Spotlight on Susan Van Kirk

I’m happy to welcome author Susan Van Kirk. Today, Susan shares her writing journey and latest release, A Death at Tippitt Pond.

Here’s Susan!

The publishing business is a constant road of ups and downs. Nothing is smooth or predictable. I suppose this has given me some empathy for publishers and admiration for successful writers, but it has also led to a mountain-and-valley kind of existence. Along with the ups and downs, it is tough to do well in this business without some help from friends.

I didn’t set out to be a writer, but once I began writing I discovered I love it. When I was teaching college classes, one of my students suggested I write an inspirational story I’d told in class. So I did. Within two weeks, Teacher magazine emailed to say they’d publish it. Wow! I had no clue it could be this easy.

You see where this is going, right?

I have read mysteries since fifth grade when I plowed through thousands of pages of Sherlock Holmes stories. Once I retired from teaching in 2011, I decided to spend a year reading about writing mysteries. This led to my series, The Endurance Mysteries, based on a small, Midwest town largely resembling my own. Secrets, history, a few murders, and a little romance propelled the stories of Grace Kimball, retired teacher, and her former student, Detective TJ Sweeney, who often asks for Grace’s help. And so it began.

In these early days, I joined a national group called Sisters in Crime, along with their subgroup, the Guppies, and through those groups I found a fantastic editor named Lourdes Venard of Comma Sense editing. That was the best money I ever spent. And, I might add, both writing groups, along with Lourdes, have given me excellent advice when navigating the business of publishing.

I sent off the manuscript for Three May Keep a Secret, my first Endurance mystery, and within two weeks I had a publisher: Five Star Publishing. I was in heaven. Once again, I thought, “It can’t be this easy.” They also bought my second book in the series, Marry in Haste. I was on top of the world because my college major had been history, and I could put some of my enjoyable research into these books. Marry in Haste goes back a hundred years with a double plot about the lives of two women.

I was feeling successful. Top of the mountain.

Then, disaster struck. Five Star Publishing decided not to publish mysteries anymore. I was “orphaned.” Trying to find a publisher for the third book, Death Takes No Bribes, was impossible. I decided to self-publish, as I had done with a novella about my detective. Time to go to Plan B.

I’ve read so many stories from authors who have persisted, who have refused to take “no” for a final answer. Perhaps the stories of those who quit are simply lost. The publishing business is amazingly slow, and a writer can wait months to hear from publishers if she hears from them at all. I didn’t want to be one of those lost stories.

So, Plan B. I wrote a new series I call the Sweet Iron mysteries. Again, I went on a long search for small publishers. A Death at Tippitt Pond, the first of the Sweet Iron mysteries, came out last June from a small publisher named Encircle Publications. I’m working on the second book in that series now.

Besides writing, an author must make decisions about how she will publish. I’ve always favored traditional publishing because I live in a small town in the Midwest with few avenues for sales. However, constantly trying to find publishers becomes a time-consuming effort, and I lose valuable writing time. This past week I signed with an agent, something I never thought would occur. I feel like Sally Fields exclaiming, “You really like [my novel!]” Over the past five years, I’ve queried 300+ agents with no success. It finally happened, thankfully, and I can now anticipate more time to write. Another peak after a lot of valleys.

Joining the national mystery groups made these successes possible. I also began going to Malice Domestic, a book conference once a year in Bethesda, Maryland. Through those experiences, I met quite a few people who have helped me along the way. This year I am heading to San Diego to attend West Coast Crime, a completely different audience. Meeting people in the mystery-writing world is a wonderful experience, and it has helped my writing considerably.

All the ups and downs have been worth it, and I’m currently working on my second book in the Sweet Iron series. Thankful for the blessings I’ve received, I never take for granted that I’ll be on top as time goes by. Trying to help others along the way, as I have been helped, is also part of my writing life. I simply keep putting one foot in front of the other, one page down and the next coming up, one chapter finished and the following one started, and keep on keeping on.


Everyone in the small town of Sweet Iron knew the teenage daughter of Judge Tippitt and his wife, Jolene. Melanie Tippitt’s exotic green eyes sprinkled with gold flecks only added to her haunting beauty. That is why her shocking murder in the summer of 1971 shattered the innocence of the town. Soon, the inhabitants sighed with relief when the murderer was sent to prison. Case closed. Four decades later, historical researcher and genealogist, Elizabeth Russell, arrives in Sweet Iron with plans for a brief visit. She extends her stay when she discovers reasons to research the Tippitt family genealogy and the disturbing tragedy of their daughter’s murder. Her decision cracks the tranquility of the town and challenges the truth of what happened that day at Tippitt Pond … Case closed. Or was it?

Buy Links

Encircle Publications | Amazon | Barnes and Noble


I live at the center of the universe—the Midwest—and write during the ridiculously cold, snowy, and icy winters. Why leave the house and break something? I have a history degree from Knox College and a graduate degree from the University of Illinois. My first book was a memoir called The Education of a Teacher (Including Dirty Books and Pointed Looks.) My newest series—the Sweet Iron Mysteries—combines history, genealogy, and mystery in the debut, A Death at Tippitt Pond. I taught for 44 years in high school and college and raised three children as a single parent. Strangely, after all that, I have low blood pressure and am blissfully retired.

Where to find Susan…

Website | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads

10 Facts About Frost Fairs Upon the River Thames

I’m happy to welcome back Caroline Warfield and the Bluestocking Belles. Today, Caroline share ten interesting facts about frost fairs and their new release, Fire & Frost.

1. The Little Ice Age produced a climate fluctuation that caused colder than normal temperatures worldwide from the mid 14th to the mid 19th centuries. It wasn’t a true “ice age” as in the age in which glaciers covered much of the world, but England endured a series of severe winters.

2. In addition to climate changes, differences in the river Thames at London compared to know made it more likely to freeze. The piers of Old London Bridge, for one thing, caused ice to jam up effectively producing a dam. Between 1600 and 1814 it was not uncommon for the river to freeze solid for up to two months at a time.

3. There are reports of activity on the ice dating from the 14th century. We know that in 1563 Elizabeth I ordered an archery field set up on the river.

4. The first fully documented frost fair occurred in the winter of 1608 when the Thames froze for six weeks.

5. Between 1608 and 1814 seven major fairs took place, but it is believed numerous more minor events occurred.

6. The winter of 1683-1684 was particularly severe. Lakes, rivers, and even the sea around the southern coast of England brought commerce to a complete halt.

7. Charles II visited the frost fair of 1684 and enjoyed an ox roasted on the ice.

8. The last and by most accounts largest, occurred in 1814. Temperatures dropped below freezing every night between December 27 and February 7. By the end of January creating a solid surface from Blackfriars Bridge to London Bridge.

9. Between January 25 and February 1 crowds began to gather and stalls and business sprang up on the ice. Tradesmen of all kinds hawked their wares. Fires were set up to keep warm, cook, and even roast full sized sheep. Rum, gambling, drinking tents were reported. Carriages drove up and down the ice. Dances took place. Games such as skittles and bowls were held. Paintings show swings, sled rides and skating. Not least, an elephant was walked the length of the place.

10. Folks prized one souvenir in particular, a printed ticket to prove they had been there. As in previous fairs, printing presses were set up on the ice to satisfy demand, and all sorts of ephemera was printed. The great fair ended February 5, 1814. It was the last one.

About Fire & Frost

In a winter so cold the Thames freezes over, five couples venture onto the ice in pursuit of love to warm their hearts.

Love unexpected, rekindled, or brand new—even one that’s a whack on the side of the head—heats up the frigid winter. After weeks of fog and cold, all five stories converge on the ice at the 1814 Frost Fair when the ladies’ campaign to help the wounded and unemployed veterans of the Napoleonic wars culminates in a charity auction that shocks the high sticklers of the ton.

In their 2020 collection, join the Bluestocking Belles and their heroes and heroines as The Ladies’ Society For The Care of the Widows and Orphans of Fallen Heroes and the Children of Wounded Veterans pursues justice, charity, and soul-searing romance.

Celebrate Valentine’s Day 2020 with five interconnected Regency romances.

Buy Links

Apple Books | Barnes & Noble | Kobo | Smashwords | Amazon (US)

You can find more about the authors and the individual stories here.


Award-winning author of family centered romance set in the Regency and Victorian eras, Caroline Warfield has been many things: traveler, librarian, poet, raiser of children, bird watcher, Internet and Web services manager, conference speaker, indexer, tech writer, genealogist—even a nun. She reckons she is on at least her third act, happily working in an office surrounded by windows where she lets her characters lead her to adventures in England and the far-flung corners of the British Empire. She nudges them to explore the riskiest territory of all, the human heart.

Her story, Lord Ethan’s Courage, appears in Fire & Frost.

Website | Amazon | Goodreads | Facebook | Twitter | Newsletter | BookBub | Email

Life Is Tough, But You Are Tougher

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 receive a daily dose of inspiration from bestselling authors and coaches Marc and Angel Chernoff. Here’s a thought-provoking segment from last week’s email:

Truth be told, happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them. Imagine all the wondrous things your mind might embrace if it weren’t wrapped so tightly around your struggles. Always look at what you have, instead of what you have lost. Because it’s not what the world takes away from you that counts; it’s what you do with what you have left.

Here are two key reminders to help motivate you when you need it most:

1. Every little struggle is a step forward.

In life, patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard on your dreams and desires, knowing that the work is worth it. So if you’re going to try, put in the time and go all the way. Otherwise, there’s no point in starting. This could mean losing stability and comfort for a while, and maybe even your mind on occasion. It could mean not eating what, or sleeping where, you’re used to, for weeks on end. It could mean stretching your comfort zone so thin it gives you a nonstop case of the chills. It could mean sacrificing relationships and all that’s familiar. It could mean accepting ridicule from your peers. It could mean lots of time alone in solitude. Solitude, though, is the gift that makes great things possible. It gives you the space you need. Everything else is a test of your determination, of how much you really want it.

And if you want it, you’ll do it, despite failure and rejection and the odds. And every step will feel better than anything else you can imagine. You will realize that the struggle is not found on the path, it is the path. And it’s worth it. So if you’re going to try, go all the way. There’s no better feeling in the world… there’s no better feeling than knowing what it means to be ALIVE.

2. The best thing you can do is to keep going.

Don’t be afraid to get back up – to try again, to love again, to live again, and to dream again. Don’t let a hard lesson harden your heart. Life’s best lessons are often learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes. There will be times when it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong. And you might feel like you will be stuck in this rut forever, but you won’t. When you feel like quitting, remember that sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right. Sometimes you have to go through the worst, to arrive at your best.

Yes, life is tough, but you are tougher. Find the strength to laugh every day. Find the courage to feel different, yet beautiful. Find it in your heart to make others smile too. Don’t stress over things you can’t change. Live simply. Love generously. Speak truthfully. Work diligently. And even if you fall short, keep going. Keep GROWING forward, one step at a time.

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

Happy National Homemade Soup Day!

A piping hot bowl of soup is my favorite way to incorporate vegetables into my diet. I especially like puréed, low-starch vegetable soups that are quick and easy-to prepare.

Today, I’m sharing my recipe for Zucchini and Watercress Soup.

Diagnosed with hypothyroidism in 2006, I make every effort to incorporate thyroid-nourishing foods into my diet. I enjoy eating most of the iodine-rich foods, but I struggle with watercress. Its pungency doesn’t sit well with my fussy taste buds. While experimenting, I discovered that adding zucchini and almond butter to watercress results in a creamy alternative that hits my sweet spot.


2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups chopped carrots
1½ cups chopped celery
4 cups of zucchini, diced
4 cups of vegetable broth
¼ cup unsweetened almond butter
2 cups watercress, chopped
Handful of parsley
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat the vegetable oil and sauté the onion and garlic in a large soup pot.

2. Add the celery and cook until translucent.

3. Add the carrots and zucchini and sauté for three to five minutes.

4. Add the vegetable broth and stir in the almond butter until well combined.

5. Increase the heat and bring to a boil.

6. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until the zucchini is tender.

7. Add the watercress and parsley. Simmer for about five minutes.

8. Turn off the heat and let the soup cool.

9. Stir in the lemon juice.

10. Remove from heat and purée the soup in batches using a hand or immersion blender.

Makes 6 servings, about one cup each.

More Soup Recipes…

Broccoli | Celery | Asparagus | Lazy Woman’s Soup | Easy Avgolemeno | Vegetable Quinoa

When Opportunity Knocks…

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have award-winning author C.B.Clark sharing her multi-act life and latest release, Secret Betrayal.

Here’s Christine!

Like most people, I’ve reinvented myself, and my career, over the years, mainly because of facing some sort of adversity.

Act 1

As a child, my dream was to become an archaeologist. I graduated with a degree in anthropology and archaeology and began working in the wilderness of beautiful northern British Columbia searching for signs of ancient Indigenous activity and recording these sites on a provincial data base. I also participated in several archaeological excavations. I loved archaeology, but my excitement faded the year I spent six long months living in a tent as part of the job. When I heard about a course in Education, I jumped on board. Anything to get out of that tent.

Second Act

And so began my second act. I earned my teaching certificate, and discovered I loved teaching. Over my thirty years as a classroom teacher, I taught primary, intermediate, and high school students. I even lectured for a year at the local college.

Third Act

While I was working as a classroom teacher, a botched operation on my throat ended with me losing my ability to speak above a whisper for a year. I was on medical leave and needed something to challenge my mind. Since I’d always loved reading, I decided to try my hand at writing a romance novel. Now my voice is back, and I have six published romantic suspense novels and three audio books.

Fourth Act

Is there a fourth act in my life? Maybe. Opportunities arrive when we least expect them, often when we’re at a crossroads. My advice to you: be ready and open to new directions in life.

A favorite quotation of mine

“Opportunity often comes disguised in the form of misfortune, or temporary defeat.” ~Napoleon Hill


Head college librarian, Marissa Reynolds has spent years distancing herself from her crime king pin uncle and his criminal empire. When she awakens in an unfamiliar hotel room with blood on her hands and no memory of how she got there, the past returns with a vengeance, and her life spirals into a nightmare.

Straight-laced, Assistant district Attorney, Scott Bannister has spent a lifetime seeking justice for the senseless gangland shooting deaths of his parents. When he realizes Marissa is the niece of his prime suspect, he crosses a line guaranteed to put in jeopardy both his life and his beloved career.

He’s made it clear he’ll do anything to destroy her uncle. She fears he’s using her to achieve his goal. As the body count mounts, and their lives are threatened, they must put aside their distrust and work together to find the devious killer. Will they be able to forgive and find true love?


She pushed to her hands and knees. The pounding in her brain mushroomed into a full-blown, jackhammer assault. With a moan, she sank onto her bottom and grabbed her head in a fruitless effort to keep her brain from exploding. Despite the pain, she needed to get up. Something was wrong. Something was very wrong.

Faint wisps of light seeped through the edges of the window curtains. The distant sound of traffic echoed through the glass. A lamp imbued the room with a soft, rosy glow, revealing a king-size bed. The cover on the bed was a glossy, garish pink, the pillows covered in the same lurid color, the edges trimmed with frilly, black lace.

She rubbed the back of her neck and closed her eyes, but when she opened them again she was still in the unfamiliar room. A battered desk faced the bed, a large, flat screen television on top. The flickering images of a naked, full-breasted woman being entertained by two equally naked men played across the screen.

A wingback chair, covered in black leatherette sat in the far corner where a door was ajar revealing the cracked linoleum floor of a bathroom and the edge of a chipped porcelain sink. A framed diagram of a fire escape route was posted on the back of the other door. A hotel room? She dug her fingers into her temples. Why couldn’t she remember?

Buy Links

Amazon | Nook | iTunes | Kobo | Google Books | Walmart

Author Bio

Secret Betrayal is award-winning author, C.B. Clark’s fifth romantic suspense published by The Wild Rose Press. She has worked as an archaeologist and an educator, and enjoys hiking, canoeing, and snowshoeing with her husband and dog near her home in the wilderness of central British Columbia.

Instagram | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon Author

Spotlight on The Never Forgotten Series

I’m happy to welcome multi-published author Kelly Risser. Today, Kelly shares the four novels–Never Forgotten, Current Impressions, Always Remembered, Sea of Memories–in The Never Forgotten Series.

In this coming of age story, Meara Quinn is about to find out there are worse things than moving to a tiny oceanside town before her senior year. Like discovering there’s a secret being kept from her and knowing it’s a life-changer.

After experiencing vivid visions of her absentee father, Meara decides she deserves answers. With the help of her new friend Evan, a guy she happens to be falling for, she embarks on a journey in the hopes of unlocking family history and finding her true self. But when she meets a handsome stranger at a local club who knows far more about her than he should, her world is again shaken. In him, Meara may have uncovered the key to the very secret that will reveal not only who she is… but what she is.

The Never Forgotten series starts as a light paranormal romance with an Irish/Scottish folklore twist and grows into an underwater urban fantasy where love, loyalty and friendship face the ultimate test. If you like mermaids, sirens, and other water fae you may not have met before, this series is for you.

With over 300 five-star ratings on Goodreads, the Never Forgotten series is a Best Book Award-finalist young adult paranormal romance series that will appeal to fans of House of Royale by Jaymin Eve, Sirangel by Lucia Ashta, and Born of Water by A.L. Knorr.

Add to Goodreads

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Current Impressions is a Readers Favorite award winner and the second novel in the best-selling Never Forgotten series by Kelly Risser.

After an emotionally draining year, Meara Quinn is not the same carefree and innocent girl. Her mom is gone. Graduation is over. Taking a leap of faith and temporarily separating from her one love—Evan—Meara joins her father’s world on a journey to learn more about who she is.

Too bad life is not all starfish and seashells. Meara gains magical abilities, but she’s forced to undergo intense training so she knows what to do with them. Her father chooses her aunt and Kieran as her trainers. And Kieran—a powerful male who’s not from their clan—has the unnerving ability to infuriate and intrigue Meara at the same time.

While Meara begins her new life, Evan endures with her memory and the knowledge that he will see her in July when his internship begins. Although excited about gaining real world experience, it’s the thought of seeing Meara that really drives him. Unfortunately, Evan finds it hard to focus on anything when he’s suffering from vivid nightmares and screaming headaches.

When Meara and Evan reunite, everything seems to fall back into place. The summer appears to be perfect. Then two of her father’s guards are found dead, and foul play is suspected. The façade melts away. Someone is targeting them, and Meara must discover who it is and why. She turns to Evan to help her, but when he gives her the hot and cold treatment, she’s left feeling alone and confused.

As the puzzle pieces move into place, will Meara be able to solve the mystery in time to save her clan and her relationship?

Add to Goodreads

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Always Remembered is the third novel in the best-selling Never Forgotten series by Kelly Risser.

One clue… what does it mean?

Ken, the leader of the Blue Men of the Minch, has kidnapped Evan. Before they left, Evan was able to leave a package for Meara—her grandfather’s necklace wrapped in a cloth napkin with one word written in blood. Azuria. Unfortunately, Meara doesn’t understand it and neither does her dad or Kieran.

When Dad and Aunt Brigid attempt to rescue Evan, Meara and Kieran begin to train the clan on how to fight and defend their home. A war is brewing, and Meara is determined their people must prepare for the battle. The training sessions are long and arduous, but the Selkies work hard to learn.

Meanwhile, Evan wakes and finds himself in Belle Tresor, the home of sirens. He’s bound to his blue form, unable to transform to human, and Ken has plans to use Evan’s powers to destroy the Selkies. Thankfully, he’s not alone. He befriends a siren named Deanna and several Blue Men. Can he trust them to help him escape or do they have ulterior motives?

As both sides prepare for an ultimate confrontation, the stakes are high and friendships are tested. Some will rise to be victorious. Some will be destroyed. But love and loyalty will be always remembered in this exciting conclusion to the Never Forgotten series.

Add to Goodreads

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Sometimes, we reach the end of a story and realize there is more to be told. This is the case with Sea of Memories, a collection of novellas set in the world of Never Forgotten. Fans of this series will not be disappointed!

Travel with Meara and Kieran to North America where they visit her grandparents and his family. Along the way, stop at Mirage, the dance club where the couple first met, and see the encounter from Kieran’s point of view.

Struck in the Club – On the orders of his father, Kieran travels to Nova Scotia to spy on David’s daughter. After an encounter in a dance club, he may have found more than he bargained for.

Journey to the past and meet Kieran’s mom, Sera. Learn why she is no longer part of their lives.

What Will Be – Sera is a Selkie who enjoys her family and her daily routine of solitude. While out on one of her morning swims, she finds an injured man floating in the ocean. Unable to see anyone suffer, she rescues him, even after the warnings she received as a child about the evilness of human males. He may be safe now, but is she?

Go back to where it all started and discover along with Meara how her parents met and fell in love.

A Rock and A Hard Place – Visiting his maternal grandparents in Nova Scotia, David is determined to find out who murdered his parents and why. He doesn’t expect the evidence to take him to a small fishing village called Peggy’s Cove. He certainly doesn’t expect to find love there, especially when it comes in the form of a spunky little brunette… and a human one at that.

Finally, join Meara, Ula, and other friends old and new to remember the past, celebrate the present, and anticipate the future.

Something Blue – Ula’s been invited to a banquet at Ronac in her niece’s honor. Because it will be Meara’s first Christmas without her mom, Ula convinces her boyfriend, Vesh, and others that they need to throw a surprise holiday celebration. Selkies don’t celebrate Christmas and neither do the Blue Men of the Minch. It will be a holiday full of surprises for all.

Add to Goodreads

Amazon * Apple * Barnes & Noble * Google * Kobo

Kelly Risser knew at a young age what she wanted to be when she grew up. Unfortunately, Fairytale Princess was not a lucrative career. Leaving the castle and wand behind, she entered the world of creative business writing where she worked in advertising, marketing, and training at various companies.

She’s often found lamenting, “It’s hard to write when there’s so many good books to read!” So, when she’s not immersed in the middle of someone else’s fantasy world, she’s busy creating one of her own. This world is introduced in her first novel, Never Forgotten.

Kelly lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two children. They share their home with Clyde the Whoodle and a school of fish.

Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram * Pinterest * Bookbub * Amazon * Goodreads

**5 year Anniversary Celebration!!**

Five years ago, Kelly realized her dream of becoming a published author with Never Forgotten. She never imagined that first book would lead to three more and a complete series. She will be forever grateful to Clean Teen Publishing for taking a chance on an unknown writer, to her readers for loving Meara, Evan, Kieran and the full cast of characters that are so dear to her heart, and to the book community for supporting and promoting her work.

As a thank you, Kelly wants to give something back and share her happiness with all of you. Purchase any book in the series (with the exception of the free e-book of Never Forgotten), complete the online form with your uploaded proof of purchase, and receive a signed paperback (first 50 submissions; U.S. only) or a limited edition swag pack (next 200 submissions, open internationally).

Entry form:

Kelly Risser will be awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour. Find out more here.

Follow Kelly on the rest of her Silver Daggers tour here.

The Productivity Manifesto

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.

If you feel stuck, try implementing one or more of these suggestions: