Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Gloria Clover shares her favorite movie

Let's talk about The Princess Bride. Though not as well know as Star Wars, Star Trek, or even Lord of the Rings, it turns out that the Princess Bride has its own cult following. I first saw this movie in college where I thought it was cute, but a little goofy. I've watched it numerous times since, and I think I love it more and more each time I watch it.

A few years ago I watched it with a group of teenagers from my church, many of which had never seen it before. What a pleasure when some of my favorite lines slid into their ears for the first time and they grabbed the magic of timeless film.

Because it's one of my family's favorite movies, we can all quote it in various situations. When heading off to do something: "Have fun storming the castle." After a particularly rough day: "You just shook your head. Doesn't that make you happy?" If my husband forgets his strength: "Gently!" And, of course, if we happen to stumble across a really poor movie or book, "([Skipping, the Lord's name,] Grandpa, what'd you read me this thing for?"

Which, I hope, none of you will be saying after you've finished Washed Under the Waves. But if you do, then I just suggest you read it again, and see if it doesn't get better with each reading, just like the Princess Bride.

What is your favorite quote from the Princess Bride?

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Gloria Clover talks about her passion for speculative fiction

All fiction that I've written over the years has always had a romance genre feel to it. I've written 20,000 word novellas and 50,000 word category, and 65,000 word cozy mystery with major romantic elements, and an 80,000 word stand alone contemporary romance. Washed Under the Waves is the longest, (95,000 words) and first speculative I've written. Like I mentioned yesterday, I'm not much on research, but nor do I want to get the facts wrong, so I've just steered clear of attempting to write historical romance. But with this set up of futuristic ... that opens all kinds of creative doors.

Washed Under the Waves, though set in the unknown future at least centuries beyond our current time, takes place on an island that has only been touched by the modern world two times in its history. So the island's setting is simple, non-technological, and often reads like a medieval society. With a few modern touches -- language, harnessing natural gas, and their literature.

The founders of Undae were Roman citizens from the first century B.C. so a lot of the setting centers around that society. They have a Roman bathhouse, amphitheater, and a spattering of Latin words. But because of the two touches with the outside world, they also read in English and use post-electrovian phrases in their dialogue as well.

Then, there are some speculative elements. Probably the biggest one is the medallion that takes the King's children right into the throne room. But there is other speculation on my part, particularly of how society will develop in the next couple hundred years -- which leads us to the pirates with lasers part of the novel.

All that is, of course, to keep the reader grounded in a simple society that is really in the future. With the biggest thing to remember that this world I created is in our world, on earth. The King is our King.

What do you like about speculative fiction? And if you've never tried it, what would entice you to read one?

Monday, 29 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A wth Gloria Clover

STEPH: I don't much about Washed Under The Waves. What's it about?

GLORIA: My pitch line is: The Princess Bride meets the King of kings.

Washed Under the Waves is a speculative romance, set in the unknown future at such a time when the King sends out his children to reclaim his lost lands. The idea of the series is that each story will be set on a different island in the Archipelago of Solomnus. These islands are somewhere in our world that we just don't know about/see now (for whatever reason.) Each story will focus on a different prince or princess sent from the King and a responding heroine/hero that already resides on the island, dealing with a different deception that holds the people of that island captive.

In Washed Under the Waves, Prince Geoffrey Athan D'Ambrose is sent out first. He has some pride issues, so I gave him a sweet, guileless heroine in Lady Tayte Bashan. She knows she's a poor ruler and even wonders if she should be ruling at all.

But the King is always about bigger issues than the obvious ones, so he tells Athan to disguise himself as a tutor instead of the prophesied prince ... and the romance develops from there.

STEPH: Where did you find the inspiration for it?

GLORIA: This seems silly, but I decided I wanted to write a speculative novel in an unknown place because I wanted to work on writing better scene descriptions, and I hate to be told I got the facts wrong. So I thought: It's my made-up place. If I want loquats and plums growing on the same island, I'll make it that way.

Yep, that was the original spark for going speculative.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

GLORIA: Rough draft, probably about 10 months. I'm not a speedy writer and I only write a few hours a day, maybe on average 4 days a week.

STEPH: How important is setting to the novel?

GLORIA: I don't like writing description. I know it's important to have the reader grounded. Particularly in Fantasy and Sci Fi. But I'm not a big fan of details for the sake of details. I'm practicing and trying to be more setting oriented. But I'm not there yet.
5. Did you have to do a lot of research for the novel?

I am a Seat of the Pants researcher. I don't research until I hit a place in my novel and I need to know __________. Then I Google. And may I just say, the "I'm feeling lucky" button is my friend.

STEPH: Hollywood just told you they want to make a movie of your novel. Cast the leads!

GLORIA: Ah. This is the only novel where I ever picked a movie star before I wrote the book. I actually googled Orlando Bloom pictures and took notes on specific characteristics of his face. Then I closed out those pictures and wrote my descriptions of Athan from those notes.

Tayte's character actress needs to be young and innocent and able to do "simple." I'm not up on the up-and-coming young actresses. When I made the book trailer, I used Catherine Zeta Jones because I knew she had long, black hair, the most telling of Tayte's physical characteristics.

STEPH: What do you want people to take away from the novel?

GLORIA: That the King writes the best story for each of us. Life may be or seem like a pain, but God always has purpose. And though we think if we had the power, we would rule the world a better way, we're wrong. We'd just make it worse. (Look what we do with the limited power we have.) :-)

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

GLORIA: I plot gently. Loosely. Like I try to live. Willing to embrace whatever comes my way. I know some back story. I know some internal conflicts. I try to have a few external plot points to be working toward.

When I start writing Washed Under the Waves, I knew Undae's (the island's) history, so I knew Tayte's and her people's history. I didn't have much on Athan. He was from the King. He was going to be the best guy I could write (with pride issues.) At the end of the first chapter, when he sees Tayte's black hair for the first time, I wrote:

"It took him a moment to realize he had just ogled her like a slave trader preparing to purchase. It took him another moment to realize her hair was as black as the dungeon he’d been born in. Black as a storm night. Black as the hair of Undae royalty. She was the princess?"

Well, I knew all that except ... what's this about Athan being born in a dungeon? Where did that come from? He's a child of the King. But, suddenly, Athan had some back story, too.

And that's how I write.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

GLORIA: The spare bedroom in our little white box. It's about 10' by 12' with two short, high windows. I can see nothing but clouds out the one my desk faces, except that they recently built a cell tower that sneaks into view i

STEPH: Tell us a little about the state you live in.

GLORIA: I'll make the distinction to say that I'm from western Pennsylvania, or PA as we say in PA. We have four seasons -- Pre-winter, Winter, Post-winter, and Road construction. Actually, we do have very distinct, all four seasons here. This year we had a wet spring and a quite warm summer for this area. Usually we have only one week where the temperatures reach 90 degrees. This year we had nearly a month. I've heard that we are the third most overcast area in the USA. That's easy to believe it is true.

I still live in a rural area, small farms, helpful neighbors. Don't be afraid to drive if you want to go anywhere, but Pittsburgh, Erie, and Youngstown, OH are all within an hour's drive. We call the carbonated drinks, "pop." We often pronounce the small river (creek) as what most people get in their necks (crick), and wash often comes out like "warsh." And if you hear someone use the phrase "yins," yeah, well, that's western PA for the plural you. Here's my last colloquialism:

Back in the day, when I was writing my first full novel and had set it in western PA (write what you know), I had my heroine straightening her home before the hero arrived. In western PA we call that "redding up" the house. I didn't have any clue how to spell the word. I'd never seen it in print. Befuddled, I asked my mother. She calmly explained that was just a word used around here and that I should probably choose another. I couldn't think of another word. I still remember her face when she suggested, "Clean."

Friday, 26 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Say Goodbye to Yesterday

Enjoy this excerpt from "Say Goodbye to Yesterday" by Shirley Kiger Connelly. Leave a comment on this post and 1 lucky winner will be selected to receive a PDF ARC of Shirley's story. Winner will be announced on Monday, 29 AUG on the loop and here in the post. Smiles, Moderator Steph

Annabelle lifted her head and eyed the creek edge where Geraldine rested in the major's arms. Him again? Coming to the rescue.

She gazed down at her reflection and groaned. A wrinkled face surrounded by long, thick, straggly curls sprawled haphazardly along her shoulders stared back. The last thing Annabelle wanted was to run into the handsome major during another predicament -- this time stranded in the middle of a sloppy creek, soaking wet, bare of foot and ankle, and without some of her undergarments. Yet, there he was, clear as day.

"Ma'am? Were you planning to remain out there forever? Please allow me to come and give you a hand."

She bristled. "I need no assistance. I'm concerned about my daughter. That's all." Her derrière still stung from where she took her tumble. Annabelle would've given anything to have her bustle with her now. It might've protected her from the rocky-bottomed creek or at least given her some needed modesty. Her taffeta sundress still sat bunched, and part of it floated around the top of the water encircling her. What few undergarments she did have on were doing her little good. How am I supposed to rise and get back to my daughter like this with him standing there?

With a clearing of her throat, Annabelle bent her knees to hide her exposed limbs before she dared rise. She continued to stall then looked across again.

Geraldine waved. "He's taking good care of me. When you coming in to put your clothes on?"

The heat rose in Annabelle's cheeks. She reached down for the ribbon ties of her drawers and pulled out the soaked material of her yellow skirts. Once resituated, Annabelle searched for her missing sunbonnet to have something to hold in front of her wet and clinging bodice. When the major stared her way, she slanted her eyes. "Do you mind?"

As if forcing himself to keep a straight face, he nodded. "Not at all. Remember, if you need anything I'm--"

"What I need is for you to look away."

The major lifted a brow. "Of course. Do take note it's a mite slippery out there in one's bare feet." He glanced back along the bank. "By the way, you left your boots up here...and a few other items. I could always bring them out to you."

"No." Annabelle grimaced. She yanked her drenched dress out from its tucks. As water trickled off it, she pulled herself up to her knees and crawled in closer.

"You ain't gonna let my mama drown, are you?" Geraldine asked him.

"I haven't decided," Carlton said with a laugh then tickled Geraldine's chin.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Shirley Kiger Connelly talks about her favorite authors

As an inspirational author one would think I would have a favorite inspirational author first. Well, let me see. There are so many out there that are so good. Of course, I lean toward the historical writers first. So, let me toss out Francine Rivers name. She writes so extremely well, because she chooses very difficult subjects, and once she has them down on paper and in a book, she makes it come out so easy. That takes talent. She is very very good at what she does. But I also love the writing of Lynn Austin. There are so many more, I can’t give justice really to any one person. On the secular side, I would have to say Julia Quinn. I absolutely love the way she can write an historical book with such humor in a way that keeps you turning the pages. And most of the time, she doesn’t get too steamy for me. Years ago, it was always Kathleen E Woodiwiss. What a blessing it was to learn from her gift of writing back in the 80s and 90s.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Shirley Kiger Connelly talks about her passion for cooking

Both my husband and I love to cook, but he does most of it these days, unless of course we have a gathering of guests. Then I take over. I love to plan big meals and go all out in decorating for the season or function, and then coming up with all kinds of new ideas for what to share with our guests. You draw close to people during a meal. When it comes to grilling, though, that’s my husband’s complete domain.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Shirley Kiger Connelly talks about her love for writing inspirational romance.

I chose inspirational writing because I have a message in everything I do. It’s part of me, even if it’s written subtly. Though I don’t write at all like you might see in the old Andy Griffith shows, I remember how they always had a moral. Maybe that’s why I do what I do. I write historical because, as I mentioned in answer to one of your earlier questions, I love the research. I also love the language difference.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Shirley Kiger Connelly

STEPH: I don't know much about Say Goodbye to Yesterday. What's it about?

SHIRLEY: This is not exactly the blurb, which you can read on the Desert Breeze site, but here is a brief synopses.

Annabelle Lou Jordan walked away from her faith years ago and now faces one set of trials after another. In need of a fresh touch of God's Grace, she's in no hurry to return to her faith.

Her story begins in 1878, several years following the secret delivery of her second child. Still unwed, Annabelle and her two daughters reside in the home of an aunt and reverend uncle where the children live as wards of the church. Annabelle remains convinced she must keep both her physically-impaired girls hidden from the father, who vocalized his distaste for children with imperfections, naturally giving her cause to finally send him away.

But when the community discovers her and her daughters’ fifteen-year-old secret, it changes everything. Booted from town by the church folks and most of the community, Annabelle is forced to take the girls to the father after all. She convinces herself he’s her only choice. If he comes through with his old marriage pledge, her children will finally have the security, home, and future they so desperately need.

But that was before Annabelle found herself drawn to Major Carlton Radcliffe. How was she to know she’d fall carelessly in love with someone far beyond her reach, loyal to the faith she’s fleeing, and possibly pledged to a wife and family of his own?

STEPH: Where did you find the inspiration for it?

SHIRLEY: Part of my inspiration came from the many years I’ve counseled with people who have gone through similar problems. I also found in my historical research that this type of thing was happening a lot more in the 1800s than was ever brought out for our knowledge, and, yes, even in the Christian community. Times have not really changed that much.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

SHIRLEY: FOREVER! (smile). I mean really forever. I am a very slow writer. I must have rewritten this thing a bazillion times. But maybe it’s because I find so much that can be improved upon every time I go through it. (I’m so proud of those who can do four books a year in one fell swoop.)

STEPH: How important is setting to the novel?

SHIRLEY: I love to write about the east coast mostly. There’s so much history back there, but it seems that I find myself pushing westward in my stories during the 1870s and1880s, maybe because so many people were venturing off in that direction back then. I guess I would have to say setting just has to fit with the time and the particular situation.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research for the novel?

SHIRLEY: I did a lot, but I love to do a lot. I see a great importance to dig for what REALLY happened during a certain time. Not just what they SAY happened. Really learning about it. I also love anything that involves military life. That takes extensive research too.

STEPH: Hollywood just told you they want to make a movie of your novel. Cast the leads!

SHIRLEY: Oh, that’s a great question. Well, already I know who my hero would be. I see a young Val Kilmer but with curlier hair and not the blond streaks in my particular story. Okay, whose my heroine? Hmm, let me think. Drew Barrymore could be my Annabelle. For my Geraldine, who plays a very strong role in my book, it would have to be the little girl that was in the recent movie called Matilda, with Danny Devito. But I don’t know her name. (I mostly watch old TCM movies.) When you read the book, you’ll have to picture who the nanny would be. She is in a league all by herself.

STEPH: What do you want people to take away from the novel?

SHIRLEY: Life can be very difficult, and often is for a lot of us. It’s the choices we make that determine the difference in where life will take us, and we need to realize more, how our decisions don’t just affect ourselves, but rather affect everyone around us and not always for the best.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

SHIRLEY: More of a pantser than a plotter. After I’m well into the story, I can begin to plot a little better. But I usually write just what comes to mind in the middle of the night or while I’m looking at the computer screen. Maybe that’s why I take so long to flesh out my story.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

SHIRLEY: My husband built me a great computer stand for my laptop that rolls around wherever I feel like going. I have an office where I keep my printer, but I don’t like to sit in there at my desk. I also have a lovely vintage parlor with a small roll top desk but I can’t sit in a straight back chair for very long. So I go where my mood takes me…out on the front porch, in the parlor on the small couch, in the living room, wherever.

STEPH: Tell us a little about the state you live in.

SHIRLEY: Right now I’m on the southern coast of Oregon. It’s beautiful. Have lived by the ocean for years, back east, up north, down in California, and right now I can see parts of the Pacific Ocean right from our front yard. But I would rather be in Texas, I think. Somewhere around Austin

Friday, 19 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Baer Truth

Baer Truth – Book One Three Baers Trilogy
To kick off Linda's new book release week, one lucky commenter will be randomly selected to receive a fun gift bag and a free copy of Baer Truth.

Excerpt – Baer Truth

Abby Takes a Job at Hidden Rock Ranch

He gave her an understanding nod and hopped in the truck with Abby. "Please, call me Mike." He smiled, starting the engine. Making a hard u-turn, the truck slid across the pavement.

Abby fastened her seatbelt and grabbed the handle above the window.

The truck fishtailed across the ice, but Mike didn’t slow down. "I hope you don't plan on going shopping very often." He turned the wipers on. They screeched painfully across the glass. "It's a fair piece to the nearest store. We plan far in advance for shopping trips, so you'll want to keep a list for pantry purchases."

They pulled off the main road onto a gravel road. He made several more turns onto smaller and smaller gravel roads, until they reached a rutted, one-lane dirt road. Suddenly the dirt road gave way to a smooth blacktop drive that wound around snow-covered banks, atop which a red snow fence ran as far as the eye could see.

"I think I'm going to have to drop breadcrumbs to find my way in and out of here." Abby couldn't remember ever having been so far from civilization. "Tell me, do you ever get snowed in back here?" As far as she could see in every direction was nothing, absolutely nothing, except hills, snow fence, trees, snow, and huge mountains.

"Occasionally we've been snowed in for a few days. We've got snowmobiles and we can get out for supplies with them."
A lump formed in her throat that refused to be swallowed.

"We've also got the Cat and the Deere with plows and shovels."

Abby had no clue what he was talking about, but as long as those things could get her out of this desolate wilderness, she liked them.

"Nobody's lived at the cottage for awhile. I had the boys go in, knock down the spider webs, and make sure no snakes or anything was living inside, but they don't always get everything. You aren't afraid of spiders and such, are you?"

The lump on her head began to ache. Mike's expression was kind, but odds were she was about to face those things, afraid or not. "I can't say I care too much for them."

"Well, snakes are hibernating this time of year. But they can move about when you start disturbing them. I'll have the boys leave you a hoe just to be safe." The truck slid across the blacktop road. Mike chuckled. "That was fun."

Abby pushed a hand against the dashboard, her mouth becoming suddenly dry. "A hoe? What do I need a hoe for?"

"For hacking the snakes' heads off, honey." Mike was matter-of-fact.

"Hack its head off?" The ache in her head turned to throbbing and was joined by a rumbling nausea deep in her stomach. "Couldn't I just call you or one of the men to come and--" she shuddered-- "hack the thing?"

"Sure, but we're usually out in the field or up at one of the cattle barns. It could be awhile before one of us could get it for you. By then it could disappear under the floor only to pop back out in the middle of the night and snuggle up with you in bed."

"They're cold-blooded, you know, and they like to find a warm spot to sleep. So it would be best if you just hack them when you see them."

Her head swam. Her vision turned gray and began sliding into black. She had gone from a bad dream to a horrific nightmare. Abby pinched her thigh, wincing at the pain. Awake. She was awake. The nightmare was real.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Author Spotlight - The Truth about Tractors


Abby Clark, the heroine in Baer Truth has a funny incident with a tractor in the book. I've had a couple of readers ask me if that was based on personal experience. No, I replied, confident in my tractor driving ability. And while I never had a similar incident happen, I have had some rather interesting moments on a tractor.

As a teen, I helped bale hay, feed horses, and all that goes with farming. Since I was younger, I usually got the grunt work of any job, like being in the barn loft on a hot August day stacking hay bales, but I rarely got to drive the tractor. I parked it in the barn, moved it for various reasons and that was about it.

Moving forward in time -- As a young mom I was offered a job mowing area fields and roadsides by a local farmer, I'll call Bill. I did know how to drive a tractor and how hard could mowing be? It really was a great job. I could mow when I wanted, he paid me cash, and if I needed to go home to the kids, no problem.

Bill's idea of instruction was, "here's the tractor, it's full of fuel, flip this lever to engage the PTO and mow." With that, he went to his tractor and left me in the middle of a 400-acre field.

Alright, I could do this. Starting the tractor, I got that, using the clutch, that was a cinch, engaging the PTO, no problem, the circling of a tree – I so didn't get that. I didn't pay any attention to that 7-foot wide bush hog trailing along behind me and it didn't exactly flow around a tree.

I must have taken the lives of twenty trees with that bush hog before I realized what I'd done. Every new little sapling that had been lovingly planted were now only tiny spots of mulch in a vast field of grass. When Bill came back to get me to break for lunch he stood beside those little spots of mulch, looked at me and said, "don't you know how to square off with a tractor?" Then he looked across the field I'd mowed (well, only 1/3 of it was mowed) and said. "Are you drinking or on something?"

I was aghast. "No! Why would you even think such a thing?"

"Get off your tractor, stand here, and look down that field." Well, there wasn't a straight row of mowed grassed to be found. It seemed I was "tacking" to the right, and mowing in a very nice 90 degree arc. Bill shook his head, snorted and said. "Remind me to never let you plant my corn."

The next day, (farming sense of humor here) he brought several other farmers to get a look at my field – before they went to the local and only store for coffee. They were all having a good laugh. I told them I was being creative and making crop circles, got on my tractor and mowed.

A few days later, we were mowing the roadsides of some rural roads. My Walkman (yes, I'm that old) was blaring in my ears, the sun was shining, and suddenly my tractor slowly sank off the side of the road. With an ugly hissing sound, it sank farther until there was; well the only way it can be described is a really loud, wet, juicy fart. I'd hit a patch of brush with locust trees. Locust trees have some mighty long, hard, and nasty thorns. Well, I popped one of those huge rear tires on the tractor. We had to call for the "farm tractor tire" service to come fix it. One bonus, I'd popped that tire in front of a really sweet neighbors house and we had lemonade and cookies till the tire guy got there. Then her husband came out of the barn, looked at me and started laughing, realizing I was the "crooked mower woman." He patted Bill on the back and wished him luck.

We have a Renaissance Faire in the area where I live and we mowed the field where they park cars for the faire. Another huge 200-acre field of scrub inhabited by rabbits, groundhogs and big-a** snakes. As I was mowing along, Walkman on, I saw this huge 100-foot long snake travel in front of my tractor.

Now, if there'd been a video camera around this would have been worthy of the ten grand. I'm on a big tractor, pulling a huge bush hog, roughly ten-feet above the ground. When I see this Anaconda (it seriously looked that big) I jumped to my feet on the tractor seat, screaming like a scalded dog. Bill came crashing across the field thinking I'd been swarmed by bees or was having a seizure. I'm screaming, "Snake, Snake!"

He points to my bush hog and says, "Run over the damn thing."

I'm still screaming, shaking my head no, so he makes a pass in front of me and misses the snake. This thing's head pops up, it's hissing, and jumping, my screaming gets louder, as I am sure this snake on steroids is going to seek me out and bite me, squeeze me or whatever those wretched things do.

At this point, my tractor is plotting its own course across the field, with me standing on the seat screaming, and Bill is swiping back and forth trying to bush hog this snake, who is fighting him like a ticked off bull in a Madrid bull fight. I came to a clanging stop against a metal farm fence post and was thrown off the tractor and into a wet, gunk-filled ditch where a pack of hungry blood sucking mosquitoes and chiggers attack as though I was their last meal.

By now, performers and vendors at the faire were in the field thinking someone was being killed, Bill was making made circles in the field his head snapping around like it was on a stick and I was trying to climb over the fence and shut off the tractor.

On second thought, maybe Abby's tractor experience is a bit more personal then I realized.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Meet Linda McMaken

I'm actually a very boring person. Seriously, if the FBI ever tapped my phone I would be hailed as the cure for insomnia! When I was ask to write about myself, I had one sentence that said, "Hi, my name is Linda," blinking at me on my computer for about week. That's so sad for an author; you'd think I could at least "invent" something exciting to talk about.

Besides my family and writing, I guess I'm most passionate about travel. We have a very small fifth wheel and run away whenever we can. In recent years, with the kids graduating, parents being ill and hubby fighting cancer, those days are pretty few and far between.

When our daughters were younger, we had a very, very small travel trailer, only 18' and it was nearly thirty years old when we bought it. The girls named it "Tumbleweed," right after they saw their first tumbleweed, and that name has stuck with every camper we've ever owned. We towed that trailer everywhere, and had a blast. We've been fortunate to see 46 of the 50 states, had the most amazing adventures, and met some incredible people. This is probably another reason my stories are "character driven."

We yanked them out of school one October and headed west for two weeks. They were studying Native America culture, so we ended up at a reservation at Four-Corners. The place was deserted except for the folks working there. One of the ladies spied a textbook in my daughters backpack, and took an interest. Pretty soon, they were being taught Native American history by Native Americans. We spent several hours there, eating, laughing, and learning so many things even I didn't know.

Some interesting people - a Vietnam vet glassblower in Vermont, the mother of twelve at South Pass who panned for gold, the retired tug boat captain, and the cute Hispanic border guard, on the Canadian border! ☺

The plains of Wyoming

Then there were those other moments - getting stuck in the mud in the Big Horn Mountains, losing a muffler in Independence, Missouri, chased by geese in Tennessee, losing my daughter in the snow on the Rocky Mountain Parkway (sank up to her neck – in July!), blew a transmission line in the Appalachian Mountains, and got struck by lightning in Cape Cod. Through it all, we laughed, made s'mores, had some really awesome campfires, met truly amazing people and made incredible memories. Hopefully, with prayers and blessings from above, hubby and I will soon be "On the Road Again." I sing, hubby just politely nods.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Linda McMaken talks about books with character

I was recently asked why I write contemporary novels. I had to think about that quite awhile, as there wasn't a definitive answer. Since I was writing a blog post, I had to come up with a bit more then, "I dunno, I just like'em".

Right when I had it all figured out, Desert Breeze Publishing contracted for a historical novel I'd submitted. Then I was asked if I plotted, outlined, or created a story first? I had to answer none of the above. My books usually begin with a character. I love personalities.

I am a people watcher and many manuscripts have evolved from my encounter with one person who made me laugh, or cry or even made me angry. Joe, in Baer Truth came from a cowboy I'd listened to at a rodeo in Wyoming.

There was a woman reporter was talking to him. She was interviewing the cowboy because he'd just won the bronc riding event. I felt so sorry for the poor woman, because every question she asked him, he would answer with "yep" or "nope." The cowboy was handsome, covered with dust, and didn't seem very comfortable in front of a camera. Plus, she wasn't asking questions that begged for an answer. Suddenly a kid popped up, wearing a cowboy hat and asked what every cowboy wants to talk about - the horse he bested, and the next rodeo. Then he talked like a mockingbird on speed!
Joe's personality is loosely based on this cowboy. Joe doesn't talk much until Abby asks him about Hidden Rock Ranch, then she gets to see a side of him she never knew existed.

Tessa, Abby's friend in Baer Truth is based on a couple of people. A co-worker, a cousin, and a friend, she's a blend of personalities. Of all the characters, Tessa was the most fun to write because she vocalized what everyone else was thinking and wanting to say.

The brothers in the book all have very different personalities. As in most families, siblings, like the Baer brothers, have a love/hate relationship. They do love each other; will always be there for one another, but sometimes they just cannot understand each other. Of course, the Baers had a little help from other people driving those wedges into their family, and now they are trying to mend fences.

Then there's that historical I have coming in January 2012, The Granite Rose. It's set in ancient Rome – I know I get that look a lot. Well, as a kid I did have a major crush on Charlton Heston, and Kirk Douglas, and Tony Curtis – I had lots of crushes! I will be having updates on my website for this one.

My writing path starts with a character, and then I wonder what that personality would do when placed in a certain situation. From there the story evolves, and usually I have nothing to do with it other than the typing. My characters, they are a determined bunch!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Author Spotlight Week - Q&A with Linda McMaken

STEPH: I'd like to welcome author Linda McMaken to the blog this week. Linda's latest release is "Baer Truth." What's Baer Truth about?

LINDA: Baer Truth is a romantic comedy about a vegetarian punk rock singer who is unceremoniously dumped in the middle of beef country in the dead of winter, the small town that rescues her and the cowboy that falls for her.

STEPH: Where did you find the inspiration for it?

LINDA: I was inspired by my travels to Wyoming. I visit every chance I get. It feels like home, and I miss it terribly when I leave. So, naturally I wanted to set my story there, plus they have some awesome cowboys in Wyoming! If any reader ever gets the chance to attend Cheyenne Frontier Days – GO. It is the premier rodeo in the U.S.A. (I have this fantasy (I am a fiction writer) that I'll be invited to Wyoming, perhaps Yellowstone Lodge to do a booksigning) See, I'm always looking for a chance to go back.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

LINDA: Before, during or after revisions and edits? LOL It took about 6-months for the first draft, then a few months worth of edits and revisions. By the way, I'd like to shout out a loud thank you to my editor, Mandy Moore – she's awesome.

STEPH: How important is setting to the novel?

LINDA: Very important. The mountains, the ranch, the small town are integral to the plot. The snow is a secondary character. To both the hero and heroine, home is important, family is important. Hidden Rock Ranch is part of the hero's DNA, and it ends up infecting Abby.

STEPH: Did you have to do much research for the novel?

LINDA: Some. I have a hubby that knows horses, I live in an area full of rodeos and farms, so much of the information in the book is firsthand. Of course, farming and ranching are very different, and the Midwest and Wyoming are worlds apart, but some things remain the same in both places. I did get some great information on the finer points of bull riding from the Professional Bull Riders Association.

STEPH: Hollywood just told you they want to make a movie of your novel. Cast the leads!

LINDA: Wow! Is that every author's fantasy? Well, first I'd negotiate to write the screenplay, and as for the cast, -- I think they should hold auditions for hot, hunky cowboys in Wyoming and let me pick the lead. For Abby, I think Katherine Heigl would be fun. She's very cute, has great comedic timing, and I think she'd look adorable with purple and orange hair!

STEPH: What do you want people to take away from the novel?

LINDA: Fun! Just a genuine, lighthearted, fun read about how important home really is and no matter how different two people are love can conquer all. And that colleges should offer a course in Tractor Driving 101.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

LINDA: Both, depending on the day, actually depending on the hour of the day you ask. The voices in my head go in all directions, and I tend to follow where they lead. With each book there are certain plot points that I wanted included, but how I get to them, well it's never a straight road. Now that The Baers is going to be a series, I might have to alter that procedure. Since the books will need to bring pieces of each book together – wow, I just realized how much work this is going to be! I'd better stock up on coffee.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

LINDA: My writer's cave is a spare bedroom. There is a wooden sign on one wall that reads, "Nobody gets in to see the wizard, not nobody, not no how." I have a candle burning if I'm working at night and there's a window with a view over a lush, green Midwest cornfield. Unless it's October then it's a field of brown, withered, dried up cornstalks waiting to be combined, or January, then it's a field of spiky cornstalks sticking up like evil little scarecrow arms through the snow. It gives you that weird "Children of the Corn" feel on occasion; I'm guessing Stephen King's office overlooks a cornfield, too! LOL

STEPH: Tell us a little about the state you live in?

LINDA: The Buckeye State, home to the National United States Air Force Museum, the largest museum dedicated to aviation – we have Air Force One (sorry, Harrison Ford not included) and the Wright B Flyer parked here. Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we are the birthplace of the Wright Brothers, six U.S. Presidents, Doris Day, Dean Martin, and Steven Spielberg. And we have Buckeyes - delicious rounds of peanut butter, dipped in chocolate to almost the top, leaving just a smidge of the peanut butter showing (hence the name Buckeyes).

Friday, 12 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Blue Lioness


In the face of Human slavery, Back Sword Captain Ariela of Kassouk must do the unthinkable. Rebel against the Mutant regime. But she cannot do it alone.

Ariela suspects the king’s death is no accident. And the tyrant who usurped the throne looks guilty as hell. As leader of the Human rebellion against the Mutant rulers, Ariela is desperate for help, and Lord Starro, the handsome Crown Prince of the Star Children, offers the technology the Human faction lacks. But can Ariela trust a spoiled, arrogant foreign prince who never fought a battle, and thinks he is destined to rule the universe? Is she trading one tyrant for another? No matter how kind, handsome, or fascinating, Starro has frightening mental abilities. And this alliance is not safe, especially for Ariela’s heart.

EXCERPT: different from the one on the publisher's website.

Starro closed his eyes and the golden light caressed the regular planes of his face. "Still no sign of pursuit."

Ariela wrenched her gaze from his athletic body, a hint of shame warming her cheeks. She scrutinized their surroundings. "Assassins use stealth. We must keep our eyes open."

"I don't need my eyes to know there are none close to us." His neutral tone barely covered a subtle impatience.

"What exactly can you do that Humans cannot?" The question had been on Ariela's mind for a while. "If you explain it to me, I won't have to bruise your precious ego at every turn."

"You speak straight as an assassin's arrow." Starro gave a short, nervous laugh. "But it wouldn't be wise to tell our secrets to a foreigner. All foreigners are potential enemies."

Ariela couldn't help the flare of anger in her voice. "I thought we were allies against Lord Kohl and his blasted Mutant freaks!"
He flinched. Did her swearing bother him? Too bad.

His expression turned serious. "We are allies. So, I guess I should tell you." He straightened his long, muscled legs. The loose silk trousers tucked into white boots showed signs of dust, and the trek had scuffed the fine material. "We Star Children do not take these gifts lightly, and keeping them secret insures our advantage when conflicts arise. We pride ourselves in resolving most disputes without bloodshed."

"Blood is shed all the time." Ariela scoffed. "You can't avoid spilling blood, especially in an all out war."

"Yet, our gifts allowed us this luxury... thus far." He sighed. "I fear this is the end of a peaceful era. The specter of war is upon us."
"So what are these mysterious gifts?" The words came out sharper than Ariela intended.

He flashed an uneasy smile then stared at the ground.

Ariela resented his stubborn silence. "What if I give you my word as a warrior never to tell a soul? Will you trust me then?"

"I do trust you, Beloved mine." His warm voice in her mind again. "But even the best of us can be made to talk."

Ariela sighed, finally accepting that he could speak in her mind. "I guess you found that out in Kohl's dungeon."

He lifted his piercing gaze, and his jovial smile returned. "All right. I owe you the truth. We inherited our gifts from a now extinct race called the Estrell."

Find the book on the Desert Breeze Publishing site, or for your specific eBook reader, wherever eBooks are sold.

Vijaya Schartz
Award-winning Romantic Science Fiction with a kick

Vijaya's paperbacks, kindle, and audiobooks at
Vijaya's eBooks at ARe:
Vijaya's nooks at:

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Vijaya Schartz's Favorite Authors

Being a writer can be a curse when it comes to favorite authors. Although I love to read, sometimes I can't help it when my editing cap comes on and I feel compelled to edit in my head a bit of sloppy writing. I hate when that happens, and I have no tolerance for it, because it takes me out of the story and spoils my reading pleasure.

So I'm very picky when it comes to favorite authors. Before I became a professional writer, I liked Anne McCaffrey and Marion Zimmer Bradley, Richard Bach, Diana Gabaldon (Outlander series), Bernard Cornwell (Excalibur) all pioneers of their time. I still love them. To me they are the true classics of the late last century.

But nowadays my favorite authors are exploring the new frontiers of space. My absolute favorite author at this time is NYT best selling author and Rita AwardWinner LINNEA SINCLAIR, author of Finders Keepers, Games of Command, Hope's Folly, Rebels and Lovers, Shades of Dark, Gabriel's Ghost, An Accidental Goddess, and many more wonderful romantic stories taking place in spaceships, space stations, and on incredibly interesting planets, with colorful villains and courageous heroes and heroines. I read and re-read them all and can't wait for the next one to come out.

I recently discovered A.R. NORRIS, a new and upcoming author in the sci-fi romance genre. Her last novel, DUTY AND DEVOTION, is centered on two sisters engaged in a galactic war and falling in love with equally courageous heroes, despite the physical and emotional turmoil. That book kept me enthralled. A.R. Norris also wrote a story in one of the excellent BOREALIS anthologies from Desert Breeze. I'm eagerly waiting to see what this promising author will write next.

I also enjoyed the Phoenix Rebellion series by Gail Delaney, of course, and the Future Imperfect series by P.I. Barrington, gritty books, with action and heroism in harsh circumstances, where good always prevails in the end after a bitter battle.

Once in a while I enjoy a historical novel, Vikings, medieval fantasy, I love the middle ages, as attested in my Chronicles of Kassouk series, where Medieval Humans meet intergalactic cultures... and win.

And if you like Regencies with a steampunk flair, you'll love Stephanie Burkhart's Victorian Scoundrel.

Now, if you are crazy about a particular sci-fi romance author, let me know, so I can check them out. Since I got my kindle, I am unstoppable.

Find out more about my books at:

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Author Spotlight Week - How Author Vijaya Schartz became addicted to her ebook reader

A few years ago, although my books were available in eBook as well as paperback, I didn't read eBooks. I felt guilty about not reading on a device like many of my readers did, but such was life. I didn't read eBooks. Out of guilt, I purchased an eBookWise reader. Never took it out of the box, which still sits on a corner of my desk.

Once in a while I would read a pdf book on my computer screen, because I needed to read it and it was not available in paper, but that was it. I couldn't make the switch. I so loved the feel of a hard cover or a paperback in my hands. Change is hard. Any kind of change.

I should mention that my office library is a jumble of sagging shelves, and it became hazardous to pile one more book on any of them. I told my husband he didn't make the shelves strong enough. He said I was just stuffing too many books on them... which I did, but what else could I do? It's the nature of books to keep piling up.

Then last Christmas, he surprised me with a phone call. "I'm buying you an eBook reader. Do you prefer the nook or the kindle?"
It was nice of him to ask. He seemed so excited about getting me the perfect gift that I didn't have the heart to tell him I preferred paperbacks. All the time thinking about the eBookWise Reader still sitting in its box on my desk, I said I wanted a kindle, because Amazon has more titles than Barnes & Noble, and their eBooks are often cheaper due to their constant promotion sales.

On Christmas day, when I took the kindle out of the box, I had a shock. It was feather light, elegant, simple, uncluttered. It took me five minutes to figure it out, and in that time I loaded all the eBooks I had stored on my computer over the years onto it via email. I purchased a few new titles from my favorite authors, and lo. Within ten minutes, I had an entire library at my fingertips, ready to read and carry around with me. I felt light, happy, unencumbered.

Vijay's Library

Looking at my office library shelves, I could already tell this would be a big change in my life. My husband was all smiles, saying I never needed to buy another paper book again. I quickly corrected him. I would still need research books and such, but we agreed that popular fiction, from now on, would be eBooks only.

Then I started reading. And reading. And reading. I could read anywhere, anytime. I turned off the TV after my husband went to bed and read avidly, simply enlarging the font when my eyes were getting tired. In the last six months, I read more books than in the past three years.

I also categorized my lists of books on my kindle, so I don't have to fumble. I have my TBR list (new books waiting to be read), my list of favorites and TBRR (to be re-read), and various lists by genres and by authors, so I can quickly and easily find any book when I want to peruse it.

As a result of getting exposed to so may authors, I think my writing improved, my mind is getting more nimble and creative, having imbibed so many experiences through reading. I also increased my field of knowledge, and often, when I read for research (yes, now I do research on my kindle as well) I just take a pen and jot down only the information I need for my next novel. Later, I transcribe my notes into a file on my computer. And no, that doesn't explain the clutter of papers on my desk. It was there all along.

Now I love my kindle and could not imagine not having it. It has become part of my life. My only concern is to find more eBooks for my TBR list. I worry when it's getting low. Heavens forbid I would run out of books to read. And although I keep buying eBooks, my husband is all smiles... and so am I.

Now if anyone wants an eBookWise Reader, I have a brand new one for you in its original box, real cheap...

Vijaya Schartz
Romantic Science Fiction with a Kick

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Author Spotlight Week -Vijaya Schartz shares her passion for Science Fiction

After a period of being fascinated by the classics, then by Mystery novels as a reader, I discovered science fiction and fell in love. So many possibilities... It became a passion. What if?

Yet, as I was reading more and more science fiction, one element was always missing. Sometimes the stories ended on a depressing note, and there was nothing to deter from the somber themes. Even when the hero won in the end, he was usually alone.

For superheroes of comic books, victory was always bittersweet, as they had to protect their anonymity. I found that disturbingly unfair. Of course if they could just get the girl and be happy, it would be the end of their career. Can't imagine Superman kissing his wife and a bunch of snotty kids goodbye before jumping out the window to go save the planet from a nefarious intergalactic villain...

Later, when I discovered traditional Romance, I found it a little too mild and lacking in action and external conflict. I yearned for a grander scope to the stories, not just two people's happiness. I did however appreciate the guarantee of some kind of happily ever after at the end. It made me feel safe and fuzzy.

Then, when I decided to write for publication, what came naturally to me was science fiction. But I still yearned for a romantic thread.

Some of my friends say I come from another world, that I am a time traveler from the future who forgot who she was. I don't know about that, but it would explain a lot. LOL. I believe I have a solid imagination. But is it really imagination?

Thanks to my extensive travels and contacts with many earthly cultures, I can also discern which elements of a culture are purely Human (if any really are), which are dictated by survival, and which are ingrained from a young age, learned through experience, or forced upon an individual to fit specific cultural standards.

This discerning skill now allows me to write believable futuristic worlds and characters, even if their looks, their circumstances or origins would be unlikely in our world. It's a matter of justifying the differences to suspend the reader's ingrained beliefs.

So now, I write romantic science fiction with a kick, where I get the best of two worlds, with a guaranteed satisfying ending through the love story. So many science fiction novels tend to be dark and depressing. Not mine. My action-packed stories and kick-butt heroines lend themselves to many romantic conflicts, and I found that science-fiction is a perfect stage for it.

Find out more about my books at:

Monday, 8 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Q&A with Vijaya Schartz

Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action and exotic settings, in life and on the page. She traveled the world and claims she comes from the future. Her books collected many five star reviews and literary awards. She makes you believe you actually lived these extraordinary adventures among her characters. Her stories have been compared to Indiana Jones with sizzling romance. So, go ahead, dare to experience the magic, and she will keep you entranced, turning the pages until the last line. Find more at

STEPH: I don't much about Blue Lioness. What's it about?

VIJAYA: It's about Ariela, a female Human warrior, a Black Sword Captain in the medieval Citadel of Kassouk. After the suspicious death of her king, she organizes a revolt against the abusive new regime of the Mutants (Half Human half Godd), but she needs help as her people have been deliberately barred from technological developments.

She hopes to find a powerful ally in the person of the very wise and handsome crown prince of the Star Children, Starro, who claims to have the technology to defeat the Mutants. But Ariela soon realizes the extent of the powers of Starro's people, and despite her attraction to him, she fears she might have traded one tyrant for another.

STEPH: Where did you find the inspiration for it?

VIJAYA: This story came organically from the previous books in the series. First I want to say that each book is a complete story and can be enjoyed even if you didn't read the other books. Each romantic story involves a different couple, and the books are separated by decades, sometimes over a century. But if you are like me, you'll want to read the books in the right order, to see how the society progresses.

At the end of Book One, WHITE TIGER, the Mutants saved the Human race and started a fair government. In Book Two, RED LEOPARD and Book Three, BLACK JAGUAR, the civilizations and cultures evolve over the centuries, through conflicts, explorations, alien visitations, new knowledge. I also introduced in these books the seeds of corruption, and offered a glimpse of what might come next.

In my mind I subtitled Book Four, BLUE LIONESS, The Fall of the Mutants. Every culture flows and ebbs, and the people of Kassouk are no exception. This book marks the end of an era on that particular planet. Things will never be the same again.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

VIJAYA: Right now I write Two novels and one novella a year. Although it took me three years to write my very first novel, after fifteen or so, the pace accelerates. And writing a series is easier, because you do not have to create a brand new world for each novel. You already have a complete history of your world as a foundation.

STEPH: How important is setting to the novel?

VIJAYA: I like to make the setting an integral part of the novel. In other words, the story I write could only happen in that particular setting, at that particular time. It's not specific to this series. Even when I write contemporary novels for other publishers, I make sure the setting is a very important part of the story. In Kassouk in particular, there is a recurring theme of large cats. The people of that culture keep large cats as pets and also train them to fight in battle. Most Human warriors choose feline names. All the titles in the series are names of Human warriors, sometimes the hero, sometimes the heroine.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research for the novel?

VIJAYA: I did a lot of research at the beginning of this series, and for the subsequent books. As a history lover, I want my medieval Human society to be believable, then I incorporate the elements unique to my world, like the fascination with large felines. This society, although medieval, lives in the far future, on a planet where a Human vessel crashed centuries ago.

STEPH: Will there be anymore books in the Chronicles of Kassouk?

VIJAYA: Funny you ask. BLUE LIONESS marks the end of an era in the world of Kassouk, but as I was writing it, I realized that what happened before, the story of how the Human settlers happened to be stranded on that particular planet needed to be told. There is also the matter of how the large cats became part of the landscape, and how even then, the conflicts with alien races abunded.

VIJAYA: So the prequel to the series, NOAH'S ARK (the name of the vessel they all came on), is in the works, and will be released in April of 2012. You can get a glimpse on my website at:

But before that happens, I also have a sci-fi romance novella coming out this October from Desert Breeze Publishing in the BOREALIS III anthology, titled BLACK DRAGON.

STEPH: What do you want people to take away from the novel?

VIJAYA: We all read for different reasons. Although this is science fiction and romance, an escape by definition, I like to think that my readers learn something in the process. Some may gain understanding and tolerance for vastly different cultures, others may realize that no one is perfect and it's all right. They will find in my books that standing up against tyranie and injustice is difficult, but true heroes are willing to do it and sacrifice a lot in the process... It's true on the page and in real life. Our soldiers do it every day.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

VIJAYA: Like most writers, I started as a pantser, then I became a plotter. Now I do both, depending on the book, the mood, the inspiration. There are many ways to write a book, and varying the techniques keeps it fresh and exciting for the writer and for the reader.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

Vijay's Writing Space

VIJAYA: My desk is cluttered. Bits of papers with notes on them, a print of my last chapter full of red marks. Sometimes a kitten or two playing with my computer mouse or jumping at the monitor. Red pens, post it notes, notepads, daytimer, glasses, paperweights, a picture of me jumping from a plane, a pot of green tea, bits of dark chocolate in a white rammekin.

Pictures of my characters hang on the walls with posters of my book covers. Promotion material semi-ready to be shipped in boxes on the free standing table behind me. The entire back wall of shelves is bulging under the weight of research and fiction books. Excuse the dust. I'm not exactly the domestic type.

STEPH: Tell us a little about the state you live in.

VIJAYA: I live in sunny Arizona and I love it. After traveling the world and living in exotic places like India and Hawaii, I am partial to the heat. The only thing I miss in Arizona is the ocean. There is much to discover in Arizona, though, from the Grand Canyon to the Anasazi ruins, and the rich western history... many things to inspire a writer.

Find out more at:

Thanks you so much, Steph, for having me.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Author Spotlight - Excerpt from Last Resort

BJ Robinson would like to giveaway copies of paperback novels she's read and reviewed on her blog. Leave a comment to win The Potluck Club by Linda Evans Shepherd and Eva Marie Everson, a beautiful paperback novel. Post here on the excerpt, FRI, SAT, & SUN and I'll pick a winner on the following Monday as the winner. Be sure to leave a good email addy so I can get in touch with you.

Enjoy BJ's excerpt!
Moderator Steph



From the wooded lot beside the small country church, Fred Blunt waited and constantly checked his watch. Services were over, and he'd feast his eyes on Faith as she filled her plate at the buffet table during Sunday dinner on the grounds.

Perspiration trickled down his forehead, dripped into his eyes, and burned them, but he refused to blink. He didn't want to miss her. The sun burned his cheeks and plastered the black tee shirt he wore to his back. Mosquitoes swarmed, and he slapped the air to scare them away, reminded of how much she drew him, like mosquitoes drawn to the swamp. Sweat collected in
puddles underneath his baseball cap and seeped down the back of his neck. It was a miserable hot, humid day in Bridal Wreath, Florida.

The twenty-two slipped in his sweaty hands. It wouldn't make much noise. If he could kill a deer with it, as a last resort, he'd make it work on a person. Fred adjusted it, ready. He'd get his chance sooner or later. He spotted the cowboy farmer who lived next door to his Faith. He didn't like him one bit. He'd alter that picture.


Faith tore out of the jail's parking lot and prayed she wouldn't get a ticket. She turned Old Blue into the flowing traffic. Her heart pumped faster than a race car engine. Dear God, please don't let me be too late. She reached down and punched Matt's number again. Come on, Matt, where are you? Pick up. Still no answer. She snapped the phone shut and focused on the road ahead. Who could possibly have it in for him? He was such a great guy. She gassed the truck as she passed the city limits and left the jail behind. Why wasn't he answering? She'd never had a problem before. This wasn't like him.

Faith whipped into the drive. She jumped from her pickup, strode to the side door, and knocked. No answer. She pulled out her cell and tried again. It rang and rang, then went straight to the voicemail. This time, she hung up without leaving a message.
She yanked the screen door, and it flew open, unlatched. The door knob turned, and she shoved the door open and yelled, "Matt, are you there?"

No response. She briskly marched through the house and called his name. She checked each room. In Matt's office, the swivel chair faced the door. Blood spotted it. Faith's heart lurched. Oh, God, please don't let me be too late. She spotted blood droplets on the carpet and followed them back through the kitchen and to the garage. Matt's truck ran. Dear God, what will I find when I open this door? Please let me be in time. Why didn't Matt use his pistol?

Faith jerked the garage door, but it wouldn't budge. She ran to the kitchen and hit the automatic door opener. The door slowly opened. She raced inside the garage, and the gas fumes nearly knocked her out. She coughed and held her nose with one hand. Her eyes burned, but she yanked open the driver's truck door. Matt tumbled out.

She let go of her nose and turned off the truck. Faith slid her arms under Matt's and locked her hands in front of his chest. She hefted. He didn't budge. She had to get him out of there. Now. No time to waste. She hauled in a breath, grunted, and heaved. He lifted, and she pulled him toward the door. One foot. Two feet. Three more.

"Matt, we're out of the garage." Please, Lord, help me. She couldn't drop him now. The outside air hit her face and tears of relief filled her eyes. She tenderly laid him on the grass by the side of the cement drive and yanked her cell from its holster. She dialed 911.

Assured the ambulance was on its way, Faith closed her phone and felt for his heartbeat. She rubbed her knuckles against his breast bone and stroked his face. So still. She touched his neck and held her breath. No response. She tilted his head and lifted his chin, then put her ear to his mouth and listened. Nothing. She looked for chest movement. Nothing. She listened for air blowing through his mouth or nose, or on her cheek. Nothing. He wasn't going to die if she had anything to do with it.

She ran her tongue over her lip and tasted perspiration. Why did sweat always taste salty, and why would she even think to question that at a time like this? She took a quick, shallow breath and whispered, "Come on, Matt. Breathe! BREATHE!"

It'd been a long time since she'd trained for CPR. Would she remember what to do? A bluish pallor stole over Matt's complexion, and his body became a dead weight. She had no time to lose.

Faith pinched his nose and made a seal over his mouth with her own. She breathed big enough to make his chest rise, let his chest fall, and repeated the rescue breath again. She listened for an intake of breath, an exhale, but the only sound was the pounding of her own heart in her ears.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Author Spotlight - BJ Robinson shares the inspiration of devotionals

If you've visited my blog at and read my profile, you know I've had a number of devotionals published. Below is one of my favorite scriptures, and I used it in my debut novel Last Resort because it gave me hope when I lost my mother and sister only six years apart. Mom died of cancer and my sister of an eating disorder, and I used the themes of lost loved ones and eating disorders in my novel.

Hope Lives

". . . and the dead in Christ will rise first: After that, we who are still alive and left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” 1 Thessalonians verses 4:16-18

She and I stood in the front yard of the old apartment house. Lisa wore a light pink suit jacket, and her sad brown eyes looked directly into mine as she said, "I hope it's not cancer. I don't want to die." That visual image is sealed in my mind as vivid today as it was seven years ago when I lost my youngest sister. Bird-like hands clutched a shining gold star with a pearl-head pin. She handed it to me, "I want you to wear this, because every time I see a star, I think of you." When Lisa died, the heavens raged. Storm clouds covered the land and hurricanes blew in from the sea. That year, twelve blustery ones battered America's shores. The last, a storm named Lisa, tiny and non-threatening like her, eventually faded out over land. On September 13, a summons came for Lisa. Sent on a mission, angels ferried another angel home. As I fell to my knees bedside my bed and cried, I said a silent prayer. Then, I opened my Bible, and the Comforter sent me encouragement. I knew then, that even in death, hope lived, for I'd see my youngest sister again in heaven.

Dear Lord, thank you for Your encouraging Word and the gift of eternal life through Your son, Jesus. Thank you for opening my eyes so I no longer grieve without hope, Amen.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Author Spotlight - BJ Robinson talks about the Sunflower in her life

Since Sunflower is a character in LAST RESORT, here's the story of our we came to own our sweet blessing.

It’s not Puppy Love for
Sunflower my Golden Baby Girl

A golden cocker spaniel flew out of a play pen and nearly fell into the swimming pool. She jumped right for my husband’s arms, and he caught her and laughed. She captured my heart at once. “That’s her. She’s the one. She couldn’t wait for us to claim her.”

We were in Holly Hills, Florida, to look at puppies. After watching the paper and phoning about various advertisements, I finally found a golden cocker spaniel. Years ago, I owned a male named Buffy, and I always wanted another one. I'd found her. After she jumped out of the play pen to us, we simply couldn’t leave her behind. She rode home in my lap, and I named her Sunflower. She would soon live up to her name by being the sun in our lives.

As a puppy, Sunflower zipped with pep and energy. She raced through the house like a golden bullet. She had to make friends with the cats and a German shepherd named Dakota. We need not have worried; she and Dakota soon made fast friends and became like sisters. We hadn't thought about how well a puppy could chew. I had been lucky with Buffy, and I had never had a problem with him chewing, but Sunflower was a different story.

One day I came home from teaching school to find the new grandfather clock I bought my husband for his birthday attacked by her, the latest in a line of Sunflower victims. I worried that when my husband got home from work he would say Sunflower had to go. I could just imagine the words that would stream from his mouth, “That dog's history! I’ve always wanted a grandfather clock!”

My husband had fallen in love with the cuddly little puppy, so he let her stay. He calls her his baby girl, but I knew he would be upset with his baby girl when he got home and found that she lunched on his grandfather clock.

Sunflower always runs to meet us when we return from work. She sits in the window and watches for our vehicles to pull into the drive and dances around on her little short legs so happy to see us. When I let her out, she takes a run around the swimming pool and slides into home base. She glides on the ceramic tile and has to put on puppy-paw brakes to keep from running into the furniture. That evening was no different. She knows when it's time for us and waits and watches like an alarm clock ready to spring. As my husband opened the door, she leapt into action and flew into her daddy’s arms. He picked her up and cuddled her, happy to see her.

“You might not be as loving to Sunflower when you notice how she spent her time today," I warned.

“What did she do now?”

She'd already chewed slippers, socks, and even a cap. “See if you notice anything different in the living room.”

His eyes quickly darted around the small room taking everything in, and I saw his face when they landed on the bottom part of his grandfather clock. He always wanted a grandfather clock, and I bought him an imitation one since we couldn't afford the real thing. We got Sunflower the later part of August; it was only September, and his new clock was history. I waited dreading to hear what he'd say.

“Good thing it wasn’t the real thing. It’s a clock and can be replaced. Sunflower can’t.” He continued to cradle her in his arms and scolded her, “You’ve been a bad girl today and tried to make a meal of my clock.” She loved her daddy’s attention and kissed him.

I silently thanked God he hadn’t told me I had to get rid of Sunflower. She had already captured both our hearts, and she had us both wrapped around her little golden puppy paws. Good thing for Sunflower, her daddy had fallen in love with her before she decided to devour his clock.

The battle-worn clock still keeps time in our living room with little puppy teeth scars all around the edges and bottom. Every night Sunflower snuggles with her daddy and then gets in her favorite spot behind us on our bookcase headboard bed. She puts her sweet little puppy head on the pillow right between both our heads and sleeps. Did you know cocker spaniels snore? This one does sometimes. Her daddy says she's dreaming sweet puppy dreams.

Sunflower is the light in my life when I come home from a hard day’s work, just as she is for my husband. She is such a smart, pretty little dog. We both have spoiled her. She has to have a doggie cookie every time she comes in from outside. I have her trained, so I do not have to yell and wake the neighbors calling for her in the mornings. Quite by accident, I discovered that if I flip the light switch three times, wait a minute, and flip it again, Sunflower comes running to claim her doggie biscuit.

Sunflower is a golden-girl companion, and I hope we enjoy her company for many years to come. She has outgrown her puppy-chewing days. Thank God, but I hope she never outgrows her cuddly, loving ways. She follows my every step. If I go into another room, she is right behind me. As I work on my home computer taking college classes online or writing, Sunflower sleeps at my feet, as close as she can get. I can’t make a move without my Sunflower angel by my side, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. She is a warm loving companion. The grandfather clock is just a chunk of wood, no company at all. My husband was right. A clock can be replaced, but Sunflower is one of a kind. It’s more important to have the enjoyment of a loyal pet. If you haven’t known the love of a pet, part of your heart and soul have not been awakened. She’s our golden baby girl, our stress reliever. It’s not puppy love for Sunflower!

My summer activities are reading and writing. I love to read on my Nook, and I can read faster and better since my husband gave it to me as a Christmas gift this past year.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Author Spotlight - BJ Robinson talks about influences in her life

Two teachers who really made an important difference in my life were my third and fifth grade teachers. My third grade teacher developed my interest in writing when she submitted my short story about my dog to the local newspaper, and it was published. That sparked an interest in writing for me which has not dimmed, though it was to be many years before I would see myself published once again. My next publication came with the first essay I wrote in my first college English class. Since that time, I have had many poems, articles, essays, and short stories published in anthologies and local newspapers. I won first prize for a short story which I wrote during a creative-writing class under the instruction of Tim Gautreaux, a Louisiana author who was listed as one of the fifty writers to watch in the January 2000 edition of Writer's Digest. I developed that award-winning short story into a novel which releases January 11, Southern Superstitions. The short story itself will be a Christmas freebie.

The other special teacher, who made a big difference in my life, was my fifth grade teacher who really developed my love for reading and books. She introduced me to another world with the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. She knew just where to leave off to keep our interest sparked, and we looked forward to reading class each day. After having this wonderful lady as a teacher, I joined the reading club during the summer at the local library each year. Though I never won, I watched my marker climb its way towards the top, and I read more books then than I have ever read in my life, that is until my husband gifted me with a Nook for Christmas. Now, I devour them. It's one of the best presents he ever gave me, but the best was Sunflower. I gave more book reports in school than any other student in my class, and I earned extra credit for many of them. I've always been an avid reader and passionate writer.

It was also about that time when I discovered my love for mysteries. I read every Nancy Drew mystery I could find. Reading and writing go hand-in-hand. To be a good writer, one must first become a good reader, and I feel I owe both of these special teachers in my life for starting me off on the right track when I was young; thereby, helping shape, mold, and develop the writer I am today. My mother also read all the classic fairytales to me before I started school, and I thank her for my love of reading, too. Most of all, I thank God for placing the desire to write within my heart, guiding and directing me as I write, and allowing me to serve Him through my writing. I love to write inspirational fiction to touch peoples' lives and hearts and make a difference, and I've had a number of devotionals published for the same reason. I have a writing devotional in Words to Write By compiled by Robin Bayne. This is a book of devotionals for writers, and if you're a writer, you'll love it. It's available at Barnes and Noble as an eBook for the Nook for only four dollars.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Author Spotlight -Q&A with Author BJ Robinson

STEPH: I don't know much about Last Resort. What's it about?

BJ: LAST RESORT is set in Bridal Wreath, a fictional town, and Key West, Florida. A woman vows to hide her heart so deeply in Christ that to find her, a man will have to find Him first, but will the true hidden treasures in God's Word be enough when she collides with Matt Allen? Faith is stalked and forced to search her conflicted heart. Will she be forced to use The Pink Lady? In a battle of love, loss, and jealousy, she strives to build a new life with peace and contentment, but Matt Allen has eyes like magnets she could get as lost in as unknown woods. Will he prove to be a helpmate or just another strawberry cull? She's pursued by an ex-fiancé, shattered dreams, an awesome God, and a cowboy farmer. There's only one place she can turn . . . .There's only one last resort.

Faith left the city to return to the country home where she grew up, but someone wants her to pack bags, not berries. A series of incidents take place to try to force her to leave. When she doesn't budge, arson, attempted murder, and murder kept the reader turning pages.

StepH: Where did you find the inspiration for it?
BJ: It started off as a sweet romance and turned into a book with several themes. There was a lot of controversy about guns in the news and gun control. At the same time, there were many incidents of private citizens who owned guns coming to the rescue. I thought about how I could show growth and change for my main character and thought I'd have her not wanting to own a gun and show her become stronger as she changed her attitude and learned to use one for all the right reasons, of course. Many women are stalked by former spouses and/or boyfriends, so I thought it'd make a good story. I was inspired to include Sunflower, my golden cocker spaniel, because I'm a dog lover and thought it'd appeal to pet lovers. I love reading books with pets included.

STEPH: How long did it take you to write?

BJ: It took me three years to complete, but not to write. I had the basic story the first eight months, but I kept going back and changing it, layering. I took my time on it since I was also taking writing courses at the same time and tried to apply some of the lessons to my novel as I worked on the WIP. The last year was spent with rewrites, editing, and layering. I could have written it sooner, but I spent time completing writing lessons during this time, and the first year I started it, I was still completing my Masters in Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction, and writing devotionals and shorter pieces of work. I had a Thanksgiving story I wrote published in the local newspaper during this time and a short story. I also have a number of devotionals published in one year's time.

STEPH: How important is setting to the novel?

BJ: The setting of a strawberry farm is important because the main characters earn their living as honest farmers. Key West, Florida, is important to the climax of the story.

STEPH: Did you have to do a lot of research for the novel?

BJ: Some for the hydroponic strawberries, but I went to a hydroponic berry farm and actually picked some. They were delicious. Some of the research came from watching the local news. Ideas came from it as well. I actually traveled to Key West several times while writing the novel, and I picked hydroponic strawberries twice.

STEPH: Hollywood just told you they want to make a movie of your novel. Cast the leads!

BJ: Nicholas Cage-ex
Faith- Jennifer Aniston
Matt- Toby Keith, but he has blue eyes. I can't think of a brown-eyed guy at the moment. Alan Jackson would make a great hero, too, but again, he has blue eyes, and my hero has brown ones.

STEPH: What do you want people to take away from the novel?

BJ: There are so many things I hope and pray readers glean from the reading of my novel: The importance of family and friends, love, faith, prayer and God, survival, gun safety, swimming safety, especially during the summer months, waiting for the right one and not settling, God's perfect timing, abuse, eating disorders, and nature, are apparent throughout the novel. The unconditional love a pet provides. The faith element is very important, since I hope my readers turn the last page knowing Jesus is their best friend and the simple things in life, family and friends are life's true hidden treasures. I also want them to know that they'll see their loved ones again in heaven, and Jesus shouldn't be a LAST RESORT, as He is Fred's. The faith element is strong and important, but the novel weaves a story with twists and turns, and the romantic suspense makes it a page-turner. It has the elements of romance, suspense, arson, attempted murder, murder, shattered dreams, fear, hope, faith, prayer, and love woven together to create a story I hope and pray will touch your heart in more ways than one. I hope my readers realize how short time really is and how a choice made in a few minutes can alter a life forever. The one main thing I want my readers to take away is that they are never alone. There is always someone to turn to, God, and Jesus can be their best friend. I want them to close the book and remember my characters, and I hope they find it thought-provoking, but an enjoyable read. Also, I placed a number of red herrings throughout the novel in hopes of keeping readers guessing and turning the pages, so I want them to feel the novel was a worthy read and not so easy to figure out by the end of the story.

STEPH: Are you a plotter or a panster?

BJ: Both. I started out as a panster, but I have spurts of both. I like to take a pen and paper and write for ten minutes in a notebook by the seat of my pants. It helps with deep thoughts and emotions. I can also sit down at the keyboard and know what I'm going to write about, a certain topic, and just start keying a rough draft. I let it cool and go back later and plan how I can improve it and rewrite, layer, and edit. In the beginning stages of a novel, I plan, but I'm not into elaborate outlines, and I like to be creative.

STEPH: What's your writing space like?

BJ: I have an L-shaped oak desk that overlooks a large backyard. An oak tree is right outside the window, and I can hear birds sing without even cracking my window. I also have a beautiful view of flowers, trees, and birds. I have a golden cocker spaniel and a golden retriever who are beside my feet on the floor by my desk. I love looking at water while I write, and I enjoy writing outdoors at times while I listen to birds and nature.

STEPH: Tell us a little about the state you live in.

BJ: I live in the Sunshine State and Lightening Capital of the World, Florida, and it's a contradiction. We usually get evening showers that quickly blow over with T-storms that suddenly arise in the summer. It's a tourist attraction due to all the theme parks. There are parts with beautiful beaches and water. One favorite place is Cedar Key and another is Key West. I love small town St. Cloud. I'm a small-town girl in my heart and always will be. I don't like fighting traffic. I love the country parts that are left to enjoy. I've visited all the theme parks and ridden all the roller coasters. We used to purchase season tickets. There's Disney, SeaWorld, and Busch Gardens, and so many other places to visit and things to do.