Thursday, February 27, 2020

Reading and #Reviews (Gallant, Dwiggins, Henderson)

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 an eReader at night for the last hour of my day.

I tend to read what I write, but not exclusively. I’m currently reading two books. The Little Book of Sloth Philosophy (a fun way to teach myself to relax and yes I’m still reading it a few paragraphs now and then) and A Riesling to Die For, a cozy mystery. I also read crime and law novels, WWII historicals, mysteries, and some main stream character driven novels.

Here are some of the books I've read recently or in the not too distant past. Maybe you'll discover a new book or author!

She’ll Never Rest by Jannine Gallant
Romantic Mystery
This is one of Ms. Gallant’s earlier novels. In this early novel, I see glimmers of the suspense novelist with which I associate the author. I enjoyed this early work immensely. Genealogist Darby turned ghost hunter falls for non-believer Logan. She’s hired by Logan’s grandfather and while researching the family tree, she discovers the identity of the spirit who haunts the family home. There are twists and turns and the ending is sure to satisfy you.

River Run by Toni Dwiggins
This novel is a tale woven around forensic geologists and the Grand Canyon. I didn’t know there was such a thing as forensic geologists. Rafters are missing and foul play is suspected. Cassie and Walter use pebbles and rocks to follow the clues. If you like really detailed information about rock formations and river flow within the Grand Canyon, you’ll find this story interesting. The geology details overwhelmed the story in my point of view. At times, I didn’t understand why the geologists were even involved. There is a subplot about the river being under attack that seemed forced. But if you enjoy geology with your suspense, you’ll enjoy the book.

Second Wind by Alison Henderson
Romantic Suspense
The setting alone will rope you into this story. Big Sur and Carmel-by-the-Sea are vivid characters as much as the people who populate this novel. Ms. Henderson steeps us in the art world. She also weaves a great story of suspense around kinetic sculptor Laurel McDowell and her abusive ex-fiancé as well as a new love interest who happens to be a forensic accountant for the FBI. The art, the food, the love, the suspense…I recommend this read.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Historical Scottish Sites by Rosemary Gemmell #romance #Gothic #Suspense


Let me introduce you to today's guest blogger. Rosemary Gemmell is from Scotland, which I'd love to explore some day. So, let's let Rosemary take us there.

Thank you so much for featuring me on your blog, Brenda – it’s lovely to visit with you! Since I’ve always lived in Scotland, I’d like to mention a couple of the real places I used for the setting of my latest novel, Highcrag, although the house itself is in a fictional location in the east coast of Scotland.

I love to explore historical sites and buildings with my long-suffering husband. Fortunately, we both enjoy walking and there’s always coffee and cake at some point. Having grown up in the beautiful west coast of Scotland, where a couple of my other books are set, it was quite a change when we moved to a more central/east location to be nearer family.

However, it’s been great fun visiting new venues and using some of the locations in my writing, both in novels and in my non-fiction articles for The Highlander magazine in the US. One of my favourite
Town Hall
places is Culross in Fife, a perfect example of a 16th century village which is so authentic that it was one of the locations used in Outlander.

The ‘Palace’, which is more of a Merchant’s House, dates from the same
The Palace
period and really is the lovely ochre colour in the photo. The streets are cobbled and one of the hills is quite steep, though it’s worth the walk to visit the old ruins. The Town Building is significant in my novel when heroine, Cate, is trying to find out more about her ancestress who was burned as a witch in the 16th century.

Another favourite location is the beautiful little village of Aberdour, in the opposite direction of Fife. We go here a lot for the coastal walks and great coffee and cake (or fish lunch) at the little
café/restaurant overlooking the beach. It was the perfect place to bring my heroine and hero for the day, to get away from the dark atmosphere at Highcrag.

As I’m sure most readers know, Scotland has an amazing history and such beautiful scenery, from the Borders in the south right up to the Highlands. But it also had one of the worst witch hunts ever in the past, with thousands of women accused and killed, most without genuine cause. This research gave me the biggest incentive to write Highcrag while providing a modern Gothic Romantic Suspense novel.

When Cate Stewart’s life falls apart, a job cataloguing the vast library at Highcrag on the Scottish east coast sounds perfect. Especially since she has a personal interest in the notorious Scottish witch hunts of the sixteenth and seventeenth century.

But the house has a dark past that seems to affect the present. And an owner, Lyall Kinnaird, who unexpectedly stirs Cate’s damaged heart.

As the Celtic festival of Samhain approaches, when the veil between the living and dead is thinnest, who can Cate trust?

A weak sun peeked between the drifting dirty white clouds, the light wind blowing away all dark thoughts. Striding across the nearest empty field, Cate lifted her face to the sky and embraced the day in this remote pocket of the east coast. She let the disturbing images from the old books fade away and hummed a rhyme to herself as she reduced her speed to wander and absorb the sight of the wide, empty North Sea.

A little further on, she stopped in her tracks.

“The horseman,” she murmured, catching sight of man and beast staring out to sea. Was he real? Curiosity winning out, she strolled on until she was within shouting distance.

Before she decided what to do next, the rider turned his head and saw her.

She gasped when she saw the dark hair and arresting features of the man in the portrait.

But no, as soon as he trotted nearer to her, she saw she was mistaken. The similarity was undeniable but this man was not only real, his mouth lacked the arrogant set of the eighteenth-century subject, while his hair had the merest hint of grey here and there.

Averting her eyes from his wide, sensuous mouth and firm lips, she almost missed the twist of a smile as he looked down on her. Although undoubtedly a modern-day man, her heart reacted at once, as though the portrait had come to life.

Highcrag is available in e-book or print from Amazon, or you can order the paperback from bookshops or through libraries.


Author Bio
Rosemary Gemmell is a published Scottish novelist of contemporary and historical fiction, and a freelance writer whose short stories, articles and occasional poems have been published in UK magazines, the US, and online. She is a member of the Society of Authors, Romantic Novelists’ Association and Scottish Association of Writers. Scotland greatly inspires some of her stories and she loves to dance!

Social Media Links

Friday, February 21, 2020

A #FearlessFriday Adventure (or just business as usual) by J. Arlene Culiner


Please welcome back J. Arlene Culiner to Fearless Friday. She always has a good story for us on Discover... and today is no exception.

Having Friday the 13th as a birth date, got me off on the right foot. Since then, I’ve spent my life getting into (and out of) tricky situations.

On this day, I was in Romania, and the snow was falling heavily, obliterating everything. Snow in front of me, snow behind, snow on either side: a landscape without accent, without shadow. Even huge snow-covered stray dogs curled desperately against walls and doors.

I had just arrived, via ancient rattling train, in the city of Piatra Neamt, and was on the trail of the long-forgotten Jewish rebel poet, Velvel Zbarzher. Zbarzher was born in former Austrian Galicia in 1825, and for fifty years, he sang and caroused his way over Ukraine and Romania. Since I intended to write his biography, I needed to find his trace. Of course, I speak only a few words of Romanian and no Ukrainian — how’s that for a successful way to start?

I was now looking for the local synagogue, just in case anyone there had information about Zbarzher (although, since any information would be around 170 years old, it might be a bit shaky.) But how to find the synagogue?

One building had a sign reading, Tourist Information, but it was merely a lure. Inside the small communist era shopping mall there was no further chitchat of tourism. I entered a bar, ugly and modern, with a hostile waitress and a large screen television showing semi-pornographic video clips featuring huge-bottomed women in stretch elastic. Two men, dark, sinister-looking hoodlums of some sort, but beautifully and expensively dressed, were hunched over a table, having a sotto voce conversation. With my usual ghastly mixture of odd Romanian words, French, and pidgin, I approached them: did they know where the synagogue was?

They stared at me for a few astounded seconds (who the hell was I? What did I really want?) Then looked at each other, faintly amused. And, in a mixture of Romanian, French, English, and German, told me to take a seat. Ordered me a coffee. And, albeit very disturbing-looking men, they came up trumps. One began making phone calls. “To the president of the local Jewish community.”

I could hardly believe my ears. “You know him?”

Both looked scornful. “It’s our business to know who everyone is,” said the one with a deeply scarred
cheek (a knife wound? A bullet hole?), and he handed me his phone.

But the president (who, fortunately for me, spoke fluent French) was impatient. To him, I was just another tourist, a foreigner, a nobody. No, he couldn’t see me today. He was busy. I’d have to come back another time. He broke off the connection.

The two men looked at me with pity. Obviously, they considered me a loser: tough guys and probably packing guns, knives and knuckle dusters, they’d never accept cavalier treatment or an unequivocal “no”.

“This part of the world…” said the unscarred man. Regretfully, he shook his head. “People in here all think they’re superior, and that makes them unfriendly. But they’re fools. There’s no work, and there’s no money here either.”

“What about all those big houses I saw on the outskirts?”

“Black market money.” His grin was a proud one. He loved being part of the illegal world and wanted me to know it.

“We do business with all of Europe,” bragged the other.

“Okay,” said Scarface getting to his feet. “Come on. I’ll drive you to the synagogue.”

Should I have been wary? Should I have hesitated before clambering into that man’s new black mafia Mercedes? Should I have questioned his motives, or considered I was taking a risk in this country where I knew no one, and no one anywhere else knew where I was? Perhaps. But I followed that man like a lamb, and snuggled happily into the passenger seat. I was feeling extremely grateful to him. Besides, I’m far too old and ornery to be white slavery material.

We slalomed over black ice and deep snow for a while, then skidded to a sideways halt on a hilly back road.

“That’s the Jewish community office.” Scarface pointed to a long, low building. “Go ask for the president.”

“He said he couldn’t see me.”

Scarface shook his head dolefully. Clearly, he thought I was pathetic. “This is Romania,” he said with calm patience. “Just knock on the door and walk in.”

So I did what I was told, and the president I spoke to on the phone — the same man who, thirty minutes earlier, had refused to see me — was utterly charming.

So Scarface was right after all. And taking risks is a highly profitable activity.
Perhaps my very favourite literary heroine is Felicity Powers. She charges across countries fearlessly, volunteering in emergency situations, rejecting middle class comfort, and ignoring risk.

She has stood up to armed soldiers in a windy desert, corrupt police in Turkey, and seen tragic battlefields. Now, she is in San Francisco, the same city she abandoned forty years before, and is determined to again take up the long-ago romance with Marek Sumner, the delicious man she once loved so dearly.

Okay, I admit that some of those adventures I mentioned and put into the book, Felicity’s Power, are ones I experienced — doesn’t every author put a bit of herself into everything she writes? But even if I’m as resolute and daring as Felicity, I’d be lying if I said I’m as fearless.

Blurb for Felicity’s Power

San Francisco, 1971: hippies in the streets, music and revolution in the air. The evening Marek Sumner opened his door to the wild-looking Felicity Powers, he knew nothing would ever be the same. But even love and passion couldn’t keep them together.

Forty-three years later, having lived in the world’s most dangerous places as an aid worker, Felicity is back, still offering love, passion, and adventure. Now a well-known author, Marek loves his calm life in an isolated farmhouse, and he knows their relationship would never work : he and Felicity are just too different. Besides, why risk having his heart broken a second time?

But Felicity is as fascinating and joyful as ever, and the wonderful sexy magic is still there too. Can love be more delightful the second time around?


Writer, photographer, social critical artist, musician, and occasional actress, J. Arlene Culiner, was born in New York and raised in Toronto. She has crossed much of Europe alone on foot, has lived in a Hungarian mud house, a Bavarian castle, a Turkish cave-dwelling, on a Dutch canal, and in a haunted house on the English moors. She now resides in a 400-year-old former inn in a French village of no interest and, much to local dismay, protects all creatures, especially spiders and snakes. She particularly enjoys incorporating into short stories, mysteries, narrative non-fiction, and romances, her experiences in out-of-the-way communities, and her conversations with strange characters.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Wicked Mother Nature by Dee S. Knight #WickedWednesday #ghost


Please join me in welcoming back one of my favorite and frequent guests, Dee S. Knight. Wicked comes in all forms and Dee has a fun take on wicked today with an exciting true life adventure.

Instead of focusing on a wicked person or even a character, I'd like to tell you about wicked Mother Nature. She'll pull a fast one and there everyone is, made humble by snow or rain, ice or heat. There is an old commercial that famously intoned, "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature!" Well, it's not nice for her to fool us, either.

Back in our trucking days, we had to drive through some truly wicked weather. I remember once in Montana, realizing the highway I was driving on was covered in black ice. Snow storms were common. We outran a dust storm in Texas once, and lost our air conditioning in horrendous heat and humidity. Through it all, we had to keep going to deliver the freight.

But once, coming into Chicago, we heard about a storm approaching from the west. The snow was a late one, and sure to be wet and heavy. It was early morning and still dark. Hubby was driving the stretch on I-80, just as Illinois meets Indiana. An accident and detour held us up for nearly an hour, and before we knew it, the storm caught up with us while we were driving the Indiana Turnpike.

I woke up as it turned light, and crawled out of the sleeper. "Look at that idiot," I said. "That trucker thinks he can park in the ramp to the service center. And look at those guys, just parking on the shoulder. What's going on?"

"A storm came in from the west. What I didn't know is, another storm came up from the south. And we're right in the middle of the mess."

Ahead, I could see the toll booth that marked the end of the Indiana toll road. A couple of miles past that, we would be on the Ohio Turnpike. Best thing about the turnpikes? They always kept the roads clear. Sure, they cost money, but it was worth it. Right?

We slowly came to a stop, about six trucks back from paying the toll. And then… We were stopped for sure. Word came back that Ohio had closed its road. What?? That was why those "idiots" had been stopped and parked strangely at the service center.

While the two storms met up and churned everything around us, we sat in a row of trucks, in the cab of ours. On the second day, they "let" us pay our toll and move to the snow-drifted area between the two turnpikes. We sat while it snowed. We sat while the storm ended and the sun shone through gray clouds. We sat day and we sat night. We sat there in no man's land for three days and four nights. It felt biblical.

A restaurant about a mile away (walk to the fence separating the toll road from the rest of the road, climb said fence, climb an embankment to the road and go another three-quarters of a mile, all through deep snow) was snowed in, so the waitress and cook who couldn't make it home had a bunch of truckers for customers. For three days. I'll bet they were thrilled.

Finally, through more flurries, Ohio opened its toll road—single lanes in each direction. After a day's drive that normally took three or four hours, we passed into Pennsylvania. Say glory! There was next to no snow! The real kicker? Had we stayed on the Indiana toll road instead of moving through, they would have let us off for free. Any trucks stuck on the turnpike did not have to pay the toll to get off. So we had to pay both Indiana and Ohio and that's no small amount of money! Thank you, Mother Nature!

I featured some wild foggy weather in my paranormal erotic romance, Passionate Destiny. The unexpected—and unexplained—freaky fog meant the hero, Aaron, had to stay at the heroine's house that night. Oh, darn. 😉 In this excerpt, Aaron and Margaret are on their way home from dinner.

They lapsed into silence.

Fog covered the bed of the pickup by the time they got to the stop sign at the main intersection in town. "Looks like it's getting a little foggy," Aaron said as he checked the rearview mirror.

"A little?" Margaret leaned forward to look in the side mirror. "I can't see the tail lights reflected. Is this usual for here?"

Aaron made the turn to go through town. "Well, I wouldn't say it's unusual. We're near the river after all, but this is a little heavy."

By the time he turned onto the county road, fog rolled off the roof and down the windshield. Within seconds their sight out the side windows was blocked. Long before they got to the driveway, they lost all visibility.

Aaron slowed to a crawl and leaned forward, straining to see. Margaret could hear him muttering to himself. Too afraid to distract him, she kept her own counsel, holding onto the seat with one hand and the door with the other. Twice he had to stop and back up because he had wandered off the narrow road and into the weeds at the edge. The third time he was forced to reverse, it was due to nearly running into the maple tree at the end of the road.

"Look out your window and tell me when you see the driveway," he ordered, as he eased the truck backward.

It seemed like forever before Margaret she saw it. "There!" The dark outline of a cleared passage leading off to the right indicated the path to the house. He turned the wheel and maneuvered the truck up the drive.


Aaron slammed on the brakes, stopping barely three feet from the back porch.

Margaret exhaled slowly, trying to quit shaking at the same time. For long moments after putting the vehicle in park, Aaron sat with his hands clenched on the steering wheel, not moving, not speaking.

"Are you all right?" His voice, quiet but steady, gave her confidence to relax a bit and turn to him.

"Yes, I think so. You can let go of the steering wheel now."

"Sure, as soon as you let go of the seat." They laughed, finally breaking the tension. He flexed his fingers, lifting them off the wheel. "I've never been in fog this thick before. Up in the mountains it gets bad sometimes, but this is worse than I've ever seen it. Look, you can't even see the edge of the house."

Margaret turned to look out her window, seeing nothing but white.

"I don't know how the hell I'm going to get home in this."

Without hesitation she said, "You can't. You'll have to stay here." Finally releasing her grip on the seat front, she opened the door. White swirls of mist immediately invaded the truck cab. "If you'll leave the lights on for a minute, I'll get up the steps and turn on the porch light."

"Wait a minute." The tightness of his voice caused her to turn back to him, pulling the door closed in the process. The temperature in the cab had dropped with the influx of the thick, moist air. "You left the porch light on but I don't see any illumination now. I wonder if there's power. Let me back up a little and reposition the lights onto the steps."

Leaning back in the seat she let a frown cross her brow as he moved the vehicle to light up the steps and screen door. "You're right, I did leave the porch light on." Glancing quickly at Aaron to see that he was focusing hard on the house, she narrowed her eyes and did the same. "We won't know if the power's out or what's happened until I get in there." She opened the door and slid out.

Moving in front of the vehicle, she crossed the twin beams of light as she plowed through the fog. Even with the headlights she tripped over the bottom step, catching herself against the door at the last second.

She heard Aaron open his door. "Are you all right?"

Nodding her head she called, "Fine!" and waved at him before letting the screen door close.

The back door light was not on. Standing on the partially lit porch and looking back into the murkiness, the truck with its bright headlights seemed far away. Worse, Aaron seemed far away. She shivered as a chill ran down her back. Even with the faint evidence of headlights piercing the fog, and knowing that she was a mere couple of miles from a town, she almost felt alone in the world, stranded in this house, a small island shrouded in a vast, white sea.

Using a tiny flashlight she kept on her keychain, she lit the lock so that she could slip in the key. Pushing it open, she reached in and flipped the switch. Light flooded the porch.

To connect with Dee and her new book, CLICK HERE.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

New Book, #Charity, #Sale, #Free Audio Codes


It's not often I check in on Muse Monday. I usually reserve this column for my guests. But with an open slot and all I have going on right now, a short post from me is appropriate.

An old hotel in Joshua...haunted?
I wrapped up book one in my new series, with a working title of Magpie, A Joshua Arizona Novel. Now I wait. I'm looking a larger publisher or self-publisher. In the meantime, book two in the series is forming with a working title of Harlan, A Joshua Arizona Novel. FDW has advised me these are not exciting enough titles. I'm taking his advice under consideration (especially since they don't excite me either).

The charity driven anthology is out and doing great. Be sure to order your copy or copies of Australia Burning. My contribution, Pinochle, is in volume one.

Amazon Buy Link Click Here

I have a book on sale right now, too. A Legacy of Love and Murder, eBook, is on sale right now for $1.99. You have until the 20th to secure a copy. On February 21, The Power of Love and Murder will be on sale for $1.99 until March 5. Mark your calendar.

Amazon Buy Link Click Here

AND I still have both US and UK FREE CODES for my audio books. You really need to contact me soon because they won't last forever. email me

Okay, back to writing. Happy February! 

To listen to a sample of my audio books: Click Here for Audible Page

Friday, February 7, 2020

#FearlessFriday is about #AustraliaBurns


My heart goes out to the people, the animals, and the beautiful country of Australia. There are so many stories of fearlessness coming from this devastating tragedy.

I am honored to be part of a three book anthology dedicated to the ongoing battle caused from the fire. My story appears in the first volume. All proceeds are going to charity to help Australia regain their footing. These books are a compilation of donated short stories from The Wild Rose Press Authors. They are as varied as the authors. We hope you'll buy the books to help Australia and get yourself some fun reading with your donation.



AMAZON BUY LINK FOR VOLUME THREE (print book not yet on Amazon)

If you'd like to order the print books directly from The Wild Rose Press to donate more to charity, click here: THE WILD ROSE PRESS

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

We All Love a Little Wicked by Barb Caffrey #WickedWednesday #Elf


Please welcome Barb Caffrey to Wicked Wednesday because we all love a little wicked.

Sometimes, we all like to be wicked.

Really. We do.

The thing is, we don't necessarily like to admit to it. Not when we're out paying bills, or being responsible, or making sure the kids in our lives get their teeth brushed.

When my late husband and I worked on the Elfy duology together (at that time one book; now, it's AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE and A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE), we knew that everyone loved a villain. But we weren't sure at first what to do in order to get that villain across.

Enter Dennis the Dark Elf Priest. (Soon shortened to Dennis, the Dark Elf, as writing "Dark Elf Priest" all the time became too much for us to bear.) Dennis was a nasty cuss who hated anyone who wasn't a Dark Elf, but was masquerading as a human priest in order to stir up as much trouble as he could. (If you're thinking, "That Dennis really is a menace," you're right. I even said so at one point in the book!) He planned on sacrificing at least one Elfy (a race of short magicians, none above four feet two inches tall) at Beltaine, otherwise known as May Day, because he wanted power. And he didn't care about any repercussions – for example, the fact that most humans know nothing about magic, and would be upset to find out about it, after he'd killed someone in cold blood in front of them at a major church festival, didn't even enter his mind.

Our hero, Bruno the Elfy, is in love with Sarah, a mostly human teenager. He is good all through, but as a teen himself, he doesn't particularly realize it.

I'm sure you can tell where this is going, but I'll spell it out: in A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE, Dennis's aim is to capture Sarah. Because she has power, and is partly of the Elfy race. And if he sacrifices her, he'll gain more for himself.

But in the interim, he's got another Elfy to sacrifice. And that person is Bruno's teacher Roberto the Wise. The only other person Bruno cares deeply about…and the person who took Bruno's place at the sacrificial table by way of a ruse.

First, here's a blurb for you telling you what A LITTLE ELFY IN BIG TROUBLE is about:

Bruno the Elfy has lived through much since he was sent to Northern California. And while he's freed himself from enslavement, his Elfy mentor has been taken by an evil Dark Elf—and his mostly-human fiancée, Sarah, is also at risk.

Can young love, desperation, and great unexpected power win out despite it all?

I hope this will whet your interest! But in case you want more right now, how about an excerpt? (Dennis has to be wicked enough for any three others, so hopefully he's a good choice for Wicked Wednesday!)

## Excerpt follows ##
"Now is the day of reckoning," Dennis said briskly, rubbing his hands over the top of the sacrificial table. It looked to be rough-hewn marble. An auric stench permeated it, which made Bruno wonder just what—or who—Dennis had sacrificed recently. Bruno offered up a prayer for the unknown innocent's soul just in case.

"What day of reckoning, Dark Elf?" Sarah retorted. "All I see is you, my father—Daddy, how could you do this?—and some of your buddies causing trouble."

"The Elfy presence on Earth will be eradicated," Dennis growled. "Starting with this—" he pointed to Roberto "—then we'll get to you. And maybe we'll even kill your mother. How's that for 'what day of reckoning?'" he finished silkily.

"You'll never get away with this," Sarah said, tears coursing down her cheeks.

"Not only will I get away with it," Dennis corrected her, "I have some of my people out searching for your Elfy boyfriend. When we get him, our work will be complete."

"You'll never find him," Sarah said. "And Daddy, I hate you! I repudiate you!"

Thomas turned away from Sarah with a smug, self-satisfied smile on his face. Bruno had never hated anyone more than he hated Thomas in that instant. That hatred kept him from thinking much about Dennis's statement, which was probably just as well.

He was already scared enough as it was.


Three sample chapters are available at my publisher, Twilight Times Books:

And a few links for me!