Friday, May 24, 2013

Memorial Weekend E-Book Giveaway

5 Star Review on Amazon: “I don't think there is a book that I like better than In the Company of Women!”

If you haven’t read it, pick up a FREE copy for your Kindle and Kindle apps this weekend on Amazon, Saturday May 25 thru Monday May 27.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Faces Behind the Book -- Giveaway!

My Christmas novel, The Christmas to Remember, is available FREE for your Kindles today only!

Last year I released my Christmas novel The Christmas to Remember. It is based on stories from the life of my paternal grandfather from when he lived in Denmark. I thought I would share a couple of pictures here.

His birth name was Nils Peder Jacobsen (I called him Jens Pederson in the book), and his mother was Jacobina. He was the oldest of several children, unlike my novel where he was the youngest. He did have one sister who was named Ove, but I do not know much about the real Ove. He also had some brothers and another sister named Mary.

When he was very young he had to go to work to help his family. Jacobina worked hard and had many jobs -- cleaning homes, taking in laundry, etc. -- until she became a seamstress which as a good job and helped to lighten her load. There was no father in the family which I'm sure made Neal feel as if he needed to help out.

His family joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and when he was 11 he left Denmark forever to come to America. His name was changed to Neal Jacobsen and he went to live with a couple named Hillyard who had a farm in northern Utah. He never saw Denmark or his mother again. It wasn't until he became a soldier in World War I that he added the name Hillyard to his.

This picture to the right is the photo taken of Neal when he arrived in America at Ellis Island. His recollections of coming to the United States, his train ride across the country to his new home in Utah, and his experiences learning to speak English and how to live on a farm are poignant and filled with spiritual lessons that continue to guide me.

Sometimes I think it would be nice to  write the rest his story, it's so interesting to me. I think he was a very brave young boy, and a brave man. He never really had a childhood to my mind, at least not like the kind of childhood I had. He went to work when he was 8, and worked until his retirement. And even then he was always a body in motion. I don't remember him being a couch potato ever! He also served in World War I where he came as close as he ever did to Denmark after leaving it.
The photo on the left is of Neal's mother, Jacobina Jacobsen (Stina Pederson in my novel) and the woman I heard my grandfather refer to as "my little moder." In my mind she is a tiny, hard working, loving mother. Neal told the story of when he gave his mother the money from his first pay and how she cried to get it. Yet, as much as they needed every penny they got, she instructed him to make sure he paid his tithing and give thanks to the Lord for their blessings. As a child of 8 my grandfather told of how tall and imposing the bishop looked to him, yet he collected himself and paid his tithing.
He was not the only child Jacobina sent to America with members of the church. His younger sister Mary also came, though they were sent several months apart. Mary and her husband lived down the street from my grandparents, and we often would run down the lane to visit with her and have some of her wonderful cookies that she would have on hand when we would visit from California. As an adult, I think Neal and Mary lived so close because of their experience of being sent as small children away from their mother and family. I believe they needed to be near each other.

If you have read The Christmas to Remember you may find these photos interesting to see. If not, you may want to pick up a copy FREE today and read more. Either way, Neal Jacobsen Hillyard is a man I deeply love and admire. Maybe his story will touch you as well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Short Story for Christmas

I often enter short story contests since I love to write them. Several years ago I entered a contest where you were to write a story for a picture of a truck covered in Christmas lights. It had to be around 1,000 words. It was a fun challenge, and this is my effort posted here. I hope you enjoy it.


Mel woke up to the sun streaming in through the window. He could feel the cold seeping into his bones. He shifted, stretching as best he could knowing he’d have to get out of the truck to do a proper job of it. Stepping out he left the door open to help clear off the windows and did a few toe touches to get his blood circulating.

After living in his old rattle-trap of a truck for the past year and a half Mel had a pretty good routine down. Except for the cold weather months he was doing pretty well. Climbing back in behind the steering wheel he drove himself to a local coffee shop where he got himself a cup of coffee and a muffin for breakfast before heading over to the YMCA. Paying four dollars allowed him to have a swim and then enjoy the showers and bathrooms to clean up.

By now it was ten o’clock and he hurried to make his way to a nearby construction site where they sometimes had extra work he could pick up. Today was not one of those days.

He spent a couple of hours making the rounds trying to find some type of work but just after Thanksgiving it was a rough road.

Climbing back into his pickup Mel sat for a moment before starting it up. Yeah, he decided, it was a rough road, but he’d seen plenty of those in his 59 years, including his time in the army in Viet Nam. He’d survived that and he’d get through this. One of these days he’d get a regular job with a regular paycheck and find himself an apartment to live in instead of his truck. He’d turn things around.

Late in the afternoon he was sitting in a coffee shop having a bite to eat and listening to the Christmas music playing in the dining room. It made him think of all the Christmases he’d spent and what they’d been like. “A lot different than this one was going to be,” he told himself with a shake of his head.

When he was little his mother had made the holidays really special; baking cookies, decorating the house and even taking the time to sew his father, his brother and him special Christmas vests every year. She always started playing her Christmas records the day before Thanksgiving. Her favorite was Perry Como and she must have had three or four of his albums alone. The memory brought a smile to his lips. Those were wonderful Christmases.

In college he’d married a pretty girl he’d met in his world history class. Dark brown hair and bright green eyes, he’d been smitten from the first. Six months after their first date they were married, and a year later Michael was born. That Christmas was the best he’d ever known. They’d gone crazy buying presents for Michael, decorating the tree and starting what they thought would be many years of their own family traditions. He never knew he could be so happy.

But that was also the Christmas he’d gotten his draft notice and by June he found himself in the jungles of Southeast Asia. It wasn’t like anything he’d ever known before. Those relationships, borne out of a dependency and need unlike at home, forged a family there as well. They made those holiday celebrations their own, sharing the care packages that made it with each other and celebrating each in their own way, combining them to make something special and unique. It might sound strange, but there was love there in those jungles too.

After the war things changed for Mel, and not the way he’d hoped for. Returning home to his family was a struggle. He and his wife tried to make things work between them, even having another baby, a daughter they named Emily. That first Christmas after she was born was strained and tense. The joy was there along with love for the kids, but they both knew it was their last shared holiday.

Since then things had been a rollercoaster for Mel. He’d drifted away from his children, following a series of menial, labor-oriented jobs that took him all around the country. When he finally tried to reconnect with his children, they’d drifted away from him. Who could blame them? He was a stranger to them.

So here he sat. The economic downturn had left him unemployed and he’d lost his apartment. All he had was a few personal possessions crammed into his pickup and living from one temporary job to another, the holidays approaching and things looking decidedly un-merry.

Seated near the window he looked out and watched as the colored lights on the storefront across the street lit up. The street, which had looked dark and lonely, was now bright and beckoning.

Hmmm, thought Mel. A few lights and everything changed. Suddenly a thought occurred to him, and feeling more positive then he had in a long time, he finished his meal and hurried out to his truck.

After stopping at the drugstore, he drove to a well lit area of the parking lot and took out his purchases. Three boxes of big, round, multi-colored Christmas lights, and some duct tape. With a smile he went to work. In short order his truck was outlined with the lights and, after connecting them to his battery he shut the hood and climbed in behind the wheel.

Crossing his fingers he turned the key. Immediately his truck was ablaze with the colors of Christmas! Blue, green, red, yellow—around the windows, outlining the hood and bumpers; his truck was a vision.

His mother always said home was where the heart is. Well, he thought, he may not have a home of his own, but he still had a heart that loved Christmas. Who said he couldn’t have Christmas wherever he was? After all, he told himself, couldn’t your heart be where your home was?

Pulling out onto the street he turned his radio on to the station that was playing the carols of the season. A car pulled up next to him and honked drawing his attention to them.

“Right on, man!” they shouted and waved. “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas!” Mel yelled back with an answering wave.

They knew, he smiled. They knew.

December 2008

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Giveaway!

I'm holding a special promotion for my book Lethal Prescription! It's so exciting to be able to offer this book for FREE from August 23 - August 27, 2012.

This book is the second in the Maeve and Kate Mysteries series. Here's a brief synopsis:

Best friends Maeve Haile and Kate Hanson are at it again! During a hospital stay Maeve meets Victoria Bennett, a young nurse who reveals her concern about something taking place in the hospital. When she turns up dead and it’s discovered her roommate is one of Kate’s clients, the pair set out to unearth what is going on in their small town of Elkhorn.

Nurses, doctors and patients in their hometown and the surrounding area are involved in a drug scam involving prescription drugs ... or are they? As the two women uncover clues they wind up with more questions then they have answers for. Why was Victoria killed, and who is threatening her roommate? A second murder, a threat on Maeve and Kate’s lives, and a frightening and intimidating street thug all add up to a mystery that have the friends racing to discover who’s behind it all before some else winds up dead!

Please pick up your copy, and when you've finished reading it, please post a review on Amazon. I'd appreciate it!

and UK

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Maeve Binchy (1940-2012)

We all have people in our lives who speak to us in one way or another, help us to reach for our goals and work to make our dreams come true. As a writer, there were two women who inspired me, and Maeve Binchy, who is one of them, died this past week. I am thinking of her and her work and how she has impacted me.

Ms. Binchy is an Irish writer. I was introduced to her back in the late 1980s when my best friend told me about her and gave me a copy of one of her books. “It make me think of us,” my friend told me. It was us. Binchy had so completely captured the feel, the reality of women and their friendships that I fell in love with her. She knows women, how they feel, how they relate, fight, support and love each other. My friend and I always kept each other up to date with her books. Once, when it was only available in the U.K., her husband bought us each a copy when he was there on business, and I remember thinking I was so lucky to have such a treasure!

Maeve Binchy wrote what she loved. She often said in interviews there were certain things she didn’t like to write about and so she didn’t. She wrote those things that she was familiar with, the people and lives she knew because she’d lived them herself. Full of humor, love and optimism, Maeve Binchy’s books make you feel as if these are not characters in books but real people. Men and women you might run into at the local cafe or store; who might be sitting next to you in church or the library. They’re real.

When I started writing my books I longed to tell women’s stories the same as she did. In my women’s fiction novel, In the Company of Women, I followed her example and wrote of a group of women telling their stories, weaving them together and following their individual trails as well.

As a tribute to her, I named the main character in my cozy mystery series after her. And while the Maeve and Kate Mysteries are about solving crimes, at their heart they are about a friendship between two women that will survive anything.

There will be one more book from Maeve Binchy: A Week in Winter will come out this fall sometime. I cannot believe she is gone so soon, and there will be no more short stories on her website, no books to wait excitedly for. I will read again and revisit that marvelous country and people she loved to write about.

On her website where they posted news of her passing, they also posted this quote that I would like to share with you here. It’s pure Maeve Binchy ....

"The happiest moments of my life are connected with family and friends. There is a great comfort about being with people who knew you way back when. There is a mental shorthand, an easy-going feeling that life doesn't have to be explained or defined; we are all in more or less the same boat. To have a community around you in a changing and unstable world is invaluable and nothing can beat the feeling that there will always be people out for our good."

It feels like I have lost a friend. I will miss her.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

Thursday, June 21, 2012

This Writer's Wish List

I know, I've blogged about this before, but one of the hardest things for me as a writer is naming my characters. One of the perks of writing a series is that the main characters names stay the same throughout the novels. I am just terrible at coming up with names.

One time I came up with the perfect name for one of the women in the last book I was working on. Loved the name, totally invested in it and then, I was watching a rerun of an old TV show and there was the name I was using! It was a main character in a former TV show I used to watch! No wonder I loved it. Had to find another name for her. So sad.

My wish list? I would love to have a magic hat I could reach into and pull out the perfect name for the character I'm writing about at the moment. That would be so great! But since that' s not likely to happen I go through all kinds of shenanigans to get my character names.

I have posted here on this blog asking for help, posted on facebook and twitter. I put out an all call to my facebook friends asking if they'd give me permission to use their names in a book, which they did. That worked really well.

I've gotten programs from graduations and used the names in them, gone through phone books, read through the credits of movies and television shows looking for interesting names to use. I pester my kids and my husband to give me names.

Titles of books seem to come easily to me, so I'm not sure why names are so difficult. I didn't have this kind of problem naming my children or pets. So what's up?

If you know where I can find my magic hat, drop me a line. Or if you have some names to pass on please! I'm five chapters into the new Maeve and Kate mystery and once again .... Where'd that hat go anyway??