Thursday, May 30, 2019

A Disaster that Leads to Love

When I heard about author Jean Grant's latest book,  Will Rise from Ashes, I was immediately intrigued and wanted to know more -- an eruption at Yellowstone National Park?  A family trying to reunite? A romance involved?  All were elements that drew my interest. After spending a summer vacation with my family at Yellowstone we were talking about the volcanic properties and possibilities for days. 

The blurb and cover only intrigued me more:

Young widow AJ Sinclair has persevered through much heartache. Has she met her match when the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, leaving her separated from her youngest son and her brother? Tens of thousands are dead or missing in a swath of massive destruction. She and her nine-year-old autistic son, Will, embark on a risky road trip from Maine to the epicenter to find her family. She can't lose another loved one.

Along the way, they meet Reid Gregory, who travels his own road to perdition looking for his sister. Drawn together by AJ's fear of driving and Reid's military and local expertise, their journey to Colorado is fraught with the chaotic aftermath of the eruption. AJ's anxiety and faith in humanity are put to the test as she heals her past, accepts her family's present, and embraces uncertainty as Will and Reid show her a world she had almost forgotten.

Jean's background is in science and she draws from her interests in history, nature, and her family for inspiration. She writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors. I asked her why she wanted to write about the Yellowstone story in particular:

Why Yellowstone? My son (who is high functioning autistic) loves loves loves volcanoes. At age 5 his obsession with Mount St. Helens filled our days. It moved on to the Yellowstone super volcano. My husband and I love outdoors, hiking, national parks and are both scientists (well, I write now, and retired from that career). I wanted to write a story inspired by my life as a parent of a child with special needs. Then somehow the idea of the volcano came in. We saw a cool BBC made for TV/Netflix movie on the eruption (like if it happened), and we planned a family trip to the grand northwest to see volcanoes galore (Mount St. Helens, Yellowstone, Crater Lake, Craters of the Moon...) and this story came to be.

And what a story it promises to be!  I still wanted to know more so I asked to interview her characters, AJ Sinclair and Reid Gregory: 

AJ, why are you making such a dangerous trip to look for your family?
It’s my son. Wouldn’t you? Sorry, don’t mean to snap. I’m just on edge. Ever since Harrison’s accident, driving stretches my nerves. I just can’t lose another loved one. Not my son Finn. Plus, I’ve not heard from my brother Brandon. What if they are hurt…or worse? I can’t just sit here clear across the country and wait.

What strengths do you possess that might help you in this trip?
I’m decent at planning and organizing. I can do triage and work on Plan B. My car is stocked with the essentials. Though Will is a better list-maker than me. He’ll keep me on track, too. I’ve got a mother’s endurance and need less sleep. Coffee is my sidekick.

What are your concerns about what you might run into?
 I’m worried I might clam-up in the driveway. As long as I have my anxiety medication, I might be okay. I also don’t know what we’ll hit weather-wise…ash, destruction…and the disorder. The government seems to be holding it together but the people out there—out West—I’m not sure what we’ll find. For a planner, not knowing what lies ahead spikes my anxiety. Plus death—so much of it. I’m wary about what Will might see. He’s young and impressionable. I’m all he has now; I can’t leave him home.

Is there anything from the past that is affecting your decision to go?
I wish Harrison was here. But he died a year ago. I’m all my sons have got. I need to find Finn. I need to be there for Will.

What frightens you most about the upcoming trip?

That I might not find my son or brother.

What are your first thoughts about Reid Gregory?
I’m a suspicious sort. I’ve seen my fair share of jerks. He seems kind, friendly. But I wonder what’s up with him. What’s he hiding? And why would he want to help me?

Do you think he can help your search?
He’s from the area in Colorado where, based on my last text message with my brother, I hope I can find him and my son. Reid’s also former military. Seems to know his stuff. He’s an asset.

Do you think you can help him?
 Help him? Not sure I can help anyone these days. I can barely keep myself together. But I wouldn’t mind the companionship. I miss good conversation with kind souls. And he needs a ride, and that I can provide.

 What about you, Reid? Why are you making this dangerous trip?
I need to get to my sister. I’m all she’s got since our parents passed away.

What are your first impressions about AJ Sinclair?
I see a frightened, paranoid woman. I also see a tender, compassionate mom and human being just trying her best to get by. I see a resilient person who would do anything for her family.

What worries you most about the trip?
 The immoral people we may run into along the way. Not being able to get through any roadblocks.

How do you think you can help her?
 AJ needs to help herself. But I can offer her friendship and knowledge. I’d love to get to know her better.

How can she help you?
 I’d love to be at peace with my mistakes. Maybe AJ’s past and perspective can help me on that path of redemption.

Thank you Reid and AJ, and thank you, Jean, for bringing us the information and details of your  newest book and  introducing your characters. Here is the information on where you can get a copy of it:

And if you would like to reach Jean, here are her contact details:

Does anyone have any comments or questions for Jean?

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Mystery, Magic & Murder

Don't we all love to solve old mysteries, find hidden gems and learn about new places? New authors, new story ideas and especially new mystery novels always grab my reading attention. That's exactly why I was pleased to discover Canadian author, Vanessa Westermann, and get the opportunity to check out her debut novel, An Excuse for Murder.

I'm so pleased to say Vanessa is another suspense fan. She says she has always loved reading mystery novels, beginning with Nancy Drew, like so many other mystery writers. She says when she first started writing this book she wanted to write a village mystery, complete with quirky characters, but she also wanted it to have the momentum and feel of a thriller. She has done it by using the viewpoints of male and female protagonists. As someone else who writes romantic suspense, that certainly sounds like a great combination to me!

 But as a lover of fairy tales, she also wanted to include a  touch of the fairy tale land, and she says she has done that through the setting. Here's the blurb:
As a former bodyguard, it should be easy for Gary Fenris to kill, especially when the motive is revenge. But Gary has made two mistakes in his life. The first was letting the woman he loved die on his watch. The second was thinking vengeance could bring him peace. 

Local bookstore owner and amateur lock pick Kate Rowan loves nothing more than a good mystery. Her curiosity soon leads her down a trail of blackmail, obsession and death. Despite the risk - or maybe because of it - Gary finds himself drawn to Kate. 

When danger strikes, Gary is forced to face the fact that he used love as an excuse for murder. And he's got one last score to settle. 

Let's get an excerpt:

     The ghost of her laughter teased across his skin, raising the hairs on his arms.  
     There she was, vibrant as though she was in the room with him. "Don't tell me you don't like it." She gave her new dress a twirl, barefoot and beautiful, all ready for a night out but for the heels she would wait to put on to the last. Her toe-nails were painted red. The arch of her foot flexed strong and graceful with the movement. Her blonde hair shone in the light of memory. She stopped short, the soft blue fabric swinging against her legs, and grinned at him.  
      It went straight through him. He raised the bottle of Scotch to his lips, holding on to the vision. It wavered beneath the intensity of his gaze.  
     Then there was nothing on the floor but scuff marks and the shimmer of dust. His trainers, mud-caked from that morning's eight kilometer run, took up the space where her heels should have been. He had almost forgotten the way she used to toe her shoes off, always sliding the left one off first for some inexplicable reason. 
     The wall was cold and hard against his back, the Scotch smooth and warm.  
     There was no other choice. He'd made his decision two years ago. It was time. 
     Tomorrow, he would commit murder.

This sounds like the sort of story that can catch you and hold you until you turn the last page. No wonder reviewers have called it "a mesmerizing page-turner," and a "lyrical thriller that crackles with defiance and danger."  If you want to read more, here are the buy links:

The Wild Rose Press
Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Kobo | Books-A-Million

Thank you for being my guest today. If you would like to learn more about Vanessa or get in touch with her, here is her contact info:

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Magical, Mystical Visit to Vermont

Part of the fun of being a reader (and writer) is discovering the magic of lots of different places with great authors as our guides. That's what we have in store today as author Tena Stetler visits in My Writing Corner. 

Tena Stetler is a best-selling author of award winning paranormal romance novels. She tells us she has an over-active imagination, which led to writing her first vampire romance as a tween to the chagrin of her mother and delight of her friends.  
With the Rocky Mountains outside her window, she sits at her computer surrounded by a wide array of paranormal creatures, with a Navy SEAL or two mixed in telling their tales. Her books tell stories of magical kick-ass women and strong mystical males that dare to love them. Travel, adventure and a bit of mystery flourish in her books along with a few companion animals to round out the tales. 
So let's turn things over to Tena as she introduces us to her newest book Mystic Maples, part of the Dearbourne Inn Series:
Good Morning Rebecca. Thanks for inviting us today.  I didn’t think you’d mind if I brought the hero of Mystic Maples, Silvanus Forrest, with me. Unfortunately, Mercy Rose was up to her elbows in dirt with her new creation when we left, so she won't be here. 

That’s all right, I understand. Let’s start with Silvanus.

Tells us about you. 
I own Mystic Maples, a sugar maple grove on the outskirts of Willow Springs, Vermont. It’s been in my family since 1754.  I provide my special maple syrup to The Deerbourne Inn and several of the café’s in town. Several of the town’s people stop by and pick up the syrup for their personal use too. 

Tell us three things we’d find if we looked under your bed?  
A box of unread mysteries I picked up from the book store in town. A couple of Raga’s balls. She is always putting them under there and barking for me to get them out.<grin>

What makes you laugh out loud?  
People’s antics. You never know what to expect. Love to sit in the Sunny Springs Café and watch the locals. Tiana the owner has a way of bringing out the most interesting behaviors of her customers.

What makes you angry? 
 Individuals that take advantage of others.

What event in your past has left the most indelible impression on you? 
When my parents retired and left Mystic Maples to me. I’ve always loved the place and worked there since I was knee high to a grasshopper. My brother was extremely upset. He’s one of those people who takes advantage of others. He’s also allergic to hard work.

Those are harsh words for a family member.
I know, but you’ll understand after reading Mystic Maples.

What do you most value? 
Family and friends.  Without them, there is no one to watch your back, and you are a drift in a lonely world. I’ve recently discovered that people that know you well will give you the benefit of the doubt when things go south. LOL

What do you sleep in at night? 
 In a bed of course. LOL  If you are asking what I wear to bed, it depends on the situation. <wink>

What is the type of woman you want to spend the rest of your life with? 
A woman that knows her own mind, what she wants, and goes after it.

 What do you consider most important in life? 
Having a life partner that is willing to accept you as you are regardless of the good, bad and weird. LOL

 What is your biggest secret? 
If I told you it would be a secret anymore, now would it? But I’ll give you a hint. It resides in the original part of the barn at Mystic Maples.

Thanks you, Tena, for introducing us to Silvanus. Now let’s hear a little from Tena herself  about writing Mystic Maples, before I let you all get back at it.  
Tell us, Tena, was writing it fun or difficult? 
 It was a lot of fun. I love writing stories about small towns, and collaborations with other authors. The Deerbourne Inn series was the brainchild of The Wild Rose Press and its authors. If you haven’t read the series, you don’t know what you’re missing.

 Do your characters always act as you expect? 
Absolutely not. I think they thrive in knocking me off my stride.

Are you a plotter, or fly (write) by the seat of your pants (panster)?  
Oh, panster all the way. I couldn’t plot my way out of a paper bag. LOL

Thank you for taking time to visit with me. Good Luck with Mystic Maples.  Here's more information about Tena's new book:


Earth/Fire witch Mercy Rose's insatiable curiosity always gets her in trouble. After a break-in at her Colorado flower shop, and a court battle that comes to a screeching halt in her favor, she arrives at Deerbourne Inn for a much-needed getaway. Looking for peace and quiet, she finds just the opposite in a startling handsome but mysterious man and his dog.

Silvanus Forrest's gypsy/fae heritage is a double-edged sword. The land he inherited from his parents is rumored to be enchanted. But when Mercy discovers the truth, his well-ordered life unravels, and they're catapulted into the past to right a wrong. Along the way their lives intertwine, and they discover the true meaning of family and love. Will they change the past in time to save their future?

Let's get an Excerpt:

In the middle of the vardo an old weathered chest was completely out of place. She leaned over.

“Don’t touch that,” he barked. It was too late.

Her fingers stroked the rusted padlock. It sprang open. Puffs of dried soil sprinkled the carpet around the chest. He placed a restraining hand on her arm just as she tentatively dug her fingers into the soil. “This isn’t from your land. It’s—.” A swirl of colors sucked them in and a feeling of weightlessness surrounded her. She grabbed hold of Sil’s arm. The dog yipped. Then suddenly they were back inside the wagon.

Only something was amiss, the silence, the earthy smell wasn’t right. She shivered. What have I done? Taking a deep breath, she whirled around to face Sil.

“What the hell just happened?”

He shrugged. “You promised not to touch a thing. Let’s get out of here.” Reaching for the vardo’s handle, he pushed down, and the door opened into a small barn. He strode to the door, tugging Mercy along with him. When he shoved it open moonlight spread across an open field casting silvery shadows through the bordering trees. Off in the distance stood a ramshackle cabin.

A warm breeze swept her hair across her face. She stared unblinking. Nothing about the landscape was familiar except the stands of young trees. She bent as if to touch the soil.

His arm flew out and prevented her from reaching the ground. “It’s true,” he murmured surveying the area. His lips set in a thin line, he rubbed his temples, and stared. Mocking her. “I won’t touch a thing. Well… you did and now…”

“Now what?” she whispered.

Want to read on? Here are the buy links:

Barnes& Noble


Here are the contact links if you would like to get in touch with Tena:

Authors’ Secret’s Blog -
My Say What Blog -
Facebook Page:
Twitter Page:     
The Wild Rose Press:
Tribber -

BookGorilla -

Thank you, Tena, for being my guest today.  Any comments or questions for Tena?

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Making New Discoveries

The writing process never stops if you're an author... or at least it shouldn't.  As I am always telling my sister I am constantly on the lookout for new story ideas, new thoughts about characters or scouting out new locations, whether online or by travelling there in person. The writers' senses need to always be on the alert for new thoughts or situations that can work in the next book. Sometimes I  like to think that life is just one big story.

This week the idea for a new way of looking at things came to me as I was listening to mystery author, Suzanne Young, talk about her book,  The Wrong Coat. She is the author of the popular Edna Davies mystery series and now she has started a new amateur series based in Colorado. She was speaking about how she developed her mystery stories.  When I mentioned to my sister the ideas she presented, my sister asked, "why are you so excited about that? You know that already. You teach that in some of your classes."

That got me to thinking.  Well, yes I do. And, yes, I teach that. But I wrote it down just the same.  Why? Because sometimes as authors we forget what we know.  Or we forget to use what we already know. Sometimes the simple things about developing characters or developing scenes become so ordinary we forget what we're doing -- not that we necessarily make mistakes. But we just don't realize what we know or how much we know.

This is one of the reasons I like to attend book talks by other authors or go to sessions where authors are presenting programs. We can not only learn new material, but we can also get a refresher course in those things that we already know or might not be using.

When I go to a conference or just to a book signing I always find myself taking a notebook along with me. I remember once attending a Harlan Coben booksigning and finding myself without any paper to write on -- I had forgotten my notebook.  When a bestselling author starts talking about how he writes his books, you want to pay attention and before long I was writing on the back of every single receipt I had in my purse and even on the back of my parking ticket.

And that was how I felt about listening to Suzanne talk about writing her characters and how she decided what might happen next. Luckily Suzanne gave us a little notebook that I began to fill up with her thoughts so I have them now.  Among her suggestions:

1. Really get to know your characters -- don't just to write down who they are but get to know them, and how they might react. Learn about them to the point where you know exactly how they will act in different situations. Then she suggested thinking of 20 things that could happen as you develop those characters to see what might happen next so that you can continue to more fully develop your plot.

2. Let the characters come out. Each character is going to be different and is going to react in a different way. Know who will react how and use it in your story.

3. Think about the pacing as you develop your plot. Too much movement and you are going to wear out the reader. Give some breathing points that slow the plot down.

4. Try a twist or two. For instance she used an example where there was so much action I was getting breathless just hearing all the bad things that could happen. Her suggestion -- try a twist that is the opposite of what the reader thought might happen.

5. Stay ahead of the plot.  She says she knows what will come next in the plot before she writes a scene, but she also pays attention again to how she knows the character might react. She says that also helps her in her editing as well.

Her final tip was to know the plot so that by the time the author is finished writing the book the editing will be much easier.

Again, these were things that I have known, but as I told my sister, yes, but they are also things we need to be reminded of every so often as writers.  And we also need to know that other writers out there are going through some of the same things we go through.  Just listening to her talk about working on her book gave me new energy to come back and re-introduce myself to my characters and to once again dive into the writing process. Sometimes just hearing from someone else can make that sort of difference. Yes, we know it, but we can always stand to get a refresher course. And that was just what I got from Suzanne Young! The end result was a new resolution to  put some of those writing processes to work again. And I got introduced to a wonderful sleuthing duo in the process!

Here is the information about Suzanne's book:

Beryl Fishen and Nadine Rodd live in a Colorado retirement community. After attending a performance at a community theater, Beryl mistakenly receives the wrong coat. An initial search of the pocket reveals only scraps of paper but a closer examination leads Beryl to suspect that the tattered garment was purposely swapped for her much newer wrap. Furious at the injustice and temerity of the act, Beryl enlists Nadine's help. Armed with the clues found in the coat -- a grocery store list, a fast food receipt and a library slip, the two widows hunt for a thief and catch a killer.  

Here is the buy link at Amazon:

The Wrong Coat

Thank you, Suzanne, for the refresher and for introducing me to a new mystery sleuth!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Reaching for the Next Level

Last week I discussed the writing senses and how I constantly stay aware of my surroundings in case I need to use something similar in my next story. Today, I am still thinking about how setting can make a difference.

We all get tired of doing our jobs and look for excuses for not doing our work, but one of the most fun things I find about being a writer is that we can put some of that down time into actually doing a better job later.  I’m not just talking about research, and I know lots of writers get so wrapped up in their research that they forget to write their stories, while others spend too much time trying something new or a new way of writing that they don’t get words down on paper or into the computer.
Writers seem to be constantly finding new ways NOT to do our job, but never fear, that down time can be put to good use. We can still use those moments of what we call research or just sitting around into our work. Whether it be observation, which I’ve often talked about or trying a new experience as a way of learning, we can still write about it or take notes and use the whole thing later in a story. We just need to stay aware.

Not long ago I played hooky from my computer by visiting the Dior Exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Seeing different designs was fun, but imagining the people who might wear them gave me great ideas for a whole new story.  It was a rich experience I so many ways, beyond just seeing the fashions.

As I've written in the past, even staring at the sky can be turned into a writing experience. How does your character view those clouds? What do you see in them? What might those dark threatening clouds mean to your character? A need to get on the road or a gathering storm that equals their emotions?

Taking some time to enjoy the scent of newly blooming lilacs may seem like down time, but you can put them to good use later. Is the scent overpowering, does it bring up memories of walking home from school for your character? Again, sights, sounds sensations that we all experience can seem to be ordinary, but as writers we need to stop and notice them. We need to remember them for later use because they can be useful when you’re grappling for a scene description or for the feelings of your characters. 

How does that sunny spring day make YOU feel? How would it make your pessimistic character feel?  What about your happy go lucky character? Does he see brightness even in the most rainy day?  Recently on a trip to Vancouver, BC, I was disappointed I couldn’t take pictures of the bay because the sun was much too bright and I couldn’t capture the scene. But at the same time I was able to get pictures inside the small, picturesque hotel where I was enjoying a relaxing lunch, writing scenes for my next suspense book.  I could almost imagine my character thinking she had seen a murder, but then being blinded by the bright sunlight and wondering if that is what she really saw.  The next day I listened to other authors talk about the dark side of Vancouver and how they write their stories set in different parts of the city. For some of them, the vibrant suburbs made perfect sense, while others talked about the gritty side of town and the fear of being on some of those streets at night. 

As I travelled the city, I watched for those settings that they discussed and thought about how I would write different stories set in the different areas. Yes, I could see a mystery set in the gritty area or a family drama set in the suburbs. But then again, why not turn things around and set a story of hope on that gritty downtown street where a woman finds a new reason for living? Why not try that sad story on the sunlit beach?

There are so many possibilities, but as writers we get to make those choices and we get to choose what the story is going to be. But learning, watching and drinking in the setting can make all the difference in the world.

Mysterious Doings

As the  summer begins, it is time to start selecting those books we want to take on vacation or for sitting around the pool or at  the beach...