Haley Cavanagh: new release!

Haley Cavanagh joins us today to share about her newest release.

Haley Cavanagh is a military veteran, wife, and mother. She is an alumna of Columbia College, a musical theater nut, and she loves to dive into any book that crosses her path. Haley resides with her family in the United States and enjoys spending time with her husband and children when she’s not writing. She loves to hear from her readers, and encourages you to contact her via her website and social media.

Got a hankering for a sci-fi romance? Check out Astraeus!

Character Art by Bianca Duarte

His existence changes everything.

One pre-apocalyptic Earth. One desperate space mission to find a solution. One unexpected alien.

When Dr. Sakota Thorell signed onto the mission to scout out a new, habitable planet, she knew discovering extraterrestrial life was always a possibility. But she never expected to find an alien adrift in space, nor for that alien to be so intriguing. Sakota feels an instant and undeniable attraction to Astraeus, but he represents a million possibilities, and just as many threats.

There are others hunting Astraeus, and his rescue may cost Earth its last hope.

Astraeus can be purchased on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and Goodreads.

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“What are you called? What’s your name?”
He opened his mouth, and she moved closer, eager for his first words. Instead, he focused on her lips with obvious fascination. His intriguing eyes caught the light. Despite her disappointment that he couldn’t speak, a rush went through her. Alien or not, he was the most handsome man she’d ever laid eyes on, with the kind of ethereal elegance some upper-class, privileged men on Earth spent fortunes on plastic surgery trying to achieve.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to talk, or if you can’t. We’ll get there. Now, I’m going to check you.” She kept her voice gentle, as she might use with a child. She pressed the button to disengage the protective bubble over the med bed and shone the retinal scanner in her own eye to demonstrate. “I just need to look at your eyes with this.” She motioned with the scope to him. “It won’t hurt. I promise.”
Warm puffs of his breath blew on her neck as she leaned in. She paused, noting the remarkable eight-pointed star-shape of his pupils. The mutation was his one physical difference, and only if one looked closely. The pupils dilated when hit by the scope’s light. She’d never seen eyes as remarkable.
“You’re doing great,” she soothed. Her head burst with countless questions. Where are you from? How did you get here? What do you want?
He appeared to like the cadence of her voice. His posture relaxed, and his breath against her was steady. How long had she been staring into his eyes? Should she push her luck and try to examine his mouth?
Before she could try, his finger stroked her inner arm. He was still restrained at the wrists, but he could reach her.
She allowed it. He stroked a featherlight finger along her forearm. As he did so, his gaze never left hers. She offered a kind smile. “That’s right. Friend. Sakota. Sa-ko-ta.”
He opened his mouth and let out a chicken-like squawk. “-Ota,” he said in a throaty, deep voice.
She raised her eyebrows. “Good. Very good.”
He tilted his head, watching her lips. “Gooood.”
Excited, she lowered the retinal light. “Can you understand me?”
He looked confused. “Me…”
“Okay. That’s a no. Then let me take this opportunity to say, in no uncertain terms, you, my friend, are the stuff of dreams and legends. I’ve waited my whole life for this. Are you getting this, Alistair?” she called out.
He came in over the speakers. “I am. Amazing. I’ll get to work on a linguistics program. Our friend seems to want to communicate.
She moved to pull away, but the man’s fingers closed over her wrist.
“Let me go.” She jerked her arm, but he wouldn’t release his grip. She gave him a cautionary look, and he loosened his fingers, though he still held her. Warning bells went off. What if he’s not here in peace? But his eyes sparkled impishly. He seemed to enjoy her skin pressed against his. Maybe he hadn’t been touched in a while. Or maybe he had a crush. Who knew.
Before she could extricate herself, the intercom chimed. “Sakota, are you okay?
“Yeah, I’m fine. He’s just being friendly—”
The man’s forefinger trailed along her arm again. She sucked in a breath and shut her eyes as a series of images flashed through her mind. A high wall made of stacked stones. A hand spread out to touch the tips of tall, golden wheat of a field. Multihued buildings in the distance under a purple sky. Children’s laughter and then screams. She jerked when the images changed. Strange rain, like metal. Black ships attacking from the sky, horrible screams which rent the air, death. A gentle brush against her hand again. She inhaled and opened her eyes. The man searched her, calm and patient. She struggled to see straight, but her mind spun.
“W-was that your—”
The isolation walls shot up. Rutledge burst into the room and advanced like an angry bear, brutish, immaculate, and combat ready in his black Oceanstone fatigues. “Let her go,” he snarled.
Rutledge yanked the man’s hand off her and pushed her aside. She fell to the floor on her back in a dizzy haze, reeling from the vision. She turned her head. The man bellowed and tore loose from his restraints. His and Rutledge’s images faded into one as they collided and fought. Rutledge’s weapon whirred as he strained to activate it. The rifle propelled over her head and hit the wall.
“Stop.” Her pleas fell on deaf ears. She closed her eyes.
The men barged into the room with heavy footfalls and angry shouts.

She opened her eyes, but her vision swirled. The blurred image of the alien lifted Rutledge’s lieutenant like a kitchen chair and catapulted him in the same direction as the weapon. “Stop,” she hollered to the men.

“Don’t shoot him. He wasn’t attacking me.”
Another soldier fell to the floor with a sick thud, holding his stomach. “Yeah? Well, he’s attacking me.”
The alien pounced over her, crouching low. He caged her with his body and made a guttural rumble in his throat, a warning to the men. She turned her head to the marines, who zeroed their weapons in on them.

Crime & Paradise with Julie Howard

Welcome, Julie! Let’s jump in! What do you write?

My true love is in writing novels. I love the ability to build up a plot and lead the reader along with plot twists. I do fall in love with my characters and want to stay in their world as long as possible too.

That being said, I also write flash fiction, short stories and novellas. I’ve even written a number of “ten-word stories,” where you have to convey an entire story in just ten words (challenging, but fun!).  I also wrote non-fiction as a journalist. So, I’ve worked in virtually all areas of writing. Novels, though, give me the most satisfaction and joy.

When did your writing journey begin?

I’ve been writing ever since I can remember and have always wanted to be a novelist. When I got to college, they didn’t have a degree in being an author – and my parents wanted me to be able to earn a living – so I got a degree in journalism. The upside of that I did become a writer for a living, and I enjoyed meeting a variety of people, from business executives to celebrities. However, I never lost the desire to write fiction, and one of the best moments of my life was getting my first contract!

What was your inspiration for your Wild Crime series?

I lived mostly in urban areas so moving to Idaho was quite a change. My home is in Boise, which is definitely urban, but a vast portion of the state is uninhabited, forested and wild. I’m always amazed to find little outposts far back, miles down dirt roads, that are cut off during the winters. My imagination started churning soon after we moved here. I wondered who chooses to live in such isolated areas and what would happen if a woman didn’t want to be there. I created a character, gave her a worst-case scenario, and started writing.

Do you find inspiration in your own life for your writing?

I’m sure there’s a piece of me in every one of my characters. But I also draw liberally from everyone I know and come across. I’m afraid I have no boundaries when it comes to finding inspiration for my characters. A friend’s sweater with a hole in the sleeve made it in one book, and a wine merchant’s long hair and happy dance made it in too. These are just pieces of people though and not representational of them at all; I suppose all writers steal from life in one way or another.

Certainly, though, the biggest influence tends to be the environment and culture in which I live. I’ve lived in three states (California, Nevada and now Idaho) and all three are very different. The terrain impacts people’s lifestyles and how they make their living, so my books reflect that. I’m fascinated by how unique people are in various areas of the country.

Julie visiting Italy (check out the handsome soldier behind her), fire lookout tower in the Idaho wilderness, Irish castle with her son Trevor, and a walk with her dog in California.

Tell us about your experience with the publishing process.

I sent my first book, Crime and Paradise, to a number of agents first. I received a fair amount of interest but no one offered a contract. An author friend suggested that small presses might be the way for a new author to go. I sent my manuscript to two small presses and one of them was The Wild Rose Press, who responded positively almost immediately. I love working with them! They’ve been so encouraging and helpful every step of the way.

Any new projects on the horizon?

I’m off and running with a paranormal mystery that will be out next year, and I’m writing the third book in my Wild Crime series. I have two other series mapped out. There’s nothing that makes me happier than knowing I have more writing to do.

Words of advice for fellow writers in the trenches:

Don’t focus on getting published until your manuscript is done and edited. Write the best story you can and give it everything you have. The story deserves your best work. I meet a lot of writers who obsess about the publishing side when they don’t even have a first draft completed. I think that is a distraction that can sideline writers from their main work.

What was the hardest part of the story to write/research?

I write murder mysteries so I have to get the law enforcement and medical parts right. I end up googling so many strange things, like what does a morgue look like, or what would happen when a bullet hits someone’s head. Awful stuff! My novels aren’t gruesome – I avoid the gory details – but I’d need to know if a body would be recognizable in a morgue, for instance. If I don’t get it right, my editor will let me know!

BOOK SALE ALERT! The first book in the series, Crime and Paradise, is on a 99-cent flash sale until Oct. 18 on Amazon.

The story follows a young abused woman who ends up in a remote Idaho town. When her husband is murdered, she becomes the prime suspect. The local sheriff develops an interest in her beyond the investigation, and together they uncover some unsavory secrets in their small town.

 Crime Time Two also just released!

“When divorce is out of the question, can murder be forgiven?”

Meredith knows three things: First, the man in the library begged her to help him. Second, he was afraid of his wife. Third, now he’s dead.

While the evidence first points to a natural death, Meredith is certain there’s more to discover. People are tight-lipped in this small mountain village, and the man’s wife isn't talking either. Then a second death occurs, with remarkable similarities. It’s time to talk about murder. 

As a slow-burning relationship heats up in her own life, Meredith struggles with concepts of love and hate, belief and suspicion, and absolution and guilt. Nothing is clear cut…

She must decide: Is guilt, like evil, something you can choose to believe in?

Excerpt from Crime Times Two

Jowls quivered under the man’s weak chin, and Meredith noted the stained and frayed shirt of someone who spent a lot of time alone in dark rooms, sending out a better version of himself into the virtual world. His eyes were anxious and beseeching at her as though she should have a clear understanding of him and his life.

Somehow, over the past hour and a half they’d been sitting next to each other – him playing video games and sharing his life story and her ignoring him the best she could – she had become his confessor and friend.

Meredith gave him what she hoped was an impartial-though-quasi-friendly smile. She reached for her purse and papers and rose from her chair. “Well. Nice talking with you.”

The man was lost in his own train of thought and seemed only slightly aware that Meredith was leaving.

He shook his head, morose.

“To make a long story short,” he summed up, “I think my wife is trying to kill me.”

 Where can you find Julie?

Facebook & her website

Speed Round!


About the author

Julie Howard is the author of the Wild Crime series. She is a former journalist and editor who has covered topics ranging from crime to cowboy poetry. She is a member of the Idaho Writers Guild and founder of the Boise chapter of Shut Up & Write. Learn more at juliemhoward.com.

Sorchia Dubois shares about the Zoraida Grey trilogy and what’s next on the horizon

Welcome, Sorchia! Tell us about what you write.

I’ve published three—nearly four—Gothic fantasy/paranormal romance novels. I really like creating vivid settings and building a story around bits and pieces of magic. I try to ground the story in the normal world and then gradually lead readers down the garden path to full-on paranormal craziness. My Zoraida Grey trilogy has been such a learning experience, but I’m anxious to try a slightly new genre by adding more suspense and maybe an element of horror into the next project.

Do you find inspiration in your own life for your writing?

Oh, yeah! Bits of conversations, snippets of movie dialogue, an image or photo—sometimes a situation in real life will trigger the “what-iffies”—that condition all writers have which compels us to take the simplest ideas and follow them to wild—and not always logical—conclusions. The best inspiration for me comes from quiet walks, songs, or travel. One of my favorite bits of author trivia is supposedly about Robert Frost. According to the tale, a neighbor called Frost “The laziest man he ever met” because Frost spent a lot of time on his porch staring at the picturesque New England landscape. But Frost was actually hard at work imagining and phrasing the poetry that every school kid still gets exposed to. We have to do that—spend time imagining—or the stories aren’t as bright and beautiful as they would otherwise be.

Tell us about Zoraida Grey.

Zoraida Grey started out as a small town fortuneteller/ghost hunter. The plan was to do a series about her adventures in Arkansas as she and her best friend went from one crazy supernatural situation to the next. When I started doing her character chart, though, a deeper story emerged.

She was an orphan, it seems, raised by her witchy granny. And thereby hangs the tale. Granny is on the run from her Scottish relatives. She barely escaped the curse they sent after her and she’s been hiding in the most unlikely spot ever since as the curse destroyed nearly everything she loved. Zoraida is Granny’s one chance to get revenge. Not only was I surprised when I found this out, but so was Zoraida. The story revolves around Zoraida’s discovery of the truth and her eventual decision about how to deal with it. Oh, and there are smoking hot male witches to deal with, too.

How’s your experience been with the publishing process?

I have been quite lucky in that I haven’t spent a lot of time courting publishers. I fell in with an upstart publisher who published my first book, then Wild Rose picked up the Zoraida trilogy. Now that I have several books out and a small following, I think I’ll look around a bit with the next book. Romance is great and that element will always be present in my books, but I want to branch out a little from the traditional romance genre. I plan to self-pub some novellas -- partly so I have freebies to offer and partly to get familiar with that process. The idea of getting a bigger chunk of the proceedings is attractive, but the work involved is daunting.

Speed-Dating Round:

Oxford comma?

  • Yes for the sake of clarity, though I begrudge the hours of my life spent inserting Oxford commas that I forgot in the first draft.

Ice cream? Vanilla or chocolate?

  •  I’m a Libra and this, like many choices, is evenly balanced—so a swirly with both flavors topped with about 20 maraschino cherries.

Coffee or tea or wine?

  • My liver tells me to say ‘tea’ but my heart screams ‘wine.’

What does your desk look like?

  • If I am procrastinating, my desk is clean because I have used it as a distraction. If I am really writing, it is cluttered with teacups, notes, books, tarot cards, and at least one cat who is intent on knocking everything else onto the floor.

What is your writing vice or must-haves?

  • It’s more a routine than an object. I find I need to sit down to write early in the morning or the day just doesn’t go anywhere. It’s best if I take a nice walk and have a little bit of breakfast first—and tea—but mainly I have to get going early.

Describe a perfect writing day.

  • Nobody home but me—nobody stopping by—no to-do list. Hours of solitude so I can play music loud and recite dialogue to the air. A handy green salad in the fridge, maybe some leftover fried catfish, plenty of green tea, and a can of mixed nuts—and I’m good to go.

What are some of your go-to methods for writing?

  • Music. I make a play list for projects which I monkey with all through the project. If I’m having problems, I strap on the headphone and crank it up. Incense is another thing that sometimes works—sandalwood or myrrh are my favorites. It just puts me in a writerly mood. I also have a list of character questions that I use to trigger ideas. I pull tarot cards for each question and usually a story erupts after a few tries.

In an alternate reality, what would be your dream job (besides author)?

  • Being either a meteorologist for NOAA—research, not TV forecasting—or an astrometeorologist for NASA. I intended to get on the bus to Science Town when I was a kid, but got shanghaied into teaching. I grew up in a time and place which made it difficult for a girl to do sciency things and I let myself get talked out of it—something I will always regret. Whether I am smart enough to have made either of these work is a question I wish I had explored. Writing was always what I wanted to do though I thought it would be more nonfiction or satire.

What's your favorite place you've visited?

  • I am about to head off to Berlin via Iceland and Dublin with a side trip to Scotland. That future trip is going to be my favorite though not the last such trip I hope. More on this later!

You have a time travel machine. Where and when?

  • You’ll know when I travel into the past—at least, in that split second before the Universe pops out of existence. I would make a mess of that and accidentally cause a rift in the Time/Space continuum without a doubt. So The Future would be my choice though I would be creeping along the walls like a mouse. I’d like to hop far enough ahead to meet someone like Captains Kirk or Picard and see the galaxy from the comfort of a nice, safe starship.

What do you like to do when not writing?

  • Gardening, reading, and thinking about writing would make up the fattest part of the pie chart on my non-writing activities.

Beach, lake, or mountains?

  • That Libra thing kicks in again—so a mountain lake near the sea.

And leaving you with the back cover blurb for Zoraida Grey and the Voodoo Queen:

Magic may save Zoraida’s skin, but what about her heart?

Zoraida Grey needs help. With the witchy Logan clan holding her best friend hostage in a haunted Scottish castle, she can’t trust anyone—certainly not beguiling but dangerous Shea Logan. And Al, her overprotective boyfriend, doesn’t believe in magic.

 Only one creature strikes fear in the blackened hearts of the Logan witches. Trouble is Jock disappeared five centuries ago leaving a trail of destruction across the Gulf of Mexico. Now he’s stepped into a steaming pile of Voodoo.

Can Zoraida drag wayward Jock back to Scotland? And what’s she supposed to do with two men who promise completely different futures?

A Scottish wizard, stripped naked and painted blue—a Voodoo priestess bent on immortality—a yacht-load of Caribbean pirates. What can possibly go wrong?


Debut Author CJ Zahner talks about Truth & Writing Inspiration

Letting CJ Zahner take the reins for this post today. Thanks for joining us today, CJ!

Do you find inspiration in your own life for your writing?

Yes, absolutely. My life has inspired both my novels.

I am a dreamer—always have been. And the problem with dreaming is dashed dreams can depress a person. But I am also an unrelenting survivor who never gives up. So much so that I had two books published this September. One dealing with depression and one with dreams.

Was publishing two books at one time a good idea?

Probably not. Lots of authors talk of having two, even three, books being edited for publication at the same time, but I’m not sure this makes for a perfect storm. It’s like giving birth to twins. Your attention is divided.

I once asked a published author for her best advice. She told me to start a second book before finding a publisher for my first. So, by the time I found The Wild Rose Press (whom I love, by the way) to publish my first book, The Suicide Gene, my second book was nearly finished. Throughout the publishing period of that first book, I grew antsy and didn’t want to wait another eight months to publish a second novel. Hence, I published Dream Wide Awake on my own and quickly realized why the process takes so long.

In the past three months, I’ve clocked sixty or seventy hours of work a week on these two books. But they are done. The worst is over. The self-publishing route has been rewarding but daunting. Only time will tell if the two-for-one push will pay off.

How has my life influenced these two books?

The Suicide Gene is totally fictional and was inspired mostly by my crazy imagination and a little by my family.

I tend to name a few major and minor characters after family or friends. One main character, Minnie McKinney, was named after my great-great-grandmother. I made her a little crazy because someone said Minnie was the black sheep of our family. Since she was three generations removed, I didn’t think anyone would mind if she wasn’t so sane. A minor character, Sharon the secretary, was named and patterned after the office secretary at my last job. Sharon, the real person, was as sweet, caring, and as mothering as the fictional character. (She was also my first editor and a fantastic influence on the storyline.)

My main inspiration for this story, however, came from my grandfather.

Gifford was my grandfather’s last name and naming one of the characters Gifford was important to me because my grandfather, Frank Gifford (not THE Frank Gifford but Frank Merle Gifford), attempted, unsuccessfully, to commit suicide after his wife died. Because several other members in my family suffered depression and because research showed a connection between depression and genetics, I began to wonder if there was a suicide gene.

 My son Zak meeting me at the airport.

My son Zak meeting me at the airport.

The character named for my grandfather, Attorney Gifford John Johnson, was originally intended to play a minor role—be a boyfriend of the main character’s friend. (Giff, by the way, does not suffer depression.) But because my son, Zak, is an attorney, I pattered Giff’s personality after Zak. Big mistake. Zak is good-looking, kind, and has a big personality. He lives in Philadelphia and one month before my books were published, he surprised me by picking me up at the Pittsburgh airport like this:

Need I say more?  I couldn’t have him playing second fiddle to any other characters in the book. So, Attorney Giff Johnson slid into a main character box.

Dream Wide Awake is also fictional but based a wee bit on my life. The story is about a family with clairvoyant skills.

I myself had premonitions in younger years but simply put: I thought I was crazy. On September 11th of 2001, I realized I wasn’t. From July to September of that year, I had premonitions of 9/11. Those premonitions changed my beliefs if not my life. I became a believer in mediums and psychics.

Was I one?

To answer that, I’ll refer to an interview I did of Anne Gehman while I was freelancing for a local magazine. Gehman participated alongside four other mediums, including the renown John Edwards and George Anderson, in a University of Arizona professor’s afterlife experiments. (You can read about that research project in The Afterlife Experiments, Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of life After Death, by Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D. with William. L. Simon.) She said clairvoyance was a little like playing the piano. Some people were able to sit down and play naturally. Some practiced and became proficient. And others, no matter how long they practiced, would never make great pianists. She said everyone has some intuition, but there are varying degrees of skill. So, me? I have a little, yes.

With that and a drive from Las Vegas to Death Valley in which I passed the secretive Area 51, Dream Wide Awake was born. 

Oh, and one more word about how my life influenced my writing:


Words of advice for fellow writers in the trenches: It’s simple. Read, read, read, write—and never give up. Dream all day long until you fall asleep—and then dream more.

A bit more about both books…

The Suicide Gene

She thought they were her siblings. By the time she realized they weren’t, one of them was dead.

Doctor Emma Kerr had no right counseling them. Adopted and her birth records lost, she believed she was born a McKinney. Her face, intelligence, and depression resembled theirs. For years people mistook her for their sister. So, she devised a plan. What begins as a scheme to counsel the McKinney family and determine if they are blood relatives, quickly causes Emma to wonder if she had truly done the manipulating. Is someone following her?

Now Emma clamors to escape the McKinney world of domination and deception.

Is she Mathew McKinney’s sister? She can’t be. Is he in love with her? He can’t be. Then how do he and his sisters know more about her than she knows herself? This is a game to them. Is the game Suicide? Or Murder?

Dream Wide Awake

Three boys are missing. Six-year-old Mikala Daly can see the spirit of one of those boys. She knows she can find and save the other two. But will her father let her?

One of the best detectives in town, Mikala’s father, Jack Daly, searches frantically for the abducted boys. Years before, Jack married into a family rumored to see people on the other side. Jack didn’t believe in their psychic abilities until that gift­­—curse—befell his daughter. 

Now Mikala relays her dreams to him, and he struggles to keep her visions secret. Is he risking her life? He works to find the boys before the kidnapper locates Mikala or government officials force her into the secret American remote-viewing program—Project Dream of Area 51.

Speed-dating round! 

Oxford comma, yes or no? yes

Ice cream? Vanilla smothered in Hershey’s chocolate

Coffee or tea or wine? Coffee (my husband’s sweet homemade wine is a close second)

What does your desk look like? OMG don’t ask. Before I quit my job to write, Sharon called my office the black hole.

What is your writing vice or must-haves? Coffee, my laptop, and either a big window or a table outside

Describe a perfect writing day. I have two, both involve being up by 6 am, then: 1) coffee and laptop outside on the deck at Presque Isle State Park in Erie Pennsylvania to write a few hours, break to run five or six miles with friends, then back to the deck for more coffee (and a little chocolate) to write the day away, or 2) coffee beside two large windows in Redondo Beach, California to write about six hours, spend the rest of the day with my daughter and granddaughter running, playing, and gathering life memories.

What are some of your go-to methods for writing? Listening to Perfect by Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli or watching Emma Stone perform The Fools Who Dream in LaLa Land. (Both make me cry every time.)

In an alternate reality, what would be your dream job (besides author)? Writing novels is my dream job, but a side job of being paid to hike would be nice.

Since I'm a hiker/travel-lover, what's your favorite place you've visited? The Peek-a-boo Loop Trail in Bryce Canyon, Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Park, Fiery Furnace in Arches, Andrew’s Bald in the Smoky Mountains…I could go on…

You have a time travel machine. Do you go to the past of future? And where/when? Ah, the future, of course, fifty years from now, when my granddaughter, Layla Grace, is president.

What do you like to do when not writing? Hike or run with family and friends—and sing “You Can be Anything” by Old Dominion to sweet little Layla Grace.

Beach, lake, or mountains? Mountains

If you could meet one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? Emma Stone, so I could convince her to play a character in one of my books.

Creating Memorable Characters


Why do we return to that [by now] dog-eared, held-together-by-a-rubber-band copy of something we devoured back when the Four Seasons sang about December '63?

What is it about a few TV shows that compel us to return week after week, even the reruns? Do you replay the DVD of a favorite movie, like I do, until you can quote lines from memory?

Because they are filled with memorable characters

[Yes, Jean here, invading Kaycee’s post — putting a little GIF plug for one of my favorite movies, where I love ALL the characters. Yes, The Princess Bride, of course!]

Published author and Wild Rose Press editor Kaycee John firmly believes that one of the most important elements of story telling is making the characters vivid, real, alive. Using a list of criteria for all characters will help build continuity for the entire story as well as cement the character in the author's--and reader's-- mind.

**Note: Characters used as examples on this list are strictly personal. We all have our own favorites.

They are special

  • Raylan Givens from Elmore Leonard's short story “Justified”

  • Ouizer Boudreaux, Steel Magnolias

  • Clifford the Big Red Dog

  • Spongebob SquarePants

  • Gabriel Allon and other Mossad agents created by Daniel Silva

They are unique from all others

  • How many heroes list digging coal in the mines of Kentucky in their resume?

  • Who else puts up with a dim bulb starfish and narcissistic, clarinet-playing squid?

  • Their names are lyrical and roll off the tongue: Ari Shamron, Uzi Navot, Eli Levon, and Gabriel Allon [Daniel Silva's thrillers]. Repeat the names out loud, you'll see what I mean.


They are believable, right down to the warts on their butts.

  • Brenda Leigh Johnson, a Georgia Peach transferred to laid back LAPD, has lost neither her accent nor a penchant for shopping out of the Volunteers of America clearance rack.

  • Think about Harry Potter, reluctant boy wizard, and all his trials before discovering he is so very special.

  • Dr. Johnny Fever, “WKRP in Cincinnati”.


They hang with interesting people, such as . . . 

  • T-bone, Cleo, Emily Elizabeth and the ever-annoying Jetta

  • Boyd Crowder from Elmore Leonard's short story “Fire Down Below”.

  • Roarke, millionaire Irishman and Somerset from JD Robb's “____ In Death” series.

  • Les Nessman, news anchor, WKRP Cincinnati


They live in cool places like . . .

  • Harlan County, Kentucky, ravaged by years of strip mining, chronic unemployment and the opioid crisis

  • A mansion overlooking Central Park

  • A pineapple under the sea

  • Hogwarts Castle


They talk in accordance to their level of education, occupation, life experiences and place of birth or current residence].

  • Navy SEALS, like experienced police officers, speak in a certain manner, using a short, clipped cadence and often intersperse their conversations with what I call “cop speak” or “military speak.” Physicians and nurses do the same; the only thing that changes is the specific words.

  • A character who is a life long resident of Appalachia [such as the characters in “Justified”] or are transplants to a totally different part of the country will use words and phrases unique to their upbringing [such as Brenda Johnson in “The Closer” who uses southern-isms in her speech]. Take advantage of those fun quirks.

  • A character with limited formal education will not usually speak in multi-syllabic words. If they do, the reader tends to come up out of their chair and ask, “Huh? What's going on here?”. But if as I, as the reader, soon comes to understand the character is a self-taught learner and voracious reader then the multi-syllables make more sense.

  • On the same topic, a character who uses multi-syllable words endlessly, they are trying to show us [the reader] something: either they possess an off the wall IQ, have a social anxiety disorder and function without the usual filters, or are so full of themselves they use the ten dollar words to inflate their ego. [Think Charles Emerson Winchester from M*A*S*H] Those characters are always fun, and annoying, and usually the bad guy. I love them--when they're done well.


Developing memorable characters doesn't happen overnight. It takes practice, practice and more practice. Don't give up. If it's important to you, great characters will come to you.

Good luck!

-Kaycee John

Published author [Kat Henry Doran and Veronica Lynch] and Wild Rose Press editor Kaycee John honed her public speaking skills the same way she learned most of life's hardest lessons--the hard way.

As the former director of a victim advocacy agency she regularly lectured police academy recruits, womens studies and criminal justice majors, and emergency medicine providers, disavowing the myths of sexual crimes and teaching techniques for effective treatment of assault victims. Then came press conferences, op ed pieces for the local newspapers, and news bites on the nightly news. All this while raising three terrific kids and working weekends as a nursing supervisor.

These days she speaks from a different point of view: as the once fledgling author who survived the trenches with the rest of the new writers and learned how to turn her stories into award winners. She knows the pain of rejection and less than encouraging comments from contest judges so now spends her time helping others turn so-so submissions into contract offers.

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To contact Kaycee or learn more about her award winning novels, go to:





Christine Grabowski talks about unusual dreams and school secrets in her new YA novel

Welcome, Christine Grabowski to Visiting Authors today!

Let’s kick this post off with a trailer for your debut release, shall we?

Ohh you have me intrigued!

What do you write, Christine?

I write young adult fiction. Dickensen Academy is my debut novel and it just released a few days ago, on Sept. 12th.

Congratulations! First releases are a fabulous experience!

When did your writing journey begin?

I’m a reader first and would sometimes finish a book thinking, I could do that if only I had a unique idea and the time. Four years ago, watching my daughter write for fun, I realized I simply needed to make the time…so I did.

What was your inspiration for Dickensen Academy?   

The premise for Dickensen Academy came to me as I tried to recall my dreams each morning, hoping I’d be one of those lucky writers who dreamed up a great idea. Soon I began to wonder why I remembered some dreams so clearly but forget others the moment I woke. That thought led me to this book.

Do you find inspiration in your own life for your writing?

Absolutely. They say, “write what you know” and many of the characters, activities, and settings in Dickensen Academy are based on my real life. However, in my work in progress, I’m finding I am stretching a bit more and therefore needing to do more research on settings and characters. 

Tell us about Dickensen Academy.

Dickensen Academy isn’t a typical boarding school. The faculty is hiding an unbelievable secret within their fine arts program. When Autumn Mattison receives an invitation to attend the high school, she yearns to escape her overbearing father yet remains reluctant to leave her mother and brother. Her doubts fade away when a vivid dream convinces her she belongs there.

Away from home, Autumn discovers a unique school environment that awakens her creative potential, and her new friends become like a second family. However, as she uncovers more about the dark side of the school and struggles with its curriculum, she questions whether Dickensen Academy is truly where she belongs.

Although Dickensen Academy is labeled as a fantasy or a paranormal, at its heart it is a coming of age story set in a unique environment. Autumn must separate from her father’s controlling influence, learn to believe in her abilities, and begin to stand up for herself.

Dickensen Academy Book Cover.jpg

Caught between secrets and dreams, can Autumn find her true self?

Dickenson Academy is available as e-book and paperback:

Amazon, The Wild Rose Press, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Goodreads, and Bookbub

Tell us about your experience with the publishing process.

I originally had all the fantasies of many aspiring authors: an agent, a big publisher, books at Costco, etc. but once I dove into the query process, I realized that isn’t reality. As luck would have it the stars aligned when my writing had improved to the point that my story was publishable and I met a representative of The Wild Rose Press at a local conference. She had me send it on to their fantasy department. There, an editor fell in love with my vision of the story. One of the many benefits of working with a small press is the process moves fast. Once my contract was signed, I had limited time to devote to my other writing since there was rarely more than a few days between editing rounds or each step of production.

Any new projects on the horizon?

I’m currently in the editing phase of another young adult novel. It is a contemporary suspense fairy tale reimagining, loosely based on Sleeping Beauty.

For those struggling, on their third manuscript, or in the query trenches, do you have any advice?

Hang in there and don’t compare yourself to others. Publishing is a tough business and everyone has a different journey. A phrase that often inspired me was: the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is one gave up.

What was the hardest part of the story to write/research?

The first immersive dream. It required a lot of environmental research. However, over time, most of it got edited out as I realized that only about 5% of my facts were needed to tell the story. My daughter put it best. “I want reading to be fun. I don’t want to learn.” (I’m not even going to tell you about the dream sequence that this one replaced.)

I love that your daughter gave you feedback. Talk about using your target audience!

Now for an excerpt…

Christing Grabowski and Max 1.2.jpg

Where can you find out more about Christine and her work?







Oxford comma, yes or no? Yes (but it’s a new habit of the past 3 years)

Ice cream: Chocolate, preferably with a gooey mix-in

Coffee or tea or wine? Coffee 

What does your desk look like? A mess of semi-organized piles and a charging place for my computer. When I write, I grab what I need and work elsewhere.

What is your writing vice or must-have? Again that would be coffee.

Describe a perfect writing day. A day of uninterrupted time: Get kids off to school, write for a couple of hours, work out at the gym, write at Starbucks for a few hours, hike with the dogs, then write until dinner.

In an alternate reality, what would be your dream job (besides author)? What? I’m still getting over the shock that I am now officially an author. I only wish the pay was higher so I could take my writing elsewhere, think Parisian cafes.

What's your favorite place you've visited? Maui

You have a time travel machine. When and where? I’d go back to the 80s to raise my kids with limited. technology and then come back to today. I honestly love all my gadgets. But if I went any farther into the future, I might not be able to operate them. (I already struggle with the TV remote.)

What do you like to do when not writing? Run, hike with the dogs, attend my kids’ sporting events, watch movies, and read

Beach, lake, or mountains? mountains

If you could meet one famous person, who would it be? Laura Ingalls

Dickenson Academy is available as ebook and paperback:

Amazon, The Wild Rose Press, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Goodreads, and Bookbub

Thanks for joining us today! Good luck on your debut novel!

Fate & Apple Pie with Loretta Rogers

Hello, Jean! I’m excited to be your guest. Marketing is my least favorite part of being published so with the September 3rd release of Fate Comes Softly, an anthology featuring three of my novellas, thank you for providing a list of questions!

((I hear you on the marketing part -- it's a lot of work!))

Tell us about what you write.

When I was in elementary school a teacher told my parents I was scatterbrained; that I tended to hop from one project to another. She said I always finished what I started but I should learn discipline to do things in an orderly fashion. Maybe that’s why I’m a multi-genre author, and maybe that’s why I write novels and novellas. If my muse wants a paranormal romantic suspense, or a historical time-travel romance, or a historical western with a regency flair then that’s what I write. By hook or by crook, somehow, several of my novels have made Amazon’s bestseller list.

I love this, Loretta, as I also hop around in genre and sub-genre! What drew you to writing?

My ability to tell stories began long before I was old enough to write. I didn’t grow up with loving parents or in a nurturing home. As a way to cope with abuse, I created several imaginary friends; some were human and others were animals. I could tell them my secrets without fear of retribution. I created imaginary worlds and mentally designed the perfect childhood. I was also a voracious reader. Books about faraway lands coupled with my imagination became the perfect escapism from an imperfect home environment. Little did I know that at that early age I would someday use my vast imagination to become a published author.

So you found inspiration in your own life?

I think most authors put a little bit of their personal selves into the stories they write. Because of my home life and then several years as a rape crisis-suicide prevention counselor, then 27 years as a teacher, I pull from those life experiences to create the characters in my books. I especially try to create heroines and heroes who rise up from the ashes, so to speak, who take control of their lives instead of wallowing in their misery. However, I once saw a billboard advertising a brand of cigarettes which inspired the cowboy western novel Brady’s Revenge written under the pseudonym L. W. Rogers (which I no longer use).

Tell us about your experience with the publishing process.

In my early years, I attended numerous RWA chapter conferences and pitched to agents and editors from major literary agencies and big publishing houses. I got so tired of hearing “we love your voice, we love your storytelling ability, we love your characters, but we didn’t fall in love with your story.” I had almost given up when I entered a contest sponsored by The Wild Rose Press to write a time-travel romance where the story began in an ivy-covered cottage in England. Wah-lah! My novella Isabelle and the Outlaw won in its category. It was published December 2007; and is now one of the featured stories in Fate Comes Softly. I count my lucky stars the day I became one of the roses in TWRP’s rose garden. In eleven years TWRP has published twelve of my novels, and now the Fate Comes Softly anthology that features three of my novellas: Saving Liberty, Isabelle and the Outlaw, and McKenna’s Woman is number thirteen.

On a side note, three of the largest publishers in the USA rejected my historical romance Bannon’s Brides. Imagine my glee when it was published by TWRP and made Amazon’s bestseller list in the USA and UK, not once, but twice.

That's amazing!

Words of advice for fellow writers in the trenches?

Writers must also be readers. I’m not talking about reading just for pleasure; but rather reading to educate themselves on different writing styles—to see how POV is handled, how setting is integrated as part of the story, how research is woven into the plot so it doesn’t sound like encyclopedic regurgitation, and to pay close attention to how different authors develop their characters. Another piece of advice is to never fall in love with your words. Rewriting is the best part of writing. In the words of Stephen King—kill your darlings.

  Fate Comes Softly  Anthology by Loretta Rogers can be found on  Amazon  or  The Wild Rose Press  as print and e-book.  Loretta can be found on her  website ,  Facebook ,  Goodreads ,  Pinterest , and her  YouTube  channel. 

Fate Comes Softly Anthology by Loretta Rogers can be found on Amazon or The Wild Rose Press as print and e-book.

Loretta can be found on her website, FacebookGoodreadsPinterest, and her YouTube channel. 

In the story “Saving Liberty,” Liberty Trivette makes a skillet apple pie with apples picked from Ethan’s orchard. Since she used freshly churned butter, apples off the tree, and made her own pie crust, I decided that for convenience I’d modify the recipe. I hope readers will enjoy Liberty’s recipe which is yummy and easy to make.


Speed-dating round:  

Oxford comma, yes or no? I’m a retired language arts teacher—yes!


Ice cream: vanilla or chocolate (or fill in a favorite flavor)? Butter pecan. Yum.

Coffee or tea or wine? Unsweetened tea—hot or cold.

What does your desk look like? I’m a writer. A messy desk is a sign of a creative mind.

What is your writing vice or must-haves? Total silence. I need to hear my muse.

Describe a perfect writing day. A perfect writing day is where the only reason I get out of my chair is for potty breaks, and someone else cooks the meals.

In an alternate reality, what would be your dream job (besides author)? I would like to be an ice cream taster (without gaining weight from all those calories).

Since I'm a hiker/travel-lover, what's your favorite place you've visited? It’s a toss-up between Scotland and lower Niedersachsen Germany. Both are beautiful and timeless.

You have a time travel machine. Do you go to the past of future? And where/when?

I would go back in time to visit places like ancient Egypt and the Roman Empire, and then possibly a little bit forward to the days of the old West before the Indian wars, and to the old South before the Civil War between the States.

What do you like to do when not writing? I like to sit in my recliner and watch DIY programs, and rest my brain.

Beach, lake, or mountains? No mountains for me. I’m afraid of heights. I live on a spring-fed creek, so the beach or a lake.

If you could meet one famous person, living or dead, who would it be? I’d like to meet Belle Starr, notorious outlaw. I’d like to hear the hidden truths that only she knows about her life.


Thanks for visiting today, Loretta!

A Balancing Act with Ilona Fridl

Ilona Fridl is my guest today!

Thank you, Jean, for hosting me on your blog today!

Tell us about what you write.

I started out writing mostly contemporary short stories for magazines. When I first ventured into novels, they were historical romances. I wrote stories set in the late 1800s to the 1990s. I tend to go to eras I love to study about.

When did your writing journey begin? 

Before I started school, I used to make picture books out of paper that was stapled together. My first one was about a snowman, which was strange, because I grew up in Los Angeles. As I got older, my friends and I would play “let's pretend” and make up adventurous stories. I guess, in a sense, I never outgrew that. I still love to make up stories.

What was your inspiration for A Balancing Act?

I was reading about the Waukesha Springs Era that lasted from the late 1800s to the early 1900s and thought that would be an interesting setting for a story. There were many resorts around town and most were connected with natural springs that were claimed to promote health. Waukesha water was sold around the world and many people came to Waukesha during the summer from all over the country. Mary Todd Lincoln would come to one of the boarding houses here later in her life.

Do you find inspiration in your own life for your writing?

I've been housebound in a wheelchair for several years, and decided to write about a heroine who had lost a leg. I used what I knew about the struggle to work with a handicap and how you can adjust your life to deal with it.

Tell us about A Balancing Act. 

Lenora LaRue, Bareback Rider Extraordinaire, is the star of her family’s circus—until a cyclone hits. A main tent pole falls on her during the storm, and when her injuries require the loss of her leg, her family abandons her, believing she is of no further use to them.

John Mallory, the young surgeon who does the necessary operation, decides to help her readjust to the real world, against his father's advice. John takes her to his aunt’s sanitarium in the resort city of Waukesha, Wisconsin, where the two of them undertake to teach Lenora how to live outside the harsh circus culture that has been her whole life. He sets up a practice in the town to be near her, positive that rehabilitation is possible. As a woman doubly cursed by society as both a cripple and a former circus performer, Lenora is not so sure. She struggles to learn social skills…but can she learn what love is, too?

How was your experience with the publishing process?

I've been publishing through a small press, The Wild Rose Press, since my first novel. I had been getting rejections from both agents and publishers until I sent my first manuscript to them. One of the editors, Nan Swanson, loved the story, so she took a chance on me. This is my eighth book with them. They are wonderful to work with.

Any new projects on the horizon? 

I'm working on another short mystery with detectives Amos and Sarah Darcy, who were characters in my Dangerous Times series.

Words of advice for fellow writers in the trenches:

Be persistent.

What was the most unusual interesting part of the story to research?

I loved researching about the spring resort era in Waukesha. I did some background on medical practices and artificial limbs. They had advanced quite a bit in the 1890s. Finding out about circuses in the late 1800s has interested me for a long time.

Speed Round!.jpg

A short excerpt from A Balancing Act...

Miss La Rue took a sip of the water. “Well, Doctor?”
He paused. “First, I want to say how sorry I am for your circumstances. I want to make you an offer. I’ll pay for your artificial limb and you can pay me back when you gain employment.”
She frowned. “How do you know there is anything I can do? Who’s going to hire a cripple?”
“The artificial limb will help with that. We have to find out what you’re good at.”
She snorted. “I'm good at jumping on the back of a horse and doing acrobatics. No, wait, I can’t do that anymore, can I?”
John rose and hurried off the porch. “I’ll be right back.” He went to the horse and pulled the books out of the saddlebags. Bringing them to the porch, he set them in front of her. “You told me you didn’t have much schooling, so I brought these four books to help you.” He picked the first one up. “Since I know you can read some, I brought the fourth grade McGuffy Reader. It has spelling, grammar,  and diction. This is intermediate arithmetic, this is geography, and this is business practices.” He pointed to each in turn.
She studied him for a moment. “Why are you doing this for me? This isn’t a medical concern. I don’t want your pity.”
“It’s not pity, Miss La Rue. It’s extending a hand to a person who needs it. I expect you to get a job and pay me back.”
There was a dark cast to her eyes. “I guess, Dr. Mallory, I’m not used to people thinking about me and my needs. If I seem impolite at times, it’s just my defenses.” She took the reader from him and riffled the pages. “Thank you for the use of the books. I shall study them.”

Ilona's Website: http://www.ilonafridl.com 

A Balancing Act is available on The Wild Rose Press and Amazon  

Angels, Demons & Vampires: Let's Talk Paranormal Romance with Tena Stetler

Today, Tena Stetler is with us on Visiting Authors. She is a best-selling author of award winning paranormal romance novels. 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. After many years as a paralegal, then an IT Manager, she decided to live out her dream of pursuing a publishing career. Her books tell tales of magical kick-ass women and mystical alpha males that dare to love them. Travel, a bit of mystery, and adventure flourish in her books.

Colorado is home for Tena; shared with her husband of many moons, a brilliant Chow Chow, a spoiled parrot and a forty-five-year-old box turtle. When she’s not writing, her time is spent kayaking, camping, hiking, biking or just relaxing in the great Colorado outdoors. During the winter you can find her curled up in front of a crackling fire with a good book, a mug of hot chocolate, and a big bowl of popcorn.

Her latest book, An Angel's Unintentional Entanglement, book 4 in the Demon's Witch series, released from The Wild Rose Press.

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Fallen warrior angel, Caden Silverwind, lives alone in Colorado's rugged Rockies, healing from physical wounds as well as the mental anguish suffered during battles with dark demons. Then he finds a woman barely clinging to life after a horrendous beating. He is not prepared for the entanglement she brings to his life, nor the feelings she awakens in him.

Bureau of Indian Affairs Agent, Mystic Rayne’s personal dilemma and assignment nearly gets her killed. Divine intervention is a complication she never expected and her growing attraction to Caden is undeniable. Can she trust him with her secret?

Their quest to uncover her attacker takes them from the pristine mountains in Colorado to the wilds of Wyoming. Along the way, they find answers which may place them in more danger. Determined to solve the mystery, they must also navigate their feelings and fears to find love and unite heaven and earth.

It's available at Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon AU, iTunes, The Wild Rose Press and Barnes and Noble

Now for the Speed Round!

Oxford comma, yes or no? Yes, because I’m forced to use it.

Ice cream? Cake Batter & Chocolate                  

Coffee or tea or wine? All flavors of hot tea.

What does your desk look like?  When I’m working like a tornado hit it. After each book is finished I put everything away and get stuff out for the new book.

 A method to the madness...

A method to the madness...

What is your writing vice or must-haves? Post-its, two screens, glass of ice water.

Describe a perfect writing day. Sit all day in my writing cave undisturbed and write with a couple dog walks in between.                 

What are some of your go-to methods for writing? I’m a panster, so anything goes. I write chapters and scenes out of order, characters control the story, but somehow everything comes together in the end.

In an alternate reality, what would be your dream job? Graphic artist.

Favorite place you've visited? Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

You have a time travel machine. Do you go to the past or future? And where/when? Future...the research and development department of Apple.

What do you like to do when not writing? Camping, hiking, kayaking, and reading.

Beach, lake, or mountains? Mountains

If you could meet one famous person, living or dead, who would it be?  J. K Rowling

How about an excerpt from An Angel's Unintentional Entanglement...

Dislodged rocks and sticks bounced down the path ahead of him as he stopped to admire the view and noticed something in the brush.

She lay naked, battered, and beaten several yards off the trail. Her long, straight black hair fanned around her head, tangled with twigs and bits of grass.  Caden moved silently toward her, stopped, and picked up a Bureau of Indian Affairs ID a few feet from where she lay. He stuffed it in his pocket while watching the surrounding area for signs of her attackers. Kneeling down at her side, he saw scratches and bruises on her high-sculpted cheekbones and her full lips had a shading of blue around them. He placed his hand lightly on her chest, felt a weak heartbeat and sensed a brave soul unwilling to give up. God, this is the last thing I need.

Summoning medical help here was futile. The altitude at 12,092 feet, combined with rocky terrain, made it difficult for most rescue vehicles. They’d be too late to save her. He slid his hands under her body. At his touch, a scene unfolded in his mind of snarling wolves, the valiant fight she waged against a male until she was too weak to defend herself any longer, then blackness. Anger surged through him as he carried her along the rocky path to the fifth wheel trailer he called home.

 Mystic Pointer...

Mystic Pointer...

Healing the Heart with Leslie Bowes

Today we have Leslie Bowes visiting us to share about her latest release, Heart Healer. Ms. Bowes says that writing was always something she did for fun but when she went back to school she had to take a writing class and was hooked. The idea for Heart Healer came about because she loved the idea of a heart being healed by love. She is working on the second book in the series now, The Choices for Love. Welcome, Leslie!


A bit about Heart Healer...

Catherine Andrews is an English woman living in the 1800's. Her father sells her to Blake Von-Clyer to be his wife to pay off debts owed to Mr. Von-Clyer. Catherine soon finds out Blake is a cruel and horrible man.

On their wedding night, to escape his cruelty, she throws herself into the river. Death is better than marriage to a beast.

Christopher King is living in 2014 doing his best to raise his young son Ryan after his wife left him. One night, Christopher finds a woman in the river unconscious and barely breathing. She is also wearing old fashioned clothes. Christopher does everything in his power to help the young women. When Catherine regains consciousness, she finds herself in a strange and unbelievable situation. Terrified, she does her best to keep her guard up against Christopher. But as she gets to know him, she can't help but fall for the man who saved her life. When Catherine's dangerous past comes back to haunt her, it has Catherine and Christopher fighting for each other and their love.


How about a little more with an excerpt...?

“That’s true, but I don’t need a servant. I need a wife.”

Catherine dropped the spoon as her whole body shook. What was her father planning to do? Hard work? A wife? What was going on? She was not her father’s slave to trade as he wished. She was his daughter. Too nervous to turn around, Catherine prayed that she heard wrong.

“What did you say?” her father asked, shocked.

“You heard me.” Mr. Von-Clyer laughed. “You had no problem selling her to me as a servant Mr. Andrews, but now that I want her for my wife your conscience haunts you. What’s the difference? Either way your debt to me is paid.”

“Catherine, get over here now!” her father yelled drunkenly. The longer she stared at the vein in her father’s neck; she realized that she was making him angrier than Catherine had ever seen before.

She slowly walked over to the table and stood in front of her father. Her heart was pounding in her chest as she watched him drink his last bit of wine.

“You will be Mr. Von-Clyer’s wife to pay off my debt.”

“What debt?” Catherine asked angrily.

“Catherine, do not speak unless you are spoken to,” her father snarled.

“What debt?” Catherine yelled.

Her father jumped up from his chair with an angry shout, bumping the table, but James jumped in front of him.

“You cannot treat Catherine like that, Father. She is your daughter and my sister, not your slave!” James yelled.

Catherine’s father was having none of that. He lunged for James, but Catherine got in between them before her father could do anything. She knelt in front of James and wiped his tears. All the while she prayed for strength.

“Thank you, James, but I need you to go to your room.”

“But, Catherine—”

“No buts. Go to your room and stay there until I come for you.”

As soon as James was in his room, Catherine’s father grabbed her arms and shook her hard.

“Don’t you ever speak to me like that again, Catherine! Do you understand me?”

“Yes, sir,” Catherine whispered, scared for her life.

“Good. Now go with Mr. Von-Clyer and pay off your debt.”

“Father, I beg of you. Tell me what my debt is?”


I hope you check out Leslie's book, Heart Healer, which can be found on Amazon, The Wild Rose Press, Google Play, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.


Thank you for joining us today, Leslie!

 The super-super quick speed round:  Oxford comma: No  Ice cream: Chocolate  Coffee, tea, or wine? Tea  

The super-super quick speed round:

Oxford comma: No

Ice cream: Chocolate

Coffee, tea, or wine? Tea

Meet Romance and Historical Author Kathy Otten

Kathy Otten is the published author of multiple historical romance novels, novellas, and short stories. She is also published in contemporary romance and historical fiction. She is a Northwest Houston RWA Lone Star winner and Utah/Salt Lake RWA Hearts of the West finalist. A Place In Your Heart is her fourth full-length novel. Currently, she is putting the finishing touches on a contemporary young adult novel.

She teaches fiction writing online and at a local adult education center, and is a regular presenter at area events. Kathy also does manuscript assessments and editing. She lives in the rolling farmland of western New York where she can often be found walking her dog through the woods and fields. She has been married for thirty-four years and is the mother of three grown children and one grandson.

Let's spice it up and do the speed round first!

Oxford Comma? Yes

Ice cream (Vanilla or chocolate)? Chocolate

Coffee or Tea?  Coffee

What does your desk look like? Fairly neat.

Writing must haves: Assorted colors of markers, pens, pencils and highlighters. And notebooks.

Describe your perfect writing day. On a day when I’m not working and have no place to go… Up at 8 a.m., go to the fitness center, shower, breakfast, then go into my office. I do 1 hour sitting at the computer and 15 minutes moving around. Do some dishes, throw in a load of wash, etc. Then back sitting for another hour. Those hours I’m in my office, I check and answer emails, work on critiques/ or editing I do for other people, any online classes or workshops I’m presenting, my newsletter or blog. Then around mid-afternoon I take my dog for a walk, and spend my remaining hours at the computer working on my own stuff, writing, researching, editing, etc. I quit around 6-7 p.m. and make dinner. Clean up the kitchen, read or watch TV, and go to bed. Of course days like this are few and far between. 

In an ideal world, right? (That sounds like my ideal day)

In an alternate reality, what would be your dream job? I'd be a teacher.

What’s your favorite place you’ve visited? I grew up in Vermont, so beautiful and favorite places equaled home. Now I live in a farm town, surrounded by woods and rolling fields, out on a road with horse and buggy traffic most of the day. I have lots of wildlife, beautiful views, a nice deck, and peace and quiet. So, I’m quite content to be home and have little desire to travel.

What do you like to do when not writing? Read and walk my dog.

Okay...that was fun! Now on to the more serious and traditional questions...

When did your writing journey begin? What drew you to writing?

I don’t know of anything specific which drew me to writing. I used to make up stories when I first learned to write. Lucky the Dog, I wrote in second grade I believe. The Lost Uranium Mine when I got a little older and The Mystery of the Old Yellow House in fourth grade. TV westerns were popular when I was a little older and I used to make up stories about my favorite characters, like Johnny Lancer and Heath Barkley. I guess they would be considered fan fiction today. That early hook for westerns became my comfort zone I guess, which is why I write romance in that genre.

What was your inspiration for A Place In Your Heart?

This novel takes place during the Civil War and during my early research phase, I came across Mary Ann Bickerdyke, a nurse at Cairo, Ill. She never let anything stand in her way with regards to the care of, “her boys.” She was in charge of the supplies which came from the Sanitary Commission, and guarded them fiercely. At one point she discovered the cook and his friends had been eating the fruit intended for the wounded. So she cooked up a peach compote, put in a purgative and left the pot on the stove. When she returned to the kitchen and found sick and groaning men, she told them next time she would add rat poison. Another time she tackled an orderly in the ward and sat on him while she pulled off his shirt, (which she’d discovered bore the initials for the North West Sanitary Commission) and whirled it around above her head while the patients cheered. She then stripped off his socks and slippers. She left his pants on, as they were his.

Because of her tenacity and dedication to the men she sent officers running in fear. I loved this woman so much, she became my inspiration for Gracie McBride, the heroine in my story.

Wow, what an interesting nurse to inspire you!! (I'm still laughing at the purgative)


Gracie McBride isn’t looking for love; she’s looking for respect. But in this man’s world of Civil War medicine, Gracie is expected to maintain her place changing beds and writing letters. Her biggest nemesis is the ward surgeon, Doctor Charles Ellard, who seems determined to woo her with arrogant kisses and terrible jokes.

Charles is an excellent surgeon. He assumed he would be well received by an army at war. He was not. Friendless and alone, he struggles to hide the panic attacks that plague him while the only person who understands him is a feisty Irish nurse clearly resolved to keep him at a distance.

But, Charles is sent to the battlefield, and Gracie is left with a wounded soldier, a box of toys, and a mystery which can only be solved by the one man she wishes could love her, both as a woman and a nurse.

Did you go the traditional route to publication?

I actually did submit this story to a couple of agents and traditional publishers, but didn’t hear back from any of them. Nothing for my rejection slip collection. Later, after the story won in the Northwest Houston RWA Lone Star writing competition, I had two requests from e-publishers for a full manuscript. I decided to go with The Wild Rose Press, as they have published most of my work.

What was the hardest part of the story to research?

The medical stuff was the hardest. My hero was really smart, but he couldn’t have medical knowledge which did not exist at the time. It was tough to find that balance. I read several journals from doctors who fought in the war, as well as medical books of the day.

Now for a short excerpt from A Place in Your Heart:


“No. I want you to go home before the death of that ten-year-old boy becomes so ordinary that one day you wake up and realize you no longer have the ability to feel.”
She squared her shoulders and stepped toward him. “Me own husband was a doctor, sir. I’ve birthed babies and stitched wounds. I stood by William’s side during surgeries and passed him instruments. I helped him clean the intestines of a man gored by a bull, before putting it all back inside that man’s belly. Me delicate sensibilities did not send me into a swoon then nor will they here. I thank ye for yer concern, Doctor Ellard, but ’tis who I am. And by the saints, as long as I have breath in me body, I will feel, and I will care.”
Their gazes locked in that moment and something flickered in his icy depths, overshadowing his usual cynicism with what she suspected might be admiration. The harsh lines of his face softened.
“Saint Jude must indeed be watching over you, Mrs. McBride.”
“That he is, Doctor Ellard, that he is.”
He gave her a brisk nod and opened the door. “You’re not going home then, are you?”
She turned. “Ye know us Irish, Doctor Ellard. We don’t know what we want, but we’ll fight to the death to get it.”

Where can you find Kathy and her books?

A Place In Your Heart is available at Amazon, The Wild Rose Press and other e-book venues (Barnes and Noble, Kobo, etc.)

Kathy can be contacted at


on her Website 

or on Facebook


Thanks for joining us today, Kathy! Good luck on A Place in Your Heart!



Thrilling Suspense with Lin Weich

Today I welcome Lin Weich to my table!

When did your writing journey begin? What drew you to writing thrillers and suspense novels?

My writing journey began by accident. On our way to kayak off the Island of Haida Gwaii (located off the west coast of Canada), we passed a huge sign warning girls not to hitchhike on the Highway of Tears. Many unfortunate young women have disappeared on this section of highway. I then noticed a car in front of us and thought that its trunk would easily hide a body. While on the mothership vessel hosting our kayaking tour, I asked the captain if he had ever seen any smuggling going on. All this combined to inspire me to write my first novel Strength of an Eagle. From then on my life has not been the same and I was hooked on the writing process.

Oh, now that gives me chills! I love an interesting backstory on a novel's genesis!

What was your inspiration for Widow's Luck?

My inspiration for my latest novel Widow’s Luck developed from a short workshop I attended called How to Kill Your Characters Correctly. I love research and after delving into studies of serial killers, psychopaths, sociopaths and various poisons and medications I set the story in South Africa and the Chilko Lake area in Canada.

It sounds like you draw a lot from your own experiences in your writing.

Yes, in all my stories I draw from my life experiences. I have been fortunate to travel widely, grew up in Nigeria, taught school in many areas of Canada, and most importantly love talking with people…everyone has a story.

 If that cover doesn't draw your attention, I'm not sure what will!

If that cover doesn't draw your attention, I'm not sure what will!

Behind her back they call her “The Black Widow.”

Daphne McNeil has been widowed four times in ten years. Each time, her husbands have left her considerable sums of money. She finds that she must use these inheritances to support her beloved charities. The money does not go far enough and with increasing financial pressures, she becomes desperate.

When Steve Johnson, a forensic scientist, discovers human remains in an isolated lake near Daphne’s drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, he unwittingly puts himself in danger.

He begins to suspect the beautiful widow is not as innocent as she seems. Will he become her next victim?

Widow's Luck can be found at:

Friesen Press



Chapters Indigo/ Kobo


I have also written four other thrillers/suspense novels: Strength of an Eagle, Half Truths Total Lies, and Alone.

Tell us about your experience with the publishing process.

Chasing agents and publishers does not interest me. I just want to write and have my stories read. After a small attempt at the traditional route I decided to go the self publishing way and have not looked back.

Any new projects on the horizon? 

Right now my life is in chaos but I am starting to think about the short story genre or a sequel to Strength of an Eagle.

Words of advice for fellow writers in the trenches?

Writing the story is the easier part. Be prepared for the revising and editing that must be done in order to have a quality product.

Sounds really gross, but making sure I had all the killing methods correct was the hardest and most unusual part of the research process!

Lin in some of her favorite places, Africa and Australia.

Speed round! 

Oxford comma, yes or no? (Be careful how you answer this! Ha) Yes!

Ice cream: vanilla or chocolate? Vanilla

Coffee or tea? Wine should be an option, if not coffee. (Yeah, I think I need to add wine to this list!)

What does your desk look like? A total mess. I write, run a small business and am dealing with an estate. Tidying it up does no good because I continually throw more paperwork on top of the piles!

What is your writing vice or must-haves (e.g. for me it's post-its, red pen, and coffee)? Quiet, time, and a dictionary.

Describe a perfect writing day. There isn’t one.

What are some of your go-to methods for writing? I am a blend of an outliner and a pantster. I know exactly where I am going but enjoy the creativity of letting the action flow. If I get stuck I think about the problem before I go to sleep and the answer is often there in the morning.

In an alternate reality, what would be your dream job (besides author)? A shepherdess in Greece or a ranger on a game reserve in Africa.

Since I'm a hiker/travel-lover, what's your favorite place you've visited? I can’t pick between Uluru, Australia and Karegia Game reserve in South Africa.

What do you like to do when not writing? Kayaking, photography and chatting with all sorts of people.

Thanks for stopping by today, Lin! Let's end with an excerpt from Widow's Luck:


He stood up to his knees in fetid muskeg, his breath coming in jagged gulps. Adrenaline pumping through his exhausted body, he slid his hand into the cavity under the edge of a crumbling bank. Sweeping his fingers around the dark, narrow space, he struck a solid, cold, hard object. He tugged and pulled at the plastic container, easing it out of its hiding place.

Success. The rush from the find made the hours of trekking through this swampy scrubland worthwhile. He forgot the mosquitos and blackflies biting every inch of exposed flesh; forgot the chill seeping up his legs; forgot the numbness in his toes from his waterlogged hiking boots. He’d found this geocache using only a compass and topographical maps. He had honoured the memory of his dad and did it old school.

Smiling and chuckling, he peeled off the duct tape surrounding the faded, green plastic container. Inside were half-a-dozen rabbit foot key chains, the usual logbook and pencil, and a note that simply said, ‘You’re fortunate to have found this cache. I wish you the best of luck as you journey through life.’

Reaching into the zippered pouch on the front of his backpack, Steve withdrew his own treasure: a piece of amber with an ancient insect trapped inside. Holding it in his hand for a few moments, he remembered when this memento had been given to him. His father had found the amber on one of their hiking trips in the foothills of Alberta. Later that evening while sitting around the dying embers of their campfire, his father had made a bit of a production giving the pretty stone to him. While mumbling something about always remembering their trips in the wilds, he’d gruffly passed the hand-warmed treasure over to him.

 Steve gave the amber one last stroke with his thumb and placed it in the worn tub. He hoped the treasure would pass through many hands as it continued on its own journey.

Meet Romantic Suspense Author C.B. Clark

Today I welcome C.B. Clark to our Visiting Authors corner. She has four published romantic suspense novels by The Wild Rose Press.

Her latest novel is Bitter Legacy, which released in March of this year. This month, the audio book just released on Audible in June. If you're like me, I love audio books. Haven't tried them yet? Well...they are a perfect way to listen to books while working or doing chores, on long commutes or drives, or when your eyes need a break from reading. I’ve always enjoyed the narration and voices and get lost in the world and lyrical nuances of the narrator. (No, it doesn’t distract me from driving!) If you've not yet tried them, I highly recommend listening!


What is Bitter Legacy about?

Sharla-Jean Bromley returns to her hometown after a seventeen-year absence with vengeance in her heart. From the very beginning, her plans go awry when she meets devastatingly handsome Josh Morgan, the man to whom her father left half of his multi-million dollar lumber mill.

Josh, suspicious of Sharla-Jean’s reasons for returning to town after such a long absence, vows to keep control of the company he feels is rightfully his. She is equally determined to prove she can run her father’s mill, even though it means working side-by-side with Josh, a man whose very presence evokes an attraction that is increasingly difficult for her to ignore. In the process, they must overcome a villain who’s determined to destroy both the lumber mill and their lives.

Will Sharla-Jean succeed and heal the anguish that has long filled her soul? Will she and Josh find the passion of a lifetime?

For those who need more of a teaser, here is an excerpt:


Even as the dreaded word reared like a monster inside her head, a thin trickle of smoke crept out of the dark storage room. Terrifying images of flame, smoke and searing heat threatened to overwhelm her. For a nightmare second, she was back in the midst of scorching heat and roaring flames.

Using all her strength of will, she tore free of the chilling memories. Instead of fleeing, she placed one wobbly step in front of the other and shuffled toward the storage room. Her nostrils flared at the acrid tang of gasoline and smoke. With a shaking hand, she gripped the door handle and opened the door.

A figure burst out of the darkness, crashing into her, knocking her back.

She yelped at the pain of the blow and the shock of falling. A jolt of agony and blinding light as her head hit something hard.

Heavy boots pounded across the tile floor. Cold air washed over her. And then darkness.

Thirsty for more?

How about an Audible excerpt? :) (give it a moment to load in your MP3 player...)

Oh, chills!

Now for a little fun…speed dating round!

Ice cream: vanilla or chocolate? Chocolate.

Coffee or tea? Definitely wine. (well, that wasn’t an option, but I like how you think!)

What does your desk look like? Why not a photo?

 That looks like a pretty clean desk. And I love her love of post-its (just like mine...).

That looks like a pretty clean desk. And I love her love of post-its (just like mine...).

Since I'm a hiker/travel-lover, what's your favorite place you've visited?

I love to travel. In the past four years, I’ve hiked the Inca Trail in Peru, Kayacked on Lake Titicaca, cycled through Central America, Toured Vietnam and Cambodia, hiked in the deserts of Jordan and the glaciers of Patagonia. My favorite country was Jordan. The archaeological sites, the warmth of the people, the delicious food, spectacular Petra, and the stunning stark beauty of the desert. 

 Petra, Jordan.

Petra, Jordan.

What do you like to do when not writing?

Travel. I also love to hike, camp, and canoe…any activity in the great outdoors. (Wow, sounds like we are kindred spirits in this regard! It looks like you've already been to some pretty amazing places.)

Thanks, C.B., for joining us today. It was a pleasure to speak with you and learn more about your interests. Good luck with your audio book Bitter Legacy!

Her books can be found on:


Barnes and Noble

The Wild Rose Press



Audible Buy Links:



Where can you find her online?



Blog: https://cbclarkauthor.wordpress.com

Goodreads Author Page


A Haunted Salon with Penny Burwell Ewing

What do you get when you cross ghostly mysteries with a sprinkle of romance and Southern humor? You get Penny Burwell Ewing's Haunted Salon series.

Penny is our guest today on Visiting Authors. She writes full-length paranormal mysteries with a dash of romance and smidgen of southern humor and hopes to spin out a couple of novellas in the future.

When did you first become interested in writing?

My interest in writing began in the early 70s after the publication of The Flame and The Flower by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss. After reading the mega-hit, I consumed every historical romance by the industry’s top authors. A couple of years later I decided to entertain myself, so I sat down and wrote a historical novel set during the American Civil War. After that, I was hooked, and have been writing ever since.

Where did you get the inspiration for Dixieland Dead?

The inspiration for Dixieland Dead came from my years as a cosmetologist. While practicing Aesthetics, a client had a severe reaction to a facial mask I’d whipped up in the facial room. The frightening incident stayed with me for days and left me asking a question: How easy would it be to kill or maim someone with a facial mask?

Love that! (as I chuckle to myself about a few villains I’ve concocted). Aren’t twisted plots inspired by our own lives (or daydreams) a joy to write?

Yes, indeed. I’ve added many kooky incidents behind the stylist chair to my Haunted Salon Series. You can’t imagine how many silly and interesting ‘accidents’ happen in a beauty salon every day.

Oh, I love romance (naturally) and magic!

How bumpy was the road to publication?

After many unsuccessful attempts to hire an agent, I submitted to small presses and contracted with The Wild Rose Press. My experience has been positive with each book in the series. My editor, Amanda Barnett, has become a good and close friend. She's offered excellent editing advice and has kept me from making wrong choices. I re-wrote the ending to Book Four, Bein' Dead Ain't No Excuse, upon her recommendation. Her expertise saved me from disappointing my readers.

What’s on the horizon for you?

I loved writing all the books in the Haunted Salon Series, but I’m taking a break to write the Casa de Bella Trilogy. Romantic suspense set against the lush backdrop of Florida's Lake Okeechobee, the century-old Spanish Hacienda has endured nature's finicky hand, an ancient curse, and most recently, two grisly murders. The land is steeped in history and dangerous secrets—but nothing good can come from unearthing secrets from the past. A story spanning three generations—One house, three strong, independent women woven together by tragedy and triumph.

Sounds intriguing! Curses and magic? You and I must be kindred spirits.

What would you tell a new author on this journey?

Never give up and never stop learning. Read, read, read, and then read some more. Listen and pay attention. Also, lastly, be true to yourself.

Dixieland Dead is a wonderful cozy that offers a little mystery, a little romance, and a lot of magic:

higher res.jpg

When the economy tanks in Whiskey Creek, Georgia, hairstylist, Jolene Claiborne expands her business to include skin care. A wise move until Scarlett Cantrell, a local celebrity, is murdered in the facial room. The police brush aside Jolene’s suspicions that the incident is tied to a recent break-in, and to complicate matters, the victim’s ghost threatens to make Dixieland Salon her permanent place of residence if Jolene fails to expose the killer.

Scarlett’s last words provide the only clue: “Find the jade elephant. Explains everything.” That is until a book of poetry turns up with a dangerous secret inside. Dealing with a diva ghost ain’t easy in the Bible belt. Throw in a sexy police detective, a crooked mayor with connections to the mob, a family cover-up, a mother who hasn’t cut the apron strings, and you get one stressed out middle-aged hairstylist with murder and mayhem on the brain.

Speed Dating questions!

Oxford comma, yes or no? Oxford commas are sexy.

Chocolate or Vanilla? Chocolate.

Coffee or Tea? Coffee.

Your desk: Organized. I can write blindfolded.

Writing vices: Visual boards and mood music.

Perfect writing day: No phone service or distractions. The dog would feed himself and leave the neighbor's cat alone. My computer wouldn't slow down, and I could stay off of Amazon. Oh, and my muse would show up when summoned.

Writing go-to method: A phone call with my best writing buddy, Darlene C. Hancock. Together, we discuss different methods of approach and hash out my problem areas. She motivates me.

Alternate reality job: Pastry Chef (seriously, are we twins separated at birth?)

Favorite place: The Texas Hill Country

What do you do when not writing? I enjoy fine needlecrafts and counted cross-stitch. I also love to tinker in the garden. (be still my heart – gardens…ahh, happy places, right?)

Where can we find your books?


Barnes & Noble 

BAM (booksamillion.com)   

The Wild Rose Press 

Bonus…an excerpt from Dixieland Dead. Thanks again, Penny, for joining us!

The facial room pulled at me like a magnet. Where did the human life energy go after departing this life? Could Heaven and Hell truly be our last destination, or could we linger here trapped in the last peaceful or hellish moments of our life? Thoughts like these had troubled me since Daddy died. For years afterward, I’d studied books on the afterlife, religious teachings from various faiths, the great philosophers, and the occult, and even ancient alien theorists, always trying in vain to contact him.

This morning’s strange incident at the cemetery resurfaced. I removed the yellow-crime scene tape, the door vibrating under my hands. Call it déjà vu or precognition, but I suddenly knew something monumental waited on the other side. Slowly, I turned the knob. The hairs on my nape prickled as a voice whispered in my ear, “You can’t go in there.”

I snatched my hand from the doorknob. "Crap, Deena, you scared the hell outta me. Must you sneak around?"

“I never sneak. You simply weren’t listening.”

The kitchen door swung open. Mama stood in the doorway. “What’s going on out here? Stop horsing around. Go find Billie Jo. I’m ready to leave.”

“Jolene’s going in there.” Deena jerked her thumb toward the closed facial room door.

Billie Jo rounded the corner. “What’s all the commotion?”

“Jolene’s going in there,” Deena repeated.

“No, she’s not,” Mama said. “The police will accuse us of tampering with evidence. We’ll go in when Sam gives the okay.”

“We can’t leave before making sure that multi-function Skin Care Station is properly shut off,” I said. “It cost over fifteen hundred dollars.”

“No one’s going in there,” Mama huffed. “Got it?”

Billie Jo reached out and tested the knob. “It’s locked anyway.”

“That’s strange. It wasn’t a moment ago,” I said, twisting the knob and finding it locked. “Go get the key, Deena.”

“We lost the key years ago.”

“Wait,” I said excitedly. “I’ll get a butter knife from the kitchen.” I turned to leave, but Mama grabbed me by the arm, causing me to stumble against the door. With a thump, it flew open, propelling me into the room. As I stumbled for balance, something white fluttered in the semi-darkness. Regaining my balance, I quickly switched on the lights before Mama could protest.

"Ahhh," I said with vexation, my eyes taking in the discarded jars lining the countertop. A dusting of fine powder covered the floor. "This room's a mess. It'll take hours to clean."

"They must've taken a sample of everything," Deena piped up behind me. "What's on the floor?"

Billie Jo bent down and ran her finger over the floor, leaving a thin trail. “It looks like oatmeal. Carla said she mixed everything into that death mask.”

Mama stuck her head in the doorway. “Don’t touch anything and get out of there right now. We need to get over to the hospital. Jolene, if you don’t come out of there right this instant, I promise you that when the roll is called up yonder, you’ll be there!”

Deena backed out of the room. “She’s right; the hospital is expecting me.”

“I’m ready to leave, too,” Billie Jo said, joining Mama and Deena in the hallway.

There wasn’t any need to try and argue my point with them—my vote would be vetoed immediately. The facial equipment was unplugged, so I turned off the lights and shut the door. A loud crash sounded from inside the room. Quickly, I flung open the door, flipped on the overhead lights, and screamed with every ounce of my being—for there, on the facial bed, sat the faint, ghostly image of Scarlett Cantrell.

Tea with Eileen O'Finlan

Know what's amazing in the authoring world? The people you meet! Though Eileen and I have only had virtual tea, we live a few towns apart and have been supporting each other since a mutual friend connected us. It's like finding a kindred spirit when you "meet" another author (be it in person, on Facebook or Twitter, or somewhere in cyber space).

When I heard about Eileen's book, Kelegeen, the premise captured me so I ordered it and read it right away! Disclaimer: You will need tissues. What a heart-wrenching, amazingly-researched tale of the Irish potato blight. I fell in love with the priest (not too many books are told from that POV and I loved that element), as well as the young, strong Meg.

Okay, enough of the preamble; here is a chat with author Eileen O'Finlan:

 Eileen can be found on her  website  or on  Facebook . 

Eileen can be found on her website or on Facebook

Where does your heart fall in the writing world?

I write novels. On rare occasions I’ve written short stories and prose poems.  I find, though, that I really need the big canvas of the novel.  I need to take time to develop my characters and let a story unfold over a few hundred pages.

When did your writing journey begin? What drew you to writing?

Even as a young child, I’d look at a picture, say in a magazine or catalog, and if something about it grabbed my attention, I’d start making up a story in my head to go with it.  It wasn’t something I did consciously.  It just happened.  The same is true if I was bored.  I’d just start imagining stories which would play themselves out in my mind.  I guess I was drawn to writing in order to get the stories out of my head and onto paper.

What was your inspiration for Kelegeen?

I was taking a course in Irish history for my undergraduate degree (BA in History).  While studying the Potato Famine, my professor suggested that, as a creative exercise, I keep a diary as if I were a parish priest in Ireland at the time of the Famine.  I really enjoyed writing that diary.  After the course ended, I thought it would make a great basis for a novel.

Do you find inspiration in your own life for your writing?

Quite often, yes.  I’m a New Englander to my core so most of my writing is set in New England.  Obviously, that’s not the case with Kelegeen which is set in Ireland, but it is with most of my writing.  Also, since I write mainly historical fiction, coming across some interesting historical event or tidbit often triggers the idea for a story.

Tell us about Kelegeen.

Kelegeen is the fictionalized story of what brought countless Irish immigrants to the North American shores.  The little village of Kelegeen is going about its day-to-day life when the potatoes - the only food available to the Irish peasants - is suddenly struck by a horrible blight wiping out the entire potato crop across all of Ireland.  In what would become known as An Gorta Mor (the Great Hunger) over one million Irish would die and another million would emigrate.

Meg O’Connor, a bright, resilient, resourceful, and compassionate young woman must find a way to prevail while keeping alive her relationship with Rory, the young man to whom she is engaged.  Each time a survival tactic fails, she’s forced into a new one.  At the same time, she is beset by worry about Rory who’s own survival strategy is gravely dangerous, her mother whose frightening but vague premonitions bode an unknown evil, and the loss of beloved family and friends.

Father Brian O’Malley is the parish priest of Kelegeen and a dear friend of the O’Connor family.  He becomes unlikely allies with an English doctor.  Together they make the rounds of the countryside to offer what spiritual and physical help they can to the villagers.  It is to the two of them that Meg will turn for help with her final, most desperate plan for survival.

Though told from the points of view of both Meg and Father O’Malley, Kelegeen is really Meg’s story, which, in turn, is a story of what led to the Irish diaspora.

 Kelegeen can be found on  Amazon .

Kelegeen can be found on Amazon.

Did you go traditional route (agent/publisher), small press, or self-publish? 

I am published by BWL Publishing, Inc. a small publisher based in Canada.  I was extremely fortunate in that Eileen Charbonneau, who did the editing on Kelegeen, thought it would be a good fit with her publisher.  Eileen’s two most recent books, I’ll Be Seeing You and Watch Over Me, were published by BWL.  So she contacted the publisher, told her about Kelegeen and got her to agree to read it.  Within an amazingly short time, BWL offered me a contract.

Any new projects on the horizon?

Yes.  I am in the research phase for the sequel to Kelegeen.  I also have several other ideas for novels floating around in my head.  In fact, I was planning on writing a novel set in 1830s Vermont, but I’ve had so many requests for a sequel that I decided I’d better do that next so the Vermont novel will have to wait.

Words of advice for fellow writers in the trenches:

Once your novel is completed to what you think is the best of your ability, hire a top-notch editor.  I don’t mean someone who will simply look for type-o’s, grammatical errors and the like.  I mean someone who does all that, but more importantly reads for and comments on content, story and character arc, continuity and everything else that makes a novel sing.  Then take that person’s advice to heart.  Put in the time and effort of revising even if it means a complete rewrite.  Most of all, make yourself a student of writing.  Absorb like a sponge everything you can about writing.

I wrote the first few drafts of Kelegeen over a six year period more than twenty years ago.  After making the rounds of agents and, with one brief exception, being turned down by all, I gave up.  It was only a few years ago that I found Eileen Charbonneau, took the novel out of mothballs and sent it to her.  Her editing and advice was invaluable.  I had to do a complete rewrite which took a year to complete but it was well worth it.  I learned a tremendous amount from Eileen including why I garnered so many rejections twenty years ago.  The novel is so much better after her input and I am a much better writer.  Hiring her was the smartest and best move I’ve ever made with my writing.

What was the hardest/most unusual/interesting part of the story to write/research?

For me the hardest part was understanding the workings of the mid-19th century Irish economy, which was firmly wrapped up with the British economy.  Economics and political maneuvering are not my strong suits so I had to work hard to get a handle on them.  Though, I didn’t write about them much in the story, I had to understand them enough for what happens in the story to make sense and be historically accurate.  With historical fiction, learning far more about the subject than will ever make it overtly into the story is always part of the process.

Now for some fun questions! 

Oxford comma, yes or no? (Be careful how you answer this! Ha)

Yes, yes, and yes!

Ice cream: vanilla or chocolate?

Vanilla. I love vanilla!  (also love chocolate, but not in ice cream)

What does your desk look like?

My desk is usually a complete mess, but that’s not where I write.  I write on my laptop which is currently on, well, my lap.

What is your writing vice or must-haves (e.g. for me it's post-its, red pen, and coffee)?

I must have my laptop.  I only write longhand in my writing workshop.  What I must NOT have is vocal noise.  I can write with silence, white noise, or instrumental music, but not with the TV on or music with lyrics.

Describe a perfect writing day.

I’m a night owl, so it would actually be a perfect writing night.  I’d sit at the computer merrily transcribing whatever story was playing itself out in my head well into the wee hours of the morning.  I do my best writing at night.  Often I’ll think I’ve only been writing for about an hour or so, but when I look at the clock I realize it’s 2:00 a.m.  How did that happen?!  Considering I’m still working a M-F 9-5 job, this can be a real problem.  I’m living on a huge sleep debt!

In an alternate reality, what would be your dream job (besides author)?

Rock star guitar goddess!

Since I'm a hiker/travel-lover, what's your favorite place you've visited?

Vermont.  It’s my home away from home.  Since you’re a hiker, you’ve probably already been to Quechee Gorge, but if not, give it a try.  I also fell in love with Bermuda when I went there on a cruise several years ago.

What do you like to do when not writing?

My favorite thing to do is read.  I’m a voracious reader.  Not surprising, is it?  Probably most writers would say the same.  Besides reading, I like to spend time with family and friends, hang out with my two adorable cats, listen to classic rock, make beaded jewelry, shop, and entertain at home.  I also love visiting museums and botanical gardens.

Where can we find your book?

Buy links: 


Barnes and Noble



Thank you, Eileen! I look forward to reading more from you!

Meet Author Ralph Walker

It’s March, there’s still a foot of hardened icy snow on the ground in New England, and it’s time to shake up my blog! Today I am chatting with Ralph Walker, fellow author, parent, and early morning coffee drinker. The writing community prides itself on perseverance, patience, and pal-making…we love to support each other in our endeavors. So today I’m highlighting one of my talented friends.

Thanks for visiting, Ralph.

Thanks so much for inviting me to be a part of your blog. For readers who don’t know me, I’m Ralph Walker. I am an architect in New Jersey and I write speculative fiction, particularly near future science fiction.

Let’s start out with a hard question. Oxford comma yes or no?

Hard hitting out of the gate! I don’t want to lose readers over the controversy, so I am going to defer to my editor for political statements on punctuation. 

Fair enough. (“Go Oxford!” I say, waving a flag with commas on it). Ahem, tell us about what you write.

I’m really interested in stories about people doing extraordinary things because the world has changed in unexpected ways. Accelerating technologies and climate change both feature heavily in my work, but at their heart all my stories are about relationships and the lengths people go to save their loved ones.

Most of my stories are near future science fiction. I try to peek around the corner to see what might be coming. I’ve always loved techno-thrillers, cyberpunk, and solarpunk. I try to write with optimism and hope even when I explore my character’s darkest hours.

When did your writing journey begin? What drew you to writing?

I am a late bloomer when it comes to writing. I wrote some nonfiction and journaled over the years, but focused on my primary profession, architecture. I started writing more seriously after my daughter was born. I was traveling a lot then and was stuck in hotel rooms by myself. Being away from my family was incredibly stressful and I used storytelling as a way to escape. Early morning writing sessions quickly became a hobby, and now six years later, it is my habit.

That explains #5amwritersclub on Twitter.

What was your inspiration for the Rising Waters series, specifically Grief Protocols?

I see the world changing under our feet, both with technology and nature. Climate change, population growth, the rise of social technology, an evolving utility grid, even the legal constructs of land ownership are all influencing individual wealth, power, and happiness. I am interested in finding the sharp edges of those issues and understanding how they might impact an individual or a family.

One of my first stories, Gators In Kansas, was an exploration about underwater farming through the eyes of a migrant farmer. While that story is part of the UnCommon Lands anthology it set a tone for the stories I have written for Rising Waters.

I also love the anthology form. I am really interested in painting a picture of what the world might become through a series of stories and characters who live in the same world, but may or may not be connected. Grief Protocols, Gators In Kansas, Stealing Air and other stories are all in the same world in my mind.

Grief Protocols is a sibling bond story. I was exploring the distance a family might get stretched and how elastic those relationships may or may not be. That story is more tech-focused, but again, lives in a time and place that is easily within reach today. 

Was any of the story for Grief Protocols inspired by real life events?

Happily no, but the relationships are personal and familiar. I have a younger sister whom I am very close with and we definitely have a “country mouse – city mouse” type relationship. She has always been a rock for me and was an inspiration as I explored characters.

Elaborate upon the theme of your short story series.

Rising waters is a speculative series about what could happen. I love to mess with the question What If? What if invasive crocodiles moved into the great plains? What if we embedded social media into our vision? What if we added growth hormones to the air? There are so many wonderful what if questions that grab my attention and the stories grow out of them.

I’m a fan of Black Mirror, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Ex Machina and so many other great science fiction stories that take an extreme look at how our world is changing under our feet. Rising Waters aims to accomplish that.

Since I am a hiker / traveler, tell me about your favorite place to visit.

I am obsessed with the shoreline. I love to visit the ocean. Every summer I take my family down to the Jersey shore for at least a week at a time. When I lived in Los Angeles I would go to the ocean as often as I could. There is something really special about the edges where water meets land. There is this constant pushing and pulling, the violence of waves, the movement of sand or rock. It is constantly changing. I get lost in it.

Tell us about your next project – Stealing Air

Stealing Air is, as you might imagine, a heist story. It follows a band of thieves as they attempt to covertly steal a very expensive drug that makes it easier to breath. Nora, our heroine, needs the drug not only to make money, but also for her ailing husband. In this adventure she is taken from the woods of Appalachia to a craft air manufacturer in the sky where she discovers a real treasure.

This is a story about unintended consequences of messing with nature. It was inspired by the debate about putting fluoride in drinking water and more recent events in Flint, Michigan. 

I hope you’ll check it out, and if you like it share it with your friends.

 Ralph's latest work can be found on  Amazon .

Ralph's latest work can be found on Amazon.

Describe a perfect writing day:

I’m not sure that there is one. A good writing day for me is when I have the time and space to get lost in a story. Since I work full-time as an architect and am a parent and husband those days never really happen. I am lucky to grab a few hours in the morning and work on something fun and creative. Maybe someday in the future I can achieve a ‘perfect’ writing day.

What does your desk look like?

I work at a converted dining room table that is piled high with books and files. I keep a set of notecards and Post-it notes close by and often scrawl out a few words as reminders for one project or another. It is really a bit of a mess, but those scraps of paper are bits of inspiration.

I also have a litter of mementos scattered on my desk. There is a steel bolt from the first building I designed, shells from my visits to the beach, a bit of petrified wood another writer gave me, and a variety of colored drawings from my kids. Sometimes when I get stuck on a passage I’ll pick one of those objects and turn it over in my hands. They help ground me.

Last tough question: vanilla or chocolate?

Doesn’t matter to me if it’s ice cream or cake. I’ll take vanilla with coffee or chocolate with wine.

Words of advice for fellow writers in the trenches:

A writer friend of mine likes to say, “I’m years deep into my process of becoming an overnight success.” Don’t give up on your dream. Keep writing.

Where can we find you or your work?

You can find my stories at Amazon.com.

Or if you are in New Jersey you can pick up the UnCommon Lands Anthology at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, NJ.

I am very active on Twitter. Come say hi at @RW_Igloo.

My website is www.ralphwalkerauthor.com.