Life is funny. It’s even ridiculous from time to time, and I take particular joy in placing such moments in my fiction. From Megan waking up to an unknown cat nestled against her, to Trenna obstinately reassuring her daughter that domesticity was never her strong suit, to my newest WIP where a stubborn dog gets bested by a squirrel, these little moments lighten the greater work for me.

And, I imagine, in real life it is the small, funny moments that make the greater journey something to smile at. As a reader, I appreciate when an author manages to let their fiction reflect these small, funny moments. I will put a book down if there’s no emotional release from grief or horror or even adventure. I simply cannot handle being in a little ball of angst for too long.

Because I know that I’ll set down a book if I haven’t been given a moment to breathe and laugh, then I find it doubly important to make certain I create those moments in my own work. I’ve never found it particularly difficult, people are inherently funny.

Most of them anyway.

Their quips and knee-jerk reactions can at the very least bring a smile, and it should be no different for the characters on the page.

Have I ever taken from real life and placed funny moments on the page?

Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Like when my 5-year-old managed to cut his finger and swooned at the sight of his own blood, exclaiming; “I’m dying!” Wasn’t funny to him at the time and he hates hearing me repeat it, but he legitimately swooned and I realized in that moment that he would never be a doctor.

Or when someone I know very well sat in pee (in white pants, no less) on an airplane and was too grossed out and humiliated to tell the stewardess? She tied her sweater around her waist and ran gagging off the plane.

I have a billion little stories stored on 3×5 cards everywhere so I can remember them for later. The ones that fit whichever story I’m on, generally get fit in there. It does have to be seamless, and the funny moment is often expanded because the character on the page would react differently to what they’re seeing, but it goes in.

I suppose that’s fair warning to the people who meet me. If you do something funny, I’m likely to use it.

POST SCRIPT – I do apologize to my fellow Round Robin authors. I seem to have scheduled this post for the wrong week. For those of you just joining me, please take a look at what my fellow authors have to say about writing humor in their books.

Skye Taylor
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Anne Stenhouse
Margaret Fieland
A.J. Maguire
Victoria Chatham
Judith Copek
Rhobin L Courtright

That Listless Place

A great many changes have occurred over the last couple of years and it seems that they are catching up to me now. The momentum that carried me through several novels has faltered and I find myself scrambling to get words on the page.

This has, in fact, happened to me before and the only way I was able to drag myself out of it was to do something radical.


I have decided to revisit the serial novel.

For those of you who have been around, you know that Persona – my WWII romance – was done as a serial novel for its first draft. I did this knowing that I would only be allowed to self-publish the novel once it was completed and I have never regretted it. The feedback I got from those who tuned in every week for a chapter was invaluable and the completed/polished novel is better for it.

Many professionals out there might shake their heads at me, because giving the work out for free limits where it can go in the future, and because writing a novel is such hard work that authors deserve to be paid for it.

But, I have always said that I write because I love to tell stories. Whether or not they get published isn’t always up to me. What is up to me, and what I constantly strive for, is the improvement of my craft.

With that in mind, I am happy to announce that The Castle of Three Kings will be available every Tuesday afternoon at Wattpad and a designated blog. I will post links every week, and once I’ve fully edited the manuscript it will be made available in its full form.

I had a lot of fun with this the last time I did a serial novel, and given the feedback I received in the middle of it all, I think a lot of readers did as well. So! Why not?

It’s a brave new world, after all.

(FYI – Chapter One is published and available for your reading pleasure!)

Welcome to 2020!

Happy New Year!

Normally I write this post prior to the holiday, but a bout with the flu bug held me back and I refuse to feel bad about it. Just seems counterproductive to start the year out with regrets, especially when you can’t anticipate getting sick over Christmas.

So! It’s time for my regularly scheduled road-map review and prep.

I had a lot of ambitious ideas for 2019 but in the spirit of letting things go and moving forward, I’m just going to pat myself on the back for getting the following things done:

Completed Melody of Bones. Also known as The Thirteenth Month.

The second draft of this novel stands at over 110,000 words and while that isn’t terrible for a fantasy novel, I’m going to be shaving that number down. I hope. I will also be drastically altering the story, tightening the plot, and combining characters to make for a less sprawling narrative.


This is a guilty pleasure. Nora Grayson, marital counselor to the supernatural, is a great deal of fun. Her novel isn’t completed yet, but if I continue with my current pace it should be finished by the end of April.


This novel kicked me in the teeth in September and has consumed much of my attention. It is nearing completion, but work has slowed down some due to complex emotional stuff in the novel that needs to be appropriately handled.


I was also terribly brave this year in that I submitted my completed works to a number of places. One of which is still considering a novel that I promised to have out by the end of 2019, but since it is in limbo that obviously didn’t happen. You can expect more announcements about publication dates and whatnot in the coming months.

So… What’s penciled in for 2020?

Things on the writing front have slowed down a good deal due to the day job’s demands, but I have found a comfortable regime and will continue to toss novels out into the wild as they are completed and/or picked up by publishing places.

My new regime calls for working on multiple projects at the same time. Basically, one novel in edit phase and one in drafting phase to exercise two parts of my brain. I’ve done this before and it was working well. I can’t remember why I changed it.

I’m not sure why anyone other than myself would find this interesting, but if you’re an author and you’re looking for a way to organize your writing time, then maybe this can help you. Please keep in mind that life has a way of altering plans, much like a novel has a way of breaking the author’s carefully created outline, so all of this is a loose projection at best.

January – March

DRAFT – Every Prayer But One

EDIT – Melody of Bones

April – June

DRAFT – Werewolf Wedding

EDIT – Castle of Three Kings

July – September

DRAFT – Inmate

EDIT – Every Prayer But One

October – December

DRAFT – City of Cemeteries

EDIT – Werewolf Wedding

That’s it. That’s what I want to accomplish on the writing front.

Now, on the personal front… I have challenged myself to 365 acts of kindness through 2020. Big or small, for whoever I see needs it, I am going to consciously and actively seek out ways to help the people around me. I’ll be recording this on Twitter, so if you want to follow along, you’re welcome to at my handle @AJMaguire

Snippets and Things – December 2019 Round Robin

This month, we have been invited to post a snippet of our work in lieu of our round robin discussions. However, I don’t have anything seasonally appropriate just yet. Instead, I am going to be brazen and shove a rough draft up here.

This is from my current work in progress, which is tentatively titled Every Prayer But One.

I hope everyone has been enjoying the holidays!

It was a noisome building, filled with the insistent barking of animals in their pens and the occasional meow from those more personable cats in residence. The sign over the door read Almost Home Animal Shelter and as Michael stepped over the threshold, he was accosted by the smells so many animals could produce. He rubbed his nose.

One long counter ran the length of the wall to his left and he was reminded at once of a pub; all nicked wood and history, with a small space open so that the attendant could stand behind it. Except that there were large windows here, both open to fight against the lingering smell, and the room was brightly lit.

And there was no bartender.

The wall behind the counter housed another window, this one looking into the room beyond where a tall figure in overalls and rainboots was scrubbing one of the kennels with a long, yellow-bristled brush. Her dark hair was doing its best to escape the bun at the base of her neck, and she glowed from exertion. Canine faces peered out of their gates, all turned to watch the woman’s progress, and he was able to pinpoint the more vocal creatures now, one in particular with a cone wrapped around his neck.

There were no chain-link fences like he’d been expecting, and he loosened the grip on his keys. Each animal was separated by wooden partitions, allowing some privacy and giving the appearance of a small room rather than a kennel, save for the gated doors that allowed access from in the bay and outside. It was not at all like the dreary, sad place he’d seen featured in cartoons as a child and his estimation of the owner rose exponentially.  

“Can I help you?”

He turned. There were three other doors in the building, each leading to kennel bays with paned windows for easy viewing from the front foyer. The freckled blonde standing in the door labeled “Cats” was watching him with a mix of annoyance and curiosity, her eyebrow hiked up as he took his time responding.

They were busy. He should come back another time.

But outside in the parking lot was his dreadfully silent truck and he steeled himself. “My name is Michael York. I called yesterday and was told to stop by…”

The girl’s face underwent a dramatic transformation; one moment annoyed and the next lit with understanding and pity. Michael cleared his throat and glanced away. Eighteen months later and he still wasn’t used to that look; the one that said without speaking that he was a widower, that he was due all consideration and space that polite society had to give.

While he couldn’t say precisely what he would prefer – his wife back from the dead and the last three years erased, possibly – he knew for a fact that he didn’t want either consideration or space.

“The border collie?” the girl asked.

He nodded.

“I’ll go get Sarah.”

Giving a brief thanks, he glanced over his shoulder at the open door to the parking lot. His green truck sat prominent in the nearest space with its windows open to the October air. The border collie in question couldn’t be seen through the windshield, but he knew she was sprawled in the seat, head on her front paws, disinterested in all things.

Fresh grief washed through him and for a heartbeat he struggled to breathe. So many things had changed after Laura died that he hadn’t noticed the pup was in distress. There’d been whining, of course. Days and days of whining and pacing where Delta hunted the house, waiting for Laura to come home.

Heartbreaking, to be sure, and if he was honest with himself there’d been days he almost asked Laura a question, expecting her to be in the next room or something. Her shadow was everywhere in the house, lingering but still somehow gone.

“Mr. York?”

Sarah turned out to be none other than the overall-wearing, brush-wielding woman he’d spied earlier. Her rainboots glistened with soapy water, and she left footprints on the tile as she strode forward, hand outstretched. He took the hand by instinct and shook it, not at all surprised to find her grip firm as she introduced herself.

“I’m Sarah Riley, we spoke on the phone yesterday.”

She had a pleasant face, perhaps too round to be called pretty these days, but her expression was more of concern than pity and Michael felt another knot loosen in his back. At least he would not have to endure condolences from another stranger, no matter how well-meaning.

“Thanks for seeing me on such short notice,” he said as they turned for the door.

“It’s not a problem,” Sarah said. “When was the last time Delta ate?”

He exhaled, pleased to be getting to the heart of his problem so soon. “I got her to take some roast beef by hand last night, but it wasn’t much. I know table scraps aren’t healthy…”

“At least it was something.”

Michael wasn’t certain if he heard censure in her voice or not, and truly he didn’t care. He was at his wits end and had to do something. Laura had rescued the dog at four months old, thinking their active lifestyle was a perfect match for Delta’s high energy. And even after the diagnosis, back when they’d thought Laura could fight her way through the cancer, the dog had been a constant motivator that took them outdoors.

This was her dog; he couldn’t let the creature die.

They stopped at the passenger’s side of his truck and Sarah peered inside. Delta lay just as he’d left her, one blue eye and one brown eye watching the window but otherwise unmoving. She was merle patterned, sable spots peppering white fur, mixing in places to make grey freckles across her muzzle and back. He had an image of her the day Laura brought her home; still young enough that her white legs looked lanky paired with a slender body, and a muzzle shorter than it was now by a good inch, everything in her face clinging to puppy phase. But what caught him then, as it did now, was the way her ears stood only half upright, folding down at the tips so that they danced whenever she walked.

“Well, hello beautiful,” Sarah said, leaning against the door so she could cross her arms on the window frame.

Delta did not seem impressed.

Nonplussed, Sarah continued; “Want to go for a little walk with me?”

Taking that as his cue, Michael opened the door and took Delta’s leash. The dog obliged, albeit slowly, and jumped from the seat. Sarah was already reaching for the leash, cooing at his dog in real admiration, and Michael found himself handing control over to this stranger with a mix of pride and uncertainty. He wanted Delta to get better, but an accusing voice in the back of his head insisted that he should be the one to fix his dog.

Didn’t it say something about his state of mind that he wasn’t capable of working this out on his own?

Still, he watched Sarah take the leash and turn Delta toward the woods. His dog walked sedately next to her, tail drooping in a further display of distress, and he had a pang in his chest at the sight. He couldn’t remember the last time her tail was up, its white tip wagging like a flag as she chased a ball or a frisbee.

“She’ll be all right,” said the freckled woman from before.

She’d managed to walk up while he was distracted, and it was only when she propped a hand on her hip that he noticed the swell of pregnancy under her shirt. Her smile was full of compassion and curiosity, and she nodded out at where Sarah neared the tree line on the other side of the parking lot.

“Sarah’s a bit of an animal whisperer. She’ll find a way to help.”

Michael found some comfort in the girl’s words, even if he didn’t subscribe to the idea of animal whisperer’s in general. Then again, he didn’t have faith in much these days.

He crammed his hands into his pockets and watched as Sarah and Delta disappeared into the autumnal forest. Most of the greenery had bled into burnished shades of orange and red, but here and there was a splash of bright yellow from sugar maples, and there was the occasional pine tree standing defiant against the weather change. Laura would have photographed it.

The thought knifed across his heart and he turned to shut the truck door, perhaps more forcefully than he’d intended. Thankfully, the girl didn’t flinch. Instead, she looked back to the shelter and heaved a sigh. The barking hadn’t ceased, and he could see a few other shapes through the windows, probably more people caring for the animals.

Tall white fences stretched to either side of the building and he realized with a start that there were people out playing fetch with various dogs. None of them were paying him any mind, but he felt somehow exposed, as though everyone were aware of his circumstances and his poor, ailing Delta.

It was ridiculous, of course. These people didn’t know him. They certainly didn’t know Delta, so he put the whole feeling down as a residual effect of the funeral. Too many eyes had followed his every move those first weeks, it was no wonder he was paranoid now.

“Well, those litter pans aren’t going to scoop themselves. I should get back in,” the girl said and took a step to leave. But she paused and gave him another smile. “I’m Lisette, by the way.”

He gave his name again, awkwardly realizing she already knew it from before, and kicked himself. His wits weren’t exactly up to par.

Lisette grinned but thankfully didn’t tease him. Instead, she asked; “When Sarah gets back, could you tell her that the volunteers who were going to fix the food shed cancelled?”

“Food shed?” he asked.

She nodded over at a sad little structure set off to the side of the shelter. Blue tarp was lashed across its roof and he could see one side sagging. That wasn’t going to hold up through winter, make no mistake.

“We’re going to end up fixing it ourselves at this rate,” Lisette said.

“What happened to it?”

Lisette shrugged. “A thunderstorm took down a tree branch, which crashed its way through the roof.”

The last big thunderstorm had been several weeks ago, he knew. Delta hated storms and he’d been forced to wrap her in a special blanket for the night.

He frowned. “How much food did you lose?”

“At least half,” Lisette said, becoming more animated, “But Pastor Annie put the call out that following Sunday and we got a ton of donations. Sarah says we have more now than we did before the shed broke, so that’s good. We put what we could in the attic and the rest is under the tarp.”

“Well, you’re not going to want that tarp through the winter.”

“No kidding.”

They lapsed into a brief silence before Lisette, remembering she had work to do, flashed a smile and hurried back inside. Michael leaned against his truck and watched the rotation of dogs through the yard. Most of the handlers were proficient, giving each animal time to stretch their legs, do their business, and zoom for a ball. There were a few unpracticed hands that interrupted the rhythm, but no one could say the animals here weren’t loved and cared for.

Not that they should stay, of course. For better or worse, this was a kennel and each pet inside deserved a home of their own, but it seemed that Sarah Riley was doing her utmost to keep them happy while they were here.

Maybe his brother hadn’t been off his rocker to send him here after all.

It was some time before Sarah emerged from the woods again, Delta in tow. Michael squinted at them as they approached, trying to see if there was any improvement in his dog’s demeanor, but her tail was still down.

That was to be expected, he coached himself. It had taken a year and a half to get to this point, one meeting with a stranger wasn’t going to miraculously cure the creature. Still, he held his breath and waited for Sarah’s assessment as she delivered Delta to him.

“Well, Mr. York, she’s grieving,” Sarah said and reached down to smooth back Delta’s ears.

Michael ground his teeth. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

She gave him a sharp look, hazel eyes alight with challenge, but seemed to master herself in the next instant. “You said you already took her to the vet and nothing physical was wrong with her?”

“Yes,” he said, wrestling for patience.

They’d been over this on the phone.

She hummed and continued to stroke Delta’s head, who sat quietly beside her. “Did you know, Mr. York, that there are some breeds of dog who love their masters so much that when the two are parted, the dog simply shuts down? They don’t eat, they don’t drink, they just wait to die.”

He looked down at Delta. Her mismatched eyes stared unblinking at the truck door, still disinterested, still lost, and Michael felt his gut clench. “Is that what she’s doing? Waiting to die?”

“If we let her.”

The words were quiet and heavy, delivered with a matter-of-fact tone that held no malice. Michael was grateful for that much. He knew it was his fault that Delta had fallen so far into her depression, he’d practically watched it happen over the course of several months, but Sarah had the grace not to point this out.

Another consideration, he supposed.

He was a widower, who could truly blame him?

Heaven help him, he hated that word; widower.

Clearing his throat, he met Sarah’s patient gaze. “What can we do?”

If she noticed how hoarse he sounded, she didn’t mention it. Her attention switched to Delta and she heaved a little sigh. “I’m sure I don’t need to explain grief to you, Mr. York. It’s not something we can fix, and it’s not going away. But there are some things we can do.”

“Such as?”

“Remind her that she’s not alone.” Sarah rubbed the back of her neck and looked suddenly uncomfortable. “Look, I know this is going to sound weird, but my dog is particularly good at helping others. She seems to sense anxiety and has a way of putting other animals at ease. If you’re willing, I’d like the two dogs to meet.”

“You’re right, that does sound weird.”

They both chuckled and Sarah shrugged, leaving the decision to him.

“Beyond that,” she said, crouching down to give Delta more attention, “you can try canned cat food. It has a stronger smell and might get her to eat a little more. It’s not recommended for the long run, but some food is better than no food.”

Michael regarded his dog, watching the way she endured Sarah’s affections. It wasn’t clear whether Delta appreciated the attention or not, but neither was she snarling for Sarah to stop. She simply did not care, and that, above anything else, made his decision his decision for him.

“When would you like the dogs to meet?”

Take a look at some other snippets from my fellow authors! They are all wonderful human beings and I count myself lucky to be able to participate in this Round Robin every month.

Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
Marci Baun
Dr. Bob Rich
Anne Stenhouse
A.J. Maguire
Fiona McGier
Beverley Bateman
Diane Bator
Rhobin L Courtright

Connie Vines

Oddly Terrifying – November 2019 Round Robin

Faxon Mylonas showed up in my debut novel Sedition smelling of pipe-weed and lurking in the shadows around Kiavana Fortress. He was, on first blush, an assassin and a mercenary, and I only grazed his character in that novel.

That in itself might not qualify him for the strangest character I have ever written, but when I started Usurper – the third book in the series – I was suddenly thrust into his point of view and learned something very quickly; he is a little crazy.

Or a lot crazy.

It depends on what mood you catch him in, I suppose.

Which I admit made for some fun scenes. Here, let me show you…

He could throw his stiletto at her, the one located just under his right sleeve. It was the same weapon he’d used to pin Troy down, so it hadn’t been properly reattached yet.

Was his name Troy? Faxon hadn’t been paying close enough attention to their names to know for sure but he was mostly certain he had it right. It started with a “T”, that much he could remember because he’d immediately associated the boy with Trenna out of sheer laziness.

Troy and Trenna, he thought. Double Ts.

Troy and Trenna tried traipsing through town with a trembling, troublesome troupe. Terrified travelers trumpeting their… Gods, he needed to stop.

Like I said, fun. His boredom led to several observations that any other point of view character wouldn’t have seen, and while I’m worried what it means that I have such a criminally-minded and brutal character sprouting from my subconscious, the novel is richer for his insights.

Check out what bizarre characters my fellow authors have dreamed up in this month’s Round Robin!

Skye Taylor
Victoria Chatham
(YOU ARE HERE) A.J. Maguire
Dr. Bob Rich
Connie Vines
Diane Bator
Beverley Bateman
Fiona McGier
Judith Copek
Rhobin L Courtright

When Crap Hits the Fan – October Round Robin

It seems that no matter how much planning I do, no matter how many times I revise an outline, the novel never goes my way. (FYI- Spoilers Inbound.)

For instance, if I’d had my way then Johnathan Relo of the Tapped series would have died already. If you’ve read the novel then you know that didn’t happen. It seems the stubborn man refuses to go quiet into the night, which I am grateful for because he brings a lot to the table in the second novel.

For my newest release – The Haunting of Tessa Pines – the entire plot of the novel was altered right around the 1/4 mark of the story. This was my second attempt at writing a straight forward romance novel and I utterly failed.

My first attempt at a straight-up romance novel was Witch-Born. In that case, my Robin Hood flavored romance became a steampunk fantasy where witches are nobility and nature itself is trying to consume the world.

So what happened with Tessa’s book?

Well, a lot of things. Tessa as a character was originally meant to be in my dragon vs. vampire novel. I even outlined that entire novel with Tessa falling in love with a dragon and having her friends put in danger because of it and sweet mamba jamba, can I tell you how many novels/stories are EXACTLY LIKE THAT OUTLINE?

To be fair, I was studying what works. Those are the stories that make headlines, after all.

But I didn’t write a single word after finishing the outline.

I sort of stared at the page with a dismal understanding of how the formula works and zero interest in putting it to use.

As an author, I can admit to having no desire for writing a novel with a formula in mind. It’s just one of those things I learned about myself in the process of creating this book. That isn’t to say that I don’t adhere to story structure – formula and structure are not the same thing – but I digress.

Because I was plotting Tessa’s novel for National Novel Writing Month that year, I tossed the original outline and went to an outside source for help – my (then) boyfriend. He’s now my husband, so I have fond memories of working the new outline with him.

Together we plotted a story about a paranormal investigation gone wrong, with a romance woven through. The original is vastly different from the finished product, but that seems to be the way of things. In any case, the book is a testament to how a writer’s life affects their fiction.

Take a look at what stories have morphed into with my fellow authors!

A.J. Maguire (YOU ARE HERE)
Connie Vines
Skye Taylor
Judith Copek
Margaret Fieland
Helena Fairfax
Dr. Bob Rich
Diane Bator
Rhobin L Courtright

The Haunting of Tessa Pines – Release Shenanigans

September 25th is fast approaching!

In case you were wondering, that’s the official release date for my newest novel The Haunting of Tessa Pines. Which is perfect because as the title suggests, there are ghosts in it, making this time of year ideal for reading.

I love autumn. I love the smells, the colors, the brisk air.

And corn mazes.

I rarely make it through an entire corn maze, but I have great fun trying, which is something I have in common with the main character of the novel. Tessa finds herself in the middle of a corn maze during the course of the story and I admit to taking a good deal of pleasure writing the scene.

There’s more going on in it, of course. The poor woman is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and finds herself in a bit of a mental maze as well. Add to that the presence of her ex-husband, an overbearing father intent on making his daughter well again, and a nosy roommate, and we have the makings of a very frustrating evening.

I’d like to say I wrote the scene directly after visiting a corn maze, but this novel was written during National Novel Writing Month in November 2017, so all the mazes were already closed. At least in Idaho they were.

Still, it was the right time of year.