January 30, 2012

Miniatures Monday: Mini plants for the dollhouse

Ok, I'm hooked! Heard about this simple project in the Feb. Miniature Collector Magazine's Kid's Corner - making plants in faux cans!

I didn't follow directions but tried out my own method, and I have to say, these are addicting! I glued a piece of black Crayola Model Magic on top, then added glue and covered it with some brown railroad ballast, pieces of lichen and fine green grass material. The plants are flower punches and the "helicopter" shape leaves are from a SDK Miniatures flower kit. I also shrunk down some labels for half scale size.

I used the old-fashioned can labels from Jennifer's Printables site and I'm next making some with vintage labels I found and reduced. I'll share those when I finish that batch and take photos. I can see these lined up on a dollhouse room windowsill!

January 27, 2012

Welcome Morgan Mandel, author of Forever Young, Blessing or Curse

Today I welcome author Morgan Mandel, whose latest is FOREVER YOUNG, BLESSING OR CURSE.

Talk about life inspiring art, be sure to read about Morgan's scary experience, and how she used it in her work. And thankfully, it didn't scare this dog lover off pets forever. Pictured is her favorite dog, Rascal.

** Be sure to COMMENT for a chance to win an ebook copy of FOREVER YOUNG.**


Fresh beginnings turn tragic when Dorrie Donato’s husband, Larry, is killed in a hit and run accident a few months after starting a new job at the Life is for Living Institute. Discouraged and desperate after suffering countless setbacks, Dorie accepts an offer by Larry’s boss, the famous Angel Man, to be the first to test an experimental pill designed to spin its user back to a desired age and hold there, yet still retain all previous memories. The pill seems too good to be true. Maybe it is.

- Nook - Smashwords - See all book links


What inspired you to write about this topic?
Age was my inspiration. I’m not getting any younger, but would like to know what it would be like to look and feel young again. In my imagination, I can do that. Reverting back is the germ of the story, but there’s much more to it than the Fountain of Youth concept.

What is unique about your characters?
Well, two of them that interact a lot with each other have totally different looks. One, who for now shall remain nameless, is short, stocky, has thick glasses and a deformed face. His counterpart, whom I’ve dubbed the Angel Man, is a hunk, with an angelic appearance and long blond hair.

How much of you is in the characters?
I’ve adapted one of my own life experiences for this book. One day when I was in the library parking lot, I stopped to say hello to a Golden Retriever seated in a station wagon with the window partially open. The dog lunged at me and bit my face, almost taking off part of my lip. I rode in an ambulance to the emergency room, received plastic surgery, and fortunately survived the experience without looking the worst for it. The character in my book doesn’t fare as well.

Here is the fictional version of that experience:

On that September day years ago, he’d gotten no warning of the tragedy awaiting him when he’d stepped from his favorite haunt, the local library.

Back then, a short, normal looking college freshman, owning somewhat weak eyesight from constant reading, he still looked decent enough to get some tail whenever he felt like it. With above average intelligence and grand ideas, he’d dreamt of the road to riches stretching ahead.

All that disintegrated when, instead of heading toward his Camaro, he’d taken a deadly detour to admire a golden retriever perched in the flatbed of a truck.

Before he could open his mouth to say hello to the dog, the placid looking animal went vicious, lunging at him, targeting his nose, mouth and cheeks, mauling his face.

The physical pain and numbness were nothing compared to the mental anguish he’d endured since. He’d consulted doctors, but to no avail. Perhaps if he’d been wealthy, the outcome would have been different. Then again, maybe not. It would have taken a miracle to repair the extensive damage, no matter how skilled the plastic surgeons.

Each successive surgery worsened his features, until he couldn’t look in the mirror without vomiting. No wonder people turned from the sight of the short, squat Frankenstein-ish creature who looked as if he’d stepped out of a monster movie. He didn’t blame them.

What was the most intriguing part of the book, and why did you write it?
The concept of the existence of a Forever Young pill to turn back the aging clock intrigued me enough to expand on it. If one could be perfected, it would certainly be a boon to mankind.

What’s your favorite line?
If she shoved him into the ocotillo cactus in back of him, would he flinch when his flesh hit the thorns?

It struck me as funny, picturing Dorrie shoving the Angel Man backward into the cactus. The line was actually inspired by my trip to Scottsdale, Arizona, where I saw many ocotillo cacti, which are not native to Illinois.

If you met your characters in real life what would you do?
I’d be curious enough to ask my main character, Dorrie, who takes the Forever Young pill so she can remain 24, if she’s getting tired of being the same age for so long. Some of the other characters I’d run away from as fast as I could!

Morgan Mandel is a former freelancer for the Daily Herald newspaper, prior president of Chicago-North RWA, prior Library Liaison for Midwest MWA, and belongs to Sisters in Crime and EPIC.

She enjoys writing thrillers, mysteries, romances and also enjoys combining them. Her latest paranormal romantic thriller, FOREVER YOUNG: BLESSING OR CURSE, Book One of the Always Young Series, is available on Kindle and Smashwords. Other novels the romantic suspense, KILLER CAREER, the mystery, TWO WRONGS, and the romantic comedy, GIRL OF MY DREAMS.

Morgan is now working on Book Two of the Always Young Series called Blessing or Curse: A FOREVER YOUNG ANTHOLOGY, where readers learn what happens to others who have taken the Forever Young pill. One more book will follow bringing back the original heroine to close out the series.

January 25, 2012

Dare I say it? CUTE Dollhouse Video!

A bit of mystery and some fun storytelling as you search the dollhouse rooms in this video from the Great American Dollhouse Museum in Kentucky. CUTE! (Btw, they also had IN MINIATURE STYLE II in stock, so ask about it!) CUTE!

**** Be sure to go to the Link HERE and vote LIKE! so they get more views.*****

January 23, 2012

Miniatures Monday: The finished Glass House

Finally finished the glass house I got a while back at the flea market. I'll eventually add more plants as I get them done, but I like how it's turned out. (Early furniture pix)

I made most of the flowers. The gorgeous blue hydrangeas are by Jody Raines.

A Tip: I like having a wall in any room to have pictures and shelves, so I made the back wall from foam core covered with scrapbook paper. Since the top opening is small (the center top glass section), I had to split the wall in two pieces to get it inside. The top shelf, attached with wax so I can take the wall out, helps hold the pieces together.

Below, the pink hydrangeas (and single yellow one on the shelf) are easy how to's from my book, IN MINIATURE STYLE II. (** And please click THIS LINK to VOTE for the book in the About.com 2012 New Miniature Product Category. Voting ends Feb. 15.**)

I really like the red pansies and the table. (I did a trade for the flowers and wish I can remember who sent me the pansies and the irises. Let me know if you did.)

Don't you love the mini books and mags? (Including my book!) You can get book and mini mag printies on my website miniatures page. My friend, Kitty, made the cupcake and cookies.

I LOVE how the furniture came out. It used to have black print and then yellow print cushions on the chair. Color can make such a difference! I used antique lace trim on the pillows and on the bottom edges of the furniture.

I added the bear for fun.
Thanks for visiting! (And don't forget to vote above!)

January 20, 2012

Vamps, oh my! Welcome Kristin Battestella, author of Fate and Fangs: Struggle: Elizabeth in America

Today we go to the dark side with Kristin Battestella, author of the Vampire family saga, Fate & Fangs.

Her latest, Struggle: Elizabeth in America, is book 3 in the Fate & Fangs series, which includes Love: Ann and the Viking; and Punishment: Lilith's Trials.

About the Book:

Seeking solace and solitude from her unhappy home life as the unloved wife of Antonio, Elizabeth travels to colonial America in Professor James’ third account. On the outskirts of the white man’s civilization, Elizabeth meets Rain, a young Kiowa warrior on a vision quest. Will his lack of fear, search for answers, and gripping hothouse experience help her face those very vampire truths she sought to escape?


MuseItUp Bookstore

Other books in the series:

Talking with the author:

For me, the most interesting parts of STRUGGLE are the American Indian aspects. Though it is very much about the titular Elizabeth, we also meet future Welshire vampire Rain and explore Native America philosophy on vampires. This was one of the early Tales from the Vampire Family that I had written when I first began what became the first novel. We simply don't get western or colonial American vampires that much and I wanted to explore that area. Everyone around the world has undead mythology, why do we always go for the stereotypical widow's peak or brooding dreamboat?

WHAT IF... you met your characters in real life...

Honestly, I suspect I'd never meet them, as I don't haunt the same underbelly fringes as they do. But if I did, I suspect I might not live very long. The Welshire vampires are not friendly. You are either with them or food. We like to think it would be so cool. Um, no, it wouldn't be!!

I suppose when I first began as a young write with The Vampire Family, the characters might have been different expects of me projected onto the page. Victoria, star of Debauchery and Humanity, my new Fate and Fangs release, is the complete opposite of me, a decadent abomination.

However, over the years the players have taken on a life of their own. I also try not to base characters on anyone. It's nice to get an idea or two from people or photos, but things like blonde hair or blue eyes come later on for me.

The personality and what makes a character tick is far more important. Why is this vampire good in this evil world? How can this vamp be so cruel? Which type of person am I? I'd rather have the reader thinking about themselves in relation to the read rather than seeing me the author in every player.

The Welshire vamps and their rival Lilithan coven has different powers and defenses. Some shift into cats, others wolves, crows, mist, fire. Lots of those powers were shown off in my 2008 novel with Eternal Press, The Vampire Family. In Fate and Fangs, however, the personal historicals take focus.

STRUGGLE is more Native American and takes place in Colonial America. Debauchery Book 4, gets ruthless during the Civil War. Again, I enjoy exploring different types of vampires and places in unexpected ways. No high school sparkle here. I didn't have a bad time in high school, but to go back there with such mundane romance seems so dull to me compared to all the times and places we haven't been. The vamps in Fate and Fangs go to dark places and do very naughty things!

I began writing about vamps a long time ago. I enjoy the historical aspects, and myths and societal mirrors they represent. I've read a lot of non fiction and research on different types of vampires around the world, shapeshifting, elements. I wasn't seeing anything in the nineties vamp wise that I liked, so I wrote all this stuff down my own way. I write other material, but always end up back in genre. I enjoy bending the fantastical in ways that say something about us, who we are, where we come from, and where we're going.


Such as it is, I prefer to do my roaming as the wolf. The hunting is quick and swift in my transformed state, and there’s less of a vampire or blood trail. The colonists I first encountered here are very superstitious of witches and other unnatural creatures, but small feeding game such as rabbit, raccoons, and possums are common enough. It’s safer to mind my own business away from any human prey. Besides, the wolf’s fur is warm and the smaller size also helps me climb and nestle in places my vampire form could not. I suppose I could simply levitate to the warmer plains or moderate coastal inlets, but I want to see this land, feel this new country beneath my feet—or rather my paws.


Kristin Battestella says she never got to go as far in college as she intended thanks to a bad case of Lyme Disease that knocked her out for eight years. "I'd still like to go to school and be a minister someday, believe it or not."

Before getting married, she worked mostly in senior health care, making elderly people laugh and helping them to realize that their lives were just beginning, not ending.

"Truthfully, I don't fit into to the 9-to-5 office or retail grind. I've tried it, and cried myself to sleep at not over knowing that it was totally not the place I was meant to be. I've always written, I've always been a storyteller. It just seems natural to me. I suppose it is my job, but I don't perceive it that way, expecting to work normal hours or be paid in regular ways. It is art, life, breath!"

January 19, 2012

Seeking nominations for In Miniature Style II at About.com Miniatures Awards

I'm asking for your nominations! If you liked IN MINIATURE STYLE II - please nominate it in the New Miniature Product Category (which includes books) of the About.com 2012 Miniatures Awards! - you have to log in to vote, and you can use your FB name to do that, too, if you have one. Thank you! ***** Vote here ***** (Voting is open to Feb. 15)

Chris V.

* In Miniature Style II details

* In Miniature Style II ebook

* In Miniature Style II print

January 18, 2012

Welcome to Marva Dasef, author of MIDNIGHT OIL, Book 2 of the Witches of Galdorheim

Today I welcome Marva Dasef, author of the Witches of Galdorheim series.

In the first book, BAD SPELLING, (October 2011 MuseItUp Publishing), Katrina, an inept witch, decides to run away from home because she's a failure at magic. She is afflicted with "Bad Spelling." Her home happens to be an ice-bound island in the Arctic. Her deceased father was a Siberian hunter, so Kat plans to locate her father's family. Her journey continues in book 2, MIDNIGHT OIL. (Love the covers!)

Be sure to comment to win a copy! (And check out Marva's blog and wild intro to this post!)


ABOUT THE BOOK: Midnight Oil, Book 2 of the Witches of Galdorheim

* Watch the book trailer *

Shipwrecked on a legendary island, how can a witch rescue her boyfriend if she can’t even phone home?

Kat discovers that an evil forest spirit has kidnapped her brand-new boyfriend. She sets out with her brother, Rune, from her Arctic island home on a mission to rescue the boy. Things go wrong from the start. Kat is thrown overboard during a violent storm, while her brother and his girlfriend are captured by a mutant island tribe. The mutants hold the girlfriend hostage, demanding that the teens recover the only thing that can make the mutants human again–the magical Midnight Oil.

Mustering every bit of her Wiccan magic, Kat rises to the challenge. She invokes her magical skills, learns to fly an ultralight, meets a legendary sea serpent, rescues her boyfriend, and helps a friendly air spirit win the battle against her spiteful sibling. On top of it all, she’s able to recover the Midnight Oil and help the hapless mutants in the nick of time

Book Tidbits:

HUMOR: The books are written with humor, although there's real danger in Kat's journey. She's a determined young woman who doesn't hesitate to act, no matter what. Her half brother, Rune, is her stalwart companion. He's a super spellcaster who loves an adventure, so happily goes along with Kat's ideas.

SETTING: I think my settings are intriguing. I use the urban fantasy idea in a non-urban setting. My characters move through the real world of the Arctic seas, Norway, and Siberia, but the real world has magic which most of us never see. In the Arctic, Kat discovers her ability to talk with animals. In Norway, she and Rune visit the Hall of the Mountain King (the troll kingdom). In Siberia, Kat must deal with a curse-throwing shaman. There's magic everywhere if you know where to find it.

INSPIRATION: I got the idea for the overall story when the title, "Bad Spelling," popped into my head. I was no doubt reading blog posts, which tend to be rampant with bad spelling. Everything else came from that.

****GIVEAWAY: *****
Post a comment to be in the drawing for a free copy of Midnight Oil


Chapter 1 – Company’s Coming
Present Day, Galdorheim Island in the Barents Sea

Kat scrambled around her room getting ready for her grandfather’s arrival. More importantly, Andy would be coming, too. She dwelled a moment on their one kiss, and her stomach fluttered. Nearly six months had passed since she’d left him in Siberia, and that was one hundred and eighty days too long.

She took a last glance in the mirror and jerked the childish red ribbon from her hair. The black tresses fell loose down her back. Twisting to check out her jean-clad rear in the mirror, she smiled. Yes! Tight enough to show off, but not so tight Mom’ll flip out.

She searched for her bunny-familiar and found Teddy snoozing under the pillow. Kat nudged him. He blinked and yawned.

“Hey, lazy butt, want to come along?”


“Not too cold. I’ll carry you.”

Teddy tipped his head. Kat could almost hear the little gears grinding. “Okay.”

She tucked Teddy into the sling and hurried to the parlor where her family waited.

Rune, her half-brother, yawned. “About time.”

“I can’t just throw any old thing on like you do!” Kat stuck out her tongue at him but had to admit he always looked great. If he’d only wear some other color than black.

“Let’s go.” Ardyth, her mother, snapped her fingers. A brown velvet cape leapt from its hook, draping itself around the statuesque blonde’s shoulders. The dragon clasp hissed as it snicked shut at her throat. The tall witch glanced in the mirror hung above the coat hooks and patted her pale hair into place.

Kat’s family left the house and walked together down the main street of the village. Other Wiccans came out of their homes, silently falling into step behind them. They made their way toward the portal, which served as entrance and exit to the magic, bubble-like barrier. Without the protective shield, their village would freeze like the rest of the tiny, icebound island of Galdorheim. When they passed the Council Hall, the head witch joined them.

January 11, 2012

Welcome to Sue Perkins, author of Children's Fantasy, REVA'S QUEST

Today I welcome Sue Perkins, author of the intriguingly named children's fantasy, REVA'S QUEST. (And what a cool-looking cover!)

About the Book:

Reva and her garden gnome arrive in Fey to fight the evil, Malice. Joined by three quest companions, they travel across the land to Malice’s lair. Only Reva can rid the world of Malice, but their journey brings danger, and she wonders if she will survive. Malice’s evil has invaded many of the animals and these beasts try to stop them reaching their goal. One of the companions begins to act strangely, and Reva must consider the possibility of a traitor in their midst.

BUY: MuseItUp Bookstore

About the Author:

Thank you so much Chris for inviting me to your blog. Hope you had a nice Christmas and New Year.

Christmas in New Zealand takes place in summer and most people take the opportunity to combine it with their annual holiday. Camping is a favorite holiday for those with children but unfortunately the weather doesn't always stay nice. We've had a few floods recently, plus the continuing earthquakes in Christchurch but at present it's sunny and hot, hot, hot.

I love to read and write fantasy novels and some of my favorite authors are Anne McCaffrey, Terry Pratchett and Naomi Novik. Who would I like to emulate? I think Terry Pratchett. I have no idea how he gets so much humor in his books, but I'd love to be able to write in such a lighthearted way.

* Visit Sue's blog.


They walked through the trees for most of the day, but eventually the forest thinned out. Through the trunks she could see rolling meadows with another wooded area in the distance. Distant snow-topped mountains broke the horizon. The creatures of Fey might not be the same as her imagination, but the scenery certainly looked similar. Eager to leave the lurking leprechauns behind, she hurried out onto the lush grassy surface.\
“Come back you silly girl.”

Reva ignored Maura. With her arms stretched out to either side and her face turned upward, she spun slowly, enjoying the warm sunshine of late afternoon.

“What does she think she’s doing?” Maura’s voice held astonishment.

“Enjoying the warmth and light I think,” Jarin's words were thoughtful. “I thought she knew about Fey. Doesn’t she know how dangerous it is to rush out in the open?”

“Apparently not,” the female elf replied.

Reva heard their voices, but ignored the actual words. Eyes closed, she tilted her head back even more and lifted her face to the sky, enjoying the warm rays bathing her face. The sunshine wiped away the sense of menace and replaced it with a feeling of ease and contentment.

For several moments, she stood delighting in the sun before something passed across the sky, throwing a shadow on her face. Reva looked up, expecting to see a cloud crossing the sun. Her eyes widened in horror. A huge avian dived toward her at an amazing speed. The beak opened in a challenging scream which went right through her. Sharp talons on its feet stretched toward her as it swooped in for the kill.

The bird zoomed closer and closer. Reva stood open-mouthed, staring. Fear and disbelief pinned her feet to the ground.

January 06, 2012

2012 Zombie Book Reading Challenge

Since I've been reading zombie-themed books lately, I came across this: a zombie book reading challenge! Perfect!

Book Chick City's Zombie Book Challenge.

Need ideas? She has a Goodreads Zombie Books Shelf. (And there are tons more zombie-themed books out there!)

After finishing writing my own zombie-themed book, I did some reading. Interesting to see the various takes on the zombie theme (in no particular order):

Last year's reads:

1 Handling the Undead - John Ajvide Lindqvist. More about how the people "handle" the zombies.

2 The First Days: As the World Dies - Rhiannon Frater. First pubbed on the internet and picked up a big publisher. Focuses on two main women as they face the Z apocalypse.

3 Fighting to Survive: As the World Dies, Book 2 - Rhiannon Frater. The continuation.

4 Zombie, Ohio, Scott Kenemore - a man who becomes a zombie and retains his wits.

5 Zombies Don't Cry: A Living Dead Love Story - Rusty Fischer. A high school girl finds love after un-death.

Now reading or started:

6 The Dead - Charlie Higson, focuses on kids escaping zombies of teen to adult age.

7 Hollowland, Amanda Hocking - a girl searching for her lost brother and facing a Z-changed world.

On the List Next:

8 My Life as a White Trash Zombie, Diana Rowland. The title and cover pic alone are attention-grabbers.

9 Zombie Eyes, Bloodscreams 3 - Robert W. Walker - the prolific (40+ novels) Mr. Walker's psychic detective discovers an "unholy" pit and battles primeval horror.

10 The Undead: Zombie Anthology, DL Snell, Editor - anthology of Z stories.

11 Feed, Mira Grant - Just found this - 2014 and 20 years after the Rising, reporters Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives-the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

January 05, 2012

A Perfect Read for Horse Lovers: A Horse Called Trouble by CK Volnek

A confession: I'm a sucker for horses and horse books, so when author CK Volnek mentioned her new book (eBook and print), A HORSE CALLED TROUBLE, well, she had me at the title!

It's a great story of love, redemption, hope, and renewal that'll connect with any horse lover, young or old. Be sure to check out the inspiring trailer at the end of this post -- and comment for a chance to win a FREE copy of A HORSE CALLED TROUBLE. Don't forget to read the excerpt and interview below.

About the Book:

Abandoned by her mother at a young age, Tara Cummings has been passed from foster home to foster home; not wanted anywhere by anyone. At 13, she’s skeptic and suspicious, with no family, and no friends.

Horse therapy “will teach trust, perseverance, respect, and the value of teamwork,” or so says the program’s instructor. Tara is unconvinced. Trust only broke her heart, perseverance meant more failures, and no one respects or wants to team up with the misfit foster kid.

Then Tara meets Trouble, an angry and defiant horse, bent on destroying everything and everyone around him. Tara is frightened of the enraged horse, until she realizes Trouble is as misunderstood and untrusting as she is. Pushing aside her fear, the two form a special bond, with Tara also finding hope, acceptance, and the will to love and trust again.

But a bigger challenge lies ahead as Tara tries to save Trouble from the mean, manipulative Alissa - her nemesis and Trouble's owner. Will Tara be able to save the horse who saved her, or will Alissa destroy them both?

* MuseItUp Bookstore
- or Amazon:

Interview with CK Volnek:

Greetings, Chris. Thanks for allowing me to visit your blog today. It is such a treat to be able to visit. I’m so excited to be here and announce my newest tween novel, A HORSE CALLED TROUBLE! I would also love to offer a FREE copy of my eBook to one lucky reader who leaves me a comment! (I hope you love free stuff as much as I do.)

Where did the concept for the book come from?

I have always loved horses. Such marvelous creatures they are. Proud, elegant, powerful yet gentle, compassionate. And I was fortunate enough to be able to call several of them my friend and confidant as I grew up.

I knew I wanted to immortalize some of my treasured equine friends but I never expected to write the story of Trouble in such a fashion as I did. It was after visiting a horse farm that also entertained a horse therapy program for troubled youth that the story sky-rocketed. Tara came to life and shared her entire sad story with me and I couldn’t help but oblige and put it down on paper. And Trouble? He’s a mix of several of the horses I knew. Full of spunk, spirit, trust and devotion. It’s a horse story, full of conflict, with antagonists you’ll love seeing get what they deserve.

Why did you choose to write for tweens?

I think I was most at my element in reading when I was in middle school. I loved reading and escaping into the adventures with my characters. I still love reading books for this age. They are so interested in the world and what it takes to make it a better place.

I also write for this age because I know it can be a struggle to get them to read. My middle son hated to read. So I grabbed the challenge to come up with stories that could grab his attention and pull him into the adventure while teaching a subtle lesson along the way. So far, he’s one of my fans.

Do you have any new projects that you're working on?

I am excited to have two other books to chat about. The first, GHOST DOG OF ROANOKE ISLAND is a tween ghost story and is already available in both print and e-book. It’s a ghost story with a twist of Native American folklore and based on the Lost Colony of Roanoke Island.

In April, THE SECRET OF THE STONES debuts. It is the first of a series called "The Lost Diaries of Northumberland." It is a lighter story, a Harry Potter meets Merlin the Magician kind of story. A Merlin-loving tween is thrust into magic mayhem when the gift he’s been entrusted to protect turns out to be the enchanted object detailed in a mysterious prophecy.


The massive barn towered up, into the Midwest sky, a prison of whitewashed boards, sunlight glinting off it. Might as well be barbed wire. Tara Cummings blinked, momentarily blinded.

So this was her punishment—horse therapy?

She shook her head, letting her mousy brown hair fall over her face. Another time she would have been thrilled to be here, to see a real horse, to actually touch one, not watch it on TV or the internet.

Her fingers tightened into a fist. This time was different. This was a sentence of shame—for something she hadn’t even done. She didn’t steal Alissa’s purse!

Tara struggled to swallow the lump in her throat, the dryness in her mouth refusing to release the knot. Alissa had set her up—she was sure of it. She’d planted the purse in her locker. Why? What had she ever done? Because she wasn’t cool…or popular…or wear designer clothes? Because she was a foster kid?

Resentment and desire burned as one in her chest. She’d never have money or popularity. She’d been born a have-not and the world was making sure she would always stay a have-not.

A cool morning breeze blew across the farmyard, cold fingers reminding the world that despite the sun and the absence of snow, it was only early spring and summer was still a long way off. Tara shivered and withdrew into her shabby sweatshirt, wrapping her skinny arms up in its scratchy fabric. She should have tried harder to prove her innocence to Principal Jackman. Should’ve made him listen.

A long breath whistled through her teeth. It wouldn’t have made any difference. He wanted to be rid of her, like everyone else in her life. Teachers, foster parents, her own mother. All too happy to wash their hands and dump her onto someone else. No one cared. Why would Jackman be any different? He couldn’t wait to ship her off to Marvel’s, the east side’s alternative to regular school. Marvel was, after all, the best place to dump all the 8th grade scum no one wanted.

Tara gazed from the barn to the crisp, white fences and luscious green pastures surrounding them. Marvel was known for its unusual methods in dealing with problem students. But she had totally not expected this. It had to be some kind of mistake. The other kids had moaned and groaned, certain they were headed for a work-camp, cleaning up horse crap, hauling hay, painting, and all that stuff. Listening to them, Tara had envisioned smelly, peeling barns, and broken-down fences. This was quite the opposite. The farm was actually quite tidy. Nice. Peaceful. Not the kind of place she’d expected juvies to be sent to at all.

Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad after all.

About the Author:

CK Volnek was born in Colorado but calls Nebraska home. She grew up loving the wide-open spaces and living in a spot where, as her daughter-in-law told her, "you can see five states from here."

Not surprisingly, CK got hooked on horses and writing after reading the classic, BLACK BEAUTY. She wrote short stories and articles while raising her family, but began getting serious about novel writing seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. See what else she's up to by visiting her blog.

Check out the book trailer!

January 04, 2012

Welcome to Jeffrey Marks, author of the upcoming Erle Stanley Gardner bio

Author Jeffrey Marks has made his "mark" by providing insight into the backgrounds of founding writers in the mystery world via his comprehensive biographies. These include: Atomic Renaissance: Women Mystery Writers of the 1940s/1950s; Who Was That Lady? Craig Rice: The Queen of the Screwball Mystery; and the 2009 Anthony Award-winning, Anthony Boucher: A Bibliography, plus the upcoming bio on Perry Mason author, Erle Stanley Gardner.

His next biography on Erle Stanley Gardner is now in progress, so today we're offering a preview. Erle Stanley Gardner is best known as the author of 80 Perry Mason novels; however, he wrote over 140 books, and 650 short stories and novellas, over his 50-year career. Gardner produced approximately 100,000 words every month, making him one of the most prolific authors of the 20th century. He was a champion of the underdog, and spent many years helping to free unjustly convicted criminals as part of his Court of Last Resort.

Perry Mason has been featured in movies, radio, and a very successful television show, produced by Gardner's production company. Currently, a new Perry Mason film is in the works from Warner Brothers and Robert Downey Jr.

Today, Marks gives us a preview, sharing a bit about the people, and the animals, in Gardner's life.

Erle Stanley Gardner was a champion of the underdog, both literally and metaphorically. He collected strays and treated them better than the humans around him at times. In his legal work, he took on cases of men who had given up hope, men that others would considered beyond legal remedies and created The Court of Last Resort which helped change the legal system in the United States.

Based on his sale to the Saturday Evening Post and the feeling that his growing cadre of secretaries was unhappy with the mountains in winter and the desert in summer, Gardner began to look for a place to settle down. Now that his relationship with Warner Brothers was kaput, he sold his Hollywood home in late 1936 and headed out on the road again. He now had four trailers in his caravan: one for him, one for Jean and Louise Weissberger, a friend from Hawaii, one for a cook and the fourth for another secretary. Honey was not travelling with them at this point, and Peggy had begun working outside the Fiction Factory.

Gardner often credited his dog for finding Temecula, a town of about 250 people at the time. He claimed that Rip, his German shepherd, began barking like never before as soon as they came to Temecula. Gardner stopped and approved of Rip’s decision. He rented a post office box that he provided to his editor, Thayer Hobson, just for their communications. As winter fell, Gardner headed off for his annual trip to New York City, followed by a stop in New Orleans. He left his trailers in Temecula and asked a local friend to look for property in the area. The land that would become his ranch became available during those winter months.

The City of Temecula is located about 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean in southwest Riverside County, just north of the San Diego County line. The San Bernardino Mountains can be seen in the opposite direction. Gardner found it convenient to Los Angeles and his beloved Baja.

Gardner recognized, too, that in order to keep up the pace of two Mason novels a year plus his short stories for the pulps along with the Selby novels, he needed a headquarters to receive mail. Gardner only maintained regular correspondence with a handful of close friends, outside of the publishing world.

Beyond the growing need for a stationary place to receive mail, a bout of pneumonia in the spring of 1937 left Gardner weak and behind in his work. He was living out of the camp trailers and trying to catch up on correspondence and short stories. Something had to give soon. Despite his naturally healthy constitution, Gardner lived at a reckless pace with little sleep and large amounts of self-imposed pressure. The result was that at times, he would develop serious ailments that forced him to slow down. Unfortunately, upon healing, Gardner would again speed up the pace to make up any postponed writing.

To remedy some of those issues, Gardner bought 3,000 acres several miles from Temecula and immediately began converting the land into a home. He dubbed his new purchase, Rancho del Paisano, after one of his short story characters. Gardner wrote to his editor: Recently I’ve found a ranch property which suits me right down to the ground and I’m moving in, lock, stock and barrel with a regular office, plenty of elbow room and my various branches centralized under one roof, and I’m going to be able to turn out more work. I’m going to make headquarters here for the next six or eight months…

Gardner was wrong. He would spend the next 33 years in Temecula, as one of its most famous citizens. Today there are streets, schools, and a mystery weekend there in his honor, held the first weekend of November each year.