S is for Summoned #AtoZchallenge

SToday on the A to Z Challenge we are up to the letter S. Since I have already written about my work-in-progress (Alexandria) and the other two parts of my trilogy (Destiny and Quietus), I thought I would talk about with the book that started it all – Summoned: Book 1 of The Elemental.

I started Summoned many years ago before self-publishing on the Internet was even an option. Originally, when I submitted it to publishers, it was under the title – The Elemental. It wasn’t until I decided to make it a trilogy that I changed the name to Summoned and used The Elemental for the trilogy name.

Anyway, I sent out query letters and sample chapters to publishers. I received a lot of rejection letters. When finding an interested publisher wasn’t working, I looked for an agent. By this time, I knew I was writing a sequel but again, there was no interest in Summoned.

I would get discouraged and life would get busy, so I would put away my manuscript for a while. Then I would bring it back out, make some revisions (changing the beginning and tightening up the story) and send it out to a new list of publishers or agents. And the cycle would repeat.

SummonedFINALFinally, after I decided to become a stay-at-home mom, my husband suggested I try self-publishing it online as an e-book. That turned out to be the best suggestion. After a new set of revisions and much proofreading, I had someone design my cover and put it on Amazon.

Of course, being a newbie indie author I had no clue the amount of marketing and time it would take before I would start generating sales. But I am happy to say that Summoned is doing well, and the sequels (Quietus and Destiny) are out and doing well too.

Today’s Featured Author: AJ Harmon

Today I have contemporary romance author AJ Harmon on my blog. She recently released her First Class novel series as a box set.


Where were you born and where do you call home?

I was born and raised in Perth, Australia, to English parents and now reside in Oregon, USA. I consider myself to be a perfect mix of Aussie, Brit, and Yank!

What or who inspired you to start writing?

I began writing on a dare. I was encouraged to read a novel by some friends and when I reported back that I wasn’t overly impressed, they dared me to write a book…so I did!

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

It wasn’t until I quit my day job, after I published my third book, that I truly considered myself a writer. Now I am proud to tell people what I do for a living.

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

I think it would be very difficult to write stories and NOT have my personality and experiences in them. All the female characters I write have a little bit of me in them, whether it is a physical or emotional trait. For example, Katy is pretty blunt, a lot like me. Janie is at times unsure of herself and often thinks she is lacking in certain areas of her life. Again, I suffer from that, too, just like millions of other women. Maureen loves her children so much, that she often meddles a little and frustrates her children. Again, that’s me!!

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

Having finished writing the First Class series, I am now really excited about the next one, Sky Romance Novels, the first book being released in 2014. It is a different format than FCN, in that all the stories don’t revolve around one family. SRN will have lots of different story lines weaving in and out and will not need to be read in chronological order.

What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst

The best thing is being able to set my own schedule. The worst is also being able to set my own schedule! 🙂 In order to be a writer you must have a lot of self-discipline, something I sorely lack at times.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

Feedback from readers who love my books is a wonderful boost to my confidence and desire to put out well-written stories. I love reading emails from fans who tell me how they relate to my characters and sit impatiently waiting for the next book to be released. There is no greater compliment for me, and no greater inspiration to continue doing what I love.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

Plots come to me at night, usually when I’m trying to go to sleep. Quite often it’s just a scene that plays in my head and then the ideas just flow. A lot of my writing gets done after 10 pm!

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I don’t outline the story if there are a limited number of characters, but in SRN, my new series, there are more storylines woven into one book, so an outline for each is definitely needed so that the stories come together at the right point.

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

I would certainly be Janie from First Class to New York. She’s experienced a happy marriage and has two sons that she adores and isn’t looking for a second love. But when she literally runs into the man that will become her future, her whole world turns upside down and she has to come to terms with the loss of her husband and realize that she has a whole future waiting for her. I feel connected to Janie in a way that I really can’t put into words. (Bad sign for a writer, huh? 😉 )

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

I chew on ice and roasted almonds when I write. And I also need to be listening to music, preferably instrumental.

If you could meet two authors, who would you pick and why?

That’s difficult to narrow down to two, but the first would definitely be Jane Austen. I read her books as a young girl and they totally shaped my view of love and romance. I still read them often and it feels like coming home. The second would probably be Rosamunde Pilcher. I love the way she develops her characters on paper and am in awe of the way she connects the reader to all the characters in her books. She is a master.

About the Author

aj harmonAJ was born and raised in Perth, Western Australia, and currently resides in the United States. She has been married to the love of her life for 28 years and has two grown children, and a dog named Max. She is an avid reader, writer and wannabe chef.

She published her first romance novel First Class to New York after accepting a challenge from a friend to write a book. She self-published the book on November 17, 2012 in Amazon’s Kindle eBook store as a contemporary romance.

AJ Harmon’s First Class romance series is available in paperback on Amazon and for digital eBook download from the Kindle store. She has released all nine of the books in this series of contemporary love stories, including a boxed set that includes a bonus novella, and is currently working on the first book of her new series that will be released in 2014.

You can find out more about AJ on her website or on Facebook.



Today’s Featured Author: Mark W. Sasse

Joining me today on my blog is indie author Mark W. Sasse for an interview – of sorts. We hope you enjoy it.


I’ve decided to interview myself from the perspective of a prospective reader. I’ll play both parts. The reader is the one wearing the funny hat.

READER: Excuse me, who are you?

WRITER: My name is Mark W. Sasse. I’m a writer.

READER: Sorry, I never heard of you. Does that hurt your feelings?

WRITER: No, not at all. I don’t need to be heard of. I just like to write stories. You might even enjoy them.

READER: Congratulations. Who publishes your novels?

WRITER: Oh, I self-publish. I’m an independent author.

READER: (chokes on coffee and throws up a red flag) Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t read Indie authors. Doesn’t it mean that you aren’t a good enough writer to get a book deal?

WRITER: Well, I like the readers to be the judge of whether my books are worth reading, not some stuffy agent or book executive. Power to the people! That’s what I say. If people enjoy my books, that’s all I care about.

READER: What have the people said about your books?

WRITER: If I wasn’t being modest, I’d say that the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Check out the reviews on-line and see for yourself. Perhaps you, too, will like my books!

READER: But aren’t those reviews on-line just made-up? I mean, I’m sorry to say this, but aren’t they just posted by your mother and uncle?

WRITER: I assure you, my on-line reviews are real! I wouldn’t want it any other way. If I post fake reviews to entice readers but then write a crappy book, I’ll lose those readers forever! That’s the last think I want to happen. I want to find readers who will be loyal to my stories because they like them. Doesn’t that make sense?

READER: Actually, it does! So what are your stories about? Vampires? Aliens?

WRITER: Absolutely not, they are about people.

READER: People? Sorry to yawn, but that sounds kind of boring.

WRITER: I disagree. I think there is nothing more fascinating than human relationships and struggles. We can all relate to them, but in story form, they can soar into poetic strips of awesomeness.

READER: What does that mean?

WRITER: I don’t really know, but I think it means you’ll like my stories.

READER: Prove it.

WRITER: How do you get a beautiful, young Vietnamese woman to fall in love with an overweight, middle-aged American loser if they are 12,000 miles apart?

READER: You can’t! Unless you make it up.

WRITER: I did make it up. It’s called fiction, and that’s the premise of my first novel, Beauty Rising.


WRITER: It has 82 reviews on-line. Check it out.

READER: You mean those real reviews?

WRITER: Did you just roll your eyes?

READER: OK, I believe you. You got anything else?

WRITER: My second novel just recently released. It’s called The Recluse Storyteller.

READER: What, does she sit at home and tell stories to herself? (laughs)

WRITER: That’s exactly right!

READER: I was joking.

WRITER: She tells stories about terrorists, about a set of twins in the 19th century, and about a horrible massacre in Vietnam. Don’t worry. It’s not gory.

READER: So she just tells herself stories?

WRITER: Let me finish. The stories are inspired by her neighbors whom she watches daily. But what they don’t know, and will eventually find out, is that the stories hold secret meanings for each and everyone of them.

READER: Like what?

WRITER: You have to read it to find out.

READER: And this novel has some of those “real reviews” too?

WRITER: Absolutely. So what do you think? Will you give me a shot?

READER: All right. Your books aren’t expensive, are they?

WRITER: No, they’re not.

READER: I’ll try one.

WRITER: Great, thanks! You won’t be disappointed. And if you do, please write a fake review.

Book Description

recluse storyteller cover xtra smallRed Hat hijacks a yoghurt truck and barrels into the Chester Walz Bank at full speed, desperate to open a safety deposit box.

The twins, beckoned by an ominous streak of light across the sky, climb Harper’s Hill to encounter an apparition of their missing father.

The reverend stands on a muddy ridge, the barrel of a rifle in his neck, looking down on a Vietnamese village, scarred by war and regret.

The stories come to Margaret at all times, but they are anything but random. A fractured view of Michael Cheevers’ red hat through a discreetly cracked door sends her off on adventure. A glimpse of the Johnson twins from apartment 2D takes her to the lonely hill on a Midwestern prairie in 1887. The regular letters from Reverend Davies, who has tried to look after Margaret since the death of her mother, brings her to the brink of exhaustion, staring intensely into the heart of war deep in the jungle of Vietnam.

Margaret is not insane, at least not in a clinical sense. She’s like a midnight raccoon, painfully aware of her surroundings, gleaming crumbs of information at every turn; eyes peering incessantly in the night, stealing glances of neighbors behind partially opened doors.

But the tales that she weaves were not meant to merely hold empty court to the receptive dead air of her apartment. Her stories were meant to embolden the lives of the inhabitants of that drab apartment block because her story is also their story—and everything would be different if they could only hear her stories.

The Recluse Storyteller weaves five stories into one as the loner Margaret not only searches for meaning from her reclusive life, but also gives meaning in the most unexpected ways to the troubled souls of her apartment complex. Part adventure, part tragedy, and part discovery, The Recluse Storyteller bridges genres, bringing hope, life, and redemption to the broken relationships of modern society.

About the Author 

Sasse Author photo smallMark W Sasse was born and raised in Western Pennsylvania, but he has lived in Asia (Vietnam & Malaysia) for most of the past twenty years. He has been an independent author for about a year, publishing his first novel, Beauty Rising, in December 2012. He is passionate about live theater and has written, directed, and produced nine full-length productions for the stage. His script, “‘No’ in Spite of Itself” won “Best Script” recently in Penang’s Short & Sweet Theatre Festival. His third novel, The Reach of the Banyan Tree, is finished and is set to release mid-year 2014. He is also working on writing a full-length musical which will debut at the Penang Performing Arts Center in May 2014.

You can find out more about Mark on his blog or Facebook.

You can purchase The Recluse Storyteller on AmazonBarnes & Noble or Smashwords.

Today’s Featured Author: Teshelle Combs

Today, please welcome young adult author Teshelle Combs to my website. Be sure to check out an except of her fantasy novel, Core, after her interview.


What or who inspired you to start writing?

The first person to ever tell me I was a writer was my best friend growing up, Shoshana. At sleepovers, we would stay up late and I would tell her stories that had been stored up in my head. Even when we were young, they were probably novel-length. And when I was finished she’d tell me, “Teshelle, you should write these down. I think you’re a writer.”

My college boyfriend (who I’m now married to, poor guy) was the first person to encourage me to do it professionally. I took my first Creative Writing class about two years into my undergraduate degree and I fell in love. “Just do it, Tess,” he told me. “If you love it, just do it.” And I did.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I think most of us who end up as writers become who we are at very young ages. We get those big chunky kindergarten pencils in our hands and start scribbling out stories. I think I became an author the first time I sold a copy of my book. I did my crazy happy dance for ten minutes, I was so elated.

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

Oh dear. I’m going to get in trouble for this one. Right now, I have an old novel, The System, that desperately needs to be revamped. I also need to work on the sequel for Core, or I’ll be attacked by my fans. And I’m half through a new book for a series that is still untitled. I don’t know which of the three projects to tackle first. Suggestions?

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?

As of very recently, I write full-time! I’m about to be a mama (Jaxter is due at the end of August), and with the release of “Core” it just seemed like perfect timing to go for it.

My work day is… well, rather long. I usually start out the day working on marketing Core. Since I’m indie, I do all of it myself and it can be a lot. At some point I usually pass out (a cuter way to say it would be “take a nap,” I guess) because I’m pregnant and giant and it’s hot in SW Florida. And then for the second half of the day, I work on my new projects. I’d say a typical work day starts at 9:30am and ends at about 10:30pm.

Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

Oh, my can I please choose all of them? Okay, I suppose if I have to choose, my favorite character is Cameron Anders, the youngest brother of the Anders nest. Not only is he a blue dragon–the cold intellectuals of the dragon world–but he’s got a bid of red dragon blood in his veins as well. It makes him harsh and silent, and few see his true nature. I’m excited to tell more of his story.

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

Even though Cam is my favorite, he leads a tough life, always having to keep silent, always keeping his story and his ideas hidden. So, iIf I could be anyone, I’d be Ava. Ava’s tough, but she has no problem speaking her mind. And mostly I’d want to be Ava because, of all my characters, she gets to have Cale. To have someone care about you, need you, Choose you? Well there isn’t much better than that.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Chips. Sour cream and cheddar, baby! Seriously, eating and working is just regular, everyday life. I have about two granola bars worth of crumbs stuck between the keys of laptop.

Thank you so much for my interview! It was so much fun. Loved your questions.


She had amazing eyes. Jade green with flecks of amber red in them. They were focused, unflinching. Warrior eyes.

“I’m Cale.”

“Okay,” was all she said.

She looked him up and down, trying to pinpoint his motive for offering his name to her. Then she turned on her heel and walked right out of the arena. She didn’t even look back, as though Cale had made no Impression on her whatsoever. No Impression at all. Rory raced up to Cale with a smile and threw a burly arm over his shoulder.

“So, how’d it go? Did you ask her? Did she say yes?”

Not even close. He could barely open his mouth in front of her. But he had looked her in the eye. And for Cale, that was all it took. He could taste the fire in his core threatening to break free. He could feel the blood in his veins begging for just a spark, just a flicker. He opened his mouth to let out the smoke that was filling his lungs and ignored the white wisps as they disappeared into the air.

It was as good as done. He belonged to Ava Johnson. Know it or not, she had herself a dragon.

Book Description


Cale Anders lives a normal life–as normal as any eighteen year old dragon could hope for. He has always managed to straddle two worlds, one of underground fight clubs and siren hunts, and one of family barbecues and backyard football. Still, for as long as Cale can remember, he’s been the middle man–the ambassador for his own family–bent on reconciling the stark differences between his fiercely intelligent blue dragon relatives and the boisterous, passionate red dragon nesters.

But when Cale picks the steely-eyed human, Ava, to be his rider, he must choose between the family he’s always loved, and the only girl who can unlock his potential and spark his core. Ava, her heart entrapped in a prison of callouses, is caught off guard by the rawness of the Anders’ life and the honesty of the boy who claims to belong only to her. But even more alarming than her immersion in a world she never knew existed, is the realization that love can grow slowly, steadily, and painfully, no matter how furious her resistance.

Together, Cale and Ava upturn the balance of the dragon world, leaving their very lives vulnerable to the wiles of forces neither of them truly understand.

About the Author

tershelleTeshelle Combs is the author of the YA contemporary fantasy novel, “Core.” She’s one of those crazies who majored in English in college at the University of Central Florida and she daringly works as a full-time writer. Teshelle grew up in the beautiful St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and currently lives with her composer/voice actor hubby, Nate Combs, and their soon-to-be born baby boy, Jaxter, in Cape Coral, FL.

Find out more about Teshelle on her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.

You can purchase Core on Amazon.

Today’s Featured Author: Michele M. Reynolds

Today, I have author Michele M. Reynolds on my blog. Here she shares one of her favorite parts of Trail Swap.


This scene takes place after Swap and Levalot take refuge from the rain by sleeping on a playscape.

“She’s not DEAD,” a whispered, little voice projected over Swap. “If she were dead her eyes would be open.  That is how my grandfather looked when we found him in the living room.”

“No, she would be in a black bag or have a sheet over her face like this,” a loud girl screeched.

Swap woke to three little kids hovering over her and to a fourth one rummaging through her pack.

“Good morning, sleepy head,” a little, red headed girl hugged Swap tightly. The morning air smelt wet.

“We thought you were DEAD!” the boy exclaimed.

“No, I didn’t,” the screechy voice with blonde braids made clear.

“Oh, um,” Swap was very aware that she was pantless. “Good morning.” She smiled. She was usually good with children, but in this situation it was a bit awkward.

“Excuse me,” a boy stepped over her and started to steer the playscape helm. Swap hoped he was voyaging for the trail and could drop her off.

“Are you a bum?”  the boy who thought she was dead asked.

“No, not a bum that is not nice,” the red haired girl scolded.  “She is HOOOME less.”

“Are you?” screechy blonde asked.

“Well,” Swap grabbed her soaked shorts off the floor and pulled them into her sleeping bag.  “Actually I am homeless at the moment.”

“She’s homeless,” the fourth boy at Swap’s bag yelled down to the playground floor.  Swap became aware of the giggles, running, vast squeaks of swings and realized that her visitors were not limited to these few kids. It only made sense knowing that she was on school property.  Swap slipped her legs into the shorts and pulled them up.  She buttoned them and started stuffing her sleeping bag into its sack.

“Honey,” Swap motioned to the fourth scavenger. “Can you please put that stuff back in my pack.” She needed to recruit some help for a smooth escape. He nodded and complied.  She rang her socks and then slipped her aching still pruned feet into them and then into her boots.

“You leaving?” the red head asked. “If you stick around you can have my snack.”

“Yeah, there is a homeless person sleeping up there,” a group of children could be heard whining. It was in a tone that Swap knew well.  They must be tattle-tailing to an adult. Swap peeked over the edge and saw two adult women with dropped jaws staring back.

“Oh great,” Swap said as she sat back down and tied her boots tightly.  She wondered if Levalot was having a similar experience down on the next landing.  She wondered how the kids had gotten passed his enormous body and made it up here.

A little boy ran up the stairs, “They’re calling the police,” With that, Swap’s sleeping bag went into her pack.  Within a minute a siren was heard in the distance.  She saw the woods close by to disappear into.  She exited the cathedral and sat down at the top of a brown, spiral slide with her pack on her lap.  As she sat there her four-alarm-clock children gave her a shove.

“Bye,” they yelled. As her feet hit the ground she saw that the teachers had quietly taken to rounding up the children.  They looked like mother hens trying to protect them from Swap the hawk.  She ran toward the road and her little leeches followed.

“Janie, Zack, Ben, Sandy, Maria,” a frantic voice called and was followed by a stern, “Stay here!” They stopped at the road.

“Leave her alone she is just a nice bum,” a boy yelled back to the frantic voice.

“Hope you find a home!” the red-headed girl called.

The sirens and “hope you find a home” rang in her ears as she tripped over dead, fallen branches, and exposed rocks.  The woods grew thick and served as her coverage as she forged in a diagonally straight line into trees, rocks, and nothingness.  She jogged with her lopsided pack and came to a small clearing. There she stopped and peered back to the woods she had just exited.  No blue bobbing uniforms and no sound of sirens.  She looked down the clearing and saw it was a path.  She naturally walked north using the newly risen sun on her right as a guide. She came to tree bearing the tattoo of a white rectangle.  She was home, on the trail.

With each step she shook off the paranoia of policemen jumping out of the forest, restraining her to the ground and cuffing her.  She could hear the court case, “Young lady did you sleep half-naked in a playground in the presence of children?”  She would plead guilty and spend the winter in jail.  It was a gamble each town she visited to see how they treated hikers. Most were welcoming as long as you did not stay for long.  She was trespassing on school property and she was sure that would not go unnoticed.

Book Description

trail swap coverSwap and Farryn search for direction in their lives. Swap throws a pack on her back and heads north on the Appalachian Trail. She is nursing a recent love loss, and is trying desperately not to fall for anyone on this trip. On the journey she runs into memorable fellow hikers Leavalot, Turtle, Average Joe, and Evil Jesus. The townies she runs into are equally memorable and she puts her life in their hands with each hitch. Farryn travels south and is Florida bound. Her road blocks are in the form of a little bad luck, love interests, a tractor, a 10 year old boy, and southern charm.

Author Bio 

michele reynoldsMichele M. Reynolds is an Indie Author of  Trail Swap, Off-Trail, & Tunnel WShe is creator of the a blog Writer + Wilderness Girl Under It All. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her family and several pets. Her writing can be characterized as somewhat witty, usually humorous, sometimes romantic, and always entertaining.

Find out more about Michele on her blog.

You can purchase Trail Swap on Amazon.

Check out the FREE Prequel: Off-Trail: Trail Swap & short story Tunnel W on Smashwords.