Tuesday, December 5, 2023

LIving the Dream

While the calendar may read December, this is the time we all want to start thinking about those great warm days that will be coming soon (hopefully), so we can all get away to the beach! Today's guest in My Writing Corner has just the ticket to solve our winter doldrums. My guest is author Susie Black, who has appeared on my blog previously where we were fortunate enough to feature a number of books in the Holly Swimsuit Mystery series. It's great to welcome her back with her newest book, Rag Lady, which is the prequel to this series.

Named Best US Author of the Year by N. N. Lights Book Heaven, award-winning cozy mystery author Susie Black was born in the Big Apple but now calls sunny Southern California home. Like the protagonist in her Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries. 

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avid stamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect. 

Welcome Susie.  What is the book you are featuring today and how did you come up with the story?

The book I am featuring today is Rag Lady. The prequel to the stories in The Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, Rag Lady is the fictionalized autobiography of how I got into the rag biz and my subsequent writing gig. Since the continuing main character is based on me, I came up with the idea of the story to give context to the series by detailing the protagonist’s history as well as a means to introduce several continuing characters. 

Let's get a blurb for Rag Lady

Recent college graduate Holly Schlivnik dreams of being a writer, but fate has other plans. A family crisis throws her into an improbable situation and her life will never be the same. Determined to make her own luck when things don’t happen the way she plans, the irrepressible young woman takes a sledge hammer to the glass ceiling and shatters it to smithereens. The wise-cracking, irreverent transplanted Californian takes you on a raucous, rollicking rollercoaster ride of her hysterical adventures as a ladies apparel sales rep traveling in the deep South as she ends up finding herself along the way. 

We're trying something new today. Instead of interviewing the main character, Holly, we are going to talk to Holly's dad, Mike:

Welcome Mr. Schlivnik.  Tell us a little bit about your life. 

Hi there. Mike Schlivnik at your service. I’m a fun-loving guy in my late forties. I am happily married to my wonderful wife Natalie. We have three fabulous adult children who still keep us on our toes every day. Natalie, two of our kids, my remarkable Mother-in-law, and I recently moved from Los Angeles to Miami, Florida for my business. 

 I enjoy a good cigar once in a while when my wife lets me. I have been known to tell an off-color joke or two, and am a fair-to-middling poker player. I’m a football, barbeque, and rock n’ roll fanatic. Oh yeah…And I could stand to lose a few pounds…but don’t tell my wife, or she’ll put me on one of those frou-frous diets you’re always hungry on that set you up for failure. 

How did you get involved in the garment business?

After graduating from The Ohio State, I caught the acting bug and ran off to Hollywood to seek my fame and fortune. After pounding the pavement for months, I only got a few bit parts for my trouble. But a fella’s gotta eat…so I had to take a reality pill. Just as I faced the prospect of going back to Cleveland with my tail between my legs, a girl I was dating introduced me to her father who was a ladies’ sportswear manufacturer. Despite my having NO experience, she convinced her dad to hire me as a local sales rep. It turned out that selling and acting use the same storytelling skills. I took to it like a duck to water and never looked back. The girlfriend and I didn’t work out, but I thank her every day for my apparel sales career. 

A sales rep colleague introduced me to the world of bullfighting, and I took the sport up as an amateur. Yes, I realize it’s almost impossible to imagine my burgeoning middle-aged spread ever donning toreador pants. But back in the day, I worked out, and had quite the physique. And if I say so myself, I looked quite dashing in my costume. I eventually gave the gig up, but found a way to incorporate bullfighting into my career. With a dip and a sweep, every customer remembers my presentations as a ladies’ apparel manufacturers’ representative. It is an effective shtick and has become synonymous with my selling style. 

Tell us about your daughter, Holly.

Not that I’m prejudiced or anything- but how much time do we have? Because I could go on about my daughter Holly for days. She’s whip-smart, has a wicked sense of humor, loyal to a fault, fiercely independent, stands up for herself, doesn’t take crap from anyone-including, no, especially her parents, and is not afraid to speak her mind. 

What has been your dream for Holly’s future?

My dream for Holly’s future has always been to dream for her all that she dreams for herself.


Natalie and I raised our kids to think for themselves and follow their hearts to find the right path for themselves. It has always been what our kids wanted for themselves that was important for them to pursue, NOT what we wanted for them.

What has happened to change those dreams?

Nothing has happened to change my dreams for Holly. My dreams for her are still, and always will be, those that she dreams for herself. But in life, nothing is as constant as change-including one’s dreams. Not long ago, I needed to go to Cleveland when a family emergency arose while I was in the middle of a tradeshow in Atlanta. I reached out to Holly to come to Atlanta and run the show for me. She agreed and as I predicted, did a fantastic job. As a result of her tradeshow experience, Holly’s dreams changed and now so have mine for her. 

How can you help her to achieve her dreams?

As her parent, I have some perspective, and see things in Holly that she does not see in herself. She did not see herself as a natural-born saleswoman, but I did. Now as her career mentor, I help her achieve her dreams by teaching her everything about her craft. By reminding her that she sells confidence, not clothing- she sells herself and nothing else. I teach her that it’s okay to admit what she doesn’t know and stick to her guns with what she does. I remind her not to let anyone step on her dreams and never be afraid to fail-that she will, in fact, learn a lot more from her failures than she ever will from her successes. But most of all, that life holds no limitations, and if she perseveres, she can accomplish whatever she sets her mind to.

Want more? Let's get an excerpt from Rag Lady:

“To tell you the truth, the problem is, I kinda like Dad’s offer.” I squirmed in my chair. “But I don’t wanna make a mistake. I will screw my life up if I make the wrong choice. I’m trying to imagine myself doing the job Dad does. The adventuresome part of me says it’s cool. No school, no exams, no tedious papers to compose. I’d be experiencing life instead of reading about it. And getting paid to do it. But the realistic part of me says, are you nuts? Schlepping those heavy garment bags all over the place? And what kind of a life would I have traveling all the time? I don’t trust myself to make the right decision, and I’m driving myself crazy. I want someone else to decide, and tell me which way to go.”

Nana looked over her glasses and clucked her tongue. “Well, too bad, kiddo. Life doesn’t work that way. Let me tell you something. And the sooner you learn it, the easier your life will be. Man plans, and God laughs.”

I looked at Nana like she’d spoken in Sanskrit. “Meaning?” 

Nana answered in the same indulgent tone she used when I was a toddler. “It means plan all you want, but most of the time, your plans don’t mean a hill of beans. To use your vernacular, shit happens. You’re going along singing a song, confident life is a well-planned party. But the truth is, the road to life from birth to death isn’t paved in a straight line. It’s paved with hills and valleys, U-turns, and unexpected curves. And trust me. Nothing usually works out the way you think it will. To really live life and not merely exist taking up space, you must love a good mystery, love a good adventure, and love a good challenge. Kiddo, nothing in life is as constant as change. Keep your head on a swivel, and explore all your options. Look behind you for a sense of history, to the sides for a sense of proportion, and most important, remember God screwed our heads on facing forward for a reason. To look ahead to the future. To make good decisions, you can’t be afraid to make a mistake. You will learn more from your failures than from your successes. Regret is the worst human emotion because it is the one we can usually do nothing about. Always be yourself, don’t live your life for someone else, or in terms of someone else. Trust your gut, and believe in yourself.” 

When she finished, I asked, “So, what should I do?”  

Nana waved that gnarled index finger at me again and smiled. “Nice try, kiddo. It’s not important what I think. It’s only important what you think. So?” 

In a moment of clarity, I looked Nana in the eye and made my decision. 

Looking for more? Here are the buy links for Rag Lady and social media contacts for Susie Black.

Thank you Susie for being my guest today.  Any questions or comments for Susie?

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Art of Story Telling

As a former television news and documentary writer/producer, I've always enjoyed meeting a fellow journalist so I was eager to learn more about the background of today's guest in My Writing Corner, author Jill Ocone. 

She has been a writer/editor for Jersey Shore Magazine/Jersey Shore Publications since 2014 and a high school communications, journalism, and English teacher since 2001.

In addition to writing, she says she loves making memories with her nieces and nephews, seeing new places, laughing with her family and friends, and sharing her Jersey Shore home with her husband.  Her new book is Enduring the Waves and it is her debut novel.  Let's find out more about Jill.

What do you enjoy about being an author?

Painting with words is what makes me come alive. The colors of my soul and the textures of my heart combine with my mind’s words to create unique masterpieces on the blank pages that are my canvases.

What do you find is the most challenging part of being an author?

Finding the time to write consistently. As a full-time high school journalism teacher, I’m coaching young writers all the time, and it’s difficult to write for myself after my school day ends because my energy has been depleted. I try to write every morning at school for 45 minutes before my day begins.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I began writing what was first titled “Finding Shannon” in 2017 and finished it in 2018. I queried it as "Chapter One-A Novel” for a little over four years. The Wild Rose Press offered me a traditional publishing contract in February 2023, and after consulting with my editorial team, we agreed to change its title to "Enduring the Waves." 

The wavelike appearance of the triskelion's three spirals and the trials the main character, Kelly Lynch, endures make "Enduring the Waves" the perfect title for her compelling story. The revised title also reflects the novel’s growth into its own identity. 

What is your book that you will feature today and how did you come up with the idea to write it?

I traveled to Dublin for the first time during the summer of August 2014, eight months after losing a cherished friend. On three separate occasions, I swear I saw her face in the crowd (twice on Grafton Street and once near Trinity College). She was an avid James Joyce aficionado but had never been to Ireland despite being of Irish descent.

One night in late 2015, I was jolted awake after dreaming about an old woman who said to me, “Once you write CHAPTER ONE, everything will fall into place.” There was a symbol in my dream, one I had never seen before, and I scribbled a very rough replica of it.

Turns out it was a Triskele/Triskelion.

Both the symbol and the phrase "Chapter One" would mysteriously appear in my life countless times from that point forward. The universe used many additional signs to guide me to Dublin three more times in the summers of 2016, 2017, and 2018. I had no idea what the hell I was doing there, but I trusted I was being led to my purpose. On my first trip, I planned to visit the James Joyce Centre and the James Joyce Tower and Museum, but I stumbled into innumerable additional fortuitous experiences and fell in love with Dublin more and more with each visit. My journey inspired me to write Enduring the Waves.

Let’s get a blurb:

As Waterville High School’s newest English teacher, Kelly Lynch befriends fellow educator and James Joyce enthusiast Shannon Moran. While Kelly grapples with deep scars from her past, she struggles to balance her active life as a teacher and her stagnant marriage to shiftless alcoholic Wayne Coopersmith. Shannon’s encouragement resurrects Kelly’s passion for writing, while Kelly inspires Shannon to pursue her lifelong dream of studying in Dublin, Ireland.

After two devastating events fracture Kelly’s life, she searches for meaning in her grief by following a trail of mysterious clues that guide her from the New Jersey shore to Dublin.

Sparks ignite her long-dormant creativity and a raging inferno in her heart while on the Emerald Isle as two unsuspecting Dubliners combine forces to hearten Kelly’s awakening. She returns home to the Jersey Shore having endured the waves spurred by her past, present, and future and ready to pursue her true calling.

How about an excerpt:

        I trail that red hair like a bloodhound. Shannon’s doppelganger expertly threads between the vehicular traffic then weaves through the innumerable people on Grafton. I fall in step behind her and panic for a split second when I momentarily lose sight of her, but then the hair darts left onto Duke Street and into a place called Davy Byrnes. I loiter outside the pub with the oddly familiar name.

        Well, here goes nothing.

        I casually stroll through the mostly empty pub like a detective looking for a missing person. My gaze scours the entire establishment, but I don't spot the mystery woman.

        She’s got to be in here,so I will wait it out.

        After sitting on a stool where I can see almost every high-traffic area, the bartender asks with a fabulous Irish accent, “What’ll it be, love?”

        “What kind of soft drinks do you have?” I absently inquire while combing through my wallet for money.

        “For minerals, I have cola, lemon lime, orange, and of course, beer and whiskey if you feel so inclined.” 

        “Orange, please.”

        “As you wish.” He fills a glass with ice and places it in front of me along with an open glass bottle. I hand him three euros, and when his hazel eyes meet mine, he slaps his palm against his forehead. “Go way outta that, weren’t you over by Parnell Square earlier today?”

        I am face to face with the chestnut-haired puddle jumper I encountered in front of the Dublin Writers Museum.

What’s your next project or what are you working on now?

I recently finished a nonfiction manuscript telling the stories behind the names and vessels on the local Fisherman’s Memorial statue at the Manasquan Inlet and submitted it to a local publisher for consideration. I also have two novels about half finished and hope to finish one of them by year’s end. I am a senior writer and editor for Jersey Shore Magazine and Jersey Shore Publications, so I’m always working on something for that publisher.

Here are the buy links for Enduring the Waves and social contact information to get in touch with Jill.

Buy Links:

Amazon:  Enduring the Waves

Barnes and Noble: Enduring the Waves

Apple:  Enduring the Waves

Social Contacts:

Website:  jillocone.com  

Email:  jillocone@gmail.com

Facebook:  @jillocone

Twitter:  @jill_ocone

Linkedin:  @jillocone

Instagram:  @jillocone

Thank you, Jill, for being my guest today. Any questions or comments for Jill?

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

A Flaming Choice

 As the holiday season draws nearer, I don't know about you, but I am researching books I might want to buy for my friends as gifts or to read myself as the cold days keep me inside. Today's guest, in My Writing Corner has a new book that sounds like it might be perfect to give to one of my long time buddies. Joining me today is Author AK Nevermore and she is introducing us to her new book, Flame & Shadow that was just published.

AK says she enjoys operating heavy machinery, freebaseing coffee, and gives up sarcasm for Lent every year. A Jane-of-all-trades, she’s a certified chef and restores antiques when she’s not running down the dream in her beat-up camo Chucks.

Unable to ignore the voices in her head, and unwilling to become medicated, she says she decided to write Science Fiction and Fantasy full time.

Along with books, AK tells us she writes copious amounts of copy and a column on SFF. She belongs to the Authors Guild and is an RWA chapter board member. According to AK, she volunteers for far too many committees, while also teaching creative writing. She does admit to sleeping on rare occasions. In other words, AK is one busy woman!

Her first novel, Flame & Shadow, debuted November 13th and will be featured here today.  Her second in the Dae Diaries series, Air & Darkness, is slated for release late 2024.  Let's find out more about AK and her new book.

What do you enjoy about being an author?

Reading something I’ve written and having it surprise me. There’s no better feeling than turning a page and spitting out your drink, belly laughing. Like, did I seriously write that? Yup. Yup, I did! That always gives me the warm fuzzies.

What do you find is the most challenging part of being an author?

The route to publication and trusting yourself to make the best decisions for your career. There’s so much of what “you should do and how you should do it”—and yes, that was totally finger quoted. It feeds all of the self doubt authors so often suffer from. At some point you have to pull up your big girl pants, just say “Screw it!” and go get yours. Finding the courage to do that is super hard, and I don’t think that ever goes away. At least, it hasn’t for me yet.

How do you develop characters?

I write them. Hah! I say that like it’s easy, but I’m a pantser, so it’s a lot of literal writing and then going back and solidifying what comes out of my characters being in situations. That’s one of my favorite parts because I never know what they’re going to do until they do it. It definitely keeps things exciting!

Tell us about your road to publication.

Flame & Shadow is published by The Wild Rose Press. I hooked up with them through the RWA’s Romance Authors Mentorship Program, so it wasn’t a conscious decision to send them my stuff, but it worked out. I wish I had some grand plan, but that’s usually how I fall into things. The important take-away is just to put yourself out there.

What is your latest book and how did you come up with the idea to write it? 

The Dae Diaries is my newest series, and I’m currently working on book 3. But honestly, the first book, Flame & Shadow, was written entirely out of angst. I had been in the querying trenches for way longer than was healthy and the amount of conflicting advice you get is ridiculous. One day I just decided to follow all of it.

And I don’t mean in a studious, “hmm, I’ll take that into consideration,” kind of way, I mean in a, “That’s what you want? Well, watch out because here it comes,” passive aggressive throw down that came out just ridiculous. Everything I implemented was tongue in cheek and had a sarcastic spin to it. I literally wrote the book laughing, and at that point, I really needed that. It was super cathartic and pretty shameless. Writing Envy and the gang is a ton of fun.

Whuie Flame & Shadow,was just released, the second book in the Dae Diaries series, Air & Darkness is slated for release late 2024. For a free prequel, you can visit: https://aknevermore.com/books/one-night-in-bliss/

Let's get a blurb:

Half-daemon Envy Starr is destined to die on Midsummer's Eve, still a virgin, on some crappy cult's live-stream feed. With thirty days left to live, the chance to escape her fate and get some action compels her into her absentee father's world of beautifully cultured cruelty. 

Once there, she's the object of a deadly game, slated to alter the Fae realm's power structure. Worse, the rules keep changing, and everyone has an ulterior motive, including her dae-licious guide, Brennan. Under a geas he's desperate to break, she can't trust him, or herself. Stupid Stockholm syndrome. 

But unless she can come to terms with what lies in her heart, her unlikely survival will be a fate worse than death. For her, and the rest of Fae.

How about an excerpt?

I scrabbled at the pitted metal. How was it even possible? It had no keyhole, just two thin lines like the halves had been snapped together and the ring for his leash.

I started hyperventilating.

“Pet...” The sing-song whisper almost made me piss myself it was so close. I jammed my fist in my mouth, keeping still. A twig snapped to my right, and I screwed my eyes shut. 

A massive crash followed it, and I took off. In retrospect, that was my first mistake. I mean, my first mistake since I’d tried to knee him in the nuts. I was racking them up like student loans otherwise.

The forest floor quickly smoothed out and become easier to navigate, but the trees here were spiky, twisty things crowded close together. They didn’t look, I don’t know, earthly. I had a bad feeling that I’d somehow wandered into Fae.

It doesn’t happen often, but there are some places where the veil is thin enough to walk right across. Usually it corrects itself, but I’d told you this whole thing with Mica felt scripted. It wouldn’t surprise me if he was holding a way open, funneling me exactly where he wanted me to go. I thought about it, but stopping and waiting for him to show up with his rifle

seemed worse.

I stayed on the stupid path. Through narrow gaps in the trees I could see patches of mire and bracken, some clusters of stone, but getting to them would be a bitch. Mica ’s howl in the not-so-distant distance took that off the table.

I kept running.

What is your next project?

I’m currently working on getting book 2, Air & Darkness, through production, and fiddling around with the so far unnamed book 3 in the series. I also have a dark SFF romance series I’m getting geared up to rapid release next year, and another project has recently popped up that I’m pretty excited about, but keeping quiet on until it pans out, so there are a lot of irons in the fire.

How do you come up with your plots?

Usually by accident. See my above answer. Generally I’ll have a scene in mind, or sometimes just a concept for a world. My characters will come in, populate it, and then what they do there determines where the plot goes. Usually around the halfway point I’m like “Oohhh… that’s what this is about…” and then I'll go back and seed the ending, or what I think is the ending. That usually changes at some point near the actual end, and then I have to write the beginning again, but being surprised is totally worth it.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Just write. Forget about all of the so-called rules and just get your idea down on paper. It will suck and that’s ok. The first draft is your discovery draft, telling yourself the story. Once you do that, celebrate! OMG you wrote a frickin’ book!! Don’t worry about making it good until after the morning after hangover fades.

Here are the Buy Links and Social contacts for AK:

Amazon: Flame & Shadow  

Apple BooksFlame & Shadow 

Barnes & Noble:  Flame & Shadow 

How to get in touch:

Website:  www.aknevermore.com

Facebook: @AK Nevermore

Twitter: @AkNevermore

Instagram: @AKNevermore

TikTok: @AK.Nevermore

Email: ak@aknevermore.com

Thank you for being my guest today, AK. Any questions for AK?

LIving the Dream

While the calendar may read December, this is the time we all want to start thinking about those great warm days that will be coming soon (h...