Is There Life After Three Career Attempts and an Unfinished PhD?

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Francis Guenette reflecting on her multi-act life.

Here’s Francis!

Thank you, Joanne, for inviting me to be part of the second act series. Writing this guest post has been a valuable exercise in self-reflection.

Francis Guenette - author photo (2)My first act was defined by the dream of higher education and my second act as answering the question – is there life after three career attempts and an unfinished PhD? I won’t keep anyone in suspense. The answer is a resounding yes! The life events that taught me the most – I never saw them coming. After all, no journey is planned completely in advance. The key to moving from one act to the next is the realization that the familiar path has been outgrown.

Flash back many years. I was married with a baby in my arms before the age of twenty. Act one was underway. I began my pursuit of letters after my name modestly enough, sitting at the kitchen table stealing moments from child-minding and house-tending to complete distance education courses. Another child graced our life. Eventually, I finished my undergrad degree and put it to use working with a non-profit group in an educational role. The kids grew. I became disillusioned with my first career choice. I added a year of additional study and embarked on career number two, working with special needs students in the school system.

Soon enough, it was time to move on, again. I was accepted into graduate school and completed a master’s degree in counselling psychology – my third career choice. Both my kids got married, I became a grandma. While I worked as a trauma counsellor, I tackled teaching at the university level and completing a PhD. Initially, I thrived on the excitement of life in the city, work, study, research and travel. A few years down the road, the pace began to wear me out. By the time I was informed that I had to complete my dissertation, I was all but tapped out.


I came home to our isolated cabin by the lake with strict instructions to get finished. I rebelled. As those lazy, hazy days of summer unwound, I wrote a draft of a novel that became, Disappearing in Plain Sight. It was the first time I had ever written fiction. The characters and their stories took hold of me and they wouldn’t let go. It was the most exciting writing I had done in years. I felt alive, exhilarated. The burnt out feelings associated with the past couple of years vanished. I turned deaf ears to all who insisted I was flushing my PhD down the toilet, to say nothing of turning my back on yet another career choice. My second act had begun.

I never looked back. I embraced being at home again and spending time with my children and grandchildren. I began to work with an extremely talented editor. She provided encouragement through rewrite after rewrite. My son introduced me to the world of self-publishing. Everything fell into place. Disappearing in Plain Sight was published in March of 2013 and the sequel, The Light Never Lies, came out in February of 2014. I’m currently working on the first draft of the third book in the Crater Lake Series – Chasing Down the Night.

My advice to others embarking on the first tottering steps of the second act – don’t give up, don’t circle the wagons or retreat to the safety of what feels tried and true. Trust your instincts. There may not be support from those close to you. It’s hard enough for you to follow the map you’re making up as you go. Trying to explain your route to others might be a waste of time. What has come before will not be lost. Every hard fought lesson of the first act will serve you in good stead come the second.

In closing, I’ll quote a wonderful passage that has inspired me by the author of Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott.

But you can’t get any of these truths by sitting in a field and smiling beatifically, avoiding your anger and damage and grief. We don’t have much truth to express unless we have gone into those rooms and closets and woods and abysses that we were told not to go in to. When we have gone in and looked around for a long while, just breathing and finally taking it in – then we will be able to speak in our own voice and stay in the moment. And that moment is home.


Disappearing in Plain Sight - cover (2)Sixteen-year-old Lisa-Marie has been packed off to spend the summer with her aunt on the isolated shores of Crater Lake. She is drawn to Izzy Montgomery, a gifted trauma counsellor who is struggling through personal and professional challenges. Lisa-Marie also befriends Liam Collins, a man who goes quietly about his life trying to deal with his own secrets and guilt. The arrival of a summer renter for Izzy’s guest cabin is the catalyst for change amongst Crater Lake’s tight knit community. People are forced to grapple with the realities of grief and desire to discover that there are no easy choices – only shades of grey.

Amazon | Kobo | Nook | iTunes

The Light Never Lies - ebook cover - Francis L. Guenette (2)As circumstances spiral out of control, Lisa-Marie is desperate to return to Crater Lake. The young girl’s resolve is strengthened when she learns that Justin Roberts is headed there for a summer job at the local sawmill. Her sudden appearance causes turmoil. The mere sight of Lisa-Marie upsets the relationship Liam Collins has with trauma counsellor, Izzy Montgomery. All he wants to do is love Izzy, putter in the garden and mind the chickens. Bethany struggles with her own issues as Beulah hits a brick wall in her efforts to keep the organic bakery and her own life running smoothly. A native elder and a young boy who possesses a rare gift show up seeking family. A mystery writer arrives to rent the guest cabin and a former client returns looking for Izzy’s help. Life is never dull for those who live on the secluded shores of Crater Lake. Set against the backdrop of Northern Vancouver Island, The Light Never Lies is a story of heartbreaking need and desperate measures. People grapple with the loss of cherished ideals to discover that love comes through the unique family ties they create as they go.

Amazon | Kobo | Nook | iTunes | Smashwords

Website and Blog

Joanne here!

Francis, thank you for sharing your extraordinary journey and excellent advice. Best of luck with your literary endeavors.

Tiramisù: A Mermaid’s First Dessert

Yesterday on Bethany Averie’s blog, I chatted about the magic tablet in my novel, Between Land and Sea. In addition to twelve months of online mermaid support, Barbara Davies (aka Isabella of the Mediterranean kingdom) was allowed to select three Specialist Skills. She chose Cuisine as her first Skill and whipped up Tiramisù for her first dinner party.

For anyone who has never tasted this dessert, imagine the following…

A light-mocha-flavored-whipped-cream concoction on lady finger pastry soaked in strong espresso with a tantalizing hint of amaretto liqueur.


A bit of history…

There is some confusion regarding the origins of Tiramisù. Several researchers claim the dessert was developed recently (1960s) in Treviso’s Ristorante El Toula, while others trace its origins to Sienna in the late 1600s.

On the occasion of Grand Duke Cosimo III De’Medici’s State visit, several Sienese pastry chefs decided to develop a dessert that would satisfy the Duke’s sweet tooth. Initially called Zuppa del Duca (Duke’s Pudding), it was a terrific success, especially among the courtesans who needed to fortify themselves between amorous encounters. They claimed the dessert was both stimulating and aphrodisiac and renamed it, Tiramisù (Pick Me Up).



1 package lady fingers
250 ml Nutriwhip Lite
250 g Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese
2 cups of cold, sweetened espresso coffee
1/2 cup amaretto liqueur
1 semi-sweet chocolate, grated


• Beat cream cheese using the electric mixer.
• In a separate bowl, whip the Nutriwhip Lite.
• In another bowl, combine the coffee and the amaretto.
• Combine cheese and Nutriwhip together.
• Cut the lady fingers in half, lengthwise.
• Place one layer at the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ rectangular pan.
• Sprinkle enough of the coffee/amaretto mixture to cover the lady fingers.
• Spread the cheese/Nutriwhip mixture on the lady fingers.
• Continue layering. The top layer must be the cheese mixture.
• Cover with grated chocolate.
• Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Magic for a Mermaid

24646207_sWhile planning Between Land and Sea, I considered different fantasy elements.

What advantage could I bestow upon a beautiful mermaid who had given up her tail and lost her mermaid powers?

A magic wand came to mind, but I quickly dismissed a possibility often associated with fairy godmothers and benevolent elders. In this case, there was no such elder. Her grandmother (and chief elder of the Mediterranean Kingdom) had reacted quickly and savagely to her granddaughter’s defection, aging her thirty years and adding twenty pounds to her slender frame.

Continue reading on Bethany Averie’s blog.

When I Grow Up

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Robyn Roze asking and answering the important questions.

Here’s Robyn!

First, I want to thank Joanne for inviting me to include my second act story with hers and so many other interesting women. All of your stories are inspiring.

robynrozeI’m a wanderer by nature. Always have been. I’m not much for planning too far into the future, because I could change my mind, my direction. Having said that, it won’t come as a surprise that as a young girl, a young woman, and now a mature woman, closing ever so quickly in on the half-century mark, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Well, except that I’ve always known I wanted to be happy, healthy, considerate, open-minded, and compassionate. The very same things I hope my own children will be when they grow up. But that’s not what people mean when they ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Frankly, I never had an answer for that question. At least not one I felt completely comfortable with, or confident about. My interests varied, my focus shifted over time and there was never an overarching gut sense of what I should be. I must admit, I’m still a bit jealous of people who know at a young age exactly what they want to be when they grow up. And then go on to pursue and achieve the very thing they always knew they wanted to be. How wonderful it must be to have that kind of certainty in life. But not me. So, I plodded through college and earned a bachelor’s degree. Only to return some years later for another degree, hoping to garner marketable skills and a bigger paycheck; not because I’d had an epiphany about what I wanted to be.

Then when my son and daughter were old enough to begin thinking about their own futures, they asked me the burning question from my youth, the one I’d never felt comfortable answering. I understood in that moment what they were really asking: “How do you know what you want to be when you grow up?” And, “Are you doing it?” I was honest with them, as I have always been. So, my kids, not satisfied with my answer, changed the question and drilled down to the heart of the matter: “What would you be if you could be anything?” I think that was the first time I’d ever been asked that question, and my answer was instant: “I would be a writer.” I remember that day clearly with my kids, because for the first time I understood I had always known what I wanted to be. I had never given that answer before, because I knew it would be dismissed and the question rephrased to: “What do you want to be that will earn you money and pay the bills?”

And that is a valid question, too.


I’m all for pursuing dreams, but bills do have to be paid and children do have to be fed. However, what I discovered that day with my kids is that I had only been paying the bills and had dismissed my dream. So, in my late forties and with the unwavering support of my husband, I dared to pursue my dream of writing. I have self-published four books to date and am currently working on my fifth. I write the kind of stories I want to read; a nod to one of my favorite quotes, by the way. The process has been difficult and rewarding, all at once. I have connected with some amazing people during my journey, my second act. Writers and fans, some, who have even turned into friends. Lucky me.

No matter how my second act turns out, I am grateful for the insightful question my kids asked me that day. The question that shifted my focus, reopened my eyes, and pushed me to wander down a new path. Pushed me to do more than just pay the bills.

We all have obligations that must be met. But once you’ve met them, live your dream. Don’t get stuck in the rut of just paying the bills when you grow up. My kids taught me that. And in return, I hope I’ve shown them how to do both.



Shayna Chastain’s marriage crashed and burned. She walked away, bruised, but not broken, without so much as a glance over her shoulder at her philandering husband. Oh, his betrayal stung, but Shayna has experienced loss before. She knows it comes for you when you least expect it.

Now feeling a bit past her prime and wanting a new direction in life, Shayna reawakens the woman she remembers being before marrying Frank Chastain. She wants a different life from the one she’s been living. However, she doesn’t have much support from her family and friends who think she’s made a regrettable decision.

Frank Chastain, Mt. Pleasant’s steely real estate mogul, begrudgingly signed the dissolution papers Shayna forced on him. He never wanted to divorce the love of his life. Always believed they could work it out.

She’ll be back.

He’s sure of it.

Now more than ever, he needs that to be true. Events have conspired in his life that could blow open the secret he’s been hiding. He needs Shayna to help him seal it shut, but it may already be too late.

Sean Parker owns an Italian restaurant that has become Shayna’s oasis, giving her respite from the swirling storm around her. Their attraction is instant, but the fallout will last a lifetime. Sean’s smooth, handsome exterior hides an unsavory past that he walked away from years ago and has no intention of revisiting, or discussing.

If it’s really in the past, is it even anyone’s business? Sean sees no point in being an open book. What matters is right now. And right now, there’s no way in hell he’s going to lose the only woman he’s ever loved. The only woman he can’t live without.

But life doesn’t always let us keep our secrets. And these secrets are about to explode to the surface with far-reaching, deadly consequences.

How well do you know the people you love?

Even the one’s you’ve known most of your life…

**Mature themes and sexual content for 18+**

Where to find Robyn…

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon

Joanne here!

Robyn, thank you for reminding us to ask the “right” questions. And congratulations on your literary achievements!

Spotlight on Larynn Ford

I am happy to spotlight Soul Mate author Larynn Ford and her new release Rescued.

Here’s Larynn!

0026When I think back a few years, I never would have dreamed I’d be a published author today. I read quite a bit in my teen years and after I started a family, I read when time allowed.

A few years ago, a friend shoved a book into my hands as I was leaving work for vacation saying, “You have got to read this.” I struggled through the first sixteen pages but when it caught my interest, I couldn’t put it down. Was it because I was swooning over vampires or werewolves? No. My interest in READING was renewed with a passion and I couldn’t stop. I read the next, and the next, and the next, until the saga was done yet I craved more! I hit the book section at Wal-Mart and found another book by the same author. This one was a sci-fi theme but still I loved it. After that, I made weekly visits to BAM to try and satisfy my reading hunger until I found Amazon and could then sit in my recliner and order books to be delivered to my door. Then came my Kindle and it was on! As soon as I finished a book, I could download the next in whatever series I was reading at the time.

Along the way, I thought how wonderful it must be to create one of these exciting stories. But how do writers come up with ideas? My reading interests had remained with paranormal romance, but what did I know about ghosts and goblins?

I soon figured out if I listened to all the noise in my head and in my heart, I could string some of those thoughts and feelings together and have my own story in the making. And so I did. Rescued is my latest product and is available on Amazon today. Here’s the blurb and a look at the gorgeous werecougars in the story.



Fiercely independent and determined to be taken seriously in a man’s world, PI Rose Baxter will do whatever it takes to find the kids who are disappearing from the streets and bring them home safe, even teaming up with PI Marty Brown, a man hot enough to burn whatever part of her gets too close – her fingers, her sheets, her life, and her other nature’s whiskers.

But her other nature knows whiskers grow back and will accept nothing less than this man as her mate for life, a plan Marty’s all in on. Sparks fly when she refuses to be the little woman. Besides, those kids need her and their time’s running out. But, thrown together 24/7 can she fight it?


A werecougar has no time for the annoyingly persistent mate fate’s thrown under her nose, no matter how intoxicatingly desirable he smells – and looks – not when time’s running out for a bunch of missing kids. But he’s got other plans and they include more than just working together. Complications, anyone?



Larynn Ford began reading romance in her early teens and became interested in writing in high school. She’s a daydreamer and a romantic who is intrigued by the paranormal and loves to let her mind wander, always searching for a happily ever after ending to her dreams. She began reading with a renewed passion in 2006, fell in love with romance all over again, and began thinking how much fun it would be to create a fantasy world all her own.

In 2009, she began writing down some ideas that actually blossomed to book length. In 2010, she joined Romance Writers of America and now loves spending time with the Southern Magic Chapter in Birmingham, Alabama.

To her delight and constant amazement, her first book, IN MY WILDEST DREAMS was released April 16, 2013. Her desire for more grows constantly.

She’s going to keep on writing, dreaming, and searching for those happy endings.

Where to find Larynn…

Website | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter

Trailer Tuesday: Cheryl Yeko

Welcome to the Trailer Tuesday series!

Today, I am pleased to feature a trailer from Soul Mate author Cheryl Yeko.

Cheryl’s Thoughts…

The Notary was a lot of fun for me to write, because the story stems from my actual work as a mobile notary. I started a virtual assistant business back in 2003, which quickly blossomed into a mobile notary service where I conducted real estate closings for title companies. It was a great gig for a while, then the market crashed and the jobs became more scarce. Although to this day, I conduct an occasional closing, but with my full workload as a writer/editor, I’m very choosy on the assignments I accept.

The Notary’s premise, where the heroine is given an incorrect address for an assignment and shows up at the wrong home, actually happened to me. Of course, I didn’t walk into the middle of an undercover operation with a sexy cop to save me.

I created the book trailer for The Notary myself, and I love how it turned out. It helps that I had such an awesome book cover!


Where to find Cheryl…

Where Love Always Wins:

About Me:

Book Trailers:

Audible Playlist:

Soul Mate Publishing:


Barnes & Noble:





My Life Across the Tasman Sea

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Soul Mate author Elizabeth Preston talking about her life-changing journey across the Tasman Sea.

Here’s Elizabeth!

I grew up in New Zealand, the child of British immigrant parents. From the age of fifteen, I began dreaming about writing a book. The few manuscripts I attempted died in my bottom drawer – thank goodness.

Growing Up - North Island of New Zealand

Growing Up – North Island of New Zealand

I began my working life in an advertising agency, buying time slots for ads on television. But the commercial business world really wasn’t for me, so after a few years I threw that in. From there I went to Teachers College and trained to become a kindergarten teacher.

I raised my young sons, taught on and off and attempted to write children’s books at night.

Elizabeth & Her Sons - South Island of New Zealand

Elizabeth & Her Sons – South Island of New Zealand

Then, out of the blue, my husband got offered a job in Sydney. They gave us three weeks to up-sticks and relocate the whole family to Australia. The move changed the direction of my life.

I was in a new country, a country I instantly loved, and best of all, I now had the time I needed to pursue my passion. I enrolled in a university course in creative writing and wrote when I could.

A few years ago, we visited far north tropical Queensland, and there, in a museum, we watched a film clip about triumphant British settlers in the 1880s. It was very much a telly-ho style thing that showed the brave settlers hacking their way through the rainforest, battling snakes and malaria, and hostile Aborigines. All I could think about were the poor Aboriginal folk. Bingo – my main character (half native, half white Hunter) came to life.

I wrote his story into a novella, published on July 9. My advice for anyone wanting a second act is simple – do it now.

This is my favourite quote: Some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people succeed because they are determined to.

TheOutcasts_400 (2)


In 1889, the Northern Australian Rainforests are cruel and prejudiced places to live.

Hunter, born from an English mother and a native Australian father, does not fit well with either group. He is an outcast. The new English settlers fear and demonise him because he is dark skinned, unpredictable and frighteningly strong.

Long ago, Hunter survived his mother’s murder. An Aboriginal witch doctor found the dying boy and used tribal magic to save his life. Hunter grew fearfully strong, but this gift of ferocity and strength came at a cost.

Now, as an adult, he wanders the rainforest at night venting his anger and frustrations. He is not safe to be around.

But wayward Alice thinks otherwise.

Where to find Elizabeth…



Soul Mate Publishing

Joanne here!

Thank you for sharing your journey and lovely pictures. BTW…The storyline for The Outcasts sounds intriguing. Best of luck with sales.

Proud (when I’m not freaking out about it) “Writer”

I am happy to spotlight Soul Mate author Crystal Firsdon. Enjoy her unique take on writer vs “writer” and learn more about her recent release, Almost Wrecked.

Here’s Crystal!

crystalfWith the publication of my debut novel, Almost Wrecked, I can finally call myself a “Writer”. Not a Writer, a “Writer”.

What’s the difference, you ask?

A Writer is someone who meant to become a Writer. These people probably knew early on that writing would always be a part of their life. Poetry, non-fiction, literary fiction, fan-fiction, smut, whatever. They’ve always loved to write, kept at it, honed their craft, and it shows. Most are not fortunate to be able to quit their day jobs, but writing is always their other career. Not much gets in the way of these people writing.

A “Writer” is someone who tripped over something—probably their own feet as they absently spun stories in their head—and fell face first into their keyboard. Their noses plunked out letters onto the screen, and whaddayaknow . . . sentences appeared. They decided to run with it. They’d get stuck sometimes, and bang their heads on their keyboards, wondering why they were torturing themselves. Lucky for them, their foreheads were just as talented as their noses; more sentences appeared for them to run with. Time passes, they open their laptops one day, and type the final words of an entire novel.

“Writers” aren’t untalented, we’re just less self-assured in our work than Writers. We let our lower confidence, and lots of other stuff, get in the way of finishing the sequel or whatever story we started next. Many of us are formally educated, though not in the writing craft, and have or had professional careers. We hope to turn into Writers one day, but for now are content to jump up and down squealing/ hyperventilating at the thought that we have our work out in the world.

I’d love to take a poll and see what there’s more of—Writers or “Writers”. If you write for the purpose of others reading your work, let us know in the comments section which type of writer you are!



1 creep. 2 bodyguards. 3 men who change Molly’s life forever.

Guitar player Molly Davis is taunted with disturbing gifts by some creep she hopes like heck is a harmless, misguided fan. The owner of the bar where her band plays isn’t taking any chances, however, and hires Gabe Cooper and Caleb “Ram” Ramsey to stand guard over Molly and the rest of the band.

Cooper is all business and doesn’t mess with Molly’s emotions. She can handle that. Ram is a different story. He’s gorgeous, has a good heart, and is sometimes infuriating. He doesn’t take Molly’s crap, giving him the potential to be the first man to shove his way through her stubbornness and into her life.

But a violent attack proves the creep isn’t going away. And that almost wrecks everything.


Crystal Firsdon is a former high school teacher turned stay-at-home mom turned part time substitute teacher and school volunteer. As often as possible she gathers the stories spinning continual loops in her head and twists and turns them every which way, eventually typing them into Times New Roman 12 point font.

Of course Crystal loves to read, but any book she picks up must have romance! A long and (usually) steady background in physical fitness means she will include exercise in all her heroines’ lives, though she admittedly finds it difficult to stay in shape while sitting behind a keyboard as often as she does. Crystal lives in Michigan with her husband and children.

Where to find Crystal…

Website | Amazon

The Second Act

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Soul Mate author Karin Shah describing her journey from the Paddy Hill Library to publication.

Here’s Karin!

karinchurchThe Second Act. In a play it’s when we finally know all the characters, understand the plot, and complications ensue, i.e. “the fun part.”

In life, it’s when you take a large detour, but detours can also be fun. When I started to think about my second act, I realized, I’ve had any number of detours, but the largest was when I quit my job as a school librarian and jumped into writing.

I had read my whole life, but at age eleven when I’d read everything that appealed to me in the children’s section at the Paddy Hill library (a former church having a second act, that is now, sadly, closed) I discovered Harlequin Presents. From that moment on, I was hooked on Romance, but I had no real thought of writing as a career.

I went to college intending to become a zoo keeper, but the siren song of books had me changing my major to English as a Writing Art. Despite the switch, I didn’t believe writing was something I could do as a career.

I went to grad school to become a school librarian. I loved the kids and the books, but writing had begun to call to me. My husband saw my discontent and suggested I give writing a chance.

(Here is where you might expect a story of sudden triumph, but while there was eventually triumph, it was far from sudden.)

It took me about ten years to get “the email” from Samhain that they wanted to publish my novel, STARJACKED. Almost seven years, two kids and four dogs later, I have four published novels out. My latest ENTITY MINE (THE CHIMERA CHRONICLES 2) is a cross between Ghost and a heist movie.



Never fall in love with a man in a photo. Especially, if he’s dead…

Balanced on the knife-edge edge of going feral, chimera Ethan Wade has no idea what he is. All the former Navy SEAL turned maritime treasure hunter knows is his explosive temper has destroyed his life, driving him to an isolated rental house in Western, NY to lick his wounds. When a molotov cocktail of rage and alcohol triggers an uncontrolled shift, he is caught between shapes.

Disembodied, he can only come to one conclusion, he’s died and become a ghost.

Blowing the whistle lost lawyer Devon Daughtry her boyfriend, (not too much of a loss), her job, (a bit worse) and with the rents in Manhattan, a primo apartment (the straw that broke the camel’s back).

Now she’s run home to Cassadaga determined to re-build her life by hanging out her shingle as a psychic medium.

When she discovers a photograph of Ethan while moving in, she’s crushed to discover the man whose lonely eyes strike a chord deep within her soul is missing and presumed dead. Soon, she begins having passionate dreams about him. Dreams that Ethan shares.

But Ethan isn’t the only being in the house, a demonic presence has followed her home and it has diabolical plans for both of them.

Where to find Karin…

Website | Amazon | Twitter | Facebook

Joanne here!

Karin, thank you for the delightful post! I am impressed by your perseverance and final triumph. Best of luck with Entity Mine.