Top Producer Cover Reveal!

It’s COVER REVEAL DAY!

My upcoming suspense novel, TOP PRODUCER, releases May 26th, 2020! (Just in time for summer reading!) It’s perfect for fans of LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley Sager, and AN ANONYMOUS GIRL by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen.

Here’s a sneak peek at the cover…

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When Mara’s dream job with one of Chicago’s top realtors turns into her worst nightmare, she realizes it’s not only her livelihood at stake—it’s also her life.


I couldn’t be happier with the cover art. Many thanks to RebecaCovers for the design!

Please stay tuned, as I will be sharing even more good news about my upcoming novels in the days to come. Stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Eco Author Spotlight – Jenny Roman

March Author Spotlight

I’m excited to spotlight this month’s ecologically aware author because we have so much in common. What are the odds I’d run into another person (on Twitter, of all places) who also loves writing, horses, and sustainability? Well, I did! Her name is Jenny Roman, she lives in the UK, and she writes short stories. Here’s more about her.

The Author

Jenny Roman HeadshotJenny Roman has written short stories and articles for a variety of magazines, and is the author of three short story collections. She has had stories published online and in anthologies, and she has readers around the world. Jenny has an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University. She has been short-listed or placed in a host of writing competitions, and has also acted as reader, short-lister and judge – so she knows what it feels like on both sides of the fence. She is a member of a Writers’ Group and strongly recommends this to anyone thinking of writing creatively. When she’s not writing, you’ll probably find her in the garden, walking the dogs, or mucking out the horses! Please visit her blog HERE.

The Interview

Hi, Jenny! Tell us about a character in your book who fights for the environment. What issue is of main concern to him/her?

My latest short story collection includes a story which was first published in a magazine in the UK. It’s about a girl called Leah who develops an interest in bees as a child. As she grows up, her mum starts to see it as an obsession, and worries about her, especially when Leah falls in love with a postgrad and they end up travelling and campaigning together about the plight of bees. Eventually, Leah goes on to build a university career based around her passion – a career which outlasts the love affair!

What eco-friendly habits or actions do you take in your own life?

We used to live in a rented house with a huge back garden, grew our own veg, kept hens, and tried to be as self-sufficient as possible. Any leftovers went to feed the hens, and any eggs we didn’t need we sold at our gate. The money from the eggs helped to pay for additional hens’ feed, or seeds for the veg garden. We’ve since moved to our own home, and our garden is too small for a veg plot, but we try to source our food from local producers and support our local shops etc. We’ve deliberately bought a small house – sufficient for the two of us – with a spare bedroom which doubles both as my writing room, and a place to put up friends when they come to stay. We aren’t minimalists, but we are attempting to live with fewer material possessions.

What sparked your love for nature and the outdoors?

As a child our garden backed onto a farmer’s fields, in which there were variously horses, cows or sheep. My parents were both keen gardeners, and I always loved playing outside. Our holidays were spent camping – usually staying in wild places such as Exmoor, the New Forest, or occasionally Scotland – beautiful landscapes for walking and spotting wildlife. I started learning to ride when I was about 10. I was desperate for a pony of my own, but my parents couldn’t afford it, so eventually I worked at the local riding school in return for rides, and then rode horses for other people. I was 28 before I was able to afford my first horse!

Is environmentalism the main theme of your writing, or do you write mainly in another genre?

Environmentalism itself isn’t a main theme of my writing. In my short stories, I generally write about domestic situations – the small details of life – so themes might include having less, or how people and relationships are of more importance than the accumulation of wealth and things. I firmly believe that lots of small changes make a big change. I personally hate waste (of money, effort, time, and the earth’s resources) so I think that comes across in my writing. Many of my stories are centered around love – though not necessarily in the romantic sense. They explore the way things can go wrong, or be misunderstood, or the way people behave badly because their nature conflicts with the situation they find themselves in. What I love about a collection of short stories is that they allow you to explore a range of different scenarios within one overarching theme.

Do you have any upcoming book releases you’d like to tell us about?

I’m currently working on a book of horse-themed short stories for grownups. I’m aiming them at those people who used to be avid readers of pony books when they were kids. Perhaps they no longer ride, perhaps ‘real life’ has got in the way of something which used to feel fundamental to them. I’m fascinated with exploring the way our response to a ‘grand passion’ changes as we grow older. I still love horses as an adult, but not in the same, all-consuming way I did as a kid. Now I have a job and a mortgage and a husband and the ‘grand passion’ has to fit in with all these other things. I kind of wish I still had that overwhelming feeling I did as a child, but your perspective changes as you get older and that’s what I hope these stories will explore.

Thanks, Jenny. Your upcoming horse stories for adults sound perfect for me and I can’t wait to check them out! In the meantime, find Jenny’s currently available books of short stories below.

The Books

Find Jenny’s books on Amazon by visiting her Amazon Author Page!

Until my next post, stay safe and healthy, everyone!

Writing in the Time of COVID-19

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A week ago right now, I’d finished a full day of revisions on one of manuscripts and was attending my son’s first school volleyball game. Two days later, school had been canceled for the next three weeks, possibly longer, the aisles of my local grocery store had been cleared out in a rush of panic buying, and my kids were fighting over my computer. What a difference a week can make.

I realize I’m not the only one whose life has been set into a tailspin. This virus is affecting everyone, nobody more so than the people who are infected. Of course, my family and I are doing our part to “flatten the curve.” We’re staying inside, except to take long walks or play sports in the backyard. We’ve stopped getting together with friends. We’re working and schooling from home. Sadly, my husband and I had to our cancel our trip to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary in New York City in May. That will have to wait.

The first two days with all four of us home felt long at times. I found it difficult to focus with a steady stream of interruptions and loud noises emanating from around the house. (I’m one of those people who can only write in complete silence.) But we’re slowly getting into a new routine. I’m claiming the morning hours as my writing time. My husband has set up his home office downstairs in the living room. My kids use their tablets to check emails from their teachers and use my computer in the afternoon.

Silver Linings

I have to admit, there have been a few silver linings to the quarantine. It’s nice to eat

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lunch with my family every day. I usually eat alone during the week, in between revising or writing chapters. My tri-weekly trips to the gym have been replaced with long, hikes in nature or around our neighborhood with my husband, kids, and dog. Thankfully, the weather has been sunny and spring-like. Another bonus–and I’ve heard other writers mention this too–the pages read of my YA mystery series on Kindle Unlimited are WAY up. I agree there’s no better way to pass the time than reading a book! Finally, is it just me, or are people being nicer to each other? I’ve noticed this at the grocery store and while out on walks and also online. People are smiling, saying hi, asking how I’m doing, and simply checking in. The sense of community has never felt stronger.

I hope everyone who reads this is staying safe and healthy. By all accounts, the worst may still be ahead of us, but we are all in this together. We will get through it, and I’ll be back to my silent days of writing in no time. In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy the gift of time with my family.

How are these difficult times affecting your writing or reading?

Spring and New Beginnings

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Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. Today is a perfect example. After months of cloudy skies, slushy snow, and freezing rain in Michigan, the sun is shining, the remnants of old snow are melting, and daffodils are sprouting up. Two Canadian geese have arrived on our pond, as they do every spring (much to the dismay of our dog.) I’m eager for the ducks to arrive and hoping this is the year they have ducklings.

That’s one of the best things about spring; it’s filled with hope. The awakening of animals and plants outside bring forth a rebirth and new beginnings for the rest of us. Doesn’t anything feel possible on a sunny spring day?

I’m feeling spring’s positive energy in my writing life, too. There’s an idea for a new novel percolating in my head (that’s how novels are born.) Hint: It’s about a girls’ weekend gone murderously wrong. I’ve planted the seeds of the story by writing a rough outline. Next week, I’ll come up with character sketches (that’s the water), and maybe April will be the month I try to write 50,000 words in thirty days (the writing version of photosynthesis.)

It’s wonderful to be able to focus on a new project. This past winter, I went through a

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Photo by Victor on Pexels.com

dark period in my writing life. I’d completed major rewrites to two of my suspense manuscripts, Top Producer and All the Tiny Spaces, but my agent dragged her feet on resubmitting the new versions. When I sent her my newest psychological suspense manuscript, Where She Lies, the same thing happened. I didn’t understand her lack of urgency and support. What was I supposed to do with all of these novels I’d spent literally years of my life writing, rewriting, editing, and polishing? The feelings of despair intensified when people would ask me, “Do you have anything new I can read?” I would answer, “Yes, I have three novels, but…” and explain the whole story. It was depressing to know my manuscripts were being held hostage with no viable plan going forward.

With the rebirth of spring, I harnessed the courage to break away from my agent and pursue new representation. It feels like I can breathe again, like I escaped a stagnant relationship. I am now shopping Where She Lies to a dozen or so literary agents who specialize in my genre (my previous agent did not.) Two of them have already requested the full manuscript. Oh, the possibilities of spring! I am submitting my two rewritten manuscripts to smaller publishers and awaiting responses. For some inexplicable reason (maybe because the sun is shining and flowers are sprouting), I am hopeful my stories will soon find their ways into the hands of readers.

What new beginnings are you pursuing this spring? I’d love to hear your stories of hope and renewal!

Eco Author Spotlight – D.G. Driver

February Eco Author Spotlight:  D.G. Driver

Welcome to the first monthly installment of my Eco Author Spotlight Series! Today, I’m interviewing Young Adult Fantasy author, D.G. Driver. Readers who believe in mermaids and are passionate about protecting our oceans from things like pollution and oil spills will want to check out her Juniper Sawfeather series, starting with Book One, Cry of the Sea.

Author Bio

donnadriverpic4152D. G. Driver is an optimist at heart, and that’s why she likes to write about young people making an impact on the world. You’ll find among her books a teen environmental activist, a young girl teaching people about autism acceptance and to stop bullying people with special needs, a princess who wants to be more than a prize for a prince, a boy who wins a girl’s heart by being genuine and chivalrous, and a girl who bravely searches for a friend lost along the shore of a dark lake. She is a multi-award winning author of books for teens and tweens. When Driver isn’t writing, she’s a teacher at an inclusive child development program in Nashville, TN. She might also take a break from writing once in a while to strut the stage in a local theater production. You’re guaranteed to find her belting out Broadway show tunes anytime she’s driving. Her website is:  www.DGDriver.com

The Interview

Tell us about a character in your book who fights for the environment. What issue is of main concern to him/her?

The main character of my contemporary fantasy YA series is Juniper Sawfeather. She’s a senior in high school and the daughter of well-known environmental activists. She has been raised with their intense priorities and values, although, like any teen, she is rebelling against them by wanting to pursue a career in Marine Biology as opposed to majoring in Environmental Studies like her mother. Her involvement with the causes her parents are fighting (oil spills, logging, and ocean pollution) put her in the settings where she ultimately discovers mythical creatures like mermaids and tree spirits and the fascinating history that connects them to each other and her American Indian heritage.

What eco-friendly habits or actions do you take in your own life?

I do try to limit my footprint by recycling and reusing. I make a conscious effort to use a refillable water bottle, for example, and limit single-use products. I am very conscious of my trash when I’m out in nature and often am the one on the beach picking up litter as I walk along during my vacations.

What sparked your love for nature/outdoors/wild animals, etc.?

I’m originally from Southern California, and I loved being outdoors as a kid. Long bike rides, and as I grew older long hikes. I lived where I was an hour from a mountain forest or an hour from the beach, and I loved it all. Now I’m landlocked in Tennessee, but I still like to be outside on my deck whenever possible or take a jaunt down to the Gulf on vacation. Spray all the perfumes you want, but nothing smells as good as real ocean spray on a beautiful sunny day.

Who is a real-life eco-warrior who you admire? Why?

About twenty years ago, I read the autobiography of Julia Butterfly Hill. She is a famous “tree hugger” who saved a redwood tree in northern by living in it for just shy of two years. Her story of survival and fortitude is impressive, and it inspired the plot of Whisper of the Woods, the second book in my series.

Do you have any new book releases you’d like to tell us about?

My most recent release is a YA sweet romance novel called All the Love You Write. It’s a story about a high school couple whose relationship is being both helped and hindered by two ghosts who shared a tragic love story of their own 50 years earlier.

The Books

Check out D.G. Driver’s Juniper Sawfeather series HERE.

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Thanks for getting to know D.G. Driver. Please stay tuned for a new Eco Author Spotlight every month! 

 

The Real Life Inspiration for Cabin 5

The Andrew J. Blackbird Museum

Last summer, my family and I took our yearly summer trip to beautiful northern Michigan. Usually, I take a break from writing during the summer, but there’d been an idea percolating in my head for a third book in my Dark Horse YA mystery series. The premise involved Brynlei, the highly-sensitive MC from the first two novels, returning to Foxwoode Riding Academy as a counselor, instead of a camper. I had a few other plot points worked out in my head, but my story was still missing the paranormal/magical realism elements of the first two books in the series.

andrew Blackbird museum

A few days into our trip, my husband and I were strolling through quaint downtown Harbor Springs when the Andrew J. Blackbird Museum caught my eye. It would have been easy to miss, being only one room in an unassuming white storefront at the very end of the main drag. Having nothing else to do, and never having noticed the museum on any of our previous trips, we went inside and checked it out.

Once inside, we were initially underwhelmed by the small museum and slightly uncomfortable being the only people there, aside from a woman behind the counter in the adjoining chamber of commerce. But we were already through the door and committed, so we began to browse. The room housed various Native American artifacts, inlcuding a canoe, pottery, moccasins, and arrowheads. I paused in front of a specific arrowhead believed to have belonged to the Ottawa tribe. It was nearly perfectly preserved. The artifact sparked an idea for my story.

Certainly there were more arrowheads from the Ottawa tribe buried beneath the earth that hadn’t yet been discovered. What if Brynlei uncovered one of them during her stay at Foxwoode? What if her sensitivities allowed her to feel its history? What if the arrowhead was related to the bad things happening to her campers? You can see how my imagination stampeded ahead. Brynlei already had so much in common with the Native Americans–her love of nature, her respect for animals, her belief in living for the seventh generation. With Foxwoode’s location in a fictional town in northern Michigan, the discovery of an arrowhead just like the one in the case was a natural addition to the storyline. I snapped a photo. (below)

Arrowhead

We left the museum, my phone loaded with pictures and my creative mind brimming with inspiration. On the way out, we spent more time reading the sign out front about the history of the man, Andrew J. Blackbird, who the museum commemorated. And what an unbelievable history it was! Here’s the short version:

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Andrew J. Blackbird, the son of the last known Ottawa chief, was born in 1815 in what is now Harbor Springs, MI. After white settlors overtook their land and forced them into “Christian” schools, Andrew assimilated to the new culture and attended what is now Eastern Michigan University. He lived with one foot in the old world and one foot in the new. He fought for Native American veterans to receive pensions. He helped settle land claims and worked to achieve citizenship for Native Americans. He married and bought a house in Harbor Springs, and even became the town’s second postmaster in 1858.

I was so intrigued by Mr. Blackbird’s story, that I bought his memoir, History of the Ottawa and Chippewa Indians of Michigan, which was first published in 1887 by volunteers. The book was printed in the tiniest font I’ve ever seen and I practically had to use a magnifying glass to read it. However, I did learn several interesting tidbits from Blackbird’s firsthand account of his history, including one particularly horrific story about white men spreading small pox to the natives by giving them a tiny box filled with virus spores and instructing them to take it back to their village many miles away. This tragic story found its way into my book, as Brynlei does her own research on the Native Americans who lived in the area.

In any event, I was thankful to have learned more about the Native American tribes of northern Michigan and that Andrew J. Blackbird’s history has been preserved. As a bonus, the arrowhead ended up being an integral part of Cabin 5.

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Have you ever been inspired to write a story based on a real life artifact? I’d love to hear about it!

What is your Character’s Superpower?

boy child clouds kid

Have you ever noticed how truly memorable characters have a larger than life quality that makes them stand out from everyone around them? I’m talking about their superpowers. A superpower doesn’t have to refer to the ability to fly through the air or bend a steel beam in half (although if your MC can do that, that’s pretty cool!) A superpower can be something much less dramatic, yet still pack the same emotional punch. In all my novels, each one of my protagonists has a distinct personality trait that allows her to overcome the odds and enjoy a satisfying resolution to her story. Notably, the superpower is, often times, the exact same trait that makes her life difficult.

Brynlei, the nature-loving, horse riding protagonist of my Dark Horse series provides a perfect example. We learn early on that she is Highly Sensitive Person, meaning she processes stimuli from the world around her more intensely. She shies away from bright lights, cowers at loud noises, and smells every ingredient baked into her mother’s lemon cookies. At times, she doesn’t fit in with other girls her age. Her sensitivity isn’t all bad, though. It also provides her an advantageous connection to the horses she rides, lets her sense dishonest people, and even interact with the spirits of the dead. In the end, it is Brynlei’s sensitivity to the world around her that enables her to solve the mysteries she encounters each summer while attending Foxwoode Riding Academy.

Another example comes from Mara, the MC of my yet-unpublished suspense novel, Top Producer. Her superpower is her street smarts. Her street smarts got her out of her dead end consulting job and into her dream position as the assistant to one of Chicago’s top real estate agents. But it isn’t long before she realizes her mentor is a criminal and a murderer. Not surprisingly, it is Mara’s street smarts that also allow her to escape the invisible prison her rival has built around her.

One more example comes from Jane, the snarky high school chemistry teacher from my recently completed psychological suspense manuscript. Like many of us, Jane is concerned about the future of planet. Teaching is her superpower. She believes the material she teaches her students might one day spark them to clean up the plastic in the ocean, invent a method to combat global warming, or clone the last-surviving rhino.  Meanwhile, it is also her position as a high school teacher that gets her caught up in the murder of the new teacher in the classroom next door.

Characters in my novels have other superpowers–humor, loyalty, determination. This

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My rescue dog, Milo.

exercise got me thinking…Do I have a superpower? I can tell you it’s definitely NOT cooking, making small talk, or volunteering for elementary school field trips. Mine is probably something closer to storytelling and empathy (especially for animals.) And, yes, those “superpowers” get me into trouble quite often, as evidenced by my hours spent on unpaid writing at the expense of most other things and my need to rescue cute puppy dogs.

What about your characters? What about you? Please share your superpowers!