My guest today is Tracey Clark, whose debut release is Shocking Finds, a contemporary fantasy romance well laced with magic. I was pleased to learn from Tracey’s interview that she, like me, has to deal with the voices of her characters making their opinions known in her head, whether she likes it or not. Some characters can be so demanding! Tracey, it turns out, is a native Kentuckian and she has set her debut romance in the lush bluegrass state. Her debut novel is a fantasy romance with a Fae heroine, a gorgeous hero sent to protect her and a whole race of people the two of them will have to find a way to save. What is not to like?
Please welcome Tracey Clark . . .
Q: What is your favorite romance genre, and why?
A: I love paranormal/fantasy romance… anything you add magic to the mix anything becomes possible. Death, loss, world ending heartache?? It all stays open to future happy endings in the paranormal/fantasy genre, and romance?? Who doesn’t enjoy the tension, attraction and emotional content of a well written romance. *of course, I’m not adverse to a cowboy romance or two, because…. yummmm cowboys.
Q: Is there any romance author you particularly admire, and if so, why?
A: I admire a lot of authors from the various romance sub-genres, mostly the paranormal romance ones. Karen Chance always delivers a well thought out novel with a subtle attraction that has me rooting for the MC-female, Cassie, to drop her on/off lover for the MC-male, Pritkin. Besides their massive amount of lovin’ — which is tension and lust, and a very visual romantic element, Laurell K. Hamilton and Lora Leigh bring the underlying story to life with emotional strength that can bring me to tears. G. A. Aiken/Shelly Laurenston has me laughing out loud by the first page. There are a lot of great romance writers out there and I strive to be at least half as good as they are.
Q: How do you begin thinking about a new story, with the characters or the plot?
A: When I start thinking about a new story I spend a lot of time driving around freaking people out. I look like a schizophrenic with tourettes. I basically drive around town talking to myself… sometimes screaming and other times crying… it really isn’t a good look, but it works for me.
Q: When you craft a heroine, is she mostly the real you, the you you wish you were, or is she someone totally different?
A: Most of my female MC’s (Marin’s) personality is purely her own. I do feel a kinship with my female character’s need to protect, to go to the aid of the underdog. My emotions are all over the place, if I gave my MC my emotional reactions then I would need to place her in a padded cell by the end of the story. Okay, that was an over exaggeration but I have Multiple Sclerosis and my reactions don’t always make sense for the situation. Marin has her own emotional issues. Expressing emotions is new to her and she has a tendency to get angry when confusion enters her life. I find confusion upsetting as well, but I would rather disengage from the situation and possibly cry about it. Lol… See, MS makes no sense.
Q: Do you always have control of your characters when you are writing, or do they sometimes get away from you? If so, can you share some examples of how you got them back in line, or did you just go with the flow?
A: I find that going with the flow keeps the voices in my head a lot happier. If I try to force the characters to follow my preconceived ideas, my head gets very loud. I wrote a short story about the Lost Colony of Roanoke VA. I started out thinking that my MC would be locked up after accidentally burning a building down when her inner dragon got out of hand, but the voices didn’t like that route. By the time I allowed the voices to have their way, my MC was burning all the villagers to death in order to escape witch trials of a sort, and save a bunch of kids.
Q: Many authors have said that writing the first pages of a new story are the hardest to write. Do you find that to be the case?
A: For me, it isn’t that the first page is the hardest. At least not at first. I find the first page to be the longest when I am writing my first draft. And then when I start to edit, I realize I have spend three chapters writing out a bunch of fluff that needs to be cut. If anything, the hardest part for me is redirecting the first chapter, making it a worthy jumping off point. I have trouble deciding what to let go, what to move to a different chapter, and how to rework those first few chapters. If I said that the first page was the hardest for me, I would have to add I that it was the first page was the hardest the second time around.
Q: When you suffer from writer’s block, how do you unblock?
A: I know writer’s block will hit me someday, but the bumps in the flow of my story that I have had to deal with so far are too small for me to call them actual blocks. When there are too many ideas for me to decide which way to go, I do want to scream. If the voices are getting out of hand and being too helpful (annoying), I like to paint or try out a new art project in order to cleanse my thinking. Then I reread the chapter I was on and start talking it out again. I will only label the bumps in thinking a block when the voices fall silent. When that day comes (and I know it does for everyone) I will need a lot of canvas and paint to get things going again.
Q: Other than one you have created, who is your favorite romance hero or heroine?
A: OMG… I love, love, love Pritkin from Karen Chance’s Cassandra Palmer Series. He is the best alpha male character I have ever read. And I have read a lot of male MCs that were great, but Pritkin takes the cake. I hope to one day create a character that others love as much as I love Pritkin. Seriously people, you need to read this series just to experience the ultimate male MC.
Q: If you could have dinner with one romance author, who would you pick?
I would love to have dinner with either Karen Chance or Shelly Laurenston. They both have a quick wit and humor that comes through on the page that makes me think they would be fun to speak with in person.
Q: If one of your novels could be made into a movie, which one would you pick and who would play the leads?
A: Shocking Finds is the first of my babies to be published, but I would love to see Marin and Kyland on the big screen. Channing Tatum would fill Kyland’s shoes nicely. Think of his role in Jupiter Ascending. Dwayne Johnson would be a great fit for one of the minor (I’m not telling) characters that will be more apart of the story in future novels of the series. As for Marin, Georgia Moffett would be my first choice. I loved her in her one episode of Doctor Who where she played the Doctor’s Daughter.
Q: Are your friends and family supportive of your craft?
A: My friends and family are very supportive. In fact, my mother continually rooted me on. Even though she had never seen me write anything larger than a journal entry, my mother stayed my cheerleader. When I finally finished my rough draft, and a few edits, I asked her to read it and tell me what she thought. Lol. Her response? ‘Huh, I didn’t now you could write. This is as good as the big authors.’
Q: Do you have a pet who keeps you company while you write? Can you share a favorite story about this furry companion?
A: I have two pugs and a cat. Ellie, my bossy kitty, would be on my lap and butting in 24/7 if I allowed it. The pugs are just crazy, and always making me laugh. Moe-moe is my baby boy and rotten to the core, even more so than his mother, Bella. He likes to steal stuff and pull the items into their sleeping crate. Pillows, shoes, bras… anything he can get in his jaws. The last time he stole one of my house shoes, he got his mouth in it and then tried to run off with it. Sadly for him, the shoe covered his face and lead to Moe-moe running face first into the wall.
Shocking Finds Blurb
An act of rebellion, Marin doesn’t think that running into the new store in town will hurt anything. Her aunt will never know… right? One car wreck later, her aunt is hospitalized, Marin is forced to spend her twenty-first birthday fighting for her life, and magic — the very thing her aunt has always sworn to be for fools — is real. And so is the irresistible Fae dedicated to Marin’s protection.
Kyland has searched Earth-side and all the other realms, looking for a missing Fae child. A child his Queen prophesied would be able to one day save the Fae people from the Danshue, as the evil Fae threat tries to overwhelm the entire Supernatural Community. A child that would know nothing of her blocked gifts, or her Fae heritage waiting to be claimed. A child that has grown into a curvy, delicious morsel he would love to taste.
Together Marin and Kyland will fight Fae assassins, overcome betrayals, and if they’re lucky … they will find the Danshue responsible for their plight. That’s if Marin doesn’t shock him to death with her erratic new gift, and her out of control emotions
Shocking Finds Excerpt
Marin Yarthine had trouble containing a childish giggle or two. She had managed to locate an Orion Starbrary Indigo Violet Aura Lemurian Seed Quartz Crystal for her boss. The longest, oddest name for a rock, but Anton had been very specific. Besides, she was the best Finder at Finder’s Keepers, who better to go on this mission.
Okay… so her job wasn’t actually to go out in the field and complete Finder’s missions. Finds were completed by a different department. Marin knew that she was nothing more than a high paid researcher. She could take a piece of cloth and tell you where it had been, what had been near it, who had touched it, and more importantly, she could visualize where any related objects might be located.
Yesterday, Anton handed Marin an old textbook written in something that looked like Latin, and asked her to Find a rare crystal for his collection. The words on the book cover had been meaningless to her, but once Marin had held the fragile text in her hands, she had known exactly where to go.
Marin had wanted to complete just one mission on her own. She had been prepared to search the dank and cold Kentucky cave systems, not stopping until she had her Find. It was a simple case, with no danger involved. She would never attempt the kidnaping cases, or one of the Finds involving a murder weapon.
Marin had been surprised to feel the newest store in the area, Crystal Sights, pulling at her Finder’s gift. Anton had sworn up and down that the crystal would be hard to locate. Aisle six — rare gems and crystals—was not her idea of difficult. In and out and no one had gotten hurt.
Her aunt, Lindal, refused to even allow her to look at the building as they drove past, and now Marin had been inside and explored.
Marin had completed her first solo Finder’s mission. She had located exactly what Anton needed and managed to purchase a crystal of her very own. Not that she believed in crystals and magic. Her aunt had explained how her own ability, to locate the lost or stolen, was the closest thing to real magic left in the world. If Lindal knew that Marin had purchased one of the crystals for herself, her aunt would lose her ever lovin’ mind.
For once in her life, Marin didn’t care. She had felt the heat coming off her crystal as she held it in her hands. Maybe her aunt was wrong. Maybe the shopkeeper had told the truth, and the fragile but beautiful rock would help Marin come through her Transition with more protection and control.
"What do you think you’re doing?"
"Eep." Marin barely managed to turn her full throttled scream into a small startled cry. She crashed into the small angry redhead, the one suddenly blocking her path, as she cleared the store exit.
Marin snapped her lips together on the urge to ask her aunt questions. Like where the hell she had come from? Trying not to lean away from the look on Lindal’s face, she waited for the sarcasm and disdain to flow. When Lindal merely stood there, glaring in silence, Marin whispered, "I had to run an errand for Anton."
Lindal’s face brightened to a nice deep red, as her arms crossed, her mouth flattened out in displeasure, and her foot tapped out her impatience. "Don’t lie to me, missy. You work in the office or at home. You do not run around mingling with charlatans."
Marin held her tongue, her heart beginning to race. She hated fighting with Lindal, and there was no way that this tirade was over. Lindal did more damage with words than lions did fighting over dinner. Marin wanted to be one of those people that could take a browbeating with a grain of salt. But she knew that this time wouldn’t be any easier to take than the other rants spouted over her nearly twenty-one years of life. Lindal’s personality could be vicious, and hard to take, but Marin didn’t have any other family.
Lindal jabbed her dainty finger at Marin, her words hissed with the pressure of contained rage. "Do you want to die like your mother? Do you enjoy making me worry and endangering your life like this?"
Marin lowered her head and whispered, "If magic isn’t real, then I should be safe enough. This is the only unscheduled stop I made."
"Don’t back talk me, girl. Magic is for fools. And places like this are for those too weak to hold on to their money, those willing to purchase lies because they are unhappy with the imperfections they were born with. If your mother had stayed home, she would be alive. Instead, she was mugged in some back alley and left to bleed out with the trash."
Marin flinched, yet yearned to hear more. It was the most Lindal had ever said about her mother, or the events that had led to her death. Taking a chance that her aunt would continue sharing, Marin asked, "Is there any way to be safe?" She wanted to ask more about her mother, but feared that Lindal would clam up if she pushed too directly.
"Listen and listen good. People, those freaks with meddling gifts, can see how weak you are. They are abominations, just like you, but they can and will plant thoughts inside your mind, and lead you into danger. Everyone has enhanced senses these days, but you are an oddity. Abnormal, just begging for some fool to believe he can steal your curse, and use it for his own plans, by taking your life. The crap sold in places like this will not give you a shield from the evil in this world." Lindal had explained many times over the years that Marin had been born without the natural shield that protected a person’s mind.
"But if there are people that can play tricks, put thoughts in your mind, then maybe there could be some small magic that’s real."
Placing the bag with her new crystal protectively behind her back, Marin fought not to back away from her aunt. The look in Lindal’s eyes told her plainly that she had pushed too far. Any sign of weakness would light a match to these attacks. "Tricks. Nothing but tricks. Your mind is just too weak to figure them out."
Marin ground her teeth together and avoided her aunt’s eyes. Feeling her hands tighten around her gift bag, her eyes sought out the parking lot for anything to distract Lindal. Marin needed something for both of them to focus on, so that she could get her impotent rage under control. Getting defensive never helped. The woman looked weak and innocent, but ruled their home with an iron fist and razor sharp words.
Instead of continuing to explain all the reasons that Marin had screwed up, Lindal stiffly turned and walked into the parking lot. Apparently, her aunt planned to wait for a private moment to vent the rest of her displeasure. And vent she would. Lindal’s stiff movements and flushed complexion warned Marin that the conversation coming her way would be one of the worst.
Marin didn’t need the lecture repeated. She had it memorized. Rocks and stones are just that. Real magic didn’t exist. She needed to stay at home, safe, except for work. Blah… blah… blah. But Marin wanted more information. How did ordinary people put thoughts inside someone else’s mind? How did her co-worker’s little boy manage to move objects out of her reach when Marin wasn’t looking?
Not knowing what else to do, Marin followed Lindal into the parking lot. Lindal would be in a snit for days.
Marin still couldn’t contain the occasional squeal, though she attempted to keep them as quiet as possible. She needed to get her happiness under control.
Luckily, she had the entire length of the parking lot, to calm herself down. The lot seemed to have more cars than the entire area of Ashland, Kentucky had residents. Crystal Sights had managed to expand on the word grand in Grand Opening. Someone had had the good sense to combine the opening with the beginning of the area’s yearly festival season. Marin didn’t relish Lindal’s anger, but still thought that today had turned out better than she could have hoped. Smiling, she glanced around, as she walked behind her aunt, taking in the different types of shoppers.
Marin watched as three little old ladies climbed out of a bright yellow Caddie, their hair ranging from hooker red to bonnet blue. She saw a younger man pulling his reluctant girlfriend — or possibly wife — from the cab of their truck, her very pregnant belly leading the way. The woman was shaking her head, pointing to the insane number of people, still lining up to enter the store. Marin tried to stop herself from bouncing with every step, not wanting Lindal to see her happiness. This was the closet she had come to attending one of the hometown events, thrown every spring. Festivals that would only become larger when summer finally arrived.
Across the street, by the river, Marin could even see the over-night-assembled rides and concession stands, being mobbed by crowds of yet more tri-state citizens. So many types of people rushed around, laughter in their eyes. Even the pregnant woman had managed a smile, once she made it out of the truck and into the man’s arms.
Every squeak of excitement that Marin failed to contain received a reprimanding glare from Lindal. But Marin was too hopeful to allow Lindal’s mood to kill her joy completely. Claudette — the store owner — had called the stone a Maturation Crystal. Marin’s fingers still tingled from when she had touched the crystal earlier, giving her hope for her Transition Birthday. Everyone went through their twenty-first birthday hoping that they would have better control of their enhanced senses. Even if her birthday came and went without an improvement, the crystal marked Marin’s first independent action.
Marin didn’t want to fight; she wanted to celebrate. With that in mind, she put on a burst of speed, passing Lindal, as she said, "Where are you parked, Aunt Lindal?" Marin wanted to get in her car and head for home before Lindal started listing more ways that this trip had been a mistake. An evening alone in her art studio, admiring her Maturation Crystal, sounded like perfection.
Marin crossed her fingers that Lindal wouldn’t be as irate as the time that Anton had encouraged everyone that worked for Finder’s Keepers to participate in self-defense classes. Marin had been excited. The free classes took place in the gym, off the back of Finder’s Keepers. As far as bosses went, Anton ranked with the best. He even allowed her to compose her Finds at home, in her private studio. The information she came up with helped other Finders on their missions, and working from home kept Lindal from bitching.
Great work hours or not, Lindal still despised the man. Her sneering had managed to run Marin out of more than one room when the subject of Antonius Slade came up, especially after the self-defense debacle. Marin had managed to keep the classes a secret for two years before Lindal found out. And boy had that been memorable. Lindal had found and burned all the workout clothes and the fighting stick that Marin had stashed in her van. She flinched, remembering how the blaze had lit up the front yard, and how Lindal’s reddened face seemed to match the flames. Lindal had burned with rage, expressing her displeasure by instituting her own version of self-defense classes. Marin rubbed her sore hip, trying to shake off yesterday’s lesson.
Marin had gained a good ten feet of distance from Lindal before her aunt decided to reply. Reply and reprimand. "Slow down, child. It is rude to run in public. And I took a taxi, so that we could talk on the ride home. Talk and decide what to do about your current attitude."
Marin stumbled a little, but otherwise didn’t reply. She absolutely refused to allow anything to put a damper on her spirit. As long as the crystal remained in her possession, she could handle any punishment.
Lindal sneered as she inquired, "Why in the world did you park so far away?"
Marin slowed and turned to walk backward. She couldn’t believe that Lindal chose to ask such a question. "I had hoped that by parking as far away as possible, I could avoid the humiliating gymnastics needed to re-enter my vehicle. That woman we passed a second ago? She was actually climbing in through her sun roof. I don’t know if this type of place is always this packed, but if so, they need more parking. I was lucky to find a spot, no matter how far away it is. But I admit that I concentrated on the area to the rear of the parking lot. Everyone fights for the ones closest to the store. I swear that broken down Toyota back there was circling the lot when I first arrived."
Marin watched, as the poor rusted contraption made its rounds. She felt sorry for the car, and the driver. Mostly, she felt bad for everyone currently being forced to breathe in the ozone killing balls of smoke emanating from the Toyota.
"Turn around and walk correctly. They can have our spot… once we get there," Lindal hissed. Her aunt ignored the opportunity to vent some of her rage on the circling motorist. The parking lot had so many cars that the grassy incline along the edges of the parking lot had begun to fill up with unrepentant motorist.
Marin turned and quickened her pace as she yelled, "I’ll just air the car out." They were almost to Marin’s van, which always smelled of oil based paints and some before-the-invention-of-odorless substances. Mainly, Marin wanted to put off the fight building with each of Lindal’s hissed and clipped words.
"Don’t turn the car on. You’ll…" Lindal’s words ended on a grunt of pain.
Before Marin could turn to look, her aunt’s body flew over her head. She watched her aunt tumble through the air and land, with a sickening crunch, on the hood of her van. She realized that the frighteningly loud cry filling the air was coming from her own mouth, but Marin couldn’t stop. Lindal’s body slid to the ground like a rag doll, a line of blood marking her movements along the bright orange paint. Mere seconds had passed, but Marin felt like she had been frozen to the spot for hours, consumed by her disbelief.
The sound of squealing tires caught her attention, but Marin stood rooted to the spot and continued to scream. Her body refusing to obey her commands.
Eventually, the other sounds in the vast parking lot penetrated her haze. One moment, she was happily looking forward to exploring her new crystal, watching the dozens of other shoppers laugh and dream of the wonders to be found on this perfect spring day. Now, she watched as the only family she had ever known crashed onto the unforgiving asphalt. The need to complete a mission, or purchase her own crystal, started to feel pretty hollow.
Forcing her way out of her hysteria, Marin snapped her mouth closed and glanced around as she rushed forward. The Toyota she had pointed out to Lindal was moving in reverse as she ran for her aunt. No innocent circling for that murderous bastard now.
Marin looked back at Lindal, and her ears filled with a high pitched ringing. She tried to convince herself that this couldn’t be happening. She knew that POS Toyota was to blame, even without seeing the car ramming into her aunt’s vulnerable body.
Marin reached Lindal’s side, attempting to forget about assholes with toxic road rage, so that she could focus on her aunt’s wounds. As she fell to her knees, by Lindal’s broken body, she heard an engine being revved. She could smell burning rubber as she twisted to glance over her shoulder. A horrible metallic noise rent the air, as the Toyota bounced off the lane of cars, and angled in their direction.
Marin sat slack jawed as she realized that the man had the balls to make a second attempt. The Toyota was scrapping along the nearby cars, hell bent on committing death by rust bucket. She didn’t know if she was more upset that someone wanted to kill both her and Lindal, or that her van was about to be harmed in the process.
Marin couldn’t move Lindal to safety, and she refused to leave her alone. She glanced frantically around, searching for a miracle. Run down though the car was, it was still out of her weight class.
Marin twisted back, to face the oncoming vehicle completely, her hands in the air. A plea for mercy? A supplication or a surrender? Marin didn’t know. Time seemed to slow as the Toyota came closer. She felt her usually denied emotions rush to the surface, her anger leading the charge. She felt the rage heat along her skin, begging to be released.
Holding her ground, Marin remained kneeling by Lindal’s side. A blood-curdling scream left her mouth, and for the first time in her life, she allowed her feelings to come to the surface with destructive force. In that moment, Marin felt no fear, no shyness. Just rage. A rage that felt at home and welcoming as it exploded in the air. Even her confusion and denial — those feelings she felt most at home with — had been buried under this red-hot mixture of emotion.
A jolt of pain, from some invisible force, threw Marin to the ground. Lying on her back, her head pounding, she felt as if the invisible entity flowed from her body and zeroed in on the offending car. Her skin tingling, Marin watched, through eyes of indignation, as the tires on one side of the car suddenly left the ground. The Toyota was thrown into the air and onto the tires on its other side. The car slid off course, hitting the vehicles on the opposite side of the lane, and continued to tip, until it was rolling away from Lindal’s defenseless body. Crashing into the cars perched on the grassy incline, at the end of the lot, the Toyota rocked to a stop. It had looked like the car had been encased in some kind of protective shield, a wavering bubble of air, as it rolled away from Lindal’s position.
Marin shook her head to dispel the insanity. Shields didn’t work that way. Lindal had explained that a shield was an invisible defense, in the mind, to keep out unwanted thoughts and ideas. She felt the back of her head, wondering how hard she had managed to hit the asphalt. Did she have a concussion?
After the Toyota had slammed off the cars in the grass, tottering back and forth, it finally landing in the correct upward position. Marin didn’t know what had just happened, and at that moment, she didn’t care. She took a second to watch, as the Toyota clipped the back of a few cars, and miraculously sped away.
The smell of burning rubber and the sound of a hanging bumper, creating sparks along the pavement, were the only proof that this nightmare had ever happened. That and dozens of dented automobiles. The way the Toyota had rolled away from them, as if a giant was playing with his Tonka Trucks, would haunt Marin’s nightmares for a long time. She decided that the entire event needed to be firmly placed in her denial box, and she moved to check on Lindal and to call for an ambulance. She needed help; she needed help now.
Buy Links for Shocking Finds:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/shocking-finds-tracey-clark/1122614922?ean=2940152332964
About the Author
I am a country-twang gal from the bluegrass state. Kentucky is a hot bed of horses, cave systems, and whiskey. And I love all three. With my pugs and bossy kitty cat, I spend my days writing and working social media. I write with the help of the voices pushing me to create worlds for them to live in. Fantasy Romance, Contemporary Romance, and eventually some cowboys (because cowboys live in a group all their own, yummmm) are the genres that I love best.
In 2005, a serious case of Multiple Sclerosis ended my higher education as I strived to finish my mathematics degree, wiping away all my beautiful numbers and a large portion of artistic talents that I had taken for granted most of my life. After a few years, my beautiful words started to come back to me. Filling my days and nights with imagined worlds helped me to cope with my newfound reality. I am currently working with Mary (my publisher) at http://gonewritingpublishing.blogspot.com/ Each day I find that getting sick has helped me to find my passion.
Fun fact: My granny had enough Irish to embody the term ‘fiery’ and my papaw had enough Cherokee to suggest they move their family to a reservation … This did not turn out well for him, not when gran opposed the idea, butttt that is a story for another time. So palest of pale, and red all year round … what did I get from that genetic pool??? Ha. I turned out to be pale skinned, but I don’t burn in the sun the way granny would have. And no matter how much color I seem to gain during the day, I wake the next morning back at square one, whereas my papaw had wonderfully tanned skin even in the midst of the darkest winter. boo… lol… now at 34, I don’t even try. (not to mention that my MS detests being out in the sun)
What I did get from these wonderful people??? A love and a need to create. Gran could design a quilt, bake up wonders, paint and draw with ease, and surround the home in masterpiece gardens. Okay, my thumb is more black than green, but I have enjoyed playing with all the rest. Though my favorite lies in oil paints. As for papaw, he loved to sing, filled notebook after notebook with his poetry, and had a tendency to create personalized rhymes for strangers and friends alike (sometimes against their will, while others asked for the right). My entire life, he called me his songbird. And would ask me (shy little me) to perform. Poetry is fun, and something that my mother taught me how to do early on, but I truly believe that a piece of my soul would die without my voice to sing the melodies in my heart. (just please let me do it at home and not in front of strangers :P)
Connect with Tracey online at:
Author Blog: https://traceylclark.com
Book Webpage: http://finderskeepersseries.com/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/author/traceylclark
Goodreads Author Page: https://www.goodreads.com/traceylclark