Monday, June 29, 2015

Gun Research Got Me Hooked


Garlic harvesting is now a reality, so for a few weeks, my writing career takes a backseat to farming. Post-War Dreams, my 1945 historical, is awaiting a release date. I signed the contract, just this morning, for A Legacy of Love and Murder, the third book in the Love and Murder Series. I've been hard at work on the fourth book in the series. farming hat is in place for a couple of weeks. So, this is a post from a few months ago.

Researching for a novel takes many forms. Some are much more exciting than others.

Last week, my son took me shooting. I'm not a gun person, never even held a gun. The trouble is I write about murder, some of which involves guns, and I decided it was time I had personal experience firing a gun.

I was nervous. What if my hand jerked and I shot something I shouldn't? What if my aversion to guns got me so scared I couldn't pull the trigger? This research was one of those chores I knew I had to do, but wasn't sure I'd enjoy.

We drove a few miles from our farm, out beyond the last house, down a dirt trail that inclined sharply into a wash and up again, requiring four-wheel drive. A small hill was our backdrop for the boxes he'd brought for our targets.

I started with a 357 Magnum Smith and Wesson using 38 special ammo. He first taught me about the gun, gun safety and then the mechanics of firing it. I put in my earplugs, took my stance and squeezed the trigger. I nearly hit the center. Then again. Just off center. Hey, that was fun.

I moved on to a 38 Special Smith and Wesson, bobbed and snubbed. That was a fun little gun to shoot. I also shot a 22 rifle and a 20 gauge, side by side, double barrel shotgun. All fun. And my son couldn't get over how accurate and steady my aim was - first time out. I'm hooked. I didn't expect to come to an understanding of why gun enthusiasts find enjoyment shooting at a target. It's one of those activities you can't explain unless you've tried it.

A great deal of research can be done on the Internet.  I'm lucky to have done quite a bit of traveling so I can draw on that for my settings. There's nothing like firsthand knowledge to lend credibility to my writing. Handling a gun now gives me the experience my heroine might need when the villain is around the next corner.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A ROYAL MUSE MONDAY with Christina Hollis

It’s lovely to be here today—thanks for the invitation, Brenda. Although I’ve written quite a few novels (you can see all my titles on display at, my first book for The Wild Rose Press, His Majesty’s Secret Passion, was only released in February this year. That was really exciting, especially as I’d originally written it as a treat for myself. His Majesty’s Secret Passion is set on a sun-drenched Greek island, a long, long way from the wet and windswept countryside where I wrote it! Imagining a passionate summer romance was the perfect antidote to the short, dark days of a Gloucestershire winter.
When readers wanted to know what happened to Krisia, a minor character in His Majesty’s Secret Passion who was thrown into a major job crisis, my single title magically turned into the first part of series called The Princes Of Kharova. While the first book is about a king who meets a woman who’s more than a match for him, the second book, Her Royal Risk, tells the story of  a playboy prince pitted against a serious, hard-working woman in a fight to save their country. They’re supposed to be on the same side, but they can’t stop pulling in opposite directions. The action takes place in the fictional country of Kharova, which is in the eastern Mediterranean. That gave me another chance to fantasize about stunning scenery, beautiful weather, a tough, handsome hero and romantic evenings under the stars....
Here are the details for the first two books in the Princes of Kharova series:
Leo Gregoryan diverts the energy he once poured into his dream of becoming a doctor toward his royal duties. All he needs right now is a stress-free vacation–no future queen need apply. Sara Astley escapes to the luxurious Paradise Hotel after a personal disaster. She hides her broken dreams behind a tough exterior, and her stubborn streak makes her a challenge Leo can’t resist. His special brand of hands-on persuasion seduces her into enjoying the holiday of a lifetime. Their fling can't hurt either of them–or can it? Leo's focussed on being the ideal hero. Sara knows what she wants, and that’s independence. Then a revelation tears them apart, meaning things can never be the same between them...
Playboy Prince Athan is a brilliant soldier—and the world's worst boss. 
Landed with the task of bringing order to his working life, dedicated personal assistant Krisia only takes on the job out of loyalty to her king. 
A past disaster means Krisia is determined not to fall in love with gorgeous Athan. When she does, heartbreak isn't far behind. 
Then, a secret Athan has been fighting to hide comes to light, threatening his future. Krisia must stifle her pain, and work more closely with him than ever before.  If their emotions take over, they both risk losing everything...
Extract from Her Royal Risk:
It wasn’t until I joined the army I felt I’d become part of a real family. A proper family.”
“What about your sister, Maia?”
Athan snorted. “You know as well as I do, my sister hates the outdoor life. Besides, she was always tagging along after you.” The frustration of kicking around the palace with no one to talk to came back to him in a rush.
“You were jealous?” Krisia paused with a forkful of smoked salmon half way to her beautiful lips, then added the killer blow, “Of me?”
He’d never thought about it like that before. “Yes. Yes, I suppose I was. Who wouldn’t want to be top of the class in every subject?”
“Not you, surely?”
“Are you mad?” He curled his lip. “The only person who could come out with a line like that is someone who’s never failed at anything.”
“But you’re head of the army and chief of security now, Athan. How much higher can you possibly go?”
It was another thing that hadn’t occurred to him, and it took this woman—the bane of his childhood—to point it out to him.
“True.” He lifted his glass in the mockery of a toast to her. “I always thought you were too clever by half, Kris. I was wrong. You’re too clever by three-quarters.”
He took a drink. He was about to make it a big one, then reconsidered. Alcohol never managed to come up with any good answers to his problems. Kris, this mastermind with letters after her name, might be a better bet. He put down his glass. Placing his finger on the base, he pushed it aside in a measured gesture. “Leo’s the king. It’s my job to support him. I take that seriously. The best way I can show my loyalty is by running the army and coming down heavily on Mihail and his rebels whenever I can.’
“King Leo makes a big thing about not being happy when other people hand out jobs to their relatives. Doesn’t that worry you?”
At last, Athan could feel the conversation heading his way. He finished his starter, then leaned back in his chair, taking his ease. “No. I’m the best man for the job, end of story. I got this position on merit alone.”
“I know. I also know all our old tutors are lost for words about it.”
He twitched a shoulder. Bringing up the past couldn’t bother him, as long as the talk centred around his army career. “I’m a practical man, Kris. How much of your book learning do you use in everyday life? Not a thing,” he said without giving her time to argue. “I can make my way in the world anywhere I choose. If my brother decides there’s only room for one Gregoryanak here in Kharova and boots me out, then that’s fine by me. Does it worry you this new job of yours could vanish in a round of job cuts?”
Her reply was fast, and furious. “Yes. Yes, it does.”

Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches to the third book in the Princes Of Kharova series, which has the working title Heart of A Hostage. To find out more, sign up to my mailing list here:

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Friday, June 19, 2015



I’d like to thank Brenda for hosting me on her Fearless Friday blog this week.  My debut novel with The Wild Rose Press, Fairest of the Faire, came out this month (more about that later).  I’m feeling quite fearless these days!  Today I’d like to talk to you about my fearless moment, which happens to coincide with my reaching what I hope is the mid-point of my life.  Yes, I intend to reach 100!

Just before I turned 50 years old, I was laid off from the last job I thought I’d ever have.  I had been working in a community college in Missouri, realizing that I was going to get a really nice retirement out of it if I worked until 60 (I started when I was 39), and living a happy life.  That bombshell dropped the floor from beneath my feet, and I needed to consider very carefully how I was going to support myself and my family, and still get to retirement with some bank in the bank!  I was 50 years old, and worked in an incredibly niche field.  In addition, the economy in Missouri, which had somewhat weathered the 2008 recession, completely tanked in 2011.  Finding a job anywhere in my home state, where I was born and raised, was going to be extremely difficult.

An opportunity arose for me to move to Colorado for work in my field.  It was a really good opportunity, and while I would take a pay cut, and would have to endure a year or two of income that was not as secure as I would have liked, it was not an opportunity to pass up.  But it meant moving my family away from everything they knew, to something we didn’t know a whole lot about, 1000 miles from our well-developed safety net of friends and family.  I was comfortable and familiar with Colorado, as I’d spent time there over the years, but for my family, this was a serious change.  Everyone but me would have to find jobs – my grown daughter (she turned 18 on our way across Kansas) and my husband.  My grade-schooler would have to start all over making new friends and going to a new school.

We had a huge yard sale.  We gave some of our things away to family and friends.  We picked and chose what we wanted to take, and what was either too dangerous to move, or would not survive the move.  Every single one of my houseplants made the cut and got on the truck (I DO have my priorities!).  The gas grill did not (and I’ve regretted it ever since).  The lawnmower came, and the bicycles, but the dining room set was left behind.  The cats were packed in their carriers, much to their dismay, and away we went.  My oldest daughter had had her driver’s license barely a week when we left Missouri, and I put her behind the wheel of one of our cars, which was laden down with my antique mirrors in the trunk and the lawnmower strapped to the luggage rack.  My husband drove the moving truck with our youngest, and me, the cats, and the household linens pulled up the rear in my old Toyota sedan.  What an adventure!

Four years later, I know we made the right choice.  Hubby and the daughter are gainfully employed (she is going to college, too).  We have a house with big trees and a yard and gardening space, and a view of the Rockies from our front porch.  My job continues to keep me busy and well-versed in my niche field.  And I finally pushed myself to finish that novel.  

What fearless thing have you done?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Fairest of the Faire by Susabelle Kelmer
(Available now!)
Schoolteacher Connie Meyers is suddenly a young widow, her husband killed in a horrific car accident. Heartbroken to find out he had gambled away everything they had, she moves to her sister-in-law's Midwest home to rebuild her life. A trip to the local Renaissance Faire with her nieces leads to a summer job as a costumed storyteller.
Avowed bad boy and fair performer Gage Youngblood is infatuated with Connie at first sight. Despite his deliberately commitment-free life, and Connie's don't-touch-me attitude, he soon has her in his arms, realizing quickly she is also in his heart.
When she is threatened by her late husband's bookie, he steps into the role of protector, his fate forever sealed with hers.
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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Plentiful Bugs and the Missing Sock

 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.
Bugs in the greenhouse, little girl socks sucked into the washer drain, drip lines spring leaks, trimming off garlic scapes, brother-in-law having a heart procedure, final edit on Post-War Dreams, Mom is planning to move to Prescott, veggies in the ground.

Yep, it's been a real mixed bag of events since the last post two weeks ago.

The greenhouse spawned tons of grasshoppers and what we call roly-poly bugs when the weather turned warm. As fast as the carrots came up, the bugs ate them down. We had to invest in preying mantis and nematodes to engage in combat. The good guys won. Farming without insecticides is a challenge.

We pay $61 a month for insurance on appliances, air conditioner, and the well pump. We've considered each year whether or not to drop it, but it's been worth the expense. In fact, I'm surprised they haven't canceled us. They've replaced our hot water  heater after a dozen repairs, fixed outside faucets, fixed inside faucets, repaired the clothes dryer and stove, repaired the well pump, and the latest was replacing a part in the washer because one of Sadi's socks was sucked down a rinse drain.

The garlic field's drip lines keep springing leaks. Luckily the repair parts are cheap. Trimming off garlic scapes and another round of weeding will eat up time this next week.

Farmer Lance has been involved in a project outside of  town so we were a little late getting some veggies in the ground. He planted more tomatoes outside as well as sweet potatoes, golden potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, okra, butternut squash, and bush beans. It's a smaller field this year but enough for our personal needs.

We're now doing two farmers' markets a week - Prescott and Chino Valley.

Money saving tip for the week - unplug! If you're not using it, unplug it. We did and our electric bill went down $20. Health tip for the week - take a walk or a bike ride at least five days a week.

Monday, June 8, 2015


I'm pleased to welcome Sandy Wright as guest blogger today. Take it away, Sandy.
They say write what you know. The idea for my debut paranormal suspense novel, Song of the Ancients (released May 18), came from my own personal evolution. The spiritual paths in the Southwest are so diverse and some are so ancient they've become myths. I had always been interested in nature-based religions, so widening that study to encompass the Native American spirituality of the area seemed a natural progression. Then I blended in Wicca and witchcraft.
It was interesting to introduce the concept of witchcraft, seen through the eyes of an ordinary, non-magical woman, and experience her reactions and disbelief. My main character moves to Sedona, AZ to start anew after her divorce. Instead, she becomes the prey in an ancient power struggle to control the magic hidden in those red rocks. To survive, she has to learn the rules of her new world, and readers get to learn earth magic, witchcraft and shamanism along with her.
While I did a lot of research for this book, the magical stuff I drew from my own Wiccan background and practice.
Sedona is but one earth "power point" in the world. The series will take Samantha and Nicholas, as well as a few secondary characters, to adventures at other sacred sites.  The second book in the Ancient Magick series, tentatively titled Fire of the Ancients, takes place in Hawaii and involves Pele, the Goddess of fire and volcanos. Every place of power is surrounded by its own history and myths, energies and sacred practices, but do we really know why these places are so venerated? There's a wealth of material here for a series.
But before I start on Fire, I'm veering away from sacred sites and magic for a murder suspense, Full Moon Crossing. It involves a philandering husband who plots to murder his wife and use the Arizona border's human and drug smuggling conflict as a cover-up. The smuggling topic is so controversial right now, I want to get the book out while the headlines support it. And I'm pulling Rumor Vargas, a secondary character in my first book, and giving her a main character billing in this book.
I just got home from a wonderful readers' convention, AZ Dreamin', last week. One of the most common questions readers asked authors is, "Coming up with an idea is one challenge, but how do you write a whole novel? How do you put it all together?"
 I was a journalist before writing novels. I've also been a middle school English teacher. As a journalist, you research, then put your facts in order, and then you write your lead. To write an essay, you follow the same process: Research your information, put it in logical essay order. Then begin writing. So that makes me what fiction writers call a "plotter," as opposed to a "pantster," who sits down at the desk and start streaming thoughts together as they occur. I tend to do additional in-depth research as I go. Often that research changes the direction of the story, or the emotional motivation of a character. So I go back and tweak my plot outline, or my character's reactions, to make them more authentic. I love research!
Sometimes the kernel of an idea for a character comes from unlikely sources. I have J.K. Rowling to thank for my primary male character, Nicholas Orenda. I read her whole series and was deeply disappointed at how easily she killed off Severus Snape. Such a fascinating, complex character, and then…poof! Done in by a snake without the hint of a fight. I started fiddling around with that type of personality, a man who is infinitely talented, but flawed. A character who will consider bending the moral codes to accomplish his goals. Is he a villain? Uhm, no. Can you depend on him unconditionally? Double uhm. Nicholas is the thorn in my protagonist's side. In her eyes—and maybe the reader's eyes also—he looks like that bad boy every mother dreads. He acts like the antagonist, ferreting out Samantha's inner weaknesses. As their relationship progresses, however, when he's satisfied she is worth saving, he will switch sides and root for her. Because really, is love ever straight-up easy?
Thank you so much for visiting with me today! 
What would you die for? 
Samantha Danroe doesn’t believe in magic. Her ex-husband cured her of happily-ever-after when he cheated on her three days after saying I-do.
She doesn’t believe in ghosts. Until her mother’s ghost rises from a Halloween bonfire with a warning of death from beyond the grave.
And she certainly doesn’t believe in witchcraft. Until she becomes the prey in an ancient war waged between good and evil. A war whose rules she must scramble to learn to stay alive.

In need of protection, Samantha turns to the mysterious Nicholas Orenda, a sixth-generation witch on the trail of a creature who is systematically killing off his family. According to his family’s prophecy, three will be sacrificed to the dark. His mother and grandmother are already dead, and Nicholas doesn’t have time to play by the rules. 
What would you die for?
Samantha finds herself in the center of a deadly hunt for a mysterious foe. Can she find the strength to defeat a supernatural killer and prevent the third sacrifice? Or will she be the catalyst that opens the gates to the Underworld?
Song of the Ancients is the debut book in the Ancient Magic series.
Readers interested in witchcraft, shamanism—or just the dark side of the supernatural world around us—will enjoy this paranormal suspense, written by a real-life Wiccan High Priestess. Look for information on the next book in the Ancient Magic series in 2016.

Ms. Wright has been authentic to Witchcraft, blending in real spells and rituals throughout her tale. The landscape and its traditions are strong characters.” 
~ Lady Caria Dawn, High Priestess, Circle of the Moon, Fairfax, VA