Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer Became a Legend

January is the birthday month of the beloved red-nosed reindeer we are all familiar with but we always associate him with the Christmas season.

Did you ever wonder where Rudolph came from and how he came to be part of Christmas? No, not the script for the TV special bearing his name. But who created Rudolph and how did he grow into the beloved Christmas figure we now know?

An email made its way around the internet containing the true story of how the lead puller of Santa’s sleigh came into existence through the artistic endeavor of Robert L. May. It’s a heartwarming story that includes love, heartbreak, tragedy and triumph. Does it sound almost too good to be true? Part of it is according to May himself, David Emery of and

The heart of the inaccurate story asserts that May’s wife Evelyn died of cancer in December 1938 and that this battle had stripped them of all their savings. The bereaved father couldn’t even afford a Christmas present for their young daughter Barbara.

The little girl wanted to know why her mother had to be different than other mothers. So he decided to write a story to bring her comfort and hope. From this May supposedly created a misfit reindeer that had a shiny red nose.

But according to an interview given by May to the Gettysburg Times in 1975 Rudolph’s conception began on a cold January day in 1939. May was a copywriter with Montgomery Ward in Chicago when his boss asked him to come up with a character and story for the annual Christmas coloring book. The supervisor suggested an animal character similar to storybook figure Ferdinand the Bull. May agreed.

Evelyn May did have cancer and four year old Barbara did inspire him. The little girl was fascinated with the deer she saw at the zoo. It was this enchantment, not her mother that inspired May to choose a reindeer for the main character of his parable.

In August of 1939 barely a month after his wife died May finished the final draft of his story.

"I called Barbara and her grandparents into the living room and read it to them," he later wrote. "In their eyes I could see that the story accomplished what I had hoped."

This is the story accepted by May’s supervisor and made into the coloring books given to children who visited the store that Christmas.

Writer David Emery of tells of the alternate version of this story at He compared May’s account and the version of Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas. This is the erroneous report making its way around cyberspace now.

Emery writes that “…while I'm sure it accurately portrays some of the emotions in play, directly contradicts Bob May's own account of what transpired.” Emery contacted Collins and asked about the discrepancies between the two stories. Collins stated that his account came to him by way of “’letters and documents supplied by a Montgomery Ward PR person just before the company went out of business in 2001.’” He also believes his version of the story is “’….as truthful as there is.’”

May’s own children have been asked about the origins of the beloved little reindeer. Their version of Rudolph’s story has always matched their father’s account exactly. Asking May about it now is out of the question though. The former copywriter died at the age of 71 in 1976. agrees with Emery’s findings. It also includes interesting trivia about Rudolph at

After World War II the license for Rudolph was in great demand. But since May created the story as an employee of Montgomery Ward he didn’t own the copyright. It belonged to the department store. Then in January of 1947 May told company president Sewell Avery about his continued debt due to his wife’s illness. At this Avery handed over the copyright and gave May financial security.

Rudolph’s parable was then commercially printed and made into a nine minute cartoon.

Around this time May’s brother-in-law songwriter Johnny Marks took the story and made it into a song. They persuaded singing cowboy Gene Autry to record it in 1949 after artists Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore refused it.

Lo and behold “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” was such a success that it became the second most popular song of all time. The first being “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby.

Rudolph’s story doesn’t end there though. There’s more.

May’s own childhood is one source of inspiration for Rudolph’s biography. As a child he often dealt with bullies because of his small stature, slight build and shyness. Hans Christian Andersen’s classic tome The Ugly Duckling was another influence for the famous reindeer.

May’s original classic story differs greatly from the one on TV too.

For instance, Rudolph wasn’t the son of Donner, and didn’t live at the North Pole. He and his parents lived in an average reindeer village somewhere else. And his nose wasn’t a source of embarrassment to them either. They gave him a good self-image and a sense of self-worth.

And finally Rudolph gained Santa’s notice differently than the incident depicted in the Rankin Bass TV special. at says it this way:

“…..Santa discovered the red-nosed reindeer quite by accident when he noticed a glow emanating from Rudolph’s room while he was delivering presents to Rudolph’s house. Worried that the thickening fog that night, already the cause of several accidents and delays, would keep him from completing Christmas Eve rounds, Santa tapped Rudolph to lead his team, observing on their return: ’By YOU last night’s journey was actually bossed. Without you, I’m certain we’d all have been lost!’”

Here’s to that wonderfully glowing nose and looking forward  to his upcoming 73rd birthday. Happy Birthday Rudolph!


For Claire Hickey, writing is a newly realized passion. Both at the Washington Times Communities and within the pages of an inspirational tome, she hopes to share what she’s learned through her own trials and tribulations. Read more of Claire’s work at Feed The Mind, Nourish The Soul in the Communities at The Washington Times and her blog Sustenance For The Mind.

To leave a comment for Claire, scroll down to comments. Thanks you so much for starting the holiday season here.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Laura Spinella-Northern Author With Honorary Southern Roots

Laura Spinella
  Laura Spinella's book of woman's fiction, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER, was recently chosen as Best First Book of 2011 in the NJRWA prestigious Golden Leaf contest.  Spinella, a Long Island native,  used a southern setting for her debut novel. Before you question why, you have to know that she spent some time in the south soaking up southern lore and culture. While here, she  graduated from the University of Georgia, with a degree in journalism and her honorary Southern roots. In addition to writing fiction, she freelances for New England’s GateHouse Media and works with AuthorBytes, a major designer of author websites and online media. She lives outside Boston with her husband, three children, two dogs and two newly acquired kittens. Have a question or comment?Laura will be happy to answer them after the interview. 

Thank you for joining our blog to talk about your career as a writer. You’ve written your first novel, Beautiful Disaster, and it has already received a best first book of the year award for 2011. Congratulations. That’s quite an accomplishment!

Thank you! I was thrilled to be selected as a finalist, being selected as the winner is major icing on the cake!

Could you share a bit about your book and characters?

BEAUTIFUL DISASTER is women’s fiction with a heavy thread of romance. I always say to potential readers, “You have to want the love story…” On the other hand, the novel explores a host of other elements: trust, friendship, marriage, the choices we might make when faced with a life-altering decision. Of course, there’s a guy. But I like to think he’s just not any guy. Flynn is the protagonist in BEATUIFUL DISASTER—a man with a half name, a shadowy past and no ties to anything earthbound, until he meets Mia. I think most readers readily identify with her character, particularly as she goes through a metamorphosis, figuring out who she is. When we first meet Mia, she’s a college senior, just graduating into adulthood and exploring ideas about what she wants to do with her life. Later in the book, we see the adult she’s become and the realization of those ideals.

Could you discuss the challenge of developing your characters to the point that readers want to cheer them on? Do you have a favorite character in this book?

Great question. Just expanding on the above, Mia’s character was a terrific challenge. Flynn arrived more complete—not that his story didn’t change along the way. But I had a really good grasp on him from the first draft forward. It took years to develop Mia into a character that was worthy of Flynn and worth the reader’s time. The light bulb finally came on when my agent suggested that Mia couldn’t exist merely to play opposite to Flynn, but that she had to be a full-fledged person unto herself. It made a lot of sense. From there I started building her past, which gave her goals for the future. Eventually, it led to a well-rounded character, who happened to be in love with a dangerously irresistible man.

Do you have a favorite character in this book? Naturally, people assume Flynn is my favorite character. I really don’t have one. Mia, Flynn, Roxanne and Michael are all so intertwined; I see them as an ensemble.

Do you have a favorite scene that you’d like to share?
Probably the opening scene in Chapter Two. BEAUTIFUL DISASTER had countless inceptions and revisions. If I look at it now, I still see a hundred things I’d go back and tweak. Chapter Two is kind of the exception to that rule. The version readers see in the bound copy is a fairly close match to the dog eared, pencil marked draft that lives in a box. Chapter Two captures the essence of the story. It was my canvas, and I was able to paint Flynn right into it. The book takes place in Athens, Georgia; it was the perfect eclectic atmosphere for an elusive character like Flynn. The scene sets the tone for the narrative and dialogue throughout; it was also my compass every time I got lost or felt like the story was veering off course.

Which is more important in your books, character or plot?
Chicken or the egg, hmm… For me, it’s the characters. I actually think it’s smarter to have a well defined plot first, and then the ability to add the right characters to it. But it just doesn’t work that way for me, so why kid ourselves? I have to be intrigued by a character. I’m never, initially, as intrigued by a plot. Of course, when you get attached to a character and start to play the, “what if…” question, that’s when things get interesting. For example, what if a dozen years later, the guy you were madly in love with crashed back into your life? What if, by then, you were married to someone else? What if that man had left you with more questions than answers? And, what if, you were still in love with him?

Did you outline before you wrote the book or did you just have a general idea about where you wanted to go with the story when you started? I love the idea of outlining, but my brain doesn’t really cooperate with that theory. If it did, BEAUTIFUL DISASTER probably would have taken a lot less time to write!

How did you get started in writing?
Well, if you saw my grade school/high school math tests you have the answer to that question! I was always into the arts, theatre, music and writing. Writing happened to be the one I could earn a living at—kind of.

What ignites your passion and galvanizes you to write beyond paying the bills?
In my experience if you’re writing to pay the bills, chances are you live in a tent under a bridge. I’ve always viewed writing, at least for me, as a compulsion. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but that’s how it works for me. I’ve never not finished a manuscript. That doesn’t mean they’re all worth publishing, but I’m kind of a dog with a bone when it comes to a WIP. I learn so much from every attempt, so there’s always something to be gained; even it’s not a published book.

What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? Most disappointing? Most difficult?
Gosh, I feel like I should say that ISBN#, aka having a book on the shelf. And to a certain extent it is. I was in the Barnes & Noble in Boston’s Prudential building the other day, and I was tickled to find several copies of BEAUTIFUL DISASTER on the shelf. Now, here’s the downside. As I approached, I was terrified that they’d be the same copies I signed on a drive-by to that bookstore last winter. (Once you sign, they’re theirs to keep forever & ever!) Finding those autographed copies would have been a thousand times worse than finding no copies. Fortunately, they were fresh copies! But there’s the good, the bad, and the ugly, all rolled into one two-minute visit to a Barnes & Noble!

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?
I never learned a damn thing from anybody saying, “Gee, I loved your book!” Of course, it’s what you want to hear, but it doesn’t give you anything to improve upon.

What tools do you think are invaluable for new writers?
Hands down, social media. Essentially, Facebook, Twitter, blogs (just like this one) are an invaluable resource and don’t cost a thing. I wish I’d mastered them long before my book came out. I have lots of FB friends who are aspiring writers. When they sell their books, they’re going to be in a great position as far as promotion and the perks of social media.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?
Putting the cart before the horse. I teach a community class on publishing; it’s nothing too intense, but it does give a basic overview on how you go about getting your novel published. People are to be commended for wanting to learn about the industry. But I’m always surprised by the number of participants who take the class saying they haven’t even attempted to write a book. At least take a stab a writing a draft before you worry about how you’re going to sell the thing.


On a more personal level, what is a little known fact about yourself?
I can’t spell. If I wrote in the day and age of the paper dictionary, I’d still be looking up “initiative” and “negotiation.” Thanks to spell check, you’ll never know I just misspelled them both, twice.

If you could have a beer, coffee, or tea with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?
If we can change that to a glass of wine, I’m in. The choices, of course, are endless. But I’ve always fancied myself having lunch with Margaret Mitchell. Some swanky Atlanta country club where they serve watercress sandwiches and mint iced tea. Of course, being a Northerner, I’d feel totally out of place. But, Ms. Mitchell, a true Southerner, would make me feel right at home. We’d watch the hydrangeas wilt in the June heat while I probed her mind for all the little nuances of Gone With the Wind that we’ll never know. I’d ask if she ever imagined the book captivating its audience like it did. And did the words timeless and epic cross her mind when she wrote it? Were the characters exactly what she perceived, or did they take on a life of their own? And, naturally, I’d ask the burning question we all want to know, “Does Scarlett ever get Rhett back again?”

Finally, where can we find you on the web?
You can always find me at And BEAUTIFUL DISASTER has a very interactive Facebook page

You can buy  BEAUTIFUL DISASTER at Barnes&Noble  and

Thank you so much for taking the time to interview with us.
Thank you so much! This has been great fun!
If you would like to ask a question or leave a comment scroll down and click on comments.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Melinda Leigh Shares She Can Run

What We Are Saying...
 It is our pleasure to spotlight the debut novel of Melinda Leigh. If you haven't read the interview we did yesterday, stop now and go read about Melinda's incredible journey to publication. You'll be glad you did. So sit back with your beverage of choice and enjoy an excerpt of her book SHE CAN RUN.

What Others Are Saying...
“In her debut romantic suspense, Leigh carefully weaves the subplot of a serial killer with the main plot of an abused wife on the run and successfully ties the threads in a thrilling conclusion… Leigh’s tight, consistent plotting marks her as an author to watch.” ~Publisher’s Weekly REVIEW

“SHE CAN RUN starts with a bang and doesn’t let up. Action packed, sexy, storming with plot twists, this novel reminds of my own early work. I couldn’t put it down!” ~Maggie Shayne, New York Times Bestselling Author of TWILIGHT FULFILLED

“… a thrilling read straight through to the last page.” ~4 Stars from RT Book Reviews

Back Cover Copy...
Ten months ago, Elizabeth Baker uncovered a dangerous secret about her politician husband—a secret that nearly got her killed. Now she and her children are running for their lives. When Beth is hired as the caretaker of a remote Pennsylvania estate, she dares to hope she has found a corner of the world where Congressman Richard Baker can’t find them. But when her new boss dies suddenly and his nephew inherits the estate, Beth is faced with outwitting a former homicide detective who is very smart, very suspicious—and very attractive.

Forced into retirement by an injury and grieving the loss of his uncle, Jack O’Malley is unprepared to share his new home with a strange woman and her two kids. He is even less prepared for the instantaneous attraction he feels whenever Beth enters the room. She is beautiful, intelligent, kind…and obviously terrified of someone or something. As Jack’s investigation uncovers the shocking details of Beth’s past, the rural community is shaken by the murder of a local woman Driven by instinct and desire, Jack is determined to keep Beth and her children safe, even if doing so means putting his heart—and his life —on the line.

Excerpt  from She Can Run...
Beth’s hand trembled. Her knuckles hovered an inch from the recessed oak panel. The office door was closed, which meant Richard didn’t want to be disturbed. She glanced at the box in her hand, delivered by messenger just moments before. It must be important. Would Richard be angry if she interrupted him? Or angrier if she didn’t? Her stomach clenched. He’d be angry no matter what she did.

With a hitched breath, she rapped lightly. The latch hadn’t caught properly and the door swung open. Beth froze, paralyzed by the scene before her.

Confusion shifted into comprehension, and fear turned her insides to ice water.

Could she slip out before he noticed her? She eased backward, but Richard sensed her presence. He turned and stared. Their gazes locked for a few seconds, his feral, hers panicked. The lion and the gazelle.

Then he grabbed the crystal letter opener on his desk and lunged.

Beth ran.

She couldn’t leave the house. Her children were upstairs. She needed a weapon. Her eyes locked on the kitchen doorway ten feet away.

His Italian loafers scraped the wood floor of the hall behind her as he fought for traction. The rubber soles of her sneakers fared better. She almost outran him. Almost.

At the threshold, he caught her in a flying tackle. She flung her hands out. Pain shot through her wrists and palms as she braced her fall before her face slammed into the tile.

After all this time wondering if he’d eventually kill her, there was now no more doubt. If she didn’t get away, she was dead.

Panting, on all fours, he pulled on her legs. She donkey-kicked backwards, catching him on the side of the face. He grunted. His grip loosened, and she belly-crawled forward a few inches before his hand closed around her calf.

She raised her chin and eyed the knife drawer, an impossible ten feet away on the other side of the room. In a frantic visual sweep, her peripheral vision caught the cordless flashlight plugged into the outlet on her left.

She kicked at his fingers. They jerked open. Pulling a knee under her body, she pushed forward and yanked the flashlight from the wall. Richard crawled closer and slashed at her middle. Her skin registered a flash of agony, then went numb.

Without losing momentum, she turned over and swung the flashlight in an arc toward his head. Metal clanged against bone.

His eyes widened in shock before his body went limp.

Shaking, Beth scrambled out from under his torso. Blood seeped through her silk blouse.

Lungs heaving, she rooted through the odds-and-ends drawer and pulled out a roll of duct tape. She rolled him to his side, forced his wrists behind his back, and taped them together. As an extra precaution, she secured his hands to a heavy table leg, then bound his ankles. She slapped a final piece of tape across his mouth. Richard wasn’t going anywhere until the cook arrived in the morning.

Adrenaline and nausea coursed through Beth as she glanced at the clock. She had exactly ten hours to vanish.

About Melinda Leigh...

More than a decade ago, Melinda Leigh left a career in banking to raise her children and never looked back.  She started writing when her youngest child entered first grade as a way to preserve her sanity. Her paranormal romance and romantic suspense fiction has won writing awards across the country. Melinda is also an avid martial artist. She holds a 2nd degree belt in Kenpo Karate, studies Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and teaches women’s self-defense. She lives in a messy house in the suburbs with her husband, two teenagers, a couple of dogs and one neurotic cat with an inexplicable fear of ceiling fans.  With such a pleasant life, she has no explanation for the sometimes dark and disturbing nature of her imagination.

Find Melinda at her website, facebook twitter, and goodreads..
You can pre-order the book at It is being released on November 28th.

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Thanks for joining us today.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Melinda Leigh: Learn To Structure A Story

Melinda Leigh
About Melinda Leigh...
More than a decade ago, Melinda Leigh left a career in banking to raise her children and never looked back. She started writing when her youngest child entered first grade as a way to preserve her sanity. Her paranormal romance and romantic suspense fiction has won writing awards across the country. Melinda is also an avid martial artist. She holds a 2nd degree belt in Kenpo Karate, studies Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and teaches women’s self-defense. She lives in a messy house in the suburbs with her husband, two teenagers, a couple of dogs and one neurotic cat with an inexplicable fear of ceiling fans. With such a pleasant life, she has no explanation for the sometimes dark and disturbing nature of her imagination.

On her Journey…
You’ve written SHE CAN RUN, which is being released this month by Montlake Romance. You’ve just received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. That’s a great accomplishment.

Thanks. And thanks for hosting a stop on my blog tour. I’m thrilled to share the excitement with all of you!

What has this journey been like for you?
 Thrilling and terrifying in turns. So much is riding on a debut novel. The pressure is intense. Writing the book was just the beginning of the publishing process.

People often think of writers as having “overnight success”. How many years have you been working toward “overnight success?"
Quite a few. I started writing in 2005. It took me 2 years to finish the first draft of SHE CAN RUN. I started submitting in 2007, after I won New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book contest. The book had a decent rough story, but it still needed tons of work. For one thing, it was 120,000 words long. (Ok, you can stop laughing now) I read books on writing. I took workshops, acquired critique partners, and went to a couple of conferences, all while simultaneously rewriting the manuscript 5 times. Yes, you read that correctly. The book went through 5 complete rewrites, mostly because I was so clueless about the technical aspects of writing when I started this crazy journey. (Hint: learn plot structure before you write a book. It’ll save you tons of time.)

I signed with my agent in late 2009, and finally sold two books in 2010. She Can Run is being released this November 2011, and Amazon Heat (a novella co-written with friend and author Rayna Vause) releases in January 2012.

So, my “overnight” success took six years of hard work to accomplish.

What inspires and galvanizes you to keep writing?
I love to create characters and weave intricate plots together. The entire creation process is a thrilling challenge every single time. It still amazes me how everything melds in the end.

On her book and characters…

Could you share a bit about your latest book, and its characters?
 Beth is a young widow with two children who makes the terrible mistake of marrying a powerful politician who isn’t what he seems. She accidentally learns a secret about her new husband, a secret he tries to kill her to keep. With some luck and gumption, she escapes with her kids. Months later, with the help of a distant relative, she takes a job as caretaker on a secluded estate. Unfortunately, the elderly man who hired her dies, leaving the estate to his nephew, a former homicide detective. Jack isn’t buying Beth’s story, but he can’t send her away. Instead, he begins to investigate. Her secrets, his suspicions, and their desire clash when a killer strikes nearby.

If you had to choose, which scene in this novel is your favorite?
I wrote the book’s final climax in one day. My fingers just couldn’t keep up with the pace. There are a lot of plot threads running through SHE CAN RUN. To have them all finally come together was extremely satisfying. Plus, I do love to write the action scenes.

Which character is your favorite?
Believe it or not, I absolutely fell in love with Jack’s dog, Henry. This will not surprise anyone who knows me well. I am an avid dog lover. But Henry came to life as the book progressed. He became more than a dog, but evolved into a real character with his own character arc. Not bad, considering he doesn’t have a single line of dialogue.

What inspired you to write romantic suspense about spousal abuse? I’m involved in martial arts and teach women’s self-defense. Most people have no idea of the realities of domestic abuse. Women can’t simply walk away from an abusive relationship. One-third of female homicide victims are killed by their intimate partners and half of all protections orders issued are violated.

Some authors say their stories are ripped right from the headlines. Has an idea for one of your novels ever been sparked by real people and events?
Beth’s situation is as real as it gets. And, you can’t turn on the news without hearing about a politician who’s been bad. *grin*

On her Writing Process…

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them?
 I’m not sure. I do pay special attention to detail, but the characters seem to develop all by themselves. I think identifying and empathizing with the characters helps, as does putting them into realistic situations.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the characters?
 This is the most difficult part of the entire process. In my head, the characters’ relationships are already present. This is where revisions and a great critique partner really help.

How do you, then, go about addressing the part with which you struggle? 
 I do a lot of editing and “smoothing” out of the manuscript as I go along. Also, I have a few great critique partners that will read stuff. They know my weaknesses and what to look for. There’s no substitute for fresh eyes on a book.

Do you have specific techniques you utilize for getting into the heads of your villains? Would you care to share them?
 I love to write the villain point-of-view. Probably more than I should. I make sure my villain has a backstory to give him or her dimension. Everyone has a story, even the bad guy. What made him the way he is? For those who like the Deb Dixon character structure, what are the villain’s goals, motivations, and conflicts?

What are the challenges in developing a layered, plot-driven story of suspense that rivals others in the market? Honestly, I try not to think about this. I prefer a complex story with multiple threads. Consistency is important, so I try to keep true to my own particular style.

In some of the reviews, readers mentioned how effectively you plot your story. Do you have any particular plot techniques you’d care to share?
I’ve blogged on this before. I buy more index cards than anyone I know. I use them to keep track of plot points on a scene by scene basis on a giant magnetic storyboard. With so many plot threats running simultaneously, I’ve found the visualization very helpful.

What do you find most rewarding about your writing career? Most disappointing?
 How about I answer this question next year? My career is just starting. At this point I’m still holding my breath.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?
 Join a writers’ group and make the time to meet with your writing peeps. I doubt I would have a book coming out without the help and friends I’ve made through Liberty States Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong? I can only tell you what were the most problematic areas in earlier versions of SHE CAN RUN: pacing and structure. Syd Field’s The Foundations of Screenwriting was a BIG help learning to structure a story. Pacing, on the other hand, took more practice than education.

On her personal life…

What is a little known fact about yourself?
 I am addicted to CHOPPED on food network. I’ve no idea why. I’m a terrible cook. The process bores me. If food doesn’t have “helper” written on the side of the box, the chances it’ll be edible are fifty-fifty.

What book are you reading right now?
I’m not reading anything because I’m in the middle of a new book, and I can’t deal with anyone else’s voice in my head. BUT, I’ve promised myself The Night Eternal (book 3 in The Strain horror trilogy) the very second I finish the first draft. I’ve been waiting over a year for the resolution to this nail biter. Also on my TBR list is Lover Unleashed by JR Ward. The last book I finished was Jim Butcher’s Death Masks, which I loved.

What’s next for you? I’m currently working on a book loosely connected to SHE CAN RUN. It’s set in the same small town. A few characters are making reappearances. Police Chief Mike O’Connell is deep trouble with a crime spree, a feisty horse trainer, and a relentless stalker.

Finally, where can we buy your books and find you on the web?


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 How much stock do you put in reviews? Which ones do you value the most, professional editorial reviews or customer reviews on places like Amazon and Goodreads?

Come back tomorrow for an excerpt of Melinda's book SHE CAN RUN.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Author Spotlight On Linda Lovely And Dear Killer

What We Are Saying...
Linda Lovely lives in S.C. so it's natural that she would choose  the plantations and beach resorts of the S.C. low-country as the setting for  DEAR KILLER. This is the first novel in a  mystery series featuring  Marley Clark, a retired military intelligence officer now working in security for a gated island community. NO WAKE ZONE, the second book in the  series, will be released by  L&L Dreamspell publishers in  2012. Though a native of Iowa, Linda has called the South home for more than thirty years. A journalism major, Lovely has spent most of her career in public relations and advertising. Now she’s focusing on her first love—fiction. She’s president of the Upstate SC Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the South Carolina Writers Workshop. Her manuscripts have made the finals in 15 contests, including RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier competitions and mystery contests such as Deadly Ink, Murder in the Grove and Malice Domestic. So sit back and enjoy a  good mystery. Don't forget to leave a comment for Linda.

What Others Are Saying...Kathryn R. Wall, author, the Bay Tanner mysteries, says—
Linda Lovely perfectly captures the sights and smells of the South Carolina Lowcountry in this fast-paced debut mystery. Former Army Colonel Marley Clark is a complex and fascinating protagonist, a woman of a certain age whose investigatory skills and courage are tested as the bodies pile up on the isolated resort island of Dear. A crackling good read.

Cathy Pickens, author of the Southern Fried mysteries, says—
Linda Lovely describes the Low Country South with the curious eye of a newcomer and the affectionate detail of a long-time resident. She’s managed quite a trick—combining all the slow-moving savor of a thick Southern gumbo with the crackling quick pace of a thriller, complete with a kick-@#% heroine. This is one island vacation you’ll want to race through!

Joyce Lavene, author of A Timely Vision, says—
I really enjoyed Linda Lovely’s new mystery, Dear Killer. It’s set in one of my favorite places—the Low Country of South Carolina—and the book’s protagonist is a gritty, smart-ass security guard who is sure to win readers’ hearts. Throw in a little romance and you’ve got it all. Dear Killer is a fantastic read!

Back Cover Copy...
Marley Clark, a retired military intelligence officer, works security for a Sea Island community simply to keep busy. A single night patrol transforms the feisty widow’s yawner of a job into a deadly battle of wits when she finds an islander drowned and bobbing naked amid a potpourri of veggies in a Jacuzzi.

Asked to serve as the lead investigator’s liaison, the 52-year-old heroine is startled to discover she’s become Deputy Braden Mann’s target as well—for romance. Yet their steamy attraction doesn’t deter the pair from sorting through a viper’s nest of suspects as the body count grows and the pun-loving killer plans a grizzly epitaph for Marley.


The wrought-iron gates stood open—again. The college kids assigned to lock up were zero for three this week. I sighed, switched on my flashlight, and walked toward the swimming pools. One more chink in the resort’s security armor for vandals to exploit.

I noticed a smudge of light on the horizon and a twinge of unease crept over me. Hilton Head Island snaked into the ocean about twenty miles south, as a pelican flies, and its neon glitz cast a yellow pall over the velvet blackness. Normally our resort has too many competing halogens to detect a neighbor’s light pollution.

Three lights in the Dolphin Club were out. It was too dark. Goosebumps raced up my arms. Something was hinky. Frozen in a cabana archway, I listened for any sound, some hint an intruder lurked in the shadows. Only gurgling water and a chorus of tree frogs broke the silence.

Sweeping my beam over the three-pool terrain, I strained to catch any movement. All was still. A second pass spotlighted an anomaly: clothing piled on a chair beside the Jacuzzi.

I walked closer, then paused as a shadowy blot rippled the surface of the water. It took a second to grasp someone floated face down. I sprinted. My feet made crunching noises as my shoes pulverized glass from the broken lamps.

Shit, shit, shit. Please don’t let him be dead.

I thought “him” even though it was impossible to tell if the body belonged to a man or woman. A shock of hair streamed from the submerged head. Pale bony shoulders gleamed in the moonlight. When I grabbed the body under the armpits and hoisted it over the hot tub’s lip, the man’s head lolled backward.

Oh, God.

Stew Hartwell’s gray eyes were wide open, though sightless. I felt for a pulse. Nothing. I went on autopilot, pinching his nostrils shut, using two fingers to feel for any obstructions in his mouth.

I put my lips to his. They were warm. The Jacuzzi’s one-hundred-four-degree water had left them soft and yielding. I blew, paused, blew. A rhythm. Breathe, dammit, breathe, dammit, breathe.

Nothing. My heart raced.

I rolled Stew on his stomach and pounded his back to expel water in his lungs. I flipped him and attacked his chest with my fist, trying to kick-start his heart. I put my lips to his once more. His mouth felt clammy now. Still, I tried to force more of my ragged gasps into his unresponsive lungs.

Come on, breathe.

Nothing. After five minutes, I gave up. Sweat trickled down my back. My face was damp and I realized I was crying. My breath came in labored pants. Oh, Stew. I’m sorry.

Years ago, my husband, Jeff, struck up a friendship with Stew. Whenever we visited the island, the two got together—poker, golf, Sunday football on Stew’s big-screen. He was one of the good guys.

Now he’s dead. Like Jeff.

My hot breath—wasted breath—rose in white puffs and mingled with the steam escaping the bubbling cauldron. The cool ocean breeze quickly wicked all warmth away.

I pulled a radio from my pocket and called Gary, the security guard on the front gate. “It’s Marley Clark. I’m at the Dolphin. We have a drowning. I tried to revive him, but he’s gone. Call EMS anyway.”

“Who drowned?” Gary asked. “Is it a kid?”

I didn’t answer. Though it was three in the morning, some sleepless codger might be amusing himself, listening to a police scanner. It wasn’t rational, but I hesitated to say Stew’s name aloud. If I kept quiet, maybe he wouldn’t be dead.

“Sorry, Gary. I can’t talk now. Get someone to wake up Chief Dixon. The front entrance is wide open. I’ll stay with the body.”

Before Gary could ask more questions, I clicked the radio off.

Enough questions assaulted my brain. Stew was totally nude. What a way for your dead body to be discovered.

Of course, he was long past caring about decorum. That made the plume of sandy hair drifting from his head seem even sadder. The man let the baby-fine hair on one temple grow long for a classic comb-over. The result, like every comb-over, made me wonder if men who favored this camouflage technique shared a vampire’s aversion to mirrors.

What possessed you to go skinny-dipping alone in the middle of the night?

During my resuscitation attempts, I’d dragged Stew most of the way out of the hot tub. However, his hips still rested on the Jacuzzi’s curved ledge, and his legs dangled in the swirling water, giving them an eerie animation. His limp penis, withered from its extended submersion, showed no such life. It looked forlorn nested in its mat of brown pubic hair.

I was tempted to cover Stew. Provide him with some final dignity. But I knew better than to mess further with the scene. My attempts to resuscitate Stew had mucked things up enough. The unusual circumstances would certainly qualify the drowning as a suspicious death.

I looked away from Stew’s torso. His feet continued to bob and the obscene jig drew my attention to the hot tub’s water.

What the hell? I saw a carrot first. Orange and large, it bobbed to the surface by his toes. I watched in disbelief as the roiling water spit up celery stalks, whole onions and what looked like bay leaves. Gradually I realized a potpourri of vegetables simmered in the bubbling pot.

Sweet Jesus. What is this—a sick joke?

I looked wildly about to make sure I was alone. I’d been kneeling, and as I stumbled to my feet, I saw blood on the concrete. My own. Shards of broken glass protruded from my knees and blood soaked the khaki slacks of my guard uniform.

That’s when I noticed the towels, folded to form an arrow. It pointed to a patch of sand.

The Dolphin’s designers had inserted sand and palm oases to break up the sea of concrete that cradled the complex’s swimming pools. A crude message was scratched in the nearest greenery-and-dune pod.

Just one word: “STEWED.”

My mind went numb. Nothing made sense. Had some psycho drowned Stew just to make a gruesome pun?

I remembered angry-looking punctures on Stew’s back when I rolled him. Seizing his left shoulder, I eased his body up. Four marks embossed his pale back. Two close together, another two six inches away.


Nausea swept over me. I could barely imagine Stew’s terror if my hunch proved correct. The crimson pricks looked like fresh stun jabs. I’d seen similar marks on my own body. When the Dear Island security officers were issued Tasers, our training required a demonstration. I’d been “volunteered” and knew firsthand the pole-axed feeling of having my limbs turn to jelly, of being aware of everything yet having a total disconnect between mind and body. I shivered, wondering if Stew had been fully cognizant of his fate, his brain frantically screaming at unresponsive muscles as his killer prepared to drown him.

I lowered Stew’s shoulder, backed out of the crime scene along my original entry route, and prepared to intercept Chief Dixon and the EMS paramedics. They needed to understand the circumstances to avoid adding contaminants.

The wait would be brief. Dear Island’s only five miles long and one and one-half miles wide. It took less than ten minutes to drive between any two points. And, yes, Dear Island is spelled D-E-A-R. Pre-1970 maps showed it as Deer Island. That was before it succumbed to a developer’s spelling disorder or cuteness fetish. Having met my share of Lowcountry developers, either theory seemed plausible.

My manhandling of Stew’s body had drenched me. My teeth clattered like castanets, and my knees throbbed. Congealed blood plastered my trousers to my legs. I plucked slivers of broken glass from the fabric. Anything to keep from looking at Stew. I fast-walked in tight circles, rubbing my hands to conjure up heat.

Paramedic Bill O’Brien was the first to charge on the scene. “Where’s the victim?” he yelled as he hustled in my direction.

“He’s dead,” I answered. “No pulse. I tried mouth-to-mouth. Nothing.”

“I’ll give it a go anyway. Lead the way.”

“Okay but this isn’t a routine drowning. Stew Hartwell’s been murdered. We need to think about the crime scene.”

“Murdered? Are you sure?”

Bill’s tone telegraphed skepticism. Residents took smug pride in the fact that Dear Island didn’t have enough crime to warrant keeping statistics. There was the occasional theft as well as a smattering of complaints about inebriated idiots, usually vacationers or “tourons” in island speak. But a murder? Never.

Chief Dixon arrived in time to hear our exchange. “What in hell are you saying, Marley?” Dixon demanded.

We stood under the nearest functioning lamppost about twenty feet from Stew’s body. The pooled light haloed Dixon’s frizzy white hair, making him look like Ronald McDonald’s grizzled grandpa.

While I summed up the situation, Bill tiptoed to the steamy six-person Jacuzzi. As a paramedic, he was qualified to pronounce Stew dead. After doing so, he studied the body and pointed out some bruising around Stew’s wrists.

“Zip ties?” the chief wondered. “D’you suppose the killer tied his wrists while he was out for the count and cut ’em loose once he was dead?”

Bill nodded. “That’s my guess.”

Dixon rang the Hollis County Sheriff’s Department to say we needed help pronto.

The chief’s ruddy face looked more mottled than usual, hinting at a bout of drinking or elevated blood pressure. He shook his head, hawked one up, and started to spit before he thought better of it. “Jesus H. Christ, you think someone fried Stew with a stunner in order to drown him? That’s just dandy. Suppose that’ll make all our boys prime suspects.”

The same notion had crossed my mind—though I didn’t think of Dear’s security force as “our boys.” It was no secret the chief preferred to hire men. Yet he figured my military career trumped my gender, so he overlooked my inability to scratch my nuts with the rest of his boys.

I paced off fifteen feet and circled the Jacuzzi, scanning the barren concrete. “Chief, the killer didn’t use a Taser. Even civilian models eject those confetti-like markers that I.D. each weapon. Our murderer couldn’t have picked them all up. Fortunately, that rules our weapons out.”

“Eh? Speak up, will you?” An ex-Marine, Dixon blamed his poor hearing on close encounters with exploding shells. The counterfeit waterfall’s gurgling wasn’t helping him. “Who else packs stunners—just other cops, right?”

I raised my voice a notch. “Anyone willing to part with a few hundred bucks can buy stun guns or Tasers on the Internet. But I haven’t a clue about all the options.”

Dixon looked back at the body and cracked his knuckles. “Stew Hartwell. Who on earth would want to kill him?” The chief’s interest in the body seemed strictly clinical; someone else would have to mourn the loss.

Poor Stew. My stomach did another samba. Then a white-hot anger flared in my gut. Stew didn’t deserve to die like this—a gothic comic book ending.

“If only I’d patrolled this area sooner…”

“Shit, Marley, you couldn’t have saved him,” the chief said. “If you’d come earlier, you might be dead, too.”

Until the chief answered, I hadn’t realized I’d spoken aloud.

“You may have been one hot shot Army colonel, but even you can’t bring back the dead.”

Well, yes, once I could.

I was sixteen, a lifeguard. The boy was nine, chubby. When I hauled him from the depths, his lips were tinged with blue, as if the aqua water had dyed them. I breathed life into him. His fat cheeks turned from blue to pink like Mom’s hydrangeas after she added lime.

Life seemed effortless then. I could cheat death. No longer. The living slipped away.

I blinked away the vision to concentrate on Dixon’s monologue. “You know if someone hadn’t gotten cute, we might’ve figured he was an unlucky drunk who drowned ’cause he was three sheets to the wind.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Stew was known to knock back a few, and the hot tub sign is plastered with warnings for boozers. Guess the vegetables were meant to clue us in. Whoever killed Stew knew him, or at least his name.”

The churning murderer’s cauldron bubbled away without a conscience. How had the killer jimmied the timer to keep the Jacuzzi jets active? Tendrils of steam drifted from the super-sized hot tub.

“Jesus,” I muttered. “What kind of sicko would dream this up?”

Copyright © Linda Lovely 2011

Linda's book is available from, Barnes and Noble, and LL Dreamspell Publishers

Here are links to sites that sell DEAR KILLER as an ebook:

Amazon Kindle

Barnes and Noble Nook

 All Romance Omni Lit

Here are links to sites that sell DEAR KILLER as trade paperback:

 Amazon Print       Barnes and Noble Print

Don't forget to leave a comment for a chance at winning a copy of Linda's book.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Diagram-O-Rama: Punching Up Your Sentences from Bryan Grubbs

Bryan Grubbs is our in-house professor of the new Grammar Etiquette blog series, posted once a month. He is an English teacher in Denton, TX.

I have resolved that diagramming a sentence was a ploy specifically engineered by literary scholarly types to be mind-numbingly dull, disinteresting, and monotonous. By this I of course mean that you can expect this blog to be completely professional and abstain from all things inappropriate, vulgar, eccentric or effing irrelevant.

So why map out sentences? I’d like to use this opportunity to compare writing a sentence to punching somebody in the face. It’s not as simplistic as it seems, much forethought goes into pummeling knuckles into flesh and bone. For instance, you would just as likely take a swing with somebody while you’re pinky’s hanging out as you would find a sentence to apply a dangling modifier to. You don’t swing a fist open handed. Most importantly, when you punch somebody, you want impact. You need the roll-of-quarters of well-placed articles, adjectives, adverbs and prepositions to add that extra weight and keep your knuckles straight. And that, my friends, is why you should diagram important sentences.

Reading a poorly constructed sentence is like having your cousin give you a sponge bath… it just feels wrong. Without my clever insight, you may never know why. First of all, there’s a blood relationship, and that’s just awkward. Second of all, something’s probably out of line.

Back to basics
All sentences consist of, at the bare minimum, a subject and a verb. The shortest sentence in the English language is, “I am.” ‘I’ is the subject and ‘am’ is the verb, suggesting a state of being. From there, things become more complex as we add a predicate. “I am happy” adds the adjective describing the subject of happy.
In the sentence, “I kick the ball,” ‘I’ is once again the subject, ‘kick’ is the verb, and ‘ball’ is the direct object because it’s what the subject is effecting with the verb. Or what the ‘I’ is verbing… Which leaves ‘the’. Words like ‘the’, ‘a’, and ‘some’ are called articles. Articles categorize nouns by separating a random from a specific or a part from a whole.

Just get to it already
What I’m getting at is that every word has a function. Finding out what that function is can be upsetting and frustrating, especially since you’re not used to thinking about it in a mathematical sense.
To diagram a sentence, arrange the sentence in an order like this:


Obviously if there is no direct object, it would simply be subject and verb. Once this is established, you begin placing adjectives, adverbs, prepositions and articles beneath the category that they represent.



\Articles______\______________\Articles_&_Articles of Prepositional Phrase

When Should I Use This?
If you intend to diagram each and every sentence in your story and novel, you might as well try to empty a pond by scooping out handfuls of water at a time. You know when a sentence doesn’t sound quite right, especially when your readers are getting confused at who is doing what to whom or what. The other exceptions are the big impact sentences. These often fall at the beginning or end of a chapter or in the middle of a major transition.
These bundles of words need to be more perfect than a purebred breeding *itch.


Bryan Grubbs is an English and Art teacher. He is also a member of Greater Ft Worth Writers and is an active member of the GFW Writers critique group. Members of the group will tell you he can pick out redundant words at forty feet and is quite willing to show what paragraphs or sentences are not compelling. He is a husband and father of three beautiful girls, enjoys writing science fiction/ urban fantasy/ horror, sketching, or playing video games in his free time.Have a question or comment? Let Bryan know by clicking on comments and leaving your question or comments.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Linda Lovely: Perseverance Is The Key To Finishing A Novel

About Linda Lovely...
Linda Lovely is the author of DEAR KILLER, a mystery set on a fictional Sea Island in the amazing South Carolina Lowcountry, known for its Gullah roots, historic plantations and beach resorts. DEAR KILLER is the debut novel in a mystery series featuring  Marley Clark, a retired military intelligence officer who now works security for a gated island community. NO WAKE ZONE, the second book in her mystery series, will be released by publisher L&L Dreamspell in 2012. Her stories dish up a main course of suspense, action and adventure with a generous side of romance.

Though a native of Iowa, Linda has called the South home for more than thirty years. A journalism major, Lovely has spent most of her career in public relations and advertising. Now she’s focusing on her first love—fiction. She’s president of the Upstate SC Chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Romance Writers of America (RWA) and the South Carolina Writers Workshop. Her manuscripts have made the finals in 15 contests, including RWA’s prestigious Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier competitions and mystery contests such as Deadly Ink, Murder in the Grove and Malice Domestic.

On Linda's Journey…

Linda, thank you for joining us today.

What has this journey been like for you?
 I was a journalism major in college and have always made my living as a writer. Over the years, I’ve written a wide range of nonfiction—speeches, magazine features, newsletters, brochures, software documentation. However, I love to read novels, especially mysteries, suspense and thrillers, and writing fiction was always my long-term dream.

People often think of writers as having “overnight success”. How many years have you been working toward “overnight success”?
 I signed up for my first fiction-oriented writing class a dozen years back. Since then, I’ve completed four manuscripts and have another in the pipeline. If you consider how many times I revised those manuscripts while improving my craft, I’ve written the equivalent of at least 20 books.

What inspired you to write your first book?
 I was asked to write an “as-told-to” book. Half way through, my clients changed their minds about the wisdom of publishing and ended the project. The experience convinced me I was ready to write a book of my own.

What galvanizes you to keep writing?
 That’s never been a problem. I love writing, storytelling.

On her book and characters…

Could you share a bit about your latest book, DEAR KILLER, and its characters? Marley Clark, a retired military intelligence officer, works security for a Sea Island community simply to keep busy. A single night patrol transforms the feisty widow’s yawner of a job into a deadly battle of wits when she finds an islander drowned and bobbing naked amid a potpourri of veggies in a Jacuzzi.

Asked to serve as the lead investigator’s liaison, Marley is startled to discover she’s become Deputy Braden Mann’s target as well—for romance. Yet their steamy attraction doesn’t deter the pair from sorting through a viper’s nest of suspects as the body count grows and the pun-loving killer plans a grizzly epitaph for Marley.

My heroine is smart, fit, sexy, and she has a sense of humor. Arlene, my best friend since kindergarten, is a retired military intelligence officer, so she generously provided background on her military background and postings. However, readers need to blame Marley’s outlook on life on me.

Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
 Important themes for me include the value of love and friendship, loyalty and tolerance. I think those values are embedded in this story without preaching. Mainly I want readers to enjoy a puzzle, have an occasional good laugh, and, when they close the book, feel good can triumph now and again.

If you had to choose, which scene in this novel is your favorite?
 In my mind there’s a three-way tie. But describing the scenes—all action-suspense scenes that take advantage of Lowcountry settings—could ruin the surprise for readers.

Which character did you find hardest to part with?
 Since DEAR KILLER is the first in a series of Marley Clark adventures, I didn’t have to say goodbye to my heroine and several of my favorite characters introduced in DEAR KILLER are back in upcoming sequels. I do hate to say adios to really bad villains. They’re so much fun to write.

On her writing process…

What are the challenges/rewards of writing romantic suspense?
 The challenge is to ensure your story delivers on both readers’ romance and suspense/thriller expectations about outcome while introducing unexpected surprises along the way. The reward is a reader saying your book was a fun, page-turner.

Some authors say their stories are ripped right from the headlines. Has an idea for one of your novels ever been sparked by real people and events?
Several of my story ideas have been triggered by presentations given by law enforcement experts at meetings of our regional chapter of Sisters in Crime.

How do you give your characters the depth and detail necessary for readers to want to cheer them on?
 My heroines and heroes are composites. They’re not superior beings. They have quirks, flaws and suffer self-doubt, just like we all do. For example, Marley Clark, my heroine, is all the more heroic when she forces herself to do something that terrifies her.

What challenge or struggle do you face when you try to build emotional bonds between the characters?
 Marley Clark is 52 years old and a widow. The deputy who romances her in DEAR KILLER is 40 years old, divorced and a father. Their wealth of experience lets them connect on a number of levels beyond physical attraction.

How do you, then, go about addressing the part with which you struggle?
Sometimes I find myself floundering in the middle of the book. The trick is to keep writing. Later what eluded you will become clear and you can come back to fix it.

Do you have specific techniques you utilize for getting into the heads of your villains? Would you care to share them?
I try to keep in mind the oft-repeated writing advice that a villain is a hero in his own mind. No matter how vile his actions are he thinks they’re justified even righteous.

What are the challenges in developing a layered, plot-driven story of suspense that rivals others in the market?
Do you have any particular plot techniques you’d care to share?
The advice I’ve heard at many conferences holds true—try to imagine what would most raise the stakes for your heroine/hero in a given situation. For example, Marley Clark loves her Aunt May. A situation that puts May in danger obviously ups the ante for Marley by making her desire to catch the bad guys personal.

If you could give writers one small piece of advice, what would it be?
 Perseverance. If you keep writing, you’ll get there.

What is something that you often see beginning writers doing wrong?
 Bogging down their opening chapters with backstory.

On her personal life…

What is a little known fact about yourself?

Hey, I’m pretty much an open book. When I’m not reading or writing, I love to swim, kayak, play tennis and garden, and I have fun making holiday candy.

What book are you reading right now?
The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

If you could have dinner with a literary luminary living or dead, who would it be and why?
Mark Twain. I love his irreverence and he even lived in my hometown of Keokuk, Iowa, for a spell.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on two manuscripts—the third book in my Marley Clark series, which will once again be set in the South Carolina Lowcountry, and a romantic suspense set in Keokuk, Iowa, in 1938.

Linda’s question for readers.

As I mentioned, I’m working on a romantic suspense novel set in 1938, a fascinating time period. Given that my Marley Clark mystery series is contemporary, most agents and publishers would argue against this project because it’s not what fans expect. My question: If you like an author’s work in one genre and/or time period, will you follow them to another?

Book may be purchased on at Barnes and Noble and from
Contact Linda at her website

Friday, November 18, 2011

Jo Roberstson Shares The Watcher and The Avenger

What We Are Saying...
On Monday of this week, Jo Robertson talked about revision with diction and syntax.  We welcome her back to share an example of her writing with an excerpt of The Watcher and a synopsis of The Avenger. We're so glad she took the advice of her Advanced Placement English students when they challenged her to "quit talking about writing and just do it." Both books have won contests and awards.
Jo lives in northern California, near the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills. She enjoys reading, scrapbooking, and discussing the latest in books, movies, and television shows. Any "spare" time she has is spent enjoying her seven children and sixteen grandchildren, who bring a great deal of joy to her life.

Back Cover Copy... 
Psychiatrist Kate Myers believes a killer in northern California is the same man who killed her twin sister. With single-minded tenacity, she sets out to prove it.

Her arrival in Deputy Sheriff Ben Slater's county knocks his world on its axis. The idea she proposes of a serial killer with a bizarre pathology is unbelievable.

Together they work to find the killer, a Janus-like monster who fixates on Kate, and wants nothing more than to kill the "purple-eyed girl again."


Preston, Idaho, Fifteen Years Ago

The girl was pretty in a fresh, outdoorsy way.

The bounce and tangle of her yellow hair fascinated the boy-man. When she bent to ruffle the dog’s fur and attach the leash, the frisky animal danced away from her. Finally looping one end around her hand, she set off, long legs stretched before her as she matched her stride to the dog’s pace.

With her free hand, she clutched the coat front that covered a dress the color of buttercups, and she wore black strappy shoes made for church, not a brisk walk. Early winter wind whipped her dress up and blew hair across her eyes.

But he knew their color well. Her eyes were as vivid as the violet blood of an eggplant’s skin. The deep purple of the pansies his grandmother grew in boxes beneath the kitchen window. The flowers woven in his mother’s hair in a faded picture he’d once seen.

The brilliance of that color made him notice the girl several months ago as she stood outside the Cavalier Store on Ramsey Avenue. Juggling a carton of milk in one arm and her school books in the other, she nearly bumped into him. When he reached to steady her, those flashing eyes narrowed in the challenging way of teenage girls.

Under the force of her scowl, he touched the sparse hair above his lips, the sprinkling of zits across his chin. She didn’t say a word to him, but her eyes darkened with irritation.

Why the hell was she mad at him? He’d only tried to help.

A familiar wash of shame flooded over him, his face burned, and he ducked his head to slink away. After a block he risked a backward glance to find the girl balancing her load, oblivious to his existence. She’d forgotten him already. He clenched his fists at his side and hurried away.

She wore her soccer uniform that day, and he figured out she’d be at practice on the high school soccer field after school. Every day until the season was over.

During daily practice, the grassy edges of the field were deserted, so he’d found a good hiding place some distance from the field where he watched the players through his binoculars. The rocky outcropping banked up to several scrub pines, and his dusty green outfit camouflaged him from the coach.

His body tingled with a secret thrill as he spied on her. He never gotten tired of watching her race down the soccer field, her toes teasing the ball in front of her, the sudden right turn she made before she slammed the ball into the goal. Her slender legs were surprisingly strong, the muscled sinews tightening beneath the skin.

Panicked that he’d lose track of her when the season was over, he followed her home after one soccer practice. He discovered the isolated farm where she lived with her parents and a giant chocolate retriever named Shamus. He hunkered beside an outbuilding that night and watched her as she completed household chores. She worked energetically and sometimes seemed to be everywhere at once. Her quick, lively movements stimulated him in a way he didn’t understand.

When the lights went out in the farmhouse, he hunted for a place to camp out in the woods, his bedroll and backpack hidden in the dense forest. He ate his food cold from tin cans and drank from the creek, this outdoor lifestyle familiar to him by now.

He waited nearly a week to make his move. On a late Sunday afternoon, he saw the parents drive away in a battered pickup without the girl. Silence descended on the farm in the near darkness.

She’d been left alone.

This was his opportunity.

The dog now pulled the girl along after him, straining at the leash. The animal must weigh at least a hundred pounds, almost as much as the girl. That could be a problem.

The boy-man trailed the girl and dog as they made their way down to the creek bed. She let the dog tug her forward along the water’s edge. Her voice reached the boy-man where he watched from a grove of aspen trees, their bendy white limbs dipping down to cover him.

He glanced through the gloom toward the farm house. How long before her parents returned? How long after that before they missed her? He kept downwind of the dog and hurried after the girl, his heart drumming a staccato beat in his chest. He’d never found a purple-eyed girl before.

It was a sign.

Synopsis of The Avenger
A clandestine government organization called Invictus "recruits" outstanding athletes for secret projects. But their top agent Jackson Holt has extraordinary, almost preternatural, qualities not even the Organization can explain.

Olivia Gant, professor of Ancient Studies at a private college in California, was once Jack's childhood sweetheart. But when he deserted her, he left her alone to combat her stepfather's drunken attentions and her mother's careless neglect.

Nearly twenty years later, their paths cross in a mission to fight a bizarre religious serial killer whose methods include crucifixion and burial alive. Olivia and Jack battle for happiness against years of secrecy and distance as they use Olivia's expertise in Latin and Jack's special gifts to track a brutal killer.

Can Olivia forgive Jack for his long-ago betrayal? Can Jack allow Olivia to witness the terrible Change that makes him such an effective killing machine?

If you liked the excerpt, let Jo know with your comment.

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Views On The Male Point Of View

Male POV From Keri Arthur

When I first told my husband I was doing an article on writing from a male point of view, he said, why bother? According to him, men are easy. There’s one layer, nothing fancy. What you see is what you get. What they say is what they mean. Unlike woman. He reckons we’re the ones that should come with a manual, and even then, he doubts if males will ever have a chance of understanding us.

Though basically put, his comments do sum up the male psyche in a couple of neat sentences. Generally, men aren’t complicated. Generally, they are what you see.

So, how can we, as women trying to write from a male point of view, achieve this without making our men sound like, well, women?

Here’s a few pointers I’ve dug up from a couple of very good articles.

1. Men are hunters.

–They prefer direct action to talk. They’re ‘doers’ as opposed to thinkers. A good example of this is the fact that few men read instructions–they’re a last resort, to be used only if all else fails.

–They’re rarely prepared to wait for any great length of time. Ever stood with your other half in a long bank or supermarket line?

–They like being in charge (or at least like thinking they’re in charge!)

–men have better detection of light and have better depth perception.

–they’re more visual while we’re more tactile. (which explains why they’re turned on by all those naked pictures, and we’re turned on by touch and smells.)

2.Men are problem solvers. They rarely-

–Ask for advice (especially from the women in their lives)

–admit to being wrong, or not knowing an answer. Ever heard an apology that wasn’t gruffly said?

–End sentences with questions. They’re not likely to say “this is a nice shirt, isn’t it?”

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A Woman Writing as a Man

You can’t write or act like a man, Laura Lee writes, just as a person.

I often see aspiring writers in various forums posting variants on this question: “How do you, as a female author, write from the male perspective?”

Speaking as a female author who has written a novel with two male central characters I will tell you this: you can’t.

Now let me explain.

When you are sitting in front of your computer thinking, “What would a man do in this situation?” you are already a step removed from the character. Your character is not a representative of mankind, thinking man thoughts in a manly way. He’s Paul, and there are many unique things about him. Yes, his maleness is one, but he has a lot of notable personality quirks, any one of which may be much more defining in the given situation. He is introspective, spiritual; he shuts down when his emotions get too much for him; he doesn’t like spicy foods, and so on.

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This article excerpt by Lynn Rush came from Chuck Sambuchino’s Literary Agent Blog

Wasteland. is written in first person, male point of view.

You might be thinking, But you’re a chick, how can you write male point of view? I guess we’ll find out if you think I can write the male point of view effectively after my book releases, won’t we? ☺

But seriously, I didn’t go into it blindly. The key is research. That can come from daily living, reading, internet, people watching, etc. For me, it came from all of those and more.

I have a Master’s Degree in mental health therapy, and while I’m no longer using it in a clinical setting, what I learned through six years of school comes in handy when writing characters. I’ve taken classes on how to understand men—specifically marital classes, too. I love the concept of men looking through blue glasses whereas girls look through pink glasses. (Love and Respect)

But how do you write that? Here are a few things I kept in mind while writing Wasteland:

– I’ve read stats that women say 20,000 words per day compared to men speaking only 7,000 per day. Just because they’re not talking out loud, doesn’t mean things are silent inside. So, there’s a bit more introspection with male leads. Though, you need to make sure it comes in short bursts, but that’s a whole ‘nother post.

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Rules From A Male Point Of View

We always hear "the rules" from the female side. Now here are the rules from the male side. These are our rules! And please note ... these are all numbered "1" ON PURPOSE!

1. Learn to work the toilet seat. You're a big girl.

If it's up, put it down. We need it up, you need it down. You don't hear

us complaining about you leaving it down.

1. Birthdays, Valentines, and Anniversaries are not considered by us to be

opportunities to see if we can find the perfect present . . . . ..again!

1. Sometimes we are not thinking about you. Live with it.

1. Sunday = sports. It's like the full moon or the changing of the tides.
Let it be.

1. Don't cut your hair. Ever. Long hair is always more attractive than

short hair. One of the big reasons guys fear getting married is that

married women always cut their hair, and by then you're stuck with her.

1. Ask for what you want. Subtle hints do not work!

Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!

1. We don't remember dates. . . .Period!!

1. Most guys own three pairs of shoes - tops. What makes you think we'd be

any good at choosing which pair, out of thirty, would look good with your dress?

1. Yes, and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.

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