had decreed, he would not now have to leave his wife and risk his life to fight for her.

He had waited for the Protestant boy to die, his allegiance was to Mary and until now he had longed for the day he could raise his sword in defence of her, the day he could help her to return England to the true faith. He had looked forward with joy and excitement to the day he would ride into London at Mary Tudor’s side, raise her flag before her army and claim the throne of England for the true heir and the true faith.

Since he invited Bethany into his life, he could summon no enthusiasm to leave her, no matter what the cause.

He shook his head to clear it. He had no time for this; he would have to go, and go quickly. He took his sword from its place over the fireplace and buckled on his belt as he climbed the stairs to say goodbye to her. She waited, seated on their bed and looking more beautiful than he had ever seen her, and he could see in her eyes that she knew already what the news would be.

He could not love her; he could not afford to risk his heart. He had no intention of ever loving her, only of giving her the respect due to his countess. He did not love her! It was not possible. It was merely an infatuation from which he would soon recover once he was away from her.

But when she clung to him and begged him not to go, when he saw how much he meant to her, his resolve almost failed. He was always popular with women; he was handsome, well built and charming and with skills in the bedchamber they could find nowhere else, but he never had expected any of them to love him as this woman did.

She had kept her side of the agreement, or tried to. She had followed all his instructions on how a countess must behave so that when he finally presented her to the monarch, she would move in court circles and not disgrace him. He knew there were many among those circles who gossiped about his choice of bride, who condemned her as being unworthy to wear the title, but he had little use for the opinions of others.

She had stood beside him every day in his private church and said the mass as he had taught her but he knew she was uncomfortable with it, even afraid of it. She trembled with fear in that church, although she tried to hide it; she stared at the statues with terror in her eyes and she seemed no closer to embracing his beliefs.

She had paid attention to the lessons his priest gave her, but he knew the subject was of academic interest to her, nothing more. She was an intelligent woman who enjoyed learning, but she was nowhere close to believing what she was taught and now he doubted she ever would be.

He had been arrogant enough to believe her faith was unimportant and she would soon see the truth; it was a mistake, a big one.

Now it was too late. His duty lay with Mary and he could not afford to be distracted from that duty. And there was still no sign of an heir.

Book Blurb

The Judas PledgeIt is 1553 and for five years the fifteen year old protestant King Edward VI has reigned with the aid of a Lord Protector. It has been twenty years since King Henry VIII broke away from the yoke of the Roman church and Catholicism is outlawed and a thing of the past.

Bethany is the daughter of a wealthy merchant and her only concern is to avoid an arranged marriage to the impoverished baron her father has found to marry her for her dowry.

When the wealthy Earl of Summerville suggests a marriage which will make her a very rich countess she is thrilled and his confession that he is a hated catholic and that he expects her to follow his faith, means little. If Bethany had thought about it at all, she had believed there were no Catholics left in England. Her eyes firmly fixed on a handsome, amiable husband and the title, wealth and huge country mansion which comes with him, she believes she will never have to adhere to that condition, she believes there will never be another catholic monarch, despite his assurances that the catholic Mary Tudor will succeed her brother to the throne.

She has no idea how hard it is going to be to keep that pledge when Mary gains the throne and begins a brutal campaign to bring England back to the church of Rome. Bethany is horrified to learn that not only is her new husband a catholic, he is a close friend and advisor to the new Queen Mary.

As Bethany’s protestant family and friends are persecuted for their beliefs, beliefs for which they are prepared to die a horrible death, she finds the struggle to support her catholic husband and give lip service to his faith to be impossible despite having fallen deeply in love with him.

This is a tale of love, passion and betrayal in an age when God is a very real part of everyday life and the way he is worshipped worth of dying for.

HOLY POISON is a series of historical romances concerning the ordinary people who lived through the religious upheaval brought about by Mary Tudor’s determination to return England to the Catholic Church, a violent five years for which she was ever after known as ‘Bloody Mary’.

About the Author

Margaret Brazear was born in London, England in 1948, to a working class family. Her father was a lorry driver and she had what was then a secondary modern education. Her interest in history was piqued when she was in her teens and she went on to study in earnest the fascinating subject of England’s past. She has written stories since she could write and is proud and delighted to have found a following to her historical romance fiction.

She is a widow with three grown up children, two grown up grandchildren and a deep love of four legged furry creatures, especially dogs.

You can find out more about Margaret on her website or check out her Facebook Author Page.

You can purchase The Judas Pledge on Amazon.