Friday, April 22, 2016

Celebrating the Small Things

Hello and Happy Friday, all! It's time to once again celebrate the week gone by with the Celebrate the Small Things hop. This fun hop is hosted by my buddy Lexa Cain and co-hosted by L.G Keltner at Writing Off the Edge, Tonja Drecker at Kidbits, and Katie at The Cyborg Mom. Visit Lexa's blog here to find out how join in the hop yourself and to see the list of participants.

I missed last week's hop because I was traveling to California for my nephew's wedding. The wedding is the main thing I'm celebrating this week, as it was a wonderful event and I'm so glad I got to attend. We had a fantastic time in beautiful Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica, and this was my first visit to that area. The wedding was outdoors and we couldn't have had more perfect weather. It was a treat to spend time with family and old friends in such a picturesque and happy setting.

I also got to explore Santa Monica very briefly, and there are few things I love more than the ocean!

I'm also celebrating that I finally came up with a solid, workable idea for another story in my Polar Night series. I had given up on that ever happening, and then I had a dream that provided me with just the inspiration I needed. The original story for Polar Night came from a dream, so I can't help but feel like this was meant to be. I'm super excited to start writing and of course that is always something to celebrate!

I hope everyone has a great weekend ahead. :)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Celebrating a Trip out West, Part Two

Zion National Park

Last week I posted about my trip to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah. While I was there I was fortunate enough to visit Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park, both of which are within easy driving distance from the sanctuary. Both were so spectacular I'm still celebrating the trip!

I'd heard great things about Zion and it definitely didn't disappoint. It was hard to be anything but speechless while driving through it. I felt as if there were majestic temples towering over me on either side of the road.

I really couldn't stop saying "Wow" the whole time I was at the park. I would love to go back sometime and explore more of it. It's so spectacular that one afternoon wasn't nearly enough time.

Amazingly, Bryce Canyon is just as spectacular in its own right. The amount of beauty in this section of the country was extraordinary to me. If anything, I almost enjoyed Bryce more simply because it was less crowded.

We drove up to the highest point in the park, which is at 9,115 feet. That's the highest elevation I've ever been at and it was simply stunning.

The snow made it even more beautiful, although I was glad that none of that snow was on the roads!

The natural bridge at Bryce is also amazing. We read that there is no way to know when the arch could collapse, as similar structures at other parks in the west have collapsed without warning. I was glad that nothing like that happened while we were there, and the arch is so beautiful I hope it remains intact for thousands of more years.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this trip and the extraordinary landscape since I returned home. I now have a special place in my heart for Southeastern Utah and I definitely hope I can return again someday. I felt so fortunate to be able to visit such a phenomenal place.

The Celebrate the Small Things hop is hosted by my buddy Lexa Cain and co-hosted by L.G Keltner at Writing Off the Edge, Tonja Drecker at Kidbits, and Katie at The Cyborg Mom. Visit Lexa's blog here to find out how join in the hop yourself and to see the list of participants.

I hope you have all had lots to celebrate this week and enjoy the weekend ahead!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

April IWSG

Today is the day for the April meeting of The Insecure Writer's Support Group, hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh. Alex's co-hosts for April are Megan Morgan, Chris Votey, Viola Fury, Christine Rains, Madeline Mora-Summonte, L.G. Keltner, Rachna Chhabria, and Patricia Lynne

I am keeping this post short and sweet because I know lots of people are busy with the A-Z Challenge. And because I really couldn't think of much to write about anyway!

This month seems to be all about ideas for me. I have ideas floating around my head for a new story I've been thinking about forever, a new attempt at the sequel to Polar Day that I gave up on back at the start of the year, and even a totally new writing adventure that I've never tried before. I'm actually really excited about all of these ideas, but that's the problem. They are all just ideas. 

So I guess my insecurity for this month is that I am starting to feel like I will never be able to harness these ideas and make them into an actual story. I can't seem to focus enough to do so. I'm not sure what I need to do to get my focus and drive back. Lately I have just been all over the place. 

Maybe just acknowledging that I need to stop messing around and get that focus back will be enough to get my butt in gear. I hope so. Ideas are fun but not nearly as fun as putting them down on paper and making a story grow around them. 

I hope all of you who are busily blogging from A-Z are having fun! It feels a little weird to not be doing it, as I have completed the challenge every April since I started blogging in 2011. I am hoping that by sitting this one out I will be able to get my writing focus back and make this a productive month.

Fingers crossed, anyway.

Happy April, all!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Visit from Witch of the Cards author Catherine Stine

I'm happy to have Catherine Stine here today to talk about her latest book Witch of the Cards and its setting, the beach town of Asbury Park, New Jersey. She's also hosting a great giveaway to go with her release tour, so be sure to check out the rafflecopter at the bottom of this post. Welcome. Catherine! 

The allure of creepy, ramshackle beach towns as settings for dark fantasy

What is it exactly that makes edgy beach towns the perfect setting for sinister fantasy and historical suspense? I’ve always been attracted to the dark side, and particularly to strange beach towns. So far, I’ve set two of my novels in them.

When I first moved to New York City after college and a stint out west, you couldn’t tear me away from the nefarious boardwalks of Coney Island. This was back before the arcade was renovated, back when the sideshow by the sea with its sword swallower and human pincushion were on full display. It was when a hungry, dirty capybara was caged in a box that read: Only $1 To See the Biggest Rat in the World! This poor critter was a plot point in Dorianna, my paranormal twist on Dorian Grey. And no surprise, I set Dorianna in Coney Island, and installed my sexiest villain ever, Wilson Warren, an agent of the devil disguised as a videographer who prowled the beaches, making girls into Internet sensations.

Fast-forward to my new novel Witch of the Cards, set in 1932, about Fiera, a sea witch who has a special talent with Tarot (and not just reading the cards). Of course, I set it in a shady beach town, in this case, Asbury Park, NJ. You see, I’ve been coming to this gentrifying beach town for years and know it well—in its sunny moods but also in its spooky, moody shades.

Around the turn of the century, and up until 1940, Asbury Park used to be the stomping grounds of the glitterati. There were grand concerts in the art deco Convention Center, and people dressed to the nines would stroll on the boardwalk at night. Then came the race riots of the 1960s and the economic crash, and the place fell into major disrepair. Its only remaining claim to fame was The Stone Pony, where Bruce Springsteen rocked into the limelight.

When I first ventured into the convention center, there was a hole in its roof that seagulls flew in and out of, and only one lonely saltwater taffy store on the boardwalk run by an ancient lady who seemed to have stepped out of a Stephen King novel. Of course in Witch of the Cards I made her into a fabulous, dangerous witch, who sold magical taffy. And I turned the paranormal museum on Cookwell Avenue, the main shopping lane, into a place to hold séances that often went horribly wrong. I installed an illegal speakeasy in the taffy store basement. In my novel, Witch of the Cards, even the ocean hides terrible secrets.

There’s something about the scent of saltwater and hotdogs, the splintered, salt-dried boardwalk and the scream of people hurtling down on the arcade rides that gets my blood charging and my imagination firing. What about you?

Here’s a snippet of a scene when Fiera and her date Peter went down to the basement speakeasy in the taffy store:

“Perhaps I was far too gone, but I didn’t care. Peter and I danced and danced. The room filled with the overflow from the convention hall dance—young lovers, bootlegger types with wide ties and cigars, older women with twinkling earrings and heavy bosoms, even a prostitute or two. I thought so anyway, because they wore way too much rouge and came alone to sit brazenly up at the bar with the gin rummies.
This time I couldn’t say whether or not I stepped on Mr. Dune’s polished wingtips. This time, he probably couldn’t be sure if he knocked his bony legs into mine. We had many more nips of absinthe, and I wolfed down another green-swirl taffy and before I knew it, I was leaning provocatively against Peter and laughing like a wild banshee.
I remember gaping up at him to see his black hair all disheveled and him mumbling indistinctly. And I, thinking that he was the most gorgeous human being I’d ever seen. I remember Dulcie grabbing one of my arms, and Peter grasping the other. I remember all of us howling at the crescent moon over the ocean, and the shocked sideways glance of the hotel proprietor as we all stumbled in.
I recall pulling out the Tarot he’d given me, and laying them out on the bedroom rug. I recall babbling at him—about a witch and a swindler and a boat—not necessarily in that order. I can still picture his expression of shocked surprise but not at what.
And I remember Peter’s lips branding my forehead—how could I ever forget that—while shocks of his lush black hair dangled deliciously on my burning cheeks. The last thing I recall before things went dark was kicking off my shoes.”

Book Description:

Fiera was born a sea witch with no inkling of her power. And now it might be too late.

Witch of the Cards is historical, supernatural romantic suspense set in 1932 on the Jersey shore. Twenty-two year-old Fiera has recently left the Brooklyn orphanage where she was raised, and works in Manhattan as a nanny. She gets a lucky break when her boss pays for her short vacation in Asbury Park. One evening, Fiera and her new friend Dulcie wander down the boardwalk and into Peter Dune’s Tarot & Séance, where they attend a card reading.

Fiera has always had an unsettling ability to know things before they happen and sense people’s hidden agendas. She longs to either find out the origin of her powers or else banish them because as is, they make her feel crazy. When, during the reading, her energies somehow bond with Peter Dune’s and form an undeniable ethereal force, a chain of revelations and dangerous events begin to unspool. For one, Fiera finds out she is a witch from a powerful sea clan, but that someone is out to stop her blossoming power forever. And though she is falling in love with Peter, he also has a secret side. He’s no card reader, but a private detective working to expose mediums. Despite this terrible betrayal, Fiera must make the choice to save Peter from a tragic Morro Cruise boat fire, or let him perish with his fellow investigators. Told in alternating viewpoints, we hear Fiera and Peter each struggle against their deep attraction. Secrets, lies, even murder, lace this dark fantasy.

Buy links:


 One $40 gift card, two hand-painted heart-boxes (by Catherine) with secret treasure inside, one signed paperback of Dorianna by Catherine Stine, one signed paperback of Witch of the Cards by Catherine Stine, one brand new collector Tarot deck along with an envelope full of special swag!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, April 1, 2016

Celebrating a Trip Out West

Hello, all! I missed the Celebrate hop last week because I had the good fortune to be traveling out west and visiting Utah. It was an amazing trip and definitely something to celebrate.

I've wanted to visit Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, since I volunteered as a writer for them back in 2010. That experience led me to the blogging and writing journey that has changed my life in truly wonderful ways, so it meant a great deal to finally visit the place in person.

The sanctuary is located in beautiful Angel Canyon, shown in the picture above, which is of the view from the Angel Cafe lunchroom. It's home to nearly 2,000 animals, including dogs, cats, pigs, horses, birds, rabbits, and many others.

My friend and I stayed at one of the sanctuary cottages, which was located right by Horse Haven and Piggie Paradise. So we got to meet these cuties.

Three little pigs enjoying an afternoon nap
I volunteered at Bunny House and met some adorable bunnies. I also held bunnies for the first time ever. They are the sweetest!

I also volunteered at Dog Town and took several doggies on walks along trails in the canyon. That was not a chore, as this was the view at the end of one of the trails.

Two of my walking pals:


Rumba, who was found as a feral stray in the Mojave Desert
Best Friends was one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I've ever visited, and I loved it even more than I thought I would. It was heartwarming and good for my soul to see so many sweet animals being treated with love and kindness. And while I'm sure it's not a utopia, the people we encountered all seemed happy and peaceful too. I think maybe there is something in the Angel Canyon air. ;) 

The sun going down over Angel Canyon

I also visited Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks and will post about those adventures next week. It's safe to say I'm now totally in love with Utah's Canyon Country. 

The Celebrate the Small Things hop is hosted by my buddy Lexa Cain and co-hosted by L.G Keltner at Writing Off the Edge, Tonja Drecker at Kidbits, and Katie at The Cyborg Mom. Visit Lexa's blog here to find out how join in the hop yourself and to see the list of participants.

Happy April and best of luck to everyone participating in the A-Z Challenge. Have fun! :)