Monthly Archives: February 2013

Books: Alexa Bourne!

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9cd72b66ef7b498031442bd2f57aa805[1]What genre do your books fall into or is it a genre blended?
I write mostly romantic suspense, but I also write contemporary.

What inspires you to write?

I’m not really sure. It’s something I’ve always done. I can’t remember a time I didn’t have some story percolating in my head.

Do you listen to music or set the mood somehow to get writing?
I listen to music most of the time while I write. When I’m on a roll, the music makes it better. I usually have a “soundtrack” list depending on the story I’m writing. For example, during my 1st ebook set in Scotland, I listened to a lot of bagpipe music. For my 3rd ebook set in Edinburgh for New Year’s, I listened to a lot of Christmas and New Year’s music.

Do you come up with the plot or characters first?
Most of the time I come up with characters first. I figure out their problems and the plot of the story when I write the rough draft.

Do you have a favorite book of yours?
It’s usually the one I’m working on. I think choosing a favorite book of my own would be like trying to choose a favorite child. I love each of my books for different reasons.

Who would you consider an influence on your writing?
Well, definitely one of my best friends. She’s been in my corner since I first talked about writing to get published. She’ll send me inspirational gadgets, she makes promotional materials for me, she reads every book and gives me her honest opinion, she cheers me on, tells me I’m brilliant when I’m miserable and I can’t imagine my life without her!

Tell me something quirky about yourself.
When I eat a meal, I eat one part at a time. So, if I have chicken, rice and vegetables, I’ll eat all the veggies before I start the rice. Then I’ll eat all the rice before I eat the chicken. Oh, and I usually save whatever I like the most until last.

What do you aim to make people feel when they read your books?
I want them to feel satisfied that they received a WHOLE story regardless of how long it is. I hope they fall in love with my characters. I’ve also been told I make people want to visit my settings based on my descriptions. So I guess I could be good for the tourism industry!

What’s next for you?
Lots! I’m working on edits for a contemporary short story romance set in the Highlands of Scotland. It’s connected to my first ebook, Her Highland Champion. I’m also putting the finishing touches on another short story I hope to submit to my publisher in the next 2 weeks. I’m ALSO working on a 2nd draft of a full-length suspense set in New England. AND I’m brainstorming my next Honor Guard novella.

Do you sing in the shower?
Sometimes!

Through the Eyes of Darkness PRINT

The link for the books: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=alexa+bourne

 

Bio:

Alexa Bourne is a teacher by day and a romantic suspense writer by nights, weekends, and all school holidays. She also teaches online classes for writers throughout the year. She is thrilled to be writing for Decadent Publishing and to have the chance to share her love of Great Britain with readers everywhere.

When she’s not concocting sinister plots and steamy love scenes or traveling and exploring new cultures, Alexa spends her time reading, watching brainless TV and thinking about exercising. She loves to interact with readers, so visit her web page, hang out at her blog, follow her on Twitter or drop her a note at Alexa@alexabourne.com!

 

Website: www.alexabourne.com

Blog: http://alexabourne.blogspot.com

Twitter: @AlexaBourne

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

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5818611.Alexa_Bourne

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Wordy Wednesday with Susan Kelley!

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I write fantasy and romance. I read fantasy and romance but I’d like to talk about why I read nearly all other genres of fiction and some nonfiction.

 

I love mystery and suspense. I don’t just enjoy the story, I study the way the author escalates tension, saddles the protagonists with setbacks and sets the reader up for surprises. I like when I get to the end, and my writer-self is awed by the clever way the plot zigzagged to the finale. When the ending is a surprise but the only logical explanation, the writer has created a masterpiece. I can learn from that. Have I ratcheted up the tension with every scene? Have I planted the seeds to grow a twisty vine that will blossom into the conclusion I want? Will my readers say, yes, I should have seen that coming?

 

A few times a month I pick up a book labeled literary fiction though I’m not entirely clear on what earns a book that title. When I read a book that has less external conflict and more emotional conflict and growth as the plot, I put in on the literary list. Again I study the techniques used by the writer. Do they use unique descriptions of character emotions? Do they delve into a twisted mind? What interesting take is there on family dynamics? Is there a new slant on society and its norms?

 

I have a few favorite authors of what some people call, ‘men’s fiction.’ These action heavy novels ran at a racehorse’s pace from one fighting scene to the next. Something is always happening. Heroes are in constant jeopardy, overcoming terrible pain, wounds and losing comrades in arms. Don’t forget all that information about weapons I can learn. Men’s fiction seldom has a ‘sagging middle’ because it’s one big slugfest from start to finish. I read with envy the fast pacing of those novels and try to insert some giddy-up in my novels.

 

While winding the lessons I learn from other genres into my own books, I hope to improve my writing but I also must follow the conventions expected in my chosen type. Romance readers expect a happy ending. That is not true in other genres like literary fiction. Epic fantasy readers expect good to win out over evil in the wide world. They expect heroes and heroines to rise and put the greater good before their own desires. Those conventions must be followed if I want loyal readers of the genres to become my fan.

 

As writers we need to read everything. We can learn from writers in other areas. What genres do you read outside the genre you write in? Do you read for pleasure only or to increase your knowledge and improve your craft? Do you write in more than one genre already?

 

The Marines Queen coverPlease visit my blog, say hello. I’m excited to have three books coming out this spring, two fantasy novels and a futuristic romance. The Marine’s Queen will be released at the end of March.

Tell It Tuesday!

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So today I’m looking for a little audience participation.

This is where I work. 100_5153

Minus some of the crap, of course, and it’s too cold for that fan anymore. But you get the gist.

I have a cork board that is now full of snippets and ideas and sayings. I have books and music and a pinball machine in case I need some downtime. I also have a tiny desk that I can’t sprawl out across because when I sprawl I get lost and things pile up, obscuring what I’m trying to do and blocking me until I absolutely MUST clean up before I can write.

I write other places too but this is where most of the magic happens for me.

So where do you find you do your best work? Chair? Closet under the eaves? Anywhere you can possibly find that has a moment of quiet? Do you write on the counter top as you make dinner? Stay up and write on the living room sofa once everyone has gone to bed? Do you  have an actual office? If you do, do you use it?

The Whole Shebang wants to know 🙂 So tell it to me!

Art: Danita Cahill!

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Copy of IMG_1597 - Copy (2)An Accidental Photojournalist

Scio 111I’ve always loved to take photographs. I got my first camera for my tenth birthday. We lived in the country and my favorite photography subjects were our farm animals.

I still gravitate towards animals when I have a camera in hand, whether the critters are my own menagerie of pets, wildlife, or the animals of others that I have been commissioned to photograph.

The funny thing is I always considered myself a writer, not a photographer. Photography was just a fun hobby. The professional photographer part came quite by accident. The editors of newspapers, and later magazines, began asking for photographs to illustrate the stories I wrote and submitted to them.

20 Dalton sits on muleAlthough I had read countless books on writing, taken writing classes, gone to workshops, traveled to conferences and joined numerous writing groups, I had never studied photography. It seemed I had a natural eye, but I had no technical training.

I’ve since read many books on photography, taken a class, a workshop and joined a camera club. I still have much to learn.

Slowly, as I could afford it, I worked my way up the camera food chain until the camera I have now, a Canon 5D Mark II, is smarter than I am. I’m still pouring over the owner’s manual and figuring out what all I can accomplish with this camera. Most of the time, I take better photos with my trusty old Canon Rebel – it’s become familiar and comfortable over the years of journalism assignments, like an extension of my arm.

046 (2) - CopyThere are two morals to this story. First, even if you sell your flute when you’re 14 to buy a word processor because you’re going to be a writer, you may wind up becoming something more. And second, if you like to take photos, take them. Take many. Take them constantly. Try different angles, different settings and different light situations. Don’t let an inexpensive camera stop you. I didn’t.

For more examples of Danita’s photography, check out her website Cahill Photojournalism: http://cahillphotojournalism.com/

And her miracles blog: http://miracahills.wordpress.com/

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Bio:

Copy of Copy of IMG_0041[2]Danita Cahill is a full-time, multi-published, award-winning freelance writer and photojournalist. She lives in the Pacific NW on a small Oregon farm with her husband, two sons and their animals – a horse, several cats and guinea pigs, a herd of alpacas, and two dogs. Besides running children to and fro and caring for her gardens, critters and family, Danita stays busy working on newspaper and magazine assignments and her next book.

 

 

Picture 004Danita’s first novel, Mist, a supernatural thriller, is available at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Mist-ebook/dp/B009PR439S/

At Barnes & Noble:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/mist-danita-cahill/1113907745?ean=2940016092713

And at Smashwords

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/285699

Books: Marian Lanouette!

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I now introduce you to Marian, a mystery writer and a super patient person when I was having some technical email difficulties. Welcome, Marian!

 

BurninHell_500Where do you get the ideas for your stories?

They come to me out of the blue. Sometimes a situation can click a what if scenario.

What advice do you have for other authors wanting to self-publish?

The most important piece of advice is to make sure you have your work professionally edited.

Do you have critique partners?

Yes, I have three critique partners and they’re great. They offer great constructive criticism but always do it in a nice way.

What is your favorite dessert/food?

I love ice cream!

How likely are people you meet to end up in your next book?

Not very. I don’t base my characters on people I know. They all come out of my mind. With that said, I think everyone you meet leaves an impression on you. So maybe you add a trait from this guy, then one trait from that guy, than some fantasy mixed in and voila you have a character that’s unique.

Was your road to publication fraught with peril or a walk in the park?

Fraught with perils. I was naïve and sent my first novel in after I typed the end. That I was later to learn was a first draft.  Form rejection after form rejection a nice editor took the time to give me some advice.  Took some classes, re-wrote and edited the draft and moved on.

Give us an elevator pitch for your book.

After explosions rock their neighborhood, Rob whisks his wife away to mountain caves to wait out what they believe is the end of the world.  Across the state Roan Kline has the same thought. What happens when the three meet? It becomes a battle to the death.

Do you have a view in your writing space? I look out into the woods.

What does your space look like?  Most times, it’s cluttered with the day’s emails and word count.

Tell us about your hero.  Jake is a dedicated cop who knows who he is when he’s on the job. Off the job not so much. Give us one of his strengths and one of his weaknesses. Jake’s honest and his weakness is his inability to commit.

Tell us about your heroine.  Mia is a smart, strong woman who meets her match in Jake. Give us one of her strengths and one of her weaknesses. Her strength most times is the ability to be logical in a situation. Unless that situation involves Jake (her weakness)

What genres are you drawn to as a reader? I love biographies, mysteries and romance.

How far do you plan ahead?

I have two more books in the series outlined, waiting to be written.

Art: Mara Schasteen!

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Mara_Schasteen_Sheets_WebQuestions:

What kinds of things do you generally paint or take pictures of?

I think most people who know my art would guess my answer to this question is “flowers.” In recent years, I was on a quest to paint from life exclusively until I felt my skills had broken through to a new level. During those intense years, I painted flowers constantly for three reasons: I love flowers, they sit still and I could paint them fast. The only time I really had for painting was naptime for the babies, so I had to work efficiently! The real answer to this question is that I paint my little world. I paint my kids, my chickens, my plants, my dishes, my laundry, my garden vegetables, and my country surroundings. My paintings tell stories about my life. I do them for my kids so that they will remember their childhood vividly.

What inspires you to create?

It has taken me twenty years to figure out what inspires me. I’ve always been inspired by nature, people, color, beauty, poetry, music, God. It seemed like everything inspired me, but none of that actually came out onto the canvas in a way that I felt I was communicating effectively. Something is happening to me now, in my mid thirties. I am starting to settle into who I am as a person and understand my place in this world. My spirituality is maturing at the same time that my technical skills as a painter are maturing. Now I am beginning to know that real inspiration, the kind that results in ART, comes from sweat and tears. Hours in the studio, miles of canvas spent, intense study, exposure to excellent work and a willingness to fail are what deliver inspiration to me it it’s purest form.

Mara_Schasteen_Building_Blocks_WebDo you have the picture already in your mind before you paint it or do you start painting and uncover it?

I usually have a clear plan before I begin a painting. That is to say, sometimes I sit down because I am in the mood to paint and I look around and pick something from life to copy. That is a great way to build skill. It can also be very fun and rewarding! As time goes on, I’ve begun to know that a little planning goes a long way. Planning isn’t a sure bet for a good painting, though. My biggest flops have been planned paintings. I think I like mixing it up a lot. I even dabble in stream of consciousness abstractions. (But no one has seen one of those yet!)

Do you have a favorite painting of yours?

No! I have this little problem with despising all my own work. I need to work on that.

Who would you consider an influence on your art?

My first love was Michelangelo. I used to spend hours in the library immersing myself in all the books about him and his life. Then, I was really into Disney characters and backgrounds (can you see that in my work? I can!). Norman Rockwell came next, followed by an awesome illustrator from Oklahoma, Mike Wimmer. Mike was my one and only mentor until a year and a half ago when I took my first workshop with Phil Starke and my second with Jeff Legg. In the 15 years that fell in between Mike and the workshops, I read as many books as I can about Sargent and Monet. I studied Zorn, Sorolla and Van Gogh. In college, I traveled to Europe and fell in love with Impressionism and all those amazing artists. Then I discovered Richard Schmid, thanks to Mike. When I started using Facebook, my world exploded with the work of contemporary artists – the list too long to write! In conclusion, I’m influenced by every artist I’ve ever discovered. haha!

Do you listen to music when you paint? Who?

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for asking me this question! Music is my number one, most important ingredient for painting. I’d rather have no brush than no music (fingers really do a nice job, I have learned). Music is so important to me, in fact, that I love it more than art. I started playing the violin at age 9 and have tinkered with multiple instruments my whole life. I was trained classically and developed a deep connection to the work of Mozart, Dvorak, Bach, Beethoven and numerous other composers. Then there was my Dad, who had me listening to music like Cat Stevens, Black Sabbath, and Pink Floyd from the time I was crawling. I got into folk music on my own at the same time as heavy metal and even some rap! Next came my love for jazz followed by bluegrass. I am not sure I could be any more eclectic. Right now, my favorite playlist includes:
Ray LaMontange
The Decemberists
Sibelius
Corinne Bailey Rae
Coldplay
Lauryn Hill
Rachmaninov
Harry Connick Jr.
The Beatles
Pink Floyd
Mumford and Sons (My favorite!)

Mara_Schasteen_HenAndEgg_DetailTell me something quirky about yourself.

It would be more difficult to think of something not quirky about myself! I think something that would surprise most people is that I am really shy and I would prefer to be at home than any other place. I am the hugest hermit you’ve ever known. When I get in public, I get nervous and the way I deal with that is that I talk and laugh a lot. It makes me seem outgoing, but really, I am super shy!

What do you aim to make people feel when they view your art?

I just want people to see more beauty in their world because all beauty points to God. I understand this is not a popular opinion, but I gotta keep it real, people. Nothing matters more than Love. God is Love.

What’s next for you?

Learning how to play the banjo! I am so pumped about it!

Do you sing in the shower?

I do not sing in the shower because I think in the shower. This is why my family members are able to pop their head into the bathroom to ask me a question or grab the hairbrush and cause me to scream in terror! I go into another place in my mind when I think, but I don’t get much time for complete thoughts with four kids around. In those rare moments of quiet, like in a shower, I get so intense into my thoughts that scarring me out of it is fun for the whole family.

Website: maraschasteen.com
Recent Paintings: http://maraschasteen.blogspot.com/p/my-paintings.html
Facebook: Mara Schasteen

IMG_3987-EditBiography:

Mara Schasteen is a Wyoming native and a lifetime artist. Her passion for art began as a small child, carving drawings into planks of wood with tools from her dad’s shed. Growing up in the beautiful Big Horn Mountains, Mara developed a passion for nature and a desire to express its beauty in unique and exciting ways. Today, Mara’s intense self-study of the arts has produced a fresh technical style that draws elements from many of her heroes in art, past and present.

Studying graphic design and advertising at Oklahoma Christian University provided Mara with a solid foundation in design, color theory and the effort required to become excellent at whatever the task may be. Mara began a family shortly after college and as she set about the important mission of raising four brilliant children, she discovered and slowly developed her true passion for fine art and portraiture.

Mara now considers herself an expressive naturalist painter, desiring to convey moods, emotions and energy with textures, colors and intimate subjects. Mara finds great joy in her gift of art and she boldly uses her talent to celebrate simple beauty.

Working most commonly as a direct painter, alla prima, Mara is most fulfilled when she expresses a subject in the simplest terms. Her ability to combine illusions of reality with expressive textures treats the viewer to a simple telling of poetic stories, inviting the eye to enjoy the nature of oil paint itself and experience the energy carefully placed into each stroke.

Mara currently lives and paints in Sheridan, Wyoming with her husband, four children and six chickens.

Exhibitions

2013  The Bradford Brinton Memorial and Museum, Big Horn, Wyoming
2013  Oil Painters of America 22nd Annual National Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils, Fredericksburg, TX
2013  The Sheridan College Martinsen Gallery, Sheridan, Wyoming
2012  Davis Gallery, Sheridan Wyoming
2011  Oil Painters of America Western Regional Exhibition, Lee Youngman Galleries, Calistoga, CA
2011  The 16th Annual Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction, Stove Prairie, Colorado
2011  The SAGE First Annual Juried Exhibition, Sheridan, Wyoming
2011  The BLOSSOM II ~ Art of Flowers Premeire Exhibition, Naples, Florida
2010  The 15th Annual Richard Schmid Fine Art Auction, Stove Prairie, Colorado
2010  The Sheridan College Martinsen Gallery, Sheridan, Wyoming
2010  Davis Gallery, Sheridan Wyoming

Awards

2013  Finalist, BoldBrush February 2013 Painting Competition
2013  Finalist, You Be the Judge painting competition, www.brianneher.com
2012  Finalist, You Be the Judge painting competition, www.brianneher.com
2011  Finalist, ACOPAL (America China Oil Painting Artists League) realist painting competition
2011  Winner, Best of Show and People’s Choice awards, SAGE 1st Annual Juried Exhibition,  Sheridan, WY
2011  Finalist, ACOPAL (America China Oil Painting Artists League) realist painting competition
2010  Finalist, BLOSSOM II ~ Art of Flowers competition hosted by the Susan Kathleen Black Foundation
2010  Honorable Mention, BLOSSOM II ~ Art of Flowers competition, The Susan Kathleen Black Foundation

Books: Nancy Jardine!

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Emeralds and Family trees? What do they have in common? Why that would be Topaz Eyes!

 

Topaz x500My latest ancestral mystery novel is entitled, Topaz Eyes. You’d be forgiven for thinking it’s all about topaz, but actually it’s not. What features a LOT are emeralds.

 

When I started to write I had four aims in mind. First off I wanted to create a mystery. Although it would be a contemporary novel it would have a basis in history since that is my passion. It would involve a world wide search though mainly based in some of the fantastic European cities that I’ve had the pleasure to visit, and fourthly it would revolve around a complex family tree. I had already created a fairly simple family tree for my first ancestral novel – Monogamy Twist – but I wanted my Topaz Eyes tree to be much more complex, and more demanding in its design and construction.

In Topaz Eyes I decided to have a spectacular, and extremely mysterious, collection of antique jewels as the focus of a treasure hunt – whereabouts of the individual pieces almost all unknown at the beginning of the novel. At first I thought of diamonds and trawled internet jewellery shops to find really nice samples. During those searches diamonds were ditched when I saw beautiful jewellery featuring emeralds. My imagination jump-started.

Emeralds are stunningly beautiful, and green is my favourite color-so the choice was easily made. The items I saw in those internet jewellery stores cannot be shown on blogs, but they gave me fantastic ideas for description. The hue is often superb, earthy, and yet simultaneously ethereally dazzling.

What would my collection entail? There would be rings, and necklaces and bracelets and something even more mystifying and different for the reader to guess at? How many items would be sought?

I posed myself so many questions. Then I set to work. I started off with five items and chose the prototypes from internet jewellers. My next task was describing my items using the visual ideas in front of me. I couldn’t copy the items from the internet stores or they wouldn’t be my unique jewellery, but I had great fun amalgamating aspects. The collection was sketched out. (I’m a lousy artist but my drawings were sufficient for me to work on) The five items didn’t seem nearly enough since I had so many samples to work from. The amount of items grew and grew! Before I knew it my treasure hunt involved twenty items in the collection.

The gold ring which starts the treasure search going is a fantastic Mughal Snake ring with stunning emeralds as the eyes of the snake. Ideas for the novel flowed. My collection of emeralds was originally owned by a Mughal Emperor – Tiru Salana – but had fallen into the hands of Amsterdam jewellers during the nineteenth century before being secretly dispersed amongst family members in 1910. I was writing a mystery so there would be something shady about why the collection had been kept secret for decades and was spread amongst the family rather than it being kept intact.

I’m hoping at least one person reading this will now be saying to themselves – but what has that got to do with family trees?

This was the stage where my ‘planning a family tree’ skills kicked in. I’m interested in ancestry, and have made researches into my own family background, so I had an idea how a family tree needs to ‘work’. The family of Geertje Hoogeveen, a resident of Amsterdam, was conceived. To make the ages seem relevant for the present day family members to be conducting in a search, I started my tree in 1879, the point at which Geertje Hoogeveen marries and starts her family. Her children were added. And their children were added, but keeping them all in the same location sounded too ‘tame’ so I decided at this level the family would begin dispersal around Europe and the world.

 Tiedman Hoogeveen Family Tree

Amsterdam is a city I love but I wanted to include Vienna, and Heidelberg, and the US. When I had the gist of the second generation moving from Amsterdam to other places the third generation was sketched in. World War II fitted perfectly into the planning since there were a good number of immigrants to the US at that time, and quite a move of people around Europe.

 

At the outset of the story my third generation cousins are all unknown to each other. I had a lot of fun, and a great tearing out of hair, as I tweaked and erased and rewrote names and dates of birth to suit. People were added to my large tree sketch and names were adjusted accordingly. Their professions, their characters and involvement in the search developed as I wrote. Dark tones crept in to the writing. Not everyone is a ‘happy camper’ during the search. I wove in a lot of mistrust, distrust, suspicion, anger, stalking, physical harassment and even murder.

 

Yes! There are black sheep in my Hoogeveen family tree but to find out who you have to follow the clues in the story.

 

Yet, for all the darker elements, there is also a developing romantic relationship between two of the main protagonists as Teun Zeger and Keira Drummond pair up to unearth the jewels. And it’s not only their love that develops. Over the course of the story different types of love is nurtured, and family loyalty grows.

 

Topaz Eyes finally evolved into a mystery quest for twenty items of the Tiru Salana collection plus one extra mystery item that has only a little to do with jewellery. To tell you what the piece of spectacular art work would be is an incredible spoiler, so I won’t! You really need to read Topaz Eyes to find out what the ultimate extra artwork is and which turns out to be the most unique and almost priceless item! You’ll also need to read the novel to understand why it’s named Topaz Eyes and not Emerald Eyes or some other title!

 

Buy links:

Amazon  http://amzn.to/RhRWK1

 

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/261511

 

Youtube trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgPf5kTAyi4&feature=channel&list=UL

 

Amazon author page for all of her novels and book trailer videos: http://amzn.to/RJZzZz

 

Bio:

 

An ex-primary teacher, Nancy Jardine, lives in the fabulous castle country of Aberdeenshire – Scotland. Her husband is a great cook; just as well or they’d starve.  Twice weekly she child minds her toddler granddaughter, not good days for any new writing to be done, but seeing the little one grow is precious time spent. Ancestry research is an intermittent hobby: neglecting her large garden in favour of writing is becoming the norm. Activity weekends with her extended family are prized since they give her great fodder for new writing.

 

A lover of history, it sneaks into most of her writing along with many of the fantastic world locations she has been fortunate to visit. Her published work to date has been two non fiction history related projects; two contemporary ancestral mysteries; one light-hearted contemporary romance mystery and a historical novel. She has been published by The Wild Rose Press and Crooked Cat Publishing

 

You can find Nancy at:

http://nancyjardine.blogspot.com

http://nancyjardineauthor.weebly.com

http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG

Twitter @nansjar