Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Introducing VEXED by @AuthorWren Michaels

Hi Y'all, That Rebel just got a face-lift. As part of the new look, you'll be seeing more book releases, beginning with Wren Michaels' hot new romance VEXED. Released today, you'll find the order information at the end of the article. Get it hot off the presses!

Following is a Q & A with Wren, then keep reading for a juicy excerpt. (Ratings alert...R for sexy, steamy situations and some language.)

I give you Wren Michaels and VEXED:

Thanks for sharing in the release of my first full-length novel! I hope you enjoy reading about Kena and Luc as much as I enjoyed writing them. There's plenty of action, adventure, romance, and Vodou for everyone!


I did a little Q&A about the book:

Q) How did you dream up the dynamics of your characters? Originally the story was going to be completely different when I wrote the first 5000 words or so of the book. But after I came back from the 2014 Romantic Times convention in New Orleans, I was inspired to write something with a Vodou/NOLA flair. So the book took a twist and became so much more than I ever imagined. I wanted a strong heroine and an alpha male. But Luc ended up being more of an Alpha/Beta blend. He's not really one or the other. He's quite complex. Kena ended up being a witty heroine who took things into her own hands.

Q) Do you have any habits that get you in the writing frame of mind? Music is my biggest influence. I listened to mainly instrumental gaming soundtracks while writing. But one of my Critique Partners burned me a CD of music she thought would be perfect for this book, and it was filled with great songs by The Black Keys, Rolling Stones, Zepplin, Jack White and Muse. It ended up really making scenes come alive for me.


Q) How much real life do you put into or influences your books? In this book I tried to make the characters reflect their Vodou based deities. I did take some artistic liberties and spun a few things, but I did a lot of research to make sure a lot of the intricacies of their actual descriptions and quirks made it into the story. 
Vodou stole her life. A gay ghost stole her boots. And the man who stole her heart stole her memories. Kena plans to get it all back.

Ex-cop Kena's life is filled with regret, beer, and Cheetos. That is, until her ghostly roomie sends her dumpster diving, leading her to a sexy stranger named Luc and a fate she'd rather not remember. As Kena's memories resurface, so do her feelings for Luc, the man she's secretly been in love with for the last thousand years. And he needs her for more than a stroll down memory lane.

Vodou spirits, known as Loa, have been trapped in human form, and are trying to make their way back to the spirit world. But Luc's brother is possessed by a vengeance demon conjured at the hands of NOLA's crime syndicate kingpin. Saving him means damning herself to a spirit prison in a loveless, arranged union with the very man she's supposed to rescue. But not helping Luc's brother sentences him to death, leaving New Orleans in the hands of black magick, and losing Luc forever.


After stripping out of the wet clothes, I wrapped the towel around myself and wandered out to his room. On the bed lay a white long-sleeve button-down shirt. With a hard swallow, I dropped the towel and picked up the shirt, pulling it to my face. I took a long, hard sniff. Laundry detergent. Of course. Did I think it would smell like him?

Like he'd give you a dirty shirt to wear, Kena.

Thankful he didn't witness me in idiot-mode, I slid myself into the shirt and was caught mid-button when he knocked at the door.

“Are you decent?” He pushed the door open a crack.

“I'm clothed, if that's what you mean. Decent is debatable at the moment.” Purposely leaving the top three buttons undone, I worked my way to the bottom button as he walked in.

He halted mid-stride and looked at me. His chest rose and fell in quick spurts, training his eyes over me from head to toe. Veins traversed the length of his arm as he clenched his fists at his sides. “I don't wear underwear, so I apologize I have no bottoms. It's all I had that was long enough to cover you.” His position relaxed as he leaned against the mahogany armoire.

“Anything's better than cold, sopping-wet clothes.” I ran a finger through my hair, now slowly drying into loose stringy curls.

“So, are you going to tell me what happened tonight?” Folding his arms across his broad chest, bulging muscles stretched the navy-blue fabric barely covering his biceps.

I shook my head. “Not until I get some honesty from you, big guy.”

With a tilt of his head, he donned a sly grin. “You haven't asked the right questions.”

“Is this a game for you? Do you enjoy messing with people's lives? Do you get off on some fucked-up high being in total control?” My fingernails burrowed into the palm of my hand. Everything in me wanted to slap the shit out of him and then ride him like a cowboy.

He pushed off the dresser and walked over to me, lowering his head coming to a stop inches from my face. “You're the one in control and yet you refuse to acknowledge it. You refuse to let your mind accept it. Stop playing and start being.”

“What do you want from me?” I yelled, a little louder than intended.

“I want you to be you. I want you to”—he stopped and dropped his gaze to my lips, and then slowly made his way back up to my eyes—“come back.”

“Kiss me.” The words rushed from my lips without another thought. My heart hammered so hard in my chest I thought it would shatter my rib cage.

His breathing quickened. A low growl rumbled in his throat. “Don't do this to me, Kena.”

“Don't do what? You're the one doing things to me.” I slammed my hands against his chest and he sailed across the room, his back hitting the dresser behind him. “Shit! I'm sorry.” I reached out for him with a trembling hand.

Fuck, I’d done it again.

He shook his head and straightened himself up. In a blur of movement, he shot across the room and grabbed onto either side of my shirt, yanking me up to his face. “You want me to kiss you?”

“Yes,” I said in more of whooshing sound than a word.

He pressed his lips against my neck and his fingers curled into the fabric of the shirt, pulling me onto my tiptoes. “You don't even know who I am.”

“I don't care.” Words no longer made sense to me, only his touch spoke a language I could understand.

He laughed as he pushed me against the wall. Gripping the back of my head with the entire palm of his hand, he splayed the other across my cheek, his thumb resting against my jawline. Tilting my head back, he hovered his lips over mine. “You will.”

His lips crushed against my mouth.

With a sweep of his tongue, he devoured me into a kiss the likes of which I've never experienced before in my life. He punished my mouth with his tongue, sliding it over mine in a delicious dance of ecstasy and aggression. His hold on me was not that of violence, but of passion. The way his fingertips eased against my face, yet held me there as if he was scared to let go, revealed a vulnerability. He may be a man of few words who knew how to play the vague card, but his body and actions gave him away.

I arched into him, and he pinned me back against the wall with his hip. Clawing at his shirt, I ripped it out of his jeans and slid my fingers over his heated skin. A surge of energy rushed my fingertips as they glided along his body, electrifying me.

“Fuck, Kena,” he hissed, pulling back from the kiss.

In a movement so fast it blurred everything around me, he shot out the door, slamming it behind him. He left me gasping, clinging to the wall behind me just to remain standing.  My legs wobbled like Jell-O as I stumbled to the bed and collapsed. He sucked all the air from my body and replaced it with an ache, a driving need for more of him.

What the hell was he?


Wren Michaels hails from the frozen tundra of Wisconsin where beer and cheese are their own food groups. But a cowboy swept her off her feet and carried her away below the Mason-Dixon line, where she promptly lost all tolerance for snow and cold. They decided they'd make beautiful babies together and they got it right on the first try. Now Wren lives happily ever after in the real world and in the worlds of her making, where she creates book boyfriends for the masses to crave.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Beta's Baby!

It’s OFFICIAL! As of last night, the initial copy of Blessed Are The Peace Makers, Coming Home is in the hands of my first two beta readers. What are those? Writers (whose work I admire) that are kind enough to read through a fellow-writer’s manuscript to point out weaknesses, plot holes, areas needing clarity or improvement (or deletion), shout encouragement and the like.

Eric is already gearing up to run the manuscript through his handy-dandy program (that I must get my hands on for future works – I understand he’s releasing it online soon – for free!) that searches out to-be’s, gerunds, weasels (weasel words contradict or misinform) and other grammar no-no’s.

Am I dancing in the streets? Only a little. And only on the inside. Am I elated? Yes. And honored. A tad nervous. But on top of, and snaking through the jubilation, is an emptiness. A disorientation. Like a twirling top that’s lost its momentum and is wobbling, tottering, soon to tip over, roll around, and cease all forward motion. Until the next wind-up. Thank God for Books Two and Three.

Whipping Top clip artAnd in spite of the illusion, that feeling of suspended animation, life goes on. Next weekend I’ll attend a local writers’workshop; the price was right and it comes at a good time. Between now and then I will update and memorize my 25-word pitch (to practice when the opportunity presents itself) and compose a one-page summary of the manuscript (which is apparently easier-said than done). To my writer friends: is there anything else I need to prepare for the workshop?

Holy Smokes, is this feller fast or what? I just checked my inbox and Eric already shot back a…omg…really? A long list of those buggers I referred to above. Hmm. Looks like time to get cracking on revisions. Already. Yeehaaaa!

That Rebel ~ Olivia J. Herrell

P.S. A huge shout-out and thank you to Eric W. Trant, an author whose no-nonsense prose and generosity captured my attention several years ago. Full of gut-level honesty, something I achingly (there's one of those words) aspire to.

P.P.S. And another shout-out/thank you to Liv Rancourt, lead author (and whip-cracker, thank you, Liv!) for our Relentless Writers blog. I’m looking forward to reading her new short story.

P.P.S.S. I FINALLY (after how many years now?) downloaded Google Chrome because Blogger, as of my tries today, no longer works on Internet Explorer. And omg what a difference! What in the world was I waiting for?

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Turn in the Road Less Traveled

My laptop, sweet, precious, ever-available sidekick, keeper of treasures, soother of my soul, my precious, my own, hit the floor today. Hard. At my unwitting hand. BAM! It happened so fast I’m not sure what did, only that my outstretched fingertips connected like a karate jab and it flew clatter bang to the hardwood floor, barely missing the soft, wool rug.

 “Oh no, your laptop,” my client cried.

 “Oh no, my laptop,” I echoed.

We looked at each other, eyes wide in shock, then I scurried around the desk thinking, “she’ll be okay, I know she will”, and scooped her up in a love-cuddle like a baby. She is, in a way. Only so much more.

Miraculously she’s still ticking. Prayerfully, she’ll continue for a long, long time. Or at least until we’ve had a few more years together.

Like this train of thought, my life has taken a right turn, one I knew was inevitable, but it frightens me nonetheless. The hip trouble that began three years ago after a rear-ender (while driving down a quiet street at the speed limit!) has escalated.

I can limp along (literally, though on good days it’s imperceptible), trying to avoid a hip replacement or I can get past the fear and do it now. This avoids further wear and tear to the surrounding and supported joints and, if I believe those who've already done it, will give me my life back.

So. Fear aside, it’s the logical thing to do.

Without quoting particulars, suffice it to say that I’ve done enough research to know the procedure and type of prosthesis best for me, which points me back to the Ortho I saw in December. He’s a great doc, I like and trust him, and one of his offices is ten miles from my house. The fact that he’s handsome has nothing to do with it. I promise.

That said, the recovery could take as long as six to twelve weeks (it’s my right/driving hip). As a single woman who owns her own business (meaning – no workie, no payie) that prospect is daunting, but God is good and I have no doubt he will provide. As always.

I’m proud of myself. Five months ago I was in denial, today my brain is slowly, but surely wrapping synapses around this. I'm thinking September - December, after my trip to Idaho and the Oregon coast.

In the meantime I’ll prepare, not only mentally and emotionally, but financially. That means saving money and moving ahead with a new venture, one I can do even laid up, recovering from surgery: get my photographs on stock websites for download/sale.

Like my affinity for words, I seem to be drawn to and have an eye for light, beauty and composition. Mostly I aim and click. And take lots of pictures. But the results, at times, are stunning.

I will close with a request. For good thoughts. Well-wishes. And prayers. For my laptop, the sweet, unassuming instrument that even now records my thoughts, and for me as photographer, writer and human being.

Thank you so much!

~ Olivia J. Herrell

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Uneasy Writer

It makes me nervous when people I know start dying. One’s bad enough, but so far today the count is three. The blues legend BB King who lived a long life, but will be missed by generations. Mark Johnson IIII, one of the marines that went down with the helicopter in Nepal, married to a distant cousin (of mine) with two little children, ages four and eighteen months. Now Elaine Dwyer, a sweet lady from my church.*

This engenders a streak of unease that runs through me like a snake exploring dark, tortuous tunnels and now that it’s exposed to the light, guilt creeps in for just feeling uneasy when the families must truly be suffering.

Clouds crowd together overhead as the wind blows past, impotent to make it rain. I want it to. I need it to, as much as the near-parched land. But it doesn’t.

~ Olivia J. Herrell
* Plus the eighty-five hundred dead and three thousand injured in the Nepalese quakes.

BB King (and guests) performing "You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone". Yes, BB, we sure will!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Works Every Time: Sit Down, Slit It Open, Spill It Out

Today is Saturday. I wrote this on Monday. It seems like weeks ago.

Today I realized I’m unhappy. Again. Oh, not in my mind. There I’m happy. Or I think I am. I have plenty of evidence. I love my work. I enjoy my community and volunteering for the city. I have a church (for the first time in forty years.) My completed manuscript (first in nine years) is tucked away waiting to be reread with a fresh eye, and manuscript two is half written.

When I look at my behavior, or rather behaviorS, plural, all the signs are there. I won’t list them all, but I bet you’ll recognize one or two. They include:
  • eating crap “food” including demon sugar
  • weight gain
  • hopping
  • moping
  • disinterest in outside activities
  • inability to exercise
  • running off to coffee shops, restaurants or other places to write
  • hours of Netflix
  • going to bed early
  • staring in to space (not the good, daydreaming kind)
  • avoiding decisions
  • running on auto-pilot

There’s probably more, but these off-the-top-of-my-head ones are enough. I get the idea. Do you? Now, what to do? Figure out why? Not necessarily.

I could distract myself from it, flesh out a profile on match dot com, find a man and ride that “new love” feeling for, well, maybe years. Or rent an apartment within walking distance of my favorite coffee shop/writing locale. That would open up space in the office for a couple of massage therapists, a nutritionist and/or some other cool-ist. Or I could bring in a doctor to share the practice, take care of patients when I’m away.
Any of these would bring activity. Break the boredom. Create happiness. If only temporary. But the truth is, I don’t know if I can be happy here. Behind closed eyes (and a seeming-eternity ago) I’m in Southern California on a trail as it meanders through a scrub canyon, alone and safe, a half-mile from my complex and bustling traffic, with a smile that could only get wider if it split my face in half. All from pure joy. Of place. I miss that. I miss it a lot.

Is my unhappiness place-related? I’m leaning toward yes. I have evidence. I’ll spare you the details. But the last I remember that beatific smile bursting upon my face and my heart soaring, was a year ago.* In Oregon. On a coast so wild as to never be tamed, in old-growth forests that march to the sea, along a ring of fire that will someday bring doom to us all. There I was happy. There my heart soared. There the smile stayed plastered to my face. And joy dwelt in my soul.
*Other than in church.

Now. If you’re one of the way-too-many people that don’t know this secret, listen up. Something wonderful happens with you put pen to paper or fingertips to keys and spill your guts. The subconscious is appeased because it’s had its say, and whatever the dilemma, you can always, always get relief.
Tuesday, I returned to manuscript two, specifically the stitching together of twelve different voices in to one fluid, hopefully-flowing story. I cut the crap and sugar, including cola, got lots of sleep and in spite of the fact that my day-job workload increased and it was a crazy, bouncy, electrified-energy kind of week, I felt better every day.

I’m happy to report that not only did I complete those edits today (through the last page written - 202), but I finished the related “God’s Eye View” spreadsheet, color-coded to keep the stories straight and evenly s/paced. It also ensures that one of the many (and egads! growing number of) characters don’t stay silent, or hog the spotlight, for too long.

God's Eye View of Peace Makers - Part Deux
(Compressed to Protect Contents)
So. Hooray for me! Instead of making a splash on match dot com or running off to spend a bunch of hard-earned cash on an apartment I don’t need, I cleaned up my food, walked around the neighborhood, cleaned the house, belly-laughed at an old comedy I discovered on Netflix (Out of Practice) and drank lots of home-brewed kombucha.
But mostly? I dove back in to writing. My true love. My precious. My own.

~ Olivia J. Herrell


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