The tan door was ajar, and he could see the blue and cream tile turned into a soft blue carpet at the threshold of the office. With a hope Kara was wrong, Ewan glanced around quickly, but a movement to his right drew his attention.
Marti’s back was to him as she rooted around in a file cabinet drawer and shook her head periodically. Her outfit was professional, from the roll of hair in a French twist at the back of her head, to the black skirt suit with brown pin-stripes, and the suede two-inch heeled shoes on her feet.
As he tapped his fingers on the doorjamb, a vision of her wearing nothing but one of his t-shirts and a solitaire engagement ring flashed through his mind.
“Yes?” Her voice was distant, cool and polite.
“Dr. Brown said you were in.”
Her back stiffened as he spoke to her without an audience for the first time in years. “I have no clue why you would want to see me,” she replied and dug a folder out of the drawer.
A soft sigh of exasperation came out of his throat as he entered the office and stopped halfway between the doorway and her desk. “I owe you an apology.”
“Saturday night. Shannon treated you like dirt, and—”
“I’ve dealt with people like her before and it hasn’t killed me yet.”
“That doesn’t excuse it—hell.” Ewan rubbed a hand down his face as he tried to find the right way to express himself.
“Maybe that will teach you not to take someone like her around your friends and coworkers.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It’s your life and your choice. If you want to go dumpster diving, that’s your business, but if I were you, I’d be careful on what I brought home.” She flipped a page in the file. “I have a meeting in less than an hour, and I’d like to be fully prepared for it, so if you don’t mind...”
“Look, I know this isn’t the ideal situation, but can’t we at least try to make an effort, for everyone’s best interest?”
So he wouldn’t look at her, he glanced around the room, and his gaze finally landed on a picture frame in her book-case. An unwelcome, searing bolt of jealousy zoomed up his spine when he saw it was a photo of her and a man with their arms around each other.
His eyes moved to the large windows facing Citadel Hill, and locked with hers via the reflection, a memory’s shadow of their first date at the Fisheries Museum in Lunenburg.
Like that day, almost nine years ago, Marti was the one to break eye contact.
“How are we going to do that?” she asked.
“I don’t know, but unless we try, Kara and Dennis are go-ing to chalk it up to something big, and from what I’ve heard, you’re not open about your past.”
“That’s my life and my choice, isn’t it?”
Ewan sighed and raked a hand through his hair as he took a step toward her. When she stiffened, he stopped and shoved his hands into his coat pockets.
“Dr. Lewis—Marti...” He let out a long breath. “I am sorry about invading your life. If I had known you were living here, I wouldn’t have taken the promotion, and told Miran-da I was moving on.”
“Some things are beyond our control or knowledge. Hali-fax is a big place. I’m sure you and I can avoid being in the same area at the same time as much as possible.” With a shrug, Marti turned to face him.
As her cool and detached gaze met his, Ewan nodded, and his stomach dropped as the full impact of her calm and professional air hit him. What was I thinking when I thought that maybe... Hell.
The girl he knew was gone, replaced by this cool, sophisticated, and distant woman.
“Okay,” he murmured, and wondered why he felt as if his heart had been ripped out again.
Marti’s expression softened as she held up the file. “I’m not chasing you out because—I really do have a meeting, and I’d better get moving if I want to be ready for it.”
Ewan nodded and moved his gaze to a spot on the carpet. “Yeah.” With a final nod, he turned and walked out of her office, not understanding the heavy feeling around him.
Sweet Child of Mine Feathered Tartan Book 2 by V.J. Allison Genre: Contemporary Holiday Romance
In the city on the harbour, miracles happen.
It’s Christmas Eve.
Ewan and Marti Campbell are hoping to have a quiet holiday season, their first as a married couple, and the last one before their new baby arrives.
A crisis at the real estate agency tosses a huge wrench into their plans, as does the sudden onset of Marti’s labour. As Ewan fights to get home before his child appears, more crises are flung at him. If he is to make it on time to help his wife bring their baby into the world, he’ll need a miracle…
Ewan quickly set up his system to do a virus scan. When it started, he leaned back in his chair and glanced up at the clock. Ten AM. Marti should be helping his parents make Christmas Eve brunch by now. God, he really missed her. He should be home and helping her with all of it instead of sitting at work, fighting with a fucking local area network that re-fused to get off its ass and actually behave for once.
He closed his eyes and let out a long sigh. In the distance, a phone rang, and laughter drifted up the hallway. A festive air had swept through the Halifax location, even with a huge file missing. Ewan wished he could participate, even for a moment, but as part-owner and manager of their Halifax location, he was forced to focus on the predicament at hand.
He stretched his neck. He hated to miss a moment of his days off with Marti and his parents. It was the first time he had seen them since he and Marti had visited Alberta in April to expose a rat among them and formally announce their elopement. Talking via social networking, video calls, and email wasn’t the same as being with them. As an only child, his parents tended to fuss over him in a lot of ways but also understood his need to be his own person, even if it meant living across the country from them.
Hopefully, something would crack with the files and allow them to make headway so he could get home and hug his wife, tightly. Marti was his rock, and being away from her during a time when they were supposed to be together irked him.
His phone beeped, bringing him out of his reverie. He hit the button for the intercom. “What’s up, Sheryl?”
The semi-retired secretary sounded happy when she re-plied, “Marti is on line one. I thought you’d like to talk to her, since you’re stuck here with all of us.”
Sheryl had been a godsend to him in the past and was still one now. “Thank god. Put her through.” Just hearing Marti’s voice would keep him from losing it if anything else went wrong.
The phone made three quick trills and a green light flashed by line one. Ewan could not grab the receiver or hit the damn button fast enough. “Hey.”
“Hey. Any luck yet?” Marti’s sweet, soft tones echoed in his ears.
Ewan felt his frustration ebb slightly. There were some days he swore she had a radar for his emotions, and today was one of them. “Nothing yet. Did you hear from Miranda or Ralph?”
“No. I thought they were supposed to be handling this,” Marti said, her voice tight. She sounded exhausted and as frustrated as he was.
Ewan closed his eyes again and sighed. It wasn’t good if his normally serene and loving wife was not happy either. It spelled disaster with a capital D. “I’ll be home as soon as I can, I promise.” At least his parents were there with her. Between them, Joshua, Sybil and Dana, Marti should be distracted until he got home. Talking to her made him miss her more and wish he could kiss her senseless.
His wife let out a long breath that sounded like a soft moan. “Hopefully, it’s sooner than later. Something happened,” she said, her voice tightening more with each word.
That did not sound like his wife. Ewan wondered what was happening at home. “Good or bad?” he asked and let out a low growl.
“Both.” She cleared her throat. “Are you sitting down?”
Puzzled, Ewan glanced around the room. “Yeah, I am. I’m in my office.”
“Are you alone?”
His left eyebrow rose a notch. “What’s with the inquisition, sweetheart?”
“You know how my back has been bothering me for a few days?”
Ewan blinked. “Yeah. Is it worse?”
“Um, sort of.”
Bewilderment started turning to unease. “Sort of? Do you need to go to the ER?”
She let out a long, hissing breath. “No, but, oh. Hang on.” He heard rattling, and a low noise that sounded a lot like the phone dropping.
Panic started to rise in Ewan’s throat. She was hurt, and he wasn’t there to help her. “Marti? What’s going on?” he demanded. “Marti? Talk to me, dammit!”
His mother’s voice echoed in his ear. “Ewan? Sweetheart, Marti can’t talk right now.”
“What do you mean she can’t talk? What the fuck is going on, Mom?”
“Um, her water broke a couple of hours ago—”
Shock rippled through him. A woman’s water breaking meant she was in labour. “Say what? Why didn’t you call me earlier?” He leapt to his feet and almost tripped over the legs of his desk chair.
“She was hoping you’d be on your way home now. She knows you have work to do, but I insisted we call you now. Her contractions are about four minutes apart and getting stronger fast.”
No. There was no fucking way this was happening, not now. Ewan’s mind scrambled for the mental list he and Marti had prepared for her labour months ago. She wanted a home birth with a midwife, and Ewan was determined to give her that much. “Call Jennifer. Her number is on Marti’s cell phone.”
“She’s here, monitoring Marti. She’s using Joshua as a go-fer.” There was a tinkle of laughter in his mother’s voice.
He suspected his mom was trying to calm him with the mental picture of Joshua kowtowing to the pint-sized Marti when she was on a tear. Normally he would have laughed, but this time, it wasn’t working. His mind kept skipping from the midwife to the crisis at work, to his wife needing him, and--
Where was Miranda? He was fit to strangle her for breaking her promise to handle any problems while he was on vacation. Today was a bust, thanks to her disappearing act, and he could easily miss his first child’s birth if she didn’t get her ass into either the Halifax office or company headquarters in Bridgewater.
Away To Me Tri-Town Book 1 by V.J. Allison Genre: Contemporary Romance
What would you do if you found out your late spouse wasn’t the biological parent of your stepchild as they had led you to believe? Would you let it go, in hopes the child wouldn’t go looking for their birth family, or would you help them in their search?
This is the dilemma Neil Falcon faces when he first discovers his late wife, Rita, wasn’t the biological mother of his teenage stepdaughter, Rikki.
His decision to look for her roots puts them on a path that leads them to a part of Neil’s past, one he thought was locked away forever.
Kelsey Wagner is shocked to see the man she once adored appear on her doorstep with claims that Rikki may be her biological child. After finding out her daughter wants her to be a part of her life, she agrees.
Amidst the confusion of raising a teenage daughter, the old feelings resurface. They know their daughter wants them to become a family, but can they make it work?
Rikki squealed in excitement as she held up the box set of DVDs on Christmas Morning. “How’d you know I love the show?” It was every single season of the revival part of a science fiction series, plus all the specials.
Neil and Kelsey exchanged a grin.
“Thank your dad, it was his idea,” she said.
“Actually, your mom wanted to know what to get you and—Oomph,” Neil groaned.
Rikki jumped on his lap and hugged him tightly.
“You two are the best parents ever,” she exclaimed and grabbed her mother.
Kelsey’s head connected hard with Neil’s.
They yelped in unison.
Rikki leapt up and yelled as she ran out of the room, “I’m going to call Taffy and let her know.”
Kelsey rubbed the side of her head and cringed. “Did you get a goose egg from that too?”
“That girl doesn’t know her own strength.” He cricked his neck and grinned. “I should have known she was going to go nuts when she saw that. She’s been a fan since the series premiere.”
“Next time, we’ll wear helmets,” Kelsey promised and leaned her arm into his. “Something tells me we’re going to be watching a lot of DVDs over the rest of the holiday break.”
“I’ve only seen a couple of episodes of it, and not any of the newer ones. I don’t have a clue who she’s talking about, and she’s been grumbling at me.”
His arm went around her shoulders. “Look at it like this, watching all of the episodes will get you in the loop.”
“True.” Damn, she looks so cute when she’s confused.
He quickly cut off that train of thought and gestured to the hoodie on the floor beside them. “You remembered my favourite team.”
She grinned. The New York baseball team sweater was a joint gift from her, Rikki and the pets. “It’s not every day you meet a Canadian who loves an American team. Most people I know are Toronto fans,” she replied.
“I don’t remember telling you.”
“You wore their shirts a lot, so it was easy to remember.” Kelsey and her photographic memory.
He laughed and pulled something out from behind a pillow. “Merry Christmas, Kelsey.”
She eyed the small, gaily wrapped box warily. “What’s this?”
“Not much, it’s something I thought you’d like.” I hope she loves it, and Rikki better have given me the correct size. It’ll be a bitch to get it fixed or replaced if she hates it.
She gave him a puzzled glance and slowly started to peel off the wrapping. When she pulled off the cover, she gasped with wide eyes, and put a hand over her mouth. Shit, she hates it.
“Don’t you like it?”
She caressed the small silver and onyx ring with a sniffle. “I love it.”
“I can’t accept it.”
“It’s not appropriate.”
His eyes rolled. “How so?”
She let out a long breath. “Friends don’t give friends rings.”
“That’s bullshit, Kelsey, and you know it. You’re more than a friend to me.”
She peered up at him. “Says who?”
His cheeks warmed under the scrutiny. “We’re Rikki’s parents and members of the same family. An unconventional one, but we’re still a family.”
Kelsey stared at him for a moment and started to nod slowly. “I don’t think it’s right for you to give me a ring.”
Neil sighed. “It was Rikki’s idea to get it for you, so technically it’s from both of us.” When she opened her mouth to protest again, he added, “Mothers are allowed to get rings from their children.”
She nodded again. Is she crying? Not yet.
He tightened his arm around her. “She’s going to be disappointed if you don’t wear it.”
Kelsey shot him a filthy look and with a shake of her head, took the ring out of the box. “I don’t want to hurt her feelings.”
He grinned triumphantly.
“Put it on before she comes back.”
She slid it on her right ring finger and admired it. “How did you know what size—oh, never mind. Rikki told you.”
He laughed. “She picked it out and insisted on getting it in silver. She knows you like it better than gold.”
“She’s too smart for our good,” Kelsey grumbled jokingly. She reached up to touch his cheek and rested her head on his shoulder. “Thanks.”
“You’re welcome,” he whispered.
His gaze locked with hers and he felt something nudge him, hard. Without thinking, he nuzzled his forehead against hers, and his eyes slid shut as he leaned toward her.
“Punky, get back here, you brat!”
Neil and Kelsey jumped and straightened as the corgi blew past them and into the kitchen with a ribbon in his mouth. Rikki skittered around the corner in her sock feet and almost slid out of the room as she tried to catch her dog.
With an uncomfortable glance and chuckle, Kelsey and Neil shifted away from each other.
She stood up when an annoyed meow echoed from the next room. “Maybe I’d better help.”
“Yeah,” he replied and with a sigh, got up. “Hopefully that damn chowder head will let us catch him this time.” That was too fucking close. Next time, kiss her fast, don’t hold back. Or don’t kiss her at all.
He let out a long sigh as he got up and followed Kelsey into the next room.
Under Your Scars Tri-Town Book 2 by V.J. Allison Genre: Contemporary Romance
Alexis has that special something about her that Seth can’t fathom. His friend Mirabelle’s new employee is even prettier than the merchandise she sells. Too bad she’s distantly polite when he tries talking to her.
Alexis is attracted to Seth, but she’s in hiding from her past and her mistakes. Getting involved with the one person she's attracted to could blow her cover.
When they’re forced to work together, their libidos ignite. Alexis is terrified to open up and give in to her feelings for Seth. If he remembers that night five years ago, he’ll never speak to her again.
It becomes a question of whether Seth will expose her and force her to keep running, or if he'll help her face her past.
Alexis followed Mirabelle’s finger, which was pointing at a funhouse housed in a trailer. She saw a plexiglass maze at the bottom of it, and when she looked up at its second level, she saw a rope bridge, along with the tops of mirrors. The trailer shook as people walked around inside of it. Sounds of laughter, excited screaming, and the pump of loud electronic music surrounded them as they walked up the steps into the start of the maze.
Alexis was the last to enter it, right behind Seth. She smiled as she remembered the trick to get through the glass maze and kept her eyes on the floor. An opening was indicated by no reflections from the floor or her white and green sneakers on the plexiglass. She neatly stepped through and heard a thump followed by a grunt. She glanced around and didn’t see any-thing unusual. There was a small group of teenagers behind her, but they were too busy laughing to pay attention to her.
A moment later, she heard a louder bang and an annoyed-sounding sigh. She looked up again and realized she couldn’t see Mirabelle or the others through the various planes of clear plastic. Only Seth was ahead of her, and he was moving at a snail’s pace. The temptation to push him so he’d move faster rose within her. Why is he going so fucking slowly? The others are probably through the maze now and upstairs. They’re not going to like waiting.
Her urge to shove past him was quashed when she saw him take a step forward into an obvious panel of clear plastic. He hit it face first and pulled back with a shake of his head, then glared at it in disgust. Seth held up a hand and turned to his left. His hand hit a panel with a loud whack. He let out a long sigh, and his cheeks turned red.
She held back a giggle as he repeated the motions and al-most cheered when he found the next opening. She followed him through, and when he hit another panel, she snickered.
He shot her a dirty look over his shoulder. “What are you laughing at?”
“Nothing,” she replied airily. Normally, I’d be annoyed, but this is really funny. I never thought Seth would be the kind of guy that walked into glass walls. He seems like the type that breezes through something like this because he’s so put together. It some-how made him seem more human to her and more likeable. Damn, there I go again. Focus on helping him, and stop drooling on his boots.
“If you’re only staying with me to watch the fun, I’m going to turn around and get out of here,” he muttered irritably and motioned for her to go ahead of him.
Seth turned around and walked into another wall. She winced in sympathy. He glared at it with fisted hands, and his face was a bright shade of crimson. Maybe it’s not so funny after all. He looks pissed. I guess I should help him. He has been sweet to me, and it’s the least I can do. “I don’t desert a friend in need,” she said quietly. She linked her arm through his and tugged him toward the next opening. “If I leave you alone, you’ll be in here all night and won’t have any fun.”
She felt him hang back, and a moment later, a tingle of pleasure ran up her arm as his fingers entwined with hers. She squeezed his hand and felt a strong and warm pressure in re-turn. Holding his hand wasn’t smart, but she relished the sensation of his calloused fingers caressing hers. A feeling of safety flooded her body, unlike anything she had felt in her life when she stood this close to a man. She forced the feelings aside and pointed to the floor with her free hand. “Look for reflections,” she whispered, so the people behind them couldn’t hear her. “See how there’s no reflection in this spot? That’s an opening.” She stepped through, leading the way.
They came to another intersection. “Try it now.” She stared up at him and smiled.
Their gazes locked, and another tingle zinged through her, this time hitting her stomach. God, he has such a gorgeous smile. His full lips hinted a sensuality that made her insides shake with desire. Shit. I can’t think that way about him. He’s helping his best friend renovate Mirabelle’s store. We’re colleagues at best.
Seth looked down, and for the first time, he walked through the opening without hitting a piece of plexiglass.
Triumph surged in Alexis’s gut. She tried pulling her hand out of his, but it wasn’t happening. His fingers were tangled around hers, and he wasn’t letting her move. It was a larger taste of the exquisite torture she was enduring at the store, having him nearby. She felt some sexual attraction toward him, but the more she was around Seth, the more she liked him as a person. He’s a friend! Remember that! They exited the maze and headed up the steel stairway to the second level.
COVID's Arrow by V.J. Allison Genre: Contemporary Romance
When two people are in love, social distancing cannot prevent them from being together.
Vicki has been half in love with her friend and co-worker, Mason, since she started working at a grocery store eight months ago. When a pandemic reaches the province, social distancing protocols are installed, and their friendship is put on hold. A break at work brings them back together, but will they have the time Vicki hopes to pursue her hidden desires?
Vicki Demone stood behind her assigned register and wiped down her side of the recently installed plexiglass barrier and uttered a long sigh. It had been another busy eight-hour shift, filled with the usually kind customers, but the amount of rude people had been slowly increasing since the social distancing rules of the new decade had begun. She flipped a lock of white-blonde hair out of her blue eyes as she recalled the last customer who had gone through Mason’s checkout, barely five minutes ago. The man had been extremely rude, from saying a number of offensive terms about other people, the distancing itself, and how it was inconveniencing his lifestyle. The customer had been so loud, Vicki could hear it well above the din of her own register beeping and the quiet chatting between people at a distance. Mason being screamed at was only part of the abuse they took on a daily basis with the virus restrictions in place. Social distancing was the norm now, even with things slowly opening up. Like Mason, hearing a customer complain was not unusual for her, after working as a customer service representative for the last five years. She had started at Hiltz’s Grocery eight months ago, and although she loved the work, it was exhausting. She would go home from a shift, dragging her feet, and barely able to take a shower before crawling into bed and falling asleep. She glanced at him across the two-register gap between them, and let out a soft sigh as he leaned over to wipe down the conveyor belt, as he always did between customers nowadays. His black polo shirt stretched taut against his back, showcasing the sky-blue store logo tight against his lean musculature. The back of his brown hair brushed the top of the collar, showcasing how long it had been since he’d had his hair cut. Vicki’s fingers tingled as she wondered what it would be like to feel its softness against her palms. A sharp stab of longing ran through her. She missed their talks in the lunchroom during their breaks, or before and after a shift, as well as their movie nights. He had become her best friend in the five months before social distancing and the stay-at-home order came from the premier, not quite three months ago. Mason glanced over his shoulder and his brown eyes met her gaze. He gave her a sad smile, one that conveyed his frustration over the last customer. Vicki returned it and sighed inwardly, wishing they could stand next to each other, so they could talk privately. It wasn’t easy to share their innermost secrets with the required two metres between them. She had been to his place a few times, in the public areas of his apartment building’s lawn, and he had done the same with hers, but it wasn’t the same. It was not like they were in a theatre, or hanging out, watching hockey in his small apartment or hers, like they had just started doing when the virus hit Nova Scotia, and the State of Emergency edict had been declared. Vicki glanced to the left and saw her supervisor, Carrie, approaching. The fiftyish woman with blue eyes and grey hair was kind to everyone, even when she was reaming someone out for unprofessionalism. She was one of Vicki’s favorite people, and the reason why Vicki loved working at Hiltz’s Grocery.
“Vicki, go on your break. I’ll take care of this.” Carrie gestured to the register and smiled. She stood a ways from the register, to keep social distancing protocols in place. Vicki nodded and smiled as she exited her area behind the plexiglass. “Gotcha. See you in half an hour, boss.”
“Tell Mason it’s time for his break too, he’s been on since eight this morning,” Carrie replied and typed her code into the register. Vicki’s heart raced, and a surge of joy went up her spine. She and Mason hadn’t had a break together in three weeks, and although they had called and texted each other, and chatted via social media, it wasn’t the same. It would be nice to have five minutes with him. She would give her right arm to spend that, and more time with him. He had said the same thing during his last text to her that morning, long before their shifts had started. It was almost as if he felt the same.
V.J. Allison was born and raised in southern Nova Scotia, Canada, and her work reflects her strong Maritime roots. She is a stay-at-home mother to a son on the autism spectrum, married to the love of her life, and “mama” to a rescued Maine Coon cat named Marnie. She has been writing various stories of novel length and short stories since her school days, and sees writing as a vital component to her life.
She is a small town erotic romance author published by eXtasy Books, and her novels have been received with great acclaim. Her second novel, Away to Me, is a recipient of the eXtasy Books and Devine Destinies’ Editor’s Choice Seal of Excellence and Enjoyable Reading.
On January 4, 2021, she released her first independently published story, COVID’s Arrow, which had been previously released in the Together We Stand charity collection of stories about essential workers.
When she isn’t writing, she loves to read romance and science fiction novels (notably Star Wars); listen to music (heavy metal, rock, alternative); and do graphics design. She runs her own graphics design company, Veridian Rose Designs, specializing in book promotional posters and Facebook cover photos. This self-proclaimed geeky rocker chick is a warrior and advocate for various chronic illnesses including Occipital Neuralgia, Trigeminal Neuralgia, Diabetes, Migraines, and Glossopharyngeal Neuralgia. She is also an advocate for the prevention of animal cruelty and is a voice for Autism Awareness.
Can you, for those who don't know you already, tell something about yourself and how you became an author? I’ve always loved to read, and as a child, I loved making up stories. I didn’t know I wanted to be an author until my Grade 4 teacher, Mrs. Hache, told me I had a knack for writing stories. After that, becoming an author was my dream career. I didn’t know what genre I wanted to write, so I just wrote silly stuff until I hit Grade 6. After reading a Harlequin Romance, I knew I wanted to be a romance author. I’ve been writing on and off since then, honing my skills and listening to advice from more experienced authors, or in some cases, editors who sent me rejection letters. If it wasn’t for one kind editor taking an extra five minutes to give me a personal rejection letter and give me a few tips on how to improve my writing and storytelling skills, I don’t think I would have made it this far.
What is something unique/quirky about you? I’m a creative type, but I also love sciences. Give me a book on how the body works, and I’m engrossed for eons. I’d probably read it from cover to cover and be disappointed it was finished. I love learning about things like anatomy and astronomy.
Where were you born/grew up at? I was born in a small town called Bridgewater on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, and I grew up in a small community called Crousetown, which straddles the Petite River. I spent most of my childhood either swimming at the river or one of the three main beaches – Crescent Beach, Risser’s Beach or Green Bay Beach – when my family wasn’t camping in the Annapolis Valley or going on day trips. The Atlantic Ocean played a huge part of my childhood, between spending so much time on the beach and my father working at the Fish Plant in Lunenburg (home of the Bluenose II).
What do you do to unwind and relax? I like to watch videos about Star Wars, Star Trek, and science on YouTube; listen to heavy metal music; watch movies, and do graphics design for my books or just for fun.
How to find time to write as a parent? It’s not easy, but it’s a lot easier now than it was when my son was little. He is on the autism spectrum and does not know the meaning of “quiet time”. The only time I could write when he was small was when his father took him shopping or down to his grandmother’s house for a few hours. I wasn’t able to start writing full time until my son was in school full time, and even then it was tricky. I didn’t finish my first full length novel until he was in grade 3, and that had to be revised and rewritten several times before I got the formula right. Thankfully the older my son got, the better he is at listening and being quiet to an extent. He is sixteen years old now, and I’ve written while he was home, some of my best work to date.
Describe yourself in 5 words or less! Quirky, shy, creative, opinionated, and goofy.
When did you first consider yourself a writer? It was after my son started school, and I was able to start writing more. Before that, I was an aspiring writer, after that, I became a full-fledged writer.
Do you have a favorite movie? Yes, I have several. I am a huge Star Wars fan, and I love pretty much all of the movies I’ve seen so far, with the exception of Solo. I haven’t seen that one yet, but I hope to sometime soon. I also love Valmont, The Fifth Element, Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs, the 1931 version of Dracula, Carrie (1976 adaptation of the Stephen King novel), Cujo, and the original Species. I am also a fan of the made for TV movies from the Canadian TV show, North of 60. I love all five of them, but my favorites are Trial by Fire and In the Blue Ground.
Which of your novels can you imagine made into a movie?
Away to Me because it’s so full of drama, and shows the power of love.
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal? My mascot is my cat. Our old cat Amber used to sit on top of my clunky old Dell monitor when I was writing, and she’d flip her tail across the screen. Unfortunately she passed away in 2018, but we adopted another cat, a rescued Maine Coon cat Marnie, five days after Amber’s passing, and Marnie has turned into my new mascot. She’s more famous than I am. People love her to bits.
What can we expect from you in the future? At the moment, I’m in the middle of trying to write the next three installments in the Feathered Tartan series. Story #3 is on the go at the moment – I hope to finish that this spring – and so is Story #5, but that will have to be completely rewritten because I’m establishing a timeline in Story #3, and there will be inconsistencies in #5. I’m also getting ideas for Tri-Town 3 – which I hope to set in Mahone Bay or Lunenburg – and a standalone novella.
How did you come up with the title of your first novel? Believe it or not, it’s a song title - Stricken by Disturbed, my favorite band. I was listening to their album 10,000 Fists one day, and the song came on. I happened to hear the lyrics to that song, and thought it could have been written about Ewan and Marti. So I changed the name of the story at the last minute before submitting it to eXtasy Books. The rest is history.
Who designed your book covers?
Stricken was designed by Syneca Featherstone of Original Syn.
Away to Me and Under Your Scars were designed by Martine Jardin.
Sweet Child of Mine was designed by Angela Waters. I designed the one for COVID’s Arrow.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book? No. I wouldn’t change Sweet Child of Mine for the world. It’s my best work to date.
Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book? Yes, that less is more, and deep point of view is a necessity for creating a great story. You develop the character by their actions and how they are feeling, and explain why things are like they are.
How did you come up with name of this book?
Stricken came from the song by Disturbed. Its second chorus was exactly what had happened to Ewan. He was being haunted by Marti’s face and what she did to him, even if it was unconsciously.
Away to Me was suggested by an old school chum. It’s a herding term, and it means to go around and come back. Kelsey went away and came back to Neil, so it fit perfectly.
Under Your Scars was influenced by Godsmack’s song of the same name. Seth and Alexis had a lot of emotional scars from previous relationships and they fell in love despite everything.
Sweet Child of Mine was influenced by a song I listened to growing up.
COVID’s Arrow is a play on Cupid’s arrow… Love happening when least expected. Since it was written during the pandemic, and features two essential workers during a pandemic, I thought it was fitting.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination? Most of my characters are straight out of my imagination. However, Rikki, the daughter in Away to Me, is loosely based on some of my own experiences. Until she was thirteen, she believed her mother was her birth mother. Then she and her stepdad find a note from her father saying that she was adopted. Until I was sixteen, I believed my grandmother was a lady named Alice who passed away a year before I was born. I’m named after her. Mom always referred to Alice as “Mom”, and still does. However, it came out that Alice was actually my mom’s grandmother, and Mom’s birth mom was a woman I thought was her oldest sister. I drew from my experiences from learning that to write Rikki’s reactions and letting her to get to know Kelsey. Dana, a main character in one of my upcoming books, is ultra-loosely based on my oldest niece. Like my niece, Dana is pansexual. I always pictured Dana as the one Campbell female who marches to the beat of her own drummer – like her cousins Ewan and Joshua (he’ll be featured in Book 5) – and decides to throw away the family restrictions on women and become her true self.
Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reigns of the story?
Away to Me was hijacked, but not by a main character. The dog, Punky, took over during the first drafts of it, and looking back, he really dragged the story down. When I looked at it five years after finishing its initial draft, I saw how he had turned it from a romance into a general story with some sex scenes tossed in. The story was about him, not the mains Kelsey and Neil. So the first thing I did was eject the scenes and parts of scenes where the dog had taken over and either put something else in its place or just let it be. I left one scene in that featured the dog chasing Kelsey’s newly adopted cats, but that was tossed during round one of edits with my publisher. My editor Trish suggested I remove it and looking back, I think it should have been removed before I submitted it. Oh well, lesson learned. The only characters I’m letting hijack things from now on are the two main characters. No sides allowed going crazy!
Have you written any other books that are not published? Yes, and it will never see the light of day. It was a “sequel” to what is now Stricken, and it’s horrible. I wrote it specifically to someone else’s ideas, and it wound up being a disaster. It was over 450K, full of passive scenes, inconsistent ramblings, dull “erotic” scenes, and tons of garbage that didn’t make sense. It turned the leads of Stricken into “undercover agents” of a type. They’re not that. They’re ordinary people, not the police. Geez. It’s so bad, I’ve dubbed it “The Abomination” and the thought of reading it again makes me sick. It was heaved to my external drive to gather dust forever. From that point forward, I decided to only listen to those who had experience as an author or editor. I’m glad I did because listening to the right people paid off for me in the end. I wound up getting on with a great publisher, and met a lot of wonderful, talented people in the process.
What did you edit out of this book? Holy cow, a lot!
Stricken saw the first half of its original draft hit the chopping block, and a lot more. The boring erotic scenes were replaced with steamier ones, and the entire ending was changed to be more plausible. The passive scenes were chopped pretty much from the get go, same with the repetitive junk. In fact, about 90% of what was published are rewritten scenes, or completely revised to market standards.
Away to Me had at least twenty areas where the dog Punky takes over, causes trouble, or gives off the aura he’s about to cause some problems. All of those scenes were either changed or removed completely. 20 K was removed from the story during its edits before submission, and another 1K or so was done during edits with eXtasy Books. Trish really gave me a lot of tips that I’m using while writing. I can’t thank her enough for her help!
Under Your Scars didn’t lose a lot. It was pretty clean when it was submitted and thanks to another amazing editor at eXtasy Books, kept most of its scenes.
Sweet Child of Mine didn’t lose much either. Maybe a few words here and there when things were changed from my goofy writing style to market standards, that’s it.
COVID’s Arrow didn’t lose anything at all, other than a few words here and there with tips from fellow eXtasy Books author Cameron Allie.
Is there a writer which brain you would love to pick for advice? Who would that be and why?
Fun Facts/Behind the Scenes/Did You Know?'-type tidbits about the author, the book or the writing process of the book.
Stricken was originally called “No Regrets” and covered 15 years – from Ewan and Marti’s first meeting until six years after their marriage. It was over 200K in length and got several rejections in this format. It took a rewrite and a few more rejections, along with a name change, before it finally got a contract offer.
Its sequel, dubbed “The Abomination”, started where the original draft left off. It will never see the light of day.
Stricken was the longest pause between original draft and acceptance. It was started in 2010, and finally got approval from a publisher in 2016. It was originally meant to be a standalone story, but ideas in the last year or so have prompted me to make it the first book of a series featuring Ewan’s family, the Campbells.
Away to Me was written in three months, writing only two days a week. It had a single rejection before I dubbed it a “practice story” and let it sit on my hard drive for four years. When there was a submission call for the Noted special collection at eXtasy Books, I thought about things and realized Away to Me could be modified to fit the call. The rest is history. I’m glad I decided to send it in. So many people loved that book.
Under Your Scars was inspired by an idea my friend Gordon sent me – a mysterious stranger. I started it right after a kind editor at a publisher gave me a few tips about what is now Stricken, and I ran with it.
Sweet Child of Mine was written after a lot of coaxing from one of my best friends who is also a fellow author. She tossed a few ideas at me, and I wrote the entire thing in a single weekend… After I was told I had enough time to write and submit a holiday story – this was back in June 2020. It was written in one weekend.
I always said I would never be a series author, yet I have two on the go – one that features small towns with only a distant connection between them, while the other has characters that are extremely closely connected.
What are your top 10 favorite books/authors? Nora Roberts, Aaron Allston, Timothy Zahn, K.L. Slater, and Stephen King top my favorite authors list.
Favorite books include:
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel
Carrie by Stephen King
Splinter of the Mind’s Eye (Star Wars Legends) by Alan Dean Foster
Heir to the Jedi (Star Wars canon) by Kevin Hearne
The Thrawn Trilogy (Heir to the Empire, Dark Force Rising, The Last Command – Star Wars Legends) by Timothy Zahn
The Charm Bracelet Series by Jane Feather
Birthright by Nora Roberts
Crystal Flame by Jayne Ann Krentz
Ritual of Proof by Dara Joy.
How long have you been writing? I’ve been writing on and off since elementary school, when I realized it was an escape from the real world, and my friends liked my stories.
Do the characters all come to you at the same time or do some of them come to you as you write? I like to have the two main characters somewhat settled upon before starting a book, but the side characters like to come in on their own, unless it’s an already established storyline, like the Feathered Tartan series. Most of the extras are already set – like the Campbell family – but their love interests’ families will come in as needed.
What kind of research do you do before you begin writing a book? If it’s in an area I’m not familiar with, I always research said area. However, I prefer to write stories set in towns and cities I’m familiar with, hence the small town feeling in all of my books. I love to have photos handy so I am able to describe the area perfectly, and if possible, describe the feeling, smells, and sounds one will get while at any particular spot.
If I decide the mains have a career I know nothing about, I will research it. I have two extremely thick files of printed out information on the Nova Scotia Real Estate trade and laws from about six years ago stashed somewhere, for reference.
If something comes up during the writing process, I’ll do research on it for a few days and continue writing after I feel I’m up to date on it.
Do you read yourself and if so what is your favorite genre? I love to read. I prefer romance but with a hefty storyline. It can’t be all about hopping in bed. There must be hurdles for the main characters to go through in order to get their happy ever after or happy for now. I also love a good mystery, and if it has romance in it, all the better. Same with paranormal, a romance in it makes it better. However, I also love horror books by Stephen King, general fiction and women’s fiction.
Do you prefer to write in silence or with noise? Why? I prefer silence, no distractions. Any noise makes me lose my train of thought and I get frustrated, which makes me give up on writing so I can calm down. Writing with an autistic teenager in the house is a challenge. I’ve done it before, but I prefer not to do it too much.
Do you write one book at a time or do you have several going at a time? I prefer to have one going at a time, but lately, I’ve had at least three on the go at once, two are in the same series. I’m scared I’ll get mixed up if I have more than one going on at once.
Pen or type writer or computer? I prefer writing on a desktop computer. I like the freedom of editing in a word processor, and how I can easily change things without having to type out an entire page.
Advice they would give new authors? Write. Keep writing until you turn blue, and keep going. READ. Read a lot, from your own genre to ones you normally avoid.
Listen to constructive criticism, especially from experienced editors and authors. They know what they are talking about, and if someone says something isn’t working, take it into account. Take a few steps back and try to see your story as a reader, not a writer. Don’t discount what they say because it’s about your work. They’re trying to help you, not hinder you. Giving constructive advice and critiques show they want you to succeed. Don’t forget to thank them for their help.
Always get someone to critique your work, that way if you miss something like a huge glaring mistake, they will catch it for you. Plus they will catch inconsistencies, passive areas, tangents, and a lot of other things you may miss when you go over it.
If you go Indie, have an editor or someone else help you with edits and proofing. The cleaner the story is, the better your intended audience will like it.
If someone doesn’t like your work and gives a solid reason why (not their cup of tea as a reader for example), don’t get upset. Not everyone will like your books. Don’t expect everyone to blow sunshine at you. Everyone has different opinions, and likes different things. A lot of people class the “I wasn’t the right audience for this book” 1 Star Review as a badge of honor, it means you “made it” as an author.
What is your writing process? For instance do you do an outline first? Do you do the chapters first? I like to start with a general idea of where the story will go – the main characters, and how they get their happy ever after at the end of the story. After that, I tend to just let the characters run with it, and if something doesn’t work, it’s axed and something else put in. I find if I just write without planning too much, things fall in to place much easier.
What are common traps for aspiring writers? One of the biggest ones is thinking they have a “best-selling idea” or story, when in reality, it's probably not even a blip on the radar.
Another one is thinking that if they have their own distinct style that goes against the grain of grammar and writing period, they’ll get noticed by a big name publisher and again, have a best-selling book.
Some think that once the writing is done, the work is too. It’s the exact opposite. Once that story is drafted, the work is only beginning. Whether you go the traditional route or the self-publishing one, you still have to edit the story several times to get it as perfect as possible, get it proofed, have a cover made, and after it’s out there, promote it to death.
Some also think that others should do their work while they do nothing. Not true. If you want to be successful, you have to work your butt off to get anywhere in this business.
What is your writing Kryptonite? Noise. Distractions of any kind. They’ll throw me off so badly that I lose track of things, get frustrated and have to stop for the day. Ugh!
If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be? I’d tell myself to ignore the naysayers, and keep writing… I’ll have a few problems and some road blocks at a few points, but I made it, despite everything. Keep going. Never give up… And check out an independent publisher out in British Columbia. *wink*
How long on average does it take you to write a book? It depends on many things – if I have a lot of alone time and my chronic pain issues are not acting up. If Hubby works day times while my son is in school, and I am deep into a story, I can sometimes clear 6K a week. I’ve written books in less than 3 months while writing only a day or two a week.
On average, I’d say it is about six months to a year. If I can put out a full novel once a year, I’m happy.
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