Wednesday, December 6, 2017

IWSG & A Nano Cloud's Silver Lining

It's the first Wednesday in December which can only mean that today's the day for monthly meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted by our Ninja founder Alex J. Cavanaugh. Visit the IWSG page here to sign up and join us, view a list of members, or see the co-hosts for this month. I am one of those co-hosts today!

Last month I posted about my enthusiasm for the start of National Novel Writing Month and I was confident that I was finally going to get my WIP A Window Box in Paris written. Unfortunately that enthusiasm lasted about ten days. The story kind of blew up in my face as I realized I had been a little too confident about writing it when I hadn't done nearly enough research or prep work.

I pouted and grumbled at myself for several days, then decided to go back to A Killing in Kennecott, the sequel to Polar Day that I had abandoned earlier in the year after I decided the story was such a mess it would be completely impossible to fix. I realized when looking at it with fresh eyes that it really wasn't so bad after all and that the problems were probably fixable.

Now I'm working on another draft of that story and enjoying it. I don't think I ever would have gone back to it if I hadn't made such a mess of my NaNo plans. Thus the title of this post and my dark cloud's silver lining!

When I'm done visiting Alaska again I hope to make my way back to Paris. Maybe fresh eyes will help that story too. 😃

I also want to give a quick shout-out to the ladies over at the Write...Edit...Publish hop, who are hosting their last hop of the year. December's theme is "the End is the Beginning." I decided to join in with this group back in August and I'm so glad I did, I love it! I'd encourage anyone who is interested to give it a try.

And now I'm off to make my co-hosting rounds and catch up with my regular visits. Happy December, all!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

IWSG: NaNoWriMo & the WEP Encouragement Award

Hello and Happy November!!  Today is the day for the monthly meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group, founded by our Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh. To view list members and this month's co-hosts, visit the IWSG page here.

Each month the IWSG team asks a question for participants to answer if desired. This month's question is: Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

I've only participated in NaNo twice and I finished once and didn't even make it through the first week the second time. The novel I finished went on to be published as The Ghosts of Aquinnah. Last year I signed up determined to work on my story inspired by my trip to France called A Window Box in Paris. That went nowhere, to say the least. 

Now I'm participating a third time and I'm once again planning to write A Window Box in Paris. But I think I will have very different results this year as the story is totally different! Only the title and two characters remain from last year's ideas. I was never totally sold on the story I was trying to write last year but this one feels like it wants to be written. 

And, I got a wonderful surprise and a burst of inspiration when I won the Encouragement Award for the October WEP challenge!! 🙌😃 My story, The Apartment, was connected to A Window Box in Paris and featured one of the main characters as a child. I never intended to write anything about the character's childhood until I started trying to think of ideas for the October hop. The way the piece came together makes me think the full story is meant to be told. 

So I'm excited for NaNo and feeling confident that I'll have a repeat of my first experience instead of my second one. 

Best of luck to everyone else who is participating! 😃😄

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Write...Edit...Publish: Dark Places

The Apartment

Although only ten years old, Pierre had known for a long time that he was different. For as long as he could remember, he’d heard things others didn’t seem to hear. Voices, screams, laughter. Cries of pain. When he entered a new place, he could hear those who had been there before him. He heard their joy. Their pain. Their terror.

At first he’d assumed everyone could hear the past. He’d learned quickly that his parents couldn’t. When he’d mentioned the voices to them he’d been frightened of the looks they’d given him. They’d chalked his experiences up to a vivid imagination and a desire for playmates, imaginary or otherwise. He’d wondered why anyone would want a man screaming in pain or a woman gasping for air as hands tightened around her neck as playmates, but he’d kept quiet. From then on, he’d never mentioned the things he heard again. He’d merely listened.

But now he realized that just listening was no longer going to be an option. Soon after he and his parents had moved into the loft apartment in Paris’ Montmartre neighborhood for the summer for his father’s work, Pierre knew that something was different in this place.

The apartment was old and spacious, and his mother had declared her love for it the day they had moved in. She’d visited a woman who ran a flower stall on the corner and purchased white rose bushes for the front window box. His mother told him a white rose symbolized innocence. She loved flowers and their meanings. Pierre remembered that at one point she had told him that dried white roses symbolized sorrow.

That would be more appropriate, as the apartment was a place of sorrow. Of grief and fear and death. Pierre heard a woman crying for her lover, a World War I soldier lost forever to the trenches. He heard a Jewish family frantically trying to plan an escape from Paris now that the Nazis had taken over. He heard a man sobbing at his wife’s bed as she lay dead following the birth of a stillborn child.

Pierre was used to these sorts of voices. Tragedies from the past. But this apartment held something new for him. Voices of those whose stories had not yet ended.

He’d first heard the women’s cries when he’d gone to bed on their third night in the apartment. His room was small, with a strange extra closet built into one wall. The landlady had explained that the previous tenant, an architect, had built the closet himself and added a padlock to its door. When he moved out, he didn’t leave her the key to the lock. She was defensive when questioned about the locked door, saying she’d meant to get a locksmith to unlock the closet but we all know how busy life is, don’t we? Not wanting a fight, Pierre’s mother had dropped the issue.

Pierre wasn’t totally sure why the padlock had been left on the door, but he knew it wasn’t for anything good. He’d known that as soon as he’d heard the women’s voices that third night. So many different voices. Pierre couldn’t keep track of them all.

“Help find us, please.”

“Our families don’t know what happened to us. Won’t you help?”

“He killed us. But no one knows. Please, please help.”

Pierre heard the pleas, and he was unable to shake these voices off like he had all the others. Because their stories weren’t over. They needed him to help. But what could he do?

He was determined to find out. Unfortunately, he knew he couldn’t pressure his mother to make the landlady hire a locksmith. If he told her why he needed it to be done, she’d fly off the handle. His parents both thought Pierre's "imaginary" voices were a thing of the past.

He ventured to the library and checked out books on how to pick locks. He’d open the closet door himself. How hard could it be? Pierre had always been a smart boy, and good with his hands. He was sure he’d have no trouble.

He stopped at the hardware store to buy a small lock picking kit. Now he was ready to solve the mystery. As he returned home, he noticed that in spite of his mother’s best care, the white roses were drying out and dying.

Pierre shut his bedroom door and got to work at once on his new project. He tried every suggestion in his books and used all of the tools in his kit, yet nothing opened the padlock. Night after night Pierre heard the voices begging for help. And day after day he tried to pick the look. Nothing worked.

Before he knew it, the summer was drawing to a close and it was time for Pierre and his family to leave the apartment. The voices weighed heavily on his mind. He still heard them, and he knew that there was something they wanted him to see in the closet. Something that would tell their stories

On his last day in the apartment, Pierre sat at the closet door. Frantic, he tried one last time to open the lock.

“Pierre!” his mother called. “We’re leaving. Get down here!”

Pierre sighed and stood up from the floor, staring at the locked door.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I tried.”

He dropped his tools on the floor and let them roll away. There was nothing more he could do now. The mystery of the closet would be someone else’s to solve.

“Pierre!” His mother’s voice had turned shrill.


He ran down the stairs of the loft and went outside with his parents to their waiting cab. As the cab driver pulled away from the curb, Pierre looked up at the empty apartment.

The voices were silent. The window box roses had turned black.

This story is a companion to my WIP called A Windowbox in Paris. It's not part of the book but the adult Pierre is one of the WIP's main characters, as is the apartment. I never intended to write anything about Pierre's childhood though until I started thinking about a story for the October hop.

Big thanks as always to Denise and Yolanda for hosting this great hop. 😊

Thursday, September 28, 2017

A Visit from Nick Wilford!

Hello, all! I hope September has been a good month for everyone. I can't say it has been productive for me as my writing has been nearly nonexistent but I guess I still have a few days left to change that. And, there's always October. 😊

I'm excited to be hosting Nick Wilford today as part of his blog tour for his new book Black & White. Welcome and congratulations, Nick!

Hi Julie! Thanks for letting me take over your blog as part of my tour today. I’ve got an excerpt from my book Black & White to share with your readers, showing the first time my young protagonists, Wellesbury and Ezmerelda, visit the neighbouring country of Loretania, which they have only just learnt existed.
She stretched out her arms. “Why don’t we stay here? Let’s face it, it’s a lot more fun. Kids can do what they want – there doesn’t seem to be any school, but maybe we could teach them a few things. And there’s something about the feel of the dirt on your skin.” She scratched at her arms, which were filthy from the children touching her, and looked at her blackened fingernails. “It feels good, and... honest. I feel like I’m actually alive for the first time ever. What do you say? Don’t know about you, but there’s no one I’m really going to miss. Not even my parents.” She wrinkled her nose. “Actually, especially not them.”
     He looked at her wide-eyed face, a spark of anger flaring in his chest. “What about the kids dying on an hourly basis? Look around you, and really open your eyes! A boy came to our world looking for help. I’m going to do the best I can, or die trying. I’m not giving up on him just to avoid getting punished, or worse. You want to leave things the way they are? You’re no better than those bastards back home... no better than your dad!”
     He shook his head and schlupped off through the mud towards Rottifer’s house. “Welles, wait!” he heard from behind him.
     It’s not supposed to be like this. Why doesn’t she feel the same as me? Thought she was the clever one.
     He reached the house of the man who had shown them the utmost hospitality and shouted through the door, “It’s Wellesbury here. Can I come in?”
     “Of course!” came the reply. He walked through the door just as Ezmerelda caught up, and she followed him in. He didn’t look round.
     Rottifer was reclining on his scratchy bed again, but sat up and smiled through his thick beard when the foreigners entered. “Been making friends?”
     “Yes, everyone’s really nice. But it’s time for us to be heading back now.”
     Rottifer’s face fell. “Oh, I was hoping you could stay and share the evening meal with us. It’s customary in this house – even if someone visits from the next street, we share our food with them. I was saving you two the biggest rat. And before dinner, I was going to take you around and show you a bit of the town.”
     Wellesbury was silent for a moment – it was, after all, against his nature to be rude – but then Ezmerelda piped up, “That sounds delightful. And it might give us some more evidence we can use against the government. And I’ve got to admit, I’m really curious about trying... well, I suppose you would call it real food.”
     “You haven’t eaten food before?”
     “Technically, no. It comes out of a machine, and it’s synthesised. Fake,” she added upon seeing Rottifer’s mystified expression.
     “That sounds fascinating, although I’ve no idea what a machine is. Here, we catch our food – or find it dead – and roast it over the fire.” He indicated a construction consisting of a long, pointed bit of wood resting on two supports, with a handle at one end.
     “I’d love to see that!” she said, her eyes lighting up. “We’d love to stay. Wouldn’t we?” she said, elbowing Wellesbury in the ribs.
     Although he was torn, the instinct of being deferential and polite to adults pulled at him the most strongly. Especially as this was far and away the nicest adult he’d ever met. He felt relaxed in his company, which was more than he could say about his parents. “Of course we’ll stay,” he said.
     “Excellent!” said Rottifer, rubbing his hands together. “If you’re ready, come with me and I’ll show you the sights. Starting with the Monument of the Dead.”
     The two visitors looked at one another and raised their eyebrows simultaneously, their argument forgotten for the moment.
Title: Black & White
Author: Nick Wilford
Genre: YA dystopian Series #: 1 of 3
Release date: 18th September 2017
Publisher: Superstar Peanut Publishing
What is the price paid for the creation of a perfect society?

In Whitopolis, a gleamingly white city of the future where illness has been eradicated, shock waves run through the populace when a bedraggled, dirt-stricken boy materialises in the main street. Led by government propaganda, most citizens shun him as a demon, except for Wellesbury Noon – a high school student the same age as the boy.

Upon befriending the boy, Wellesbury feels a connection that he can’t explain – as well as discovering that his new friend comes from a land that is stricken by disease and only has two weeks to live. Why do he and a girl named Ezmerelda Dontible appear to be the only ones who want to help?

As they dig deeper, everything they know is turned on its head – and a race to save one boy becomes a struggle to redeem humanity.

Purchase Links:
Meet the author:
Nick Wilford is a writer and stay-at-home dad. Once a journalist, he now makes use of those early morning times when the house is quiet to explore the realms of fiction, with a little freelance editing and formatting thrown in. When not working he can usually be found spending time with his family or cleaning something. He has four short stories published in Writer’s Muse magazine. Nick is also the editor of Overcoming Adversity: An Anthology for Andrew. Visit him at his blog or connect with him on Twitter, GoodreadsFacebook, or Amazon.
Enter the giveaway for a chance to win a copy of my collection A Change of Mind and Other Stories or a $10 giftcard! a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: Goodbye Summer

Hello and Happy September! Today is the day for the monthly meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group, founded by our Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh. To view list members and this month's co-hosts, visit the IWSG page here.

I know I'm in a small minority, but I'm always so happy to see summer come to a close. I think I have some kind of reverse seasonal affective disorder, as I tend to become depressed and sluggish every year when summer rolls around. I wanted this year to be different, and had a good start in June, but by July my regular pattern had emerged.

In spite of that, there were some bright spots to the summer so I thought I'd focus on the positives.
  1. I finished my 5k running program! In fact, running was the one thing I felt great about all summer. I can't believe it, but I now look forward to my runs and I feel out of sorts when I miss one. I'm focusing on increasing my distance and endurance now. I've made it to four miles and am working on getting to five. 
  2. I participated in the August Write... Edit... Publish... bloghop and had a great experience with my story The Last Reunion. I had hit a brick wall while working on revisions for my new Alaska story and was feeling frustrated, so it was energizing and fun to write something totally different. I am now looking forward to the October hop and thinking about ideas for the Dark Places theme. 
  3. Game of Thrones! My favorite show. EVER. 
  4. Reading. I read some great books this summer, including one that instantly became one of my all-time favorites. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is an extraordinary read. 
A window box in Paris
Best of all, in the past week or so I've been inspired to start working on a new/old book idea - a short story collection called A Window Box in Paris. I first started thinking about this collection after visiting Paris in 2016, but my ideas were all vague and unorganized. I don't know what happened, but last week when I had trouble falling asleep I started thinking about the ideas again and they all started to crystallize and come together. I'm now making notes and working on characters, and I'm super excited to get started on the project. 

I'm struggling with the usual insecurities that come with working on something new and worrying that the ideas will amount to nothing, but I'm determined to push through those doubts and worries. My goal is to have a first draft completed by the end of the year. 

What are your goals or plans for the rest of 2017? 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Write...Edit....Publish: Reunions

The Last Reunion

Oscar opened the door to the party room at the Cincinnati senior center and prepared for one final reunion with his World War II buddies. They’d been infantry men, part of A Company of the 1st battalion, 116th regiment. They’d been among the first to land on Omaha Beach on D-Day, going ashore at Dog Green. Within 15 minutes of landing, most of the company had been shot, their bodies shredded to pieces. Oscar and his friends were among the few survivors.

When the war ended, the men had returned to their home towns of Milwaukee, New York, Houston, Sacramento, Savannah, and Bloomington, Indiana. Chicago, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and Windsor Lock, Connecticut. They’d found jobs, married, and had children. None spoke of Omaha and the horrors they had endured on that bloody June day. There was too much life to be lived to focus on so much death.

But as their children grew and their nests emptied, as retirement took them out of the daily grind of working life, as they began traveling with their wives and visiting places they’d never had time to see as young men, their minds started to drift back to the summer of 1944. They allowed themselves to talk about what they’d experienced on the coast of France.

When the 50th anniversary of the day so many young men had been slaughtered loomed, Oscar realized he wanted to return to Normandy. He wanted to see Omaha Beach as it was now. As it had no doubt been for thousands of years. A peaceful stretch of coastline, with the waves of the Atlantic lapping the shore. The tide coming in, the tide going out. No blood, no screams of the dying, no terror.

For the first time in decades, he allowed himself to remember the men he’d screamed with, cried with, and found shelter with as bullets whizzed past their heads. He heard the cries of those who’d been shot and slaughtered as clearly as if their deaths had been five minutes, not five decades, ago.  And he wanted to know if his fellow survivors were still here, like him. Surviving.

So Oscar had arranged the first Company A reunion, and the men had traveled across the sea once more to meet on the bluffs of Omaha Beach. They’d visited the graves of those who had never been able to return to their home towns. They’d shed tears as they paid their respects in the cemetery marked with an unearthly silence and a sense of young lives taken far too soon.

From then on, they’d met every two years, taking turns hosting the reunions. Randy was the first one to leave them, felled by a cancerous tumor at the age of 75 rather than German artillery at 18. Harold went next, then Roger, Charlie, and Mick.

Two years ago, only three had been left to attend the Omaha reunion. Now, as Oscar prepared the room, he knew he would not be here by the time two years came around again. He hadn’t needed the doctor to tell him he only had about six months left, if that. There are some things a man simply knows.

So he’d reserved the room one last time. He’d asked his daughter to set up the folding chairs in a circle, the way the men had always sat when they met up. Now, he took out a folder of photographs.

The photos were taken when the men had first been drafted into the Army. They were young and trying desperately to look older and more distinguished. Their faces were those of innocence. Of neighborhood baseball games, summer jobs, first dates, and first kisses. Faces that had no comprehension of Omaha Beach and the horrors that awaited them.

Oscar went around the circle and placed a photo on each chair. Randy, Roger, Harold, Charlie, Mick. Tony, Bobby, Hector, Steven. All gone now.

Oscar sat down on the last chair and took a bottle of beer from the cooler he’d carried in from his car. He opened it and raised the bottle in a toast.

“Here’s to us, boys.”

Through the window of the senior center, Oscar could hear a dog barking and a cat mewling in response. A bus stopped, let its passengers off, and drove away again. The footsteps of a runner pounded the pavement of the sidewalk, fading as the runner moved along. A horn honked and a man shouted obscenities. A police siren wailed. Two women talked and laughed.

The time was coming when there would be no one left who could remember Omaha Beach. No one who would think of D-Day, or the war itself, as anything more than a chapter in a history book.

But that time was not here yet.

Oscar sipped his beer and looked around the room at the photos of his friends. “Here’s to us.”

My story was inspired by this photo of my Dad, a World War II vet who reconnected with his war buddies in the 1990s.

I'm excited to be participating in the WEP hop for the first time. Thanks to Denise Covey and Yolanda Renee for hosting!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

IWSG & The Amazing Gracie Trilogy by Carol Kilgore

Hello and Happy July! Today is the day for the monthly meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group, founded by our Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh. To view list members and this month's co-hosts, visit the IWSG page here.

I don't really have much to say for this month's post, as I'm still working on the same things I wrote about last month. I'm continuing with my 5k training and I'm thrilled because I actually made it to the halfway point of the program! I'm starting Week 5 and I can't believe how much I am enjoying the running. I feel great about my progress and confident that I can make it through the whole 8 weeks now. The running has been just great for me in terms of better physical and mental health so I am excited about continuing with it. 

I'm also working on revisions for my new Alaska story. The revisions are slow going, but that's not surprising. I still feel good about the story and hope to have another draft completed by the end of the summer. 

All in all, I'm feeling good and not struggling with much insecurity this month. Yay! Since I don't really have anything to post about this month, I'm turning the blog over to my friend Carol Kilgore, who has an awesome new cover to reveal!

A hot and spicy taste of murder—and more.


During the day, law enforcement consultant Gracie Hofner is on assignment at a small San Antonio bakery, waiting for a delivery. No one knows what it is or when it will arrive. The upside? Working next to Donovan Beck, a flirty hunk and a half—perfect fling material.

At night, Gracie resumes her search for a little girl and her mother who went missing following a double murder. Finding the pair is imperative or the girl will become a target.

At the girl’s aunt’s house, Gracie experiences a peculiar need to leave immediately. She tries to deny the urge to flee and pushes the pressure aside, but the compulsion intensifies. Gracie thinks she must have a brain tumor. Or is losing her mind. When similar events continue to occur, Gracie sees a pattern. Can she use this newfound ability to help her find the girl and her mother before it’s too late?


Carol Kilgore is the author of Jalapeno Cupcake Wench, the first book in The Amazing Gracie Trilogy, and three romantic suspense novels: In Name Only, Solomon’s Compass, and Secrets of Honor. She’s married, with dogs, and lives in San Antonio, the setting for the trilogy.

Where to connect with Carol:

Congratulations and best of luck to Carol!!