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)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

I'm lucky I'm scheduled to post on holidays -- so easy!

Hope you're having a great holiday or vacation or Christmas or whatever you celebrate. See you in 2015!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas Spider -- Dawn Marie Hamilton

Here is a little Christmas story I hope will make you smile…

When I was young, my mother gave me an ornament each Christmas for my hope chest. Remember those? When I moved out of the family home and into an apartment, she made this ornament for my first Christmas tree. Along with the delicate spider ornament came a story:

Once upon a time, far to the north, snowflakes drifted past frosted windows. Inside, a good mother busily cleaned the house, for 'twas Christmas eve. On the morrow, Christmas day, the most wonderful day of the year, the little Christ child would come to bless the house. When she finished, not a speck of dust remained. Even the spiders had fled their cozy corner on the ceiling to hide in the attic.

Beautiful ornaments adorned the Christmas tree. The children gathered round, clasped hands and sang blessed songs. While the family enjoyed the evening festivities, the spiders became frantic, for they couldn't see the tree, nor be present for the Christ child's visit. The oldest and wisest among them suggested they wait until the family slept then sneak below stairs.

At midnight, the house darkened and fell silent. The spiders crept from their hiding place, crept down the stairs, crept to the tree. Delighted with its beauty, they scurried all over the tree, up and down, over and under braches, viewing all the precious decorations.

The spiders loved the Christmas tree. For the remainder of the night, they danced amongst the branches, leaving the needles covered with webs. When the Christ child arrived in the morning to bless the house, he was amazed yet disturbed. He loved the little spiders, for they were God's creatures, but the mother worked hard to make everything perfect and would be disheartened when she saw what the spiders had done.

With love in his heart and a smile on his lips, the Christ child touched the spider webs. The webs sparkled and shined, turning a shimmering silver, like tinsel.

Thus a legend was born: A spider among the Christmas tree decorations brings good fortune.


Do you have a favorite Christmas ornament? A favorite Christmas tale?


Here is another Christmas tale dear to my heart...

Available at Amazon for Kindle
and in trade paperback.
 FREE with Kindle Unlimited.
Can a determined brownie craft a perfect match in time for Christmas?

Just in Time for a Highland Christmas--a Scottish historical time travel romance with Highlanders, scheming faeries, a mischievous brownie, magic, adventure, and romance set in 16th century Scotland and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

When the Chief of Clan MacLachlan travels to the stronghold of his feuding neighbors to fetch his betrothed, she is gone. A year later, she is still missing. Making life more vexing, a band of reivers are stealing clan cattle, leaving behind destruction. Archibald MacLachlan determines to capture them and administer harsh punishment.

Though once in love with the man, Isobell Lamont refuses to wed her clan's enemy. After running away, she joins the band of reivers set on revenge.

Can Archibald forgive the raven-haired beauty? Will a journey through time bring them together for a Highland Christmas?


Merry Christmas!

~Dawn Marie

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Love Christmas

I love Christmas. I mean I know other people love the holiday too, but I REALLY love Christmas time. I always have, from the time I was a little girl, right up to the present. I love the lights, the music, the smells, the food, and the excitement. I love presents, making them, shopping for them, giving them and getting them.

I even enjoy wrapping presents if I have enough paper, tape, and something fun to watch on TV when I’m doing it.

This love I have for this holiday transfers into the stories I write. In fact, of the thirty plus titles I’ve written, five take place during the holidays. Two are contemporary romances, two more are paranormal, and I even have a Christmas on Mars story called "Reflecting The Future" with Ellora's Cave. But I'm going to focus on three of the stories that I have available this season.

includes "Just A Little Christmas"
The first is “Just A Little Christmas”, a short story I put into two anthologies, The Lizard’s Tail and Candy Cane Kisses and EnchantedEmbraces, the cover of which I'm showing here. This is the story of a job-less woman on a budget fixing up her neighbor’s discarded artificial tree so her children can have a nice holiday this year. The result is a new job and a blooming romance with the guy across the street.

Ghosts Of Christmas Past is a paranormal story, part of my Hollywood After Dark series with vampires and werewolves and humans with psychic abilities. In this case, the psychic doesn’t know she has mental powers until the vampire hero literally snatches her from mid-air after she falls off a roof. Both characters have "ghosts", bad memories that spoil the holiday for them, but together they work out a way to banish those ghosts forever. The story is sexier than some of my other work, but it has a nice message to it and is one of my favorites.

The second contemporary story is Christmas With Sarah. This is a full novel I wrote a few years ago set mostly in the Silicon Valley. At the start the Molly is an artist living Big Sur and working as a waitress to make ends meet since her art isn’t selling. She doesn't want anything to do with worthless men with no purpose in their lives, but there is this motorcycle rider, Greg, with a little girl in his sidecar, and while Molly isn't sure she wants to get close to the Greg, she’s fallen in love with Sarah, his daughter. Molly gets persuaded to come back to Greg’s home to take care of his daughter and ends up creating a wonderful holiday for all three of them.

All of my stories have a little humor and a lot of warmth. As my gift to you, all three of the stories will be at the bargain price of 99 cents during the holidays, even the full novel. 

So happy holidays everyone!

Cheers, Janet Miller/Cricket Starr