About Me

I live outside Urbana, Illinois on a couple of acres near the Salt Fork River with my husband and two kids. Well, they aren't kids so much anymore, but they'll always be my babies. I say outside Urbana to give a better landmark for those who aren't familiar with the area. Urbana/Champaign is the home of the University of Illinois. I'm not alum, but I am a huge Illini fan! However, in this house, you'll mostly hear talk about Cubs baseball, as it's our daily routine to follow the games throughout the season. 

Writing was my passion as a young girl. I'd handwrite stories to kill the long days, living in the country surrounded by cornfields. As time moved on, I guess I was shy about my love for writing, and I stopped for a long time. In 1998, I graduated college with a degree in Graphic Design and worked in the marketing department for one of the largest hobby distributors in the country. I love the industry, but design wasn't exactly my strongest skill set, and to be honest, working in an office setting all day didn't suit this girl at all. So when our daughter was born in 2001, I decided to be a stay at home mom. That did suit me well, and I've stayed home with my children, for the most part, for the past 17 years. 

In 2010, I'd just finished the Twilight Saga. Many of you can relate to how the books reeled you in, and I was terribly jealous of the authors success. All the old feelings of how I loved to pen words came flooding back to me, and after I shoed the kids off to school, I sat down and started writing my first book. Within a few weeks, I had an awful first draft, but then "life" got in the way, not to mention a terrible plot that fell apart, and I honestly haven't looked at the book since. 

Then in 2013, I went to Ireland with my mom. Seeing the world in a new way was invigorating and inspiring. I declared while we were there that I was going to write when I returned home, and that summer, I sat down and started writing a book I originally named, The Housekeeper's Daughter. I wanted to tell a story inspired by my mom and dad's life when they were in their 30's. I was 37 at the time, reflecting on my childhood, and the thought of going through what they went through hit me hard. I wanted to tell the story from the kids point of view, but I was a little girl when our family went through this, and the perspective of a 6-8 year old wasn't what I wanted. That's when 17-year-old Elsie Richardson was born. After a year of polishing the overall idea, the real journey started. 

The Housekeeper's Daughter then became Life Happens on the Stairs. 

I noticed there were many titles with . . .Daughter. The Bee Keeper's Daughter, The Preacher's Daughter, etc. The title had been overused and I needed something else. It originally was a quote from another main character, but as rewrites and edit came into play that scene was cut, so I incorporated it in a new way. After I finished the book, I was completely naive about the publishing world. Until you embark on a journey like this, you have fantasies about the huge publishing contract you'll be offered. You just know you're the next Stephanie Meyers or John Green, and no doubt, your book will be read by the masses. 

Well, I still hope it will be read by the masses, but this adventure doesn't happen over night. I started asking people to read it and entering contest to get feedback. That rollercoaster ride stopped when I won 3rd place in the Linda Howard Award of Excellence in 2016 for LHOTS. I felt a little satisfied to have placed, but still needed to get over that hill to publish. In the meantime, I wrote query letter after query letter, many of them much to premature. I burned bridges with a mistake-riddle manuscript, but learn huge lessons about the industry and my writing. Invaluable lessons that I'm still learning from today. 

On May 15, 2018 everything changed—I found hope. I sat down at the computer and checked my email. The Breakthrough Novel Awards had sent that the finalists were being announced that day. I'd honestly forgotten that I entered. Then another email pops up and says, Congratulations, you're one of 5 finalists! I'd recently signed a contract to have LHOTS published (another wrong move, but BIG lesson learned) and didn't think I was eligible. Come to find out, I was eligible, and for the next month, I tried my best to forget about June 15th, the day they'd announce the winner . . . I wanted to win, like REALLY wanted to win, and I thought about it constantly for the next month.

The morning of June 15th, I said to my husband, right as he was leaving for work, "You want to know?" Sheer terror ran through his eyes. I could read his mind: "I don't have time for a meltdown right now," I know that's what he thought. I clicked on the email, and we both couldn't believe it!! Finally! LHOTS had been given a huge break. I still get butterflies, thinking about it. 

And so, here we are. Life Happens on the Stairs won first place and the past few weeks have been an absolute dream come true! This writer is lost for words of how to describe how this has changed the course of my writing career. I can't wait to see what happens next! Thank you again to the Breakthrough Novel Awards, the judges and Eeva Lancaster!

With all that said, don't think I'm a one-hit wonder. I have other projects brewing on the computer and always racing in my mind. After finishing LHOTS way back when, I immediately started my next book. That story is about an orphaned teenager forced to live with his uncle who is the President of a 1% motorcycle club. When he realizes someone within the club is responsible for the death of his parents, he'll stop at nothing to find the murderer. Another project is about the opioid epidemic and how it has no bias against age, race, wealth or status. This will be an adult novel, not young adult, so I have another learning curve I'm anxious to dive into. 

For now, this is me! I should mention, if you're allergic to cats, beware, the website might make you sneeze. Just kidding! I'm a huge cat lover, all animals actually, but my cats are my best buddies. I really hope you follow along as LHOTS finds its way to the shelves, and hopefully the hearts of readers!

You may also find me at: 
Twitter: @Ajmarkstahler
Facebook: ajmarkstahler 

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