Spring Cleaning

Today is the first day of spring. Yay! Finally, warmer weather, no snow to shovel, flowers growing, birds singing…

Okay, it’s not all flowers and birds. Or warm weather. It’s still closer to freezing than wamth most days, but we’re getting there.

But spring evokes thoughts of cleaning out the cobwebs that have sprung up in not only our homes, but our bodies and minds as well. It’s time for walks outside, not huddling under the covers.

To that end, I have spent the last few days going through old paper files in my office. Boxes and boxes of them. Files that contain all the submissions I’ve ever made – and their rejections (way too many of those) as well as their acceptances and contracts (more than a few, but less than a lot). It’s rather interesting going through those things. As I look at the old manuscripts I submitted vs. the newer ones that garnered contracts, I can see why they were rejected. I have learned a lot over the years about writing.

But I also lost something in the process, I believe. I now know the rules of writing and (mostly) follow them. I have pared down my points of view, tightened my writing, cleaned up problems. But in doing so, I lost the fun of writing. Yes, my technique is better, but I believe my creativity was better before I knew all the rules.

Which brings me to the story I’m currently working on. I’ve been trying so hard to make this a viable story, that it’s become less than what I think it can be. So I’m going to do some spring cleaning. I’m going to go back to my story with a fresh perspective and forget about the rules and just write. I’m going to create my world. Populate it with interesting characters, and give them a situation to overcome.

I can always go back and edit. As another writer once said, “You can’t edit a blank page.” So I’m going to start filling up those pages and see if I can’t find myself again. Wish me luck. 🙂



I recently spent four wonderful days with two friends in a quirky little house where we did little more than write. We occasionally ate or took a quick walk outside, but mostly, we wrote.

We do this two or three times a year (this year – we’ll do it three times) and we go from Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning. Which means we get in two full days and two partial days to do nothing by concentrate on our writing.

In past years, I have used this time to finish stories, edit finished ones, or plan out new ones. This year I was in edit mode and discovered that the one fantasy story I was working on needed to be expanded and broken up into three separate books. This is the book I plotted out last retreat – with brainstorming help from said friends.

For each of us, this time means something different as we all work on different things – but it is time we give ourselves over to our hearts. To create. To dream. To plot murders and fly with dragons. To battle supernatural beings, or become ones.

Here, we don’t have to worry about bills or kids or spouses or any of the mundanities of life. We get to spend time in our writing worlds and talk writing with other writers. We look forward to our little retreats – even doing countdowns and planning the next one before we’ve left the current one.

Our next one is in May…and I’m already counting down the time.

Guest Post: Jon Dalton

Wolf Mallory’s life isn’t settling down following his forced early retirement from military intelligence. Not only is he now a private investigator, he’s about to go up against the most dangerous foe yet–a billionaire megalomaniac with dreams of seeing the South rise again. Confederate gold, electrical grid hacking, and murder aren’t things Wolf was trained to deal with during his previous career…but he’s about to get some pretty intense on-the-job experience.




Cover Reveal: Georgia Pine

If you haven’t read KG Fletcher’s books, you’re missing some great reads! Her characters and imagery and stories are so real, and never fail on the HEA. Check out her stuff at: http://www.kgfletcherauthor.com 

Georgia Pine ~ Southern Promises ~ Book Three

KG Fletcher

The agony of defeat never felt so real.

Never in a million years did Jessica Kaufman think she would be divorced from her real-estate mogul husband and left to raise four young daughters on her own in an affluent Atlanta subdivision. The very last thing she expects is an encounter with her gorgeous gardener who looks more like a sexy beast from her daughters’ favorite Disney movie. She is smitten with his evergreen eyes, wild mane of hair and impressive stature.

Tim McGill is in hiding – his reputation and celebrated career on the West Coast left in shambles. He moves far away to distance himself from his downfall and inconspicuously tends the upper-class landscapes to keep his renowned identity a secret. Unlike his typical wealthy clients, Jessica doesn’t seem to mind that he’s a gardener. One spark between them is all it takes to ignite a fiery passion that could explode if Tim’s identity is revealed. He must earn Jessica’s trust and finally come to terms with what he has lost.

Can Tim open his heart wide enough to let in a beautiful mother and her four little girls? Or will his Southern Belle turn her back on him and walk away from their happily-ever-after?

Goodreads Link:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/40774458-georgia-pine

Pre-order link: https://goo.gl/BHgktw

FREE on Kindle Unlimited

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A Recommendation: Jon Dalton


5 stars

This is the first of a series based on the main character, Wolf Mallory – and I am definitely going to read more. It’s been a while since I enjoyed a light mystery as much as I did this. Though it technically meets the definition of a “cozy” mystery (sleuth who is not a professional cop/detective/private eye), Neal *Wolf* Mallory does have some background in interrogation. After all, he was in military intelligence with the Marines.

In this book, an old friend and fellow Marine, Vinnie, has asked Wolf to help with a friend of Vinnie’s – a woman who is being charged with the murder of her lover. Though Wolf doesn’t really want to get involved—after all, he’s got his own legal problems—once he meets Vicky, he can’t refuse. He knows on a gut level that she’s innocent, but how to prove it when even her lawyer and his investigator believe she’s guilty.

The story goes through the usual issues with murder, embezzlement, greed, jealousy, and more. But there’s also friendship, love, support, and more. One thing the author does exceedingly well is descriptions. The story takes place on one of the islands off the west coast of Florida and you feel like you’re really there. The heat, the humidity, the gulf waters…all vivid, but not overpowering. It cements the setting in your mind.

Wolf is a good character with morals and issues that make him real. His relationship with Vicky grows from their time together and is not just a case of lust that will last only until the case is solved. But this is not a romance so don’t expect a bunch of flowers and violins. The building relationship only adds to the story but does not overtake it. The murder is still the point of the story that everything else revolves around.

If you’re looking for a nice light read with a male lead character, I’d definitely recommend this one. Yes, there are a few loose ends left dangling that I assume will continue in future books, but the overall story is solved with a satisfying ending. I’m looking forward to more Wolf Mallory stories.

Guest Post: Susan Kelly

The Science Part of a Science Fiction Series

I write science fiction romance, and I do it in three book series. All the books in a series are set in the same futuristic world. Before I come up with characters and their romantic arcs, I figure out the science that will make the world unique and create interesting obstacles for the protagonists.

Fiery LadySurvivors of the Apocalypse is set in a future America more than three hundred years from present day. What has caused this catastrophe that had nearly wiped out mankind? Science, of course. In this series, it’s medical science. In a search for a universal vaccination, medical researchers accidentally unleash a virus that kills everyone. A domed city, built before the outbreak, serves as the only center of civilization where people live. Or are they the only ones? Out in the wilds of a de-populated United States, small pockets of survivors make a life. These survivors are the descendants of the few people who never received the vaccination, but their numbers are too few to sustain genetic diversity. These frontiersmen turn to the city in hopes to add to their numbers.

The science I researched:

Vaccinations and how immune systems work.

Number of people needed for genetic diversity.

Bone marrow transplants.

How starvation affects fertility rates.

Engineering problems likely in a domed city that is three centuries old.Exiled Lady

Surviving without electricity in a frontier situation.

All these science things add to the conflicts and obstacles the protagonists face. Add in the cultural differences between the frontiersmen and the city people, and there is more than enough conflict to keep the stories rolling along.

At the center of the story is a set of triplets, two men and one woman, who’ve grown up wild and rough on the frontier. When their aunt discovers a possible cure for the virus killing any city person who leaves the dome, each of the triplets will find the possible love of their lives.

Book #1 Hunter’s Exiled Lady

Book #2 Horse Tamer’s Fiery Lady

Book #3 Exile’s Savage Lady

I hope you enjoy some science in your romance novels. Be prepared for the hijinks when two cultures collide.

Susan Kelley writes space opera romance and dystopian romance with courageous heroes and adventuresome heroines. She resides in central Pennsylvania in a large country home with her husband and the frequent company of her six children. Find her Exile Savage ladyat:

Her blog, Susan Says

Her Twitter

Her Facebook Page



Chocolate Potato Soup

I’ll bet that title got your attention. And yes, there’s a story behind it. As you’re reading this blog, I am at the eye surgeon having a cataract removed from my left eye. In two weeks, I’ll have the right eye done. So what does that have to do with chocolate potato soup?

Back in the 1960s, my dad had cataracts in both eyes. In his mid-forties, he was rather young for having this kind of surgery. And back then, it wasn’t the quick out-patient dash-and-slash that it is now. Back then, it required a week in the hospital, six weeks recovery at home, and all sorts of special instructions and cautions.

My dad did a lot of the cooking at home and he was especially good at soups. When he was able to get around again, he decided to make some potato soup. As most know, one of the last things you do is add milk (or cream) to the soup. Dad, still not seeing quite right, grabbed the milk carton from the fridge and added it to the soup. When it started coming up brown, he thought he’d burned the soup. But he hadn’t. He’d grabbed the container of chocolate milk! (The boxes were similar in size, color, etc.) Thus, chocolate potato soup.

No, we didn’t eat it, but it has been a family chuckle for many years.

So what’s the first thing my son said when I told him about my upcoming eye surgery?

Don’t make potato soup!

Have a good one everyone!

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare once used the line: “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

A name, or in the case of a writer, a title, for a book is not always sweet. Or easy to come up with. My cover designer (Charity Parkerson) asked me yesterday what the titles to two of the books I’m working on (as my alter-ego) are so she could finish the cover art. And I had no clue. I’ve been working on both of these books for some time, but couldn’t come up with titles. Everything I thought of… had dozens of similar titles already in the places I checked. Very frustrating. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what my titles would be. Usually, I have a title in mind when I start working, but not with these two. Or rather, I did, but, as noted above, dozens of books already had those titles. One of the books concerns a phoenix/woman. The other is about a young man and his dragon.

I know a lot of writers struggle with this subject. Titles can draw a reader in, or turn them away. They can give indications of the genre, the events, and more. Titles are a major part of the book, a marketing point that helps sell your book.

Right now, there is a huge brouhaha going on over an unscrupulous author trying to trademark a word that is in the title of a series she wrote. She is demanding that all other authors who use this word take down their books and give them new titles because she owns this word. So bunches of writers got together and wrote stories with that word in the title. She took them to court. Guess what? She lost the lawsuit. It’s a long, involved case that I won’t get into, but it does point out how important titles can be. You can’t copyright (and yes, copyright and trademark are two different things) a title. A book, yes, but not the title. That’s why there are so many with the same titles. So how to make mine unique? I kept searching.

The titles I eventually settled on?

Dragon Crumbs

The Last Phoenix

Now that I have the titles in mind, I can get back to writing the stories! 🙂


All those books…

Over the past few years, in my capacity as a full time editor, I read a lot of manuscripts. The equivalent of three to four full length novels a week. Throw in things my crit partners sent, and the contests I judged…that’s a lot of books. But those were unpublished manuscripts.

As for real books–both ones you can hold and digital–I’ve got several hundred sitting on my shelves, floor, tables that I received either as gifts or at conferences as freebies given out by various authors and publishers. I haven’t had time to read them yet. Some of them, I never will because they just don’t draw me in. So what to do?

Lots of things. I haunt two stores that handle used books–Aaron’s Books in Lititz, PA and Cupboard Maker Books in Enola, PA. Both are small, independent bookstores that sell both new and used books. I recently donated almost 700 books to Cupboard Maker (mostly because they had the room to take them), but I’ve also given ones to Aaron’s. In addition, I’ve donated to women’s shelters and local libraries (when I moved to the town I now live in, I donated almost 1000 books to the local library for their sale).

Even with all that, I still have stacks and stacks of books to read. My husband cringes every time I go near a bookstore because he knows I can’t resist. There is nothing better than having a good book in hand to read.

Now that I am “retired” (hah!), I don’t have so many manuscripts to read so I can actually get around to reading some of those books I have sitting around. I am looking forward to it.

Do yourself (and the businesses) a favor and go to a local indie bookstore and buy some books from them. Don’t go in, look around, then buy what you want online (and yes, a lot of people do this). Help a small business out and purchase from them. And when you’re done, consider donating your used book either back to the store or to some place like a shelter or library.

Life is what happens…

Have you ever anticipated something for weeks, maybe months, waiting for that special day, thinking it will never get here? And then whoosh – it’s over and gone in the blink of an eye and you’re left wondering…what happened?

This past week was kind of like that for me. Last weekend, we had an open house party to celebrate my husband’s birthday. I planned it for weeks. Middle son was flying in from out of state. There would be food, and fun, and friends…

And there were all of the above, but after all that planning, it went by so quickly that I’m not sure it even happened. Yes, I was there. And yes, there was laughter and eating and playing of games… but it happened so quickly. Son is back at his home, leftovers are all gone and life has returned to its state of normalcy. But where did that time go and so quickly?

At the beginning of the year, I had all these plans for my writing. I charted out what I would do each month. Then vision issues caused all those plans to change and my timeline ended up being trashed. Now, I’m happy to get done what I do each day – whether it’s a paragraph, or a chapter. It’s frustrating, but I deal. It’s all I can do for now while I await eye surgery. Waiting and planning.

Time is a funny thing. It moves so slowly when we are waiting for something, but goes supersonic when the event gets here. And passes us by without us noticing. It’s the middle of May and I wonder where the year has gone. Like the quote, published in 1957 and attributed to Allen Saunders, but made famous by John Lennon: Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

Go enjoy some life today. 🙂