Fan Friday: Submerged by Dani Pettrey

| About Reading

I listened to this book on Audible last year and I still think about it. The whole Alaskan Courage series (of which this is the first book) is excellent. If you enjoy romantic suspense with a little inspiration, you’ll really enjoy this series. 🙂

Submerged by Dani PettreyA sabotaged flight. Two murdered divers. A single clue—a grainy image of sunken treasure.

Dive Rescue Captain Cole McKenna has never worked a case like this, but who he’s working with may prove more dangerous than the assignment. It’s been a lifetime since Bailey mangled his heart. Now she’s back in town and he needs her expertise to track down the illusive treasure.

Professor of Russian Studies Bailey Craig vowed never to set foot in Yancey again, but when her beloved aunt dies, she has no choice. Her plan of attack is simple: return for Agnes’s funeral, get the family business ready for a quick sale, and then put Yancey and all the heartbreaking memories wrapped up in it behind her for good.

Cole walking through her door, asking for her help on a murder investigation, wasn’t part of her plan, neither are the feelings he’s resurrecting—feelings best left dead.

Bailey agrees to help for the sake of the victims, and travels with Cole across Alaska’s rugged terrain and deep beneath its coastal waters. As the case escalates, so do their feelings for one another. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to let go of the past and just when Bailey thinks she can’t take it any longer, the case shifts in a new and extremely personal direction, fastening her in for its duration.

Racing against the clock and a rising body count, Cole and Bailey fight to find the treasure and uncover the hidden history at the root of it all. But will they be too late?


dani-pettrey-bio-photoDani Pettrey is a wife, homeschooling mom and author. She feels blessed to write inspirational romantic suspense because it incorporates so many things she loves–the thrill of adventure, nail-biting suspense, the deepening of one’s faith and plenty of romance. She’s a huge fan of dark chocolate, is always in search of the best iced mocha and her dream is to one day own a little cottage on a remote stretch of beach. She and her husband reside in Maryland, where they enjoy time with their two daughters, son-in-law, and super adorable grandson.

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Just Call Me Ali

| About Ali's Books, About Marketing, About Publishing

Well, hello there. You may have noticed the digs have changed. Like, a lot. I’m no longer the “story ninja”. I don’t have my little ninja girl. (But I’ll always be a ninja girl in my heart!)


And the changes don’t stop there.

I used to teach classes on branding–it was something I’d studied a lot, and felt passionate about. Oftentimes I was asked what a person should do if they write under different genres and pen names. I said that the author should brand themselves, not their stories … but I’ve found for myself that that approach takes a lot of work and I’m personally no longer up for it.

After all that I’ve tried, all that I’ve worried about, all the cuteness and “smartness” I tried to show in my brand … I’ve decided that I’m just ali cross, and I write stories for everyone. Some stories are dark tales of hope, others are whimsical, uplifting things. Some are pure science fiction while others are inspirational romance. Because I am all those things.

So I’m not going to try to be anything else anymore. I’m not going to pretend. Ali Cross writes stories for children, for kids, for teens, and adults. I write for the nerds, the lovers, the singers and the dreamers. And all of you can find me and my stories, here and everywhere as …


Ali Banks Cross for my children’s and kids’ books, instead of Alex Banks.

ali cross for my young adult, fantasy and science fiction stories.

And coming soon, ali margaret cross, for clean (and often inspirational) romance.

It’s a little crazy to change the name on your books after they’ve already been published, but at least that’s one thing that hasn’t changed–I’m still as crazy as I’ve ever been!


Me & Chronic Illness: Fibromyalgia

| About Ali

Fibromyalgia (FMS) is pretty common these days, but not a lot of us understand it–even those of us who suffer from it. I also have myalgic encephalomyelitis, or ME/CFS, and because circumstances have required me to be more open about my health this past year, I thought it was time that I shared my experience with my friends and family–and anyone who might be struggling with a chronic illness of their own (and those who are trying to understand or help another).

Like most of you, I first heard about FMS as a mystery disorder that hovered on the edge of fact and fiction. People who had it were “lazy,” “crazy,” or “hungry for attention.” Doctors who diagnosed it were quacks or practicing pseudo-medicine. There was no treatment, no help, only a sentence of long term suffering and pain.

When I finally went to the doctor about the pain in my shoulders, knees, and other joints, my babies were just a couple months old and it was assumed that I was just taking a little longer than usual to recover from the pregnancy. After all, the pregnancy had been very trying, I had carried twins, and was now caring for two infants. No one could expect to feel excellent under those circumstances.

A couple months later I talked to the doctor again because even though the babies and I were sleeping more often, and we were enjoying a decent routine, I still hurt. A lot. I have a positive RA factor in my blood, which means I could potentially contract rheumatoid arthritis one day. Even though I didn’t have red, swollen joints, my doctor sent me to see a rheumatologist with the expectation that I’d be diagnosed with RA. Instead, I wad diagnosed with fibromyalgia and dismissed by the specialist because “there was nothing he could do.”

I cried.

Fibromyalgia is diagnosed based on a minimum of these specific tenderpoints.
Fibromyalgia is diagnosed based on a minimum of these specific tenderpoints.

I didn’t want to have RA, believe me. I knew how much the women with it suffered, the real fear they had of not being around to raise their children, or not being physically capable of enjoying life. But the diagnosis of FMS felt like a sucker punch. It felt like a penal sentence that would forever label me as lazy, crazy, and hungry for attention.

I was still nursing my babies, so I couldn’t take pain killers. I had no hope of ever feeling better. There was nothing I could do to improve my situation. I was doomed. Doomed with pain, inside and out, every day, all day, forever.

Fibromyalgia pain is different for everyone, but there are similarities that over the years have been grouped together as indicators of the disorder. For me, I have “all the time” issues and “sometimes” issues.

My FMS Symptoms:

  • Skin Sensitivity/Pain. Ever had a fever where your skin hurt? Even the movement of sheets over your body can cause extreme discomfort? It’s like that. My clothes hurt, a feather-touch from my husband is like fire, and a friendly touch, like a pat on my arm or a squeeze can leave me feeling as if I’ve been scratched or punched.
  • Sensitivity to Contact. Pretty much the same as above, except that the pain is deep and intense. A simple thing as a hug, a pat on the back or knocking against a door frame can send bouts of excruciating pain throbbing through my body.
  • Constantly Aching Muscles. This has nothing to do with exercise, because it can happen with or without it. However it feels a lot like how you might feel after you’ve run a race or had a great aerobic workout. It feels like lactic acid burning through your muscles, but no amount of shaking them out, massaging them or anything else helps.
  • Joint Pain. It feels like arthritis. I swell, I ache, I hurt. Sometimes I can’t hold a pen. Sometimes I feel like a bone is actually broken.
  • Localized, extreme pain. Usually a person with FMS will have “favorite” places their pain likes to hang out. For me, it’s my feet, my upper thighs, upper arms, back, shoulders and neck. It can be so severe that pain in my feet can force me to stay off them. Or pain in my thighs can make it difficult to walk. It’s a crazy crap-shoot and I basically never know what to expect from day to day.
  • Nerve Pain. Random, extreme shooting meteors of pain.
  • Numbness/Tingling. I feel this most often in my hands and arms.
  • Headaches. They’re constant, but I’m so used to them I hardly notice. I notice when they send me to bed because they’ve blossomed into migraines.
  • Vision and Hearing Problems.
  • Painful Intercourse. No one likes to talk about sex, but let’s face it–a healthy sex life is essential to happiness in a marriage. But what do you do when you hurt inside?
  • Sleep Troubles. This is a HUGE problem, and for much of my life with FMS (almost 16 years now), sleep has been my number one problem. Insomnia, yes, but for me it’s mostly just pain. I wake after a few hours of sleep in such pain, sometimes it’s my tears that wake me. Or I hear myself wimpering. My poor husband. He’s constantly worried about me. So I wake in pain in the middle of the night, and then have to try to get back to sleep. Yeah, it’s not so effective, lol. Then I start my morning exhausted, stiff and sore, and already feeling like the world has ganged up on me and kicked me up and down the block all night.
  • And anything else. It’s like my FMS decides to shake things up now and then and shout “surprise!” just to see how I’ll deal with a new symptom.

I don’t always have all of these symptoms at once, but I have some of them all the time. For instance, visiting family is always a bit terrifying for me because I’m going to be hugged, and hugs hurt. A lot. Some of my family love to pat (or, er, pound) your back when they greet you–but this friendly gesture brings me to tears and has me fighting off the pain for a long, long time.

I’ve found myself hiding in bedrooms while I try to breathe through the pain. I’ve found myself avoiding saying hello or goodbye to people at family gatherings in order to avoid physical contact. I don’t like to complain, so I don’t hang out with friends so much because while they’re talking about their adventures or house projects, I’m thinking about how all I’ve been doing lately is finding ways to function despite the pain.

I say no to things that require physical activity because while I enjoy it, and might be able to handle it, it’s more likely I won’t be able to. Not because I’m lazy, but because my day-to-day experience has proven to me that it’s true.

I can only go up and down my stairs so many times in a day before the pain in my feet, knees, hips, back … grows too great.


Most of all? I feel lazy, crazy and hungry for attention.

Lazy because I’m not doing the things I see others doing. I’m not taking hikes in the beautiful fall mountains. I’m not cleaning my house much. I’m not exercising with my friends.

Crazy because every day I expect something to change. I do some of those above things, and then suffer with pain payback for weeks afterward. Crazy because the pain can sometimes be so intense that I literally can’t think straight.

And hungry for attention because I’m desperate for people to understand. I wish for friends and neighbors to know that this is real. I am suffering. I want the world to know that fibromyalgia is real. Because I’m not actually lazy or crazy–I’m sick.

Next week: How I live with fibromyalgia.

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Fan Friday: A Five-Year Anniversary!

| About Reading

I missed doing this last week, on November 11th, but I, CK Bryant and RaShelle Workman all celebrated an anniversary! It’s been five years since we published our first books! We did it together, in our Dark Karma tour. We thought we were alll that, didn’t we? And ya know? I’m still proud of our efforts and what we accomplished.

So today, I want to celebrate our three books and say Happy Bookversary to my release-mates! And YOU can enter to win your choice of one of our three books. I’ll *try* to get them signed by the author, but I can’t promise.

boundBound by CK Bryant

When a photo shoot ends in tragedy, Kira discovers her best friend, Lydia, has been keeping a secret. Knowing the truth, and accepting it, will change Kira’s life forever and thrust her into a world of ancient curses, magical objects, and savage enemies. What happens next will challenge everything Kira knows about her world, herself and the shape-shifting warrior she’s falling in love with. No longer the timid mouse her mother accused her of being, but a woman who finds the mental and physical strength to endure and survive.


Exiled by RaShelle Workmanexiled

Venus isn’t from Earth, she’s from Kelari. On her planet she’s next in line to rule, but there are those who will go to great lengths to make sure that doesn’t happen. Including frame her as a traitor. Accused and sentenced, the gods of her planet exile her to Earth. They’ve given her one week to help a human find his true love. If she doesn’t succeed, she’ll die, but if she does she might lose her heart.




And Become by ME!

(Uh, that’d be ali cross in case you forgot whose blog you were on!)

The battle over Midgard begins with just one girl …

Earth has been without a Guardian since its creation, but Loki means to take it for himself. His daughter, sixteen-year-old Desolation, wants nothing more than to stay in Hel where it’s cold and lonely and totally predictable. Instead, she’s sent to Midgard to make her choice–and what she chooses will determine not only her own future but the fate of all the worlds.


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POW #6: Write Wisely

| About Writing

We’ve come to the end of our How to Write Action Scenes that Pack a Punch series with the W in our POW formula!


There are two important steps in making sure your action scene is written wisely–choosing the right words and using the right voice.

Expand Your Vocabulary

Get to know the language of your scene. Imagine you’re story is a country you’ve gone to visit and you need to know the language to get along. For instance, if you’re writing a chase scene, the language of that “country” would be RPM, or grinding gears, drift, burning rubber, velocity, smoke, squeal, nitro/nitrace, shifting gears, clutch, chassis, pistons, etc.

Even if your reader doesn’t know what those words mean, they’ll understand them in context and you won’t be distracting them with explanations.


Use Strong, Active Verbs

The words you choose have the power to convey so much–don’t be lazy in your selection. Let’s take a look at an example:

Original (by Devon Monk):
Shame stood at the edge of the water, the gun in his hand.

What does this sentence tell you? What can you infer about Shame’s state of mind, the scene, or what might come from the sentence above?

Shame paced the water’s edge, the gun gripped in his hand.

What more do you understand about Shame and the situation he’s in by the change in these two words? Try changing it up yourself by switching out the words and see what other emotions or tone you can convey.

You can also do this for action:

Original (by Devon Monk):
The bullet cut through Shame’s chest, and he fell to the sand.

The bullet shattered Shame’s chest, crushing him to the sand.

The rewrite shows impact, tells you how much damage was done, paints a picture of the scene more thoroughly. Try it yourself and see what else you can do with a simple thing like word choice.

There Should be Nothing Passive About Action Scenes

In an Active Voice Sentence, the SUBJECT performs the ACTION.

The Veiled swarmed over Stone.
(The Veiled are our subject, and swarmed is our action. The Veiled swarmed.)

In a Passive Voice Sentence, The TARGET OF THE ACTION gets promoted to the SUBJECT POSITION.

Stone was swarmed by the Veiled. Or, worse, you’ll often see variations like, Stone was being swarmed by the Veiled. (Now the subject of the sentence is Stone, but he isn’t doing any action.)

For optimal reading enjoyment, place the action as close to the subject as possible. Doing so will allow you to avoid other passive-voice maladies.

Annnndddd! There you have it, folks! How to Write Action Scenes that Pack a Punch. I hope you’ve found this series helpful! I hope you’ll refer back to it often, and share it with your friends!


Stay tuned for next week when we’ll start working on formatting print books!

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Where Friends Can be Found

| About Ali

Short answer? Everywhere.

Once, a woman moved into our neighborhood. I wanted to like her, to be liked by her–to be her friend. She was bright and shiny, fun and cool. But man, she was a snob! Or, at least, to me. She didn’t “pick” me–she picked a handful of other women in the neighborhood. They were friendly-ish, but definitely had their clique and membership was by invitation only.

Carly* and I were assigned to be companions for a church service, and I hated it. She hated it, I’m sure. As we got to know one another we didn’t like each other at all. But we served together. And we each cared for the women we were serving. That mutual caring brought Carly and I together. We recognized strength in each other. Compassion and kindness. And from there … a friendship grew.

Friendship can grow, even when you think the seed is no good.

The other night a woman in my church stopped by to bring me a gift. A little book, not only signed by the author, but more precious–including a personal note from Claudia. The note was so touching; I’m a bit at a loss at the generosity this woman has shown me. Not just in the beautiful words she wrote me, but in the little acts of kindness over the years, especially in the last year.

I don’t know why.

I don’t know that I’m worthy of her kindnesses. She doesn’t really know me, nor I her. She’s older than me, “runs in a different circle” so tospeak. And yet … she has offered me a rare, unselfish kind of friendship.


Friendship can be found where you least expect it.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a natural friend. I worry a lot about how to behave, what to say, do, how to show the other person the same kind of kindness so they’ll know how much I appreciate them. But I muddle through. I try to be me, and to trust that I’m good enough.

Think to Thank. In these three words are the finest capsule course for a happy marriage, formula for enduring friendship, and a pattern for personal happiness.
~ Thomas S. Monson


POW #5: Order in Action – Tempo

| About Writing

Choreography last week, tempo this week? What is this, salsa lessons? I promise, this has everything to do with writing action!

First, we need to revisit the two essential questions from Week Four’s lesson. The answer to these questions will determine your treatment of the scene.

Is it an event that the character simply needs to pass through, to get to what lays beyond? Say they need to recover a sword but the bad guy is blocking his path to his car which he needs to escape.

It’s pretty straight forward and it’s all about getting from A to B, or providing an element necessary for the plot to progress.


Is this scene essential to character development? Is defeating the bad guy and retrieving the sword going to reveal something about the character, or help them develop a necessary attribute?

If your scene is plot driven, you’ll want to …

  • include very few details
  • focus on the action
  • write it similarly to your action plan, like a blow-by-blow of action.

Plot Driven

  • Need very few details
  • Action-based
  • Generally fast-paced, “blow-by-blow”

Here’s an example of a plot driven scene from Magic Without Mercy by Devon Monk. Note the short, even one-word sentences. The down-to-business feel of the writing.


Men and women with black holes where their eyes should be, mouths filled with too many teeth, shifted forward, lining the street behind us. Not just one person or two. A lot. Way too many.

They paused.

Then rushed.


We ran.

They were closing in on us. Fast. Too fast.

The car was just a few yards away. The demons gaining on us.

We’d never make it to the car before they swarmed over us.

Shit, shit, shit. My gun wouldn’t stop them. My knife wouldn’t cut them. The only thing that worked on demons was magic. And I didn’t have any.

About fifty yards from the car, Mike stopped. He growled, head down, fangs bared. He wasn’t running. Wasn’t flying. He just stood in the middle of the street, growling at the demons.

“Mike!” I called. “Run. Get in the damn car!”

But Mike did not move.

The demons shot past me. I smelled the rotted-meat stink of them. Their fingers scraped and slapped as they crashed in a wave and streamed past me.

Aiming straight for Mike.

But what if your scene is character driven? In that case, you’ll want to …

  • keep the details personal
  • focus on the character
  • some action may be missed, or purposely dismissed, in favor of internal thought.

Check out this example from Hell Bent by Devon Monk:


It blasted through the room like a sonic wave. Threw me off my feet. An entire ocean of magic pounded and roared through the room.

Crushing us.

I couldn’t breathe. Tasted blood.

Tumbled, hit my back, shoulder, head, into something metal, felt my spine crack. Felt Terric’s pain too: arm, shoulder, neck. Could not tell where he was, or hell, where I was.

Ran out of air.

Drowning. Drowning in magic.

Then Terric was there, standing above me. A goddamn angel with alien eyes. He did something with Life magic that made my ears ring with an ungodly chorus of sound. My head spiked with pain.

And then I could breathe, I could think. I stood. A little woozy, but kept my feet. It felt like they’d aimed the entire ocean of magic at me.

Get a grip, Flynn.

I stuck my hand on Terric’s chest, drew off the Life magic burning through him until he stopped glowing and some sanity came back into his eyes.

Situation: the room was filled with a snarling maelstrom of magic that burned across the ceiling, walls, floor, picking up metal, debris and glass and spinning it through the room like a caged tornado.

I love that scene. Notice how we don’t actually see the absolute violence of the scene until the very end when Shame finally takes notice of it? Up until then, he’s worried about the people he loves, the magic inside him. It’s very personal, very character driven!

General Notes on Tempo, Regardless of Plot or Character Driven

  • Vary the speed; take the time to describe one move in detail, while another is described with one word
  • Vary long sentences with short.
  • Use one-word paragraphs.
  • Consider your reader–even readers who love action will get bored if the fighting goes on and on

Next up: POW #6: Write Wisely!

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Best Middle Grade Books Sale!

| News

I just realized I started with a picture book giveaway last week, now a middle grade sale this week–I should probably do a young adult sale (or giveaway!) next! What do you think? I say it’s something to think about!

Anyway, today I’m part of a middle grade collective sale! Over a dozen awesome MG books ALL for only 99cents!

Visit DragonMoonPress for the links to ALL the books,
a chance to enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift card!


Both My Middle Grade books are on Sale!






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Whimsical Art Christmas Giveaway!

| News

Books make awesome Christmas gifts! And so are custom portraits by JDoodles Art! (Keep reading for how to win one!) Jenn and I hope you’ll consider giving The Lullaby Ladybug to the little ones in your life! You can purchase it on Amazon, or here. OR, we have a limited number of prints that have an error on the acknowledgements–you can get them direct from this site for our cost; just $6!

LULLABY_CVR_frontWe’re super excited to bring you this giveaway! We hope it will give one of you a really sweet and special Christmas gift.


a custom 8×10 portrait created for you by artist Jenn Schwendiman
just in time for Christmas!

~ Samples ~




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POW #4: Order in Action – Choreography

| About Writing

It’s not enough to know how to pack a punch, now you need to get the order in action right. It’s like you have the building blocks of the scene, but now you need to put it all together. There are two parts you need to pay attention to when ordering the action of your scene—choreography and tempo.


To create the proper order in action, you need to know the purpose of the scene, what you hope to achieve with it.

Is it an event that the character simply needs to pass through, to get to what lays beyond? Say they need to recover a sword but the bad guy is blocking his path to his car which he needs to escape.

It’s pretty straight forward and it’s all about getting from A to B, or providing an element necessary for the plot to progress.


Is this scene essential to character development? Is defeating the bad guy and retrieving the sword going to reveal something about the character, or help them develop a necessary attribute?


A choreographer imagines, designs and directs the physical action of a performance. Imagine that you are the choreographer of your action scenes. Take the time to plan them carefully, to consider its purpose, to be sure you have the right point of view for how you want to depict the scene and to assure you have all the essential details (and none of the inconsequential things) nessary for maximum impact.


The Action Plan

Write out the blow-by-blow of the action. Don’t leave out a single detail. For instance:

  • Two men are outside waiting for MC.
  • One stands to the left of the door, under the light.
  • The other stands to the right of the door, a taser in his hand.
  • MC steps out front door of apartment building.
  • MC is grabbed by the man on the left.
  • Man with taser electrocutes her.
  • Man with taser picks up her feet while other man holds her under the arms.
  • They carry her away to their car which is parked out of sight.

You can write your action plan in bullet points or in descriptive sentences–just be as thorough as possible. How you write it isn’t as important as getting it all down.

Check out this scene from Sherlock Holmes and see how the plan gave far more details than the action did–but it informed the action, and that’s what we’re going for here.


Whiddle the Action Down to the Most Essential Parts

Consider POV for this. In First Person …

  • MC steps out front door
  • MC is electrocuted

In Third Person …

  • MC steps out front door
  • Guy1 tases MC
  • Guy2 catches MC
  • Guy1 and Guy2 carry MC away

Once you have your scene prepared, you’re ready to address tempo–which we’ll do next week!

If you’re in Northern Utah this Saturday, come to the Viridian Center in West Jordan for an amazing afternoon with authors and illustrators! It’s a book fair, so you can get a head start on your Christmas shopping PLUS take some writing classes for FREE! Hope to see you there!


Next up: POW #5: Order in Action – Tempo

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