Bird Watchers and Russian Vampires

Leave a comment

Back when I was invincible (think late teens, early twenties), I thought bird watchers had been invented for the sole purpose of providing fodder for me and my friends to ridicule. Of all the things to do out in nature, why would someone tromp around the woods, through swamps, over the hills with a pair of binoculars, just to catch a glimpse of a little ole bird?

I was aware of the startling beauty of birds only in the most blatant sense: The fuchsia flush of a hummingbird suspended by blurred wings near the bird feeder, the royal feathers of a Peacock, the nine-foot wing span of the endangered California Condor. But the rest were simply there to create a vague soundtrack to the unfolding of my invincible, self-centered world.

I don’t know when I realized my own mortality. Probably about the same time I discovered the beauty of bird song. Now I bend my neck skyward, pause. Search out the little birds who are creating such beauty in my life. I relish waking to bird song, even if they sometimes start at dawn. I’m not quite a bird watcher, but if someone has a fountain in their yard, I’ve been known to stop and watch the birds taking a bath, or diving in for a swig of water.

During my walk this morning, Jamie tugged on her leash and brought my attention to a bird gliding through the canal. It swivelled its red-tufted head in our direction and made an inelegant barking sound before diving under the water. I ran over the damp grass lumpy with dog poop and prepared my iPhone to zoom in for a shot. But the bird was ahead of me. It popped up on the far bank, out of range even for the highest zoom setting on my phone.

Great Crested Grebe

I managed a blurry shot. When I got home, I sent it off to a bird watching friend –Yes. They’re my friends these days–asking if he could identify it. I’ve checked my email at least four times to see if he’s responded yet. Darn him and his full time job and strong work ethic. Tell me about this beautiful barking bird! Oh, but now he has responded. It’s a Great Crested Grebe! Can you feel my excitement about a bird? What would my teenage self have to say about this development?

Speaking of developments, I’m currently working on a manuscript that’s a wee bit out of my regular romance genre: I’m writing a story that I could label as both paranormal and climate fiction (say what?). When it comes to paranormal (as in witches and vampires and others with magical powers who live in our real world, rather than a complete fantasy world), I’ve read only a handful of books. But I love them. Think Dracula. His world is magical, but he lives in a village surrounded by real people just like you and me.

One thing that you need to do as an author is read in your genre. So, I’ve been exploring the paranormal world that co-exists with ours in the last few months.

Here are a handful of the novels I’ve really enjoyed lately in my efforts to research this genre: A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Darkness (I’m tagging small bookstores where possible in an effort to support local versus large conglomerates. In this novel, Deborah Harkness uses her scholarly background to give this Witch, Daemon and Vampire world a rich history and its own genetic problems. The Power by Naomi Alderman, which, as Margaret Atwood said, really is electrifying, explores what happens when women receive an electrifying power. Pine by Francine Toon, a creepy YA ghost story that had me captivated. And last but not least, a gritty, sexy paranormal story, Vampires of Moscow by Caedis Knight. This last one, which kept me awake all weekend, took me on a journey where the paranormals have certain powers and limitations, which are adeptly explained and defined through the eyes of Saskia, an undercover reporter for the Blood Web Chronicles.

All of these novels show the complexity and diversity of the paranormal world, how many ways it can be approached, and that really, you haven’t read it all. This post is to very subtly announce that I am working on a new novel in a new-to-me genre, and to admit that I am definitely watching the birds. Speaking of The Birds. Anyone know where I can watch the entire film of Hitchcock’s The Birds? I’d love to see that again.

Stir Crazy Stories: Part One and Two

Leave a comment

Love in the time of Quarantine (1)Sometimes, when my friends ask what’s new in my life, I get a little head rush, like ‘where do I even begin to explain?’ That’s because amazing things have happened to me since we’ve last spoken. I’ve been to battle with dark forces, I’ve traveled to ancient, holy places, I’ve met a tantalizing young man, I’ve started a new University program abroad, I’ve met an octogenarian who has a secret he only wants to share with me, I’ve woken up in a cabin with my eyes bandaged with no idea how I got there or who I am. All of these newsworthy adventures take roughly one-tenth of a second to flash through my brain until I realize that these experiences are taking place between me and my characters in the fictional worlds I’ve created for them.

“I’ve been working on the garden,” I hear myself saying. Or “I rearranged all of the bookcases in the house by genre, so I have a mini bookstore at home.”

True, my real ‘shelter in place’ Corona Lock down life pales in comparison to that of the fictional characters I’m writing, or the tragedies unfolding for many in this very scary time. I’m grateful for my steady, predictable world, as it keeps me grounded so my characters can do the crazy stuff.

I was listening to a Masterclass by Judy Blume and she described how she would tell her family in the evening what was going on in her character’s lives.

“You’ll never guess what happened to Ruby today.”

It was such a revelation! Yes! That is exactly what’s going on inside of me. Like Judy, I’ve been on adventures during the day, and I want to tell someone about it.

I’m sharing all of this to say that I realize I haven’t actually shared any of my writing in over three years. So, as a token of appreciation for all of those who have read my books and wonder if I am actually writing anything at all, I’ve decided to share part one and two of a short story series I’m writing during this stranger than fiction world we’re now living in.

Just a bit of forewarning. It’s not a happy story. In fact, it’s inspired by the ‘Corona Parties’ that were happening at the beginning of the lock down, when people didn’t really understand what a world pandemic was.

Here’s the catch, members of my writing group have encouraged me to seek out a channel to publish this story and reach a wider audience. I’d like to do that, but I’d also like to share it with those who are interested in pre-reading it now, while it’s still relevant.

Would you like to read part one and part two? Then send me a personal message via the contact form with your email address, or send me a personal message via my author Facebook page, and I’ll send you a free, reviewers copy.

Love in the time of Quarantine (1)



Love in the Age of Corona

Leave a comment

Dear all,

Life is stranger than fiction right now. I’ve talked to so many people that liken the Corona Lockdown world we’re now living in to a science fiction or horror film. This is hardly a stretch, considering the number of films out there that have been preparing us on some level or another for years.

We’re all worried right now.  We’re juggling our home and work lives, adjusting to ever-tightening restrictions on our movements, worried about the health of the elderly, of those with pre-existing health conditions, worried about having corona and unwittingly infecting others.  Some of us have already lost someone. It is a time of global tragedy.

Luckily, the human spirit is alive and well in the midst of all this uncertainty, and in many places, our modern world is still functioning. There are amazing health care workers, cleaners, police officers, grocery store clerks, garbage collectors, sewer workers, those working to keep the water flowing into our taps and the electricity and gas coming into our homes, food on our tables and countless others who are keeping the world functioning.

There is another wave of human spirit keeping us motivated during quarantine and lockdown that is being expressed through humor, kindness and love.

Considering I’m a romance writer, it will come as no surprise that I would like to focus on the love at this time. I’ll start by asking each and every one of you to send your love to a friend, family member or even a stranger. Keep love alive in these dark and scary times.

It’s hard being locked up with family members, partners, roommates. No matter how well we get along during the best of times, being shut in together with less personal space than to which we are accustomed, means that tensions are running high. Things that you used to view as charming idiosyncratic behavior are suddenly maddening under the microscope of a lockdown.

We need to stay calm, practice kindness and compassion and utilize breathing, meditation, exercise and online resources to teach us just how to accomplish this.

There’s another area of love I’d like to touch upon.

love in the time of corona

I know I’m not the only one to have thought of this play of words on Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But yeah. Let’s talk about Love in the Time of Corona. There are a lot of physically active, virulent humans locked up at home right now. They’re spending too much time on their computers or binge-watching series on Netflix and reading books. They’re eating through their stash of corona snacks and probably doing sit ups and push ups and going for a jog or walk if their respective government still allows outdoor exercise. But there’s other sorts of exercise. Types I’ve written about.

Let’s think about this for a moment. Millions . . . no billions (India just went on full lockdown) of people worldwide are bored, at home and locked up with their partners. As a romance author, I may have a particularly active imagination in this category, but really. If people are spending time ‘exercising’ in the bedroom, we need to think about what that short term gain can develop into in the long term.

The last thing we need approximately seven to nine months from now is a worldwide baby boom.

We don’t know what the world will look like in seven to nine months from now. Vaccines could take a year to a year and a half to develop. There could be a second, or even third wave of corona outbreaks.

Let’s just say that 10 percent of the world population who is over 16 conceives a child in the coming month. That would be hundreds of millions of new babies being born into an uncertain time on a planet that is already extremely overpopulated.

It would overload medical facilities around the world and expose these precious future newborns to a virus that has proven to be deadly and highly contagious.

Long story short. Have fun. Make love. Use a condom. 

Enjoy yourselves, but please, be safe, be diligent; especially in the bedroom.  Want to share this message with others? Here’s a little Instragram-sized poster I made just for this purpose.

avoid a corona baby boom





What Makes You Smile?

Leave a comment


When I finished my workout this morning at Fit4Lady, I joined a few other post-workout women at the large table for a cup of coffee. On the table was a sign up sheet. I glanced at it, discovering it wasn’t a sign-up sheet after all, but a question: What made you smile today? The grammatical incorrectness of the gym name always makes me smile, but I couldn’t very well write that down without pissing off a whole lot of Dutch lady. The two girls at the table playing brain-teaser games while waiting for their mom to finish her workout had already made me smile, so I wrote that down. I was only the second to answer the question, but the day was still young. Now that I’m home and preparing to start my work day as a writer, this question comes back to me in present form. What makes me smile? My puppy playing in the sunshine, my child, the gift of health, that first mug of coffee. These are all givens. But 2019 also puts a smile on my face. How can the concept of a year make you smile? In this case, it’s because of the label I have put on 2019. It is my gift year.

A friend recently used the term gap year to describe my current state and this definitely got me smiling for more reasons than one. When I hear gap year, I think of a young adult taking a year off to travel the world after she has finished school and before she starts her career. Here I am, in the middle of my life (God willing), taking a gap year. The point is to simply enjoy and learn to take a full inhale and exhale without having to think about the next client, the next project, the next paycheck or, for that matter, the next stage in my career. But that’s not quite true either. This experimental gap year is the year of writing: a gift from my husband, a gift to myself.

My smile is full and genuine when I think of this gift. It’s about writing, but about creating space in my life to enjoy what is most dear to me. I love having time for my son when he comes home from school. I love that I can volunteer to help a friend with her documentary project (can’t share the details yet) and that I can play housewife in our egalitarian marriage, enabling my husband to embrace a strange new role of ‘the main financial provider’.

In this new, albeit temporary role as writer housewife, I can actually open up my cookbooks that have been getting dusty on the shelf and peruse them until I find an adventure worth taking. That’s the nature of my gap year.

Cookbooks are not the only thing being dusted off and opened up. Characters that have been trapped in my head or left dangling mid-sentence on a page are now getting attention. Problem is, they all want my attention at once. I’m trying to tell them to be patient, but telling a character who has earned monk-like status for all their patience, to continue to be patient? Patience is hard, but important for all of us, fictional or otherwise.

Stories require patience before they can come to life; even when you have the time to write them.

My current WIP requires a lot more research than anything I’ve previously undertaken. When it comes to writing, I’m a pantser. That’s someone who likes to write by the seat of their pants: spontaneously, when moved by the spirit, by the muse, by that flow of inspiration. Far as I’m concerned, research and pantsers are like oil and water; they don’t necessarily get along.

I was having lunch with the same friend who dubbed this my Gap Year. She asked how my writing was coming and I described the pantser/ research conundrum. She smiled knowingly and shared the following story:

When she was pregnant with her second child, her daughter kept asking when the baby would be born. She wasn’t willing to wait any longer.

“Why can’t you just have him now mommy? I want to play with him now.”

“He isn’t ready to be born. He’s not yet fully developed. He needs time for all his body parts to form, and that takes a lot of time. We just have to be patient.”

“Your story is just like that baby,” she said. “Research is just an unavoidable part of the growth process. The creative side of you just needs to be patient.”

I could have hugged her. Instead, I squeezed her arm and told her she was brilliant. Or maybe I’m making that up. But I definitely shared my enthusiasm for her analogy. It’s an obvious one, but she’s the type of person who can share this sort of thing and you can truly hear it and take it in.

img_6953My gap year might have a deadline, but I’ve made a commitment to myself and to all the projects I undertake this year. I will not force you. I will let you develop at your own pace. Yet I promise to give you the attention and love and time that you deserve. It is up to you if you choose to be born.







Signing at The Book Loft July 18th

1 Comment

I just happen to be in California for the month of July. What better place to do a book signing than in my home town of Solvang? The Book Loft thought it was a good idea too. Thus, here is your invitation!

You are cordially invited to join me for my first U.S. presentation of
The Things We Said in Venice.

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018
4:00pm to 6:00pm
The Book Loft
1680 Mission Drive
Solvang, California


Hope to see you there!

Exclusive Interview with Sarah Turner

Leave a comment

Today is special in three ways; 1) It is my niece Niki’s birthday, 2) I went for an early morning run with my old running partner (she now lives in Berlin) and 3) Author Karen King provided me with a rare opportunity of interviewing Sarah Turner.

If you don’t know Sarah yet, this is a chance to see how she thinks. Sarah also imparted some great advice for women who are trying to heal themselves; advice that is equally applicable to men.

Check out this exclusive Sarah Turner interview here!

Small Press and Indie Authors

Leave a comment


Pumpkin Spice Latte

First, let’s talk coffee. Imagine you’re on a trip and need a cup of gourmet coffee. You check your coffee app, and discover there are two coffee shops within walking distance. One is a Starbucks and the other is The Daily Grind, a small, locally owned coffee house just a bit further away.  If given a choice, would you go for Starbucks coffee or would you seek out that independent coffee house? In other words, do you want guaranteed taste, consistency and quality no matter what part of the globe you find yourself in, or do you want to take a chance on the unknown little guy?

Of course the decision isn’t that simple. If The Daily Grind looks low budget from the outside and doesn’t have any customers, you’ll most likely go for Starbucks. But, if The Daily Grind has a cool looking storefront, a decent number of 4 and 5 star reviews online, a good vibe and contented looking customers hanging about, it’s indie-character might win you over.

Personally, I don’t mind hitting up a Starbucks once in a while, but I prefer supporting small, locally-owned coffee houses.

Now what goes better with a cup of coffee than a novel?  Okay, maybe a newspaper or bagel might have been your first thought, but I certainly love a date with a novel in a coffee house, sipping a latte while diving into a fictional world.

img_2606.jpgThis got me thinking about my reading choices. Quite a few of the novels lining my shelves are of the Starbucks variety; novels already proven by the industry, published by one of the big five publishing houses (Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Hachette, Harper Collins, Penguin Random House) or an imprint of the big five.

When eBooks came out, the make up of my book shelf changed. I now have a large number of self-published and small-press authors on my Kindle–authors I would have never discovered in a book store, but have come into my line of sight through my reading preferences or my online blog reading.

I’ve written about Francis Guenette, a Canadian author I discovered online as well as Rebecca Lawton. Both authors published by small-presses. But I haven’t really explained what I like about small press and indie authors.

When I find a good indie novel, I have a feeling that I’ve discovered something that the world hasn’t.  Call it selfish, but when you are the one who discovers a gem (indie novel that grabs you) among a sea of plastic debris (indie novels that are poorly written, lack plot, are loaded with typos), there’s a sense of pride and strange possession. You might think to yourself; I am one of maybe five hundred people that has heard of or read this author. They’re no Tom Clancy, Nora Roberts or Margaret Atwood, but still, even if the prose aren’t as polished, even if the plot has a bit of a diamond-in-the-rough quality, there’s an integrity to the writing that keeps you going.

As the author of only two novels thus far, I’m particularly impressed with prolific indie authors. How do they keep coming up with all of those characters and stories and creativity and how do they make the time to breathe life into all of them? Today, in honor of her birthday, I’d like to shine the spotlight on a fellow indie author Jo Lambert. I’d like to add up front that I haven’t yet read Jo’s novels, but I do like her diligence.

I feel like I know her a bit, as I met her in an author group, and she’s very supportive of other writers.

Jo is a self-published author who released her first novel, When Tomorrow Comes in 2009. She writes drama-driven romance, ranging from generational stories that follow a series of families over time, to focusing on just a few central characters. She describes her writing as typically British and often written around village life.

Her first three novels were released under the name Joanna Lambert, whereas the last four are written under Jo Lambert. I’ll have to ask her why she chose to shorten her first name, as this makes it a bit tricky to find all of her titles in one place.

As an author, I have no shortage of ideas. I also have no shortage of self-sabotaging behavior. As mentioned earlier, I’ve managed to publish two novels so far, but I have six WIPs (works in progress) that are in various phases of completion. Thus you can see why I admire Jo.

To date, Jo (Joanna) Lambert has seven published novels under her belt with an eighth on the way.  Eight!  Her novels are mainly set in England. Her debut novel in Somerset, for example and Summer Moved On and Watercolours in the Rain  in South Devon. Her novels sometimes wander into other landscapes such as Tuscany in The Other Side of Morning, but it seems she remains true to her cultural heritage by keeping the others within her home country of England.

Jo is currently working on her eighth novel entitled The Boys of Summer (not yet released). Her latest novel is based around a small fishing town in Cornwall.

When I asked Jo what motivates her to write, she had the following to say:

“I simply have to write, to make up stories, create parallel universes.  It’s there and I can’t think of anything else I would rather do!”

Happy Birthday Jo! Learn more about Jo and her novels through the links below.




TWITTER: @jolambertwriter


The Things We Said in Venice

Leave a comment

It’s such a blessing when someone reads your novel and understands the characters and their struggles so well. This post by Stefania Gioffrè, an English teacher in Rome, really struck home. I am so thankful for her post!


Venice, Italy — A gondola, Venice, Italy — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

There are many reasons why we enjoy traveling. The desire to see dreamlike places, the thrill of meeting new cultures with their art, food, drinks and folklore are of course the most common ones, but sometimes for somebody traveling could also be a way to heal wounds, thus giving the scars the time they need to be barely seen. A change of scenario could reasonably be regarded as the most natural way to turn your back to a distressing past, put all the pieces together and give yourself a new chance.

This is what the two protagonists of Kristin Anderson’s novel “The Things We Said in Venice” have in mind. Sarah Turner, a high school counselor in her late thirties has recently faced a dolorous divorce. She decides to leave her job and home in Bend, Oregon to…

View original post 378 more words

Somebody Feed Phil Vegan Mozzarella


In January 2018, Netflix launched an original documentary series entitled Somebody Feed Phil.*  Phil Rosenthal, a rather famous foodie, is taxed with traveling all over the world in search of mouth watering cuisine.  Instead of focusing on high-end restaurants, Phil enlists his happy disposition to chat up locals and discover everything from the best street food to restaurants and pubs. In the opening lines of the trailer, he says “food is the great connector.” A sage older woman weighs in saying “just find out what people like to eat, and you make them happy.”

17311457_10154268386862213_983549551_oApparently, one episode of Somebody Feed Phil takes place in one of my favorite cities: Venice. As you may have gathered from my second novel The Things We Said in Venice, I also love food, travel and Venice and of course a great love story that makes people happy.  That’s why I’m so excited about this show! Restaurants– both real and fictional–pop up throughout my novel as well as discussions of food, veganism and how our diet effects the planet. But back to love; they say the best way to a person’s heart is through his or her stomach.  Fokke van der Veld, a travel writer like Phil, knows the heart-value of food; he seeks out a vegan restaurant in Venice to woo the vegan of his eye, Sarah Turner. Espen also gives this technique a whirl. Who is Espen? A Norwegian man who also attempts to reach Sarah’s heart through her stomach by making vegan mozzarella.

Based on the trailer, Phil loves all things animal, ranging from pork tacos to lobster fried in egg. I wonder if Phil will add vegan gastronomy into his travel pursuits.

Doing research for a travel novel with a lead character who is vegan required quite a bit of research, including making vegan mozzarella!

Watch this Happy Pear video to see how!

What do you think? Should Somebody Feed Phil Vegan Mozzarella? Would you like to see Phil try some vegan food in the exotic places he visits? Do you think he will? We could tweet him and suggest it! (Twitter handle is @PhilRosenthal )

*Unfortunately, it looks like Somebody Feed Phil is not yet available on Netflix in The Netherlands. Is it available in your country?