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I don’t have to tell any of you how dry and mundane every day life can get… That’s why, in exactly 10 days, my husband and I will be leaving for Europe. We’re going for a much needed break, a vacation, to see the sights. But we’re also going in search of inspiration.

We’ll be flying into Stuttgart, Germany on April 6, where we’ll be connecting with an online friend – in person – for the first time.  While staying with her, we hope to enjoy seeing her neighboring areas – Rothenburg, Baden Baden, Strasbourg, France – and wherever she wants to take us. I haven’t been back to Germany since I lived there (1977-1980) and I can’t wait to see it again, especially through her eyes.

On April 11th, we will be picking up our rental car and leaving for Augsburg, where I lived for three years. I’m sure the town and surrounding countryside will have changed immensely, but I look forward to visiting my favorite haunts (those that still exist, and that I am lucky enough to find)! We’ll be staying at the Landgasthof Lindermayr.

On the evening of April 12, we will be at the Schloss Hotel Swiss Chalet on Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. If you are interested, you can have a peek.

April 13, we will be spending the night along the Italian Riviera near Genoa, at Hotel Villa Bonera.

April 14, 15,and 16, we will be staying at the wonderful Le Mas Perreal B&B in Provence, France.

On April 17, we head north again, stopping for the night at Le jardin d’ Elisa.

April 18th, we’ll be back in Stuttgart to say good-bye to Cristina. Then, on April 19th, we fly to Copenhagen, Denmark to see our Danish relatives in Hillerod and Slangerup. We’ll be staying at Rose-House. We leave to fly home on the 23rd, so we should have a lot of time to see our cousins, explore the area around Copenhagen, and even take a day trip to Sweden.

I have just finished Water Lily, the second book of my Maple Valley trilogy, which follows Stormy Weather. In fact, I just sent it off to my publisher (a wonderful feeling). The last book, Merry-Go-Round, is written in rough draft form, and needs a lot of revisions. As soon as I’ve completed it, I plan to move to Europe, at least in my mind.

I’ve already written a book set in Tobermory, Scotland called Blue Belle of Scotland. It is almost ready to submit. A second in the series, Wild Rose of Scotland, is about 1/3 of the way done, and was inspired after we stumbled upon St. Conan’s Kirk on Loch Awe, a wonderful church in the Scottish countryside. I really should finish itas soon as I’m done with Merry-Go-Round …

And then… who knows which of the countries or gasthofs we visit will become the setting for my next book…? I am so ready to be inspired… so open to new ideas… just waiting for the person, scene or occurence that will spark my imagination… and result in the birth of a new story.  I have no idea if it will occur in Germany, Switzerland, Italy, France, Denmark, or Sweden – maybe all of the above. But I know it will be there – the kernel of insight, a gem of wisdom, a beautiful vista – something will call out to me and an idea will be born.

Have you had a similar experience when traveling? If so, I’d love to hear where your story idea was born!

This is a truly awful photo of me (my eyes are closed and I’m definitely having a bad hair day) but it’s a good article about my latest book, Stormy Weather, so I’m going to share it anyway. 🙂

My latest release, Stormy Weather, is the first in a trilogy about three sisters – Rachael, Michelle, and Tracy Jones. I am heavy into revisions on the second in the series – Waterlily, and hope it will be released in June of this year.  Tracy’s book, Merry Go Round, will hopefully be ready by the end of 2010.

While there is no single plot that weaves the three books together (a la Nora Roberts) or unresolved cliffhangers left dangling from book to book (a la Debbie Macomber), there are repeat appearances by the sisters, their parents, and a few, key secondary characters in each of the books, and character arcs that span the entire series. While each book stands alone, my hope is that once people become invested in the Jones family, they will want to read all three books.

Writing a trilogy has been fun – I know the family well by now. It’s easier to get into the characters since many of them were introduced in the first book. On the down side, I’ve needed to look up all kinds of names and other little details to be sure they are the same from book to book (which I expected). Aside from that, character consistency has been my biggest challenge – does Rae’s voice sound the same in Waterlily as it did in Stormy Weather? Her role in the family and status in life has changed a great deal by the time Waterlily opens.  (I don’t want to give away the ending, should you not have read Stormy Weather.) But I wonder, should her voice reflect those changes? Is she more cynical now? Softer? More content? Less snarky than she was at the beginning of her book?

The other thing that has really started to bother me is that the names of my three books are totally unrelated. My plan has always been to have the covers of the books be linked by their style: a photo on top, and a quilt block on the bottom. Stormy Weather has a photo of a rainbow in a stormy sky on top and a rainbow quilt block on the bottom. I’ve got a wonderful photo of a water lily to use on the top of Waterlily’s cover, and I plan to make a quilt block with a pink waterlily blossoming in a pond of watercolor hues for the bottom. I just found the perfect photo for the top of Merry Go Round – an old-fashioned carousel horse, taken by one of my friends from Gather. (Thank you, Rose!) The quilt on the bottom will be some sort of a spinning pin wheel design in rich pastels to match the horse’s finery.

So, if I have a common theme in the design of the book covers, do you think the names of the books still need to be related? I’m curious to see if you think this is a problem.

I love the way Nora Roberts weaves together the titles of her trilogies – my favorite of her trios are titled Jewels of the Sun, Tears of the Moon, and Heart of the Sea. Some of her series are even more obviously linked – Born in Fire, Born in Ice, Born in Shame, or Key of Light, Key of Knowledge, Key of Valor.

In Lyn Cote’s Women of Ivy Manor series, each book is named – simply and elegantly – after the main character: Bette, Chloe, Leigh, and Carly.

In Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cover series, each book is named after the street address of the main character, with each sequential book having a house number one number higher. (16 Lighthouse Road, 204 …, 311…, 44…, 50…, 6…, 74…, 8…, 92 Pacific Boulevard.) Then there are the Dakota series, and the Blossom Street series, also cleverly named to alert the reader that these books are continuations of a series.

Since it’s too late for me to change the name of Stormy Weather to Rachael, if I want the titles of my trilogy to be in sync, I’m left with the option of somehow tying the names of the remaining two books to something weather related.

I refuse to do something so obvious as Stormy Weather, Cold Weather, and Hot Weather, so…

The imagery in waterlily is tied to water (Michelle has a lily pond, Jake is a championship swimmer, Michelle is too self-conscious to be seen in a swimming suit, a pivotal scene occurs in the water, under the camouflage of a new moon). The book could conceivably be called Starry, Starry Night, Trace of Moisture, Rainy Days and Mondays, Scattered Showers, Summer Solstice, Moon Shadow, Misty in the Moonlight…

In Merry Go Round, Tracy’s entire world is turned on end (an atmospheric inversion?) when her husband, a pastor, and the father of their three children, leaves her for another man. I can think of a few weather-related terms that might work for a title in this case, too:  Total Eclipse of the Heart (yes, I’m sensing a theme here – I like the names of songs) , Unstable Air, Updraft, Wind Shift, Whirlwind, Heat Wave…

Since I’m still working on both the second and third book in the trilogy, I could weave in the needed imagery to make any of these new names work.

Thoughts? Ideas? Leave well-enough alone?  What are your expectations as a reader when you begin a trilogy?

If you’re a writer – have you ever had to change the title of your book at the last minute? If so, how did it impact your work?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Two days ago (it seems like an eternity), my husband and I returned from a wonderful vacation to California. Not quite two weeks ago, we left northern Iowa a day early to narrowly escape a good, old-fashioned blizzard (22 below zero temperatures, 50 below zero wind chills, zero visibility due to 45 mph wind gusts) The day we flew out of the northern tundra otherwise know as Minneapolis, we peered out frosted-over hotel windows and could barely see across the parking lot. Our shuttle slipped and careened on the snow-covered interstate on the short trip to the airport.

A few hours later, we were walking around in short-sleeved shirts and sandals. Our jackets, wool scarves and mittens were shed, and instead of crunching along on white, snow-covered sidewalks, we found ourselves in a green citrus grove plucking fresh oranges, tangerines and lemons from the trees, peeling them, and popping them into our mouths. A couple of days later, we were on the beach, walking barefoot along the shoreline and picking up shells while the sun set over the Pacific.

Thanks to the fast speed of today’s airplanes, and the severity of our winter as contrasting the balmy temperatures out West, the change from Minnesota to California was so abrupt I almost felt like I was on an episode of Star Trek, Next Generation, where the crew regularly visited a holodeck, or simulated reality facility, for recreational purposes, to experience a different culture or period of history, or even to fulfill a fantasy.

Whether a brief escapade in the holodeck or a week or two at the beach, a good vacation can pick you up from one place and set you down in another, relieving stress, providing laughter and relaxation, and giving you a much need change of scenery.

So can a good book.

When I was young, my family took some wonderful vacations – to Florida, The Black Hills, Lake Superior, and the Rocky Mountains. But most of the many things and places I knew about at the young age of nine or ten, I had learned of not from seeing them with my own eyes, but from reading books.

One of the compliments about my books (Night and Day, and Stormy Weather, Second Wind Publishing) that pleases me most is hearing that my readers were so engrossed while reading that they felt like they were right there, in the book, living and feeling whatever the characters were experiencing.

Although the current trend in writing is not to write lengthy descriptions, I love a book where I can picture the characters and surroundings in such detail that I feel like I’m magically transported to their corner of the universe, feeling what they feel, seeing the world, whether it be Victorian, modern, or futuristic, through their eyes… a vacation from my own troubles without the frustration of lengthy waits at airports, lost suitcases, and expensive room reservations.

Is there a writer whose words have such a strong impact on your senses that you literally feel like you’re transported to another time and place when you’re reading their books? If so, what is it about their style of writing that makes the fictional world in their books seem so real?

I finally downloaded my photos from the past two months and found a great photo of the authors and writers that attended the Writers Retreat we hosted at the Blue Belle Inn in October. Best of all, I’m not in the photo! Looking at it brings back fond memories of a wonderful weekend in which I was privileged to meet fellow Second Wind authors Christine Husom, Norm Brown, and Amy DeTrempe.

We had a great time learning more about writing, and watching a murder mystery, Next of Kin, by Haley productions.

Sometime this week, I should hold my book, Night & Day, in my hands for the very first time. I’ve been waiting for this moment for the last decade, writing my heart out. Thanks to Second Wind Publishing, my dream is finally coming true. I hope you’ll check my book out (you’ll be able to purchase a copy soon at

It’s midnight in Minnesota and daybreak in Denmark…

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RAGGED ROBIN – New Release

PLUM TART IRIS – New Release

Seaside Daisy


Daybreak (Sequel to Night & Day)

Night and Day

Golden Rod

Sweet William

Shy Violet

Blue Belle

Wild Rose

Thistle Down

Love Notes

Stormy Weather

Water Lily

Merry Go Round

What You’ve Missed

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