Friday, March 31, 2023

Burning Out

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YA Romance Whodunit
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What's new with Ashleigh?

Have you ever marked a date on a calendar and told yourself you just to get to that date? Maybe you had an important deadline for work or school. Maybe your child had an important sporting event or recital. Or you were planning an important anniversary dinner for your parents. Whatever the occasion, you just needed to get to that one date, then you could breathe again.

Then the date passes.

How do you feel the next day? If you're anything like me, it's a melting pot of emotions. Relief that the day is over. Pride that you accomplished what needed to be done, even if it was in the eleventh hour. And exhaustion.

I can't speak about other writers, but for me, publishing a book takes a lot of time and mental energy. The process is long. Proofreading the book multiple times. Formatting the ebook one way and the paperback another. Securing ARC readers. Preparing it for sale with various distributors.

I was so looking forward to releasing PS: It Was Murder. And it went well. Although it's been less than a week, I'm pleased with the sales and reviews.

But I pushed myself, working long hours, often well past midnight only to start again at dawn. By the time the book released, I was exhausted. Mentally and physically.

Instead of pushing myself to the next project, I decided to take this week to recuperate. I dove deep into one of my favorite book series, reading the backlog of newer books (I think I was about 10 behind!) as well as re-reading some of my favorite scenes in the older books.

In between, one of my children was sick. Nothing serious. Just enough that she needed a few days on the couch until her sinuses cleared. She and I caught up on one of the television series we both love.

As a result, I woke up this morning feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the next project. And it made me wonder about my readers.

How do you prevent burn out?

Choose Your Own Path Story

The Detention Adventure

You glance between the warning and the necklace a few times.

Should you pick up the necklace?

  • You don’t believe in magic.
    You pick up the necklace.
  • It’s best to heed the warning.
    You leave the necklace where it is.

As soon as your hand wraps around the tooth, you feel a strange sensation in your stomach. It’s as if someone reached into your navel and tried to pull your spine through your belly button. Wincing at the sensation, you close your eyes and attempt to take a deep breath.

It takes a few tries, but eventually you manage to get air into your lungs. It tastes different. Instead of musty old books, you smell an earthy freshness. Opening your eyes, you blink a few times, not comprehending what you are seeing.

You’re no longer in the library. In fact, the school is nowhere in sight. Nothing is. All you can see is trees everywhere.

The canopy is high above you, at least a couple of stories. The trunks of the nearest trees are so wide, you doubt you could wrap your arms around them. You don’t know much about forests, but you know this one is old.

You are standing in some sort of forest. Even the closest trees are just out of your reach. Beneath you is a fine layer of long-dead leaves and needles.

You strain your ears, searching for the familiar sounds of people and traffic usually heard from your school. But you hear nothing.

Well, that’s not exactly true. You hear noises, but they are so foreign it takes a moment to recognize them. Leaves rustling high above you as the wind blows through the trees. Insects and birds chittering happily. The distant roar of something loud.

You shudder. Hopefully you will get out of here before that creature finds you.

But, where are you?

Why not just check on your phone? Shaking your head, glance at the screen. But you can’t unlock it because your other hand is still holding the strange necklace. Hadn’t the book warned you it was magical? Is this what it meant? Did picking up the necklace magically turn the library into a forest clearing?

Maybe this was some elaborate virtual reality and you were still in the library. Stowing your phone, you close your eyes, trying to remember where you were standing. If you were still in the library, there should be a bookshelf to your right.

You reach out your hand but feel nothing. Sidestepping, you move a step, then two.

You hand touches something. Excited, you open your eyes.

It’s a tree. You are definitely not in the library. So where are you?

You pull out your phone again. But when you unlock it, you realize you have no service. No internet. Not even a single bar to make an emergency call.

So if you’re not in the library and you can’t call for help, how are you supposed to get out of here?

You glance at the necklace still in your hand. Maybe that’s what’s keeping you here. If you let go, maybe that will bring you back to the library?

You open your palm. The dragon’s tooth falls to the ground, the soft forest floor muting its landing. And you are still in the forest clearing.

Frowning, you glance at the ground. Dragon’s teeth are rare, right? You probably shouldn’t just leave it on the forest floor.

As you retrieve it, you remember the title of the book. Adventures In the Land of Dragons and Elves. You remember the roar you heard a moment ago.

But dragons aren’t real, though, right?

Shaking your head, you turn in a slow circle. You know you can’t stay here, but which way should you go?

A snapping twig has you startling, dropping the dragon tooth again. This time, when you retrieve it, you place it around your neck to keep from losing it. You also stay crouched low, looking in all directions for the source of the sound.

The forest is silent again, but you see movement to your left. Slowly, you turn, squinting between the trees.

You see nothing. But you can’t shake the feeling of being watched.

Another twig snaps. This one is behind you. This time, you pivot fast enough to catch a glimpse of something darting behind a tree. Thankfully, it’s not one of the ones closest to you.

You try not to blink as you wait for the creature to move. Your efforts pay off. Something peaks around the edge, only to dart back again. Was that brown fur, or had that been a trick of your eyes?

You stare for what feels like hours. But finally, the creature emerges.

You’ve never seen an animal like this before. Walking on two legs, it is no taller than your waist. The short brown hair covering it from head to toe reminds you of a sheepdog. But its face looks almost human. Sure, the features are a little more angular, with a long, thin nose and pointed ears. In fact, if it weren’t for the fur, you might mistake the creature for a person.

As the animal advances, you wonder whether it is friendly. Should you run away or stay and find out?

Late For Work

And you get your first glimpse of the younger doctor. Except, it’s not your first glance. You’ve seen him before. In line behind you at the coffee shop this morning.

He smirks. “Well, well. Isn’t it a small world?”

What do you do?

  • Nod and scurry into the conference room?
  • Drop your coffee again
  • Say something coy and flirtatious

Dr. Yeager, who is still holding the door, looks between you and his son. “You two know each other already?”

You shake your head, but Hot Guy Mike smiles. “We ran into each other at the coffee shop this morning.”

From inside the conference room, Karen response. “Speaking of coffee, can I get you gentlemen anything?”

That’s your cue. You turn to enter the room. At the same time as Hot Guy Mike. When the two of you collide, your coffee goes everywhere. Warm liquid soaks through your shirt, thankfully not hot enough to scald your skin. As you jump backward, you lose your grip on the mug. It crashes to the floor, coffee exploding as it shatters. The elder Dr. Yeager side-steps in time, but the same can’t be said for his son. Like you, he is covered in coffee from his shirt to his shoes.

Drowning in mortification, you quickly glance around. Dr. Yeager looks like he’s second guessing his decision to work with your company. Karen looks ready to fire you. Hot Guy Mike looks amused.

You take a step backwards. “I’ll go get something to clean this.”

Ignoring the shirt clinging to your stomach, you speed-walk to the kitchen. You’re still digging through the cabinet under the sink when you feel someone hovering above you. You recognize those coffee-soaked shoes.

Wincing, you glance up over your shoulder. “You, uh, you okay?”

Hot Guy Mike smiles. “Yeah. I was just grabbing some paper towels.” He pulls a few from the counter, dabbing his shirt as he looks down at you. “You okay? Did you get burned?”

Pulling the whisk and dustpan from the cabinet, you shake your hand as you stand. “Nah. It wasn’t hot. Just made a big mess.”

Smiling, he grabs the roll of paper towels beside the sink. “I’ll help you clean up.”

“No. Really. You should go back to the meeting. I can do it.”

“I insist.” To prove his point, he holds the roll above his head, out of your reach, and leads the way back to the conference room.

You have no idea what transpired between Karen and Dr. Yeager while you were gone, but you assume the conversation ran along the lines of Let’s just pretend that didn’t happen. They completely ignore you sweeping the

ceramic shards into the dustpan while Mike lays paper towels over the spill. They don’t even flinch when you walk past them to receive the trash can.

You and Mike work wordlessly and efficiently. By the time you finish cleaning the mug, he has mopped up all the coffee. While he returns the can to the corner, you bring the dustpan and paper towels to the kitchen.

Alone, you finally assess the damage. Your wet shirt is still plastered to your front, cold and uncomfortable. Using the sponge in the kitchen sink, you pull the shirt away from you and do your best to scrub the coffee. Except, you’re pretty sure you’re spreading the stain. And you’re definitely making your shirt more wet. With a resigned sigh, you pull several paper towels from the roll, fold them a few times, and shove them between your shirt and your skin. Marginally better.

When you return to the conference room, neither Karen or Dr. Yeager spare you a glance. As you approach the conference table, you see your folder sitting in the seat furthest from Karen. Approaching it, you try to remember how it ended up there? Did you place it there before rushing out of the room? Or had you dropped it somewhere? Is this where Karen wants you to sit?

You are still deciding when Mike enters the room. With that ever-present smirk, he clapped his father on the shoulder, sitting beside him. “Started without us?”

Dr. Yeager looked less than amused. “No one said you had to clean the mess. But since you’re here, perhaps you can help me understand this gobbledegook?”

Mike shakes his head. “Dad, it’s not that hard.” Opening a folder, he pulls out a sheet of paper, turning it to face Karen as he places it on the table between them. Hesitantly, you take the seat beside Karen so you can observe as well. Thankfully, she seems too eager to please the client than to fire you.

Over the next hour, the doctors explain their medical practice and what their expectations for their accountant. Karen discusses the services the firm will provide as well as their associated fees. Although she never mentions you by name, she does admit that most of the work will be done by “her assistant” with her available to review the account should any problems arise.

Throughout the meeting, you try to gauge the doctors’ reactions. Mike never stops smiling and you are certain he wants to hire your company. Dr. Yeager, however, doesn’t smile once.

Finally, Karen brings out the contract and passes it to the doctors.

Will they sign it?

A Weekend at Munson Manor

Obviously neither of these guests wish to speak with each other. Maybe you should break the uncomfortable silence. But to whom should you talk first?

  • The man
  • The woman

You move to the chair facing the woman, clearing your throat gently as you sit. She glares at you, but immediately relaxes her face and sends you a weak smile.

“Oh, hello. I didn’t realize anyone else was here.”

“Hi. I’m Dr. Poole.” You extend a hand.

She shakes it briefly. “Professor Mills.”

“Ooh. Professor. That sounds interesting. What do you teach?”

She bites her lip. “English. Oh, no, wait. History. That’s right. Medieval history.” She shakes her head. “I’m sorry. I haven’t had a chance to really absorb my character yet.”

You give a small laugh. “That’s okay. That’s part of the fun of this weekend, isn’t it?”

“Have you done a weekend like this before?”

You shake your head. “No. This is my first time. But I love reading cozy mysteries. This sounded like a lot of fun.”

The woman’s smile finally meets her eyes. “I love cozies, too. What’s your favorite?”

Before you can answer, the man approaches with the glass in his hand. When he speaks, you can hear the disdain mixed with the alcohol. “Excuse me, but we are supposed to be in character.”

Puzzled, you turn to him. “We are.”

“No, you’re not.”

The woman rolls her eyes. “Here we go again.”

Ignoring her, he sends you a pointed look. “Cozy mysteries as a genre did not come about until the end of the twentieth century. As our characters are meant to be in the 1940s, we would have no knowledge of such books.”

Smirking to yourself, you turn back to the woman. “Have you read The Time Machine by H. G. Wells? I think that would be so cool. I would go to the future to see what kinds of books people like to read.”

The woman smiles. “I bet they get so frustrated with these new noir books that they try to get back to the golden age of Agatha Christie. I would call books like that cozy mysteries.”

“You know what might be fun to read? Books that have dogs in them.”

“Or maybe recipes!”

With a hurrumph and a scowl, the man returns to beverage table. Professor Mills leans a little closer, lowering her voice. “Thank you. That man can be so insufferable.”

“Do you know him?”

She shakes her head. “Not really. We met upstairs. He calls himself Mr. Rollings. I think that’s his character name because when I tried to introduce myself, he went on this rant about staying in character. Thankfully, that butler guy. What’s his name?”


She nods. “Yeah, him. He interrupted Rollings and sent us in here.” She gestured to you. “What about you? Are you a doctor in real life?”

“Ugh. Seriously?” The man stomps back to you and the professor. “What part of stay in character is so difficult for you to understand? If you’re going to do this all weekend—”

Professor Mills turns in her seat, but not before you catch the angry glare in her eyes. “Some of us want to know about the people we are living with this weekend. Not the make believe characters.”

“But that defeats the point. Why bother being in character in the first place? If I wanted to tell you my personal life—”

“Like anyone would want to know your personal life.” Letting out a huffy breath, Professor Mills turns around to face you. “So, you’re a doctor?”

You nod. “A physicist at the university.” You look behind her. “What about you, Mr. Rollins. What do you do?”

He frowns. “I’m a detective. Private investigator.”

Professor Mills turns around just enough to see him out of the corner of her ye. “Oh. Are you going to investigate the crime tonight?”

Tossing his hands in exasperation, he nearly spills his drink. “Insufferable.”

The professor looks offended, but you want to laugh. Is she trying to irritate him? Or is she naturally this antagonistic? Since you can cut the tension in the air with a knife, you try for a neutral topic. “What did you think of your rooms?”

Professor Mills brings her arms to her chest with a sound of excitement. “Ooh! Mine is so sweet! It has an adorable little fireplace. And all the pictures on the wall! I’m pretty sure its the local beach and it looks so inviting. That may be my next vacation.”

Mr. Rollings grunts. “My room is full of portraits. It feels like I’m being watched.”

“Maybe you are.”

Thankfully, before another fight can erupt, a couple enters the room. Arms linked, they are obviously here together and, if their bright smiles are any indication, thoroughly enjoying themselves. As they stand in the doorway, you consider your options.

Should you greet the newcomers, leaving the professor and detective to start snapping at each other again? Or should you wave politely and invite them to join your tense little circle?

Hartfield Chronicles

Hartford Chronicles

Season 5 of Hartfield Chronicles is here!

Melinda loves Pat, but sometimes she wishes he had friends of his own. When he starts spending time with her dance partner, however, Melinda can't help the feelings of jealousy that surface, especially when he starts choosing him over her. Will their relationship survive Pat's new bromance?

Hartfield Chronicles follows the lives of Melinda, Pat, and their friends as they navigate their way through boarding school life. Each episode features two stories, one from Melinda's point of view and one from Pat's, along with an excerpt from Melinda's writing journal. New episodes are published every Friday.

Here's what you missed:

Episode 122
Hartford Chronicles
Episode 123
Hartford Chronicles
It’s the Sweetheart Dance, but not everyone gets to enjoy it. Pat apologizes for missing the dance

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Announcing the New Hammerhead Club

Hammerhead Club

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Free Books

     I Hate Flying

I Hate Flying
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Other Books on Sale


A Growing Up Girls Book

Is Popularity everything it's cracked up to be?

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When a strange twist of fate grants the new "Mel" access to the fabulous world of the popular crowd, she experiences both the advantages and disadvantages of the group from the inside, while trying to keep one foot in her old life. But when the two worlds collide and people start to get hurt with bullying and cyberbulling, will she be able to straddle the two or must she choose? Will she find popularity is all she hoped for, or is it just another teenage prison, binding to certain roles?

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      Burning for the Billionaire

Burning For The Billionaire
An Alpha Older Firefighter & Younger Curvy Woman Series

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I’ve also come very close to having to drop out of school. Then, my **** of a boyfriend dumped me for the hippie lady that runs his favorite cannabis shop.

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Rowan: When I rescue Grace from that fire, it isn’t just the adrenaline that’s making my heart go wild.

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She’s a young student who just lost everything. He’s a mysterious firefighter hiding a big secret.

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      Cat Scratch Murder

Cat Scratch Murder
A Crystal Beach Paranormal Cozy Mystery

Magic in this witch’s family has a name: Trouble

Meet Sidney Grace. Quirky journalist, Hesitant witch, Professional butterfingers. Her grandmother believes Sidney’s talent for communicating with the dead makes her the most powerful witch in the family, but Sidney just wants to make it through the day without getting fired.

A young writer living in Boston, Sidney is far from the small wacky town of Crystal Beach, Florida, where her spell-happy grandmother retired. She is perfectly happy with her career, her four cats, and the fact that she hasn’t been on a date in… well, years. All is well until her estranged mother informs Sidney that her grandmother has been arrested for murdering a resident at her retirement community.

Sidney road-trips to Florida to discover that her grandmother has no alibi, her grandfather isn’t as dead as she thought he was, and one of her cats can speak. To make matters worse, the handsome Officer Reece is tough on criminals and even tougher on witches. Who cooked up the deadly scone? And why are residents at Shifting Sands suddenly disappearing?

Now, Sidney must embrace her own magical talents to prove her grandmother’s innocence and stop the killer bent on destroying anyone who gets in the way.

You may also be interested in these books

Love Always Wins - Ends 5/1 - Romance April Books - Ends 4/30 - YA
Goodbye Winter - Ends 4/18 - Mystery Spring Forward - Ends 4/22 - Mystery
Hard to Let Go - Ends 4/15 - Romance The Booklist - Ends 4/4 - All Genre
Soulmates - Ends 3/31 - Romance


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Adjusting to a New Life A New Home Innocent Bystander Camp Piquaqua Elephant on My Chest Becoming Birgit
Mooncrossed Kayaks, Kisses & Monsters One Night in Sedona PS: It Was Murder