Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Springtime and murder

Janet's post about their landscaping project leads nicely into my post about my Deadly Landscaping trilogy. It's about Cassie Whittington, a 50-something ex-software geek who starts a second career in the landscaping business. Along the way she gets embroiled in murder and romance and millionaires.

I know of what I write because I have a degree in landscaping and nursery operations. That was my "second career" thought at one time until I realized how much intense physical labor is involved. But I enjoyed my schoolwork immensely, and the experience gave me three marvelous books...


What timing! Just in time for spring!

Here's a link to the giveaway. Sign up and maybe you'll be chosen to receive the first book in my Deadly Landscaping trilogy.

The three books follow Cassie as she embarks on a new career and re-discovers romance. Of course, her new guy might be a murderer, but then again -- maybe not. She hopes!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Updating the backyard

One of the big things going on at the Miller house is that after over fifteen years of ownership we are finally doing something about the backyard. Over the years we've done some updating and maintenance, mostly when our hands were force like when the hot tub sprang a leak and the gazebo surrounding it collapsed under the weight of the jasmine that had grown up around it. Sadly the removal of these left a big sandy hole in the yard that we made several attempts to do something about until it became clear that the problem with the yard wasn't the big sandy hole...

It was the whole yard and the lack of useful space in it.

The pool was old and looked dated with rough white plaster on the bottom. There were vast amounts of old cement patio that was broken in places, uneven in others, and unshaded. You didn't want to lie in the sun out there. We had a nice table and chairs and an umbrella but that was the only real place to sit and there weren't any real paths other than the walk around the pool. Nothing about the space was real inviting.

Basically we'd look outside and not feel like going out there most of the time. And to make matters worse, most of the back of the house has windows that look out on the backyard.

So we got a designer who first made us look at a lot of landscaping books to get a feel for what we wanted. We marked the pages and went through them with her later on. That led to a bunch of decisions like wanting colorful plants, liking darker blue pools, and more naturalistic settings rather than formal gardens. A plan was made, contractors for the pool, new fences, and a landscaper were hired, and we've been living with a work in progress for the past few weeks.

This is a current image of the backyard:
The view from my window
As you can see there is the edge of the pool, the new slate patio, a big deck in the background, new plants every where, a large dirt area that will be some sort of low ground cover, and places where paving stones will be put. Every day the place looks nicer. 

Eventually we'll have seating on the deck in the back, and the dining table and chairs will be back in place. I fully expect to be able to sit outside to write a blog post in the future.

Watch this space!


Saturday, March 14, 2015

DO IT NOW...OR IT MAY BE NEVER by Rolynn Anderson

Warning!  Do not count your jewelry sets after you've read this article.  I don't want to be responsible for your bout of depression.

Okay, here's the deal for anyone who's lived half a century or more.   If you're like me, you've got hundreds of pairs of darling earrings and scores of gorgeous necklaces.  Yet I was rotating the same three or so sets every day.  No more: I've vowed to wear the jewelry I've bought over all these years, accumulated treasures and memories, for sure.  Instead of waiting for the right occasion or the perfect outfit to wear my precious gems or costume sets, I wear a new ensemble every day.

I figure: jewelry doesn't take much room, but clothes do.  So I've sorted through skirts, suits, fancy tops and sparkly bottoms and ditched most of them.  Now I wear comfortable pants and tops and have enough dressy jackets to manage any occasion, from wedding to funeral.  The rest of my unworn-for-twenty-years apparel goes to Goodwill.  I dumped a dresser; my walk-in closet is all I need.  Yay!  I always hated that dresser anyway.  Ashcan the headboard, too.  Oak is out; dark cherry is in.

Whew!  Minimalist wardrobe and bedroom arrangement; lots of cool jewelry.  I wear a new set every day, even if it's just to Starbucks; even if the gems are paired with jeans or a golf outfit.  Surprising the number of compliments I get on my glitter from complete strangers.

If you want to read about a heroine who has REALLY interesting attitudes about jewelry, meet Liv, in  LIE CATCHERS.  She's intent on solving two cold cases is Petersburg, Alaska, and she uses jewelry to catch lies!  Check out my website at


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Fans are where you find them

I recently gave a talk at a local garden fair, an all-day event with workshops, etc. I was one of twenty or so speakers, and I gave a talk about poison plants (there are many in our gardens). As an author, I've used them a lot.

I rediscovered how much fun it was to talk about writing all in the context of talking about gardening. I had a lot of audience interaction, and I was able to work in talk about my books while talking about gardening.

Sometimes you need these "surprise" events to make you realize you're having fun. Now back to writing -- I have a new poison idea I want to explore.

Just kidding. Kind of.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Storytelling in other forms or... "I went to Disneyland!"

Last Saturday was my son's 30th birthday... yes, he was born on Valentine's Day and no, it wasn't planned. But it was a happy accident that we've been amused by over the years.

Since this birthday number was fairly significant, a bigger than usual celebration was needed so he opted to go to Disneyland. This is one of my favorite places so we all went, hubby and I driving down from the Bay Area to do so. We went on our favorite rides, sometimes more than once, and saw a show or two, and generally enjoyed being together and the way Disney tells a story. It is all about story there, just as it is in our writing.

Everything about the park is about story telling. Most attractions tell some kind of story, be it the pirates looking for Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, or that sinister bride with her sequence of beheaded husbands in Haunted Mansion. They even had big signs on temporary walls hiding construction that told of how Walt Disney had planned out the attraction being modified... which was odd but kind of cool.

One of the better examples of story telling was this little stage show at the Royal Theatre. For those who haven't seen this, the Royal Theatre is relatively new and is a part of Fantasyland, sitting next to the castle on the hub. Several times a day they have a short 30 to 40 minute live show featuring the story of one of the Disney princesses. I've seen them do Tangled and Beauty and the Beast in the past. This time they were doing Frozen.

The cast consists of a piano player who performs the music, a pair of comic song-and-dance men, Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones, and the princess whose story is being told. In the case of Frozen we had Queen Ilsa and Princess Anna. The princesses play themselves, Smythe and Jones do all the other characters, and there are four "damsels" dressed in medieval costumes who move stuff in and out, do props, chime in on the singing, and also work the crowd in the beginning to get the audience ready to participate, particularly the little kids sitting on large rugs in the very front, yelling huzzah or hissing the villian. If you've ever been to a show at a Renaissance Faire then this will be very familiar. Lots of interaction with the audience and participation is welcome. They even did a sing-along with the "Let it Go" song.

And that is the brilliance of it. This is a wonderful way to introduce theatre to young children. Most already know the story, they are enthralled with seeing the "real" princesses in person, and the two gentlemen are so funny with the way they shrink a 90 minute plot into a thirty minute time slot.

It was great fun and now I feel inspired to get back to finishing one of my new stories. After all, that is what a story-teller does, tell stories.

Janet Miller

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A MYSTERY I CAN NOT SOLVE by Rolynn Anderson

You'd think after writing fifteen suspense novels I'd be able to solve a simple domestic mystery, but I have to admit that I'm baffled.  Who or what is eating the oranges in my fruit orchard?

Every morning when I sit down to write at my computer, first cup of coffee steaming in my mug, I look out the window at the gravel around my orange tree and see a newly ravaged orange, skins clean of fruit, scattered a few feet from the tree.  Mind you, these are sweet, delicious oranges, perfectly ripe, which are the envy of my friends and neighbors and well-loved by my husband and me.  I don't mind sharing, but these thieves aren't asking.  More than anything, I'm curious.

Some animal, nocturnal, is coming into my fenced fruit orchard each night, removing a couple oranges from my tree, and chomping down on their prizes.

Google suggests monkeys. Not possible.  The internet is sure raccoons crave ripe citrus.  But we don't see raccoons around here.  Possums?  Do they like oranges enough to pick them and eat them?  I've seen a rat eat a downed orange, but how in the world would a rat remove an orange from a tree, shove it four to six feet from the tree and eat it?  Google says roof rats, in particular, like oranges.  I'm guessing a roof rat can hop on the top of my house, but climb a branch and snatch an orange...sounds far-fetched.

I'd welcome your theory and/or a way to solve the mystery.

Maybe I'm better at unsolved murders.  I've got two of them in LIE CATCHERS, set in Petersburg, Alaska, where cold cases get downright frosty.

Check out LIE CATCHERS on


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Author pitfalls

One of my Biggest Pitfalls is the same pitfall many people have in daily life. You see the success of someone else and think, "Why can't I have that?"
For an author, it's "Wait a minute. She's selling like hotcakes, how come I'm not?" Or it's "I know I'm as good a writer as he is, so why is he the darling of the press today?"

There's no answer to this, of course. It's like looking at posts on Facebook and thinking somebody else leads the perfect life. The whole author thing could have a variety of causes. Better publicity; better word of mouth; right place, right time.

I remember hearing Jenny Crusie talk once (Google her. She's an author and a damn good one). She likened getting published to standing in the middle of a field with a finished manuscript, holding it up to the sky, and having lightning strike you. I content that "best sellerdom" is similar. It's a lot of luck, right place, right time, and the right kind of promotion.

I have no idea what kind of promotion to do. I'm going to experiment this year with a few things and see if anything makes a difference. And you know what? If it doesn't make a difference, then that's okay, too. I'm working full-time in a pretty stressful day job. There's only so many hours in the day for me to work, write, and relax. Promo has to get wedged in there somewhere. So I'll do what I can, and let the chips fall where they may.

I just have to keep reminding myself that there are no answers to the Big Questions in Publishing, like "how the hell did he sell that many books?" Ask the questions if you will, but there really isn't a good answer...


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Words Can Be Fun - Dawn Marie Hamilton

Wow! I can hardly believe it is January 21st and 2015 is in full throttle. I’m spending most of my time working on my next novel in the Highland Gardens time travel fantasy romance series, Just Wait For Me. I’m what writers call a pantser. I write by the seat of my pants—so to speak. Actually, the term means that I do minimal plotting before jumping in and letting the words flow.

Words can be so much fun. The other day, while doing research, I stumbled across a new-to-me word in the Etymology Online Dictionary. Fern-tickles. I just love the way the word sounds. Fern-tickles is from the late fourteenth century and means: freckles, spots or blemishes on the body.

So, I just had to use the word in my book…

Stephen meets Jillian for the first time in Just Wait For Me:

The lass standing before him must be the one of whom Munn spoke. Her garments were strange. Of a type of cloth unknown to him. But it was her face that left him spellbound. Dark lashes graced warm brown eyes specked with gold that made his insides shiver. And the tip of an impish nose sprinkled with fern-tickles—as if the lass was descended from the fae—begged to be kissed. And her lips—

Just Wait For Me

Coming Spring/Summer 2015

In the chaotic aftermath of the battle of Flodden, an injured Highland warrior makes a bargain with a twenty-first century lass cast back in time by a meddling, matchmaking faerie. Stephen MacEwen promises that if the lass will help him get home, he’ll find a way to send her forward to her own time. But is that a promise he’ll want to keep after finding love in Jillian O’Donnell’s arms? And after saving Stephen’s life, will Jillian want to leave?

To learn more about the Highland Gardens series visit:
 Dawn Marie Hamilton Writes

~Dawn Marie

Friday, January 16, 2015

Welcome back to Hollywood After Dark

So a long time ago I wrote a set of books about werewolves, vampires, and psychics who I nicknamed the "parafolk". These characters lived in California and the first book, named "All Night Inn" was set along coast in a little town off Highway 1 called Los Niños de la Noche.

 Now if you know Spanish that translates into "The children of the night" and is a Dracula reference, clearly tongue-in-cheek. I was writing vampires and werewolves but I was writing humor as well and had a lot of fun creating my world. For example, my heroine works in a bar and many of the patrons are werewolves... so I provided bar snacks for them of puppy chow to go with their beer. It was meant to be fun but still a romance with my hero being a vampire who owns the bar, and my heroine a woman desperate enough for a job that she allows him to mark her as his companion. But he has demons, she has demons... the usual stuff that will get worked out over the course of the book.

All Night Inn was a pretty big hit with readers and my publishing house at the time, so they promptly wanted more books which led to Fangs For The Memories about a old-time actress who used to be a movie star before getting turned into a vampire, leaving her only able to get a job as a late-night TV host of horror films. She meets a man who wants to be her companion and kidnaps her to get her to agree. That book is a little sexier than All Night Inn but still a fun read. It garnered a bunch of great reviews and an RT Booklover's Top Pick and nomination for their Reviewers Choice Award back when it was first published.

Then I wrote Tasting Nightwalker Wine about another vampire, Prince Sebastian and his favorite romance author, a lady who specializes in writing vampire books. I'm sure by now you can see how these books are really intended to make people laugh as much as sigh over the love scenes. One thing I loved was that I have a pair of werewolves in Tasting Nightwalker Wine, and the lady werewolf is pregnant... which means she's having cravings. But where my shapeshifters normally eat raw meat, she's craving vegetarian lasagna.

The last book I'm going to mention is Ghosts Of Christmas Past which I mentioned in my last post with the Christmas books. Again there is humor in that story, although it is less than in the novels. Sometimes a story comes out a little different. But the world remains the same, a bit of fun, a lot of romance.

All four titles are available now at Amazon with the lovely new covers you see above and over the weekend I expect to make the novels available at other vendors as well. 

Since these are older titles in some cases they are a bit out of date. For example in All Night Inn a major plot point is that my hero and heroine don't have cell phones. This was because at the time cell phones were not something everyone had, and even if you had one the chances were a phone wouldn't work in a remote area such as where I located "Los Niños". There just wasn't cell phone coverage the way there is today. 

I could have provided them with modern technology and found an excuse for the phones not to work, but instead I simply left the stories as they were. It was a personal choice not to update the story.

So is anyone else resurrecting old titles? If so, what are you doing to them besides new covers and editing?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Always look on the bright side ...

I had a problematic Christmas season. A dear friend died, and while it was a blessing (he had suffered from a terrible disease for a long time), it's still a big adjustment for everyone, especially his wife of 53 years.

My day job has also been challenging for the last few months. And I'm in the initial stages of a new book and it's like pulling teeth to write. And I need to find a publisher for my cozy mystery series. And the weather sucks. And ...

Yep, I can find reasons galore to be in the depths but my Word for the Year is "upbeat". I promised myself that this year I would be upbeat, I would look on the positive side of things, I would not dwell on misery but always look ahead, to the next thing.

Deep breath.

You'll hearing me humming some Monty Python tunes soon....

The simplest way to stay upbeat is to remember: this is all temporary. Just wait a day, or a week or a month, and it'll all change. I'm telling myself that now as I prepare to delve back into my book.

Just a while now. Soon the words will flow....

(so many books, so little time)