Follow the Clues to Act 2

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

I’m happy to welcome author Darlene Dziomba. Today Darlene, shares her reinvention story and new release, Up Close And Pawsonal.

Here’s Darlene!

I am running the final lap of my first career act, thirty-four years working in Finance for the University of Pennsylvania. Working in Higher Education comes with some tremendous non-work benefits. Amongst them is that once you reach age fifty-five, if you have twenty years of work service, you can take retirement. It is not a retirement with a lifelong pension or lifelong paid medical benefits. However, I can buy health insurance at the University’s rate from the University providers. An essential requirement for my second act.

I reached the years of service long before I reached the age requirement, and I used the intervening years to assess options. It was vital for me that my second act be something I would enjoy. I had spent decades employed at a task for which I had an aptitude. Now I wanted work that would give me satisfaction.

I made a list of the top things I enjoyed: travelling; gardening; reading and talking about books; being around animals. Then I thought about what careers could include those things and what training I would need for those careers. I ruled out attending Veterinary School because of the time and financial commitments, but becoming certified to raise and train service dogs was an option.

I conducted a lot of research. I made a lot of lists. I spent a lot of time figuring out potential earnings and when I could realistically transition from my salaried job to a job where my earnings would be substantially less.

Then a friend and I went to Bouchercon in Toronto. We are huge mystery fans and have been to many Bouchercons. I was listening to a panel of authors talk about mysteries where the protagonists were pet groomers, pet sitters, and pet walkers, and this idea came to me. I was a volunteer at an animal shelter and learned a lot about shelter operations. I love animals and books. I decided to write a book where the protagonist works in an animal shelter.

Animals and talking about books were some of the things I enjoyed doing. I had been told all of my life that I am good at telling stories. I set out on my path.

I participated in a Writing Workshop to get feedback on my draft. I joined Sisters in Crime and took a dozen courses, listened to numerous webinars, and lurked on listservs following writers’ thoughts about the craft and the business of writing. I meekly asked friend after friend to read my drafts and give me feedback.

It took years to go from an idea to a finely crafted book. Then I spent years trying to obtain a literary agent while writing the second book in the series. I eventually decided to self-publish my work. In 2022 I self-published Clues From The Canines.

In March, 2023, I will publish Up Close And Pawsonal. I have planned out my publicity and promotions by applying all that I have learned in the past year from other self-published authors and the SinC Grand Canyon Writers Marketing and More Network.

My advice to those pondering a second act is to be open to exploration. Your second act may not be the first, the fifth, or the fifteenth thing you think of trying. You may get an idea that requires you to develop skills you have never used or to use your skills differently. Keep going. From “I wonder if I can write a book where the protagonist works in an animal shelter?” I arrived at published author.

I’ve had to work hard, and I’ve had to learn new skills. There have been times when I was frustrated. However, I have enjoyed learning to write and crafting the Lily Dreyfus series and enjoying what I do is my top priority in Act Two.


A casual evening of listening to music by a local cover band turns into a murder investigation when a drive-by shooting destroys the tranquility of the night and critically injures two of the band members. Lily Dreyfus stressed and unsettled from having been at the concert, is informed that one of the dead band members is the nephew of her coworker at the Forever Friends Animal Shelter. Lily will leash together a set of seemingly unrelated events to seek the perpetrator and make them heel.

Author Bio and Links

Darlene is a member of Sisters in Crime National and several regional SinC groups. She combined her passion for the written word and animals into the Lily Dreyfus series. Darlene volunteers at the Animal Welfare Association, a New Jersey animal shelter, where she chats with the dogs while completing her assignments. She has a 30-year career in Finance at the University of Pennsylvania and is an avid reader, gardener, and traveler. Darlene lives in New Jersey with her four-legged best friend, Billie.

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Finding a Happier You

Welcome to my Second Acts Series!

I’m happy to welcome Wild Rose Press author Darlene Fredette. Today, Darlene shares her reinvention story and new release, Derailed Hearts.

Here’s Darlene!

Thank you, Joanne, for hosting me today!

Briefly describe your first act.

When I was younger, I wanted to be a teacher or a veterinarian. However, university or college were not financially feasible. So, after high school, I took various night classes and online courses in secretary/administration. I held several titles before achieving my career goal, such as cashier, mailroom clerk, and accounting. But I soon found my place as an administrator in pharmacy benefits. I stayed with that company for twenty years, but when I was offered a position as director of administration and marketing, the job was too good to pass. I had finally reached my career objective.

What triggered the need for change?

Unfortunately, the demands of the job resulted in health issues, forcing me to leave that employment. After a year of being away from the workforce, I grew accustomed to being home. I loved taking my daughter to school, doing household chores during the week instead of rushing around in the evenings or weekends, walking with the dog to pick up my daughter, and cooking supper before my husband came home from work. No more hustle and bustle. I felt at peace, and my health did too.

Where are you now?

I’m still home – health and happy. I started writing while working but now had the opportunity to give it my full-time attention. I have ten published books, but I believe I am approaching my third act. I’m not sure how much longer I will continue writing. As I get older, I find the days pass quicker and I want to enjoy a slower pace. I rediscovered my love of art and started drawing and painting.

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

Make sure you are in a good place to move onward. Security in your health and finances are important. Sometimes it’s good to take that leap of faith to find a happier you.

Any affirmations or quotations you wish to share?

I like this quote by Richard Branson… “If you allow yourself to be in the moment, and appreciate the moment, happiness will follow.”


Nana Marley has her heart set on more great-grand babies, and with the help of a folklore legendary rabbit, she might receive her wish.


Single father and ER doctor, Ethan Marley, is ready to put down roots. He and his daughter embark on a train adventure across Canada from west to east coast. Boarding the train, he meets a woman who steals his breath, and he learns that she too is headed to Redford Falls. He is intent on maintaining a friendship only, but Jenn makes his heart race faster than the train.

Fashion designer, Jenn Martini, travels by train to Redford Falls to visit her father. Her plan for a solitude escape derails after meeting Ethan and his daughter. Sharing a confined-spaced cabin sparks an immediate attraction, and by the end of the trip, she longs to be a part of their family. Only as she opens her heart to love, do the scars from her past begin to heal.

With more in common than relatives in Redford Falls, is their love strong enough to overcome the truth behind the accident…and save their future?


Avery pointed to herself, Ethan, and then Jenn.

Ethan rested his forehead against his daughter’s. “You want Jenn to come, too?”

Avery nodded.

The little voice in Jenn’s head told her to return to her cabin and to stay clear of Ethan and his daughter. They were as enticing as strawberry ice cream. “I would love to join you.” The words fell from her lips.

Ethan stood and set Avery on her feet.

The child held onto her father’s hand and reached outward with the other.

Jenn accepted the tiny hand and in doing so, she sensed a comfortable connection to this family—a connection she suspected would be incredibly hard to break.

Author Bio

Darlene resides on the Atlantic Coast of Canada where the summers are too short, and the winters are too long. An avid reader since childhood, Darlene loved to develop the many stories coming to life in her head. She writes contemporary romances with a focus on plot-driven page-turners. When not working on her next book, or painting, or drawing, she can be found with her husband, her daughter, and her yellow Labrador.

Website | Blog | Instagram | Twitter | Universal Purchase Link

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.


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.


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 Good Years Are So Good

I’m happy to welcome best-selling author Liz Flaherty. Today, Liz shares the two acts of her life and her new release, A Year of Firsts.

Here’s Liz!

My first act was my life’s dream. I had a family I loved, a job I liked a lot, a house, and friends. It was, like everyone else’s dream-come-true, if one likes roller coasters. Fortunately, I do—or did then. Although the years were happy, there were also the days of being overwhelmed, of sitting alone in the bathroom wondering what to do, of having three teenagers in the house. In the middle of it was a year of “can this marriage be saved?” (It could.) I had months of hating the job and wept a gazillion tears over the kids. I couldn’t wait for it all to be over.

Until it was. Act One, Scene Two came with the empty nest. It was okay, much less hectic. Not nearly as much fun, but I had more writing time. I had a book published. Then a few more.

Then I retired, and Act Two happened because Act One ended.

It’s been such a surprise. Writing fulltime doesn’t mean I get more written—it means I waste more time. Marriage in retirement age isn’t easy—it’s hard! Losing friends no matter how you lose them, with death, dementia, and lack of interest taking center stage, is painful.

But those are the bad days. The good ones…no, the good years… are so good they’re hard to describe. The marriage is more fun, as is traveling, having remarkable grandchildren, and laughing with friends and family until your stomach hurts. The good days are most of them.

And then there’s the writing… And that’s where I am now. I’ve never been one to keep count of things, so I’m not sure how many books and novellas (and rejections) there have been, but, like I said before, they’ve been good years.

A Year of Firsts, Book One in the Second Chances series for Magnolia Blossom Publishing, is the story of Syd and Clay, whose own Act Twos are up the air and—for Clay at least—might be doubtful. I had so much joy and not a little angst writing this story. I hope you have that much pleasure in the reading, too.


Widow Syd Cavanaugh is beginning a “year of firsts” with the road trip she’d promised her husband she’d take after his death. An unplanned detour lands her in Fallen Soldier, Pennsylvania, where she meets the interesting and intelligent editor of the local paper.

Television journalist Clay McAlister’s life took an unexpected turn when a heart attack forced him to give up his hectic lifestyle. He’s still learning how to live in a small town when meeting a pretty traveler in the local coffee shop suddenly makes it all much more interesting.

While neither of them is interested in a romantic relationship, their serious case of being “in like” seems to push them that way. However, Clay’s heart condition doesn’t harbinger a very secure future, and Syd’s already lost one man she loved to a devastating illness—she isn’t about to lose another. Where can this relationship possibly go?


If I fall in love again, this will be how it happens.

The thought came from nowhere she could identify, although she knew deep in her soul that it had to do with the tall man in shorts and a polo shirt walking up the incline of her yard to meet her. The man whose heart would likely not last as long as her own, whose every wince made her fear he was having a heart attack. His attitude toward exercise and diet was that of the middle-aged man in perfect health he appeared to be, not one who had a zipper-like scar up the center of his chest.

But just the sight of him, with his light brown hair that needed cutting blowing into his eyes even though his graying beard was as always short and neat, made her heart beat harder and faster. She smiled, remembering his explanation of why he had a beard.

At first he’d said it was because he had a weak chin he didn’t want anyone to notice, but then he’d admitted it had been an ongoing struggle between him and a producer of his show. “He was pushy and I was usually compliant. It was a great gig and I knew it. But it got to where he wanted to…create the brand he wanted me to be, I guess. I mostly went along because he was a pretty smart guy who knew his stuff, but when I came back from vacation with a beard and he gave the order to have it gone before I went on the air, it became the proverbial last straw.”

Everyone had last straws sometimes, she thought abstractedly, stopping and waiting for him to join her. “Rehearsal was okay, wasn’t it?” she said, thinking her voice sounded horrifyingly breathy. It went along with the movie scenario. “I didn’t make a complete idiot of myself, did I? Or mess things up for other people? I never want to do that. Where’s Toby?”

Of course, she didn’t. People who were pocket protectors protected not only themselves, but others from themselves.

During all the long months of his illness, Paul had never seen her angry. She’d confined that to times alone. She’d hidden her anger to protect him, yet it had probably created a chasm between them. She should have let him see her last straws sometimes.

“He’s asleep. Braxton is staying the night.” Clay didn’t hesitate as he joined her, just put his arms around her and led her into a dance. “You were great.”

Syd wasn’t a good dancer, by any means. When friends used to tell her to “listen for the beat,” she always said, “what beat?” because she could never hear it. But she’d loved to dance anyway. It was emotion in motion, and sometimes…sometimes after Paul got sick it had been better than running screaming into the woods behind the house, which had been both an alternative and a temptation. Abba and Billy Joel and Journey had often brought some semblance of peace to the crashing cacophony of her anger.

She couldn’t remember the last time she’d danced in a man’s arms—probably at the girls’ weddings, when Paul was already having trouble moving but had been determined to dance not only with Haley and Shiloh but with Syd as well. It had been excruciating, the fear that he would fall and be injured or become so exhausted he couldn’t stay to enjoy the receptions.

The memory was fleeting, and of happy times, and then it was just Clay McAlister. Taller and more muscled than Paul had been, his arms creating a circle of light for just the two of them as they danced across the grass.

When he kissed her in the shade of the willow tree, she wasn’t sure where the stars came from, only that they filled her eyes and, for a long and tender moment, her heart. She’d been so tired when she came outside, but weariness gave way to the magic of the clear night and being in Clay McAlister’s arms. She’d set her glass down somewhere, or he had, leaving her arms free to go around him.

It couldn’t go anywhere, whatever “it,” this meeting of hearts and minds, was. She couldn’t go through it again, the caring for and ultimate losing of a man she loved. She didn’t think Clay wanted to settle into a committed relationship, either, and she didn’t know how to have any other kind.

“Boat ride?” he said quietly, meeting her gaze in the dim lights from the deck.

She nodded. That much, she could do. Saying no never even occurred to her.

Buy Links

Amazon (US) | Amazon (CA) | Amazon (UK) | Amazon (AU)


Retired from the Logansport post office, Liz Flaherty spends non-writing time sewing, quilting, and doing whatever else she wants to. She and her husband Duane live in the old farmhouse in North Central Indiana they moved to in 1977. They’ve talked about moving, but really…40-plus years’ worth of stuff? It’s not happening. It would require removing old baseball trophies from the attic and dusting the pictures of the Magnificent Seven, their grandchildren.

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Go For It!

I’m happy to welcome back Wild Rose Press author Jennifer Wilck. Today, Jennifer shares her reinvention story and new release, Unlock My Heart.

Here’s Jennifer!

Reinvention is an awesome thing, and one I think many women find themselves doing at some point in their lives. I know I’ve done it, and for anyone who is considering reinventing themselves, my advice is GO FOR IT!

When I graduated college, I worked in public relations for several firms in New York City. I loved my job. I loved meeting people, finding out what messages they needed to convey, and figuring out ways to do that. It was exciting. I learned how to pitch story ideas to editors, how to translate complicated technology descriptions into common English that the average person could understand, and to help clients through product releases. I must confess, my favorite part was hiding behind my youth—sitting in a client meeting, quietly listening to what the men thought they wanted, and finally speaking up with an idea and watching their expressions turn from shock to acceptance to admiration. It was a nice ego boost.

Eventually, I realized I liked the writing part the best, and I moved over to the editorial side, where I worked for technology magazines. Again, I loved it. It was a bit of a reinvention, but more like flipping to the other side of the same coin. Now I sought out the companies, read the press releases, interviewed people who could have been former clients. I loved the writing, but there was less creativity involved. I had to stick to the facts, rather than coming up with marketing campaigns. My creative juices were less in demand, but I drew pride in writing for myself rather than for a client and seeing my byline rather than my clients’.

I took time off when I had children, lucky enough to be able to devote my time to them. But something was missing. I needed a creative outlet for everything that was whirring in my brain. And so, I reinvented myself again. I’d always been a romance reader. I read lots of different genres, but romance made me happy. I liked the happily ever after endings and the escapism. One day, when my girls were sleeping, I wrote down a story in my head. That story eventually turned into my first romance, A Heart of Little Faith. From then on, I was hooked. I learned everything I could about my craft—I’m still learning—as well as the business side. I entered contests, queried editors and agents, and eventually landed with my current publisher, The Wild Rose Press. I’m a hybrid author, so I also self-publish (that first romance, along with two more, Whispers in Washington and Better Together in Boston). And I was lucky enough to find an agent who I hope will help me find a home for a manuscript I’ve been working on for a long time.

Reinvention is scary. It’s easy to stay with what you know. But if you listen to your inner voice, you can do it. Talk to others. There are a lot of us out there who have done it. We’re happy to share our successes and failures.


Abby Marlow, computer security expert, lands a job at the best IT security firm in the country. Her sole focus is financial independence so she never has to rely on others again, especially a man. But why does her boss make her wires short circuit?

Ted Endicott, CEO and founder of the IT security firm, is hard of hearing. Although an expert in his field, he’s still uncomfortable admitting his difficulty hearing to his clients or employees. So why is he willing to accept Abby’s help?

As Ted and Abby work together, barriers fall away, and soon the lines blur between colleagues and lovers. But a security glitch in a client’s system indicates one of his employees is the hacker, and all signs point to Abby. Can they get past the suspicion and find a future together?

Tagline: Can love break through their firewalls?


“You always run alone?”

She pointed to a nearby jogger. “I’m not alone.”

“But you’re not with anyone.”

Standing this close to him, she wished for things she shouldn’t. “No, I’m not.”

“How far are you going?”

“The end of the trail and back.” Or however long it
took to get him out of her mind.

He put his helmet on. “Come on, I’ll keep you company.”

“It’s not necessary.” Clearing her mind would be impossible with him next to her.

“It’s safer this way.” He looked down the trail. His desire to protect her sent warmth curling up and down her spine. It had been a long time since anyone was concerned about her. All of a sudden, the idea of company appealed to her. Touching his arm— and trying not to squeeze his bicep like you would if you tested the ripeness of a peach—she waited for him to turn. “You’re welcome to join me if you want. If you can keep up.” She winked and raced away, his bark of laughter a brief punch in the silence behind her.

She no longer kept an easy pace, easing into the morning. This time, she sprinted hard. The slight whir of his bike wheels warned her as he reached her a few moments later.

“You’re pretty fast, but I’d suggest you slow down.”

She turned toward him. “Out of pity for you?”

His lips twitched, and his nostrils flared, but he kept his humor reined tight. Instead, he cycled next to her, his head turned slightly toward her. “The only pity I ask for is please don’t make me carry you home when you’re too tired to continue.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it, sir.” She made sure he could read her lips.

He grinned, and the last of her tension disappeared. He accepted her teasing.

“Oh, you’ll pay,” he said.

He rode ahead, and she thought for sure he would leave her in the dust. But he turned around, a gleam in his eye, and returned to her side. When they reached a part of the trail farther on, he pulled ahead a little and skidded in a puddle, splashing her legs.

She gasped and looked at her mud-spattered shins and ignored the twinkle in his eye. “You play dirty—literally.”

Ted stopped while she paused to clean her legs off. Given the opportunity—two could play this game—she took her mud-streaked hands and wiped them on his chest. She drew in a breath and realized her mistake. Sure, she’d repaid him for splattering her with mud, but a sudden awareness of his body overrode her satisfaction. His muscles were hard, and she wondered what the rest of him felt like. Her pulse pounded in her ears, and her gaze shifted to his lips. What would it be like to kiss them?

She jerked and pulled her hand away. No. She jumped at the strangled sound from the mouth she’d considered kissing and raised her glance to his eyes. His surprise mirrored her own.

Mistake, mistake, mistake! An internal voice blared a warning. She’d intended for it to be like when she and Max, her best friend from childhood, challenged each other as kids. In fact, when he teased her, Ted reminded her of Max—something about the glint in his eye and the “need to win” coupled with concern. But she hadn’t counted on the sexual component.

She closed her eyes. She was not like her mother. She wasn’t.


She stilled. Maybe he couldn’t see her. Right, and maybe unicorns are real.


“Open your eyes.” She opened them.

“Let’s get breakfast.”

Buy Links

Universal Link | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple

Author Bio and Links

Jennifer started telling herself stories as a little girl when she couldn’t fall asleep at night. Pretty soon, her head was filled with these stories and the characters that populated them. Even as an adult, she thinks about the characters and stories at night before she falls asleep or walking the dog. Eventually, she started writing them down. Her favorite stories to write are those with smart, sassy, independent heroines; handsome, strong and slightly vulnerable heroes; and her stories always end with happily ever after.

In the real world, she’s the mother of two amazing daughters and wife of one of the smartest men she knows. She believes humor is the only way to get through the day and does not believe in sharing her chocolate.

Jennifer Wilck is an award-winning contemporary romance author for readers who are passionate about love, laughter, and happily ever after. Known for writing both Jewish and non-Jewish romances, her books feature damaged heroes, sassy and independent heroines, witty banter and hot chemistry. Jennifer’s ability to transport the reader into the scene, create characters the reader will fall in love with, and evoke a roller coaster of emotions, will hook you from the first page. You can find her books at all major online retailers in a variety of formats.

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An Inspiring Multi-Act Life!

I’m happy to welcome Wild Rose Press author Barbara Mountjoy who writes as Alana Lorens. Today, Alana shares her multi-act life and new release, A Rose by Any Other Name

Here’s Alana!

I’d studied English and Journalism in college, because I’d always wanted to write, since I was a kid. My first and second round of job searches hadn’t yielded much, so I didn’t have a job in the field. Life attacked in the form of a husband and two daughters, which put my employment on hold. Motherhood and wifehood was plenty to deal with, especially as my husband was in the service, so we moved a couple of times even in his first hitch.

Given a year into our Homestead, Florida posting, I saw the local paper was hiring a reporter. I snagged that position and for several years, had a blast doing all the stories and columns. I was the religion editor, the schools’ reporter, and put together the special hurricane tabs—on a first name basis with local senators and mayors and even the head of the National Hurricane Center.

One of the small cities I covered was Florida City, the last town right before the Florida Keys. The city attorney and I became close, and he recommended I go to law school. Now, this was never a career path I’d considered before that time—and my husband and I had just divorced, so I was a single mom of two preschoolers. Law school? What a crazy idea.

But it grew on me.

So I started with the entrance exam, the LSAT. I’d take it and see how I did. I did really well.

Well, I’d have to have help going to school. I didn’t have much saved up. But the grants and loans came through.

Then I’d have to have somewhere to live with my girls, and there was only limited housing on campus. But we got it. Right across the highway from the day care center.

Since it all came together, I took the jump. Those three years of school set the stage for a second act career as a family law attorney, which I practiced for 30 fulfilling years before I retired.

And now I’m back to writing full time again. 😊

For those contemplating a change, as so many are at this point in America, I’d hope they’d try to imagine where their potential career might be in five years. With tech and culture changing so quickly, they wouldn’t want to cross train into a field that doesn’t have longevity. But also, don’t stay in a career that doesn’t bring you joy simply for lack of courage. Waiting too late to change jobs might be the saddest choice of all.


Up-and-coming mommyblogger and single mom Marisol Herrera Slade returns to her old hometown in western Pennsylvania for her 20th high school reunion in 2005, reluctant and yet compelled to see her high school sweetheart, Russell Asher, who dumped her for the homecoming queen.

Russell’s marriage to the golden girl, however, ended in a nasty divorce, and he has been systematically excluded from his sons’ lives. In his Internet wanderings, he’s found feminist blogger named Jerrika Jones, who glorifies single motherhood, essentially putting a stamp of approval on what’s happened to him. His group of single dad advocates have vowed to take this woman down.

What Russell doesn’t know, when he thinks to rekindle what he had with Marisol, is that Marisol and Jerrika are one and the same. When his group discovers the truth, will their drive for revenge derail any chance the couple have to reunite? Or will they find they have more in common than they ever expected?


Heather Armstrong had books out now, spawned by the popularity of her Dooce blog. The Julie and Julia movie deal started with a simple blog. That Shatner show on TV, “$#*! My Dad Says” came from a Twitter account. If she could get noticed, really noticed, the big time wasn’t so far away in this brave new Internet world.

So. Better to stir the pot, right?

She closed her eyes, summoned up the image of Jerrika at her cheekiest, and started typing. Apparently I stomped on a couple of hearts yesterday when I pointed out the joys of raising my son without having to kowtow to the demands of an irrational non-custodial father. You know what? I’m not sorry, either.

People like FreeDad91 hide in their troll costumes and take pot shots at other people instead of addressing their own issues. Sounds to me like this guy has problems from his past. Either his own father walked out on him, or he walked out on his own kids, and he’s decided the best way to handle his guilt is to dump on the mothers.

Well, honey, this is one mother who’s not going to just sit by and let you. I love my son dearly. He’s been my morning, my evening, and lots of my midnights over the years. Maybe he didn’t have a father by his side during those days and nights. But he never lacked for attention, from men or women. I made sure he had that village he needed, the one it takes to raise a child. Would it have been easier to co-parent? I expect it would have. But that option wasn’t open to me. So take your hatred and turn it back where it really belongs: on yourself.

She added a few more choice stabs, and filed the post for the day.

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Author Bio and Links

Alana Lorens has been a published writer for more than forty years, after working as a pizza maker, a floral designer, a journalist and a family law attorney. Currently a resident of Asheville, North Carolina, the aging hippie loves her time in the smoky blue mountains. She writes romance and suspense as Alana Lorens, and sci-fi, fantasy and paranormal mystery as Lyndi Alexander. One of her novellas, THAT GIRL’S THE ONE I LOVE, is set in the city of Asheville during the old Bele Chere festival. She lives with her daughter on the autism spectrum, who is the youngest of her seven children, and she is ruled by three crotchety old cats, and six kittens of various ages.

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Blooming Has No Deadline

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 is an inspirational excerpt from You’ve Got This! by best-selling author Margie Warrell:

If you’re in your forties or fifties or sixties or far beyond, refuse to let the number of years you’ve been alive be your excuse for not taking the actions you might wish you’d taken years ago; the actions that would add a whole new dimension to your life today. As Rich Kaarlgard wrote in Late Bloomers, “Blooming has no deadline. Our future story is written in pencil, not carved in stone. It can be changed. There is no fixed chronology to self-determination, no age limit for breakthroughs.”

Julia Child was 49 when she wrote her first cookbook.

Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t start writing until her forties, and didn’t pen Little House on the Prairie until she was in her sixties.

Vera Wang was 39 before she started designing clothes.

Colonel Harland Sanders was in his sixties when he started Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Diana Nyad was 64 when, after four failed attempts spanning 36 years, she finally achieved her long-held ambition of swimming the infamous channel of shark-ridden waters from Cuba to Florida (without a shark cage).

So whatever your age, whatever your situation, whatever the setbacks you’ve faced or the heartaches you’ve nursed or the stories you’ve told yourself about who you are and what you can do (or what you cannot do), decide right now that you will not settle for a life (career, relationships, etc.) that doesn’t light you up. More so, that you will set your sights on whatever vision—however humble or scarily huge—that does light you up. Research shows that while we lose some abilities as we grow older, the benefits of those we gain far exceed any that are lost. So rather than ask, “What can I accomplish despite my struggles?” ask yourself, “What can I accomplish because of them?”

Source: You’ve Got This! pp. 50-51

Trust Your Gut

I’m happy to welcome Wild Rose Press author Susie Black. Today, Susie shares her creative journey and new release, Death by Sample Size.

Here’s Susie!

I had always envisioned a career as a journalist, but life had other plans. Right after my college graduation, our family had an emergency while my apparel sales rep Dad was at a trade show in Atlanta. When no one from his companies could cover for him so he could attend to the emergency, dad asked me to help. Despite having absolutely no background or interest in his business, this was my dad, so of course, I said yes. After giving me a half-hour crash course in how to sell ladies’ apparel, dad left me alone to muddle through running the trade show. When he returned three days later, he was taken aback at how many orders I’d written. To my utter astonishment, he offered me a job as a sub-rep. Graduate school didn’t appeal to me and the opportunities for women in journalism at the time were few and far between. So, I accepted dad’s offer, and the adventure of a lifetime began.

At the beginning of my apparel industry career as a sales rep in the deep southern states, I was the ONLY woman traveling a territory. I had to prove myself to everyone in the industry every day. Retailers, as well as manufacturers, doubted my ability to do the job or last more than a season. I proved all the doubters wrong and broke every glass ceiling.

Things rarely turn out the way you think they will, but they do happen for a reason. I got into the rag biz because I was destined to write about it. My advice to anyone planning a second act is trust your gut, believe in yourself, never stop saying what if, don’t let anyone crush your dream, and always remember that regret is the worst human emotion as it is the one we can usually do little or nothing about.

Like the protagonist in my Holly Swimsuit Mystery Series, I am a ladies’ swimwear sales exec in the greater Los Angeles area. From the beginning of my career, I have kept a daily journal chronicling the interesting, quirky, and sometimes quite challenging people I have encountered as well as the crazy situations I’ve gotten myself into and out of. My daily journal entries are the foundation of everything I write. As a female who has succeeded in a historically male-dominated industry, it was important to me to write about the apparel business from a woman’s point of view. All of my characters are based on real people, and the central characters are all strong, successful women who have beaten the odds. Holly Schlivnik, the main character in the series, is based on me with some poetic license taken, of course. The stories all take place in the fast-paced ladies’ apparel industry.

Susie is offering a free Swimsuit Fit Guide to interested readers.

Email Susie here.


“The last thing swimwear sales exec Holly Schlivnik expected was to discover ruthless buying office big wig Bunny Frank’s corpse trussed up like a Thanksgiving turkey with a bikini stuffed down her throat. When Holly’s colleague is arrested for Bunny’s murder, the wise-cracking, irreverent amateur sleuth jumps into action to find the real killer. Nothing turns out the way Holly thinks it will as she matches wits with a wily killer hellbent on revenge.”


“Everyone wanted her dead…but who actually killed her?”


“When the elevator doors opened, I had to stop myself short not to step on her. There was Bunny Frank-the buying office big shot-lying diagonally across the car. Her legs were splayed out and her back was propped against the corner. Her sightless eyes were wide open and her arms reached out in a come-to-me baby pose. She was trussed up with shipping tape like a dressed Thanksgiving turkey ready for the oven with a bikini stuffed in her mouth. A Gotham Swimwear hangtag drooped off her lower lip like a toe tag gone lost. Naturally, I burst out laughing.

Before you label me incredibly weird or stone-cold, let me say genetics aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. If you’re lucky you inherit your Aunt Bertha’s sexy long legs or your father’s ability to add a bazillion dollar order in his head and get the total correct to the last penny. Without even breaking into a sweat, it’s easy to spout at least a million fabulous traits inheritable by the luck of the draw. Did I get those sexy long legs or the ability to add more than two plus two without a calculator? Noooooooooo. Lucky me. I inherited my Nana’s fear of death we overcompensated for with the nervous habit of laughing. A hysterical reaction? Think Bozo the clown eulogizing your favorite aunt.

I craned my neck like a tortoise and checked around. Then I clamped a fist over my mouth. Cripes, how could I possibly explain my guffaws with Bunny lying there? The disappointment was simultaneously mixed with relief when there was no one else in the parking lot. Where was security when you needed them?

I toed the elevator door open and bent over Bunny. I’d seen enough CSI episodes to know not to touch her. She was stiff as a board and I attributed the bluish tinge of her skin to the bikini crammed down her throat. I was no doctor, but I didn’t need an MD after my name to make this diagnosis. Bunny Frank was dead as the proverbial doorknob.

It was no surprise Bunny Frank had finally pushed someone beyond their limits. The only surprise was it had taken so long. The question wasn’t who wanted Bunny Frank dead. The question was who didn’t?”

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Born in the Big Apple, Susie Black now calls sunny Southern California home. Susie is a successful apparel sales executive. Susie began telling stories as soon as she learned to talk. Now she’s telling all the stories from her garment industry experiences in humorous mysteries.

She reads, writes, and speaks Spanish, albeit with an accent that sounds like Mildred from Michigan went on a Mexican vacation and is trying to fit in with the locals. Since life without pizza and ice cream as her core food groups wouldn’t be worth living, she’s a dedicated walker to keep her girlish figure. A voracious reader, she’s also an avidstamp collector. Susie lives with a highly intelligent man and has one incredibly brainy but smart-aleck adult son who inexplicably blames his sarcasm on an inherited genetic defect.

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Built Myself Up Layer by Layer

I’m happy to welcome multi-published author Pamela Thibodeaux. Today, Pamela shares her inspiring reinvention story and her novel, My Heart Weeps.

Here’s Pamela!

Thank you, so much Joanne for hosting me on your incredible blog! I absolutely love the idea of reinvention. So many times in our lives we have to start over or ask for and take a second (or third, or fourth) chance for a do-over. Reminds me of those movies of people trading places so popular in the 80’s.

I guess you could say my first act, after being born into a great family with three brothers was marrying at the tender age of sixteen (yes, 16!). That union lasted ten years and sadly ended in divorce which brought about my first need for change. Five years later I married a wonderful man who died a short seventeen years afterward, throwing me into my 2nd second act and time of reinvention.

For most of my adult life I was someone’s wife or mother. After my husband’s death in 2009, I began the long and arduous journey from wife to widow to individual.

When I separated from my first husband (with no self esteem intact), I adopted the motto, “What you see is what you get. You like it? Good! You don’t? Hit the road, it’s your loss.” This was out of self preservation, not a sense of self worth or self love. With my second husband, I always felt beautiful and worthy in his eyes, but never in my own.

Years after being thrust into the dating scene—something I never felt comfortable with anyway—I learned the true meaning of self worth and self love. Now, when I say that motto, I know what I bring into a relationship, therefore I mean it on a deeper level.

Today I am happy with myself, my life and my relationships!

If anyone planning to pursue a second act would ask my advice, the first thing I would tell them is to work on their inner self and internal dialogue. After all, you’re going to take you into every aspect of your life so you might as well love and appreciate yourself! I built myself up layer by layer by writing and repeating positive ‘I Am’ affirmations….

I am love and I am loving. I am forgiven and I am forgiveness. I am healthy, whole and complete. I am beautiful. I am peaceful. I am joyful. I am happy and others are happy with me. I am (YOU fill in the blanks).

Read books like, You Can Heal Your Life and Mirror Work by Louise Hay, The Power of I Am by Joel Osteen and other similar titles. Positive affirmations are one of the kindest and most rewarding things you can do for yourself in any situation, but especially when you are in need of, or in the midst of change.

My Heart Weeps is Melena Rhyker’s second act—her journey from grief into new life and parallels my own.


After thirty years married to the man of her dreams, Melena Rhyker is devastated by her husband’s death. Relief comes in the form of an artist’s retreat at the Crossed Penn ranch in Utopia, TX. She rediscovers a forgotten dream as her artistic talent flourishes into that of a gallery-worthy artist. Will she have the courage to follow the path she was destined to travel?

Garrett Saunders has been on the run most of his life. Abused and abandoned as a child, he escapes the clutches of a past filled with pain and shame, and hides from his calling as a Native American healer. His years as a CIA agent aid in overcoming his childhood and honing his talent and skill as a fine art photographer.

Follow their journey as two people who come from totally different backgrounds, but share gifts of gigantic proportions, find meaning and purpose in the Texas Hill Country.


At 6 p.m., she pulled into the carport, turned off the engine and laid her head on the steering wheel.

“Well, I’m home again. Made it through another agonizing eight hours or so, now to get through another night.”

Gathering every ounce of courage she could summon, she disembarked from her vehicle, retrieved the mail from the box beside the door, and entered the house. She thumbed through the envelopes and advertisements, then laid them on the table and poured a glass of juice. She reached for the bottle of over-the-counter pain reliever and froze.

It would be so easy to end this pain.

Oh, what an enticing thought. Just take a handful of pills and end it all. Would she wake up in heaven? Would Jesus meet her there? Would Jonathan? What about the kids or Mama—would they understand? Or would she destroy them? Where was the faith she claimed to have? Why was it failing her now?

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Author Bio

Award-winning author, Pamela S. Thibodeaux is the Co-Founder and a lifetime member of Bayou Writers Group in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Multi-published in romantic fiction as well as creative non-fiction, her writing has been tagged as, “Inspirational with an Edge!”™ and reviewed as “steamier and grittier than the typical Christian novel without decreasing the message.” Sign up to receive Pam’s newsletter and get a FREE short story!

Where to find Pamela…

Website | Blog | Newsletter | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Amazon Author Page | BookBub | Instagram