Saturday, February 6, 2016

Whooooooo Knew? by Gail Roughton

Legend has it that we have all a spirit animal.  Well, okay, I don’t know if legend actually has that or not.  What I do know is that the Native American Indians certainly believed that, and if I’m remembering my history correctly, discovering an individual’s spirit animal was a really big deal. Now, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure we’ve got a family spirit animal, or at the very least, a spirit animal shared by at least four members of my family, to-wit, me, my daughter, my granddaughter, and my oldest dog, Max. 

I grew up on the banks of Stone Creek Swamp, and some of my fondest, oldest memories are of sitting on the back porch at night and catching the cry of a night owl. That whoooooooooo…who…whoooooooooo—that’s one of the most beautiful sounds in the world.  And since I can’t imagine living where I don’t hear it—and since once a country girl, always a country girl—of course my family lives in the country. Smack-dab in the middle of fifty acres of woods.  That’s where I discovered that owls have a secret language all their own. I haven’t quite deciphered it yet, but sometimes at night, when they talk to each other from every corner of the woods, I’m sure if I listen hard enough, one day I will.  The calls come from everywhere, the grove of trees outside the kitchen window, then over into the depths of the woods, shifting to the edge of the creek, moving to the shadows outside the front door, varying in cadence and speed.  Who..who…whoooooooooo…who whoooooooo. Who..who…who… who… whooooooooo…who…whooo!  It has to mean something.  It just has to! 

My daughter’s always loved owls, and my granddaughter’s clothes and toys proliferate with owls. Even her first birthday party and cake celebrated the owl motif.  She has two big stuffed owls, Hootie and Goldie, who looks just the same as Hootie other than being gold in color, and a smaller owl known as Blueberry.  Because yep, you guessed it, he (or she) is blue.  Woe to the poor soul who tries to put her to bed without at least one of them.

Still, it didn’t occur to me that of course owls were the spirit animals of the whole family until one night this past January when I’d settled our pets on their respective beds in our room, covered with their respective blankets, and Max began to whine. Come to think of it, he’d been restless all night, but by now, he wasn’t just whining, he sounded pitiful.

My husband just had to ask. “You need to go back out a minute, boy?” Leave it to a man.  I’m sure that sounds like the logical question to ask in such a situation, but the thing is, I try very hard not to let either of our boys out past eight o’clock or so. Living in the country is wonderful, but the nights are full of wildlife, some of which is not as harmless to pets as say, deer or wild turkey. Not to mention I wasn’t real fond of the thought of Max tearing out into the woods after a pair of deer and waiting up for him to come back.  Because of course, that’s who’d end up waiting up for him.  Me.

“You’re crazy if you let him out! He probably hears something moving around outside and he’ll tear off after whatever it is!”

“He’s gotta go.”

So the outside flood lights came on and my boys tore out into the night. I gave an exasperated sigh and went out on the front porch to try and keep an ear on whereabouts they were. To my extreme surprise, they trotted right back into the light from around the boat. Max had  something in his mouth. My first thought was Oh, dear Lord! Don’t let it be anything dead! That was quickly replaced with the even more awful thought, Oh, dear Lord! Please don’t let it be anything ALIVE!” I was just about to call my husband out for reinforcements—because of course he’d gone back inside—when I realized what Max had.  His own stuffed owl, his Hootie, one of his new Christmas toys. Now mind you, he has a whole toy box full of toys of varying age. He even has four or five other toys in his bed. Apparently, none of them held the special significance to him of that owl. 

“Randy! He didn’t have his owl in his mouth when he went out, did he?”


“Did he take it out with him earlier?”

“Not that I saw. Why?”

“Well, he went out without it, and now he’s back in the space of two minutes with it. So he knew it was missing and he sure as heck knew exactly where it was.”

Max trotted to his bed, lay down, and dropped Hootie between his front legs. I re-covered him with his blanket, and he settled right down.

“Guess he wanted his owl.”

“I guess.”

That’s when it hit me. Owls obviously have great significance for several members of this family. Which really shouldn’t come as nearly the surprise it did. Some time ago, I don’t even remember when, I played around with a short story in some submission contest or other, I don’t even remember the name, for works set in the south.  I don’t do short stories, so I didn’t play around with it much, and it wouldn’t have even caught my attention had it not been specifically targeting “southern” works.  I think I got as far as the first couple of sentences:  “Don’t nobody go into Hoot Owl Holler. Bad things happen in Hoot Owl Holler…”.  And that was about it. But I loved those sentences, the promise of a good spine-tingling tale. Even more, I loved the double meaning in the 'holler". In southern parlance, “holler” can mean either a loud shout or a low-lying piece of land nestled between hills/mountains/swamps. So the “Hoot Owl Holler” just tickled my writing bone. I’ve always said nothing ever written or thought about by a writer is wasted. Because one day, out of nowhere, there’ll be a place to use it.  My current work in progress, Black Turkey Walk, is the place I’m using it.  (Yes, I know that’s been a work in progress for a really long time now and I apologize, but these last two years of my “official” working career have just about killed me. My last “official” working day is March 16, and I promise—it will cease to be “in progress” and become finished within a few months after that date.) 

And guess what?  Hoot Owl Holler lies in the swamp lands off Black Turkey Walk.  That’s what the locals call a strip down by Turkey Creek. And believe me—don’t nobody want to go into Hoot Owl Holler.  Because bad things happen in Hoot Owl Holler…

Find all Gail Roughton titles at

You can also visit at her Web-Blog and on Facebook

Friday, February 5, 2016

It's a Woman's Prerogative to Change Her Mind by Jamie Hill

Back in August, BWL's Art Director Michelle Lee asked our author group to "cast our characters" for movies or TV. To choose an actor who we thought portrayed the looks and personality of one of our characters. The first book I had published was Family Secrets. Protagonist Jack Dunlevy has always held a special place in my heart. At the time I selected Adrian Pasdar (who I remembered from the series Judging Amy) as my choice to play Jack.

Recently I cut the cable cord and went strictly to Netflix. I've been looking for new series to watch (new to me, anyway) rather than watch Parenthood and Gilmore Girls over and over. The creator of Parenthood also did a series called Friday Night Lights, about a high school football team set in a small town in Texas. I decided to give it a try. 

I don't like every series that's been recommended to me on Netflix. I just can't get into some of them, and some I don't have patience for. Friday Night Lights? I binge watched all five seasons in January--three times, over again. So I guess you could say I kinda liked that one. 

The star of the show is Kyle Chandler who plays Coach Eric Taylor. As a dad and coach he's inspiring and amazing. But the relationship he has with his onscreen wife Connie Britton is truly a thing of beauty. When he tells her, "I love you, I respect you, I am proud of you, I am in love with you completely," my heart, and the hearts of women everywhere, surely melt into little puddles on the floor.


After three airings of that series, I found Kyle did another series for Netflix called Bloodline. In this 2015 series he plays a cop (begin swoon) and his character is very similar to that of the coach, except he's more mature (full fledged swoon) and he's able to swear on Netflix (which may not sound like a good thing but it's realistic for the character, and damn it, I like it.)

Friday Night Lights is a series which I equate to my enjoyment of reading young adult books. Bloodline is a more mature, romantic suspense/thriller type of a show. And the more I watch it, the more I think that Kyle Chandler would make the perfect Jack Dunlevy from Family Secrets

So if anyone at Netflix is reading this, shoot me an email. It'd be a struggle to take time off work to go give character insights to Mr. Chandler as he's preparing to film my book, but I'd do it to be a good team player. That's just how I roll.

Oh, and if anyone from Netflix is still reading? Judging Amy would be a nice addition to your collection. I'm just sayin'.

Character Name: Jack Dunlevy
Book(s) Featuring: Family Secrets, Family Ties and Family Honor
Author: Jamie Hill

About Jack: Jack Dunlevy is a handsome, burnt out cop who smokes too much and drinks too much. He has a penchant for pretty women and little kids, and rescuing them makes him feel worthwhile again.

One of Jack's Shining Moments: 

Inside Jack’s room, Crystal looked through his closet for another sweatshirt. “I need to do some laundry. Things are getting desperate here.” She found a shirt and pulled it over her head, and then watched him grab the hamper and shove his wet clothes in it.

“Let’s gather it all up and we’ll do it now.”

She gave him a small smile. “Yeah?” She had never met a man willing to help with the laundry. Sure, Jack had done it once, but that was before. Crystal generally found relationships changed after ‘the deed’ was done.

He looked at her and shrugged. “What? It’s just laundry.”

She shrugged back and tossed her towel into the hamper. She glanced out to where the boys were and then back at him quickly. “So you really think I have what they need?”

He smiled slowly at her and replied, “I know you have what they need. You just have to convince yourself of that fact.” He carried the hamper out the door in front of her and added in an offhand tone, “I also know you have what I need. I guess it’s up to me to convince you of that.”

Crystal followed him, not really aware she was smiling until she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror in the boys’ room as she picked up their laundry. “Hell’s bells,” she muttered to herself, and wondered why she felt so happy.

Family Secrets A Cop in the Family, Book 1

As if stumbling over a dead body isn’t enough, Crystal Cartwright finds herself playing surrogate mother to two small boys when their father–her neighbor–doesn’t come home. The kids aren’t much trouble, but the thieves, drug dealers and kidnappers they’re about to encounter are.

Detective Jack Dunlevy, a cop down on his luck, draws the cases no one else wants. A simple investigation involving a dead homeless man quickly changes as Crystal enlists Jack’s help with the children. Drawn into a mystery that none of them could have anticipated, they’re faced with a situation that will change their lives forever.

“Ms. Hill is a genius! The plot line was AMAZING. It was action packed and kept me on the edge of my seat almost the entire time. Ms. Hill has become a favorite author of mine and I consider her to be an automatic add to my “to be read list”. If you are a serious suspense loving reader who loves to form bonds with the characters, this is definitely the book for you! I loved it and can’t wait to read more of Ms. Hill’s books, she has the gift of knowing what the reader wants and then hitting you with an ending you certainly don’t expect. Two thumbs up!” ~ Val, You Gotta Read Reviews, 5 Stars

You can find Jamie's books on her page at Books We Love here:  and you can find Jamie sitting in front of her TV with the Netflix clicker in hand.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Murder in the Bedroom by Katherine Pym

Madam, did you murder your husband?

Apparently, bedrooms are perfect for murder. The victim is usually already in a prone position (won’t fall and break anything). The victim is usually already asleep so there’s no resistance to their demise. The mattress will soak up the blood, if that’s the way a murderer wants to perform the act. All he or she has to do is cover up the dead body with blankets already on the bed. 


We will kill them now
Authors have often killed off a person in the bedroom. Take Anya Seton in her Dragonwyck. She used the oleander flower to brighten up a sick room. I’ve read this plant is extremely poisonous. Even if a bee takes its pollen, and you later gather honey from said bee’s nest, eat the honey, you can fall very ill. I haven’t heard if you can die from the honey, though. Anya Seton merely had her naughty protagonist set an oleander plant near his sick wife’s bed. The next morning she was dead. Very cleanly done. No blood. Her body was already covered with blankets. 

Back in the day (maybe even now), some innkeepers (sort of like the dastardly couple in the musical Les Mis) would kill a wealthy customer for the gold he/she carried. One couple who owned the Crane Inn near Reading, England murdered wealthy patrons for years without getting caught. 

Waiting for the victim to drop
Their process was elaborate. They outfitted a bedroom located above the kitchen (nice and cozy in the winters I expect, what with heat rising, so a coveted room). The innkeepers nailed the bed to a trapdoor located over a huge boiling cauldron used to brew beer. When the trapdoor opened the poor victim fell off the bed into this boiling cauldron, clothes and all, he never had a moment to cry out but would be immediately parboiled, then drowned (sort of like the play Sweeny Todd but with water). The innkeepers would mount a ladder into the bedroom, steal all his goods, and reset the trapdoor. The body would then be cast into a local river. 

That seems like a lot of hard work. 

Then Thomas Harding (another author) wrote of a woman whose husband continually imbibed. One night she couldn’t take it anymore and sewed her dead-drunk husband very tightly in the bedclothes. She unstitched him the following morning to find him quite expired. The coroners said it was a stroke. On her wedding night with her next husband, she very casually told him what she had done. I’d wager the new husband didn’t sleep well that night. 

Someone died here
There are many bedrooms that are ghost ridden due to suicides, murders, and just plain natural deaths. There was a time when, if you tried to sell your home, the estate agent would ask if anyone died there. If you answered yes, the house would be difficult to sell. So, what do you say? 
Nothing, and do sleep well, tonight. 

 Many thanks to: Warm & Snug, The History of the Bed, by Lawrence Wright, First published 1962 by Routledge & Keagan Paul, Ltd. England
Pictures come from Wikicommon, public domain



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Writing Groups and Critique Partners by Diane Bator

One of the best things any author can do is join a writing group or find other writers to critique their work. I wouldn't be where I am today without the support of both a local writing group and an online critique group.

When I moved across Canada from Alberta to Ontario in January 2006, I didn't know anyone in town - or even in the province. A year later, I found the Headwaters Writers' Guild. As eclectic as any group of writers could be, we varied in ages from young parents to seventy year olds. From new writers to veterans of the publishing world. But we all shared one love:  the written word. We have all been published in some form or another and we have all celebrated each others' successes. As we've aged, we've learned and been their to support one another through life's trials and tribulations. They were the people who encouraged me to write and finish my first novel and heard each word before the manuscript was ever sent to an agent or publisher. Our numbers ebb and flow as members come and go, but a few of us have been a part of the core group for many years. This April, for example, will mark my ninth year with the HWG and I still attend meetings as much as I can and at every meeting, I write a new scene for a new novel.

In our writing group, we take turns as leaders and use our two hours ever second Sunday to read things we've written and gather feedback from the group. We also take 15 - 20 minutes each meeting to write using prompts the leader that week chose for the occasion. Writing prompts, even used alone for some quiet writing practice, are a great way to exercise a writer's skills at letting thoughts flow. Many of the best stories and novels that have emerged from our group have their basis in our prompts.

Shortly after joining the writing group, I joined an online critique group. Through one of the women in this new group, I was introduced to my agent who has believed in me from the start, then to Books We Love who published my first novels.

In the years since, I've gone on to work with other now-published writers as critique partners. Reading other author's works in progress is a great way to provide continuous learning and help to recognize patterns and habits in our own work - good and bad. It also provides for solid connections in the writing world which can help with any writing career.

My best advice for a budding writer of any age is to join a writing group for the moral and literary support they can offer. Don't be afraid to share your work or to get help when you're stuck. A good writing group will give you both if you keep an open mind.

Diane Bator

Tuesday, February 2, 2016



 At the risk of revealing my age, I have to say the 1960’s was my time. Mini-skirts, stilettos (I’ve got the bunions to prove it), beehive hair-dos, I couldn’t quite manage that, although I did tease the life out of my hair and regularly put in coloured rinses, French Plum or Rich Burgundy, were the colours I favoured. I can remember when the Beatles made their first visit out to Australia. A couple of girls I worked with were lucky enough to get tickets to their concerts, (we hated them, of course), they came to work the next days minus their voices, and stayed that way for about a week, because they had screamed so much.

We used manual typewriters in those days. One original and four copies of everything we typed. I don’t know how many blouses I ruined because I got ink on the sleeves from changing the typewriter ribbon or the black stuff off the carbon paper.

During this time the Vietnam War loomed in the background. The Australian government introduced conscription. It was in the form of a ballot, or the death lottery as many called it. All twenty year old males had to register, their birth dates were put into a barrel and a certain number were drawn out, and those young men had to report to the army and subsequently many of them were sent to Vietnam. This of course caused severe bitterness and division in the community, and even though the government denied it, was subject to abuse and unfairness. Rich men kept their sons at university so they didn’t have to go.  Conscientious objectors were thrown into prison. Only sons were called up, yet families with two or three eligible males didn’t have any of their boys called up.

I only had one brother, and I can clearly remember my father (a World War 2 veteran) vowing, that if his son got called up, he would protest on the steps of the parliament with a placard on his back.

There were protests marches, anti-war demonstrations, and things often turned violent. Not that I went to any of the protest marches, but a cousin of mine did and got trampled by a police horse. A very turbulent time in our history and I was right in the middle of it.

Make love, not war was the catch cry of the 1960’s. Against a background of anti-war demonstrations, hippies and free love, Caroline’s life is in turmoil. Her soldier brother is on his way to the jungles of Vietnam. She discovers she is pregnant with her wealthy boss’ baby, and her draft dodger friend is on the run and needs her help. 

BIO:  Margaret Tanner is a multi-published award winning Australian author. She loves delving into the pages of history as she carries out research for her historical romance novels, and prides herself on being historically accurate. No book is too old or tattered for her to trawl through, no museum too dusty, or cemetery too overgrown. Many of her novels have been inspired by true events, with one being written around the hardships and triumphs of her pioneering ancestors in frontier Australia.
As part of her research she has visited the World War 1 battlefields in France and Belgium, a truly poignant experience.

Margaret is married with three grown up sons, and two gorgeous little granddaughters.

Outside of her family and friends, writing is her passion.



Monday, February 1, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Tricia McGill

Tricia McGill was born in London many moons ago, but moved to Australia 50 years ago come next October. She worked in the fashion industry most of her working life, following in the footsteps of her mother and sisters, who all worked in this trade in one form or another. The primary school she attended is still going strong. In this small local school one of her favorite lessons was English and she was one of the best spellers in her class, and loved to be the one asked by the teacher to stand and read for the class. Maths and science held little interest for her, but reading, well, the local library was a treasure house full of adventure and excitement.

Tricia’s books can be found here on her BWL author page:

"I’ve always been a dreamer and some of my dreams have ended up in my books. Always a romantic it followed that this would be my chosen genre. I love reading and hence writing Time-Travels and hope someone invents a time machine in my lifetime. How exciting would it be to travel back in time to see what it was really like to live without mod-cons and all the things that we rely on today? But—I would always want to return to my nice comfy home and my gadgets. And how would I live without my computer? And air conditioner? I can’t imagine what it must have been like to be a woman in the days when they had to wear layers and layers of unnecessary clothing, not to mention corsets! 

My romances cross a few sub-genres and as well as Time-Travels I write contemporary romance, historical, mainstream, and futuristic.

When not writing or working on my books I am a volunteer for a community group that assists disabled folk in their homes with their computer and the internet, a fulfilling pastime.

Any left-over time I like to potter about in my garden, walk my two small dogs or spend time with friends and family."

Latest Release: When Fate Decides, Challenge the Heart Book 1

    For too long Tessa has seen herself as plain and dowdy, just an ordinary suburban housewife. With her confidence eroded after being married to a bully who humiliated her at every opportunity, why wouldn’t she presume she was unattractive, and someone no man would find the least bit worth bothering with?
    But now Tessa is a widow, and relishing her new state of independence. Her world is turned upside down by Jack Delaney, a man she spent hours fantasizing over when he worked for her husband. A man who gave her a deliciously secret outlet from her miserable marriage. When Jack enters her life again, professing he finds her attractive, why would she believe him? Especially as he is now wealthy, successful, still extremely handsome, and to add to that, years younger than her.

Amid the Stars:
 Terrified, and in fear for her life after her husband, an undercover cop, is killed, Melanie Ross has nowhere to hide.
    A squadron from a far planet visiting Earth on a reconnaissance survey prepares to leave, without one of their members who is dying of a virus.
    Irena must remain on Earth, so seeks a replacement to take her craft back to the other side of the Universe. Seeing Melanie’s predicament she offers her an escape. Reluctantly Melanie agrees. Conquering her fears, she must learn to live among a superior race on Qindaga.
    Reve, commander of the star ship circling their planet, bears an inexplicable resemblance to her dead husband. Passion flares amid the stars, but can love with an alien flourish?

Leah in Love (and Trouble)

    Violet Amelia Connor, known to all as Leah, is a landscape designer who inherited her love of gardening from the eccentric aunt she lives with. Leah is contracted to work on the garden of Private Investigator Sean Russel and unwittingly becomes embroiled in the handsome PI’s cases. A series of unpleasant experiences land her in real trouble where she is kidnapped, bashed, bound and altogether becomes a party to such mayhem she is forced to wonder how she ever got mixed up in this mess. But her indomitable spirit, obstinate nature, and incurable sense of humor enable her to override all obstacles. And of course there is her overwhelming attraction for Sean Russel that started it all.

Settlers Series (Historical Romance)
Mystic Mountains Book 1
Distant Mountains Book 2

Remnants of Dreams

Maddie and the Norseman

Futuristic/Sci-Fi Fantasy
Amid the Stars

Wild Heather (Time-Travel)
The Laird Book 1
Travis Book 2

Beneath Southern Skies (Contemporary Romance)
Lonely Pride Book 1
A Dream for Lani Book 2
Leah in Love (and Trouble) Book 3

Challenge the Heart (Contemporary Romance)
When Fate Decides Book 1

Brides of Banff Springs by Victoria Chatham

AVAILABLE HERE   VICTORIA CHATHAM is a young-at-heart senior who has written short stories, newspaper and magazine articles on a...