Category Archives: Fantasy

Rewriting the Blurb

In my alter ego world writing as AJ Tillock I published The Forbidden Bean, Book One of a series entitled GRINDING REALITY. One thing I am not good at is writing blurbs, so I enlisted the help of a professional blurb writer. Below are the various versions of: my blurb, hers, then a couple of possible refinements to hers. I would love to know what you think. Which is better? Is there anything you’d add? Change? Subtract? I’ll give away a digital copy of THE FORBIDDEN BEAN to one lucky commenter during the month of February 2016. Thanks for your help!

  1. My original blurbajtillock2013 018

The Bean is…Magical…Addictive…Forbidden 

When lifelong misfit and coffee store manager Tee Rutledge investigates a hidden bag of coffee beans, she disregards the warning label and accidentally swallows one.  Consumption of the bean temporarily transports most of her thinking, rational self into the body of an insect, but just enough of her is left behind to allow operation of her human body on auto-pilot.  Her existence becomes wildly complicated because once she is whole again she has no memory of her behavior as a human during that time. 

While Tee temporarily inhabits the body of a fly, a cockroach or a spider, she inadvertently flies under the radar of her fellow humans and unwittingly becomes privy to dangerous knowledge she otherwise would not have but which compels her unwillingly into heroic action. 

Soon she is on the trail of a ragtag group of Eastern Europeans involved in gun-running and human trafficking; her long absent father walks back into her life to warn her away from pursuing them; and a serial killer feels the sting of her unique brand of justice. 

Addicted to the magic beans but also teetering on the edge of sanity, Tee begins to embrace the power she discovers within herself as well as the undaunted courage of her superhero alter ego


A forbidden bean.  One taste.  A chance to see it all. 

Lifelong misfit and cafe manager Tee Rutledge would love to be a “fly on the wall” and know all the details of things she’s just not privy to.  But when she takes a small taste of a forbidden coffee bean, she gets her wish–and then some. 

Without warning, Tee takes on the entity of small insects and finds herself battling crimes and wrongdoings that she never imagined. The once ordinary Tee now must battle extraordinary wars–wars that just might get her killed. The thrill is exhilarating and addicting as each taste of the bean gives her the undaunted courage of a superhero. But will Tee’s power trip take her too far? 

3) My adjustment to #2

A forbidden bean.  One taste.  A chance to see it all.

Lifelong misfit and cafe manager Tee Rutledge would love to be a “fly on the wall” and know all the details of things she’s just not privy to.  But when she takes a small taste of a forbidden coffee bean, she gets her wish–and then some…

Without warning, Tee takes on the entity of small insects and finds herself knowing more than she bargained for.  Returning to her human self, Tee begins fighting crimes and wrongdoings that she never imagined.  Combine gun smugglers with human-trafficking and the once ordinary Tee now must battle extraordinary wars–wars that just might get her killed.  The thrill is exhilarating and addicting as each forbidden bean gives her the undaunted courage of a superhero. But will Tee’s power trip take her too far?  

4) My Further Refinement

A forbidden bean.  One taste.  A chance to see it all.

Lifelong misfit and cafe manager Tee Rutledge would love to be a “fly on the wall” and learn all kinds of things she shouldn’t.  But when she tastes a forbidden coffee bean, she gets her wish–and then some…

Without warning, Tee temporarily takes on the entities of small insects and finds herself knowing much more than she bargained for.  Returning to her human self, Tee begins fighting crimes and battling injustice in ways she never imagined. 

Gun smugglers and human-traffickers take notice of the once insignificant Tee poking her nose in their business and it might just get her killed.  The thrill is exhilarating and addicting as each forbidden bean gives her the undaunted courage of a superhero. But will Tee’s power trip take her too far? 



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#coffee #tobeapartner #fantasy #book #blurbs



Chapter One of FANTASY MAN (Samhain Publishing 02/16) is not exactly PG-13, while my blog is. Below I’ve posted more of Chapter Two. Once you’ve read it, leave a comment briefly explaining what you think happens in Chapter One either here on the blog or on the post on  my  Facebook Author Page . I will choose at least one winner from the comments for a digital or print version of FANTASY MAN.

Read the beginning of Chapter Two here:


Reif watched the woman depart, his state of shock growing. What the hell had just happened here? Where had she come from? Who was she? What was she doing in his bed? What the hell was he doing having unprotected sex with her?

Idiot, he cursed himself. He stood up, dragging the sheet with him. He tugged it away and threw it back on the bed. A pair of pink panties fell to the floor.

He stared at them. His brain was about to explode with all the rampant thoughts running through it. Why had he drunk so much last night? A celebration, that’s why. After closing one of the biggest deals of his career, he’d let himself be talked into another round and then another and another until he was so far past his limit he’d had to take a cab home.

He’d come home alone, though. Of that he was fairly certain. He wasn’t in the habit of having one-night stands. Surely he’d remember that particular girl if he’d ever seen her before. Something vaguely familiar about her nagged at him. Who could forget that cloud of dark hair, those expressive brown eyes, that killer body?

“Pervert,” he muttered, disgusted with himself as he went into the bathroom. He braced himself above the sink, groaning at the reaction from his alcohol-laden brain. Pain exploded at his temples and behind his eyes. His mouth was like a ball of steel wool.

He splashed cold water on his face, making a mess around the sink and not caring. He was facing a potential disaster here. He estimated she weighed about a hundred and twenty pounds, and unless he missed his guess she was waiting downstairs for answers.

He ran damp hands through his hair, making it stand up in spikes. He checked himself in the mirror, not unhappy with what he saw. His eyes were a bit bleary and bloodshot, but other than that, he looked like he always did—just enough of a tan, in pretty good shape for a guy pushing twenty-nine. He wasn’t what you’d call dedicated, but he worked out a couple times a week, played tennis and sailed whenever he got the chance.

He dumped ibuprofen into his palm and took it without water. This was LA. No one drank water from the tap.

He yanked on a pair of beat-up jeans and a white T-shirt. Like a man sentenced to death but still not quite believing in his fate, he stuffed the panties in his pocket and started down the stairs.

He stared at the pot of coffee that was already brewed, its fragrance wafting beneath his nose even as he reached for a mug. The light on his answering machine was blinking double time. Usually he got messages on his cell phone or through his office. Nobody called him on his landline.

He listened to the playback as he dumped sugar and cream into his mug. “Hey, man. I just put Quinn on a plane. I know it’s short notice, but things got out of hand here. Trust me, it’s important. She gets in at six o’clock on Delta. Flight 687. I’ll call your office, make sure you get the message. You take good care of my baby sister, now, you hear?”

“Oh, God.” Reif leaned his elbows on the counter and dropped his head in his hands as the machine bleeped and the next message played.

Fantasy Man releases February 2016 from Samhain Publishing

“Hey, Reif, it’s Marty. Some guy called, but wouldn’t leave his name. Said his sister is flying into LAX today. Delta flight number six eighty-seven. Gets in at six. He wanted to make sure you knew. I told him you were unreachable at the moment, but I’d pass on the message. He said he called your cell, so maybe you got it off your voice mail. Okay, that’s it. It was pretty quiet here this afternoon, nothing going on that can’t wait until Monday.”

His assistant’s cheery voice faded and Reif groaned again. He went to the table in the hallway where he’d dropped his keys, wallet and cell phone last night. He powered the phone on and listened to an almost verbatim repeat of Tony’s previous message.

Great. Now he knew who she was. Quinn, Tony’s younger sister. Five or six years younger to be exact. Which made her twenty-two or twenty-three. No wonder she’d only seemed vaguely familiar. She’d been in her teens the few times he’d met her before, which made her strictly off limits. She’d certainly grown up since then.

Wonderful. Tony Fontana, his best friend since school, had entrusted the care and security of his baby sister—his only sister—to Reif. And Reif had fucked up big time.

Reif knew how protective Tony and his father Rocco, aka The Rock, were of Quinn. Rocco’s precious daughter, the apple of his eye, and Tony’s beloved sister. Any man who mistreated her was guaranteed a slow and painful death, Tony used to joke.

Except Reif knew he wasn’t joking. If Tony ever found out what had happened this morning, Reif would be so much dead meat.

Reif returned to the kitchen and chugged a bottle of water, delaying facing Quinn as long as possible. What was he going to say? There was no excuse for what he’d done, even if he hadn’t exactly been awake when he’d done it. He knew only too well how carefully Tony and Rocco had watched over that girl, and after her mother had died their vigilance only increased. They’d put the fear of God into every male within a twenty-five mile radius of Coral Bay, Florida. The fact that Tony was a cop, and Rocco was the county sheriff of that pretty seaside resort area, made the task of monitoring Quinn’s activities that much easier.

Reif poured coffee into a mug and carried it through the house, keeping an eye out for her. His place wasn’t that big; there weren’t many places she could hide.

Why assume she was hiding? Maybe she wanted to see him again.

Except he remembered all too well her earlier distress. Get your hands off me, she’d said, although it had been a little late for that.

He opened the French door and stepped out onto the pool deck. The blue water in the small kidney-shaped pool was just beginning to reflect the early morning sun. She was there, half-hidden behind a section of lattice covered with overgrown bougainvillea. He made a mental note to tell the landscaping guy to trim it next time he was over. She’d made herself comfortable in one of the four cushioned chairs which surrounded a glass-topped table. She clutched a coffee mug in both hands, her brows slightly knit in puzzlement as she stared at the pool.

He hesitated, unsure of his welcome. Then again, it was his house. What was she going to do? Kick him out?

He approached the table. She glanced up, but he couldn’t meet her gaze. He set the pink panties on the table next to her, then pulled out a chair and sat down, hanging on to his own coffee mug for dear life. Now what? An apology would hardly cover what he’d done.

She ignored the crumpled underwear. “It’s cool out here,” she said, still staring at the water.

“I can get you a jacket.” Reif half-rose from his chair but she waved him back.

“No, no, I’m fine. I guess I’m surprised. I think of California as being warm all the time, just like Florida. Only if I were home the humidity would be building, the mosquitoes would be after me and it’d already be in the mid-eighties.”

Reif tried a smile. “I remember those Florida summers. You’d walk outside and feel like you were underwater the air was so heavy. The rain used to pour down day after day.”

“According to The Mamas and The Papas, it never rains in southern California.”

“Oh, it rains. Occasionally. But not like summers in south Florida, that’s for sure.”

The weather? They were talking about the weather? How perfectly inane. Someone had to bring up the fact that there was an elephant wearing hot pink panties wading in the pool.

You can visit me here:​

Barbara Meyers, Author January 2013 Newsletter

Time is an odd concept, isn’t it? We say things like “time heals all wounds” and “in time it will get better,” but I think what we mean is that “time” will simply distance us from thngs we wished hadn’t happened.

2012 was a year of significant change in our household. I spent a good part of the last half of 2011 praying and hoping for a way to keep the house we’d built and lived in since 1995. Faced with the fact that it wasn’t going to happen, I spent most of 2012 praying for it to sell. Do you ever wonder if God answers prayer? I believe He does…in His own time. In the case of our house sale it took almost a year. A year of lowering the price, finding the right buyer, negotiating, potential deals falling through, but it happened!

Now I wonder about the space/time continuum, how you can pick up your life and relocate it so easily. After nearly thirty years on one place, you can land somewhere else and it’s almost like all that previous time didn’t exist. You are where you are. This is your reality, your present moment. The past is the past and for me at least, once it’s gone, it’s gone.

There’s also this sense that as we age time moves faster. I’ve told numerous people why this is so, something I read years ago in Marilyn vos Savant’s column in PARADE magazine. When you’re five years old, one year is 20% of your life. When you’re fifty years old, one year is 2% of your life. The days and weeks fly by. Taking books out of the library for the initial two weeks is nothing to me. I can’t believe they’re overdue before I’ve read them and I can’t believe I forgot to renew them in time.

My life is measured out in day job work shifts, days off when I write. Big events, especially the ones when I get to see my kids or spend time with my friends. Little things bring me joy.

2013’s going to be great!

ForeverKindOfGuy72smAs I compose this a few days before Christmas, I have editing to do on THE FIRST TIME AGAIN. eBook publication date is May 2013. If you haven’t heard enough about this book, it is the third in The Braddock Brotherhood series of contemporary romance novels published by Samhain Publishing. I love my determined-to-change-his-ways ex-pro quarterback hero, Trey, who made his first appearance in A FOREVER KIND OF GUY.

My short story, Katy’s Place, has been accepted into the 2013 Novelists, Inc., anthology. I don’t usually write short stories, but as a writer, you should be able to write anything, right? I decided to challenge myself and pitch this idea and I got the green light. I am not certain when the anthology will be available, but I’ll include that information in a future newsletter.

I submitted another poem entitled “My Husband the Car” to the Lakeland Ledger. This newspaper seems to (eventually) publish whatever it receives so I’ll let you know when it appears.

2013 PLANS…
finalGRcoverMeanwhile, I have three or four other projects I jump back and forth with:
NOBODY’S FOOL, FANTASY MAN, RICH WOMAN (#4 in The Braddock Brotherhood series) and COOL BEANS (#2 in the Grinding Reality series written under my pen name, AJ Tillock). Apparently, this keeps me from getting bored! I have always done this and accept it as part of my writing process. I get stuck and start something new. Or I get stuck and go back to of one my early unfinished manuscripts to see what I can do with it after I’ve had some distance from it.

Why am I such a slow writer? The idea is always there. I start writing without a plan, a plot, a goal, motivation or conflict. Case in point, two years ago I wrote 160 pages of THE FIRST TIME AGAIN, mostly the love scenes and thought, yes, but what is this book about? What do these characters want? Who are they? You see how long it took me to figure it out. Lest you think that was the end of it, it was not. My editor suggested two rounds of editing before offering a contract. I may be slow, but I never give up.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions but I did make a list of things I want to accomplish in the coming year. I wish you all a happy and successful 2013.

Come visit me at

Follow my infrequent posts on Twitter at @barbmeyers or ajtillock or both!

November 2012 Newsletter from Author Barbara Meyers

This is the first of many newsletters, I hope, although I can’t promise one every month.  I’m not sure I’d have enough “news” to bother with every month!

My web site has been redesigned.  Check it out at

I think everything works, including the buy links for my books.  We are still tweaking it, however, so if you have problems, contact me at

I also re-did my Facebook author page.  Another work in progress.  I hope you “like” it. Have I mentioned how inept I am at all things techie and internet related?  Please bear with me.

The last couple of months have been super busy because I moved.  After thirty years in Southwest Florida I relocated to Central Florida.  I lived in this area of Florida when my family moved here from Idaho when I was nineteen.  (I swore when I left Idaho if I ever saw snow again it would be too soon.  I haven’t seen it since and I do not miss it.) 

Many have asked why we moved.  The simplest answer is “the economy.”

Not only did we move, we downsized.  For months I’d lie awake at night wondering how I’d manage this.  It seemed overwhelming to me, but like most things we worry about it wasn’t nearly as difficult as I anticipated.  I gave away things I didn’t need, didn’t have room for or no longer had a use for.  I did a “first wave” garage sale and then a “final wave” sale a few months later.  Even after the move I had more to donate.  After what seemed like a lifetime of acquiring “stuff” I discovered how little most of it meant to me.  I cherish my family and my dear friends.  I am blessed to have them.  The stuff?  It won’t hug you or listen when you need to vent.

For the past nine years I’ve worked for a worldwide coffee chain.  I wear a green apron and “supervise” a group of mostly 20-somethings.  I tell myself I stay with this company because of the great benefits (i.e. health insurance) but I realized the other day this job also supports my writing career.  I’m not rich from writing romance novels.  Yet. 

Then again, I was inspired to write my GRINDING REALITY series because of my observances in this environment.  Book One: The Forbidden Bean is available in both digital and print versions.  I am currently working on Book Two: Cool Beans.  This series is mixed genre, sort of a screwball fantasy concept that would be rated PG-13 or maybe even G if it was a movie.  No profanity, no sex, no graphic violence.  Some adult situations.  It’s unlike anything I’ve ever written or read and probably unlike anything you’ve ever read.  This series is written under the pen name AJ Tillock, so as not to confuse readers with my romance-writing Barbara Meyers persona.

My third book in The Braddock Brotherhood series entitled THE FIRST TIME AGAIN, is scheduled for digital release in May 2013.  The first two, A MONTH FROM MIAMI and A FOREVER KIND OF GUY are both available in digital and print.

Independently published NOT QUITE HEAVEN and SCATTERED MOMENTS are both available as eBooks.  The print versions are coming soon.

You can follow my periodic comments on Twitter @barbmeyers or @ajtillock (or both).  I do try, but I can rarely think of anything to say that seems like it’d be worth posting.  Almost all of my AJ Tillock Twitter posts are quotes from The Forbidden Bean.

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Cover Artist Interview – Lindsay Beach

Artist Lindsay Beach created the cover for The Forbidden Bean, the first book in the Grinding Reality series.

Tell us a little about your background and education.
I started drawing at a young age and haven’t stopped since. In high school I took all the art classes I could, including additional classes outside of the school at Repenning Fine Arts in Audubon. After encouragement from several teachers, I decided to go to art school. I studied illustration from the University of the Arts, and received my BFA in illustration.

How did you get started in book cover design?
While I was in school I started designing book covers. I had a target market project my junior year, and I chose to base mine on young adult book covers, and then for my senior thesis I also chose that young adult book cover market. Then after I graduated, Barbara Meyers granted me the opportunity to do her book cover, which was a great experience.

How many covers have you done? (Approximate if you don’t know exact number.)
Currently, I have done two commissioned book covers. While I was in school, I did about six or seven book cover projects.

What do you enjoy about doing cover design?It gives me a chance to tell the reader about the overall tone of the book in one visual cue. In a way it can be a challenge, but I like a challenge.

What’s your least favorite aspect of doing cover design?Can’t say there’s anything yet that I don’t really enjoy about them. Maybe if the challenge of finding that one perfect visual cue takes longer than I would like.

Do you want to hear the author’s ideas for the cover? Do you find them helpful or a hindrance?I do like to hear them because in the end the author is my client. Also, the book is something that the author has worked very hard on, so I want to make sure I make something that they would be proud to have represent all of their efforts.

Can you tell us a little about the actual process you go through when designing a cover?I first like to gain information about the book, whether it is a summary or some brief information from the author. Barbara gave me a synopsis. Then I take in any additional information the author may provide me with, such as some of their ideas for how the cover should look, and go from there. I like to draw out sketches of my ideas first to send to the author before I paint, so I don’t end up creating a finished piece of an idea that the author does not like.

Are there certain authors or genres you won’t work with?I would be willing to try any genre. Variety makes things interesting. I just did an illustration for the cover of a horror genre book, which is very different from The Forbidden Bean’s genre of contemporary fantasy, and I enjoyed doing both of them.

Is the process different if you know a book will only be offered online?The only difference is that when I know a book is going to be offered online, I want to make sure that when the cover is shrunken down to thumbnail size that it will still read fairly well.

Any advice or suggestions or “rules of thumb” you’d like to share?My rule of thumb for the artist would be to really talk with the author about their vision for the cover. Even if the author says “anything goes”, it is always a good idea to run some ideas and sketches by them before you get started on the finish piece.

Visit Lindsay here:

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The Forbidden Bean Origins

Ever wonder how authors come up with ideas? I’ve worked in a chain coffee store for years, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a great job with great benefits, but after five years there I kept thinking, there’s got to be a way to make money from this. Hmm. Wonder if I could write a book incorporating some of my experiences. One day I took the “what ifs” I’d been fooling around with and sat at a table in a local Starbucks (with a caramel macchiato as I recall) and started exploring the possibilities. Transcribed below are the actual notes I wrote that day:
Urban Fantasy 4/8/08
Starbucks – espresso – reaction – gives special magical powers.
Short stories?
Darrell’s check.
She solves problems of customers.
But what gives HER the special powers?
An allergy?
Her body chemistry?
Something she adds to the espresso in the right combination?
Her apron becomes a cape
She finds a bag of beans buried in the back room – that says DO NOT TOUCH or DO NOT USE.
Peaberry blend
The glow? The sparkle?
Maybe she eats a coffee bean and when she does she’s magically transformed into Super Barista.
What problems can she solve? She can help her other barista co-workers as well as customers.
Lots of short stories here.
What are problems?
Maybe she creates connections for people w/problems who can solve them. Or does she solve them herself? Is she the conduit/catalyst?
Job loss
The Economy
No money for college
Natural Disaster
Car Trouble
Gas prices
She finds struggling people and finds a way to help them.
No, she gets severe ESP so she knows things about people she shouldn’t know. John Edward type stuff? Death related. She can see ghosts or angels. Communicates with other worldly beings (make them up?)
She becomes other worldly temporarily. Solves crimes? Brings criminals to justice? Must be a downside for her. After effect is either detrimental to her physically or emotionally. Maybe she disconnects from her “real” life and becomes more and more involved in other world. Why doesn’t she stop? Because she’s addicted. Maybe a weekly or monthly addiction? What happens if she doesn’t get her fix?

This is how the book that became The Forbidden Bean began. It took almost four years, feedback, rejection and criticism from fellow authors, agents and editors before I said, “Screw it!” and published it myself.
I now have pages and pages of notes and ideas for subsequent books in the series I call Grinding Reality. (Tee is assistant manager of a coffee store. Thus the series title.) I am working on the second book in the series which might be entitled Cool Beans. There’s a preview of it at the end of The Forbidden Bean.Looking for something different to read? Here it is.
Grinding Reality Book One: The Forbidden Bean by AJ Tillock
An excerpt and buy links are on my web site:

Addiction to The Forbidden Bean

What if you had an addiction to a substance for which there was no rehab? What if you couldn’t tell anyone about your addiction?

In Tee Rutledge I may have created the ideal fictional addict, but there are many correlations to real life addiction. First of all, she has no idea that swallowing one forbidden coffee bean will addict her to them. She doesn’t even realize she is hooked until some time later. She tries to fight her addiction, but she can’t. The lure of the bean and the transformations they cause while she’s under one’s influence are stronger than her will.

She hides her addiction (sound familiar?) and covers up what happens during her transformations because she’s quite certain no one would believe she’s addicted to coffee beans, of all things, or that after swallowing one she temporarily turns into…something else. A fly on a wall, or a butterfly or a cockroach. The power she gains through her addiction is addictive.

She was warned, however, by the package before she opened it, but she didn’t heed the warning. Like a kid picking up his first cigarette, the caution that it is hazardous to his health goes unheeded. Just one won’t hurt me. Next thing you know he’s hooked and it’s a pack a day.

In spite of all the warnings about drugs and alcohol, all the “preventative” measures we take to inform children in this country about the negative impact of even trying them, we are a nation full of addicts.

I come from a long line of addicts, alcoholics mostly. My father told me the story of experiencing his first beer at age ten when his father took him into a bar and bought him a bowl of beer. This was after they’d driven the wagon from the farm into town. Can you imagine how my father must have felt after that beer? Warm and woozy and spending time with his dad one on one. My dad was the eldest of five children and grew up on a farm in the Midwest during the Depression. Of course he must have associated drinking beer with one of his best, happiest memories. Nearly everyone on his side of the family drank beer. Some of my cousins and some of my siblings are or were alcoholics.

One of my brothers explained addiction to me this way: There is no gray area for him. It’s all or nothing. He’d been through rehab for alcohol and drug addiction. He kept his nicotine addiction because it was the last vice he had left and he wasn’t about to give it up. If he found something he liked (frozen lime fruit bars, for example) he’d consume an entire box. He couldn’t have just one.

Working in a coffee shop, I am surrounded by addicts. I don’t know if it’s the caffeine, the ritual, the cup, the flavor or what exactly the customers are addicted to. Perhaps all of those and more.

If you’ve ever watched Intervention or read accounts of drug addicts, part of the addiction is the ritual, the needle or the pipe, the preparation. It’s almost better than the high. I think this is true of many coffee customers. It’s the ritual of waiting in line, moving closer to the counter, exchanging cash for a cup of fresh brew. It’s fascinating to watch the interactions that occur on a daily basis. Tee, also, is weirdly mesmerized by those forbidden beans with their unidentifiable coating. She develops a ritual of hiding in the storeroom, opening the bag of beans, withdrawing one, examining it, tasting it, rolling it on her tongue, despising her inability to stop consuming them.

In later blogs I’ll try to explain how the Grinding Reality series idea came about. For now, I hope you enjoy reading The Forbidden Bean. In fact, I hope you become addicted to it.

I love hearing from readers.
Contact me at
#The Forbidden Bean
#Grinding Reality
#AJ Tillock