Posted in inspiration, Thoughts, writing inspiration

Thrills, Chills and Romance…

What do horror stories and romance have in common? My husband is an avid horror movie buff and he reads sci-fi and medical thrillers, but he also likes to watch romance movies and those reunion clips on YouTube. You know the ones where a military person is reunited with their child, spouse or other family member. It always makes me cry.

I have never loved horror movies. I like vampires and werewolves, and some horror/thriller movies. I enjoy reading some of the darker books with some horror elements but I don’t consider myself a true horror fan. I have worked in haunted houses and I’ve marched in parades dressed as a clown, yet find it difficult to go into a haunted house and clowns can be a bit creepy.

While I was doing research for this blog, I was curious about what scientist and psychologist say about our love for horror. As a romance author, I have heard speakers talk about the affects of romance novels on readers. Stories can make people more empathetic, understanding, open-minded and there is a feminism to modern romance stories. Yes, readers still want the happy ever after of old but we see women who choose careers over having a family, we see their love-interest being supportive of their goals and willing to make sacrifices to help them achieve them. There are still some traditional romances where the couple marries and have a family, but they aren’t the only option. What surprised me when I was doing the research was that horror fans are also thought to be more empathetic and intuitive. While it’s true, some movies can feed aggressive behavior, such as movies where there is a lot of fighting, and the theme is might is always right. For the most part, as the master Stephen King explains, horror itself is a sort of safety valve, a symbolic cantharis for our cruel and aggressive behavior.

From WebMD blog “Why We Love Scary Movies” by Richard Sine, his interview with Joanne Cantor, PhD, director of the Center of Communication Research at University of Wisconsin, Madison states, “most people like to experience pleasant emotions.” We fall in love alongside the characters in a romance, experience their journey to their happy ending and are left feeling as if we’ve just fallen in love.

Professor Glen Sparks believes horror movies may be similar to our ancient rite of passage rituals. Young men especially feel the need to pit themselves against something bigger, meaner, and prove themselves. In watching a scary movie, the fear is real. Our bodies haven’t learned to filter out what is on screen and what is real danger. We react as if we are the ones hunted by the monster; our heartbeats increase, our palms sweat, skin temperature drops, muscles tense, and our blood pressure spikes.

Psychologist Glenn D. Walters identified three factors that feed the attraction to horror entertainment: 1) Tension-by including elements of mystery, suspense, gore, terror, and shock it ramps up the tension. 2) Relevance-including elements viewers identify with which plays on the psychology of fear, the most universal, the fear of death, the unknown, or cultural relevance. 3) Unrealism-having all of these “real” elements coupled with the knowledge that it is not real and probably won’t ever happen, allows the viewer to experience the fear, test their mettle within a safe environment.

Stories were originally told as a form of education. Don’t go too far from the cave or you’ll be eaten by dinosaurs. Don’t go into the woods or you’ll be attacked by wolves. Our first stories were horror stories told to keep us safe and warn of dangers.

Going into a haunted house or watching a scary movie allows us to conquer our fears. For many, horror and other violent entertainment is a way to deal with actual fears and real violence. Just as a person might learn how they wish to be treated by a lover from a romance book or movie, they can also learn to cope with evil from watching or reading horror. Fiction, no matter the genre has a way of telling us what other options are available to us. It can open our eyes to possibilities. While I don’t expect to meet a Duke and live in a mansion, having a husband who treats me as his priority and he mine, is a big part of what romance taught me. Being brave enough to face down demons from hell with only a bottle of holy water and a crucifix, well, maybe not so much. I think I’d prefer to be armed with a flamethrower at least. But whether you are a fan of horror or romance, sci-fi or action-adventure, I hope you will open your eyes and heart to people, their differences and similarities. Most of us, no matter where we come from, the color of our skin or our religion, we’re just trying to survive, find love and enjoy a few moments of peace and happiness.

Research sites:

WebMD-Why We Love Scary Movies by Richard Sine

Washington Post-Why We Like Scary Things by Richard Sima

RWR-Romance Writers of America

Posted in Uncategorized

Guest Blogger, Tyler Wittkofsky

Today, I’d like to welcome guest blogger, Tyler Wittkofsky. Tyler is no stranger. He’s been on my blog several times with author interviews and promoting his books. If you follow me on social media, you have probably seen some of Tyler’s posts. He is an advocate for mental health. Tyler is open about his own diagnosis and shares his struggles with the development of his fictional characters. Tyler proves that we all deserve to be the hero in our own story. I hope you enjoy Tyler’s blog.

What It’s Like Writing with Mental Illness

I’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness for nearly ten years now. In that ten years, I have seen the way that mental health impacts people and have experienced the ups and downs of mental illness. When I first received my diagnosis, I was ashamed of who I was. I hid it from people. Every aspect of my life was impacted by this diagnosis, I just had never noticed it before because I simply didn’t know.

When I started writing poetry in 2012, it stemmed from my mental illness. I needed an outlet to write down my feelings to free my troubled soul. I wrote poetry to describe how I was feeling and release the emotion that would build up within me. Some of it was dark, some of it was happy, all of it was mental illness personified.

My mental illness served as my muse in that respect, giving me a source of inspiration and raw emotion to fuel my writing. I found that who I was deep down was the person I would grow to love. Despite the mental illness diagnosis, I had hope again because of my writing. I never thought about publishing it though, because it was still a secret I was ashamed of.

Fast forward a few years and my mental health was the worst it had ever been. I was drowning in life’s tides and couldn’t escape the incessant ebb and flow of the waves. Still, I hid my diagnosis from everyone except those closest to me. I was still ashamed of it.

Then one day, a book idea came to me. My first novel came about out of a desire to help others feel like they aren’t alone in life. I had spent so many years hiding my secret from everyone that when I finally started opening up to people, it made me question why I hadn’t sooner. I had this desire to write my story and help other people like me not feel alone.

I used my mental illness and experiences as my muse to write that story. I crafted a new adult fiction story that followed a young man with mental illness, showing the harsh realities of living with mental illness. My goal was to raise awareness and help people understand what it was like to live with a mental illness and help those with mental illness have the courage to reach out to those closest to them.

Then came time to let people actually read my work. My anxiety kicked in and my heart beat out of my chest. Every time I thought about someone reading it, I would hyperventilate. It felt like the air was sucked out of my chest and replaced with a void that sucked away every bit of my confidence.

When I sent it to friends and family, I started to avoid them. I didn’t want to hear their feedback because I was afraid of hearing the truth. I secluded myself and delved into a pit of darkness. The thing was, though, these people were the same ones I wrote about in my story.

They all loved it and that sent me into a spiral of mania. I was on top of the world. I put together everything I needed to publish the story and was throwing money at it to help keep it afloat, because I didn’t care about money anymore. Desire to be published filled my heart. I was happy and on a mission that I would accomplish.

It’s a never-ending cycle though, because once I published it my manic spree was over. The depression and anxiety of bipolar swarmed through my mind. I was so terrified of letting the world read my work, especially about a topic so sensitive.

I feared what future employers would think of me if they knew I cared so much about mental health. What would my current job think? Would my other friends who didn’t know about my diagnosis judge me?

Then came the people who told me thank you for writing the story. That put me on the top of the world. It wasn’t a manic type of joy, but one of pure ecstasy. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and I discovered what my truest passion was.

Writing my story pulled me out of the darkness. When I heard the stories of others, it helped me understand Iwasn’t alone in my struggles. I made it my mission to raise awareness for mental health through my writing after that. Giving people that kind of hope is what I want to accomplish with my stories.


Tyler Wittkofsky is a multi-genre author, podcaster, mental health blogger, and award-winning marketing and communications professional from the southern coast of North Carolina where he currently resides with his wife Grace and dogs Dutch and Belle.

The Seeds of Love: Sunflower Kisses Book One

His first novel, (Not) Alone, was based on true events surrounding the struggles of mental illness. The Seeds of Love: Sunflower Kisses Book One was his debut romance novel centered around a mentally ill young man. His first poetry collection, Coffee, Alcohol, and Heartbreak, was composed of mental health-based poems written over four years.

Tyler blogs his mental health journey on He is the co-host on the Back Porch Parley podcast where he discusses society and modern trends in an attempt to bring civility back to discussion.

You can find him on social media at @TylerWittkofsky and his work at

Posted in inspiration, writing inspiration, Writing tips

Fight Scenes from My Writer Friends

My friends have sent examples of fight scenes from their books. See the variety of fights and how they set them up. As you read them, I realize that they are out of context but see how they set them up, the emotions, the choreography of the fight. Study the scenes. When you read a book you love in the genre you want to write, see what works, what you’d do different. When you are editing your work, edit for pacing, for details and description, for emotion and for the payoff. What do you want this scene to do? Remember, even a fight scene must do something. It has to move the story along. Tell us something about the character, be a turning point or a black moment. It needs to fulfill a need in the reader as well as the character.

Red Shoes by Donna Steele

Chapter Twenty-Seven

“Nikki? You okay?” The door hadn’t been locked. Micah knew she was growing more comfortable every day, but that was still not like her. He didn’t mind her caution. Now that he knew about Adrian, Micah knew she had every reason for it. (foreshadowing)

Something didn’t feel right. She had said she’d call him when she was through with her errands, but she hadn’t. And she hadn’t answered when he called her. That’s why he had shown up early. (Increasing anxiety)

What? Had he heard something? He headed for the kitchen and spotted her. What the . . . was that blood on her lip? And her eyes, one was swollen shut and bruises were beginning to show on her face and neck. (initial reaction/confusion)

Shit! He rushed toward her. It didn’t look as though she was restrained, but she sat unmoving on one of the kitchen chairs. Her hands were clamped around the seat at her sides. “Nikki?”

She didn’t speak, though she watched him. Tears filled her eyes, but none fell.

“Nikki, talk to me.”

She didn’t move, but her eyes shifted to behind him and fear filled them. It was all the warning he got. He shifted as the fireplace poker came down with what would have been deadly force had it hit his head. He felt and heard his collarbone break and his right arm went dead.

Adrian had found her. They were both in trouble. Micah’s right side might not be much use but he pivoted. What choice did he have? He rammed himself into the man with his left shoulder, knocking him to the floor. (action and reaction) *note how the author took into account his wound.

God that hurt.

Adrian wasn’t that big. Micah had visualized him much larger, but that had been from Nikki’s descriptions. He wasn’t as tall and not nearly as muscular as Micah. This was a man used to buying the strength he needed.

Micah kicked the poker farther away. “Get out of here, Nikki! Call 911!”

She didn’t move. He’d seen no ropes, no cuffs. He looked back at her, what had he missed? Adrian kicked out. Micah had an instant to thank God he hit the back of Micah’s knee instead of the front or side, but he still went down.

What the hell was he doing underestimating this man? Adrian had brutalized his wife for years, other women before that. The asshole couldn’t be a complete wuss.

“Nikki, move!”

“Victoria.” Adrian hissed at him. He seemed afraid to come too close. “Her name is Victoria and she belongs to me.”

“She belongs to herself.” Micah made it back to his feet, though he knew he wasn’t really in fighting shape right now. Hell, he’d practically gone down without a fight. The element of surprise worked well for Adrian. Micah’s leg was hurt, not as badly as his arm, but he needed to make this quick. Why was she still sitting there? Her knuckles were white where she gripped the chair.

“You’ll pay for touching her. She will too, but you first.”

Micah watched in horror as the smaller man aimed a police taser at him. No! Where had he gotten a weapon like that? They weren’t legal. Shit, he was thinking like a lawyer. He needed more time, but it didn’t exist. He charged Adrian hoping his size would intimidate the man. Adrian did fall back a step, but then he discharged the weapon. 

Twin lightning bolts struck Micah’s chest and abdomen and he dropped into the blackness. (Donna used and economy of description to keep the pacing tight, the anxiety up and convey the sense of urgency but still managed to let the reader SEE what was happening. We experienced it right along with the character.)


Nooo! She didn’t scream, she couldn’t. It wasn’t allowed. Adrian was going to kill her. She’d accepted that hadn’t she? He’d never even be charged. No one knew who she was except Micah.

Not Micah!

Micah loved her. He didn’t deserve this. She hadn’t been able to move and Adrian had killed him. So let him kill her, but she wasn’t going down without a fight. Micah had thought she was strong. (finding strength and courage even when all seems lost.)

Adrian wasn’t even worried about her. He had ordered her to sit in the chair and now he turned his back on her, to ensure that Micah was dead. Darkness threatened to cover her mind. Micah.

She released the chair, working blood back into her fingers. She was startled at how easy it was to do something for Micah. Adrian hadn’t noticed. He was confident in his power over her. That was a mistake, she had grown while out from under his rule.

Her hand closed over the forgotten fireplace poker and she lifted it.

Adrian pulled the twin stickers from Micah’s body and she saw his smile. God, had he always looked that evil? How blind had she been?

Some sound caused Adrian to start to turn toward her. What had Micah told her, clench up on the bat, swing with your whole body and visualize the ball going out of the park. Now. She swung the poker like that bat; her grip tight as Micah had shown her and she hit Adrian’s back solid and hard. She heard something crack and the air whooshed out of Adrian. His look of astonishment would have been funny in some other time or place. She saw and heard his head hit the brick fireplace as he seemed to sail across the room. (previous set-up, Micah taught her to swing a baseball bat.)

That couldn’t have been her strength. It was Micah’s, he was still helping her. Adrian lay still on the hearth as she raced to Micah’s side. Tears were now streaming down her face. Then Micah groaned. Alive? Micah was alive?

God, she needed help. She ran to the front door and threw it open. Then she screamed. It was loud and long and it felt so good, so powerful.

More than one door flew open around her. “Call 911!” Neighbors came running, some with phones in their hands. She saw Mr. Gregory from two doors down running her way with a baseball bat. Friends. She had friends!

Sheriff Haas arrived before the ambulance by less than a minute. “Miss Nikki? What’s going on? I got a dozen calls.”

“Micah’s hurt. Adrian tried to kill him.”

“Looks like he tried to kill you too. Who’s Adrian?”

She pointed toward the man face down on her floor. Micah had been covered with the afghan from her couch, Adrian was untouched. She didn’t even know or care if he was breathing.

“That the man Micah said you were scared of?” She nodded. “Had good reason to be.” He stepped aside as the EMTs entered.

“Micah’s first. Please make sure he’s okay.” Nikki said to the red-headed woman.

“We need to check them both.”

“The man over there is under arrest, Sara.” Sheriff Haas said.

She nodded and motioned for her partner to check him out as she knelt by Micah. “What happened?” Sara looked up at the sheriff, but it was Nikki that answered.

“Adrian hit Micah with the fireplace poker, I think his collar bone is broken and he kicked him in the knee, then he tasered him with that.” She pointed to the taser half under the couch where it had fallen when she’d struck Adrian.

Sheriff Haas knelt down and picked up the taser with a rubber glove. “Shit, this thing’s lethal. Sara?”

“His vitals are good, Sheriff. We need to transport, get some X-rays, but I think he’s gonna be fine. Barry?”

“This one’s out cold. Probably at least a concussion and his left lung is collapsed, broken ribs.”

Nikki’s eyes widened. “I broke his ribs?” (surprised by her own strength/underdog)

“Looks like you needed to. We’ll get it all sorted out. You need to be looked at too, you know. There’s a cut over your eye probably needs a couple of stitches. Let Sara look after you. I’ll handle this.”

“This guy’s the worse off,” Barry said, drawing attention back to Adrian.

“I’ll get them to dispatch another unit.” Sara was already on the radio. Sheriff Haas motioned for one of his deputies who’d just walked in to guard Adrian, though it was unnecessary at this point.

Nikki sat on the floor beside Micah, holding his hand and feeling safe.

Learning Trust by Donna Steele

They separated after Suzanne gave her arm a squeeze. Becca put her out of her mind for now. She had one priority and that was to get to Mitch. In a fair fight she might be able to take Wannamaker, but she had no intention of fighting fair. (preparing to fight)

She carefully crept up to the first house and looked in the nearest window. It was dark inside, and she could discern no movement. Her hand tightened on the poker in her right hand. He wouldn’t expect her to come after him. That was to her advantage.

Wait a minute, she was an idiot— it was back. She pressed her fingers against the windowsill, not relinquishing her hold on the weapon. Nothing, they weren’t here.

She crouched down and moved in the shadow of the house. Full darkness wasn’t far off, but her eyes were accustomed to the available light for now. She moved to the next house, for the first time wishing they were closer together like in the city. Beauty be damned right now.

Becca didn’t need to touch the window as she got closer to the second house. Mitch was in there. She had no doubt; he was injured, but alive.

Trying desperately for silence, she moved slowly to the door. Wannamaker had to be inside too, right? She couldn’t feel him, and thank goodness for that from one aspect. She tightened her grip on the poker and moved around the corner.

Too late she felt the presence, something slimy, filthy the same as at the tire tracks. Then she felt the blow to her arm, knocking the poker free as she heard the bone snap. The second blow knocked her to her back and then the insane eyes of the man she was tracking were above her. (notice the choreography, it’s not a step by step but still intense.)

“You felt him, didn’t you? That didn’t occur to me, but I guess there are a lot of things about being a physic I’m going to have to learn after I take what I need from you. I really would like a long conversation before then. I promise to be quick about it, so you won’t be in that much pain, but there are things you’re going to have to tell me first. Oh this is just wonderful. You came to me.”

The lunatic was talking to her. Wanting her help before transferring her powers? He sounded giddy as a little girl, as though he wanted to clap his hands in glee.

He kicked the poker away. “Now I’m going to help you to your feet, Rebekkah. This is over except for the final conveying of the power. You should know I’ve never talked to one of my experiments this way before, but then you’re almost as special in your own way as I am. Oh, I am just delighted to have this chance to talk first.”

Lord, he was going to clap. Becca stared up at him in disgusted wonder.

“Come now. We’ll be more comfortable inside. I don’t want to drug you, not and dampen any of that special brain, but I will have to bind you. A mere broken arm might not keep you from running away. Of course, there is the promise that I will kill your gas jockey if you try anything.” (are you feeling the menace)

She allowed him to take hold of her right shoulder, to help her sit up. It freed her left hand, trapped beneath her, and still holding the grilling fork.

He had no time to dodge. The look in his eye at the first blow was not of pain or fear, but shock and then outrage that she would do something like that. The second and third stabs brought the pain and the blood that was now trickling down his shirt caused the fear. The fourth blow was the one. Her aim grew better when he shoved himself away from her and began dabbing at the growing stains. Between the ribs, she put her full weight behind it and skewered his heart. (just when you thought all was lost…)

She felt it, the electricity of his body’s system short-circuiting and the expression of astonishment on his face almost made her laugh. He sank slowly to the ground and she thought of yanking the fork out once more, to use it again if he so much as twitched. It wasn’t necessary, she knew he was dead.

She stepped back and leaned against the house, suddenly wobbly. Her arm hurt now that the adrenaline was gone. Deep trembles were taking its place. (the after is just as important as what happens before, how did this fight affect the character?)

No, she didn’t have time for that. Mitch!

She forced herself into a run and burst through the front door, causing it to slam into the wall behind. “Mitch!”

There was no answer, but she was still moving. She flipped on every light. Suzanne would see that and come as fast as she could, with help. There, on the floor of the eating area, beside the blessed maple table, Mitch lay unconscious on the floor. His head was bleeding and he was still bound to the chair.

“I’m here, Mitch. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry you got caught up in this,” she babbled as she tried to release him with her one good hand. That’s when she realized, somewhere in the back of her mind, that she had left the fork sticking out of Wannamaker’s shriveled little heart.

Where was a phone? She staggered to her feet and spotted it on the kitchen wall. She dropped it the length of the cord and hit 911 then yanked it back up to her ear.

“911. What’s your emergency?”

“I need an ambulance and the sheriff. I don’t know the address but it’s on Lakeside.”

“I have it. Stay on the line, please.” How could the woman sound so calm? “Ma’am, we have vehicles already on the way to Lakeside.  You should be hearing them—”

“I do. Thank you!” She hurried to the door and waved them into the driveway.

Donna Steele

New Secrets – A Conall Clan book coming January 2021!

Suspense thriller Random Road by Thomas Kies

Lance jerked up quickly. I could see his face in the mirror, covered in a crimson cloud of rage. “That miserable son of a bitch kept one of the swords? That night on the dock, our dock, he told us he didn’t want to have anything to do with either one of us. He said we were meth-heads, that our brains were fried. He kicked us to the curb like we were garbage. He said we, we, were incompetent and stupid. And we were like brothers, Jimmy and me, like fucking brothers.”

I looked over at Drew again. His misery was absolute. He’d heard it. Jimmy and Lance were like brothers. Not Lance and Drew.

“Drew?” I quietly asked.

When he looked at me, there were tears trailing down his cheeks.

“Was it you who called the police and told them about the bodies in the Chadwick house?”

“I couldn’t stand knowing that they were all dead, that she was dead, and lying on the floor, just up the road from here.”

Lance’s left hand strengthened its grip on my shoulder and his right hand pressed the knife blade against my neck. “Now the only question that’s left, Miss Chase, is what are we going to do with you? You’re kind of a loose end.”

I could feel the cold steel of the knife against my carotid artery. These guys butchered six people. One more certainly wasn’t going to make any difference.

I worked hard to find a voice through my escalating terror. “If the police are talking to Jimmy, you know it won’t take long for him to give you up. The cops are probably on their way here now.” (notice the strong word choices)

“Maybe,” Lance mused, “but once they get here, it’s not going to help us if you’re here telling them our story.”

I was willing to try anything. “Take off now. Get a head start. Take my cell phone, disable my car. When the cops get here, I won’t say anything. They’ll already have Jimmy’s testimony. They won’t need mine.”

Lance was grinning in the mirror, looking at himself, admiring his own reflection. “Yeah, the reporter won’t say anything,” he repeated sarcastically. “I can make sure of that. We’re going to take a boat ride, Miss Chase.”

I involuntarily glanced at the dock where the powerboat was tied.

“Drew, come here, get around back, get her by the neck.”

The boy got up and moved fast, behind me. The steel blade of the knife vanished, replaced by the crook of Drew’s thick, muscular arm, pressed hard against my windpipe.

Lance stood in front of me, looking me up and down. “You’re pretty, Miss Chase. I think we’ll have some fun with you before you go for a swim.”

No. Gotta be a way out.

Lance turned and led the way, still holding the butcher knife.

Rain falling, we followed. I tried to walk, but my legs didn’t work right. Drew half-carried me by the neck across the yard to the dock.

Weapon, I need a weapon. (plan, emotion)

I tried kicking my feet against the ground.

Not working.

I pulled at his arm.

Too strong.

We moved up the dock, got to where the boat was tied off. Lance hopped across onto the deck and turned. “Can you get her across okay, Drew?”

“I got her.”

He put his other arm around my waist and carried me onto the boat.

I tried kicking him. All I got was air. (attempted maneuver, not everything has to work, sometimes it’s more believable when it doesn’t.)

Lance ordered. “Get her below and into the master stateroom. Use one of the lines and tie her up if you have to. I’ll cast off.” Then he stared right at me and held up the knife. “It won’t take long to get those wet clothes off.”

Drew dragged, walked, carried me down the steps down to the lounge. The engines growled to life.

I glanced around. Teak walls, padded benches, TV on the counter, small stove, refrigerator.

Weapon, I need a goddamned weapon. (anxious/emotion, planning)

Drew carried me through the galley. The table was littered with paper plates, a pizza box, empty beer bottles, a pack of cards. (atmosphere/description)

The doorway ahead of us led to the bed inside the stateroom. Too big for the tiny room.

Desperate, I flailed out.

My hand found the neck of a beer bottle, smashed it down on the counter, rammed the jagged edge hard into Drew’s forearm. Hit bone.

Blood splattered my face.

Drew shouted, “Fuck!”

His grip tightened. I couldn’t breathe.

I stabbed the ragged glass into his arm, over and over. Every time, feeling it, hearing it hit bone.

He roared and let go.

I turned. Drew was between me and the steps up to the deck.

The vessel’s twin engines growled and we started to move.

Gotta get past Drew.

His head was down, inspecting blood draining out of his torn arm, dripping onto the deck.

Gotta get past Drew.

Panic-stricken, I leaped forward, screaming, slashing at his face. He held up his hands and I ripped the broken bottle into the palms of his hands. (choreography of fight/escape)

He grunted, twisted, and fell against the table, dropping onto a bench.


I dashed up the steps onto the deck and, without looking, hurled myself over the transom of the boat, throwing myself into the air, falling into the cold, bubbling wake of the twin engines.

Underwater, swimming.

When I surfaced, I saw we hadn’t gotten far from shore. A hundred feet from the dock.

Behind me, the boat was still moving away from me, nearly invisible now behind the gray curtain of rain. (descriptive but evokes emotion too)

That’s good.

I kicked off my shoes and swam for the dock.

The noise from the twin engines suddenly changed. I stole a look behind me again. Lance had throttled down. The boat was turning. Coming back for me.

I swam harder, adrenaline firing through my veins, swimming for my life.

Too slow.

The engines got louder, closer. Lance was accelerating. (As a reader, what are you feeling? What do you want your readers to feel?)

I reached out for the ladder of the dock and hoisted myself up, my heart pumping like a hammer against my chest, my lungs on fire, straining for oxygen. Running in bare feet down the dock.

I saw the boat drawing up to the dock. Drew stood on deck with a towel around his arm. His chest and shirt were covered in blood. Lance was tying off the lines.

Legs pumping, feet splashing, I sprinted across the yard, past the pool, up to the steps to the house, slid open the glass door to the kitchen.

The maid stood at the counter, mixing something in a bowl with a spoon. She stared at me with wide eyes.

Where was my phone? Where were my keys? In my bag, next to the table by the pool.

I turned and looked through the glass door. Lance and Drew trotted across the yard.

“What’s going on here?”

I whirled. Becky Elroy stood in the kitchen doorway.

“Call 911,” I screamed.

“What are you doing here?” She shouted back, mystified at seeing me standing there, soaked and muddy.

“Call 911.” My voice howled with desperation.

Suddenly the boys slid the glass door open, They were in the kitchen.

Becky, seeing the blood-soaked towel on her son’s arm and blood dripping from the palms of his hands, shrieked, “What’s happening?”

The boys glowered hard at me.

Where do I run?

“There’s a break-in at 32 Smuggler’s Road,” shouted the maid into her cell phone. “On Connor’s Landing. Yes, I’ll stay on the phone.”

Drew glared at me with unbridled hatred. Then he turned and mumbled at Lance. “Jesus Christ, what are we going to do?”

Lance narrowed his eyes, sizing me up. Then he glanced at his mother, at her horrified expression. “Let’s go, Drew.”

The two of them turned and marched out the open door, disappearing into the rain. Moments later, I heard the purr and then roar of a sports car as it accelerated down the driveway.

Suddenly my legs had no strength in them. I needed to sit down. But first I had to get my cell phone.

I looked at the two women. The maid still had her phone pressed to her ear, holding a meat cleaver with the other hand, watching me cautiously. Becky Elroy’s gaze moved from the blood spatters on her kitchen floor to my face.

“You’re the contractor’s wife,” she hissed.

“Close enough.”

Holding my hands out in front of me, I was amazed at how badly they were shaking. I found enough strength to walk to the doorway, still open, and down the steps and into the cold rain.

I staggered to the table under the awning by the pool house where Drew had left his laptop. Exhausted, I dropped into a metal chair. Water dripped from my hair and down my face.

What was I trying to do? Get a story? Get a confession so Mike Dillon wouldn’t have to make a deal with Jimmy Fitzgerald? Show how smart I was?

I’ve done some incredibly stupid things in my life, but most of them were fueled by too much alcohol.

This morning I was stone cold sober.

What about those two boys? They had every advantage, money, privilege, a good family. What went wrong? Drugs? A feeling of invulnerability? Pressure from their father? Undue influence from a bad seed like Jimmy Fitzgerald? A seductive teacher?

There was no good reason for those six people to be dead. They were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I needed to call Mike Dillon. I reached down into my bag for my cell phone.

My hands were shaking so badly that it took three tries before I could punch the number onto the screen.

When he answered, I made an effort to calm my voice down so I wouldn’t sound hysterical. “Mike, it’s Drew and Lance Elroy.”


“It’s Drew and Lance Elroy. They’re the killers.”

“We know, Jimmy Fitzgerald told us. We just got the warrants. We’re on our way out there now to arrest them.”

“They just took off.” The words tumbled out much too quickly. “They’re driving a gray Nissan 370Z convertible.”

“Where are you?”

(Did you feel her intensity? Her fear?)

Nancy Lee Badger from contemporary romance  With Every Kiss the 2nd book in my Opportunity Falls series. It is set outside a New Hampshire bar between my heroine, a local, and my hero, Mitch:

Karl blocked Abby’s way and said, “Can’t get this image out of my head. I drove by the Trumbull’s campground on my way to town the other day. Guess what I saw?”

Abby’s eyes widened at the lust-filled look he gave her. She stepped back, but Karl grabbed her wrist.

“The sun streamed in through my windshield and I had to blink. Then I did a double take. Perched atop a ladder were legs peeking from a pair of cut-offs. I swear I nearly drove into a ditch.”

“And your point is?”

“This woman’s sexy pony tail and long legs teased me. I had to turn my attention back to watch the road, but I think she was you.”

“Maybe.” Abby tried to slip her wrist free and head for her car, but he held tight and wouldn’t let go. Karl leaned in closer. (this doesn’t seem too bad at first but it rapidly escalates)

“I want to feel those legs wrapped—”

“Not another word.” She shoved him and shook free of his grip, but Karl snatched her around the waist. He pulled her into the shadows between two pickup trucks. Surrounded by his much larger body, she struggled.

When she opened her mouth to scream, Karl smothered her cry with his lips. Tasting stale beer and peanuts, the odor of smoke and sweat choked her. Alarm coursed through her. His arms crushed her in an intimate embrace, squeezing the very air from her lungs. A large hand cupped a breast, then pinched her nipple. Squirming, she lashed out with a well-placed knee jerk. (Nancy uses the character’s senses to add another layer to the scene)

Karl grunted, then loosened his grip. She took advantage of her hard-earned freedom and sucked in air.

“Let me go!” When he gripped her tighter, she bit him on the wrist.

“Bitch!” Karl pushed her to the ground.

Abby grunted when she hit the hard pavement. She rolled onto her back, then stared up at his fearsome features.

“That hurt,” he spat.

“Not compared to this.” A low growl rippled through the darkness. (A new combatant.)

Too stunned to stand, she rolled up onto her knees. A blur pushed past her, and the loud grunt of two bodies slamming together made her watch in stunned silence as they rolled between the trucks.

Pushing to her feet, she bolted toward the bright lights near the tavern door. Breathless, Abby pointed toward the flailing bodies. Several men ran toward the fight. Lynette appeared at her elbow.

“What happened to you? Your shirt is torn and your jeans are covered in dirt.”

Brushing dirt from her jeans as best she could, she pulled the ripped shirt together. The minor damage must have happened when she hit the ground. “Karl got a bit too friendly.”

“Karl has a lot of nerve. So, who’s he fighting?”

“My hero.”


“Ouch. Careful.” Mitch cursed under his breath. Lynette tsked and pushed his hand away, then plopped a wet cloth on his left eye. He sat on a wooden bench on the tavern’s outside deck. The stitches on the back of his head itched, and his right shoulder ached.

Karl sat on the other side of the deck wiping blood from the corner of his mouth. He glared at Mitch, then spat blood on the ground. Mitch’s one good eye followed Abby as she paced nearby.

“Two words. Butt out,” Abby said.

When he realized she directed her comment his way, Mitch stared up at her. “Why are you chastising me? I saved your butt.”

“Who said I needed your help?” She crossed her arms and tapped a foot.

 He cursed, again, stood, and threw the bloodied rag in the trash. “Forgive me, but I thought you needed help. When I see a person I care about shoved to the ground by someone much larger, I react.”

“I’ll press charges,” Karl said.

Mitch turned on him and stepped closer. “Go ahead. Sue me, but I hope your lawyer is better than me.”

Nancy Lee Badger

2020 Book Releases:

The Earl’s Treasure

Love, Hamish

Heaven-sent Flame 

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Copyright © 2021 by Tiffany Christina Lewis.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, email the publisher, addressed “Attention: Permissions Coordinator,” at the website below.

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Sacramento, CA 95825

Publisher’s Note: This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination. Locales and public names are sometimes used for atmospheric purposes. Any resemblance to actual people, living or dead, or to businesses, companies, events, institutions, or locales is completely coincidental.

Anna stood, turned to reach for the light switch, and collided with a strong body. As the assailant gripped her neck, she screamed. She dropped her weapon and grabbed the hands, trying to pry them away. Here, panic erased knowledge. Knowing how to break a choke hold was one of the first things they taught in the physical part of her self-defense class.

Like lightning, Xandar bolted into the room, barking and nipping at her attacker. This gave her relief from the choking as he turned his attention to removing the dog from his leg. Reacting quickly, she grabbed the bat and swung for the head. The impact vibrated her hands and forearms but she kept her grip.

Her attacker went down, Xandar still on top of him. Anna’s instincts returned to her. She shouted for the dog.

“Xandar, come.”

The two of them bolted for the front door. Anna fumbled with the locks, using one hand, checking over her shoulder for the assailant again and again. Xandar, still barking wildly, ran back and forth between the front door and the bedroom. Finally, Anna got the door open. She and Xandar escaped through the small front yard. Once again Anna’s feet were burning the pavement. She was fleeing, again. She was a victim, again.

When she arrived on the next block, bat clasped in hand, she slowed to a stop. She took a breath and an unsettling thought crept into her mind.

She needed to go back.

How long could she run? How long would she be trapped in her home? Her fortress even failed to keep her safe. She needed to do something. She didn’t have her cell phone, and what good would it do to call the police when her attacker might be gone before they got there? Again, he would be on the run and she would be unsafe.

Again, and again. (the repetition brings emotion/intensity to the situation)

Anna turned. Her condo stood as if nothing nefarious happened there moments ago. The front door hung ajar as she’d left it. The lights were out. All was quiet. Taking a deep breath, she ran back home.

She crept in and headed back to her bedroom, the bat held high above her head in a perfect batter’s stance. Everything was as she left it and, once she entered her bedroom, she saw the man lying in a heap on the floor. She flipped on the light.

Her eyes went to the back of his head and her mouth dropped open. She felt sure he’d been blond, but now she saw the brown locks. She placed her bat on the bed and knelt next to the body. Grunting and struggling, she planted her hands on the assailant and pushed until he lay on his back. The smooth, round baby face was not familiar to her. She pondered for a moment.

How could I have been so wrong about his appearance?

She leaned over and, using two fingers, opened his eyes. Blueish-green. Anna sighed with relief, then snapped to attention. She flipped him back over, and stood. Her eyes danced around the room until she spotted the alarm clock. She ran over and yanked the cord from the wall, then returned to the body.

He started to move.

Anna dropped to her knees and reached in to tie his hands together. Her hands were shaking and sweaty. It felt like only seconds elapsed when he started trying to remove his hands from her grip. Anna shrieked and hopped on his back. This only seemed to enliven him. He yanked and pulled against his restraints while Anna tried to tighten the slippery length of cord. One of his hands came loose and he snatched the other away from her grip. He lifted in a perfect plank and Anna rode on his back like an elevator.

“Get the fuck off me,” he growled.

Anna dove for her bat but fell face down onto the bed and he mounted her in a flash. Reaching around, he strangled her with one muscular arm. Again, Anna clawed at his arm instead of attempting to break the hold, but this time she remembered her training. To his surprise, Anna swung her elbow back and the pointy joint met his eye. He tried to keep his grip, but the pain of her strikes overwhelmed him. Although he released her neck, he tried to keep her pinned with his body.

Anna rolled away from him and landed on the floor. She crawled toward the nightstand. He grabbed her foot but she kicked back, dislodging his grip. Anna reached up, grabbed her bedside lamp, and swung it blindly.

The terra-cotta cracked over his head, like an egg for an omelet, and he hit the ground. This time Anna wasted no time tying the wrists and ankles of the strong and agile young man using the cord from her lamp and alarm clock. She kept her eyes on him while she called Officer Davis.

“I got the son of a bitch, or at least I think I do . . . ”

(Did you note the choreography? The word choices?)

From suspense novel Red Steel by S L Hollister

Phil watched from his computer as the two men pulled onto the side road. The low-light cameras he’d placed out by the river earlier were able to pick up some illumination from the lights surrounding the old bar. The bikers’ hangout wasn’t visible from the road, but the lights could be seen through the thinning winter foliage. With the added help from the streetlights across the river at the marina, Phil was able to see Elliot and Malcolm clearly. They parked their cars and stepped out between the headlights like something from an old movie. The glare camouflaged the men, hiding their faces in silhouette, but he’d already captured their images.

The full moon played peek-a-boo with the clouds, casting the scene into that of a horror movie. Phil thought the imagery was fitting. Two monsters meeting at midnight. He gave a wan smile. They’d chosen this place believing he’d not be able to do surveillance. They didn’t know how good he was at spying. When your life depended on information, you learned to hone your skills. He positioned his directional mics towards the men hoping to glean some of their conversation. Listening in through the headphones, he put the computer on record. It wouldn’t be perfect, but he should be able to filter out quite a bit of background noise using the computer’s program.

“What’s this all about?” Malcolm demanded.

“Don’t play games with me brother-in-law, what the hell did you do with my money?” Elliot demanded.

“I’ve not done anything with YOUR money.”

“My off-shore account has been hacked. I have received alerts that the transactions were generated from your accounts.”

Malcolm frowned. “But I’d have to know your codes, what bank, hell, I’d have to know what country.” He shook his head. “I don’t know any of that information.”

“No, but Phil would. Did you put my son up to it?” Elliot demanded.

“Phil is my son, damn it. I’m the one who rescued him from that crazy bitch.”

Elliot snorted. “You rescued him so you could use him. You don’t think I know about you and your boys.” Elliot poked Malcolm in the chest. “You look down your nose at me but I’ve seen what you’ve done too, brother dear.”

Phil waited until Elliot was poking Malcolm before deploying his drone. He’d only have a few minutes to drop his bombs and get everything put away before someone called 9-1-1. If his luck held, he’d rid the town of two of its monsters tonight.

Choosing the smaller of the two drones for stealth, he worried when the wind picked up. The men were still arguing but they wouldn’t stay out in the swamp for long. The drone took flight, hovering too low to the ground as it fought against the wind. Giving up on plan A, he decided he had no choice, he had to use the heavier drone. Another glance at the computer showed the men were still talking but it looked like they were ready to take their leave. Phil cursed silently and hurriedly changed the payload over to the bigger drone.

Flying the drone out over the water in the hope of masking his location. He brought it back to shore heading straight towards Malcolm and Elliot. Just as he feared, Elliot looked up, he’d heard the drone coming.

“Drone!” Cursing, the man hurried to get into his car, pushing Malcolm down in his haste to get away.

Using the camera on the drone, Phil brought the target into view and dropped the white phosphorus grenade. Elliot swerved and it explode on the ground beside him. It wasn’t a direct hit, but Phil could see his pants burning. The second bomb was more successful, it splattered across Elliot’s hip as he dove for cover inside the car. Phil could hear his dear old dad cursing as he tried to get the fire out. The fun thing about white phosphorus was even after being dunked in water, as soon as it has air, it’ll start burning all over again. Two more bombs left. Malcolm was already in his car. He spun tires as he turned around. He hit Elliot’s car knocking it back into the river. He didn’t stop to help him out of the car, he just kept driving. The dirt road was full of potholes and curves. Malcolm would not be able to go but so fast in his luxury sedan. Phil followed him with the drone but was only able to hit the trunk of the car. Unable to hit his target, he cursed his failure. Hearing Elliot coming out of the river screaming, Phil decided it was time to pack up and leave.

He drove at a sedate pace out of the dirt road. It wouldn’t do to draw too much attention to himself. His plan had failed, he needed to come up with something quick or Elliot would find a way to retaliate. Phil gripped the steering wheel. If only he’d been able to kill Elliot, he didn’t worry as much about Malcolm. Malcolm was a coward.

The explosion shattered the stillness. “What the fuck?” Phil didn’t dare stop. He needed to get as far away from this as he could before he was trapped on the narrow dirt road.

  1. How does location affect your plan?
  2. How does the weather affect your plan?
  3. People don’t always behave the way you expect, what does your character do when things go wrong?
Posted in audio books, Book Review

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron

Wired for Story by Lisa Cron (audiobook)

Narrated by Wendy Tremont King

Understanding the science of what a story does to a brain. Writing well and telling a good story aren’t always the same thing. You can have all of the mechanics correct but if you don’t reach the reader and excite their emotions and desires, the story can fall flat. This book shows how to excite the mind and entertain readers. Humans have always enjoyed stories. Our earliest stories were told as a way of warning. Story gives readers a chance to experience events without fear. Telling a story that makes the reader feel all the emotions and sensations of truly being there is what makes a great author that is what Wired for Story tries to teach us.

YouTube host and author, Abbie Emmons and online workshop instructor and author, Angela Knight both suggested reading Wired for Story to better understand how to tell a story that will entice readers. Abbie Emmons uses science to teach writers on her YouTube channel taking the latest science information to explain how the brain reacts to story. Angela Knight teaches a class online Blast-Off Beginnings, about the making the first pages of the story so good the reader has no choice but finish the book. (Okay, that’s a little more than she promised but I can be hopeful.)

Posted in audio books, Book Review

Beard Science

by Penny Reid, narrated by Joy Nash and Chris Brinkley

#3 Winston Brothers Series

I am addicted to the BEARDS. I don’t know what I’m going to do when Penny Reid runs out of his brothers. Cletus Winston may be my favorite brother. He is mysterious, unique bordering on strange, extremely intelligent to the point of nerdy but with a beard and a sexy bod so it’s okay. He likes to fix things and people. He meddles. So it was not a big surprise to his family when he started helping the Banana Queen.

No one would have expected Jennifer Sylvester aka the Banana Queen to have been the one to blackmail Cletus into doing anything. Sweet, simple, little Jennifer who always does what her parents tell her, who has never even attended public school, wouldn’t be bold enough to try to manipulate the Puppet Master.

Jennifer is tired of being the town joke. She wants to find a husband. She doesn’t expect to find love, she’s just hoping to find someone who’ll be kind and give her lots of babies.

Cletus isn’t interested in sweet, virginal Jennifer. He wants a woman who knows what’s what and won’t be too much trouble. Jennifer is already proving to be a lot of trouble. He can’t seem to stop thinking about her and it’s interfering with his work.

Love and fate often have plans of their own that don’t coincide with the ones you have made for yourself. Cletus and Jennifer soon find out that all their best laid plans are about to be baked into a delicious pie.

Penny Reid has made me laugh out loud, nearly pee my pants, weep uncontrollably and fall head over keester in love with this family and their stories. I want to live in Green Valley with the Winston family.

Joy Nash and Chris Brinkley add their personalities and talents to this fabulous story by giving voice to these characters and making them walk off the page and into my life. I cannot say enough good things about this series. I even spent Christmas money on the next book in the series because I didn’t want to wait a full month for my book allowance. Y’all, I am hooked.

Posted in Prompts, Thoughts

Word Detectives

I’ve been working on a program for the Pamlico Writers Group website, The Word Detectives. The idea is to choose one word and find different ways of saying it. Our first word was Sad. This is a simple word but if I choose one of it’s synonyms I can convey so much more. Check out The Word Detectives on

Here is my first article.

The Word Detectives

Do you ever search for the right word? Does it sometimes elude you? It does me. I struggle with vocabulary, wanting just the right word to convey a font of information. Each month I’d like to challenge you to add to my vocabulary list as I search for just the right word. Perhaps, you too will discover new words or be reminded of familiar ones.

For the month of April I wish to explore emotions. Today’s word is sad.

The boy was sad when his kite flew away.

Kyle was distraught when the wind whipped his kite away.

Susan was inconsolable when her kite was ripped from her hands.

Jimmy was depressed over the loss of his new kite.


Depending upon what we are trying to convey the word choice makes a huge difference in how the reader interprets the event.

Losing the kite is a common childhood event but what if the loss of the kite is more. Perhaps the loss of the kite coincides with a father leaving or dying. The wind represents our lack of control and the kite the precious gift we’ve lost.

Perhaps the kite represents the loss of innocence or the loss of childhood.

Or it could simply be the fleeting joy of childhood things.

As you hunt for the right word, think about what you want that word to tell us.

In The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide To Character Expression authors Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi define sadness in two categories: grief and unhappiness.

There are physical signals of grief/sadness.

Tears burned his eyes as he watched his kite drift out of sight.

She fell to the sand sobbing over the loss of her kite afraid of her uncle’s reprisal.


There are internal sensations that can be described.

His chest ached as he watched the red kite get smaller and smaller barely noting the silver car disappearing around the curve. He knew he’d never see either of them again.


Mental responses that can be shown with internal dialog or with action.

He turned away, holding back his tears, unwilling to watch the vibrant display of colorful kites when he no longer possessed his own.


It can also be shown as suppressed action or emotion.

He gripped the string as it fell to the sand no longer attached to the lovely kite his father gave him as a parting gift. He stared, unwilling to give into the grief of losing them both.


In Roget’s Superthesaurus, sad is defined as: 1. Downhearted: blue, depressed, dejected, unhappy, sorrowful, mournful, *bummed out, despondent, *down in the dumps, woebegone, melancholy, heartsick, forlorn, *out of sorts, dispirited, brokenhearted, glum. 2. Heartbreaking: woeful, pitiful, tearful, poignant, moving, touching, depressing, tragic, joyless, miserable.

What other ways can you describe or convey sadness?

If you are describing a character, which form of sadness works best? Are they merely bummed out or are they despondent? Having the blues is very different than being heartsick or forlorn.