Monday, December 27, 2021

Looking Back, Looking Forward

For me, the final week of every year has always meant looking back and looking forward. The end of one year is coming (and coming very quickly) while a new year is just around the corner and comes with the promise of new things to do, new places to visit and new people to meet, not to mention new challenges.

It's time to take that sigh of relief over what we have gotten done in the past year and rather than thinking of the things we didn’t quite get done, I always like to think of the things that DID get done.

Usually when we take the time to count up accomplishments versus things we didn’t get done, we end up finding there was a lot more that got accomplished than we realize. The secret is to take the time to think of them and then applaud what we did accomplish, rather than focus solely on what didn’t get done.  (Even those things we didn’t do we still have time to get them done next year!) Confusing? Maybe, but the key is to keep looking forward rather than focusing on what was left behind. We can always start the new year promising to get those things done!

For me, while last year was a crazy, confused and sometimes frightening time, it also provided some new opportunities that will pay off in the future. For instance, while I still couldn’t physically attend conferences that I often enjoyed in the past, I was still able to attend MORE conferences because so many offered virtual opportunities. I couldn’t attend my local writing group meetings, but once they began putting them on virtually,I was still able to see the programs. I was also able to attend virtual conferences and meetings given by other groups all around the country.  (I even attended one given in Canada.)

No, it’s not the same as spending time just chatting with other writers, but the conferences still presented a great opportunity to learn from master teachers and  best-selling authors and to get to just chat with other writers about some of the challenges they are facing.

Being forced to stay in also gave me more time to focus on the writing process itself. I was able to finish two non-fiction books as well as three works of fiction that I had been working on for several years. 

The non-fiction book, Pitching Your Fiction will soon be available, as well as my co-authored books, Writing a Great Villain, and Writing Tips for Authors.  

To me, one of the most exciting developments in the past year was getting two new fiction books completed, edited and sent on the road to publication. They will both be released in the new year.

Secrets of Sara was a book I started writing years ago – the story of a young woman who keeps seeing a ghost with a secret from the past. It’s a romantic suspense novel that will be coming soon from Wings ePress.

When Marianne Lopez arrives in the small Colorado town where she was born and raised, she knows she must face Brad Calhoun, the man who once broke her heart. Rancher Brad Calhoun has never forgotten the special time he spent with Marianne, but he also knows they want different lives. Deserted by his mother and an ex-wife, Brad wants only a calm life to raise his children. Both carry memories of a night of stolen love… and a special connection that draws them together.  But there is something…or someone… watching them… Do the secrets of Sara hold the key to their future?

My second book, coming next year also from The Wild Rose Press is the second in my Dead Man series—Dead Man’s Treasure.  It is currently in the editing stage, and I’m already working on the final story in the Dead Man trilogy – Dead Man’s Secrets. That is my primary goal for this next year—to get it finished and edited.

Good luck with all your goals for the new year, but don’t forget to look back and celebrate what you accomplished in the last year. You’ll probably find you did a lot more than you realized. So here’s to the old year, and bring on the new one!  


Monday, December 20, 2021

'Tis The Season

With the holiday season in full swing, wouldn't it be nice to take a break from all our chores with a new book? That's how I always feel every year as the heart of the season grows closer and there are always new things to do, new places to go, and responsibilities that need to be finished. Sometimes we all need to take a deep breath and just curl up with a new story.

Our guest today in My Writing Corner presents a great possibility for that time of relaxation and enjoyment. My guest is author Jill Piscitello and her new sweet, holiday romance sounds like a perfect book for the holidays.

Jill Piscitello is a teacher and author, and she tells us she is also an avid fan of multiple literary genres. Although she divides her reading hours among several books at a time, she says that a lighthearted story offering an escape from the real world can always be found on her nightstand.

Jill is a native of New England, where she lives with her family and three well-loved cats. (Yikes! That's brave! We have two and they keep us plenty busy at times!) She says when she is not planning lessons or reading and writing, she can be found spending time with her family, trying out new restaurants, traveling, and going on light hikes. 

Welcome, Jill, please tell us about your road to publication.

When I finally dredged up the nerve to query publishing houses for my novel, Homemakers’ Christmas, rejections followed.  Some were standard form letters.  But other editors were kind enough to make suggestions for how to improve my writing.  The most useful replies were quite specific and included various free writing resources.  The message was clear and well-received:  the story idea was worth pursuing, but I had much to learn.  Although the editors weren’t ready to offer a contract, I was grateful for the time they spent sharing advice.  I took the advice, ran with it, and continue to read everything I can get my hands on that relates to improving writing.

After significant revisions, Homemakers’ Christmas found a home with Satin Romance.  Last spring, I was thrilled to sign a new contract with The Wild Rose Press for Tinsel and Tea Cakes.  

What do you enjoy about being an author?

I love playing with words.  I can rewrite a line twenty times and never tire of the process.

What do you find is the most challenging part of being an author?

Marketing is probably at the top of the challenge list for most authors.  This is especially true for people like me who are more introverted.  Writing is a solitary activity.  But once you have a finished product, you’re supposed to share it and let people get to know you.  Marketing may not be a walk in the park, but it’s also one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.

What is your latest book and how did you come up with the idea to write it?

Tinsel and Tea Cakes is my latest release.   Though I love a good Christmas romance any time of year, the busy schedules of the holiday season inspired me to write a novella.  My goal was to create something fun and heartwarming.

Let's get a blurb:

Hair stylist Scarlett Kerrigan lost her job and her apartment. To alleviate a touch of self-pity, she succumbs to her stepmom’s pressure to attend a wedding in the New Hampshire White Mountains. Unfortunately, she runs into the vacation fling who promised the moon but disappeared without an explanation. Months have passed, but she is not ready to forgive and forget.

After a chaotic year, executive Wes Harley settles into his family's event venue, The Timeless Manor. His carefully structured world is shaken to its core when Scarlett arrives for the Victorian Christmas wedding weekend. The feelings he never quite erased flood to the surface.

When secrets are revealed, will a magical chateau and a sprinkle of tinsel be enough to charm Scarlett?

How about a quick excerpt?

Lights flashed in the side view mirror. Another car parked behind them, but snow blocked all visibility through the back window. Boots crunching through snow announced the hulking figure before he appeared at the door. A scarf and hat covered most of the stranger’s face, and only a pair of emerald-green eyes peered in. 

Scarlett inched down the window a crack. The possibility of this person being a deranged lunatic couldn’t be overlooked. 

“Scarlett?” The man stepped back and tugged down the scarf. 

She knew that face and opened her mouth to speak but couldn’t find a word. This day just kept getting better. Those eyes should have been the first clue, but never in her wildest dreams did she expect to see him again. The blur of memories racing through her mind dropped a throat-constricting concoction of confusion, hurt, and vile hope on her chest. “Wes.” 

“What are you doing here? Aren’t you a little far from home?” A line formed between his eyebrows. 

Clarice leaned forward to get a better glimpse of their potential knight in shining armor. 

“More than a little.” Coherent thoughts took shape in the form of questions and accusations. Every fiber in her being burned at the thought of asking him for help, but alternative options were few and far between. Who knew how long before roadside assistance arrived? Fine, maybe he’d get her out of this mess, but making small talk didn’t need to factor into the exchange.

What’s your next project? 

I recently finished a manuscript for my first cozy mystery.  But every time I think it’s complete, I dive in for more changes.  I am also in the early stages of writing a stand-alone sequel to Tinsel and Tea Cakes.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?

Make time to write.  Easier said than done when life wants to get in the way.  My first novel took ten years to finish.  As a full-time working mom who often didn’t settle in at home until after 9pm, I know firsthand that those snippets of time are hard to find.  I spent more than a few nights scribbling chapters in notebooks or sticky noting away in Writing Fiction for Dummies and other similar books while waiting in parking lots for my children.  As a newly crowned empty nester, I’m finally polishing up those loose leafed stories.

To learn more about Jill and her books, here are her social contacts and buy links.

Social media links:

Website ~ Twitter  ~ Facebook Instagram

Purchase Links:

Amazon Nook

Apple Books

Thank you, Jill, for being my guest today on My Writing Corner.  Are there any questions or comments for Jill?

Monday, December 13, 2021

A Snowball for the Heart

As we proceed in December we are reaching the heart of the holiday season and today in My Writing Corner we are featuring a writer with just the right recipe to get us into the proper spirit. My guest today is author Margot Johnson who writes sweet, wholesome romances.

Margot tells us she grew up in a family of writers and has always loved books and writing. She is the author of two, sweet romance novels--LOVE TAKES FLIGHT and LOVE LEADS THE WAY and the Christmas novella LET IT SNOWBALL. She says she likes to write characters who can't possibly find their happy endings...or can they? 

Before turning her full attention to the fun writing life, Margot held leadership roles in human resources and communications. Her motto is "Dream big and work hard." When not writing, she loves to connect with family and friends, volunteer with SK Writers Guild, and walk at least 10,000 steps a day (except when it's minus 40!)


She lives in the Canadian prairies with her amazing husband and beloved golden retriever.

She has a new release that just came out last month so let's turn the microphone over to Margot to tell us about herself and her new story, Let it Snowball, a Christmas novella that was just released last month as part of The Wild Rose Press Christmas cookie series.

Take it away, Margot! 

I write feel-good stories about women who chase their dreams and bump into romance along the way. They live in small communities near my home in the Canadian prairies, and they count on an eclectic mix of family and friends to make their lives interesting and fun. 

My mom recently found my first book, written in grade two, complete with hand-drawn illustrations, so I really have wanted to be an author all my life. 


First I focused on magazine writing and had a couple of articles published in Chatelaine, a national women’s magazine in Canada. Then when my children were young, I got very interested in picture books and came close to having one or two published but not close enough. 


For a long time, I set aside my writing and focused on family activities and my career. Some people found it strange, but at work, I enjoyed writing reports and briefing notes. 


Dipping my toe back into creative writing, I collaborated with my sister Donna Gartshore on a novel. We alternated chapters and wrote without a detailed outline, so we had fun surprising each other. That novel didn’t go anywhere. 


Donna now writes for Harlequin Love Inspired, and she inspired me to get serious about writing a novel. While I still worked full-time, I set the alarm for 5:30 and wrote for 1-1.5 hours before work. I then wrote in the evening until I reached my daily target of 1,000 words.


All that effort paid off when The Wild Rose Press offered me a contract for my first sweet romance Love Takes Flight. My new release for Christmas is my third book, and another is in the works for release in early 2022. 


My new release is available as an eBook on Amazon and major online bookstores. I hope you agree it’s a fun way to celebrate the Christmas season!

 In my story, the heroine, Merilee, shares her famous cookie recipe for chocolate snowballs – see below). Maybe you’ll want to add it to your Christmas baking list.

Sounds good, Margot! Let's get a blurb!


 Christmas tours brim with lights, cookies, and…unexpected romance?


Divorced, empty nester Merilee is on a roll. Filled with scrumptious cookies and old-fashioned fun, her Christmas bus tours aim to add festive spirit to her hometown and new meaning to her lackluster life. Too bad her reserved driver slams the brakes on fun.

Widowed farmer Ross needs a little joy to combat his December blues. Behind the wheel, he wears a Santa suit but can't muster a convincing ho-ho-ho. Too many memories block his road to happiness…until irrepressible Merilee sparks a snowstorm of unexpected feelings.

In two weeks of holiday tours, Ross might drive Merilee crazy…or will romance snowball inside their lonely hearts?

Let's get an Excerpt:

After a short drive, the busload arrived at their first stop. “You’re in for a treat.” Merilee leapt up, leaned over, and gave directions on where to park. Absorbing Ross’s delicious scent, clean like snow infused with a trace of peppermint, she jerked back and steadied her breath. Sudden, shocking warmth flooded her insides. Now where was she?  She paused to gather her wayward thoughts. 

“These rules apply for each stop so we can all enjoy the goodies inside and still keep the tour on schedule. You are free to choose from several platters of cookies. If you would like to sample other kinds or take some home, you can purchase as many as you’d like. We’ll stay for thirty minutes, and then I’ll jingle.” She demonstrated with a string of bells. “Last one back on the bus has to tell a joke or lead a song. If you agree, shout snowball.”  

“Snowball.” In a chorus of voices, the group hollered back the right answer. 

She lowered the mic. “What about you, Santa?”

He shifted the gear into Park. “Nobody’s going anywhere without me.” He straightened his hat and quirked a fluffy eyebrow. 

She smiled, folded her arms, and tapped a foot. Her boots were pretty eye-catching covered in green and red toppers with bells on the toes. Maybe she could cajole him into some good-natured joking. “Santa, you know what happens to kids who don’t behave. You don’t want to end up on the Naughty List, do you?” 

“Snowball.” He kept a straight face. 

A Review from New York Times Bestselling Author Mary Balogh:

“I loved LET IT SNOWBALL. From the first page I wanted to book a place on Merilee’s nightly Season’s Eatings Christmas tour bus with its three stops at cookie shops to sample and buy. On the last page I wanted to book ahead for the Valentine’s tour! Margot Johnson has a way of making a festive atmosphere seem very real. Combine that with a warm and gentle love story that feels truly authentic, and you have a winner of a story.”

My writing tip: Don’t wait for the perfect idea or ideal moment. Just sit at your keyboard and write!


Inspiration for this story: I live in a place where winter storms and frigid weather are common. I also love Christmas. 


Last year during lockdown, my husband and I couldn’t visit friends and family in person, so we delivered Christmas light necklaces to their doors and then connected online. We also bundled up for a walk on a minus forty degree day. I can imagine my characters Merilee and Ross sharing similar adventures.


One wish: I love hearing feedback from readers. I wish everyone who reads Let it Snowball would post a review.

Merilee’s Famous Chocolate Snowballs


3/4 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 large egg, room temperature

1/4 cup 2% or whole milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup baking cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Icing sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy.

Add egg, milk, and vanilla and mix well.

Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

Gradually add to creamed mixture. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Shape into 1 inch balls. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets and bake until tops crackle (7-8 minutes).

Remove to wire racks and cool. Roll in icing sugar.


To buy Margot's books or learn more about her, here are her buy links and social contacts:


Let it Snowball

Love Takes Flight  

Love Leads the Way


Website:  Facebook: MargotJohnsonAuthor  Twitter: @AuthorMargot 

Thank you for being my guest today, Margot! Happy Holidays! Any comments or questions for Margot?

Monday, December 6, 2021

Cooking Up a Romance

This is a sweet time of the year -- whether it's buying candy or baking cookies for the holidays, thoughts of sweet treats can pop up at any time. It's a good time to have a great book or story to sit back and read while indulging in those sweet treats too! This week in My Writing Corner brings us another sweet offering too as we welcome author Maria Imbalzano and her latest release, Red Velvet Crinkles and Christmas Sprinkles.   

Maria is a retired matrimonial lawyer who now writes full time. These days, instead of drafting motions, legal memoranda, and briefs, she now spends her time creating wonderful characters and taking them on emotional journeys through her contemporary romance novels. 

Her novel, Unchained Memories, won the Wisconsin Romance Writers Write Touch Readers’ Award and the ACRA Readers’ Choice Heart of Excellence Award. “Sworn to Forget,” the first of the four-book Sworn Sisters Series was a finalist for the RONE award as well as the Book Buyers Best Award. 

Her novellas, “The Blueberry Swirl Waltz” and “A Song For Another Day” each came in first in their category in the National Excellence in Story Telling contest and finaled in the Colorado Romance Writers Beverly contest. Her latest work, Red Velvet Crinkles and Holiday Sprinkles, is a perfect way to relax and read in these long nights and cold days of winter.

Competitive, work-obsessed Bella Simonetti has just been fired from her high-paying job at a Manhattan law firm. At an all-time low, she returns home and helps her parents at their small-town gift shop, but the business is failing and may not make it past the Christmas holidays.

Successful landscape architect Dean Jackson is like a son to Bella's parents. But he’s a persistent annoyance to her—he seems to have forgotten his unforgivable blunder thirteen years earlier.

When Bella transforms her parents’ gift shop into a cookie cottage, Dean's generosity and magnetic smile are hard to resist, and those feelings of unrequited adolescent love come rushing back. But can Bella let go of the past and accept Dean for the man he is today?

Sounds great, doesn't it? Let's get an excerpt:

    Dean had been waiting all day to get the call from Clive. Not that he couldn’t wait to rearrange furniture and cases in the gift shop, but because his blood pumped every time he thought of Bella. The combination of excitement and dread had him confused.

     She was such a presence! Beautiful—with thick, dark hair that his fingers itched to comb through, flashing blue eyes that sucked him in, and a tall, lithe body that somehow looked good in flannel pajamas. Although he’d rather see her in silk and lace.

     On more than one occasion today, he’d gotten lost in the memory of her standing on the ladder, her arms overhead, sweater inching up to give him an eyeful of her soft, silky midriff. When she leaned over too far, he’d slid his palms around her waist in an attempt to keep her from falling. At least that’s the excuse he’d used.

     He’d like to be back there right now, just the two of them, working together, brushing against each other, eliciting fireworks that went straight to his core.

     But even more than her lovely assets, he was mesmerized by her powerful energy in taking charge of a problem and working to find answers. She didn’t force anything. She collaborated. All while steering her stubborn audience toward her resolutions.

     Despite his captivation with her, she unfortunately didn’t hold him in like esteem. She’d disregarded his inquiry into the cause of her clear disturbance over his presence by closing down and refusing to discuss it. Of course, it hadn’t helped matters when he sided with her parents last night about not changing the store. With the exception of a thirty-second interlude where they’d connected on some other level, her eye daggers and ice-cold voice had been lethal.

     And today, despite Clive and Barb’s change of heart and his willingness to help out with whatever they wanted to do, her steely glance told him he was not forgiven for his opinion last night and whatever other grievance she had against him.

     With luck, he’d be able to steer her to a remote corner of the store today while they were rearranging, to attempt to get on her better side. At least, that was the plan.

Want more?  You'll have to get the book! Here is the information on Maria and how you can buy her books. You can visit her at

Additional information is available at her social media and buy links shown below:




Instagram:  Mariaimbalzano_author

Blog Link:

Website Link:

Goodreads Author Page:

Book Bub Profile page: 

Mailing List Sign Up form:

Amazon Author Page:


Buy Links

Monday, November 29, 2021

A Winning Combination

This is the time of the year when we start looking for the books we want to buy as gifts or the writers we want to read over the holidays while on vacation. Today's author guest in My Writing Corner is one of those writers whose works are perfect for either objective.  

Dr. Randy Overbeck is an award-winning educator, author and speaker. As an educator, he served children for four decades in a range of roles captured in his novels, from teacher and coach to principal and superintendent. His thriller, Leave No Child Behind (2012) and his recent mysteries, the Amazon No. 1 Best Seller, Blood on the Chesapeake, Crimson at Cape May and Scarlet at Crystal River have earned five star reviews and garnered national awards including “Thriller of the, “Gold Award”—Literary Titan, “Mystery of the Year”— and “Crowned Heart of Excellence”—InD’Tale Magazine.

As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop. When he’s not writing or researching his next exciting novel or sharing his presentation, “Things Still Go Bump in the Night,” he’s spending time with his incredible family of wife, three children (and their spouses) and seven wonderful grandchildren.

Tell us about your road to publication.

I’ve been committed to being an author for quite a while, though I’ve found the road to that destination bumpy at times. Like most writers, once I spent years writing, revising and strengthening my manuscript, I was hoping to secure an agent who would pitch my work to the big 5 publishers. I did extensive research on agents interested in handling my genre (mystery) and queried dozens. Several agents expressed an interest and requested partial or complete manuscripts, but in the end all passed. Undaunted, I researched and queries three small presses which had strong reputations and two offered me a contract. I signed with the Wild Rose Press in 2018 and it’s been a good partnership since. The first book in my Haunted Shores Mysteries series, BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE  was published in 2019 and has done well, becoming a #1 bestseller on Amazon and B & N this summer. The second entry, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY, has also followed in the same footsteps, earning bestseller status on Amazon this fall. SCARLET AT CRYSTAL RIVER, the third installment in the series, was released this September.

How do you develop characters?

Since all of my stories are set in the world of school, most of my characters are those who populate this world—teachers, students, parents, administrators, support staff, board members. My three plus decades of experience in all levels of education from teacher to superintendent has provided me with a rich number of real characters to draw from. Most of my fictional characters are based on individuals I’ve known and worked with, with major characters often being composites of individual educators and parents.

What is your latest book and how did you come up with the idea to write it?

The books in my Haunted Shores Mysteries series have been described as :cold-case murder mysteries wrapped in a ghost story, served with a side of romance, all set in beautiful resort locations. For this third entry, I knew I wanted to take Darrell to a great location on the Gulf coast of Florida and, after a good deal of research—completed right before the pandemic shut everything down—and discovered Crystal River. It became the perfect location for my story of the unexplained deaths of two Latino children, who haunt Darrell. Since Darrell and his new wife Erin are honeymooning there over the holidays, it allowed me to add the elements of a Christmas mystery to this installment. Based on the awards the new book has won and the five-star reviews it has garnered, I think the combination works.

Let's get a blurb!

All Darrell Henshaw wanted was to enjoy his honeymoon with his beautiful wife, Erin, in the charming town of Crystal River on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida. Only a pair of ghosts decide to intrude on their celebration. And not just any ghosts, the spirits of two young Latino children. Unwilling at first to derail the honeymoon for yet another ghost hunt, Darrell finally concedes when a painting of the kids comes alive, weeping and pleading for his help. 

When he and Erin track down the artist, they discover the children’s family were migrant workers the next county over. But when they travel there, their questions about the kids gets their car shot up and Erin hospitalized. Torn between fear and rage, Darrell must decide how far he will go to get justice for two young children he never even knew.

Check out the video trailer for Scarlet At Crystal River.

What’s your next project?

This month I’m completing my full first draft of my next work, an amateur sleuth mystery entitled HARD LESSONS. It’s the story of a rogue drug sold to children in middle and high school in the 1990’s which leads to the death of five students. After a popular teacher is framed as the drug dealer, leaving the town and school community in shock, a school leader works with the local police to unmask those behind the drugs and murders before more children die.

What advice do you have for beginning writers? 

As an emerging writer, I read and received much good advice, but two pieces I found particularly helpful. First, attend a few writing workshops in your area such as Killer Nashville (TN) and the Midwest Writers’ Workshop (IN) for me a midwestern guy. At these conference, new writers will find advice, encouragement, camaraderie and connections which can be very helpful in negotiating the many challenges of getting your work out there. Second, find and participate in a strong writers’ group. I’ve belonged to the Tuesday Dayton Writers’ Group for years and, though the membership of the group has changed over the years, I found the members’ review of my works in progress has truly helped me to bring my best work forward. Even the pandemic didn’t stop us as we moved to virtual meetings. Not to mention that these fellow writers become my greatest cheerleaders.

To learn more about Randy and buy his books, here are his social and buy links.

Purchase Links

Social Media Handles

Tik Tok @authorrandyo

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

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...