Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Marianne Jones, and the Serenity Stone Murder

The weather is turning cold, and we're already seeing below freezing temperatures. How perfect is that now...a cozy fire, a great book, and if you're lucky, someone else will be preparing supper for you. But let's get back to the book. If you are someone with a sense of humor, someone who likes a good mystery, then I have just the thing for you...
(Oh, and I just saw a post on Marianne's fb page, claiming responsibility for the cold weather.)

Here goes! 
Allow me to introduce you to Marianne Jones, author of The Serenity Stone Murder.

Could you share a little about yourself ?
The seven words I would use to describe myself are: compassionate, quirky, honest, funny, loyal, untidy, generous. My favourite junk food vice is fudge—especially penuche. I almost never buy it or make it, because I have no self-control.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?
I am retired now, which makes writing a lot easier. I have always said that writing is something one should do for love, not money, since there is no guarantee about the money. So I don’t recommend to people that they give up their day jobs! Besides, who wants to write under all that pressure of worrying about income?

Coming from Northwestern Ontario, I am connected to the freshwater lakes and boreal forests of the Precambrian Shield. Childhood joys of campfires, saunas, swimming, kayaking, cross-country skiing and hiking are all part of my interior world. The fragrances of birch smoke, cedar saunas, the lake in the morning, the sounds of the white-throated sparrow and the loon, the wind in the poplars, the play of light on the water, swimming in the early morning, skiing on a frozen lake on a brilliantly cold, sunny January afternoon, watching the wake of a beaver in October, are all things that are reflected in my writing.

Could you tell us a little about your novel taking us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you've created?
The Serenity Stone Murder is a humorous cozy mystery, full of quirky characters, including a very
spoiled dog. The story is a fun romp and guarantees lots of laughs.

It is dedicated to my sister, for obvious reasons, and to her daughter. The three of us would meet periodically at our favourite pub for drinks and nachos to work on plot details whenever I hit a snag in the story. I don’t know if it was the nachos or the ciders, or our combined imaginations, but it always helped.

What led you to write The Serenity Stone Murder?
It was my sister who wanted me to write a murder mystery set in our home town of Thunder Bay, Ontario. One day, she was describing, with a great deal of humour, a disastrous women’s retreat she had attended with a friend.

Where does the inspiration for your main character and story come from?
I visualized two fifty-something women who stumble upon a murder while attending a retreat. The characters of Louise and Margaret seemed very clear in my mind. They aren’t based on my sister and her friend, apart from the ages. I thought: why not write a mystery where the amateur sleuths in question are church ladies “of a certain age”? Why should young people with hot bodies have all the fun? And since I know Thunder Bay and this area very well, setting was easy!

What genre of literature influences you?
My favourite genre to read is literary fiction. I began to enjoy the Russian classics in high school, as well as all the American and British classics they taught us. (I don’t know why Canadian classics weren't on the curriculum.) My love of great literature led me to take my degree in English, and dream of becoming a writer myself. I am working on a literary novel of my own, but I am so intimidated by the genre that I am afraid of failing miserably. I enjoy some light reading as well: mysteries and humour mainly.

Tell us a bit about your writing process. Paper or pc ?
I journal using pen and paper, and keep a notebook in my purse to jot things down, but nowadays I do most of my writing by computer. The transition took a while, but now I’m quite comfortable with composing on the computer, especially since I can type much faster than I can write. As I get older, I find that my hands cramp up with arthritis if I hold a pen too long, so it’s a good thing I learned to type!

What do you do for leisure ?
Besides reading and writing, my favourite thing to do is spend an afternoon trying out a new recipe for dinner with good friends. There is nothing like great conversation—it’s the closest thing to great literature. Add great food and wine, and life doesn't get any better.

Any influences?
I did have a teacher in high school who believed in my writing. I regret not going back to thank him for that. High school is such a difficult time in most people’s lives that his encouragement meant more to me than he ever knew.

Any pet peeves?
Cliches and bad writing bug me in a novel. Enough of them, and I won’t finish the book. I can forgive grammatical errors, but there’s no excuse for lazy writing.

Can you tell us more about what you have written/published in the past?
 No, I have published in Canadian Living, Globe & Mail,Wascana Review, Prairie Journal, the Danforth Review, Presbyterian Record, Room, Lutheran Women Today, Remote Control, North Coast Review, Zygote, Inspirit, Wawatay News, Horizon North

I hear your writing has received some awards, could you tell us a little about them?
Yes I have, there are : 3 Poems installed at Prince Arthur’s Landing, Thunder Bay Waterfront Project-2011 International Christian Poet Laureate 2010-12 (Utmost Christian Writers Association) Ontario Arts Council Northern Arts Grant,2008 Writers Digest Poetry Competition 2008 Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop (NOWW), 2003,2004,2007 Inscribe Christian Writers Poetry Contest, 2008 Northern Ontario Poetry Competition, Canadian Authors Association, 1999, 2001.

For those of you who are interested...Here is the latest NEWS from Marianne:
After a few of what you might call failures to launch, The Serenity Stone Murder is finally appearing! Join me at Chapters, Saturday, September 27, from noon until 4, or the following Saturday, October 4, at Coles, Intercity to find out who dunnit! Pre-orders can be made through my ever-gracious publisher, Stacey, at Split Tree Publishing.

Marianne's blog can be found HERE
Marianne's FB page can be found HERE

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mary Ellen Bramwell and The Apple of My Eye

For those of you who didn't know, I am a member of the CIR group found on Facebook. CIR, or Clean Indie Reads, is a great place to meet authors looking to promote their "flinch-free" fiction. Aspiring authors can turn to the group for advice, and the more seasoned members prove to be a wealth of information. There is a lot of support  and even more silliness offered as everyone makes their way along the publishing path. Part of the support comes in the form of cross-promotion.
It also offers a safe place for readers, parents and teachers to discover great new reads, without having to meticulously sift through the material for inappropriate content. That "list" can be found here: http://cleanindiereads.blogspot.ca/

OK, back to the business at hand. Today, I have the pleasure of sharing a fellow CIR member's novel with you. Let's give a warm welcome to Mary Ellen Bramwell, Author of The Apple of My Eye.

Author Bio

Mary Ellen Bramwell has been writing stories since she was ten years old. After working in other fields and raising five children as a stay-at-home mom, Mary Ellen has returned to her first love, writing, working for magazines while completing her debut novel, 
The Apple of My Eye
She resides in Northeast Ohio with her husband, Allen, and her two youngest children. 

Interview Questions

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

I’ve been married to my husband for over 30 years, and we have five children (spread out over those three decades). I’ve been writing short stories since I was ten, but always for my own or my family’s enjoyment. After being a stay-at-home mom for several decades, my youngest finally started school. So, I turned to my writing full-time and realized just how much I loved it!

How much of your time is set aside for writing?

I write while my kids are at school and then often in the evenings when the youngest is in bed and the house is quiet.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?

The Apple of My Eye opens as Brea Cass, a young mother, is awakened in the night by the news that her loving husband, Paul, has been shot during a robbery. She is stunned. Arriving at the hospital to discover he has died shakes her whole world. When she finally emerges from the fog of her life, it dawns on her that something is amiss in the way her husband died. What was really going on?

Where does the inspiration for you main character and story come from?

I like strong female characters, but not brash or pushy ones. My best review of Brea, my main character, came from an English professor (aptly named William Shakespeare). He said, “The protagonist [Brea] is an un-manipulative Lady Macbeth without fangs.”

I also like puzzles. So, once the character existed in my head and the basic puzzle of the plot, everything flowed together for the story.

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?

I always had a sense that it would be about love and forgiveness, but I didn't realize how much it would be about that until the story appeared on the page.

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

The simple answer is yes – I do both. As different ideas come, I just write them quickly before they fade or I jot down the basic ideas on 3 x 5 cards. When there are too many 3 x 5 cards to keep straight, I put them in the order they are to be used and divide them into chapters. That way when I decide to change something or add new material, it’s easy to move the cards around or insert a card where it belongs.
Wow! I like that card idea. I think this is a tip you should pass on to fellow authors.

What is the time span in your novel, weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?

My book takes place over the course of six months. However, the middle section, the longest page-wise, occurs rapidly over the course of days.

As for research, I spent a long time thinking through a key element in the book. (It would be a spoiler alert to identify that element.) And, of necessity, that involved a lot of online research and speaking with experts to make sure what I was presenting was realistic and plausible, although for the sake of public safety, not actually possible. (How’s that for a teaser?)
How to mess with the mind of your reader LOL! 

Could you tell us how you go about your research, how you ‘catalogue’ information to make it all work?

Since my research for this book centered only around one element, it was easy to collect notes and various print-outs. My next book involves a great deal of medical research, and I’m still figuring out the best method of storing that information for easy access.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?

This is my first novel. Everything else has been a short story or a magazine article. I had to be a lot more patient as I wrote, fighting the urge to get too quickly to the punch line or the twist.
I can see how that would be a challenge. I  find it difficult to write articles for the exact opposite reason...I have too much detail that absolutely HAS to be shared for the allocated word count.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

It has been fabulous for me. I finished writing my book in January of this year, and a publisher accepted it in April with a release date of August 28th! I have had to stay on top of edits, line edits, final edits, cover edits, etc., but all that does is help me move forward faster. When I have a free moment from that preparation, I work on my freelance work and my next novel.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist or just take one day at a time?

My publisher is helping some, but mostly it’s on me. I have been leaning on the advice of my husband and some marketing professionals along with the ideas from my publisher. I actually had a great time designing my marketing materials online. To be honest, though, some days it’s daunting.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Read! Read books, write short stories, jot down ideas, and then just sit down and write. If you aren't loving it at least part of the time, try something else.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?

I already alluded to my next book. It is called I Am Seven. The narrator is a seven-year-old boy. My youngest child just turned eight, and I am always amazed by the wise, silly, charming, lovable things that come out of his mouth. The plot of my book is complex, but when spoken by my fictional narrator it becomes something simple and surprising.

Book Synopsis 

Brea Cass, a young mother, is awakened in the night by the news that her loving husband, Paul, has been shot during a robbery. She is stunned. Arriving at the hospital to discover he has died shakes her whole world. When she finally emerges from the fog of her life, it dawns on her that something is amiss in the way her husband died. What was really going on?

As Brea searches for answers, she discovers things she's not sure she wants to know. Delving into mysteries that surround her brings several questions to the forefront of Brea's thoughts. Can I move forward despite the heartache? Am I loved? Is someone who has made mistakes redeemable?

I want to thank Mary Ellen for joining us today, and I will follow up with purchase links to her novel.
You can visit her website at www.maryellenbramwell.com.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Getting Back in the Saddle

I am an author…right?

Of course! But I am also a mom, with 3 of my 6 kids still at home. (My youngest is going to be 9 months old this week). I work part time for the Canadian Forces, and this keeps me busy on evenings and weekends. I homeschool, cook everything from scratch and make all of our personal care products from toothpaste to deodorant. 

Personally, I have been through times in my life where I’d held down 3 jobs and cared for my family, but this pregnancy made even the smallest of tasks difficult. In maternity circles, it is referred to as “Pregnancy Brain Drain,” and let me tell you…it is not funny. I went from reading a book a day to being unable to remember what was going on from one sentence to the next.  I slept no more than 90 minutes at a time throughout the pregnancy and even now I am up 2-4 times each night.  

This picture was at the beginning of last August, and Savannah showed up at the end of the month,  two-and-a-half weeks early.

Reading became impossible, and finishing up the sequel to Amethyst Eyes even more so. As I mentioned above, Savannah will be 9 months this week, and I am finally coming out of my brain fog. I am able to read again…which as a judge for the RONE awards, is a good thing. I reread Amethyst Eyes, and the sequel to make sure there was a continuation to the story without repeating the first, but just enough detail so that someone starting with the second would not spend his or her time wondering what the heck was going on. Since I was coming out my haze, I found myself rediscovering the story from the first book (and really liking it), and reading scenes in the second that I had no recollection of having ever written.  Yeah, I had it bad this pregnancy.

I was forced to let things slide, not keeping up with my blog, website, Facebook, twitter or anything else. I accepted help from a friend, and gave him access to my pages so my fans wouldn’t think I had fallen off the planet, (though it would have been cool to have gone off to visit the Phoenix or Two-Feathers).

The upside to this is that Savannah has helped me heal from the loss of her older sister, not only emotionally, but physically as well. I had to use a cane on and off up until my pregnancy, but for some reason, I was able to make it through the pregnancy without it, even with my huge belly. Over the past 9 months I had only used it one morning, and I believe I am done with it for good.

I am down to the final edit, and getting excited about the upcoming release of Amethyst Eyes, the Legend Comes to Life. We have yet to format and choose a cover, but we’re getting here!
Slowly, though not as steadily as I’d have liked, I am getting back into the saddle.  I am looking forward to reconnecting with all of you, and all my author/blogger friends. Christian, friend, faithful assistant, and occasional pain (he can be demanding at times), stood by me throughout the changes pregnancy and motherhood brought upon my writing career and responsibilities. Thank you, Christian. You’re a tough man.

To my fans, remember to post your pics of you holding one or more of my books for the draw. (Someone is going to get a really great looking mug!) Oh, if all you have is a Kindle, then hold up the ebook with the book cover showing on the screen and it counts! You can either post it to the Amethyst Eyes facebook page: http://on.fb.me/IKQkoj

 or email it in: amethysteyes01@yahoo.ca

Here's a picture of ME, just so you know I am doing just fine!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Handfasting, by author David Burnett

Hi all, keeping warm? Allow me to say with all the energy I can muster...I WANT SUMMER! The cold has not let up...every morning, windshield of -39C...and not much of a break during the day. *Shiver*
OK, on to warmer things, in the form of love and romance. See? It's warmer already. 
On to the Handfasting!
Ten years had passed since they had joined hands in the ruins of the old abbey church. Standing before the high altar, they were handfasted in the Celtic custom, engaged to be married.
A rose bush had bloomed beside the ruined altar. Stephen had reached out to caress one of the flowers. "I'll find you," he had said. "In ten years, when we have finished school, when we are able to marry, I'll find you. Until then, whenever you see a yellow rose, remember me. Remember I love you."
   In those ten years, Katherine had finished college, completed med school, and become a doctor. For a decade, she had been waiting, hoping, praying, and, today ─ her birthday─ she finds a vase of yellow roses when she reaches home.

   Stephen, though, is not Katherine's only suitor. Bill Wilson has known her since they were in high school. He has long planned to wed her, and he finally decides to stake his claim. His methods leave a lot to be desired, the conflict turns vicious, and Katherine must choose the future that she wants. (Excerpt up next! Read on...)

August 1967

Theirs was the only room on the third floor of the small hotel, so no one noticed when they walked, hand in hand, down the short hallway. Katherine had never done anything quite like this before, and her hand shook as she took hold of the rail at the top of the stairs. She looked at Steven and smiled nervously as he squeezed her hand in reassurance.
Small lights gleamed on the landing below, but the stairs were dark, her steps unsteady, and she stumbled twice on the way down. Steven was holding her arm, though, and he caught her each time she tripped. They stopped as they reached the hotel’s front door.
“Are you all right?” he whispered.
“Fine. It’s just dark.” She hugged him. “Really.”
“You have the key?”
She reached into a pocket and pulled out the ring that held both the key to their room and the one to the hotel’s door. “Got it.”
They opened the door and slipped out into the darkness. Even though it was summer, the night air was cold and Katherine pulled her sweater around her, tightly. Only in Scotland, she thought, would she need a sweater in August. It was just after midnight, and the small Scottish town was effectively closed for the night. Their hotel was dark, except for a light in one room on the second floor. The other hotel, directly across the street, was also dark.
They turned to the left and walked down High Street toward the central plaza. They passed two pubs, one on each side of the street, both closed. Farther down, a third one, the Golden Lion, appeared to be open—lights were visible through the window at least. Katherine thought it unlikely that many patrons were still inside. If so, they were surely sipping their last pints for the evening.
They reached the plaza, the one part of town that was brightly lit. It was surrounded by shops—a candy store, a shop that carried Scottish woolens, two cafés, and one filled with what Katherine called tourist junk—stuffed Nessies, t-shirts with cute slogans, tartan ties, plastic swords, anything that might induce a tourist to part with a few pounds or dollars.
The Mercat Cross, the ancient symbol of royal authority, stood in the center of the plaza. Some fifteen feet high, it had occupied the same spot in the center of town for over five hundred years, witnessing the town’s gradual change from a place of pilgrimage, to a bustling market town, to the tourist attraction that it had become in recent years.
The tourists came to see the ruins of the great abbey, much as the pilgrims in centuries past had come to see it in its glory. Katherine and Steven were going to the abbey, tonight.
High Street ran through the plaza and they continued for two more blocks before turning left on the B road that ran toward the ruins. The buildings blocked the lights from the plaza and they had to watch

their steps to stay on the sidewalk that ran beside the narrow road. Since it was late, there was no traffic—if a car should come speeding along, the driver would be as surprised to find them on foot, as they would be to see the car.
The walkway ended abruptly and they stepped off onto the grassy shoulder.
When Katherine looked up, she could see the stars. She had been in Scotland for almost six weeks and this was the first time she had seen them. Perhaps it was a good omen.
Ten minutes later, they reached the abbey. The floodlights that illumined the ruins had been turned off and a single streetlight in front of the visitor center provided the only illumination. A chain hung across the entrance to the abbey grounds. Few visitors would walk out from town,and since there was no place to park, other than in the car park, the chain effectively closed the site to visitors.
Steven started across the road, but Katherine held back.
The abbey seemed ominous in the darkness, and Katherine could easily envision that the spirits of the monks who had once lived within its walls still hovered about.
Steven must have felt her hesitate because he squeezed her arm.
Katherine looked up into his eyes. Coming here had been her idea and she wondered if he still thought it was a good plan.
“You’re sure?” she whispered. “You want to do this?”
Steven nodded and hugged her. “Positive.”
They crossed the highway, stepped over the chain, and hurried across the brightly lit lawn, stopping when they reached the shadows of the abbey’s walls. They had to walk slowly because the ground was uneven and littered with stones, but they finally reached the side entrance to the abbey’s church.
The church had held up better than the rest of the abbey. When the abbey had been disbanded in the mid fifteen hundreds, the church had continued to be used as the parish church for another two centuries. The walls were mostly complete, and the stone floor was still in place. A roof and windows were all that would be needed to make the building serviceable again.
Katherine switched on a penlight when they entered the church, confident that it would not be seen by a passing motorist. Walking through the nave and the choir, they approached the high altar—the altar itself was gone, but the raised platform, on which it had stood, remained.
To one side, a yellow rosebush was in full bloom. The fact that it could survive in the abbey was amazing on its own, that it bloomed each year in August, even more so. It was said that a sixteenth-century abbot had removed stones from the floor in order to plant the bush and that it bloomed once each year, on the anniversary of the last mass said by the monks. Its water source was a mystery. The yellow rose had been adopted as the symbol of the abbey, and later as the symbol of the town itself.
Together, they knelt in front of the space where the high altar had stood. Katherine unfolded a sheet of paper, placing it on the ground. Steven held the light as they joined their right hands and Katherine wrapped a purple cord around them. She picked up the paper, and Steven began to read.
“I, Steven Andrew Richardson, take thee, Katherine Lee Jackson, to be my betrothed wife, as the law of the holy Kirk shows, and thereto I plight thee my troth.”
Katherine looked into his eyes. “I, Katherine Lee Jackson, take thee, Steven Andrew Richardson, to be my betrothed husband, as the law of the holy Kirk shows, and thereto I plight thee my troth.”
A smile spread across Katherine’s face. She wanted to jump and shout, but she remembered that they were not supposed to be in the abbey. She put her arms around Steven and squeezed as hard as she could.
He hugged and kissed her in return. “We are engaged now?” he whispered.
“According to Celtic custom we are. I am bound to you forever, unless you release me. You are bound to me.”
They knelt in silence and she whispered a prayer, asking that they would be able to carry out the plans they had made. When she had finished, she raised her head and looked at Steven. Her eyes followed his toward the rosebush. The moon had risen behind the abbey and its light streamed through one of the small round windows on the side of the nave, falling on a single rose at the end of an especially long cane.
He reached out and pulled the rose toward them. The fragrance was sweet, reminding Katherine of a perfume that had once been her favorite.
“Whenever you see a yellow rose, Katie, think of me.” He said quietly. “Every time you see one, remember that I love you.”
Steven released the rose and took her hand in his. “Everything will work out. You’ll see.”
After another minute, he helped her to her feet and they retraced their steps to the entrance. A light raked across the door just before they reached it, and he peered around the wall.
Two police officers stood at the chain, shining lights around the ruins.
“They couldn’t have seen my light,” she whispered.
“Just a routine check. If they had seen the light, they would have come in.”
After several minutes, the officers drove away. Katherine and Steven hurried down the road and returned to town.
The police car was in the plaza as they turned onto High Street.
“Good evening, Officer,” Katherine said as they passed.
“Good evening, ma’am. It’s a bit late for a stroll.”
“We’re going in now, Officer. Good night.”
“Good night, ma’am.”
Reaching the hotel, Katherine looked back down the street. The officer was still watching them. She inserted the key, opened the door, and carefully, they climbed the stairs.
Reaching their room, they changed clothes and kissed good night. Then, as they had for the past two weeks, Katherine lay under the covers, Steven on top. He put his arm around her and they slept.

Let us take a moment to find out more about the author, David Burnett. 

 Author Biography

David Burnett lives in Columbia South Carolina, with his wife and their blue-eyed cat, Bonnie. The Reunion, his first novel, is set in nearby Charleston. The Handfasting is his second novel. While most of the events in the story take place in New York City, psychologically, the story is set in the rural South of the 1970’s.

David enjoys traveling, photography, baking bread, and the Carolina beaches. He has photographed subjects as varied as prehistoric ruins on the islands of Scotland, star trails, sea gulls, and a Native American powwow. David and his wife have traveled widely in the United States and the United Kingdom. During one trip to Scotland, they visited Crathes Castle, the ancestral home of the Burnett family near Aberdeen

David has graduate degrees in psychology and education and previously was Director of Research for the South Carolina Department of Education. He and his wife have two daughters.

David was so kind as to provide us with a character interview. I suggest you settle down with a good cup of tea and read on...

Interview with Katherine Jackson from The Handfasting

Hi, Katherine, it’s nice to have you with us, today. Tell us a little about yourself. That accent of yours tells me that you are from the South.

It’s good to be here. You’re correct. I have spent most of my life in the South. I grew up in Hamilton, Virginia. It’s a small town near Richmond, and the Jacksons have lived there for generations. Actually, I still call Hamilton home and my family – my parents, brother, sister, aunt, and several cousins - still live there. I suppose that I’m related to half of the town! That’s what it’s like in small Southern towns, and even though it’s nineteen seventy-eight, not a lot has changed.

But you live in New York City?

That’s right. I attended the University of Virginia and, then went to medical school at Emory University, in Atlanta. After residency, I took a position as an ER doctor at a hospital in New York. I share an apartment with Becky and Sarah, my two best friends from college.

A pretty girl like you – you surely must have a boyfriend.

I do. His name is Steven, Dr. Steven Richardson. He has a PhD in art history from Oxford, and he is a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Did you meet in New York?

No, we met a little over ten years ago. It was the summer after I completed high school. I spent that summer traveling around in Europe, mostly in England and Scotland. Steven was there, doing the same thing. We traveled together quite a bit, hiking from town to town, visiting castles, churches, ruins. During that time, we fell in love. One night – we were in Scotland at the time – we went to the ruins of an old abbey church and were handfasted.

Handfasted? What is that?

Handfasting is an old Celtic engagement ceremony. We agreed to marry. The only problem was that Steven was spending the next year in Italy, studying art. I had four years of college ahead of me, then medical school. It was just impossible.

What did you do?

We were in the church. Off to one side, a rose bush was growing beside the ruins of the altar. Stephen reached out and caressed one of the yellow flowers. Then he turned to me. – I remember this so clearly - “I’ll find you,” he told me. “In ten years, when we have finished school, when we are able to marry, I’ll find you. Until then, whenever you see a yellow rose, remember me. Remember I love you.”

I thought about his promise almost every day for the next decade. Last August, on my birthday, Becky and Sarah had taken me out to celebrate. When we arrived at home, there was a vase of yellow roses. I knew they were from Steven.

So you got back together.

I met him for dinner a couple of days later. I was so nervous! I mean, I had not seen him for ten years, I wasn’t even certain that I would recognize him. Once we began to talk, though, it was as we had been apart for only a couple of days rather than for ten years. We gave ourselves six months – until next week, Valentine’s Day - to decide if we still want to marry. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Not rushing into it?

That’s so sweet! And yes, it does make sense to me. What do the folks at home think?

My mother was concerned at first, but everyone loves Steven, now. I haven’t really told people in Hamilton exactly how we met. I told you that things don’t change in Hamilton. They treat women as if it were eighteen seventy-eight. Some people would call me a tramp if they knew I had traveled around Scotland with Steven. We didn’t sleep together, or anything, but I can hear old Mrs. Howard, now. Mark me! Katherine Jackson will come to no good. Running around England with that man. I’ll wager she never spent a single night alone. In Hamilton once a rumor starts, well, you’re marked for life.

They can’t be that bad.

Every bit that bad. Once, last fall, Steven and I were at the theater and some television program was filming a segment about the Broadway theater. People in Hamilton saw us, and Steven had his arm around me. Even my mother called to ask what we were doing!

Are you going to marry Steven? Or is there another guy in your life?

Of course I’m going to marry him! There’s no other guy…Well, there is one. I’m not interested in him at all, but he tells everyone in Hamilton that he’s going to marry me. He has said that for years. His name is Bill Wilson. He is really a jerk. Last week, Steven was in Richmond for a meeting. Bill cornered him at a reception. My dad told me that Bill was drunk and that he started yelling at Steven, telling him that I was his girl and that Steven should keep his hands off of me.


It really sort of frightened me when I heard about it. He can be violent, you know. Once, when we were in high school, he tried to assault me.

You’re joking.

Not at all. I broke two of his ribs as I fought with him.

He called me the other day and asked if he could come to New York to visit. He wants to talk, he said. I don’t know what he’s thinking. I don’t know why he would even think that I’m interested in him. I’m meeting him this afternoon after work. I’m afraid of what he might do when I tell him to leave me alone, but, anyway, I suppose that I can put up with him for a couple of hours.

Katherine, I have enjoyed talking with you, today. I hope you and Steven are very happy together.

Thank you so much. I am sure that we will be.
Wonderful! Thank you so much for this interview, David.

Here are just a few excerpts from the praise and reviews The Handfasting has received:

"...it was as if I knew these people personally as I was so immersed into the book. I formed a real picture of them in my head and I was sad to lose them when the book finished."

"The book is filled with really tender moments that made me sigh with contentment and truly tragic ones that brought horrified tears to my eyes. In The Handfasting Burnett has written a romance as daunting as real life that still delivers in the end."

"This story is so touching, so emotional and so real, that it cannot help but touch you. It deals realistically with some really difficult and sensitive issues and Burnett handles it all with just the right touch. I absolutely recommend this book."

"I wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I had read up about handfasting and thought it might be some overly slushy romantic novel. How very wrong I was. Yes there was romance, but there was a mix of crime, heartache and despair.
 Once I started reading this, I just couldn't put it down. I fact I continued reading until 3am as I was hooked!"

"I want to say that when men write an outstanding romance novel, I am always blown away. I realize that sounds really sexist, but permit me this leeway. When I consider romance novels, I always think of women. I tend to associate men with thrillers, mystery, and often an inordinate amount of profanity. David Burnett writes a romance story with dynamic characters and a storyline that will keep you guessing."

Now, if any of you are interested in either contacting David or purchasing his novel, well then these links are for you.
Purchase links:

Amazon U.S.

Universal Amazon url


Amazon UK


Nook UK

Paper: Amazon


Contact Links

Website: Handfasting

Twitter handle  @DavdBurnett


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Author Stephanie Parker McKean and Fear of Shadows

Well, since we are all hunkered down around a roaring fire until this horrid cold passes, (by June I fear), I'd like to invite you to meet Author Stephanie Parker McKean as she talks a little about her book: Fear of Shadows. Oh, and somewhere in there, you'll find a little surprise in the form of a character interview. What fun!

Who is Stephanie McKean, you ask? Let's see if I can shed some light on that for you by sharing her Author Bio.

          I’ve survived being mauled by an African lion; bitten by a poisonous water moccasin snake; attacked by a miniature chimp; and childhood sexual abuse.
            What doesn’t make you bitter makes you better. You really can’t make lemonade without
            And thank God, I’ve made the transition from atheist to Christian. My two favorite Bible verses are: in everything give thanks, and all things work together, for good to them that love the LORD.
            The worst day in my life: I lost my job at the newspaper; my mother died and I couldn’t make plans to attend her funeral because my husband had come home from the hospital in an ambulance to die at home; our sheepdog died, and my truck caught on fire in downtown San Antonio. After that, things could only get better! They did. I am now married to the marvelous Rev. Alan McKean, a talented author in his own right with The Scent of Time and The Scent of Home to his credit. We live in the lovely Black Isle of Scotland where we can walk our rough collie, Angel Joy, along the beach.
            Not that life is ever without pain, sorrow and trials. We said goodbye to my 37-year-old son, U.S. Marine Corps Major Luke Gaines Parker, on Nov. 17, 2013, when his plane crashed. He went straight from the sky into the arms of Jesus, but I will spend the rest of my life missing him.
            I was born with an innate pride for Texas (which explains why five of my six published books are set in the Texas Hill Country), and a love for animals. When I was four, I caught my first pet and kept it until my parents discovered me playing with it. You can’t blame them—it was a scorpion! When I was older, our family ran a roadside zoo, which explains the chimp and African lion attacks. You can’t blame them—they were wild animals.
            My published books include Heart Shadows, Until the Shadows Flee, Shadow Chase, Bridge to Nowhere, Love’s Beating Heart and the newly released Fear of Shadows.
I think we can take a moment to say 'WOW', after reading that. Now, please, if you like, it is time for the interview which promises to be equally interesting.

Could you share a little about yourself and what led you to become a writer?

Well, I guess that goes back to getting into trouble in first grade for telling “tall tales.” My parents and my teacher instructed me not to lie. Then when I was 11, my dad brought home a black Shetland pony in the back of the station wagon. He told us that he had sold a book and used the money to buy us a pony. “Dad,” I asked. “What’s your book about?” He told me. I asked, “Is it true?” He replied, “No, I just made it up.” Well, that decided me: if a person could get away with telling lies when they were writing a book – then I wanted to be a writer! Now that's funny.

Do you write full time? How much of your life is set aside for writing?

After working two and three jobs all my life to make ends meet, I am blessed to be a stay-at-home wife. Since my husband is a pastor, I can’t write full time because of parish responsibilities. A lot of my time is set aside for marketing and helping my author husband, Alan T McKean (time travel adventures “The Scent of Time” and “The Scent of Home”), edit his books. Thanks to Alan’s support, I did enter the three-day novel contest this year.

Could you tell us a little about your novel?

Self-sufficient Texas Eugenia Thornhill espouses many rebellions including giving a man authority over her heart, or her life. She hates the mother who named her “Texas” after her birth state instead of loving her enough to give her a real name. She hates the mother who ran off and left her as a young child with a cold, emotionless father. 
Texas likes to brag that she’s not afraid of anything—not even spiders or snakes. Her boast proves empty when she meets childhood friend West Strom and realizes that she is deathly afraid of shadows, but clueless as to why. Time and again she shatters their nascent romance by mindlessly shrieking and fleeing the shadows that terrify her.

Pranksters also seem intent on sabotaging the relationship. A dead raccoon is hung on the refrigerator, a rock is thrown through the window, furniture is trundled around the room in total disarray, then righted again before West arrives to investigate.
Texas is tricked into holding a séance. West, a strong Christian, is appalled that Texas is involved in witchcraft. That almost ends their friendship.
The most destructive force entering her life proves to be the seemingly harmless fun of frequenting a Texas dancehall with Thornhill Ranch manager, Jason Peace. She finds herself accused of murder and forced into hiding. When she escapes and clears her name, it only adds to the dystopia at the ranch.
Texas exhibits her paintings in a feminist art show in San Antonio and meets her mother. Her mother apologizes, but does not explain her abandonment. When they say goodbye, Texas is saying goodbye to a stranger.
West arrives to rescue her from what Texas has realized is a nefarious art exhibit revolving around hate and discord. But even though West gives Texas a kiss that stuns her with its passion, how many times can her childhood hero rescue her from her foolish choices and paralyzing fear of shadows?
When Texas finally solves the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and learns the truth about her fear of shadows, it is a truth that threatens to destroy every person she loves. Definitely intriguing. I will have to look into getting myself a copy.

Would you take us on a brief tour of your novel and the world you’ve created?

Fear of shadows is set in the unique Texas Hill Country where life often revolves around guest ranches and a plethora of wildlife. Texas Eugenia Thornhill leaves the empty, tree-less Nevada desert to visit her grandparents on their Texas guest ranch, only to learn that she is terrified of tree shadows and all shadows. She doesn’t know why.

Where does the inspiration for your main character and story come from?

When I looked at a picture of a house I had lived in as a young child, I was drawn inside the tree-surrounded house and through the house to the open back door. Just beyond my line of vision, my father was brutally beating something. I couldn’t see it clearly. It scared me so much that I jerked myself back out of the picture. I was never able to make myself go back again to see what was dying. Sadly, my father was an atheist and an evil man. Just after this, he left in the middle of the night with me and moved clear across the country from California to the Florida Everglades. We lived in the Everglades swamp for months. That was the impetus for the story. Texas Thornhill is a creation of an independent, feisty Texas girl. That is pretty intense.

What is the message behind the story? Was it something you specifically wrote a story around or did it develop as your characters came to life?

Good question. Forgiveness and overcoming fear are important components of the story. My characters came to life and carried the story along, building on the foundation of that frightening memory. I can relate to characters coming to life. Amazing experience, isn't it?

Do you work from an outline or just go with the flow? If you use an outline, how detailed is it?

I usually start with a sketchy outline, but as the characters come to life – the story moves itself. Often, it veers sharply away from the outline. Some of the books in my Bridge to Nowhere Miz Mike series literally wrote themselves. The characters are so real that they took charge. LOL, this is where you become a reporter, and wish you could type faster.

What is the time span in your novel; weeks, months, years? How much research went into it?

Fear of Shadows has a time span of only a few months. The incident at the feminist art exhibit in San Antonio is real and accurate. I did less research on Fear of Shadows than on any of my other five books because it simply wasn’t needed. The story flowed around the Texas Hill Country which I had already researched for the other books. A lot of my previous research was obtained from reading back issues of local newspapers, visiting interesting sites, and interviewing people.

How does this book differ from what you have written in the past?

My first book, Heart Shadows, is set in the Nevada Desert and one of the main characters is Native American. I spent months researching Paiute Indians. I spent hours both at the sheriff’s office and the library researching people who had vanished. The most enjoyable part of the research was visiting ghost towns and interviewing gold miners who still worked claims in the mountains. Until the Shadows Flee and Shadow Chase are set in the Texas Hill Country but required new research that I was able to use for Fear of Shadows. Bridge to Nowhere and the other Miz Mike Bridge series books are entirely different. They are humorous with an older protagonist and were written for “baby boomers.” I have also written a Young Adult pro-life adventure-romance, Love’s Beating Heart. It's great that you have been able to write for such different audiences.

How have the changes in present day publishing impacted your schedule as a writer?

Sunpenny Publishing released Bridge to Nowhere and has accepted three more Miz Mike books. The next in the series, Bridge Beyond Betrayal, should be released this spring. Meanwhile, I self-published Love’s Beating Heart and Fear of Shadows.

How do you handle marketing? Do you have a plan, a publicist, or just take one day at a time?

When I lived in the U.S., I had a great marketing strategy because I had worked at newspapers and was working for a boss who had ties to the local TV and radio stations. When I married Alan and moved to Scotland, marketing became more difficult. We have done some book signings and talked to groups. Mostly I use Facebook, Twitter, and any other electronic venues that are offered. We tried a promotional company but have actually had about the same results on our own. It’s mostly one day at a time. I find marketing to be quite an undertaking. Most authors don't realize just what's involved, and to be successful, you have to set anywhere between 10-20 hours a week.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don’t give up. Never give up. I started writing some fifty years ago and got 150 rejection slips before Sunpenny Publishing took Bridge to Nowhere. I did sell some magazine articles and a lot of non-fiction and fiction stories for Sunday School take-home magazines. But my dream has always been to write books. If that’s your dream, keep writing! Do all you can to polish your craft while you wait for that first big break.

Could you tell us what you’re working on now?

I’m working on the sixth Miz Mike Bridge series. I don’t even have a title for it yet. Because I know the characters so well, it’s writing itself. It’s funny, fast-moving, and I haven’t even stopped long enough to draft an outline for it yet.
Thank you so much for taking time out from your schedule to answer  my questions. It's been a pleasure to have you.

Ready to learn a little more about Fear of Shadows?

Excerpt from Fear of Shadows

Boldly, I pushed the swinging doors open and flipped on the light switch in the kitchen. When the light flashed, the cabinets around the walls threw shadows at me. I screamed and ran helplessly out of the house, leaving the door open.
No one was around to see my tears or witness the unreasoning terror that drove me from this—my own house. I stood alone in the dark night looking back at the house flooded with light and wondering what to do. Gone were thoughts of West coming to check on me. Instead, I wondered how I could make my quivering legs carry back across the yard so I could at least close the front door I had left open. I knew that my inert body could carry me no further than the front door. I would not be spending the night in that place of terror. I couldn’t even make myself enter it to turn off the lights I left burning.

Book Blurb, Fear of Shadows

I was about to lose my virginity against my will in a moldy smelling house with plaster falling off the walls—on a torn, stained bed with no sheets and rat droppings bouncing around me. I deserved better. I deserved the right of choice.

Self-sufficient Texas Eugenia Thornhill espouses many rebellions including giving a man authority over her heart, or life. She hates the mother who named her after her birth state, then ran off, leaving her with a cold, emotionless father.
Texas likes to brag that she’s not afraid of anything—not even spiders or snakes. Her boast proves empty when she meets childhood friend West Strom and realizes that she is deathly afraid of shadows, but doesn’t know why. Time and again she shatters their nascent romance by allowing shadows to terrify her.
Pranksters also seem intent on sabotaging the relationship. Dead animals, rocks through windows, tumbled furniture—who could hate her so much, and why? When Texas is tricked into holding a séance, West, who is a Christian, is appalled and calls it “witchcraft.”
The most destructive force entering her life proves to be ranch manager Jason Peace who drags her to a Texas dancehall where she is falsely accused of murder. When she clears her name, it muddies things at the ranch.
Texas exhibits her paintings in a feminist art show in San Antonio and meets her mother, but when they say goodbye, Texas says goodbye to a stranger.
West rescues Texas from the nefarious art exhibit revolving around hate and discord, and gives her a kiss that stuns her with its passion. But how many times can her childhood hero rescue her from foolish choices and her paralyzing fear of shadows?
When Texas finally solves the mystery of her mother’s disappearance and learns the truth about her fear of shadows, it is a truth that threatens to destroy every single person she loves. Ready for some more? If you read on you will find the character interview I had promised you.

Character Interview with Texas Eugenia Thornhill

Q: Today, I welcome Texas Eugenia Thornhill. Texas, glad to have you with us. Now, I understand that you hate your name. Could you explain why?

A: My mother left me when I was young. I resent the fact that she was so indifferent to me that she named me after my birth state instead of picking a real name for me.

Q: If you could pick your own name, what would it be?

A: Something cute and unusual that shows real reflection.

Q: I understand that you’re an artist. Yet, it says here in my notes that you removed your paintings from a feminist art exhibit in San Antonio. Why?

A: Have you ever been to one of those shows? I don’t know if they are all alike, but the one I went to was abominable. I was embarrassed when I left. I didn’t want anyone to see me and know that I had been there.
Q: That bad, huh? Can you give me an example of…

A: You can read about it in my newly released Christian mystery-romance-suspense book, Fear of Shadows.

Q: So what can you tell me about this fear of shadows? Shadows aren’t real, are they? I mean, they can’t hurt you. Are you really afraid of shadows, Texas?

A: I grew up in the Nevada desert. There were no shadows there because nothing grows tall enough to make shadows. So when I got to the Texas Hill Country where there were trees, I discovered that I was afraid of shadows.

Q: Do you know why you’re afraid of shadows?”

A: I do now that I solved the mystery. But I’m not giving it away here. You’ll have to read Fear of Shadows.

Q: I understand you are rebellious and that your rebellions include men. I assume that means that you don’t want to get married. Can you tell us a little about that?

A: My father Gene was unfair and unkind to my stepmother. His example taught me to distrust love. It taught me to distrust putting myself under any man’s authority—including a husband.

Q: Yet, you call your book, Fear of Shadows, a mystery-romance-suspense. If you hate and distrust men, how does the romance get into it?”

A: I’m not giving that away here. You’ll have to read the book.

If you would like to connect with Stephanie, you can find her here, (along with the links for her books):

Author’s Page

Fear of Shadows

Books by Stephanie Parker McKean: Christian mystery-romance-suspense Heart Shadows, Until the Shadows Flee, Shadow Chase, Fear of Shadows and Bridge to Nowhere. Young Adult pro-life adventure-romance, Love’s Beating Heart.