Guest Patsy Collins: Leave Nothing But Footprints

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Q: What was the inspiration for LEAVE NOTHING BUT FOOTPRINTS?

Patsy Collins: You know how we’re always told to write what we know? Well, I do much of my writing whilst travelling with my photographer husband in our campervan. The novel is about photographers in a campervan… The storyline isn’t at all autobiographical, I promise, but getting two people to share such a small space is a good way for the reader to learn about them and watch their growing relationship.

The natural landscape is one of my interests, so I’ve made Eliot an eco campaigner. Mostly I want the book to be a fun, lighthearted read, but if it also encourages readers to take slightly better care of the world around them, I’ll be extremely pleased.

Q: How did Capri influence the story?

PC: Capri is used as a contrast to the main part of the story which takes place in South Wales. It’s an expensive, unusual destination, chosen by Jess simply for the luxurious facilities offered by the spa hotel. Capri represents the life Jess had before meeting Eliot. She enjoyed her holiday there, but it also highlighted the emptiness of her life. It’s not until she travels to the apparently less exciting Welsh coastline that she begins to find the sense of purpose she’d been lacking.

Q:What makes Wales the perfect place for this, and why does Wales make it different than setting it elsewhere?

PC: Partly it’s the fact that Jess and Eliot live, and work from, the campervan. They stay in empty fields and on quiet roadsides rather than on busy campsites – something which is entirely possible there, but much less practical in many other places. There’s none of the luxury Jess is used to. Learning to cope with that, whilst working hard and learning new skills, helps both reveal and develop her character.

The hills and beaches of Wales are rugged, spectacular and beautiful, but they can also be moody, forbidding and hard work. Kind of like Eliot. There’s not much that’s gentle and easy about the landscape, but the climbs and long hikes are definitely worth the effort. That’s reflected in Jess’s emotional journey.

Q: In general, how do you feel place affects your writing? What kind of details do you use to make your locations unique?

PC: The locations are very important to me, so much so that I do first drafts wherever the stories are set. That helps me get a feel for the place and of course makes research much easier.

With Leave Nothing But Footprints, I walked where Jess and Eliot walked. I climbed up to see the views which they photographed. Just as they did, I went out early in the morning and late in the day, to watch the effects of the changing light. I literally put myself in their place and noticed what they’d notice, tried to feel as they’d feel and react as they would. It’s a technique I’ve used before and found effective.

I don’t attempt to write a travel guide to any of my locations. Instead I try to capture the atmosphere with a few small details. The sand on the path, flowers which bloom alongside it and the sound of surf pounding onto the rocks below, form the background to one scene for example.

Q: What is your process working on a book, from inspiration to completion?

PC: First I create an outline of the plot and do some basic research, if needed, to ensure that plot will work. I pick the location and begin to think about the characters. Although there will be little to show for this stage, probably around 500 words, it can take months.

Then I start writing – on location if I can. Ideally I’d write the first draft all in one go, but that’s often not possible. I may hit a snag with the story, lose enthusiasm, or something unconnected with writing may cause an interruption. When the first draft is finally complete, sometimes years after I started, I leave it and write something else. That gives me the distance I need to start editing.

I’ll rewrite and leave the story as many times as necessary to get the novel as good as I feel I’ll be able to get it on my own. Then it goes to my fantastic beta readers. I’ll rewrite again, using their feedback. During each rewrite, I’ll research anything I don’t already know. That process will also be repeated until I’m satisfied with the book. After that, it’s just the usual copy editing and proofreading to arrange.

Q: Do you have any unusual rituals or objects you need around you when you write?

PC: Not really. Whether I’m in the campervan or at home I use the same laptop computer (I always write straight onto that, rather than on paper) and I drink a lot of tea.

Q: What are you working on now?

PC: I’m doing a ‘cosy crime’ story for NaNo. Four of my previous novels have had crime elements in them, but this will be the first one in which crime is the main genre. The action will be split between my home town and another seaside location I know well, so I’ve already got the settings fairly clear in my mind. I’m hoping that this time I really will manage my idea.

Thank you, Patsy, for joining us!

Blurb:
Jessica Borlase always gets what she wants. From cocktails in the exact shade of her manicure, holiday on Capri with friends, to a spacious apartment, her father’s money makes it possible. She enjoys the luxurious lifestyle and is grateful for his support, but frustrated to always be treated as Daddy’s pampered little girl. She tries to break free, by leaving Borlase Enterprises and studying photography.

Now what Jess wants is the utterly gorgeous Eliot Beatty; a world famous photographer who often uses his talents to benefit conservation projects. Her father attempts to bribe Eliot into taking Jess on an assignment in order to teach her the skills she’ll need to develop a career. Although annoyed at the interference, she’s delighted to discover this means two weeks with Eliot in the beautiful countryside of South Wales and close confines of a campervan. Trouble is, the man can’t be bought.

Jess eventually manages to persuade Eliot to take her. She believes she can earn his respect and that she’s ready for the hard work, long hours and living conditions far short of those she’s used to. She’s wrong on all counts. Can Jess learn to cope with the realities of the trip, and is Eliot really worth the effort?

Book link myBook.to/LNBF

Author Bio:
Patsy Collins will write anywhere she can reach in her campervan. She’s the author of five novels; four contemporary romances and one coming of age story with a difference. Hundreds of her short stories have been published in magazines in the UK, Australia, Sweden, Ireland and South Africa. She’s also co-author of From Story Idea to Reader – an accessible guide to writing fiction.

Patsy blogs about free entry writing competitions – http://patsy-collins.blogspot.co.uk and runs the womagwriter blog http://womagwriter.blogspot.co.uk which is handy for magazine guidelines.

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Recalibrating with Claire Cook’s NEVER TOO LATE and Jeff Vandermeer’s BOOKLIFE

One of my recent goals is to take a step back and do some recalibrating on my writing career, my goals, where I am, and where I want to be.

Professional life is a living entity, and one has to constantly change the expectations and reassess the realities. I’d hoped working part-time at what I thought was a dream job would support my writing; I was wrong. It drained me. My writing suffered, and my output suffered. The shock of the position’s elimination, the few weeks at another “part-time” job and then trying to meet all the demands on me for the following months took their toll, both personally and professionally.

I’d been miserable on the treadmill of pressure from demands for quantity and speed over quality — not that much was offered in return. I was (am) miserable about the lack of reciprocity in this region, as opposed to other places in which I’ve lived. There’s a lot of yapping; little doing.

I was miserable in the demands that I dumb down some of my work, to appeal to a so-called “reader” I have no interest in courting. I write intelligent people who get things done. Stupid people wind up dead or worse, in my books. I have a low tolerance for stupid people in real life; just because they’re in power right now doesn’t mean I have to pander to them.

I’m also sick and tired of all the information out there stating that THIS is what you HAVE to do. I don’t like being forced into doing things I don’t agree with and am uncomfortable with. No, I don’t HAVE to do it. No, I am NOT going to dumb down my work. I am NOT going to do or write things I’m not passionate about.

Nor am I willing to stop writing.

Instead, I took some time to recalibrate. Meet with trusted advisors, and decide how I want to reshape my writing career on MY terms. The first session was a day-long meeting in mid-May. We didn’t get through everything, but we got a lot of discussion done, and I’m taking actionable steps on my lists to make changes. Some of them are even already paying off, although many of the goals on my list are longer to implement and longer on return. But once the returns start coming in, they should be pretty steady.

Two books that are helpful in this recalibration are NEVER TOO LATE by Claire Book and BOOKLIFE by Jeff Vandermeer.

I met Claire when she was the keynote speaker at the Cape Cod Writers Center. I was either still on the board and just about to rotate off at the end of my term, or I was recently off the board. I’d read her WILDWATER WALKING CLUB book and loved it, then rushed to read the rest of her books –which include MUST LOVE DOGS, the book for which she’s best known. I was one of the people in charge of making sure everything was taken care of for her at the conference, and running interference if necessary. Along the way, we had a chance to have a couple of fun, high-energy conversations (usually in transit from one location to another).

She had her newest (at the time) release with her, and that was her primary topic: NEVER TOO LATE: YOUR ROADMAP TO REINVENTION. I was in a negative job situation that was draining the life out of me, and knew I had to change, but didn’t know how; I also knew my writing was suffering, and that was one reason I was at the conference — because the CCWC is for DOING not just attending panels and being talked at, I knew I’d get some work done (I started a fantasy novel that was then further developed in Vermont). Conversations with her also inspired a novel I started (and am still working on) called TIE-CUTTER, which, once it’s ready to go out, will be dedicated to Claire, since without her, I would never have had the inspiration to write it.

Anyway, Claire signed my copy, I read it, I liked it, I got caught up in things again.

Until I re-read it these past few weeks. When I sat down and re-read it.

The voice was fresher and livelier than ever, and she felt like my own personal cheerleader. It’s the same quality that makes her fiction so appealing — reading Claire’s work feels like spending time with a friend. Someone who will tell you the truth, but support you no matter what. I worked my way through the book, pulling out ideas I was confident would work, and also a few things that I wasn’t sure about, but thought I would try anyway. I’ll let you know how they work out! We’re similar in that we write consistently, we carry notebooks everywhere, we GET IT DONE. She’s now moved from the traditional publishing world to a more hybrid version, which gives her the freedom; she’s built her readership, and they’ll follow her from place to place.

I’m still in the process of building mine.

But the freedom factor appeals to me.

I’ve never met Jeff Vandermeer, but I’m familiar with both his fiction and his nonfiction. I’d read this book several years ago, when I was feeling exhausted and needed emotional fuel.

BOOKLIFE is split into the public booklife and the private booklife. I re=read the public section before my recalibration meeting, and found it helpful. His ideas gave me a foundation for honestly assessing what I do and don’t want to do as far as putting myself out there for my work. Just because “that’s what everyone does” doesn’t mean I want to — or will — do it.

In fact, when people put elements I don’t want to do in contracts, I either negotiate them out, or I walk away from the contract. Just because someone offers you a contract, you don’t HAVE to sign in. I also don’t sign boilerplates. The contract offered is where negotiations START. If the other side says, “we don’t change anything in our contracts”, my response is, “I’m not signing that. Too bad we can’t work together.”

AND I WALK AWAY.

Vandermeer’s book helps sort out what one is comfortable with and what one isn’t, and also the consequences of saying no. Frankly, saying no and continuing the search for the right partner, in either life or work, is a much better choice than saying “yes” to something that will make you miserable. He also helps formulate the right questions, so you can find the resources you need to build what you want.

What he calls the “private booklife” is something I’m pretty happy with, for the most part; it’s the public elements I need to work on. But he points out something important to remember and easy to forget: that there’s a difference between “process” and “habit.”

Both books help you trust your gut in decision-making. It’s easy to over-think and over-complicate. But when you trust you gut, it works out for the best. That doesn’t mean the road will be easy, or that there won’t be consequences. But when you’re true to yourself, that makes it worth it in the long run.

That’s really the message from both books: Build the career you want by being true to yourself. Then, you’ll get both satisfaction and joy from it. Neither book promises “get rich quick” stuff; both are realistic, enthusiastic, supportive, and, above all, practical.

From the Stacks at Marstons Mills: BEG, BORROW, STEAL by Michael Greenberg

BEG, BORROW, STEAL: A Writer’s Life by Michael Greenberg. New York: Other Press. 2009.

As I’m getting to know the stacks of the Marstons Mills Library here on Cape Cod, I’m picking up random titles that catch my eye and writing about them. This one is a memoir by writer Michael Greenberg, a New York writer. Since our time in New York overlapped somewhat, I felt guilty about not knowing him or his writing while I lived there.

The book is a series of chapters as memories — some are of his childhood, some are of incidents in contemporary time that spark trains of thoughts or send him on adventures, such as riding a subway on Christmas with a friend who got a job as a motorman or investigating Hart’s Island (aka Potter’s Field). There are very few chapters actually about writing — although one, about adventures as a for-hire writer, is hilarious and very telling to any of us who job out. Many of the chapters seem to be about NOT writing, doing other things.

But, really, isn’t that the “life” part of a writer’s life? Something catches your attention, your interest, you decide to follow it, and you find someone to pay you to write about it. A writer gets to live many lives, sometimes more than an actor. Actors often have to wait to be cast — a writer gets to write his own reality.

The writing is thoughtful, funny, and makes one think about all those places and people one passes every day, living in New York, without giving them a second thought.

If you’re in the Barnstable area, you can stop by Marstons Mills Library and check it out — who knows what else you’ll find in the stacks? The library’s jewel is its theatre collection. If you’re in CLAMS network — order it. If you’re far from the Cape — contact your local independent bookstore and order it!

DEATH SPARKLES ROUND TABLE INTERVIEW

Several of the DEATH SPARKLES contributors were able to take the time to answer some questions about the process. It’s always fun to see how these things evolve!

Devon Ellington: How did the story spark from the prompt and grow?

KT Wagner: I was googling related phrases, desperately searching for inspiration, when I came across a news story about a young man in New Zealand who had purchased a diamond ring, and then his girlfriend rejected his proposal. He set up a treasure hunt and gave the ring away, but not before he created some controversy by profiting from click-throughs – money he donated to charity.

Faith Dincolo: I found the process of visualizing a dead woman with diamonds dangling from her hand, to be fertile ground for creativity. In “Persephone’s Progeny”, the diamond necklace was a catalyst for Persephone to grow as a robot. The prompt really helped me to think outside of my usual story telling process. I would recommend a prompt to anyone struggling with writer’s block, as it opens up the creative flow.

Diana Holdsworth: When we got the prompt, I was rusty at short story. My first version came out like the compressed outline of a novella. The necklace was used as an example of greed over common sense, and the prompt line was stapled in near the end of the story. I brushed up on my short story skills and realized the first version wouldn’t do. Starting from scratch, I tried again, but nothing came. I didn’t think I could manage it. Then I reached back into my life and a tale came to mind that resonates for me on a deeply emotional level. The story poured out with ease. The necklace in “A Girl’s Best Friend” stands for something quite different from the one in the first version. As for the prompt line, no staples required.

PJ Friel: I’m not a fan of horror so when I read the prompt, I knew it was going to be a challenge for me. My solution for this was to discuss the prompt with a friend, Jessica. I find that my imagination really kicks into gear during lively conversations. Focusing on the necklace and the meaning behind it was key for me. What was so important about that necklace? Jessica and I threw around some ideas and then I went home to begin my research. With some facts and pictures in hand (visuals are very important to me), the story started to flow. Oddly enough, I really didn’t know where the protagonist was going to take me. I always know the ending of my stories, but not so with this one.

Killion Slade: As soon as I read the prompt, I immediately knew I didn’t want to write a simple murder scene. My horror muse truly wanted to be fed and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I wanted the piece to seem surreal, confusing, a bit disorientating, and downright uncomfortable. From initial beta readers, I was asked to take the story further, deeper, and then once I added sensory elements, it truly took off on a life of its own.

Nina Benneton: A day before the assignment was due, I’d listened to a conversation between two sisters and their dialogue was so rich, I went home and fictionalized the characters, taking advantage of the dialogue’s rhythm.

DE: What was the hardest thing about writing to the prompt?

NB: This particular prompt screamed mystery or thriller or horror to me, but my muse was not cooperating. She wanted humor instead, so I relented and let her be. After all, I had a deadline.

FD: How and where to place the prompt was a big issue for me. I wanted a seamless use of the prompt that didn’t jar the reader and make them say, “oh yeah, there is the prompt.” This was a challenge for me, because putting the prompt as the first, or last sentence, seemed very appealing. Make it obvious and blatant, then this little voice in me asked, “is the prompt more important than the story, or vice-versa?” When I wrote the story, the prompt fell naturally into place at the dark point of the story.

PJF: The hardest part about the prompt was that it didn’t come from within. It’s difficult for me to take someone else’s idea and build around it. This prompt was especially hard because it was drawing me into a genre that I avoid. I could have worked the sentence into a fantasy story, which is my chosen area, but I felt that the point of the prompt was to write something outside of the norm. I’m glad that I didn’t take the easy way out. I don’t think I would have been nearly as satisfied with the results.

DH: I knew the story I wanted to tell before I knew where to put the prompt line. The muse is a subtle creature: I believe my creative self understood where the prompt line was meant to go long before my conscious self did. During the writing process, my big worry was that the prompt sentence would stick up like a nail in the road. By the time the story was done, the prompt line slipped into place naturally.

KS: I would say the hardest thing about the prompt was the tense. Writing in first person created a challenge to meet the prompt. It also was the style of the death. Immediately, when I think of diamonds dangling from a dead woman’s hands, I think of her stealing them, getting caught, and being poisoned in some sort fashion. So trying to come up with a unique situation for this woman and why she was dead and had diamonds dangling that was not cliche’ in my mind was indeed a challenge.

KTW: Other than some terrible cliched ideas, I floundered around seeking inspiration for far too long. I remember one night lying in bed staring at the ceiling and playing word association games when I should have been sleeping.

DE: Do you see these characters in any other pieces besides this story?

DH: In a sense, yes. My recent Victorian Gothic short, “No Tongue Can Tell,” is similarly themed, with similar characters in parallel situations. Writing “A Girl’s Best Friend” allowed “No Tongue Can Tell” to pour out with ease, even though I’d never written a Victorian Gothic before. Creativity feeds on itself.

NB: Not until this question. Hmm. I think I might like to see Catarina and Nipolita showing up to help the priest at the orphanage in Guatemala.

KS: Devon Ellington taught us how we can use our short stories to ‘put the feelers out’ for new characters. Let them try on their story, so to speak. We also learned how to incorporate older characters into new situations where we normally wouldn’t see them in, to find out more about what drives them. I have not considered writing more for these two characters in “The Trophy Wife”, but it could becomes a twisted little mini-series of short stories based around the unique world built for them.

PJF: While the protagonist is certainly an interesting character, I don’t think I could spend an entire novel inside her head. It’s a rather scary place inside her noggin and I’m a big chicken.

KTW: The motivations and rationalizations of people like the main character fascinate me, but no, I won’t be writing about these particular characters again.

FD: I always see my stories as bigger pieces. Short stories really turn on the creative flow, and get me thinking about all the possibilities that I could do with that story. I find that it can be very difficult to write a short story, because the story wants to grow. I envy short story writers that can see their stories in a few pages.

Bios:

Nina Benneton always wanted to be a priest and save orphans in third-word countries, but ends up writing romantic comedies; for now. Visit her at www.NinaBenneton.com.

Faith Dincolo writes horror, sci-fi comedy, and creative non-fiction. She can be found at https://www.facebook.com/FYDincolo.

PJ Friel is a writer and artist, dwelling in the land of fantasy. Visit her online at http://www.amberstar.net.


Diana Holdsworth writes novels, novellas, short stories and memoir. Visit her at http://www.DianaHoldsworth.com.

Killion Slade comprises of a married writing team who met in the virtual realms of Second Life and virtually enjoy everything. Read More at http://www.killionslade.com.

KT Wagner writes science fiction, Gothic horror and steampunk, novels and short stories, with the occasional forays into other genres and her garden. Visit her on-line at http://www.northernlightsgothic.com

Purchase DEATH SPARKLES here.

DEATH SPARKLES releases

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s here!  The Death Sparkles Anthology is available.  Here’s the Kindle link, and it will also be available on B&N and Smashwords.  I wrote the introduction and have the final story, “Sea Diamond” , a science-fiction mystery that introduces the ass-kicking, take-no prisoners Fiona Steele.  We WILL see more of her.

Nine authors contributed to this anthology, inspired from the prompt “the diamond necklace dangled from the dead woman’s hand” and nine very different interpretations of that.  The wonderful PJ Friel did the cover AND is a contributor, with “The Needing”.

Sharon Buchbinder & KILLER KISSES

We kick off the fall season on A BIBLIO PARADISE with guest Sharon Buchbinder and her newest release, KILLER KISSES.

Devon Ellington: First of all, I love the premise of each and every one of these stories. Over how long a period of time were these stories written?

Sharon Buchbinder: Thank you for your kind words, Devon. I started writing these stories in 2006 and published the first one, CATASTROPHE, in 2007. About one came out each year until 2010. About that time, I asked for the seven stories to be put together in an anthology, but for business reasons, the publisher declined. I really wanted a collection of my short stories, so when my contracts expired, I asked for my rights back so I could re-issue them under one cover.

DE: Are these characters one-offs? Are they tied to other works, or is there a potential to meet any of them again?

SB: There is a full length book related to this anthology. BONDED FOR LIFE has Isabel Ramirez as Lola Getz’s cousin. She appears off stage. In DESIRE AND DECEPTION (Red Sage), Isabel was a main character.
The 2 reunion stories grew out of the genius of Kathy Cottrell, the Senior Editor for the Last Rose of Summer line at the Wild Rose Press. She came up with the Class of ’85 Reunion for Summerville High School and some key characters (e.g., Richard and Elizabeth Heade). The authors then had the pleasure of populating her fictional town with characters and giving them life. The only thing we had to include was the invitation. If you enjoyed BONDED FOR LIFE and AN INN DECENT PROPOSAL, please be sure to check out the other wonderful Class of ’85 stories at the Wild Rose Press.

DE: Is there such a thing as a “typical writing day” in your life, and, if so, what’s it like?

SB: These days, it’s more like writing sprints. I’m an academic and in 2010, I quit the day job as a tenured full professor and department chair and became a full time consultant and writer. A year later, my consulting role led me to a part time teaching position in nursing. I realized how much I missed teaching, so now I’m back to work full time and love my job as a full professor and program coordinator for the MS in Healthcare Management program at Stevenson University. Now my writing occurs either early in the morning or on weekends. My next project is huge and I’m very excited about it. That will keep me getting up at 5:30 am to write.

DE: Do you prefer to work on one project at a time, or juggle multiple projects?

SB: My life is inherently about juggling projects. Right now I’m deep in reviewing copy edits for a textbook, CASES IN HEALTH CARE MANAGEMENT, which is due out in spring 2013 from Jones and Bartlett Learning. And, I’m building a new MS in Healthcare Management program. And, I’m working on the epic novel. I like to use both sides of my brain, the logical scientific side and the creative, world building side. They feed each other.

DE: You mentioned participating in Maryland Romance Writers and RWA. Are you part of a writing group that meets regularly? How have all of those connections supported and strengthened your writing?

SB: I belong to a wonderful critique group that meets once a month. There are six of us in it, and we critique everyone each month. It keeps me moving forward, doesn’t allow me to slack off. We are cheerleaders for each other and celebrate each accomplishment. We are also very picky about our writing. We have high standards and hold each other to them. It makes our work stronger.

DE: What’s next?

SB: I have a 3rd book under review with a publisher (fingers crossed). It is a paranormal romance. In OBSESSION, a recovering addict must work with a Mexican drug lord to rescue her one-year old son from the clutches of a cult leader who believes the child is the Chosen One.
And, I’m beginning to write the sequel to KISS OF THE SILVER WOLF. KISS OF THE VIRGIN QUEEN is the story of the epic romance the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon and the impact of their relationship on their descendant, Eliana Solomon. It will be a paranormal romance.

Thank you, Sharon, for spending time with us!

Bio:
Sharon Buchbinder has always been a story-teller. As a child, she got into a lot of trouble for “making things up.” Now, she is rewarded for making things up. She’s been writing fiction since in middle school and has the rejection slips to prove it. After graduating with a BA in Psychology and no job, she realized her dreams of working in the attic writing great prose would have to take a back seat to the simple pleasures of eating, drinking, and having a roof over her head. After working in health care delivery for years, she became a researcher, an association executive, then an academic. She had it all– a terrific, supportive husband, an amazing son, and a wonderful job. But that itch to write (some call it obsession), kept beckoning her to “come on back” to writing fiction. She found friendship, support and the opportunity to develop as an author with the Maryland Romance Writers and the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Since romance has over a dozen sub-genres, she was able to turn her fascination with horror and mystery into paranormal romance and romantic suspense. When not writing she can be found reading, fishing, working out, golfing or enjoying a good meal and laughter with friends and family.
http://sharonbuchbinder.com/
On Twitter: @sbuchbinder
Facebook


BLURB for KILLER KISSES

Killer Kisses is a collection of Sharon Buchbinder’s tales, ranging from contemporary, short and chaste to paranormal, long and spicy.

In A Peck on the Cheek: Hurricane Jason, a female private investigator searches for a two-timing husband, but lands in an hurricane shelter. Does she get her man?

In Cat Nips: Catastrophe, a crazy cat lady is evicted by her drunken landlord and the lives of her cats are at stake. Will she and her rescues wind up on the street? Or will a secret admirer find a better home for everyone?

In Hot Lips: Lake Placid Cure, a woman finds her husband in a compromising position–again. Looking to recover her dignity, she sets out for a medi-spa, encounters a murder mystery and discovers that miracles still happen in Lake Placid.

In French Kiss: Pigmalion, a speech pathology graduate student needs one more subject for her research project to graduate. She runs into a hot guy with a heavy accent and tries to recruit him into her study. Will she teach him the language of love?

In Sizzling Smooch: Bonded for Life , a Mexican artist runs for her life to hide in the little town where she graduated from high school. She’s convinced no one will find her there. But a boy with a high school crush on her grew up to be a hunky cop–and he has her in his cross hairs.

In Delectable and Delicious: An Inn Decent Proposal
, a chef and a hotelier join forces at a foreclosure auction on an old inn and outbid a small time hood. The thug doesn’t like being on the losing end of the deal. Things heat up outside and in the bedroom. Can the couple make a go of it? Or will the hood destroy their dream?

In Release Your Inner Wild Women: Kiss of the Silver Wolf, a young woman searches for the truth about her brother’s debilitating disease. An intriguing man with silver hair and a penchant for long night runs insists she’s his life mate. How does this sexy man figure into her family secrets?

And the excerpt:

Prologue: The Hunt (Part I)

He leaned down on his front paws, relieved the kinks in his back, and shook out his thick coat. Beneath the cold air, a hint of spring tantalized his senses. Under the moist leaves, between the tree roots, alongside the chortling streams, the sleeping earth mother stretched her legs and wiggled her toes too. He gazed at the pearl white moon as she rose on the horizon, full and iridescent in the February sky. Only a few days left to enjoy this part of his life.

Time for a run. He began to trot, then broke into a long easy gait, loping around the perimeter of his territory, through trees and winter-bare brush. He picked his way across a snow-melt-swollen stream, past massive rock formations and darkened houses, enjoying the feel of his muscles as they kept pace with his pounding heart. This was what it felt like to be alive.

Too soon he reached the asphalt and the end of his fun. Panting, he turned away from the road and walked at a slow easy pace, back to the pack’s meeting place. Time to speak to the Old One about the future. Midnight runs no longer suppressed his primal feelings, the visceral urge he felt when the full moon rose.

Each month, the call to mate was stronger—irresistible as the pull of the moon on the oceans—and on him. The females in the pack were off limits, bonded forever to their soul mates. Besides, their scents didn’t arouse him. No, the one he wanted was far away, almost an unattainable being. The moment he saw her smoky-eyed image, he knew she was The One. Often when he was alone at night, he gave into his dark urges and fantasized about holding her and making her his own. But in the morning, he was still alone, his dream-mate a dust mote on a sunbeam. He shook his head to clear his thoughts and stepped into the apple orchard.

Half-hidden in shadows beneath the moonlight dappled trees, the Old One nodded his head, a knowing glint in his bright orange eyes. The younger male trotted over to him and bowed his head. Half a dozen adolescents tumbled over and around the Old One, bit his gray ears, and nipped his toes. When the smaller ones looked up and saw the younger male, they yipped, hobbled over to him, and threaded between his legs. The Old One’s mouth opened in a grin, and his tongue lolled.

The younger male fell to the ground, rolled on his back, and the six pups leaped on his belly. He chuffed and pawed at them, cuffing each one lightly. He enjoyed the role of honorary Uncle, but what he really wanted was his own pups to play with. After a few minutes, he gave a great sigh and flipped onto his belly. The little ones seemed to sense his change in mood and hobbled off to play with sticks.

He locked gazes with the Old One. When will I have my own mate? It’s not enough for me to watch the little ones play.

The Old One winked and nodded. My job is to preserve the pack, to keep our people alive. I have chosen your mate. You know who she is. You have my oath.

The younger male shook his head. You didn’t answer my question. When? When do I get my mate and become Pack Leader?

The Old One leaped to his feet, glared at the younger one, and growled a deep throaty roar that belied his age. You dare to question me? Me? The one who saved you? Is that how you show your gratitude?

The younger male put his ears down and lowered his head, his nose touching the ground. Forgive me. I’m—I’m so lonely. My heart aches for a loving mate and my own pups. Every moon the urge gets stronger, the hunger greater.

The Old One came closer, grabbed the back of the younger male’s neck with his teeth. The large signet ring on his iron necklace clanked as he gave the upstart a small shake. The time is coming near. I promise. You will—

The unmistakable crack of a rifle sounded in the distance.

The Old One’s mate barked out orders to the other females. Grab the pups. Get them home. Hurry, hurry.

The younger male found a straggler hobbling along as fast as his legs permitted. He lifted him by the scruff of the neck. C’mon, little one. I’ve got you. You’re safe now.

A second shot rang out closer by.

The little one whimpered and shuddered in his grip. Please don’t let the hunters kill me, Uncle Zack. Please?

****
“I told you to hold your fire!” Special Agent Eliana Solomon stood by the abandoned mine and drummed her fingers on the butt of her Sig Sauer.

“Sorry, Sir—Ma’am…I thought I saw a wolf in my night scope.” The newbie looked downward as she glared at him.

“This isn’t a hunting trip with your buddies. It’s an active operation and I’m in command. One more shot and I’m taking your rifle away from you. Got it?”

He gulped, clutched his weapon, and nodded. “Yes, Ma’am.”

She had asked for experienced soldiers; instead they sent a bunch of green boys. She understood the Middle East took precedence, but didn’t the Army get the concept of domestic terrorists?

The mission of Project Aladdin was to find jinn, the portals where they came through from a parallel dimension and to shut the gateways down. Contrary to popular TV images of a pretty girl in a bottle, the jinn, or genies, were not nice. Powerful shape shifters, they hated humans and wanted to take over the world. If a terrorist ever found a way to conjure and command even one jinni, the world would never know what hit it.

Despite her obsession and round the clock investigations, she’d been unable to make any progress. With her evaluation coming at the end of the month, she had to find something. Otherwise, she’d be exiled to a desk and spend the rest of her professional life analyzing emails. She shuddered at the thought of death by tedium and twisted the heavy signet ring on her left hand.

Strange energy signatures had been seen on satellite images of this area and identified as the type associated with jinn. The abandoned mine was the logical place for a porta—but so far the scout they’d lowered down into the shaft hadn’t reported anything. She glanced at her watch. He’d been silent for twenty minutes. He was supposed to be reporting in on the quarter hour.

Mouth dry, she keyed her radio. “What’s going on down there?”

Static.

“Hello. Can you read me?”

A long burst of static was followed by garbled voices. A man screamed.

She wheeled on the pale-faced young corporal holding a rope. “Get him out of there!”

He leaned back and grunted, red-faced with exertion. “Something’s wrong, Ma’am!”

She raced behind him, screaming at the stricken-looking young men huddling together. “Get over here. Help us get him out.”

Three of them put their backs into the effort, finally bringing the scout up into view. Limp-limbed, the young man’s head lolled back, his camouflage uniform covered in blood. They hauled him onto the ground and rolled him over.

A soldier held a flashlight as Eliana pulled out a handkerchief and wiped his face off. Something was on his forehead. She dabbed at it and stopped. The words burned into the man’s forehead told her all she needed to know. She stood on shaky legs.

Bug eyed, the corporal turned to her. “What is it? What’s it mean?”

She chose her words with care. “It’s Hebrew. It says: GET OUT.”

She flexed her fist and rubbed the heavy signet ring inscribed with pentacles and letters from an ancient language. She was going to need help from a source that some people said didn’t even exist.

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An Extraordinary Year of Ordinary Days by Susan Wittig Albert

This is a stunningly beautiful book on many levels.  Susan Wittig Albert is probably best known for her China Bayles mysteries, and she also writes the Cottage Tales Mysteries featuring Beatrix Potter and the Darling Dahlia mysteries, about a garden club in the South in the 1930’s.  With her husband, Bill, she co-wrote a series of Victorian mysteries as “Robin Paige”.

AN EXTRAORDINARY YEAR OF ORDINARY DAYS is her journal of 2008, a daily account of her life, work, and changing perception about issues such as climate change that seem far away, but, in reality, affect every day of our lives.  The journal talks about her writing schedule — the China Bayles mystery she’s writing, the one that’s in edits, the one that’s released — her Cottage Tales schedule,  the spark of the idea for the Darling Dahlias series, and the production process of her memoir, TOGETHER ALONE.  She demonstrates how a working writer shows up and gets the work done, without sacrificing the small joys of daily life.  She revels in the daily life of 31-acre Texas property and the house in the mountains of New Mexico.

With intelligence that’s both gentle and sharp, she reads voraciously, inquisitively, and applies what she learns to both work and life.  This book is wonderful for writers at all stages of their careers, for women entering a new phase of life (the journal covers her sixty-ninth year), and for anyone who is interested and/or believes in stewardship of the land.  It is personal, conversational, passionate, and wonderful.  She has quotes from her reading running along the margins, and offers both a monthly reading list and an extended bibliography in the back.

The book was released in 2010, by the University of Texas Press.  I first read it in 2011, and re-read it over the past few days, gorging myself on this glorious feast of words.

Visit her website for more information about her books here.