Wednesday, October 29, 2014


It’s been said that location is another character in a story.  I think that’s true if the setting is described well enough and with enough detail for the reader to actually imagine it. 

Some authors are known for certain locations.  Most of Susan Isaacs’ novels take place in Nassau County, Long Island.  I grew up there and it’s one of many reasons I like her books so much. For me, it’s an opportunity to go back and visit the towns I knew without dealing with all the traffic.  Another writer who uses real places and writes about them so well that you feel you’re there is Harlan Coben.  Many of his books are placed in Livingston, New Jersey and the surrounding area.  I lived in that area of New Jersey for twenty-three years and it’s where I raised my children.  Again, reading his books is like taking a trip home without having to get into the car. 

There are other writers whose settings are not my home town and yet I love the authenticity that these writers’ location descriptions bring to their work.  Irish writer Marian Keyes’ New York wasn’t mine, I lived there in the seventies.  She writes about New York in the nineties.  When she writes about Dublin, I feel as if I took a trip there and that my relatives must know her characters.  It’s the same with Jennifer Weiner.  I just came back from a few days in Philadelphia.  It’s a city only two hours from where I’ve lived most of my life but which for some reason I’ve only visited a handful of times.  But when I was there I had a secure feeling of familiarity mixed with the pleasure of discovery when I figured out where I was going and I give Jennifer Weiner’s Philadelphia books much of that credit.  I could go on forever citing examples, but I think I’ve made my point.  Places that we know described accurately and well are a comforting pleasure.  Even when we don’t know them, books provide a way of seeing a place we may never get to visit.

I don’t think that’s the intention of the authors.  Certainly it wasn’t mine when I based a number of my books in New Jersey in the town where I lived and in the city where I worked.  I chose those locations because I knew them well.  It was easier.  But I also put Suddenly Lily in Jersey City because I love those brownstone neighborhoods.  In another life I would have liked to be young, single and living in one. The setting for my other two books, Conflict of Interest and Second Act for Carrie Armstrong, is even more obvious.  When I was writing those books, I was living in Maplewood so it seemed natural to place them there.  I didn’t have to do any research.  I already knew my subject very well and if I wasn’t sure of something, I could always go for a ride.

So what’s the downside of making real places settings for books? Even if you create an alternative universe in your real location, there is always the chance that you will make a mistake.  I was lucky that my editor for Suddenly Lily, Faith Black, actually lived in Jersey City.  She immediately picked up on my calling Hamilton Park, Hamilton Square.  That kind of careless mistake can lose a reader and certainly goes to breaking the spell that we writers hope to cast.  For that reason, just before sending off the final draft of Conflict of Interest, I emailed a friend who had grown up in Elizabeth to make sure I had my street names right for the car chase.  I doubt I have a big readership in Elizabeth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t have someone who at the very least grew up there. Thanks to my friend, I got it right.

What about fictitious places? Why do some authors prefer to create their own towns and not use real ones? Nora Roberts’ Chesapeake towns feel real and are based on an area of the country that she knows well having grown up there, but the towns themselves are made up.  Claire Cook lives in Scituate, Massachusetts, but her books take place in a town that sounds like Scituate, but is called something else.  My critique partner, Joani Ascher, bases her amateur detective Wally Morris in Grovesvenor that seems an awful lot like the town she lives in New Jersey.  I haven’t discussed this issue with either Nora or Claire since I don’t meet with them to discuss writing, but I have asked Joani.  Her reasons make sense.  She doesn’t have to worry about making a factual mistake, or having a reader think she is writing about them, and it gives her some latitude.  That’s probably all true, but I go back to my original thought.  I like to read about familiar places because of the comfort and fun I get recognizing the local sights or being the armchair traveler if I can’t get there. 

Deborah Nolan author of Suddenly Lily and Conflict of Interest published by Montlake Press and Second Act for Carrie Armstrong published by Desert Breeze Publishing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Child's Hallowe'en in San Francisco

'Arawn' - Ruler of Annwn
(the Underworld), illustration
 by Ioan Einion, © Alys Einion, Y Lolfa
All Hallows' Eve has been celebrated across the Christian World since the formation of a structured church. Calan Gaeaf (Kal-ahn GEYE-ahv), as it is known in Wales celebrating the start of winter, has been a festival since earliest pagan Celtic times. In Ireland, the festival is known as Samhain (SOW-en), celebrating the decay of life and is derived from an ancient cult of the dead.

Hallowe’en as we know it today, did not exist in America, or for that matter anywhere in the world, until the great influx of Irish immigrants in the 19th Century. This day of ghouls and goblins would not exist now if not for Irish children extorting food and money from their neighbors at the behest of their parents, with threats of tricks if the better-off neighbors refused to submit to giving treats.

Although the Irish were Roman Catholic, the religious holiday melded with the pagan to facilitate the youthful blackmailers’ chicanery.

During my childhood, Hallowe’en was a children’s event, anticipated throughout the early Fall with intricate plans for costumes. Gypsy or witch, princess or fairy were the choices we girls preferred. Boys chose Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula or headless ghosts.

From the moment the sun dropped below Twin Peaks, we were out in packs of threes, fives or tens running from one house to the next, ringing every doorbell. I lived in the Haight-Ashbury and our territory for our night of extortion was as far as we could go without getting lost.

Ceridwen, the Witch,
illustration by Ioan Einion,
© Alys Einion, Y Lolfa 
If we breached the entry of an apartment complex, we had access to every resident. Once in a while, there was a party going on at which we caught glimpses of Hallowe’en Future: adults behaving like … us! The only difference was that the adults were not subject to extreme sugar highs – theirs was a high of a different kind.

The total world domination of Hallowe’en as experienced in the USA was not achieved until the appearance of the film, E. T. Phone Home, in which the opening scene was the epitome of my childhood escapades. Even then, fully three decades passed before “Trick or Treat” on October 31st became the norm in the six countries of Britain, five of which are Celtic.

We cannot go back to the innocent times of our childhood. In this city, Hallowe’en is not an event in which children can participate with any sense of the safety, excitement and freedom that I and my fellow witches and monsters enjoyed. Adults have reclaimed the ancient cult of the dead and any aspect of the religious meaning is subsumed by Bacchanalian excesses. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

For Better or Worse by Fran McNabb

            Who doesn’t like to read about love? Since many of the authors on this loop are romance writers and many of our readers love romance, I chose a topic today that I think we can all relate to. 

            When couples marry, they have the best of intentions. They are in love. They want to be with each other every minute of the day and night. They want to make the other person happy. “New love” is wonderful and exhilarating, but time has a way of stripping away the excitement in a marriage. The wonder and exhilaration fades and slowly turns to quiet familiarity. Good marriages with couples who are truly in love settle into this familiarity and enjoy life as each year turns into the next.
            But what happens when one of the partners becomes ill. Illnesses like cancer and Alzheimer take away the joys that couples work for in marriages. These illnesses have a way of turning life upside down, inside out, and stretching patience and physical abilities to the limits.

            Several of our friends are dealing with horrible illnesses in their marriages. Their lives are continuing, but the normalcy in those lives is gone. Life revolves around doctor appointments, medicines, chemo, and uncertain futures. Life isn’t easy, but when love is present, couples accept and give to the other.

             We recently had company from an old classmate and his wife who has Alzheimer.  The love I witnessed warmed my heart. She still clings to him as her remembered love, but she also needs him as her caregiver. Life is not easy for either of them. She knows her condition is making life difficult for him, but he seems never to complain. Instead he goes about the daily chore of taking care of her needs, both physical and emotional. Watching the two of them is a testimony of what real love involves.

             When couples say the words “for better or worse,” I’m sure the “worse” is not what they expect, but it can happen and does happen all too many times. My husband and I said the words over forty-four years ago and so far we have been blessed. We haven’t had to deal with horrible medical situations like some of our friends have.

            Love is such a strong emotion, and for couples who are facing a life with a sick mate, I pray that their love is strong enough to help find the light during their darkest days. Young love is a wonderful thing, but what we’ll call “old love” is even more wonderful. Sitting next to a partner in a
doctor’s waiting room, holding hands to give the other support, or simply sitting quietly on a porch taking in the last rays of sunlight and remembering easier times—these may not be exciting moments, but they are wonderful moments that show the love and support that the words “for better or worse” mean.

Fran McNabb grew up on the Gulf Coast and now lives on a quiet bayou harbor with her husband. They love to spend time on the water fishing and visiting the nearby islands or traveling to see their two sons and grandsons. Visit Fran at or write to her at

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Presents to Read

When our first child was born a friend gave us a selection of children’s books, mostly the board type, as a baby gift. We admired the idea, and he confessed someone who knew more about children than he, since he was still single, had suggested it.

We put the books right up onto the book shelf and as soon as it seemed appropriate, we started reading them to our son. We added to the collection, and by the time our son could stand in his crib, we were reading him Winnie the Pooh. The sound of the words must have been enjoyable, because he would stand there for long periods while we read. He’d hold his chunky board books, which were everything from Margaret Wise Brown, to Richard Scarry, (that Lowly Worm book he had fit very well into his little hand), to Pat the Bunny. (Here I feel I must make a confession. For years, I thought the name of the bunny was Pat, until I saw a Pat the Cat book and wondered why they’d name two animals the same thing. That was when I realized that Pat was a verb. Embarrassing.)

We thrilled to see Harold and the Purple Crayon’s drawings, and marveled that in Where the Wild Things Are, the dinner was still hot after all the adventure. We knew every word of My Day and Milly’s Surprise. (Spoiler alert: Milly was having puppies.)

It wasn’t long before our little boy moved on to reading Richard Scarry’s The Best Word Book Ever, which we credit with giving him an enormous vocabulary. And he could read anything by the time he was five. His uncle used to test him with medical terms, such as pneumonia, and somehow he knew the words.

Since that time we have always given books as baby gifts. We mix in newer publications that I have found over the years along with the “classics.” We want to encourage reading in all the children and parents we love.

Reading is essential for children, who, by the way, need to be read to long after they can read by themselves. It is a huge indicator of success in school. Modeling reading for non-readers, in other words, being seen reading for pleasure by children, can go a long way toward stressing its importance. Snuggling with a new reader and demonstrating enjoyment (as my husband did while he rolled around laughing when reading the Just So Stories and My Father’s Dragon) will help foster a love of reading in children. If that new reader is reluctant, cuddling can help replace fear with a warm, fuzzy feeling. What better way to think of reading and books?

The truth is, I love children’s books. Unlike the Sesame Street movie that my husband and I went to without a child, which made us feel terribly self-conscious, once our son was born I actually had an excuse to be reading those books. The Story of Ferdinand, who sat in the shade under a cork tree that had tiny corks hanging from the branches, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which I edited for violence, Sesame Street's Cookie Monster, whom I edited for grammar, and The Little Engine that Could’s motto, "I think I can, I think I can," which we still mention, especially when going up a steep hill. We remember Peter’s Chair, Caps for Sale, Curious George and Lyle Crocodile and the frustration we felt when no one would listen to Tikki Tikki Tembo's brother after he fell into the well.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Anyone who's a fan of cozy mysteries, and probably everyone on Facebook, is well aware that October is National Cat Month. Cats grace the covers of so many mystery novels, and many mystery authors are cat owners and lovers. What I didn't realize until today is there's also a National Cat Day - October 29th is the date to celebrate felines! I have been a cat lover as long as I've known how to walk.

Years ago, I took my husband to a doctor's appointment. He was suffering from dizziness due to an inner ear problem. He left the room for testing, and the doctor told me "he needs to avoid cats." I went into an immediate internal panic – I can't get rid of my cats – before the doctor explained that CATS stood for caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and sodium. Whew! So long as I don't have to get rid of the cats, I'm good. And no, I didn't say that aloud to my husband.

As a child growing up on a farm I spent many a day patiently inching closer to the wild kittens that were often born in our barn. With time, I tamed them all and we became best friends. At one point, I counted seventeen cats under our maple tree eating from numerous dishes at dinner time. I loved each and every one. Today I have only one elderly cat, but I'm acquainted with many wonderful fictional cats. Chablis, Syrah, and Merlot of Leann Sweeney's Cats in Trouble series and Diesel of Miranda James' Cat in the Stacks series are favorites.

I'm growing quite fond of Hitchcock, the cat in my Bad Luck Cat series to be published by Berkley beginning in September 2015. I'm currently writing book #2 of the series. In book #1, Black Cat Crossing, my protagonist meets Hitchcock, the black cat who many believe is the legendary Bad Luck Cat. Since beginning my series, I've discovered several friends who are so afraid of black cats that they would drive a mile in the wrong direction to avoid having a black cat cross their path. As my eight-year-old granddaughter says "that's just plain silly."

Black cats are not bad luck. As a matter of fact, there are superstitions that black cats are actually good luck. For example: In Asia and the U.K., a black cat is considered lucky; to dream of a black cat is lucky; a strange black cat on a porch brings prosperity to the owner; a black cat given to a bride is thought to bring her good luck; to fishermen, black cats ensure a safe journey home. 

I'm hoping that all black cat owners will keep their pets inside and safe during the upcoming Halloween season. Also, remember National Cat Day is not just about showering our cats with affection, but recognizing all the cats out there in need of being rescued! Did you know that nearly 4 million cats in the US are put into shelters every year? I hate to think about their fate.

If you're interested in celebrating National Cat Day 2014, one of the best things you could do is donate money to a shelter. You can make a difference for cats this October 29th. Give your own cat a great big purr-fect hug to celebrate the occasion.

Mystery author Kay Finch is currently writing her new Bad Luck Cat Mystery series set in the Texas Hill Country to be published by Berkley beginning in 2015. Her Klutter Killer mystery, Relative Chaos, features a professional organizer who finds a dead body in a hoarder's garage. Kay lives in a Houston, Texas suburb with her husband, two rescue dogs and a cat. Visit her web site at

Friday, October 17, 2014


by Sandy Cody

I love this time of year. Actually, I love all the seasons and am grateful that I live in an area where they are all different.

In Pennsylvania, each time of year has its own seductive charm, from the spare elegance of a bare-limbed tree in winter to the extravagant bounty of a summer garden. But my favorite seasons are spring and fall. They are less intense than the periods that precede and follow them, but to me, they are more interesting. Lacking extremes of heat and cold, the transition seasons are more gentle. They are also less predictable. Each day begins with a decision: T-shirt and shorts? A sweater and jeans? True, that’s a trivial decision, but if you don’t get it right, you’ll have an uncomfortable day. Even if you do get it right, there’s a good chance it’s just temporarily so. By mid-day, something as capricious and beyond your control as the weather may force you to regret your choice, maybe even change a decision you've made.

Transitions in novels are like that too, both in that they are more gentle (they are not the scenes of intense action, but those moments of introspection that follow the action) and less predictable (when readers wonder how characters will react to events beyond their control). These are the scenes in which the characters have an opportunity to change and grow. They have to make choices, some of which may be trivial in themselves, but they can produce unexpected results that lead to other, more difficult choices, which in turn, lead to more changes and, thus, keep the plot rolling along.

Transitions show the characters in their more reflective moments. It  is here, in the periods of less intense action, that we get to know the characters, to understand why the choices they have to make are difficult for them, maybe even identify with them. I think of these scenes as bridges - where the writer guides the story from beginning to middle to end and, if they’re good at it, they make it look easy, as natural and inevitable as the changing of the seasons.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Do Not Open Till … October?

by Sierra Donovan

My husband still tells the story of the year he bought me a coat for Christmas, and we tried to exchange it for a lighter color. No dice. Why? Because we waited until the first week in January. When we looked for the coats where my husband had found them, we found … swim suits. (And yes, we do live in the Northern Hemisphere, so it was most assuredly winter.)

I have long lamented the fact that stores are out of sync with real life the majority of the time. Just ask anyone who's ever tried to find a good pair of sandals in August. Because, of course, they missed the summer clearance sales that started right after the Fourth of July.

Already shoppers are writhing in pain as they see the Christmas merchandise starting to show up in stores. But not me. Not this year.
You see, I've been waiting for October all year. This is the month my first Christmas romance, No Christmas Like the Present, made its debut in stores. Add in the fact that I've been working since January on the next book in my contract – another Christmas novel – and I've had one foot in the holiday season all year long.

Okay, it's sick and wrong to see Christmas decorations show up across the aisle from the Halloween displays. But when it comes to holiday books, I can definitely see getting a jump on the season. By the time I'm in the heart of the Christmas frenzy, there just isn't much time for reading.

And while the stress of the holiday season is something many of us dread -- like Lindsay, the heroine of my book -- the joy of the season is something to be celebrated. Maybe getting a head start is a good way to head off some of that stress at the pass.

But I still think Christmas and Halloween should, at least, be on separate aisles.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Happiness is like a butterfly…

Sandra Wilkins

          What revitalizes you?  Is it a crunchy stroll along a leaf-strewn wooded path in the crisp autumn air, or going to a museum and gazing at the incredible works of art or maybe it’s having a spa day?

          It wasn’t until recently that I even considered I needed time for myself so I could relax and become energized.  When my girls were tiny, I put my all into raising them.  Now that they’re older and don’t need my constant attention, I see that it’s time to put some effort back into me.  Some people might think that sounds vain, but, truly, it’s not.  A woman can become lost in her hectic life.  Taking a minute now and again helps restore the tranquility. 
          What can a person do to find that calmness?  Yelling “Serenity, now!” like George’s dad on the television show Seinfeld didn’t work for him and I doubt it would work for anyone.  Personally, standing in a private corner of my yard, peering up through the lacy trees at the ever-changing clouds while I try to listen to God is one of my favorite things to do.  Watching my talented friends sing and play music is another.  A spontaneous hug and “I love you, Mom.” swells my heart also.  These humble things mean so much more than gold to a worn soul.   
          This quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne sums it up for me, “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.”  If you’re bedraggled and weary, I hope you take a moment—for it doesn’t need to be much longer—to find those simple, beautiful things that invigorate you and give you peace.

   Sandra Wilkins is busy writing another series while home educating her two daughters.  Ada’s Heart, Rose’s Hope and Gwen’s Honor are her first three published wholesome historical romances.  Go to to find out more about her and her books.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Classic and Cozy Ghost Story!

posted by Jayne Ormerod

The time…1673

The Place…a 100 acre farm in Portsmouth, RI (currently the site of The Valley Inn, pictured on the left.)

The situation…Thomas Cornell, a farmer aged 46, had a lot of hungry mouths to feed.  He was the father of four sons from his first marriage, two children (with a third on the way) from his second marriage to Sarah, plus his widowed mother Rebecca, age 73.  All nine people lived under one very tiny roof.  And, while Thomas did all the work, Rebecca owned the farm and thus controlled things. 

The problem…There were rumors that not all was well on the Cornell farm.  Reports of elder abuse ran rampant through the small community.  Local legend has it that Rebecca had confided she felt sure she’d be “done away with” by year’s end. 

What happened…February 8, 1673, Thomas arrived at the dinner table at 7 p.m. after visiting his mother in her room for an hour and a half, and announced she would not be joining the family for the meal.  After dinner, Sarah sent one of the elder sons up to the room to take Rebecca a glass of warm milk.  He opened the door and found flames on the floor around the fireplace.  He ran to get help.  After the flames were out, a charred corpse was discovered in the corner.  It was identified (based on the slippers worn) to be that of Rebecca Cornell.

The verdict…The town elders conducted a 17th century CSI investigation and declared the following:  “Rebecca Cornell was brought to her untimely death by an Unhappy Accident of fire as Shee (sic)  satt (sic) in her Rome (sic).” 

Was it an accident?  It made sense that a flaming ember had escaped from her pipe, causing her woolen clothes to catch fire and burn her around her head, shoulders and chest. 

But…(and this is where the ghost story comes in):  Two nights after her burial, Rebecca’s brother John Briggs had a visitor while he slept.  His bed sheets were ripped off and a ghostly apparition appeared.  According to local historian Larry Stanford (in his book Sordid Stories form the City by the Sea) John Briggs cried out to the spirit, “In the name of God, what art though?”  The dimly lit spirit replied, “I am your sister Cornell,” then repeated twice, “See how I was burned by fire!”  John shared his experience with the village elders and Rebecca’s body was exhumed for additional investigation.  This time the medical examiners found a puncture wound (the size of a spinning wheel spindle) and bruising near her heart.  It was determined that Rebecca had indeed been murdered.

Who did it?   Thomas Cornell was the last to see his mother alive, and the person who benefited most from her death.  Plus there were all those rumors of elder abuse and threats Rebecca had received.  So it was no big surprise when on May 16, 1673, on the steps of Newport, Rhode Island’s historic White Horse Tavern (pictured right and has a ghost story of its own), the verdict was handed down proclaiming Thomas Cornell guilty of murdering his mother and sentencing him to death one week hence.  

The significance of this story:  This is the only case in U.S. History where a ghost’s testimony led to a murder conviction.   

In a weird twist of fate:  While Thomas Cornell was found guilty of matricide, his five-generations later granddaughter LizzieBorden was found NOT guilty of patricide in the whacking death of her parents in Fall River, Massachusetts. 

An odd fact:   The girl born after the trial and hanging of her father was named Innocent Cornell. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

In Memory of Mom

Two years ago this time I got a phone call from my sister saying that my 87-year-old mother was about to have emergency surgery. An aortic aneurysm she’d had for many years had begun to expand and was close to bursting. My sister put my mom on the phone to talk to me and we had a quick chat, with her saying she’d gotten herself into another “silly mess.”  We joked about it and I told her I’d pray that all would go well.

She’d had a couple of other surgeries in the few years before this, and had come through with all flags flying. Although I knew the surgery was critical, I expected her to get through it okay. Still I waited on pins and needles. My sister called later to say that the surgery appeared to have gone well and Mom was in recovery. I breathed a deep sigh of relief.

But the next morning I got another, much grimmer call. Sometime in the middle of the night, as Mom came out of the anesthesia, the nurses had noticed Mom couldn’t seem to move her left arm and leg and her speech was slurred.  She’d suffered a stroke either during the surgery or right after.
I live in North Carolina, but flew up to Massachusetts to be with her.  I have two sisters and two brothers who live in the Boston area, but I needed to be there as well.

Over the next day or two, Mom seemed to be improving and the nurses talked to us about moving her into a rehab hospital in the next couple of days. Before that, though, the next complication struck. It seems that when the doctor inserted the shunt into her shoulder for the surgery on the aneurysm, he’d nicked a gland, and it was leaking lymphatic fluid (chyle) into her chest. She also had fluid in her lungs. They put in drains for both.

Unfortunately, she had difficulty swallowing due to the stroke, and the chyle leak meant a special intravenous food. And there’s where we hit the first major decision point. The special food they were giving her was not a long-term option, but the only other one was a risky procedure to try to plug the leak. 

My mother had seen a lot of friends and relatives, including her husband, go through protracted and ugly deaths.  She’d been very clear that she didn’t want any breathing or feeding tubes or other artificial life support.

The doctors refused to perform the procedure unless they could insert a breathing tube, so we had to decide whether the potential gain from the procedure outweighed my Mom’s horror of tubes. Fortunately for us, Mom was awake and apparently listening during one of the discussions with the medical people, and she told us that she wanted to do it. We never were entirely sure how much she understood, but her expressed wishes still carried the most weight.

The procedure was pronounced a success as the chyle leak was repaired. Once again, we prepared to move Mom to a rehab hospital. With the crisis past I went home after 10 days away, while my sisters helped her move. I was pretty elated. We knew Mom had a long, hard road ahead, but there was hope for a reasonable recovery.

Three days later I got another call. Mom was not doing well in the rehab hospital. She refused to eat and was losing weight (and she was a tiny woman to begin with). I prepared to fly back, but nature intervened this time, in the form of Hurricane Sandy moving up the east coast headed for the northeast. All flights into Providence and Boston were cancelled.

While I sat in North Carolina and stewed, waiting for the storm to pass and airports to re-open, my Mom deteriorated and the outlook grew increasingly grim. My mother was moved back to the hospital when she began running a fever and was diagnosed with an infection. They started her on antibiotics, which proved ineffective. When they switched her to a more powerful one, she had a terrible allergic reaction. It was pretty much the last straw. I finally got on the first plane out of my local airport heading for the northeast after the storm and arrived just as my siblings and I had to face the fact that Mom was now beyond any hope of recovery.

A great deal of tears went into the decision to move to palliative care only. The hospital was supportive, up to a point. Once they were no longer treating the infection, they wanted her out of their room as fast as possible. We moved her to a lovely, peaceful hospice home, where they made sure they kept her pain-free for the short time Mom had left. She died after fewer than 48 hours there.

The wound is less raw now, two years later, but I still miss her. RIP Patricia Goeller.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Getting to Know Us--an Interview with Sandra Wilkins

Interviewed by Jayne Ormerod

   Yes, we all have bios on this website, but there is so much MORE to know about our Classic and Cozy bloggers.  So the 2nd Friday of each month is dedicated to getting to know us better.  This month I'd like to introduce you to Sandra Wilkins.  I think she and I are kindred spirits.  And might try to sing a duet on American on to see what song that would be...

Okay, inquiring minds want to know…why a writer? Certainly not for the fame and fortune…or maybe it is?
            It definitely wasn’t for the fame and fortune!  Being a writer or an artist was top on my list all through school.  As an extremely shy kid, creativity was a way for me to escape and to cope with all the anxieties of my little world.  Writing won out after college because I loved creating worlds where there could always be happy endings.  It energizes me when the words flow freely and I know I made the right decision—even if fame and fortune never follow.       

When did you first put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) to create the your classic and cozy characters?
            I began my Heartland Series in the late 90’s.  My first book, “Ada’s Heart”, was published in 2008.  Writing and getting books published takes perseverance and patience—to say the least.  In the end, it’s all worth it to have your dreams come true.

Do you have a set writing schedule?
            No!  This is why it took so long to get to the published stage.  I’ve never written by schedules—only when I’m “in the mood” or have time.  It works for me, but then I don’t have a new book coming out very often either.  

Is there a certain routine, food/drink, or location that summons forth the muses for you?
            Ah.  Those ever-elusive muses!  They can be pesky when they don’t show up on a regular basis.  I enjoy sitting outside on my back porch when I write.  Nature is a huge inspiration for me.  All genres of music have been an important part of my life as well and songs can instigate moods or even scenes in my stories. 

What do you do when not writing?
            I draw occasionally, do crafts, photograph all sorts of things and I listen to music a lot.  Home educating my two daughters takes up the majority of my time.  We have all sorts of fun delving into this wide world together. 

I imagine you’ve been reading all of your life (all great writers have.)  What was your favorite book as a child?
            I loved to read!  I don’t do it as much for fun now, but it has always been important to me.  One of my favorite books as a youngster was “Little Women”.  Jo was a kindred spirit.  We loved to romp around with the boys, write plays (and make family members act in them) and pen stories.  Such fun!

Do you re-read books?  If so, which one have you re-read the most?
            Yes, I do re-read books.  I like to re-visit old friends and spend time with them again.  I’ve probably read Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series the most often.  The books aren’t for the faint of heart, but there are so many amazing characters and historical details that it’s nice to read them just one more time… 

But there is more to life than reading, writing (and arithmetic)…what is your most memorable adventure in your life?
            My most memorable adventure?  Hmm.  Except for going through childbirth, I’ve lived a pretty tame existence.  Recently, my family began taking a historical dance class.  Since I write historical fiction, it is SO cool to see how the dances actually work!  

<< I think this is the point where Barbara Walters would ask you if you were a tree, what kind would you be, but I’ll skip that and throw a softball…>>

If you were on American Idol, what song would you sing to WOW! the judges?
            I know for a fact I wouldn’t WOW anyone, but I’d wholeheartedly sing John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads”.  I grew up in the country and would like to raise my girls where they can explore like I did.  I hope to get back out there soon! 

Last question…movie rights…who will play your two main characters when Hollywood comes knocking on your door?

            I didn’t even have to think about this one!  In my last book, “Gwen’s Honor”, the singer/actor Josh Groban was the inspiration for the male character, Josh Flynn.  I know, I know, I had the gall to use his first name, but I couldn’t help it.  For the female lead, I don’t really care… as long as Groban is in it.  So, if you need a new project, Josh, I’d be happy to help!  

More about Sandra Wilkins:
Native Oklahoman, Sandra Wilkins is an author whose passion for historical fiction led her to write the kind of romance novels that reflect the wholesome values found at the turn of the last century.  The Heartland Romance Series is set in the years just before statehood came to Oklahoma Territory.  The first installment, Ada’s Heart, follows an actress, Ada Marsh, who quits her old way of life and befriends two other young women, Rose Dennis and Gwen Sanders.  Rose’s Hope continues with their friendship while Rose must decide whether to turn her hopes toward a grieving widower with an infant or to another more persistent suitor.  Gwen’s Honor ends the journey with Gwen forced to choose between society’s expectations and her true feelings. 
While home educating her daughters is taking priority right now, Wilkins is currently working on a new series in her spare time.  Music, love, intrigue and trust will be highlighted in the series that takes place in Chandler, Oklahoma, during the year following statehood. 

Still need to know more about Sandra?  Check out her website at  and of course watch for her Classic and Cozy blog post the second Tuesday of every month! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Writing the Right Details

All writers make an occasional mistake in details - even high-paid TV writers. On the season premier of Castle, Beckett got her directions confused. She said a car was going south off of Long Island.  Wrong! The car would have to be heading west. Maybe she meant they were heading south before going west, but that's not what I heard.

Get your details wrong and you are guaranteed to annoy someone

Historical writers are well aware of this. Their readers are experts on the time period. They may overlook small changes in dates and places to fit the story, but they won't tolerate major errors.

Sci/fi writers are less challenged by pinpoint accuracy. They can create worlds, characters, and gadgets on a whim and their readers are more likely to accept the details.

I'm very fortunate to have a wonderful critique group that reads for content of a story. If my heroine doesn't change her flip-flops before going out in a snowstorm, they'll question it. 

Webcams/Google Maps

There are endless lists of tools that writers can use to get details right. Google maps is one of my favorites. It can virtually navigate you anywhere in the world. Weather sites have webcams that can give you lots of details. The shot below is of the Viaduct in Auckland, NZ at 1:51 pm on 10/8/14.  You can be virtually anywhere in the world in seconds.


If you prefer hands on, there are endless reference books. The NY public library has an amazing map division.

Amazon Listmania

 Listmania is lists created by other Amazon users to share books on their favorite topics. It took me a while to figure out how to use this. Recently, I created a list for a sale from one of my loops. I had a hard time getting back to that list. After some fooling around with google search, I found the list by typing in the name - Amazon Listmania List for Sweet Romance Fall Sale
It seems like a lot to type into a search, but it took me right to my list. 

You could create a google custom search if you prefer. You would need one for each topic you're researching.

For me the hardest part of doing research is being able to stop and go back to my writing. It's easy to get consumed by all the amazing facts and details at our fingertips which can still lead to a mistake or two. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

We've Got That Covered

by Jean C. Gordon

I've found that readers often think we authors have more control over our books' covers than we do. That's not to say we don't have input. I fill out screens of art sheets to help the art department create my covers. I have to describe all of my characters, scenes I think might make a good cover, notable landmarks in my story and I'm encouraged to send pictures of how I see my hero and heroine.

I thought it would be fun to show you the the pictures I sent for a couple of my books and the book covers. What do you think?

Midwife Autumn Hazard and Dr. Jonathan Hanlon from Small-Town Midwife 

Neal Hazard from Small-Town Dad 

This one is Jared Donnelly from Winning the Teacher's Heart, the first book in my new Love Inspired Romance series, The Donnelly Brothers. It's due out in May 2015. Can't wait to see the cover.