Authors in Bloom Blog Hop

Dianne Venetta_AIB Logo_2015

Hello, everyone! Thanks for visiting the Authors in Bloom Blog Hop! Spring has sprung, and we’re celebrating! Visit all the authors on the tour for great gardening tips, recipes and a chance to win some fantastic books and prizes!

Here’s my tip:

Location, Location, Location!

My tip is more about how to enjoy your garden than growing or protecting it. If you’re considering a water feature, here’s something you might want to think about:

yellow birds

Birds love water features. Now, you may love birds, but do you want them on your patio? Trust me. You don’t.

My husband and I installed a water feature a few years ago. We thought we had the perfect place for it –– a small cut-out in our patio, at the edge, near the house. We’d be able to see the feature and birds from inside the house. And, of course, we’d hear the water bubbling pleasantly when we were outside on the patio. We like the birds, and I love the sound of the water.

The problem? It’s not a good location. A couple of times a year there must be something the birds eat that makes them very thirsty. They converge on the water — and patio — in great multitudes. And they leave a little something behind. Yep. Bird poop. Everywhere. On the patio, the chairs, the pillows, the cushions . . . ugh.

I was prepared for the annual winterizing and refilling. But I wasn’t prepared for the constant clean-up detail. Consider placing your feature a little farther out where birds can perch on trees or shrubs rather than patio furniture. Choose wisely, friends! And enjoy your outdoor space!



Leave a comment (and your email contact info in case you are a winner!) to enter the giveaway drawing. To be eligible for the Grand Prize, you MUST visit and comment on each participating author’s site!

GRAND PRIZE: We are giving away a Kindle Fire or Nook (winner’s choice) along with a 2nd prize of $25 gift card. Woo-hoo!!

DARLENE’S PRIZE: I’m offering two prizes:

  1. a signed paperback copy of one of my novels plus author swag. Please note, will be mailed to U.S. resident only.
  2. a digital copy of one of my novels — international eligibility

For “extra” entries in my giveaway, follow my blog or my Facebook page!

Darlene’s Facebook

The Tour ends April 16th at 11:59pm EST. Tell your friends!


Visit all the participating authors, and leave your comment!

Good Luck, and Happy Spring to all!

Click on the link below to see all authors




Survive and Thrive . . . novels for women

Hello, friends!
As I mentioned last week, I’ve met so many interesting people in the world of writing and publishing. To me, it’s always fun to meet new authors, and learn about their journey. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing you to Charmaine Gordon, author of women’s fiction and romance, and her newest work, When Double Becomes Single Again. Welcome, Charmaine!

Charmaine -10 sATURATED_pp8x10g-72y
Thanks for inviting me to your blog today. As strangers we are starting from scratch and that’s often a good thing. If we were in a bar, we might say “Come here often?” but no we’re in outer space, both authors who write about women who survive and thrive. If you don’t survive, you’re in big trouble and yet many women are too weak to stand up and make a life for themselves after a drastic situation has happened. I’ve been there and it’s a scramble to put on make-up, dress well, go to work and keep your head up. I recall when my first husband died suddenly, the psychologists on the radio talked about men liking younger women. I looked in the rear view mirror to see an attractive woman-ME-and decided I was okay and not to worry. A year later, I married a sweet guy and we’re happy together. At 84 that’s a stretch.

I often wonder where a story comes from. For me. I sleep write and stories blossom but in the case of When Double becomes Single, this story is part of my real life-at least the beginning. I cried a lot and eased up as the heroine learned to become single after being married about thirty five years. She talks to him at night the way many widows do, her dogs keep her company and she works the business they started when they were young. Eventually she blossoms. That’s where my heart sings. And not to worry, there is an HEA.

Excerpt: When Double Becomes Single Again

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The touch of her husband’s lips on hers warmed Sharon Michaels all the way home from the hospital. Remembering his whispered I love you before she left released a cascade of tears. She groped in her bag for a tissue, found none and used the sleeve of her good winter coat as a blotter. Mac would fix Barry. Their favorite doctor always knew the magical potion to apply. Even when Fred, their difficult teenager now in his thirties, started using marijuana and refused to stop, Mac knew what to do. Tough Love was the prescription. No driver’s license and other privileges allowed until he straightened out. So Barry’s bad cough should be easy like the croup. Hmm. Fred still held a grudge against us. Get home and go to sleep.

Exhausted after hours visiting with her husband at Community Hospital in Suffern, New York, Sharon stripped and pulled on flannel pajamas. Too tired to shower, she brushed her teeth, washed her face and slipped under the comforter on this chilly night. The phone rang. She picked it up. Mac Bloom, the family doctor said something she couldn’t quite hear.

“Crisis? Is that what you said? What do you mean crisis? I left him at the hospital about an hour ago. We kissed and said I love you the way we’ve always done for thirty six years.”

Their doctor for many a long time sighed. She heard urgency and sadness in his voice. “Sharon, is anyone at home with you?”

About Charmaine . . .
Charmaine Gordon writes books about women who Survive and Thrive. Her motto is take one step and then another to leave your past behind and begin again. Six books and several short stories in three years, she’s always at work on the next story. The books include To Be Continued, Starting Over, Now What?, Reconstructing Charlie, Sin of Omission and The Catch, and her series of Mature Romances, The Beginning…Not the End, including the stand alone novellas, She Didn’t Say No and Farewell, Hello and her most recent series, River’s Edge Stories where the town motto is Kindness to Strangers.

“I didn’t realize at the time while working as an actor in NYC, I’d become a sponge soaking up dialogue, setting, and stage directions. I learned many tools of writing during the years watching directors like Mike Nichols and actors including Harrison Ford, Anthony Hopkins, and Billy Crystal. And would you believe, I was Geraldine Ferraro’s stand-in leg model, my first job giving me entrée into all the Unions needed to work. When the sweet time ended, I began another career and creative juices flowed.”

Where to find Charmaine…

Purchase on Amazon

Hello, friends! OcWedding Bands 99 cents adcasionally, I like to have guests on my blog to share their work, an interesting story, travel tips or experiences you might enjoy.

Today, I’m excited to host a fellow RONE Award finalist, Ev Bishop. Like me, Ev writes romance and women’s fiction, and she’ll be meeting and greeting readers at the InD’Scribe convention in Palm Springs next month. Dozens of authors will be attending. If you live in southern California, or just want a trip to a warm and sunny destination, come join us!

Ev’s romance novel “Wedding Bands” is currently on sale. Here’s a peek:
Wedding Bands by Ev Bishop, River’s Sigh B & B, Book 1

Ditched by her high school sweetheart, Callum Archer, on the night they’re supposed to elope, Jo Kendall casts out on her own, brokenhearted.

Over the years, Jo reels in a life she loves, centered on the outdoors, fishing (favoring a lucky wedding band lure), and her fine dining restaurant—a life that crashes away when her husband and business partner cheats her, leaving her bankrupt and alone.

Then her uncle dies, bequeathing Jo and her sister, Samantha, his rural property. Jo returns to Greenridge, determined to build a new business and permanent home—without the help of a man. Unfortunately Samantha wants her inheritance in cold, hard cash and hires a lawyer to get it for her, a lawyer who turns out to be none other than Jo’s long-lost love, Callum.

Jo’s fledgling plans—and her heart—are at risk once more.

If Jo can fight her insecurities, she might end up with a wedding band that doesn’t come with a sharp hook. But should she risk everything she’s worked for, yet again? Before she can decide, she needs to know: can a lost love truly be reclaimed?

Get your copy for 99 cents!

Have Fun . . . Stay Safe!

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Hello, everyone!
I was telling my favorite travel agent about my book club gals’ recent getaway to Branson, and she offered to send along some expert travel tips for women. So if a girls’ getaway is in your plans this summer (and I hope so!), here are a few reminders for having fun and staying safe. Happy travels to all!

1. Staying Healthy — advance planning is key. I always gather up a small bag of supplies as sort of an “emergency kit” with items such as a packet of Kleenex, some cough drops, tube of Dramamine pills, sheet of Pepto-Bismol tablets, tiny bottle of hand sanitizer, handful of Band-aids, tube of Neosporin, and some sort of headache remedy.
Get your prescriptions filled, too, and keep all of these items in your carry-on. Since you can’t carry onto a plane liquid items of more than three ounces, be sure to pack in your check-bag some sunscreen and insect repellant as well.
These are especially important for international travel, because you don’t know how easy/difficult it might be to find such items at your destination and they will certainly cost a lot more (on my last trip with friends someone had to buy cough drops and they were four Euros for a pack of 8!).
In most places, quality hotels, resorts, and restaurants are going to have water and tea that you can safely drink, but do purchase bottled water from the hotel or at a store (not from street vendors) to have while you’re out. But don’t avoid water, because letting yourself get dehydrated will make you feel sick. Go easy on the alcohol. Eat meals and snacks when you get a chance and resist the urge to worry about your weight! You need energy! Feeling too-hungry in the middle of the day will zap the fun right out of you and make you feel queasy.
And I must mention: never, ever approach an animal, either wild or domesticated.

2. Personal Security — let someone know your itinerary – what are your flights, where are you supposed to be and when, hotel names, etc. Working with a travel agent is a good idea, too, for smooth coordination of logistics and records of each reservation detail. I wouldn’t put all this information in your check-bag, but a note with your name and the phone number of your next stop inside would be helpful to your airline/tour operator/cab company if your bag were to be misplaced.
Everyone knows about safeguarding your room keys, not disclosing your room information to anyone outside of your group, and using in-room safes for jewelry, small electronics, and travel documents that you don’t want to carry with you while you’re “out and about.” Never leave your purse, camera, or phone unattended. A cross-body bag that you can hold in front of you is the best accessory to take.
Stay together as best you can, and wear comfortable shoes that you could run in to escape a mugger or pickpocket. People romance about the idea of getting “off the beaten path,” but seriously, it is much better for your sightseeing value and for your safety to stick with the “touristy” areas.

3. Security of Possessions — file a report with your airline immediately, before you leave the airport, if your bag doesn’t show up on the carousel! You are entitled to certain expense reimbursements in the event of delayed or lost luggage, so look up those policies on their website and be prepared to stand firm for your rights just in case. Also on that website – information on restricted items, which will certainly be confiscated if you mistakenly pack them (forget about your aerosol hairspray, sorry).
Never pack your travel documents, medications, electronics, valuable jewelry, or anything you can’t live without for a day or two. Leave your designer clothes behind. I’ve had items stolen from checked bags – new bottle of fragrance, new tube of toothpaste (!?), fancy face cream – so now I never take anything new, and I tuck tampons around my expensive personal-care products that I can’t live without (TSA and airline employees won’t touch them!).
Look out for each other – lost on our trip: a pair of sunglasses, a cap, and a jacket! If we had all been alert to check the back of a chair, glance under the table, or give the area one last go-over we wouldn’t have gone off and left them.
And last, don’t over-fret about things (lose a bag and have to buy a couple of new outfits? Oh darn… ) Maintain a sense of perspective on the very slim chance of anything bad happening – of course you want to be prepared and use common sense – but you really want to relax and enjoy your trip!

Tips from Janet McLaren, Travel Specialist
Cruise Planners, an American Express Travel Representative
972-231-0066, 1-866-592-7351
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Of Belles and Books

bhuff copyHello, everyone! Happy Monday to you! Today it’s my pleasure to have Belle Blackburn as my guest. (It’s okay if you suddenly have the urge to belt out a chorus of  “Be My Guest, Be My Guest, Be My Guest.” I did.) Belle is, of course, an avid reader, but also a talented writer who enjoys mixing a variety of genres into her novels.

Welcome, Belle!


What genre(s) do you write?
Primarily historical fiction but you could slip it into a few other categories like mystery, romance, history and medical.

How did you become interested in that genre/topic?
This sounds so cheesy but it was seeing Gone With the Wind when I was 14 years old. I knew there had book_template_10_12_2014-upload-2been a Civil War but it was just some dates and battle names in a history book, which bored me immensely. My mother took me to the movie and it really made an impact on me. That was the first time I had heard about how war affected civilians as well as soldiers. I still remember the shot of all those wounded soldiers lying in the sun (half of which were dummies). My brother was in the military at the time so I was very sensitive to that. I then read the book and have had an interest in history since, though I usually focus on civilians. If you are looking for book spotlighting the military, battles and weapons, there are many out there by experts in that field and I am not one.

How long have you been writing and how many published works?
I have planned to write since second grade and got a minor in journalism, but did not produce my first book until a couple of years ago. I wrote a murder mystery and needed it to be set in a time without forensics and since Nashville was a busy and important place during the Civil War, I chose that time period. I like to discover history in the setting of a good tale so I slipped Nashville’s war story into it. It does take a ton of research but I love it. I am now writing the sequel.

What’s your favorite part about writing?
Experiencing the flow. Sometimes I just can’t get it on paper quick enough and it takes on a life of its own. I have had bossy characters who insisted on having things their way, which I had not planned. I know to appreciate those times because sometimes it drags. And, of course, five star reviews are pretty awesome. ☺

In writing historical fiction, you must have done some research. What are your sources? Are there any particular historical “nuggets” you found while researching? And travel required?
I spent a lot of time in the Nashville Room at the main library. I loved finding books that were eyewitness accounts. I also contacted several of the local historians, who were very helpful. I discovered a thesis about daily life in Nashville in the 1850s at the Vanderbilt Library and that gave good insight to the city. My biggest problem was finding out about the law of the time and I finally found a legal historian. The research into the medical practice of that time was very interesting in that it held no resemblance to today’s medicine at all. It is so easy to deride their medical practices but I know in 150 years they will be feeling the same way about our time. I often wonder if our generation’s time will be known as The Chemical Age. And I have to say researching is tremendously easier with the internet! As far as travel, it was mostly limited to within the city – libraries, historical sites, presentations or to meet a historian. I’m sure there was some European connection to Nashville in the Civil War that I will have to go research!

Tell us a little about your main character.
Kate is…a bit flawed. Mostly she is just young and inexperienced and, like people of that age, thinks she has all the answers. She is a bit brash in her thoughts, which she at least has enough sense not to vocalize. She does grow a lot in the 1+ year this book covers. She is at the core a good person but stubborn when she has something in her head, and doesn’t always make good choices. I sometimes have inspiration for a character from a real person but Kate is just purely out of my head.

What do you hope readers will enjoy or take away from reading your book?
I hope first that they enjoy a good yarn and love the characters, but secondarily I would like for them to learn things they never knew before.

Please share a couple of favorite lines from your book.
This is like asking me to choose a favorite child but I will settle on one from the first page – “I went to church to practice hate and revenge.”

Where do you get your story ideas?
History guides my story. My characters have to operate within the confines of true history, however, their own stories can come from anywhere. I have incorporated some of my own experiences as well as others. Most of it just comes out of my head or my husband’s. He is my male muse since he has a great imagination and creative mind. I will get stuck at points and I will ask him how this character is going to get to this place or how I can make this happen and he usually has a good idea.

Is there anyone in particular who has influenced your writing career?
I am grateful to the teachers who encouraged me along the way. The author Susan Howatch influenced me with her intelligent and insightful Starbridge series of books, as well as Wheel of Fortune. I learned that no matter how much I think I know a situation, other people see the same thing quite differently. And most people do not even know themselves. She likens the personality to an onion, where the outer layer is the glittering image you present the world, then you start stripping off the layers until you get down to the very core, and your true self is usually not what you think it will be at all.

What do you do when you’re not writing?
It usually involves my hands in the dirt or on an animal but very soon it will involve my first grandchild. I will wash my hands first before handling him, afterwards with the other two.

What’s one thing about you that most people don’t know?
I was voted Most Mischievous in high school.

What’s next on your writing journey?
The sequel to the first book. Got some loose ends to tie up.

So, I’m curious have you ever (or how many times) dressed up as Belle from Beauty and the Beast?
I have now!11009853_444800109009429_4739684308411501706_n

Connect with Belle!

Dream job . . . found in a high school library

IMG_0802Hello, everyone! Happy Friday!

Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to an amazing lady. She runs the library at my kids’ high school – a school with more than 2,000 students. I love libraries. I’ve been to many, and I can tell you, this librarian makes a difference. How? She encourages a love of books and learning by making the library a happy place! Nooks to check out, Cappuccino Fridays, Blind Date with a Book . . . she’s got it all! Please welcome Kathi Knop, librarian extraordinaire!

Tell us a little about your job. And yourself . . . what were the steps to becoming a school librarian? Was that always your intended career path?
I graduated from William Jewell College with a degree in Elementary Education and taught elementary school in the Hickman Mills School District for 10 years. During that time I got married and had 2 daughters. I stayed home for the next 15 years to raise Megan & Elizabeth. When Megan was an 8th grader, I decided it might be time for me to go back to work. After some soul searching thinking about what I really wanted to do I decided to get my master’s degree in Library Science, which was a wonderful decision. I spent four years going to Emporia, KS one weekend a month getting my degree. I don’t think I originally ever thought about being a librarian, but when I became one, I realized it was a dream job.

What’s your favorite part of being a school librarian?
I love the teaching part of being a school librarian. I love giving book talks and just being around and talking to the students.
And least favorite?
Because of our new 1:1 initiative, technology has become a large part of my job. The least favorite would be having to take time out to deal with computer problems, issuing new computers and chargers that have been lost or damaged, etc.
How many students do you interact with on a daily basis?
My days are always varied and I can interact with anywhere from 30-300 students.
How do you encourage kids to read?
I think just talking to kids about books encourages them. Every year I have the young adult librarians from Johnson County library come gives book talks to the freshmen classes about current books during Teen Read Week in October. I also do book talks to the freshmen at the beginning of the year. I have also book talked different genres, such as biographies and non fiction books. This always gets kids to read something that they might not have before. I display new books as they arrive and books that bring awareness to a specified month, such as Black History Month, etc. This month we have a display called “Blind Date with a Book.” The books are wrapped in brown paper with a few key words on the front telling a little bit about the book. The first day we did the display, 10 students checked them out. I also have 15 Nooks that the kids can check out and take home. They might want to read a particular book, but end up reading lots more because so many are available on the Nooks.

Are you seeing any trends in reading/literature at the high school level?
Dystopian novels are still pretty big. I have also been ordering more GLBT books and have seen an increase in these books being checked out. Fiction books are definitely the most books that get checked out. Nonfiction books rarely get checked out any more. Students would much prefer to find their information online, which I can’t argue with, as I too like to have the most up to date information when doing research!

Who are some of your favorite authors?
John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Pat Conroy, Jodi Picoult, Harper Lee

What are five books on your to-be-read list right now?
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, The Orenda by Joseph Boyden, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and The Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson

How many books do you read in an average month?
I usually have three books going at once. I listen to a book in the car or when I walk, always have one on my ipad and one “real” book that I read on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Name some of your all-time favorite books.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, My Antonia, Jane Eyre, Prince of Tides, The Woman in White, The Tortilla Curtain.

Is there one book you think every high school student (or every person) should read?
It would have be To Kill a Mockingbird. I think it is a timeless piece that has something in it to appeal to everyone. It is a moving novel that has life lessons.

You’ll be retiring at the end of this school year. What will you miss the most?
Most definitely the daily interaction with my colleagues and the students. The students give energy to every day! I will definitely NOT miss getting up at 5:15 every day.

Tell us a favorite memory/story of being a school librarian.
Wow. There are so many, it’s hard to choose one. Probably my best memory is having started cappuccino days in the high school library. When I first started at East, it was apparent that we needed to find ways to bring kids into the library. We started Cappuccino Fridays and sold cold cappuccinos and cookies. So many kids started coming in saying “So this is the library!” We would have about 3 classes in the library about every 15 minutes and make between $1,000 and $1500 each month. This also was very timely since our budget was taken away and we were still able to purchase new books for the library. Once a year we gave all our proceeds to an organization such as Habitat for Humanity, Heart to Heart International, the Red Cross, etc. This was definitely a rewarding, fun thing to start in our library. And of course there was getting to accompany a group of students to Italy and opening a brand new beautiful library at Mission Valley Middle School!

Everyone who knows you knows that you’re one of the coolest school librarians ever: How would you like to be remembered?
Ha!! I think just as a person who really enjoyed students and provided a comfortable environment for them to come to, whether it was to find a book, to study, or just to hang out and eat lunch.

When you aren’t working/reading, how do you spend your time? Any hobbies?
In the spring and summer it’s definitely gardening and working out in my yard!

What’s next on your journey?
I’m just going to give myself a semester to see what happens. I will definitely be gardening and also volunteering. I want to volunteer at the Childrens Center for Visually Impaired and also Children’s Mercy Hospital.

One of Kathi’s favorite quotes:
“[Librarians] are subversive. You think they’re just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They’re like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn’t mess with them.”
― Michael Moore

I love this quote because to me it says that we’re always thinking up new ideas, events, and the next new thing!

An incredible journey to blend fact and fiction

Eglinski_036  white shirtHello, everyone! Today it’s my pleasure to introduce you to an author who does fascinating research for her historical fiction novels. Follow her on a journey to visit the homeland of Genghis Khan!

Mongolian Safari
Researching: She Rides with Genghis Khan
A Novel, by Pam Eglinski

It was six o’clock in the morning when my guide and driver picked me up at my brother’s home in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. Tanks were in the streets, blocking access to Sükbataar Square—the center of the city. The night before we’d witnessed a street battle between the “old guard” Soviets and the new Democrats. Six men died and six-hundred were shipped off to jail—all protesters of the rigged parliamentary election of the day before.

We skirted the city in a large black SUV, making our way to Khentii province and the homeland of Genghis Khan. I was on safari, a mission to understand the soul of Mongolia and the one-time ruler of the known world. My quest would take me hundreds of miles across the legendary Mongolian steppe and deep into the Great Taboo Area.

Within an hour we’d reached the colossal equestrian statue of the great Khan—a newly erected one-hundred and thirty foot steel giant holding a golden whip—a whip that pointed toward his homeland, a day’s journey away.GenghisKhanstatue800px-Dschingis_Khan_in_Zonjin_Boldog

We stepped out of the SUV to take a few pictures. Turning back toward the car I heard a train rumble down the tracks, just below the highway. It was the historic Trans-Siberian railway, with passengers traveling to St. Petersburg. It reminded me of the Stalinist era, when trains linked Mongolia to the oppressive Soviet state and the man who forbade travel to the spiritual center of the country—the Almsgiver’s Wall—holy ground for Mongolians and perhaps the resting place of the great Khan.

Now, free of Stalin, visitors and scholars are able to explore the land of Genghis’ birth, where he came to be a man and where he gathered his first army—an army which ultimately conquered the known world. I took a deep breath. This was more than a research trip for my novel, it was a journey to the heart of a nation and its spiritual power center.

Genghis Full
My second novel in the “Catalina and Bonhomme Spy Series,” She Rides with Genghis Khan, weaves fact with fiction similar to the way Dan Brown presented The da Vinci Code. But She Rides is uniquely Asian, esoteric, and exotic. Research took me to the homeland of Genghis Khan, to ancient Buddhist scriptures housed in the British Library, to the Bamiyan Buddhas along the Silk Road, and The Secret History of the Mongols. I grappled with mystifying objects like the Buddhist wish-fulfilling jewels, and the Wind Horse—a shaman’s passage to the Blue Sky Heaven and an allegory for the human soul.

My journey began with an exploration into Mongolia’s Great Taboo Area, and concluded with a novel rich in Buddhist lore, a modern day caravan across the ancient Silk Road, and a supernatural ride with Genghis Khan. Come, feel the wind in your hair and the spirit of a nation in your heart. Enjoy the wild ride as you dip into a novel rich in imagery and history—a story never before told.
Find Pam’s books:

Connect with Pam!
Twitter: @pameglinski