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The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea


You’re a male author whose novel has at its center two strong female characters.  Did you find it difficult to write from the female perspective?

Initially, it was a challenge.  But there comes a point in the writing process where your characters are no longer these entities you created.  They become people in your life, or at least your mind.  They develop traits you never imagined they’d have when you first invented them, and they take on a life of their own. Then, it’s more about how they react to the story they are part of and less about me making decisions for them.  This is what makes them authentic.  And if the character becomes real enough, the reader will connect with them.

How do you create suspense within your writing?

It’s important to have astute and honest first readers when you’re creating a story that contains plot twists.  The best way to learn the art of suspense is to read novels from the author’s point of view, and write stories from the reader’s point of view.  Then have first readers who will tell you what works within the story and what doesn’t.  The first draft of SUMMIT LAKE failed so horribly to fool my wife that I was embarrassed by how little credit I initially gave readers of this genre.  Suspense readers are careful readers who look for clues and will anticipate plot twists unless they are carefully constructed.  My wife and my sister helped me see more clearly form the reader’s point of view, and understand what the readers would likely be thinking during critical plot twists.  This collaboration is at the heart of the suspense in my work.

Can you name any books or authors who have influenced you?

Many, but Robert Ludlum will always be the author I credit for planting in my head the desire to write.  He was the first author I read for pleasure and not by assignment.

Writing is like any sport or hobby.  To improve at it, you have to learn from people who do it better than you.  To become a better writer, you need to read authors who are better than you.  You need to read books and say, “Wow, this is so much better than what I’m capable of producing.”  These authors and their books will make you a better writer.  For me, a few of those authors are Robert Ludlum, Dennis Lehane, Gillian Flynn and the great Nelson DeMille.  It’s actually a very long list. Continue reading “The Girl Who Was Taken by Charlie Donlea”

Book Club Party Kit for The Promise Girls by Marie Bostwick

Celebrate Sisterhood by hosting a Promise Girls get together! Click below for your downloadable Book Club Party Guide, which includes activities, a menu and a suggested soundtrack – plus recipe cards for six of Marie Bostwick’s favorite drinks and dishes.

Suggested Soundtracks

Liebestraum #3, by Franz Listz, the familiar and fateful nocturne that young Joanie Promise plays in the opening scene of The Promise Girls. (Or, really, anything by Liszt because as Maestro Boehm, Joanie’s piano teacher, quite rightly points out – who doesn’t like Liszt?) Follow it up with the “Scarbo” movement of Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit, considered one of the world’s most challenging piano solos, a piece that altered the course of Joanie’s life.

If you’re looking something with a bit more of a beat, put on The Ramones and listen to Rockaway Beach, the song that was playing when Joanie first met Asher. Or maybe some Nirvana, Seattle’s most iconic band, fronted by the talented but tormented Kurt Cobain.

Suggested Activities

Since fostering personal creativity is one of the primary themes of The Promise Girls, consider holding your meeting at a local Paint ‘n Sip studio. Or host your own paint party at home. Put out some acrylic paint, colored pencils, or other art supplies and give each member his or her own piece of cardstock or canvas to create a personal masterpiece while discussing the book. (P.S. We don’t recommend letting your Paint Party turn into a Promise sisters-style paint war, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put down some drop cloths. You know. Just in case.) Continue reading “Book Club Party Kit for The Promise Girls by Marie Bostwick”

The Magic & Science of Chicken Soup by Mary Feliz

Years ago, when my family was fighting a “never say die” respiratory issue, I talked to a bunch of my friends about what ingredients their cultures’ “Magic Chicken Soup” contained. I came up with this list of ingredients for a sure-to-cure chicken soup:

Indian & Persian: Tumeric and Saffron (both are anti-inflammatories and make the soup a pretty golden color with a delicate bouquet)

Irish: “The Trinity” celery, onions, carrots

Greek: Lemon juice

Vietnamese, Korean, and other Asian Cultures: Fresh Ground Ginger and Garlic

Jewish: Dill and Matzah balls or noodles (other cultures add rice)

Mexican: Cilantro and rice, sometimes corn, various peppers to taste

Almost everywhere: Garlic (4,000 years of folklore says it also keeps away vampires. And who wants to deal with a vampire when they have a cold?) Continue reading “The Magic & Science of Chicken Soup by Mary Feliz”

The Hope Chest that Inspired Hope Chest Of Dreams by Lisa Jones Baker

When I was a little girl, my mother’s hope chest fascinated me.  Not because it was fancy; it’s not, but rather because of what loomed inside.  Her wedding veil.  Love letters from my father.  Grandmother’s special linens.  What intrigued me most was that my father made it himself and presented it to her just before they married.  The beloved possession rests upstairs beneath the wall quilt of my great grandmother’s beautiful, ornate, delicate handkerchiefs that were sewn together by my great aunt, June.

Intrigued, I researched the origin of the hope chest, aka Hope for Marriage, and learned that the pieces, constructed from different types of wood and often lined with cedar to protect the contents from insects, fungus, and moths, are often referred to as dowry chests.  Typically, they’re used to store special things such as linens, quilts, and china that are handed down in the family.  Single girls are, many times, gifted a hope chest before marriage.

Hope chests are routinely placed at the foot of the bed and have existed since the times of pharos.  In fact, Egyptians used them for storing valuable documents during long, treacherous, oceanic voyages.  But to me, my mother’s hope chest carries what only dreams are made of.  Something mystical and intangible.

It’s a rare, blessed treasure that prompts my imaginative mind to wander back to the days when my parents fell in love and had no idea how many times their children’s and great-grand children’s fingers would touch the heirloom.  My mother’s hope chest will be passed down to me, and I will place their wedding picture on top while the beloved quilt with its own compelling stories looms in the distance.

In my HOPE CHEST OF DREAMS series, Rebecca, Annie, and Rachel will experience their own stories with William, Levi, and Jarred.  And eventually, their hope chests constructed carefully and artfully by creative genius Old Sam, will be filled with great symbols of love that they will cherish and pass down to their daughters.  To me, these characters and stories are personal, a natural inspiration and connection to my mother’s hope chest.

My parents aren’t rich, but what they have, money can’t touch.  And the sentimental piece constructed by my father over fifty-nine years ago plays its own special role in my parent’s forever journey of true love as well as their nearly six decades of marriage that continues on earth as long as they both live and will pick up when they join in heaven.  And maybe someday, a couple in our family will treasure the hope chest over fifty-nine years, and inherit my parents’ abounding Christian love and happiness that’s a wondrous, generous, rare blessing from our Creator.


Three young Amish women, each gifted with a hand-carved hope chest, find that one by one, with patience and faith, their most blessed dreams for the future can come true…

Annie Mast and Levi Miller were best friends until his father was shunned by the church. Now, ten years later, Levi has returned to Arthur, Illinois, for a brief visit, and he and Annie discover their bond is as strong as ever. Spending as much time together as possible, Annie finds herself dreaming of a future with Levi. And Levi is soon dreaming of building a home on a beautiful local hillside—to live in with Annie. Yet their longings are unlikely to become reality…

Levi is part of the English world, and while Annie cannot see herself there, she knows she must reveal her heart’s truth to him. And Levi, strongly reminded of his Amish roots, knows he must heal the bitterness of the past. And together, with love on their side, they just may find their way to an answered prayer…

Joanne Fluke on TOUR!

Tuesday February 28, 2017 @ 6:00 pm
4014 N Goldwater Blvd # 101
Scottsdale, AZ 85251-4344

Thursday March 2, 2017 @ 6pm
6101 Frisco Square Blvd
Frisco, TX 75034

Friday March 3, 2017 @ 7:00 pm
7700 West Northwest Hwy
Dallas, TX 75225

Saturday March 4, 2017 @ 12pm
9015 Grand Ave
North Richland Hills, TX 76180

Monday March 6, 2017 @7:00 pm
Sanibel Public Library
770 Dunlop Rd.
Sanibel, FL 33957

Wednesday March 8, 2017 @ 6:30pm
2342 Bissonnet St
Houston, TX 77005 Continue reading “Joanne Fluke on TOUR!”

The Festivals in the Kelly Jackson Mystery Series by Janet Finsilver

My series takes place in Redwood Cove, a small fictitious town based on Mendocino, California, on the Pacific coast in the northern part of the state. Because of Mendocino’s remote location and the twisty roads a visitor needs to travel to get there, the community offers a wide array of events and festivals to attract tourists.

I’ve woven one these into each of my books. In Murder at Redwood Cove my affair is called A Taste of Chocolate and Wine Festival, although A Taste of Chocolate, Wine, and Ale is the name of the actual happening. Huge tents are set up and numerous tables are filled with—you guessed it—chocolate, wine, and ale!

The last one I attended had many beautiful and delicious artisan candies and cookies. It wasn’t all sweets, however. There were also entrees and side dishes using chocolate in the recipes. The area is known for its wine, and there were many to choose from. For those who preferred ale, that was available as well.

In addition to the food and drink, local businesses donated items for a raffle. Different bands played throughout the day. People could sit or dance as they enjoyed the afternoon. At the most recent one, the money raised went to the Mendocino Art Center.

Whales migrate past the area so Mendocino hosts a Whale Festival in honor of the giant aquatic mammals. Whale Frolic in Murder at the Mansion is based on this event. The morning starts with chowder sampling. The doors of the Crown Hall built in 1901 are flung open and people flood in. One side of the room is lined with tables holding huge pots of steaming soup. Representatives from the local restaurants donating the chowder ladle samples for attendees. The opposite side of the room has many tables with local crafts and other items for sale. Continue reading “The Festivals in the Kelly Jackson Mystery Series by Janet Finsilver”

The Best of 2016

Quail Veronique by Mary McHugh

Serves six.

6 quails
3 tbsps. flour
2 ½ tsps. salt
½ tsp. white pepper
5 tbsps. butter
¾ cup dry white wine
¾ cup seedless green grapes
4 tbsps. blanched, sliced almonds

Mix the salt and pepper with the flour.
Dip the quails in the flour, salt, and pepper.
Brown the quails in the butter in a deep skillet.
Add wine, cover, and cook for about fifteen minutes over low heat.
Add grapes and almonds.
Cook until quails are tender, about five minutes.



A Real Maine Clambake by Barbara Ross

People often ask about the inspiration for novels and for me it was when fellow Kensington author Lea Wait (Twisted Threads, Threads of Evidence, Thread and Gone) told me her daughter celebrated her wedding reception on a private island where a family ran a Maine clambake. Lea and I are neighbors in Maine (where neighbors means she lives at the other end of the peninsula where I live) and we love to get together to talk books, writing and lobster.

ea’s story marinated for a while before I wrote the first Maine Clambake Mystery, Clammed Up(which takes place, not surprisingly at a wedding). At that point, I’d never been to the real Cabbage Island Clambake where Lea’s daughter’s wedding reception had been held. I wrote the early drafts of Clammed Up over most of a snowy New England winter when the clambake was shut down for the season. I actually think that was a good thing, because it ensured that everything about the Snowden Family Clambake—the family, the island, the tourists—came out of my imagination.


Continue reading “The Best of 2016”

Walking with Whales by Mary Feliz

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has been called the Serengeti of the sea for its wealth of diverse wildlife. Keeping up with migrating birds, sea mammals, and changes in the beaches, waves, and vegetation is a full-time job hundreds of biologists, geologists, and other experts.

For me, it’s a hobby that never gets old. Every day it looks different, from the colors of the ocean to the hues of the sky and the direction and speed of the wind. Varying migration patterns and tides mean I never know from day to day what birds or mammals I might spot.  It keeps me flipping through my bird books to identify species I didn’t even know lived in North America. (I’d always thought of an ibis as a two-dimensional bird that lived on the walls of Egyptian tombs. Turns out they’re three-dimensional, live among us, and have an odd croaking voice that sounds as if they’re made of wood.)

There’s so much to absorb and learn that it keeps me humble and awestruck. But never so much as the day I ventured out for a quick walk on the sand, planning to spend a mere fifteen minutes.

It was late afternoon. A storm was approaching from well off the coast. The hills of Monterey were dark, but the sun highlighted the spray of the waves on a relatively flat sea. Something drew my attention across the bay. I saw what I feared was a plume of smoke and my heart sank. After a devastating fire in the Ventana Wilderness had burned for months, how could there be anything left in Monterey County to burn?

But then I saw another plume, another, and a fourth, in the distinctive heart-shaped pattern that says, “a gray whale is breathing here.”  I was loath to turn my back on them, and walked until I ran out of beach.

In case I hadn’t noticed, they began to breach — outdoing one another with huge leaps followed by the echoing sound of their bodies slapping the water.  No one quite knows why whales and other sea creatures breach. Theories abound. Are they ridding their bodies of parasites? Communicating? Showing off? Or having fun? Scientists aren’t sure but this pod of about a dozen looked to be enjoying themselves.

Monterey is one stop on the gray whales’ long migration from Alaska, their summer habitat, to Baja California where they spend the winter and birth their calves. The Monterey Canyon makes the bay extraordinarily deep just off the coast, allowing the whales to venture safely very close to land.

My ability to identify various species of birds, sea slugs, and shells is improving since my move to this area a few months ago. And I have the utmost admiration for birders who know avian habits well enough to anticipate behavior and snap pictures or identify rare species at great distances.

But I identified a whale species from several hundred yards away, without binoculars. And I felt honored. Birders, eat your hearts out.

What had been a frustrating day flipped on end and I walked nearly six miles in an effort to keep the whales in sight. It’s hard to feel anything but exhilarated when a dozen forty-five-foot mammals signal “I love you” repeatedly from the ocean’s depths.

Gray Whale Monterey Bay. Photo by Sanctuary Cruises.


Professional organizer Maggie McDonald has a knack for cleaning up other people’s messes. So when the fiancée of her latest client turns up dead, it’s up to her to sort through the untidy list of suspects and identify the real killer.

Maggie McDonald is hoping to raise the profile of her new Orchard View organizing business via her first high-profile client. Professor Lincoln Sinclair may be up for a Nobel Prize, but he’s hopeless when it comes to organizing anything other than his thoughts. For an academic, he’s also amassed more than his share of enemies. When Sinclair’s fiancée is found dead on the floor of his home laboratory—electrocuted in a puddle of water—Maggie takes on the added task of finding the woman’s murderer. To do so, she’ll have to outmaneuver the suspicious, obnoxious police investigator she’s nicknamed “Detective Awful” before a shadowy figure can check off the first item on their personal to-do list—Kill Maggie McDonald.

Scrapbooking by Thomasine Rappold

When I’m not writing romance novels or working at my day job, I enjoy working with my hands. I’m no expert at any particular craft or hobby; I don’t knit or sew, and unlike Daisy Lansing, the heroine of The Lady Who Drew Me In, I don’t paint or draw.

My favorite projects involve making something old seem new again.  I have a tendency to hang on to things of sentimental value. When there are memories attached, it’s hard to let go, and my basement is crowded with old furniture I plan to refinish one day, and other items I can’t seem to toss out. These stored treasures include special cards, letters, and various paperwork as well.

Like most proud moms, during my daughters’ childhoods, I’d put away special school papers; award certificates, programs from school plays and science fairs, drawings, and every report card and school photo since kindergarten.  By the time my eldest daughter was a senior (thirteen years ago!) I had a large stack of papers crammed in my hope chest. I knew it was silly to keep it all—I had to get rid of it—it had to go…but where?

Scrapbooking had become popular, so rather than trashing the material, I decided to use what I’d collected to create a book to give to my daughter for her high school graduation. A keepsake that depicted the years of her school life, the years that—to me, anyway—had flown by in a flash.


Continue reading “Scrapbooking by Thomasine Rappold”

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