Monday, December 17, 2018

M.S. Spencer Creates a Cozy on the Island #mystery #romance


It's cozy mystery romance day for Muse Monday. Please welcome, M. S. Spencer to Discover...

Flotsam & Jetsam is a cozy mystery romance set on a barrier island in north-east Florida.
I first visited Amelia Island to attend the Amelia Island Book Festival, and was struck by the crazy quilt of events it had survived. Known as the Isle of Eight Flags, it had seen wave after wave of conquering armies, some big, like the Spanish, and some tiny, like the Patriots of Amelia Island who mustered nine gunboats and maybe a hundred men. Timucuan Indians, French, Spanish, pirates, Scots mercenaries, Confederate and Union soldiers, all occupied the tiny island at one point or another. It also has a sizable Geechee (Gullah) community. Faced with a setting like that, who wouldn’t want to craft a nice little murder mystery that drew on the island’s history?

Three corpses strewn across the sand. Who are they and how did they get to Amelia Island?  State Park rangers Simon Ribault and Ellie Ironstone must find the answers while contending with a secretive group called the League of the Green Cross. Are the deaths linked to it? Or could they be tied to the colorful history of the island, which was won and lost eight times? Mucking up the investigation is the crucial question—who will Ellie choose: Thad, the handsome local idol, and Simon, the clever, quirky bookworm?

Ellie rotated the phone to allow them both to listen. “Simon and I are at the fort. There was an event here last night, and Hosea sent us to check out what, if any, mess the participants left before we reopen to the public tomorrow.”
“Oh, right. Betty Lawrence told me it was some sort of cult initiation—torches and secret handshakes and masks and stuff. I doubt they’d leave anything behind. Wouldn’t want to divulge any clues to their Circean rituals.”
Simon whistled. “Did she just say ‘Circean’? Cool!”
Ellie put a palm over her phone. “What on earth are you talking about?”
“Circe. You know. Greek goddess of sorcery. Well, minor goddess to be precise, but she did land a pretty good gig in The Iliad. When Odysseus and his men…” Simon petered out in response to the look on Ellie’s face.
She took her hand off the phone and spoke into it. “We’re not sure our little emergency has anything to do with the attendees. The inside of the fort was reasonably tidy, but outside the walls—” 
“Get on with it, Ellie. You’re just like your father. What have you found?”
Ellie brushed the criticism aside with a wave of her hand. “A bit of unexpected flotsam washed up on the shore.”
“You don’t want to know what it is first?”
“I need coordinates if I’m to send out reinforcements.”
“Okay, the body is on the stretch of sand facing St. Marys River. Northeast of the fort.”
“Body, huh. Dead?”
“I’d probably call it a man if it wasn’t.”
“Good point. Does it look pruny?”
Ellie checked out the corpse, lying supine on the sand. “Not really. So that means he died recently?”
“It means he wasn’t in the water long. Stiff?”
“Stiff, vic, cadaver—whatever you want to call him, he’s dead.”
Simon sensed the increasing threat level and, on the off chance Ellie didn’t, intervened. “Hold on a sec.” He prodded the dead man’s jaw, then tried to lift his arm. “Tell your mother rigor mortis has set in. Body’s cold. I’d say he died maybe eight to twelve hours ago.” 

Mainstream Mystery, Romantic Comedy, Romantic Suspense
Rating: Spicy (PG13)
Paper 430 p.; Ebook 97,578 words 
Buy Links (ebook and print):

Will also be available at Walmart.

About the Author:
M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents and has published twelve romantic suspense or cozy mystery novels. She has two children, a wonderful granddaughter, and divides her time between the Gulf Coast of Florida and a tiny village in Maine.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

#Solstice #Christmas How It Came to Be

For the past six years, we've celebrated Solstice. It started when we shared the farm with our son and his wife. The holiday was very appropriate since we lived off the land, we have native American blood, and Christmas is rooted in the centuries-old holiday. Our celebration is a mixture of native American and European tradition.

We left the farm a few years ago, but we've continued our holiday celebration
Solstice 2012

on Solstice. We now have a granddaughter. Last year, she was old enough to grasp the concept and joined in for the fire ceremony. She was beyond cute and touched our hearts when she came up with her own set of things to be thankful for and what future blessings she saw. Quite a feat for a four-year-old.

Celebrating Solstice serves another purpose in that we don't have to share our son and family with anyone else that day. Selfish?
38 year-old-decoration
Yep. We do try to see them on Christmas Eve or Christmas, but it isn't always possible because they give time to my daughter-in-law's family.

I'm going to share with you the fire ceremony. Each year, one of us is the leader. This is the leader's speech as he guides us through the ritual.

The traditions of Solstice mean:
Decorating is the way we ward off the darkness of winter
Evergreens such as the tree and ivy represent the return of the New Year and new growth of both the Earth and within each of

Fire celebrates the longed for return of longer days of sunshine and warmth.

Our Solstice Eve meal is a gathering to share love and foods of our ancestry.

Gift giving on Solstice morning began with the Shamans and continues with our present-day Santa Claus. They gave to us the spirit of giving which each of us embodies.

Solstice 2013
Now we will each choose a direction. We honor the directions of North, South, East, and West to help us focus on the unique nature of Solstice and the wonders that open to us on every side. Remember both the physical attributes of each direction and what is in your heart.

Each direction represents an element or part of nature. Read the general thoughts of that element, and then speak on how that relates to you and your own thoughts.

Praise what you find most precious about the season and our simple festival.

May this Solstice and turning of the season bring us love, peace, and good fortune in the coming year.

The remaining four of us each speak to the direction:

This direction represents Earth.

When you focus on North and Earth, know:
This is the season of cold.
But there is life waiting to germinate and be born.
We are part of Earth.

Solstice 2014
This direction represents the element of WATER.

When you focus on West and water know:
We are reminded of restless seas and wandering spirits.
This brings the blessing of movement.
We are seeking new directions, and we are emotional as the new year begins.

The element of FIRE (think of physical fire and the fire within you)

When you focus on South represented by fire and heat, know:
Heat of life ripens the earth.
Our heat seeks the roots of our life.
With the warmth comes stability.

The element of AIR (the air around us and your breath within)

When you focus on the East represented by air, know:
New life awakens with each breath and spreads through the world in spring.
This is the direction of peace.
Our spirit will triumph.

And then we roast marshmallows and make smores! Can't have a fire without those.

Happy Solstice and Merry Christmas to you all!

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year by Katy Eeten #ChristianRomance #Christmas


It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Good stories to read are most welcome. Please read on for my guest, Katy Eeten.

Thank you, Brenda, for hosting me on your blog today! I’m excited to share about my novella Christmas in Meadow Creek, a small-town Christian Romance just in time for the holidays.

This story was such a joy for me to write. I’ve written two contemporary Christian romance novels to date—Blast From Her Past, published in early 2018, and A Heart Held Captive, which is due out next spring. Both of these books took an immense amount of time and energy to write, edit and market. But my Christmas novella was literally written in three weeks. Probably because the subject matter was a combination of my favorite things—writing, family, romance, and Christmas.

Even though I live in Wisconsin and hate the cold winters, there’s something about watching the snow fall as I’m decorating a real pine Christmas tree in the living room with my family. I love singing Christmas tunes, sipping hot cocoa, and watching my sons untangle the wads of lights as my husband strings them on the tree. It’s a magical time of year full of peace and joy, family and traditions, gifts and goodies.

There are moments, however, when it feels like pure chaos. The kids get extra hyper as they’re hopped up on holiday treats, anticipating all the games and toys they know are coming their way. There are holiday parties to host or attend, gifts to buy, decorations to hang, money to spend. And not everyone has a family they enjoy being with. This is also the time of year when loved ones lost can weigh heavy on our minds. I remember the first Christmas after my dad passed away, and even in the midst of happy celebrations, everywhere I looked was a reminder of his absence.

But despite all that, Christmas makes me pause and remember all that I have to be thankful for.

Book Blurb:

Sarah Laughlin left her big-city life and dead-end relationship behind for a fresh start as a fourth-grade teacher in the small, Wisconsin town of Meadow Creek. And it feels like home, too, despite the persistent troublemaker in her class and the lack of familiar faces. But the holidays are going to be lonely this year. Until she meets firefighter Lincoln Thompson. Suddenly, the hope of spending Christmas with someone she cares about is within reach.

Lincoln loves his home town of Meadow Creek, but ever since his long-time girlfriend left him for a better life in the city, he wonders if he’ll ever find love in this small town where everyone knows everyone. Then he meets Sarah during her class's field trip to his firehouse, and a spark is lit. But when they discover that Sarah's troublemaking student is none other than Lincoln's beloved nephew, their newfound relationship is put to the test.

Book Excerpt:
“Y’know, it’s kind of funny how we keep running into each other.” Lincoln leaned his elbow on the table with his head resting on his hand, as if blocking out anyone behind him, and focused solely on Sarah’s face.

She was suddenly ultra-conscious of her breathing, her blinking, her every move. And was it just her, or was it getting hot in here? “Yeah,” she finally managed to say. “Three days in a row now.”

Lincoln’s lips formed a slanted smile, and for the first time she noticed a dimple on his handsomely rugged cheek. He leaned in before speaking again, his voice extra low. “I was wondering if you wanted to make sure we saw each other again? Maybe tonight—for dinner?”

She prayed he didn’t notice how hard she swallowed upon hearing his question. And what was that noise—was that her heart beating? She hoped he couldn’t hear it. Why was it so hard to think straight all of a sudden? This was the first request for a date she’d received since moving. Well, since Todd had broken up with her, really. Thankfully, her brain was finally able to send her mouth the message to smile. “Sure. Yeah, I’d like that.”

Lincoln’s crooked smile turned into an all-out beam. “Great. Can I pick you up at seven? If you don’t mind giving me your address.”

Quickly nodding, Sarah got out her phone. “I can text it to you. What’s your number?”

She sent the text to the number he recited and put her phone away.

Lincoln’s eyes crinkled as he spoke. “Well, I better get back to serving.” He stood to leave, touching Sarah’s arm gently. “I’m glad I ran into you again. I’ll see you at seven.”

Sarah nodded. “Looking forward to it.”

Buy Link:

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Do You Love Your #Villains? By Barbara Bettis #WickedWednesday


I love a good villain. And Barbara has a good point for us on Wicked Wednesday...there has to be something good in all that evil to make it interesting. Please read on and join the conversation.

The first thing that popped into my mind when I thought of a topic for Wicked Wednesday was—book villains.

Creating wicked villains was one of the hardest things to do when I started writing fiction. Since I write medieval, the bad guys were supposed to be pretty rough, like life then. Trouble was—and still is—I have a problem creating villains who are wicked enough to deserve the label. I don’t like to hurt any of my characters, even the bad guys (and I use that term to include gals too). So seeing they get their punishment comes hard for me.

It’s such fun creating these characters, I hate to do away with them. I keep wanting to reform them. It’s been said that every villain is the hero of his own story. So when trying to build the layers of that person, giving him reasons for behaving the way he does, I develop sympathy for him (or her).      

In an attempt to remedy that tendency, the second time I tried to develop a villain, the character turned out to be something of a stereotype. From the moment he stepped onto the page, you could tag him as ‘The Villain’. Well, that wasn’t good. So I had to work on changing up the characterization in that book.

But it took me four books to finally dispose of the one main villain threaded through them all. By the time his end came around, however, I was ready to do him in.

Not all villains have worked out that way. In my first book, I became so attached to the man who was
originally slotted for the part, I changed the plot. How? By reforming him—and bringing in the good, old reliable mean fellow from the first book. The one who went on to create problems through the next two.

I’ve come to accept this weakness and know to watch out for it so I never again have to change a plot because I’ve become too attached to a villain.

QUESTION: Does anyone else have trouble creating wicked characters?  How do you do it? Is there a wicked villain you grew attached to?

Follow my villains—good and bad—in: SILVERHAWK, THE HEART OF THE PHOENIX, THE LADY OF THE FOREST. And in the upcoming FOR THIS KNIGHT ONLY.

About Barb:
Former journalist and college professor, Barb has retired to become an editor and lady-who-likes-to-write-in-comfy-jammies.  She starts every day with tea, but firmly believe a home office isn’t complete without a coffee pot and a scented candle. And snacks.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

How a Picture Inspired a Novel and Informed a Writer by Ryan Jo Summers


Please welcome Ryan Jo Summers to Muse Monday.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I do believe it’s true. As writers, we have the uncanny ability to find inspiration in many ordinary things that most people might pass by. And my latest fiction novel isn’t the first book inspired by a photo. However, in my humble opinion, it might be my best to date, and definitely the hardest to write.

Years ago a friend sent me an email with a series of random photos with no real connection to one another. It was one of those chain things that seem to circle the globe once they get rolling. Some photos were nice, particularly the animal and nature shots. However, it was the photo of a man and boy that spoke to me. They did not exactly whisper in my ear, more they shouted for me to stop and notice them. So I did.

A young boy, maybe ten years old, dressed up against the cold, and holding a sandwich out to a homeless man. The boy’s back was turned to the camera so all that was clear were his mittens, scarf, and hat. And his stance. He was confident in his action. The man wasn’t so sure. Huddled on the cold street sidewalk, he tentatively reached out for the sandwich, his bewildered gaze locked on the boy. I could almost feel his to-the-bone chills and hunger, and his surprise at this sudden gift. I image he might be a veteran, back from serving, and down on his luck. The entire scene was poignant, painful, and inspiring.

Within a few weeks, the bones of “September’s Song” was born. The book changed in many ways from its early beginnings. Many initial thoughts never made it to the first draft, or into the second one. “September’s Song” was difficult to niche, and I finally settled on women’s fiction with metaphysical elements. This is the first book I wrote in multiple layers like an onion and almost had to write it backwards: ending, then middle, and finally the beginning. In truth, chapters moved around like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, looking for the right fit. I jokingly referred to “September’s Song” as my problem child during the writing and editing processes, as it did not follow a conventional formula of any sort. It wrote itself as it wanted to be written, and as the author, I seemed to have little say in matters.

It incorporated a man (a veteran) and boy, the boy’s mother, amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease, and many other layered elements. I grew to appreciate the sacrifices our soldiers made, the challenges faced by people affected by Alzheimer’s, and the difficulties of living with amnesia.

Once it was finished, I could not find a publishing home or interested agent, so I decided to self-publish it. Last year I had self-published a blog-to-book non-fiction book based on the challenges and triumphs of my adopted PTSD dog, and I survived that ordeal. This couldn’t be much worse. Creating the cover and formatting proved to the biggest hurdles to overcome. In late September, “September’s Song” came into the world as a fully published novel, weighing in at 332 pages. I am very proud of this literary baby.

Short Blurb:

Women's fiction--Ivey London who lost her military husband, tried to move on with their son, her Alzheimer's mother, and a boss attracted to her. She finds him alive and amnesiac five years later. Armed with inexpiable abilities, he is pursued by a forceful group determined to reclaim him. Ivey is just as determined to keep her late husband.  Together, they uncover what happened to him, who is after him, and search for how to reclaim what they once were--husband and wife.

Buy Links for “September’s Song”:  (paperback and ebook)

Find Ryan Jo here: