thank-a-teacher Thursday

Growing up, I had some great teachers who inspired me to do more, to be more. Mrs. Lyles. Mrs. Pruitt. Mrs. Bourek. Mrs. Lawless. You get the picture. Which probably explains why I went through such a wide swing of career choices early on. It wasn’t until an 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Brown, told me that I could really spin a story that I began to dream of a career in journalism. Did I make it? Not quite. At least not in the newspaper business. But Mrs. Brown’s initial suggestion that I had talent and her yearlong encouragement gave me hope. And from that hope, stories began to emerge. Spinning tales became more natural for me. Short stories gushed out of me I didn’t know I could write. Many a creative writing class later, here I am. So to all the teachers who planted the writing bug in me…thank you! After all this time, I still hear their echoes of optimism, their inspiration, their determination. They instilled in me a forever sense not to give up.

So take it from me, it’s never too late to thank a teacher.





mermaid Monday


One wall of my office with whimsical art.

The mermaid always reminds me it’s okay to giggle even when Skye Cree has a serial killer in her sights.


Always be yourself unless you can be a mermaid, then always be a mermaid.

Mermaids don’t lose sleep over the opinions of shrimp.

Be a mermaid. Make waves.

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.”

A new look for Skye Cree

The bestselling series that made Skye Cree an international success.

Skye Cree Banner Blue.jpg

Brutalized as a young girl by a vile sexual predator, Skye Cree is a survivor. Guided by the visions of her mystical spirit guide to the whereabouts of abducted girls, she uses her unique abilities to turn her horrifying past into a positive force for justice. Fighting the demons that have haunted her for years, she trusts only in herself—until she falls hard for a man for the first time in her life. Now, discovering her abductor is back with a vengeance, she becomes locked in a deadly race against time to stop the horrors of an evil human-trafficking ring that threatens to rip open old wounds—and tear her away from her newfound love.

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


Could you really go green?

It was not until we saw the picture of the earth, from the moon, that we realized how small and how helpless this planet is – something that we must hold in our arms and care for. ~ Margaret Mead



So many PSAs out there suggesting we make going  green and cutting back during the drought a part of our daily lives. But could you really take the necessary steps to make an impact to save the planet and go green even if the drought wasn’t an issue? Could you make significant  changes in the way you do things to make enough of a difference to cut down on greenhouse gases, sending waste to landfills, and cutback on the energy you use to do all those things you still love doing?

Here in Southern California we’ve had to rethink the way we do everything. That’s why a year ago we took a few first steps to do our part to go a little greener. It might not be much but every little bit helps, right? Here are four simple things we do now that have become habit.

1. Cut back on water. Our household has learned to use much less water, both outside and inside. Yes, my plants have suffered. But keep in mind I’m not the world’s best gardener anyway. Inside the house, I don’t start the dishwasher unless it’s completely full. I don’t let the water run while washing dishes.  We take fewer showers, choosing to shower every other day instead of daily. We’ve shut off the faucet while brushing our teeth instead of letting the water run like we used to do. Score!

2. Recycle. We recycle everything. Glass, aluminum, plastic, paper, cardboard. Leftovers. When you consider that there’s 60 million plastic bottles in use in the US every day and only 23% of those are recycled, that leaves an astonishing amount out there that ends up in the trash heap and ultimately in landfills. To cut back on plastic, we invested in BPA-free reusable water bottles. We take them with us everywhere we go. Filling them up cuts down on the cost of buying the individual plastic bottles. We also recycle furniture by finding new homes for things, like a couch we had for years that went to a single mom to furnish her new place to live. Score!

3. Cut back on electricity usage. We follow all the energy alerts or what is called Save Power Days. Save Power Days is where you sign up voluntarily to reduce your electricity usage on certain days between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. During these days we delay running the dryer or any other large appliance. We set the thermostat to 78 degrees and open the windows and doors (which lately in the heat of summer has  sometimes made for a sweltering sauna.) We also power down our electrical devices for two hours. The more electricity you save during these energy alerts the more bill credits you can rack up. Score! Buy-Local1

4. We shop locally. Shopping locally means supporting businesses in our neighborhood which translates to saving on shipping. We buy as much  as we can that’s grown or made locally. I live near a lot of fields where produce is grown that ends up at the local farmer’s market. And there are fruit stands open here year-round. We shop at thrift stores whenever possible. That means taking gently used items and giving them a new home and saving cash! Score!

So far, so good, right?

Now comes the problematic area.  To save on fuel it’s recommended we take public transit more often, at the minimum, once a week. To be honest, we drive most everywhere we go. If the trips are fairly short it seems less of a hassle to just jump in the car and get it done.  We do take the train on longer trips, but other than that, it’s the car for most everywhere else. Let’s face it, it’s hard to break that reliance and convenience of having your own wheels, able to come and go as you please, whenever you please, without waiting on a bus timetable.

But we do manage to conserve fuel in other ways, like combining our errands into one major shopping trip. Although public transportation here is first rate and will get you to local shopping malls and back without too much waiting time between buses, as cooler weather gets here, we do plan on expanding our foray into taking the bus. I’ll let you know in future posts how it goes.

The changes we’ve made may seem small now. But it wasn’t always that way. All in all, I think our greening effort is a good first start. As with any change, the more routine things become, the easier it gets. Hopefully, over time, we’ll be able to incorporate even more ways to go green.