Susan Illene served in the US Army for eleven years and worked as a human resources specialist and an Arabic linguist. She served two deployments to Iraq, and after leaving the army, she studied history at the University of Oklahoma. She currently lives with her husband and two sons.
I’m excited to announce that Captured in Flames (#5) will be in audio soon. I’ve recently signed a deal with my publisher for it and the final two installments of the Dragon’s Breath Series (#6 and #7), as well as a spin-off novel with Galadon (a new character introduced in book 5) that will come after those. I’m also pleased to let you all know Marguerite Gavin will continue narration, so no worries about any changes there.
As soon as I have a release date and pre-order links, I’ll post them for you!
For those who have been waiting, I’ve got all of the Dragon’s Breath Series in Kindle Unlimited now, so if you haven’t gotten a chance to read some or all of the books, and you have membership, this is your chance. They will likely stay in the program for at least six months. When I release Torn in Flames, it will be wide with all the retailers for non-Amazon readers to pick up their copies, but after a couple of weeks I’ll move that ebook over to KU as well.
At this point, I’m looking at a January release date for Torn in Flames. I’ve gotten this question a lot (no surprise there) and wanted you all to have an estimate of when to expect it. For now, I’ve got the first two chapters available for anyone to read on my website, and they come in at almost 10,000 words. That gives you a pretty decent excerpt of the next book and an idea of how things will go moving forward.
You can check those out here if you haven’t already:
Those who are in my Facebook Fan group got a few updates on the reasons for this over the years, but I recognize no one else did. I considered explaining this sooner, but I knew it would be a lengthy post and would take away from writing time. Plus, once you know what I’ve been going through, you’d probably wonder how I could possibly publish a decent book. I figured it was best to let you read Captured in Flames first to see for yourself.
My long time readers are aware I suffered fertility issues for a long time. After trying to conceive for ten years, the doctors finally told me I’d never have children. Ironically, a short time after that, I became pregnant with my son Adam (now 4 1/2 years old). This was a few months after I released Christmas with Dragons and right after publishing Destined for Shadows. I managed to get another book in the Dark Destiny Series released before my son was born, but then he consumed much of my time over the next six months. He was one of those babies who didn’t sleep well and when he did it had to be while you held him. Only once he began crawling did he begin to assert a little independence.
Then a friend of mine with a son close to the same age helped out so I could write again. I managed to get the final book in the Dark Destiny Series out thanks to her watching Adam a few days a week for a while. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pay her much and she eventually had to get a regular job. While some authors of young children have great support systems to help them keep working, I do not. Some of my relatives can help for a couple of hours in an emergency or if I have a doctor appointment, but none are able do it as a regular thing. We couldn’t afford daycare.
Plus, Adam was a lot to handle in his first couple of years. He was very attached to me, and he didn’t do well with others to include my husband. Even my friend who helped for a while struggled with him. He also remained a terrible sleeper and napper, which made it difficult to set a schedule. It wasn’t until around the time he turned two that I began to find opportunities to work because he’d begun to sleep through the night. My husband was able to help more as well. In fact, I actually managed to write up to chapter 30 of Captured in Flames about two and half years ago. The momentum was great. I really thought I’d get the book out back then.
But I got pregnant again and I’m no good at writing during the first trimester because I’m so exhausted and sick. Then I lost the baby at around nine weeks. That was a tough time and just when Covid-19 started spreading. My husband started working extra hours since he was an essential worker, and I was on my own with Adam. He’d reached the age where he liked to do fun things like climb everything, dump as many toys as possible in the fish tank (it’s now locked down like Fort Knox), and he was just very high energy. I couldn’t turn my back for a moment.
Six months after losing the baby, I discovered I was pregnant again. This time, the pregnancy continued without any significant complications. It was at the height of the pandemic, though, so I couldn’t get any help with Adam. It was exhausting taking care of him while carrying another baby. I couldn’t manage writing time and keep up with chores around the house. My energy was limited, so I had to choose. Keep in mind I was forty years old at this point and pregnancy is a lot more draining at that age.
Dean was born in April of last year, and he was a little easier to handle than Adam as a baby, but he still needed breastfeeding every two hours and loads of diaper changes. I also had a c-section with him that required a lot of time to heal.
For the first ten months of his life, I concentrated on learning how to juggle two children. Unlike his older brother, Dean did like to keep a better and more predictable sleep schedule much earlier. I found I could get a little work done during his naps because Adam had gotten better at entertaining himself at four years old so he could give me some space. Also, he causes less trouble now than as a toddler.
That’s when I finally began to get back into working on Captured in Flames. It was slow at first because I had to refresh myself on the series and the mostly written book. Also, the chapters that had been written needed extensive revisions. So I worked during Dean’s naps and late at night, or when my husband could spare a couple of hours on his days off work to keep the boys out of my hair.
I have absolutely loved getting back into writing. During my long hiatus, I missed it so much. Every time I saw a message asking about the series, I’ll admit it caused a lot of anxiety because I wanted to give them an answer, but I had none. For a long time, I could not see a way to write. My days were just non-stop busy with the boys. I take care of all the cooking, cleaning, and yard work. My husband will help now and then with the boys, such as to keep them out of the way while I cook, or watch the youngest so I don’t have to take him to the grocery store. It’s just I take the bulk of the home duties. Dean has been teething so he’s awake A LOT a night and the hubby will take over when I get too exhausted to handle a screaming toddler, but I’m usually the one up and comforting him.
When I say I work when Dean is asleep, I should caveat other things have to be done during that time as well. That’s when I might shower, for instance. Most of the time, I have to do dishes when he’s in his crib because otherwise he will run up and start throwing everything out of the dishwasher. I can’t sweep or mop when he’s awake without him in the way. There is a list of regular chores that must also be done during the same times I use for writing. It can be tricky deciding which gets the priority.
I’ve attempted putting my laptop on the kitchen counter to work while he’s awake, but that results in him clawing at my legs trying to reach it. A couple of times he woke from his nap while I was on a roll writing and I hated to lose my momentum, so I took a chance and brought him in the office so I could finish. That usually goes something like this…
I do everything I can to push through chores while he’s awake so I can get more writing during his sleeping time. Some days I’m more successful than others. A week and a half ago, both boys came down sick with RSV. There was a lot of sneezing, coughing, runny noses, fevers, etc. Adam missed a couple of days of school (he just started pre-k last month). Neither of them could sleep well, so I had my hands full and couldn’t work. Then Adam developed a very rare complication from the RSV just as he began to recover. He woke up and couldn’t walk without a lot of assistance. It was scary how he struggled to take steps even while I held his hands. I called the pediatrician’s office, and they said to take him to the ER right away.
I called my cousin and asked if she could take Dean so I could focus on Adam. Thankfully, she was able so I rushed to pack the diaper bag with everything he might need while there. Then I drove to the next town over to drop him off and then to the hospital. My husband was at work during this time and couldn’t get away on such short notice.
I sat with Adam in the ER while the doctors and nurses checked over him, stumped as to what caused the problem. They took video of him trying to walk and sent that to outside specialists to get advice. Then they ran a bunch of tests, including taking swabs from his nose, drawing vials of blood, and doing a head CT. Several hours later, we found out Adam had rhabdomyolysis. The RSV had infected his muscle tissue, resulting in it rapidly breaking down and flooding his blood stream. He had to stay in the hospital for another day as they pumped him full of IV fluids to prevent kidney failure. It was a very scary time.
That evening my husband got to the hospital and took over sitting with Adam so I could go to my cousin’s and get Dean. He did great for them, but he let me hear all about it when I arrived. I’d never left him for over eight hours in his life, maybe two hours before and that was with his father at home. The poor guy didn’t understand what was going on and he was sick with RSV as well, having been running a low fever before I dropped him off (I did give him Tylenol to bring it down). So I got him home for some love and rest before we returned to see his brother the next morning. My husband was able to get the day off to help me with the boys.
Adam didn’t get out of the hospital until that afternoon when he could finally walk without support (though shaky). We concentrated on taking care of the boys, and I had a load of chores that piled up during this time that had to be done. Things like cat litter boxes do not empty themselves for some reason and the house had been a mess when I rushed out to the hospital. Adam stayed out of school for a couple of more days until the pediatrician cleared him to return. He’d doing much better, but we’re keeping a close eye on him just in case. His teacher has said he takes extra long naps right now and they let him. Honestly, I’m proud of him because he was so brave through all of it.
So these are some of the things that have been going on in my life. We’ve taken a major hit to our finances while I didn’t publish. That has made things tough while taking on more expenses with children. There are highs and lows, but I wouldn’t trade my two boys for all the money in the world. They have brought a lot of love, laughter, and joy for me. I’m sorry that it meant waiting a lot longer than expected for me to resume the Dragon’s Breath Series. Please believe that I will continue to work every chance I can to get the next book out to you because I love the characters and world and want more than anything to keep going with it.
Also, I’ll try to keep you more updated on things in the future. I got a tubal ligation, so no worries there will be any more pregnancy surprises. I’ve got my hands plenty full and I’m happy with the two boys I’ve got. Plus, I’m down to 2.75 dining room chairs (from the original 6) and don’t think my furniture can handle another kid.
I’ve got a few news items for you all. Mostly, it relates to the Dragon’s Breath Series, but also a side note about the Sensor Series.
First, Stalked by Flames is no longer free and back to its regular price. I hope everyone who wanted a copy managed to grab it over the last few weeks. In the coming days, I am going to start pulling the Dragon’s Breath Series off of the other retailers so I can start enrolling the eBooks in Kindle Unlimited. This is going to happen one at a time, so those who are still working their way through the series from Nook, Kobo, etc have a reasonable chance to get the next installments before they’re gone. After that, the series will only be available on Amazon. I know times are tough right now, and for some readers, it’s easier to borrow books.
For those who have already read Captured in Flames, I’m sure you’d like an estimated release date. I’m shooting to have Torn in Flames out by Christmas, but I won’t say for certain until I’m farther along in the book. I know many of you are itching to find out what occurs next, though, so I have posted the first two chapters (almost 10k words) on another page on this site. You can read them here. I’m working on the novel every chance I get because I definitely don’t want the wait to be long for this one!
Also in regards to that, Torn in Flames is the sixth installment and then there will be one more afterward to wrap up Bailey and Aidan’s story (making the total seven). I plan to do a spin-off with Galadon as well once the main series is complete. His will be more romance focused, but still plenty of action. If all goes well, book 7 and his novel will come out next year (2023).
As for the Sensor Series, some people have been asking if I’m totally done with it. Obviously, I’ve had a lot of other things going on with my life and needed to wrap up the Dragon’s Breath Series first before considering anything else. Having said that, I’m still wanting to do at least one book with Kerbasi because he’s fun and the most requested. Please let me know your thoughts.
I’m excited to announce that the fifth novel in the Dragon’s Breath Series is finally here (in ebook format). Bailey, Aidan, and friends have a lot going on during Captured in Flames and should give you quite the ride! For those of you who read fast, I promise I’m already hard at work on the next book and have over 10,000 words down so far. If you missed the details from my pre-order announcement, I’ve got the book summary and retailer links below. Hope you enjoy!
Dragons arrived on Earth nearly a year ago, decimating modern civilization.
Bailey Monzac discovered she was born to slay them the day they appeared. Though she has ruthlessly killed hundreds since then, she somehow fell in love with Aidan—a dragon shifter—along the way. Their relationship hasn’t been easy, and it’s about to be tested again.
Bailey finally got an opportunity to leave Oklahoma and return to her family’s ranch in Texas. The catch is that she and Aidan must join a war against the pure dragons controlling the territory there. They’ll be facing their largest and fiercest enemies yet with overwhelming forces against them. As they prepare for battle, more obstacles emerge that could ruin their plans. Aidan is with Bailey no matter what it takes, but it’s going to be a difficult journey to finally reunite with her family and hold onto the man she loves.