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

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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

Saving Olivia

Saving Olivia just went up for pre-orders!

Saving Olivia at Amazon

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Two million people disappear into human trafficking every year. Olivia Parker would never have believed she could be one of them. Born to a barely functional prostitute mother and caring for her dependent brother, Olivia was determined to make their future better than their troubled past. Instead, she finds herself thrown into a nightmare from which she cannot awaken

Navy SEAL, Grayson “Bruiser” Titus, abandoned as a baby, creates a family with his SEAL team. But something is missing – could he find it with the intriguing beautiful sister of Jayden Parker? Meeting Olivia feels like looking at his future wrapped in a pair of deep hazel eyes.

Bruiser’s team would follow him into the pits of hell. It only stands to reason when Olivia disappears they rally around him. Being SEALs meant they often experienced the worse offerings of humanity, however this is personal. Saving her is a one-in-a-million long shot, but they will do whatever it takes to bring her home. The only question is: will it be in time to save both body and mind or will her new reality finally break her spirit?

*Warning – contains adult situations

*********** Excerpt***********
A little after five, Bruiser pulled out his telephone and noticed there were several missed calls. He had forgotten to turn the ringer back on after the hearing that morning. Connecting to his voice mail, he listened to the first one from Auntie Nat asking him if he had heard from Livy. He frowned and backed it up to catch the time stamp. It had been left hours ago.

Each of the subsequent messages sent off alarms and he sat up straight. At once, the rest of his team went silent, watching him as he posture took on one of alarm.

Bruiser, we can’t find Livy. She left work a little after noon today. I’ve tried to call her several times, but it goes to voice mail.
Please call me when you get this message.

Bruiser, it’s Natalie. Please call me as soon as you can.

Hello. Bruiser? Please call me. Livy is missing.

Bruiser, it’s important. We need you, please.

He looked up and saw his team tensed, watching him. Punching the buttons, he stood and started to pace.

“Hello?”

“Nat, it’s Bruiser. I just got your messages.”

“Bruiser, thank God. Is Livy with you?”

Something in Bruiser’s stomach clenched. His voice hitched. “No, I haven’t seen her since last night.”

Auntie’s voice took on a tremble. “She should have been home hours ago. I asked her to stop at the market on her way, but she never came home. I called the market; they haven’t seen her either. Her boss said she left around noon today.”

“I’ll find her.” He tossed some money on the table and started toward the door. Without looking, he knew his team was right behind. “If you hear from her, call me immediately.”

“Bring her home, Bruiser, please.”

“I will, Auntie.”

He hung up and stopped at his SUV. The team gathered around him. “SitOp?” Cowboy asked succinctly.

Bruiser raked his head with his hand. “Olivia’s missing. She was last seen around noon today. She left me a message at 12:18 saying she was going to the store. Her aunt hasn’t heard from her all day and messages are going to voice mail.” He stabbed at his telephone and called her number again.

Hi! This is Livy’s voice mail.

He punched the button, swore under his breath and dialed again. Muttering, “Olivia, pick up… Pick up the phone,” he snarled as her voice mail answered again. Resisting the urge to throw his cell against the wall, he tried her number again. This time, after three rings, someone answered. He punched the speaker so the team could hear.

“Hello?”

The voice wasn’t Olivia’s sweet tones. “Who is this?”

“It’s Margo. Who is this?”

“Margo, this is Bruiser, Olivia’s boyfriend. Is she there with you?”

“Hi, Bruiser. No, I just stepped out into the alley behind the shop on the way to my car after my shift when I heard her cell phone ring. It was under the trash can. The screen’s shattered.” Her voice stuttered. “Her…her purse is here too and one of her shoes.”

Bruiser swore. “Go back in the shop and call the police. I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

When the call disconnected, he stared down at the phone in his hand.

Cowboy gripped his friend’s shoulder. “I’m sure she’s fine, Bruise. We’ll find her.”

The others voiced their agreement. First, they needed to get to the coffee shop and talk to the police. Afterward, they would start searching. They would find her because there was no other option. Olivia was a friend, a sister-in-arms and most importantly, she was Bruiser’s and that made her theirs as well. She was one of them, and SEALs never left SEALs behind.
**********************************************

When fiction hits a little too close to home

Authors are a notorious bunch of opportunists.  We tend to find plot ideas everywhere we look.  Someone buys you lunch?  They could be a hero in your new book.  That jerk that cut you off this morning?  Instant villain.

I have been guilty of this very thing, myself.  Those who know me can probably see glimmers of myself, my friend Janet and my other friend Stacey in Carson, Zandria and Rachel from my Luna series.  I borrowed Scarlet’s given name, Holly, from another friend.  Joselyn is an author who enjoys green apple hard candies – sounds a little familiar.  Little things that affect us on a daily basis will end up in our writing in some form or another.

I’ve been working on my latest project, Saving Olivia.  It’s going to be the first official book in my Operation Cerberus series about Alpha male SEALs and the women they love and support.  Although Protecting Joselyn is in the same general world, it’s not a part of this series because it’s in Susan Stoker’s kindle world.  At best, it’s a .5 of the series since it does mention the rest of the SEAL team a couple of times.  Oh and River and Joselyn make appearances in this one as well.  But I digress.

I knew from the moment I started to write this one, what the story was going to be.  As Joselyn before her, Olivia’s story flowed like water.  For the first 2/3 of the book, I had no issues. I was merrily typing along and enjoying putting the story down.

Then the big drama hit.

Olivia was on her way home from work one day and just vanished without a trace. She has a  younger brother that depends on her who is left devastated by her loss. Where is she?  Why did she leave?  How could she ever leave him behind?

As I wrote this portion of her story, things became familiar to me and finally it dawned on me why.

When I was in high school, I had a very small group of friends.  Janet and Stacy were the biggest part of that but also another young lady was close to me.  We were both in band together and when we went on trips, we stuck together.  Her name is Jennifer Jackson Floyd.

In 1988, just a few  years after graduating, Jennifer got a phone call while she was at work.  Upset and crying, she left her job.  Most would assume something was wrong with her 1 year old daughter.  She never made it home and  Jennifer was never heard from again.

This year has been 29 years since she disappeared.  Some think she left on her own, that she got tired of her life and just left.  If you ever saw her with her daughter, you would know just how untrue that is.  Jennifer would never, in a billion years, ever leave that baby behind.  Everything she was, everything she did, it was all geared toward giving her baby the best possible life.  She didn’t leave willingly.

So what happened?  We probably will never know.

As I was sending bits and pieces to Janet as a sounding board, she caught the theme immediately.  “You realize this is Jennifer?”

Yes, I realize it.  Though I had only recognized it a couple of days earlier, myself.  Olivia has become Jennifer.  With that realization, I was suddenly bombarded with doubt.  How can I ever portray her correctly?  How can I ever give any of the emotions surrounding something so life altering as a missing loved one any kind of justice.

Every word since then has been hard.  Last night, I laid in bed thinking about it and had come to the decision to rip out all the parts of the story that resembled Jennifer and start over.  I’d make it about something else.  I wouldn’t do her story an injustice.

Then today, it occurred to me.  If I do that, then I would be perpetuating a grave injustice to both Olivia and Jennifer.  This story needs to be told.  Jennifer didn’t have her HEA, but I can do that for Olivia.  I can give her the life she so richly deserves.

So I’ll continue on.  I have no idea when Olivia will be ready. I sincerely don’t know and I think that’s probably why I haven’t announced a publication date.  Now that I understand the story and it’s intensely emotional ties to my personal life, I should be able to finish it.  Maybe.

Sometimes our inspiration is found in the funny things in life.  Other times it’s something that touches something deep inside. I didn’t intend on telling Jennifer’s story through Olivia, but I’m not backing down.  This is what Olivia is.  It’s what I need to do.

Accept the inspiration, no matter where it comes. That is my new mantra. I think in this instance, even if I don’t sell a single copy of Saving Olivia, I’ve already won.  I won for Olivia and I won for Jennifer.

MelissaSign

Terrorists, Traffickers and Money Laundering

There is something in writing called “suspension of disbelief”.  It is a term coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge and is defined as, “a willingness to suspend one’s critical faculties and believe the unbelievable; sacrifice of realism and logic for the sake of enjoyment”. In order for a story to be really great, the writer has to make it believable.  That, in itself, is a bit of magic. The reader has to feel what the characters feel, see what they see and take every step along the way with them.  If it’s not done correctly, the reader can’t empathize with them and the story is ruined.  Writers have to work very hard to create this atmosphere of believably.  That means research – TONS of research. Once upon a time, that meant long hours in libraries gathering physical information. Now, we have the entire world online.  Can we say, “Thank you, Google?”

This brings its own set of problems.  Everything on the web is ON THE WEB – not only all the data you could want but also records of what you were looking at. There is a tee-shirt making the rounds that I absolutely love.  It says, “I am a writer, not a serial murderer no matter what my search history says.”  That one phrase sums up a lot of writers, me included.  I write suspense romance.  That one theme runs through all my books – I like for my characters to face and overcome some ‘great evil’.  That means I have to research evil things.  Case in point – recent history for my browser includes things like, terrorist cells, human trafficking, illegal immigration and the effect of electrocution on the human nervous system.  If you didn’t know I was a writer, you may assume I am some sort of terrorist.  In a way, I guess I am but only for my poor characters.  God bless their little hearts, but the more horrific their ordeals, the more relieved the readers will be when everything is done.  If a reader sits back and says, “Whew, thank heavens that’s over” then I know I’ve done my job correctly.

It’s a common joke among writers that we are all on a government watch list.  It would make sense if the CIA or FBI or NSA or some other 3 lettered government group are looking for certain phrases to ferret out potential problems.  Perhaps we are.  It’s a sacrifice we make to entertain others.

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to book a public appearance.  As is norm for me, I began researching what I would need.  I realized one of the big items was a banner to call attention to my booth.  A new banner meant new graphics.  I wanted professional quality that I could be proud of so immediately I decided to not do it myself.  I turned to the very talented Najla Qamber who is the fantastic artist responsible for Reclamation’s cover.

Ya’ll – she knocked it out of the ball park!   I can’t wait for you to see what she put together for me.  I’m speechless and totally love it.  It’s going to be gorgeous on a full size banner.  Sorry – I was gushing there for a moment, but it really is spectacular.

So, anyway, back to the story.  I approved the design.  She sent an invoice.  I went online to pay it through paypal today.

Declined.

Wait.. what?  Hmmm, I must have done something wrong in my fangirl haste to get my grubby little paws on my new epicness.  Slow down.  Breathe.  You can do this.  Paypal.  Pay invoice.  FCU…. Yep.  Click.

NOPE.  Declined.

That’s when it hit me.  Ms. Qamber lives in the Middle East.  My little FCU in Mississippi isn’t going to allow me to send funds to her without a lot of hassle, paperwork and maybe a few interrogations.  I understand their thinking. They are trying to protect me from scams from another country.  Thank you but I really need to send this.  Daggum it, looks like I’m going to have to *gasp* leave my little cave and go out into ‘the world’ and *gasp* *gasp* INTERACT WITH PEOPLE???

I am not agoraphobic but I am extremely introverted. I really don’t want to leave if I can help it. How can I get out of this predicament?

I had an epiphany.

To make a long story short (I know, too late), I talked with a mutual friend and sent the money to her.  She, in turn, sent it on to Najla.  Bada bing – it’s done!

Right after I hit the send, the ramifications of what I had just done hit me.  I sent money to someone who, in turn, sent it overseas.

I’ve laundered money.

I’m a money launderer.

If I suddenly disappear, I’ve probably been snatched by some covert team (Please, GOD let it be SEALs!) and am being interrogated about my search history and my money laundering.

This is the exciting life of an Author.

Hey, wait… that could be a good plot.. an author captured by a team of SEALs over her search history and $40.00 money laundering…… hot SEALs… hot sexy SEALs….

Excuse me, ya’ll.  I need to go.

—Melissa