Author Stacey Rourke

Friday, November 4, 2011

An Idea Spawned by My Spawn

From the time I announced the impending release of The Conduit the most common question I've been asked after "when's it coming out" (answer: it's out!) is "where did you get the idea for it?" The answer is; it started because of my Mommy brain.

As any woman that has been blessed with title of Mommy can tell you, your whole outlook on life changes when you become a Mom. Case in point--when I was big, huge pregnant with my first child there was a reality show on that had a bunch of scantily clad young women vying for a chance to be the next Pussycat Doll. At the time I remember turning green with envy at the mere sight of them because none of them looked like they had unhinged their jaw and swallowed a Thanksgiving turkey whole. And that was the look I was rockin' right then. Then my daughter was born. I watched another episode of that same show with her nestled in my arms, looked down at her sweet face and muttered, "If I ever catch you doing any of the things those girls are doing I will ground you for life. I don't care how old you are." Yes, it's a double standard, but it goes with the territory of being a mother to a little girl.

After that I saw TV shows, movies and books completely different. Before, the tales of the damsil in distress getting saved by the knight in shining armor were romantic and even swoon worthy. As a Mom, I find that arcaic notion--that is still very much evident in our entertainment mediums--infuriating. I don't want my girls to sit around waiting for some big strong man to rescue them! If they find themselves in a hard place I want them to know that they can dig down deep to the inner strength their faith and upbringing has bestowed on them and fight their way out of it. But what role models do they have for that? Sure, there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer. But even the Buffster has grown up, gotten married, and taken her place in TV syndication history. It was time for a strong new heroine. It was with that in mind, along with a vivid dream that set the stage, that spawned the creation of The Gryphon series.

The main character, Celeste, is the girl-next-door. Awkward, often overlooked, and easy to relate to. And that is very deliberate. My reason being that I want each and every young girl that picks up this series to be able to see something of herself in Celeste. I want each of them to realize that they, too, could rise to the challenge in the face of adversity and become the hero of their own story.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

And We Have Lift Off!!

Last night I went to bed an aspiring writer. This morning I awoke a published author! My publisher emailed me in the wee hours of the morning to notify me that we were go for launch. This morning has been a flurry of marketing, shouting from the rooftops, and attempting to Riverdance out my happiness! (FYI-I can stomp and kick all I want, there is no stopping these happy feet!)
The Conduit is available on Kindle and Smashwords with Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Fire, and Diesel ebook stores soon to follow! Pick up your copy today and post your feedback here!!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

High Noon

Boots crunch over dirt and rocks, kicking up small puffs of dust. The two men stop and eye each other, daring the other to act first. Their hands hover over their holstered weapons, fingers twitching for the trigger. The music strums as the tension builds. Bum-bum-bum-ch-ch.

A showdown is coming, friends. Between a thieving villain, aka the jerk that keeps hacking into my web site, and the hero of our story, a computer whiz and Star Wars fanatic named Steve. (I’m not stereotyping him just because he’s into computers. He really is a Star Wars nut. He confessed this to me. Sup, Steve?!) Steve is fighting to maintain the virtue of my innocent little web site that our villain seeks to corrupt with stupid celebrity gossip sites. (I won’t judge you if you gave in and clicked on their link to naked pictures of Scarlett Johansen, but know that I died a little inside at your betrayal.)

Their weapons of choice are their keyboards as they attempt to outsmart and out-think each other. Meanwhile this damsel in distress watches from the sidelines and fans herself as she begins to feel faint. (It’s my blog I can be the damsel if I want to.) Perhaps it’s from my overly tightened corset. More likely it’s the nagging dread of what this is all going to end up costing me. Oye.

Hey Steve, when you’re done with him can I kick him once or twice?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Are You Meant For?

Today I was asked by a dear friend, "Have you always wanted to be a writer?" (Shout out Dannett! I'll holla!)

The answer there is a big, fat nope. Don't get me wrong, I've always written. It's been a constant in my life since I first put crayon to paper. I loved creating stories to escape into where anything was possible and the unimaginable mingled with reality. But when elementary school Stacey was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up the answer wasn't an author. Actually back then I think I still wanted to be Jessica Rabbit. (I won't lie, if that was viable career choice I'd sign up for it today.)

The way I see it God has a plan for all of us, and he's just waiting for us to quit banging our heads against the wall and give His idea a try. In my head I visualize him as Chevy Chase for some reason. Hands behind his back, rocking back and forth from the balls of his feet to his toes.

"You about done there? No? Oh, you're gonna do that now." Raises his eyebrows and looks away. "Yeah, that's gonna end well. Give that a try. But when you're done, I'll be here...waiting...still."

I didn't plan to be a writer. But when story ideas came that I couldn't ignore--that I felt passionate enough about to risk the rejections, and see them through the long road to publication--then I knew. I may not have planned to be a writer. But I am one.

The passionate flame that is instilled in us all is there to guide us. To show us what road we're meant to travel. Sure we steal the map from time to time and try to find an alternate route, but sooner or later we'll get where we're supposed to be. The plan we're meant for will be there when we're ready for it. Unlike the real Chevy Chase who'd look at his wrist and exclaim, "Oh! I gotta thing!"

Monday, August 1, 2011

Can Barely Work My DVR, but Sure I Can Create a Web Site

It sounded so simple. Create a web site. Doesn't sound scary or intimidating in the slightest. Then I stepped foot in the waters of site creation and was swept away in the crushing current of web hosting, templates, security features, and other words that quite frankly seemed like pure gibberish.

The hubby and I thought we were handling it in the best possible way; let grandma and grandpa take the kids so we could focus all our attention on creating this most wondrous of web sites. In reality not being there prevented them from hearing their mother curse in a way that would've made the gruffest of truck drivers blush. I had ideas of how I wanted the site to look. It's not my fault the computer can't read my mind! Hasn't Stark Industries created some sort of electrodes I can attach to my head that allow the computer to extract the needed information? Get on that RDJ!

My husband is more capable in these matters than I am, however my Type A personality kept snapping at him every time he reached for the keyboard or tried to interject a suggestion. "DON'T TOUCH IT! I CAN FIGURE IT OUT!!" In hind sight I realize I benched my best player because of my idiotic need to do it myself.

But the site is up, and it looks pretty good. Sure, there are little flaws, but let's all pretend we don't see those. Like the fact that if you click on the featured images they will pop up large enough for you to see every pore, freckle, or blemish I may have. FYI, comments like, "dang girl! Ever heard of exfoliating?" will not be considered helpful, 'kay? Now that the initial creation is up, it's only going to get better. I'll work out all the bugs and will eventually figure out how to post pictures in a way that doesn't make me look like a 50ft amazonian woman.

And if you're wondering why I'm posting here now that the sites up, well that's because there's a link to my blog on the site. See? I have a trick or two up my sleeve! If you haven't viewed it yet, check it out at!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Dedicated to an Amazing Man

Normally I come on here and tout my wares as a writer. Right now I'd like to shift gears a bit. We all have gifts or talents that are bestowed on us. Mine happens to be the gift of words. My father-in-law's is that of being a genuine good Samaritan. Today I'm going to use my gift to honor his.

After hearing about the destruction that the tornado did in Joplin, Missouri he dropped everything and made not one, but two trips down there to aid in the clean up. He, along with other amazing volunteers from the Seymour Lake United Methodist Church, worked out in the blistering heat as they waded through the remnants of people's entire lives. Homes, furniture, wedding albums, baby books, all the "things" we put value to were snatched from them when those torrential winds tore through their town, roaring like a freight train. But when last of the gusts died down, and the residents of Joplin could venture out of hiding, it wasn't the "things" that mattered. It was the blessing of their safe loved ones, or the heartbreaking loss of those that had been called home.

Tales came out of the aftermath like that of the man that clung to the leg of his seventeen year old son as the storm sucked him out the sunroof of their car. He lost that horrifying game of tug-of-war. His son's body was found a few miles away. Those with jaded hearts would say, "Where was God in all this that He let this happen?" Well, friends, He was right there in the thick of it. A little girl sought refuge from the storm hiding in the bath tube with her brother. An angel appeared in that room and spoke directly to the frightened child. "I'm going to take your brother with me. But you're going to be okay." And she was. Another little girl was picked up by the storm and carried for miles in those violent winds. When found later, sitting on a curb on the side of the road, she too had encountered an angel. One held her tight as she flew through the air, then set her down on that very curb and told her to stay right there and she'd be safe.

We tend to think that the only help we will get from above is "signs" or feelings to keep us on track and help us do the right things. But that just isn't the case. In the moments we really need it--when everything that ever mattered is torn away--we will not walk alone. And I don't mean metaphorically. A hand will hold yours. A voice will whisper soothing words in your ear. Arms will wrap around you letting you know that you are loved. You just have to open yourself up to it.

To my father-in-law, Pat,
As I stated my gift is words. Yet as I listened to you and your group talk about everything you saw and did in Joplin, I was at a loss of words. Still am. (Shocking, huh? Who knew that could happen?) Proud doesn't begin to describe it. Inspired seems inadequate. Blessed probably sums it up best. I'm blessed to be part of your family, and blessed to have you as a role model in my faith. You said Jesus spoke to you and told you you were going to Joplin. Well He spoke to me today and was quite insistent that I write this. He's a hard guy to say no to. Next time I hope He reminds me to grab a box of Kleenex first, you know first hand what a blubberin' mess I turn into. I hope my words did justice to your inspirational story. And I hope it prompts others to use their gifts for service as well. I dedicate this blog to you with love.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Twisting it Up

It started with a simple email from my publisher. "Hey Stacey, just read through The Conduit again. I had an idea about the ending. What if..."

What followed blew the back of my head out. (Figuratively. My brain's still intact.) He suggested a small tweak that opens up avenues for the series and leads into book two with a smooth continuity. And writing this new twist ending was a blast. I don't want to give anything away, but I will say that I got to take a character I viewed and wrote in one way and "reinvent" them. Wickedly fun!

Of course the bad news with this, if you can consider it that, is that this new development has forced some rewrites of book two. This is only bad for those of you that have read Conduit and are hounding me for the sequel. Now before you storm my house with torches and pitchforks let me just say that these changes are for the best and will only make Embrace of the Call that much more fun! I ask that you please put down your pitchforks and try to be patient just a little bit longer. If you can't do that then please at least give me a ten minute head start...

So, I have hinted at a twist for a character. Who do you think it is? Who would you like it to be?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Bio Drama

If you read my profile on this blog you know I don't like talking about myself. The Toby Keith song "I Wanna Talk About Me"? Think the exact opposite. That's not me being coy, I really don't like to. I have no problem writing entire novels about other people's lives, but I get all fidgety when asked about my own. Which is why I blanched when my publisher told me he was going to need a bio from me.

I wrote my dedication, and got teared up as I mused over who to dedicate my work to. I compiled my acknowledgements and eagerly thanked each and every person that helped make my novel what it is. Then the bio. I stared blankly at the screen at a complete loss. The words that came weren't about me, but a list of the top ten things I would rather do then write a bio about ME. Here they are:

10.) Watch the History Channel with my husband and pretend I'm interested.
9.) Hang out in a group of strangers that don't know me at all but still feel it's okay to shorten my name to "Stace" or call me "honey" or "sweetie."
8.) Sit in traffic after drinking an entire bottle of water.
7.) Watch the movie "American Beauty" on a loop until I figure out the point of it and why it got an Academy Award.
6.) Have someone jab a spork in my eye.
5.) Wait in line at the Secretary of State not because I need anything, just so other people don't have to.
4.) Listen to pageant mom's argue how painting their daughters up like street walkers is just building their "confidence". (Although with this one I can't promise not to punch someone.)
3.) Volunteer to open any new toys purchased by anyone within a 100 mile radius, even though we all know those that package toys are evil people that revel in the misery of others.
2.) Listen to my kids talk to their dolls in that baby voice they do. Oh, that voice...
And the number 1 thing I'd rather do instead of write my bio is...(Drum roll)
1.) WRITE!! I just wanna write. I don't wanna talk about me. (Picture me pouting like a three year old.) However--sigh--I'll do it. But heed this warning: I can't promise it won't have heavily sarcastic undertones!

Friday, May 27, 2011


Drum roll, please...

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, THE CONDUIT has been picked up by a publisher. Today I signed the contract with Outer Banks Publishing and all systems are a go. That doesn't mean you can run out tomorrow and buy a copy. In about five months, after editing, arranging and designing the novel within an inch of its life, it will be released in eBook form to purchase on Amazon's Kindle and Barnes and Noble's Nook. If you don't have either of these devices you can download the Kindle for your PC program for free on Amazon and purchase it through there. (If you downloaded that program to read my excerpt in the Amazon contest you are all set to buy it the day it's released!)
If the eBook sales go well THEN it will be sent to print where you will be able to hold a copy in your hot little hands the old fashion way.

Get ready Condu-nuts!! Celeste and the gryphon are about to make their presence known to the world! CAN I GET A BOO-YAH?!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Well, THE CONDUIT didn't make it to the semi-finals of the Amazon contest, and the review I got from Publisher's Weekly was --ahem--less than glowing.  Of course my initial reaction was to assume that that reviewer was an angry little troll whose mommy and daddy didn't hug them enough.  But after sleeping on it, and letting the criticism soak in, I see valid points in the troll's comments.   (Not quite ready to let go of the "troll" idea just yet.  Maybe tomorrow.  For today they will remain a troll.)
Over the last year numerous literary professionals have told me to cut anything out of my manuscript that didn't directly relate to the story.  So I did.  My original manuscript was over 110,000 words and I cut it down to 62,000.  Yesterday I was told that the story is now lacking in description.  Basically, if my novel was a person it went from grossly obese to anorexic skinny from all my changes.  I need to work to mold it to a voluptuous Marilyn Monroe shape. That I can do.
Also, after reading other excerpts in the contest I've decided to rework the opening chapter to bring more action in right off the bat.  The ideas have already formed on how to do this and I'm excited to make the changes.  
But I want to make one point very clear to all my fellow writers; by no means am I suggesting that any writer should even try to mold their work to the whims and opinions of other people.  I see valid points in the troll's review and I will use them to make my manuscript better.  However I am not going to completely change my story, plot and characters to suit his/her little troll tastes.  As T.L. Cooper, author of ALL SHE EVER WANTED, pointed out the bones of my story are good, it just needs to be fleshed up a bit.  But in doing so I will stay true to the story I wrote, because I believe in it and the message behind it

Monday, April 25, 2011

Something Crazy This Way Comes

Gather round boys and girls cause I'm about to cross the line from "semi-crazy" to "that girl's cheese done slid right off her cracker." (A nod and wink to anyone that knows where I borrowed that line from.)

Last week I was somewhat confident about my chances of making it into the next round of the Amazon contest. But that was then. This is now. And now I'm second guessing every paragraph, and critiquing every word choice. Did I over-use adverbs? Is my sentence structure too weak? My character development lacking? Should I have had something blow up in the first chapter? Then my main character could've swaggered away from the explosion in slow motion. I always love those scenes in movies. Why, oh-why didn't I include one?! Sure, it would've had nothing what-so-ever to do with the story, BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT! And what about a vampire?! Isn't there some sort of rule for Young Adult books right now that they have to have a vampire in them? I could've thrown one in somewhere in the background, like a prop. Instead of a lamp in the corner, they could have a vampire. I could make it work! Wait! What about a vampire lamp?! Maybe that should be my main character! Is it too late for a rewrite? AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

*Pant, pant, pant*

It's too much pressure. I changed my mind. I don't want to know if I made the next round or not. Instead I'm going to move into a cave far from the reach of the Internet, or any other media/communication source that could leak the news to me. My only writing shall be cave drawings depicting how I use a hairbrush and dental floss to hunt for rabbits. Tell my children I love them.

On second thought, this rant has me feeling a little better. Maybe I'll cancel that cave reservation. Instead I'll keep myself as busy as possible today. Tomorrow I'll pull on my big girl panties, steal my nerves, and accept the results as they are given. Possibly after throwing up a little bit--but I'll play that part by ear.

Something Crazy This Way Comes

Gather round boys and girls cause I'm about to cross the line from "semi-crazy" to "that girl's cheese done slid right off her cracker." (A nod and wink to anyone that knows where I borrowed that line from.)

Last week I was somewhat confident about my chances of making it into the next round of the Amazon contest. But that was then. This is now. And now I'm second guessing every paragraph, and critiquing every word choice. Did I over-use adverbs? Is my sentence structure too weak? My character development lacking? Should I have had something blow up in the first chapter? Then my main character could've swaggered away from the explosion in slow motion. I always love those scenes in movies. Why, oh-why didn't I include one?! Sure, it would've nothing what-so-ever to do with the story, BUT THAT'S NOT THE POINT! And what about a vampire?! Isn't there some sort of rule for Young Adult books right now that they have to have a vampire in them? I could've thrown one in somewhere in the background, like a prop. Instead of a lamp in the corner, they could have a vampire. I could make it work! Wait! What about a vampire lamp?! Maybe that should be my main character! Is it too late for a rewrite? AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

*Pant, pant, pant*

It's too much pressure. I changed my mind. I don't want to know if I made the next round or not. Instead I'm going to move into a cave far from the reach of the Internet, or any other media/communication source that could leak the news to me. My only writing shall be cave drawings depicting how I use a hairbrush and dental floss to hunt for rabbits. Tell my children I love them.

On second thought, this rant has me feeling a little better. Maybe I'll cancel that cave reservation. Instead I'll keep myself as busy as possible today. Tomorrow I'll pull on my big girl panties, steal my nerves, and accept the results as they are given. Possibly after throwing up a little bit--but I'll play that part by ear.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Nervously Counting Down

Wanna know a secret? C'mere and I'll tell you. Little closer. Closer still. Whoa! Not that close unless you're buying me dinner. Geesh! There. That's better. The secret is--I really didn't plan to enter the Amazon Contest this year. It was a spur of the moment decision I acted on not thinking it would result in anything. And now, here I am. In the quarter-finals and biting my nails down to nubs in the last three days before the semi-finalists are announced. Funny how an impulse act can lead to something so nerve racking.

I could smile in a most demur fashion and say that I'm fortunate to have made it this far. That it has been a great experience, one that I am incredibly thankful for. And all that's true. But it's not the WHOLE truth. If I am being totally honest I will admit I really want to make it to the semi-finals. As each individual's opinion on literature is subjective, I'm praying the reviewer my manuscript landed with enjoys the story and "gets" my sense of humor. (Some people find me--gasp--overly sarcastic. Can you imagine? I feel bad for those people as they obviously have some sort of bug stuck up their derriere.)

Just in case the worst happens and I don't make the semi-finals I want to take this moment to thank each and every person that downloaded my excerpt and/or left a review. The support that I received bowled me over. I am exceedingly thankful for the kind words and encouragement. And for those of you that wanted to know what happens next for Celeste and her gang, I publicly declare this--I promise that one way or another THE CONDUIT in its entirety will be in print & Kindle soon!

Saturday, April 9, 2011


Since my excerpt went up on Amazon I've received numerous messages from people saying they wanted to download the excerpt, but couldn't figure out Amazon's flingin-flangin' Kindle download program. Or, they made it that far, but couldn't post a review for some weird reason. Let me start by saying, welcome to the club. I, too, got a migraine trying to figure the whole thing out. I shook my fist at my computer and screamed, "It's MY book!! Just let me see it, you infuriating machine!" (It may've been my imagination, but I swear I heard it snicker.)

For those of you that couldn't open the program, I am posting the excerpt below. This is exactly the way it appears on Amazon, so you can now consider yourself "in the loop." After reading it if you wanna scurry over to and leave a review--well, that'd be just swell. You should know though that unless you have helped oil the Amazon machine with your hard earned dollars they won't let you submit a review. Translation; you have to made a purchase from them at some point before you can review anything.

I hope this clears up any confusion, and allows more of you to post your feedback! Thanks, and enjoy the sampling of THE CONDUIT.


I didn’t ask for any of this. There was no show of hands before he picked me to be his special ‘chosen one’. Given the choice I would’ve adamantly refused. If for no other reason than frat guys are a heck of a lot easier on the eyes than your average, run-of-the-mill demon. Believe me, I know. And that would’ve been my life; college, freedom, friends and the chance to finally be normal. After everything I’d been through I thought I deserved it. Apparently I was wrong. What awaited me instead was pain, violence and the stress of having the fate of the world literally resting on my shoulders.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Heck, I haven’t even bothered with an introduction. My name is Celeste Garrett. I’m only eighteen. But I happen to be the Conduit, a bona fide hero on earth. Only minus the spandex suit or cape—‘cause yikes.
Before I got the—ahem—call my life was already in a state of upheaval. After a series of break-ins in our otherwise family-friendly neighborhood, my mom made the decision to send me, my twenty year old brother, Gabe, and my sixteen year old sister, Kendall, to live with our paternal grandmother. Goodbye, Sterling Heights, Michigan. Hello, Gainesboro, Tennessee with the whopping population of 840 people. Seriously. Mom would join us in Hickville, USA just as soon as our house sold. From the very day we arrived in the Podunk town things got…weird.


We arrived in Gainesboro as the sun set over the mountain range. My brother and sister had both dozed off, so I examined our new home in solitude. There wasn’t much to see, which my sister would hate. She thrived on crowds. As I drove down Gore Avenue, the main street through town, I admired the small town appeal. The hub of the city only took up about a mile and was lined with two story red brick buildings occupied by small businesses. The crown jewel of Gore Avenue was the library. It stood three stories tall and was sunshine yellow stucco with elaborate white moldings that had been carved with painstaking detail. I noticed since my last visit they had added a Victorian style clock tower to the top of it. It was a charming addition. The ornate building may have looked odd in this minute town if it wasn’t for the scenery encompassing it. Gainesboro is nestled in the Appalachian Mountains, completely surrounded by their splendor. No matter where you stand in town the view is breathtaking, which is why our Grams loves it here.
As I turned on Grams’ street I smiled. She had every light in the house on. No way could we miss our target destination. I parked my white Chevy S-10 and gave Gabe a shove to wake him. Stepping out of the truck, I stretched up on my toes. Eagerly I breathed in the rich mountain air. Hints of pine and wild flowers mingled in the breeze. It smelled like relaxation. Gabe vigorously racked his hands over his face and buzzed head to rub the sleep away, then reached over the seat to shake Keni awake. She had fallen asleep with her face pressed up against the side window. As her heavy lids struggled open, she attempted to untangle her long dancer’s legs from the tiny back seat before her brain was awake enough for such a task. “What? We…here?”
“Yep.” I confirmed.
The front door squeaked open and Grams bounded out onto the front porch to meet us. For as long as I could remember she had looked exactly the same. Her wavy grey hair was short and styled in the standard old lady ‘do. She, like me, measured in at just over five feet tall and barely broke the hundred pound mark. She was as feisty as they came and every aspect of her reflected that. She dressed spunky, lived for fun and spoke her mind—occasionally to our chagrin.
“There you are! There you are!” She shouted. “Celeste, pull that truck into the garage. We’ll unload it in the morning. Gabe, Kendall, get your fannies in here and kiss your Grams!” Laughing, they both climbed out and scurried inside.
Happy the twelve hour drive was behind me, I took a few minutes to appreciate the beautiful surroundings. The houses here were quaint, but the ambiance was phenomenal. I meandered to the garage, my hand just about to give the door a yank, when something caught my eye. At first I thought it was a shooting star, but it was too low to the ground. Some sort of unidentified orb came in fast. Convinced I was about to see a small comet crashing to the earth, I turned to watch it. To my surprise it darted from side to side. Whatever it was, it was alive. In an elaborate motion it swooped down and buzzed my head. I squealed and covered my head with my arms. What the heck was this thing? I’d heard bugs in the south were big, but this thing was the size of a house cat! I risked a peek as it veered in again, this time swerving in closer. Fearing the wrath of a mutant bug, I screamed and fell to the ground in the fetal position. I heard it whiz passed my head, then silence. Of course my brother had to pick that moment to appear.
“Whatcha doin’?” He asked. I actually heard the smirk in his voice.
“Big mutant lightning bug!” I yelled.
“Your courageous display must have scared it off, ‘cause I don’t see it.” He snickered. “But if you’re worried it’s going to come back for another vicious attack I could pull the truck in. You can go hide inside.”
Without a second thought I tossed him the keys and rushed inside, arms firmly protecting my head.
“Whoa! Where’s the fire?” Grams asked as I flew in the door.
“Tennessee bugs are terrifying!” Safely inside, I relaxed and gave my beloved Grams a long awaited squeeze. “Hi, Grams.”
“Hi, baby. Don’t worry about the bugs here. They might be big as a Volkswagen, but they squish just the same. Now, come grab a plate. I ordered pizza.”
Gabe followed soon after and the three of us kids swarmed the tasty treat. We didn’t bother with the plates, but ate it from the box where we stood. Mom would never have let us get away with that. Grams just hung back, a safe distance from the feeding frenzy.
“Want a slice Grams?” I asked between bites.
“No thanks, I already ate.”
“More for us.” My brother muttered through a mouthful.
We were well on our way to consuming our individual body weights in the cheesy goodness when Grams rose from her recliner. The determined look in her eye should have been our first clue something was up, but she had lured us into a false sense of security with food. Wiley minx.
“While you’re busy stuffing your faces and therefore can’t argue, let’s go over some ground rules for while you’re here.” She began.
Our chewing slowed tentatively. Rules? At Grandma’s house? What kind of backward, twisted dimension had we slipped into?
“First, I am not your maid. As long as you are here, you will pick up after yourselves. Are we clear on that?” We nodded dumbly. “Second, Grams has a life. I have lots of activities that I’m involved in. Like tonight, I had to skip my Lambada class so I could be here when you arrived.”
Grams doing Lambada? Brain, if you would please skip visualizing that traumatizing image, I would appreciate it.
Beside me, my brother gagged on his pizza. The image must have crept in. Poor guy.
“I am telling you this because it means I will not be here to entertain you. I expect each of you to keep yourselves busy and out of trouble.”
“You don’t have to worry about me.” Keni declared, her blue eyes wide with chipper enthusiasm. With a flip of her annoyingly perfect, long, blonde hair she went on. “I already looked online and found out when auditions for the Community Players production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof are. I would, like, die for the chance to play Maggie the Cat!”
“Good girl Kendall.” Grams gushed and my sister beamed. Kendall wasn’t trying to be a suck-up. It came naturally. Grams’ gaze turned disapproving as she focused on Gabe. “What about you, young man? Your mother tells me that you have made no plans to go back to college after your little incident last year.”
My sister and I both froze. The incident she mentioned was a taboo topic with Gabe. It normally made him go from annoying jokester to snorting buffalo in the blink of an eye. Gabe had been on the road to success before our Dad died in an accident a year and a half ago. He was at Michigan State University on a full ride football scholarship. Then Dad died. A few months later Gabe decided to cope with his mourning by indulging in a little underage drinking. The result was a DUI, the loss of his driver’s license plus getting kicked out of school. He moved back home and had refused to plan for his future in any way, shape or form since.
He became unbearable to live with, stomping around the house and throwing temper tantrums like an overgrown toddler with even the slightest provocation. Knowing of my brother’s love for sports, I suggested he get involved in some local athletic leagues as a way to get him out of the house for a while. After that sports became his escape. He signed up for whatever he could and excelled at them all. For a while he was tolerable again. In preparation for our move, he had quit all the teams he was on. His nasty attitude returned immediately. It appeared he needed someone to beat the snot out of him on a daily basis to keep him mellow.
So when Grams mentioned “the unmentionable” Kendall and I braced for yet another blow up. To our surprise, he gave a detached “Not yet.”
“Do you plan to get a job?” Grams pressed.
“Don’t know.” He shrugged.
Grams pursed her lips, clearly not happy with how this conversation was progressing. “How did you occupy your time back in Michigan?”
“Sports, mostly.”
“I see. And did you become a professional athlete with one of those million dollar contracts?”
“No.” Gabe said with a sarcastic half-grin.
“Hmmmm. Guess you should probably get a job then, huh?” She raised her eyebrows, daring him to argue. Wisely, he did not.
“Probably.” He answered.
“I could talk to Will Burke for you.” She stated. “He’s the athletic director at Gainesboro High. He might be able to find a coaching position for you.”
Gabe’s nodded his approval. “That’d be great Grams. I’d really like that.”
We’d been there less than an hour and Grams had already succeeded where the rest of us had failed for a full year. This lady was good.
“As for you.” Grams turned to me with narrow, pondering eyes, her hands resting on her hips. “I know you have all the grace of a two-legged race horse, so what the heck do you do for fun?”
Ahh, nothing like the loving banter of family. Just gives me warm fuzzy feelings.
“Until fall I thought I’d just help you around the house.” I shrugged, pushing a strand of uncooperative brown hair behind my ear. “I’m sure there are things you need to get done.” Come September I would finally be heading off to college. After Dad died I put my college plans on hold to help take care of my family. Mom needed all the help she could get, so it hadn’t really been a choice. Now I wanted to have a nice, relaxing summer. Then rejoin the land of the living as a freshman at Rhodes College in Memphis. I couldn’t wait.
“Oh- pish!” Grandma scoffed, her hand flipping as if to bat my words away. “The Johnson boy takes care of odds and ends around here for me. Don’t you worry about that. Your mother put me under strict orders to make sure you have some fun before school starts. So, what would you like to do?”
I hadn’t put pressing matters aside long enough to consider my own likes and dislikes for so long that nothing sprang to mind. A sad statement in itself. I thought back. Back before the unthinkable happened.
“I guess I like to draw.” I said sheepishly. Both Gabe and Kendall’s heads whipped in my direction. Slow smiles spread across their faces that made me instantly self-conscious. “What?” I scowled.
“You haven’t even mentioned your drawing since—it’s just been a long time.” My sister grinned warmly.
“But I don’t have any supplies.”
“Not a problem!” Grams interjected. “There’s a hobby shop in town that carries everything you need. And, if you like to sketch nature scenes, I know of the perfect spot.”
“Well, that’s…convenient.” I was going to be drawing again, whether I wanted to or not. “Where?”
“Just outside of town there is a public walking trail that leads into the mountains. It’s a nice cleared path, if you stay on it you won’t get lost. Along the way you will see some of the most beautiful sights! There is one spot in particular, right next to a little brook that I just love to go. If I could draw anything more than stick people, that’s what I would draw.” I had to admit it sounded tempting. Maybe I would give it a try.
The sun had barely set on our first day in Gainesboro, and we each already had plans for what the summer would hold. However, if we had known what was really on the docket, we probably would’ve been planning instead to change our last name to Gonzales and go into hiding witness-protection style.


We spent most of the following day unloading the truck and settling in. It was mid-afternoon when Grams put us under strict orders to strike out on our own and see what the town has to offer. And that had been my intention. I planned to check out the trail and stretch my artistic muscles—until I saw the mess that my darling brother left me.
While Grams’ house was always neat and tidy, the garage held the truth of her pack rat tendencies. I hadn’t realized how tightly Gabe wedged my truck in amidst the clutter until I attempted to back it out. My wheels moved back an inch and a landside of knick knacks, boxes and outdated furniture pelted down on my tiny truck.
I stood back to survey the damage. Turning my head to look at it from all angles.
“What on earth happened?” Grams exclaimed as she rushed out of the house. “Oh! Celeste! What the heck did you do?!”
“Just thought I’d rearrange the garage by ramming my truck into stuff.” I grumbled miserably.
Grams grimaced, “How bad is the damage?”
“I won’t know until I unbury it. But from the way that armoire is leaning, I’m guessing there’s going to be a nice dent in the side panel.”
“I was right in the middle of scrubbing up the dishes, let me go let the water out and I’ll give you a hand.”
“No, that’s okay. I caused the destruction, I can clean it up.” I said, giving myself a mental forehead smack. If Gabe was home I would have made him help, since this whole thing was his fault. He was already in town looking into an assistant football coach position, so I would go it alone.
Another exasperated groan and I begrudgingly got to work. Once I got to the armoire, I righted it and checked out the damage. Not too bad, just one dent where the corner of it impacted. I could live with it. A chunk of wood sticking out from under my tire caught my eye. A chair must have fallen in the avalanche and I backed over it. Shrapnel from the chair carnage impaled my tire and it was hissing its way flat. That I couldn’t live with.
Grams came back out toting an icy glass of lemonade. I snatched it, muttered a quick “thanks”, and downed it in one gulp.
“Ouch, that’s a bad dent.” Grams said, glancing up to gauge my reaction.
“It’s not that bad. But by any chance do you know how to change a tire?” I motioned towards the flat.
“No, sorry. It’s always been my feeling that the ability to change a tire is one of the reasons we keep men around.” She gave me a strained smile, trying to make light of a bad situation.
“Gabe does, but it won’t matter right now anyway. I don’t have a spare.” I had known I needed to get one but had failed to do so. It wasn’t an issue until now.
“That’s not a problem.” Grams explained. “It’s a short walk to Hank’s place.”
“He’s the only mechanic in town. He’ll loan you a spare. Gabe can throw it on. Then you can drive up to Hank’s, and he’ll get you all fixed up.” I briefly wondered how I would get the spare home, but dismissed it. Small town like this, Hank probably did pick-ups and deliveries. I guess some good came from everybody knowing everyone.
“Sounds good.” My break over, I went back to clearing off my hood. Picking up a box that landed on my windshield, I glanced inside. “Whoa. Who is this nasty looking guy?”
“What’s that dear?”
I set the box down and pulled out the item in question. Carved from one solid piece of wood was a creature I had never seen before. It had the head and wings of a bird, but the body of a predatory cat. Its stance was assertive and proud; chest out, feet widely plant. Its head was thrown back, as if in a roar.
“Hmmm…where did that come from?” Grams wondered.
“You’ve never seen it before?”
“No, never. It must be an heirloom of Grandpa’s. I know what it is though. It’s the Gryphon. He’s supposed to be half eagle and half lion.” She came up behind me so she could inspect the sculpture as well.
There were words etched along the bottom. “Protector of the Divine.” I read. “What does that mean?”
“The legend was that the Gryphon protected divine items from falling into the hands of those that would use them for evil.”
“Divine items like what?”
“The Holy Grail, Noah’s actual ark, stuff like that.”
“So he’s like a big, mythical guard dog?”
Grams chuckled, “Well, look at him! Who would want to mess with that?”
“Good point.” As I turned the sculpture side to side examining it I heard a faint whirring. Before I could pull my hand away a toothpick-sized wooden spike jutted out and pricked my finger. “Ow! Crap!” My blood dripped onto the sculpture and I put my finger in my mouth to clean it off.
“Why the heck would anyone booby trap a wooden figurine?” Grams pondered as she took my hand and examined it. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, surprised me more than anything.” Looking at the carving I saw the spike retract back inside of it. “It must be important to someone if they felt the need to protect it like that.”
Grams scoffed, “It’s so important it’s been sitting in my garage for God only knows how long.”
For reasons I couldn’t explain I asked. “Can I have it?”
“You want the booby trapped artwork?”
Wordlessly I nodded. I refrained from telling Grams that as soon as my blood touched the sculpture I felt powerfully drawn to it. I was filled with unexplainable joy when she offhandedly said I could have it. Claiming it as my own felt right and I had no idea why.


I was wrong. Absolutely nothing good comes from being in a town this size.
As it turned out, Hank didn’t offer a drop-off/ pick-up service. They just loaned you the tire and sent you on your merry way—a fact that would have been helpful to know before I walked there. I was left to my own devices to figure out how to get the stupid tire home.
After failed attempts at alternative methods, I accepted my only choice and rolled the tire down Gore Avenue toward Grams’. Had it been a full sized tire, it may have been better. I could have walked normally and rolled it along. The stance I contorted myself into to push the spare tire along knocked me down about a thousand cool points, even if I was the only one who cared. My face blushed bright red as I squatted down and rolled it hand over hand.
Hank’s entire crew watched me out the window not even bothering to hide their laughter. Could even one of them offer me a ride home? No way! Turns out chivalry isn’t dead, it’s just busy laughing and pointing.
I trudged along for about half a mile before I stopped to stretch my back in front of the modest, independently owned grocery store. I froze in my tracks at what I saw there. A news van was parked in front of the grocery store.
No, no, no, no, NO! I am not going to be on the news rolling this infuriatingly tiny tire down the street!!
Freshly motivated, I pushed that tire for all I was worth. Rolling it as fast as I could across what suddenly seemed to be an endless parking lot, an inkling of hope started to build in me. I was about half way across and hadn’t been noticed!
But then life intervened, as it so enjoys doing, when I heard a voice behind me.
“Excuse me, miss?”
No! He is not talking to me. Keep rolling!!
“Miss?” Whoever it was, he was following me.
I don’t care if it’s that old guy who hands out the million dollar checks I’m not stopping! It’s too mortifying!!
“Whoa, hold on a sec!” The male voice called. An arm shot out and grasped my elbow. I lost control of the tire and it took off on its own. I watched in horror as it meandered down the sidewalk, across the shoulder and out into the road. An oncoming car slammed on the brakes and swerved to avoid it. I hung my head and hurried to retrieve my tire. As I bent to pick up it up, I mouthed an “I’m sorry” to the irate driver. The gesture he gave in response made it clear my apology went unaccepted.
I heaved the tire against my chest and penguin-walked back to the sidewalk. Of course the guy waiting there with a flabbergasted expression had to be hot. Because what kind of mortifying fun would it be for the universe to let it be a sixty-year-old grandpa?
“I am so sorry.” He stated, struggling not to laugh.
“No problem. I was hoping I would get to play in traffic at some point today.” My tone was bitter enough to taint the joke.
“I was just going to ask if you needed help. But once you got that thing moving at Mach 10 I figured you were just gonna jump on and take off.” The stranger’s voice was thick with the amusement he failed to hide.
“I didn’t even think to try that. It may have been easier.” I laughed, grateful to see some humor in this.
He held his hand out to me. “I’m Alec Jeffries with Channel 4 News.”
“Really?!” The shocked word slipped out before I could stop it. If I had any embarrassment left in me, I may have blushed. Thankfully, I was maxed out. “I’m sorry. That was rude, you just don’t look like a reporter.”
Reporters on television always looked neat and professional. Saying Alec didn’t fit that part was an understatement. He had long strawberry-blonde hair pulled back in a tight pony-tail at the nape of his neck. The shirt and tie he wore obviously weren’t his. His tall, lanky frame swam in the oversized clothing. The tie was loosely knotted around his neck. The shirt untucked. Clearly he went for the comfort angle, not style—a fashion sense I could relate to.
He smiled at me in a youthful, carefree way that added to his boyish charm. “I’m not. I’m actually a cameraman, forced in front of the lens against my will.”
“How’d they rope you in?”
“The station I work for is out of Nashville, but I was born and raised here. When they heard about the cat story, they decided to send the local boy out, much to his dismay.” He explained.
“What cat story?” I asked.
“Haven’t you heard?” His crystal blue eyes sparkled with delight. “There have been panther sightings in the mountains.”
“Panthers?” I repeated, not sure I had heard right. “Did one escape from a zoo?”
He shook his head. “No zoos have reported missing animals.”
“Panthers aren’t indigenous to this area. Isn’t it more likely to be a mountain lion or something like that?”
“That’s what I thought, too.” He shrugged. “Seems a heck of a lot more plausible. But there have been eye witnesses that swear it’s a black panther.”
I couldn’t help but shiver. The idea of coming face to face with a carnivorous predator like that creeped me out, and my reaction didn’t go unnoticed.
“Don’t worry. It hasn’t eaten anyone…yet.” Alex raised his eyebrows and smiled mischievously. “So, are you going to tell me who you are, or do I have to guess?”
“Oh, sorry! I’m Celeste Garrett.”
“A relative of Gladys Garrett?”
“She’s my grandmother.” I nodded.
“She was the school nurse, right?” Small town grapevine, everyone knows everyone.
“Yep. She’s retired now.”
“I remember her. She’s a really nice lady.”
“I think so.” I agreed.
“You never answered me. Would you like some help getting your tire home? Or, are you just gonna get it going again and see if you can fly there?”
“As much fun as that sounds, I would love a ride home.”
As we tossed the tire into the back of the news van, Alec commented offhandedly, “By the way, I got some great footage of you and your tire.”
Damn it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or live within shouting distance of my house, you know that today THE CONDUIT made it to the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. Can I get a yee-haw?! I'm VERY excited to have made it this far. Now my manuscript will be read and reviewed by Publisher's Weekly, and that ladies and gents, makes me do my happy dance! Join in, won't you?

On top of that I got to hear feedback from the reviewers. I had to share the following one in particular as he/she picked up on the EXACT meaning behind my novel.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
The strongest aspect here was the fact that Celeste is the every girl. Every girl goes through humiliating situations in front of the hot guy at least once, every girl feels lost or confused, etc. And yet the author hints that Celeste is much more than your ordinary girl next door. I like the idea of your average Jane becoming a hero, the girl next door has powers, or strengths she didn't know she had and she uses them to save the world, or maybe just herself and those she loves. Not every hero needs to be from the planet Krypton and be gorgeous. The idea that we can all step up to the plate if need be is a powerful draw for many people, and the author has set the stage for a compelling story for Celeste and her family.

What aspect needs the most work?
From just reading the excerpt I was more than satisfied. I thought the dialogue was fitting, I bought that it came from your average teenage girl. I enjoyed the little bits of backstory the author threw in, with hints of more to come.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?
I loved it! As I mentioned, I like the idea that anyone can be a hero if the situation presents itself. The characters were easy to relate too, and I wanted to know more about them. And what was that glowing ball that 'attacked' Celeste? Friend? Foe? Alive? Alien? Lots of questions, and I think I would have a great time reading about the answers.

Does the beaming smile I'm wearing come across via blog? I sure hope so! I'd type more, but sitting down is hindering my happy dance! Gotta dance! Gotta groove!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Long time, no blog! The reason for the posting drought hasn't been lack of desire, believe me. Actually, it's quite the opposite. Create-O-Brain has been in overdrive lately, and I've wanted to spread that good news. Unfortunately, it's been difficult to find a spare second to do so!

Right now, my kids are stretching their artistic muscles with a little coloring time, which buys me a few minutes to share the latest on my projects!

Editing on the next installment in THE CONDUIT series--EMBRACE OF THE CALL--continues. I've been pleased enough with the progress that I've even let my darling husband take a few sneak peaks at it. He's given me some good feedback, and genuinely seems to like it. Which is surprising considering that Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi do not battle to the death anywhere in the novel. (Teasing of course. Love you, babe!)

My writing/editing time has become a juggling act now that I have TWO new projects in the works. The first is a new fantasy YA series that I am very excited about. I don't want to give away the plot or storyline yet, but I will give a little teaser. The working title of this new novel is MASQUER. It's a french word meaning to put on a mask or disguise to hide one's identity. Someone in this series is wearing a frighteningly convincing disguise... (Dum-dum-dummmmmmmmmmmm!)

The second new project is very close to my heart. As my family and friends know, my husband and I battled infertility on our quest to become parents. Throughout that entire journey I kept a journal of every step of the process. A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled onto that journal. As I sat down on the bed and flipped through it, all the pain, laughter, heartbreak, and resulting joy came back to me. As did another sad truth--I remembered that during all of it I felt like the only woman in the world that had ever walked that path. I know I wasn't, and that infertility affects countless women every year. But as I lived through it, that was how I felt. I tried to find books on the subject, but all I could find was clinical descriptions that offered me no comfort. Because of this, I've decided to compile my journal entries and publish them. If I can give hope to even one woman enduring the pain and uncertainty of infertility, then it will be worthwhile.

There ya have it folks- the reasons I haven't been blogging. Instead I've been click-click-clicking away at numerous projects. My hope is that one or more of them will be published by the end of the year for your reading enjoyment.

Okay, blog time over. The three year old is eating crayons--again.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


This week I got some "good gas." And no, I don't mean the ucky kind that usually follows taco night. Actually this phrase was introduced to me by a friend as a way to describe the good, positive events that motivate us to keep forging ahead. In my case it was a literary agent using words like "WOW" and "AMAZING" to describe my manuscript. She is now discussing my work with her colleagues before making a decision on if she wants to offer to represent me. Not only did this news prompt me to do the Snoopy dance, but it also gave me the motivation to keep moving forward.

Negativity is everywhere and it gets daunting. Without the occasional "good gas" we begin to feel like we are pointlessly beating our head against the wall. Giving up and opting instead for something easier, like trimming shrubbery, seems like the only option. ("Bring me a shrubbery! A nice one.") But when we get that "good gas" it's like a nod and a wink from above, letting us know that we're on the right track and we just need to stick it out.

I honestly hope this agent takes a chance on me. I really like her and I will explain why in future blogs. But if she doesn't, at least she motivated me to keep at it. Her kind words inspired concentrated time with THE CONDUIT series and my new work in progress because she made me feel valued as a writer.

I wish this same kind of inspiration to all of you! May each and every one of you get some really good gas this week!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


A fresh round of query letter submissions have gone out for THE CONDUIT. Some immediately kicked back rejections so quickly that there was no way anyone even looked at it. Others glanced at my letter and cast it aside without a second thought. Maybe they didn't like my font. Or maybe my last name reminds them of Mickey Rourke and he scares them a little bit. Whatever their reason I know it wasn't my writing, because they didn't see a page of that. Just the letter.

The whole process is headache inducing. Writers want to make a name for themselves and "the business" tells us we need agents to do that. Agents want clients that are going to make money, therefore many are hard pressed to take on an "unknown." Now if Stephen King walks through their door looking for new representation they will fall all over themselves to get to him. But a newbie? Nuh-uh. How then does any unknown author stand a chance? By finding the agents, and they ARE out there, that are willing to put in the work to cultivate a new talent instead of just riding the coattails of an established one. I have interacted with some of the "good" agents. While a business relationship wasn't formed they have been willing to give me tips, suggestions and advice to help me along. I appreciate them immensely. My hope now is that I will find one of these hardworking, helpful agents that will feel passionately enough about my story and my voice to take a chance on me.

All of this comes with a confession; I hate this part. I love to write. I love perfecting my work through careful editing. I even like hearing feedback from others on how the story could be tweaked or improved. I hate the submission process. I have worked on THE CONDUIT for two years. An agent rejecting it in less than sixty seconds with a form letter is maddening. It makes me want to show them my impression of Jack Nicholson in THE SHINING. ("Heeeeeeere's Stacey!)

But I won't. I'll play the game. I will let my work stand on its own and hope that it falls into the right hands. In the meantime I will distract myself by focusing on the part of all this I find cathartic--writing.

Monday, January 3, 2011


The creative mind is an entity all its own. Those of us that rely heavily on it know that it leads us and not the other way around. Last night "Create-o-Brain" let me know in no uncertain terms that it's in charge.

I had no intention of starting a new novel. My plan was to finish out THE CONDUIT series before I tackled anything else. To be honest I didn't think my simple little mind could handle more than that. Sure, I had other story ideas but I felt they could wait.

Then my husband offhandedly mentioned a story idea to me.

My initial reaction was to shun his idea. It was undoubtedly clever, however it focused on a story line I said I would never use. Never say never, huh? I can honestly say I hadn't thought about it much since then. But last night, as I laid in bed, that familiar pull to write began. I had no choice but to grab my laptop and click the ideas out. Usually I outline a chapter or novel before I begin. This time I just let it flow. It felt amazing. A new idea. A new beginning. Even I don't know yet where this story will lead. But I'm not going to worry about that just yet. That is for Create-o-Brain to figure out, not me.

So, on my plate now I have one manuscript I am polishing up for submissions, one in the editing stages, the outline of a third CONDUIT book and a chapter of a completely new WIP. Yep, I'm a writer. How can I keep it all straight? I can't. Create-o-brain can.