Mercedes Fox ~ Author

My Writing Blog

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Meet Author Daryl Banner

Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat featuring author Daryl Banner

Daryl Banner is an author and composer who graduated from the University of Houston with a degree in Theater and Psychology. He writes new adult romance, M/M romance, post-apocalyptic fantasy, and dystopian.

When did you decide to become a writer?  I first realized I wanted to be a storyteller when I wrote my first play that became a full production. I peeked through the curtains and saw how the audience reacted. I felt my work come to life. The transition from that experience to writing and publishing novels has cemented in my mind that this is what I’m meant to do.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book?  Purely depends on the series. My romances can take me about a month to a month and a half to write. An installment to the Outlier series can take me a year, due to its complexity and length.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?  I tend to write more methodically during the day. At night is when I’m more creative, so if a decision needs to be made or I hit a wall, then I work at night.

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write?  I like to listen to video game music while I write. I’m a huge gamer at heart, so it keeps me quite inspired while I go. I also listen to instrumental versions of alternative music I like. Rarely, I do listen to bands when I write, but it’s gotta be something that digs into my psyche and doesn’t pull me from my inner narrative. Nirvana is really good for that. So is Radiohead. Nine Inch Nails as well.

What have you written?  I’m the author of the Beautiful Dead series, which is a post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure featuring a smart, rebellious female teenager – who happens to be undead.  I’ve also written the College Obsession Romance Series, which includes Read My Lips, and Beneath The Skin (and I’m working on book three right now titled With These Hands). My other titles include M/M romance: The Brazen Boys series, as well as a standalone called Football Sundae. I’m also the author of the OUTLIER series, which is a dystopian saga with a vast score of characters set in the last remaining city on Earth as they fight to survive under an oppressive governing regime. In my college days, I wrote a lot of plays and poetry as well.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? It really depends on the series. The Brazen Boys – due to their being standalone novellas – are started with a basic idea and (in the case of most of them) an ending, and then I just write them. The Beautiful Dead I “loosely” planned and then wrote it with the intention of surprising myself, as the main character Winter was somewhat hard to control; she had such a mind of her own. OUTLIER, due to its extreme complexity and magnitude of characters (both POV and non-POV characters), I had to plan it out chapter-to-chapter, but still reserved the right to make a split decision and surprise myself. There’s nothing more thrilling than breaking my own carefully-laid-out outlines mid-story.

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website? I design all of my own book covers with the exception of my College Obsession Romance series, in which I hired Kari Ayasha from Cover To Cover Designs. She did an excellent job on those covers!

Any advice for aspiring authors?  Never stop writing. Chase the inspiration. And be true to your characters; it’s your responsibility to tell their story, and you are *literally* the only person in the world who can do it.

What is the current book you are promoting? I am currently writing and teasing the third (standalone) novel in my College Obsession Romance series titled With These Hands.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?  I can answer this by mentioning my toughest criticism. I was given it right after publishing my very first book – that the character was unlikable, even hateful, and totally unrelatable. It was tough because so much of that character was based directly off of me, so it felt like a very personal criticism. But my greatest growth came – unknowingly – from handling that very criticism. I “listened” to it. I started to embrace the flaws in my characters, the shortcomings, the mistakes we make as human beings. When people fell in love with the flawed heroes and heroines in my later books, I felt like I was witnessing my own growth as a writer firsthand.

What do your readers mean to you? They mean the world to me. Without them, I’m just a guy in his room telling stories to himself. My readers are my friends. Even more than that, they’re my companions through these stories I tell.




There ya have it folks! For more about Daryl, his work, and getting your own copy, follow the links below:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon / Instagram / YouTube

Meet Author Madelyn Morgan

Hola! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat featuring author Madelyn Morgan

Madelyn Morgan is a music business marketing executive. After years of using her creative talent for the benefit of others, she decided to focus on her first love, writing. She also hosts a weekly radio segment (her second love), also called Mad About Men, which airs on WIYY, Baltimore. Morgan lives in New York City with her teenage kid (her true love), who is not allowed to read this book until she’s 18. Maybe 21. Maybe never.

Book sample:  MAD ABOUT MEN, a MenMoir

Genre: Humor, Memoir

Synopsis:  MAD ABOUT MEN IS:

  • A (mostly) true, laugh-out-loud account of a successful executive single mother’s search for love.
  • “Racy, raw, sometimes vulgar, always hilarious,” according to a guy in Chapter 32 who actually read it.
  • An account of dating and sex from a liberated, confident, unapologetic MILF in her 40s.
  • A warmly relatable story, even though it sounds like a sordid, lustful tale of promiscuity (which it also is, the author admits).


  • A self-help book about relationships.
  • About a woman who finds herself after some extreme, soul-searching, incredible journey.
  • A sticking-finger-in-throat sappy account of finding true love and living happily ever after.
  • Only for women to read.

Madelyn gains a new perspective on relationships after a series of major losses (some devastating, some not so much). Root for her as she entertains each potential suitor and laugh with her (or at her) as she tries to make sense of what she wants, what men want, and what to do next. Whether or not you’ve ever swiped right, Match’ed, or flirted with the flight attendant, you’ll relate to Madelyn’s search for love and (hot) sex—not necessarily in that order. Go ahead and judge her, she won’t mind.

Sample:  CHAPTER 1:  BANG!

My editor said I needed to start this book with a bang. So here goes…

One day, I had phenomenal sex with a particularly gorgeous personal trainer from my gym. He had the most stunningly perfect body, as those trainers tend to have. Caramel skin, abs like you read about in Six Pack magazine, thick, gorgeous, kissable lips, tricep cuts—one of my favorite parts of a fit man’s body—and the perfect-sized dick with a sweet little tattoo of unknown design in that sexy area just below his perfectly protruding hip bone.

We had been flirting hard for several months, until one Saturday afternoon at the gym we hugged each other “hello” so tightly that it was obvious something else was brewing.

After we had a spontaneous lunch together that same day, we went for a long walk along the Manhattan waterfront, held hands, and made out like high-schoolers. When he walked me back to my apartment there was very little discussion about what would be happening next.

I had been wanting to be properly laid for a long time. It’s not that I wasn’t having sex regularly with my then-boyfriend; it was just bad sex. One-way sex. I was in a rut and needed my world rocked, which it was on that day, multiple times.

I’m not sure if this is what my editor meant by start the book with a bang.


So, now let me back up and introduce myself. Wait. First, did you read Eat, Pray, Love? I know, I know, stop gagging. You may roll your eyes at that reference, or you can just admit that it was an excellent read and her journey was amazing and the book was brilliant, but it was just that disappointing movie that’s making you react negatively. Anyway, early in the book, Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t recount the details of her marriage’s end. She gave you just enough of the story so you could follow along on her journey. So, I think a nice bullet-point summary will bring you up to speed here.

  • I work in the music business.
  • I married a guy I met through work.
  • I had a miscarriage, then had a genius-perfect-child, then another miscarriage. One for three—that was enough of that pregnancy madness.
  • Four years after genius-perfect-daughter’s arrival, I had started a new job in which I was expected to deliver big results. This involves generally having your shit together. Upon my beginning said job, within a six-month period of time:
    • My husband left me.
    • My mother died.
    • My sister died.

That kind of shit seriously fucks with you. One or maybe two of those things happening in a year is bad enough. But I felt like the dump truck of hell had just backed up making that annoying beeping noise, positioned itself right over me, reared up, and unloaded a full bed of steaming, hellish contents on my head, stopped beeping, and then drove off.

What is the current book you are promoting? I am currently promoting my “men-moir,” MAD ABOUT MEN. It’s a memoir. It’s about men. Hence, menmoir. In the book’s disclaimer, I declared it a new genre; creative-memoir-non-fiction-biography-humor type thingy. Some of the stories, names, dialogues have been fictionalized, mainly so I don’t get sued for humor’s sake.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?  I had been regularly emailing my best friend, Chloe, with the dating stories that are in the book, as they were happening. Many of our emails are actually featured in the book, and they help tell the story. She found them hilarious, and at one point, she threatened to “start a blog,” because she figured other people would also find my writing funny.

I thought, “Why should she start a blog with my stories?” and that sparked the idea to form my stories into something more cohesive. Originally, I thought I’d write them like short stories that could stand on their own, but also relate to each other, like a David Sedaris collection (he’s one of my faves). But then, as I got going, the stories started to interconnect, and I realized I actually had a book in me. So that’s when I decided to get serious about writing it.

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?  My favorite time to write is in the morning, with my coffee. I could spend hours without eating, or drinking (anything but my one cup of coffee), or peeing, while my creative juices flow. Unfortunately, I have a day job. I actually have several day jobs. I also have a kid. And, I like to work out first thing in the morning. So, those blissful, peaceful, productive mornings are very rare.

I also like to write while I’m on a plane. No matter how long or short, a flight is a nice stretch of time where no one bothers me, I don’t get distracted, and I’m basically strapped to my seat, forced to focus.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?  Honestly, the hardest thing about writing my book was replying “APPROVED” after reviewing the final PDF proof from the publisher. Once I APPROVED it, there was no turning back.

It was difficult, but fun, and cathartic to write the book. It was encouraging to share it with my editor, and a few friends – people who already know me ­– because they all enjoyed it. It was exciting to talk about it “coming soon,” on my radio show.

But the point of no return, that moment of hitting SEND on the approval email, was the hardest thing. I instantly had second thoughts. The book is very personal, and it’s scary to think what people who don’t know the true me will think after reading it. I really just wanted a laugh, so hopefully that can happen, even at my expense. I have received some great reviews and positive feedback, so that’s very encouraging.

Which writers inspire you?  I enjoy writers who make me laugh. Tops on my list are David Sedaris, Augusten Burroughs (who brought me to tears of laughter more than once), and Chelsea Handler. I also fell in love with Kate Mulgrew’s memoir, although it’s not at all funny, she is a brilliant writer and an incredible talent. After I read her memoir, I thought, “Oh, mine is crap. I can’t write my stupid book.”

I’ve read a zillion memoirs in the name of comparative research, and one that particularly stood out was Aziz Ansari’s. Also Taraji P. Henson’s personal story was very moving. Not that either have anything to do with inspiring my writing, I just wanted to give those a shout out.  Honorable mention to Jessi Klein and Jenny Lawson for their humor writing chops.

If your book were made into a movie, whom would you cast?  Funny you should ask, because my book is currently being created into a television series. Everyone involved has their own idea of who should play me, but I can’t really see any of them. Maybe I’m too close to it, I don’t know. Maybe we should just have a casting call and hire a charming, funny, talented new-comer.

Where do you come up with your stories? As you know if you read MAD ABOUT MEN, my life is not very traditional nor simple. My stories come from my own experiences. Believe it or not, I have more than what’s in the book. And now, I am having few email exchanges with readers who reached out to share their own experiences. I am actually going to use some of those (with permission, of course), because at some point I’ll run out of my own. But it’s nice to know that I’m not alone, and that many women can relate, and have their own similar dating horror stories. I welcome any and all readers to share theirs with me!

Do you or have you sat down and read your book fresh off the presses as if it wasn’t yours? And if you did, what was it like?  Oh, so, other people do that? Yes, I did do that! I read my entire book from beginning to end in one sitting when the test print arrived. It was very gratifying. Until I found a typo. MF: OMG! I’m rolling here! That’s funny!

What book are you currently reading or just finished?  I just finished The List, by British comedy writer, Joanna Bolouri, and I’m on to her next one now called I Followed The Rules. This woman is hilarious. I even wrote her an email after I read The List, commending her on her bravery for tackling the subject of sex in great depth. Like a fan, I emailed her, and she emailed me back! Also, I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I love getting emails from people who read my book and have something to say. Can you relate? Do you have a horror story to share? Have a question? I encourage you to reach out if you are so compelled.

There ya have it folks! Many thanks Madelyn! For more about Madelyn, her work, and to get your own copy, follow the links below:

Website / Blog / Facebook / Twitter / SoundCloud / Goodreads / Amazon / Instagram

Meet Author Kathryn Sommerlot

Hello! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Kathryn Sommerlot

Kathryn grew up in the American midwest, among the cornfields and gravel roads. She originally attended university and graduated with an art degree to pursue a career in graphic design, but changed her mind at the age of 25. She went to graduate school to become a TESOL educator, and now teaches high school English in Japan, where she lives with her husband.

Book sample: “The Life Siphon”, fantasy (adult)

The kingdom of Runon has created the impossible: a magical energy source that siphons life from the nearby lands and feeds it back into Runon itself. On the edge of the forest lives a quiet ranger named Tatsu, who is watching the drain grow closer to his home country of Chayd.

Arrested for crimes against the crown, Tatsu is taken to the capital’s prison, where the queen offers him a deal. If he travels into Runon and steals the magical source that powers the drain, she will return his freedom. Caught in the unimaginable aftermath, Tatsu knows that the only hope is to stop the siphon before it swallows the world.

More and more, he finds himself at the mercy of the destruction the siphon leaves behind – and everything he has ever known will fall apart in the revelation of its horrifying truth.

When did you decide to become a writer? I’ve been writing stories since before I can remember, so I doubt it was ever a conscious decision. It just doesn’t feel quite right if I’m not writing something. But I never wanted to base my life off something I enjoyed, or risk losing the passion, so I never pursued writing as a full-time career.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? I wrote fanfiction for years – I’ll admit it! Writing fanfiction was the biggest thing that improved my writing. Not only was I writing almost constantly, words upon words upon words, but I had an entire online community of friends and like-minded people who would offer advice, constructive criticism, and encouragement. It hugely impacted my evolution as an author, and it’s probably the most beneficial part of my creative past.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? I never used to use outlines because I wanted a more natural evolution, but I use them pretty extensively now, and it’s been incredibly helpful. I still end up adding scenes as I write that feel organic, and then add them into the outline after the fact, but at least I’ve got the majority of the necessary scenes plotted out before I start.

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website? I used the incredibly talented Jenny at Seedlings Design Studio for my latest book, and will be using her again for the follow-up. She was amazing to work with, and I highly recommend her! (!/HOME)

Give us an insight into your main character. What does he do that is so special? Part of what I wanted to do with my latest protagonist came from my frustration that fantasy – at least the low fantasy I’ve been reading lately – doesn’t have a lot of diversity in main characters. I think everyone should be able to read about a hero or heroine that is similar to them, but most of the time, these characters and relationships play a minor role rather than taking center stage. I wanted to offer something new to that, so my male protagonist is bisexual. I don’t think LGBTQ+ works all need to fall into a single labeled genre. Instead, I want genre fiction that just happens to have LGBTQ+ protagonists. From this idea, the rest of the story grew naturally, so he’s the focal point for a lot of the work.

What is the hardest thing about writing? Editing! I hate it – it’s my least favorite part of the entire process. I’m very much a “write it and move on” person, so having to spend months laboring over word choice feels like such a chore to me.

Which writers inspire you? I used to get a lot of books on Amazon that were recommended by the site or came up as a promotional deal, and I never really looked at the author or who they published with. As a result, I read a lot of self-published works that I never even knew were self-published. Authors like Intisar Khanani have really inspired me to self-publish and stop feeling so guilty about doing it my own way. Also Susan Ee and A.R. Ivanovich are inspirations, as well as some traditionally published authors like Rae Carson.

What is the current book you are promoting? “The Life Siphon” is my most recent work, which is the first in a duology, so in addition to promoting that, I’m working on the second book in the storyline.

Do you have any formal education in creative writing? If not are you planning to go to school? I minored in English in undergraduate, which included a creative writing course, and I was rejected from the University of Iowa’s graduate writing program, so I suppose that’s something!

Who is your favorite fictional character and why? Lorelai Gilmore. Not a book character, I know, but Gilmore Girls was a huge part of the making of my adult self, and I quote it endlessly. Lorelai is definitely a life-spiration for me, even now.

Who inspires your writing? My husband, definitely. And my beta readers are huge inspirations – they encourage me so much to write more! Having people read it chapter by chapter as I write it really helps the evolution of the story from a reader’s perspective, and they always offer such wonderful insight.

Would you say there is a stigma to being self-published? I think there definitely is, and I perpetuate part of that myself. When people ask me about my work, and are impressed that I’m published, I always follow it up by saying, “Oh, but it’s just self-published, so don’t get too excited.” Then I wonder why I do that. Writing a book and putting so much work into it must be a big thing on its own, but somehow, I feel like I have to justify that it’s not the same as an agent picking it up and deciding it’s worth backing. I probably need to adjust the way I react to people to help diminish the stigma!

There ya have it folks! For more about Kathryn, her work, and to get you own copy, follow the links below:

Website / Goodreads / Amazon

Meet Author Kathleen Cochran

Hola! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author Kathleen Cochran

Kathleen Cochran is a writer and former newspaper reporter and editor who raised three children while traveling the world as a soldier’s better half.  After a career in journalism, she consulted on several local political campaigns and worked for not-for-profits before turning her fulltime attention to writing.  Her books are on Amazon: a women’s fiction, a memoir, a mystery, a novella, and a volume of poetry.  Cochran also is an author on where you can find more than 150 articles on subjects ranging from politics to parenting.

Enjoy this book sample of Kathleen’s work: Take This Man is women’s fiction.  Three women, who were married to the same soldier at different times of his life, meet – at his funeral.  Sparks fly.  Intimacies are shared. And at the end of the day, they have learned more about him and each other than they could have imagined.

My War – a wife’s story is a memoir about the author and her family living in Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm.  While teaching English at a women’s language school, her husband trained Saudi soldiers for what would become known as the First Gulf War.  She and her children dodged SCUD missiles and dealt with the threat of chemical warfare before evacuating back to the states in the middle of nighttime attack.

Lord, Lord is a mystery.  A woman dies and goes to Heaven only to find out she was murdered.  She learns who did it by learning about the people in her life who do and do not follow her to Heaven.

If you use a Pen Name why did you choose it?  I use Kathleen because it is my unused middle name.  I use Cochran as an homage to my paternal grandmother.  My parents were divorced.  It wasn’t until my daughter’s marriage ended, and she and my two grandchildren had to live three states away from me, that I realized what an effort my Grandma Cochran had made to stay in my life.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book?  I wrote my first one in a matter of weeks – and it showed!  My three that are on Amazon each took about three years.  I do the Stephen King three drafts, but the time-consuming thing is re-writes after my proofreaders finish their work. That is the hardest part of self-publishing: deciding the book is finished.  Years later, if I’ve found a spelling or grammatical error, I’ll still upload a new file.  Errors drive me nucking futs! MF: Commas… I hate commas….

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?  I wrote my first book, which will never see the light of day, after my family and I went through Desert Storm while living in Saudi Arabia.  I know.  Most writers don’t get such a vivid jump-start.  When I finished “Who Knew”, my husband told me if I never wrote another word, I could be proud that I’d actually started and finished a whole book.  How many people who say they’d like to write a book, actually do it?  I loved him for that, and 20 years later I used the skeleton of that book for “My War.”  Never delete anything you’ve written!  In fact, “Lord, Lord” includes the beginnings of about a half dozen manuscripts!

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?  My best time to write is at two different times of day:  pre-dawn and the couple of hours before dinner.  If I wake up and get right to work, I get a lot more done.  But if for some reason – like life getting in the way – I don’t sit down to write until late in the day, I find I can be very productive.  I think it’s the newspaper reporter in me.  I’m great when I’m up against a deadline.  “The presses run on time” is a good motivator to get the work done.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively? I hope I’ve learned from my own mistakes.  I’ve received some very good advice from my close friends who have progressed from proofreaders to editors.  Some of the best advice I received was to read voraciously and watch movies by writers I hope to emulate.  It’s a poor man’s way to learn dialogue and comedic timing.  Of course, finding the failings in another’s work is easier than spotting those failings in your own.  And sometimes it’s downright discouraging.  I read Diana Gabaldon and wonder why I even bother?

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write? The news is usually on in the background.  I’m a junkie.

What have you written?  I’ve written poetry, tour guides, newsletters, press releases, brochures, advertising copy, short stories, news articles, features, editorials, annual reports, research papers, articles on various subjects, a memoir, and novels. I think the only form of writing I haven’t done is ransom notes.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you? For the book I’m working on right now, I’m using a timeline because it is historical fiction.  I want my story to be in sync with the actual events that happened during the lead-up to World War II.  In every other instance, I start with an idea and see where it takes me.  I’m as surprised as anyone with how the story ends.  Often, it becomes a different story that I started out intending to write.  “Lord, Lord” became an entirely different book as it progressed.

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website?  I’ve designed all my covers except one.  The cover for “My War” was designed by a graphic artist, Debbie Celusniak.  She captured the story in the cover in a way I never could.  For the others, I used CreateSpace cover creator.  It was fun and easy.

Is there any marketing technique you used that had an immediate impact on your sales figures? Yes.  I stopped looking for an agent or a publisher and I put my books on Amazon via CreateSpace.  I haven’t made a fortune, but I’ve made a damned sight more than I did when my books were just sitting on my computer.  Still, marketing a book is actually harder than writing one.  Nobody wants to tell a new author that fact.  I’m always looking for that One Thing that will put my work into the hands of more readers.

Any advice for aspiring authors?  Write. Talking about it is fine.  Reading about it is fine.  But at some point, you have to sit down and do it.  As sportswriter Red Smith said, “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”  Nobody ever said it was easy.  But there is a reason Stephen King has written 100 books.  Every day he writes 2000 words.  If he finishes a book after writing 1990 words, he starts a new one. Don’t just want to be a writer.  Be one.  Write.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?  Lord, Lord was written while I was grieving for my mother.  Some members of my family didn’t like it because they saw members of our family in it in an unflattering light (for all my efforts to hide similarities.) But the main reason I write under a penname is so I don’t edit out the heart of the story for fear of offending people I know.  And this story came right from my heart, much more than anything I’d written before.  Grief is a strong emotion.  I hope that strength comes through my words.

Which writers inspire you? Aaron Sorkin and Susannah Grant (Both screenwriters, but great dialog writers to immolate.)

You mentioned you’re writing a new story. How about a teaser?  I’m writing a historical thriller about the unintended consequences of some of the choices America has made throughout our history.  This story involves the romance between Britain’s King Edward and Mrs. Wallis Simpson and the consequences that led to England surviving World War II.

Do you have any formal education in creative writing? I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Georgia.

Do you have any “how to write” type books/instructional you’d like to recommend?  “On Writing” by Stephen King

Where do you come up with your stories? All my work comes from my own life that I subsequently often turn into fiction.  (Writers will get that!) Even my current work in progress is loosely based on the life of my great aunt who travelled the world as a single woman in the 1930s.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer? You don’t have to be another Harper Lee or Diana Gabaldon.  Only you have your voice.  Be true to it.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?  For 20 years I searched for an agent or a publisher.  All I got for my efforts was a stack of rejection letters.  Self-publishing has leveled the playing field.  My work is out in the marketplace right along with all the other authors.  My goal is to be read.  Now it is possible.

Tell us something unique about you.  During my husband’s Army career, I traveled to five continents, living in two of them – Germany and Saudi Arabia.

Is there anything else you would like to add?  No, but I always asked this last question too when I’d interview someone for my newspaper.  Great minds . . . !

How can readers discover more about you and you work? Visit to read excerpts from my books and articles.

There ya have it folks! Thanks much Kathleen for sharing! For more about Kathleen, her work, and to get your copy, follow the links below:

Website / Goodreads / Amazon

Meet Author EJ Divitt

Hola! Welcome to Interview FoxSeat with guest author EJ Divitt

EJ lives with her husband in a little house she plans to live in forever. EJ prefers reading to sleeping, walking to running, tea over coffee and fall over winter. She met her husband in a karate class where he went on to vastly outpace her three stripe brown belt. EJ is between dogs right now and has a tendency to kill houseplants.

Book sample:  Ghost Of A Chance, paranormal fantasy

Two weeks, four days and about fourteen hours after we bury my father, I find myself dreaming of him. It’s as real as if his spirit is standing in front of me. I’m in a room about ten feet by thirty feet. One entire wall is mirrors. There are mats on the floor and the wall opposite the mirrors has a variety of weapons on it. I don’t have time to look them over as my father is standing beside me telling me to punch faster. He is wearing his police uniform and while I feel it should be out of place in this room, some how it is exactly how I expect him to look. He stands about 5’8” with short black hair; his Chinese heritage slightly more pronounced than mine. I glance down and realize I’m crouched with my legs spread about twice shoulder width apart.
“Keep your back straight,” my father tells me as I punch forward with my left hand. “Again,” he says as I punch with my right. There is a rhythm to it that feels old as though this is something I have done a thousand times before. I see myself reflected in the mirror and shift to use myself as a target while I punch. I’m wearing loose, white pants and a black, short-sleeved t-shirt. My long black hair is gathered back in a ponytail and it swishes as I turn with the punches; occasionally my hair slaps the side of my face or neck. I lose myself in the rhythm of the punches as he walks around me to check my form.
I smile as I punch faster now. I feel the burn of my muscles starting to work. My father says something in Chinese and though I don’t consciously know the words, I immediately drop and begin to do push-ups. My father drops down next to me and begins to do them as well. Minutes pass without a word being spoken as we push up from the floor and drop down again. I find myself completely lost in the rhythm of it and for the first time in over two weeks, my heart doesn’t ache at the thought of my father. Almost as soon as I realize this, the scene changes. We are still in the room but now we are standing facing the wall of weapons. Father reaches out and takes down two long wooden sticks—more like staffs—and something inside me knows one is called a bo. He throws one towards me and I catch it out of the air without conscious thought.
We begin to warm up by twirling the bos around us; over our heads. Father begins moving his as if striking to the right and then the left, back and forth, and I follow him into the moves. Soon we add overhead strikes and stabs downward. I find myself clacking the bo against his in what is obviously a predetermined workout set. Strike low; strike high. We begin to move around the room, striking each other’s bos. I misstep and his bo catches my knuckle. It stings and I stop to shake my hand out. I look down at my hand and see a red welt already forming across the knuckle.
“Are you going to tell me to pay more attention?” I ask looking up at his face with a smile. My smile falters as I see his face flickering in and out. I stop, letting my weapon arm fall to my side.
“You died,” I say.
“I know,” he replies, “I’m sorry, Jenny. It was not my choice.”
He drops the hand holding his weapon, too, and moves as though to step towards me but he stops, hand out stretched, as though he has hit a wall. He lets his hand fall and simply looks at me.
“I thought I had more time. I allowed your mother to stop your training because I thought I had years yet.”
“You were only 45. You should have had years yet. We should have had decades more together,” I say, tears starting to fall. “You will never walk me down the aisle or hold your grandchild. You won’t get to see Tommy learn to ride a bike or go to his prom. Your son barely knows you. He is only two and a half. He will forget you. You will be nothing but photos on the computer. It’s not fair.”
“No,” he says, “it is not fair. But life is not fair, my little Tiger. That is why the world has always needed people such as us. To help make it more fair; to keep the balance.”
I shake my head at him. “People like us? You’re the policeman. I’m fresh out of high school and working at a used book store. People need cheap reading material? I know,” I say, holding up my hand, “once I finish college and get my psychiatry degree maybe I can learn to do something good but now I’m nothing.”
It is his turn to shake his head now and the effect of it as his face flickers in and out is almost nauseating. “No one is nothing. Everyone has a place and a purpose. Some choose their purpose and others have it thrust upon them but no one is useless. Everyone is someone. The world has use for us all.”
I walk over to the wall and put the bo back up on its rack. Tears thicken my voice as I say, “I don’t understand this. Where are we?”
“We are in our dojo,” he replies. “This is where we used to train when you were little. Do you remember?”
“Obviously I do. Otherwise I wouldn’t be having this dream.”
“This is not a dream, my little Tiger, and if it were, it would not be your dream. It would be mine,” my father says.
I laugh a little at the thought, and hearing a buzzing noise, turn my head towards it. When I start to look back, I see a black shadow out of the corner of my eye. It reaches for my father. I whip my head back towards him yelling, “No.” My father turns towards it and raises his bo as if to block it. I dart towards the weapons on the wall but before I can reach them, my father and the shadow disappear. I find myself bolting upright in bed, my alarm clock blaring.
I throw back the covers and slide my legs over the side of the bed. I slap the display on my phone to silence it and take deep breaths to calm down. Rubbing my hand over my face, I hop down to the floor. “It was just a dream,” I tell myself as I walk towards the bedroom door and the bathroom beyond it. I keep telling myself that as I shower and wash my hair.
“But it felt so real,” I murmur to myself as I dry off. “No surprise really. I’m sure my psychiatry books would say I’m trying to create more memories of my father right now or that it is my subconscious denial of his death.” I talk to my reflection as I comb out my long black hair. But as I watch myself in the mirror, I notice the red mark on my knuckle right where the stick in my dream hit it. I must have banged it on my nightstand in my sleep and incorporated it into my dream but I continue to stare at the mark long after I should have gotten moving.

If you use a Pen Name why did you choose it?  I’ve always wanted to write and I grew up thinking a pen name was just what you did; plus my actual last name is ridiculously long.

Why do you write?  I write my nonfiction to be helpful; to answer questions and give advice. I write my fiction because I have all these ideas in my head and it’s challenging and fun and frustrating and wonderful to get them all down.

When did you decide to become a writer?  I’ve wanted to write since I discovered books.

How long does it usually take you to complete a book?  That depends entirely on what I’m writing. I did the rough draft of I’m Engaged! Now What? after working continuously for about eight hours straight one day after having spent a lot of time helping a friend plan her wedding. The rough draft for book three of my trilogy, Ghost Of A Memory, took me months.

What made you decide to sit down and actually start something?  The first novel I ever wrote was a result of trying National Novel Writing Month aka NaNoWriMo. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a challenge to write a novel of at least 50,000 words in 30 days. You can find them at

Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?  I have a full time job and a husband so I tend to grab time to write where I can. This often means going to a bookstore or a coffee shop on Sunday and writing.

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?  I think the more you write the better you get at all of it. My first novel will probably never get past the desk drawer it’s currently sitting in. I’ve become better at story structure and better at creating characters with every book.

Do you listen to music or watch TV/movie while you write?  I sometimes listen to music. I never watch TV because I feel having a story unfold around me interferes with my ability to plot out my own story.

What have you written?  I have multiple nonfiction titles out including Daily Writing Prompts To Help You Get Started and I’m Engaged! Now What? I also have my paranormal fantasy trilogy, The Ghost Protector Trilogy which starts with Ghost Of A Chance.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just seeing where an idea takes you?  I usually started with an idea for a character and then brainstorm the major events that will take place. Within that, I tend to just write and see what happens. I guess you could say I start with a basic outline but don’t get into the details until I’m into the writing.

Do you design your own book covers or have someone else? If you use someone else would you tell us who/website?  At this point, I do my own covers. I’m still trying to get recognized so I save money where I can.

Any advice for aspiring authors?  I think the best advice I can give is to write and read as much as you can. The more you write the better you will get and reading well written stories helps you see what works and what doesn’t.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?  Jenny (Ghost Of A Chance) is a typical eighteen year old girl. She’s looking forward to college and thinking about her future when suddenly she loses her father and has this whole destiny thrust at her that she knows nothing about. While in Jenny’s case it’s the King of Ghosts, I think we’ve all been at a place in our life where all of our careful plans fall apart. Jenny’s special because she picks herself up and does the best she can with the things she can’t control.

Where do your ideas come from?  Ideas are easy. Ideas are everywhere. It’s turning an idea into a full on story that’s hard. I would suggest playing a game of “what if?” if you are looking for ideas. What if this tree could talk? What if they went left instead of right and saw something they shouldn’t have? etc

What is the hardest thing about writing?  It can get really frustrating sometimes when you are in the middle of a story and you know what is coming in three or four steps but you have to fill in those first couple.

What was the hardest thing about writing your latest book?  My latest was the finale of my paranormal fantasy trilogy, The Ghost Protector Trilogy, so I had to make sure I stayed true to the characters while still letting them develop and grow. I also had to make sure I didn’t leave any threads hanging unresolved.

What is your favorite movie or TV show?  I love the Princess Bride, The Mummy (Brendan Fraser edition) and The Count of Monte Cristo (Jim Caviezel edition). For TV, I never miss Supernatural or The Big Bang Theory. Grace and Frankie, Luke Cage and Daredevil on Netflix.

What is the current book you are promoting?  Ghost Of A Chance, book one of the Ghost Protector Trilogy. You can get the ebook for only 99 cents at Amazon right now.

Who is your favorite character in your book and why?  Gary Loloma in book two, Ghost Of A Smile. Gary is just a good guy who made a bad decision for the right reason. I’m also partial to Jenny’s little brother, Tommy.

Who is your least favorite character and why?  Jenny’s mother, Catherine Browning-Chang. She’s a selfish woman who puts her own pain ahead of her daughter’s.

If your book were made into a movie, whom would you cast?  I was picturing Ming-Na Wen when I wrote my Jenny Chang character. Ming-Na is not the same age as Jenny but I modeled her after Ming-Na.

If there was one thing you could do to change the world, what would it be?  I would like to see everyone have access to whatever kinds of books speak to them. Books are the best source of education, information and entertainment there is.

What is one great lesson you have learned as a writer?  The characters can have a mind of their own and when they want to do something different than what you planned, it’s best to let them.

Do have a favorite car or truck model? The 1969 Chevy Impala SS is the perfect car. I love the sleekness of it.

Do you ever feel self-conscious when writing love/sex scenes?  I do. I worry about the lines. For some people even a little bit of sex is too much and for others you can get downright steamy. It’s impossible to please both crowds but really easy to offend someone in the process.

What are some of your favorite books and why?  I’m a big fan of the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher; the series just keeps getting better (except Ghost Story). I consider Nalini Singh to be a must read. Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series; also a must read. They all have such strong characters and they all let their characters grow and evolve beyond what they were on page one.

What do you think of traditional publishing vs. self-publishing?  I think self-publishing is opening up a lot of opportunities for people that would otherwise never have a chance to publish. Unfortunately I think some people have used it as an opportunity to put forth work that they haven’t put any effort into in the hopes of making a quick buck.

Would you say there is a stigma to being self-published?  Yes there is still a stigma to it. Hopefully that will change as more people come to treat it as a profession.

What book are you currently reading or just finished?  I’m reading Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs right now. I’m a big fan of her Mercy Thompson series. I’m also listening to SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal on audiobook.

What do your readers mean to you?  My readers are friends I haven’t met yet. I hope to connect with them and in the process to give them useful advice or entertain them for awhile.

Is there a book you love you’d like to recommend to others?  There are so many wonderful books out there that this is a particularly hard question. Any of the authors I’ve mentioned, absolutely. I would also add JD Robb if you like murder mysteries. Anne Bishop’s Black Jewels Trilogy if you like fantasy. Freakonomics if you like looking at the ordinary through different eyes.

There ya have it folks! For more about EJ, her work, and to get your copy, follow the links below:

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Pinterest / Amazon / CreateSpace / SmashWords

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