Friday, May 30, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 22

Visit An Unusual Landscape 

He’s almost 20 now but when our Tom was a young Sunday School lad he would often come home after church with more than a life lesson in his heart. Like most boys, after-church time was just as much fun, and the little gang of kids he hung around with never failed to find their own brand of mischief under the big oak tree behind the Sunday School room. 

Pin Oak Grove

Most times the mischief found it’s way into Tom’s pockets. Most weeks it fell out when I sorted the washing. Papers, small toys, rocks and other treasures. But for most of the cooler months it came in the form of acorn piles, gathered and carried home with as much diligence as any squirreling boy his age. 

One of those Sundays found us lunching with beloved grandparents who’d only that year bought a five acre property. It soon flourished with a generous vegetable garden, all manner of barnyard animals and acres of fruit trees. I mean rows and rows of apple and cherry trees with a healthy skirt of raspberry and blueberry hedges. 

Autumn Cabbages
For almost 17 years my eyes and tastebuds have drawn me to the bright colored orchard. But this autumn we toured the property from boundary to boundary for the very last time. My Beloved’s parents have sold the farm and this was our last farewell.

In the eastern most corner of the property we lingered under a grove of pin oaks. A sprawling field where pigs or goats might have played.

“All these trees came from Tom,” my father in law said. “He gave me a fistful of acorns one year and I planted them in pots until the saplings were ready for open ground.” 

We couldn’t take our eyes off the splendor of the autumn sky through the leaves and limbs of these beautiful trees ~ the gift my little boy had buried in his pocket for grandpa. 

I’d heard a story years ago about one of Tom’s acorns finding life on the farm. But I had no idea the entire pocketful had grown into something majestic. A landscape so ordinary, yet so unusual it was transported as a seed from one place and delivered to another by the rascally (and probably muddy) fingers of a boy who had no idea of its true potential. 

Through the pin oaks
I’m reminded in my 52 Dates For Writers that unusual landscapes have inspired great tales. C.S. Lewis was inspired by a row of brooding intertwined trees outside a village in Northern Island. A landscape many recognize in his Chronicles of Narnia. 

And while the sentimental grove of pin oaks could, and probably should, inspire the landscape for a story, it’s done so much more for me.

It’s reminded me that seeds of promise sometimes travel further than we can imagine before they find the right ground to send out roots. 

My stories are just like those acorns. Gathered, treasured, destined to stand tall. And I’ll be as proud to share them as I am of the kid who thought to share the tiny acorns in his pocket with his grandpa back in 1997.

My Tom in his pin oak grove

The same boy who in May 2014 collected another fistful of acorns and instead of putting them in his pocket, gave them to me. 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

C.E. Laureano ~ Oath Of The Brotherhood

It's my pleasure to welcome C.E. Laureano to Ink Dots today. C.E. Laureano has held many jobs—including professional marketer, small-business consultant, and martial arts instructor— but writer is by far her favorite. Her first novel, Five Days in Skye, was recently chosen as a double-finalist in the RWA’s 2014 RITA Awards. Oath of the Brotherhood marks her fantasy debut.

Oath of the Brotherhood ~ An island at the edge of the world. An ancient prophecy. A reclusive warrior brotherhood. When evil encroaches, who will find the faith to fight it? 
To his clan, Conor Mac Nir is a disappointment—gifted with a harp, but hopeless with a sword. To the beautiful young healer Aine, he’s one whose gift calls out to her own . . . and captures her heart. To the reclusive warrior brotherhood called the Fíréin, he may be the answer to an ancient prophecy . . . if he can be trained to fight. Can Conor and Aine find their true path as an ancient evil engulfs the isle of Seare? Must Conor sacrifice everything he loves, even Aine, to follow the path God lays out before him?

C.E. Laureano says...

If I could explore anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be...Maui. If you had’ve asked me this question a month ago, I would have said Ireland or Scotland or Italy, but we’ve had a very strange spring in Colorado, including a major May snowstorm. I’m thinking beaches and trade winds sound like just the thing! Plus, I was pregnant the only time we went to Maui, so I didn’t get to hike the Haleakala volcano. You've had too much snow and we Aussies have had the looonges summer ever. We're still in short sleeves and on June 1 it will be the first day of winter! 

The best thing I did today is... play softball with my about-to-be-five year old. Who would have known the little kid has got a killer swing? 

A secret pleasure of mine is... knitting. I know it’s completely out of character for this fantasy-writing, black belt girl, but I can’t bring myself to sit and do nothing after I’m done for the day. Plus, it’s my sure-fire method for breaking writer’s block. Oh, I love knitting breaks, too. Great for the author brain. :)

I wish I could relive the day when I... moved into our current house eight years ago. We’d just moved from Los Angeles to Denver, and we drove the moving van into our pitch black neighborhood at 2am. We made a bed on the floor and went to sleep without even exploring our new place. I still remember the excitement of waking up and realizing our house, the neighborhood, and the Colorado sunshine was even more beautiful than I remembered.  

When I was a child I dreamed I a dancer. I trained seriously in classical ballet until I was seventeen, when an injury put an end to my hopes for a professional career. (But I do still take classes from time to time.)

I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but... I’m a terrible housekeeper. No matter how hard I try, our house always looks like a wreck. I’d like to blame it on my two little men, but I wasn’t much better before the kids. I’d rather read or write than clean! I'm sure your readers are thankful the floors at your place are a little less swept when they're in the thick of you books. 
Thanks so much for being with us this week, C.E.  I've heard great things about Five Days in Sky as well as Oath Of The Brotherhood. 
If you'd like to win a copy of Oath Of The Brotherhood, leave a comment below. Tell us if the weather's been a little topsy turvey in your part of the world. Have you had too much of something? Snow/Wind/Sun...? I'll announce the winner of Oath Of The Brotherhood on Friday. 

Good luck and happy reading, 

Friday, May 23, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 21

Go Geocaching 

My author date this week doesn't sound very Ink Dots. And by that I mean nothing olde worlde and in keeping with the pretty ink bottle picture you see in my header. 

But when I delved into Geocaching I discovered it's a fancy word for what my characters would know as treasure hunting. 

Where I would search, find and take something hidden and left for me to discover by someone else.  

Soon as I knew this, I was off. 

Compass in hand (ok, it was my brother with his phone, GPS and geocaching app) we scoured a local Melbourne park and walking tracks for three hidden treasure troves.

Geocaching pairs our natural inclination to sift through clues and sort puzzles with the latest technology. This is no dirty map we followed. We relied on at least 8 different satellites to guide us through parkland and scrubland until we reached ground zero. 

At ground zero, our device told us we were 10 metres from the object of our hunt. This meant it was time to use the resources we were born with. Our eyes and intuition. 

When your clue is Tall Timber, you know you're going to look under the branches of a tree. And that's exactly where we found our first catch, a cylinder tied to low branches, with just enough room to hold a slim notebook and pencil. The pleasure of locating this tiny find fell on me, and let me confess I hollered when I found my prize. After a decent walk, following instructions, mulling over the clue and then pinpointing the location, the thrill didn't disappoint. 

We added our names to the log book and carried on to the second set of co-ordinates. After some time we found a green container filled with trinkets under a fallen log. I'm imaging a good number of young families have visited before us. We added a silver elephant token to mark our stop in exchange for the memento I took home, a little hen.

The third find was almost off a slope and nearly had me skidding towards the Yarra River below. Our clue was flower pot, and after some searching we discovered the upturned hidey hole of the third geocache. 

More thrills. More discoveries. 
More unearthing hidden secrets.

Why would this help me as an author?

Because I can't afford to forget the excitement of solving my novel is what keeps my reader with me. 

"Whilst most obvious for a crime novel or thriller, all writers must ration the information they provide to their readers, and think carefully about the order and pace of each new revelation." 52 Dates For Writers. 

All readers deserve to take something from the books they read.
Good writers aim to leave a trail to the treasure. 

What's the last treasure trail you've followed/read? Did you holler when you found the secrets laid out for you? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Suzie Johnson ~ Sweet Mountain Music

It's a great pleasure to welcome Suzie Johnson back to Ink Dots this week, and celebrate the May release of her historical romance, Sweet Mountain Music. Suzie and her husband are the parents of a wonderful son, and they live on an island in the Pacific Northwest with their naughty little cat. She believes her island is the perfect spot for writing romantic fiction. Suzie's a member of the group blog, Inkwell Inspirations (, as well as a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. You can contact Suzie through her website: 

Sweet Mountain Music ~ Chloe Williston will make a name for herself... no matter what beast she must track to achieve it.

Chloe Williston has two goals in life: to make her father proud, and to do it by making a name for herself as a journalist. It seems she has been waiting for years for the perfect opportunity...and when it arrives in her Washington State town in the form of a handsome naturalist in search of the legendary Great North American Ape, she isn’t about to let him go off on an adventure without her.But as the expedition sets off with Chloe and her brother in tow, Ben finds the obstacles stacked against him. He not only has to find the illusive beast, he also has to keep Chloe out of the trouble she seems determined to find...all while protecting his heart.

Ben Kearny has to admit he’s intrigued by the undauntable Miss Chloe Williston...until he learns she’s a journalist. The last thing he needs is a reporter sticking her nose however pretty it may be in his expedition. He has to find the Sasquatch. It’s his only chance at restoring his reputation, and he can’t let anything, even Chloe, get in his way.
Suzie Says... 

If I could eat anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be... in a small perched village in the South of France, on a terrace overlooking fields of lavender. Oh my... that sounds perfect. 

The most unusual job I've ever had is... picking bulbs as a teenager in the summer. Daffodil bulbs, tulip bulbs, and iris bulbs. It was a dirty job. It sounds dirty, but with flowers in the story it also sounds romantic. :)

My all-time favourite movie is... The Wizard of Oz. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen that movie. And still, I see something new each time. Me too!!! As a Dorothy growing up in the 1970s, I was thrilled to discover another young Dorothy. I'm grateful to The Wizard of Oz movie for that! Most Dorothys I knew or have known, including my darling grandma who I'm named after, were not young. (Except two cousins who are also named in Grandma's honour.) 

I can't wait for the calendar to flip over to ... September – I hope to be able to see my son!

When I was a child I most feared... being kidnapped and not being able to scream. This was after a man did, indeed, try to kidnap me when I was five years old. It was so terrifying and, just like it happens sometimes in our dreams, I couldn’t scream. Thankfully I was able to make enough noise kicking at the card rack where I’d been looking at greeting cards, to garner attention. Oh my!! What a horrible experience. No wonder you were traumatised by it. I'm so glad you were able to kick that rack and get free. 

If I had a pet kangaroo, I'd name it... Cassius Clay. I’d call him Clay for short. An extra book to the first person who can tell me why….Oh, I think I may know... but I'll let our readers have a go at it. :)

If you'd like to win a copy of Suzie's Sweet Mountain Music, share the name of your favourite flowering bulb. I bet Suzie isn't too fond of any, after all that back breaking work, but my favourite is the fragrant blue hyacinth. How about you? 

Or, for a second chance to win, ... Why would Suzie name her pet kangaroo' Cassius Clay, or Clay for short? 

I'll announce the winners in the comment thread below, on Friday. 

Good luck and happy reading, 

Friday, May 16, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 20

Take A Mode Of Transport You've Never Travelled Before

I couldn't find a rickshaw. And I didn't care to sit in a golf buggy. A camel, as suggested in my 52 Dates For Writers book, didn't appeal to me too much, either. 

Melbourne's Tramcar Restaurant

So I did what any birthday girl might do for week 20 of my Author Challenge. I hinted to my Beloved about a ride on Melbourne's Colonial Tramcar Restaurant

Now, I've dined in my share of restaurants and even ridden a Melbourne tram on occasion. But I'd never combined the two and never on my birthday. 

My challenge was to enjoy the journey. (This was not gatecrash a party which I'm terrified of ticking off the list later this year)

And what could bring more joy to an historical nut, than a ride and dinner in an historical tram?  

Our tramcar arrived right on time, one in a fleet of burgundy restaurants on wheels, sleek and glossy against the backdrop of an autumn dusk. Outside, the street lights came to life but didn't enchant me nearly as much as the gooseneck lamps and ornate drapes inside the tram. 

Fine linens and silver service didn't disappoint either, and with our carriage rattling past Melbourne's historic landmarks under the cover of night, it wasn't hard to imagine I'd stepped back into another time. 

Plush velvets and polished brass fittings, attentive servers and soothing conversation will sway any girl on her birthday. How could I not enjoy? But the moment which took me into the footstep of my heroines, came right at the end when the porter/waiter (or was he the driver?) offered his hand when I stepped off the conveyance into the reality of Melbourne's streets below. 

My Beloved waited on the other side of the gutter, but the tramcar official remained stationed at the bottom of the steps, where he farewelled all passengers with a 'Good Night, Cheerio.' 

Somehow, that chivalrous gesture crowned the night in the essence I chase. The detail of history and manners. A way of life not tasted by me when I jump out of my car and race into the modern life I know so well.

In my mind, I wasn't wearing modern dress and shoes. For less than a flicker, my foot hit the ground in a Victorian era side button leather boot, and my hem just missed the muddy pavement. 

After all, a girl's allowed to dream on her birthday. Especially when her author challenge tells her so. 

Melbourne's Tramcar Restaurant

Have you taken a ride on an unusual mode of transport? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,

Monday, May 12, 2014

Narelle Atkins ~ The Nurse's Perfect Match

I'm thrilled to welcome my dear friend, Narelle Atkins, back to Ink Dots and to celebrate the release of her second romance, The Nurse's Perfect Match. A fun loving Aussie girl at heart, Narelle was born and raised on the beautiful northern beaches in Sydney, Australia. She has settled in Canberra with her husband and children. A lifelong romance reader, she found the perfect genre to write when she discovered inspirational romance. Narelle's contemporary stories of faith and romance are set in Australia and she is thrilled to have the opportunity to write for Heartsong Presents.

The Nurse’s Perfect Match 


After her marriage ends in tragedy, Amy returns to Snowgum Creek to rebuild her life. There she meets widower Ben Morton, who's not looking for romance, though his young children are eager for Amy's attention. She's given up on her dream of being a mother, but can't ignore how she's drawn to Ben's little ones, and to their handsome farmer dad. 

As love kindles between Ben and Amy, she worries how she'll ever measure up to the wife he lost. And Ben is concerned about how Amy will ever truly fit into life on the farm. They could be the answer to each other's prayers—if the secret Amy is keeping doesn't tear them apart.

Narelle says... 

If I could eat anywhere in the world tomorrow, it would be... a romantic dinner with my husband, overlooking the gorgeous valleys in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, Australia.

The most unusual job I've ever had is... planting apple trees. I was sitting low to the ground on a tree planter, attached to the back of a tractor. We manually planted rows of trees on a sloping hill. I ended up covered in dirt from head to toe. It was a fun and rewarding job. 

My all-time favourite movie is... a tough question! There are so many movies I love for different reasons. One of my favourite contemporary romance movies is Notting Hill. I love the quote in the movie from Anna Scott (Julia Roberts). "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.” 

I can't wait for the calendar to flip over to... July 2014 when I travel overseas to San Antonio for the Romance Writers of America conference. Dotti, I’m so looking forward to seeing you in Texas in July! I'm so looking forward to that date, too. It's coming around faster than I imagined! :) 

When I was a child I most feared... redback spiders. At school the boys would find redback spiders, somehow put them on the end of a fallen tree branch, and chase the girls around the playground. Needless to say, I learned to run fast! I must be the only Aussie who's never come close to seeing a redback. But I'm not complaining. 

If I had a pet kangaroo, I'd name it... Joey. This is hard question to answer, because both of my children have named their soft toy kangaroos. My daughter, who is sitting to the table with me now, named her kangaroo Joey, and the baby joey in the pouch is called Timmy. My son named his kangaroo Skippy (after the iconic 1970’s Aussie tv show) and the baby joey is Skip. So cute. :)


If you'd like to win a copy of Narelle's The Nurse's Perfect Match, tell us about the scariest critter you've escaped, OR ... hope to never have to outrun.

Spider, snake... crocodile? Leave your answer in the comments below and I'll announce a winner on Friday. 


I'm reading The Nurse's Perfect Match this week, Narelle. Congratulations on its release. What a thrill to be sharing your second book already. :)

Friday, May 09, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 19

Go House Hunting
Glen Isla House ~ Phillip Island

52 Dates For Writers encourages me to know where my characters live. Really know. 

Hmmm... A dream assignment for a writer of historical romance.  

I get to poke around the archives of time and find inspiration in some of the country's best homesteads or most primitive mud huts. 

Lucky for me, I'm writing about an island where my family have holidayed for more than 40 years, and my scenes take place on beaches where my own children have played since they could waddle to the rock pools with their spades. The author hunt for historical details has brought me to Glen Isla House, the 1870s kit home shipped from America to this remote Australian island, south of Melbourne.   
Of all the houses I've set my stories so far, Phillip Island's heritage listed property, Glen Isla House, is my favourite. Am I writing the story of the original owners? Not this author. 

But I am inspired by this American kit home which found it's way to a remote island off the Australian coast in the 1870s, at just the time my fictional characters needed to build a home. 

Coincidence? Yes. 

Inspiration? Buckets full. And oh, how I had fun exploring this location and spending a night with my Beloved in the romantic Anderson Suite.   

Glen Isla ~ Phillip Island 

Hidden away from the road at the end of a pretty driveway, Glen Isla House awaits those who appreciate the charms of history, delicious local food, and a vine covered walkway to the beach at the bottom of the garden gate.

It's been a family home, working farm, and more recently, Phillip Island's top B&B. 

Glen Isla House ~ Circa 1880

Featured on TV shows and in magazines, it's hard not to fall in love with the two acre property of house, cottages, gatehouse and heritage listed surrounds. Owners Ian and Madeleine Baker know how to offer seclusion in a romantic setting, with just the right amount of charm and hospitality. They're generous in sharing their home and property, their antique furniture and English style gardens with those who care to stop awhile, and step into the pages of history. 

American Style Glen Isla House ~ Phillip Island
Go house hunting? Find the perfect stage for hero and heroine to sort out their issues? 

Tick, tick... and a hundred more ticks. 

Don't you agree this is just the inspiration for an historical romance? 

Blessings for a wonderful weekend, 

Friday, May 02, 2014

52 Author Dates ~ Week 18

Take A Different Route Home

Sheraton Surabaya

Last week, I accompanied my Beloved on a business trip to Indonesia. He did his thing in the corporate arena, and I spent my days at the keyboard, spitting out those words we all love to chase.

No household chores beckoned, and there were no kids to drag me out of my writing world. I did have a very kind team of butlers (I know... don't hate me) who serviced the hotel's lounge where I spent my hours. 

Can you imagine a more perfect writing day? 

Food and drink on tap, and total quiet. Once the breakfast traffic faded, I was glad to call that lounge my own for the rest of the morning... and well into the afternoon. I know you will not be surprised to hear, my word count reflected the benefits of full-time writing.

Writing By The Pool
My butler-friends delivered a steady stream of coffee/peppermint tea/water whenever my cup ran dry. They replenished the buffet where tropical fruits and sinful pastries winked at me all day. And smiled their encouragement when I took laps of the room to stretch my legs and roll my author shoulders. 

And then I had to come home.

Home to the real world, which in my case, is sadly understaffed in the butler department.

In my real world, words come slower, chased by the many demands no one could ever juggle as well as I'm meant to. Here, my words are couched in the realities of life which dictate mood and enthusiasm. Tempered by commitments. Shadowed by my other loves. 

Coming home meant walking into the imperfection of life at its most real. 

I pondered this on the 4am taxi ride to Surabaya airport. I watched others who'd woken before the dawn start their day as street vendors, early shift workers, and those on their way to unlock workplace doors in a city I hardly know. 

I smiled at airport officials who took issue with my passport and visa, thanked them when they made up for oversights out of my control, and hightailed it out of Immigration to the terminal where my flight would start the journey home. 

Sheraton Surabaya
24 hours later and back on Aussie soil, another pre-dawn filled my senses. Hardly a soul stirred, except one or two others in the distance who shared the lonely road home through the weariness of travel and transit. 

We almost flew through the emptiness of Sunday morning streets normally congested with traffic, and directly home to where our kids slept and the to-do list awaited. 

A terrifying prospect somedays, that to-do list. If I could have slowed the taxi down, I would have. I knew the road home to Crabapple House meant all things writing would fade until I'd ordered the laundry and fridge.

Even worse, the deserted streets echoed the fear I'd eventually sit for my allocated writing time, and still struggle. What if my head's not in tune with the task? How do I find Author Dotti when Mama Dotti is still in the room with a basket of washing on her hip? How do I dismiss Friend Dotti when she needs to cry for a sister, or Real Dotti when her own burdens are too heavy?

And then I remembered a prayer by Sandy Tritt. It's helped me face the writing hour before, under the banner of Him who loves me most. And I needed it again.

Because time and space to indulge in my passion are not the most important elements. It's surrendering the passion to Him who's placed it in my heart. 

Author Selfie ~ Sheraton Surabaya

The Writer's Prayer by Sandy Tritt

Open my mind, Lord. 
Grant me the talent to write with clarity and style, 
so my words go down rich and smooth, 
like fine wine, and leave my reader thirsty for more. 

Open my heart, Lord. 
Grant me the sensitivity to understand my characters...
  their hopes, their wants, their dreams,
 and help me to confer that empathy to my reader. 

Open my soul, Lord, 
so I may be a channel to wisdom,
 and creativity from beyond my self. 
Stoke my imagination with vivid imagery and vibrant perception.

But most of all, Lord, help me to know the Truth,
 so my fiction is more honest than actuality, 
and reaches the depths of my reader's soul. 

Wrap these gifts with opportunity, perseverance,
 and the strength to resist those who insist it can't be done.  Amen.

Blessings for a wonderful weekend,