Saturday, August 27, 2016

California Dreamin' by Betsy Ashton

Last weekend I spent a couple of days with my cousin Aleta and her friend Duane. Like me, Aleta is an ex-patriot Californian. She grew up in the high desert near Victorville; I grew up in the Los Angeles area. She's younger than I am, so I remember things she doesn't from when she was a child and before she was born.

We had a terrific time reminiscing about what it was like to be free-range kids in the desert. By age four, we'd both learned to avoid scorpions and tarantulas. We knew cholla or jumping cactus could bite you badly. We knew not to go barefoot where bull weed grew because the thorns were dreadful. We learned to play outdoors, to ride our bikes in sand without helmets and to be back indoors when the heat of the day reached 95 degrees.

Aleta left about 25 years ago to move to Anchorage. That was abrupt, from the high desert to Alaska. She loved it. A few years later, she moved to Burlington, VT to be closer to her boyfriend's family. Grandkids are so important.

I left first in 1969 to go to grad school in Tokyo for two years and returned to finish my degrees in Southern California. I had no intention of leaving until I met my future husband in a bar in Tokyo. We were both there on business, the only two non-Japanese in the bar. He's the only man I met in a bar and kept. That's a story for a different post.

The more we talked, the more we realized how much we missed the California of our youth. Not the California of today, but the one that has become bigger than life in our memories. I took her to the beach for the first time and tried to throw her into the surf. It never dawned on me that this desert girl might be afraid of the ocean. I'd grown up in it, so I had a healthy respect for its power but no fear. She freaked out. We backed away, pulled our blankets way up on the sand and watched the waves from a safe difference. To this day, she remembers how I tried to drown her. NOT. SO.

I took her to see the Beatles. I don't know what was more exciting, the group itself or the silly girls screaming and tearing their hair out. It was her first visit to the Hollywood Bowl.

We had a host of dogs when we were little. She had a little brown brindle mutt named Chipper. She hadn't been born when her brother had a German shepherd named Duke. Great dog for a boy and a desert. I had a red mutt named Rusty. So I wasn't as creative in naming pets back in those days. Heck, I was only nine when we got Rusty. We had more dogs over the years, but both are pup-less now. I don't think either of us will get another dog. The last ones we each had were so special that no other dog can replace their memories.

Our lives took us all over the world. Odd that we ended up so close to each other. We meet twice a year in August for the races in Saratoga and in December for a friends and family 'Tween the Holidays party in Hyde Park, NY. One of these days I'll get her and Duane down to the lake. I won't threaten to throw her in this time. She's a sailor and has lost her fear of large bodies of water.

When we are California Dreamin' it's because we have great memories of where we grew up. I've put several into short stories. One of these days, maybe I'll share "Toad" with you all.

Where did you grow up? Do you have fond memories or could you barely wait to escape?


Betsy Ashton is the author of Mad Max, Unintended Consequences, and Uncharted Territory, A Mad Max Mystery, now available at Amazon and Barnes and NobleI'm really excited that the trade paper edition of Uncharted Territory was released this week. Please follow me on my website, on TwitterFacebook and Goodreads.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Getting it together ... "it" being the nitty gritty, of course

I blogged recently about my process for kicking off a book. I'm into writing it now (chapter 3 done, 12 more to go). As others have noted, there's more to it than just figuring out the basic plot points. Here're a few other things that are involved.

First is The Book. Every story of mine has a special notebook, usually something picked up at random while browsing in the office supply store. Not a spiral book per se, but something small, portable, and well, "right" for writing.

I create sections with those marvelous sticky tabs: Who, Where, Timeline, Snippets, Misc. In this book, "Misc" contains bits about the book on which I am basing this one (it's a Remembered Classics book, so I need some details from the original book). Then it's on to details.

Characters: I need to have pictures of people in my books. I always use actors and then describe them in rather broad terms so their identity is somewhat unknown. I find pictures of them and keep them in The Book. I jot down info about them: age, height, weight, eye color, nervous trait, favorite startled expression ("Holy crap!" "Damn", etc.) I do this for the major players in the book, villain and hero alike.

Where: oh, I love this part. I look at house plans and find the perfect houses for my people. This book takes place in a mansion and I had a firm idea in my mind of the floor plan. So I had to go online and skim through various plans until I found the right one. Then I skimmed through assorted designer sites for furniture, etc. I've designed so many lovely homes this way.

Snippets: these are the scenes that pop into my head when the characters start to speak in my brain. Sometimes this is just a cryptic note or two ("Charlie sees stray dog; approaches; John acts like she's crazy; contrast: she trusts; he doesn't"). Fuller scenes goes into the Snip file on my computer.

Timeline: I keep two types of timelines. Every character has a back story, so I'll jot down what their timeline is ("Charlie married when she was 22; her husband died when she was 30; she retired at age 50").

And I also write out the timeline for the story as I write it with one or two points from the chapter  ("Chapter 1: August 15/Sunday night; sticky humid day: Charlies agrees to interview for job. John comes to her house. She insists on taking her car to the mansion").

The timeline bit is really important because I need to track the days, the weather, etc. so there's continuity from chapter to chapter. I normally write a book from start to finish, but I do get interrupted now and then and it's good to have those reminders.

So that's the setup for the writing. Now it's just a matter of getting the story that's in my head down on paper. Piece of cake, right?

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Love, Liars, and Legends to Die For by Kim Kasch

Please welcome today's guest to The Roses of Prose, Kim Kasch.
You think you know someone then they rip your heart out…

It’s a tale as old as time, a story written through the ages. This is the history of love, liars and legends.

And it doesn’t take a legendary hero to experience love…or liars.

Everyone has experienced a terrible tragedy, been victim to a lie, and perhaps even had their heart broken.

It’s true. Even readers fall victim to a beautifully woven plot, where they get swept off their feet, while they turn the pages. And, a good book shows you just how easy it is to get caught up in a story and be tricked into believing the unbelievable. It’s even easy to become a party to a love affair, often at the hands of a skilled liar.

Throughout the pages of history people have been misguided by others. But deceit is eventually discovered, at least as we turn the pages on carefully crafted plots and search for the nuggets of truth hidden inside the stories.

For example, the most famous of lovers are often known for their trickery and deceptions, such as Cyrano de Bergerac. He romanced the woman he loved, the beautiful Roxane. But in truth he was lying to her all along and misleading her for the handsome but less skilled wordsmith than himself, Christian de Neuvillette. Christian wanted Roxane for a lover but he could not win her over with his own words, so he enlisted his friend Cyrano to win her hand. And Cyrano did as he was requested by deceiving the kind and naïve Roxane through trickery. In the end she was heartbroken when she learned the truth.

And then there is the story of Romeo and Juliet with her deceitful plot to trick everyone by her feigned death. But in the end, that too played out as a tragedy.

"For never was a story of more woe - than this of Juliet and her Romeo."

Legendary lovers might appear to live lives larger than most but they are also emboldened by the storyteller’s prowess with words. Many tales of heroic lovers are nothing more than big fish stories that appear much larger than they ever truly were.

When you spend a little time unlocking the history behind the lore, you might be disappointed, disillusioned and sometimes even disgusted, as you discover the truth. But it’s always worth the journey to find the truth behind the story because while you’re on the path through the pages, you will be sharing the Big Fish story and actually become a part of the tale. . .or maybe that should be “tail”.

Kim Kasch has a legendary love story coming out through Midnight Frost Books, in July. It is a Young Adult Romance based on the Danish legend of Morgaine Le Fey and the Viking.

She currently has a Young Adult Romance out through CleanReads, The Cats of Cullaby Creek.

Kelly and Kyle
These two shared some sort of history. And now I was in the middle of their story.
Sparks flew through the air. But, they didn’t seem to notice—or maybe they just didn’t care how uncomfortable they were making the rest of us.
I scanned the room. The terribly odd thing was that while they stood in the center of the cafeteria—arguing—everyone’s eyes were on me.
What is so interesting about me?
After a few seconds, I heard whispered accusations slammed back and forth, like a ping-pong ball. My name, muttered in odd and angry tones. No one seemed to mind staring at me, but only the bravest few were sneaking sideways glances over at Kelly and Kyle, hoping no one noticed.
This wasn’t what I needed on my first day at a new school. I hadn’t come here looking for instant enemies, but I knew I’d accidentally stirred a private pot and things were already starting to boil.
I needed to do something and quick. From the sounds floating around me, if they got into an actual argument, I was going to get the blame.
I spit out the first words I could think to say, “What’s a new kid to do, after school, around here… for fun?”

When Savannah meets Kyle, its love at first sight. And why wouldn't it be? He's perfect, as far as she can tell. But Kyle appears whenever things go wrong. Maybe he isn't everything she thought he was. It's a complete mystery until she discovers the water in Cullaby Creek is being bottled and sold as vitamin “infused” water. Mistic Water promises the impossible. And then, like a magical elixir, it delivers. People who drink it feel younger, smarter, faster...healthier. But it doesn’t take long before side effects hit. Literally. The secret has to be in the water…or is it something more?

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


This month, we Roses have been cluing you in on summer vacations, various home projects, and how they get story idea from head to page, among other topics. Since I am in the throes of beginning The Deep Well of Love and Murder, fifth in the series, process is a good subject for me. 

My first book contract came in 2009. Book five of the series is my eleventh such contract. Where the idea for a book comes from varies. I’ve gotten inspired by a family member’s general experience and once by a night spent in a cheap motel. Ideas have jumped from the page of a wedding announcement and a brainstorming session with my husband. 

When an idea comes, and if the idea is one I’ll run with, characters almost instantly materialize. It’s practically instantaneous. In fact, a character in the leading roll, often is the idea that sets off the storyline. 

And, so, the first thing I do, even before research, is construct my Character Sketch file. Here is what that looks like. This is the working file for the heroine in The Deep Well of Love and Murder. You can see it’s not complete. When complete, not all of it will make it into the book:


TITLE: Heroine

Character Name:  Laura Jane (Burns) Katz                              Nickname:

Birth Date and Place:  Long Beach, CA  1992

Character Role: ex-wife of Clark Katz and heroine, protagonist

Physical Descriptions:

                Age: 26

                Race: Caucasian

                Eye Color: deep green, wide-set

                Hair Color and Style: long, blonde

                Height/Weight/Build: smallish 5’4”

                Skin Tone: fair

Style of Dress: It’s spring so she wears sleeveless tight Tee shirts or t-strap tops and tailored shorts. No jewelry. She will wear cotton skirts if the event requires.

Distinguishing physical traits or mannerisms:

Personality Traits: Very outgoing and independent

Background: Comes from a dysfunctional family of an alcoholic mother and abusive stepfather. She left home at seventeen (the day after graduating) and moved to Flagstaff. Dropped out of college when she became pregnant and married Clark Katz. Had a miscarriage, but hung in there working two jobs while he loafed. In book one, he was involved with the theft of Lacy’s mother’s artwork and consequently arrested. She divorced him. When he got out of prison, he stalked her and went on to more serious crimes. Again arrested so when he got out again, she left for Chino Valley.



Internal Conflicts:

External Conflicts:

Occupation/Education: waitress and nanny

Miscellaneous Notes: 

Every character in the book will have a file like this one. Only the major characters (heroine, hero, villains or perceived villains) will have a complete work up. It’s very likely not all of the information will make it into the book. 

If a book is part of a series like The Deep Well of Love and Murder, the events will be added to my Series Timeline. Every birth, death, marriage, and major event will be entered. 

The research begins. When I start creating the character files, the story is percolating which sparks questions, and it’s time to get educated. I can’t write a character whose great grandfather was a Brazilian Gaucho without knowing what a Gaucho was and where and how they lived. If my character had an alcoholic mother, I might need some knowledge on how it could affect her. 

At some point, there’s no sure fire recipe, I write the opening paragraph and synopsis. Character information will continue to come in…the people in the book will open up more and more to me as the story progresses. That in turn will necessitate more research. And the synopsis will expand, get hacked, ebb and flow. 

It isn’t a straight line from idea to final product. This is the process that works for me.
For more information about me and my books visit:

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Ready Or Not; Here It Comes by Margo Hoornstra

Mid-Michigan, my local Romance Writers of America chapter, had a first three pages critique opportunity at its meeting this past Saturday. Along with fifteen others, I submitted the beginning of my latest WIP, Deceived by Trust, to be read and reviewed by the group.

Chapter One

“Police! Stop right there! Put your hands where we can see them!”

Two steps into the storage locker, Jenny Reynolds froze. A white light flashed in her eyes. Nearly blinded, she blinked in the glare. Her purse hit the ground with a thud.

Fingers splayed opened, she raised her hands. “What’s going on?” Heart thundering, breaths shallow, her body snapped into survival mode. “What do you want?”

“We’ll ask the questions. Is this your storage locker?”

“Yes.” Mouth dry, she struggled to grasp what was happening as a knot lodged in her stomach. “This is the one I rented yesterday.”

She squinted into the brilliance but could see nothing beyond bright white.
What if they aren’t police?

A Detroit native for most of her life, she was well aware crime could happen anywhere. Even so close to her own backyard of Mayfield, one of its more upscale suburbs. Not only that—the knot tightened—these units were advertised as specially insulated. Were they sound proof too? Would anyone hear her scream?

If this was a robbery, they could take whatever she had and leave her alone. “There’s nothing stored in here yet, but I have some money in my purse.” Right leg extended, she started to toe the bag over to whoever held the freaking bright light on her.

“Don’t move!”

“Okay.” Her right arm dipped slightly to regain her balance. She retracted her leg. “Doing my best to not move here.”

“Are you Jenny Reynolds?” Her purse was snatched away.

She was about to ask if she could lower her hands, then decided against it. “Yes.”

“And this is the storage locker you rented?”

“I already told you that. I also told you there’s nothing stored in here yet.”

“I have a few household items out in the truck. Friends are helping me cart over some larger furniture tomorrow.” She was talking way too much. Nerves always made her do that. “Please, what is this about?”

As if they’d finally taken pity, the glare scorching her eyes was blessedly dimmed. The door on the ten foot by twelve foot cubicle creaked as it was trundled shut behind her. She spun around as the latch mechanism clunked into place.

“Stay where you are.”

Without a second thought, she did as she was told. After a soft click, track lighting in the ceiling came on. She blinked to clear her watery vision. Two uniformed police officers stood on either side of the now secured door.

A man in a dark suit with a badge hung outside the breast pocket stepped toward her, his expression grim. “Do you have ID?”

She accepted the purse he handed back. “What’s going on?”

“Did you sign the contract to rent this storage locker?”

Fishing out her wallet, she produced her driver’s license. “Yes. I told you I rented it.”

He took the license along with her purse and wallet, passing it all to one of the officers. “Did you sign the contract and intend this space to be used to store selected items of yours?”

“Yes. As I said, I’m bringing some bigger things over tomorrow.”

“Where do you plan to put them?”


“You heard me.”

One hand put a light grip on her arm. The other closed over her shoulder as he rotated her toward the interior. Huge shelving she’d never seen before lined the back wall. Various metal parts and gadgets she didn’t recognize, some tagged with cardboard labels, were neatly arranged on the evenly spaced surfaces.
“I don’t know what all of that is.” She let out a shaky breath. “Or how it got in here.”

“That’s what they all say.” The sarcasm lacing his tone as much as told her further denial would be futile.

“It’s the truth.”

“Can’t wait to hear what you have to say about the truck you arrived in.”

Nodding to one of the uniformed officers to raise the door, his hold on her didn’t let up one whit as he marched her into the rapidly cooling air of an early spring evening. A police car was parked beside the loaner truck she’d arrived in. Spinning red, white and blue lights jumped and pulsed on the building walls.

“I don’t suppose you have the registration and proof of insurance for this vehicle?”

She shook her head. “It belongs to a friend of my ex-boyfriend.”

“Funny. This truck was reported stolen last night.”

“But, I have the keys to it.” Eyes wide in disbelief, she glanced around. “If you’ll hand me my purse again, I’ll show you.”

“A spare set which the owner, stupidly I’d say, left in the glove box.”

“I’m telling you this truck belongs to the friend of my ex-boyfriend, Rod Do—”

“Donahue.” The plain clothesed cop smiled. “You just answered my next question.”

“I what?” Both hands were drawn together behind her back. Cold metal cinched her wrists.

“Jenny Reynolds you are under arrest for possession of stolen property…”

“What?” Her breath caught, and time stopped. “No!”

“You have the right to remain silent…”

He continued to talk in words that made no sense to her fogged brain as he led her toward the squad car. The flashing lights pulsed in jack-hammer time with her heart. A hand held onto the top of her head as she was ushered inside the back seat.

Sheer panic threatened to close her throat. She stuck her head through the still opened door. “There’s been a mistake.”

“There’ve been a lot of mistakes.” He peered in at her. “And you made them.”

Comments I received went something like this: ‘Wow!’ ‘That really drew me into the story.’ ‘We have a good feel for the conflict this heroine will have to deal with.’ ‘That opening makes me want to read what comes next.’

Though I was pleased by the positive feedback, call me crazy, part of me wanted a little more. Surely there’s something here that needs to be improved upon.

Or maybe, just maybe, I’ve done all I can (with help from CP Jannine, of course, who is no doubt as we speak, rolling her eyes) and it’s simply time to send this one out into the world.

Deceived by Trust is the first in my four part series Brothers in Blue. So, tell me. What do you think? Ready? Or not?

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and my stories, please visit my WEBSITE 

Monday, August 22, 2016

The system IS rigged!- by Leah St. James

We've all puzzled over computer glitches, but some days I wonder if computers truly are taking over the world.

It all started when Son No. 2 (in birth order only), who lives about 90 miles away, mailed my husband a card for Father’s Day. About a week after the day passed without delivery, he called with the following message, “Hey, I got Dad’s card returned. It says, “Moved—No Forwarding Address.’”

Since we’ve lived in this house since 2009, and believe me, hubby still lives here, it was perplexing. We theorized it was a glitch in “the system” since our son had moved out about six months earlier; maybe “the system” got their names mixed up. (Yeah, we didn’t believe it either, but we like to give the benefit of the doubt.)

So our son mailed it again, only this time he used his fiancee’s name, which has no similarity to ours. About ten days passed, still no card in the mail, when our son texted that the card had been returned again, marked “Moved—No Forwarding Address.”

The next day at work, when I had about five minutes of breathing room, I called USPS customer service. I was met with the opening spiel of a pre-recorded message—press 1 for this, 2 for that, and so on. 

Unfortunately, none of the numerous presets addressed the problem of: “You’re returning my husband’s mail to sender and telling everyone he’s moved with no forwarding address!!!” So I tried, “Operator.”   

The line went dead. 

I called back, waited for the script to end and tried, “Agent.”

Response from the robo-system:  “You want to speak with an agent, is that correct?”

Me:  “Yes.” (Or maybe, “Yes, you moronic....”)

The response was that it would be a “21- to 31-minute wait.” I could hang on, or I could leave my number and wait for a call back. I would not lose my place in line. 

Not very trusting of “the system” at this point, I decided to wait it out, but after about 15 minutes on hold, I had to take an incoming call and hung up.

About an hour later, I had another window of opportunity and called back, worked my way through the phone maze and got the exact same response. This time I left my number, rushed to the ladies’ room and ran a few other office errands to make sure I’d be free in “21 to 31” minutes.

I got back to my desk with a few minutes to spare, but it wasn’t for another 20 minutes that my phone rang. I picked up.

Me:  “Hello?

Robo-Voice:  “This is the callback that was requested. When ‘Leah’ is on the line, press 1.”

Grumbling, I pressed “1” and was placed on hold for another minute before a real, live person came on the line. 

Filled with relief, I spilled my guts to the agent. She took notes, gave me a reference number and told me it would be up to 48 hours for a response. I tamped down my impatience; at least we were making progress.

The next day, I was running around at work, came back to my desk, and there was a message on my cell. You guessed it, I had missed the return call from USPS. Thankfully the caller had left a direct number for the local supervisor. I was to call to get it straightened out.

With fingers and toes crossed, I pressed the numbers into my cell. My call was answered by yet another robo-voice: 

“You have been forwarded to a voicemail system; however, the person at this number does not subscribe to this service. A valid attendance member (number?) has not been specified. Your session cannot be continued at this time. Please try again later. Goodbye.” CLICK.

And we wonder why our government is so messed up? Even its voicemail system can’t speak English. The bureaucrats probably don’t have a clue what the others are saying! (Yes, I know USPS isn’t exactly “the government,” but it’s close enough.)

A couple days went by during which I was too frustrated to take up the fight. Then hubby got a call from his dentist’s office that a statement had been returned marked “Moved—No Forwarding Address.” 

Obviously the problem wasn’t going to fix itself. I returned to battle.

Eventually I got the correct number to the local office and spoke to a supervisor who promised to delete the forwarding order from “the system.” When I reiterated that we hadn't submitted any forwarding order for my husband, he said, 

“It doesn’t matter that you didn’t do it, it’s there, 
and the system will pull your husband’s mail
before it even gets to our facility.”  

That was five days ago, and so far so good. He's actually received mail! I just know if I have to do business with “the system” again, I might go postal. 

(Next month:  Everything you didn’t want to know about tracking a delivery from the FedEx Home Delivery service.)
Leah writes stories of mystery and romance, good and evil and the power of love. Please visit her on her Facebook page where she’s been known to post goofy photos of Hercules the Kitten.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Visiting 50 states by Barbara Edwards- One place

Bryce Canyon
We finally reached out goal. My husband and I have visited all 50 states. To celebrate I started combing through the thousands of photos I took. Oh my. So many beautiful views. How do I pick some to share.
I decided on some snaps from Bryce Canyon, near Yellowstone.
Barbara Edwards at Bryce Canyon

I made the horrible mistake of not labeling each photo as I took them, but I did take photos of many signsso I do know at least where we were.
I want to go back. I didn't see enough. I recommend planning lot of time when you go.
A hoodoo

 This is cs called a hood doo formed by the wind and weather. So many they are like an enormous forest.
I admit every place gives me ideas for another story. I really wanted to climb down into the canyon and wonder amid the broken rocks and plant-life. 

there are hiking trails everywhere. With warnings to carry enough water.

When we left this section of the canyon a forest fire was burning alongside the road.
Scary stuff.

I hope you enjoy my photos.

Bryce Caanyon
Entry to Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Cnyon.