Monday, July 30, 2018

Genre Hop Part I by Laura Strickland #visceral #mystical #historical


This is the first of a series of five posts by multi-published, multi-genre author Laura Strickland. I've asked her to share with us a little about her genres, and maybe you'll find something new you'd like to read!

Confessions of an Inveterate Genre-Hopper
Readers and fellow authors often ask me why—and how—I write in so many different genres, everything from Scottish Historical Romance to Steampunk Adventure, to Romantic Comedy. Fans seem perplexed by my constant switch-ups but I have to confess, for me genre-hopping’s not as strange as it may appear.

I’ve loved Scottish Historical Romance for as long as I can remember. My Scottish Historical, Devil Black, was the book that let me break through with my fabulous publisher, the Wild Rose Press. But for me, writing is a visceral-yet-mystical experience. I need to feel the emotions of the work first, and then get it out onto the page. For that reason, I’m purely a pantser. If I write an outline, the emotions have been exorcised and I no longer feel the urge to write the book. And if I write in one genre too long, I begin feeling as if I’m penning the same story over and over again.

Part of this no doubt stems from the online writing community to which I once belonged, called Fanstory. Fanstory is a wonderful resource for any writer or aspiring author wishing to flex some writing muscle. Multiple contests are posted, most with prompts. Writers are given a specific word count and a deadline. GO!

With that kind of training behind me, it got so I could see a prompt on virtually any subject, and float an immediate idea. It’s a bit like showing a red flag to a bull. Now when I see a submission call, I can’t restrain myself, even if it’s for a genre I’ve never attempted.

My advice to fellow writers and readers longing to pen their own stories is, go for it. Don’t be afraid to take a chance—on a different genre, a new style, or an unusual subject. Some of the best stories come when we reach beyond ourselves. What fresh genre have you always wanted to try?
Of course, some books tend to defy genre, like my latest release, Cinder-Ugly:

From the moment Cindra is born, misshapen and ill-formed in face and body, her beautiful mother hides her away, allowing the world to see only her other three perfect children. Cindra, raised by an aged nurse and assigned humble duties in the kitchen, receives little affection and plenty of abuse from both her mother and sisters. Starved for beauty, she longs most of all for love.
Prince Rupert, newly returned from an education outside the kingdom and forced to take over duties as king, sees the beauty of Cindra’s spirit. In her sister-in-law’s garden, he courts her with rare flowers and nearly makes her forget her mother’s hate. But when war tears them apart, will Cindra have the courage to stand on her own? And when faced with the challenge of leading Rupert’s subjects through a siege, will the strength of her compassion be enough to sustain a kingdom?

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Reading and #Reviews (Henderson, Gallant, Thomas, and Dean)

I'm a writer, but I'm also a reader. Each month, I'll share with you what I'm reading and some reviews. My available time to read is limited because I write, but I love to curl up with a book or a reader at night for the last hour of my waking day.

I tend to read what I write, but not exclusively. My current read is a Romantic Suspense by Alison Henderson entitled Undercover Nanny. I'm not quite finished so you'll have to wait until next month for the review. But I also like detective thrillers, WWII historicals, mysteries, and some main stream character driven novels.

Here are some of the books I've read recently. Maybe you'll discover a new book or author!

Wilde Thing by Jannine Gallant
I love the Wilde brothers. This is the 4th book in the series so I highly recommend reading each of the Wilde brother's Romantic Suspense stories. This handsome, wild Wilde brother, Tripp, never took notice of the friend of his sister who had a mighty crush on him. Now, she's grown, and he can't believe he never paid attention to her. Hannah has matured and although Tripp still causes her to go all limp, she's not the insecure little girl anymore. Add to that a mystery of who killed who and why are they after Tripp and/or Hannah and you've got a complete read.

Seeking the American Dream by Heidi M. Thomas
This is a WWII Historical Drama. Heidi transports the reader to another time and place. From post WWII Germany to the sometimes-brutal Montana ranch life, this novel explores one woman's journey as she faces impossible odds to live her dream. You won't be disappointed. This is book one in the series.


Haunting at Spook Light Inn by Alicia Dean
This is a Gothic Mystery Romance. This is the first novel I've read by Alicia and it won't be my last. I loved the premise of a non-believer getting spooked and then owning her experience. The characters are vivid and I love character driven novels. Alicia does an excellent job of taking us with them to live the events that shape their lives. I don't often miss my bedtime with a story, but this one had me staying up late to finish.


Friday, July 27, 2018

Kids and #Horses Can't Go Wrong by Julie Herman #Equestrian #Mystery


I'm really happy to have Julie Herman guesting today. It's not often I get to introduce you to a middle grade (ages 8-12) novel. This is an equestrian novel and that is exciting for me too. My favorite author was Dick Francis and his horsey mysteries. Julie has a story about what led to this book that's all about fearless kids. Read on and enjoy!

When my daughter was young, her first word was “pony.” She loved riding, no matter how much work was involved. Getting on the back of a horse was like flying, she said. It didn’t matter if she was having a canter around a ring or going over fences. (Although she loved fences MUCH more than she did plain old ring work!) 
Through my girl-child, I got involved with the United States Pony Clubs. This is a great organization, a program similar to Scouting except we uses horses as our teaching medium.  As part of my work, I get to travel all over the United States and be in the barns with our members while they compete. Our competitions are different from most horse shows — no parents in the barns! We don’t exactly turn them lose on their own, we have horse management judges there to keep an eye on things.
I can always tell the first-time competitors: they’re the ones escorting their parents out of the barn and then skipping back with their pigtails flying, happy for the freedom of being part of their team, being with their horse — and being responsible for themselves without anyone telling them what to do. 
At our Pony Club Rallies, it’s not all smooth sailing, but smoother than many modern parents imagine it could be when you let children be in charge of themselves! I’ve had teams lock small teammates in their tackroom (ostensibly to keep them
clean, but I think it was just so they could find them — six-year-olds can disappear quickly!) had thirty competitors come crashing into the horse management judging office when the pinata I’d hung in the doorway spilled it’s contents onto the floor, and watched children who had kept themselves to a strict schedule, all while caring for themselves, their horse and their team.
So what’s a writer to do when faced with all this controlled choas? Write about it, of course! Thus BURNED was born. 
Sophie wants nothing more than to spend all her time riding her beloved horse Cricket with her friends and their horses. Then the local tack shop burns down and her mother is accused of arson. Sophie must ride to the rescue or risk losing everything.
I have so enjoyed seeing the happy grins on children’s faces when they pick up the book and discover that a character shares their passion for horses. Their parents purchase the book, then they gallop off for some reading time. I often hear back later that they loved the fact that Sophie gets back up and gets back on the horse (both literally and figuratively) just the way they are taught when they take a tumble. (Although, as Sophie’s trainer, Queenie would say — don’t get back on if you bump your head, childhood concussions are serious business!) 
So if you know a child (or adult) who loves horses and the freedom to fly across fields and fences that they bring, I’d love it if you introduce them to Sophie. They’ll have a lot in common.

Monday, July 23, 2018

My Traveling Muse by Kay Harris #Scene #Setting


Please welcome Kay Harris to my blog today. In my opinion, scene setting is so important and Kay has a real handle on that!
Thank you so much for having me, Brenda! My muse for many of my books, but most poignantly for my recent release “Lost on the Road to Love” is the art of travel and the amazing places it has taken me to. Book 2 of the I Want Morrison series takes place on a travel show where the hero and heroine take their trek to love across the globe in a heart-filled adventure. 
Rather than go into each of the sites Henry and Chelsea visit on their journey. I would like to talk about the city that starts it all, the city our protagonists call home. It is none other than the City by the Bay. I have a love affair with San Francisco that comes out clearly in the four books of the series, all of which take place at least partly in that beautiful Northern California metropolis. 
Like the fog that envelops it, San Francisco is blanketed in an indefinable essence. The city itself has a soul that is both rough and raw while at the same time regal and refined. For visitors, there are myriad ways to explore all it has to offer. 
First off, there is so much more than the Wharf. Sure, everyone has to see it. But once you’ve done it, leave that behind and go exploring. Still near the shore but closer to downtown there’s Coit Tower, the iconic Ferry building, which houses restaurants and shops and often has a farmer’s market right out front, and the long stretch of the Embarcadero. Turn inland and walk down Market street. Check out the venders, and frequently, the entertainment found there. Follow that or take the streetcar to Chinatown and the Civic Center area. See the amazing city hall, symphony hall, and opera house. Don’t forget all the great museums including the Museum of Modern Art, the Museum of the African Diaspora, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Deeper still into the heart of the city is Golden Gate Park. This gorgeous stretch of nature and peace features yet more incredible museums as well as the Conservatory of Flowers and the Botanical Gardens. 
Add to the cultural wonders San Francisco has to offer amazing food, great shopping, and public transportation that can take you anywhere you want to go, and you have one incredible trip. 
If you think I’m in love with the city that Karl the Fog likes to eat up each morning, you’re right. And my books serve as a love story to the city itself. San Francisco, she is my Monday Muse!

Take two best friends, add some benefits, and it may take a map to find their way to love.

On the road for eight months as part of the crew for a travel show, Chelsea Morrison expects to work hard, endure long nights, and enjoy some wicked adventures. But she doesn’t expect to fall head over heels for the show’s star. 

Henry Rush, son of a legendary rock star, is leery of women. He learned early they only want him for the fame that rightly belongs to his father. But when an intense friendship with Chelsea leads to so much more, he has to confront the one thing he’s avoided all his life. 

Can these two friends navigate their way to a happy ending? 

I rested my hand on my hip. “Are you saying you find me irresistibly attractive?”

“Yes.” He gave a firm nod. There was no mirth in his eyes or in the set of his mouth.

I narrowed my gaze and scrutinized him. “I thought it was because we’re so close, remember.”

“Yes. And you’re insanely hot.”

“Am not!”

“Are too!”

I shook my head.

“Wanna make a bet on it?” he challenged.


“You get naked for me. And if I am disappointed, you win the bet. If you’re as hot as I think you are under those clothes, I win. In fact, I already know what I want if I win. I want to see one of the films you’ve made.”

I stared at him, my mouth agape.

“What do you want if you win, Chels? Not that it matters. Because you won’t win.”

I finally found my voice. Because I couldn’t turn down this opportunity. “If I win, you sing for me.”

“Done.” He settled farther into the couch. “I’m ready when you are.”

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Kay Harris has had a diverse career with jobs ranging from college professor to park ranger. Now she adds author to her repertoire. Kay writes romance novels that contain a little bit of sweet, a dash of sexy, a touch of heartbreak, and a whole lot of fun! 

Kay grew up in the Midwest and has since lived all over the western United States including Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and California. She loves to hike, is obsessed with museums, and enjoys taking her extremely tall and very handsome husband on adventures.

You can find Kay here:

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Start a New Book #romanticsuspense #series #writing

I've started writing a new romantic suspense, a new series. I've decided to post weekly updates on the status of my WIP (Work In Progress). Feedback and questions are welcomed.

The setting for this series is based on a real life mining town turned ghost town turned tourist town. I fell in love with Jerome, Arizona years ago. In order to have more flexibility with the lay of the land and the history, I've renamed it Joshua. All the people in Joshua are purely from my imagination.

Joshua hangs on the side of Nefertiti Hill. Between the late 1800s and the early 1940s, Joshua was a booming, wild and woolly, western mining town. But when the ore and gold ran out, the town fell on hard times. By 1950 there were less than 100 people. In 1964, hippies descended on the town squatting in abandoned homes and buildings. In this group of hippies, is the beginning of the family I will tell the stories of in my series.

Not all of the original citizens were happy about the new arrivals. Some of those hippies took up permanent residence, ended up on the town council, and helped turn Joshua into the art and tourist center it is today. It is still just a square mile, hanging on the side of Nefertiti Hill and there are rumors of ghosts. There are still some of the original hippies and artists. And there are plenty of romantic suspenseful stories to tell about
Joshua and its inhabitants.

So, where am I with the first book in the series? I've sent off the first 67 pages of book one to my CPs (critique partners) for their feedback. I have all of my characters outlined and dying to walk through my pages. There's an old murder unsolved, there's a subplot that dates back to 1969, and human bones have been uncovered but not identified.

Magpie Mackenzie, of Magpie's Mercantile, has met Zack Peartree who reminds her of someone who disappeared twenty-eight years ago. Zack feels a strong pull to Magpie. I shouldn't do this, since it could very well change before the book is published, but what the heck. Here's my opening few paragraphs, for now anyway:

Laughter mingled with the jangle of the bell above the door. Magpie MacKenzie glanced over her shoulder from atop the stepping stool where she arranged music boxes on the top shelf of a four-tiered display.
Three women and two men tumbled into the shop, apparently anxious to leave the cold outside. The late afternoon sun now blazed through the front windows of Magpie’s Mercantile, but she guessed the warmth was severely neutralized outside by the chilly wind snaking through the mountains. What happened to the chance of snow? “Good afternoon.”
Magpie descended the stool, holding her long skirt up a bit so that her boots wouldn’t catch the hem as comments sprinkled the air.
“Oh, it’s warm in here.”
“What a great store!”
The sweet sense of pride that enveloped her whenever someone appreciated her shop never grew old. Although the entry into the mercantile was narrow, the space beyond was four times as deep as it was wide. As soon as the door closed behind patrons, they were immersed in textile creations on the left; music boxes, some small wooden instruments, and pottery displayed on the right. The counter nestled next to the music boxes and down the narrow aisle, deeper into the shop, customers found carvings, sculptures, and paintings.
Turning, ready to welcome her customers, she caught the gaze of a man at the rear of the group.
She froze.
Something about the way he angled his head to the left…the same habit Mark had had when he found something she said amusing. Longish black hair waved around his ears. His deep green eyes beneath thick, arched brows gazed into hers, and he smiled.
Her heart rose to the hollow spot in her throat.
It can’t be Mark. This man is much too young. Mark would be forty-five by now, two years older than me.

I'll check in next month and update my progress. I'll be working on dropping in some back story in the form of flashbacks. There's a story within the story in my mind. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

#Wicked #Amusing #Romance by Laura Strickland


Please welcome today's guest, Laura Strickland, to a wickedly amusing first meeting. And if you have a story, be sure to leave her a comment...maybe your experience will spark some inspiration for her next novel!

Who among us has not gazed across the proverbial crowded room, set eyes on a stranger and felt that niggle of instant attraction? Who hasn’t subsequently (and perhaps subtly) maneuvered to get near that particular individual in order to start a conversation via some amazingly witty and scintillating line that will capture said individual’s attention? And who among us hasn’t bombed stupendously…

When it comes to meetings with the opposite sex, there are good beginnings, and some pretty wicked ones. A perfectly rehearsed intro turns to babbling gibberish when nerves enter the picture. An otherwise ordinary person can come off like a total fool or an arrogant lummox.

But I’ll wager few introductions have been worse than that between the hero and heroine of my latest release, Last Orders: A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure.  When they meet, the hero (Brendan), a policeman, is answering a report of a woman (Ginny) shooting up a tavern with a steam cannon. Read on and see if you can imagine a more unfortunate beginning to a romance:

Ginny glared harder at the tall, strapping hunk of man—police officer—who stood before her. She supposed being a police officer didn’t exclude him from being a man, but at the moment she felt a little fuzzy about it. In any case, he was much too good-looking, well over six feet, with a good set of shoulders, reddish hair, and features that had been entirely too well carved. And those eyes—just look at those eyes: bright blue and snapping with rage.

She detested handsome men.

He had to be the most detestable she’d ever seen. And his voice! That Irish accent of his caressed his words the way his tongue might well caress a woman.

“I do not wish to be arrested. What blame fool would want to get arrested?”

“Then hand over your weapon. You can reclaim it tomorrow at the station.”

How professional he was. How well he kept his anger under control. But Ginny could feel it, and she wondered what it would take to make him lose that control. 

“I’ve had this steam cannon since I was fourteen years old.”

“Well, you and it are going to have to spend the rest of the night apart. Dennis?” The officer jerked his head at the second cop—at least Ginny thought there were two and she wasn’t just seeing double. The two of them closed in on her again, one from either side. She raised the weapon, dimly aware it was a stupid thing to do.

The cannon had now fully charged; she could kill someone. The detestable police officer moved too quickly for her, wrested the cannon away, and handed it to the second man. Yes, there were two of them.

Ginny saw red. While the tavern’s patrons hooted some more, she drew back her arm and punched the detestable police officer as hard as she could, right in the face.

The blow—surely one of the best she’d ever delivered—barely rocked him back on his heels. The crowd gasped as one.

“Now she’s done it,” someone cried.

But, you know, romance has its own way of finding a path through anything (sort of like water). And fate has a twisted sense of humor. And sometimes even an awkward greeting…or a punch in the face…can lead to something wickedly wonderful.

So, what’s your worst-meeting story?

Last Orders: A Buffalo Steampunk Adventure blurb:

Buffalo Police Sergeant Brendan Fagan, investigating a series of grisly murders spurred by clashes between humans and automatons, only wants to save his city. The last thing he needs in his life is a rule-bending, steam-cannon-toting, unpredictable female like Ginny Landry, a woman who could possibly bring down his career and the one woman he quite likely can't resist.

Ginny means to settle the estate of her mother, an infamous madam, quickly and get out of town. She has no intention of becoming involved with any part of her inheritance or falling for Brendan. In fact, she makes it a point never to date handsome men. But when her rash behavior brings them together, the attraction can’t be denied.

And when the city erupts in chaos, forcing her to choose a moral side, can she deny what’s in her heart?

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

#Vacation #GiftCards #Books All Equal Fun

I'm four days back from a driving favorite kind...unless the destination is overseas. FDW and I traveled 4,000 miles from Arizona to Minnesota and back. We chose a different route each way, and on the way home we spent most of our time in the Rockies. I LOVE the mountains. While in Minnesota, we stayed with three different sets of friends in three different settings. It was a fantastic trip.

Now it's back to reality and writing. Because we left a few days later than planned, I'm scrambling to keep my schedule straight. I have some fun contests going on, and there are a couple of book signings on my horizon.

If you live anywhere near Prescott, Arizona, I hope you'll come by either or both of these fun events. I'll have the latest release in my Love and Murder Series available for the first time:

United Methodist
8944 E. Sommer Drive
Prescott Valley, AZ 86314

Chino Valley Memory Park
Rd 1 West & Butterfield Rd
Chino Valley, AZ 86323

As for the contests, don't miss out on these. Really easy to enter and you could win books, gift cards, and a Kindle.

For the month of July, Coffeetime Romance, click the link below:

Also until the end of the month, click the link below:

And there's only 3 more days to enter this one. Hurry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, July 9, 2018

#Fire Fight No Extra Charge by Jo A. Hiestand #booksigning


I love Muse Monday when it's amusing. Fire? At a book signing! Please welcome Jo Hiestand with a good story.
The St Louis Scottish Highland Games were in full swing. We were housed in a field, which gave plenty of legroom for caber tossing, hammer throwing, and sheep dog herding—space-demanding activities that pesky, shade-providing trees could hamper. But the uncluttered area left the massed pipe band marchers and us sellers with no shade and baking under the summer sun. Our vendors’ tents provided cover, certainly, but they also seemed to act as traps for the heat. Forget the fried-egg-on-the-sidewalk test; I swore I could bake shortbread on the ground in my tent. But I was there to sell books, not cook, and The Games were a good venue for my British protagonist with Scottish roots. And although Michael McLaren had hitherto sleuthed exclusively in England, my current mystery, An Unfolding Trap, was based entirely in Scotland. I had high hopes it’d sell well.
I’d just finished guzzling my third thermos of iced tea and discreetly flapped the hem of my tartan skirt for air circular when a man with a cigarette jammed into his mouth came up to the book display. I smiled at him; he evidently was interested in looking at McLaren’s newest adventure. But the man had his dog with him, and held the lead in his left hand. He looked like he wanted to pick up a book and thumb through it, but he didn’t want ash drifting from the cigarette and coating my book. So he removed the cigarette, crammed it into his pocket, and patted his dog as he told it to sit. He then proceeded to leaf through the novel. It didn't take long before I noticed smoke coming from his pocket and the fabric turning a dark brown color. I hinted, "Sir, I think your pocket's on fire." He glanced at me, then at his pocket, then uttered something I’m probably glad I couldn’t distinguish. He spat on his fingers and dabbed at the inferno. I handed him my bottle of water so he could take care of the inconvenience. He did and safely continued his browsing.
He bought An Unfolding Trap. If it was in gratitude for my firefighting expertise or his interest in McLaren, I'll never know.
An Unfolding Trap by Jo A. Hiestand
“An Unfolding Trap” excerpt

Ross leaned forward, closing the distance between them. “You’re sure you didn’t get angry when you found Lanny this afternoon?” 
Of course I got angry!  Who the hell wouldn’t? The bloody git killed a man, frightened a dozen others who were there, kidnapped Miss Skene, held her hostage--”  McLaren took a deep breath. “But I didn’t kill him. I tied him up so he wouldn’t escape, then phoned you when I could.” 
“An hour later.” The voice was flat, unimpressed. 
“Yes. An hour later. Maybe ninety minutes. I didn’t write down the time, but I phoned here, in the village.” 
“Why wait so long to ring us?” 
“Pardon?” The suspicion that things were turning horribly wrong whispered to McLaren. 
“Why didn’t you phone right then? Did you want to put some space between you and the killing so you could establish an alibi?”

 “An Unfolding Trap” blurb 
Since his infancy, Michael McLaren has been the target of his paternal grandfather’s anger. So when the patriarch sends an invitation to heal the rift, McLaren travels to Scotland, eager to meet and finally end the feud.
But the welcome never happens. In fact, the older man is furious McLaren’s appeared on the family home doorstep, convinced it’s some trick.  McLaren, however, is confused. If grandfather hadn’t sent for him, who had?  And why?
In Edinburgh, a man standing beside McLaren in a bus queue is killed in a hit-and-run accident. But McLaren wonders if the driver got the wrong person. And after an attack leaves him for dead on a wintry moor, McLaren’s convinced someone from his past is trying to murder him.
As McLaren trails the hit-and-run driver from the medieval ‘underground city’ of Edinburgh to the Boar’s Rock--the MacLaren Clan’s ancestral meeting place--the assaults intensify, and he’s plunged into a very personal hunt for a World War II treasure. The puzzle is fascinating; he just has to stay alive to solve it. 
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