Are those sirens I hear?

Ya’ll, I love writing stories that mix romance with suspense and intrigue.  There’s just something about overcoming a difficult situation to get to a HEA (Happily Ever After) that is deeply satisfying for me.  Like most things in life, if you have to work for something, then achieving it is more rewarding.  You will cherish it more.

Having said that, those of you who know me by now understand only too well my need to insert as much realism as possible into my stories.  The goal is not perfection, exactly, but it is to be believable at the least.  I know from personal experience, if I am reading a story or watching a movie and something happens that I KNOW is not right, it basically ruins it for me.  I’m unable to enjoy the rest because I’m too hyper aware of figuring out what else is wrong. I’m not talking about those offerings in the fantasy and sci-fi world but rather the ones that are touted as being based in reality.  I can forgive the small stuff – George Washington’s horse is black instead of gray?  I can live with that.  George Washington crossing the Mississippi instead of the Delaware – nope.  Can’t handle it. George Washington flying a UFO across America?  That one doesn’t bother me as much because it’s obviously a parody or a Sci-Fi take. (By the way, loved Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter!)

By now I’m thinking you are wondering what all my rambling on is about.  Well, the point is I believe in being reasonable with suspense of disbelief.  I know different people have different levels they can tolerate and I have to find a level that I am comfortable with.  In my Team Cerberus series, I have taken a few liberties but mostly I have followed the groundwork Susan Stoker laid in her Seal of Protection series as my guys live in her world.  I still do a lot of research while writing to make sure things that haven’t been established already are as realistic as possible.  It’s a fine line I walk.

That brings me to yesterday.

I’m currently working on a novella for another collaboration for Inkspell Publishing.  “Summer” is the theme for this one.  Unlike Defending Demma, my contribution to Can’t Buy Me Love last year, I’ve decided to make this one completely outside of my Team Cerberus universe. True to my nature, I can’t just have a summer romance, I have to throw in some intrigue, a little suspense and eh… let’s chunk a murder at it while we’re there.  I’ve decided to set this one in my own home turf as well – Meridian, Mississippi.

I began writing away and realized that all I knew about crime scenes was what I saw on Criminal Minds, NCIS, and Law & Order.  I hee-hawed back and forth for a while trying to decide if I would just bite the bullet and write what I thought it should be or if I needed to find out more.

Find out more, it is.

Google can only get you so far in life.  Don’t get me wrong, the world wide web is awesome for most things, but if the information isn’t OUT THERE, you can’t retrieve it.  What to do?

I called the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department.

Yep.  I called them big as you please, but the conversation was a little… uneasy.

The lady that answered the call was pleasant.  No doubt she was expecting just about anything other than me.  I had rehearsed in my mind what I was going to say but of course, that’s not how it came out.

Rehearsed:  “Hello, my name is Melissa and I am an author of romantic suspense novels.  I’m currently working on a piece that will take place in Lauderdale County and would like to find out some information about procedures regarding crime scene investigations.”

Actual: “Uh, hi.  I’m trying to find out some information about how murders are investigated and what you guys look for when you are working a case.” I took a breath and tried again. “My name is Melissa and I live in Meridian.  I write books and need some information about investigating a murder.”

Nailed it. Not.

The lady hesitated a moment and in this sort of unsure voice said, “Okay.  Let me have someone contact you.” She took my information and hung up.

Then it dawned on me.  I just called the po-po and basically asked them to investigate me for murder.

Face palm.

While butterflies dive-bombed my stomach, I went to Facebook and posted what I had done.  It was all in a joking type manner.  I asked for my friends to please call the sheriff’s department and assure them I really am a writer and not a closet sociopath if I happen to drop off the face of the Earth for a while – ie get arrested.  I got some laughs, a bit of advice but only one person assured me they would have my back (thanks Sister T!).  One friend even commented it would be great fodder for a future book but basically I would be on my own.  Thanks guys, love you too!

The short of it is Ward Calhoun from the Sheriff’s department did return my call within the hour.  Those of you who live in our area know he is the public relations person for the LCSD. I explained my situation to him and he very graciously explained procedure to me and answered my questions. Thank you, Mr. Calhoun for your invaluable help!

So, now I have what I need to carry on with the so far, unnamed novella.  Most of what I had supposed was correct but there are a few things that will need changing.  In the meantime, I dodged another bullet and added another item to my growing list of naughtiness. Now I’m a money laundering / terrorist/ human trafficking / drug cartel / murderer.  At least as far as my browser history dictates.  The life of a writer, right?  Who knew!

I’ll never be able to fly again…

On the other side – yes, Jackie, I do have an idea for a new story due to this incident.  We’ll have to see where it goes from here.

Until next time, ya’ll stay safe and on the good side of the law.  I would try to do the same but well, we are talking about me, right?

MelissaSign

Writer Dreams and Worthy Things

Do you have a dream?  Of course you do.  Everyone has dreams and I’m not talking about those you get at night when you sleep.  I’m speaking about those things you want – with everything in your heart.  For some, it could be a choice parking spot at work.  Others may want to go on a luxury vacation.  No matter what your dream is, you should work toward it.

I too, have dreams.  I’m living one of them now – I’m a writer.  This was a dream that stretches all the way back to my childhood.  I have always loved reading and wanted to be able to write stories.  Although I have been scribbling short stories, poems and assorted other literary items for years, I never attempted to publish them until I was in my 40’s.  Why?  Because I’m extremely insecure and a horrible introvert.

My biggest fear is that I will make a fool of myself.  I hated being bullied, picked-on, ridiculed and mocked in school. My friends were very few and I didn’t socialize well with others. Even with that personality trait, I still craved acceptance.  One time, I got the nerve up to ask a boy to a school dance.  I was in the 8th grade at the time.  He laughed at me.  Loudly.  I never asked another boy out again and I never attended a single school dance. Avoid the ridicule became my motto. The adult me knows it’s ridiculous to dwell on things in the past, but sometimes we can’t help who we are and what profoundly affects us.

That fear of being mocked has haunted me my entire life.  For some, embarrassment is a just another part of life.  Fall?  Laugh and get up.  Keep going.  For me, it’s a distinct possibility I could die of mortification, which really sucks because I’m about as graceful as a nearsighted rhino on a tightrope. It’s so bad that I can’t even watch television or movies where someone makes a fool of themselves.  I cringe and want to hide under something until it’s over. Made that a blushing, nearsighted rhino on a tightrope sharing space with the dust bunnies under my bed.

Rhino or not, I still have dreams.

Some people talk about their dreams as a “bucket list.”  I’ve seen a few friends share theirs so here’s mine in no particular order.

  1. Write a book and publish it
  2. Be traditionally published
  3. Write 6 books in one year (I’d settle for 5 books and a novella)
  4. Finish a series
  5. Do a book signing
  6. Do a national book signing
  7. Surpass 1000 likes on my author page in facebook
  8. Make it into the top 10 of some list
  9. Become a best seller
  10. Become a best seller for a national list (NYT, USA Today, Etc)
  11. Become an international best seller
  12. See my name when someone gets recommendations for a “new author to try out”
  13. Sell 5,000 copies  of one book in one year
  14. Sell 15,000 copies of any books in one year
  15. Be interviewed by a local news agency
  16. Hire a PA to take care of the business side of  MKC so I can write without stress
  17. Go on a writer’s retreat
  18. Go on a writer’s cruise with my favorite authors (though meeting some of them would probably be that whole rhino thing again.  I fangirl  much too easily!)
  19. Get a recommendation from one of my favorite authors about my stories
  20. Do a collaboration with one of my favorite authors

So there’s the condensed version of my bucket list.  I’ve managed to cross a few off. I have written 8 stories so far in 3 different genres.  I’ve been traditionally published (thank you Melissa Keir and Inkspell Publishing).  Last year I went to a local artist show and had my first book signing. Protecting Joselyn hit number 4 in Amazon Kindle World Romance in June 2019.

That is still a pretty big list to work through.  Thankfully, my wonderful honey has picked up the PA reigns somewhat and is helping me with some of the business side of this.  I’m so grateful for his help and for fixing my website issue yesterday.  I was on the verge of tearing my hair out!!

But I diverge…

So, what’s your dream?  Do you have a bucket list?  I’ve heard a few people talk about being too old to start a new dream.  That’s bull.  I was 45 years old when I wrote and published my first book.  Now, at 50, I’m just starting to get into my stride.  Yes, it’s a long list but it’s not impossible.  One day, I’ll look at it and say – “Hey, I need a new list because this one is realized.”  When that day comes, I’ll keep going.  I add new, bigger and more ambitious items because my dream is worth it.

I’m worth it.

And so are you.

MelissaSign

 

Cover Reveal – Rescuing Annabeth

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Rescuing Annabeth, Team Cerberus book 2 will be released on January 23, 2018 as a part of Susan Stoker’s Kindle World. Special Thanks to Eva Talia for the awesome cover!

Rescuing Annabeth

The biggest book exposition of the year is just around the corner and literary agent Annabeth Switcher is feeling the pressure. Between babysitting her newest client hell-bent on making her miserable and taking care of the thousands of little things that require her attention, she doesn’t have time for a personal life. No matter how much a certain Navy Seal steals her attention.

Levi “Hick” Salter spotted the curvy redhead beauty at a friend’s wedding. She is vivacious, brassy and so full of life, he’s drawn to her like a moth to a flame. Even though they live on opposite sides of the country, their mutual attraction is too much to resist. Thus begins a long distance relationship for these “friends with benefits.” They can’t be more – he’s committed to his duty and she’s got her own life. Phone calls and the occasional meet up is the best they can hope for.

Then the Navy combines Hick’s team with the one headed by Matthew “Wolf” Steel to hunt down a terrorist cell intent on bring down Western culture. While Hick is out trying to save the world from fanatics, she’s concentrating on insuring her clients have a smooth convention. Neither knew their two worlds would collide so violently.

When the cell sets their sights on the literary exposition, Hick must rally the SEALs to save the day and his curvy bombshell. Nothing else matters but Rescuing Annabeth.

Annabeth

This is me.

frazzled

Ok.  I admit, it really isn’t me but it adequately describes how I feel at the moment. Frazzled.

Yep, that’s a word.

In case you may not know, each November is NaNoWriMo or “National Novel Writing Month.” It’s when writers all over the U.S. get together and pledge to write a full length novel in 30 days.  In order to reach this goal, there are write-ins, encouragements from established authors, sprint contests and an assortment of helpful tools.   I have never participated but this year I wanted to try.  My novel of choice – Rescuing Annabeth – Team Cerberus  Book 2  (though in the reading order of the series, it is actually book 4).

Ya’ll!   Seriously what was I thinking?  I am not a “on schedule” kind of gal.  I write when the muse hits me.  That may be three weeks of nothing then two days of 10 hours each.  But, I said I was going to do this and away I went.  True to my nature, I had days I didn’t write anything, but staring at that bar hovering just under the point of “where you should be today” was killing me.  So, I did a lot of spurts and in the end, I got it finished.  TWO DAYS AHEAD OF SCHEDULE!

Now, here it is, a week later and I’ve busted my hiney to get it done and out to the editor (Hi Janet!) and my Beta readers (Hey Hannah and Holly).  Next on the list – Artwork.

Now here is where the really frazzled part comes in.  I did the covers for both Protecting Joselyn and Saving Olivia.  They aren’t amazing, but I think I didn’t do too poorly on them.  However, I wanted to get a nice one for Annabeth so I contacted my go-to person for artwork, Najla Qamar.  (Ya’ll, if you haven’t seen her work, you are missing.  The woman is Ah-may-zing!)  Bad news – she’s booked solid until May.  Annabeth is scheduled to come out January 23.

Dangit!

So, that means its up to me to pull something together.   I spent hours going through stock photography and found nothing that called to me.  You see, Annabeth is a very particular kind of girl.  She’s a little curvy, a lot of sassy and is completely in love with her Navy SEAL.  He’s big, buff, protective with surfer dude kind of looks where she’s soft, freckled, redhead.  Nothing I saw came close to that.

Second round – ok, I think maybe I could photoshop the hair if I can find a curvy model that doesn’t look like she just got home from middle school.  (Annabeth is early 30s)  Please, no long Fabio hair for the man…

Third round – Come on.  Surely there are pictures that could possibly do that don’t involve kilts, swords, or regency clothing.

Fourth round – I’ve given up hope on finding a perfect picture.  Now, I’m ready to settle on “something that could possibly work if you squint your left eye and look at it very objectively or maybe with a couple of glasses of wine in you.”  With that in mind, I think I may have found something.

Maybe.

I am so not a graphic artist.  Seriously.

I’m going to fiddle around with this and see what I can come up with.  If it goes as good as the last few weeks, Annabeth’s cover may be a big black field with the words “Rescuing Annabeth” on the front.

Either way, look for a cover reveal in the next few weeks.  Rescuing Annabeth will be released on January 23 as a part of the mega release into Susan Stoker’s kindle world.

Until then..

MelissaSign

Can’t Buy Me Love

CBML Med

No matter if you are born into notoriety or achieve it, being in the limelight isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. Who can you trust and is the right one for you standing beside you? “Can’t Buy Me Love” is seven lovely stories centering around that very theme.

My contribution to the anthology is a novella called “Defending Demma.” It’s a part of my Team Cerberus Navy Seals series.

Demma St.John, young and rising starlet, landed the role of her career. Tapped to play the lead in a movie based on bestselling author Joselyn Chambers’ novel, it looked like she had everything going for her. She should be happy. Unfortunately, someone has found out her secret and is now blackmailing her. Terrified it will all come crashing down, she does the only thing she can do; she hires Starpower Inc. to keep her and her career safe.

Ryker “Digger” McMillan normally worked behind the scenes at the prominent agency representing some of the biggest names in Hollywood. Medically discharged from military service at twenty-six, he prefers to stay in the background, working his magic in the digital world. Tinsel town is a fickle world and none of the beautiful people wants to be seen with a horribly disfigured man. That is, until Demma St. John chose him.

When push turns to shove and faith turns to love, can Demma trust him enough to navigate the dangerous waters her past has produced or will this be her final curtain call?

“Can’t Buy Me Love” will be released on November 1, but it’s available for preorder now for only $0.99!!!

Click now!

 

The Lull in the Storm

Here I go again, falling down on my duty.  It’s been almost 6 weeks since my last blog.  Yikes!

So, where am I now in my bid to become “a great author”?

Answer: Just a little bit closer.

As you are aware, Saving Olivia hit the shelves in August.  Pre-orders were brisk – for a day.  I was hoping that Protecing Joselyn’s success would spur a little kickstart for Olivia.  Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.  While I am tickled pink about Joselyn’s success, Olivia’s reception was lackluster to say the least.  Disappointed?  Only a bit.  Olivia’s subject matter is much darker than any of my other books and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.  However, the people who did purchase Saving Olivia were extremely pleased with the book.  I have some fabulous reviews.

So, what’s next?

Inspell publishing, who published Reclamation at the first of this year is doing an anthology of short stories and novellas.  The subject matter is the rich and famous.  I’ve never participated in an anthology before so I figured why not?  The only problem I had was what story?

In Saving Olivia, you met a new member to the team, Ryker “Digger” McMillan. He’s a information technician who was medically discharged from the Marines after suffering an injury during an atack. He works for StarPower, Inc – an all inclusive corporation that caters to the rich and famous.  Yep…  sounds like a match made in heaven.  His leading lady was also introduced in Olivia.  Demma St. John is a rising starlet in Hollywood and she’s got a huge problem. She’s being blackmailed!  There we have the story, “StarPower, Inc.”    If you are a fan of Team Cerebrus, you will NOT want to miss this one! Digger is flawed, but when push comes to shove, he will protect his lady come hell or high water.  Oh, and just a little aside here – this is my first novella that can be considered “steamy”.  I didn’t go “full disclosure” (you guys that know me, know I’d be too embarassed to go graphic), but I did heat up the action quite a lot. The anthology will be released in November by Inspell Publishing.  As soon as it’s ready, I’ll let you know.

The number one question I get asked regarding the Cerebrus series is, “When will Hick and Annabeth get a story?”   The answer – It’s NEXT! That’s right.  You guys have already fallen in love with this quirky couple from Protecting Joselyn and Saving Olivia.  She’s the “tell it like it is” artist agent for Joselyn, he’s the “can’t cook if his life depended on it” jokester.  What happens when these two get together?  You’ll have to wait and see! Tentitive publication date is  January 2018.  I know, I know – it’s sooooo far away!  But great stories take time to develop and those two are only starting to whisper to me.  In the meantime, I’m finishing up a short story for Luna’s Children and editing Broken Melody.

That’s where we are at this time.  Oh, and if you happen to be in the Meridian area, I’ll be doing a meet and greet during the Art Walk on October 7, 2017 from 9-2 in front of the train station.  I have book cover postcards to give away along with “think rocks”.  Drop by and say hello!

That’s about it for now.  If you aren’t following me on twitter or instagram, jump on board! Here’s how to online stalk me if you are so inclined.

Website: https://www.mkclarke.com/ (includes newsletter signup)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Melissakayclarke/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MelissaKayClark
Blog: https://melissakayclarke.wordpress.com/
Email: Melissakayclark@yahoo.com
Instagram: @mkclarke

To paraphrase Digger –  Melissa out!

MelissaSign