Friday, May 27, 2016

Retreating from the Writer's Retreat

As I have learned, When Words Count Writer's Retreat has a sweepstakes at the end of every year to generate free visits for writers from the beginning of January all the way to the end of May. I was one of those people who won.

Coming to the retreat, I was blessed with stunning views of mountain ranges and winding back roads, a covered bridge and farms. All of this pleasant to look at. Arriving was just as beautiful. From the mountains in the distance to the little pond just beyond the house it gave a promise of peace and possible productivity in writing.
My room is the top left corner. Hi room, I'm home for the next few days.

I admit, when I had first won, I thought it was a scam, and in doing research I have not been the only one to think so. It's not a normal thing to hear about some random retreat in Vermont and also to win a 3 night stay at a country type house in the shadow of the Green Mountains in said retreat. It is real, however, I can attest to it. I haven't been abducted or found in the midst of a Steven King novel. So there is some bonus in the views of epicness.

I have to say, the food is delish. Not the farm to plate type meals that are advertised on the website. Nope, the food is bought, not harvested and butchered here like I had hoped. Let's face it, I know enough about farms and food to know the difference between fresh meat and market meat. The chef was really good at his craft and even though the meals were very far from what I had hoped they were posh and exquisite. The chef was only here at night, so the rest of the meals were just fancy home cooked stuff that I could have easily made at home. After all that fancy, healthy food, I could really go for a cheese burger.

The view was beautiful, the food was tasty, but the house... well, it was decorated quite lovely but between the sagging ceiling, weak and bending porch, and the creaky shaky floors, I had a feeling it had to be haunted and quite possibly fall down around me at the moment a strong breeze kicked in.
Still alive and kicking so there is that. The house needs some upkeep and possible reconstruction. In my personal, unprofessional opinion.
Nope, that's not a weird camera angle, that ceiling really is bending in the middle.

Then there is writing time. Between finishing lunch around 1pm and before cocktails the house is empty of anyone except writers. It's a good time to settle down and write to your heart's content. This is the time when no one will bug you about anything. It's the blissful time of the day.

After 5-6pm, that's when the introvert can expect an anxiety attack. This is the time the proprietor comes in. His aura (if you believe in that sort of thing) is of a pushy sales man. He's good at talking, not so much at listening. At least from my experience. His focus seems to be on getting writers, especially new writers, to work with him and his crew. (It was just him since we didn't meet anyone else that I know of.) Work on what, you ask? Well, to get a traditional book deal. Here's the catch.  His 'traditional' book deal is with an indy-publisher in NY, Chicago or LA. So I'm not seeing the traditional because it has nothing to do with the big five.
Prince does not trust you or your publishers.

On day two of the visit, after we have dinner, we retire in the living room and are expected to read a few pages. I did and was already in the know that the proprietor wasn't a fantasy fan, so his critique was lacking in helpful feedback.  He could only think of one thing, just one thing. As much as I would like to think it is because my writing is wonderful, I have my doubts and it just doesn't give me confidence in his coaching abilities.

He may be better at coaching contemporary fiction or non-fiction but in the terms of Speculative fiction, horror, thrillers and mysteries, I think the writers should steer clear. Don't trust a sales man to coach when any writer's group, especially something like Agent Query Connect could give you much more helpful input.

To be honest, I hate leaving such scathing words, but I feel like people need a warning of what to expect. I had no idea it would be an 'interview' with the guy who runs the place. All I wanted to do was write and perhaps get some useful feedback. Now, I'll just run back to my own house and enjoy some quiet time in the middle of the night and write away when all is asleep.

What do you guys think? Have you been to any other writer's retreat? What did you pay? What was it like? I could really use some input on where I should go next.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Break Through ALS - Monday, April 13th 2015

The boy took a deep breath. Rolling his shoulders, he focused on the board in front of him. With a stomp he pounded his foot against the wood.


"It's okay, you can do this," the director said.

The boy nodded. "I can do this." He smiled thinking of the good he was doing.

Again he took up the proper stance and kicked down onto the board held up between two blocks. This time a resounding snap sounded as the wood gave way.

The board was broken and with it another donation given to help find a cure for ALS.

The boy took up his pieces of wood and a proud smile spread across his face. He gave the director a high five. The boy was proud that he could break the board, but he was even more proud that he could help someone else too.

This isn't just a story, this is happening everyday this week in Fitchburg MA, kids breaking boards and donating to finding a cure for ALS.

From Len Brassard's Family Martial Arts Center:

We are helping to "Kick"start the "Kevin Thompson Board Breaking Challenge and ALS Awareness Campaign"

For a $5 donation we are inviting everyone to come break a board and help to raise money to fund research for a cure for ALS. We will be collecting donations through Friday April 17th 2015. If anyone is interested in supporting this cause (student or not) please contact Len Brassard's Family Martial Arts Center at 978-342-9911 or visit for more information on where we are located.

To all of the martial arts school owners in our network we encourage you to challenge your students to do the same!

Thank you very much for your support! #BreakthroughALS

Monday, April 6, 2015

Wind Catcher Book Spotlight

Title: Wind Catcher

Author: Jeff Altabef and Erynn Altabef

To Be Published: March 23rd, 2015

Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Genre: YA, Native American, Fantasy

Awards & Honors: Mom’s Choice, the Awesome Indies Seal of Approval, and 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award for Best YA Fiction

~ Synopsis ~

Juliet Wildfire Stone hears voices and sees visions, but she can't make out what they mean. Her eccentric grandfather tells her stories about the Great Wind Spirit and Coyote, but he might as well be speaking another language. None of it makes any sense.

When she stumbles upon a series of murders she can't help but worry her grandfather might be involved. To discover the truth, Juliet must choose between her new life at an elite private school and her Native American heritage. Once she uncovers an ancient secret society formed over two hundred years ago to keep her safe, she starts to wonder whether there’s some truth to those old stories her grandfather has been telling her.

All she wants is to be an average sixteen-year-old girl, but she has never been average—could never be average.

Betrayed by those she loves, she must decide whether to run or risk everything by fulfilling her destiny as the Chosen.

~ About Jeff Altabef ~

Jeff Altabef lives in New York with his wife, two daughters, and Charlie the dog. He spends time volunteering at the writing center in the local community college. After years of being accused of “telling stories,” he thought he would make it official.

He writes in both the thriller and young adult genres. Fourteenth Colony, a political thriller from Tate Publishing, was his debut novel. Evolved Publishing released his second novel, the thriller Shatter Point, in 2014, and will release his young adult fantasy series Chosen, co-written with his daughter Erynn, starting in the spring of 2015.

Jeff has a column on The Examiner focused on writing, and a blog designed to encourage writing by those that like telling stories. You can find his blog, The Accidental Writers’ Workshop, on The Chappaqua-MountKisco Patch, via the link under the “Contact” tab above. You’ll also find under that tab ways to join with Jeff in various social media venues.

~ About Erynn Altabef ~

Erynn Altabef is an avid reader, dancer, and community activist. When she’s not in High School, she loves Starbucks, performing in school musicals, baking, and watching movies with her friends.

Some of her favorite authors are Veronica Roth, Joelle Charbonneau, and her dad! (That would be Jeff Altabef.)

~ Excerpt ~

Everything about me is a lie.
My entire life is a leaning tower of lies that threatens to collapse at any moment and bury me so deep I may never climb out from under the rubble.
I slam the bathroom door and my hand trembles as the old-fashioned steel bolt slides into place.
The locked door offers no real safety. Locked doors can be broken, but it does give me a moment of privacy and a chance to breathe. So much has happened over the past few days. It’s like I’ve become a totally different person, someone unrecognizable.
The adrenaline that had been pumping through my veins has completely melted away now as I lean against the wooden door. My breath comes fast and ragged. My body feels heavy and weary and my legs weaken. Gravity pulls me down. Too tired to resist, I slide down the length of the door until the white marble floor rushes up to meet me.
I work hard to steady my breath and focus on taking in fresh air, expelling the old. It’s a simple process, yet it takes all of my concentration. When air starts to flow, my eyes close. Time slows and drifts by erratically.
Images flash through my mind—an eclectic group of memories: childhood birthdays, second place in a spelling bee, hanging out with Troy, rock climbing with Sicheii. Most are happy, but they’re all tainted now. The lies spoil them. They were never true. They were just part of a story, one that’s changed forever.
My weary mind reaches for sleep, but I resist. Too much time would be wasted. There’s too much for me to do. Too many loose ends need to be tied, so I open moist eyes and wipe away tears I don’t recall crying.
When my vision clears, crimson-streaked fingers flutter near my face as if directed by someone else. I thought blood looked like ketchup, but it’s darker and thicker than you would think. My hands spin in tight circles. Each finger is stained with thick, mud-colored smears.
Whose blood is on them?
A cold sweat coats my back and my chest tightens. This blood must be scrubbed away immediately. It starts to burn as if it’s alive, as if possessed by dark spirits, spirits that want to harm me. It freaks me out. I have got to wash them clean now, this second, immediately, before….
I turn the faucet and hot water tumbles over my skin. I frantically rub my fingers together and hope friction and water alone will make the blood disappear. The water in the sink turns red and then pink, but traces of blood stubbornly stay behind. A bar of soap rests on the edge of the porcelain sink. Lather squishes between my fingers—twisting and turning, scrubbing and rinsing. My skin turns raw from the rubbing, and when the water has lost all its warmth, I turn the faucet off.
Hard to find specks of blood cling to my flesh, but I still see them and feel them.
Will they ever wipe clean? I don’t think so.
A silent scream builds deep within me, which so desperately wants to be released it practically hurts, but no sound slips past my lips. I’m too tired to scream.
A square mirror hangs over the sink, but it’s an enemy. I don’t want to see who I’ve become, so my gaze stays fixed down toward the sink. Unfortunately, the blood-smeared faucet is shiny, stainless, and reflects back an image of myself anyway. I glare deep into my eyes, leaning close to the faucet to study them. They look familiar, but as I pierce them more deeply, a hollowness appears that has never been there before. It scares me.
People change. Sometimes they change over the course of a lifetime, and other times change happens swiftly because of a single momentous event. I’m not the same person I was just a few days ago. Too much has happened, too many lies revealed. Truths, solid and real, have crumbled away before me and left behind falsehoods, shadows, and a future as uncertain as a prisoner on death row waiting for a pardon.
The pendant Sicheii gave me flops out from underneath my shirt. It was supposed to protect me. I grip it until my knuckles turn white.
Knock! Knock! Knock!
“Juliet, we’ve got to talk, Love. We need to come up with a story for the police.”
Just a few days ago, I was an average teenaged girl who looked forward to her sixteenth birthday, hoping for a little freedom and a chance to get a driver’s license.
Being average is a joke. I will never be average. I was never average….

~ Giveaway ~

Wind catcher Bracelet

Prize: Signed print copy of Wind Catcher & Bracelet

Giveaway is US only.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Chasing Daybreak by Ranae Glass Book Blitz


Title:  Chasing Daybreak
Series:  Dark of Night, Book 1
Author:  Ranae Glass
Published:  March 24th, 2015
Publisher:  Crimson Tree Publishing
Genre:  NA Paranormal Romance
Content Warning:  Violence and adult language
Recommended Age:  18+

Synopsis:  Isabel Stone wanted a normal life. But when the unexpected death of her father leaves her at the helm of the family business, things quickly go from weird to worse. Vampires are on the loose and out of the coffin, and only Isabel can walk the fine line between the world of the living and the world of the undead.

Torn between letting go of her past and embracing her future, Isabel will have to decide who she can trust, and be willing to use all the weapons at her disposal, to get to the bottom of a terrifying string of deaths that lead right to her doorstep—before she becomes the next victim. In a city where nothing is what it seems, ending up the target of a deranged killer might actually be the high point of her week. Because in this town, the things that go bump in the night… just might kill you.

Excerpt from Chasing Daybreak by Ranae Glass:

“You were arrested for what?” I asked again in disbelief.
Shane sighed on the other end of the line. “Loitering. Are you gonna come get me or not?”
Part of me wanted to ask why he didn’t just call his rich vamp girlfriend or soon to be boss-man to bail him out, but I held back. Truth was, in some sick, co-dependent, Dr. Phil kind of way, I was glad he’d called me.
“Keep your panties on, I’m on my way. Just relax and try not to eat anybody,” I quipped.
In the background I could hear a male voice tell Shane his time was up.
“Isabel, just hurry, okay?” Nervous tension was thick in his voice.
I quickly put in a call to Craig Gentry, a bail bondsman who’d done some work for my dad in the past, and made a beeline for the precinct.
Shane was sitting on a wooden bench just outside the magistrate’s office, a young, nervous-looking officer standing behind him with a massive shotgun probably loaded with wooden pellets. Not fatal to vamps unless it took out the heart, but certainly enough to do some serious damage.
The kid couldn’t have been more than twenty-one, and judging by his general pallor and sweaty forehead, Shane was probably the first vamp he’d ever seen, much less been tasked to guard. Seeing me walk in, Shane slumped just a fraction, visibly relaxing. It was a very human gesture. One of the many things I’d miss about him when he grew into his new life.
I nodded, warning him with my eyes not to make any sudden movements that might spook the newbie.
Reggie was waiting for me at the desk, chatting with Matilda, the night desk officer. He’d obviously been called in from home. Still wearing his Superman pajama pants and gray sweatshirt, he cradled a cup of coffee with one hand and smoothed down his unruly bed head with the other.
“Reggie,” I called, turning his attention to me.
“Ah, Isabel. Good to see you.”
“Same here.” I thumbed behind me. “Mind sending Skippy over there to get some coffee or something before he accidentally shoots my partner?”
Reggie laughed, leaned forward and called over. “Hey Weston, I got it from here.”
The kid looked like he might argue, then thought better of it and closed his mouth, walking away backwards, watching the back of Shane’s head the whole way.
“Thanks. So what happened?”
“Looks like Shane was over at the Quick Mart down the road from your place about midnight. Clerk thought he was acting ‘suspicious,’ so he called in the black and whites. Shane gave them some lip and they moved to detain him when he flashed fang.”
“Did he put up any resistance?” I asked, knowing as soon as the words were out of my mouth that it was a stupid question. If he’d resisted either he, or more likely they, would be in body bags.
Reggie chuckled. “Nah. But he gave Weston a good scare.”
“The store owner pressing charges?”
“I doubt it. He was pretty pissed to get called in the middle of the night and dragged down here. He and Detective Richards are looking over the security footage right now. If the clerk jumped the gun, then most likely Shane’ll be free to go.”
I turned and looked over my shoulder at Shane who sat there wearing his best innocent face, then turned back to the desk.
“Hey, Reggie, has anyone taken mug shots yet?”
“No. If he’s cut loose there’ll be no need to book him.” His eyebrow shot up as he noticed the wide up-to-no-good grin spreading across my face.
“Cause the thing is, I could really use some photos for the Christmas cards.” I smiled.
Finally catching on, he erupted with laughter.
“Why not? You go break the bad news to Shane. I’ll meet you in the back.” He pointed over his shoulder to the double doors and the magistrate’s office beyond.
I walked over to the bench where Shane sat. “Bad news, the owner might be pressing charges. Reggie said you have to go get your mug shot and fingerprints taken. But he said I could go with you at least.”
Shane stared at me, his mask of innocence morphing into sheer panic, then fading to mild boredom and resignation.
“Fine,” he huffed.
The clink of snapping metal echoed in the nearly empty hallway as he got to his feet before remembering he was handcuffed to the bench. He held up his hands. The links between the cuffs were broken in half. Shane shrugged and I beckoned for him to follow me down the hall.

By the time Joyce, the lady in charge of taking mug shots, was finished Shane knew he’d been set up. Reggie and I were rolling with laughter. At first Shane was confused, but then he looked at the nameplate Reggie had made for him and saw that it read, ‘Merry Christmas from Stone Private Investigations.’

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About the Author:
Ranae Glass writes New Adult Paranormal Romance. A Southern girl at heart, Ranae loves feeding people, gardening, and sweet tea. She hails from Oklahoma and lives with her family out West where she spins tales of vampires, werewolves, and other things that go bump in the night. You won’t find any ‘vegetarian’ monsters here, her books are best served bloody and are not for the faint of heart. Ranae is the author of the Dark of Night novels from Crimson Tree Publishing.


Crimson Tree Publishing Links:

Giveaway Details:
There is a tour wide giveaway. Prizes include the following:
  • A bookmark swag pack and      winner’s choice of any Clean Teen Publishing eBook.

  • Giveaway is International.

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    Thursday, March 5, 2015

    Author Spotlight: Michelle K. Pickett


    What was the scariest moment of your life?

    My husband had three discs rupture in his neck. One morning he got up and wasn’t able to button his shirt or tie his shoes. By that evening, he wasn’t able to walk. When he was taken into emergency surgery, the surgeon warned me he wouldn’t be able to walk again—the damage to his spine was too extensive.  Four days later he walked out of the hospital to go home.

    Tell us about your dream vacation.

    I want to take a Disney boat cruise. LOL! Then take my kids to Disney world. We’re actually saving up to do it.

    What books have most influenced your life?

    The Nancy Drew books and Where the Red Fern Grows. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls is the first book that really touched me and transported me to another world.

    How do you develop your plots and your characters?

    My characters usually come to me first and I start making character sketches. Next the plot slowly unfolds as I get to know my characters. It’s during that time that I start making a bare bones outline of the book.

    What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

    Hmm, I used to work at a migrant farmer daycare when I lived in New Mexico. I was the toddler teacher. I had kids from the time they began walking until they turned three. When we’d take the kids to wash up for lunch, we taught them to sing the “Happy Birthday” song. When they were done signing, they had washed their hands long enough and could rinse and dry. Cute, huh?
    I still hum the stupid song when I wash my hands.
    Growing up would you say you were a girlie girl or tom boy?
    Oh, definitely a tomboy. No question. Bring on the frogs and toads! I’m still a huge tomboy.

    Do you come from a large or small family? Is it a blessing or a curse? For instance…..

    I have an extremely small family. It was boring, so I guess you could say a curse, when I was young. Holiday dinners were all adults…and me. Now I have four kids and it is definitely a blessing.

    I don’t watch a lot of television, but I love Scorpion, Stalker, Criminal Minds, and Chopped. Otherwise we typically watch movies. During the day the television isn’t on because I’m writing.

    What songs are most played on your Ipod?

    Right now it’s Maroon 5’s newest album and Taylor Swift’s newest album. I’d say Ed Sheeran is in the top ten, too.

    Quick Picks:

    Favorite color: Dark, deep purple
    Favorite season: Autumn in Michigan
    Would you rather go camping or attend a concert? Camping
    Chocolate or Gummy Bears? Chocolate…is there even a doubt. LOL
    Which game do you prefer Trivial Pursuit or Monopoly? Trivial Pursuit
    Favorite pet –cat or dog? I have both.

    Thank you so much for letting me take over your blog today. And thank you, especially, to all the readers. I’d love to hear from you! Find me on the web:

    We can chat about books, what you like, what you’d like to see more of—less of. So drop me a note! J


    Title:  Milayna

    Series:  The Milayna
    Series, Book 1

    Author: Michelle K. Pickett

    Published:  March 17th, 2015  
    Publisher:  Clean Teen
    Publishing Genre:  YA Paranormal Romance
    Content Warning:  Adult language and violence

    Recommended Age:  16+


    It’s hard being good all the time. Everyone needs to be bad once in a while. But for
    seventeen-year-old Milayna, being good isn’t a choice. It’s a job requirement.
    And it’s a job she can’t quit. Born a demi-angel, Milayna steps in when danger
    and demons threaten the people around her, but being half angel isn’t all halos
    and happiness. Azazel, Hell’s demon, wants Milayna’s power and he’ll do
    anything to get it. But he only has until her eighteenth birthday, after which
    she becomes untouchable.

    With the help of other demi-angels, Milayna thwarts the
    trouble Azazel sends her way. Fighting by her side is Chay. He’s a demi-angel
    who’s sinfully gorgeous, and Milayna falls hard. But is Chay her true love… or
    her nemesis in disguise?

    When she learns of a traitor in her group, there’s no one
    she can trust… not even the one she loves.

    About the Author:

MichelleKPickett.jpgis the bestselling author of the young adult novel “PODs.” She was born and raised in Flint, Michigan, but now lives in a sleepy suburb outside Houston with her extremely supportive husband, three school-aged children, a 125 pound “lap dog,” and a very snooty cat.

    Red Bull or Monster Khaos are her coffee of choice, and she can’t write without peanut butter M&Ms and a hoodie. A hopeful romantic; she loves a swoon-worthy ending that will give her butterflies for days. She writes across genres in the young adult and new adult age groups. She loves to hear from her readers.

    Michelle signed her new young adult contemporary novel— Unspeakable, with Clean Teen
    Publishing in 2014.


    Clean Teen Publishing Links:

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