They Write the Books: Lori MacLaughlin

(I haven’t posted in a while ((besides IWSG)) and it’s not because I’m dead or depressed or stuck in a Walking Dead marathon – I’m writing. I don’t know what I’m writing or why, but it’s coming out of me like good looks and charm, so I’ve got to catch it while I can. More on this later.)

With that out of the way, I’m very pleased to welcome author Lori MacLaughlin, who has recently released the her second book, Trouble By Any Other Name, sequel to Lady, Thy Name Is Trouble.

Displaying TroubleByAnyOtherName_FrontCover.jpg

road in steppe receding into the distance

road in steppe receding into the distance

 

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’m a lifelong Vermonter (northeastern USA for readers outside the States) with two wonderful teens. My parents instilled in me a love of reading, so it wasn’t much of a stretch to go from reading stories to creating my own. I grew up on a dairy farm and used to spend a lot of time running around in the woods, imagining I saw fairies and dreaming up swashbuckling adventures. The most fun things I’ve done so far, not related to writing, are flying a sail plane, driving the length and breadth of Great Britain seeking out castles and ruins, and going to Disney World.

How did you get into writing?

My mother is responsible for that. I was not long out of high school when she first suggested I write down some of the stories in my head. I thought, okay, why not try it? I had no idea how much fun it would be to make my stories come alive with words. When I’m on a roll, it’s nirvana.

How did you come up with the idea for your story?

I’ve always been a tomboy, and when I was younger, I enjoyed doing what would be considered more boyish things like driving tractors and doing farm work. I could probably count on one hand the number of times I was caught in a dress. A girly princess I was not.

So the main character I created for my stories was a lot like me. More ranger or pirate than princess, handy with a sword and able to take care of herself. I wanted to be the one doing the rescuing, not the one who needed to be rescued. I created stories where she could do just that. I made up adventures for her that I would like to have that fit into the maps I’d drawn of my imaginary world.

Who are your favorite authors?

Hmmm… for fantasy authors I’d have to say J.R.R. Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Ursula K. LeGuin, Patricia A. McKillip, and Cornelia Funke… to name a few.

If you could only recommend one book, which would it be?

J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fellowship of the Ring. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is heroic fantasy at its best.

*Bonus * What one person (living or dead) would you share a meal with? And why?

I would choose J.R.R. Tolkien. I would love to talk with him about his maps and how he created Middle Earth.

Thank you, Lori for being here with us! And congratulations on the release!

***

Lori L. MacLaughlin traces her love of fantasy adventure to Tolkien and Terry Brooks, finding The Lord of the Rings and The Sword of Shannara particularly inspirational. She’s been writing stories in her head since she was old enough to run wild through the forests on the farm on which she grew up.

She has been many things over the years – tree climber, dairy farmer, clothing salesperson, kids’ shoe fitter, retail manager, medical transcriptionist, journalist, private pilot, traveler, wife and mother, Red Sox and New York Giants fan, muscle car enthusiast and NASCAR fan, and a lover of all things Scottish and Irish.

When she’s not writing (or working), she can be found curled up somewhere dreaming up more story ideas, taking long walks in the countryside, or spending time with her kids. She lives with her family in northern Vermont.

LoriLMacLaughlin

You can find her here:

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IWSG: Do it. I did.

Today I’m releasing my fourth book.

Woo hoo!

And also *don’t look at me*

Well it’s up on. On Smashwords and Amazon and I’m very proud of myself for having gotten to this stage. It’s taken a lot of time, and a lot of effort, and I’m happy I stuck through it all.

I will say Crusade Across Worlds was more difficult to write than the first three, partly because of how the story went, but it had a lot to do a lot with what I was experiencing in my own life at the time. Thank you to everyone who’s read Escape, Plague and Discovery, or who’s offered a kind or supportive word. It means more than you know. Truly.

So, yep, here it is.

Fourth book in the series.

And guys—GUYS—shit just got real.

CRUSADE ACROSS WORLDS - 2500

Fallon has just returned from three months of training and is eager to fight against those who enslaved her. Joining up with Reid and the gang, they set out to prepare for the Vermix’s final attack—a highly prophesied invasion that could mean the possible end to a centuries-long war. But when unforeseen events arise, causing the plan of defense to crumble, it will take everything they have to survive what will certainly become a turning point in the Arizal War.

Find it on Smashwords here.

Find it on Amazaon here.

For all of you terrified weirdos out there like me, I clicked the publish button. And if I can do it, you can too. And if you can’t, read through a few more of these blogs. You’ll find the encouragement you need.

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a monthly blog hop for writers at all levels to share their fears and insecurities in a safe and encouraging place. Please drop by and say hi to Alex Cavanaugh who started this nifty concept in bringing us all together.

IWSG – And the Battle Rages On

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a monthly blog hop for writers at all levels to share their fears and insecurities in a safe and encouraging place. Please drop by and say hi to Alex Cavanaugh who started this nifty concept in bringing us all together.

I’ve been kind of out of it lately.

I don’t want to talk to anybody. Don’t want to do anything. I’ve got too much to say but no energy or desire to say any of it. Which leaves me in this weird sort of funk that has me questioning my day-to-day happiness as well as my mental stability, something every artist does but never talks about. Sshh. You didn’t read it here.

I’m fine. Really. It’s just the dark thoughts that plague most people (and not usually me) have been repeat offenders lately and that’s something I’m not used to. So I don’t know what to do. When the demons do come knocking (the rare occasions it happens), I’m able to bat them away—quite successfully, I might add. I’m optimistic this is the life I’m supposed to be living. I’m blinded by the belief that I’m meant to tell stories. To write. And always have been. But I’ve been struggling to live in the positive. My brain feels like a weary battlefield, neither optimism nor depression surrendering, both battling to rule my outlook on everything I do. And that’s what April has been for me. A month of constant war.

I have been writing. So there’s that. I have a book coming out next month, after all—the fourth in a series I love. But I don’t want to promote it. I don’t want to advertise or talk about its release. I simply want to sink back into my shell and send out a few texts to the handful of people I know are awaiting its release. It’s sad, really. That I’m back here again. I had so much gusto a few months ago and now I’m trying to decide each day if I want to be happy or sad. It’s weird and it’s scary and I hate that it’s part of the process. I hate that I have to go through it.

I guess the good thing about April is the unexpected inspiration for my next book. I’m excited about it, which has renewed some of the optimism, but the giant 3-0 circling my head is a constant reminder of the failure I continually convince myself I am. I’m thirty and not there yet. What does that say about me? What does that say about my talent? What does that say about how the rest of my life is going to go? And suddenly the demons are back. I hate them, and I hate myself for giving into them.

But I’m still writing. I’ve posted this, haven’t I? (Please God let me not chicken-out and post this). Things will be okay. I’m sure they will. After all, Crusade Across Worlds is coming out next month and ITR is still in its best stage—the unwritten period when everything is just a montage of scenes, a movie trailer of highlights I want to write.

Ah, the beginning to any creative piece. The inspiration. The possibilities. I do think, despite all the demons and mental exhaustion that goes along with being a writer, that this may be one of my very favorite things in life.

So I’ll cling to that for now.

 

IWSG – I Guess This Post is a Win

Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) is a monthly blog hop for writers at all levels to share their fears and insecurities in a safe and encouraging place. Please drop by and say hi to Alex Cavanaugh who started this nifty concept in bringing us all together.

I had a bad day last week.

The funny thing was nothing terrible caused it. I didn’t get a bad review or rejection or someone pull me aside and gently suggest I get my shit together and do something else with my life. Nothing like that. And actually, it was a pretty great day. Work was slow. Weather was nice. Absolutely nothing awful triggered the emotional breakdown I had while throwing the ball around with Appa. Each day after work I set aside some time to play with the little guy and that day, for whatever reason at all, the fact that I was releasing my fourth book had me in tears.

So often I focus on the positive, on the optimism and good in every situation that I forget there’s a flip side. Or maybe I just ignore it. Eventually, though, it catches up with me because I figured that if I had three works out there and nothing was changing—nothing was getting better in my writing career, did that mean it never would? Did it mean I lacked the talent/skill/ability? Did it mean writing wasn’t ever going to work for me? From here—today—those questions sound silly. Whiny, even. I’ve wanted to be a writer my entire life. I went to school for it, worked in the evenings after day-jobs and on the weekends for it, and haven’t given up yet. So why wouldn’t I be able to make a successful career?

But I’m thirty. I have three books out. Nothing (that I can see) is changing. And so I cried. I cried because I was disappointed in how things were turning out. I cried because I saw so much success in my friends, in the families they’ve created and the accomplishments they’ve carved into the world. I cried because I’d had other dreams for myself, other goals, that I pushed behind writing, that I sacrificed to be able to focus on the only thing I’ve ever (truly) wanted to do.

And I’m still not there yet.

Any kind of creative pursuit is torment. And most of it, self-inflicted. I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough. I’m not good enough. It chants through each risk we convince ourselves to take when we find the courage to do so. Every blog post for me is both exhilarating and anxiety-ridden. I love it and I hate it. I look forward to it, and dread it. I do my best to focus on the positive, always knowing the negative is a shadow’s length at bay. And sometimes, especially recently, I’ve watched the shadow grow larger. Stronger.

That’s why I find myself flirting with the idea of giving up. It feels good. It feels good in the way it shouldn’t, like I’m committing the crime without having to deal with the repercussions. So I revel in it. Just for a moment. What if I never wrote another blog post? What if I never ignored the torment to focus on the pleasure again? Would that make me happy? Would that fix things? Or would I only make it worse?

It’s a constant battle and one I don’t think will ever really go away. But I’m posting this, so I’ve convinced myself to try at least one more time. And that’s something. Some little win when I wasn’t sure it made sense to keep posting on a site so rarely visited. Like I said—it’s a constant battle, and I’ll probably go through this every month for every post if I (hopefully) continue to blog.

Oh, and someone else in the group must have been experiencing similar questions and feelings because I saw a post about doing other things with your life if writing falls through. One of the commenters suggested watching Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of Eat, Pray, Love) Ted Talks.

I did, and it helped. It’s definitely worth the watch:

https://embed-ssl.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html

And if you’re the curious type:

Appa, after a nice long game of fetch.

Appa, after a nice long game of fetch.

Character Profile: Jace

Character Profile1

Jace

 

 

Hair color: Blonde

Eye color: Blue

Age: 24

Fun Fact: Jace was named after the brother from Duck Dynasty.

(The following takes place in the beginning of Escape from Harrizel. Note – it has not been professionally edited, nor beta-read, but most definitely filled with love for the characters and story. Enjoy!)

***

“Hands off”

Jace had to check her out.

He still couldn’t believe it—any of it. Not a single word. Rox actually asking him to keep his distance from a girl? For real? That never happened. Not even back in the beginning, when the leader of the Rogues first started out with Ansley. Rox had just sort of gone for it and that was that. No need to tell Jace anything. But since the whole mess went down with her and that red-headed fuck, Walker, the former Rogue Leader had apparently sworn off the ladies.

Until now.

She had to be something special. A former model maybe because no one had gotten Boss’s attention enough to warrant a “hands off” for Jace. The thought had him grinning. He knew it was only a matter of time because at some point, Rox was going to go fishing and the blonde Rogue couldn’t wait to see who it’d be. Add in a heavy—and sudden—dose of unexplained territorialism and it was so on.

Jace couldn’t wait.

Leisure Time was the perfect opportunity for some high-quality spying. Jace normally didn’t stoop to the level, having Moss and Cramp go to the trouble first. But this wasn’t trouble. This was fun. This was something the Rogue Commander didn’t mind doing at all.

Slipping past a pair of dancing bodies, he glided through the crowded room. His latest intel advised that Fallon—the one he was supposed to keep his hands off of—was with Raj over by the West Wall. He knew what Raj looked like. Knew the curve of her body and the creamy, coffee-colored tone of her skin. It was sort of his job. The whole scouting for possible Clan recruitment was a top priority for the Rogues. And that meant having a handle on every person that came through the gates. He could spot Raj in a moment. And then he’d find her. The girl. The only girl Rox ever told him to stay away from.

Jace slowed as he approached the West Wall.

Couples lined the checkered pattern, mouths intertwined, hands dipping beneath waistbands and shirts. Now this was what he was talking about. Scanning the movement, he slowed on certain areas before pressing on. He’d make a quick assessment and then get back to his own shenanigans for the night. Shouldn’t take more than a minute.

Passing a few more interlocked bodies, Jace finally stopped, spotting Raj. The teen was talking quickly, hands flailing about. It meant she was nearby. The girl. The only girl Jace couldn’t have. But he couldn’t see her. Bodies blocked his view, thriving and grinding to the overhead music. He took a step around a serious pair of dancers and—

He noticed her hair first.

Long and curly and dark, dark like chocolate, dark like mahogany—the complete opposite of Ansley’s bright, yellow locks. Interesting. She was also taller than Raj, but not exactly tall, and could probably come eye to eye with Able. Jace’s eyes roamed down her form. Chest? Not bad. Ass? Decent. Nice legs too. Sure, the Rogue Commander could see the attraction, but he’d hooked up with a dozen girls that looked just like her. Probably more. His excitement waned. Jace didn’t know what to expect, but he wanted something… someone… incredible. Someone he’d have trouble keeping his hands off of.

And she wasn’t it.

There had to be something he was missing, something he didn’t get. The Rogue Commander moved in for a better look. The two girls were just talking. That’s it. Knowing Fallon wouldn’t recognize him, he found a spot behind Raj and made himself comfortable. Then stuck an ear out and listened.

“Are the Dofinikes aware of the Clans?” A pause. “And they’re fine with it? So you just walk up and—”

The words turned to whispers. Jace peeked over, reading Fallon’s expressions. Raj must be explaining something. He leaned closer.

“—nothing like that,” he heard Raj say.” You never deal directly with the Clans. It’s always done through the Scouts. They’re like… the middle-men. They deliver—”

He pulled back.

Huh.

So Raj was filling Fallon in on the Market. Little early for an Arival to be privy to that sort of information, wasn’t it? Rox preferred them here at least a week first. So how come she already knew? Was that why Rox was so interested? Had something happened?

The Rogue Commander continued to listen but both girls suddenly took off, Raj leading them down the West Wall.

There was more to it. Jace was certain. Rox didn’t go from practicing celibacy to marking his territory for no reason. He’d gone too long without breaking his no-chick rule for this not to mean something. And it did. It most definitely did. Something was going on.

And Jace was going to find out what.

***

And I actually wouldn’t know who I’d cast to play Jace. I’ve scratched my head and come up with nothing. What about you? Who could you see playing the blonde Rogue?

Escape from Harrizel is the first book in the Arizal Wars series. Crusade Across Worlds releases June 1st 2016!

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Character Profile: Walker

Character Profile1

Walker1

Hair color: Reddish-orange

Eye color: Hazel-brown

Age: 23

Fun Fact: Walker was originally Australian

(The following takes place before the start of Escape from Harrizel. Note – it has not been professionally edited, nor beta-read, but most definitely filled with love for the characters and story. Enjoy!)

***

Afterward

Walker felt like shit.

He had to do it—there was no way to refuse the Kings and still come out of this thing alive. But forcing him to sleep with Ansley? The one girl he couldn’t have? The one girl no one could? The whole thing was a lose-lose. And most likely suicide. The Kings promised their protection from the Rogues, but Walker had just done the unthinkable.

He’d slept with Ansley. Beautiful, perfect, untouchable Ansley—the girl who belonged to the most feared Rogue of all.

Rox.

It’s not like he forced her. Hell, Walker was hoping she’d turn him down, hoping she’d flat out refuse and then he could go back to the Kings with the whole I didn’t sign up for rape argument. But that’s not how it went at all.

Walker ran his hands down his face. He still couldn’t believe he went through with the thing, still couldn’t believe it was done. Over with.

Ansley.

He’d actually fucked Ansley.

Rox would kill him. Even if the Kings promised protection, there was no way they could guarantee it, no way to really enforce it. If Rox wanted to get to him, he’d find a way. He found a way out of working for the Kings, didn’t he? There was no stopping him. And when he found out what Walker did… it would be bad.

But what choice did he have?

Walker slowed as he approached his door, and the visitor leaning against it. Dark choppy hair. Arrogant blue eyes. It was the same King who first approached him with the assignment, the one who started this whole bullshit mess. Normally Walker got his jobs from Nathan, a low-level member still trying to work his way up, but since this one was being used to bring down the almighty Rox, it only made sense that the assignment came from the opposing Clan leader.

Grisham smiled softly. “It’s done?”

Walker reached the door.

And nodded.

The King mirrored the gesture but made no attempt to leave. Watching Walker, he studied his stiff stance and the hard expression that accompanied it. Normally the playboy was all jokes and charm, but now he couldn’t be further from it. The corners of Grisham’s mouth pulled up. “Is there anything better?” An amused eyebrow rose. “Getting paid to fuck a beautiful girl?”

You mean being forced.

Walker stared ahead, past the railing and open courtyard, to the rooms on the other side. One of them was Ansley’s. Another, a few floors up, belonged to Rox.  “I’m dead when he finds out.”

“It won’t come to that.”

“He’ll kill me.”

“You don’t get it,” the King smiled wider, a danger lurking beneath the expression. “You broke Rox. There is,” he slowed his words, annunciating each one, “no more Rox. You and that little slut made sure of it.” Grisham laughed under his breath, pleased with himself. “You don’t realize the power you’ve gained. The allies you made.”

“Or the enemies.”

Grisham’s smile turned down, his easy, playful demeanor gone. “We’re all dead in here anyway.” The Clan leader pushed off the door, adjusting the collar of his light blue scrub. Turning, he started back down the hall. “If you haven’t figured that out by now, I’ve been giving you too much credit.”

Walker watched him leave, unable to stop the words. “He’ll come for me. You know he will. He’ll come for me and he’ll kill me.”

At this, Grisham paused. He hooked his chin over his shoulder, a warning swirling in the dark scowl. It was a look of disgust. Of revulsion at having to state the obvious. “It was either him or us. You made your choice.”

The Clan leader disappeared into the shadows and Walker couldn’t help but agree. He had made his choice.

He’d picked Rox.

***

Now, if I was allowed to cast this character, I would choose Sam Claflin.

Ahem:

What do you think? Who would you cast to play Walker?

Escape from Harrizel is the first book in the Arizal Wars series. Crusade Across Worlds releases June 1st 2016!

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Character Profile: Raj

Character Profile1

Raj

 

Height: 5’6

Hair color: Black

Eye color: Brown

Age: 20

(The following takes place before the start of Escape from Harrizel. Note – due to an unforseen Netflix-binging incident, this has not been given the time it needs. I do apologize! Enjoy!)

***

The Discovery

Raj didn’t know what to do.

Marshall was late.

And Marshall was never late, especially when they’d made plans to meet up during Leisure Time. It was the only time they could be close to one another, the only hours they didn’t have to stand shoulder to shoulder, silently digging out a clay-like texture from the trenches where they worked. It was all to make room for the Arrivals, the newest survivors found on Earth. And every day it was the same: dig the gibb, load it into the bucket, drop off at the Gollop. Over and over and over again. Never changing. Never ending.  But once the Rebuilding was done—when they were  allowed to relax during a supervised social hour—every moment was dedicated to forgetting about all that, forgetting about everything to do with Harrizel. Except him.

Except Marshall.

And he was nowhere to be found.

A queasy feeling grew in her stomach. Raj pushed it down and glanced at her bare, olive-toned wrist. If only she had a watch. It would ease her mind knowing he was five minutes late. But he wasn’t. It had been longer than that. Leisure Time was already in full swing—couples dancing and grinding on one another, making out all around her in the dark auditorium-sized room.

Tucking a black strand behind her ear, she checked the symbol on the wall to her left. “W” for West. She was in the right place.

So where was he?

It had to do with the Market.

She knew it.

Because Marshall was a Client, he worked for one of the two Clans—the Kings or the Rogues—but Raj didn’t really know the difference. She only knew that he was given assignments and once completed, he was rewarded with food. Real food. Not the kind the Dofinikes provided. But it cost something. She would see it in his sunken eyes, too afraid to meet hers. And his hands, always shaking, never steady and relaxed. Like he couldn’t sit still. Like he couldn’t reconcile what he’d done. She’d tried asking about his assignments, if only to help him, but Marshall never said a word. He didn’t want her concerned by it.

Biting her thumb, she studied the moving bodies around her. Maybe she should go look for him. Maybe he got caught up with someone and was right around the corner.

Maybe.

Another ten minutes passed and Raj decided to do a lap. She knew better than to start asking around, but the situation was getting desperate. Passing a bundle of tightly-knit bodies, she spotted a familiar-looking boy, one she’d occasionally seen with Marshall. She wasn’t supposed to talk to him. She knew that. But he might be some help. Raj walked toward him. “I think you know my—”

He shuffled past, knocking into her shoulder.

Hard.

Raj stumbled back, pressing her palm to the swollen area. She’d barely gotten the question out and that was his reaction? How was she going to find Marshall if no one would talk to her? Still cupping her shoulder, Raj debated following the boy. Then hesitated. There must be someone else she could ask—someone else who would be willing to help. She scanned the crowd, searching. Searching for any glimmer of hope. Any possibility of—

Her eyes fell on another face. And with it, a fresh cloud of fear blossomed.

Blonde hair. Long, pointy nose. Flame tattoo crawling up the neck.

Her body stiffened.

Everything inside it told her to turn, to get as far away as possible. There was something cold in his eyes, something empty and dark. She felt it every time she looked at the boy, every time she saw him interact with Marshall. Raj hated him. On pure fear alone. She’d asked why Marshall had to deal with him, but his answer was always the same.

The less you know, the better.

Gathering her courage, Raj walked over. He saw her the instant she moved, his eyes tracking her until she stopped a foot away. For a moment, she simply stared at him, willing her voice to work, pleading with herself not to crumble under his palpable intensity.

This is for Marshall.

“M-my name is Raj,” she stammered, glad to have gotten that part out. The boy didn’t move. Not even a flicker. The fear in her stomach grew. “You don’t know me. And I know I’m not supposed to talk to—I mean, I know you’re a—” she gestured to him, suddenly terrified she’d given away information she shouldn’t have. Would there be repercussions to her knowing what he was? Still, the boy didn’t stir. Raj shook her head and started over. She needed to get it out. “Marshall—he’s my boyfriend. And he’s missing.”

The Clan member stared, his eyes void of anything friendly, anything warm. It was as if the information bored him, as if it was nothing new to hear. Then his expression changed. It grew dark. Dangerous.  But it didn’t matter. Raj needed to find Marshall; she needed to know that he was okay. About to try again, the boy leaned in, aligning his mouth with her ear. Raj froze, chilled by his nearness as his whispered words bled into her, choking her.

Killing her.

“Approach me again and you’ll find out why. But with you,” he inched closer, promise in his tone, “I’ll take my time.”

***

Now, if I was allowed to cast this character, I would choose Dilshad Vadsaria.

Ahem:

What do you think? Who would you cast to play Raj? And are there any scenes from the first book that you’d like to see?