Cover Reveal: On Christmas Tree Cove by Sarah Vance-Tompkins

If you’re like me, and love Christmas stories, you probably want to start reading them as soon as there’s a chill in the air. Well, good news! You can pre-order Sarah Vance-Tomkins upcoming release and get it in October to read it!



On Christmas Tree Cove
Sarah Vance-Tompkins
Published by: Tule Publishing
Publication date: October 27th
2021
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Holiday, Romance

This Christmas calls for a special touch of magic…

December was always a special time for seaplane pilot Morgan Adair, but after losing her parents six years ago, the holiday is a quiet affair. When her siblings announce
plans to sell the family home, Morgan longs to experience her favorite, now-forgotten tradition one more time: a lighted tree that, for over a hundred years, has appeared floating on a boat in the harbor every Christmas Eve.

 

The Taylors were always rivals to the Adairs in the once-thriving fishing village of Christmas Tree Cove, but Jesse Taylor was much more. He wanted to be understanding
when Morgan set aside their plans to escape to Chicago in order to hold her family together, but his future as a successful freelance photographer soared on without her.

 

As Morgan dives deeper into the history of the mysterious holiday appearance, she discovers that true love has always been at the heart of the annual tradition. Can the wonder of
Christmas and a few surprises along the way rekindle that love for Morgan and Jesse too?

Add to Goodreads / Pre-order

 

Author Bio:

Sarah Vance-Tompkins was born in a small town in northern Michigan. She spent every
summer exploring the sugar sand beaches near Sleeping Bear National Park. She left her heart
behind when she moved to Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California. She received an MFA in Film Production and went on to work in feature film development in
Hollywood. She has worked as a reporter for a weekly entertainment trade publication, written press releases, the directions for use on personal lubricant bottles, and breathless descriptions of engagement rings for an online jewelry store. She lives in a small town north of Los Angeles with her husband and two unruly cats.

Website / Goodreads / Twitter / Instagram / Newsletter

 

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An Embarrassment of Itches: New Cozy Mystery by M.K. Dean

It’s here! And owing to a colossal mistake, it’s live instead of only available for pre-order. Because I am SO excited about this release, An Embarrassment of Itches is only 99 cents AND available on Kindle Unlimited for the next three months!

It’s Diagnosis Murder meets All Creatures Great and Small…

As a house-call vet, Ginny Reese has seen her share of the weird and wacky. But nothing in her previous experience could have prepared her to find one of her clients floating in her own swimming pool.

Local artist Amanda Kelly was extremely wealthy with her share of secrets. By naming Ginny as her heir, not only did she make Ginny the number one suspect, but she painted a big bull’s eye on her friend’s back as well.

With her trusty German Shepherd at her side, it’s up to Ginny to find the real killer and prove her innocence to the sheriff. The new sheriff. Who happens to be her ex.

Piece of cake, right?

But I had this great launch party planned with gift baskets and prizes galore–all my pre-marketing plans for this book got scuttled with the early release. So I could really use your help in spreading the word!

Stay tuned for more information on the post-launch party and how you can get in on the fun!

Most of my social media platforms will remain the same, but if you’d like to follow the M.K. Dean Facebook page, it’s here. Also, here’s M.K. Dean on Amazon!

Not Next Year. Not Some Day… This Year. Today.

I have a huge mulberry tree in my yard. It is utterly enormous, its trunk gnarled and twisted with age, and every year it produces tons of berries. Every year since we moved onto the farm, I’ve told myself I would do something with them. Make mulberry scones. Mulberry cobbler. Mulberry vodka. Something. Anything.

And every year, the short mulberry season slips past me without my making use of my own crop of mulberries. You’d have thought 2020 would have been THE year I would use the mulberries. After all, I was making my own masks (until I found the ones I liked best online). I bought a sewing machine, certain world shortages would mean I would have to learn how to sew. I made my own bread–once I found yeast, that is–and collected dozens of yeast-free recipes when my attempts to grow my own yeast failed. I discovered that homemade banana bread was ten times better than any quick bread mix from the grocery, and I even attempted to grow my own vegetables. I know, I live on a farm, right? Growing vegetables should be something I do. It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since my grandfather had the most amazing garden every year in his back yard. As a child, I kept telling myself one day I would get him to teach me all his tricks: when to plant what, and how to get the best from his little plot of land. But somehow I let the years pass without learning his life lessons. Long after he died, I wished I’d asked him to teach me how to grow vegetables when I had the chance. I managed to produce 3 baby cucumbers in my 2020 pandemic garden, which both pleased and disappointed me.

Somehow, the mulberries got away from me in 2020. Perhaps it was because by the time they were ripening, I was deep in the throes of pandemic panic and I could barely focus on tying my shoes, let alone trying my hand at baking something I’d never tried before. A great cook, I am not. I learned from friends the best way to harvest mulberries (place a sheet under the tree and shake the branches: anything that falls off is ripe enough to eat, otherwise the berries are too sour) and I even went so far as to collect recipes (doesn’t mulberry lemon pound cake sound scrumptious?), but May 2020 came and went without me trying my hand at any of the recipes I bookmarked. Okay, I had other things on my mind.

This year, I was in a better frame of mind. While the pandemic is still far from over, I can’t tell you how much peace of mind came seeing my family get vaccinated. One of my friends and I talked about making mulberry vodka (and she did!) and traded recipes for mulberry scones, but once again, I let the mulberry season slip by without making anything myself. I’m not a brave person when it comes to eating things I’ve never tried before, and in all the years we’ve lived on this farm, I’ve never once eaten a mulberry.

But this year, it looks like we’re expecting a bumper crop of blackberries. Somehow in the last few years, we’ve gone from having scattered bushes in the thickets surrounding the house to an almost impenetrable barrier of blackberry bushes higher than my head. And every thorny branch is heavy with ripening berries now.

When I checked them last week, I told myself they’d be ready to pick this week, and certainly there are plenty that are ready right now. But there are still tons of berries yet to ripen, and when I plucked one juicy berry to pop into my mouth this morning, it occurred to me that this is it: this is the year I’m going to make blackberry cobbler from the berries I’ve picked myself from my own property.

This year. Not next. This month. Not next. Not some day. Not if I have time, or if it’s not too hot, or if I can find the Church Ladies Cookbook and pull out the perfect recipe.

This year.

Because I don’t want to look back on this time in my life and think, “Darn it. I never made blackberry cobbler with my own fresh berries.”

As I said, I’m not a great cook. And even with the perfect recipe, the odds are high my results will be disappointing. But not, perhaps, as disappointing as having never tried.

 

Can We Please Find Another Way to Celebrate the 4th Without Fireworks?

This morning I saw a Tweet bewailing the fact the OP’s timeline was full of “anti-fireworks” rhetoric, and it got me thinking about my own dislike of 4th of July celebrations.

I came by them young, when my family would drive for what seemed like an interminable time so we could fight for a spot on a blanket in a mosquito-infested park and watch 15 minutes of fireworks, only to sit in line for over an hour to get out of the park on our way home. Like many other mass group events we participated in when I was a child, this seemed like a huge waste of time for me.

As I got older, I simply didn’t care for the noisy holidays. Give me Halloween, with the excitement of dressing up, the spooky decorations, and the fun of collecting candy. Halloween is the nip of fall in the air and the crunch of dry leaves underfoot. It’s bobbing flashlights in the dark and neighbors pretending to be scared. Or Christmas, with the delight of giving and receiving gifts, filling the house with the scent of cinnamon as you bake cookies and put up the tree, watching old movies, and the promise of snow. (Christmas is always about the promise more than the reality, which is probably why I prefer Christmas Eve to Christmas Day).

I’ve never cared for New Year’s Eve, even without the practice of reviewing the year and assessing your goals and achievements (or lack thereof). Around here NYE has become yet another excuse to light off fireworks. When you live in an area where fireworks are legal, every “fireworks” holiday starts a little sooner and lasts a little longer each year. Sometimes the “4th” starts in late June and runs until the middle of July.

As someone who is both an empath and sound-sensitive, I’ve always struggled when someone’s music bleeds through the walls in group housing, and grind my teeth at the thumping bass reverberating from the car sitting next to me at a stoplight. So I think it’s fair to say that I personally don’t like noisy celebrations of any kind.

Pre-pandemic, around here the 4th meant live music and cookouts at the big park in town. People would start filing in mid-afternoon and enjoy a day in the hot, humid air while vendors sold hot dogs and soda. As soon as it started to get dark, everyone would head over to the big field facing the high school. Fireworks would be launched from the school over the playing fields for the entire town to see. It was a pleasant enough way to spend an afternoon. It makes a huge difference when you choose to participate in something.

What I never understood, however, were the people who brought their dogs to the fireworks display. From an early age, I’d learned how devastating fireworks could be to animals. One time my neighbors left their dog outside during the 4th celebrations only to discover on returning home that their dog had panicked and attempted to chew its way back inside the house. He’d ripped the frames off the windows, breaking teeth and nails in the process. Working with animals as I do, one of the most frequent (and devastating) things I hear about are the number of pets that injure themselves or run away during the weekend of the 4th. It’s hard for me to imagine a pet enjoying being present at such a display.

The Forever Dog created a graphic that depicts all the ways in which fireworks negatively living creatures around us, including everything from wildlife and birds ingesting debris, abandoning nests or becoming disoriented to companion animals and humans with PTSD suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. To say nothing of the risk of wildfires caused by fireworks in all settings. Forever Dog has a handy brochure for helping your pets deal with noise phobia. Because my dog has developed a noise phobia after a severe, damaging storm last year, I’ve spent months counter-conditioning him to thunder, gunfire, and loud noises, giving him calming supplements and rewarding him with food every time he hears a loud noise to make a positive association with it. I’ve literally been working on this nearly a year.

Saturday evening, the town celebrated the 4th with their annual fireworks display. It lasted about 15 minutes. Though rattled, my dog handled it fairly well, despite the fact neighbors released bottle rockets and their own fireworks on the ridge behind us. I figured that was the worst of it, and was pleased that it caused minimal distress at our place. The official celebration was over. People wouldn’t go nuts on a Sunday evening, right?

But last night, everyone around us fired off bottle rockets, Roman candles, firecrackers, fountains, spinners, and the like. It was a barrage of noise and light, many times of which went off directly over our house. At no time did I actually see anyone releasing fireworks. The people setting off fireworks weren’t within eyesight. But the acrid smell of powder filled the air, and debris rained down in my yard. With a loud bang, colorful explosions lit up the sky over our trees. At times, it sounded as though the fireworks were going off in our own yard, or could come barreling through a window. The dog, who had managed the night before, now smashed up against me shaking, his lips pulled back in a rictus of fear as he panted. Calming supplements, given in advance of nightfall, failed to touch his panic. When I offered him a tasty treat as usual, he took it only to drop it on the floor (where the little terrier dove in and snatched it). I ended up having to give him strong anti-anxiety meds.

None of us slept well last night. Long after sundown, and well past midnight, an intermittent explosion still took place. My husband had nightmares. Both dogs wedged their way onto the bed between us. I’m sharing this because I don’t want you to think I’m just trying to harsh your squee because I’m a big ol’ party-pooper. I’m sharing this because having night after night like this sucks. And honestly, I don’t understand why your celebrations should impact my quality of life.

At last count, the sale of fireworks is banned in only two states in the Continental US. Ordinances may vary from state to state, but most allow them. I found this handy fact sheet on the risks of injury and wildfire from a law office, which should tell you a little about your liability in such matters. The craze for fireworks is something I don’t understand. Light a few sparklers with the kids (making sure they’re safe and there’s no fire risk for the back 40). Attend a sanctioned event held by your town and run by professionals. One night, 15 minutes, yay for the US of A.

But I think it’s time to retire home fireworks displays. My dog and I will thank you.

What’s New with McKenna Dean? EVERYTHING!

It’s been a while since I posted. Normally I post at least once a week, but I see now it’s been almost a month since I wrote anything for this blog. It’s not because I didn’t have any pointless musings to share–it’s because I’ve been so busy!

Last week, Bishop’s Gambit won second place in the Daphne du Maurier Awards for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense from the Kiss Of Death Chapter of the Romance Writers of America. This was such an unexpected honor! As a matter of fact, when they called to tell me I was a finalist, I thought sure they were calling to alert me to the fact there was a problem with my entry. 🙂

 

Are you getting a lot of spam phone calls right now? I am! I’d received over 30 spam calls in a 48 hour window when I received a call from an unknown number on earlier this week. Normally, I ignore them (blocking them results in my receiving a notification I’ve received a blocked call–NOT HELPFUL, VERIZON) but for some reason I answered this one. Abruptly. With strong undertones of “What do you want??” in my voice.

Only it was a representative of the Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal Romance Writers Chapter of RWA calling to inform me that Bishop’s Gambit was a finalist in the PRISM Awards! Boy, was my face red. That will teach me to be snippy with unknown callers!

 

But wait, there’s more! The main reason I’ve been quiet lately is that I’ve been working like mad on story in a new-to-me-genre: cozy mysteries! I’m a HUGE cozy fan. I love picking up a book and knowing what kind of story you’re going to get, the perfect way to spend a quiet evening or a rainy afternoon–following the adventures of an intrepid heroine as she unravels a knotty puzzle and nabs the bad guy. I love the small town settings and the soothing backgrounds: baking, knitting, hiking, rescuing animals… and all the better if there is a little light romance on the side!

So it’s with great pleasure that I tell you about my new series of cozy mysteries coming your way soon under the name of M.K. Dean. My heroine, Dr. Ginny Reese, is a house-call veterinarian in the small fictional town of Greenbrier, VA. She returned home to help take care of her ailing father and has done her best to make a living in an area where it’s hard to make ends meet. But the fur flies when she discovers that her ex-high school boyfriend is the new sheriff in town–and that she’s the prime suspect in her best friend’s death! It’s up to her to clear her name and find the real killer!

I’m still expanding my platforms to include M.K. Dean but for now, you can follow this blog (link in sidebar) or my (infrequent) newsletters to keep posted. Or you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook (still working on a page for M.K. Dean), and Instagram. Goodreads and Amazon pages for M.K. Dean to follow once I have a release date. Expect An Embarrassment of Itches sometime in July/August of 2021!

So lots of irons in the fire right now! Stay tuned for updates as they arrive…

 

Persistence: When Should You Give Up?

I’ve been thinking a lot about persistence lately. When it’s a good thing. When it’s a bad thing.

I chose persistence as one of my power words a few years ago, and I have strong feelings about the concept. In fact, one of my favorite quotations is Calvin Coolidge’s famous quote on persistence (shared below). Nothing worth achieving is possible without persistence: the academic degree, proficiency at any task (be it art, sports, writing, or competency at work), the successful relationship…

But when is persistence the wrong move? When is it “beating a dead horse” and a denial of reality?

I guess to some degree, it depends on the stakes involved. The higher the stakes, the bigger the consequences of giving up. You have to know in your heart quitting is the right thing to do. Giving up has to bring a sense of relief instead of a sense of dread. Conversely, if the consequences of giving up are so minimal, you might fall into quitting by default without ever declaring your intent to do so. You don’t finish the book you were reading, or the project you started, in part because you had other, bigger demands on your time and energy and it just didn’t matter than you failed to reach a specific goal.

Last summer, someone gave me a potted orchid. My first thought on accepting it was, “I wonder how long it will take me to kill this?” Not because I hate plants and want them to die but because I have so many demands on my time and so many living things that depend on me, it’s easy to let plants take a number and wait a LONG time in line. And even though I read the care instructions that came with it, I managed to get something wrong, and sure enough, that’s here’s what this plant looked like a few months ago.

The planter is set up so that it minimizes the risk of over or under watering the orchid, but it turns out I was putting the water in the wrong slot and I drowned the plant. After six months of meticulously remembering to water it on the correct schedule, I’d nearly killed the orchid anyway. Giving up and tossing the plant out isn’t a big deal because the consequences of doing so are nil. Only a slight guilt on my part for having such a black thumb.

Quitting in this case is an easy call. But what if the stakes are higher? What if we’re talking about a relationship, or your job, or your dreams?

That’s a different ball of wax altogether.

It still comes down to the consequences of quitting, I think. In part because quitting is often the easiest part of the decision-tree. We’ve been taught if we can’t achieve something in two weeks (weight loss, master a new skill, change our lives…) then not only is not worth doing, it’s not achievable in the first place. We’re also taught the value of “being realistic” over being someone who has dreams. If we’ve chosen a difficult goal, it’s easy to get discouraged and contemplate quitting. Being persistent is a character trait that can be both good and bad depending on your point of view.

It comes down to whether being persistent is hurting you–or someone else in your life– or not.

Toxic workplace environment or relationship? Yeah, maybe that is something you should consider quitting. Persistence may not be in your favor in those situations. It may be a situation you need to walk away from even if the alternatives seem super scary (like having no immediate income or place to live). If you remain in a situation or relationship that threatens your mental and physical health, you need to carefully weigh the pros and cons of doing so. Sometimes there are no easy answers. But the questions need to be asked, just the same.

Persisting in following your dreams when everyone around you tells you to “be realistic”? Yeah, don’t listen to the naysayers. If it’s something you want to do and have faith in your ability to do it, keep plugging away at it.

What if your Number One Naysayer is you? That’s a tough one because if you don’t believe in your ability to accomplish something you set out to do, then you will never reach that goal. But if the idea of quitting, of not being a writer, or musician, or artist, or teacher, astronaut, or whatever is more painful than the idea of continuing to strive toward your goals, then you should persist. The world is full of success stories about people who kept trying, who didn’t give up, despite repeated rejections or failures. Like Coolidge says, I believe persistence is more powerful than natural talent or ability.

Even if you never achieve your lofty goals, if you persist in doing something you love, it’s never time wasted.

Three months ago, I came very close to tossing the orchid in the trash. It was mostly dead. I had no great attachment to it. But there was one shiny green leaf among the dry stalks, dead flower heads, and dull, curling leaves. So I left it on the windowsill, didn’t water it for a few weeks, and then began taking care of it, following the directions correctly this time. And that single shiny leaf was joined by another. And another.

I’m not sure why I didn’t pitch the planter in the trash, unless it was because of the persistence of that baby leaf pushing its way out of the soil when all the odds had been against it. It reminded me of how I keep writing, even when I know realistically I am not going to be the Nora Roberts of paranormal romance or cozy mysteries. Though I get discouraged at my lack of progress sometimes, writing isn’t toxic to me, and sometimes is the only thing that keeps me going.

So let’s hear it for healthy persistence.

Brushed By Betrayal by L.A. Sartor: Spotlight and Interview

Please welcome author L.A. Sartor to the blog as we showcase her upcoming release (available for pre-order) Brushed by Betrayal!

Hello! Welcome to my blog and thank you for answering my nosy, I mean discerning, questions. 🙂  First, please tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of stories you like to write. Would you say there is an underlying theme behind your stories?

McKenna, thank you for having me as a return guest on your amazing blog.  Interesting questions you pose. I’ve been writing for a long time, yet only very recently discovered that I am truly a plot-driven writer. I was told this by a veteran of 40+ novels, and at first, I was insulted. Then I stepped back and looked at her criteria and realized with an enormous amount of relief that indeed I was. My stories always revolve around complex plots, at the same time I weave the theme of trust and/or finding one’s real path in life. Usually they go hand-in-hand. But I think of the creating the plot question first, then building the characters to work in it.

There is nothing wrong in either being either a plot or character driven writer, and we authors can have readers who love both. But finding my own true writer calling made a big difference. I write romance into my stories, but they are mostly not “romances.” (I do have a couple of pure romances.)

What part of the world do you call home? Can you tell us a little about where you grew up and where you live now?

Colorado is now home. I was adopted in Germany as was my brother, different birth families. I’ve never thought of anyone else as my parents and haven’t been driven to locate anyone. We moved to Southern California as young children and being a stone’s throw from the ocean created a deep need to come back to it as often as possible. But while Boulder and its massive flatirons are my backbone, the ocean is my soul.

That’s so funny because I was born and raised within sight of the Appalachian mountains and I can’t imagine living anywhere else–unless it was to the Rockies!

How long have you been writing? Did you write as a child or is it something you developed a passion for later in life?

I started telling stories at a very young age. Mom wrote them down and I illustrated them. I still have those which are horrible, but I love them. Then in Jr. High I was writing what is now fan fiction with a friend and loving it. But an English teacher told me and my parents that I was failing because I wouldn’t learn grammar. I immediately stopped writing. I only learned about this (apparently, I totally wiped the incident from my memory) after I told mom I was going to write and book and she said, “finally”. Then revealed the story.  I’m now in the exact right spot for me.

“Writers should write what they know.” What does this statement mean to you as an author?

This statement makes me so frustrated, both when I first heard and even now when I hear folks agonizing over it. So, I’m going to get on my soap box. We all know life’s ups/downs, celebrations/heartaches. We all have experiences. That is what we know.

But for the longest time and still today, authors and pundits say I can’t write a treasure hunting adventure or chocolate making scene or legal thriller because I’m none of those. Baloney. Research, good solid research and interviews will give us that information. Would I write a hospital driven drama, no, because I’m not interested in that kind of writing. But adventure, danger, various treasures, myths, even some courtroom scenes have all been written by me and apparently are doing well.

I agree with this whole-heartedly! I think when people say “write what you know” what they really mean is write about the forces that would drive a character to leave home and hearth to fight for all he holds dear–whether it be a Hobbit journeying to Mordor or a young man headed off to the trenches in WW1. The means by which you tell the story doesn’t matter as much as the authenticity behind the motives.

Most authors admit to feeling uncomfortable with the degree of self-promotion necessary to be successful. Are there some aspects of social media and self-promotion that make you more comfortable than others? Are there some you avoid like the plague?

I really enjoy the self-promotion that is necessary for both the indie and the traditionally published writer to do. For instance, a blog like this is fun to write. I love to teach writing and use my books (after all I know my stories best) as examples, then see the light come on in an aspiring writer’s eyes. I love creating images or memes for my books.

I have a YouTube channel for writers, but I’m getting views from folks who want to know more about how a writer works, not be one. That’s cool!

I’ve done a lot of interviews on camera and now feel comfortable talking about me.  Now if I only weighed 25lbs. less…

It’s part of the business, so I figure I might as well enjoy it and of instead of shy away from it, embrace it.

I will definitely have to check out your YouTube Channel! I confess while I enjoy spending time on certain social media platforms, I have no real desire to get in front of a camera, and I admire anyone who does!

Have you ever been intimidated by reviews?

Yes. At first I was scared to look at them and when I found one that was less than complimentary, I’d be totally crushed. Literally couldn’t write a new word. Then I realized a couple of things and grew up as a writer, maybe even as a person.

Sometimes people will just not like what you write. That’s okay. I may want to please everyone, but honestly know I can’t. Some people are meanspirited. I feel sorry for them. Some people think they’ll make me a better writer if they point out every flaw.

My approach to reviewing is that 90% of the time you can find some aspect of the book to talk about with positivity. You may not give it 4 or 5 stars, but why trash it? If you hated it, don’t buy another one from that author. Life is too short to be mean. Kindness is better. And maybe that’s a Pollyanna way of looking at life, and there are many times when I want to throw something at my TV screen for whatever reason, hey I’m human, but that negative emotion doesn’t go beyond my walls.

Do you miss your characters when you come to the end of their story? Do you find ways to write sequels for them or do you become entranced with a new set?

Yes and yes and yes. I spend huge amounts of time building my characters and their stories, their conflicts, their goals. Series allow me to dig deeper, put them into more revealing circumstances. For instance, in my Carswell Adventure series, I had twins, who after a tragedy became total opposites. One more meek, more comfortable by herself than out in the world. The other became an adventure junkie. Stone Of Heaven is about Tori, the city girl who keeps to herself now having to save her adventurous sister from long forgotten Maya gods. The second book Viking Gold brings in the characters again, but we focus on Abby and her quests and how it’s driving all the people she loves away. Will she survive this last treasure hunt?

What are your writing goals for 2021? Your personal goals?

I’m releasing Brushed By Betrayal May 5th. It’s the second in the Kahuna Group series. Then come Monday I’m settling down to create my new cozy mystery series. A first in many ways for me. Writing in first person. A cozy series, creating a new ski town, Angelcroft and all its peeps and fun stuff like red-herrings and most of all developing a complicated villainous character motivation. After all mystery readers like the puzzle, so …. My plan is to have that first book out this coming Fall, worst case before Christmas, since it’s set at Christmas. Then to write one or two more a year. I still have my other series…yikes, I’m going to be busy.

Personal goals, focus on the important things and say no to the rest. I don’t say no easily, but I’m learning.

That’s interesting what you say about plot-driven stories versus character driven, and how you’ve nestled into your groove as a result. And yay for a new cozy mystery series! I love the genre!

Thank you so much for dropping by for the interview and to share a little about your new release!

 

Blurb for Brushed By Betrayal

“You’re next and the circle will be complete.”

Jade Laurent, art expert and owner of the prestigious Laurent Art Brokers in Boulder, Colorado, is mourning the one-year anniversary of her father’s death when a close associate is killed and that chilling message for Jade is found by his body.

Private Investigator Malcolm Talbot is coming off his latest grueling case when he receives a request that he cannot refuse. To discover who’s put Jade’s life in jeopardy. The problem is that Jade refuses to stand by idly and let him do his job.

The last thing Malcolm needs is an amateur getting in the way and maybe getting dead. The last thing Jade needs is a professional who can’t find an ounce of compassion for her need to be involved.

While matching wits with a killer who is always one step ahead, dark secrets are revealed, putting everything Jade has believed in at risk.

If you like nail biting suspense, complicated mysteries, and characters who find their soul mates, then you’ll love L.A. Sartor’s newest story Brushed By Betrayal.

Buy it today to find new characters to love and revisit old friends from Dare to Believe.

 

Buy: Currently on Amazon  The book will go wide later in May.

 

Bio:

I started writing as a child, really. A few things happened on the way to becoming a published author … specifically, a junior high school teacher who told me I couldn’t write because I didn’t want to study grammar.

That English teacher stopped my writing for years.  But the muse couldn’t be denied, and eventually I wrote, a lot, some of it award winning. However, I wasn’t really making a career from any of this.

My husband told me repeatedly that independent publishing was becoming a valid way to publish a novel. I didn’t believe him, I thought indie meant vanity press. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

I started pursuing this direction seriously, hit the keyboard, learned a litany of new things and published my first novel. My second book became a bestseller, and I’m absolutely on the right course in my life.

Please come visit me at https://lesliesartor.com, see my books, find my social media links, and sign up for my mailing list. I have a gift I’ve specifically created for my new email subscribers. And remember, you can email me at Leslie@LeslieSartor.com 

 

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Bishop’s Gambit a Finalist in the Carolyn Awards! #MFRWHooks #MFRWAuthor

I have a second email account that I’m bad about not checking on a regular basis, so imagine my surprise when I logged in the other day and discovered Bishop’s Gambit is a finalist in the Carolyn Awards held by North Texas Romance Writers of America!

As such, I’d like to share with you a little about this book and the Redclaw Origins series. The year is 1955. Rebel without a Cause and The Seven Year Itch are playing in the  movie theaters. The Chevy Bel Air is the most popular car in America. Gas is 25 cents a gallon and you can get a hotel room for $4 bucks. This flirty, fun series takes us back to the beginning and shows us how Redclaw Security got started.

In Bishop’s Gambit, Redclaw Origins 2, Bishop and Knight are back again and the fun–and trouble–is just beginning!

Newly minted secret agent Rhett Bishop would rather face down a horde of angry wolf shifters or her father’s former mob contacts than accept her current assignment: pose undercover as a suburban housewife, complete with a husband, slippers, and pipe.

But after the debacle of her previous mission, Rhett has a lot to prove.

To redeem herself in the eyes of Redclaw Security, and to carry out her mission without distractions, she must table her budding relationship with Peter Knight while the two of them uncover the secrets of Forest Grove.

Armed with her trusty ray gun, her unique little dog, and Knight’s brains, Rhett is confident she can handle whatever the suburbs can throw at her.

Until they lob a curveball.

Bishop’s Gambit was named a Top Pick by The Romance Reviews!

Kirkus Reviews describes as “thoroughly entertaining and witty, with a nicely judged mix of genres.”

Available from Amazon and these other retailers.

A short snippet: 

I gave a cursory glance into the tiny bathroom and headed to the end of the hallway for the other bedroom. As expected, boxes labeled “clothing” were stacked alongside the wall. My dresser and vanity took up the space alongside the other walls. Someone had thoughtfully put together my bed, complete with mattress and springs. All it needed was sheets and a blanket, and I could fall into it.

The sound of the front door opening and shutting sent Captain flying through the house to see who’d come in. I heard Knight grumbling at the dog as he came back toward the bedroom where I stood.

“I see she found you, rotten little beast.” Knight’s voice grew louder as he came down the hallway. “I’ve got two words for you: lizard-skin handbag. You back here, Bishop?”

“Yes.” I waited for him to join me.

“What are you—” He paused at the threshold of the door, frowning for a moment, then his brow cleared. “Ah. Looking for the bedding? I expect it’s around here somewhere.”

I placed a fist on one hip. “Is that all you have to say?”

Puzzlement wrinkled his brow again. “I don’t understand. Obviously, you found the dog. I’ll bring the luggage in while you make the bed. It’s been a long day. We should make an early night of it.”

I enunciated every word with crystal clarity. “There’s only one bed. Where precisely do you intend to sleep?”

This post is part of a blog hop, so if check out the other book hooks and teasers in the hop! 

 

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The Last Horse

Last night, I put my beloved horse to sleep.

I’d gone out to feed her and found her drenched in sweat, her coat caked with mud and clay as evidence she’d been rolling. We’d been through colics before–even bad ones–but somehow this time it felt like The Big One.

And it was. After hours of medical management that failed to make her more comfortable, and with a progression of clinical signs for the worse, it was clear that she wasn’t going to squeak through and make it one more time. At 11 pm, standing in the headlights of the vet’s truck, I made one of the hardest decisions of my entire life. I let her go.

It wasn’t the first time I faced losing her. In fact, she’d nearly died so many times in her life, we jokingly referred to her as The Mare Who Lived. At ten, she twisted her colon, necessitating surgery to save her life. Not many horses survive colic surgery. Fewer go on to be functional riding horses again. But survive she did, and went on to compete as well.

I never did get to do all the things I planned with her, though. Oh, we had such plans. She was my first ever horse raised from the ground up. I chose her parents. I carried her ultrasound photo in my wallet. The day she was due, I spent the entire day with her dam, watching her mother quietly crop grass while meadowlarks sang in the summer fields, noting the changes come over her body as she became ready to foal. It was a magical experience. One I will never forget. I was there the night she was born, imprinting on her even as she imprinted on me. Childless myself, she was the baby I never had.

She was why I got up on my days off and drove four hours round trip to spend the day training her. She was the reason I continued to ride after my car accident, after my doctors told me I should stop, and despite grinding chronic pain. She is probably the only reason I’m still functional today. She is the reason I continued to go and do despite clinical depression, and probably the reason I am still alive after surviving one of the hardest periods in my life.

I rode in weather so cold, my breath came out as a vapor, and the weight of her body crunched ice crystals beneath her feet. I rode in weather so hot I risked heatstroke again and again. We worked together in indoor arenas that had to be watered down so we wouldn’t choke on the dust. We rode in outdoor arenas baked into brick-hard surfaces that had to be dragged so they were useable again. We rode down forest trails under a leafy canopy and forded streams like we had to bring in the herd at the end of City Slickers. We jumped fences, and cleared ditches, and galloped across open fields with the Blue Ridge mountains in full autumn color as a backdrop.

She was so massive–hence the name The Moose–that I needed a mounting block to get on her. Never in all the years I rode her did I fall off–I joked you would have to run to the side and leap to fall off of her. In her youth, turning her was like steering the Titanic–I often said her name should have been Inertia. She was excitable, but she was kind. I was never in fear of my safety when riding her, even though she weighed half a ton and stood at 17 hands tall. And she was brave and honest, too. If I pointed her at a fence and gave her the right direction, she’d take it without question. She might have slowed down to give it a stare, and leapt it as though it were six feet tall, but jump it she did.

Life prevented me from doing everything I wanted to do with her. She was bred to be my event horse, though we never made it to a single event or horse trial. The only competitions we made it to were the occasional dressage show. My dad developed cancer and I became his caretaker, and then she had the colic surgery, and somehow, it became good enough to know she was doing first level dressage at home, and able to jump a 4×4 oxer like it was a Kleenex box. (For the uninitiated, “first level” isn’t the beginner level–watch the link if you’d like to know more). We didn’t compete often, but when we did, I like to think there was a collective muttering of “damn” when we showed up because we came home with all the ribbons. When I unloaded her from the van at a show grounds, all heads turned to watch her move. She was simply that impressive. It didn’t hurt that she’d get lit by the excitement of a horse show, and would float across the ground with huge spectacular strides as a result.

I did achieve one life goal with her: I took a jumping clinic with a former Olympic Coach, wherein I discovered we were PB&J in the caviar world of eventing… and you know what? Sometimes PB&J is good enough. It was good enough for us.

Probably my biggest regret is never having had professional photographs taken of her. I took thousands myself, however, because she was gorgeous, she was magnificent, she was The Moose.

I can tell you funny stories that will fail to capture her shining personality: of how she was afraid of pigs, or the time when as a baby she tried to get in my car with me, or the time she spooked and cleared the length of a football field in six ginormous strides–all running toward an enormous cross country fence that she tried to jump from the wrong direction. I can tell you about the time she went galloping with the herd toward a field where someone had forgotten to open the five-bar gate at the other end. Every other horse screeched to a stop at the closed gate. She sailed over it–and cleared the water trough on the other side as well. Or about the time she was like a powder keg with a lit fuse when we competed in our first simple walk-trot dressage test, and she ended up doing airs above the ground in the chaotic melee that passes for a warm up ring–and then calming down enough to win the class by a landslide. Oh! Or how about the time we left her on the van to school some other horses and she broke her chain lead, bent the breast bar like it was a pipe cleaner, and jumped out of the van to graze quietly beside it. Oh, Moose. There will never been another quite like you.

We always knew she was on borrowed time after the colic surgery. Many don’t survive the surgery. Those that do frequently become chronic colickers, which she did. Most of her episodes were mild gas colics that resolved without treatment and were probably due to adhesions in her guts after the surgery. About four years after the surgery, I came out to feed her and noticed she was standing in her “colic corner”, the spot where she’d go when she felt bad, and would begin to paw and shift in place. As I’d approached her with a halter, she stood straight up on her hind legs and then shot into the air, kicking out in a perfect capriole, something she’d never been taught. I’d known then, we were in for a bad time.

It was a night that will live in memory. I hand-walked her for seven hours straight as we attempted medical management. The odds of a horse surviving colic surgery twice were slim to none. I wasn’t going to put her through that again. I watched as she became more and more distended and uncomfortable, and as all medical management failed. And just when I was on the point of asking the vet to put her down…. she farted. Long, loud, repeatedly. And ten minutes later she was actively looking for grass to eat.

My vet said he’d never seen any horse look so bad and yet spontaneously recover. He called it a miracle. We suspect she’d been mildly impacted because of an adhesion, which caused gas to distend her bowels but something shook loose even as the request to euthanize her stuck in my throat. That evening, I’d stood at the fence in the middle of the night, watching her graze beneath the light of a full moon, with Saturn and Jupiter blazing overhead. We’d gotten lucky once again, I knew it.

Just as I’d somehow known last night this time we wouldn’t be so lucky. She actually didn’t look as bad as she had as the previous colic over a decade ago. She initially responded to pain management, she had none of the markers that indicate you’re in for a bad time. I grew hopeful that once again, we’d dodged a bullet, even as I mentally acknowledged that sooner or later, one of these colics would get her. We’d been saying that for so long, it was hard to remember that she’d already lived far longer than anyone ever thought she would. Yet as the second round of sedation and pain meds wore off, she gradually began showing signs of discomfort again: pawing the ground, threatening to roll, looking at her flanks which were gradually distending. The parameters of her exam had changed: we now had evidence of displaced bowel, of another twist.

I wanted to believe we’d get our miracle one more time. We’d had so many near misses and spectacular recoveries. She was The Mare Who Lived, after all. She would make it. She had to make it. But as her condition deteriorated, it became clear she wouldn’t, not without surgery, something I wouldn’t do, not a second time, not for a 25 year old horse.

And so I stood in the light cast by the vet truck’s headlamps and made the decision to let her go.

I wanted to rail against the unfairness of it all. I’d had so much loss in recent years. 2017-2018 became known as The Year of Grief. Things had eased up in 2019, only to have 2020 say, “Hold my beer.” Emotionally, physically, mentally exhausted, losing The Moose last night seemed like the one thing that would finally break me. Even now, I’m not sure that it might not.

But the truth of the matter is loss is part of love. It was just an ugly trick of fate that handed me so many losses so close together for such a prolonged period of time. I am not special in my experiences, nor in my grief. And the only way to avoid this pain I’m experiencing now would be to have never loved The Moose in the first place.

Impossible.

The Moose was my last horse. I’d had to euthanize my other horse in the winter of 2018 at the age of thirty-five. Losing him was a wrench because he was my first horse, bought with my hard-earned cash as a green-broke three-year-old off a slaughter truck, and I’d had him ever since. But thirty-five is a ridiculous age for an old horse, and though making the decision to put him to sleep was hard, it was expected as well.

I’d retired The Moose a few years back–she wasn’t sound enough to ride any longer. I’d chosen to lease a riding horse instead, which I kept up until that horse too, was retired. Covid-19 forced me to take a hard look at the risks of riding during a sweeping pandemic, and I’d made the tough call to stop riding last March, at least for the time being. I still had The Moose. I was still a horsewoman. I just wasn’t riding.

Now, for the first time in over thirty years, I am without a horse. And I don’t think I will ever have another one again. This isn’t just a door closing. It’s slamming shut and locking me out. In some ways, that’s the hardest part to bear. Today I called to cancel her farrier appointment for next month. I gave away her winter blanket and sold her brand new, never-worn grazing muzzle for the summer season. I’ll pull out her bridle and saddle, clean and oil them for the last time, and donate them to someone who can use them.

If you’ve never experienced the euthanasia of a horse, it is a tough thing to watch. It’s a bit like felling a tree: done right, it happens in stages and no one gets hurt. I held her head as the vet administered first the sedative and then the euthanasia solution. I promised her that I’d seen her into this world, and that I would see her out. She breathed her last breath into my ear with a shuddering sigh, and we guided her into a controlled fall onto her side. I stroked her muzzle, but the light was gone in her eyes.

She’s being buried today. I couldn’t be there: I had to work. Perhaps that’s just as well. Though she is being laid to rest in a field overlooking the Blue Ridge mountains with the redbud coming into bloom, I know she’s not there. She’s running with her friends who have gone on before her, frisking in the pasture free of pain, ready to eat her fill of grass and snooze in the sun to the lazy drone of bumble bees. She lives on in my memories, in my photographs, and in the cameo appearances she makes in my stories.

And someday this summer, I’ll sit on the hillside beside her grave, with the dogs at my side, listening to the meadowlarks sing.

The Pandemic One Year Later: Are We Ready to Return to Normal?

This time last year, I was hunkered down on the farm, desperately counting down the days until I had some time off. We’d made the decision to split our households into Essential Workers (me) and WFH/High Risk (everyone else) and I was watching videos on how to make masks, posting about flattening the curve, and searching for toilet paper and bread yeast. I organized my personal documents and instructions for taking care of the animals in the event of my long-term hospitalization or death. TV shows, books, and movies that had been favorites before fell by the wayside as I looked for gentle, less-traumatic ways of entertaining myself. I took the dogs for long walks and obsessed over my neighbor’s baby goats.

I was terrified.

The pandemic was a terrible thing to have happen. But having it happen on Trump’s watch made it a national–if not global–tragedy.

This past weekend, as I was walking the dogs, I noticed the first of this year’s crop of baby goats in my neighbor’s field. And while I was charmed, I didn’t have that odd compulsion to stalk and photograph them. A simple, slightly out of focus snapshot with my cell phone was sufficient to appease my interest.

It made me think about how much has changed and how much has stayed the same since this time last year. My family is still divided: I have not yet completed my vaccination series and none of my other family members have been vaccinated yet. I shop online and have groceries delivered to my car. I wear a mask in public and carry hand sanitizer with me wherever I go–and I avoid going anywhere except to work.

The number of Covid-19 cases is higher in our area right now than they’ve been during the entire pandemic–by a factor of twenty–and yet so many people seem to be acting as though the crisis is over. I have a bad feeling we’ll see a huge uptick in cases nationally again once people come home from Spring Break, and I have to tell you, my bad feelings are almost always right.

I am not planning vacations, but I am making much-delayed doctor’s and dentist’s appointments for later this fall. I won’t go back to the nail salon anytime soon–if ever–but I’m looking for a hairdresser that practices Covid protocols for after I complete my vaccine series. I never, ever need to go back to the movie theater again. Between shooters and the inability to exit quickly in a fire, movie theaters always felt like death traps to me anyway. I love being able to pause my movie to use the bathroom or make popcorn that doesn’t cost $10/bag. I don’t need the “movie experience”, though I realize some people love it.

A friend wants me to take a cruise with her next spring. Ten years ago, I would have leapt at the chance to do something I’ve always wanted to do. Now the horror stories coming out of the industry as a result of the pandemic have canceled any desire I ever had to step foot on a cruise ship.

In some ways, the pandemic has forced me to Marie Kondo my life. Not in terms of physical objects but in terms of activities. How I want to spend my time. Who I want to spend my time with. This past weekend my husband and I met for a socially distanced dog walk and talked about so many things we can’t seem to manage by phone or email. It was a great day.

Other things have changed for the better too. Funny how having competent leaders in charge–despite the enormity of the mess they have to clean up–has done wonders for my overall anxiety and my blood pressure. I have hope for the first time in years, venting off some of that building pressure that made it difficult to get through the day.

One thing that has become clear: I don’t want to spend the rest of my life working at a job that is literally eating me alive. As someone tied into a narrow list of job opportunities due to my specialization and the lack of jobs in the area, I can’t just step out of the plane and hope I find a parachute on the way down. But I am getting closer and closer to the hatch.

I find in many ways, I dread a return to “normalcy.” Especially if normal means daily mass shootings or increased pressure to make bricks without straw. I shrink from the idea of businesses opening back up to the public, and of my husband being expected to go back to the office. I rage internally when I run into entire families at the store without masks. As an introvert and an empath, I find I want the distance between me and almost everyone else to be greater than ever before. I could easily become agoraphobic if it weren’t for the dogs needing to go on walks.

But I also miss hugs. I miss hanging out with my husband, who is also my best friend. I miss the excitement of traveling to a place I’ve only ever read about. I don’t want to go to the beach, but I’d like to rent a cabin in the mountains. I’d like to read books or watch movies without worrying if the story was going to hurt me in any way.

I think these things will come back again–eventually. I’m already noting a greater willingness to be more adventuresome in my entertainment, taking a chance on shows I would have deemed too dark last year at this time. I’m seriously looking into other work opportunities. I’m making plans for the future when this time last year, I couldn’t think past my next day off from work.

The baby goats are still cute and interesting, but they are just goats.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.