Friday, December 26, 2014

Okay, time for a Giveaway!

Good morning!

Christmas is over.  How did that happen?  Weeks of frantic wrapping and shopping and baking and
celebrating and now...done.

Well, friends, fear not!  The holiday fun is NOT over.  

As some of you know, earlier this year my original writing blog, "It's a Writer's World" was hacked and I had to rebuild from scratch to create this blog, my new writing home.  As with any new project, it's been a slow and steady process, reaching readers old and new.

Now, we are on the threshold of a great milestone.  (How's that for mixed cliches?)

I'm quite close to 1000 views on this blog, which is exciting for me since it's still a little seedling.  

Here's what I'm going to do.  We have, counting today, 6 days left in the I'm going to encourage you and your friends to view this blog and leave a comment.  Any comment.  Just a "Hey, hi there!"  Or a "Howdy."  Or, for my more international readers, a "Guten Tag," or something along those lines.

On January 1, if we've reached 1000 views, I will randomly pick one viewer to receive a PRINT, AUTOGRAPHED copy of one of my books.  It can be any of them, (take a look at the book covers there on the right.  Click on them...go ahead, it won't hurt!)

Or, if you wish, (and you already have all of my books) you can instead select to wait until "Missing in Manitowoc" comes out in 2015 OR pick a new romance I currently have in preproduction.  

So okay, don't be shy.  Christmas might be over, but before the clock strikes 12 and ends this year,
someone who sent out a greeting is going to get one more present!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My very short Christmas message.



For one night, and one day,

let's forget about our differences and focus on what we have in common;

love, family, faith (whatever your faith may be).

Even if you don't celebrate Christmas, you can celebrate loving your neighbor.  You can celebrate being kind and gentle to those around you. You can celebrate being filled with music and joy and warmth and giving.

There is so much in this world that is good, pure, loving, wonderful, and precious.

For one night and one day, let's focus on that, and take a break from all the rest.

Who is with me?

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Review you can use: Exodus: Gods and Kings.

Good evening and Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas Day has fast become a day when people go to the movies, and why not?  We've done it.  I mean, once the church is done, and the presents are done, and you've eaten everything you can possibly hold, why not head outside and be around people you AREN'T related to and DON'T make you crazy?

To that end, Christmas is a time when a lot of movies get released so that people who do want to escape the family fun have something to watch.  This year we have a movie offering of Biblical proportions:  Exodus:  Gods and Kings.

After "Noah" last spring I admit, I was skeptical.  Let's face it, "Noah" is hardly a Sunday School lesson. As a devout Christian that bothers me but as a person who likes to be entertained at the movies, I was entertained. Still, if you're using a book, any book, as source material, how about sticking to the book? That's been a gripe of mine for a long time. I mean, do movie studios just think, "Hey, we have a great book...let's change a bunch of stuff and make a semi crappy movie out of it."  

Why bother using the book at all?  

This is especially true with the Bible because, okay, if you were making a movie out of the Book of Mormon or the Quran or something, you'd try and get it right, right?  But for some reason, since time forever, Hollywood has taken liberties with the Bible.  It's annoying because believe me, the book is BETTER, especially the Old Testament where all kinds of good stuff went down.  You just don't need embellishment, believe me.  and the pressure is higher because so many Christians today are looking at movies like this and saying, "Yeah, great. What are those heathen Hollywood types going to screw up this time?" 

This time around the director is Ridley Scott and I love Ridley Scott. And Christian Bale is Moses, and I love Christian Bale.  So let's go see Exodus!

For those of you who aren't sure, the book of Exodus in the Bible is the history of the Children of Israel 400 years after Jacob moved the family from Canaan to Egypt to live under the protection of Joseph.  400 years later, things aren't so great because the Pharaoh no longer remembers his history, has no idea Joseph saved Egypt during a pretty decent famine, and so the Hebrews are now slaves building all sorts of big statues and buildings.

Moses was born in a time when Pharaoh thought population control was a good idea for the Hebrews, so he made a law that said every male baby born to a Hebrew family had to be killed immediately. Moses' mother put Moses in a basket and sent him down the Nile where he was found by the daughter of Pharaoh, who raised Moses with the help of Moses' real mother who came to live in the palace as Moses' nanny.

There, I've caught you up.

The movie opens when Moses and Ramses are adults, brothers really.  This is part of the history the Bible does not tell us, whether Moses and the future Pharaoh were brothers or enemies or what.  It is commonly held that there was some rivalry, but that Moses was beloved of the old Pharaoh.  Okay, anyway, in the movie Moses heads on down to where the Hebrews are working. Why he gets there is not important, neither in the Bible nor for the purposes of this review.  He comes across Ben Kingsley. Yep, I have no idea who Ben plays, but he's there looking like, well like himself.  And he reveals to Moses that he's Hebrew.  

So far so good.

On his way out of the Hebrew camp, Moses kills an Egyptian, a fact that is explained well in the Bible, but not at all in the movie, and he goes home.  Huh. Weird.

The old Pharaoh dies and that's when we depart from the Biblical account for a while.  Moses is actually driven out of Egypt, not because he killed someone as it says in the Bible, but because he's Hebrew, and hey, it's his sister who was his nanny.  

Okay, okay, I'm willing to over look that little thing.

Moses meets up with a semi nomadic tribe who seem to think tattoos on the women's faces is wonderful but the men have no tattoos at all.  Moses marries one of the women and has a son.  Okay, back on track.

Chasing some sheep one day, Moses gets hit on a the head, buried in mud, breaks his leg, and has a vision of a young boy making tea next to a burning bush.  

What follows for the next forty minutes is all very entertaining, but if you're basing it on the Biblical account, it's complete crap.  I very nearly walked out because according to Ridley Scott, Moses decides he's going to just go in and blow stuff up and declare war on the new Pharaoh.  It actually felt for a good long time that we were getting the story of the Exodus with no mention of the ten plagues.  The couple behind us actually walked out.

Bible believers, take heart.  If you get through the 40 minutes of explosions, you'll get to something that's not only entertaining, but actually follows the Bible a bit more carefully than many others. The Plagues are depicted very well and they actually got the crossing of the Red Sea just about right, which is amazing since many Bible scoffers have long held that the crossing was no miracle but instead just a bunch of people marching through a swamp.

One thing Hollywood again gives us that I'm okay with is a doubtful, then fanatical religious hero.  Russell Crowe did well with Noah and Christian Bale gives a very good performance as Moses.  After teaching Sunday School for more than twenty years one of the things that I have to remind my students is that these heroes of faith were first and foremost people.  They had doubts, they had failures.  Ridley Scott gives us a warrior who battles his faith, so he gets it half right.  (Biblically, Moses had very little confidence when told by God to go free the Hebrews, plus he had a speech impediment.)

Overall, I was not displeased with movie.  While the first hour can be troubling for a purist, the rest of the movie (the movie is 150 minutes long, so get the big bucket) does keep close to the Bible account and is still brilliant and beautiful.  I rather enjoyed God being depicted as a young boy who likes to make tea. Not everyone does, but I believe in a God who takes all forms and so why not that of a young child?

 Some reviewers gripe that the Plagues are all explained away scientifically, therefore God is marginalized.  That's not my take on it.  Remember, the magicians tried to mimic the plagues for Pharaoh as a way of calming him.  The scene where the plagues are being explained away is not an explanation so much for the audience as a moment of comedy because the magnitude of the plagues is so beyond the simple explanations, its humorous. That's how it's presented in the movie and I believe that's correct.

So no, this is not the "perfect" Bible movie.  And if you are taking your children to see it, I caution you. There are scenes of violence that would be disturbing for the younger children.  I feel this one is actually better than "The Ten Commandments" because, well, it just is.  I think there's more of the spirit of the Bible in this one.  So maybe skip the first forty minutes and then come in.

Oh, and side note. We saw this in 3D. Skip the 3D.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Why books make excellent gifts all year 'round.

Good morning!

When I was six I wrote my first book.  It was called "The Civil War."  It was four pages long, I illustrated it, and I wanted to charge five cents for it.  I figured if it was a good price point for Lucy on "Peanuts," it was a good price point for me.  I planned to write a monthly historical magazine called "Historical Times."  

When I was seven I started reading the "Little House" series and when I found out 1) Laura Ingalls Wilder was born in 1867 and I was born in 1967 and that meant something and 2)  Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her books on lined notepads, just like I wrote my "Civil War" well I figured it was in
the stars.  I was going to be a writer.  Or a poet, since I really liked writing poems, so long as they rhymed.  (Hey, I was seven.)

In grade school I read Margaret Mitchell, Edgar Allan Poe, the Brontes, and Judy Blume and I realized that perfectly lovely people could write perfectly awesome stories about the dark side of humanity.  (Okay, Poe might NOT have been considered "lovely."  That dude was messed up!)

When I was twelve one of my short stories was published in the local...very local...newspaper.  I'd entered a writing contest sponsored by the local 4-H communities.  I was the only one who wrote a fiction story...something about summer camp, snotty girls, and horses.  

In eighth grade I developed a deep love for two newspaper columns:  Erma Bombeck and Ann Landers.  Erma is, even now, my hero because she took every day things and made them funny.  (My blog It Can Only Happen to Sarah! is my way of honoring her memory and the impression she made on my life.)  Ann Landers, with her advice column, showed me that people screw up, break hearts, do stupid things to each other and sometimes common sense and tough love is all that will fix it.

When I was thirteen I started writing my first novel.  This novel, these characters, would live with me
for the next thirty years and would eventually become "Lies in Chance."  But in my high school years, Bryan, Shara, Drew, Molly, they were my very best friends, and Rock Harbor was the place I lived because my real life was...less satisfying.  In my adult years, before I finally published the book, Those same people brought me through pregnancy, birth, debt, job changes, and depression.  Even now I return to Rock Harbor  (ala "A Hero's Spark" most recently) and visit my friends.

When I was twenty-one, inspired by a college course in children's literature, I took a correspondence course in writing children's fiction.  I got an A.  I wrote a murder mystery set in Upper Michigan that I'm still proud of.

What I'm saying is that books and writing have been a part of my life all of my life.  Books can take anyone to places they've never been and may never see.  I've never been to France, and certainly not during the Revolutionary period.  But I've read (yes, I've read the book) "Les Miserables," so a part of my brain has been there.  Iv'e never lived on a plantation in the Deep South in the days before the Civil War.  But I've read "Gone with the Wind" probably a dozen times, and I'm rereading it now.  

Books can be your best friends because books can show you that there are others out there just like you.  Judy Blume's books, escpecially, "Are you there God? It's me, Margaret." got me through one of the biggest life events a girl can go through.  And "Blubber," a book I read many times long after grade school, reminded me that bullying was evil.  (And gave me hope during the years when I was bullied.)

Cheaper than a plane ticket, more readily available than a time machine, books are never a bad thing to have.  My house would probably be six inches taller if it weren't for the shelves and shelves of books.  And now, with the explosion of self publishing and e-books, there are so many more stories, stories that would never have been available when I was growing up because the only books anyone read back then were books the publishing houses wanted us to read.  This is a golden age for reading.  There is, truly, a book for everyone out there.

Right now we are in the frenzy of the gift giving season and I could add my voice to the throng and say, hey, I have six books and a novella out there for your ready pleasure and if you want to check them out...CLICK HERE for Amazon and print...or click HERE for the Nook...or click HERE if you read your book on some other device, like Apple!  And look, there I did.  But books make a great gift any time.  There is never a bad time to give someone a book.

Want to give the gift of romance?  Give them a romantic book like
anything by Jane Austen or Adriana Trigiani's "Valentina" books.  Of course, you can also check out newer authors like Stacey Joy Netzel or Linda Schmalz or Kelly Moran!

Want a thriller?  Stephen King anyone?  J.A. Konrath, who is another personal hero, 

Need to go to another world where magic and mythical characters rule?  J.K. Rowlings, Tolkien, and yes, Stephanie Meyers.

Just want a homey book you can curl up with and never put down?  Billie Letts, and Jon Hassler should fit the bill.

So, after all the holiday parties are over, after all the presents are wrapped and unwrapped, after it's all over and we're in the doldrums of winter...pick up a book or a book reading device and give yourself or someone else the gift of magic, beauty, romance, adventure, travel, history, action, mystery, thrills, and new best friends.  Give the gift of a book.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

One song to sum it all up. We authors may be doomed.

Good afternoon!

It is often said that a picture is worth a thousand words.  And often that's the case, a picture can say, with one picture, what poets and authors try to capture in pages and pages of writings.  It's not a hard and fast rule, however, because if you're an English teacher trying to get kids to read books, you know that all the movies in the world do not capture the completeness, the poetry, or the essence of a book. I have two exceptions to that rule, but that's a different blog.  

4 hours,...fantastic costumes in
every scene...Scarlett has 1 kid.

1000 pages, tons of description and additional
characters...Scarlett has 3 kids.
Looking at one of my favorite books and movies, Gone With the Wind, I can tell you the experience is vastly different from book to movie.  Both great, (I'm currently rereading the book, and it's like a whole knew experience because it's been awhile.) Both quite different from each other.

Music, musicians, tend to be less like their poetic and literary cousins and more like painters and movie makers. Try listening to any masterful piece of music, from the "Hallelujah Chorus" to "Stairway to Heaven"  WITHOUT bringing images and colors and scenes to mind.  Could be why so many musicians in the last 40 years have written such completely indecipherable lyrics.  It's the image brought to mind, the snapshot memory, that makes a song so enduring.  Oh sure, "867-5309 Jenny" is a song most people of a certain age turn up (and not because they're getting hard of hearing.  I can hear just fine...I can....I CAN!  Wait, did you say something?)  But most of the time they turn that song up, sing along and picture themselves as teens, going to the nearest payphone...yes, there were these things called payphones where you put a quarter in and dialed a number and people talked on the other end of the line...and dialed that number.  Ah, memories.  For me it was some unsuspecting woman who may, or may not have been in Wisconsin.  We had fewer phone numbers back then,  Area codes were sort of cute things you used if someone lived on the other side of the country, not in your own state.

Anyway, I was reminded in church this morning, thanks to our hand bell choir, that there's one piece of music that so completely and totally sums up the Holiday/Christmas season, we storytellers need not put one more word on paper  (see, kids, back in my day, we wrote things on paper...with pens or pencils...or maybe we typed them....on a typewriter.  It was like texting, only with a machine that weighed 50 pounds and if you made a mistake you pretty much had to start all over again because everyone knows those ink removing pen erasers never worked.) which means, fellow authors, as far as Christmas is concerned, we might be doomed.

What is this piece of music?

Carol of the Bells

With or without the lyrics, it matters not.  The Carol starts out calmly enough...and then builds and builds and builds with layers of instruments or voices until it's a fever pitch threatening to spin right out of control.  Then, at the end, it returns to calm.

It's a much redone carol.  

The traditional vocal version.

The acapella version.

Solo piano?  Same music, Same frantic pace.

The amazing John Williams...from "Home Alone."
  You can almost feel the frantic season in the voices of the singers.

And then there's this one...probably the one we
all turn up in our cars.

I could go on there are hundreds of these on youtube.  But it's one song that IS the holiday season.  No need, really, for lyrics, although there are lyrics. All you need is an instrument, or maybe a bell choir, and you're set to tell the whole holiday season story again in under five minutes.

Can't put any of that on paper.

We storytellers, we writers, we authors....we may be doomed.

Nah...there will always be that group of people who say, "The book was better."

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Sneak peak Saturday!

Good morning!

I thought I'd share another bit of my most recent novel, A Hero's Spark.  Remember, books make a great gift!  If you want any of my books in print or for the Kindle, click here.  If you read your books on the Nook just click here! And if you read books on any device at all check out smashwords!

Meanwhile, enjoy this bit of A Hero's Spark!

The rain north of Green Bay fell mercilessly. By the time Collier reached the city limits of Rock Harbor, he was exhausted and unable to find the county highway address Archibald gave him. Collier eased the Mercedes into a muddy parking lot outside a bar called "Dirty Dog Dave's." He parked as close to the door of the hulking building as he could, and ran inside.
The inside of Dirty Dog Dave's was cavernous. The place seemed deserted, though the lights were on. Collier took a seat at the bar and tapped his fingers. "Hello?"
The only answer to his single word was the click of a handgun safety releasing. Collier stopped tapping his fingers, his blood frozen.
"Put yer hands on the bar where Ah can see them."
Collier squinted to the darkened end of the room, searching for the face to match the low, guttural voice and the completely fake Southern accent. He splayed his hands out on the dented bar, trying hard not to recoil at the sticky feel of the scarred wooden surface. "I'm not here to cause trouble. I just need directions."
"Ah'll just bet y'all do."
Despite the apparent danger he was in, Collier struggled not to smile. The hidden man's accent was simply too funny. "No, really. I'm trying to find Shara Jacobs' place."
As if his words were some sort of incendiary device, the man with the gun leaped from around the corner, and grabbed Collier by the collar. The man was enormous, and holding an even more impressive handgun. "Just what would y'all be wantin' with Miss Shara?"
“Oh, for the love of all that's holy, Dave, put that man down!"
Collier held his breath as Dave's grip on his collar tightened. He heard woman's quick footssteps behind him and in a beat a tall, beautiful woman the color of a perfect cup of mocha stood next to him.
"Chanel, now this doesn't concern y'all."
"It does when you're pointing a gun at a customer. Put that thing away and give the man dinner or something."
Dave didn't loosen his grip on Collier. "Chanel, this man is driving Mr. James' Mercedes. But look at him, he's no driver for Mr. James. So either he stole the car...or he stole the car. Plus, he's lookin' for Miss Shara."
Chanel turned her focus on Collier. "Did you steal Mr. James' car?"
"No." Collier tried to swallow, but Dave's enormous knuckle was in the way. "No, I'm his nephew."
"Ah don't buy it."
"You don't buy anything." Chanel frowned at Dave. "Look, Mister. Dave here just got his concealed carry permit and he's itching to use that beastly thing. If I were you, I'd say something a bit more convincing."
"My uncle, Archibald James, sent me here. I'm a..." Collier struggled for air.
“Oh, for heaven's sakes, Dave, put him down and let him talk."
Reluctantly, Dave released Collier. "Now talk...and Ah'd best like what you say."
"I'm a musician. I'm a singer, and my uncle thought I should work with Shara Jacobs. Said she's a client of his. He's letting me use his car because mine is back home."
"Where's that?"
Collier cleared his throat and turned a baleful eye on Dave. "Nashville. Tennessee. Where people have real accents."
Chanel burst out laughing. "Dave, you have to give this man free burgers for life or he may just blow your cover!"
Collier allowed himself a weak smile. "I don't want to blow anyone's cover or anything. I just...I'm looking for this address." He held up the piece of paper. "I can't find it in the rain."
"Of course you can't, Sugar." Chanel strolled behind the bar and filled a glass with beer. "Here you go." She slid the glass to Collier.
"Now just a minute! Since when do we give free beer to strangers?"
“Oh, about the same time we started pulling guns on people who show up looking for directions.” Chanel grinned at Collier. "Dave, you say one more word to this boy and I'm going to let him tell everyone that you've never been further south than Kenosha." Chanel turned back to Collier, her voice easing into a warm tone reminiscent of thick hot cocoa. "Now, go ahead and finish what you were saying."
Collier took a swallow of beer. "I'm a sort of traveling musician, but my band...broke up. So my uncle sent me here to do some recording work with Shara Jacobs. He said I could stay at her place."
"Probably means the loft."
Collier didn't miss the softening of Dave's features. "You know Shara Brandt Jacobs?"
Dave chuckled. "Know her? I discovered her."
Chanel clicked her tongue against her teeth. "You did not discover her, Dave. She had to beg you for months to let 'Teachers' Pets' play here, and you know it. Now, what's your name honey?"
"Collier. Collier James."
"Okay, Collier James, I'm about to open this place up for the evening, but I promise you, if you don't mind sitting here a bit and having the best burger you're ever going to eat, I'll see to it that someone gets you out to the Jacobs' place tonight." Chanel patted him on the shoulder.
“We’re giving him food, too? What, you’re trying to bankrupt me?”
“No, Dave,” Chanel rounded the bar and stood in the kitchen doorway, “I’m trying to keep him from suing us.”
Collier was amused by the couple. His initial fear of Dave melted. The smell of grilled meat emanating from the kitchen made Collier's stomach growl. "Ok, I guess I wouldn't mind a burger at all.”

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Sneak peak Saturday! A Hero's Spark

Good morning!  

I know I've been away a while...I'm working feverishly during this NANOWRIMO season to finish my newest novel, "Missing in Manitowoc."  HOWEVER, I thought I'd check in and just remind you all that I also have several other books you can read while you're waiting for that.  The newest one is "A Hero's Spark" which I published this spring.  Here's a tidbit of that!  Enjoy!

For more information about my books and my writing, check out my website: CLICK HERE!


What woke him, Collier didn’t know, but even in the haze of deep sleep, he knew he wasn’t alone in the loft. Someone latched the door quietly and stepped closer to the bed before turning on the overhead light.
            “Who’s there?” he called out as the light flashed on, momentarily blinding him. A woman’s scream pierced through the shock of light and he squinted in her general direction. He recognized the black hair immediately. Surprise mingled with confusion.“What are you doing here?”
            “I could ask you the same thing.” She held her bulky shoulder bag in front of her like a shield. “Who are you?”
            Collier shifted to sit up. She froze. “Don’t move. I’ve got mace in here.”
            “Calm down. I’m not going to move, since I’m pretty much naked here.” Collier grinned. “But you and I both know you don’t have mace.”
            The angry light in her eyes quavered, giving way to uncertainty. “How would you know what I have in my bag?”
            “Well,” he kept his voice calm, sensing she was more afraid than dangerous, “because if you had mace in there, you would have started spraying it the minute you realized there was a man in the room. That’s what I hear from most women, anyway.”
            She blinked away the uncertainty, her face settled into a mask of defensiveness. “Oh, and you know most women, do you?”
            “No, Miss, I don’t. But I’m pretty sure most women wouldn’t ask any questions before mentioning they have mace. So relax, put the bag down and tell me what you’re doing here.”
            “I’ve stayed here before.  I’ve worked with Shara.”
            “You’re trying to be mysterious. Why do I feel like you’re lying to me?”
            “Okay, well, I’ve lived here almost my whole life, and you’re a stranger. That’s enough mystery for me to call the cops. Give me one reason why I shouldn’t.”
            “My uncle said I could stay here and Molly Hunter brought me here.”
            She seemed less likely to want to kill him, but her countenance remained stony. “Who’s your uncle?”
            “Archibald James.”
            “The lawyer?”
            “You know him?”
            “Everyone knows about Archibald James.” She relaxed. “Okay, maybe you’re not a mass rapist.” She sat in the rocker. “But still, you can’t stay here.”
            “Why not?”
            “Because, I’m staying here.”
Collier chuckled. “I was here first. And, I’m not wearing pants.”
            “I’ll close my eyes. Get dressed, and get out.” Her tone was clipped, cold. Collier again sensed she was covering fear.
            “Why should I get out? I got here first. I was sound asleep, and you woke me up.” He gave her a small smile, hoping to soften the deep furrows in her brow.
            She shrugged. “Not my problem. You can’t stay here.”
            “It is your problem. I’m not leaving.” He grinned. “We could both stay here. It’s a big enough bed.” He patted the spot next to him.
            She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “Of course that’s what you want.” Her eyes flashed hot and angry.
            “It’s not what I want, Ma’am. I want to go to sleep. But if you have other ideas, well, I am from the South. We believe in accommodating women whenever we can.”
            She stared at him, and Collier doubted his humor was warming her attitude. Clearly, some sort of battle waged behind her emerald eyes.
Her face slacked into exhaustion. “I need to stay here.”
            Collier’s curiosity made him push the point further. “Well, I’m from out of town and have no place else to go. From what I hear, Miranda Pierce, you live in Rock Harbor which means you do have someplace else to go.”
            “Don’t call me that.”
            “Isn’t it your name?”
“Call me Mira.” A shadow crossed her face. “I’m not going to that house tonight. You can’t make me.” her voice held the echoes of a willful child. “And how do you know my name…oh, wait…”
            “Molly Hunter.”
            Mira nodded. “She knows everyone and everything in this town. Steer clear of her if you want to keep anything private.”
            “She didn’t strike me as a person who spread gossip.”
            “She doesn’t. She just knows everything. The potential is always there.”
            An interesting read on the lovely Miss Molly. “So the two of you aren’t grand friends then?”
            She leaned back in the rocker. “I try not to make attachments. It’s easier to leave if there aren’t any attachments.”
            “Sounds like someone who wants to run away.”
            “I’ve always wanted to run away. I feel like I’m running away from something every day of my life.”
            Collier wanted to be annoyed by her cryptic statement, but watching her face, he sensed it was probably the one completely truthful thing she’d said. Collier tried to assess her age. “You’re what, thirty? You’re old enough to go out on your own. What’s stopping you?”
            “I’m twenty-eight, thank you.”
            “Oh, that’s a huge difference.” Collier nearly laughed aloud at the wounded expression on Mira’s face.
            “I can’t leave because it’s complicated. But I can’t go home tonight.”
            The glimmer of true fear returned in her eyes. Collier relented. “Fine. Just go…go in the bathroom for a minute, let me get my crap together and I’ll go sleep on the hay downstairs.”
            “You want a blanket or something?”
            Her friendly tone annoyed him. “What, now that you’ve won the bed, you’re worried about me?”
            The softness melted from her face and her jaw line hardened. “Not really. I couldn’t care less about you having a blanket, so long as you’re not in here.”
            “Suits me fine. I’d rather sleep with horses than up here with you. Less shit to deal with.”
            “Oh, very nice. They teach you that language in the South where men are supposed to be so mannerly?” She glared at him as she stomped into the small bathroom and slammed the door.
            “No!” Collier yelled as he pulled on his jeans. “I learned manners just fine, because where I come from the women aren’t complete bitches!” He stuffed a few things into his duffle bag and slammed the door behind him, startling the horses in the stalls below.
            There was a blanket hung from a hook near a stack of hay bales. Collier spread the blanket over the bales and stretched out on the hay, thankful his years on the road in the Renaissance Faire circuit had toughened him. Staring at the ceiling, he watched the light that glowed from between small cracks in the loft floor. When the light switched off, he closed his eyes. Still, she is pretty.
            Pretty bitchy.

            Mira waited for Collier to settle downstairs. Within a few minutes, everything was still and quiet. She sat on the edge of the bed and pulled off her boots, letting them drop to the wooden floor with a loud thud. Collier’s muttered curse made her smile. She wasn’t sure why annoying him gave her pleasure.
            She stretched out on the bed, still warm with his body heat. She pushed her face into the pillow and inhaled his scent. It wasn’t unpleasant.
            Closing her eyes, Mira saw him again, sitting in the bed, shirtless, the sheet and blanket pooled at his waist.
            Also not unpleasant.
            She shook her head. Now is not the time to be thinking about a guy. No matter how good he might smell.
            She picked up her boot and tossed it in the air, giving it more velocity so that when it hit the wooden floor it sounded like a thunder clap. The sound of the horses below whinnying and rustling in their stalls didn’t cover Collier’s curses, this time spoken at volume she knew was meant to reach her ears.
            Mira smiled, closed her eyes, and went to sleep.

Remember kids, you can purchase A Hero's Spark and any of my other books in print or Kindle form by clicking HERE!  If you're a Nook user you can get my books by clicking HERE!  And if you get your reading kicks on any other type of device, you can get my books by clicking HERE!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Opening worlds one reader at a time.

Good evening!

Last week I was fortunate enough to participate in a WisRWA  (Wisconsin Romance Writers of America) event at the West Allis Public Library.  This was an event very outside my comfort zone because it involved me going someplace and talking to people about writing.  While I'm quite brave about my writing online, talking to actual humans is a completely different story.  We authors, we tend to be a tiny bit introverted.

One of my favorite episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond:
the AIS episode!
Anyway, event organizer and fantastic author Kat de Falla made very sure I was A.I.S. at this event and I'm really glad she did.  It was fun.  We got to talk to readers about writing, what we write, the writing process.  Plus, we got to give away books, and sign books and that, as you may know, is an author's high.

At some point in the evening an elderly gentleman wearing a large crucifix walked into the room.  I didn't think much of it because 1) it's a public library and different people are in and out of that place all the time and 2) I see people wearing crucifixes all the time.  It's nothing new for me.  The fact that he was a man and older was also not a big deal. Hey, men like reading romance, right?  Right?

Not quite as filthy as the cover...

Part of the evening involved drawings for free books.  The audience was encouraged to put their names in a basket and at random points the MC would draw a name out of the basket and then ask the person what sort of romance they liked to read.  (I have a feeling the first winner of the night was pretty disappointed.  She told the MC she liked her books "dirty."  He gave her a copy of Lies in Chance because the front cover has a girl who is covered in mud.  Ummm...probably not quite the dirty she was looking for.)

Anyway, at the end of the evening the MC drew one more name and it wound up being the gentleman's name.  We cheered and clapped and the MC asked the man to come up and get a book.

The man said, "First I'd like to tell you how I came to be in this room."

He then proceeded to tell us that his wife went to Heaven the day before Easter this year.  (And everyone said.....awwwwwwww....) and that he was very lonely and had promised himself that he was going to go where people were.  So he was raking his yard that evening and noticed a piece of paper in the leaves.  Turns out, he lives across the street from the library and the paper was our flier.  So he came over to meet people.

Insert slightly uncomfortable applause here.

So the MC asked what sort of books the gentleman liked to read.  Well, he said something about angels.  Then MC then handed him Kat's new book, The Seer's Lover.  Here's the description: 

For years, Calise Rowe has been able to sense unusual energy from people, making her believe she is different. Pulled into an ancient war raging for centuries between demon hunters and seers, she's about to find out she's right.

Her search for the truth leads her to Lucas Rojas, a seer of angels and demons who walk the earth shrouded from normal human eyes. He's hidden his gift for years and refuses to endanger Calise by sharing it with her.

In the sultry Costa Rican Jungles, their worlds collide. As their passion and desire ignite, so does the ancient war between demons and seers. Will their combined efforts be enough to save themselves and the entire human world, or will their new found love be their downfall?

Let's just say Kat's a bit concerned that perhaps the older gent looking for friendly faces might not be as interested in demon hunters and passion in a Costa Rican jungle.  But I tried to put a different spin on it.  Sure, a religious octogenarian male is probably NOT the first person to jump up and read a book like that, but hey, maybe, just maybe, he'll read it and a whole new world will open up for him.

Either way...he's never going to forget coming to a "night of romance" after raking his yard. 

Whatever the result, it was a blast of a night and I know WisRWA is planning more of these events around the state.  So if you're in Wisconsin, watch for it!  And if you'd like to meet some of the authors, check out WisRWA's website!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Wise words from the King!

Good morning!

So it's fall and all of my writing goals that were supposed to be hit in this season of color and falling leaves has sort of gone by the wayside.  I've been in a major funk, mostly because the books I was excited to write in the spring are not exactly sparking a fire under me.

I was attributing this to to the fact that in the whole wide world, no one seems to be buying and reading my books in the last several months.  I've been looking at my monthly sales and saying to myself, "why do I even bother?"

And so I haven't bothered.

And then recently I was trolling the internet for fun images to add to my website and I ran across some beautiful thoughts from Stephen King.   I read this one one the left here first and it dawned on me that he's right.  

When I started writing back when I was a young teen, I wasn't thinking about making money or any of that.  I was a desperately lonely kid who needed something to fill the hours left empty by a lack of a solid social life.  Also, I wanted to create a place where I controlled how the adults behaved and people actually liked me.  I hated all of my classes in high school, most of them at least, and writing was the way I was able to escape the world of the completely mundane and painfully boring.

College was a bit more fun for me, and far busier.  I mean, there were whole evenings devoted to seeing if I could fit into one of the driers in the dormitory.  (I could back then.)  But still, I managed to major in English and had more than one class that required me to tap into my creative side.

Marriage and young children filled my world for a few years and I set writing aside, but never completely let it go.  I found myself joining a writer's group through my local park and recreation department and that's when, finally, I started to think of writing as a profession rather than some beautiful dream or funky hobby. (I mean, it's a really terribly hobby if you think about it.  People who do counted cross stitch or woodworking can do it can do it while being social.  They have something to hang on a wall and say, "This is what I do in my spare time."  And unpublished author can't exactly hand a pile of paper to someone and say, "This is my novel."  There have been whole stand up routines dedicated to how weird writers are when they have an unpublished novel.)

So I started writing as a career and I had dreams of book signings and sales and making a career of this writing things.  And I birthed six books and a novella and I have worlds of stories rolling around in my head.  But I'm finding I'm not exactly filling the coffers with cash, and so for the last several months I've all but given up writing.  I mean, if people aren't buying my books, why should I write them?

And I've been horribly, wildly, desperately unhappy.

I've been a Stephen King fan since the day I read his book "On Writing" which is one part autobiography, one part a how to book on breaking into the writing world.  It's awesome and everyone should read it. So as I was trolling the internet for fun images, I found some amazing sound bites from Stephen King and I realized what was wrong with me.  

I'd forgotten why I started writing in the first place.

I didn't get into writing to be a world famous author.  Oh sure, every writer dreams of that day when we have lines of people waiting us and tell us how our books changed their lives.  But writers don't get into it for the money or the fame.  We get into writing because we have stories to tell, worlds to build, characters to birth, and we need to get all of this out onto paper or into a flash drive because if we don't, parts of us die bit by bit, day by day.

So I found snippets of wisdom from Stephen King that inspired me, lit a fire under me, and basically slapped me in the face and woke me up.  I write to tell stories and to entertain.  If people read what I've written and liked it, I'm thrilled.  But first and foremost I need to write for my own mental health.  
And authors, writers, we can't fear the stories inside us. Recently, as I finished the final draft for my newest novel, A Hero's Spark, I kept asking myself the question, "How wicked is too wicked for my villain?  Where's the boundary?"  Believe me, I pushed the boundary in that book as far as I could because the evil in that character was very real, and very horrifying.  

I do have to laugh because sometimes I get feedback from people who aren't all that worried about my feelings.  I work with a lady who read Lies in Chance  and HATED the ending.  HATED it.  And since we work together, she does find the ocassional opportunity to remind me how she hated the ending because, well, it wasn't sewn up in a neat little package.  Sometimes we bicker about it because our real jobs are sort of stupid and we'd rather bicker about my book.  But in thinking about the ending for that book I realized recently I have another book waiting to be written.  And that's why that ending wasn't a neatly sewn up package.    Now I have a writing project and the prospect of it all gives me joy.

So thank you, Mr. King. Thank you for reminding me why we write.  Sure, getting paid is great.  But writing for the sheer joy of writing...that's what keeps me healthy.

Friends, it's Friday.  I would suggest you head on over to my amazon page  or find me on Barnes and Noble or just hit my website and buy one or all of my books and read them.  I've worked very hard to tell interesting, exciting, romantic stories that will keep you entertained until the end.  But you know what?  If you don't, that's okay, too.  Because writing makes me happy, and I'm going to keep doing it and I'm going to keep sharing it.  Someday maybe I'll be famous, but for right now, this is enough for me.

One that note, I will tell you I'm going to be taking some time off of blogging. Those of you who read this blog know that I take part in the National Novel Writing Month every November, and this year I'm going to start early and see if I can't actually write a book and get it released between now and Christmas.  So if I'm not around for a while, that's what I'm doing, stay tuned!

Good things are coming!

Sunday, August 31, 2014


Good morning!

Several years ago (okay, more than 30) I started a book that eventually became my second novel, LIES IN CHANCE.  I loved those characters so much, mostly because they'd been with me just about all of my life.  An idea for a series of short stories about each of the characters has been in my brain for a long time, and I've been calling it "Songs from Rock Harbor."  Well, a few months ago, I completed the first novella, "Love is Elementary."  This is the romance of Drew and Joanna, two main characters from Lies in Chance.

As I delve into the second story in the series, hoping to get it finished this weekend, I thought I'd share a bit of "Love is Elementary" with you today.  (This is available on amazon, createspace, and for ALL reading devices on Smashwords (click here.)

I should tell you, this particular novella is definitely more of an inspirational romance than anything else.  While I don't write inspirational on purpose  (not yet anyway, but stay tuned!) I do stay true to my characters and those of you who have read Lies in Chance know that Drew and Joanna both have strong moral compasses and that the Rock Harbor community, especially the school teachers, are grounded in deep traditional values.  That said, drama still surrounds us, and as I wrote their story (something I really hadn't given a thought when I wrote Lies in Chance) I had to be true to them, their character, and their community.  


Drew set his brief case on the battered industrial sized desk and sighed. Not one often given to self-analysis, he wondered now if he should have his head examined.
          It was a good job. I left a perfectly good job, because I was an idiot about Rachel.  And now I’m the principal of…
          He looked out the window on the left side of the expansive classroom that now was his. Then he looked out the window on the right.
          I’m the principal of a cow pasture.
          He tapped the pocket of his dress shirt, a habit from his days as a collegiate smoker. No, you only get to smoke if you answer a really tough question.
          How about this? What the HELL am I doing here?
          “Careful, no swearing allowed here at Rock Harbor Community School.”
          Startled, Drew looked up from his reverie, eye to eye with possibly the most cheerful woman he had ever seen. “I’m sorry, did I say something?”
          The young woman at the door laughed. “No, but you sure looked like you wanted to. And from that dark look on your face, I’m bettin’ it wasn’t the Lord’s Prayer you had on your mind.” She crossed the room, walking right up to him without hesitation.
          Drew sighed. That’s right. I’m the principal of a practically parochial cow pasture now.
          “Joanna Huber. School secretary…and girls’ soccer coach…church organist next door at Rock Harbor Community Church. No affiliation to the school, except that everyone who lives in Rock Harbor attends services there.” She stuck her hand out.
          Drew took her hand in his, and was struck by how tiny her hand was. His hand felt like a massive paw covering hers. He shook her hand as gently as he knew how, afraid he might break it. “Drew, Drew Shepaski. I’m the principal, I guess.” He blinked, well aware that he must look like a thundering oaf to a woman so petite, so lively and so…pretty.
          “Well, if you aren’t, then you have some explaining to do to the school board!” She giggled, hiding her mouth behind her tiny hand, her dark blue eyes snapping with mischief.  “Let me show you around.”
          “Oh, okay. I mean, sure.”   If I stop saying words, maybe she will stop looking at me like I’m a moron.
          “Come on. It’s a short tour, but I promise you’ll drink some really terrible coffee at the end.” Joanna laughed again and led the way out of the room.
          “Well, only if it’s really terrible.” There, that seemed sort of funny.
          “It will be, I promise. The worst.” Joanna pointed to the rooms as they walked down the hallway. “First grade, that’s Tina. She’s the school art teacher. Don’t let her EVER make coffee if she’s done a project involving paste.”
          “Why not?”
          Joanne made a sour face and gave an exaggerated shudder. “Trust me. Oh, and Mrs. King teaches Kindergarten. She’s the pastor’s wife next door.”
          “We’ve met.”
          “Ah.” Joanna wrinkled her nose. “So you know. Bonus, she’s on the school board.”
          “Isn’t that a conflict of interest?”
“Some might think so, but no one questions Mrs. King.  Everyone’s pretty much afraid of her.” She kept a completely serious face for about a heartbeat and then burst out laughing. She pointed out several more classrooms, naming teachers and giving personal history about each teacher until they’d done a loop of the long hallway and were nearly back at his classroom.
           “So what, no fifth grade?”
          “New guy gets a gold star. Nope, we don’t have a fifth grade teacher just yet. Well, I mean we had one last year, obviously. But she got herself pregnant, and married…in that order.” Joanna’s eyes sparkled again as she cocked her head to one side, as if waiting for a response from him.
          Drew swallowed, unsure of what, exactly to say to this pert, pretty girl with the dark auburn hair that seemed to glow in the dim daylight of the hallway.
          Seemingly unphased by his lack of response, Joanna continued. “See, doing things backwards like that, that’s frowned on by the good families of Rock Harbor. Morals clause, you know.”
          Drew nodded. Weirdest thing I ever had to sign in a teaching contract. Felt like Sunday school with all the “You will not’s.”
          “So anyway, she moved away because…of the shame…” Joanna whispered the last words, her eyes sparkling with suppressed mirth. “And, here we are, mid July, hoping against hope that some teacher will magically drop out of the sky to fill the position. “ She shrugged.  “The sixth grade teacher is ready to take on two grades. Meanwhile, we wait.”
          Drew followed Joanna through the last door in the hall, the teachers’ lounge. This was a wide room that covered most of the very end of the building. The principals’ office, his office, took up the corner nearest the door, and was a sort of pass through room to his classroom. He glanced in the office, noting the partition windows in his office gave the room the feel of a guard shack at a POW camp.
          “Sorta like an air traffic controllers’ space, isn’t it?” Joanna picked up a coffee mug from the wide table beneath the window opposite of Drew’s office. “You can watch your classroom and the teachers all at the same time.”
          The description fits my line of thinking far better than yours. “It’s an interesting floor plan.”
          “The office was added way after these two rooms were built. This room and yours were actually the original school like a hundred years ago. Here,” she handed a steaming cup of coffee. “The office was added when this room became the teachers’ lounge and we realized that a principal might just need an office, like everyone else.”
          Drew held the coffee cup up, pausing before drinking out of a mug that looked more like a yard sale reject.
          “I know. Ugliest cups on earth. But what can you say? Everyone cleans out their kitchens and says, ‘Well, those nice teachers, they always need coffee cups.’  The result is we’re loaded with ugly coffee cups.”
          She sat down on a lumpy brown couch that also resembled many yard sales gems Drew recalled from his childhood. “Come on. You must have some questions.”
          Drew pulled a hard wooden chair up to a table loaded down with stacks of construction paper and jars of paste. He took a sip of coffee and nearly spat it out. “Wow…”
          Joanna laughed out loud as she stirred several teaspoons of sugar into her own cup. “I told you, terrible coffee.”
          “You drink this? Every day?” Drew ran his tongue on the inside of his mouth, trying to clean away the black, bitter taste.
          Joanna nodded. “Actually, with enough sugar and some of this,” she held up a canister of what looked like powdered coffee creamer. “It’s not quite as terrible. That and you’ll get used to it.”
          Drew doubted both points.
          Joanna sat across the table and took another sip of coffee. Leaning back, she was the very picture of someone completely at ease with herself.   Drew shifted in his chair, a bit uncomfortable as she took a long hard look at him. He wasn’t sure if from her unrelenting inspection or his system’s reaction to a second sip of the brutal brew.
          “You’re not much of a talker.”
          The last time I had anything to say to a woman, she rejected my marriage proposal. Doubtful I’ll be making that mistake twice.
          “You should probably know, Drew, I read your file.”
          The third sip of high octane black stuck in his throat. “You did…you what?” He coughed.
          Joanna put a hand on his arm then, and her face settled into an expression far older than her actual age. “Drew, a guy doesn’t leave a job like you did and come here for a simple change of scenery.”
          “Well, I did.”
          “Oh really. You got yourself a job teaching History your first shot out of college at the most prestigious private elementary school on the eastern seaboard.  Shoot, probably the most prestigious school in the country. You finish your masters, start on a doctorate. Couple years go by. You win all sorts of teaching awards. And then, in the middle of what pretty much every teacher on the planet would consider a rock star career, you pull the plug and take a job teaching at a very obscure parochial grade school in a tiny town in the armpit of Wisconsin.”
          “Just which file were you reading?”
          She patted his hand and leaned back, the smile and cheerful glow back on her face. “Okay, I didn’t see your file. I did a web search on you.”
          “Oh, nice to know my life is such an open book, at least on the internet.” And it’s time to change my name and move to an even more obscure place, obviously.
          “So why the turned around? Why take this job?”
          “I love teaching. “ He looked out the window. “I like cows. I was in search of the worst coffee in a teachers’ lounge.”
          Joanna nodded and laughed, but her eyes never left his and Drew shifted again, trying to break away from her direct gaze. “Drew, you do get that I’m like you’re right hand man, right? You’re teaching in the mornings, and I take some of your afternoon classes so you can be all principally.”
          “Wait, you’re a teacher?”
          “I love how the school board is so forthcoming with little things like duties and job descriptions.” Joanna nodded, still smiling. “Yes, I’m a teacher. Teacher, secretary, coach, we all do double and triple duty here, because of all the budget cuts. You’ll be coaching boys’ baseball in the spring…provided…” she frowned.
          The cloud cleared from her face and she smiled again. “Never mind. There are always enough kids for baseball. So unless you get a parent to volunteer for that duty, you’ll be coaching. Best brush up on your batting stance.” She raised an eyebrow at him.
          Drew didn’t want to stare too long at her, but he was certain there was quite a bit she was trying to communicate with him in that look. “Anyway, you were saying about my right hand man?”
“Oh right.  So I’m thinking we should be completely honest with each other.”
          Not likely. Sorry. “Fine.”
          “You probably think I already know everything about you right? And I should tell you a bit about myself?”
          “If you want.” He was amazed at the woman’s power to keep talking.
          Joanne giggled, a girlish, musical sound. “My story is simple. I’m a local girl. My father owned the only barbershop in town until he retired. He and mom tried living in Florida, but the humidity was too much for mom’s arthritis. They live in Arizona now. No brothers or sisters. Guess that’s why I talk to so much. No one told me to be quiet. I’ve wanted to teach here since I was in second grade. I’ve been here two years. I started out as the fourth grade teacher, but as things change, we all have to change with them.” She paused here, giving Drew that expressive look again that confused and interested him at the same time. Rested from her brief stoppage of speech, she continued. “I still live in my parents’ house, out near the highway, but I have a four wheel drive, so I get in here no matter how much snow falls, you don’t have to worry about that.”
          Snow might stop teachers from getting to school? How far in the country am I?   
“My favorite movie of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ “ She cocked her head to one side, chestnut locks falling low over one shoulder. “And no, in answer to your biggest question, I’ve never been in love.”
          Drew nearly dropped the coffee cup. “What? I-“
          Joanna burst out laughing. “I was just checking to see if you were listening! Guess you were.”
          And she’s the one I’m sharing a classroom with? Great…
          Joanna looked at her watch. “Oh, geez. I gotta go. Mrs. King wants to go over the music for the next six Sundays in church and if I’m late for that little summit, we’ll be stuck with her favorite version of “There is a Balm in Gilead,” extra tremolo on the organ settings.” She shuddered and wrinkled her nose again.
          “And that’s a bad thing?”
          Joanna gave him a quirky smile. “You’ll see if you go to services. It’s. The. Worst.” She wrinkled her nose again.

          As she scurried out of the room, Drew leaned back in his chair and watched her go. In the quiet left behind, he realized he liked it when she wrinkled her nose.