Conference Magic

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Writers’ conferences are magical. If you do nothing else to enrich your writing career, attend a writer’ conference. Not only will you learn new writing and marketing skills, and have a chance to pitch your latest manuscript to editors and agents, you’ll meet authors at all stages of their careers and leave the conference invigorated and inspired.

The first conference I attended was a romance writers’ conference. I was so nervous I sat in my car in the parking lot and watched people enter the building wondering what a romance writer looked like. I expected to see middle-aged women wearing floppy garden hats and flowery, flowing dresses. To my surprise, everyone looked normal. Even more surprising, a few men walked through the doors. Once I gathered the courage to enter the conference room, I had a wonderful time. I couldn’t believe how friendly and supportive the other attendees were.

My next conference was for authors of all genres. I met people who wrote poetry, crafted non-fiction textbooks, and writers of horror, young adult, mystery, scifi, steam punk, romance novels, and many other genres. Everyone had a unique story of his or her writing journey. One man, with Fabio-like flowing dark hair was a cover model for romance books. A middle-aged couple wrote erotica, and a criminal lawyer penned legal thrillers.

Many of the people I’ve met at writing conferences are still friends, and we connect on line, sharing our successes and challenges. Attend a conference. If you can’t afford the RWA, find one closer to home. You’ll never regret the experience, and you may even find some magic.

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Sneak Peek Of Bitter Legacy

So excited to reveal the cover of my upcoming romantic suspense ‘Bitter Legacy’. My new baby hits the world on June 7! Hard to believe this is the third book published by The Wild Rose Press.

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Blurb:

Sharla-Jean Bromley returns to her hometown after a seventeen-year absence with vengeance in her heart. From the very beginning, her plans go awry when she meets devastatingly handsome Josh Morgan, the man to whom her father left half of his multi-million dollar lumber mill.

Josh, suspicious of Sharla-Jean’s reasons for returning to town after such a long absence, vows to keep control of the company he feels is rightfully his. She is equally determined to prove she can run her father’s mill, even though it means working side-by-side with Josh, a man whose very presence evokes an attraction that is increasingly difficult for her to ignore. In the process, they must overcome a villain who’s determined to destroy both the lumber mill and their lives.

Will Sharla-Jean succeed and heal the anguish that has long filled her soul? Wills he and Josh find the passion of a lifetime?

And here’s a sneak peek at ‘Bitter Legacy’.

Fire!

Even as the dreaded word reared like a monster inside her head, a thin trickle of smoke crept out of the dark storage room. Terrifying images of flame, smoke and searing heat threatened to overwhelm her. For a nightmare second, she was back in the midst of scorching heat and roaring flames.

Using all her strength of will, she tore free of the chilling memories. Instead of fleeing, she placed one wobbly step in front of the other and shuffled toward the storage room. Her nostrils flared at the acrid tang of gasoline and smoke. With a shaking hand, she gripped the door handle and opened the door.

A figure burst out of the darkness, crashing into her, knocking her back.

She yelped at the pain of the blow and the shock of falling. A jolt of agony and blinding light as her head hit something hard.

Heavy boots pounded across the tile floor. Cold air washed over her. And then darkness.

 

Joy Of Writing

Writing has given my life meaning and substance. I’m very fortunate to have a loving husband, two children, a beautiful granddaughter, (and identical twin grandsons who just arrived in this world yesterday), good friends, a loyal dog, and my health, but writing is the one thing I do just for me.

I’ve always been a writer. When I was a child, I wrote in a diary and described the joys and pitfalls of growing up. That diary was destroyed a few years ago. I couldn’t bear the thought of anyone reading my wild angst-driven thoughts, even if I were long dead and buried.

Due to a botched operation, I lost my voice for a year and could only speak in the quietest of whispers. I love to talk and being unable to be heard over even the smallest background noise was hard at first. I felt alone and isolated, as I couldn’t contribute to any conversation, and I couldn’t work.

One day, I decided to try and write a book as a way to release all my pent-up ideas on paper. My goal was five pages per day. That’s 1250 words. Not easy, as all writers know, but I stuck with it, day after day after day, until one day, I was finished, and I typed those two, wonderful words: The End. A feeling of euphoria filled me at my accomplishment. I’d written 86,000 words. Incredible!

The plot of that first effort wasn’t great. The characters were flat, and the story filled with a plethora of clichés. But I was proud of what I’d written. I’d done it. I. Had. Written. A. Book. This one accomplishment changed my life. I discovered I love using my imagination to create new worlds and peopling them with varied and interesting characters.

Now, several years of writing later, I have two romantic suspense books published by The Wild Rose Press, and another will be release on June 7th this year. I’ve met other authors on-line and in person, joined writing associations, attended workshops and conferences, and thoroughly enjoyed every second of this incredible journey. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to write.

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Bangkok Rip-Off

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There are all sorts of scams in South East Asia. When my husband and I, and a travel friend were in Bangkok a few months ago, we got caught up in an elaborate one called the Lucky Buddha Scam.

We were on our way to visit the Reclining Buddha, a major tourist attraction in the city. When we stopped to look at our map we were approached by a friendly local who spoke excellent English. He informed us the Reclining Buddha was closed that day due the King’s recent death. We were disappointed, but when the man suggested we visit another temple, the Lucky Buddha Temple, one of the oldest temples in Bangkok, we thought it was a great idea. Our helpful guide even called over a tuk tuk driver and arranged for the driver to take us to the Lucky Buddha Temple for a bargain price (less than one US dollar).

Upon arrival, our driver led us onto the temple grounds and indicated we were to go into one of the temple buildings. A large reclining Buddha was on a dais inside (not the real one), and an official-looking man was seated at a table. He asked us to sit with him for a minute, and we assumed he was a guide or a temple guard.

He spoke English well and explained he worked in New York City at the United Nations, and he was back in Bangkok on a holiday. He also mentioned he was in town to buy jewelry. Apparently, the factory to buy the jewelry was only open one day a year, and this was the day. His plan was to buy the jewelry and resale it back in the United States for a huge profit. We should have caught on at this point that something fishy was going on, but we just thought he was being helpful.

We said goodbye to him and left the building. To our surprise, our tuk tuk driver was waiting. He ushered us over to the temple and pointed inside. A Buddhist monk was in the temple blessing some people. Another man was seated on the floor praying. He motioned us over and told us to sit, as it was disrespectful to stand in front of the Lucky Buddha.

He was friendly and spoke English very well. He asked us lots of questions about ourselves and told us he was a chef and lived in San Francisco and was back home because of the king’s recent death. And guess what? He’d just bought some expensive rings. He showed us his forms for purchasing the rings, and they looked very official. We weren’t interested in buying any jewelry, but we didn’t want to be rude, and so we stayed and listened to his story. By this time, we knew we were in a high-pressure sales situation, and this whole scenario was part of an elaborate scam to get us to buy fake jewelry.

When we finally left the temple, our driver was still waiting. We told him we wanted to go to the river taxi, but he took us up and down a maze of streets until we were at the jewelry factory. When we refused to get out of the tuk tuk and demanded he take us where we wanted, his demeanor changed, and he became angry and rude. We roared off, clinging to the sides of the tuk tuk, as he took us to an expensive riverboat tour company office. Once again we told him we wanted to go to the river taxi.

Cursing and swearing in Thai, he careened down one street after another, nearly hitting several unwary pedestrians. Realizing our lives were in danger, we jumped out of the tuk tuk as soon as he stopped and tossed him the fare we’d agreed on. We heaved a sigh of relief when he thundered off in a burst of gas fumes.

We’d wasted most of the day wrapped up in this scam, but we were all unharmed and we’d had an interesting adventure. Best of all, the entire escapade only cost us a small bit of change. Funny thing…there’s no such thing as the Lucky Buddha. It’s all a big con. We’ll certainly be more suspicious of friendly locals on our next trip.

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The “Lucky Buddha”

 

Vietnam Adventures

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I had no idea what to expect when I embarked on my recent trip to Vietnam. My knowledge of the Communist country consisted of what I’d seen in war movies from the Vietnam War era. What I found was a vibrant nation of friendly people, delicious food, impressive scenery, and bustling cities.

Hanoi is a charming city with winding, narrow-laned streets filled with the constant roar of motorbikes. Sometimes five family members sit astride one small scooter. With six million motorbikes, traffic in Ho Chi Minh City is even crazier. At first, I was terrified, but I soon grew accustomed to the hectic pace and waded through the throng of vehicles like a local.

Vietnam is still reeling from the effects of two decades of war that tore the country in half. The Cu Chi tunnels where the Viet Cong hid for years from enemy combatants are shocking in their narrow, twisted, cramped darkness. The rusted remains of bombed American Forces tanks lay abandoned and covered in jungle vegetation.

The tall, white-sided karsts, topped with lush vegetation that dot the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay are breathtaking. Nearby, fields of lush green rice paddies, drenched in pools of muddy water stretch as far as the eye can see. Locals still harvest rice with hand-held scythes and dry the rice on bamboo mats under the hot sun. The old world charm of Hoi An, a UNESCO World Heritage site with its ancient buildings is a great place to get a tailor-made suit or a massage…all costing less than a good dinner in the US. The muddy waterways of the Mekong Delta and the old Imperial city of Hue are sights well worth seeing.

Street food like pho, bahn mi sandwiches, and fresh spring rolls are delicious. Rice noodles are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Unusual foods like deep fried tarantula, ants, crickets, snakes, and frogs are common. And of course, I drank a few glasses of rice wine with tarantulas in the bottle. Not sure about that choice.

With all I saw on my trip, I barely scratched the surface of this unique country. I definitely have to go back one day.

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A Taste of Spring

Nothing says summer like the sweet aroma of a Saskatoon berry crumble baking in the oven on a warm July day. As a child, I spent many happy hours picking the small, succulent, purple berries. Some even made it into the bucket and into the kitchen.

Also called juneberry, pigeon berry and prairie berry, Saskatoon bushes are plentiful across the prairies and forested regions of Alberta and British Columbia, as well as parts of the United States. Saskatoon berries grow on trees that can reach more than twenty-six feet in height. The small white flowers are one of the first flowers of spring and fill the air with their heady, sweet, musky smell.

These colorful, flavorful and nutritious berries are versatile. Their sweet, nutty, almond taste has made them a staple in kitchens for centuries. The Cree First Nations people called them mis-sask-quah-too-mina and dried the berries, combining them with dried meat to make pemmican. At a mere thirty calories per half a cup, and packed full of fiber and antioxidants, the Saskatoon berry is a definite nutritional winner.

Today the berries are used in jam, pie, wine, cider and beer. One of the most unusual ways I’ve enjoyed Saskatoons is in a delicious and decadent concoction called Saskatoon poutine, served in Klondike Kate’s restaurant in Dawson City, Yukon.

Here’s a recipe I found in my mother’s 1940 Home Economics manual. It’s never-fail and easy to make. Try it and you too will become a fan of this wild berry.

Saskatoon Berry Brown Betty

3 cups ripe Saskatoon berries                                 ¼ cup white sugar

¼ cup butter                                                             2 cups soft bread crumbs (whole wheat crumbs may be substituted for a healthier option)

2 Tablespoons lemon juice                                      ½ cup cold water

a pinch of salt

  1. Melt butter and stir in bread crumbs.
  2. Grease a baking dish, and put in one-quarter of the crumbs and one-half of the berries. Sprinkle with one-eighth cup of sugar.
  3. Add another layer of crumbs, berries and sugar. Sprinkle remaining crumbs on top.
  4. Add water and bake at 350 degrees F. for forty-five minutes until the Saskatoon berry mixture is bubbling and the crust is brown.
  5. Set the baking dish on rack to cool for ten minutes before serving.

Delicious served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Old Dogs

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I’ve always loved Tom T. Hall’s song lyrics: “Ain’t but three things in this world that’s worth a solitary dime But old dogs and children and watermelon wine.” I’ve never tried watermelon wine, I like kids, but I love old dogs. There’s something about their calm, trusting gentleness that tugs at my heart.

My dog, Jazz is a twelve-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer. That’s eighty-nine in human years. Her eyebrows have turned gray, her face grizzled and her eyes cloudy. Her once svelte, leanly muscled body has sagged, her back legs bowed from arthritis. She used to be filled to the brim with frenetic energy and needed two long walks every day to tire her out. Even then she’d grab the old tattered soccer ball and beg me to kick it for her so she could run and catch it, barking in happiness the whole time. She’d leap like a deer over fallen trees, and race ahead on the trail, and sprint back, again and again as if telling me to hurry.

Now as I watch her struggle to rise from her soft bed and lumber painfully along a forest path, tears thicken my throat. Every once in awhile, there are flashes of her puppy playfulness. When she digs in her toy box for a well-chewed stuffy and whines until I toss it for her to retrieve, or when she scents a grouse in the forest and her old body stiffens and she forms a perfect point, her tail wagging a mile a minute in excitement and pride.

A unique bond develops between an older dog and its owner. Maybe it’s the certain knowledge that time with your pet is limited. You relish every minute you have together. Maybe it’s their gazes filled with patience, wisdom and acceptance.

I still take my old girl on daily walks. Some days, we march right along; others we meander from one smell to another enjoying each other’s company and living each minute to the fullest. Even as I write this blog, Jazz is lying beside me snoring contentedly. Every once in awhile she lifts her head and watches me as if to say, ‘We’re in this together, old friend.’ Yes, Tom T Hall had it right. Old dogs are one of life’s special treasures.

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I Believe I’ll Go Canoeing

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IMG_6366Nothing says summer more than paddling a canoe across the still waters of a crystalline lake under the hot sun. Along with my husband, two kids and rambunctious dog, I’ve traveled across countless lakes and rivers, spotting deer sleeping in the shadows along the shore, cow and calf moose munching on meadow reeds, and black bears lumbering up tree-lined banks. The slap of a beaver’s tail on the water, the screech of an eagle soaring high above, and the haunting cry of loons echoing across the lake are all part and parcel of a canoe trip.

Our family canoe is a thirty-three year old, 17-foot aluminum Grumman. Battered, tarnished, and dented, it’s been pounded by boulders as we’ve blasted through grade two, white-water rapids, scraped through rock gardens, and dragged up on stony shores. The old canoe even survived falling off the roof of our truck and crashing onto the highway behind us as we raced along at 60 miles per hour.

The kids have grown up and left home, the dog has slowed down, and much like our aluminum canoe’s scratched and weathered sides, my husband and I bear the marks of an adventurous life. At the mere mention of a canoe trip, we readily abandon our soft bed, television, and Facebook friends for aching arms, clouds of mosquitoes and wet feet. It’s all worth it when we navigate through rapids, past untouched, forested hills, and the only sounds of civilization are the laughter and joy filling our souls.

Maybe it’s time to put Pierre Berton’s famous quote to the test, ‘A true Canadian is one who can make love in a canoe without tipping.” Am I, I wonder, a true Canadian?

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Ryan Marshall’s kid brother had always been trouble. Now, his brother wants Ryan, ex-DEA agent, to protect the woman he loves from a notorious, Mexican drug cartel.

The second Ryan lays eyes on Hallie Harkins, he knows he’s made a mistake. Hallie’s blonde beauty and stubborn grit tempt him like no woman ever has. It’s all he can do to keep his hands off her…and his heart intact.

Hallie’s worst fears are realized when the man she expects to meet, vanishes. In his place, a disturbingly attractive stranger appears, claiming he’s been sent to protect her. Can she trust him? Or is he working with her pursuers?

Following an attempt on Hallie’s life, she and Ryan join forces, embarking on a perilous mission of danger and desire taking them from rural Montana to the sunny shores of Acapulco Bay, and into the clutches of a ruthless killer.

Will they survive the mission together and find love in each other’s arm

Buy Links:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/My-Brothers-Sins-C-Clark-ebook/dp/B01APJZM1C/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1455984841&sr=8-

The Wild Rose Press: http://www.wildrosepublishing.com/maincatalog_v151/index.php?main_page=index&manufacturers_id=1324

iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/my-brothers-sins/id1076175892?mt=11

All Romance: https://www.allromanceebooks.com/storeSearch.html

Nook: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/my-brothers-sins-c-b-clark/1123286679?ean=2940158021268

Kobo: https://store.kobobooks.com/en-ca/ebook/my-brother-s-sins-1

Blog Hop:

Wild Rose Authors present a bouquet of blogs dedicated to surviving and thriving during the summer heat. Each blog gives you a treat—a recipe, a summer life experience, a vacation spot—as well as a fantastic selection of books to read.

Click here to visit other Wild Rose Press author’s Summer Blogs:

Win a Prize:

Click on the Raffle Copter link below to enter the Wild Rose Summer Treats and Reads contest to win the grand prize of a Kindle Fire–donated by The Wild Rose Press. You can read posts and enter contests from July 22 through July 30. Winners will be announced notified the following week.

Here’s the link to win a Kindle Fire:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Save Rural Schools

 

My local elementary school is under threat of closure due to budget cuts and narrow-minded thinking. Located twenty-four kilometers from the nearest town, Kersley Elementary is a small, rural school, with three classrooms and sixty-one students from Kindergarten through grade seven. It is an integral part of the surrounding community. The interweaving of school and community touches every aspect of life.

 

Like many people who live in Kersley, my family has a strong connection with the school. My husband attended Kersley Elementary in the 1960’s, my children attended the school from kindergarten through to grade 7, and I was a teacher there for fifteen years. My family has lived in the community for twenty-nine years.

 

Our school has always reflected rural school values where there is a strong emphasis on positive peer relations. It is not uncommon to see a grade 7 student playing with a student in the primary grades. The small size of the school creates a family-like atmosphere where each child belongs, and no child is left out.

 

Without a nearby school, young families would be reluctant to move into the area, and the community would wither and die like so many other rural communities. Just as a store, a post office, and a fire hall are essential to a community, a school for our children to attend and learn our values is an integral part of any community.

 

We must show the people who produce the food we put on our tables, that we value them and their contributions. We must stand and speak out against the destruction of rural schools and communities. I’m keeping my fingers crossed our local school board will see the value in rural schools and keep Kersley Elementary open.