About Once Upon a Word: We're a large group of multi-talented authors working together, to bring you the best romances.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

I CAN'T COMPLAIN! by Cheryl Pierson

When everything happens at once, sometimes you have to wonder if you will survive the madness—but when it’s all good, who can complain? Here’s what’s going on with me!

The release of a collaborative effort through the Western Fictioneers group came about on September 1. Our first of the series book, “WOLF CREEK: BOOK 1 BLOODY TRAIL” came out and has already had some wonderful reviews! This book was written by Jim Griffin, James Reasoner, Larry Martin, Troy Smith, Clay More, and me. The plot was outlined for us by Troy, who came up with this brilliant idea, and our characters’ parts took wing from our own plans for them within the guidelines of the story. There will be many more books to follow in this series, and there will be a slew of different authors working on each edition.

Sometime in the next few days, I have two new .99 short stories that will be released through WESTERN TRAIL BLAZER. MEANT TO BE is a time travel Christmas story. The heroine, Robin Mallory, is stranded on Christmas Eve and begins to walk for help, only to find that she’s walked down a road to the past and into the arms of handsome a Confederate soldier, Jake Devlin. Will she stay in 1864, or will she return to the lonely life she left behind?

The other short story, A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES, is also a holiday tale about a wounded
gunslinger that winds up on the doorstep of widow Angela Bentley. She would patch him up and send him on his way, but for the three children he has with him. In the midst of a blinding snowstorm, what precious gifts can she contrive to make their Christmas special? Can she help them recover from the loss they’ve suffered? And what will become of her and Nick Dalton, the man with the dangerous reputation, on this…A NIGHT FOR MIRACLES?

In October, my contemporary novel, TEMPTATION’S TOUCH, will be released through The Wild Rose Press. TEMPTATION'S TOUCH gives Jack and Kendi a second chance at heaven...if they can manage to live long enough to enjoy it.

Two broken hearts find a second chance at love, but only if they manage to survive-- When Kendi Morgan witnesses an attempted murder near her home one night, she makes the only choice possible: help the victim. But bringing the handsome stranger into her home traps her in the middle of a deadly drug war. Wounded DEA agent Jackson Taylor is a man with nothing to lose and nothing to fear--until he falls for a beautiful woman who risked everything to save his life. With his sting operation gone awry, Jackson realizes he is all that stands between Kendi and a powerful drug lord seeking revenge. Can their newfound love survive? Or will Jackson sacrifice his partner's life and his own in exchange for Kendi's safety and their future together?

Also in October, my story THE KEEPERS OF CAMELOT will appear in the Western Fictioneers Christmas anthology, SIX GUNS AND SLAY BELLS: A CREEPY COWBOY CHRISTMAS. I am so honored to have my story in this collection.

This Western Fictioneers Christmas anthology is a new take on the old west, filled with Christmas stories that entertain you with a paranormal twist. This multi-authored collection includes short stories by some of the finest writers in the genre, and gives the reader something different in the way of holiday stories, while keeping to the 'old west' theme. Look for it on October 31.

Somewhere in all this, I’m trying to finish up a short story for another Christmas anthology, the last novella of the “Kane” series, and edit a novel manuscript. “Can she do it? Will she survive? How will she manage?”

That’s what’s happening with me—and I barely have time to turn around! I’ll keep you posted as release dates become available. For all of my current books and short stories, go to:

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Places Where I Write

I can write anywhere; I’ve been told that’s a talent.  I never considered it anything but a little freakish and further proof of social awkwardness, but I also never considered my stories worthy of sharing or that anyone but me could ever appreciate the strange, little world in my head.  Just give me a pencil and a notebook, and no matter what is going on around me, I am content.  I dive into the recesses of my mind and tune out everything else, and the world falls away.

I have written in the midst of rehearsal.  Anytime I was not needed onstage, I’d plop down anywhere and pick up a scene wherever I’d left off, even with people chattering and walking around me.  It’s always funny because someone will inevitably come along and say, “What are you working on, Michelle?  Another novel?” And I’ll have to stop mid-line and answer, dragged back into the world of reality.  But it’s like I hit a pause button in the ongoing saga in my head, and as soon as I’m left alone again, I resume right where I left off and never miss a beat.  I’ve always had the thought that my novel is already written; I’m just putting the words down on paper.  With that idea in mind, I never feel like I can go wrong.  I’m just the instrument for my story.

I have written in the few minutes of passing period between classes in school, literally sucking every word out of every possible second.  I never wanted to waste a single minute.  I’ve even written during class, which is not something I recommend if it’s a class where attention must be duly given.  But sometimes in performance class when we were supposed to be an audience for each other, I admit to sneaking my notebook out and getting a few paragraphs in.  I suppose compared to others who’d be quietly whispering or messing with their phones, my offense was innocent.  As a school obsessed, straight-laced student, my greatest crime was working on a novel at every second.  Not really detention-worthy, I suppose.

I have written while feeding an infant, balancing the bottle with my chin and propping my notebook on the armrest; I’ve also used something akin to that position to type an entire novel during my baby’s bottle time.  It always amazed me what I could manage to get done with a baby in arms if I was determined enough!

I have written in moving cars while traveling on vacation (I don’t recommend that if you are prone to car sickness because I managed to give myself a headache and will not be trying that again!).  I have written on planes; I spent the entire ride on my recent trip to Colorado lost in a story to avoid any sound the plane wanted to make.  I have written on the beach, and subsequently, got sand trapped between my notebook pages.  I have written on a screened-in porch overlooking the ocean; almost all of “A Revenant’s Love Story” was written to the background of rolling waves.  I have written in random hotel rooms on random trips in many states, curled in their armchair while my kids ran back and forth through the room, happy to be out of the car and shrieking so loud we were lucky not to get thrown out of the hotel.

I have written at every possible time of day.  At college age, I preferred late at night and would get a lot done while waiting for my boyfriend and future husband to give his nightly call, at an hour I now never see on the dark side of it.  As I’ve gotten older and had kids, I’ve learned to prefer the early morning before anyone is awake.  I’m happily up at 4:30AM to work, but that’s not always enough for me.  Any extra second in an over-packed day is subject to be filled with the scratching of my pencil on a blank piece of paper.  Whether it’s mid-afternoon or the middle of the night; “Opera Macabre” was started at 3:30 in the morning one night when my insomnia was preventing me from sleeping.  Any hour is a canvas for creativity if it strikes.

I write, no matter the time, no matter the place, no matter the way the world of reality is shifting on any particular day.  My imaginary place doesn’t need a specific ambience to take me away.

But for that special time at 4:30 in the morning when all is quiet but my coffee maker, I do have a spot that beats everywhere else I’ve been.  I made the perfect place for imagination and creativity to blossom.  My bedroom walls are covered in quotes and pictures, everything I’ve ever seen or heard that I find inspiration in.  And one specific corner, my “snow” corner is where my writing chair resides.  The walls surrounding it are laden in more quotes, and when I’m finding myself at a loss for the correct words I want or the way to move forward, sometimes I sit back and read the walls for awhile.  All of my favorites are there: from Susan Kay’s “Phantom” to anything by the Brontë sisters to song lyrics that make pictures in my head to even some of my own scenes.  I wrote them all out on blue and purple legal pad paper, ripped the edges, and glued them to the random, mismatched paper stapled to the walls.  I pity my husband and father because if we ever need to take my walls apart, I know the sort of damage I’ve done and what it will take to fix them…again!  At our old house, I did something similar to one wall, and taking it down meant a mélange of holes and glue streaks, missing chunks of dry wall; that staple gun is a powerful toy!

My corner is my special place, but my creativity is not limited to its walls.  It goes anywhere I go, and when I’m in the middle of writing a story, it overtakes me at every unoccupied second.  Whether it is offstage at rehearsal or while I am keeping an eye on the dinner cooking on the stove, I write.  I never want to waste a moment when that moment could have a dozen words in it.  And maybe that ties back in with my obsessions in life, and writing is almost another one because I have no idea why I feel I have to do it.  I just do it.  But if the stories I’m telling are important and touching the lives of strangers I’ve never met, then I will happily be a slave to my writing bug for the rest of my life.  If nothing else, it makes sure I’m never bored!

 My "snow" corner!

For more information, check out my website:



Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Ms. Quote Interview with Rebecca J. Vickery

MQ: Hello, Fantastic Readers across the other side of the screen! How y’all doin’ today, sweeties? I’m here on the beach tryin’ to track down a Ms. Vickery an’ accordin’ to my directions, this right here is her RV. Yoo hoo! (waves) Ms. Vickery, Billy Bob says I was to interro--  um, that is, interview you today for my column. It’s called, ‘Ms. Quote’s WORDS with…’ And you’re the ‘with’ today! (gives bright smile)

Ms. Quote's WORDS with...

RJV: (glances up from where she reclines on beach lounge)  Ms. Quote, did you really mean to wear six inch stiletto heels in all this sand?

MQ: You noticed! But, um, yeah, that sand is as heavy as concrete! (shakes one delicate foot packed in a pound of wet sand).

RJV: (sighs) Maybe we should start the interview instead. Please, make yourself comfortable. (waves to vacant beach chair)

MQ: Thanks, but -- oh! It’s so windy here! (pushes bangs away from where strands of hair tangle before her mascared eyes).

RJV: Hm. (purses mouth) Maybe you’ve never actually been to a beach before?

MQ: (stares after one false eyelash that is swept away in a strong gust) How can you tell?

RJV: (hides smile) Just face the wind, dear, and you’ll be fine. (clears throat) Now. Which book did you wish to ask me about today? Oh, yes. Looking Through the Mist. Did you bring a list of questions?

MQ: Uh huh. (rummages through handbag the size of an index card) But they’re not here! Oh, golly. Now I remember…(brow wrinkles in thought) I took ‘em out so I could make room for my microphone. Here it is! (holds mike in one hand and gives it a hard shake) How did sand get in there???

RJV: (rolls eyes) Your first question, Ms. Quote?

MQ: Hm? (gives RJV questioning glance, and then giggles). Oh, that! Well, let’s see…uhhh…what was your story about, sugar pie? For the life of me, I can’t remember a thin’!

RJV: (groans) Okay. How about a blurb? (turns book over and reads) Romantic mystery with a twist... Psychic Jessica Wilder was a consultant for the FBI until she suffered burnout. She starts a new life for herself. Suddenly, the visions are back with a vengeance — children are being kidnapped. How can she not try to save the children? Detective Jonathan Lansing doesn't believe in psychics. Can the woman in front of him help? Or is she involved?

MQ: Ooh, goody! (clasps hands together) How is your romantic mystery a ‘twist’?

RJV: Ha! Well, that has nothing to do with Chubby Checkers or dancing, though I used to love to "Twist the Night Away" on occasion. The "twist" in this story is that Jessica, the heroine, is psychic. Most of my stories include something out of the ordinary – a twist of the unusual that makes them different.

MQ: Okay. I get ya…I think. Anyway, what was Jessica’s ‘burnout’?

RJV: Well, it didn't have anything to do with squealing tires...though Jessica really likes hot cars. She would love to have a turquoise blue Ferrari and do a real "burnout". Seriously, she had too many overwhelming psychic visions of terrible things happening to children and her mind, needing rest, shut them out for a time.

MQ: And the title’s ‘Looking Through the Mist’. Why doesn’t Jessica just take a hanky an’ wipe that misty fog off her windshield?

RJV: Most of the mist and fog are in her head during her visions and not on a windshield (whispered aside)  and I still don't think she's as 'foggy' as you seem to be.

MQ: Huh?

RVJ: (grins) Never mind. Next question?

MQ: How’s this -- what was the first impression Jessica and Jonathan had about each other?

RJV: He thought she was a beautiful phony and she thought he was a real hunk. She was mortified to meet such an attractive, sexy man and then have to tell him she "sees" things.
Can you imagine meeting a good-looking guy and saying, "Oh, by the way, I have these visions so don't let it worry you if I sort of 'zone out' on you."

MQ: I do that quite a lot, actually. Zone out, I mean. (eyes widen) And I don’t look through any mist a’tall.

RJV: (nods) I believe it.

MQ: Well, now, you know, Ms. Vickery. I can be an investigative reporter if given half a chance! Maybe Jessica should hire me on some of the cases???

RJV: Well... ummmm... Jessica appreciates the offer, but she's sure that you already have your hands full keeping up with other investigations. Besides, Jessica really likes Johnny to help on her cases – certain fringe benefits, like a stolen kiss now and then, you know.
And she doubts if you, Ms. Quote, would be strong enough to carry her when she 'zones out' from having a vision as Johnny does.

MQ: Oh. (puts finger to cheek in considering gesture)  That’s a good point. Okay, what about you? Can you tell the world a itsy bitsy about yourself? Here. (extends microphone) Most of the sand is gone now.

RJV: Gee. Thanks. (accepts mike gingerly) Something about me? All right. I have been married to the same very patient man for 34 years and I have one son and three wonderful grandchildren. We live in South Carolina, USA, and we slip away to go RVing at Myrtle Beach whenever possible. Long walks on the beach help me unwind and often ignite my imagination.

MQ: Long walks on the beach? In all that concrete?

RJV: Some folks stroll barefooted, you know.

MQ: Ugh. (makes face, then shrugs) Well. Anyhoo. Two questions. How did you meet Very Patient Man 34 years ago? And is Myrtle Beach cousin to Girdle Pinch?

RJV: And here’s the answer to the first question: I picked him up at the jockey lot (now called a flea market by most) and yes, those have been around that long. He was selling coins, antique glassware, and pocketknives. We saw each other there every Saturday for a while and talked a bit, then finally he asked me to have a hot dog with him for lunch. The proof that he would be a Very Patient Man came on the evening of our first "official" date.

MQ: Oh, the romance starts! (edges chair closer) Do tell.

RJV: I am, I am. See, there was an auction barn across the street from where we lived. The KKK chose that evening to rent the barn and have a rally. (This was 1972.) They were burning a huge cross over there to close out the meeting just as he arrived. The traffic was terrible as cars circled the side roads to see what was going on. Police cars were parked everywhere, including our yard, to be sure there was no riot. Had he been any other man he would have headed for the hills, but he came in and I introduced him to my parents. He told them he had not expected quite such a warm welcome or such a crowd.

MQ: That’s…(gulps) certainly different!

RJV: Isn’t it, though? And to answer your second question: Afraid not, dear Ms. Quote. For an investigative reporter, you sort of – ahem – missed on this one. Myrtle Beach is a city not a person. It's named after the wax myrtle trees that grow there, near the ocean. It is my favorite place to relax and soak in the salt air. We hope to relocate here for our retirement.

MQ: You soak in the air? (frowns in confusion) Without a bathtub?

RJV: Ah. Yes. Well, let me continue. I began reading and writing at an early age and thought I had died and gone to Heaven when I started school and found the library. Since then it has been my pleasure to entertain and inform others with the written word. A former technical writer and bookkeeper, I began writing articles and then romances in 1998. I am of the old school and believe that true romance tales should lead readers to the bedroom door and then leave a little something to the imagination.

MQ: (looks around) Where is that old school?

RJV: Ahem. (drums annoyed fingertips against arm of beach chair) Shall I simply finish by mentioning that though my primary focus has been on writing sweet to sensual romance with a twist of the paranormal, adventure, mystery, or suspense along the way, I am now broadening my horizons into the field speculative fiction and experimenting with more suspense.

MQ: That was sure a long sentence! Do you know it had 48 words?

RJV: (gives sweet smile) Isn’t your column titled ‘WORDS’?

MQ: Oh! (chortles) Um…so…what’s the best part of bein’ an author that you enjoy?

RJV: What an intuitive question, Ms. Quote. (whispered aside – you really surprised me with this one...) I don't think I can name just one thing. I enjoy letting my imagination run loose to create twists and turns that will ensnare a reader along with my characters. I also enjoy making my characters "human" with flaws, worries, and problems such as we have in real life. I am astounded and blessed by all the wonderful authors and readers I've met. But the most special part of being an author is when a reader unexpectedly drops me an email or a comment that they read my book and loved it. No award or amount of money is better than that.

MQ: Say, that’s good, Ms. Vickery. Can I quote you on that?

RJV: (raises brow) Just be sure you don’t MisQuote.

MQ: (blinks) Huh? (starts at sound of dune buggy motor approaching) Why, there’s Billy Bob!(stands and waves)

RJV: An escort! Where is he driving you?

MQ: He wants me to find this extraordinary kind of lemon tree and interro-- er, interview the fellow that grows it. Bo..Bu..Buck?

RJV: (sits straight up) You don’t mean Grandpappy Beauregard and his special recipe of lemonade?

MQ: (snaps fingers) That’s it! Do you know him?

RJV: Can’t say I’ve met him. (reaches for bottle of Dr. Pepper on side table) But I’ve certainly heard of him.

MQ: Well, I’d better skedaddle. It’s been a hoot gettin’ to know you, Ms. Vickery, an’ gettin’ to know all those lovely authors on your blog. Thanks so much for givin’ me my first assignments.

RJV: Our pleasure. (watches as the petite, shapely blonde trudges in her sand-caked heels toward the waiting dune buggy. As the two drive away, RJV raises her bottle in farewell.) Cheers, Ms. Quote!

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Visit Ms. Vickery at her site, her publisher's page, and Amazon.