Happy Holidays!


Christmas tree

For my last post of this year I’d like to wish everyone a joyous holiday season.

Happy Holidays to all!




If you’re looking for a fun read during the holidays, take a look at my two books. I featured Wyoming Escape last week. This time I’m spotlighting FOREWARNING.


Forewarning Cover 2



 When Kasey Edwards finds a badly injured man, she knows she has to take an action that terrifies her—to use her abandoned energetic healing skills to save his life. Following her husband’s suicide, she had closed her healing practice and retreated to her ranch. Now she is thrust back into the world she rejected and into unexpected danger. Her old friend Jim Bradley, who has long been in love with her, pushes her to return to her work. When criminals looking for her patient invade the serenity of her world, she must use her skills to save all three of their lives.


Here’s an excerpt from when she is waiting at the hospital:


With each step down the deserted hall to the waiting room, the band around Kasey’s chest drew tighter. The frantic desire to scurry back to her ranch, to run from what she had done, almost made her turn around. She suppressed the urge. She needed to find out if the man would be okay, to find out if she had helped—or hurt—him.


She stopped in the ladies room to wash the blood off her hands and clean up a bit. Her mother’s brown eyes and heart-shaped face stared back at her from the mirror as she dried her hands. But the auburn hair she smoothed and gathered into a low ponytail again was her father’s legacy, as was her empathic sensitivity. He possessed an uncanny ability to understand animals and deal with their problems and had been known as a “horse whisperer” long before the term became popular.


His ability to feel emotions extended to people as well as animals, for which Kasey was grateful. Her breath caught as she thought of his gentle love and support. He’d helped her understand and deal with her sensitivity, showing her it was a gift rather than a curse. How often during this past year she’d wished she could turn to him for help, as she had as a child. That wasn’t possible. He had his own pain to deal with, and she couldn’t burden him with hers.


Leaving the restroom, she continued down to the waiting area. Tonight was the first time she’d been to the hospital since Brian’s death, and the small, chair-filled lounge stirred up painful memories. Memories of the man who had been her life. To her relief, the room was empty, and she chose a seat in a corner where she wouldn’t be easily seen.


Exhaustion dropped her into the chair with unexpected force. She tried to focus on the television in the corner; instead the night’s events kept playing over and over in her mind. The blood on the man’s too-pale face. The raw, charred skin of his palm. Her hands focusing healing energy. Her hands focusing healing energy.


Her legs began a restless dance, so she jumped up to walk off some of the tension. What she really needed was to go for a run. Since that wasn’t possible, she returned to her chair and started a deep breathing exercise—in for four counts, hold two, out for seven counts and hold for two. Eventually the rhythmic pattern took effect. Her eyelids closed, and her head flopped to the side in a restless doze.


Jim Bradley paused at the door of the waiting room and gazed at the sleeping woman. Damn, she’s lovely. Not that Kasey would agree right now, of course, given her mud-stained jeans, green rubber boots and ratty sweatshirt. To him, she looked wonderful. He let the desire he always suppressed when around her thrum freely through his body. For this moment, he didn’t have to be on guard. For this moment, he could just enjoy looking at her and contemplate a time when he could let her know his heart. Soon, he hoped. Soon.


Kasey shifted in her chair and Jim quickly brought his feelings under control, directing his thoughts to the surgery he had just completed. Now was not the time to reveal his yearning. She had enough to deal with tonight. He pulled his shoulders back and headed into the room.


“You’re going to a get a heck of a stiff neck if you stay kinked like that much longer.”


I hope you enjoyed this excerpt and want to read more. FOREWARNING is available on

                   Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords





photo credit: <a href=””>PKMousie</a&gt; via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: energetic healing, Forewarning, healing, Horses, Mystery, Paranormal, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Free For Christmas!



Christmas is coming and WYOMING ESCAPE, my tale of danger and romance set on a Wyoming dude ranch, is free on kindleunlimited.



Wyoming Cover - 5.3x8.

Mikela Richard’s morning run turns horrific when she stumbles upon a dead body and then is chased through the woods. The next day is even worse when she discovers a second body in her office and realizes a dirty cop is responsible. With a past experience that makes her distrust the police, she goes on the run until she can unravel the mystery of the strange computer thumb drive she found in her car.


She ends up working as a cook at a Wyoming dude ranch where she meets Shawn Saunders, a Marine home on medical leave. Shawn recognizes the type of fear in Mikela’s eyes—it’s one of the things he’s come home to forget. Even though he knows it’s a bad idea, he can’t stop himself from trying to help her, while she’s even more afraid to let him. 


Here’s a short excerpt from when Mikela visits a new foal one evening:
A few minutes later, the old wooden floorboards creaked beside her. “That’s the loosest I’ve seen you since you got here,” a soft, male voice spoke from the shadows.


To her surprise, Mikela wasn’t startled. Somehow she had known he was there. Not raising her head, she shifted, resting her cheek on her arms.


“Babies have a way of doing that,” she responded. “They sleep so sweetly, all your cares seem to melt away when you watch them.”


She straightened as Shawn came to stand beside her. “Watching over your family?”


“Something like that. Enjoying the quiet and getting back into the rhythm of things. It takes some time to adjust to normal life after I return. The horses help a lot.” He leaned down and rested his arms on the top of the stall door, a soft expression on his face as he watched the pair sleep.


“How long do you have?”


“Eleven more days.”


“Then back to Afghanistan?”


“Unfortunately, yes.” He shifted, still keeping his gaze on the sleeping foal. “Let’s talk about something else.”


“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to … remind you of unpleasant things.” She automatically put her hand on his arm in a comforting gesture.


He placed a big paw on top of hers. “No problem.”


They stood joined for a long moment. Then Mikela gently pulled away. His touch set her pulse racing, made her want what she shouldn’t. She couldn’t afford to give in to the attraction tugging at her. He was so different from the men she usually encountered. Certainly poles apart from the one she’d married. She shook her head. Let’s not go down that path tonight.


Mikela knew she should leave, but her feet didn’t want to cooperate. She remained beside him, absorbing the peace and calm of the horses and his quiet solidity. When she put her hand back on the stall door, he reached over and covered it again. This time she let it stay, accepted the connection. Suddenly she felt herself aching to be held, to be enveloped in strong arms, to feel protected. The horror of the last two weeks suddenly pushed its way to the surface. Tears welled and began to stream down her face.


At the sound of her sob, Shawn spun around and reached for her. “What’s wrong, Mike?”


The soft concern in his voice released the damned up flood. She shook her head and started to turn away, but the next thing she knew she was pressed against his warm, hard chest as he rocked and murmured to her.


“It’s okay. Whatever the problem, it’ll be all right.”


When she tried to pull away, he kept her close and ran his hand up and down her back, soothing and gentling her. The comfort he offered was too enticing. She collapsed against him and let herself go. Several minutes passed before her sobs quieted. She took a shaky breath and became aware of his musky scent and the dampness beneath her face. His shirt was wet from her bawling. Embarrassed, she stiffened and tried to step away. But he didn’t release her.


“Sure you’re done? Sounds like you burst a water main. Might be more coming.” He pressed her head to his chest. “You’re fine where you are. Get it all out.”


Mikela relaxed against him. She’d already made a fool of herself—staying in his arms a little longer couldn’t make it any worse. When her breathing had returned to normal and her face was dry, she raised her head and drew back. This time he let her go.


“All better now?” he asked. “Want to talk about it?”


“Better, yes. Talk, no.” She wasn’t up to coherent speech yet. She knew she’d have to give some explanation, but certainly not the real one. “Sorry.”


“What’s to be sorry about? We all need to let go once in a while. It clears the air. I’ve seen things I’d like to cry about too.”


She tilted her head to see him more clearly. “I thought it was okay for guys to cry now.”


“Civilians, maybe. Marines, no way. Not in public anyway.”



I hope you enjoyed this piece and want to read more. WYOMING ESCAPE is available for the Kindle on Amazon.
Categories: adventure, animals, Books, Christmas, Cowboys, Dude ranches, fear, Horses, Mystery, romance, suspense, Uncategorized, Wyoming | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Meet My Character – A Blog Tour



My friend and critique partner, the talented Heidi Noroozy, invited me to participate in a Meet My Character Blog Tour, where we talk about a character in one of our books. Today I’d like to introduce you to the heroine of my upcoming book FOREARMED.


1.) What is the name of your character?

Callie Burns

2.) When and where is the story set?

It’s set in southern Arizona, in the desert country outside Tucson, and is contemporary

3.) What should we know about him/her?

Callie is a child psychologist who uses horses to work with troubled kids. She was drawn to this work because her childhood was marred by her father’s PTSD episodes. She also has intuitive abilities which help her in her work.

4.) What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Callie finds a dying man while riding in the desert and becomes involved with finding who killed him. The police aren’t interested a dead illegal alien but her father fears the bad guys might come after her, so he insists on guarding her while investigating the murdered man. She’s drawn to the attractive Ranger who came to help, but has to keep her distance because he has very rigid views about people who try to sneak into his country. When one of her patients is threatened, she has to step outside the law and question her long-held beliefs.

5.) What is the personal goal of the character?

To live a quiet life helping children and find love with a safe, comfortable man. The last thing she wants is a repeat of her parent’s volatile relationship.

6.) Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title is FOREARMED

7.) When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

I expect to publish it as an e-book in December. FOREARMED should be available on Amazon and all the other book sites at that time.


The following authors are next up on the tour. They will introduce their characters next week. Be sure to stop by their blogs.

Susan Schreyer, author of the Thea Campbell mystery series, lives in Washington with her husband, two teenage children, a couple of playful kittens, and the ghosts of an untrustworthy rabbit and a demanding old cat. She spends her “free” time writing stories about people in the next town being murdered. As a diversion from the plotting of nefarious deeds Susan trains horses and teaches people how to ride them, and when the weather gets to her she works in a veterinarians’ office. She is a member of Sisters in Crime, the Guppies Chapter of SinC, and is co-president of the Puget Sound Chapter of SinC.

Marsha R. West, who will be blogging next Tuesday, writes romantic suspense where experience is required. Her heroes and heroines, struggling with life and loss, are surprised to discover second chances at love. Marsha, who loves to travel, lives in Texas with her supportive lawyer husband. They’ve raised two daughters who’ve presented them with three delightful grandchildren. Her first published book, VERMONT ESCAPE, was e-released by MuseItUp in the summer of 2013 and her second TRUTH BE TOLD in 2014. Her third book, SECOND CHANCES releases from MIU in January  2015


Desert photo:courtesy of Creative Commons

Categories: animals, blog hops, Books, Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy, healing, Horses, Mystery, riding, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized, writing characters | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Pinkertons and the Lady Spy


carolyn (2)My guest this week is Lynna Banning, author of the recent Harlequin Historical release The Lone Sheriff. Lynna was born in Oregon but has lived in Northern California most of her life. Including her coming October novel, she has published twenty-three books!

An amateur pianist and harpsichordist, Lynna performs on harp and psaltery in a medieval music ensemble, where she also plays cortholt, recorders, and tar (drum). Given that background, you’d expect her to write Medieval historicals. Instead she focuses on the old West for her stories.

The Lone Sheriff features a female Pinkerton agent, so today she’s giving us a little background on the famous detective agency.



Known as the first private eye, Allan Pinkerton set up his North-West Detective Agency in 1850. His motto We Never Sleep proved true during the Civil War, when he aborted an assassination attempt on President Lincoln in Baltimore. Lincoln, on his way to Washington for his inauguration, was so impressed with Pinkerton’s intelligence-gathering that he offered him a job.

In 1856 Pinkerton had created the Female Detective Bureau, and though his sons tried to disband the fledgling organization, the lady detectives proved their worth and thrived, particularly during the Civil War. The first female Pinkerton agents were Kate Warne, an attractive 23-year-old widow, and Hattie Lawton, also a widow. Both women were vital to Pinkerton’s intelligence gathering in the riotously amoral atmosphere of Washington where Confederate agents moved and mingled, and female supporters of Dixie flocked to the center of wartime activity and carried out astonishing feats of spying.

One unforgettable spy was the Washington socialite Rose Greenhow, known as The Wild Rose. She was the aunt of Stephen Douglas, and while his loyalty to Lincoln was never in doubt, Aunt Rose favored the South and ran Pinkerton a merry chase that ended finally in her death.

Rose moved in the very highest circles, acting as hostess for James Buchanan, but she sympathized with the South. When war broke out, she joined a Confederate ring of women spies, and her grandest coup came in July 1861 when she transmitted messages by courier giving details of General Irvin McDowell’s plans. This enabled the South to prepare for the first battle of Bull Run with an ace up its sleeve.

Rose had elegant manners and great beauty; she captivated statesmen, diplomats, legislators, and generals, and within weeks she had established a network of spies and informants extending as far as Texas. When word came to Allan Pinkerton that the society belle was leaking secrets, he put Rose under secret surveillance.

Rose behaved as if she were untouchable. She and her ladies knew they were being watched but treated it as a game. The Confederate spy tried everything she could to throw Pinkerton off her trail, but he managed to break into her mansion. While he missed a note from Confederate President Jefferson Davis, thanking her for the Bull Run information, his agents uncovered much other incriminating evidence, including her diary. He continued to watch the Greenhow mansion around the clock.

In August a civil warrant was issued for Rose’s arrest; Pinkerton and three men, accompanied by female agent Hattie Lawson, found Rose at home. She immediately tried to swallow a coded message, but Pinkerton tore it from her mouth. Rose then sat calmly while the men ransacked her house, unearthing a quantity of incriminating material: ordnance records detailing arms and ammunition, copies of troop orders, even her diary, which incriminated a broad collection of Washington citizenry.

Rose and her youngest daughter, Little Rose, were placed under house arrest. When her Confederate agents continued to pay her visits, they fell straight into Pinkerton’s hands. He then used these men (and women) as double agents, feeding false information to the Confederate capital. The spy ring was huge; scarcely a prominent Washington family remained un-implicated, and Pinkerton had a field day arresting agents.

Even in prison, Rose continued her espionage activities. She was questioned and remained in prison at Pinkerton’s insistence, but over his objections, was offered parole on condition that she sign an oath not to aid the enemy. She refused, but she was released anyway. Rose and two other women accused of spying were then handed over to the Confederacy.

In Richmond, Rose was revered. Her book, My Imprisonment and the First Year of Abolition Rule at Washington, published in London, became a bestseller. She went abroad, captivated Napoleon III and dined with Queen Victoria; then became engaged to the Earl Granville, a powerful political figure in England.

On her return to the South, her ship ran aground in a storm off Wilmington, North Carolina. Rose had sewn hundreds of gold sovereigns into her corset and underclothing; and when the lifeboat capsized she sank and was drowned

And Allan Pinkerton went on capture railroad thieves, forgers, counterfeiters, wiretappers, and illegal inside traders, etc. and also to infiltrate and arrest members of the Molly Maguires.

Source: Allan Pinkerton, The First Private Eye, by James MacKay.




9780373297993.inddAs if tracking down train robbers isn’t hard enough, loner Sheriff Jericho Silver’s backup arrives and she’s a beautiful, gun-slinging, back-East proper Pinkerton lady detective who sure spells trouble.  And she won’t take No for an answer.


“You’re here to help?” Jericho echoed.

“Of course. I am Madison O’Donnell. The Smoke River Bank hired me to help you catch the gang robbing their gold shipments.

Jericho stared at her.

“I believe you were expecting me?”

He snapped his jaw shut. The last thing he’d expected was this frilly-looking female with her ridiculous feather-bedecked hat. In her green-striped dress and twirling her parasol like that she made him think of a dish of cool mint ice cream.

Whatever is the matter, Sheriff?  You have gone quite pale. Are you ill?”

He jerked at the question.  Not ill, just gut-shot.  “Uh, yeah.  I mean, no.  I’m not ill.  Just  . . . surprised.”

She lowered her voice. “Most clients are surprised when they meet me. It will pass.”

Hell no, it won’t.


Also on Barnes & Noble.

Lynna enjoys hearing from her readers; write her directly at P.O. Box 324, Felton, Ca 95018, USA, or at

Visit Lynna’s website at

Categories: Civil War, Historicals, lady detectives, Pinkertons, romance, Romantic suspense, Spies, suspense, Western romance | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

Judy Alter


Judy AMy guest this week is Judy Alter, author of the Kelly O’Connell mysteries and the Blue Plate Cafe mysteries. She has authored over sixty! books for adults and children, many of them about women in the American West. Today she answers questions and tells a little about her life and writing.



If you were an animal, what kind would you be?

If I was an animal, I’d like to be a dog—well cared for, of course, not homeless or in the fight pit. Dogs embody so many qualities that humans sometimes need more of—loyalty, unconditional love, protectiveness. I’ve had dogs—sometimes three or four at a time—all my life, and I don’t think I could live without one. It surprises me that they don’t play a major role in my fiction.

Who are the important people in your life? Have they influenced your writing?

The important people in my life are my four grown children, their spouses, and my seven grandchildren. Over the years they have been my cheer team, leading me always to try to do better. Also, their antics have supplied me with material. My oldest daughter said of one of my books, “It’s highly autobiographical.” And of course they’re a big part of my cookbook/memoir: Cooking My Way Through life With Kids and Books.

What’s your favorite room in your house?

My favorite room in my house is my office. I hate to admit to being a computer addict, but I am—it’s the first place I go in the morning and the last place at night. If I’m doing chores around the house, after an hour or so I think I better check my computer. When I eat alone (and I often do), I eat at my computer. My dog has her favorite (filthy) chair in there and keeps me company.

What is your writing process?

My writing process is haphazard at best. When I finish a novel, I go through a brief period of agony wondering what to do next. Then an idea begins to rattle around in my head, and after a week or so I make rough notes. It may be another week or two before I type those first words—they have to come to me as inspiration—but then I’m off and writing, with a goal of 1,000 words a day. My notes are rough enough that you’d definitely call me a pantser. I also don’t have a regular writing time but mornings mostly go to errands and busy work—at my desk or around the house—and I do my best writing after supper. During the school year I keep one of my grandsons after school, and we do homework.

What’s your next project?

My next project is to continue working on my marketing plan for The Perfect Coed, which launches mid October as my first indie published work. I’ve made a good start on advance buzz but have to keep it up. Ideas for the sequel are at the rattling around in my head stage.

What prompted you to write your books?

The reason I write cozy mysteries is because I enjoy reading them. They make up the bulk of my pleasure reading, though, often when a review is assigned, I read women’s fiction and memoir and historical fiction and nonfiction.




Deception in Strange Places

DECEPTION-JALTER-mdA Kelly O’Connell Mystery, Book 5


A woman desperately seeking her biological mother, a televangelist determined to thwart that search, a hired hit man, and in the midst of it all, a reclusive diva who wears Chinese silk gowns and collects antique Chinese porcelain. No one is telling the whole truth, and Kelly doesn’t know who to trust. She has gotten herself involved in a dangerous emotional tangle, and Mike doesn’t tell her to back off this time, even when events take them from Fort Worth to San Antonio.




“Someone’s trying to kill Ms. Lorna,” Keisha said calmly, never lifting her eyes from the keyboard.

It was not yet nine o’clock on an early September morning, and I had just delivered my two daughters to school—Maggie is now in middle school, but Em is still at the local elementary school. I was not in the mood to talk about killing and possible murders. The idea that someone was trying to kill our neighborhood diva/recluse seemed impossible, and I didn’t want to think about it. I wanted coffee. “Did you say the coffee’s ready?”

“Kelly O’Connell! You know darn good and well what I said. Someone’s trying to kill Ms. Lorna.” Now she had raised her eyes and was staring at me, a bit defiantly.

I sighed. “And you know this how? Your sixth sense?” Keisha really does have the sixth sense—it’s saved my life a couple of times. But I get a bit weary of her parading that sixth sense for everything. I like to tell myself I’m grounded in reality. My husband, Mike, would scoff at that but I don’t tell him.


Find Judy’s books at:



Turquoise Morning Press:


Learn more about Judy at:

Web page:
Twitter: @judyalter


Categories: Books, cozy mysteries, dogs, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized, writing | Tags: , , , , | 18 Comments

Summer Splash Blog Hop!


Summer Splash Blog Hop.

And the Winners Are:


$10 Amazon Gift Card



E-copy of Wyoming Escape or Forewarning

Maggie Steel

Ellis Dream




Thanks to everyone for taking part. Good luck with the other contests!


Welcome to the 2014 Summer Splash Blog Hop!


For four days, June 13-16, you can enter to win Kindle Paperwhites, books (many signed), gift cards, jewelry, copy and line edits, and lots more. 


Click on the Summer Splash image to go to the main page with the list of all the blogs. Visit each one to discover exciting new authors AND maybe win one of the giveaways each is offering! We even have a special prize entry for anyone who hops around to every single site during the hop
I will be giving away a $10 Amazon gift card and four e-copies of my books. The book winners will have a choice of WYOMING ESCAPE or FOREWARNING.


Simply leave a comment at the bottom of the page to enter my contest. Be sure to include your EMAIL ADDRESS so I can contact you if you’re a winner.


Here are a couple of short excerpts to whet your interest.


Wyoming Cover - 5.3x8Mikela stared at the departing cop. How had he gotten into the Kitchen? No way had she left the door unlocked. Even more important, was he coming back? One thing she knew for sure, this time she would refuse to answer any questions until her lawyer arrived.

Worried about the idea of someone snooping around in her business, she trotted to the entrance and opened the door. A familiar acrid odor hit her nose. What the hell?

She hurried down the short, dimly lit hallway to her office. The smell was stronger there and mixed with another much more unpleasant stench—one she had encountered yesterday. She gasped at the state of the room. Papers littered every surface, her file cabinet drawers gaped open and a dark stain spread across the carpet, emanating from the body of a man lying on the floor.

Sam Braddock, the man from the park, lay huddled on his side, his face slack, his eyes glassy. A gun—the.38 Special her grandfather had given her—lay on the rug near the desk.

Mikela’s vision wavered; she staggered backwards and slid down the wall, staring at the lithograph of Paris behind her desk, a symbol of happy times. Paris was safe, Paris was beautiful. Nothing bad happened in Paris. This can’t be happening.

One glance down told her it was real. She pressed her lips together, struggling not to scream, and scrambled to her feet. No one who had lost that much blood could be alive. Yet she crouched over Braddock and felt for a pulse. There was none.

She stood again and stared at the dead man. Why was he in her office? Even more important, why had he been killed—with her gun?


Forewarning CoverKasey frowned and tilted her head. What the heck had startled her awake and sent her pulse racing? She focused her thoughts and reached out with her mind, briefly touching the energy fields of the animals in her care. The horses in both pastures were dozing in their lean-tos, ignoring the storm. In the barn, her stallion Sundancer was awake but unconcerned. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. She lay back, pulled the quilt up around her shoulders, and willed herself to relax. At least tonight it hadn’t been the nightmare about Brian that disturbed her sleep.

Her breathing had almost returned to normal when a flash of lightning lit up the room and a blast of thunder shook the house. With a yelp of terror, Goliath leaped on the bed and clawed at the blankets, trying to burrow under her arm. Kasey cuddled him close and let him stay. She knew how much he hated loud noises, particularly thunder and gunshots.

Eventually her pulse calmed and she drifted off. But images of fire and pain wracked her dreams, disturbing her sleep. Her legs began a restless twitching, pulling her awake once again. The earlier heart-pounding anxiety returned, too. Her apprehension increased when she swung out of bed. Then she felt it. Something was wrong with the horses.

She grabbed a flashlight from her nightstand and rushed across the chilly room to the window. Rain blotted out everything beyond the porch. Foreboding tightened her chest and restricted her breathing. Whatever was going on was serious.

She concentrated on the agitated feelings surging toward her and recognized Star’s distinctive energy. Kasey sensed no pain, so the mare wasn’t hurt. However, she was frantic about something.

A sudden wave of pain hit her, sending needles through her hand and stomach and setting her head throbbing. She gasped and braced herself against the windowsill. Someone—a man and a stranger by the unfamiliar feel—was badly hurt. That was why Star woke her. The mare sensed his pain.


Don’t forget to leave your CONTACT INFO with your comment !




Categories: alternative medicine, blog hops, Books, Dude ranches, energetic healing, Horses, Mystery, Paranormal, romance, Romantic suspense, suspense, Uncategorized, Western romance, Wyoming | 38 Comments

Ally Shields


Today I’m interviewing Ally Shields, author of the Guardian Witch series. Her most recent release is Fire Storm, book five in her paranormal urban fantasy set. We’re having fun with some serious and not so serious questions.

If you were an animal, what kind would you be?

This is an easy one. I’d love to be a horse, a wild one that ran free in the American West when there were no fences. I think they are the most spectacular animals on earth, and there is nothing more beautiful than to watch them run.
I couldn’t agree more.

What books would you take with you to a desert island?

Tolkien’s Trilogy, a stack of Georgette Heyer’s regency romances, a pile of Agatha Christies, and JD Robb’s Eve Dallas series. I’d still run out quickly, so I hope I would get rescued in the first week or two.

What prompted you to write your book?

I started out to write a traditional mystery, but soon realized my heroine was a witch. I had read several paranormals just before that but couldn’t find any new ones I hadn’t read. So I wrote Awakening the Fire (Guardian Witch Book 1) because that’s what I wanted to read. I kept writing the series to find out what happened to Ari and Andreas and their friends. I never know exactly how a story is going to go until I write it.

What’s your favorite room in your house?

My office, which is the most creative place.

What is your writing process?

My stories always begin with the characters. Once I know my characters well, I can picture where they’d live and what kind of story they would get involved in; then I start writing and allow each character to tell me their part.

Do you have any unusual writing habits?

I don’t do anything weird like stand on my head or write in the nude, but I think we all have our quirks. I tend to be a slave-driver until the first draft is finished and maybe the first self-edit, then I begin to dawdle through the next few passes until I’m thoroughly sick of the story. It’s still hard to let it go, and every time I look at it I begin to “tweak,” changing a word here, a sentence there. Eventually I have to just say “enough” and hit the submit button.

Coffee or tea? Beer or wine? Sweet or tart?

Coffee, black. Wine, mostly red, but I won’t turn down a good white. I even like white Zin. Sweet definitely, but I also love the combination of sweet and tart.

What’s your next project?

I currently have two books in edit: Wild Fire (Guardian Witch 6) and Cross Keys (an elven urban fantasy), and I have just started the first draft of Circle of Fire, book 7, the final chapter in my Guardian Witch series. I’m already obsessing about saying goodbye to these characters.

What types of books do you like to read?

I read mysteries, urban fantasies, thrillers and romantic suspense. I also have a weakness for regency romances like those of Heyer that are full of humor and wit. Since I was recently in New Orleans, I’ve been indulging in New Orleans’ paranormals, especially those with ghosts!

Thanks for a fun interview! I’m looking forward to your next books.



FireStorm_ByAllyShields-453x680Sometimes you just need to stay alive to fight another day.

Six months ago Ari moved in with the vampire prince Andreas. They defied the vampire elders in Europe, killed their enforcer, and have waited for retaliation that never came.

Until now.

On a trip to Italy, Andreas is captured by the vampire rulers, the notorious O-Seven, and taken in chains to their stronghold in Germany. Ari goes after him, even though it’s against the orders of her Magic Council. She is fired for her actions, losing her special Guardian powers at a time she needs them most.

But the vampire rulers are not through with her or with those who attempt to help her. They launch attacks in Europe and at home in Riverdale. Ari is forced to fight them on several fronts, and victory grows increasingly uncertain.

Her last chance to rescue Andreas is a daring plan that places her in the hands of the O-Seven and relies on untested witch magic, the final hope for their survival.


“The scent stops here,” Ramon said. “They followed it to some kind of circle drawn on the ground, where it ended. To be certain, they’ve searched a half mile radius.”

Samuel and Ramon pulled back the brush, and the group entered the clearing. Ari drew back a step. An oppressive black aura, a dark thundercloud of haze, hung over the immediate area. She didn’t say anything, because the others couldn’t see it, but other remnants of the sorcery circle were obvious to all. The scent of sulfur, the ring of ashes. She moved forward to examine the ash used to draw the circle and recoiled in disgust. Human ashes. Not unexpected because the ability to teleport was produced by a dark arts spell. The most complex spells required a level of power typically achieved through human sacrifice or at least the use of human remains.

She stood and walked the circle. Sophistrina’s coven used black magic to teleport, but this wasn’t big enough to hold thirteen witches. This ring held no more than five or six creatures, and some of them had been werebears. And Sophistrina didn’t use human remains. At least not when Ari knew her.

The air at the edge of the circle shimmered. “Intruders,” she shouted. “Get out of here.” She leaped forward to protect her companions, throwing up a temporary barrier with the magic powder she always carried in her pockets. Lilith pulled both her guns; Samuel began to morph into tiger form, and the foxes snarled a warning, but backed away, ready to run.

Energy crackled, and as if Ari’s earlier thoughts had pulled them in, Sophistrina and her coven materialized outside the prior circle.

“Hold everything. It’s Sophistrina.” Ari thrust out a restraining hand to keep her companions from attacking, but she kept her eyes on the witches, waiting to see the coven’s mood. The last leader of this group had indeed tried to kill her. It paid to be cautious. Especially when they showed up at this particular spot.

“Why do you seem so surprised?” The high priestess smiled at her from the other side of the barrier and cocked her head to one side. “Didn’t you call me?”


You can find Ally’s books at the following online sites:



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Categories: fantasy, Mystery, Paranormal, suspense, Uncategorized, Werewolves, witches | 7 Comments

Snakes and Alligators and Frogs, Oh My!


Ever had an alligator for a pet? How about a boa constrictor? My guest Susan Muller has had both and today she’s going to relate some of her adventures with exotic animals. Where do frogs fit into the picture? You’ll just have to read on to find out.


Susan Miuller.

Susan C. Muller is a fourth generation Texan who started her first novel at age eleven, but life got in the way and it wasn’t until many years later that she returned to that first love, writing.  Her novel, The Secrets on Forest Bend, has won several awards. The Witch on Twisted Oak was released in August, 2013, Voodoo on Bayou Lafonte in January, 2014, and Circle of Redemption in May, 2014.

She enjoys speaking to book clubs and writer’s groups and serves as president of her local RWA chapter.

Take it away Susan.



Sorry, Kate, I’ve never owned a horse. But being from Texas I have been around them from time to time. I’ve even ridden a few. Of course, I always wanted one, but the expense, not to mention the time and effort, prevented me.

I have owned pets, though. And I’m not just talking dogs or cats, although I’ve had plenty of those. I don’t know what it is about boys–my daughter only had hamsters, gerbils, and kitties—but my son had a turtle named Mr. Turtle Green and a gold fish called Chicken Leg. I only realized last year that the poor fish got that name because he resembled, you guessed it, a chicken leg. Don’t know why it took me forty years to figure that out.

Later, my son got a baby alligator. Of course, alligators only eat live food. During the summer, my son held the flashlight while I caught teeny, tiny frogs and Al, the alligator, snapped them up. As the weather got cooler, the frogs grew too big and I had to improvise. I took a small cube of ground meet, tied a string around it, and jiggled it up and down in front of Al. After he clamped down on it, I had to get scissors and snip off the string hanging from the side of his mouth.

Later, as my son got older and Al had gone into hibernation for the last time, he talked his grandfather into buying him a boa constrictor. We named the snake Hercules because he was so strong. Snakes also only eat live food; generally white mice

Not all pet stores carry white mice or, even if they do, don’t necessarily have them when needed. So we got a large aquarium, put a cover on it, and bought two or three mice at a time.

Do you know what happens when you put two or three mice together? You get six or seven mice, and then twelve or fifteen. Many more mice than Hercules could eat in a month.

Hercules may have been strong, but he wasn’t the smartest snake in the world. The first time he tried to catch a mouse, he missed, injuring the roof of his mouth. Have you ever tried to find a vet who treats snakes? For a week, we had to swab the inside of his mouth with some stinky concoction. This was a two person job. My son held Herc, as we called him, and I swabbed with a Q-tip.

There have been many other pets over the years: a Great Dane and a Shih Tzu who were best friends, an Irish Setter who stole golf clubs and brought them home, a Weimaraner who got on the counter and ate only my regular cookies, forgoing my husband’s sugar-free ones, and a cat who roamed the neighborhood on garbage day, knocking the lids off cans until we had to buy several neighbors new cans with locking lids.

As I think about it, I might have saved money with a horse.

But, of all animals, I love dogs the best. When I needed someone to discover a body in my novel, The Witch on Twisted Oak, I picked a Border Collie. I even put the opening scene in her point of view. I thought I had come up with a brilliant new idea. Later I read Robert Crais’s best seller, Suspect, and realized there’s nothing new in the world.

Molly was only supposed to be in the first scene, but I fell in love with her and she became a major character in the story. Here’s an excerpt from The Witch on Twisted Oak featuring Molly and a cat named Bob who may or may not be a witch’s familiar.

Do you have a dog, or a cat, or a horse, or any other fur baby you love?



WitchonTwistedOak_850 (1)A powerful psychic is brutally murdered.  Secrets are revealed.  An old enemy is out for revenge.

Detective Ruben Marquez is thrust back into his childhood memories when he investigates a gruesome murder that occurs only feet from his mother’s home.  Is the killer somehow connected to his own past?  Is the beautiful, mysterious daughter of the victim, someone he can trust?  Or is her revelation that she’s a witch a sign he should stay clear.  But how can he, when it appears she’s next on the murderer’s to-do list.

In the ultimate test of courage, he uses himself as bait to protect all he holds dear . . . his career, his family, and the Witch on Twisted Oak.



Molly had spent fifteen minutes searching for Bob (a cat) and never figured out he was hiding behind a curtain. She had finally given up and made do with checking out the litter box. She watched Ruben with innocent eyes, but a pyramid of kitty litter sat on top of her nose.

Mamacita stuck her head out of the bedroom door. “I’m going to bed now. I’ll see you in the morning.”

Tessa stepped out of the bathroom, her face damp and shiny clean, the last traces of make-up removed. Although why she bothered to wear any with that skin he wasn’t sure.

“Could you wait a few minutes?” she asked Mamacita. “I’d like to feed Bob in there where he won’t be worried about the dog. And he won’t eat if there’s anyone around.”

Ruben almost cheered. He couldn’t have arranged things any better. It was almost worth having the cat around. Almost.

It took ten minutes and the efforts of both he and Tessa to convince Bob to stay in the bedroom and Molly to stay out of it. The dog lay with her litter covered nose pressed against the one inch gap at the bottom of the door, occasionally letting out a pathetic wine.

Mamacita scooted as far down the sofa, away from Tessa, as she could get. The only difference in her actions and the cat’s was that her claws hadn’t come out. He looked again. Well, maybe they had.


Amazon:  The Witch on Twisted Oak:

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Twitter:  @SusanCMuller

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Categories: alligators, animals, boa constrictors, Dogs and cats, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 21 Comments

My Dope-y Cat


Janis WilsonThis week’s  guest is Janis Wilson, who is working on her first novel.  GOULSTON STREET is a story of a woman’s attempt to solve the Jack the Ripper murders. Janis has a great deal of experience with the Ripper. She taught a class at Temple University entitled, “Who Was Jack the Ripper?” and has lectured on the Ripper. Last November, she was one of the delegates to the Jack the Ripper conference in Whitechapel. Go Janis!

Today she’s going to be talking about a much less gruesome topic—her Maine Coon cat, Loki.



I had always wanted a solid black Maine Coon, the fluffy cat with the regal bearing. They are called gentle giants because of their pacific nature and their impressive size. We wanted a black one because I have always had and loved black cats. They seem mysterious and glamorous.

LokiSo it was a pleasant surprise when my husband and I, motoring from Virginia to Canada on vacation, happened to spot a classified ad for just such an animal at a price that people who vacation in their automobiles could afford.

The ad appeared in the Washington Post and, as we were not immediately shopping for a cat, it was just black cat luck that we happened to spot it. We phoned the owner just before we left Washington but did not connect.

In New York, we were able to get through and explained why we could not immediately come and purchase the kitten. We agreed to stay in touch with the owner and to meet up on our return trip.

And so, having seen plays on Broadway and at the Stratford (Toronto) Festival, we turned the car southward and started making calls. The kitty lived in Maryland and we made arrangements to meet the owner in a shopping center near the interstate.

The advertiser described the van she would be driving and we pulled into a spot beside it. I climbed into the van to meet the prospective new member of our family. We wanted a cat that would get along with our other two kitties. The kitten permitted me to pet him. To my astonishment, he sat in my lap as if we were old friends. I knew we had a winner. I climbed down and gave a full report to my husband. He entered the van and also was taken with the sweetness of the little black cat.

As we had not been on the hunt for a cat, we had no supplies. I walked into a discount store and purchased a carrier to ensure the kitten’s safe passage to Virginia. Meanwhile, my husband hit the ATM to get cash for the transaction.

I returned to the van with a fist full of cash and departed with a crate full of cat. It struck me that, with my out-of-state vehicle, and my repeated ingress and egress into a windowless van with a couple of hundred dollars in cash, an onlooker might think a big drug deal was in progress.

In fact, it may have been. For the kitten, whom we named Loki, gave us so much pleasure in the ensuing years, that he acted as a mild sedative.


Here’s an excerpt from Janis’s Work-In-Progress, GOULSTON STREET.


jacktheripper“Lord, she was drunk. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody as drunk as she was, sliding down the wall and all. Drunk as she was, she still agreed to come along and have another gin with me and to do whatever I could pay her to do. I didn’t give her the chance to do her filthy business. I made her do the paying – with her worthless life.

I put on my cloth cap and walked to the news agent’s to purchase the Daily News. I smiled as I read the headline that said “More Murders.” The article went on to say two women had been killed in one night. The first one was on Berner Street, but this was a surprise to me. Now they think I’m even quicker than I really am.

They should know the first one wasn’t done by me. I wouldn’t have left her guts inside her. They should know my work by now. I get a whore and cut her throat and pull out her insides and walk off with the other parts. No whore deserves to keep her guts, so I take ’em out. No, sir, I did not kill the Berner Street woman, but I am glad they think I did. I worked on the one found over by the Imperial Club. Wonder what her name was? Doesn’t matter. I got to kill another whore and get my arms into the bloody mess of her belly. I was inside her up to my elbows. Nothing is more thrilling than cutting out the womb. It was lovely and warm when I put it in my sack. I had to take it home. It was too dark out for me to admire it properly. Besides, someone came out of the club and I had to run like a maniac to get away safe.

Why do these whores keep coming out? Because they know they deserve to die and that I am here to help them do it. Whores don’t have the courage they need to throw themselves in the Thames, so I help them to stop being a scourge on the community. Help them with my knife. I help the whole city with my knife.

Wouldn’t my boss be surprised if he knew I am the one they call “Jack the Ripper.” Shows they think I am English, naming me Jack. Like the Union Jack. But if I were English I would have been better treated. No tolerance for foreigners in this country. Probably some newspaperman made up that name, but it is all right. Now I have a title and people will remember me better. They will never find me for I am quick and nimble. They should call me “Jack be nimble”, for I can pull bellies apart in the blink of an eye and get my work done quicker than they can say “Jack Robinson.”

With Scotland Yard thinking I fixed two in one night, the peelers will be everywhere. I will have to lie low until people’s blood cools down. I’ll wait until no one expects me anymore. The papers say somebody who goes by the name “Leather Apron” has done my deeds. That was good for a laugh. Let them arrest him and I’ll go to the hanging. I will keep an eye on the newspaper to see if they get any better ideas about who I am.



Death Knell V

Catch Janis’s short story The Devil’s Triangle in the Death Knell V anthology put out by the Delaware Valley Mystery Authors.

Ripper Newspaper photo credit: <a href=””>Bradford Timeline</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;
Categories: anthologies, Cats, fear, history, Jack the Ripper, Maine Coon cats, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Wildlife in Suburbia




Please welcome Kelly Cochran, author of Buying Time: An Aspen Moore Novel, the first in her humorous mystery series. Buying Time was a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Award and is currently, a quarter-finalist in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. Kelly is a lover of all animals and has even been known to have her husband capture and release spiders to the outdoors.


My entire life I’ve lived in the suburbs. I’ve never had to wake up in the morning to feed the chickens, slop the hogs, or clean out the horse stalls, and therefore, I’ve never lived on acres of land that are a natural habitat for wildlife.  Animals, in the suburbs, include the neighbor’s dog, the robin on the perfectly manicured front lawn, or the relentless squirrel frantically digging to find the nut he was sure he’d buried under the mulch.

The only similarity between me, the suburban dweller, and those who live in rural settings with acres of land, is the wish to keep development to a minimum. So, when my suburban home, located only eight miles from the St. Louis city line, became a condominium complex for groundhogs, we protested and took action to stop the over-development of our community.

Gregory-1A call to a critter control company that relocates animals ended with traps being set in the front and back of our home. In the end, one raccoon, and two groundhogs were caught. One of those groundhogs was Gregory, who’d been a part of our lives for several years, even making it into our Christmas letter twice. I was sad to see him go, but the man said he would take all of them to a 300 acre property far from our home and release them. What animal wouldn’t love acres and acres to roam? The next time I saw the man he informed me that Gregory was now in a better place. Well, I’m not sure about you, but in my youth, when a person told you that someone was in a better place, they didn’t mean a 300 acre piece of land. I could only hope that Gregory was indeed living out the rest of his life on those 300 acres.

Two years later, I noticed leaves left over from the fall had been disturbed at the corner of our porch. My husband said it was just the wind. I didn’t give it another thought until the next day as I headed out the front door to the get the mail and I came across Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Moe, and Bob.

babies-1Although I thought the groundhog babies were adorable, my husband said they had to go. We kept an eye out for momma, but she never showed. Luckily the man we use to trim our trees said he’d take them to his house and keep them in one of his rabbit hutches until they were old enough to release in another location. Over a period of a week, we enticed them with cantaloupe and were able to trap a few. The others we ended up grabbing with our hands (gloved of course). By that time, the crew had grown to include a brother named Charley and two other unnamed siblings. Total count: Eight!


The truth is, even though I didn’t want our suburban lifestyle overrun with wild animals, I missed those little babies in our front yard….until I looked out at the pool in our back yard!





Aspen Moore has a new life in a new city, complete with a new career. As a personal concierge, she sells her time to those who don’t have enough. One of the perks of her business is focusing on other people’s lives so she doesn’t have to face the demons in her own.

When Aspen’s most loyal customer dies and his suicide looks eerily like murder, she anonymously tips off the police so she won’t expose a secret she desperately needs to keep. But, murder and mayhem are a bothersome duo and she soon finds herself caught in a web of chaos.

A string of crimes, long enough to make a real detective sweat, threaten her livelihood and ultimately her life. Aspen’s only hope to untangle the mess before they cause permanent damage is to track down who’s responsible. Pursuing the truth means solving the mystery of a decade-old land deal, while juggling a quirky DJ and his dog, an eccentric paraplegic, a curious set of twins, and a flirtatious neighbor with spy gadgets.


Buying Time is a quarter finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest.  Read the excerpt, see the fine reviewers’ comments that helped Buying Time advance in the contest, and leave your own review of the excerpt! 



Buying Time available at Amazon
Twitter: @KellyLCochran
The Series:


Categories: animals, critter control, ducks, groundhogs, humorous mystery, Mystery, suspense, Uncategorized, Wildlife in suburbia, woodchucks | Tags: , , , , , | 16 Comments

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