Interview with Janie Emaus

I’m happy to welcome Wild Rose Press author Janie Emaus. Today, Janie shares her creative journey and new release, The Time Traveling Matchmaker.

What was your inspiration for this book?

I’m a sucker for a happy ending. After hearing several news stories about missing people, I thought what if they weren’t being held against their will or in danger. What if they had been picked up by the Time Traveling Matchmakers and were living with their soul mate in a different time? And thus, The Time Traveling Matchmakers organization was founded.

What’s the best part of being an author? The worst

I love it when readers enjoy my books, blogs and essays. I don’t like the marketing and promotion part that is necessary so those readers know about my books.

Describe your writing space.

My office is “organized chaos! I write on a laptop which sits on an old desk. I’m surrounded by books and lots of photos. There is also a guest bed and a piano in the room, leaving a small path that leads to my desk. And when my characters join me, it gets very crowded. But it’s my favorite room in our house.

Besides writing and reading, what are some of your hobbies?

I love walking and swimming. Not only do they release the endorphins, but stories come to me while I’m doing laps or throwing a ball to my crazy lab.

Any advice for aspiring writers?

Perseverance. I sold my first book, Latkes for Santa Claus, after twenty years of trying. I gathered hundreds of rejections, but never lost faith in my story or myself. Shortly after that sale, I sold The Time Traveling Matchmaker. Also, join a critique group, read, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t feel like writing every day.

What are you working on next?

I’m working on a women’s fiction book. Here is a short blurb. An aging rock star searching for an heir. Three women hiding from the past. A young girl searching for her identity. And the biographer with the power to write their futures. Will his quest be destructive or lead them back to The Notes Between Them?

As I said above, I’m going to persevere until I get this book into the world. My first husband was a drummer and I’ve always wanted to delve into that world.

Blurb

In The Time Traveling Matchmaker, love takes on a new meaning when soul mates are brought together through time and space.

Like every goal-oriented twenty-something, Jessica Singleton, an aspiring filmmaker, is obsessed with finding her future as quickly as possible. What she doesn’t know is that the future is obsessed with finding her, too. Renn Porter, an agent with Time Traveling Matchmaker’s Inc, blasts back in time – and into her life- in order to transport Jessica to the soul mate who has paid for this service…in the future. But things turn dangerous when it’s revealed that Renn has been sent after his own soul mate.

Caught between two times, Jessica and Renn must struggle to stay alive. Falling in love is the biggest risk either of them has ever taken – because, as they are destined to learn, the very existence of Time Traveling Matchmakers, Inc. rests in Jessica’s hands.

Excerpt

Ever was a word that didn’t do well alone. It goes much better with happily and after. The way my life used to be. The way I thought it never would be again after David, and then along came Renn. And the world opened up, even better than before.

His lips. His touch. His eyes. His voice. There wasn’t room in my mind for thoughts of anything else.

It didn’t matter that he claimed he came from the future. Maybe he did. So many things in this world defy logic. Especially love.

Please, God, bring him back to me.

My stomach growled. I opened the fridge again and picked up the healthiest looking apple, one without any bruises.

The apple tasted sour. I spit the skin into my hand and tossed the whole thing in the trash. The fabric in my pocket grew warm.

“Jessica.”

I spun around. Renn leaned against the wall, his trench coat open to expose a silky blue shirt. His lemony scent drifted into the room.

“It’s you,” I said, stating the obvious and feeling foolish for doing so.

His smile filled me with lightness.

“It’s me,” he said, as if he’d just returned from the store. In fact, he held a bag of donuts.

Donuts! He vanishes out of the bathroom and materializes out of thin air the next day with donuts?

A second later, the bag fell to the ground, and I was in his arms, kissing him. Putting the ever back into my life.

Buy Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop

Author Bio and Links

Janie Emaus believes when the world is falling apart, we’re just one laugh away from putting it together again. The Time Traveling Matchmaker is her debut adult novel. She is also the author of the blended holiday picture books, Latkes for Santa Claus, and the forthcoming Matzo Balls & Easter Eggs. Her essays, stories and articles have been published in numerous magazines, anthologies, and websites. In 2016 she won an honorary mention in the Erma Bombeck Writing competition.

Facebook | Twitter | Website | Instagram | Blog

Giveaway

Janie Emaus will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Janie on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Training Service Dogs

I’m happy to welcome back psychotherapist and author Kassandra Lamb. Today, Kassandra shares interesting information about training service dogs and her new release, To Bark or Not to Bark.

Here’s Kassandra!

When I set out to write a cozy mystery series about a service dog trainer, I didn’t quite realize what I was getting myself into. I assumed that, between my psychology background and having trained my own pets through the years, I’d be able to wing it when describing the tasks the dogs do and how my protagonist, Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) trains them.

I quickly discovered that, while my knowledge of behavior modification helped, I would need to do a considerable amount of research. Now, 12 books later, I’ve learned quite a lot about training service dogs, although I’m still far from an expert. Here are 10 things I’ve learned about training these dogs:

1. Pick the right dog.

Not just any dog can be a good service dog. The dogs need to have certain personality traits. They need to be intelligent, people-oriented and eager to please. But they cannot be easily distracted, particularly territorial, nor at all aggressive toward other dogs or strangers. Some service dog trainers, like my protagonist Marcia, prefer mixed breed dogs because they are often healthier and live longer. Otherwise, the breed usually depends on the needs of the eventual owner.

For example, Marcia trains dogs for military veterans, some of whom also have physical challenges. So she usually picks larger breeds that are strong enough to help a person who has fallen down and needs help getting up.

2. Teach/review basics like sit, lie down, come, and stay.

Of course, a service dog needs to have good manners, and teaching/reviewing these basics will give the trainer a sense of how easily the dog will learn the more complicated tasks.

3. Teach the on-duty signal.

First and foremost, the dog needs to know when they are on duty and should be paying close attention to their handler. The on-duty signal may be repeated at times to refocus the dog if s/he seems to be getting distracted.

For Marcia and the fictitious agency she trains for, I’ve borrowed the on-duty signal used by K9 for Warriors in Jacksonville, Florida—hand held parallel to the ground, palm down. The dog touches their nose to the palm to acknowledge that they are on duty.

4. Start with something dogs do naturally.

Dogs love to chase things, play tug-of-war, etc. Activities like these can be used as a jumping-off point when teaching a new task.

For example, to teach a dog to open cabinet or refrigerator doors, the trainer might tie a rope in a loop on the handle and encourage the dog to grab it and pull, giving a verbal command such as “open,” followed by a reward each time the dog pulls the door open. Then the trainer shortens the rope a little bit at a time, and repeats this whole process again, until the rope is wrapped tightly around the handle. Eventually, the trainer removes the rope and says, “Open.” A bright dog will grab the cabinet or fridge handle itself at this point.

5. Chunk it down.

More complicated tasks are broken down into sub-tasks and the dog is trained to do each of those. For example, Dolly, the dog in my new release, has been trained to “clear” a room and identify who is in the room, friend or stranger, before her phobic veteran enters.

Marcia and her assistant first taught Dolly to run into the room and around its perimeter, then come back to the door and sit. (The actual training of this dog occurred in the last book, One Flew Over the Chow-Chow’s Nest.) Next, they taught her to sit down in front of anyone who is in the room. Then they added a second person and taught her to sit for a few seconds, then go to the second person and sit there.

The toughest part of the task was getting Dolly to bark if she didn’t recognize the person’s scent. First, Carla, Marcia’s assistant, taught her to bark once on command. Then they had to recruit people the dog had never met to sit in the room. They gave the command to “bark” when the person was a stranger to her, but withheld that order when it was someone Dolly knew.

Since she is a border collie—thought to be the brightest of dog breeds—she eventually got it that she should only bark when she didn’t know that person’s scent.

6. Repetition, repetition, repetition.

As you can imagine, it would take a lot of repetition for Dolly to get that idea. But lots of repetition is also necessary so that the response to the commands becomes automatic for the dog (and later for his/her owner; the humans have to be trained, also, in how to work with the dog).

7. Always be clear about when the dog is on duty and when they are not.

The owner/handler needs to make a very clear distinction here. The dogs are taught a release signal that tells them they are off-duty, and the handler needs to expect the dog to be all-business until such time as that release signal is given.

But it’s also very important that the handler not allow the dog to be treated like a pet when they are on duty.

That is why one shouldn’t approach a service animal and try to pet or play with them. If you do that, you are making the owner/handler’s life more difficult, because they then have to work harder to keep the dog focused.

8. Make sure you are using the right rewards.

A word or two about rewards. Often the reward used is a food treat, but there may be other things used as well.

A lot of trainers use clickers. They teach the dog to associate the clicking sound with a treat, and over time, the click itself becomes a reward for the dog. I don’t have Marcia use a clicker because I honestly don’t know that much about them. Rather than make a mistake, I opted to have Marcia train for a woman, Mattie Jones, who is old-fashioned and doesn’t like clickers. (You can avoid all kinds of pitfalls when writing fiction, because it is fiction—you get to make stuff up.)

Some dogs do not respond well to food treats, believe it or not. Then the trainer has to figure out what else will motivate them. In one of my books, I decided to have Marcia make a mistake (to make her more realistic) and pick a dog that is not all that teachable. His name is Rocky and she decides it’s an apt name, since he seems as dumb as a rock.

But, as all too often happens when writing fiction, the characters took over and wrote that scene a little differently than I’d intended. Marcia is trying to teach Rocky the on-duty signal by holding a treat against the palm of her hand with her thumb.

This gets the dog to initially touch her palm. After several repetitions, the palm is held out without the treat and a bright dog will almost always touch it anyway. Then she gives the dog a treat with her other hand.

Rocky, however, took the treat from under her thumb initially but then lost interest and did nothing the next time she held out her hand. I don’t know if what happened next was Marcia’s idea or Rocky’s—but she held her hand out without a treat, and lo and behold, he touched it. She quickly praised him and he wagged his tail furiously.

Every time, she held out her hand, let him touch the palm, then immediately praised him, he was delighted. Eureka! Rocky wasn’t dumb, he was just more motivated by praise then by food treats.

9. Do not give rewards other than when the dog does a desired task.

Whatever reward the dog responds to best should only be given when the dog is on duty and does a desired task. Again, this is to avoid confusion.

If the reward is a food treat, then those treats are only given under these circumstances. Never randomly at other times. In Rocky’s case, Marcia had to be careful that she only told him he was a “good boy” when he was on duty.

10. Make the rewards intermittent.

This is something I already knew about behavior modification. After the desired behavior is deeply ingrained, the trainer only rewards it some of the time, not all of the time.

Why is this? Because, believe it or not, intermittent reinforcement works better than constant reinforcement.

If the dog is used to getting a treat every time they do something, then the treat is not forthcoming for several times, they will stop doing the task. But if the dog only receives a reward some of the times they do the task, then they come to expect that a reward will eventually appear if they keep doing the task.

This new book is the next to the last in the series, and I’m going to miss these characters (two- and four-legged). But I’m also going to miss learning more about service dogs and their training. To me, it is a truly fascinating subject.

Blurb

Service dog trainer Marcia Banks tackles a locked room mystery in a haunted house, while training the recipient of her latest dog.

The border collie, Dolly has been trained to clear rooms for an agoraphobic Marine who was ambushed in a bombed-out building. But the phantom attackers in his psyche become the least of his troubles when Marcia finds his ex-wife’s corpse in his master bedroom, with the door bolted from the inside.

Was it suicide or murder? Marcia can’t see her client as a killer, but the local sheriff can.

Then the Marine reports hearing his ex calling for him to join her on the other side of the grave. Is his house really haunted, or is he hallucinating?

Bottom line: Marcia has lost a client to suicide before. She’s not going to lose another!

Buy Links

Amazon | Nook | Apple | Kobo | Google Play

Author Bio and Links

In her youth, Kassandra Lamb had two great passions—psychology and writing. Advised that writers need day jobs—and being partial to eating—she studied psychology. Her career as a psychotherapist and college professor taught her much about the dark side of human nature, but also much about resilience, perseverance, and the healing power of laughter. Now retired, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe populated by her fictional characters. The portal to this universe (aka her computer) is located in North Central Florida where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.

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BookBub | Goodreads

Life Tips from Dandelions

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

Here’s a thought-provoking perspective from the Mind Fuel Daily Blog:

We can’t think of a few plants as famous as the dandelion. Who as a child didn’t blow on its soft puffball and watch the seeds float away? Unfortunately, dandelions don’t have the greatest reputation and are considered a nuisance by countless landscapers and gardeners.

But once you get to learning about dandelions, you’ll find they have a number of lessons to offer. Whether you find this plant a pesky presence or just another a beautiful part of nature, we’ve rounded up all the surprising life tips this flower has to teach.

Weeds…or Wishes?

Sometimes, the only difference between a flower and a weed is a matter of perspective. Some people look at dandelions and see a weedy menace. Others smile at its yellow blossom and look forward to making wishes with its puffy seeds. With dandelions, as in life, your attitude shapes everything. Choose to see the flower that grants wishes instead of weeds.

Be Useful

The dandelion is incredibly versatile. From stem to root, it’s entirely edible. Not only that, but it’s also been used for everything from folk medicine to dye. Dandelions also improve soil quality, leaving behind nitrous and other nutrients. Not too shabby for such a common plant, huh? The dandelion teaches us no matter how unassuming or ordinary we may seem; we actually have a whole lot to contribute to the world.

Adapt

Dandelions adapt easily and are able to grow in all sorts of soil types and conditions. And not just grow but flourish. This is partly why they’re so prevalent. In fact, dandelions are “pioneer plants”, those plants that are among the first to repopulate the soil after it’s been disturbed (like after a wildfire). In other words, dandelions make do even in the roughest situations. We know you can too.

Embrace Change, Let Go When Necessary

So many are familiar with the dandelion’s evolution from a yellow blossom to a white puffball. Once that soft tuft appears, the dandelion will soon release its seeds into the wind. Dandelions know that change is simply part of life, and just as important, they know when to let go.

Travel Far

Did you know? Dandelions seeds can travel up to five miles in the wind. That may not seem like much, but it’s pretty impressive when you learn that dandelions have nearly conquered the world. A brief history of this flower reveals they were once exclusive to Eurasia. Now? They grow on six different continents. Take a cue from the dandelion: go far and be willing to take on any new terrain.

Be Tenacious

Of course, dandelions are so commonly known as weeds because they are so pervasive and persistent. If you mow or cut them, they simply come back. Rip their roots out, and any remaining roots will simply grow more dandelions. While some might see this as a nuisance, we think this a prime lesson in determination! Be like the dandelion, be tenacious.

Source: Mind Fuel Daily Blog

Happy August!

In the original Roman calendar, the month of August was called Sextilis, meaning “the sixth month” in Latin. In 700 BC, January and February were added to the calendar, moving Sextilis to eighth place. The month was later renamed Augustus in honor of the first emperor of Rome, Caesar Augustus.

Here are ten more interesting facts about August:

1. The Anglo-Saxons called August “Weod Monath,” (Weed Month). During this month, weeds and plants grow the fastest in the northern hemisphere.

2. Most vegetables are ready to be harvested during this month. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and peas are at their freshest and most bountiful in August.

3. In a standard year, no other month begins on the same day of the week as August. In a leap year, August begins on the same day of the week as February.

4. August has two birth flowers: gladiolus and deep crimson poppy. The vibrant gladiolus flower represents generosity, strength of character, and deep sincerity, while the poppy flower is a sign of imagination, eternal sleep, and oblivion.

5. August has three birthstones: peridot, spinel, and sardonyx. Sardonyx, a stone that ranges from amber to bright green in color, was the original August birthstone. Due to its similar coloring, peridot was often mistaken for sardonyx, and was eventually adopted as the second August birthstone. Spinel was added as an alternate gemstone in 2016.

6. People born between August 1 and August 22 fall under the sign of Leo, while those born later in the month fall under Virgo. Leos are proud and display leadership qualities while Virgos are analytical and hardworking.

7. Famous people born in August include Barack Obama (August 4, 1961), Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930), Lucille Ball (August 6, 1911), Viola Davis (August 11, 1965), Coco Chanel (August 19, 1883), and Warren Buffett (August 30, 1930).

8. August has been designated as National Panini Month, Peach Month, Sandwich Month, Harvest Month, National Water Quality Month, National Immunization Month, and Get Ready for Kindergarten Month.

9. The first sandwich was created on August 6, 1762. In the middle of a gambling game (he did not wish to interrupt), the Earl of Sandwich requested a dish involving meat between two pieces of bread.

10. On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to 250,000 people on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Dr. King called for the end of racial discrimination and equal rights for all.

Blurb Blitz: To Kingdom Come

I’m happy to welcome award-winning author Claudia Riess. Today, Claudia shares her recent release, To Kingdom Come.

Blurb

Amateur sleuths, Erika Shawn-Wheatley, art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, art history professor, attend a Zoom meeting of individuals from around the globe whose common goal is to expedite the return of African art looted during the colonial era. Olivia Chatham, a math instructor at London University, has just begun speaking about her recent find, a journal penned by her great-granduncle, Andrew Barrett, active member of the Royal Army Medical Service during England’s 1897 “punitive expedition” launched against the Kingdom of Benin.

Olivia is about to disclose what she hopes the sleuthing duo will bring to light, when the proceedings are disrupted by an unusual movement in one of the squares on the grid. Frozen disbelief erupts into a frenzy of calls for help as the group, including the victim, watch in horror the enactment of a murder videotaped in real time.

It will not be the only murder or act of brutality Erika and Harrison encounter in their two-pronged effort to hunt down the source of violence and unearth a cache of African treasures alluded to in Barrett’s journal.

Much of the action takes place in London, scene of the crimes and quest for redemption.

Excerpt

He wondered now why had it taken such an effort to decide which of his plans to set in motion. Walking off with an artifact or two from Franks House, the British Museum’s storage facility in East London, may have given him his political statement, but at what cost? The place was crawling with workers in lab coats and masks—conservators, project managers, photographers, interns, auditors, volunteers—the lot of them engaged in the end goal of moving 200,000 objects from the museum’s collection of Africa, Oceania, and the Americans to its nearly spanking new World Conservation and Exhibition Centre. True, it would not have been an insurmountable task, entering the quiet road where the quaint redbrick warehouse lay and unobtrusively blending into the workforce, but then what? Would he have been forced to shoot his way out of the place at the risk of being gunned down himself? How sordid and at the same time mundane to mow down an uncalculated number of individuals, only to find himself a mere casualty sprawled among them. Hell no, he was neither a loony terrorist nor a crack- head martyr. The plan in place was the more sensible course, no question about it.

It was restful, hearing below his thoughts the rhythmic phrase of train wheels clacking against the tracks in lulling repetition. His calmness surprised him a little, given what lay ahead. His scenario had been well choreographed, but only on an imagined stage with players moving about under his ironclad direction. In real life, even the most meticulous plan is apt to be disrupted by unforeseen circumstances. He knew that it was exactly 1.6 miles from Effingham Junction Station to the mansion on Ockham Lane in Cobham, Surrey, but was he certain that he would not be accosted by a madman or struck by lightning on his walk to the place?

If he allowed his thoughts to ramble on in this manner, his nerves would start acting up. He must lean into the physical moment and move with it into his destiny. He looked out the window past his reflection and focused on the indifferent stars.

Author Bio and Links

An award-winning author of seven novels, Claudia Riess graduated from Vassar and resides in Manhattan and Westhampton Beach. Her most recent novel is the fourth book in her art history mystery series. “To Kingdom Come” will be released in Spring 2022 by Level Best Books.

Last year, Riess signed a second three-book contract with Level Best Books to continue the series that began with “Stolen Light.” The plot involved murder, the Italian Renaissance, and the Cuban Revolution—as well as a love story. The book was chosen by the Vassar travel program coordinator and the Vassar Latin American professor for distribution to the participants in their 2017 “people-to-people” trips to Cuba.

The latest suspense novel set in the art world, sleuths Erika Shawn, art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, art history professor. Now married, the couple is caught up in a multiple-murder case involving the repatriation of African art and artifacts seized by the British in the late nineteenth century during the colonial era. Much of the action takes place in London, scene of the crimes and quest for redemption.

“Riess uses words as an artist uses a paint brush; the pages come to life.”
~Joseph Epstein, Ph.D

“Mystery. Passion. Crime. What more could a book-lover want!”
~Elizabeth Cooke, author of the Hotel Marcel Series

An engaging speaker, Riess has recently given several author talks via Zoom for libraries* and is scheduled for future Zoom and podcast events at more venues. Subjects include “Anatomy of a Murder Mystery,” “Dangerous Liaison: Fiction and History,” and “The Joys and Perils of Creating a Mystery Series.” Her talks are of interest to both authors and readers.

*“Thank you for a fun evening. It was very interesting to hear about the process of writing.”
~Jocelyn Ozolins, Head of Reference, Shelter Island Library

Claudia Riess has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker magazine and Holt Rinehart and Winston. She has also edited several art history monographs. For more about Riess and her work, visit http://www.claudiariessbooks.com.

All four books in the art history mystery series are available through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, IndieBound.org and at independent book stores. For bulk discount purchases, contact https://levelbestbooks.wordpress.com.

Website | Amazon Author Page | Amazon Buy Link

Giveaway

Claudia Riess will be awarding a $50 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Claudia on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

On Meeting Limits with Unlimited Thought

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

I highly recommend A Year of Miracles by spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson. I have followed the 365 reflections and devotions over several years. Here’s one of my favorites:

Our power lies in meeting limited circumstances with unlimited thought. It is not what happens to us, but what we choose to think about what happens to us, that determines what will happen next.

If our circumstances tempt us to think thoughts such as “I’m a loser,” “I will never have another chance,” “It will take forever for this situation to right itself,” or “I hate whoever is to blame for this,” then miracles, though they are programmed into the nature of the universe, cannot make their way into our awareness. They’re in the computer, but we’re not choosing to download them. With every thought we think, we either summon or block a miracle.

It is not our circumstances, then, but rather our thoughts about our circumstances, that determine our power to transform them. We choose in life whether to live in victimization or in victory. We have power either way—power to use against ourselves, or power to use to free ourselves. The point is that we always have the choice, and it’s not always as simple as it appears.

Source: A Year of Miracles

Virtual Book Tour: Irresistible

I’m happy to welcome USA Today Bestselling author Darcy Burke. Today, Darcy shares an entertaining post about a writer’s life and her new release, Irresistible.

A Day in the Life

You probably know that writers’ lives are not that glamorous. For the most part, I get up, I feed the cats, I eat breakfast, I wake my son, give him breakfast, then I drive him to school. Or, maybe it’s a morning when I drive him to get allergy shots first. His school day is either three and half hours or just over five hours. On the shorter days, I often don’t drive home (school is 20-30 minutes away, depending on traffic and construction). Instead, I run errands, work at Starbucks, and usually grab lunch.

I like working at Starbucks or a lunch place because I am not distracted by cats! Or laundry (I am weird – I actually like doing laundry!). When I am in public, I tend to focus better for some stupid reason. So if I’m on deadline, I like to take advantage of that time to force myself to work. It feels even more productive now after so long at home due to the pandemic, but I don’t know how accurate that is.

I try not to run too many errands as it can be incredibly distracting. Running into Target for two things becomes an hour-long trek purchasing things I vaguely need, but probably not right now when I, um, should be writing. My favorite boutique is next door to one of the Starbucks where I write. That can be a total time suck! I am super proud of myself for avoiding it since new year’s! And I had a gift certificate!!

After I pick up my son, I typically go home and work some more or I’ll run on the treadmill. I bait myself with television to get myself to run—that’s where I do my best binge watching. I’m currently enjoying the show Barry starring Bill Hader and Henry Winkler. I laugh out loud several times every episode. I am lucky to have a husband who does most of the cooking. I just got really tired of it about five years ago, and he enjoys it, so it works out. I do still cook (I’m the taco, chili, and stew queen!), mostly when I’m not on deadline.

Evenings are spent either writing, ironing (I iron sheets because I hate when the top edges are all wrinkled), reading, or watching TV with the family. Or playing games! Oh, and always, always petting cats.

Blurb

Jessamine Goodfellow has spent six Seasons avoiding the parson’s trap, and spinsterhood is finally within her grasp. A brilliant scholar, she longs for adventure and new experiences, things her family frowns upon. Presented with the opportunity to use her puzzle-solving talent on a secret mission for the Foreign Office, Jess eagerly accepts. Even when it means posing as the wife of a scorchingly attractive Scotsman who she must also covertly investigate as a possible double agent.

Lord Dougal MacNair, the new Viscount Fallin, has always completed his assignments for the Foreign Office alone. Now he’s saddled with an overly enthusiastic amateur partner. She possesses a remarkable intellect, but something about her isn’t quite right, and after two failed missions, Dougal is certain someone is working against him. Battling their secret suspicions, Dougal and Jess dive deep into their cover as a married couple, which arouses temptations they find irresistible. Danger is all around them, but it’s their hearts that may be the most imperiled.

Excerpt

“Tell me why I’ve hurried back.”

“A mission to the Dorset coast. You leave in a week.”

Dougal frowned. “If I don’t leave for a week, why am I here now?”

Lucien hesitated the barest moment. “Because you need time to prepare with your partner.”

“My what?”

Voices in the hall interrupted further conversation because a moment later, Lucien’s butler announced the arrival of Lady Pickering and Miss Jessamine Goodfellow. Dougal was very familiar with Lady Pickering, but the other white woman was unknown to him. Taller than most ladies, Miss Goodfellow possessed vivid cobalt eyes that assessed him with a keen curiosity. Indeed, her unabashed attention could only mean one thing—that she was to be his partner.

Lady Pickering moved her vigilant gaze toward him. “I’m pleased you could arrive so quickly, Lord Fallin. I do apologize that you were called away at this time.”

Dougal inclined his head. “I am always eager to serve.”

“One of your best qualities.” Lady Pickering turned slightly toward the young lady. “Jessamine, this is Lord Fallin.” Lady Pickering then looked to Dougal. “Allow me to present Miss Jessamine Goodfellow. She will be your wife on this endeavor.”

“My what?” First, he had a partner, and now he had a wife?

Author Bio and Links

Darcy Burke is the USA Today Bestselling Author of sexy, emotional historical and contemporary romance. Darcy wrote her first book at age 11, a happily ever after about a swan addicted to magic and the female swan who loved him, with exceedingly poor illustrations. Click here to Join her Reader Club.

A native Oregonian, Darcy lives on the edge of wine country with her guitar-strumming husband, artist daughter, and imaginative son who will almost certainly out-write her one day (that may be tomorrow).

They’re a crazy cat family with two Bengal cats, a small, fame-seeking cat named after a fruit, an older rescue Maine Coon with attitude to spare, and a collection of neighbor cats who hang out on the deck and occasionally venture inside. You can find Darcy at a winery, in her comfy writing chair, or binge-watching TV with the family.

Her happy places are Disneyland, Labor Day weekend at the Gorge, Denmark, and anywhere in the UK—so long as her family is there too.

Website | Reader Group Newsletter | Instagram | Twitter | BookBub | Goodreads | Facebook | Darcy’s Duchesses Facebook Group

Impossible Buy Links

Amazon | Apple | Nook | Kobo

Giveaway

One randomly chosen winner via Rafflecopter will win a $50 Amazon/Barnes & Noble gift card. Find out more here.

Follow Darcy Burke on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Wild Rose Press author Chloe Holiday sharing the radical change that catapulted her into an extraordinary second act.

Here’s Chloe!

Briefly describe your first act.

For many years I practiced medicine, in and out of the military. It was a challenging labor of love, between the complicated management of cancer patients, their emotional needs and those of their families, and the long hours. While it was tremendously rewarding, it took a toll, leaving little time for my family and almost none for me, for many years.

What triggered the need for change?

Things started to happen with my colleagues—serious diagnoses and even some deaths. I had a couple of health scares myself, and a family member developed serious mental health issues. Dealing with these required a radical change: leaving medicine since I could no longer devote the time to doing it right. This was horribly scary, and made worse by the dire predictions of coworkers that I’d feel empty without practicing but I knew something had to give.

I developed terrible insomnia the first year after this change, and read a hundred novels that year—a great luxury, since I’d read mainly medical journals for years. I thought, “maybe I could do this” and during the next Insomnia Edition, I started to write my first novel.

It wasn’t great—two stories squished into one, but it had potential and it was really fun, to unleash the creative side of me. I learned all I could about writing, and worked to fine-tune my prose to an easy-reading, fast-paced style.

Where are you now?

I’ve just published my seventh novel, Fly Boy. It’s about a crop duster in Texas, and have become a “number one best-selling Amazon author” and am branching out into audiobooks. I love writing and connecting to readers and other authors, and hope that my stories can give people a much-needed escape and positivity.

Do you have advice for anyone planning to pursue a second act?

Do what you can to plan it—the finances, the timing, etc. so that you can “look before you leap” but understand that in the end, it takes courage and faith to commit to taking that step—you’ll always have a reason not to do it. Realize that while many will be supportive, some people in your life might actively discourage you, because your bravery in stepping off the treadmill will make them worry that they are making the wrong choice to stay. That creates cognitive dissonance and emotional stress for them, so they resolve it by taking the position that you are being foolish. Let them!

Any affirmations or quotations you wish to share?

Growing up, our family had two informal mottos. The first was, “How hard can it be?” and the second was “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”Those have stood me in good stead for every new endeavor, including making the jump to author.

Tagline

Tricia needs to liquidate assets to keep her late grandmother’s orchard out of foreclosure, but Travis—the guy who stood her up on prom night years ago—claims he had a handshake deal with Nana to buy the crop duster.

Blurb

Travis burned her once, but now Tricia must choose:

Flame him, or forgive and forget? Maybe he’s changed.

But … what if all the rumors are true?

Photographer Tricia Carlisle inherits her beloved grandmother’s orchard and leaves Chicago for her Texas roots, steeling herself to be immune to the charms of the small town—and those of Travis Walker, who stood her up on prom night seven years ago. Worse, she arrives only to find Nana’s place is in foreclosure. To have any hope of saving it, Tricia has no choice but to sell down assets—including her grandfather’s crop duster.

Travis Walker loses his last true friend when Nana Carlisle passes. Will his handshake deal to buy her crop duster survive now that Tricia is taking over? She’s cash-strapped and probably still hates his guts. He needs that plane—it’s his ticket out of this small town that sees him as a crook—but it’s on Tricia’s radar now.

Fly Boy is a steamy, stand-alone second-chance novella in the All-American Boy Series. It’s set in Deacon, Texas—home to sexy country boys and sassy, tough women. Warm, lazy afternoons in a hammock and swimming holes in a shady creek. Hot, heavenly Tex-Mex and even hotter kisses.

Come on down, y’all!

Author Bio and Links

Chloe writes steamy, fun novels about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, smart women and men who aren’t jerks. Her stories feature friendships—close women or a good bromance—with all the feels: the thrill of a smoldering gaze or the barest brush of fingertips, the shocked gasp at the underhanded villain, the angst of heartbreak, the joy of reunion, and of course, happily ever after!

She enjoys humor and embarrassing situations as well as a vicarious sneak peek into intriguing groups (military personnel, medicine, another culture like Greece, sailing, diving, or rock climbing…) A little danger is always fun, so many contain a suspense subplot.

She hates to read the same old thing, with only the names and places changed, so her goal is to bring you a fresh, fun, new story every time, with NO CLIFFHANGERS: a rollicking, great escape that whisks readers away and love prevails.

Website | Goodreads | Facebook | BookBub | Amazon Author Page | Universal Book Link | Universal Audiobook Link

Other Books by Chloe Holiday

The Helios Series

Finders, Keepers | Helios | New Heights | Submerged Hopes | Hard Truths

The All American Boy Series

A Boy & His Dog | Fly Boy

Welcome Baby Kodiak!

The Catalyst for Change

On Wednesdays, I share posts, fables, songs, poems, quotations, TEDx Talks, cartoons, and books that have inspired and motivated me on my writing journey. I hope these posts will give writers, artists, and other creatives a mid-week boost.

A long-time fan of bestselling authors and coaches Marc and Angel Chernoff, I look forward to reading their emails and blog posts. Here’s an excerpt from a recent email:

Many of the most iconic books, songs and inventions of all time were inspired by gut-wrenching pain and heartbreak. Therefore, the silver lining of these painful challenges is that they were the catalyst to the creation of epic masterpieces.

An emerging field of psychology called Post-Traumatic Growth has suggested that many people are able to use their hardships and traumas for substantial creative and intellectual development. Specifically, researchers have found that trauma can help people grow in the areas of interpersonal relationships, contentment, gratitude, personal strength, and resourcefulness.

When our view of the world as a safe place, or as a certain type of place, has been shattered, we are forced to reboot our perspective on things. We suddenly have the opportunity to look out to the periphery and see things with a new, fresh set of beginner’s eyes, which is very conducive to personal growth and long-term success and wellness.

Note: I highly recommend subscribing to Marc & Angel’s website.

10 Powerful Affirmations from Abby Wynne

I’m happy to welcome psychotherapist and author Abby Wynne. Today, Abby shares her new release, Awakening, Book 1 (The Inner Compass Trilogy), and ten powerful affirmations. These affirmations would have helped Melissa, the protagonist of the trilogy.

I’m a healer first and foremost, a writer second. My genre up to now has been self-care. I’m a Shamanic Psychotherapist, something that the main character in my book, Awakening, is not. Not yet, anyway. She is me but she isn’t me, some of her struggles mirror my own when it came to the journey of learning how to be a therapist. And some of them are very much hers.

1. I am safe

This seems like a simple thing to say, but to believe it 100% is incredibly difficult. Marissa was safe, as are most of us, but she believed that she was vulnerable, and fragile in the world. Repeating this affirmation helps anyone re-orient themselves, and get stronger.

2. I can and I will

This one is great for increasing self-confidence. Marissa has many essays to write, many live assessments to perform, and sometimes just getting the bus to work is a challenge. If she says ‘I can and I will’ instead of worrying so much, she would be much less stressed out!

3. I no longer need to cause myself emotional pain

Marissa questions everything, and brings it all back to self-doubt, which causes stress and elicits fear. By making a deal with yourself to not cause yourself deliberate stress, it really takes the pressure off.

4. I am here

This one sounds strange, of course you are here, but we are not always here. Particularly Marissa who drifts off to shamanic lands and other worlds while her body is in this reality. Sometimes we need to pull ourselves back into the room, othertimes its fun to travel. This one is a good anchor into the present moment.

5. Everything I need is right here

We all have a tendency to compare ourselves to other people. Marissa would be looking at her friend Joanne who is married with children, and thinking that she is lacking something, especially since James left her. Perhaps she’s not good enough for anyone? Well, if she had said this affirmation, she would be more solid, and perhaps more attractive for a new mate to show up in her life. Does someone new show up? Well, I don’t want to give you any spoilers!

6. I am learning how to look after myself

Marissa feels very grown up when she’s able to organise things well, and she feels scattered and small when she isn’t. I think that goes for most of us. By saying this affirmation out loud and meaning it 100%, we let go of our mistakes, and focus on what we can do, and do it better, and better, and better, until we can look after ourselves as best as we can. This one is important – try it!

7. Every Day I heal a little bit more

Healing is a process, and it isn’t a straight line either. Marissa feels at times that she goes backwards, and then berates herself for it. When you feel like you’ve regressed, remember that maybe it feels like going back, but what you’re actually doing is going deeper in, and healing something that you couldn’t heal the first time. Saying this affirmation is very empowering.

8. I call my power back to me right now

We lose power everywhere all the time. By calling our power back well, we become empowered. Marissa loses her power to other people, and to things that happen to her, and, she loses it in her dreams, too. If she had used this one, maybe The Inner Compass Trilogy wouldn’t have ended up a trilogy after all. Just as well she didn’t know this one for me!

9. I am worthy of love

Many people don’t feel this at all. It’s sad really, because if you exist, then you’re worthy of love. You just are looking at all the things that you don’t love about yourself. James left Marissa and she felt unlovable. But if she knew she was worthy, maybe some of her decisions would have been different. And maybe yours would be, too.

10. I am good enough for me

This is my favourite affirmation. We don’t always have to fix or change ourselves, we can be good enough, just as we are. And if we are waiting to be good enough for someone else, well, we will never get there. So let’s focus on improving the relationship that we have with ourselves – I’m all for doing that first. If we like ourselves, then we will have better boundaries, and choose people that are healthy for us. Being good enough for me, is good enough, for me, and I hope for you, too.

I hope you try these affirmations and that they change your life, help you anchor into the present moment, and let go of your expectation that the love you need is outside of you from another person. You can give yourself all the love you need, which makes you all the more loveable for someone else.

And do go out and get Awakening, and find out what happens to Marissa, maybe you’ll be shouting out one of these affirmations to her when she needs it the most. And maybe she’ll hear it too! Lots of love, Abby Wynne

Blurb

When Marissa’s fiancé leaves her unexpectedly, she is left trying to put the broken pieces of her life back together again. The magical years of her childhood are now lost or long forgotten and, trapped in a downward spiral of worry and anxiety, nothing seems to be bringing the magic back any time soon.

Training to become a therapist, Marissa discovers an unforeseen talent for helping others and, for a while at least, she puts her own needs and concerns to one side. An unexpected windfall prompts a spontaneous trip to Peru, and an encounter while she is there triggers an astonishing series of events. Shaken but excited, Marissa embarks on a wonderful journey of revelation and adventure – after which, her life will never be the same again.

Marissa’s story is your story, is my story, is everybody’s story: we each must find our own true path through life, our one true way.

Abby Wynne, author and Shamanic Psychotherapist, brings all her wisdom to bear on Marissa’s amazing tale of discovery and healing. A catalyst for people’s healing processes, Abby is a problem solver, a creative artist, an alchemist, a healer, a mother, a daughter, a lover of life – and it shows in this, her first novel.

Excerpt

Marissa looked out the window at the moonlight. It was half a moon and seemed to glisten through the tree branches. The leaves were falling, the days were getting darker earlier and earlier. A single star blinked in the pale sky, but the sky was too bright with light pollution to see anything more. She looked at the cloud as it crawled towards the moon, shifting and changing its shape. She could see a dragon in it for a moment, then it turned into puffs of smoke, and then the moon was hidden.

She put the notebook down beside her laptop and climbed into bed, leaving the curtains open. She liked moonlight. Her room in the half-light felt like an in-between place, her breathing slowing down, her body relaxing. Tobermory jumped up beside her, looking straight into her eyes. She stroked his back.

‘My familiar, my friend, my cat,’ she said, ‘what do you think? Do you have an answer for me?’

As usual, Tobermory was silent, but he held eye contact for a moment longer than Marissa expected him to. Perhaps he understood her? He mewed, then curled himself into a black circle on the bed beside her and began to purr.

Training, she thought to herself as she settled under the covers. But who is going to teach me?’

Author Bio and Links

Abby Wynne is the bestselling author of the “One Day at a Time Diary”, “How to Be Well” and “Energy Healing made Easy.” The Inner Compass Trilogy is her first novel, weaving her knowledge of shamanism, psychotherapy and energy healing into an exciting, fast-paced story which spans across many dimensions. Abby’s based in Ireland and lives with her husband, 4 children, a dog and a cat! Abby offers many ways to feel supported while you are on your path of healing; her mission is to empower people by teaching them how to heal themselves.

Website | Podcast | Instagram | Facebook | YouTube

You can buy The Inner Compass Trilogy on all good online bookstores.

Giveaway

Abby Wynne will be awarding a International – €50 off any of the digital products on the author’s website to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Abby on the rest of her Goddess Fish tour here.