Sunday, February 18, 2018

Where Book Ideas Come From by Jannine Gallant

Vonnie recently posted an entertaining story about a dream bear that sparked her Bear Shifter series. Alas, I've never had characters appear in my dreams to demand their tales be told. That got me to thinking about what does inspire my stories. First of all, my stories begin with a plot not a character. When I'm pondering a new series, my mind turns to that all important question: What if this happened? But how does an author get to this? For me, real life events can trigger that question. A couple of years ago, I was walking Ginger in the spring when the snow was starting to melt out of the woods. She took off as she likes to do and was digging furiously some distance off the trail. I yelled for her, and she finally came back with a long stick in her mouth. At least I thought it was a stick...until I noticed the hoof on the end of it! EWWWW doesn't begin to reflect my thoughts as I screamed at her to drop it. Some poor deer had been eaten by something (probably a mountain lion), and the remains had been buried by snow all winter. Of course my writer mind clicked into motion, and I couldn't help thinking: What if it was a human femur instead of a deer? Out of that notion, a scene from BURIED TRUTH was born along with the gruesome reason a person had been buried in the woods.

But that was only part of the plot--a crime that had happened in the past. Why would there be danger in the present for my hero and heroine to contend with unless the perpetrators of the old crime felt threatened? How could something that happened years before pose an immediate threat? Those were the questions I asked myself as I mulled possibilities. Something incriminating had to be found, something the guilty party wanted back. My mind did a few mental gymnastics, and I came up with the idea of a time capsule. What better hiding place for a roll of film with incriminating photos than in a time capsule that would be safely buried for the next hundred years? Except my heroine and her classmates decide to unearth their fifth grade time capsule after only twenty years and have a reunion party to reminisce over the contents. The plot to BURIED TRUTH was born.

I believe all authors have their own unique process for coming up with book ideas. Our minds work differently, after all. My characters evolve from my plots as I decide "who" would best fit into the suspense scenario. The "who" determines the romance plot to go with the suspense, and putting together the two in a meaningful way is how I form my books. So now you have it, a look into the scary place that is my mind! LOL

If you want to see what happens after that time capsule is dug up, pick up a paperback copy of BURIED TRUTH at your local Barnes & Noble or download the digital version at Amazon or Apple iBooks. For an exclusive prologue that shows the origins of the twenty year old crime, pick up a copy at KOBO. All links are also on my WEBSITE. Happy reading!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Seasons of the Sun by Betsy Ashton

With the darker days of late winter settling in, with snow/sleet/icy rain falling, and with a kitty who is bored out of her freakin' mind but won't go out and get her paws wet, I offer four haiku to brighten your hearts.


Whites, browns, yellows, blacks
Screeching, shoving—
Gang warfare @ the bird feeder.

Gently rocking waves
Lull one to sleep—
The nose peels.

Apple, cherry, pumpkin
Pies in the oven—
Time for the gym.

Ice-shrouded world
One slippery step—
Technicolor moon.

And on that last note, watch your steps, ya' hear?

Friday, February 16, 2018

#amwriting When You Quit Trying, You Lose by Diane Burton

Do you get notices of bargain books from BookBub? A couple of days ago, I saw a book titled
You Don’t Lose ‘Til You Quit Trying by Sammy Lee Davis with Caroline Lambert. It’s about the wartime experiences of a Vietnam Vet and Medal of Honor Recipient. That title caught my attention.

How many times have you wanted to quit writing (or any other major undertaking)? Doubts and insecurities abound with us writers. There’s even an online group called Insecure Writers Support Group where once a month we blog about what’s making us insecure and/or advice on how to overcome difficulties.

Yesterday, I pulled together my 1099s, royalties for 2017. I knew it hadn’t been a good year. I didn’t realize how bad. I used to get my 2017 total in one month! I didn’t even get a 1099 from one venue because I hadn’t earned $10. That got me questioning why I do it. Why am I hitting my head against that brick wall called earning income through writing?

Oh sure, I write because I enjoy writing. Usually. With the exception of the first two weeks of January, when I was going gangbusters, I’ve slogged along on my WIP. Some days, I haven’t written anything. Instead, I’ve binged-watched Netflix. Or taken naps when I should be writing. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. It’s my way of dealing with what’s probably winter depression. When the sun doesn’t shine for days on end; when it snows for ten days straight; when it’s too cold to go outside and when I do every joint hurts. Yeah, that can make anyone depressed.

Part of my problem with my WIP is in mid-January I changed horses. Oops, that should have read changed stories. I started the new year writing the fourth in my Alex O’Hara series. I knew exactly how it should begin. I knew the ending and most of the middle. Easy to write. When I was done writing one day, I thought about another project, one that was 80% finished. I reasoned that I should finish it first, so I would get something out sooner. I’m sure you all know that revising an older manuscript is harder than writing fresh. If not, I can vouch for it. Not only does the manuscript need updating (technology, especially), I’ve learned a lot in the intervening twelve years. Sentence structure, repetitive words and phrases, unnecessary backstory. Reading and fixing all that means a low daily word count, which I find also depressing. (Maybe I should count pages completed instead.)

Why not go back to the Alex O’Hara story, you may ask. I’m committed to this new/old romantic suspense. It’s a good story. It’s funny in places, seriously tense in others. A good romance develops. Besides, I’m sharing tidbits every weekend on Weekend Writing Warriors. On Mondays, I’m sharing character sketches. Dropping that story now isn’t a good idea.

Neither is quitting altogether, even though that’s going through my mind. Practical Hubs asks if it’s worth the time and energy to earn so little. He has a point. If I do quit, will that make me a loser, like in the Vet’s story title?

Can Spring come soon enough?

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and romance into writing romantic fiction. She blogs here on the 16th and 30th of each month. Except this month. See you in March.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

OG's #Valentine by Alison Henderson

So, Valentine's Day was yesterday. Did you celebrate big? Little? In between?

In the nearly thirty-five years OG and I have been married, I don't think we've ever been out to dinner on Valentine's Day. We generally avoid restaurants on any big "dine out" occasion. I believe the worst meal I've ever paid for was a Mother's Day Brunch several years ago at a hot new restaurant. The kitchen was overwhelmed by the volume, and the food tasted like it had been prepared at least the day before, if not earlier, and it probably had. Nor do I recall exchanging Valentine gifts, although that might have happened at some time in our early years. 

My point is, we're not big celebrators. A card, a decent (or maybe better, if I'm inspired) meal at home, and that's about it.

This year was no exception. I got OG this card.

The inscription reads: You are the stars in my sky, you are my everything. Nice, right? I usually buy him funny cards, but for Valentine's Day I go all-out romantic. 

Because I have a bumper crop of ripe lemons at the moment, I made him Lemon Chicken Piccata--one of his favorite dishes--with asparagus. The big treat was desert--#Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Mmmm.

If you haven't made homemade ice cream, there's nothing like it. Here's the recipe I used from

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

Makes about 1 quart 
30 min 
4 hr


    • 1 1/4 cups sugar, divided
    • 2 1/4 cups heavy cream, divided
    • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt such as Maldon
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 cup whole milk
    • 3 large eggs
    • Equipment: an ice cream maker


    1. Heat 1 cup sugar in a dry 10-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring with a fork to heat sugar evenly, until it starts to melt, then stop stirring and cook, swirling skillet occasionally so sugar melts evenly, until it is dark amber.
    2. Add 1 1/4 cups cream (mixture will spatter) and cook, stirring, until all of caramel has dissolved. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sea salt and vanilla. Cool to room temperature.
    3. Meanwhile, bring milk, remaining cup cream, and remaining 1/4 cup sugar just to a boil in a small heavy saucepan, stirring occasionally.
    4. Lightly whisk eggs in a medium bowl, then add half of hot milk mixture in a slow stream, whisking constantly. Pour back into saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until custard coats back of spoon and registers 170°F on an instant-read thermometer (do not let boil). Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, then stir in cooled caramel.
    5. Chill custard, stirring occasionally, until very cold, 3 to 6 hours. Freeze custard in ice cream maker (it will still be quite soft), then transfer to an airtight container and put in freezer to firm up.
  1. Try it. You'll be amazed!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Getting Stuck with #Valentine’s Day by Christine DePetrillo

I always get stuck posting on Valentine’s Day and I don’t like Valentine’s Day. I’ve decided this year to treat you all to an excerpt of characters on their way to being in love instead of a rant on why I think Valentine’s Day is dumb. You’re welcome.


From More Than Pancakes, Book One in The Maple Leaf Series, #FREE in ebook everywhere…

Rick pulled up a chair to the boxes of books Hope and Sage had left in the store by the display shelves. Poe took up residence on the floor beside him and sniffed all the corners of the closest box. He began loading the books on the shelves, turning some of the covers outward so customers could get a good look at them. He didn’t spend a lot of time in the store when customers were in there. He preferred a more behind the scenes involvement in the business and that was part of what had made him not so successful in New York. He liked dealing with the equipment, the actual trees, the land as well as the financial side. Running the business from the city had only allowed him to crunch the numbers and collect the profits. Maybe some folks liked that hands-off approach, but not Rick. He wanted to smell the melting winter, the blooming spring, and the boiling sap.

As he continued stacking books, Poe padded to the door and woofed once at it.

“No customers today, Poe. Not yet.” 

She barked again at the door and as she sat by it, a soft knock echoed in the store. Rick put down the books he had in his lap and limped to the nearest window. A Jeep he didn’t recognize was in front of the store along with footprints in the remaining patch of snow. The knock came again, but he couldn’t see who was at the door. He contemplated not answering as he often did when the phone rang, but figured it wouldn’t waste much time to explain the store wasn’t open yet.

He ambled to the door, resting his hand on the tables as he passed by without the cane. As he neared the door, another knock sounded.

“Okay, okay,” he said. “I’m coming.” He cursed his slowness and hoped he’d be rid of the cast soon. Not likely, judging by the ache, but a man could hope.

He reached the door and pulled it open. What was standing on the other side of it made him forget his own name.

A woman. Not much shorter than him with reddish-blond hair that brushed her shoulders and curled about a face meant for makeup commercials. Her skin had a wonderful glow he’d never seen on any native Vermonter, and her eyes were blue-green jewels. Slim, black jeans spanned down two long, shapely legs and disappeared into brown, knee-high leather boots that belonged on a runway not on his partly muddy, partly snowy doorstep. The rust-colored dress coat that hung to her thighs also seemed out of place in this setting, but not out of place on her. The woman was perfection in that coat, and the cream-colored scarf she had looped around her neck fascinated Rick.

Poe barked and the woman jumped. “Is that a coyote?” Her voice, soft yet assertive, matched her delicate mouth and intense eyes, but she looked as if she were ready to run for her vehicle.

“Yeah, but she won’t hurt you. She’s been raised to think she’s a big hamster.” What is this woman doing here? Then the pieces fell into place in his mind. “You’re one of Hope or Sage’s friends, right?” That had to be it, but he didn’t remember ever seeing this one. He didn’t think he could forget her if he had seen her. God, she was tall.

“No,” she said. “I don’t know Hope or Sage. I’m looking for whoever signed this.” She pulled an envelope out of her shoulder bag and rifled through it. While keeping a wary eye on Poe, she handed Rick one of the documents, and he scanned it quickly.

“You’re looking for me then.” Why did that make something in his stomach tighten?

“You’re the neighbor? You knew Gail Hinsdale?” A section of snow slid off the roof and landed in a pile about a foot away from the woman. She stumbled back and threw a glance all around her, almost dropping the envelope in the process.

“Come in,” Rick said, though he hadn’t remembered consciously deciding to invite her inside.

“Thank you.” She knocked the mud and snow off her boots and squeezed past him into the store. She smelled like grapefruit and coconut and sunshine. Like something far too exotic to be here with him. “Could you…” She motioned to Poe and made a shooing gesture with her gloved hand.

“Sure. C’mon, Poe.” Rick smacked his thigh and shuffled toward the kitchen behind the pastry case. He pushed open the door and guided Poe in. She whimpered on the other side when she realized he’d locked the door.

Poor girl. Rick felt like a big, fat meany.

“I appreciate that. Wild animals unsettle me.” The woman pulled off her leather gloves to reveal long, slim fingers with nails polished a deep crimson.

“She’s not wild,” Rick said. 

“Right. Tell that to her teeth.” The woman dropped the envelope on one of the tables and unlooped the scarf to expose a slender neck. She turned in a tight circle to survey the store. What was she thinking? She obviously came from a place where the stores didn’t look like his.

“You knew Gail Hinsdale?” She leveled her gaze on Rick, then flicked a glance down to his ankle. “Do you want to sit down?”

“I think I’m supposed to ask you that.” He indicated the chair across from the one he currently had a death grip on.

She slid the chair out and sat on it, but just on the edge, not like she meant to stay for any length of time. This saddened Rick, because for the first time in his life, he didn’t have the urge to get rid of company.

He eased onto the opposite chair, and the muscles in his entire body relaxed as the pressure was taken off his ankle. The woman noticed.

“What happened there?” She peeked under the table.

“Snowshoeing incident.” He shrugged, determined not to explain any further though the woman waited a moment as if he might. “How is Gail? I haven’t seen her in a little while.”

The woman’s lips twisted down at the corners, and Rick had this ridiculous urge to scoot over to her side of the table and… and do something.

“Gail died.” Those piercing blue-green eyes grew watery. “My grandmother is gone.”

“I’m so sorry,” Rick said. “She was real generous with allowing me to tap her trees. Nearly doubled my productivity.” He had reaped nothing but benefits from his arrangement with Gail Hinsdale. One of the smartest, healthiest business moves he’d ever made. 

“She left me the property.” The woman extended her hand. “I’m Lily Hinsdale.”

Taking her hand in his and noting how cold her fingers were, he said, “Rick Stannard.” He looked at the envelope again. “Are you thinking of moving to the property?”

At this, Lily let out a loud laugh. “Moving to Vermont? Are you serious? I don’t want to be here right now, never mind live here.” She brushed her hair out of her face with a shaky finger.

“What’s wrong with Vermont?” Rick asked. It was the perfect place as far as he was concerned.

“Umm, everything.” Lily stretched her magnificent legs out to the side of the table and peered down at her boots. Cringing, she knocked her heels together letting caked mud drop to the floor. “Vermont is no California.”

California, of course. That explained the tan and the fashion. And the disgust for mud.

“Vermont has a lot to offer.” Why did he feel the need to defend his fair state? Why did he want this woman to like Vermont?

“I’m sure, but I’m… high maintenance. Don’t have any real love for flannel or fleece. And don’t get me started about the woods.” She peeled off her coat revealing a fluffy brown sweater that ruffled at the collar and the wrists. Rick had never seen a sweater that fancy.

“The woods are the best part of Vermont,” he said.

“The woods are Hell.”

“I’ll bet I could change your mind about that.” Had he stepped out of his body? Who was this guy, talking to this woman, and actually picturing himself leading her on a hike in the thawing woods?

Lily regarded him for a silent moment, and for once, he didn’t like the quiet. What was she thinking? Probably that I’m the exact opposite of every guy she knows in California.

“No. I’m certain the woods and I don’t mix. Anyway, I’m here about the property, not to discuss the nonexistent finer points of this forgotten realm known as Vermont.” She brushed at her hair again, and the trembling in her hand was still there. Why was she so nervous? “I have a proposition for you.”

“Yes, I’ll buy the land from you.” He’d wanted to do that before Gail had constructed her fortress on the property, but he hadn’t had the money then. He had it now thanks to her letting him lease her maple trees and his barn-building business.

“Oh, umm, no. I don’t want to sell the property to you,” Lily said. “I want to sell it to another buyer and buy yours.”

Curious about Rick’s reaction to Lily’s proposition? Download MoreThan Pancakes, Book One in The Maple Leaf Series, for #FREE.    Amazon   Other Retailers  

If you like it, review it. If you don’t like it, read it again. I’m sure you missed something.

And Happy Valentine's Day... you know, if you're into such things. 


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Trying to find #amwriting during times of churn

When life hands you lemons ...

... make a bourbon sling? That's the only thing I can think of at times like this.

I have some challenges coming up, medically speaking. Hopefully, it's all routine and no big deal, but I am, for the first time, dealing with The Medical Establishment.


The paperwork, the tests, the bills, the insurance, the calls here and there, the insurance, the paperwork, the tests. Who handles this? Where do I find that? Should I worry about that? Is that normal? How long will this take? Where do I go for that and how long will it take?

Thankfully, there have been no emergencies, this is all regularly scheduled and relatively calm. I mean, most of the stuff I need to do has been scheduled for me, so I just have to show up and act somewhat intelligent.

I can only imagine if someone (1) has little or no grasp of technology or (2) has trouble managing mounds of paperwork or (3) is physically challenged and having trouble getting around.

So, when life hands you lemons, look on the bright side. It could always be so much worse. I'm one of the lucky ones. And by the next time I have a post here, this will all be behind me and I will be enjoying that bourbon sling, with my laptop open and I will be #amwriting again.


Monday, February 12, 2018

Why would you tackle a sub-genre of Romance you don't read? #amwriting #paranormal #bear shifters by Vonnie Davis

          If I've told you this story before, please, let's chalk it up to a senior moment. I seem to have them at random.

         I was recovering from cancer surgery to my saliva gland—of all places—when a pair of large golden spots began to glow in the back of my mind. These strange apparitions didn’t go away. Brain cancer, I thought. The surgeons didn’t get it all and the cancer’s spread to the back of my head. Just as I was ready to call the doctor’s office to make a dreaded appointment, the glowing neon yellow spots blinked. Blinked, mind you!
These spots I’d tried my best to ignore for two weeks were eyes? Well hell, I didn’t need a cancer doctor. I needed a shrink!
For almost a month as I healed, making daily trips to the doctor to have liquid drained from my swollen face, these yellow eyes watched and waited and willed me to speak to them. Now, I might be a tad crazy, but even I know better than to talk to things that shouldn’t be there.
So, one night as I was drifting off to sleep, the eyes moved. They floated from my head and into the face of a huge brown bear standing at the foot of my bed. Since I believe book characters often search for an author to write their stories, I told him he was at the wrong house. That I didn’t write children’s stories. He shook his large head. “Oh, you’re not that kind of bear?” He silently shook his head again. It was an eerie moment.
Then to my surprise and delight, he shifted into a kilt-wearing Scot with long dark hair. “Oh gee, you’re still at the wrong writer’s house. I don’t write paranormal. I don’t even read it.”
He sauntered to my side of the bed and sat. “Aye, lassie, but ye will.” His Scottish brogue sent a shiver skittering over my skin. “Scoot over and I’ll tell ye how bears came to be extinct in Scotland.”
I snuggled closer to Calvin and the bigger-than-life Scot stretched out on the bed next to me with one hand beneath his head. He told me the most bizarre, imagination boosting tale of his ancestors. He said his name was Creighton Matheson—Mathe meaning bear. I absorbed every detail of his family’s legend.
What do you think was the first thing I did when I woke up the next morning? I googled “Are bears extinct in Scotland?” They were. In fact, I found an article where the UK was trying to re-introduce the species into the Highlands. The article claimed the bears were shot into extinction by hunters in the previous century. But I had a better story…straight from the mouth of a bear shifter.
I was told by a woman who reads auras that the bear was my totem; my healer when I got sick. Who’d have thought?
My series of shifters began with almost zero knowledge of the paranormal genre. I hadn’t intended for anyone to read them because I felt like a fake writing about something I was ignorant of—but, oh, what fun I had writing for my own enjoyment.No pressure because I didn't intend to show them to anyone. My agent at the time told an editor at Random House about my “play stories.” The editor read the first three chapters of one and gave me a contract for three books in a series. The books and novellas have continued and I’ve fallen in love with the bear shifters with the glowing, golden eyes.
In His Midnight Star, Bear has made a close connection to Star. He expects her to stay in Scotland with him and his human half, but she can't. Or so she thinks. Bear brings her three heart-shaped stones as presents...
“How wonderful! Even when I leave and go back to the States, I’ll have these to remind me of you and Gunner. Thank you so much, I love them."
Bear howled and stamped his foot. He reached for Gunner’s kilt and wrapped it around Star. He pointed and his jaws popped."
“I love you, Bear, but I can’t stay. I must go back to Georgia.”
A pained roar bellowed from his throat. Would he get angry and attack? Her heart pounded a fearful beat. To her surprise, he marched to the corner of the room, sat with his back toward her and his face in the angle. His shoulders were slumped and he moaned and moaned.
Great, a bear that throws tantrums. How can I make him understand when a large part of me wants to return to Scotland once I kntow I’m okay? I’m too confused to help anyone…or anything…at this point. I need some distance to think clearly about Gunner and me
She charged into the kitchen. What few dirty dishes were in the sink were covered by a large fish Bear had no doubt thrown there. Maybe he was hungry. She carried the fish into the bedroom and dropped it on Bear’s lap. “Eat this and calm down.”
No sooner had she whirled around and made a few steps than the fish slapped her in the back. She yelped and spun in his direction. Bear’s back was to her again. Oh, two can play this game. She bent, picked up the fish, and threw it at the back of his head. He growled and started to shift.
Ah, a food fight with a shifter. No one ever accused me of being normal. Have a grand day.