Dare to Think Big

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have author Nancy Raven Smith sharing her rich and varied life experiences.

Here’s Nancy!

nancyravensmithThe first stage of my adult life was all about family and animals, animals, animals. The animals included rescued racehorses, cats, and dogs. Luckily, I convinced my husband to move to a farm in rural Virginia against his wishes. At one point we had 28 rescue horses, 12 cats, 10 dogs, and a cow. And it’s not like we were rich. My husband was a Lieutenant JG in the US Navy. I was a stay at home mom raising two young kids, but I soon began running horse shows to help with our finances. We were also very fortunate to have two wonderful teenagers spend their time with us, trading babysitting for riding lessons. They quickly became part of our family.

It was a great life – kids, animals, the outdoors, and competing in area horse shows.

But then came the day that the kids all grew up and we arrived at empty nest syndrome. The fun went out of the animals, the farm and the competitions. I struggled to keep it going, but it wasn’t the same. It all came to an abrupt end when our oldest daughter and I went to a horse show on one of her college breaks. We were warming our horses up for the show when one of us said to the other, “Are we having fun anymore?” It was a shocking question because the answer was no. To this day we don’t remember which of us asked it, but the realization was gut-wrenching. It was the last time we showed our horses.

Our daughter went back to school. I was left with no idea what to do with my life.

So I cried for a year – in grief for the loss of a life I loved, and in fear of an empty future with nothing to replace it. My family was supportive and put up with me. For that year, I kept asking myself, what can I do with my life? I like being passionate and challenged daily, but I had no training for anything specific. Finally at the end of that year, I reversed the question I was asking myself. Instead of “What can I do,” I flipped it to, “If I could do anything in the world I wanted, what would I do?”

With the change in the question, all sorts of possibilities started popping up. The craziest of which was work in film, not as an actor, but behind the scenes. I knew absolutely nothing about how one worked on a film, so I bought books and read avidly. There wasn’t any film work locally, so I fixated on going to Los Angeles. My husband was about to retire, and the change to California mildly interested him. I heard all the “you’re too old to be hired,” (late forties), “you’re crazy,” and from my own mother, “I hope you’ll fail, so you’ll come back to Virginia.” My husband and kids weren’t sure about the move either, but they gave me the encouragement to go for it.

Relocated in LA, I did temp work at first and took film production classes at UCLA. Within a couple weeks I was applying for film jobs. Then I landed one as a production assistant which had over 100 applicants for a nonpaying position. The job got my foot in the door, and I was soon hired on with a salary. It turned out that my running of horse shows as events correlated directly to working on a film. I had had no idea. Other jobs came rapidly after the first one. And then one day I picked up a script and read it. I had always been an avid reader, never considered myself as a writer, but something about the screenplay writing pulled me. I had to face another choice. Go to school to learn screenwriting or continue working on film as a production coordinator. Film projects are demanding. Eighteen to twenty hours a day are not uncommon. If I tried to do both, I would miss the majority of any classes I tried to attend. I could only do one. The writing won. There was something about it that pulled me.

It was back to office temp jobs that were nine to five and let me attend UCLA Extension nightly. I studied, I wrote, I won awards, my screenplays were optioned, but none produced yet. And then came another turning point. My writing mentor from Women in Film suggested I write one idea as a novel. I was starting to feel like I should ask UCLA for a discount, but it was back to school for more classes on novel writing. It was fortunate there was a large amount of crossover between screenplays and books.

What followed was Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra (a mystery/romantic suspense) and The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill (a family memoir about life on our farm). What also happened was that I found that writing books was the place I wanted to be. The authors I met were great people and truly supportive. I had found my creative happy place. This was where all my steps had brought me and this is where I’m staying.

And my very special family? My husband and oldest daughter have both become writers and our youngest daughter is our greatest supporter.

My advice for those reaching their Second Stages – Dare to think big!

Nancy’s Books

LandSharks-200x314 (2)A fall from grace costs Lexi a position at a top New York financial institution. She ends up in a job at a small private bank in Beverly Hills. But that’s okay, she still gets to work in her favorite field – catching white collar crooks. At least that’s what she tells herself. But when Karista, the daughter of one of the bank’s principal investors, runs into danger while traveling in Indonesia, Lexi’s job comes to depend on her ability to save her. Even worse, Lexi will have to baby sit Steve, her boss’ well-meaning but spoiled son, while going undercover to reach the heiress. Lexi’s cushy tropical assignment soon spirals into chaos as she has to outrun fashion-forward Batak natives, outwit an arrogant FBI agent, help Steve find his stolen Air Yeezy sneakers, and figure out why her ardent former lover and debonair gentleman thief, Andre, is staying at the same resort. Lexi will have to be very good or very lucky to survive it all.

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reluctantfarmerIn The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill, opposites attract; for better or for worse. That is what troubles animal-phobic, robotics engineer Smith who just got married. He learns that his bride’s dream is to have a farm where there are lots of animals and she can rescue ex-race horses to retrain and find them new homes. But according to a Meyers-Briggs Personality Test that they took for fun, their marriage is doomed. There is only one problem: the newlyweds took the test after the wedding.

Whether Smith is chasing a cow named Pork Chop through the woods with a rope, getting locked in a tack room by the family pony, being snubbed by his wife’s dog, or unsuccessfully trying to modernize their barn using the latest technology, the odds are stacked against him. It seems like everything with four legs is out to get him. Will the animals win, forcing Smith to admit defeat, or will he fight to keep his family and the farm together?

Enjoy the true, warm, and frequently hilarious stories of Smith’s journey along the bumpy road from his urban robotics lab to a new life on a rural Virginia farm.

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Where to find Nancy…

Website | Facebook

Joanne here!

Nancy, thanks for sharing your inspiring journey. How wonderful to live, study and work in L.A. Best of luck with all your future endeavors.


Spotlight on Cerian Hebert

I’m happy to feature Soul Mate author Cerian Hebert’s writing journey.

Here’s Cerian!

cerian61516sm (2)I’m sure my journey to become an author is similar to many writers. I was twelve, living in the country, always looking for some kind of adventure with my friends. My first story came to me while exploring an unoccupied property in the neighborhood. We were certain it was haunted, and when gusts of snowy wind seemed to follow us wherever we went, it only reinforced our beliefs. What a great idea for a book series—three kids who solved mysteries and battled ghosts and ghouls.

It helped that I had an author in the family. Well, not a fiction writer. My father published a book about hood ornaments for classic cars. But I figured, as a twelve-year-old would, I had connections. My dad’s publisher would definitely work with me. Ah, the naivety of youth.

As I got older I left the mystery solving kids behind because I had discovered BOYS and horses. I started reading Harlequins and Bertrice Small bodice rippers, so that’s where my writing took me. My best friend and I—a fellow horse nut—worked together to write our first horse story, even after she moved down to Louisiana from New Hampshire. This was over a decade before the internet and email. We’d have to mail the story back and forth to each other so we could add to the story.

All the stories I wrote in those early teen years still sit in notebooks stored away in bins. They might never see the light of day, but they’re all a part of my journey and I won’t give them up.

When the internet became a thing I finally started writing for real, as often as I could. By then I was a wife and mother and I had a mundane job, so I had to steal writing whenever I could. My first published book came out in 2007 when I was in my forties. It was actually a book I’d started when I was sixteen. My characters changed a bit since the original, but Finally Home was a romance revolving around horses, and was always a favorite.

I still write about horses, and small town romance, whether it be in New Hampshire or South Dakota, but I’ve also written stories about ghosts and goddesses, and I’ve dipped my toe into erotic romance with a still unpublished book that won first place in a writing contest earlier this year. My dream and ultimate goal is to write a fantasy romance with plenty of magic, and mythical creatures.

I now have ten books published, and I have many many more in various stages of completion. Several of my books have sequels, and I hope one day I’ll actually finish them. Everyone loves a book series. My latest release, The Staying Kind, combines romance with horses and small town heroes and heroines.

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Blurb

Rio Presley isn’t looking for a place to fit in when she finds a job at a stable in New Hampshire. Travis Lithgow isn’t expecting to discover a drifter taking up residence in his hunting cabin and working for his aunt. Just back from a tour in the Middle East, he’s rebuilding his relationship with his rebellious teenage daughter. He’s sure Rio’s presence in their lives won’t make things easier, but he admires Rio’s strength facing the adversities in her life.

As Rio fights the urge to get back on the road before she becomes too comfortable with her newfound love of horses, her feelings for Travis become stronger than the need to flee. Both he and his aunt are offering Rio everything she’s ever been afraid to want, but staying could bring her past crashing into the happy life she’s begun to build.

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Where to find Cerian…

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Happy Birthday Dalai Lama!

Today, the Dalai Lama celebrates his 81st birthday. The recipient of numerous awards, among them the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, he continues to inspire us with messages of non-violence and universal compassion.

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Here are ten of my favorite quotes from His Holiness…

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.

Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive.

Remember that sometimes not getting what you want is a wonderful stroke of luck.

We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves.

In the practice of tolerance, one’s enemy is the best teacher.

Someone else’s action should not determine your response.

Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.

Anger or hatred is like a fisherman’s hook. It is very important for us to ensure that we are not caught by it.

I always say that people should not rush to change religions. There is real value in finding the spiritual resources you need in your home religion.


Serendipity Can Happen At Any Time

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“You might want to shelve that manuscript…or song…or artwork.”

Many of us have heard that advice from well-meaning parents, teachers, and mentors. While it is often given with the best of intentions, sometimes that advice should be ignored, and if it has been followed, it should be revisited.

Serendipity can happen at any time.

Continue reading on the Sisterhood of Suspense blog.


One Special Moment

I’m thrilled to welcome back Wild Rose Press author Nina Barrett. Today, Nina shares a special moment in her writing journey and latest release, Renegade Heart.

Here’s Nina!

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In the back of my head, I hear the Beatles singing about a long and winding road that led me here . . .

Yes, it’s been hard and discouraging, but right now I am remembering one special moment. School had begun that fall. I’d returned energized from my first time at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop, but still shy, still having trouble identifying myself as a writer.

But then one day after school I heard two of my friends talking in the room next door and I gathered up all my courage, went next door and started out through something like “I have something to tell you. I went to the writers’ workshop this summer at Antioch because um, I write and I know a lot of people probably would like to be a writer . . .”

I’m getting teary right now thinking about it, but I can still see their faces – surprise, shock and then the words – that’s wonderful, can we read your stories? And I knew they meant it. And they liked them and wanted more, even through the years when my submissions had the instincts of homing pigeons.

But the call came and they probably still don’t realize that I might not have hung in there waiting for it if not for the encouragement they have gave me that day.

My third release, Renegade Heart came out on April 27th.

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Blurb

As if Vegas didn’t have excitement enough, December brings the National Finals Rodeo to the city. Heading the Imperial Hotel’s participation as a host hotel, Kerstin Hennepin is rushing to a meeting when a fall sends her tumbling into a stranger’s arms and he’s in no hurry to let her go.

Jake Aaron is a troubleshooter for the rodeo Or maybe he’s just plain trouble. Their attraction is instant and one close encounter leads to another, but Jake comes with plenty of questions. True he’s busy handing the offstage antics of rowdy rodeo contestants, but does his job also include romancing a young barrel rider and carrying a concealed weapon?

With the finale of the Finals approaching, Kerstin needs answers. But when her search for the truth reveals more is going on behind the scenes than on the arena floor, she and Jake are squarely in someone’s cross hairs.

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Where to find Nina…

Amazon | Goodreads


Spreading My Wings

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

Today, we have Judy Alter sharing her amazing journey from full-time, stay-at-home mom to full-time professional publisher and author.

Here’s Judy!

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“I’ve taken care of others long enough. It’s time to take care of me.” Astonishing words from the father of four children, ages six to twelve. Followed by, “I’ll take the kids, the house, the whole package except you.” Terrible cruelty from the man I’d been married to for seventeen years and had risked family connections to marry. For the past twelve years I’d been a full-time stay-at-home mom, grabbing free time to write when I could, entertaining lavishly at everything from big dinner parties to children’s birthdays. And this was how my first act was going to end?

My second act followed fast upon the end of the first and was, my brother said, “a remarkable case of reinventing myself.” I became a working mom, a full-time professional publisher, and an author. It didn’t all happen that fast, and I had some lucky breaks along the way.

The first thing I did was to find employment outside the house. I took the job of coordinator of community classes at my alma mater, Texas Christian University. From then on serendipity played a part in my career. I shared an office with a man who was slated to become director of TCU Press when the current director retired in a few months. One day, this man looked at me and asked, “Would you like to be editor of TCU Press?” That was my job interview. Yes, thank you very much, I’d like that. In earlier jobs I’d done a lot of PR and editing, and it seemed like a natural.

I was editor for four or five years and loved it. I liked working with the authors, and I loved shaping words. I didn’t always agree with my former office-mate about the manuscripts we acquired, but in general I was happy. And I never wanted to be director, didn’t want all that responsibility.

But when my former office-mate left to take a better-paying job at another university, I couldn’t wait to be named director. I had the requisite Ph.D. so I’m not sure what the holdup was, but it was almost a year before the appointment was official. I served as director for twenty-plus years, and it turned out to be the perfect job for me. I had enough freedom to raise my children the way I wanted. I met authors not only in the office but at conventions and meetings and came to regard several major Texas authors as good friends.

I was trying to boost my own writing at the time, and I found the two interests didn’t conflict at all—they worked together. I published, I won awards, the press won awards. We were producing good and attractive books and people in the region began to notice.

I worked past retirement and finally retired at 71 to pursue my own writing. By then I was well enough known on the regional literary scene that people bought my books, and my writing took off if not like a rocket at a fairly respectable speed. Maybe that is my third act?

What have I learned from this? Find your passion in life—don’t quit or turn back until you’ve discovered the one thing that you really love. For me, it was books and words. And spread your wings—get to know people in your profession, speak up, present talks, make yourself heard.

If I had stayed married I don’t know what would have happened, but I doubt I would have the four wonderful children I do today, and I doubt I would have had as satisfying and rich life. God is good.

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Blurb

Chicago, from swampland to host of the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, as lived by two leading historical figures: tycoon and hotelier Potter Palmer and his activist wife Bertha Honoré Palmer who fought for women’s rights and help for the poor. A story of love, major historical events, class warfare, intrigue, a forbidden love interest, and murder. A history of Chicago’s colorful Gilded Age.

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Where to find Judy…

Website | Blog | Amazon | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Joanne here!

I agree with your brother – this is a remarkable reinvention story! Best of luck with all your literary endeavors, Judy.


Remembering Mr. Hockey

gordiehowe1Yesterday, Gordie Howe, a.k.a. “Mr. Hockey,” passed away at the age of 88. Gifted on the ice and humble off it, he’s considered one of the greatest hockey players of all time.

Born in the small farming town of Floral, Saskatchewan, he put on a pair of ice skates at the age of four years. He played in an organized league and had a tryout with the NHL’s New York Rangers at age fifteen but failed to impress. A year later, a Red Wings scout discovered Gordie Howe and two years after that, in October 1946, he scored a goal in his NHL debut in what proved to be the start of one of the game’s most prolific careers.

He went on to become a 23-time All-Star, won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL’s Most Valuable Player six times, and led the league in scoring six times.

Over his professional career, Gordie Howe played a remarkable 2,421 games, including playoffs. He is second on the NHL’s all-time goals list with 801, behind Wayne Gretzky with 894, and fourth on the points list with 1,850.

My favorite Gordie Howe quotes…

You’ve got to love what you’re doing. If you love it, you can overcome any handicap or the soreness or all the aches and pains, and continue to play for a long, long time.

I always tell kids, you have two eyes and one mouth. Keep two open and one closed. You never learn anything if you’re the one talking.

There’s always something in the game you wish you would have done different. That’s why players improve, because they learn from what they did before. They might have been guessing before, but now they know.

You find that you have peace of mind and can enjoy yourself, get more sleep, and rest when you know that it was a one hundred percent effort that you gave—win or lose.

Age has nothing to do with it. Heck, I played until I was 52 so I could play with my sons, Mark and Marty. In fact, at 52, I was leading scorer on the team until Christmas before they benched me.

My philosophy is never start talking about ‘if,’ ‘and,’ ‘but’ or the past, because 90 percent of what follows will be negative.

Love this oldie-goldie recorded by Big Bob and The Dollars in 1963: