Monday, September 1, 2014

INSPIRED by Marlow Kelly

Brenda, thank you for having me on Muse Mondays. Today I’d like to talk about where I get my inspiration. I’ve heard there’s a kernel of truth behind every skillful lie, and for me, there’s an element of truth in every good story. My ideas always start with a fact, either a news story or a detail from my historical research. And then I move on to the what-if’s. What if a man looked out of his window and saw an elephant in a raincoat? Or what if a woman survived a plane crash in the Arctic and then realized she had to walk through the Tundra to get help? If I’m lucky the idea grows, and can be molded into a story.
This is the case with the characters from my new release –A Woman of Honour –although they are fictional; the period in Scottish history is very real. The story is set at the time of the Scottish Wars of Independence, King Robert the Bruce is in hiding somewhere in the West of Scotland. It is known that he was helped by his kin, the Campbells, but where he hid remains a mystery to this day.
My heroine, Isabel Douglas, is sister to my fictional character John Douglas. It is documented that the Douglas family were ardent supporters of Scottish independence. William Hardy Douglas was executed as a traitor at the Tower of London for supporting the uprising of William Wallace. And his son, James, was a well-known general in King Robert’s army.

My Hero, Duncan Campbell is brother to Niall Campbell, real life laird of the Campbells and supporter of Robert I. Niall did have a brother named Duncan, but he died in childbirth.

My inspiration for this story came from watching the BBC Scotland television series A History of Scotland, presented by Neil Oliver. It is an excellent, well-researched show that covers two thousand years of Scotland’s history.
In my story Isabel must find Robert and deliver an important letter. Does she succeed? To find out you’ll have to read “A Woman of Honour.”

A Woman of Honour  by Marlow Kelly
A Woman of Honour is available at

Duncan Campbell wakes to discover he is imprisoned with a woman in his enemy's dungeon in the Highlands of Scotland. The disenchanted warrior hopes his last few moments on earth will be spent in the arms of the sweet-voiced Isabel. If only she will cooperate.
Isabel Douglas has no intention of obliging the crude captive. The penniless noblewoman considers herself too tall and thin to be desirable. She intends to become a nun. But first, disguised as a boy, she must deliver an important letter to Scotland's hero in hiding, King Robert the Bruce.
Together, the pair make a daring escape that plunges them into the bleak countryside in the middle of winter. In the struggle to survive, they learn the true strength of their feelings for each other. But when Duncan's animosity towards the king becomes evident, Isabel must decide between her heart and her country.
“And even though we’re going to die, you still can’t find it in your heart to forgive me?”
“Maybe if you were very nice to me and warmed me with your sweet, little body, I could see my way to absolving you.”
She gasped and he couldn’t help but smile at her outraged reaction. He had no idea why he enjoyed baiting her, but he couldn’t seem to stop.
“You’re the most sinful man I’ve ever met. I take it back. I don’t want your absolution. How can you think about your carnal needs at a time like this?” The ire in her voice made him want to continue their argument, but his headache was worsening by the minute.

Marlow Kelly Bio
After being thrown out of England for refusing to drink tea, Marlow Kelly made her way to Canada where she found love, a home and a pug named Max. She also discovered her love of storytelling. Encouraged by her husband, children and let’s not forget Max, she started putting her ideas to paper. Her need to write about strong women in crisis drives her stories and her curiosity regarding the lives and loves of historical figures are the inspiration for her characters. You can visit Marlow at, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Special Edition - Tortuga Thursday on Sunday

 Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Yesterday was my birthday and as hard as I tried to ignore it, others wouldn't. Yet I have to say, WOW what a birthday. I got to celebrate several times between Wednesday and today. But the day of my big day was...a big day.

We were back at the Prescott Farmers' Market and felt so welcome. Customers stopped and bought pickles like they'd been dying for a fix. We met lots of new people too. One woman walked up to our booth with such purpose I asked her if she'd had our pickles before. She said no but that she'd been out to eat at a restaurant in Prescott and ordered fried pickles. The waitress told her she was now spoiled and could only eat Pirate Pickles. So this lady made a point of coming to get our Salty Dogs. What a compliment.

We also launched our IndieGoGo campaign. That's the big reason for this special edition. Crowdfunding has become quite the rage. Several people suggested to us that we should try it out so we can expand and get our pickles on the shelf. We've had a couple of stores ask us if we'd like to put our Pirate Pickles and Relish on their shelves but until we have a commercial kitchen, we can't. So, to accomplish that with nothing in the bank but love. The answer is hopefully crowdfunding. The idea is to set a goal and then offer perks for those who'd like to contribute to the cause. IndieGoGo of course gets a cut of what we raise. We have 40 days to meet our goal. They get a bigger cut if we don't reach it. We aren't trying to fund the commercial kitchen this year - that would be too much to raise. But we are aiming to up our production, get the equipment and materials to do that, and then reinvest toward that kitchen next year. Well, look at the campaign and you'll learn the whole story. Maybe you'd like some Pirate Pickles and a Pirate T-shirt. Thanks!

IndieGoGo Campaign for Pirate Pickles

Friday, August 22, 2014

You'll Publish It When??? by Jody Vitek

So happy to have Jody Vitek as my guest today. Jody is giving away TWO, yes two eBooks of her fantastic book, Florida Heat. Make sure you get to the end of her post and enter to win!
Thank you for having me here for Fearless Friday, Brenda. Today, I’d love to share my fearful, at first, story about my upcoming release, Texas Two Step. Texas Two Step is a follow-up to my debut release Florida Heat. Both books are stand-alone romances with cross-over characters.
I was in the process of writing Texas Two Step and in need of some motivation, so I contacted my publisher, Nancy at Melange Books, LLC, on March 17, 2014, to see what it would take to have an early 2015 release. I needed Nancy to light a fire under my butt and her response shocked me. There was an opening available for a late November 2014 release in their new Satin Romance line. She asked if that was a big enough fire and if she should send a contract.
Holy Smokes! She didn’t light a fire, she started a bonfire under my butt! The question was could I do this? Could I finish a manuscript worthy to be sent in for the editor to work on within the next ... how many months? I’d never written under pressure before. The completed manuscript would need to be turned in by August first to be released at the slated time. That meant I had four and a half months to finish writing the book. I signed the contract for a late October/late November 2014 release, but Nancy would work with me if I didn’t get it finished in time. My work ethic wouldn’t allow me to break a contract and I would do whatever I had to to finish on time.
Contract signed, it was time to look at how I was going to actually finish on time. I took my goal word count of 60,000 and subtracted the number of words I already had written. Then I printed the next four months of our family’s calendar and crossed out days I could not write, including weekends, and counted the number of days, for two out of the four months, I planned on as writing days. So I took the word count number I needed to achieve, divided by the number of days devoted to writing and I had to write a minimum of 500 words per writing day. The other two months would be devoted to editing time to polish the manuscript. I could do this! My minimum daily word count was basically two pages.
Although the story had been started and I basically knew how it was going to end, I didn’t have the ‘in-betweens’ planned out. So I brainstormed the remainder of the book and got to work on writing. The story took off and I was exceeding my daily word count by the hundreds. Having rewards, such as delicious chocolates, for meeting daily goals helps. The manuscript was completed and turned into Nancy ahead of schedule. Let the professional editing games begin.
Born and raised in Minnesota, Jody has remained close to home living with her husband of twenty plus years, three children and a cat named Holly. Growing up, she enjoyed reading V.C. Andrews’ the Dollanganger series, starting with Flowers in the Attic, S.E. Hinton, and Stephen King to name a few. Today her tastes run across the board in fiction and non-fiction, in all genres.
She has traveled throughout the United States, to the Bahamas and Cancun, Mexico. Between watching her son’s soccer games, maintaining one of the many scrapbook albums, gardening and being the COO of the Vitek household, she writes contemporary romances.
Contacts and Links
Twitter: @JodyVitek
Texas Two Step Blurb
Old family ties broken, childhood pain healed and true love revealed—one step at a time.
One phone call sends Chad Rogers back to the one place he’s been avoiding—home. Being at his mother’s side after she was shot, he faces the younger brother who tormented him during childhood and his ex-lover, Chloe Atwood. The reality of his feelings for her is stronger than ever and he confesses his love to Chloe.
Chloe Atwood is engaged to marry a family childhood friend. Chad Rogers steps back into her world, spinning it off its axis. His presence has her seeing her fiancé in a different light, leaving her to question their future life together.
Now be sure to enter the drawing!
a Rafflecopter giveaway ;

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Holy Peppers, Pirate Man

Tortuga Thursday
In 2012, on the plains of Northern Arizona, two families joined forces and began the trials and tribulations of building a small family farm with nothing in the bank but love.

Rows of jalapenos
It's a lush year on Tortuga Flats. Although we have a well and the crops get as much water as they need, rain still trumps irrigation for beefing up the plants. The monsoons continue. I've given up on all but the weeds crowding the tuber veggies like onions and potatoes. We can't keep up and harvest and pickle too.

We grow several varieties of peppers for ourselves and for the Pirate Pickles and Relish. In every jar of pickles there is at least one
Pretty jalapenos
jalapeno. In the Kraken's breath there are jalapenos and cayenne. In our relish you'll also find bells, too. The pepper plants are so thick and lush this year, it's nearly impossible to walk between the rows.

Edamame just before harvest
We grew edamame for the first time. Edamame are immature soy beans. I LOVE them. I've been buying frozen, organic, non-GMO from Costco. Although soy is supposedly very good for you, most of the soy in the U.S. is GMO and sprayed with herbicides. And the soy you find in foods is extracted with bad stuff too. It's a touchy crop to harvest. There's a five day window to harvest the whole plant. I think we made it.

At this moment, the Pirate Pickle crowdfunder campaign is a click away from starting. I'll do a special Tortuga Flats Farm blog the day it pops.

Cayenne going red
Bell peppers
Jalapenos and cayenne
Sadi Belle eating a bell right off the vine

Monday, August 18, 2014

What I Did On My Vacation by Helen C. Johannes

Remember having to write those back-to-school essays? Either we did so much we couldn’t condense it to 1-2 pages, or we felt we hadn’t done anything of note. Regardless, we sat at our desks and stared at the blank paper.
I was one of those kids lucky enough to do ‘stuff,’ but I still had a hard time deciding what to share. Some of the ‘stuff’ wasn’t what I wanted my parents to know about, let alone a classroom full of strangers. Coming up with a safe topic usually meant writing about a trip we’d taken. My dad was—still is—a great one for hauling us off to national monuments, parks, factory tours, open-pit mines, historical sites and such. I wasn’t always enthused about where we went and what we saw (tractor pulls—ugh!), but the very act of getting in the car and going has gotten into my DNA. I still am willing to get up and go—to national parks, natural wonders, historical sites, and such (and the occasional factory tour—cheese and wine, anyone?).
A willingness to travel and a wealth of curiosity about how the world works, how people tick, and what causes events are useful attributes for writers. And it’s not just seeing the sights, but it’s experiencing the atmosphere as well as the adventure of the place for ourselves that translate into great stories.
For instance, this summer my DH and I decided to visit Alaska’s Inside Passage on a cruise. While I may never set a story in Alaska proper (I write fantasy set in medieval-style worlds), I will most definitely use the experience of gliding along a fjord with the land on both sides rising almost vertically from the water and only the roar of the cascades plunging hundreds of feet down the rocks into the placid green water punctuating the silence. That absolute stillness and unspoiled isolation had a profound impact on me, and I can imagine characters experiencing this kind of wild land.
Another experience I might use at some point was our trip on the White Pass Railway in Skagway. It’s a 100-year-old railroad climbing nearly 3,000 feet from shore to the Canadian border. Part of the track follows the Gold Rush trail where each man carried his required ton (2,000 lbs.) of supplies up the mountain on foot along a narrow trail you can still see in places. Men climbed in a line, so close if a person fell out of line, he had to wait hours sometimes to get back in. These men climbed in the winter, ferrying their ton of supplies to the top. And those trips up and back had to be done before they could get permission from the Canadian Mounties to cross the border and head down the other side another 60-plus miles to the gold fields of the Yukon. Seeing what ‘gold fever’ drove these men—and some women—to do, and the conditions in which they attempted to do it, has given me more grist for stories.
Besides the lure of the Great Land, a more personal reason I wanted to go to Alaska was that my dad had done some recreational gold panning and dredging there in the 1980s. I’d used his description of panning a stream for a scene in my book BLOODSTONE, creating my fantasy setting from my own experiences of the Beartooth Mountains. I’d wanted to see how close I’d come. After having been to the Great Land, I’d say I did pretty well weaving a tiny bit of truth into fiction.
So, what should YOU do on your vacation? Have experiences, lots of them—and tuck them away into your memory banks for that moment when need meets knowledge and the creative sparks fly.
BLOODSTONE, 2011 Launching a Star Winner in Fantasy Romance, The Wild Rose Press
What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?
Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones—petrified dragon’s blood—for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…
Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.
Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man, not a fiend hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?

“What about us? What do we do?”
            Only the hood rotated, cocking with exaggerated deliberation. “Why, you die, old man.”
            Her father blanched. His grip on Mirianna’s arms faltered.
            She saw the Shadow Man turn, saw the muscles of his thighs bunch as he prepared to leap down the hillside, saw, in the corner of her eye, shapes gathering along the tree line below, horrible shapes she’d seen only hours before rushing at her from a darkened clearing. With a shudder, she broke from her father’s grasp.
            “Please!” She reached out to the black sleeve. “Help us!”
            He recoiled at her touch like one snake-bitten. The sudden, sharp focus of his regard staggered her, but she backed no more than a step. No matter how he terrified her, he’d helped her once. She’d been led to him again, and not, her instincts told her, without reason.
            “Please,” she repeated. “Help us. I—we’ll do anything.”
            His voice was a whisper that caressed flesh. Mirianna’s stomach quivered. Her breasts tingled. Her mouth grew even drier. Without thinking, she slid her tongue along her lips. Vaguely, she wondered what she’d done. And why time seemed suspended, as if everyone but she and the Shadow Man had been cast in stone and all sound arrested. All sound except the taut, guttural repeat of his question.

Author Bio:

Author Helen C. Johannes lives in the Midwest with her husband and grown children. Growing up, she read fairy tales, Tolkien, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Agatha Christie, Shakespeare, and Ayn Rand, an unusual mix that undoubtedly explains why the themes, characters, and locales in her writing play out in tales of love and adventure. A member of Romance Writers of America, she credits the friends she has made and the critiques she’s received from her chapter members for encouraging her to achieve her dream of publication. When not working on her next writing project, she teaches English, reads all kinds of fiction, enjoys walks, and travels as often as possible.

Buy Links:
Bloodstone: Amazon: