Posted in Guest Post

Writing Humor

Writing humor is often perceived as being difficult, but it doesn’t have to be. It is not that you write something that is fall on the floor funny, but it is that you take a fresh perspective on old things. For example, I wrote “Red Hot Scooter Mama” (available here) after going to the grocery store and encountering little demon kids from alien planets with non-existent parents. The article begins with a bow to the width of my feet. I could have just said, my feet are really wide, and because of that I have to ride a scooter around the grocery store.

But that wouldn’t have been near as effective as, “Some woman are blessed with slender feet. Not me. Mine are as wide as the Mississippi, and have never sported an arch as lovely and delicate as the one in St. Louis.” Immediately, you get a visual image with a spot of humor about my feet. But, by gosh and by golly, who even CARES about my feet? Yet, this article garnered more hits and comments than most of my other posts. Not only that, but it was taken off the blog and posted about on the different groups as a lively conversation ensued.

All about feet and little bratty kids!

The point is, humorous writing can be about anything. You may be thinking, I’m not Erma Bombeck. Exactly. You’re who you are, and you write humor with your own bent.

Is there even a market for humor? The answer is a resounding “yes!” For about a year, I wrote a humor column for our local newspaper. If you’re willing to write for free, most of the smaller newspapers are open to publishing humor written by local authors. You can post your humor on your blog, or personal website. Additionally, your humor column can grace almost any others website. Google “humor columns” and you’ll see where others have marketed their humor.

Some people are under the impression that to be humorous, you have to be a Jay Leno or David Letterman. No, you don’t have to tell jokes, you don’t have to write cartoons. All you have to do is write about something that is humorous from your point of view. Perhaps about a trip where you lost one of your kids? How about the family cat that got caught in the tree? Or a baby who is just beginning to walk? Humor can be about anything! And once published, you’ll find that a lot of people are interested in that spot of humor, too.

So dispel the myth that you cannot write humor. If you find something funny, chances are someone else will find it funny, too.
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Posted in Guest Post

Freedom Through Discipline

By Marvin Wilson

I was able to go to college on a music scholarship. My father was a poor Christian minister, and had I not been born with the gift of music, the advantage of higher education would have been denied me. Thanks to my God-given talents, I was able to go. I was a music major with a thespian minor at Central Michigan University. At age eighteen, I thought I knew everything. I had talent, intelligence, youthful bold confidence and a brash attitude, and a social/political/religious view of our world (this was the late 1960’s, mind you) that was one of “I know everything.” And anyone who disagreed with me (especially my parents and any authority figures in the older generation, those despicable leaders of the hypocritical oppressive “Orwellian – big brother” government of the times), were dead wrong. I was a “Free Spirit,” venturing forth into a brave new world that me and my Hippie friends were forging with our new lifestyle, our drugs, sex
and rock and roll religion of freedom.

In my freshman year at college, I met Professor Stephen Hobson. He was my choir director and my private lesson voice coach. He looked to me to be in his late sixties. He was (well, he seemed to me at the time) stodgy and stiff, and a strict disciplinarian. He demanded of me a level of self-discipline and rigorous diurnal practice regimen that I was completely without the ability to understand, let alone adhere to. One little flutter in-between voice registers, any tiny slippage in tonal and/or pitch control when singing my assigned lessons in his torture chambers he called a “practice room” every Wednesday, he would stop playing his piano accompaniment, look at me with this “you know as well as I that that was not good enough” expression and demand that I try it again. Over and over … until I got it perfect. Perfect according to his obnoxious elitist opinion. I couldn’t stand that man.

He was asking way too much of me, and for no good reason. I did not see the need for such a tyrannical imposition of discipline on me and my life, my singing, my anything. I was writing songs about freedom and liberty, gigging at night in my rock and roll band, getting over to thunderous applause at the hands of my Hippie peers, why did I need discipline? I was a one-of-a-kind talent; my uninhibited, serendipitous, wild and natural style was destined to become the standard for future generations. Professors in decades to come would teach their students how to emulate ME! Ah, but those of you with any substantial life experience can guess the rest of the story. I never “made it” as a big impact famous rock and roller. I eventually wound up playing for modest money in little disco bars, playing live juke-box cover tunes for young people to get drunk to and screw each other. But I had learned something along the way.

I learned that in order to become “free” with anything, any pursuit, any hobby, any career, any craft, any aspiration of great accomplishment, you had to go through the discipline first. I never made it as a big name musician, but I did learn how to play my instrument. To this day, I am free when I pick up a guitar. I can express emotions, elevate my consciousness, get all heaven-bound and glorified, and anyone around me will experience the same thing I am feeling. It’s a miracle I can produce, at any time, in any place, on any guitar of reasonable quality. But it took years and years of discipline to reach that plateau. Years and years of overcoming sore fingertips and blistered split open calluses, learning the scales, studying the modes, practicing the positions, emulating the recordings artists, getting so familiar with the neck I owned it as an extensions of my hand.

Towards the end of my bar-playing nightclub career, Professor Stephen Hobson came out to see my band. I had called him, letting him know we were playing in his town that week. Even so, I was surprised to see him in the audience – remember, this is a classical musician, a prim and proper professor, a patron of the fine arts, someone who goes to operas and symphony performances. For him to go to a dance club and listen to a top forty band was rather impressive.

And you know what? He was impressed with our performance. I went and sat at the table with him and his wife after the second set and he was beaming. He had wonderful accolades to bestow upon me and my ensemble, complimenting the vocals, the arrangements, our use of dynamics, and our overall command of our instruments. And it was then that I told him what I had wanted to say for several years. I told him that I finally understood what discipline meant, what its value was. I knew, I told him, that undertaking the arduous discipline of any given art or craft was the necessary and ONLY way to get free within that art or craft. I told him that I finally appreciated what he had been trying to get through to my thick headstrong skull all those years ago. I knew I had been a special student to him, he had a great amount of belief in my talent, and I also knew I had been a disappointment to him, because he never “got through to me” when I was under his tutelage. I apologized to him for that shortcoming and assured him that his teaching had stuck with me all these years and had now been realized in my life and practice.

The now retired Professor Stephen Hobson’s eighty-year-old eyes filled up. He said, and I quote, “Then my life, my career, has been worth it!”

We hugged. Long and sincere. That was the last time I ever saw him. He died a couple years later. I will never forget Professor Stephen Hobson and what he taught me about applying discipline to my life in order to get beyond boundaries and break free. It applies to relationships and marriage, to any career, to any sport, to any hobby, to any life pursuit whatsoever. If you want to eventually be free, you must initially go through the discipline. It may sound like an oxymoron, “Freedom through Discipline,” it did to me as a young Hippie, but it makes perfect sense to me now.

God bless and keep you, Professor Stephen Hobson. Your legacy, your teaching, lives on.

Marvin is giving a copy of his book Owen Fiddler away. Contest closes in 2 weeks.

Posted in Guest Post

A Journey from Fairytales to Horror

By Joan De la Haye

I first started writing when I was about twelve, although my mother and grandmother will tell you I started when they first put a pencil in my hand. My first story was a Fairytale called ‘The Wonderful World of Candy-floss.’ Now remember I was twelve when I wrote it, so please no judgement on the title.

I got the idea for the story from a poster hanging in my mothers office, during a school holiday. It’s still one of the most beautiful posters I’ve seen with fairies, pixies and birds. The story revolved around a young Fairy Princess called Primula and a war against the Goblins. I sent it off to a South African publisher, who promptly rejected it because my spelling was atrocious.
I still have that rejection note and I still can’t spell.

As a child, I also had very vivid nightmares – the kind where you wake up in a cold sweat and your heart is racing. Now As an adult I still have them. I decided to turn those nightmares into stories. It’s a very cathartic experience. The opening scene in ‘Shadows’ is based on one of my nightmares. The book then developed from there and got a life of it’s own.

Shadows also combines two elements that fascinate me, namely the Supernatural, in the guise of a Demon called Jack, and the human mind. I find it very disturbing when I look around and see what we, as humans, do to each other. To me, it’s a type of madness. And it’s that madness that I’ve described in Shadows.

If you would like to know more about Shadows, or Demons, or the Psychological aspects in the book please stop by my blog:

Joan is offering a copy of Shadows as an ebook. This is open to international residents. The contest closes in two weeks. 

Posted in Advanced Review, Detective, Liked It, Mystery

Dare to Die

by Carolyn Hart
This book is rated LI
This is the 19th book in the Death on Demand series. For those visitors for the Ultimate Blog Party, this is an advanced review meaning that I received this book from the author/publisher/publicist prior to the release date, which is March 31, 2009. What this means is that I won’t spoil the ending of the book. My policy is that I spoil books that are already on the market.
Annie Darling is the owner of Death on Demand which is a specialty mystery bookstore. She and her husband Max are eagerly awaiting the restoration of their home on the island. Things in the town are quite until a woman named Iris returns to the island- in the rain, alone, and on a bicycle.
It turns out that Iris left the island 10 years ago, after the death of her classmate Jocelyn Howard. Iris has returned after battling her demons with drugs. She come to make amends for the past. Annie befriends Iris and invites her to their party at the pavilion which was the site of Jocelyn’s death years ago. Stranger still, all of Jocelyn’s classmates still live in the town and will be present at the party. Well lightening strikes twice, Annie finds Jocelyn’s body later on that evening.
Well this complicates things considerably. Iris’ death was clearly not an accident. And it’s beginning to seem as though Jocelyn’s death wasn’t an accident either. In order to solve this murder, Annie and Max will have to take a walk down memory lane. Jocelyn Howard was a beautiful, talented girl- the sun around which everyone revolved. Someone clearly resented being in her orbit.
This was a really good book. I didn’t figure it out until the end. I forgot how rough high school was. Everyone trying to fit in to have friends. I’m glad I don’t have to repeat that portion of my life again.

Posted in Guest Post

Victorian Flirtation

By J. R. LaGreca
My novel Afternoon Tea is a historical fiction taking place in New England during the Victorian Age in the year 1895. This era boasted romanticized images and customs, and subtle communication during courtship. The women used their frilly handkerchiefs, ornamental fans, parasols, hats, and gloves as gestures of flirtation.
The flirtations of the fan had a language of its own. If a woman carried it in the right hand in front of the face she invited a gentleman to follow her. Placing it on the right ear implied you have changed. Drawing it across her forehead warned, we are being watched. Twirling it in the right hand, I love another. Drawing it across the eye implied an apology, (talk about never having to say, “I’m sorry.”) Fanning slowly, I am married, fanning quickly, I am engaged. Closing it, I wish to speak to you; opening the fan wide, wait for me. Drawing it across the cheek, I love you. With handle to lips bore an invitation to kiss, a bold gesture especially in Victorian times.
A handkerchief drawn across the lips implied the bold sentiment, desirous of an acquaintance. Drawing it by the center, you are too willing, (a good cure for the annoyingly persistent suitor.) Dropping it implied, we will be friends; hopefully it would be picked up! Twirling in both hands depicted indifference. Twirling it in the left hand, the unkind message, I wish to be rid of you. Twirling it in the right hand, the disappointing, I love another. Folding it, I wish to speak to you. Drawing it across the cheek, I hate you. Drawing it across the hand, unmistakably, I love you, in the language of love no different than saying it with words, the preferred method for the shy or easily tongue-tied female.
Parasol flirtations; carrying it elevated in the left hand signaled, desiring acquaintance. Carrying it closed in the left hand, a subtle invitation to meet on the first crossing, imagine the picturesque horse and buggies as a backdrop. Carrying it in the right hand close to your side, follow me. Swinging it to and fro by the handle of the right hand, I am married. Twirling it around warned to be careful we are being watched. Tapping it on the chin gently, I am in love with another. Placing the end of tips to lips, do you love me? Dropping it professed, I love you. The clumsiness of dropping it by accident would no doubt bear uncomfortable insinuations and a blushing ingénue.
Hat flirtations had their own mystique; putting it under the left arm, I will be at the gate at 8 PM. Touching the rim to the lips asked, does he accompany you? Putting it in front of you, I am single, and no doubt available. Carrying it in the left hand, the cutting remark, I hate you. Carrying it in the right hand meant, desirous of an acquaintance. Striking it on the hand, I am very much displeased. To incline the hat toward the nose, beware we are being watched. Putting it behind you, I am married. Putting the hat on the head straight signaled, all for the present. Running the finger around the crown professed a declaration of love.
Glove flirtations, the brazen right hand with the naked thumb exposed, kiss me. Biting the tips of the gloves, I wish to be rid of you very soon. Putting them away, I’m vexed. Tapping the chin, I love another. Turning them inside out, I hate you. Smoothing the gloves out gently, I wish I was with you. Dropping both gloves, I love you.
My book Afternoon Tea has incorporated similar gestures in a saga of forbidden love, and, the standards of high society and their paradox. Enter this fascinating era in New England and get a glimpse of a glittering, yet cruel world where image and status are everything. Indulge in an unforgettable cup of Afternoon Tea as you become immersed in simpler times when innuendos said as much as words.
I’m doing a random giveaway. The contest closes in 2 weeks.

Posted in Guest Post

Chick Lit vs. Wit Lit: The Road to Literary Revolution

By Penelope Przekop
Last week I had the opportunity to take a 12-hour road trip across Texas with my 66-year-old mother. She talked a lot about the way things used to be when she was growing up in the 1950s. She enjoyed going on about how everyone was so much more polite, well-groomed, and decent. I was surprised to hear that my grandmother required my mom and her siblings to make their beds when they stayed in hotels.

My mother graduated from high school in 1960. Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road was published in 1961.

Ironically, I was getting this earful about life in the ’50s just as I was finishing Yates’ novel. Flying back to Philly from Dallas, I thought about the perfect picture of domestication my mother grew up with, and how she still wishes life could be that way. Truth be told, she wishes I could be that way. (Confession: I rarely make the beds in my own home much less hotels.) I also considered what I’d like to say about Revolutionary Road.

Another detail swirling in my head was the fact that I finally read a novel officially categorized as Chick Lit just prior to reading Revolutionary Road. It was Sophie Kinsella’s The Undomestic Goddess. One word to describe my reaction: disappointed. Of course, lots of folks buy Kinsella’s novels, and I admit that her work, along with the rest of successful Chick Lit, has its place on the shelf, and probably on sandy beaches everywhere. But I take the word literature seriously … maybe too seriously.

Before my first Chick Lit experience, I assumed these books were for hip, intelligent women who love literature. Isn’t literature supposed to mean something more than hot embraces, palatial homes, awesome shoes, and perfect endings filled with train station embraces? If not, than I was an official chick at eleven. That was the fateful year I discovered the thrill of the harlequin romance. My love lasted about four months—the amount of time it took me to figure out the formula and lose interest.

Now that I’m a woman who can bring home some sort of bacon, I want what I’ve decided to call, Wit Lit. And yes, Wit Lit can appeal to men as well because although we’re apparently from different planets, we share good ole’ human nature in all its simple and fascinating complexity—the very element Yates tapped into when he wrote Revolutionary Road in 1961. Yates’ novel qualifies as Wit Lit because it’s 20-21th century literature that brilliantly provokes relevant, close-to-home thought in the reader. The fact that it was written in 1961 is significant in that the particular questions Yates poses were unexpected and bold within the context of my mother’s graduating class. These American kids were poised to waltz out into the world and set up houses with nice white picket fences, swing sets, and husbands who wore suits to work while the girls stayed home and baked to ensure the home smelled yummy for hubby’s return. Yates gave them something to think about, and he gives us something to think about today. Thus another criterion for Wit Lit: timeless.

In Revolutionary Road, Yates masterfully uses the one certifiably crazy character, John Givings, to deliver truth to a bunch of neighborhood chicks and dudes who, despite their wonderful, intelligent qualities, find themselves caught in the cultural quagmire of the 1950’s my mother so misses. This crazy guy, John, seems to have much to give, however lacking the acceptable 1950’s social skills, he’s been wheeled out of town to an institution. His parents define him as unstable and ill, yet Yates never provides facts to support why he’s been classified this way. John actually seems to know what he’s talking about in a room full of people struggling to put up all the kinds of fronts that maintain the perfect picture John has escaped.

The Wheelers and main characters, Frank and April, have much to offer to each other, their children, and themselves, but they can’t seem to pull past bitter disappointment as they fail to physically escape the Norman Rockwell life they’ve been pressured to emulate. Yates brilliantly casts an inner pallor over the white picket fences, swing sets, yummy smells, and pressed suits of that stifling world. Frank and April aptly recognize that pallor yet fail to grasp the magnitude of choices within their reach. Frank describes the culture he longs to escape like this:

”Christ’s sake, when it comes to any kind of a showdown we’re still in the Middle Ages. It’s as if everyone’d made this tacit agreement to live in a state of total self-deception. The hell with reality! Let’s have a whole bunch of cute little winding and cute little houses painted white and pink and baby blue; let’s all be good consumers and have a lot of Togetherness and bring our children up in a bath of sentimentality–Daddy’s a great man because he makes a living, Mummy’s a great woman because she’s stuck by Daddy all these years–and if old reality ever does pop out and say Boo we’ll all get busy and pretend it never happened.”

However, reality is all around Frank. He falls prey to the sad unreality he longs to escape through his inability to honestly express himself in nearly all his relationships.

He describes his work like this: “I mean the great advantage of a place like Knox is that you can sort of turn off your mind every morning at nine and leave it off all day, and nobody knows the difference,” yet he misses opportunities to tap into his intellect at Knox because he’s blinded by his own ideas of escape.

The fate of those on Yates’ Revolutionary Road shows that revolution comes from within. It doesn’t matter what town, road, or home you live in. Yates deftly relays how revolutionary moments, decisions, and actions can be missed if we fail to look inward rather than outward. Interestingly, another character, the Wheeler’s neighbor, Shep Campbell, grew up in the sort of high-brow intellectual, arty world to which the Wheelers long to escape. Ironically, Shep spent his younger adult years desperate to break out of that particular mold by settling himself into the cookie cutter world of Revolutionary Road. He comes to realize that he doesn’t want to live on the street either—thus we see another character searching outward rather than inward.

In one cool Chick versus Wit moment of the novel, John Givings says to Frank, “I like your girl, Wheeler … I get the feeling she’s female. You know what the difference between female and feminine is? Huh? Well, here’s a hint: a feminine woman never laughs out loud and always shaves her armpits. Old Helen (his mom) is feminine as hell. I’ve only met about half a dozen females in my life, and I think you got one of them here. Course, come to think of it, that figures. I get the feeling you’re male. There aren’t too many males around, either.”

If she existed in 2009, John Giving’s mom, Helen, would probably enjoy Sophie Kinsella’s work. If, like Helen, you prefer to escape the real world, whether through the purchase of a nice white fence, a corporate job that keeps you too busy to feel, or religious services that don’t require real contemplation, stick to reading Chick Lit. In The Undomestic Goddess, Kinsella’s characters always said exactly what they were thinking and feeling. Her conflicts are vastly situational rather than internal. The characters may have been quite comfortable on Revolutionary Road back in the ‘50s. I suspect Kinsella could have nicely resolved Frank and April’s issues with a lot of superb communication, and a nice summer trip to the EU. We’d all be smiling with stars in our eyes but somehow less enlightened about the true nature of humanity.
So, if you prefer to open an eye or two to the complexity, inconsistency, creativity, and hidden beauty of reality, pick up Revolutionary Road, and hope that today’s emerging writers can perpetuate truth the way Yates did in 1961. Demand more Wit Lit! Walk past the chicks and dudes, and take the train toward being real females and males who search inward for answers rather than grasping at all the turn of the century machinations our society imposes. There are still a heck of a lot of streets like Revolutionary Road in our towns and cities. Just because we may live there, doesn’t mean we’re trapped.

Penelope is giving away a signed copy of her book. Leave a comment to enter. Also check Penelope’s website and blog.

Posted in Guest Post

Introducing Chris Tusa

My name is Chris Tusa, and I’m a writer from New Orleans. My debut
novel, Dirty Little Angels, is being released from the University of
West Alabama …I’ve included a summary below:

Dirty Little Angels

Set in the slums of New Orleans, among clusters of crack houses and
abandoned buildings, Dirty Little Angels is the story of sixteen year
old Hailey Trosclair. When the Trosclair family suffers a string of
financial hardships and a miscarriage, Hailey finds herself looking to
God to save her family. When her prayers go unanswered, Hailey puts
her faith in Moses Watkins, a failed preacher and ex-con. Fascinated
by Moses’s lopsided view of religion, Hailey, and her brother Cyrus,
begin spending time down at an abandoned bank that Moses plans to
convert into a drive-through church. Gradually, though, Moses’s
twisted religious beliefs become increasingly more violent, and Hailey
and Cyrus soon find themselves trapped in a world of danger and fear
from which there may be no escape.

I’ve received some wonderful reviews so far. See below for a few

“Dirty Little Angels is the To Kill a Mockingbird of 2009. Chris
Tusa’s novel marks the debut of a brave new voice in contemporary
American literature.” –Burl Barer, Edgar Award winning author of
The Saint, Mom Said Kill, Body Count, Murder in the Family

If I had a dollar for every sentence in Dirty Little Angels that blew
my mind, I’d be able to buy a decent Chevy Nova outright.
Christopher Tusa is a new and powerful voice in American fiction, and
I truly believe that this raw and poetic first novel marks the
beginning of a great and glorious career.–Donald Ray Pollock, author
of Knockemstiff

If you’re interested, you can read the first chapter at my web

Thanks so much,


Posted in Guest Post

Where Do A Writer’s Ideas Come From?

By Bob Sanchez
Where do a writer’s ideas come from? The genesis of my new novel, Getting Lucky, is very much the location: the mill city of Lowell, Massachusetts. There is an old map of the city from circa 1907 dividing it up by ethnic neighborhoods: English, Irish, German, Jewish, Polish, Greek, and French Canadian are the ones I recall. It was a city designed to be a modern 19th-century industrial center, with a spider web of canals linking a series of mills to the Merrimack River. Barges brought raw cotton from the South and returned with bolts of cloth for much of the country.
In the 20th century Lowell fell on hard times and developed just the grittiness and the edge to make it a good setting for a noir detective novel. Then for various reasons in the 1980s refugees from Cambodia flocked there by the thousands. My wife and I lived in a nearby town and sponsored one of the families, which gave us a heightened awareness of the Cambodians’ impact on the region. I had been a technical writer, and I remember waking up in the middle of the night thinking I had to write a novel about the Cambodians coming to America.
Freedom Country was my first try at writing fiction, and the best I can say is that I learned a lot about writing, about Cambodians, and about Lowell. That novel will never be published, because I could never gain a deep enough understanding of the Cambodian culture to make the story compelling. But I used much of the research for other projects.
A couple of novels later came Getting Lucky. I named my hero Mack Durgin after Mike Durgin, a real kid who had bullied me in my childhood. Mack bears no resemblance to the bully; I just happened to like the name. My wife insists that Mack’s personality and my own are not similar, but I like to think that he and I would be very much alike given similar circumstances. He has a sense of humor that he uses as a defense against life’s brickbats.
In Getting Lucky I try to establish a strong sense of place and character. Lowell has a shop called Tower News that sells newspapers and tobacco up front and hard-core pornography in back. In my novel it becomes a pure (well, impure) porn shop called A Touch of Love. My writer’s group loved to tease me about my research and about all the “field trips” I supposedly had to make to Tower News. One of my friends, a proper and devout Christian woman if I ever knew one, playfully pouted that I never invited her along on any of these excursions. One outing we did take together was to the county medical examiner’s office. On the M.E.’s wall hung a satin painting of a crying clown sticking a revolver into his mouth.
Despite all the research a writer does, it’s still easy to get things wrong. In one of my writer’s group meetings I read a scene set on one of the city’s streets in a tough neighborhood called The Acre. Mystery writer Dave Daniel, who knows the city cold, listened patiently and then told me that street slopes gradually uphill. It wasn’t critical to the story, but it was important to get details right when you’re dealing with a real place.
In writing Getting Lucky I learned that you can use facts, details, and observations that come from anywhere and find a home for them in your fiction.

Posted in Guest Post

Introducing Christina Rodriguez

Hello, my name is Christina Rodriguez, and I illustrate award-winning children’s books. Today I’m going to use my guest post on The Bluestocking Guide to tell you about one of best perks of the job – using folks I know as models in my illustrations and creating other special details.

When I was first contracted to work on The Wishing Tree, I was really excited to pay homage to the military lifestyle in which I grew up. As a former Air Force “brat,” I had a wealth of experiences to draw from. I started first and foremost with how I wanted Amanda, the main character, to look. The text described many images of yellow ribbons, so I wanted the color to be very symbolic throughout the book, including painting the main character with yellow (blonde) hair. From there, the choice of model was easy: a blonde girl who is like a little sister in my heart, my friend Yelena.

I have known Yelena’s family for nearly 20 years. Her father was in the Marines and had been deployed several times, and her eldest sister Alecia has been my best friend since sixth grade. I still remember when Yelena was in a high chair, and even though she’s all grown-up now, the age I painted her in the book is probably how I’ll always remember her.

The hat that Yelena/Amanda wears in the opening scene is my father’s from his time in the Air Force. The new military uniforms sport a “digital camo,” but I wanted to show the uniform style that I grew up with:

Finally, I love to paint my husband in my books (check him out as the guy steering the ship in Storm Codes), and if I hadn’t become an artist, I would’ve followed in my father’s footsteps and enlisted. Those who know me well have been amused by my living vicariously through the homecoming scene. I used one of our wedding photos as reference:

Thank you all for reading today, and special thanks to Brooke for letting me have a guest post on her lovely blog. The Wishing Tree was recently awarded a Gold Medal in the 2009 Mom’s Choice Awards and is available in bookstores and on Amazon.

Posted in Guest Post

Spring From a Particular Even

by Carolyn Hart
When I have a new book out (Dare to Die will be published March 31), it is time for book signings and library events. Often I am asked by readers: Where do you get your ideas? This is an excellent question. Every book has its reason and many of the scenes spring from a particular event.

Dare to Die is the 19th in the Death on Demand series. All of the books are set on a sea island off the coast of South Carolina. Why would a born-and-bred Okie set books by the seashore? In the mid-1970s, we first vacationed on Hilton Head island. I fell in love with the Lowcountry, Spanish moss dangling from live oaks in dusky lanes, somnolent alligators on a sunny bank, sea oats rustling in an ocean breeze. I set Death on Demand on my fictional sea island and the first editor who saw the manuscript loved the Lowcountry and it was the start of a grand adventure for me.

Many pieces of the series flow from past knowledge or experience. Max is named Max as a tribute to Agatha Christie’s second husband and Darling as a tribute to the wonderful Mets pitcher Ron Darling. ( I am a longtime baseball fan. I love the Cubs, Rangers, and Astros – and almost everybody else as well.) Annie Darling’s beloved bookstore – Death on Demand – was inspired by a visit to Houston’s premier Murder by the Book in 1985.

In Dare to Die, one scene had its genesis more than sixty years ago. When my husband was in second grade, the teacher divided the class readers into blue birds, red birds, and yellow birds. All the kids understood. My husband was a blue bird and that was the select, favored group. The red birds were okay, nothing great. The yellow birds . . . In the particular scene, a young man recalls his little friend Iris in second grade. They were yellow birds. One day a wonderful thing happened. Each student was called upon to sing a bar alone. When it was Iris’s turn, her voice soared like an angel’s. There was absolute silence. Iris began to cry, thinking she was in trouble. The teacher came and hugged her and said they should have known a yellow bird would have a beautiful voice. From that point, Buck and Iris reminded each other that yellow birds could soar.

MERRY, MERRY GHOST, a Christmas title, will be published in November. It is the second in my series featuring the late Bailey Ruth Raeborn, an impetuous redheaded ghost. GHOST AT WORK came out last fall in hardcover and will be out in paperback in November. Bailey Ruth Raeburn grew out of my delight in entertaining ghost stories, especially the Topper books by Thorne Smith. In the Topper books, the spirits of funloving Marian and Georfge Kirby add spice to the life of the staid banker Cosmo Topper. I thought it would be more fun to have everything seen from the perspective of my ebullient redheaded ghost. So far as I know in the current books with ghosts (and I started mine before ghost books were the rage), the ghosts are secondary characters who assist a living character. Bailey Ruth is the protagonist. Some of the tension in the book grows out of her struggles to follow Heavenly rules while on the earth, not an easy task for her. After Ghost at Work was finished, I was asked who inspired her character. I actually don;t know. She jusr came. However, there is a famous Oklahoman who typifies Bailey Ruth’s spirt and that is Reba McEntire, a gorgeous redhead. Bailey Ruth loved to sing, too!

Best Wishes – Carolyn Hart

Carolyn is offering a signed copy of both Ghost at Work and Dare to Die. I have reviewed both books. They are wonderful. My review of Dare to Die will be posted next week. The contest closes in two weeks.