Hello From the Other Side ~ Darlene Kuncytes

It’s that time of year again, when ghosts and goblins roam the streets in search of treats... When the air is filled with that subtle hint of excitement at what you just might encounter along your way. 


I love Halloween. 

Maybe it’s because I’m an October baby, I don’t know, but I love all things spooky. I mean, who doesn’t love sitting around a roaring fire telling ghostly tales? 

It’s practically a rite of passage growing up.  Sitting under the streetlight in the summer, telling each other the urban legends we had heard, and swore were true because they happened to a friend of a friend who told them to you. lolol

I have always loved reading true stories of hauntings, and I simply can’t get enough of shows on the subject. (Hello Travel Channel!!!)
My interest might also be in part because of the few strange things that have happened to me. Although, who are we kidding? I have loved horror and jump scares for as long as I can remember.

So. This month I decided to share a few of them with you in preparation for All Hallows Eve! But…don’t worry, they aren’t scary. My scary experience with a Ouija board will have to wait for another time. 

This month I’ve decided to share some things that have happened to my sister and I, that were actually pretty comforting. 

It was about a month after we lost my mom. My sister and I were sitting in the living room talking about her, and about how quiet things seemed with her gone. My mother was a character and a half. She told it like it was, and had a sense of humor that would leave you in stitches. 

Anyway, we were just talking quietly about how much we missed her, and one of my dog’s balls, which was sitting in front of the television, rolled across the floor and between us. We sat there in silence as we watched it move across the floor and come to a stop, then just looked at each other in shock before smiling and agreeing that is was mom’s way of saying hello. There was no one near it, the dogs were all sleeping on the couch, no open windows. In fact, it was a thick, heavy rubber ball that you put treats in, so even if the windows had been open, it would have taken Dorothy Gale’s tornado from the Wizard of Oz to move it. 

The next incident was a few months after that. I came home from work to find my sister sitting at the kitchen table, white as a sheet. When I asked what was wrong, she handed me our cordless phone and instructed me to listen to the saved message. I did, but all I heard was what sounded like a group of people talking and laughing, as if a party were taking place, and I looked at her in confusion. 

Someone must have butt dialed. 

She said that she was at the sink when the phone rang. She was cooking and decided to let the voice mail grab it. After the usual 5 rings, it kept on ringing which she thought odd because it should have gone to voice mail. So, after a few more rings she grabbed it and heard what I had just heard. People talking and laughing. You couldn’t make out what we being said, but again, it sounded like a party. 

She may or may not have growled something not so nice into the phone before hanging up. lol

She was about to go back to cooking when she thought about our caller id. She looked up the number and kind of freaked when she saw it was our home number, and it said the person calling was my mother! The phone bill had never been in her name, so to see the number of our phone and my mother’s name show as the person calling was really, pretty crazy. 

After I got over my case of the shivers and thought about it, I decided that it as our mom’s way of letting us know that she was okay, and with those she loved. My mom loved people, and nothing on this earth made her happier than sitting around talking. 
We saved the message, but a day or two later, my sister tried to look it up again, and it was gone. No record of the call at all. 

These are just a few of the things that have happened, and whether you believe in the paranormal or not, I myself take comfort in and choose to believe that it was my mom letting us know that she was where she needed to be. 

So, this Halloween, just enjoy the feel of the season. And, maybe think that sometimes those we love can come back for just the briefest of moments to let us know that they are okay. 


Happy Halloween, everyone!
Dar


An author's life~by Joanne Jaytanie


As I previously mentioned in my last post, Never Say Never, I was invited to write in the collection, Christmas at Mistletoe Lodge with nine other incredible authors. We've all pulled together and promoted our collection for the past two months. Our efforts paid off, and the collection quickly made it into the Amazon Best Sellers lists. It’s been a real pleasure working with these women. I’ve learned a great deal from them, and I feel fortunate to have gotten to know each of them. I would join any one of them in future collections.



The Emerald City Writers Conference was held a week ago. Jacquolyn McMurray and I taught our first writers’ workshop. We discussed the pros and cons of writing in a collection. I would be remiss if I didn't say thank you to Jacquolyn for learning PowerPoint. It provided us with a great outline and a handout for the attendees.  




I attended Passport 2 Romance, hosted by Greater Seattle Romance Writers. This is my favorite event of the year. The event takes place in a hotel ballroom, and the line of readers waiting to get into Passport 2 Romance grows each year. What makes this event special is that authors are not allowed to sell. Everything we bring is to be given away. It puts everyone at ease and enables authors to chat with the attendees. 






The authors of the Christmas collection put together a huge basket and we raffled it off. The winner of the basket told me it weighed 31 pounds! 










This past Saturday, I attended my second book signing at the Kitsap Mall for National Book Month. It’s a nice feeling to meet local people and to chat with author friends that I haven’t seen much of lately. 



Best of all, I was thrilled and honored to be awarded the winner of The Emerald City-Greater Seattle RWA Best Blurb Contest for Published work with Salvaging Truth, Hunters & Seekers, Book 1.




The life of an author isn't just about writing. It's about networking, building friendships, learning, and giving back to the community. It's about celebrating our colleague’s wins and comforting a friend when they need extra support. Yes, writing is a solitary occupation, but it is also a community, and the friendships you build along the way are priceless.



Until next time…
Joanne

Real Life Influences What We Write ~ by Eric Lahti

photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org

I grew up in a trailer park on the outskirts of Farmington, NM. I’m
not gonna lie and say it was the greatest place on Earth. It was home and that was good enough.

We had a real rouge’s gallery of people that lived out there. For some, I suspect, it was an opportunity to get out of the hustle and bustle of Farmington, a town with a population of a little over 30k at the time. For others, it was probably the fact that trailers were cheap, and rent was cheap, and living out on the hill in a trailer they owned was better than renting any of the run-down apartments in town.

On one side of us, we had a guy who had the occasional party. Nothing too big, just some friends drinking beer and hooting it up. What made the parties interesting in a terrible kind of way was the fact that, no kidding, he’d go out and steal someone’s sheep for dinner.

Across the street was a guy that woke me up at 3 a.m. one morning screaming about how terrible the world was. Apparently, he’d gotten drunk as a skunk and managed to bounce his girlfriend’s head off the cement. She was out cold, probably massive head trauma. The cops and ambulance showed up and we never saw those people again.

But the sheep smuggler and skull smasher aside, the real bull-moose loony were our other neighbors.

Brett and Joyce used to have epic fights. The kind of fights that
rattled not only the windows in their trailer, but the windows in ours. They were experts at escalating, too. They’d feed off each other’s rage and amplify it in a massive feedback loop until the screaming was so loud it became pure white-hot noise.

On the nights when it got really bad, we’d see the back door of their trailer fly open and Joyce would fling one of Brett’s beloved beer steins out. Some bounced when they hit the back yard, others shattered. A few minutes later, the back door of the trailer would fly open again and Joyce would go sailing out. She’d hit the same rocky ground, get up, brush herself off, and go right back in again.

Then another beer stein would fly out the door. Then Joyce would fly out the door. Lather, rinse, repeat until they were both so exhausted they couldn’t keep the rage going anymore. In the morning, my mom and would I gather up the unbroken beer steins and put them on the rickety wood steps to Brett and Joyce’s trailer and life would otherwise go on as normal.

This wasn’t an every night affair, by any means. You’d have to be superhuman to do that level of fighting every night! But it happened. The SWAT team would show up, using our trailer as a wall, tactical gear and full-auto weapons trained on Brett and Joyce’s trailer and we’d just move to the other end of the trailer and keep our heads down until it was all over.

Eventually Brett and Joyce split up, which was probably a good
thing for everyone involved. She left, hooked up with some other guy and everything was quiet for a while. But the thing is, both of those two had learned to hate each other and they never let that go. Things finally came to a head when Joyce – after moving out and finding someone else – hired a hit-man to take Brett down. Brett survived because he happened to bend down to pick something up just as the shot was fired.

Joyce wound up in prison. Brett moved out. Things quieted down. It was just us and sheep smuggler and a whole bunch of people we didn’t know. Everyone kept to themselves and, other than the trailer down the block from us catching fire, things were quiet on our end of the park.

From the outside, that place was like a war zone. SWAT teams, sheep smugglers, hit-men, guys bouncing their girlfriend’s heads off driveways. Most people would see that as madness. I just saw it as something that happened and went about my business of riding BMX bikes and getting into the occasional fight. That, as far as I was concerned, was just what life was.

Now, here’s the really interesting thing. For all their screaming and violence, Brett and Joyce were fundamentally good people. She made the best tortillas in the world. He collected rare beer steins. They took care of me when I was sick, and my mom couldn’t stay home from work. Literally, anything you needed, they’d help out with. Our back doorsteps got rickety over time and we came home one day to find the sheep smuggler out there fixing them. My mom got sick and Joyce made her dinner and brought it over.

We, as a species, have a tendency to focus on the negative. Those
photo courtesy of en.wikipedia.org
people are fighting all the time? Must be bad people. He steals sheep for dinner? Bad person. Stay away. But people are just people. Unpredictable, dangerous sometimes, but ultimately they’re just people. And, no matter what anyone says, no one sets out deciding to be the bad guy that day. Even in the heat of the fight, when beer steins and wives are flying, no one thinks they’re the bad guy. As a species, we also have a wonderful ability to justify our actions to ourselves, flimsy though that may sometimes be.

It was that kind of early exposure to what most people would write off as the “criminal element” or “bad people” that shaped me. There’s that realization that people can be complete train wrecks one minute and ready to give you the shirt off their back the next. Or they try to tear each other apart one second and be the most gentle, reliable people you’ve ever met the next. People are just people. They do stuff and that stuff ain’t always pretty.

So, flash forward a few decades and I’m revising Brett and Joyce, a
photo courtesy of Pinterest
couple I haven’t even thought about in years, and wondering if they didn’t provide some kind of template for characters in my books. I don’t write about nice things. You can call it urban fantasy, you can call it crime noir... call it whatever you want, but I tend to have less-than-stellar good guys and I always strive for sympathetic bad guys. Because, just like Brett and Joyce, those bad guys are just people doing what they do. Be it revenge, power, freedom, whatever, the difference between good and bad has nothing to do with the want; it has everything to do with how they try to fulfill that want.

And that right there is the key to villainy. No one is evil all the time. From their point of view, they know what they’re doing, they’re doing the right thing. Be it protecting your beloved beer stein collection or destroying beer steins because he loves them more than he loves you, there’s always a good reason. Seen from the outside, especially when things and people are flying out the door, it may look despicable, but to make a truly believable bad guy you have to look a little deeper and have some sympathy. Maybe not sympathy for the action, but sympathy for the reasons behind the action.

Eric Lahti is a writer of paranormal crime fiction. He currently
Author Eric Lahti
lives in Albuquerque, NM where he works as a programmer, studies Kenpo, and lives with his wife, son, and two basset-hound mixes that think they’re the toughest dogs in the world. You can connect with Eric at the links below.
BLOG 

Autumn in New York ~ by Jennifer Daniels


Today is a beautiful Fall day, a time of the year here in the

Adirondack Mountains where things change. I love the changing colors of the leaves. This year it started off looking like we had a lot of reds but now most of the foliage is orange. I love the cooler nights and the warmer days, but as October is passing us by, we are needing a sweatshirt most days. I also love the smell of the air, it's so crisp and fresh, odd considering the leaves are now falling to the ground. Fall makes me so excited because I know my favorite holiday is just around the corner. (Sorry, but I love Christmas!)

The other day my son had a doctor’s appointment and on the way
home we decided to stop and take some pictures. This road we
travel often so we knew it was the perfect place. There is even a cute little babbling brook. It was so pretty to see the colorful leaves slowly falling around and floating downstream. The water sounded so peaceful as it lazily took the leaves on the water current, depositing them elsewhere.



When you take the time to stop and enjoy the moment, you really find so much in what you see. My son found a little rock wall right next to the brook up on the bank. Of course, his mind went straight to how cool that would have been to have had a fort there when he was younger. And as he's talking, I was thinking you would never  have played near this water… Nevertheless, we had a nice car ride home enjoying nature.

Today, I was outside with my pup, Kera, and it’s another gorgeous
day out there... Sunny and warmish--around sixty degrees, perfect for a long sleeve shirt. Peaceful. I live on a dirt road so I have very little traffic. As we walked around the yard, I couldn’t believe how many trees were leaf-bare in just one week. Yet everything is so colorful with all the leaves laying peacefully on the ground.

Many people go for drives up to Whiteface Mountain, in Wilmington, NY. It’s one of the highest peaks of the Adirondack Mountains and the summit has a 360-degree view of the Adirondacks. It’s a gorgeous site to behold. In the winter months that is where most people go to ski, but the drive alone is amazing.

So, with that, I leave you with the peace of Fall and wish you all a very beautiful and very spooky Halloween.



Recipe of the Month ~ by Grace Augustine

I don't know about you, but my cookbook collection is crazy! I
One of my treasures!
have crock pot cookbooks, dessert cookbooks, soup cookbooks, cookbooks from the many different energy companies (yes smaller towns in Montana and Iowa have local energy companies that put together recipes in book form and offered them to their customers when they went into the office to pay their bill) in the cities I've lived, as well as the very best of cookbooks...church cookbooks. Those church ladies sure know how to make food!


I thought it would be fun, now that autumn has arrived and winter is around the corner, to share with you some of my favorite seasonal recipes. These are tried and true go-to's whenever you need a simple, hearty meal, or a delicious dessert to share. 

photo courtesy of Simply Recipes
Since October is National Pork Month, I thought I'd share with you my recipe for Hawaiian Ham Balls.

Ham Balls

2 lbs ham loaf (purchase at your meat counter--or you can substitute 1 lb ground ham and 1 lb ground lean pork)
1/4 C cracker crumbs (can use gluten free bread crumbs)
2 eggs, beaten
1 C milk (or unflavored almond milk)

1 large can pineapple rings (drained, save juice for sauce)

Sauce

1-1/2 C brown sugar
1/2 C white vinegar
1/2 C pineapple juice (from can of pineapple)
1 tsp dry mustard

1. Place drained pineapple slices in a 9" x 13" glass baking dish.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
3. Mix meat, crackers, eggs, and milk and form into balls. Place on top of pineapple rings. (Meat mixture will be a bit "wet")

4. Mix sauce ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil and boil for 2 minutes. pour over ham balls and baste occasionally while baking.

5. Serves 8 and goes well with wild rice or mashed potatoes.


To read more of my blog posts, please click HERE


Sew Bee It Sans Electricity ~ by Mayr Boros

I’m totally into electricity. What would I do without it? Electricity makes my life convenient--the use of a laundry machine, refrigerator/freezer, a good stove, a furnace for my home, the ability to easily recharge my computer, phone, etc. is something I value.

Growing up, I experienced periods of living without electricity. Before Dad bought us our copper colored electric washer and dryer, I was allowed to go down to the river and get water for washing clothes in the summer. In the ‘60’s, many summer week-ends were spent clearing land and building a cabin without electricity or running water. When it was finished, kerosene lamps lit our evenings. Mom cooked over the fireplace. And I learned about the loveliness of a stack of sticky gooey marshmallows cooked over the embers left from dinner.

But, I never enjoyed rustic living, and by the time Sunday rolled around, I couldn’t wait to get back to our modern house. I could grab something to eat from the refrigerator. I could play one of my two ‘45’s on our stereo. More important, I could sew using my Mom’s coveted Free Westinghouse electric sewing machine.

Over the years, I began to collect sewing machines. They were all,
of course, electric. Some had electronic components which included built-in embroidery capabilities. Those machines provided and still provide hours of creativity and entertainment.

Then in the midst of a rather bleak and unhappy Minnesota winter in Coon Rapids, I began, out of boredom, to scour eBay for used sewing machines. I purchased a Swiss made Elna machine, identical to one that I already had. Disappointed that the machine did not work properly, I realized that anything I bought on line would be risky. But, I continued to look.

Somehow, I turned my eBay browsing into a search for a hand crank, non-electric sewing machine. So many choices! And so much history--of the machine itself and of its users. My mind wandered. Where was the machine made? How was it used?

My wandering mind went even further. Did you hear the one about the two hand crank sewing machines waiting to be adopted? If sewing machines could only talk…

“Hey, I heard she’s looking for a good non-electric hand crank,” said the graphite crinkle finish machine to the shiny black model.

“Oh yeah? “said the glossy machine, spit polishing his backside.

“Yeah. And I’m a strong contender. You know, I’ve got that locked in tension, smooth cranking ability and I can sew through just about anything," said one machine to the other. “And I do have the original historical shuttle bobbin which provides a lot more history than you ever will.”

“Well, youth is in these days. She’ll probably like my shiny black
exterior much better than your dull grey. And since my conversion from electric to hand crank, I can also sew through almost anything. Though, I am a bit tense at times, especially with those soft, breakable vintage threads some people use.”

“I think she’ll flip for my unique shuttle bobbin. And, I’ve never been a traitor to my vintage nature like you, you hand crank convert. I’m an original, never electric, dyed in the wool hand crank machine. So, excuse me while I oil up and polish all my grey crinkles.”

That, was the beginning of my collection of old, worn out looking, previously used by who knows whom, for whatever reason, hand crank antique sewing machines. It’s as if the disdain I felt all my life toward anything old melted away. I quickly became a contented hand crank convert.

I am a fan of electricity. In fact, I take it for granted that it will always be available. But, what if, on any particularly bleak day the electricity goes out for hours at a time? I could use a cooler to keep my almond milk cool. I could hand wash my clothes and then hang them up to dry. I could make a hot meal on my gas stove. 


Most important, I could continue to take even the smallest scraps from my fabric stash and do one of the things I love to do best--sew. That’s right. I would use one of my two antique hand crank sewing machines and I would be completely content, even on a dark rainy day or at night when there is nothing but candlelight available. What about you?

By the way, I recently purchased an electric Free Westinghouse sewing machine similar to the one I grew up using. Ah, heaven on earth--truly.

Mayr Boros, (RDN, LD) semi-retired Registered Dietitian
Mayr Boros
Nutritionist from St. Paul, MN is the author of The Dance of Creation: Labyrinths of Healing Prayer and Art  (2014, Good Ground Press),  and Lillian Fontaine, a short murder mystery recently published in Cooked to Death, Vol. IV,  Rhonda Gilliland, Editor, 2019.  

Mayr has written for numerous publications including: Face Aging Minnesota, church newsletters, professional trade journals, Women’s Press, and in her 30’s was talent for a cable television spot that featured nutrition.  

She is the founder of A Bear and Prayer, which distributed hand-made teddy bears to many children and adults over a ten year period. 

Mayr is currently studying creative writing and is working on a series of children’s stories that feature baking as a way to connect the generations.  She loves sewing, painting with watercolors, walking, and spending time with her two daughters. Her cat, Twinkle the Torte Wonder Cat, runs the house. You can connect with Mayr by clicking the link below.

Schnauzer Schenanigans (Sic) by Ruth Ross Saucier


In 1977 we bought a ‘40s bungalow in Seattle. It was small and decidedly a fixer, but it came with a classic knotty pine basement, two small bedrooms, and a large yard. The floors were adorned with gold shag carpet in the living room; gold, orange, and brown indoor-outdoor carpet (glued down) in the dining room; and green linoleum with gold flakes in the kitchen. Ghastly.

However, under the carpet-of-ages we discovered solid oak floors that were a good four inches deep and untouched. A do-it-yourself project was born.

Schnauzers are the enemy of all carpets, and it was past time that the gold shag and indoor-outdoor carpet got pulled out.  The job was disgusting and sneeze-inducing.  But the worst job was mine: removing the glued-down indoor-outdoor carpet was a nightmare.  Every square inch required convincing.

The next day we started the sanding and the cleaning and on the third day, our goal was two layers of polyurethane in one day. I plead youth and stupidity. But by 9:00 the living room, dining room, and hall floors had two coats of polyurethane. We were exhausted, starved, and cramped up, despite our youth.



The Gang of Six schnauzers had been cooped up most of the day. We let them out for a potty run and then shut them back into a room with a dog gate while we drove three blocks to the closest local restaurant for a quick dinner. 

When we returned at 10:00, they had broken out.  First time ever. Dog gates had ALWAYS worked until that night.

The entire floor was still very lightly sticky-damp with the last coat of polyurethane, but it now had a distinct furry footprint pattern. The little meatheads had broken through the gate, scampered everywhere over the sticky floors, and were now acting ashamed and cowed, their very furry paws all stiff and sticky.

Exhausted, we tried washing their paws, but the fur was dry, stiff, and prickly; we ended up trimming them (all 24). The dogs then went on lockdown and we rushed to save the floor by the quick addition of a third coat of poly while the second coat was still damp.*  Our own footprints didn’t help, but the tactic worked.  

The floors were finished by midnight. . . and so were we.

*(The floors turned out great. We were terrified that if we let it dry, the imprints would not even sand out unless we completely obliterated the two coats that we’d struggled all day to finish.)

AUTHORS RISE TO UNIQUE CHALLENGE! by Kim Hornsby

If I asked you to write a story that has a Christmas Romance and includes a fictitious Mistletoe Lodge anywhere in the world, what would you imagine your story to be?

There are millions of possibilities! 

I asked a bunch of author friends to join me on this never-done-before journey to write a new book for a Christmas Box set and nine of them said “YES!” We decided sometime in August to all write in a Mistletoe Lodge to our book, each one unique and special in it’s magic of the holiday season. Originally, we thought about each story having the same Lodge in the same location but that just seemed impossible to pull off in two months so decided instead to all use the idea of a Lodge at Christmas time with a wonderful Romance story. The challenge to write a book in two months began.




With ten stories of love under the mistletoe, kisses by the Christmas tree, cookie baking and walks in new fallen snow, the book set is sure to warm your hearts. (Unless Ba Humbug is how you view Christmas.)

I love Christmas and it’s a good thing because I write Christmas Romances year-round. One of my Christmas books/screenplay is going to Hallmark this week to be approved as a movie for next year! I can’t announce much yet but it’s looking very good for Christmas in Crystal Creek.




Conference Organization ~ Lexa Fisher


Who knew you could learn so much by volunteering!? This is my fifth year volunteering in the organization of a local writers' conference, and my first year as committee chair for registration. My friend Joanne Jaytanie also mentioned our conference in her recent post.


Though registration for the annual October conference opens every June1st, preparation begins in April with committee planning meetings. 




My position on various committees provides learning opportunities that I don't have in my day job. Public speaking in a friendly, welcoming environment, and event coordination are two I especially enjoy. But one opportunity I haven't been grateful to learn is Mail Merge in MS Word. I never want to hear that term again! 😅 Anything except a very basic spreadsheet taxes my abilities.


Everything ready to go into registration packets.
Before conference, several of my colleagues gather to create order out of the chaos of materials that go into registration packets. Not only do many hands make for light work, but extra sets of eyes double-checking helps make sure there are fewer errors encountered during registration.


On opening day of the conference everything comes together as we welcome attendees. The registration desk is the first place everyone heads for to pick up their registration materials and ask questions. Where do I get coffee? How can I change my pitch appointment? What time is dinner?
Ready for showtime!


One quickly learns the value of volunteers, as my chapter mate Aedyn Brooks pointed out in her post, The Value of Volunteering. Committee chairs need their co-chairs and the attendees who volunteer to help during conference. A big thanks to everyone who pitches in!

Emerald City Writers' Conference provides a welcoming venue to meet new people, learn about the craft of writing, and pitch a story to agents or editors. There are many repeat attendees who volunteer to match up with newcomers to answer questions and make sure first-time attendees have someone to sit with at dinner.

It's a lot of fun in just 2.5 days, but by the end of the weekend my brain is ready for a day of recovery before I step back into the real world.
















Meet Our Members ~ Grace Augustine


Author, Editor, and Artist
Grace Augustine


A native of Montana, Grace has never lost her love for the mountains. On any given day, she will randomly post photos from the Glacier National Park webcams, sharing the beauty of the Rockies with her friends and family.

Her background in administration and journalism has taken her on several journeys including in the fields of title and abstracting, chiropractic, owning a weekly newspaper, church administration and she's even delivered a sermon or two.

Grace began an editing business several years ago because "every book I picked up had errors" and she wanted to help authors put out the best products possible. She is also a top ten selling Amazon author with her book SO YOU HAVE MS. NOW WHAT? her personal journey with Multiple Sclerosis.  With twenty books published and more in the works, she plans to write until she can't.

You can find out more about her artwork and novels by clicking the links below.

MEMBER PAGE

ARTWORK

EDITING WEBSITE

PERSONAL WEBSITE

Never Say Never ~ by Joanne Jaytanie


I've been crazy busy the last two months, and I veered off my writing schedule for the year. But, I didn’t do so lightly. I weighed the pros and cons and thought it was well worth the left turn. One could even say that I didn’t take a sharp turn, rather a slight bend. 




I was invited to take part in a Christmas collection with a fantastic group of authors. And, if you look closely at my very professional list and read #7, it says Christmas book 3. 







For the last two years, I've wanted to do another Christmas story, but I never made the time. It worked out that the theme of our Christmas collection: Christmas at Mistletoe Lodge couldn’t have been a better fit for Forever Christmas in Glenville, book three, Christmas Chemistry.



The cover turned out perfect. It always does when Linda Boulanger designs it. The special part is the Doberman. It's my beautiful girl, Maya. I still remember the day I took this photo, she was chasing snowballs. It was a perfect moment.




I was nervous that I wouldn’t make the deadline – two deadlines on the same day, but I made them. I stuck to my writing schedule, and more importantly, I have an editor that is always there and willing to take on my next project. I took care of my new puppy – Mazie, just in case you haven’t heard 😉 and made dinner. Everything else took a backseat, and I made my deadlines!! 

A few weeks before being invited into the Christmas collection, I committed to a different type of story with the authors of Romance Books 4 Us. Each author in the book is writing their own serial or episodic story for Soldiers of Fortune or SOF. Volume 3 of SOF releases on October 15th, and it's the part 2 of my story, Dogs of Fortune.

I hadn’t included dogs in either of my last two books, Salvaging Truth or Twice As Bad. I think I was having withdrawals. Christmas Chemistry is Gina's story, and she's been in love with Dobermans since the day she started working at Forever Christmas, in Christmas Reflections, book 1. So, along comes Angel and the two are nearly inseparable. And Dogs of Fortune – well, doesn’t the title tell it all? It has dogs! Blair Sellick is a well-known dog trainer with exceptional skills. Some, like Zane Kelly, might even call her psychically enhanced.

So, if you haven’t seen me around the watercooler (otherwise known as FaceBook) much lately, now you know why. I've been WRITING. I love it, I do. I certainly wouldn't want to try and keep up this pace for an entire year.

This is the first time in over two years that I've written in a collection with other authors. I'd said that I wouldn't do multiple-author collections again because they pull me away from my writing goals. I have my reasons for the choice to do so this time…What were they? If you want to know the answer to that question, you must attend the workshop I’m co-teaching with my dear friend, Jacquolyn McMurray, this Friday at the Emerald City Writers Conference or ECWC. What’s the workshop? Participating in a Collection: Pros and Cons. We chose this topic back in February, and I already had my year planned out, or so I thought.

Kinda ironic, wouldn't you say? Yep, that's my life.

I'm beyond thrilled and honored to be a finalist in the ECWC Best Blurb Contest! Thank you, judges!



Until next time…
Joanne




Choosing Historical Fiction ~ by Author DK Marley


I am sure my story is not unique among writers. We all have that little itch that begins in childhood (at least that is when mine started) of telling stories, creating imaginary worlds, falling down rabbit holes, and the like. Alice and I were kindred spirits, skipping through the woods behind my grandparent's house, lost in a world of our own.

My childhood imaginings later developed into writing around middle school. The book that truly got me thinking about writing something of my own was Green Mansions by William Henry Hudson, as well as an insatiable appetite for all the books of Victoria Holt.

During my first year of High School, I started my very first novel. I think about that story now and cringe, but also smile to see how far I have come on my writing journey Oh, how I have learned and continue to learn, which is how it should be for a writer in any genre. For me, a writer needs to be a voracious reader, which I am to my own detriment sometimes because I have to remind myself that I need to get back to own stories.

The choice to become a historical fiction author felt so comfortable when I finally started finding my voice in the late 1980s. I wrote a novel back then of a young girl growing up in Kashmir during the British occupation, right before the Indian Mutiny, who was half Indian and half British. When I started doing the research for the novel, I knew then where I needed to be. Researching historical people and events found a home in my heart and in my novels.

That manuscript still sits on my shelf waiting for awakening. Perhaps, one day.

In 1997 is really when I started finding my voice as a writer for that
year was my very first visit to the UK. I dove into the history, toured every historical place I always heard about and dreamed about, especially anything having to do with William Shakespeare.

All those years ago, when I was that little girl creating worlds in my mind, my grandmother, an English Literature teacher, sparked my interest in literature and Shakespeare at the burgeoning age of eleven. She gave me her college textbooks and I finished reading both from cover to cover within a few months. My mind blossomed with the words of the Bard, Milton, Marlowe, Jonson, Sidney, and on and on... So when I visited the places in 1997, I knew a story was begging to be told. I just needed to find the right one.

During the trip, I visited the Globe Theatre in Southwark, and it was here that something spoke to me. A pair of eyes looked back at me from a display in the museum at the Globe, almost begging for me to tell his story. I started researching the relationship between Kit Marlowe and William Shakespeare, about the authorship question, and the rest is history.

Since that faithful day, and after years of writing, and editing, and
rewriting, and crying, and almost giving up; then going to an amazing writer's retreat and finding some incredible mentors, my first novel saw the light of day.

I published "Blood and Ink" (the first edition was only ten copies 
for my family and friends in 2010). The reaction was not what I hoped for and as a newbie writer, my heart broke. I gave up writing for five whole years. For five years, the itch never left me, but I never scratched. And then, tragedy struck our family. In February of 2015, a drunk driver took the lives of my daughter and son-in-law. In a flash, everything changed.

During my attempt to find a way to cope with the unbearable grief, I started a journal to my daughter, telling her things I wanted her to know as if we were still having conversations on the phone. A grief counselor told me that I needed to use this outlet as a way to heal. Writing burst back into my life at the moment I truly needed it. The release of writing the actions of my characters, the arc of the story, and the way the story ends gave control back to my life in a most unexpected way. Even the decision to self-publish empowered me.

Too many things were out of my control - the loss of my precious children, the day-to-day waking up with the emptiness and depression, the dealing with a callous unrepentant wrongdoer in the court case against the driver - so writing is healing me.

I will never be the same, of course. I am forever in that club now, a club I never wanted to be a part of, but it is what it is. Writing gives me a voice and writing about historical people and the past gives me the chance to connect with the past. Through the generations and centuries, we touch those now gone, we hear their voices, when we write historical fiction. Who knows, perhaps one day I will write a story for my daughter; but for now, to continue the legacy my grandmother gave me is enough. One day at a time, one word at a time, we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past (my favorite line from F. Scott Fitzgerald).

D. K. Marley is a historical fiction author specializing in Shakespearean themes. The "Shakespearean Madeline Miller", if you will. She is a true Stratfordian (despite the topic of her novel "Blood and Ink"), a Marlowe fan, a member of the Marlowe Society, the Shakespeare Fellowship and a signer of the Declaration of Intent for the Shakespeare Authorship Debate. Her new series titled "The Fractured Shakespeare Series" adapts each legendary play into a historical fiction novel. She has traveled to England three times for intensive research and debate workshops and is a graduate of the intense training workshop "The Writer's Retreat Workshop" founded by Gary Provost and hosted by Jason Sitzes. She lives in Georgia with her husband and a Scottish Terrier named Molly. You can get in touch with her via the links below.


Handcrafting music ~ by Kristine Raymond

Music has always been a part of life.  You know those scenes in movies where the mom and kids dance around singing their favorite songs?  Yeah, that happened in my house.  The stereo was alive from sunup to sundown and if Mom wasn't playing her vinyl, then the radio was on.  In addition, both my sister and I took piano lessons - she excelled, I barely learned the scales - and I sang in my school chorus from seventh grade through eleventh. 

What intrigued me, though, was my Dad's guitar, mostly because I'd never seen him play it.  It was a basic acoustic instrument, nothing fancy, and sat in a corner of the basement, its strings untouched.  Every once in a while, he'd let me pick it up, my fingers producing a horribly out of tune racket in my attempt to make music.  When I left home to begin my own life, he gave it to me, but I never learned to play and eventually sold it in a yard sale.  (Man, I wish I'd hung onto it - but that's another story.)

Fast forward a a few years.  How lucky was I that the man who became my husband shared my love of music?  Not only that, his fascination with guitars rivaled my own.  It wasn't long before he bought one.  There's just something about having a musical instrument around - any musical instrument - that adds a homey feel.  Kind of like having a fireplace.  But I digress.  
 
Copyright © Kristine Raymond
A second acoustic guitar soon followed the first, then an electric model with an amp.  To date, I think we're up to eight, including a classical guitar.  Or is it nine?  I've lost count.  And there's a mandolin in there somewhere, too.  (Funny thing to note is that I still don't play - we both took lessons a few years ago and, as with the piano, I struggled to learn scales.  I'm definitely less musically-inclined than I'd like to be.)  The hubs, on the other hand, picked it up right away and is quite talented.  He'd play all day long if he could.  

Copyright © Kristine Raymond
Another of his passions is working with wood and, recently, he combined the two.  Cleaning up the yard not too long ago after a storm, he picked up a tree branch and an idea formed.  (Isn't that how it happens?)  Cutting a manageable-sized chunk, he brought it inside and set to work, chiseling and shaping and sanding, then hand-polishing his creation with beeswax and mineral oil to a satiny finish.  

Voilà!  A handmade guitar pick.

Copyright © Kristine Raymond
Not only are his picks beautiful, they're functional, and produce a lovely tone when stroked against an instrument's strings.  He's been experimenting with different varieties of wood - the ones in the pic below are made from black locust.  (Check out the one shaped like an arrowhead.) 
Copyright © Kristine Raymond

There's nothing better than tapping into your source of creativity and letting it take you places you never imagined.  In my case, it's crafting new worlds with words.  In my hubs' case, it's crafting music with wood.

Note - if you're interested in owning one, please contact me for pricing.

Genre Hopping ~by Author Marci Bolden



Many authors have a favorite type of book to write and stick with it. Me? I’m a bit more like a squirrel that ate an entire filter of barely used coffee grounds. My brain goes all over the place and is nearly impossible to control. I fall into the category of the genre hopper. I started my writing career in erotica, moved on to contemporary romance, dabbled in paranormal, dipped my toes into thriller. Now, after lots of research, interviews, and a week spent at the Writers’ Police Academy I’m diving into the romantic suspense pool.
Many authors bounce from genre to genre. While I can’t speak for them, I tend to switch things up because I follow what my characters are telling me to write. When I’m starting a new series, I rarely set out to write something for a specific genre. That’s probably a dangerous practice, but it is one that has worked well for me and lets me flesh out the characters and stories without worry of fitting into the boundaries of certain genres.
I didn’t intend for this to be a series, when I started writing these characters about three years ago, but I absolutely fell in love with these ladies. They are tough as nails, tender when they need to be, and always ready to kick butt.
The series started with Holly Austin being the victim of a crime and her boyfriend Jack trying to solve it, but quickly morphed into Holly being a badass private investigator leading the case. I knew before I was done that Holly was going to be the “hero” of the book. I wanted this focused on how strong women are. That doesn’t mean I’ve emasculated the men, not even close.
Holly and Jack are equals in every way.
Before I was finished, I knew I had to write books for the rest of the women on Holly’s team and my dabbling into romantic suspense became a six-book series!
The Women of HEARTS series is a bit darker romantic suspense. The cases aren’t cozy or easily solved. The reality these women live in can be tough, violent, and dangerous. But so can they. I’m so excited to introduce you to Holly Austin, Eva Thompson, Alexa Rodriguez, Rene Schwartz, Tika Brown, and Samantha Turner. With a diverse background in military, police, and professional training, the women have joined forces to make the world—or at least their town—a safer place.
I am so excited for this series and I hope you are too!
Hidden Hearts: Women of HEARTS Book 1 will be available October 15 and Burning Hearts: Women of HEARTS Book 2 will be following up on October 29.


Former Army Sergeant Holly Austin and her team at the HEARTS agency don’t normally find the police at their door. But it’s been weeks since a local woman vanished into thin air…and now there’s a second victim.

Police Detective Jack Tarek wasn’t officially working the Julia Fredrickson case until a second victim made the matter personal. Holly is willing to cooperate with Jack “unofficially,” but she quickly becomes a distraction he can’t resist. The leads on their cases might be running cold, but the attraction between the investigators is sizzling hot.
With every lead a dead end, those close to the investigation grow increasingly impatient for answers. Just as hidden secrets come to light, one of the investigators vanishes without a trace. The HEARTS team has just hours to solve the case—or risk losing one of their own.

After a spycam is discovered in a secure community, the
homeowners association hires HEARTS to track down the culprit.Investigator Eva Thompson fits the description of every victim so far and volunteers to move into a vacant condo to draw out the suspect from within. But until they know what’s behind the peeping, no one feels safe sending Eva as a decoy alone.
Joshua Simmons is Eva’s ex and the one man she can’t quite escape. As the county medical examiner, he frequently consults with HEARTS and cases—and uses that connection to keep close to the woman he’s still not over. When Eva needs a fake husband to work alongside her as a decoy, Josh agrees on one condition: that Eva won’t do anything to put herself in harm’s way.
Living together stirs up old feelings and old passions. And while Eva and Joshua try to sort out their demons, a voyeur is on the loose and getting braver by the day.

About Marci Bolden
As a teen, Marci Bolden skipped over young adult books and jumped right into reading romance novels. She never left.
Marci lives in the Midwest with her husband, two teenaged kiddos, and numerous rescue pets. If she had an ounce of will power, Marci would embrace healthy living but until cupcakes and wine are no longer available at the local grocery store, she’ll put that ambition on hold and appease her guilt by reading self-help books and promising to join a gym “soon.”

To learn more about Marci you can find her here:




Thanks for the Reminder ~ By Julie Duncan

As I sit here scrolling through social media, numb from not understanding the state of our seemingly upside down country, from working...