Featured in Renaissance Magazine

renaissancejanuaryI’m thrilled to be featured in this month’s salute to Creative Minds in Renaissance Magazine, a quarterly publication for RTO-ERO (Retired Teachers of Ontario) members.

You can read about my writing journey in “Revisiting the Dream” on Pages 30 and 31.

Download the magazine here.


Chatting about Boomer Lit

9188269_sIn my late forties, I realized that I no longer enjoyed reading novels with 20something and 30something protagonists. It felt like poking into the heads and hearts of young women who could easily be former students. So, I started searching for novels featuring an older crowd and discovered several late-blooming authors who had launched successful second acts. I longed to pen my own novel, but family and career obligations prevented me from launching a writing practice.

When I retired six years ago, I was ready to write. At first, I focused on the non-fiction market and wrote book reviews and articles about careers, education, money management, personal growth and development, and wellness. While I was pleased with the response from newspapers, magazines, and online publications, I felt a growing restlessness.

It was time to pen the novel.

Continue reading on Mahrie Reid’s blog.

Claiming Fantasy Hen Lit


It’s officially mine.

After Googling “fantasy hen lit” and discovering my picture, the book cover of Between Land and Sea, and several images from my website on the first page of search results, I claimed the new sub-genre as my own.

A bit of history…

I never intended to write fantasy. I avoided books that featured werewolves, vampires, witches and other dark creatures and am probably one of the few people on this planet who could not read past Chapter 1 of the first Harry Potter novel. But after participating in a series of science fiction workshops, I decided to try my hand at light and breezy fantasy with inspirational elements. Whenever I described my work to other writers in the workshop, they would frown and ask, “But what genre is that?”

Continue reading on Katie Teller’s blog.

Introducing Fantasy Hen Lit!


I’ve come across a lot of discussion lately about genre definitions. The debate has grown from writing in multiple genres to writing across genres. A fellow Soulie, Sandra Harris, got me to thinking about this with her post Cross Genre – Why Has It Taken So Long? and S.C. Mitchell wrote here about adding superheros to romances.

Today, we talk with Joanne Guidoccio, author of Between Land and Sea, for her take on the pros and cons of blending fantasy and romance:

“You’ll have to explain what that means.”

“I don’t think the hens will like it.”


From the start, I knew there would be problems when I combined genres. Unlike other fantasy and science fiction writers, I did not want to focus exclusively on the out-of-world elements. Instead, I wanted to write the kind of fantasy I could actually sit down and read. I am one of the few people on this planet who could not read past Chapter 1 of the first Harry Potter novel, and I avoid books that feature werewolves, vampires, witches, and other dark creatures.

Continue reading on Kathy Bryson’s blog.

The Evolving Mermaid

9491775_sWhen I announced the release of Between Land and Sea, a novel about an overweight, middle-aged mermaid, I was surprised by the subsequent comments.

The typical male response was a Duchenne smile followed by a puzzled expression and several pointed questions…

Why is she so old?

Just how overweight is she?

What happened to her?

The men had preconceived notions of what a mermaid should look like—wavy auburn tresses, mesmerizing green eyes and a curvaceous twenty something body.

Continue reading at Kate Wyland’s blog.

Visiting Sarah Hoss

11838450_sThe lawyer shook his head. “I still don’t understand why your mermaid has to be old and fat.”

“Fifty-three is not that old.” I ignored the weight issue.

He persisted. “It is when it comes to mermaids. Why couldn’t you just let her be young, thin and beautiful?”

Thankfully, the conversation was interrupted by the facilitator’s call to resume the workshop. A few minutes more and I might have lost patience with the annoying lawyer who simply wouldn’t accept my vision of an older mermaid.

Continue reading on Sarah Hoss’ blog.

Reinvention and Baby Boomers

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, Beth Carpenter is talking about transitions and introducing her new book, Recalculating Route.

Here’s Beth!

beth1“And they lived happily ever after.” But what if they didn’t? Maybe the marriage didn’t work out. Maybe their career paths led them to a dead end. Maybe everything went just as planned, but now they are retired and need to reinvent themselves. “Happily ever after” isn’t a destination, it’s a journey.

Often, life feels less like a bed of roses and more like a tree on a riverbank, growing from the rock. While the river keeps washing the ground from underneath it, the tree is putting out roots, desperately trying to hang on, to keep from toppling over. Over time, that tree develops a certain grace, a sense of purpose that the pretty roses will never achieve. The struggle creates the beauty.


Baby boomers everywhere are making transitions. Many, after years at one career, are making the decision to move to another, either to fulfill a lifelong dream or from necessity as their old job disappears. Sometimes, they’re starting their own business from scratch. Others are making that jump to retirement, structuring their days and their lives without the framework of a career to shape them.

Sometimes I think it’s absurd that we expect eighteen-year-olds to choose a college major that leads to a career path. What do they know about life, about the possibilities? On the other hand, a person has to start somewhere, and maybe where they begin is less important than taking that first step.  Knowledge is seldom wasted. Many people move from one career to something completely different, and yet the lessons from that first career shape the person and help him or her succeed in the next. I recently read Confessions of an Instinctively Mutinous Baby Boomer and her Parable of the Tomato Plant. In that book, Marsha Roberts tells of the parables she has experienced in her life. She was a nurse, but later became a successful producer. The two careers seem to have little in common, but her compassion, organizational skills, and experience working with people in difficult situations undoubtedly contributed to her success in her second career.

All our experiences make us who we are, and sometimes life seems to circle around, bringing us back to our roots. A few years ago, my brother agreed to help organize his class reunion. One of the other members of the committee was a woman he’d known in high school, but hadn’t seen since, who lived in a completely different part of the state. They’re happily married now, and they’re not alone. I’ve known of several couples from the same hometown who reconnected after years of living in different parts of the country. It makes sense. They have that common ground, that rootstock from which their life took shape. This gives them something to build on as they make their transitions.

bethTransitions can be fairly smooth. My own path from stay-at-home mom and avid reader to writer felt like a natural progression as my children grew up. A combination of life experience and those thousands of books I’d devoured over the years gave me a base to build upon in writing that I wouldn’t have had at twenty-five.

Other times, it’s not so smooth. In my newest book, Recalculating Route, the main character, Marsha, was happily married and had retirement all mapped out when her beloved husband died. That left her without a clue on how to spend the rest of her life. She meets Ben, who is also rudderless after selling his company and retiring. The two of them have to figure out what happens next.

As we make our transitions, whether by choice or by necessity, we need to keep in mind that we are in charge of our own “happily ever afters,” and happiness involves growing and changing. Enjoy the journey.

Where you can find Beth…

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Goodreads

Joanne here!

Thank you, Beth for sharing your wonderful advice and insights about transitions. I just finished reading Recalculating Route and highly recommend it. Leave a comment for Beth and you could win a giveaway package valued at $50. Check out the link to the Prize Description.

Reinventing Myself

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Jana Richards talking about high school dreams and coming full circle.

Here’s Jana!

Jana Richards pictureI thought I wanted to be an accountant when I grew up. Turns out I was wrong. I wanted to be a writer.

Actually, that’s not completely true either.

Let’s go back. Way, way back to high school in the 70s. I grew up on a farm and went to school in a small town in Saskatchewan. I was a voracious reader, and through work on the school newspaper and yearbook, I discovered an ability and a love for writing. I dreamed of a career as a journalist.

But I was shy, and not very brave. I was easily discouraged when told journalism was a career beyond my capabilities. Aside from that, the only journalism school I was aware at that time was in Ottawa. It might as well have been on the moon. There was no way my parents would allow me to go that far from home, and they certainly wouldn’t pay for it.

So I went to university close by in Regina and got a degree in English. I once took a creative writing class with disastrous results. Other writers in the class produced wonderful works of literary fiction. I floundered, my attempts at literary fiction feeble at best. I felt that writing fiction was an exclusive club to which I could never belong. Whatever such membership required, I didn’t have. I put all my dreams of writing up on a shelf along with other childhood fantasies.

Fast forward a few years. I married, and when my husband’s job transfer meant we moved to another city and I had to look for a new job, I discovered my English degree wasn’t exactly opening doors for me. So I decided to make a change. I started taking classes in accounting with the intention of getting an accounting designation. I worked at my full-time job by day and slaved away at my homework at night.

By the time I had my first daughter, I was burned out. I took one more class while on maternity leave and then stopped, just a few classes short of my designation. But I’d discovered something important. I really didn’t like accounting very much. I was never going to make a stellar accountant.

Several more moves and the birth of another daughter followed. Through all these changes, I worked at various part-time admin assistant/bookkeeper type jobs. By the time my youngest daughter was in elementary school, the old writing bug had resurfaced. I wrote some articles for regional magazines, as well as a small column in the local weekly newspaper. My urge to write also emerged in another form. I discovered romance novels and felt an affinity for them.  There was something about the hopefulness and the values of love conquering all that spoke to me. I felt I could truly write one.

That was nearly twenty years and ten published books ago. I certainly haven’t been an overnight success; it took years and many rejections before I was published. If success is judged by dollars, I would have been far better off concentrating on a career in accounting. But I know I wouldn’t be as happy or as fulfilled.

These days I consider myself a full-time writer, though I still work a part-time casual job in accounting. I’m still honing my craft, pushing myself to write a better book with each new project.

I’ve come full circle. That high school kid truly knew what she needed. But it was the adult who made those dreams come true.


When Jana Richards read her first romance novel, she immediately knew two things: she had to commit the stories running through her head to paper, and they had to end with a happily ever after. She also knew she’d found what she was meant to do. Since then she’s never met a romance genre she didn’t like. She writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and historical romance set in World War Two, in lengths ranging from short story to full length novel. Just for fun, she throws in generous helpings of humor, and the occasional dash of the paranormal. Her paranormal romantic suspense “Seeing Things” was a 2008 EPPIE finalist.

In her life away from writing, Jana is an accountant/admin assistant, a mother to two grown daughters, and a wife to her husband Warren. She enjoys golf, yoga, movies, concerts, travel and reading, not necessarily in that order. She and her husband live in Winnipeg with their Pug/Terrier cross Lou and several unnamed goldfish.

Blurb for First and Again

First and Again finalBridget Grant is back in Paradise. Paradise, North Dakota, that is.

She’s swallowed her pride and moved back to her hometown with her daughter after her divorce and the loss of her catering company. Now she’s trying to navigate the strained relationships she’d left behind – including her first love, Jack Davison.

Jack never forgot Bridget, or the day she left town – and him. When Bridget caters a lunch at Jack’s tourist ranch, old flames reignite. They have more in common than ever – Jack’s also a single parent. Though they both try to keep things casual, Bridget, Jack and their girls are starting to look a lot like a family.

But Bridget’s only planning to stay in Paradise until she’s saved enough to relaunch her business. Jack’s invested too much in his ranch to leave. And with their daughters involved both have a lot more at stake than heartbreak. How can they risk falling in love?

Where to find Jana…

Website:  http://www.janarichards.com

Blog:  http://janarichards.blogspot.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/JanaRichardsAuthor

Twitter:  http://www.twitter.com/JanaRichards_

Amazon Author Page:  http://www.amazon.com/author/janarichards

Newsletter signup page:  http://www.eepurl.com/m3UnT

Joanne here!

Thank you Jana for sharing your remarkable journey. I am impressed by your work ethic–12 published books since 2007. You are a poster child for perseverance! Best of luck with First and Again.

I Hate to Be Pigeonholed

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Debra H. Goldstein talking about a childhood promise, high-powered careers, and writing.

Here’s Debra!

debraWhen I was a child, I spoke so quickly I couldn’t be understood.  My parents dragged me to professional speech therapy supplemented by reading poetry aloud every night. My favorite poem was John Greenleaf Whittier’s “Barefoot Boy.”  It inspired me to never want to be confined in my thoughts or actions.

My resolution to think outside the box resulted in choosing to graduate college a term early, determined to immediately go to New York to try to accomplish two goals:  landing a publishing job and getting on Jeopardy.   Lest you not think me pragmatic, by day I looked for a job while at night I applied for admission to law school. Eight months later, my two goals fulfilled, I started law school.  I figured down the road, I would mesh writing and law.

My first job out of school was as a corporate international tax attorney.  I hated it.  A year later, I gave up my big salary and benefits to become a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Labor.   I loved litigation and kept my hand in writing by producing a number of boring legal articles and continuing legal education pieces.  After a few years I reached a fork in my legal career—continue as a litigator or seek a federal administrative law judicial appointment.  Many people advised me not to get my hopes up as I was in my thirties and the average age for a federal Administrative Law judge was fifty-eight, plus only thirteen women held the position in the country.  I applied anyway.  In 1990, whether because of luck, having tried an equal pay case of first impression, or I don’t know what, I became one of the youngest people ever appointed as an Administrative Law Judge.  During the next twenty years, I carried a heavy docket, raised four children, was a wife, volunteered in the community, and continued to write legal articles and decisions.  I also was the go to person for party skits, but other than occasionally commenting that I’d like to write, that was as far as my creative writing went.

Maze in Blue Front CoverIn 2009, two friends challenged me to stop talking and actually write.  One went so far as to loan me a beach condo for a weekend.  I left that condo with eighty-five hand-written pages and the confidence I could write a book.  Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the 1970’s, was published in 2011.  It contained four or five pages from the original eighty-five.  Between juggling promotional appearances, signings, my continued responsibilities as a judge, and making a consistent effort to write non-fiction and fiction pieces, the next two years flew by. I found myself joking that I had a day and a night job.

I started to feel I only wanted to do one of these jobs.  When I announced that I was stepping down from the bench, my colleagues thought I was crazy.  They pointed out that the last three judges to retire from our lifetime appointments were 89, 86, and 79.  I responded that I had been on the bench twenty-three years and that with luck I might have the opportunity for my new career to last as long or longer.

Will I write the great American novel?  Probably not, but I’ve been enjoying a very diverse new career.  It includes writing non-fiction, fiction, and beach or bedside fun pieces like my 2012 IPPY Award winning novel, Maze in Blue, and the book I now am shopping, Should Have Played Poker:  A Mah Jongg Murder Mystery, which recently won an Alabama Writers Conclave First Chapter Award.  Whether this is my final act or an interim one, I know the variety of things I have done and people who have influenced me can all be tied back to the decision I made in childhood to never be pigeonholed.


Judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, civic volunteer, University of Michigan grad, and transplanted Yankee are all words use to describe Debra H. Goldstein. Her writings are equally diverse. Her debut novel, Maze in Blue, a murder mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus in the late 1970’s received a 2012 Independent Book Publisher (IPPY) Award. Even though Maze in Blue is a murder mystery, it is a safe bet that when it comes to her writing, “It’s Not Always a Mystery.”

Where to find Debra…

Website:  www.DebraHGoldstein.com

Blog:  http://debrahgoldstein.wordpress.com

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/DebraHGoldstein

Joanne here!

WOW! Thank you, Debra, for giving us glimpses of the beautiful life tapestry you have expertly woven.

A Second Act with Al Capone

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Linda Bennett Pennell talking about changing direction, taking risks and Al Capone.

lindapHere’s Linda!

Life can at times be frustrating, joyous, depressing, boring, even mysterious. It is not always clear in the moment why things happen as they do, but one thing is for certain, unless we make the best of what we’ve been given, life cannot be lived to the fullest. I think I always knew this, but it took a change in direction and taking a risk to grasp its true meaning.

I never intended to be a writer. In fact, as an elementary student, I despaired of even being competent in the language arts. It should be said that my early education left a great deal to be desired, but that is another story. It was not until my senior year of high school that I had a rewarding creative writing experience. Thank you, Miss Miller, wherever you are. Once in college, however, I put aside creative writing for the rigors of historical research and expository writing. Another degree and several certifications later and I have come full circle.

My other life is in public education as a reading specialist and secondary school administrator, but about five years ago after I “retired” to part time work, I decided to pick up my creative “pen” again. I can’t say exactly why or when the decision was made. That is one of those mysteries. All I can say is that I came to feel a burning desire to write and the experience has been a revelation and a joy.

It hasn’t been all easy sailing. Nothing in life worth having ever really comes without some pain. Sending out queries and the rejections that came with them were not particularly fun, but it was not as difficult as I thought it would be. With a debut novel that is being well received, I can now say that the process was definitely worth the risk. Most importantly, my venture in writing has allowed me to reinvent myself. We humans are truly multifaceted creatures, but unfortunately we tend to sort and categorize each other into neat, easily understood packages that rarely reveal the whole person. Writing has allowed me to tap into skills and talents I had all but buried for many years. I am a newer, better version of myself for the experience.

Perhaps you, too, want to step out of the box in which you find yourself. I encourage you to look at the possibilities and imagine. Be filled with childlike wonder in your mental wanderings. Envision what might be, not simply what is. Let us never forget, all good fiction begins when someone says to herself or himself, “Let’s pretend.”


alcapone2Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel tells a story of lives unfolding in different centuries, but linked and irrevocably altered by a series of murders in 1930.

Lake City, Florida, June, 1930: Al Capone checks in for an unusually long stay at the Blanche Hotel, a nice enough joint for an insignificant little whistle stop. The following night, young Jack Blevins witnesses a body being dumped heralding the summer of violence to come. One-by-one, people controlling county vice activities swing from KKK ropes. No moonshine distributor, gaming operator, or brothel madam, black or white, is safe from the Klan’s self-righteous vigilantism. Jack’s older sister Meg, a waitress at the Blanche, and her fiancé, a sheriff’s deputy, discover reasons to believe the lynchings are cover for a much larger ambition than simply ridding the county of vice. Someone, possibly backed by Capone, has secret plans for filling the voids created by the killings. But as the body count grows and crosses burn, they come to realize this knowledge may get all of them killed.

Gainesville, Florida, August, 2011: Liz Reams, an up and coming young academic specializing in the history of American crime, impulsively moves across the continent to follow a man who convinces her of his devotion yet refuses to say the three simple words I love you. Despite entreaties of friends and family, she is attracted to edginess and a certain type of glamour in her men, both living and historical. Her personal life is an emotional roller coaster, but her career options suddenly blossom beyond all expectation, creating a very different type of stress. To deal with it all, Liz loses herself in her professional passion, original research into the life and times of her favorite bad boy, Al Capone. What she discovers about 1930’s summer of violence, and herself in the process, leaves her reeling at first and then changed forever.

Where to find Linda…

Website: http://www.lindapennell.com/

Amazon: http://amzn.to/16qq3k5

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorLindaBennettPennell

Joanne here!

Thank you, Linda for sharing your journey. It is an inspiring one that will provide hope and encouragement to all writers and creatives.  Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel is simply riveting and should be on everyone’s ‘To Read’ list.