book clubs and Coyote Wells

Excerpt from Shadow Canyon

Elnora’s house overflowed with Happy Bookers. The librarian took the time to introduce everyone to her new boyfriend, Ansel Conover, who seemed friendly enough carrying around a tray of rolled chicken tacos and dip.

Overall, the turnout was more than Gemma had expected. Just as club members had hoped, there were lots of new faces in the crowd. 3D SC png

Lianne had dragged her reluctant next-door neighbor, Enid Lloyd, to the meeting by promising her food and drink. On the other hand, Gemma had pushed the novel onto Leia hoping the chef would appreciate the depression-era southern recipes. Leia in turn had sweet-talked Rima and Willow into coming.

Gemma joined the others as they took seats in a circle around the living room, determined to fit in with the klatch no matter what.

While Elnora filled their glasses with a nice merlot that went well with the finger food, Gemma decided to bend Ansel’s ear on his next trip around the room with the hors d’oeuvres. It didn’t take long.

“You have an unusual first name. Anything to do with Ansel Adams, the photographer?”

“My mother was a huge fan. Ansel. Now there’s a name that gets you beat up a lot after school. You’re from San Francisco, right?”

“Actually I’m from Coyote Wells, born and raised. I spent several years in the Bay Area though until I moved back here a few months ago.”

“Weird weather there. Cold in the summer. Is there ever a time when it’s warm?”

“Not many know this but the hottest month in San Francisco is actually September.”

“Good to know. Maybe I’ll surprise Elnora with a trip there in the fall, make the rounds of all the museums. Elnora would love that.”

“Didn’t you used to teach archaeology at UC Davis?”

“Anthropology,” Ansel corrected. “The systematic study of our evolutionary origins. Studying our cultural backgrounds, processing our evolutionary biology, those are some of the most stimulating fields of study. How I do miss the classroom and looking out on the eager faces of my students. They always managed to ask great questions. I had to think on my feet and be prepared for any discussion.”

Gemma didn’t think she’d ever been that ecstatic about evolutionary origins, but then she’d come a long way since her days as a freshman. “I was wondering. Might you know a good forensic anthropologist, someone who could do a facial reconstruction like I’ve seen on the Doe Network?”

“What a fascinating question. I believe I could get you in touch with a former colleague of mine who does that sort of thing. Why do you ask?”

She filled him in on the town’s Jane Doe. “Her family deserves to know what happened to her. She at least deserves a name.”

“That’s a noble gesture. Don’t leave here without getting Candace Stewart’s number. She specializes in facial reconstruction at the Institute of Sciences. She still teaches a class at Cabrillo College.”

“Thanks. How much do you think something like that would cost?”

“Don’t worry about that yet. Besides, depending on the situation, it might fall under the federal grant Candace obtained. Or, she might get her students to do it gratis as a project. But you do realize the process takes months.”

“I just need to get it going. I don’t care how long it takes.”

“How long what takes?” Leia wanted to know as she elbowed her way into the conversation.

“The Jane Doe project.”

“The whole town could take up a collection and pay for it,” Leia suggested.

“Now you’re talking,” Ansel said as he moved on to fulfill his boyfriend duties.

Leia leaned in near Gemma’s ear. “When do I get to tell everyone here that those recipes in the book suck?”

“Shh! Don’t make waves,” Gemma chided. “I don’t want to get kicked out my first time here.”

“Oh, please. Don’t give me that superior attitude. You’d feel differently if it involved chocolate.”

“How many recipes did you try anyway? Maybe it was a fluke.”

“Mom and I picked ten and split them up between us. Of the five I made, it was that awful breakfast casserole that was the worst. I thought poor Zeb might have to make an appointment to see Luke to get his stomach pumped.”

“Oh, come on.”

“I’m not kidding. I should’ve thrown the entire dish down the garbage disposal the first time I sampled it. If the author messed up chocolate truffles the way she screwed up a simple pasta recipe, you’d be livid.”

“Well. Yeah. Goes without saying.” Gemma looked around the room, her eyes landing on Edna. “Did you know she brings fresh flowers every day out of her garden to half the stores along Water Street, including the shop?”

“Sure. Where do you think the restaurant gets all those hydrangeas we put on the tables? Edna’s garden is a showplace.”

Elnora called the meeting to order and everyone took their seats. To Gemma’s surprise, the book discussion lasted a mere forty-five minutes. All the while she had to keep kicking Leia to prevent her from complaining about the recipes. But in the end Lucinda Fenton was the one who brought it up.

“I think maybe the author left out a few key ingredients. That recipe for homemade dumplings turned out just awful.”

That subject had Leia bounding to her feet, thoroughly picking apart each recipe she’d tried and ruined. For the next thirty minutes they discussed flogging the author before the talk turned to more docile gossip. Everyone wandered back over to where the appetizers had been set up to graze and chat about the next book selection.

Getting bored, Rima tapped Gemma on the shoulder. “I thought of something else that happened that summer. It might mean nothing. But then again, it might just help in some way.”

“Come with me, let’s take this outside so we can hear each other,” Gemma said, steering Rima onto a side terrace lined with flowerpots, rows of containers overflowing with every color imaginable of blossoms.

“Geraniums are Elnora’s specialty. She grows them from seeds,” Rima pointed out.

“So I see. What’s up? What did you recall from that summer?”

“Remember how I told you that Lindsay Bishop was the second car accident that summer in August. Well, I forgot one little detail. Lindsay got married that spring, April I believe. She’d only been Aaron Barkley’s wife for four months when she had that car wreck. You should check to see if Aaron collected a fat insurance payout afterward. I remember his spending a lot of cash around town after that.”

“Why Rima, you think like a super sleuth. I’m proud of you.”

“Hey, I watch crime shows. Theo teases me all the time about them. It’s sort of a hobby of mine at the end of the day. It’s time he respected the importance of murder mysteries.”

“I’ll say. Any time a spouse ends up dead four months after the wedding is cause for alarm and a reason to ask questions.”

“That’s just it. I don’t think anyone did…ask questions. Do you think the two accidents might be related?”

“You never know. But it’s a highly suspicious coincidence. And way past time to start digging for answers.”


Coyote Wells Mystery series delivers for fans of the genre

Murder with a side of chocolate.

The 2nd book, Shadow Canyon, keeps readers coming back to Coyote Wells.

Look for it February 27th

Murder with a side of chocolate

Exhausted after the Sun Bringer Festival, Gemma Channing and her ex, Lando Bonner, are hanging out at the beach, trying to recover from the three-day event when her longtime nemesis is found dead on the dunes. As rumors grow about Mallory’s demise, many in Coyote Wells feel like Gemma is responsible.

Determined to find out who did it, Gemma goes into overdrive to find the real killer. With the help of Lando and her friends, they dig deeper into Mallory’s past, hoping to uncover all of her secrets. But they get more than they bargained for when the tables turn. The new theory brings a longtime mystery to the forefront, one that’s been hanging around for three decades…unsolved. What does it mean for the people in Coyote Wells when the secret’s uncovered? And will Gemma be able to figure things out before anyone else dies?

New series: A Coyote Wells Mystery

As Halloween approaches and with Thanksgiving on the horizon, I’m settling in for a long winter of writing. For starters, I’ve outlined three books for my new series, A Coyote Wells Mystery.

First up is Mystic Falls scheduled for release on Tuesday, November 7th.

Emotionally reeling after the death of her grandmother, Gemma Channing is settling into Coyote Wells, her hometown where she grew up, after a ten-year absence. While coming to terms with the loss of her Gram, MYSTIC FALLS FINAL coverdisturbing things begin to happen. Women are disappearing. Just when she begins to realize Coyote Wells has changed—and not for the better—she’s forced to bump heads with Lando Bonner, her ex, a man who still carries around a grudge. You might say Lando despises her. But since she’s digging for answers in an effort to explain exactly how her grandmother died, she needs his help. It won’t be easy. Lando has never forgiven her for leaving him. Tensions between the two rise as a killer grips the town in fear. Is it kill or be killed? Who will the killer target next? And when will it all end?

I love dabbling in mysteries and figuring out how to solve them. As you can tell by the continuing theme, Gemma and Lando will have a homicide or two to solve in each book. They’ll have help from an array of quirky characters. I hope you come to love Gemma and Lando as much as I do and hope you settle into the town with all the other odd characters who make Coyote Wells home.

peace, solitude, the arboretum

“The Arboretum now nurtures people in the same way it once nurtured trees. It feeds their spirits and souls, their minds and bodies. It provides somewhere to put down roots, to be part of and give strength one to another through its collective efforts, its coming together whether to fight that which threatens it or to nurture its young and old, each “tree” supporting and being supported by its neighbours.”

~ The Arboretum Story, 1991

prairies, woodlands, wetlands, and gardens–find it all at the arboretum.


Morris Arboretum Philadelphia, PA


When home is hell

There’s something about having the safest place in the world for you in the same room. ~ Julia Roberts

Actress Julia Roberts has stunned fans for decades.  Who out there wasn’t charmed by her portrayal of Maggie Carpenter in Runaway Bride? And can you picture anyone else playing Vivian Ward, the hooker with a heart of gold, any better than Julia Roberts did in Pretty Woman? Probably not. Remember Grace in Something to Talk About? Who didn’t side with her against the cheating Eddie? 5919f96512e32ec14fa6287268e8c959

That’s why it’s great to read how happy she is these days. And according to the interview she gave in the October issue of Allure magazine, she’s singing the praises of her strong, loving relationship with her husband, cinematographer Danny Moder. Since they’ve been together for thirteen years that longevity sounds so unHollywood-like. But what’s notable here is that she says Danny makes her feel safe, secure, more confident in her work, and goes on to describe a natural chemistry of joy between them. Wow! Natural chemistry of joy sounds amazing. Isn’t that what all married couples should strive for? Isn’t that something they had to feel for each other at one time or another in order to take that initial, serious walk down the aisle in the first place? You would think to achieve that goal on the road to happily-ever-after, every couple out there would practice that safe, secure, confident thing with each other, right?

Not so fast.

Maybe if two people are able to toss in a heavy dose of respect for each other along the way, you stand a greater chance of developing a winning formula that lasts. Respect for each other is essential, especially in front of impressionable kids. Without showing each other respect, all you really have is a crash and burn scenario that sets your relationship up for serious failure. Respect is key.RespectEachOther During times of stressed out and hurt feelings, if you’re able to fall back on the respect you have for the person you paired up with, it will get you through a lot. After all, neither party should expect to run a prison camp or a dictatorship and call it a marriage. A successful relationship is NOT either one of those things. When you said “I do,” you were hoping for a soulmate, not a cellmate.

Sad to say, that hellish atmosphere thing at home is the norm for many. Too many. I should know because since I published my first book four years ago, readers reach out and share their personal, painful, real-life experiences. For them, marriage hasn’t been a bed of roses. It’s more like a horror movie that doesn’t stop.

I’m not a relationship expert, nor do I want to be. For that kind of serious help you need a pro. There are plenty of blogs out there written by noted psychologists far more adept at handling questions about these kinds of situations than I ever could attempt to address. And I’ve recommended those sources  to my readers.

Having said that, I DO know one thing. No matter what people tell you, relationships are not supposed to be WORK. If you’re in one where home is hell and your partner piles on a ton of stress, day in and day out, you’re with the wrong person!!!! Plain and simple. All the therapy or couples counseling in the world will NOT change that one fact.

That’s one reason when you hear about a good marriage working out it’s worth the mention. But if your partner is a nightmare, if there’s no mutual respect in your household, if screaming matches (or worse) greet you as soon as you walk in the door after an eight-hour shift at work, if your home life is a living hell, then it’s okay to start considering the alternatives. take-care-of-yourselfIt’s okay to start visualizing a little peace and quiet for yourself. It’s okay to leave. Remember, it’s okay to take care of your health, your well-being. In other words, take care of yourself. If you don’t, who will? Improve your living situation. Don’t put up with a hellish environment where a partner makes you feel lousy about yourself. Nowhere is it written that you should endure such emotional abuse. Life is too short for that. There is hope out there. And you can do it!!!

Oh, those crafty mason jars!!


Give me a jar, any kind of jar, and I can rule the world!!


Make scented oil candles for Christmas


Store stuff



Make an herb garden!


A mason jar wind chime


Use them for inexpensive luminaries



Got seashells? Display them in jars!


Photos: Pinterest Pinners

Sunday Kindness

Kindness is always fashionable, and always welcome.

Amelia Barr

Pay it forward: To repay a good deed or act of kindness to someone other than the original giver.

It doesn’t cost a thing to be kind. Most people think you have to have money to be a philanthropist. But the truth is you don’t have to have a vast amount of wealth. Think of it in terms of paying simple things forward. A random act of kindness, no matter how small, goes a long way. Even a smile could make someone’s day. Below are 14 things you can do today to make a difference.

  1. Volunteer to read to a sick child in the cancer unit at your local hospital or volunteer at a nursing home and read to the elderly.
  2. Send a care package to a serviceman or woman serving overseas.
  3. Write an encouraging note and leave it where people can find it. Encourage others to follow their dreams. Don’t belittle them for their efforts.
  4. Donate to your local thrift stores and shop there. The money remains in your community.
  5. Have an old pair of eyeglasses sitting around? Donate them to LensCrafters. The retailer participates in the OneSight Program which offers free eye exams and eyewear to people who need it.
  6. If it’s possible, donate blood. Most of your local hospitals have a donation center. If there isn’t one in your area, there’s always the Red Cross.
  7. Donate a bag of dog or cat food to your local animal shelter.
  8. Donate a professional outfit to Dress For Success and you’ll help a disadvantaged woman get back on her feet. By looking her best in an interview, your donation could help her nail the job she needs to move forward.
  9. Start a donation box at your workplace and ask others to bring in canned goods. Then deliver the food you’ve collected to your local food bank or to someone you know personally having a hard time making ends meet.
  10. Make simple sandwiches, put them in sacks, and hand them out to the homeless in the park.
  11. Pay for the person’s coffee behind you in line.
  12. When you’re shopping, let someone else go ahead of you in the checkout line with less items than you have.
  13. Volunteer to clean up trash in a park or along the beach.
  14. Speak up if you see someone who needs help or is being bullied.

These are just a few suggestions to get you started. If you’ve already made your own, list them in the comments section.