Found Objects

One of the perks of our daily walks are the little treasures we find along the way. They may be only a dropped coin or an abandoned hair elastic but sometimes we discover some real gems.

Just this week, Dave retrieved the jackknife in the above photo. This morning I picked up the rhinestone-encrusted ring pictured above & earlier this fall I collected the rhinestone butterfly.

In another part of town Dave found a broken box cutter, which he understandably left behind. One time we found a large amethyst cluster that had been bleached almost amber in the sun.

Sometimes I wonder about the circumstances of how these objects came to rest where they are found. Will they be missed or will their absence go unnoticed?

I’m a primate attracted to shiny objects & already have ideas for the butterfly & ring!

So despite the filthy masks, broken pens & lacerated rubber bands strewn along our walking route, sometimes something of interest will fall in our path, inspiring creativity & bringing a smile to my face.

Meet Urban Fantasy Author W.L. Hawkin!

To Kill A King is #4 in W.L. Hawkin’s Hollystone Mysteries Series. According to her bio, she writes “EDGY URBAN FANTASY WITH A TWIST OF MURDER”. Read on to learn about this Canadian author!

1.Where did you get your inspiration for the Hollystone Mysteries Series?

You know, I started writing To Charm a Killer way back in 2005. I was teaching high school English full time which is something an introvert should never do. Weekends and holidays I came home and wrote sexy fantasy stories to escape the stress. I had an idea about a young woman who gets kidnapped by a priest and taken to a cabin in the bush. When I was very young, my father was an Anglican lay minister so I grew up watching him preach in his robes at the front of the church. I’ve been working through my religious issues ever since. I see you also write about witches and religion so I’m sure you’ll understand.

Anyway, when I pitched this priest idea to a New York agent at a writers conference, she said it was way too predictable. So I went home and created this Wicca coven. I live in the Pacific Northwest of Canada and one day when my daughter and I were hiking through Buntzen Lake Reservoir, we came upon a circle of people chanting “Diablo Diablo” in the woods. That moment, I decided to send my Wicca coven into the woods to perform their rituals. Everywhere there is holly and stones and so they became Hollystone Coven. If you read To Charm a Killer, you’ll see it has two protagonists: a young girl who gets kidnapped and a Wicca high priest who tries to save her. I melded the stories.

The high priest, Estrada, appeared fully formed and he brought along his eccentric lover, Michael Stryker. I love them both; especially when they’re together and I hear them talking like Byron and Shelley. Michael likes to wear fake fangs and red contacts to play faux vampire. He’s devilish and romantic, hosts orgies that can rival Caligula, and thinks he’s the reincarnation of Lord Byron which he’s convinced me, he is. Together, they’re like rock stars at Pegasus, the Vancouver goth club, Michael manages. Estrada is also a stage magician and performs his magic show there. I had a lot of fun creating that goth club and setting scenes there. The others in the coven (Sensara, Daphne, Dylan, Sylvia, Raine and Jeremy) all have their parts to play as a coven is only as strong as its witches. Sensara is the high priestess and also the mother of Estrada’s child. You’ll see Sensara and Michael play out their rivalry for Estrada’s favour throughout the first three books.

Someone told me recently that these books were a serial rather than a series because we follow Estrada’s adventures from one book to the next as he travels around the world saving the people he loves. I think perhaps that’s true.

2. You’ve done an impressive amount of research for your novels. What do you enjoy most about researching? What do you like least about it?

I’ve always loved doing research because I’m thirsty to drink deep and siphon out everything I can about something. To do that I have to wear it, walk in it, live it, be with it, and dream it. I didn’t graduate from high school until I was in my thirties and I remember being blown away taking History 12 and reading about everything that had gone on in the world. After that I went to university and there was no stopping me. I love learning. 

One of the things I do when researching is travel to the location and soak up the energy of place and landscape. I’ve done that with every book I’ve written. For the Hollystone Mysteries I’ve travelled through Ireland three times; driven through Scotland from Glasgow to Orkney and down the Argyll coast where To Sleep with Stones is set; and worked as a relief lighthouse keeper on the Northwest Pacific Coast of Canada where To Render a Raven is set. I wasn’t able to time-travel to Iron Age Ireland, but I did climb Croghan Hill in the Irish midlands to stand where my real life king would be inaugurated and then ritually murdered sometime around 200BCE in To Kill a King. And I sat in the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin with Old Croghan Man’s mummified body for several days asking him for his name. Yes, I eventually heard a burbled rrrr sound that became Ruairi mac Nia.

The problem for me is travel itself. For one thing, I’m an introvert and when you’re traveling you’re just naturally around a whole lot of people and a lot of frenetic energy. I’m also sensitive to chemicals and scents. Jet exhaust is one thing, but do you know how many people slap on cologne and then board a plane? This all wreaks havoc on my nervous system. If I could only afford to travel first class and sleep in a bed aboard the plane like Cameron Diaz did in The Holiday! Also, I have dietary issues (no gluten, no dairy) so eating when I’m traveling is a challenge. After one ten-hour flight where they packed the wrong special meal, I started packing all my own food. That was a bit of a rant, but you did ask.

3.How do you spend your time when you’re not writing and researching?

I have an adorable new grandson and I’d love to spend every minute with him. I also hike in the country with my beautiful yellow lab. I’m a musician and sometimes play piano and sing. I love movies and I read. And I also have a part-time job working in education.

4. Will there be a fifth installment in the Hollystone Mysteries Series?

Yes. Estrada’s already started talking and showing me scenes of what he’s about to do after the cliffhanger ending in To Kill a King. But I told him he’s going to have to wait. I currently have three other works-in-progress.

My next release is with the copy editor and will be published in February 2022. It’s the first of the Lure River Romances and is called Lure: Jesse & Hawk. I like to write in several genres. This one is “romantic suspense with small town heart” and it’s set in the contemporary American Midwest on the Chippewa reservation. I wrote the first draft of it thirty years ago when I was separating from my ex and starting my Indigenous Studies degree. Lure has waited long enough to find its way into print.

Also, I’ve almost finished the first draft of Ghostlight, which is a paranormal mystery set at an historic West Coast lighthouse I worked at in 2014. I took a stress leave from teaching and spent a year working as a relief lighthouse keeper. I blogged about it here. Nootka was my last station and I lived there for two months. It’s a fascinating place with incredible energy. The station is perched on a rock overhanging the Pacific Ocean. Captain James Cook stopped at Nootka in 1778 and sparked the sea otter fur trade with the Indigenous people along with a whole lot of conflict. This is a paranormal mystery because the young woman who returns to the lighthouse where she grew up can see ghosts, and there are plenty of ghosts to see at Nootka. I actually started writing Ghostlight about three years ago and stopped to write To Kill a King. I really need to finish it.

Finally, I’m working on a story about finding my Indigenous great great grandmother. I didn’t know about her until I was in my mid-thirties and doing my degree. My mother, who was in her seventies, finally unearthed that family secret. I’ve been researching my ancestors and want to write their story. I’m hoping that in finding my grandmother, I will find myself.

So, eventually, I will return to the Hollystone Mysteries because Estrada and his friends are still around and there are stories to tell and questions left unanswered. When you’ve been living with characters for fifteen years they are more than friends—they are a part of you.

Thanks again for the opportunity of sharing with you. Blessings ~Wendy

October Book Discussion

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This month Willie’s Women met to share their love of reading and lots of laughter. And these supportive Red Hat sisters of mine were very encouraging when I confessed to them how Book #4 has been such a challenge for me to write; but my Rose Tribe held me accountable and next book discussion, I’m supposed to have some WRITING to report to them so I’ll do my best to hold myself accountable to that!

JENNY gives 4 stars to The Talented Mr. Varg by Alexander McCall Smith, #2 in the Detective Varg series. According to the author’s site, This series is Scandi Blanc as opposed to Scandi Noir, the difference being “there is nothing noir about the world of Ulf Varg, a detective in the Sensitive Crimes Department in the Swedish city of Malmo.”

BERTHA-ROSE gives 3 stars to What Strange Paradise by Omar El Akkad, a Canadian author who is on the short list for the Giller award. This book is about a young Syrian boy surviving a shipwreck and what happens afterwards.

KARI ah, dear Kari! She’s diving into the third installment of The Puritan Chronicles, Raid on Cocheco ! She’s all prepared to give this book 5 stars! She seems to be enjoying it pretty much and the author can’t wait to hear her final review!

CC, our most prolific bookworm, had several authors and titles to share. She gives 5 stars to Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston, authors of the Aloysius Pendergast series. She calls them “mystery meets scifi meets love stories.” Titles she mentioned specifically were Fever Dream, Crooked River and Bloodless. CC gives Nevada Barr’s Liberty Falling 4 stars. As for Cozy Mysteries, CC gives Maddie Day’s Murder on Cape Cod 3-4 stars. CC also gives 5 stars to this month’s selection for the Red Hat Book Nook group, The Water Keeper by Charles Martin.

PENI JO read Darien Gee’s Friendship Bread years ago & in fact this enjoyable read was the catalyst for the novel she’s currently writing! The book even includes a recipe for Amish Friendship bread. A solid 4 stars.

Willie’s Women Book Discussion meets at 3pm Eastern time the 2nd Monday of each month on Zoom. Non-RHS members may join the discussion one time.

September Book Discussion

Willie’s Women met this month with a lot of good books to recommend!

BERTHA-ROSE started us off with Astra by Cedar Bowers, a Canadian author from British Columbia whose husband Michael Christie is also an award-winning author. A review of this book reads; “Cedar Bowers’s debut took my breath away. In Astra, Bowers dares to contend with the many selves we all contain—those we conceal, those we perform, those we try to outrun in our search for love, belonging, and home. She holds the human heart like a diamond to the light, exposing its every fault, its every dream, its every pain that both damns and anoints. Bowers writes with the unsentimental clarity and aching wisdom of a young Alice Munro. A fiercely beautiful novel. I could not put it down.” —Claudia Dey, author of Heartbreaker and Stunt

LINDA LEE joined us for the first time. She is currently reading Diana Galbaldon’s Book 3 in the Outlander series, Voyager. Linda Lee thoroughly enjoys that series.

JENNY is currently reading Anthony Horowitz’s The Word is Murder. She likes how the author works himself into his own books a character, something I as a writer would never think to do!

KARI and CC both mentioned S.R. Zalesny’s The Red and Purple Mustery, and Kari even has a copy signed by the author! Perfect for Red Hatters, the book’s blurb reads; Come join this Sisterhood of fabulous ladies, fifty years and older, that are out to rock the New Orleans Hotel and Casino with fun and friendship. They compete to win the drawing for the Ruby Tiara. For Mary Jane Watson, a former Detective with the Las Vegas Metro Police, it was supposed to be a retirement celebration with her group, The Dames in Old Hats.

CC continued with S.R. Zales’s Jenny and the Hummingbird Faeries. She followed that suggestion with J.D. Rob’s Forgotten in Death and mentioned 2 favorite period authors of hers, Philippa Gregory and Elizabeth Peters, both of whom she’s mentioned in past discussions.

PENI JO; The Yellow Bird Sings by Jennifer Rosner is about a Polish Jewish mother and daughter hiding from the Nazis. The mother chooses to leave her daughter in the safety of an orphanage, promising they’ll reunite. I enjoyed this book pretty much.

Willie’s Women Book Discussion meets the 2nd Monday of each month on Zoom at 3pm central. Non- Red Hat Society members may attend once and share their love of books!

Meet Author Thorsten Nesch!

Thorsten Nesch is a German/ Canadian YA author whose works are uniquely written with humor and verve! Learn more about this author below.

1. Where did you get your inspiration for I Am You Am I ?

I got the idea while writing another novel, where a woman dresses in men clothes in order to dive under after a robbery. The longer that lasted the more funny implications occured, but I could not use them, because it just wasn’t that type pf story. When I finished that novel, I was like, there is so much more it I did extensive research in the body switch genre, and with all the stories told, the novels written and the movies made, I still thought, this can be way more outrageous. And I wrote it. Way more outragious.

2. How would you describe your writing style?

Always check the first page of my novels, if that suits you! My style differs from narrator to narrator of the story, I am merely the medium. The only thing, all my novels have in common, according to my readers, is: I am not getting lost in unnecessary details. They are not boring. 

3. What do you find most rewarding about writing for young people? The most challenging?

Oh the most rewarding is clearly showing up in schools for readings and getting approached afterwards, and my personal fave is “Your novel was the first book I finished in my life” – that is my personal literary award. Amazing.

Challenging?

Nothing, I love it.

Life is challenging if I can’t write. Very challenging.

4. What can we expect next from Thorsten Nesch?

A dystopian novel taking place in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. I received a literary project grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and I document the entire writing process on my homepage www.thorstennesch.com in weekly blog post. And you can ask question, too!

Meet Mystery Writer Jocie McKade!

Jocie McKade is the author of the Mayson-Dickson Mysteries series. Read below to learn more about this author and her fun series!

1.What drives your characters Emme Mayson and Jackie Dickson? Do you relate to one more than the other?

Emme and Jackie are both driven women with impressive backgrounds. What drives them, and drives them crazy is the need to find the truth about their parents. There is a long backstory going on, and it’s going to take some digging, some dodging bullets, and some less than legal acts to get to the truth!

I relate to both pretty well. My family are all from the Southern USA. I was born in Ohio — Yankee! LOL I can go from y’all to you guys in the same sentence without a breath! But, I spent most of my childhood in the South with my family, so, I probably have more in common with Emme.

2. What do you find most rewarding about writing mystery novels? 

Creating a literary labyrinth! I love treasure hunts, and historical conundrums. Even though I know the ending of the who-dun-it, I love creating the twists and turns to take the reader there. Leaving those ‘red herrings’ and little nuggets throughout the story. My hubby says I would have made a great detective. True, until I actually had to face a bad guy – then my running skills would be sorely tested!

3. How would you describe your writing style?

Snark with heart. I find humor is the most unlikely of places. The world needs more humor and a serious dose of heart, so that’s what I strive to give readers.

4. There are 4 books in the Mayson-Dickson Mysteries series. Can we expect more in the future?

Yes. I am in the outlining stages now, and it should be coming out around the first of 2022.

Meet Author Stephanie LaVigne!

When you’re in the mood for cozy romance, look no further than to the works of Stephanie Lavigne! Read on to learn more about this adventure-loving author!

1. According to your bio, you’ve led a very interesting life! Where does this sense of adventure come from?

I’m not a hundred percent sure. It seems I was born with a spritely, adventurous spirit. I was always interested in learning about everything and trying out things for myself, as opposed to just taking someone else’s word for it. I’m curious by nature, and I just get really excited to experience new things. I was always a reader as well, and that just added fuel to my already inquisitive mind because books introduce you to so many interesting new subjects.

Even from a young age, I had a strong desire to travel and experience as many things as I could. I remember the day that I realized I would never be able to visit every single place (country, town, neighborhood) on Earth. I had beenreading an atlas when it suddenly hit me that at the rate I was going, there was absolutely no way I’d be able to visit every town. It wasn’t dramatic, but I sat there and cried. Seeing new places and trying new things just always felt important to me. I also remember visiting my aunt and uncle on their houseboat in the Bahamas when I was six years old and I was completely enchanted. So I blame them for unwittingly starting my obsession with unique lodging.

2.Headlines, Deadlines, and Lies is #1 in your Sunshine State Cozy + Crime series. How much of Stephanie LaVigne is there in the heroine, Piper Harrington?

When I am writing characters, I never think of them as reflections of me…however, lately I’ve realized that there is a lot more of me in my characters than I thought. This book probably hit closer to home than anything else I’ve ever written. I think the overstressed mom-vibe that Piper has certainly comes from my own current life experience. There is a lot of me in both Piper and her best friend Boots. Their deep friendship, and the way they talk to one another, reflects my relationship with my best friends. Piper’s mom, Kate, with her fastidious style and love of genealogy is definitely inspired by my mom, Marianne. Plus, Piper has a very sweet father-daughter relationship with her dad, just like I do- though my dad doesn’t enjoy any of her father’s range of hobbies. And of course, there are little glimmers of my kids in hers. So in retrospect, there’s a lot of me in this particular story!

3. How would you describe your writing style?

Upbeat, fun, true to a character’s personality, a little quick-witted and playfully sarcastic, and sometimes winding (which is a plus for keeping people guessing with mysteries.) It’s hard to describe your own writing style, so sometimes I have to look to my readers. I’ve been told I write engaging characters and dialogue, so perhaps that is my strong suit. I also usually add little hints of foreshadowing throughout my books via conversations, random information, or a character’s musings. Though I think they are often so subtle or seemingly random that you would have to go back through for a second read to catch all the times I do it.

4. Can we expect to see more Piper Harrington in the near future?

I originally planned for this book to be a series, but then decided against it because there are other books that I am working on. However, I’ve been asked by a few readers to keep going with it. So I’m playing with the idea of setting one of my new series in the town of Hibiscus Bay, which would mean there would be stories about new people in town, but we’d also be able to check in on Piper, Boots, JP and the gang.

When Life Gives You Free Boneless Wings

Mystery delivery man leaving a neighbor’s Buffalo wings order on our recycling bin

This has been a weird couple of weeks.

Last week, my the driver’s side mirror on my car was broken off when someone threw a watermelon at it.

Later that day, the Ring video doorbell we ordered was delivered (Dave had ordered it WEEKS ago) and we wasted no time getting it up and running.

Nothing unusual was caught on camera until about 9:30 last night (Dave and I were upstairs). I heard the motion detection alarm go off on my phone and Dave peered out the window in time to see a car drive away from our house.

Naturally he checks the video and we see a stranger leave a paper bag with a receipt taped to it on our recycling bin. So Dave goes out to investigate only to discover that someone with a similar house number on our street had ordered some yummy buffalo wings and fries.

Fortunately the order had a phone number on it, which Dave called and asked, “Were you expecting an order of buffalo wings? Because they were just delivered to our door.” Sure enough, the young woman said yes she’d ordered them so then Dave called the restaurant and told them of their error. They said, “Keep the wings.” Hopefully our young neighbor got a new order delivered and wasn’t charged for the foul-up.

So here’s the funny part while Dave is making these calls;

I decide to chow down on our windfall. He’s chuckling softly as I sit next to him, fork poised over a plump wing glistening with delectable sauce.

“Will you wait a minute?” He chastises me.

“It’s not like they’re gonna want these wings back,” I said, stabbing a wing.

So even before the restaurant said “Keep the wings” (Like what else were we gonna do with them? Walk down the block and deliver them to the neighbor ourselves?) they were devoured within minutes as Dave and I split them.

And they were yummy!

Just makes me wonder why some periods of time are sprinkled with the unusual. Is it to add spice to our boring lives? Keep us on our toes? Dave questioned if “Something is going on” because our lives are normally so uneventful.

But as they say all’s well that ends well and the free wings were an unexpected but much appreciated treat!

August Book Discussion

Willie presided over book discussion donning her new reading glasses

Willie’s Women were honored to have 3 guests join them for book discussion this month.

WYNELLE, Guest #1, visited us once before and told us how she enjoys reading about the kings and queens of England. She is considering becoming a member of Willie’s Women and we would be delighted to have her!

ANDREA, Guest #2, has also joined us once before. Andrea enjoys reading about the Amish and says during the summer she enjoys “garbage books” (fiction) and prefers to read books where she’ll learn something during the winter. Her recommendation was Danielle Steele’s A Perfect Life. She gives it 4 stars.

BERNADETTE Guest #3 came in a bit late but was full of good recommendations. She is in charge of my own local book club and this month I will be heading a discussion on Marie Benedict’s The Only Woman in the Room (4.5 stars) Bernadette’s other recommendations were Cassandra Speaks by Elizabeth Lesser about how history has treated women and how would history be told differently if written by women (5 stars). Bernadette’s 3rd recommendation was See No Stranger by Valerie Kaur about uniting people with “radical love” and not focusing on our differences (4 stars).

BERTHA-ROSE wished JENNY had been present to thank her for telling her about Kim Edwards’s books, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter and Lake of Dreams. Bertha-Rose enjoyed them very much, giving them 4 out of 5 stars. Later she shared with us that her college-age grandson recommended she read Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita so she is currently reading that.

KARI dear sweet Kari said Letters to Kezia by yours truly made her cry! She loves books that get her involved with the characters. Did this author’s heart good to hear that someone is enjoying my trilogy so much 🙂

CHRISTINE has been reading a couple of new series. She gives July Mulhern’s The Country Club Murders series 4 stars and is on book 9 of a series of 13. Another series she is enjoying is Sarah Rosett’s On the Run Internationa Mysteries to which she gives 4 stars. Christine granted The Engineer’s Wife by Tracey Emerson Wood 5 stars.

PENI JO: I really enjoyed The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes. about the WPA Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky. 4.5 stars!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Willie’s Women meets on Zoom at 3pm Eastern on the 2nd Monday of each month. Non-RHS members are invited to attend one time so feel free to join us!

Helen-Ophelia’s Dogs

The menagerie in Book 4 continues to grow. Joining the German shepherd, Capuchin monkey, Grey parrot & 3 cats are 2 fussy, mouthy toy poodles named Dior and Chanel.

They belong to the Mayor’s spoiled egocentric wife, Helen-Ophelia, who is all about luxury & hedonism.

So this of course means I have to work this annoying little pair into a few scenes, extending previously-written chapters & preventing me from carrying the story on with any new chapters for awhile.

But this addition will only enrich the story. I’m already envisioning poor zoophobic Kaiser being pursued by the 2 poodles and the Capuchin monkey straddling his back!