Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Saying Goodbye to Writer's Best Friend

For the last few weeks, I've been thinking about writing this post--an update on how 2018 went for me as a writer and an outline of what I planned to do in 2019. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I'd be doing it without my best friend, my dog, Kassidy, at my side.
Kassidy as a puppy

Kass joined our family three and a half years ago and has been my constant companion for much of that time, always nearby while I am writing. This year, I wrote 20 full-length novels, an accomplishment I am proud of and planned to mention in this post anyway, but it seems odd that she's not here to celebrate it now. She was there when I finished, Friday evening, when I sent my last manuscript of 2018 to my editor. It just happened to be The Chronicles of Cassidy, Book 5. I closed my laptop, looked down at her where she lay by my feet, and said, "We did it, Kass. We wrote 20 books this year." She crawled up onto my lap and put her paw on my chest, like she was trying to give me a high-five or something. It was like she knew we'd done something special.
I say "we" because ever since I've become a full-time writer, she's either been on my legs or on the couch next to me as I write most of the day. She'd always let me know when it was time for both of us to take a break, every couple of hours. She was always right--and insistent that, no, it couldn't wait until I finished that sentence or paragraph. It was break time--now!
 I wrote a lot of books with her hovering over me like this.

I'm sure some people will want to know what happened, so I will say that we were out of town. Some neighbors were watching her, and she got away from them and was hit by a car. It was quick, and I hope painless, for her. It was devastating for all of us, and now, about three days later, it is still hard to believe she's gone. Our neighbors buried her for us in the back of our property, and we plan to build a little garden there. My youngest daughter, who loved to read to Kass when she was alive, has gone out there each day and read to her, so we'll make sure there is a bench, some flowers, and a marker.
Some might say she was just a dog--and to some extent, that's true. She wasn't a person as regular human, upright, word-speaking people are concerned. But to us, she was just about as peoply as a pet can be. She was funny and bright, fast as lightning, and could climb a ladder a lot quicker than I can. She would tell us when there was a person at the door, a squirrel in a tree, sometimes a falling leave in the yard. She wanted to be a part of everything we did, and in most ways she was--especially if it involved people food.
Kassidy will certainly be missed, and when I start writing again in a week or two, it will be hard to carry on without her, but I know I will find a way.
The next book on my list to write is Annihilation: The Clandestine Saga Book 7. Since Cassidy Findley is a big part of the story, it will be challenging. I'm glad I just finished the fifth book in the series named for my feline friend as that would've been harder to write without her.
Kassidy and Cassidy Findley have a lot of character traits in common.

Writing must go on, however, so I am looking ahead to the rest of this year. As I mentioned, in 2018, I wrote 20 full-length novels, well over 2 million words. I published 20 novels as well, which was my other writing goal, though some of those books were written in 2017 (there was a lot of overlap, though.) For 2019, I hope to scale my writing back a little and am only planning to publish 13 new novels. But I am working on audiobooks for Titanic, Melody's Christmas, and the Clandestine Saga. It would be great if I could release an audiobook every month this year, but we shall see.
As far as writing is concerned, 2018 was a stellar year for me. I grew my following, wrote a lot of books, got some great reviews, and connected with a lot of readers. I feel like people are starting to recognize my name. I've gotten a lot more emails from readers this year and even had someone recognize my name when I said I was a writer. Those are all great things. In 2019, I'd love for there to be more of the same. If you've signed up for my newsletter or follow me on social media, then I'm so glad that we've connected, and I hope we can get to know each other better this year. If you've left a review on one of my books, you can be sure that I've read it. If you've told your friends about my writing, or suggested or gifted one of my books, you've helped my circle to grow, and you're an amazing part of my success. I value every single person who has supported my writing career over the last four years, and I hope you'll stick with me into the future.
This post definitely isn't what I'd envisioned a few weeks ago. I am glad I've had this opportunity to share with you my wonderful friend Kassidy. And when you read about the fierce female character of the same name in my books, I hope you'll remember her namesake and pat your special friends on the head an extra time or two because you just never know when they might be gone.
My wish for you for this new year is that you will be loved and appreciated, that your goals will be met, and that you and your friends and family will be safe and well. I hope you find lots of great books to read in your favorite genres and plenty of time to read them. If you're an aspiring writer, may 2019 be the year when you put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and see what you can create, or if you're already a writer, let this be the year your words resonate with thousands of readers. Whatever you do this year, I wish you success and happiness. Thanks again for sticking with me, and have a blessed 2019.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Elliott Set for Early Release

Over Labor Day weekend this year, I participated in the International 3 Day Novel Writing Contest again. If you're not familiar, writers have three days to produce a novel. I've done it a few times before (Transformation, Titanic, and Aaron were all products of the 3 Day.) This year, I knew whose story I wanted to tell. If I was going to be essentially locked in a room inside a character's head for three days, it needed to be someone I liked. So, I decided to write Elliott's story, and I'm glad I did.

Unlike the first two books in the A Vampire Hunter's Tale series, Elliott's story doesn't involve historical events or figures recreated as vampires. It focuses more on how he got to be the character we all know and love today. And honestly, parts of his past are heartbreaking. It's no wonder he's always trying to make everyone laugh. As the saying goes, if you don't laugh, you'll cry.

I've decided not to wait on the results of the 3 Day to release this novel. We were promised word about a long list of winners in October and didn't get it, and since the book is edited, cover is made, formatting is done, I'm going to go ahead and release Elliott to the world on November 15. I'll come back and update this post with a link when I have one. I wanted to let you know because, over the years since I first started writing in this world, I've had more readers tell me how much they love Elliott than any other character I've created (and that's a lot of characters considering this is my 34th publication.) For me, this book isn't about vampires or hunters or guardians. It's about examining the struggles we all go through in life, the ones that stick with us and make us who we are. We all have ghosts of our pasts we carry along with us, those voices we hear in our head that either tell us we can, we can't, or we never will. I'm not sure if Elliott's story will make you laugh or cry, but I hope it will make you think and reflect on how you got to be you. After all, it's only through that sort of examination that we can ever figure out who we're going to be.

As always, thanks so much for all of your support. I don't blog as much anymore as I used to now that I'm writing more books, but I do plan on writing at least one more blog post this year to let you know about the goals I set for 2018 and how I managed to accomplish them (assuming they're all met by the end of the year. So close!) Until then, happy reading.
Elliott will be available on Nov 15, 2018 on Amazon and in Kindle Unlimited

Saturday, May 12, 2018

I'm Writing The Chronicles of Cassidy At Last!

When I started publishing almost four years ago, I was a reading intervention teacher at two different elementary schools. I worked with a lot of fourth and fifth graders who wanted to hear about my writing. They were fascinated with The Clandestine Saga, even though I never told any of them the title because that series isn't exactly for kids. I promised them, though, that someday I would write a series they could read.
My intentions were to take Cadence Findley, the main character in Clandestine, and create a series about her younger sister, Cassidy. Since the kids at school seemed to want to read about vampires, I thought Cassidy would be the perfect heroine for them. Even though it's been a long time since I initially thought of writing this series, I'm proud to say the first book in the series, So You Think Your Sister's a Vampire? is finally finished, and I'm hoping to publish it in July. I hope that those same kids who were asking so many years ago will be excited to read it, along with lots of other kids and adults who like The Clandestine Saga series.
The series will be at least three books long and will follow along as Cassidy Findley discovers something odd is going on with her older sister. It parallels The Clandestine Saga but is appropriate for kids as young as ten years old with no bad language or other inappropriate content. There will be some vampire slaying eventually, but it won't be as descriptive as the other series written for adults. I let my second grader read this book, so it's definitely fine for audiences of all ages, in my opinion, but I think grownups will like it, too.
I will be looking for people interested in receiving an Advanced Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review soon, so if you think you'd like to read it before it's published, let me know at authoridjohnson@gmail.com. Below, you'll find an excerpt to give you an idea of what the novel is all about. (Please keep in mind my editor hasn't gone through the manuscript yet!)

Young Adult Vampire Adventure, Coming Soon!

Chapter One

            You think you know someone, and then they go and turn into a creature of the night, a bloodsucker, a vampire, right before your very eyes, and then you realize, you don’t really know anyone at all, perhaps not even yourself.
           My name’s Cassidy Findley, and up until a couple of weeks ago, I was living a pretty mundane existence. I live in a small town in rural Iowa where the most exciting thing that ever happens is someone shoots a deer or a friend’s hog has piglets. No, really, those are the kinds of stories I’ve come to expect to hear in the hallways of Shenandoah High School on a Monday morning. Okay, I might be exaggerating a little bit; sometimes there are stories about who is going out with who or who met a hot stranger at the mall—which happens to be about an hour away from here in Council Bluffs, so no one can ever verify those sorts of stories. Yeah, nothing exciting ever happens in Shenandoah, that is until the night before Thanksgiving. Nothing would ever be the same after that night.
            Actually, things started to head in the direction of a downward spiral a couple of nights before that. My older sister, Cadence, is nineteen and attends college at the University of Iowa in Iowa City—well, she did go to college there, anyway. I’ll get to that soon enough. She was back in town for the week because of the holiday, and I was so happy to see her. My sister and I have always been very close—until recently.
Her whole life, my sister has talked about wanting to be an elementary school teacher, so the fact that she dropped out and took a job with some sort of security company would’ve been shocking if I hadn’t already figured out by then what was happening. Again, I’m getting ahead of myself. I guess it would make sense if I just started at the beginning.
            Cadence was super popular when she was in school. She was a cheerleader, in the choir, and in a half-dozen other clubs. I do some of those things, too, but I definitely don’t get the same sort of attention as Cadence did, which is fine. I don’t need that sort of spotlight. Not that she ever seemed to want it either, but that was just part of who she was. My sister is beautiful, with long brown hair and big brown eyes. I’ve seen guys literally crumple when she flashes them her dazzling smile. She’s totally oblivious, though. Still, being so well-liked garnered her a group of friends that went practically everywhere with her when they were in high school and a boyfriend that was the envy of all the other girls. Even after she and Jack broke up, he still continued to follow her around like a puppy dog every time she came home. So, it was no surprise that one of the voices I heard through our adjoining bedroom wall that night was his.
            I try not to eavesdrop as a rule. I think it’s underhanded and sneaky. But… my sister’s friends are loud, so I can often hear most of their conversations just by not listening to any music or watching anything on my laptop when they’re chatting. Like I said, none of what I overheard was on purpose. And sometimes I wish I hadn’t heard anything at all. But I did.
            I was sitting on my bed, trying to decide whether to watch a movie or catch up on some TV when the whole group of them came up the stairs. I closed my laptop and went into “not eavesdropping” mode. I heard Cadence’s friend Drew Peterson’s voice first. She’s still in high school and on the Varsity cheerleading squad. Since I’m on the JV squad, sometimes we practice together, and she’s usually nice to me. She has short, curly blonde hair and big blue eyes. She’s really pretty, but unlike my sister, she knows it. Drew’s the kind of girl who will use her looks to get whatever she wants, and I always wondered why my sister hung out with her when Cadence usually likes people who are more down to earth.
            I remembered that she used to date my sister’s friend Kash Donetello as soon as I heard his voice. “That’s why,” I reminded myself. Drew started hanging out with my sister when she was dating Kash, and even though they broke up a while ago, Drew has stuck to my sister like bubble gum on her Converse. She just won’t go away.
            Drew’s laughter peeled through the wall, and I heard my sister mention she has a paper that she’s got to work on. Why her friends were here while she was doing homework is beyond me, but I figured it is back to the sticky factor. Once someone has latched on to Cadence, she has a hard time shaking them.
            I heard her two other guy friends—the aforementioned Jack Cook, ex-boyfriend and star baseball player who now attends college in Nebraska, and Jon Chancellor, who decided not to go to college. Jon is one of those guys who is always joking around about everything, and although I’ve personally never thought he was particularly funny, I guess Cadence does. She has always had a strange sense of humor.
            I could hear two other female voices, too, though not well-enough to make out what they were saying. Still, I knew that they are my sisters real best friends, the ones she’d choose to keep if she had to whittle down this group. Taylor Christianson and Sidney Cox are to Cadence what my two best friends, Lucy Burk and Emma O’Sullivan, are to me. I have other friends, too, like Milo Parker and Wes Standford, and then there’s Liam White who is super cute, but I think is just using me to pass Algebra II. If I had to pick my two BFFs, though, there’s no question it would be Luce and Em hands down. I know that’s a lot of names, and for right now, you probably don’t have to worry about most of these people. The only ones that are super important are my sister, of course, and Drew. If I had known then what I know now about the fate of Drew Peterson, I would’ve burst into my sister’s bedroom and ordered everyone to go home immediately.
            But I didn’t do that because I had no idea that the conversation my sister was having through that paper-thin wall would be so significant.
            I adjusted my position on top of the floral print bedspread my mother had purchased me a few years earlier when I decided I was too old for Disney Princesses and tried not to not listen to my sister’s conversation. You’d think the walls would be thicker considering that was supposed to be the master suite. Despite the fact that Cadence had an en suite bathroom and a closet big enough to hide all of her friends should my parents ever care that she was practically throwing a party in her bedroom, I was never jealous. My parents’ bedroom was downstairs in what was meant to be a mother-in-law suite, but my Grandma Janette lives in Des Moines and my other grandparents still have each other. So, everyone else has spacious bedrooms with attached bathrooms, and I have to walk down the hall a little way to take a shower. Really not a big deal—not even a first world problem. Still, I could practically hear my sister and her friends breathing, which is why I can say I definitely wasn’t trying to hear what they were talking about.
            But I heard nonetheless. Drew was talking about an Eidolon Festival. I’d never heard that word before and thought at first that I just wasn’t hearing it correctly through the drywall, but I did what I always do when I hear a word I don’t know—I looked it up. Even before she stopped talking, I had it on Wikipedia. Since I was pretty sure she wasn’t talking about idolizing anyone, that only left one alternative. “A specter or phantom,” I read aloud, my forehead crinkling. Why would anyone want to go to a festival for that? I wondered. It definitely didn’t sound like something my sister would like. She wasn’t even a fan of Halloween. Not that she was scared; she just thought it was pointless to walk around dressed like someone you’re not, trying to scare people or collecting candy. I tended to agree with her and waited to hear her tell Drew to forget about it.
            The discussion went on for a few minutes, and I could hear Cadence saying she didn’t want to go. It sounded like Taylor was actually afraid, like she was about to cry, so I thought for sure this would be the end of the discussion. But then Drew started whining, and I know that’s my sister’s weakness. “You all went away to college and left me here,” she was saying.   
            Like kryptonite, the tears of Drew Peterson melted my sister’s iron resolve, and the next thing I hear is Cadence agreeing to go. I can hardly believe my ears. Whatever this thing is, it sounded dangerous, and it’s not even in town. They’ll have to drive to Villisca. A festival of ghosts in a town made famous for an axe murder? I’m pretty sure this is a bad idea.
            I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. You’re asking yourself, “If Cassidy Findley is such a good girl, why didn’t she get up and go tell her sister not to go?” Or, “Why didn’t she head straight downstairs and interrupt her parents’ viewing of CSI Miami to let them know her older sister was planning to lie to them and use a cover story of spending the night at Drew’s house to sneak out?” And you’re right—you’re absolutely right. I should’ve done one or both of those things. And now, here we are, a few weeks later, and everything in the world is completely different. This is a guilt I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I no longer feel like the good girl who always makes the right decisions. What I overheard that night has led me down a dark hole, one where I not only eavesdrop on every other member of my family, I’ve also become a master of deception. As a matter-of-fact, I’m pretty sure someone is dead because I didn’t stand up and say something. What’s even worse (yes, worse than death) is that, because I chose not to burst through my sister’s door and tell her not to go to that stupid festival, my sister is now a vampire; I’m almost sure of it.

Chapter Two

            The night before Thanksgiving, I went to bed a little earlier than usual. I wasn’t particularly tired, but I was worried, and I didn’t want to hang around my parents any more than I had to because I was certain they would be able to tell something was bothering me. Cadence had sat around the house most of that day, trying to act inconspicuous, but I could tell by the way she twisted the ring on her right hand that she was anxious. I wanted to ask her why she had agreed to go to this festival if she knew it was a bad idea, but she had no idea I could overhear her conversations with her friends in her bedroom, and I was still under the impression that breaking her trust would be worse than just letting her go. For the most part, my sister has good judgement, and I still expected her to find a way to talk her friends out of going.
            Ever since I’d heard Drew use that word—Eidolon—I’d been doing some research. I thought if I knew more about where they were headed, maybe I could come up with some sort of a way to trick them into not going. But no matter how much searching I’d done using the keywords I’d overheard from their conversation, nothing came up. Even though I had heard enough to know this Eidolon Festival in Villisca was supposed to be the night before Thanksgiving at the witching hour, which is 3:00 AM, nothing popped up. I’d considered asking Emma to help me because, when it comes to computers, Em’s a whiz, but I didn’t do it. I was still thinking I was overreacting, though somewhere deep down inside, I felt a stirring, like this night would be a turning point of sorts. I played it off, because that just sounds ridiculous. I wish I would’ve listened to my gut.
            We were eating dinner, chicken casserole, one of my mom’s specialties, and the table was mostly quiet except for the clatter of silverware. I could tell my mom was going over her list for Thanksgiving dinner in her head, and my dad was probably thinking about the football games he’d be watching the next day. Cadence was much quieter than usual, and I wanted to ask her to stay there with me that night, to watch a movie, but when she was done eating, she cleared her throat and said, “I’m heading over to Drew’s.”
            “Oh?” my mom had said, clearly not expecting that.
            “Yeah. She’s having us all over to watch movies. I might just sleep over at her house. I don’t want to come back in the middle of the night and wake everyone up.”
My sister wasn’t looking at either one of my parents. She was looking right over their heads, like she couldn’t meet their eyes. And I wanted to yell out, “Liar!” But instead I shoved a fork full of noodles and overcooked chicken in my mouth.
Dad looked at Mom and shrugged. “Okay, honey. Just be back plenty early in the morning.”
“I was hoping you could give me a hand in the kitchen.” My mom managed a small smile, but she didn’t protest. Now, I wonder if perhaps her intuition had kicked in, and she’d somehow sensed her oldest daughter was in danger, but like me, she’d chosen to ignore that voice in the back of her head.
“Sure. I’ll be back in plenty of time,” Cadence had said, a nervous smile on her face. She’d scooted her chair back, the legs screeching across the surface of the oak floor beneath our feet, and took her plate into the kitchen. I wanted to follow her, to confront her. I’d taken another bite of my dinner now tasting nothing.
The break in the silence started a conversation between my parents, and my mom started talking about the sales on Friday. She has friends who go Black Friday shopping, and while she’s not much of a fan herself because of the crowds, she seemed to be considering going this year.   
“May I be excused?” I asked, interrupting their conversation.
“Sure,” my mom had said, as if she wasn’t expecting me to be so polite. I’m not sure why I asked either—it’s not a rule at my house—but I was in the kitchen a few seconds later, practically running into Cadence as she came around the corner of the counter by the dishwasher.
“Oh, Cass. You scared me,” she’d said, clutching her chest.
I’d wanted to say if she scares that easily, perhaps she shouldn’t go out tonight, but I had just stood there, holding my half-eaten dinner. I remember noticing she wasn’t quite dressed like someone who was going to her friend’s house to watch movies. She was wearing knee-high brown boots, thick tights, and a skirt. I’d seen her bring down her brown jacket, which I assumed she’d toss over her brown cashmere sweater. I didn’t comment on the fact that sleeping in that outfit wouldn’t be very comfortable, and maybe she should consider taking an overnight bag. Instead, I just muttered, “Sorry,” and stepped around her to scrape off my plate.
“You got plans tonight?” she’d asked. My sister was always trying to figure out whether or not I had a secret boyfriend. I could see the twinkle in her eye as she hinted that this is what she was really asking.
“No,” I’d said, thinking now would be the perfect time to tell her I know more about her plans than I was letting on. Instead, I turned on the tap and rinsed my plate before sticking it into the dishwasher next to hers.
“Well, you should call one of your friends or something. You never have any fun, Cass.”
I was thinking at least I am not sneaking out behind mom and dad’s backs, but I just looked at her, wondering why we were so different. I would have never considered doing such a thing, and my sister was supposed to be a good girl, too, though I know this isn’t the first time she had lied to our parents.
I must’ve been staring too intently, because her forehead furrowed. “You okay, Cass? You feeling all right?”
“I’m fine,” I’d managed, trying to force a smile, but my face was frozen, and I am guessing it came across as a grimace.
She did not look convinced. “Okay. Well, I hope you find something fun to do.” She smiled at me and headed toward the kitchen door.
“Cadence!” I hadn’t meant for my voice to be so loud, but she’d stopped and turned to face me, still puzzled. I’d taken a few quick steps over to her and wrapped my arms around her. It took her a moment to hug me back, and at the time, she’d probably thought I’d lost all of my marbles. “Be careful,” I’d said into her shoulder.
A nervous giggle had escaped her lips. “I’m just going to Drew’s,” she’d reminded me.
Somehow, I’d managed to regain my composure and stepped back, releasing her. “Right.”
Cadence continued to look at me like she thought I might need to be professionally evaluated before she said, “Goodnight, Cassidy,” and backed out of the swinging door into the dining room.
“Goodnight.” Only she hadn’t heard me. She was gone by then. I could’ve ran after her, grabbed ahold of her, and not let go until she promised me she wouldn’t go to that stupid festival, but I didn’t do it. I stood in the kitchen, fighting back tears, wishing I’d been strong enough to speak up. While I was certainly unsettled, even then, I had no idea that was the last time I’d ever see my sister alive. She’d come back to the house later that night, but by then, I’m pretty sure the change had already started taking shape, and she was already undead.
Whatever the reason, I’d gone to bed early that night, thinking there was a shift on the horizon, something bigger than anything I’d ever known before. Eventually, I’d dozed off, but my suspicions that all was not well were confirmed when I awoke sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 AM to the sound of an unfamiliar voice coming from my sister’s room, an engine outside, and footsteps on the roof.

What did you think? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments or on my Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/IDJohnsonAuthor/ 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

It's the Blue Moon!

If you've seen the news (or even been on social media) recently, you know there are all kinds of crazy things going on with the moon right now--eclipse, super, blue moon, right? This blue moon is particularly important to me because it actually appears in Illumination, Book 5 of The Clandestine Saga.

For years, readers had been making one specific request regarding the series, or at least complaining that I'd made one particular choice as a creative artist. If you've read the series, you can probably guess what I'm referring to (I don't want to give away any spoilers!) The events of Repercussion (Book 3) all had a purpose, but I would be the first to admit I agreed with the readers. But how could I undo what had already been done?

Will the blue moon really open a portal like in Illumination?

Enter the Blue Moon Portal! In Illumination, Cadence discovers that on the night of a blue moon, a portal will open that allows a Guardian to come back from the other side. But the use of the portal come with a price, and there's a good chance something evil will come through. Illumination revolves (see what I did there?) around Cadence's decision as to whether or not using the portal is a good idea and the consequences of her choice.

Will Cadence make the right choice for her team?

If you haven't started reading The Clandestine Saga yet, you can find the first book, Transformation, here for only 99 cents. If you're all caught up but haven't taken on Illumination yet, find it here.

What if everything you've ever known is a lie, and you're really a Vampire Hunter?

I'm also excited to announce that the whole series will be getting new covers soon! Stay tuned for the reveal and information about when you can expect the first novel in the spinoff series Backstories.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

2018 Promises to be a Great Year!

Hello, Readers!
It's been a while since I've updated my blog. I've been busy trying to get several books out at the end of the year. I'm excited that Waiting On Love, Book 4 of the Heartwarming Holiday Sweet Romance series will be out in just a few days on January 20th. My next endeavor will be to write book 5, Shamrock Hearts. The feedback I'm getting on this series has been wonderful! People really seem to like the Christian themes integrated with holiday romance. Melody's Christmas, Christmas Cocoa, and Winter Woods have all been well received. My plan is to write a new romance novel for all the major holidays this year including: Valentine's Day (Waiting on Love), St. Patrick's Day (Shamrock  Hearts) Easter, Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years! The best feature of this series is that you don't have to read them in order. If you'd like to start reading with the current holiday, it's no problem. You won't be behind.
Waiting On Love is now available for preorder!

Shamrock Hearts will be available for preorder in February! I'll keep you posted!
Residuum is also available for preorder!
As the banner above will tell you. Residuum, the third book in the Ghosts of Southampton series, is finished and is now available for preorder. Over the years, I've gotten lots of inquiries about the fate of Meg and Charlie. Find out what happens when Titanic docks in New York City. Will Meg's past keep haunting her or will she outrun the ghosts at last? If you haven't read the first two books, you can read hem now. I will say, Prelude has themes that have made some readers uncomfortable, though everyone agrees they have been handled tactfully. I think it's important not to shy away from difficult themes. If we are to bring about change, we have to be willing to talk about even the most uncomfortable topics.

I'm also working on a spinoff series from The Clandestine Saga called Backstories. So many people have asked me over the years about where the Guardians came from. How did Jamie know he was a Healer? Did Elliott really sell used cars? So, I decided to write about their pasts!  I am hoping to release the first two volumes in the spring. If you haven't read The Clandestine Saga, Transformation is available for only 99 cents.

My first Urban Fantasy series, Reaper's Hallow, will also be out in the spring. It follows the journey of an elementary school teacher, Ru Robinson, as she discovers what it means to be a Keeper. She discovers a past she'd never dreamed of an a future tasked with hunting down Reapers and sending them back to Hell. Luckily, she has a team of other Keepers to show her how it's done. The first book, Ruin's Lot, will be out in the next few months.

I have a lot going on, but 2018 promises to be the best year yet of my writing career. If you haven't signed up for my newsletter, you'll want to do so. That way you'll know when a new release comes out or I'm doing a giveaway. You can sign up here.

I sincerely hope that 2018 is a stellar year for you and yours as well! Feel free to drop me a line at authoridjohnson@gmail.com or leave me a comment. Best wishes to all of you!
All of these books are either now available or will be published in 2018!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Excerpt from Residuum: Ghosts of Southampton Book 3

I'm finally writing the sequel to Titanic: Ghosts of Southampton Book 2! I have heard from so many readers that they are really interested to hear what happened to Charlie and Meg after they arrived back in New York City. We are all hoping for a happy ending, but first our two heroes will have to face some demons. After all, Meg's been through a lot with the loss of her father, the abuse of her mother and uncle, and now Titanic. Charlie survived the sinking, but that doesn't mean everything is as it should be. Here's the unedited prologue for Residuum I've just written. I hope that you enjoy it, and I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Also, Prelude is now available and will be free today, November 2, 2017. It is the prequel to Titanic and you can find it here.


This amazing cover for Residuum was created by JC Clarke at The Graphics Shed


            “The water was so cold, little crystals of ice immediately formed atop anything and everything that crested the surface. The sensations below weren’t any better, however. It was as if a thousand tiny pins were plunged into my flesh all at the same time. Even through my leather shoes, my coat. It didn’t matter; so I took them off. The entire Atlantic Ocean was already pulling me down. I didn’t need anything else hastening my journey to the abyss.”
            The man in the brown leather chair cleared his throat and adjusted his spectacles. “And then what do you remember next?”
            There was a long pause of consideration as thoughts fought to both spring to the surface and hide deep in the recesses of his mind. At last, a sentence was formulated. “I didn’t have a lot of time to decide what to do. There’d been plenty of chances, mind you, to climb into one of the lifeboats. I’d declined. Even though I’d been below deck and had seen what it was like down there, had seen the water crawling up the walls, lapping up the staircase, one concrete step at a time, I suppose even then it was difficult to wrap my mind around what was actually happening. But I was determined not to take the seat of another, particularly a mother or child. And though I had given great consideration to what I might do when I inevitably found myself in the Atlantic, my plan wasn’t as developed as I would’ve liked.”
            “You say you had a plan though?”
            “Not really. I suppose I’d like to think I had one, that I would come up with something spectacular at the last moment to save myself. That’s what I’d reassured everyone else, all those who beckoned me aboard the lifeboats with them. In retrospect, it wouldn’t have mattered if I had climbed aboard a lifeboat. No one else filled those seats. Hundreds of empty seats. Did you see that? In the papers?”
            He glanced up from his notes. “I did. I read it later, after the reports were filed.”
            “Right. So, here I was trying to be… heroic or chivalrous, I suppose. It turned out my efforts were wasted, and I ended up dying because of it. Momentarily, anyhow.” He remembered what it had been like to slip away and then come crashing back to his own existence and pushed those thoughts aside, returning to his previous thought. “I believe there’s another word one might use to describe my actions in turning down a perfectly good lifeboat.”
            He scratched his balding head beside a thin line of light brown hair. “And what word might that be?”
            There was a “hmmm” sound in response, which was neither an agreement or a disagreement. “So once you were in the water, what happened then? Do you remember exactly?”
            The words were having difficulty placing themselves in the correct order again. It took a moment of forced introspection. “I had intended to find something that would float. I assumed, a ship with that much lumber aboard—deck chairs, tables, doors, what have you—would have enough debris to easily find something I could mount and wait. I was under the impression that the lifeboats would come back—the half-empty ones for certain. It made little sense to me to think that those people, the thousand or so who had made it safely aboard a life vessel--would sit idly by. I assumed it would only be a matter of moments before there was a rescue party, if you will. I also remembered seeing a light on the horizon before we went under. I thought this other ship would be our salvation. It turns out I was mistaken in all of my optimistic assumptions.
            “In answer to your inquiry, however, there really is no order of things, no chronological account I can replicate for you. There was no time. Curious souls often ask me how long it took for the rescue boat—that’s what they like to call it, which I find quite ironic—the rescue boat to come back and begin to check to see who was still alive. I can’t answer that question, honestly. It was an eternity. It was the blink of an eye. I can’t precisely tell you what happened after I found myself completely submerged in the Atlantic. Nothing happened. Everything happened. All at the same time.”
            There was a long pause as the thin man in the upright leather chair seemed to ponder how to proceed. “Can you describe how you felt?”
            He pressed the palm of his hand into one eye socket, pressing hard enough to feel an ache before running his hand through his brown hair and straightening the hem of his jacket. He cleared his throat. “I felt like I was going to die. My body was both on fire and frozen solid at the same time. It’s hard to describe, but at some point, the human body becomes so cold it burns. I had the fleeting thought that there were three choices that lay before me, and I didn’t truly have any options because there was no time to weight the potential outcomes. I only had time to react.”
            “What were the choices?”
            “The first one was to fight—to swim as fast as I could in any direction; it really didn’t seem to matter which. Thrash about, try to make a headway in one bearing or another. I couldn’t see any of the lifeboats, so there was no sense in attempting to reach one, but swimming would be action, and action seemed to be an option.
            “The next was to do nothing. To stay perfectly still and allow the ocean to take me, as it so clearly wanted to do. As I said, I could feel it pulling me. It wasn’t the suction created by the ship or some such rubbish would-be scientists will try to explain in their overly-wordy, overly-educated statements. It was the ocean itself. She wanted me, wanted all of us, and her lapping waves were an invitation to let go of everything I’d ever known before and simply cease to exist.”
            He went quiet again, and the man across the room seemed perplexed as to whether or not he should issue another prompt or simply wait. He tried the latter for a lengthy while, and then, just as his thin lips parted to probe, the story was continued.
            “The third option never really existed. I just thought it might. I thought there was a chance that I could employ the same tactic I had every other time I’d been in such a precarious situation, sure of nothing but certain death. It didn’t work this time, however.”
            “What tactic is that?” he asked, squinting behind his thin-rimmed glasses.
            The answer came more quickly than expected. “Wake up.”
            The inquisitor absorbed the answer and then gave one short nod of the head. “I see,” he said quietly, as if it had never occurred to him that one might even think that was an option. “I suppose it makes sense one might assume, under the circumstances, they must be having a dream.”
            “A nightmare,” he corrected.
            “Once I realized that my preferred escape method was not a true possibility, a parade of familiar faces skirted through my mind, people I wished to see again, and I began to look around for an alternative. That’s when I saw the collapsible.”
            “About how far away do you think it was?”
            “In truth, not far at all. At that point, it didn’t matter, however. Any sort of movement whatsoever was excruciating. All of my joints had frozen stiff after just a few minutes in the water. It could’ve been a hand’s breath away and reaching it would’ve been nearly impossible. I’d say, it was less than ten yards’ distance. It may as well have been floating up next to the mocking moon.”
            “And yet, you were able to reach it, eventually.”
            “I was. I’m sure I don’t know how. When I started out on my journey, there was quite a commotion surrounding the upturned vessel as those nearby struggled to gain traction and buoyancy. By the time of my arrival, everyone was much more… still. Some were grasping hold with all their might. Others slipped below the surface and were not strong enough to recover from the siren call of the abyss. There was no helping them, no matter how badly the others wished they could assist. At that point, it truly was every man for himself.”
            “You were able to find a spot somehow, and to grab hold?”
            “Somehow,” he agreed. He began to strum his fingers on the arm of the couch intermittently, as if typing out a message using Morse Code.
            “And you’ve no idea how long you were there, you say?”
            “No.” The answer came quickly, unlike all of the other words that refused to form coherent sentences.
            “Do you remember being plucked from the water, then? When the lifeboats finally returned?”
            “No.” Equally as easily accessible. “I don’t remember anything again until after I awoke on Carpathia.” He was quiet for a very long time again, before he reconsidered his statement. “That’s not true. I do remember something else.” His voice was soft now, just above a whisper, and the man across the room leaned forward in his chair, straining to hear. “It’s the true reason I’m here.”
            “What’s that?”
            The strumming stopped, and he looked up, a shift in his countenance. “The photographs in my mind are one thing. I see their faces. That’s… troubling. It’s not the worst of it. But every time I close my eyes, I distinctly see each of them. A woman with short, curly hair. A man with some sort of wrap on his head, his face frozen in anguish. Literally frozen. A little boy, maybe six, clinging to a woman I presumed to be his mother. A baby wrapped in layers of blankets and nestled between an arm stiff with frost and a bosom that would never feed the child again. Their faces are haunting, and they are everywhere. Despite that daily terror, it isn’t the worst.”
            “It isn’t? What is it then? What could possibly be worse than seeing the faces of the dead everywhere you look?”
            “Dr. Morgan, have you ever considered the different definitions for the word ‘drown’?”
            The question seemed to take him aback, and he scooted his shoulders into the chair. “No, I can’t honestly say that I have.”
            “I looked it up in the dictionary because I was curious as to precisely what it might say. It’s such an interesting word. It doesn’t quite roll off the tongue, does it? Drown. Drown. Drowning. It sounds almost as morbid as the meaning behind it. The latter definition is almost as unsettling as the first, though, when you think about it. You can’t just stick to the first definition, mind you, doctor. You have to read them all. ‘To die under water of liquid or other suffocation.’ Yes, of course, we all know that one. We were all trying so hard to avoid it that night, though I’m not sure any of us thought of the true cause of death—freezing. Nevertheless, the Atlantic that night was full of over two thousand persons trying hard not to succumb to the first definition of the word drown.
            “If you’ll read further, however, my good man, you’ll come up with another definition. ‘To overwhelm as if to render inaudible, as by a louder sound.’ Dr. Morgan, since I’ve arrived back in New York City, I’ve heard all sorts of loud sounds. Whistles, horns, people shouting, doors slamming, music playing. Some of them startle me because I now have a new association with each of them. I can’t imagine what might happen should I ever again hear the loud popping sound of a firecracker exploding, much like the distress signal that was fired off that night. But one thing that still eludes me, Dr. Morgan, is the second part of that definition—a louder sound, one that renders the original sound inaudible.”
            “I’m not sure I know exactly what you mean.”
            “It’s quite simple, really, Dr. Morgan. I’ve come here, I continue to come here, because I’m hoping that you can help me extinguish, or otherwise drown out the constant noise I’m hearing, not with my ears but with my mind. Not just while I’m sleeping but even when I’m awake. It never stops. It’s there all the time. And, Dr. Morgan, while I’m quite certain that a psychiatrist of your caliber is just as capable as anyone in the world at helping me with this problem, I must admit I’m afraid it might be a lost cause.”
            “Why do you say that, Mr. Ashton?”
            “Because, Dr. Morgan, it’s been nearly six months since Titanic sank, and I still hear them. I still hear the screams, the wails, the cries for help. I still hear the thrashing sound of two thousand people desperately trying to survive, trying to accept option one and fight for their lives, for those of the ones they love, many of which were right there with them, freezing to death, being dragged under by the pull of the Atlantic. I’m afraid, Dr. Morgan, that I’ve reached the startling conclusion that, despite the irony of the word itself, there’s no helping my situation. Quite frankly, kind sir, I’m of the opinion that nothing drowns out the sound of drowning.”
            Dr. Laurie Morgan was silent for some time, taking in the statement his patient had so decidedly declared, not sure how to respond. Eventually, he cleared his throat, and taking off his spectacles, he picked up a cleaning cloth off of the desk beside him and began to carefully clean the lenses. “Mr. Ashton…” he began.
            “Please, call me Charlie.”
            “Right. Charlie, I do think there is an answer, that we will find a way to make the noises stop, or at least lessen. I understand you’ve been through the sort of traumatic experience only a few people can identify with. However, I believe if we continue to work together, we will eventually see results, and you’ll begin to feel much better.”
            Charlie ran a hand through his hair and let out a deep sigh. He wanted to believe the doctor. He’d already made some progress in the few months they had been working together, but he didn’t know for sure if there was any solution. Today had been a bit of a breakthrough in that he was able to tell the doctor precisely what it was that was still troubling him. Choosing to be optimistic, he nodded, and reaching over next to him on the lounger he refused to lie on, he grabbed his hat before standing. Dr. Morgan rose out of his chair and stepped forward, and Charlie had to tip his head and peer down at the much shorter man. “Thank you for your time, doctor.” He extended his hand, and the doctor shook it. “I will see you next week.”
            “Thank you, Charlie,” Dr. Morgan replied. “Yes, next week. I hope to work on finding some answers then.”

            Charlie nodded and forced a smile, thinking that might be all but impossible. He headed for the office door, and waving goodbye, he let himself out. The receptionist, an older woman with graying hair, smiled at him, and Charlie wished her a good day before making his way down and out of the office building into the busy streets of New York where amidst a crowd of thousands, he felt just as alone as he had when he’d been floating in a sea of faces in the frigid Atlantic.