I grew up on a farm in the middle of Canada's breadbasket. Under the canopy of crisp blue prairie skies I read books. Lots and lots of books. Occasionally, I picked up a pen and paper or tapped out a few meagre pages of a story on a keyboard and dreamed of becoming a writer when I grew up. One day the inevitable happened and I knew without question the time was right. What to write was never the issue - romance and the gut wrenching journey towards forever.
I grew up in a small town. Or, to be exact, on a farm outside a small town. And I’m talking small. Not city small. But with a population that numbered in the hundreds. Like under five hundred, if you counted dogs and cats. And I couldn’t wait to leave. I’m a city girl at heart. It’s where I feel the most comfortable and relaxed. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love small towns or appreciate the people who live in them. Because, I do!
As a writer, I think the fascinating thing about small towns is the sense they are small and big at the same time. Small because they take up less geographical space and have far fewer inhabitants than their urban counterparts. Big because that small space hosts people with the same big hopes and dreams as city dwellers. And they go about creating opportunity without the resources a more urban centre provides.
Creating a fictional town gave me the opportunity to explore the romantic notion of small towns with their famous unlocked door policy and their famed resilience. In my fictional town of Aspen Lake, everyone is looking to make a fair living wage, to fit in, and to protect those they love. A rural setting is also an opportunity to delve into the less than ideal aspects of living in a fishbowl. Because no place is exempt from struggle. There is no prefect paradise. No one’s life is devoid of conflict.
I hope in Aspen Lake you’ll find both the ideal and the unsavoury. Big city violence invades the quiet steadfastness of Aspen Lake in Backlash. Exposed has more of a snake in the garden vibe. And Gone is all about secrets.
Until next time…
What are some of your favourite fictional small town settings?
Ever since a devastating family tragedy seventeen years ago, Grace Bighill has struggled to keep her remaining family from falling apart. Then the discovery of her mother’s body in the woods unearths a connection to a decades old murder case, and Grace is dragged into a politician’s bitter bid for revenge.
Constable Mike Davenport’s days in Aspen Lake are numbered. He’s ready to take his next step up the career ladder somewhere a lot more cosmopolitan. He’s avoided any emotional attachments, despite having fallen hard for a certain stubborn local. But when a body turns up, Mike’s careful intentions collapse in the face of Grace’s grief and her exhaustive efforts to care for her family.
A search for answers leads Grace and Mike down a twisted path proving no one can escape their roots. But someone might die trying.
I’m beyond excited for GONE to come into the world. As the final book in my Aspen Lake trilogy, it’s a pleasure to wrap this series up with Grace and Mike’s story. Two people broken by grief and family dysfunction.
To celebrate, BACKLASH, Aspen Lake Book 1, is available for 99 cents until April 5th!
Chase rubbed at the
grinding ache settling in at the base of his skull. Gang violence showing up in
the tranquility capital of the world proved what law enforcement knew for a
fact: gang activity was escalating in both rural and urban districts. The
infestation extended across the country. Controlling it was like trying to
shovel a hill of shit with a teaspoon. Raphael Tessier seldom left the cover of
his hill. His appearance in Aspen Lake was an anomaly. Chase needed to know
what had necessitated the out of character move. And what a scrawny teenage boy
had to do with any of it? Or his teacher?
He paused in the
open doorway and studied the five feet, six inches of complication seated at
the battered metal table. His jaw clenched as Lily tucked a strawberry blond
curl behind her ear. After a span of ten years the girl-next-door look she had
going on still had the power to muddle with his brain. Instead of focusing on
the bad guys every taste bud he owned was salivating; each fingertip was
coveting a touch.
It was bloody demoralizing.
Fantasizing didn’t have any place in his game plan. He needed to strategize. He had zero time for small town, freckle-faced schoolteachers who smelled like blue sky, wheat fields, and the toughest decision he’d ever made. He cleared his throat and pushed away from the doorframe. Time to put his money where his mouth was.
She flinched at the sound. He gestured to a chair across from her, waited for her nod of permission. And because he’d morphed into a pathetic loser, he noted the slow slide of her tongue over her bottom lip, the skittish eye movements, along with the infinitesimal head bob. He tossed the file he’d been holding onto the table between them. The slap of sound calmed his nerves as he settled into the chair.
“Can I get you anything?” Coffee, tea, protective bubble wrap.
She lifted up the disposable cup in front of her. “No, thank you.”
“Where’s Jason?” He shifted on the hard seat. “Is he all right?””
“He’s on his way to the doctor’s.”
“Okay. Then what can you tell me about the confrontation in the parking lot?”
“Shouldn’t we wait for one of the officers before getting into that?”
“Right now, I’m it.”
“I don’t understand.” Her fingers tightened around her cup, and the resulting pop from the pressure filled the small space. She glanced back at the door, all confusion, and he knew she was hoping for some kind of intervention. For someone else to join them, anyone else. “What do you have to do with all this? Why are you back here?”
Stalling, he settled his arms on the tabletop. She didn’t trust him. He also got she was the last person she’d want dropping back into her life. The file between them held some of her answers. There rest were buried so deep inside him, it made ignoring them all part of the routine.
He offered her an anemic look of confusion. “Here?”
“Yes. Here. In this
room. In Aspen Lake. In the parking lot of my school.” She spread her hands out
and motioned around her. “Here!” She averted her gaze and inhaled a deep breath
before spotlighting him, apprehension darkening her eyes, deepening the blue
“My job.” To him,
it was that simple.
transferred to the Aspen Lake detachment.”
“You’re a cop?” Her
look of skepticism said it all. The air of disbelief pricked at his ego and he
shifted in his chair. Like all the times in fifth grade when his teacher, Miss
Carlisle, had asked him why he had no lunch. Had asked questions about his
“Is that so hard to believe?” He had worked his ass off to get where he was, and he was a damned good cop. The work he did with the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, and his reputation, proved his dedication to his job. None of which she’d be aware of, or care about if she did. When he burnt a bridge, the only thing he left behind was ash.
Until next time…
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt and that you come back next week to find out the release date of GONE, Aspen Lake Series Book 3.
Apparently, the best time to be creative is immediately after waking. The best time to edit and proof your efforts comes later in the day, after your brain has let all those creative juices flow and is warmed up, so to speak. Or so science says.
My brain hasn’t gotten the memo. I’m not one of those people who have inspiration hit in the shower, nor does it spark with the first bits of toast. My mind has already started making a list of every single thing I need to get done that day. And every item on that list is seemingly more important than making time for my creative process to emerge. To combat that I make sure I get up early enough to read a couple of pages in a book or of the paper while I wait for my tea to steep. I have breakfast, get dressed, and settle into my office chair. Then I look to inspiration to strike. As I’m usually checking Facebook or Instagram, this rarely happens immediately.
But I’m trying to spend less time on social media and more time fostering creativity. Doodling is one of my favourite things. And watercolours are my new favourite medium despite having a lot to learn. Doodling and playing with colour helps settle my mind. Then I generally take care of marketing and promotion duties. I write for an hour. Then I write again in the afternoon. So, the opposite of what science suggests.
Maybe on of these days I’ll actually get around to listening to Robin Sharma’s The 5 AM Club: Own Your Morning, Elevate Your Life that is waiting patiently in my Audible to-be-read pile. But that day is not today.
Until the next time…
When do you fit in time to be creative? Or to read? Or do something that settles your mind or feeds your soul?
Robin Hood is one of my favourite folk heroes. Who could resist stories of an outlaw that steals from the rich and gives to the poor? Displaced, cast out, with a price on his head, the idea of Robin Hood, a rebel for the ages, has infinite appeal. At least, for me!
But I love myths and legends. King Arthur, Templar Knights! Tell me all your medieval favourites. I used to read a lot of medieval romances, Julie Garwood, Johanna Lindsay, Jude Deveraux. Writers with “J” names are very good at this, it seems. Castles, ladies of the keep, witches, knights, villainous villains, swords and poisonings. Oh my gosh, those books have the best bad guys!
Back to the movies and which were my favourite versions and which one was a huge disappointment.
We rented the newest Robin Hood version on the weekend. I was excited! I love Jamie Foxx! I wanted it to be good. It was not. It was terrible. Mine boggling terrible. The costumes were ridiculous. The plot holes were large enough to drive a team of horses through. At one point, my husband asked if we were actually going to finish watching it. We did, but once was enough. More than enough.
I’m not a huge Russell Crowe fan, but I love him as Robin Hood. Sigh. Almost as much as I love Cate Blanchett as Lady Mariann. I love that they are mature characters, in both temperament and age. There’s also a great cast of secondary characters. And I love that the legend begins when the movie ends. This is my favourite version, so far. It’s one of those movies I watch when I’m in need of comfort. It hits all my buttons. Every time.
Followed ever so closely by Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. Despite his abysmal attempt at an accent, Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood will forever have a place in my heart. But ahead of him, is Alan Rickman’s Sheriff Of Nottingham and Morgan Freeman’s Azeem. This is another version I could watch over and over again.
My love of the legend probably began with this movie version that I saw in the theatre as a young girl in 1973. It might have been the first movie that I remember seeing in the theatre. I was enchanted by the legend, the characters, and the music.
Until next time…
If there are other versions of the Robin Hood story that you’ve loved, let me know. I’d love to check them out!
It doesn’t have to be a guilty pleasure. It can just be pleasurable.
There should be no guilt attached to the things we choose to enjoy. I don’t know about you, but I need things like books and cupcakes and new shoes to balance groceries, laundry, work, and worrying about my kids. We’ve had more extreme cold warnings this winter then I can remember and the coldest temperatures in 80 years. Our daughter-in-law brought over cinnamon buns last weekend. I ate two. I’m not sorry. I enjoyed every delicious bite.
Also, books! Reading is a pleasure for me, as it is for a lot of people. We should be allowed to read anything we wish. We shouldn’t have to apologize for our reading choices. We shouldn’t be made to feel like we have to publicly reject the books we enjoy in private. The literary police can take a hike.
Books should be accessible, and in most instances they are. They are found in libraries, schools, bookstores, online, and a variety of other places. We can read paper books or ebooks. We can listen to audiobooks. We can stick to one type of book or enjoy a variety of stories. We can read memoirs or cookbooks, or DIY manuals. Newspapers. Periodicals. Magazines. But what we want to read must be available to us. The offerings must be there so we can pick and choose. No one has the right to restrict the access of books to others.
My Top Five Guilt-Free Pleasures!
Colouring my hair. Because I love my blonde hair.
My 80s playlist. Including but not limited to REO Speedwagon, Quiet Riot, Chicago, Laura Branigan, and .38 Special.
Watching Forged in Fire. Because modern-day blacksmiths making knives and swords is awesome.
Shoes. Do I really need to explain this one…
Keenau Reeves. Because Speed is the best movie ever made.
It’s Friday and you’re asking yourself: “What should I read this weekend?” If you like small town, contemporary romance, then I’ve have just the book for you! And if, like me, second chance romances are you’re absolute favourite, then this is the book for you! If you like tales of forbidden love, family conflict, and babies, then same! Bonus – you get a chance to enter Jana’s giveaway!
Five Things You Need to Know About the Masonville Series
This small-town series is set in the fictional town of Masonville, North Dakota. I’ve given the town a population of 6,000 because I once lived in a town of that size. It’s big enough to have a lot of services, like a hospital and vet clinic, but small enough that everyone knows your business!
In each of the books, the characters have a past trauma or unhappiness they must work through before they can be whole again. And before they can accept love into their lives.
Right now I have four books planned for the series. Several of heroes and/or heroines in each book work in the town’s veterinary clinic. Two of the heroines and one hero are brother and sisters from the Saunders family.
This is the fourth romance series I’ve written. I think I’m getting the hang of this thing! Each book in the series will be a stand-alone story, but as with every series, I think the reading experience is enhanced when read in order.
I am currently at work on book 2 of the series, Garrett and Blair’s story. Garrett is Lauren’s brother, the heroine from CHILD OF MINE, book 1, and Blair works at the vet clinic with Cole, the hero from book 1. See? It all fits together!
Lauren didn’t intend to sleep with her brother-in-law Cole on the day of her husband’s funeral. But now that she is pregnant, she’s not sorry. Cole’s given her a baby, a long-wished-for miracle. He’s been her friend forever, though she never told him or anyone else how unhappy her marriage to his cheating brother was. And she’s afraid to tell the small town that considered her husband a hero that the baby isn’t his.
Cole’s been in love with Lauren since he was sixteen. It kills him that everyone believes the baby is his dead brother’s. All he wants is to claim the baby, and Lauren, as his own. Though she marries him, will Lauren’s heart ever be his?
Lauren must tell the truth or risk losing Cole. Is her newly-discovered love for him greater than her fear of scandal in her hometown?
FYI: the following maybe too much information, but here I go, anyway. I can’t think when I’m in my pyjamas. I know some writers spend the day in their sleep clothes and are productive and go about slaying the universe, fictionally speaking, of course. But, me? Not so much. I put my pyjamas on when I go to bed, or possibly at some point during the evening, like if I’ve worked out and I need to shed my sweaty workout gear.
Right now I’m sitting at my desk, in front of my computer, in my pyjamas. And it just feels…wrong.
It might be that I need new pyjamas, but, I think for me, day clothes signal productivity. Although lately, some days I’m not exactly setting fire to my to-do list, even when wearing my day clothes. I blame winter!
I’ve read all the lists on how to ease a winter malaise. I know I’m supposed to eat healthier, exercise, take Vitamin D. And those things work! But the cold winter still makes me want to hibernate in a pile blankets with a good book. Luckily, there is an endless number of good books out there to choose from.
I’m eagerly awaiting the release date of GONE, Aspen Lake Series, Book 3!
I’m open to suggestions on how to survive the rest of the winter! Or your opinion on pyjamas! Comment below on some of the ways you battle the winter blues, or any kind of blues, to be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Until next time…
No winter lasts forever; no spring skips it’s turn. ~ Hal Borland
I don’t know what your winter looks like but here it means snow! And on the prairies, you know you’ve gone through a bit of a cold stretch when you go out and it’s -26 C (-15 F) and it feels downright balmy.
And, yes, my neighbours still have a giant 90’s style satellite dish in their backyard!
My Top Five Winter Favorites
Tea: My favourite of the moment is a cinnamon rooibus chai from David’s Tea!
Books: Currently listening to Hexed by Kevin Hearne and LOVING it.
Blankets: I ordered a new blanket from one of my favourite Etsy shops, Make It Cozy and it’s so warm and comfy!
Netflix: The series Fat, Salt, Acid, Heat! Warning: It will make you want to travel to all the places and eat all the things.
And…more books! Because books are the best cure for the winter doldrums.
Until next time…
What does winter look like in your neck of the woods?
I don’t know if it’s the brutality cold weather or the general malaise brought on by February, but I’m not exactly feeling inspired to make a big deal about Valentine’s Day this year.
Is it okay to want to stay home, drink tea, eat macarons, and play Scrabble? Of course it is! And it’s quality time together. Although, I don’t know if the person I’m married to is all that excited about word games. Then again, he married me. So, there’s that…
But all things being equal, it means I should figure out what he’d really like to do for Valentine’s Day. Something or some act that would really convey my feelings and to show I know what’s important to him. I’m kind of scared to try and figure it out because his idea of together time might involve watching sports. Ugh. To me, that is the worst kind of torture.
Apparently, someone wrote a book on how to deepen the connections in your relationships. (Okay, I’m sure there are several books out there on the subject of relationships.) I haven’t read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, but the idea of discovering my love language is intriguing. Here’s an entertaining summary I found on YouTube, that might be of interest.
If you’re interested in learning what your love language is or discovering what your partner’s love language is go HERE.
If you think that sounds like a bunch of hooey, here’s a couple of links instead!