Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dear Dog of Destruction by Stuart R. West

(A personal letter to my dog, but everyone's welcome to read):

Zak, what did I ever do to you to fill you with so much rage? Didn't my wife snatch you from one of her students who found you pillaging in their trash? Didn't we take you into our house and offer you food, love and shelter? Haven't we set you up with a heated doggy pillow? So why do you repay us with such a disdain for our furniture?
Okay, you're not allowed on the sofas. I know that upsets you. I'm only allowed on them after a shower. Stuff happens. But you don't have human rights. You gotta stop ripping up the sofa when the mailman comes. Yes, he brings bills and fliers about hair removal. But you can't know that. Even if you did understand "humanese," it's still not a reason to wreck the house. (Let me rip up the sofa when I see the bills.)

One time you were so angry at the mailman, you put your paw through a glass picture frame. Who was there to rush you to the doggy doctor, terrified at the sight of all the blood? And who had to put up with the questions and nervous looks as to why I had blood stains all over the back seat of my car? I was nearly branded a serial killer, thanks to you, my furious, furry friend. But I've stayed with you through thick and tics.

You can be fun sometimes. Sweet, actually. It's a shame you don't like buses, joggers, motorcycles, trucks, trash men, door-ringing politicians (that one I agree with), the ice cream truck, and of course, mailmen. Everyone has their peculiarities. Other than that, you're a wonderful creature. Sort of.

Frankly, I'm at a loss why we humans put up with your furry kind at times. But I'm onto you. Took a while, though. When I try and load you into my car to go to your weekly doggy day care (I know, I know), you feign an inability to jump into my vehicle. You insist I lift all of your sixty-five pounds. Very stubborn. Huh. Of course, you have absolutely no problem jumping into my wife's car, do you? When my wife told me you were playing me, I grew furious!

I realize you see my wife (even my daughter) as your pack-masters. But c'mon! I'm the one who feeds you, walks you, hangs with you more than they do! Alas, I am but your play-pal. Sigh.

Why, in your honor, Zak, I even created a character in my thriller series, Killers Incorporated, who loves dogs. Sure, he's a sociopathic, hot-headed serial killer. But he will see no harm done to dogs. Can't be all that bad, right?

But here's the bottom line, Zak. Every time I get angry with you, I holler, rant and rave. Then I look into your golden eyes and melt. You had me at the facial licking.

P.S., chocolate's not good for you. It's like toxic lima beans. Only deadlier. One would think you'd get a clue by now.

Your play-pal,



Friday, March 18, 2016

Rain Forest Writers Retreat was Amazing! by Nancy M Bell

I just wanted to share with you all what a wonderful time I had at the Rain Forest Writers Retreat. It takes place at Lake Quinault, Washington state, the venue is the Rain Forest Resort Village. This beautiful resort is smack in the middle of the Olympia Rain Forest. Patrick Swinson organizes everything, there are three sessions which begin in late February. For the past two years I have been lucky enough to be in the third session with my amazing writing friend Sara Durham. This retreat is geared to writing, this year from Wednesday evening til Sunday at noon I wrote 30,000 words. The resort is basically closed at this time of year, so we have the whole place to ourselves. There are hotel rooms with lake view, there are self contained cabins for those lucky enough to snare one and magical scenery wherever you look.
The worlds largest Spruce tree lives here along with many other giant trees. There are hiking trails into the rain forest if you need to clear your head for a bit. Of course, it does rain, a lot. But that's okay, liquid sunshine, you know.

The University Book Store from Seattle comes every year and sets up a table with books by the attendees. A great chance to snap up some amazing books by people you actually know! There is a restaurant on site, The Salmon House and it serves spectacular meals. I recommend the salmon and the Merriman mushrooms, yum yum. The lounge is open all day for us crazy writers, from 6 am to far into the night. I usually write in my room, just cause I'm too lazy to unhook my laptop and lug it over to the lounge. Also, far less distractions for me, although I did stop to watch a bald eagle circle over the lake through the large picture window of my room.

I love this retreat, it's so amazing to be surrounded by nothing but other writers all busy tapping away on their keyboards. Of course, there is some fun and games too. Saturday soup and grilled cheese lunch in Cabin 6, followed by the Saturday night Cabin Party with complimentary and varied margaritas made with laughs and finesse. I'm not a drinker, but the night is always filled with laughter and conversation.

While I was at the retreat this year I worked on the next book in the Arabella's Secret series. Book One The Selkie's Song is available in ebook, Book Two Selkie Dreams will be available this spring. I'm really looking forward to telling the story of Laurel's Gramma Bella. A lot of readers of my YA series The Cornwall Adventures, wanted to know more about her grandmother and how she met the selkie in the first place, why did she leave Cornwall in the first place, how did she know Sarie, etc etc. Arabella's Secret seeks to answer those riddles and give the reader some insight into the how and why of things. The thing I love about writing is that my characters never fail to surprise me. They go off in directions I don't plan and some characters just show up on their own and work their way into the tale without me even thinking about it.

If you'd like to explore The Selkie's Song just click on the cover below for a buy link. Arabella and Sarie are waiting to welcome you, and the selkie Vear Du will no doubt be there as well.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Saint Patrick's Day Remembered - Janet Lane Walters

Don't get me wrong, I have Irish blood in my heritage. One of my ancestors came from a small town in northern Ireland. I may spell this wrong but the town was Bellinahinch, County Down Ireland. Many years ago, a friend and I earned enough money doing horoscopes to buy our plane tickets to visit Ireland. Her step-mother lived there and her father was buried in a small church yard, To tell you how long ago this was, we flew Freddie Laker to England, took a train through Wales and then a ferry boat across the channel to Ireland. Things I remember most about my trip was the shades of green, a trip to the Devil's Crosswalk with a bus load of Irish teens.

Back to my visit to the town where Mariah Jane, my ancestor left. The town was very hilly. Unfortunately on the day we arrived the town records office was closed so I was unable to find any distant relatives. But outside the town in the hills beyond, we were treated to a farmer showing off his sheepdog's skills. We had stopped beside the road to eat our lunch when we saw the dog, the shepherd and a flock of sheep. We stood entranced by the way the dog worked.

So you can see I'm Irish but I'm orange rather than green. This leads to a much earlier memory. After finishing my three year nursing program, I enrolled in Duquesne University's bachelor's program for nursing. Saith patrick's Day was celebrated there but being someone who walked her own path, I decided on St. Patrick's day to wear my orange jumper. While this could have brought disaster to me I persisted. My only class that day was an English one. Half of the men in the class were on the basketball team. They laughed and escorted me on break to the cafeteria for coffee. That is my memory of the most interesting St. Psatrick's Day of my life.

My latest releases. Actually Photographer doesn't go live until the 19th

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day by Roseanne Dowell

Who was St. Patrick?
St. Patrick was a Christian missionary and bishop of Ireland. He was born int he fourth century to a wealthy family. He was kidnapped at age sixteen and taken to Ireland where he was held as a slave. Patrick worked as a shepherd for six years before he made his escape. He went home and later became a priest, returning to northern Ireland where he evangelized the pagan Irish. St. Patrick is Ireland's most prominent saint. He died on March 17th. 
It seems everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day. People across the world celebrate the day.

Legend has it that people wear green to make themselves invisible to leprechauns, who would pinch anyone they could see. 
Others think it's because St Patrick used the shamrock to explain the Trinity. 

  March 17th is a national holiday in Ireland, but people of all countries celebrate. Many parades are held in honor of St. Patrick. Two of the largest are in  New York and Sydney in the southern hemisphere. Thousands of people turn out in Chicago to see the Chicago River turned green as part of a tradition started in 1962, as well as the Vilnele River in Lithuania. 
In London, a St Patrick's Day Festival begins on March 13 in Trafalgar Square. A colorful parade with performers from sports clubs, dance schools and community organisations leaves from Piccadilly at midday and ends up in Trafalgar Square.
Some countries show their support by turning buildings green for the day, including the London Eye and HMS Belfast in London, Trinity College in Dublin, the Pyramids and the Sphinx in Egypt, Sydney Opera House in Australia, Burj Al Arab in Dubai and the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro.
Many traditional foods are served on St. Patrick's Day. We eat corned beef and cabbage, but Irish Stew, Boxty Pancakes, Smoked Trout with Guinness, Jameson Whiskey Irish Ribs, and Barmbarck (traditional Irish sweetened bread) are also served. 
Oh, and don't forget the Guinness.  
Happy St Patrick's Day everyone. 

Harassing phone calls from a killer terrify journalist, Susan Weston after her first big byline. 
Detective David Morgan investigates the calls and the fact Susan’s bracelet was found at the murder

scene. Sparks fly between them in more ways than one. To make matters worse, someone is leaving roses in front of Susan’s door. Is she being stalked by a killer?
Available from Amazon

Monday, March 14, 2016

Books We Love's Tantalizing Talent ~ Author Vijaya Schartz

Born in France, award-winning author Vijaya Schartz never conformed to anything and could never refuse a challenge. She likes action and exotic settings, in life and on the page. She traveled the world and claims she must be a time traveler, since she writes with the same ease about the far past, the present, and the far future. With over twenty-five titles published, Vijaya Schartz writes action adventure laced with sensuality and suspense, in exotic, medieval, or futuristic settings. Her books collected many five star reviews and literary awards. She makes you believe you actually lived these extraordinary adventures among her characters. Her stories have been compared to Indiana Jones with sizzling romance, and she takes that as a compliment anytime. She writes to entertain.
She writes what she likes to read, and she has eclectic tastes. Never a boring moment in her books. She also enjoys the research, whether it's medieval history or space exploration. She likes to mix genres, so her medieval romances are sprinkled with fantasy, action and adventure. Her most recent series, Curse of the Lost Isle, features a family of immortal ladies, related to Morgan the Fae, struggling to survive and find love in a society that condemns magic and burns witches.

Find Vijaya and her books at Books We Love:


Medieval - Curse of the Lost Isle - Book 6 (standalone)

1096 AD - To redeem a Pagan curse, Palatina the Fae braves the Christian world to embark on an expedition to free the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem from the Turks. Pierre de Belfort, Christian Knight of Lorraine, swore never to let a woman rule his life, and doesn't believe in love. Thrown together into the turmoil of the First Crusade, on a sacred journey to a land of fables, they must learn to trust each other. For in this war, the true enemy is not human... and discovery could mean burning at the stake.
"... a vivid look at what life could have been for Pagans and Christians alike. Palatina and Pierre are so lifelike, one could expect them to step out of the page, chain mail jingling and swords flashing." 5 stars (exceptional - crowned heart for excellence) Ind'Tale Magazine

Contemporary romance with suspense and intrigue

When Talia runs over billionaire Kyle Dormant with her bicycle in the dog park, she considers their meeting a happy accident. He believes it is destiny, but her physician's mind rebels at such notions. Their budding romance comes to a grinding halt when Kyle won’t wake up from deep sleep... with no medical explanation. Baffled and deeply concerned, Talia digs into his recent past for a plausible cause. Instead, she uncovers dark family secrets. Convinced Kyle's condition was induced, and someone wants him dead, she is anxious to save him, but the closer she gets to the sordid truth… and a possible cure, the greater the risk to both their lives.
"Ms. Schartz has brought us another entertaining story and also has crossed genres with this new modern romantic tale... The plot twists and Kyle is in danger. As Talia races to figure out how to save Kyle, she also faces danger... has a knack for describing fast paced situations and gives us interesting dialogue and relationships, as well. She never leaves the reader wanting!" Amazon reviewer


Action Sci-fi romance 

The year is 3033, and deep in the bowels of the underground galactic prison, something has gone terribly wrong. Rhonda Alendresis never wanted this prison job. When the civilians vanish and an earthquake damages the nuclear reactor, she must go down to repair it with Captain Perfect himself, Cole Riggeur, who always plays by the rules and never trusted a woman in his life. But deep in the underground penitentiary, the most wicked convicts in the Galaxy are loose, and a treacherous shape-shifter plans his revenge. Disconnected from the Garrison, against impossible odds, Cole and Rhonda now face their greatest challenge... trusting each other in order to survive.
"...suspenseful, gripping saga of survival, betrayal, and hope...the resourcefulness and courage that occurs when a person refuses to admit defeat and die." 5 Angels - Fallen Angel Reviews


Science Fiction with romantic elements:

CRUSADER - Archangel Book 1
CHECKMATE - Archangel Book 2
ANAZ-VOOHRI - Ancient Enemy Book 1
RELICS - Ancient Enemy Book 2
KICKING BOTS - Ancient Enemy Book 3

Contemporary Romance:


Medieval series: Curse of the Lost Isle

Also: CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE BOXED SET (Books 1 through 4 in one download)
DAMSEL OF THE HAWK - Book 7 (late spring 2016)

The Golden Year of 1966

By the time you read this blog I'll be on the high seas. Why? Well because my husband and I are lucky enough to be celebrating our Golden Wedding anniversary on 26 March, and we've decided to do it in style by cruising in the Western Mediterranean. We are even going to have a gondola ride in absolute must for a writer of contemporary romance as I'm sure you'll agree.

Those 50 years seem to have flown by and yet I can remember the beginning as if it were yesterday. Our only travel then was in a small car on mostly secondary roads as there were few highways in the UK in those far distant days. We were married for years before we flew in an aeroplane and a lot more time went by before we boarded our first cruise ship, but how times have changed since then. Now, thanks to work as well as holidays and trips to see friends, we have visited more than 40 countries and are still travelling, and I can hardly believe it. Growing up I never expected to travel anywhere outside the UK and my parents never did.

Readers know that many of the places I visit feature in my books and that is particularly the case with Cabin Fever. The story follows another cruise we took, this time from Auckland in New Zealand to Sydney in Australia. It's written from the perspective of the crew instead of the passengers. Did I just make it up? Not quite. I talked to some of the crew members to ensure I got my facts straight before I returned home and wrote about it, and in doing so I was able to relive the cruise all over again, always a bonus.

I have no idea which, if any, of the places we visit in March will feature in future books. It could be Dubrovnik, or Venice, or Malta, or a host of other places, or perhaps none at all. It depends entirely on whether something triggers an idea for a story. One thing is for sure though, celebrating or not, I will be looking for that trigger. It's my default mode.

Something else is going to happen in March as well. A weekend in an hotel with two of my cousins and their spouses, all of whom were also married 50 years ago in 1966. It must have been a very expensive year for the family!  We all know how lucky we are to still be together and to have our health, and we are going to drink to it, and to the future, because hopefully we still have a few golden years left. Maybe that should be my next book. The story of 3 marriages. On the other hand...maybe not!

My next book, Remembering Rose, which will be published in June, a few months after my anniversary cruise, is about a marriage though. Well two marriages actually, which, although there is more than a century between them, are inextricably linked together. In this story the only travel involved is time travel, something which, looking back over the past fifty years, I seem to have done just by living.

Sheila's books can be found at:

Books We Love
Barnes and Noble

She also has a website and can be found on facebook

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Road Tripping USA Part Three by Joan Donaldson-Yarmey

My website:

Author’s Note

I belong to Angels Abreast, a breast cancer survivor dragon boat race team in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. Every four years the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission IBCPC) holds an international festival somewhere in the world. In the spring of 2013, my team received a notice that the IBCPC had chosen Sarasota, Florida, USA, to hold the next festival in October 2014.
     We decided to attend and while the other members were going to fly down, tour around some of the sites and head home I wanted to see more of the country and meet some of the people. My husband, Mike, and I drove from our small acreage at Port Alberni, British Columbia, on the Pacific Ocean, to Sarasota, Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.
     Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the people I would meet nor the beautiful places I would see nor the adventures I would have on our ten week, 18,758km (11656 mile) journey. On the thirteenth day of every month in 2016 I will post a part of my trip that describes some of the excellent scenery, shows the generosity and friendliness of the people, and explains some of the history of the country. The people of the USA have much to be proud of.

 Road Tripping USA Part Three

We have been to the Great Salt Lake and the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah and the Salt Plains in the Northwest Territories, Canada, so we thought we would look for the crystals that form in the Salt Plains of Oklahoma. The end of the season for digging for crystal was October 15 and it was October 13. We were just under the wire.
     We crossed the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River four times on our way to the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge near the Salt Plains State Park. The refuge is home to over 300 species of birds and about thirty species of mammals. The plains were formed millions of years ago by repeated flooding of seawater. When the source of the seawater was cut off, the water evaporated and thick layers of salt were left. The water of the Great Salt Plains Lake is about half as salty as the water of the oceans.
     Ground water continues to flow through the salt plains and when it rises to the surface and evaporates it leaves a thin crust of salt. It is a combination of this saline solution and the gypsum in the area that forms the selenite crystal. Selenite is a crystallized form of gypsum and the crystals are usually found just below the crusty surface. The iron oxide in the soil gives these crystals their brownish colour.
     We drove our motorhome to the edge of the salt flats and parked beside a wooden observation tower. There was a sign that told us to dig for crystals only in designated areas.
     The guide at the Alabaster Caves I had visited earlier that day (last month’s installment) had told me that on a sunny day the lake reflects the sun so much that I would have to wear sunglasses and sun screen. Luckily for us it was a cloudy day. Unluckily for us, it was a very windy day. The guide had also said that we really didn’t need a shovel. We could just use the holes dug by other people.
     “Most people find crystals and some of them are fairly big,” she told me.
     The crystals from the Salt Plains are called hour glass crystals. This is the only place in the world where they can be found and it is illegal to sell them. There are various sections that are open to the public on a rotating basis. This gives time for more crystals to form.
     We looked out over the large area of hard salt. There were pilings with ropes between them that looked like they marked the edges of a driveway or walkway. It went a long way out into the salt flat. We knew we had to drive on the marked roadway because in some of the unmarked areas there is only a shallow crust over quicksand.
     We weren’t sure if we should try it. We were the only ones out there. If we went off the track we could get stuck or worse yet, end up in quicksand. It was such a cold, blustery day that we doubted anyone else would come out so we would have to walk to a farm for help and there weren’t many around.
     There were a couple of restrictions. We could only harvest ten pounds (4.5kg) of crystal plus one large cluster in one day. I wasn’t worried about breaking that rule. The second one was that we were not to disturb or destroy nests, eggs, or birds. It was fall so there weren’t any nests or eggs and any birds in the area were smart enough to hide under shelter on this day.
     We decided to walk. Since we didn’t have shovels I rummaged through our drawers and cupboards. I came up with one metal and one plastic plate to use as a scoops, a large soup ladle, a soup spoon, and a metal measuring cup. We walked out onto the salt with my paraphernalia. The wind was strong and it pelted us with salt, whipped at our clothes and our hair, and blew us sideways. We had a hard time moving. There was no way we could walk to the end of the driveway where the crystals were. I tried digging in some places beside the posts. The salt was too hard to make much of a hole. We picked up a few small rocks, or maybe they were miniature crystals, and headed to our motorhome.
     We had just put everything away when a man in a four wheel drive pick-up truck drove past us and out onto the flats. We watched him go to the end and back. As he pulled up beside us he stopped and rolled down his window.
     “Did you go out?” he asked.
     “No,” Mike said. “We weren’t sure if the salt would support our motorhome.”
     “It’s fairly firm. I went to check on it because my daughter is bringing a class of high school students tomorrow in a school bus. You probably wouldn’t have any problems with your motorhome.”
     But our time had passed and we were leaving.
     When we arrived at Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, there was a sign on the lawn stating the fort was being renovated and we could visit for free. We walked into the bakery and looked at the huge stone and brick oven. The magazine building held boxes of ammunition. In the Commissary a video was shown giving some information about the history of the fort and then a man dressed in a union uniform gave a talk about the civil war.
     Fort Gibson was founded in 1824 and a town was established nearby soon after. The fort was abandoned in 1857 but reoccupied during the civil war. The army again abandoned the fort in 1890 and the town relocated to higher ground in 1900. The town is one of the oldest non-native settlements in Oklahoma. It was the first community in the state to have telephone service, a drama theater, a steamboat landing, and a school for the blind.
     When we were there, the stockade and barracks were closed to visitors because of the renovations to the log buildings. As much of the original material as possible was being used. We drove to them and from the road did see some of the log buildings with their huge brick fireplaces.
     We crossed into Arkansas and reached Board Camp where we saw a sign for Board Camp Campground and Crystal Mine. With the poor luck we’d had at the salt plains, we stopped in and talked with the owner, Cheryl. She gave us the choice of going into the field and digging our own or buying some already dug. We weren’t interested in digging so we looked at the large rock-encrusted raw crystals in the yard. Then we went into the store and browsed the crystals that they had cleaned up (removed the rock from around them), the crystal jewellery, and pails of raw crystals still in rock.
     “I’m open to any type of bartering,” Cheryl said. “Nothing has a fixed price.”
     “Joan is a mystery writer,” Mike said. “Would you be interested in some books?”
     “Sure, I like reading.”
     I went to the motorhome and brought back my set of mystery novels. I traded them and $20.00 for a 2.5 gallon pail of rock and crystals.
     “Where are you from and where are you going?” Cheryl asked.
     “We’re from Vancouver Island and we’re on our way to an international breast cancer dragon boat festival in Sarasota,” I told her.
     When she asked for an explanation I told her the story of how dragon boating was a great exercise for women after breast cancer surgery.
     “I had a friend who died from cancer not long ago,” Cheryl said. “She fought hard but didn’t make it.”
     By the time we left we were new friends and the next time I went on the Internet I friended her on Facebook.
     We stopped at a Flea Market and bought two folding shovels then continued to the Crater of Diamonds State Park.  After dumping the crystals from the pail into a box, we grabbed our shovels and gloves, and headed out to find a huge diamond. We paid our entrance fee, received some papers on what to watch for, and walked out of the building to survey the field. Someone turned the soil over every couple of weeks with a breaking plow so the land had long furrows with dips between. We were told to look for anything shiny. We walked to one of the furrows and began digging. I quickly found two shinies and showed them to Mike. He told me one was mica and the other quartz and he broke both of them. So I quit showing him my shinies.
     There was constant movement in the field. People carried pails, shovels, rakes, and hoes, and pulled wagons on their way to find a lucky spot. Others walked up and down the rows scanning the ground.
     We spent about two hours digging and searching before calling it a day. Mike stopped to talk with a woman who had found a diamond the day before. She showed him the gem and the certificate she had received. She said she had just been walking and watching the ground. Anyone who finds a diamond can take it to the shop where the staff will grade it for carats and give out a certificate.
     I spoke with a couple who said a woman had found a diamond that morning but somehow on her way to the building to get it looked at, she had lost it. She retraced her steps but never did find it.
     A man named John Huddleston owned this property in the early 1900s and found the first diamond in 1906. He eventually sold the land and, as it changed hands over the years, there were unsuccessful attempts to make it into a commercial mine. In 1972, the State bought the site and developed it into a 911 acre state park along the Little Missouri River. Thirty-seven of those acres make up the Crater of Diamonds.
     It is believed these diamonds were formed millions of years ago and were spewed out to fall to the earth during a volcanic eruption. There are about 700 diamonds found each year and over 28,000 have been found since 1972. It is the only such site open to the public in North America and is thought to be the eighth largest diamond reserve in the world.

Stillwaters Run Deep, Book One: Raven's Lament

Stillwater's Run Deep  Book One Raven's Lament Frank Talaber, The Writer: Mad muse inside keeps my pencil writing...