Monday, September 29, 2014


Today on Stilettos at High Noon, another segment of the series,


This  time we're discussing Greek Revival style homes.

Greek Revival is an excellent example of a style that gained popularity by exploring parallels between an earlier culture and the present day. With British influence waning considerably after the War of 1812 and the nation rapidly expanding westward, the style was fundamentally an expression of America’s triumphant sense of destiny and the sense that our newly formed nation was the spiritual descendant of Greece, birthplace of democracy. Americans’ sympathy and support for Greece’s war of independence from Turkey also contributed to this idiom’s influence. Popular from 1825to 1860, in more isolated parts of the country, the style was prevalent right up to the Civil War.
In time, Greek Revival even became known as the national style, so pervasive were the temple-fronted façades on the nation’s churches, banks, town halls, and houses. Appropriate to the nation's emerging sense of self, one of the country's first Greek Revival buildings was the Second Bank of the United States, built in Philadelphia between 1819 and 1824. Fostered by building handbooks used by carpenters and builders, the style moved West with the early settlers and acquired subtle regional differences along the way. Not surprisingly, the fastest growing regions ended up with the largest number of Greek Revival homes. Popular fascination with Greek Revival began to wane toward the late 1800s as architects in the East explored other styles, such as Gothic and Italianate. 

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Thursday, September 25, 2014


You'll love this new western historical romance by Ellen O'Connell.

Discounted pre-order price until September 30th - $2.99
Standard price after release - $4.99
Also free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers to borrow after September 30th release date


Bounty hunter Bret Sterling kills Rufus Petty, thief and murderer, less than ten feet away from a frightened, half-starved woman. Rufus should have surrendered. The woman should have kin to help her. But Rufus went down shooting, and the woman has no one. Bret figures by the time he finds a safe place to leave Hassie Petty, he’ll earn the five hundred dollar reward several times over.

Hassie doesn’t mourn Rufus, but the loss of the ten dollars he promised her for supplies is a different matter. The bounty hunter gives her nothing, takes everything, ties the body on one horse and orders her on another. Afraid if she defies him, he’ll tie her down tighter than Rufus, Hassie mounts up and follows the icy-eyed killer.

Mismatched in every way, the sterling man and petty woman travel the West together, hunting thieves, deserters, and murderers. Wary traveling companions, friends and partners, lovers, Bret and Hassie must decide what they want, what they need, and the price they’re willing to pay for love.


Hassie wiped her wet eyes and runny nose on the sleeve of the purple dress, unwilling to look at Bret again. She let go of his arm and tried to put some space between them. Tried. His hand clamped around her upper arm like a vise. “Let’s go.”

Too afraid to resist, she let him propel her out of the street, up on the walk, past groups of curious bystanders. The pain in her side had subsided. Her throat and chest still burned, although her heart and lungs had slowed. Fear and humiliation burned worst of all, fear of what he was going to do, fear of what he thought. Humiliation over her situation, her failure.

The sight of the hotel changed her mind about resisting. She jerked and pulled against Bret’s hold, desperate not to set foot in the hotel again. He ignored her, all but lifting her off her feet by the arm. Unable to bring herself to fight him the way she had fought the Restons and Zachary, she gave in.

He threw the door open so violently it crashed into the wall, cracking the etched glass panel that had graced the top half. Across the silent lobby, up to the shining mahogany desk.

Bret smashed the silver bell with the butt of his pistol so hard the bell fell apart with a sad little ting. Undeterred, he used the gun like a hammer on the polished surface of the desk. Hassie flinched at the sounds as one deep gouge after another marred the wood.

Mr. Reston emerged through the door to the owners’ private rooms, his usual smile fading fast when he saw who stood at the desk. He reached for the door behind him as if to flee back through.

“Not unless you want to lose a hand,” Bret said. “Get out here, and get your wife.”

Pasty-faced and trembling, Reston called his wife and moved behind the desk when ordered.

At the sight of Bret, Mrs. Reston’s face hardened, but she smiled. “Good afternoon, Mr. Sterling, we thought you left town.”

“I bet you did. You round up everything Mrs. Petty brought to this place and get it out here. Now.”

Defiance and anger flashed across the woman’s face. “I understand you’re upset, but we did exactly what we promised. Hassie did not work out here. Guests were already complaining about dealing with a du—mute. Sally Nichols offered to take her, and a job with Sally would be much more suitable.”

“How much did you sell her for?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. We didn’t sell....”

“One hundred dollars,” Hassie said, knowing no one would understand the words, but hoping like her mother, Bret could understand the rhythm of an expected phrase.

“Hear that,” Mrs. Reston said self-righteously. “No one could understand that. She sounds like an animal. If we’d heard that before we hired her, we wouldn’t have done it. You left. We did the best we could.”

“I understood. You sold her for a lousy hundred dollars. Now you get her things.”

“We don’t have anything of hers. She didn’t have anything worth a nickel. Go talk to Sally.”

The glass globe of the lamp on the wall to the right of the desk exploded. The sound of the gunshot hurt Hassie’s ears so much she covered them, even though it was too late. Glass showered down over Mrs. Reston. Mr. Reston squealed and disappeared behind the desk.

Mrs. Reston twisted around to look at the ruined lamp, the scratches on her cheek disappearing amid the bright red that suffused her face. “Do you have any idea how much those lamps cost? We had them shipped from New York City.”

The lamp to the left of the desk exploded. Another squeal sounded from under the desk.

“Run to the brothel if you have to. If you don’t get her things and get them fast, you’re going to need a whole new hotel shipped from New York City.”

Still angry but a lot less defiant, Mrs. Reston crunched across the broken glass back to their rooms.

Bret banged the pistol on the desk again. “Get up here, Reston.”

Mr. Reston’s hands appeared first, gripping the edge of the desk, then the top of his head, then his wide eyes. One eye had a bruise developing underneath, a nice complement to the scratches on his wife. The sight gave Hassie considerable satisfaction.

“Please,” Reston whispered. “Please, I didn’t want, don’t want....”

“I don’t give a damn what you want. Mrs. Petty had almost forty dollars this morning. We’ll round it off and call it forty. I want it back. Now.”

Reston stood all the way up and turned as if to follow his wife back to their rooms.

“No,” Bret said. “You get it out of that drawer right there in the desk.”

“I don’t have forty there.”

“Find it.”

Mr. Reston fumbled with his keys, opened the drawer and counted out thirty dollars. He dug in his pockets and added a ten dollar gold coin. Bret finally let go of Hassie’s arm, scooped the money up, and shoved it in a pocket.

Mrs. Reston returned with Hassie’s carpetbag and thumped it down on the ruined desktop. “There. That’s all we have. I tore some of her clothes for rags and threw the rest in the burn barrel. I’m sure Sally did the same.”

Bret pulled the bag toward Hassie. “Check and see if anything else is missing.”

Hassie opened the bag. Her Bible, hairbrush, and comb didn’t even cover the bottom. She looked up, tempted to tell Bret everything was there just to calm him down and get him to leave. Except the things missing were Mama’s things, the ones Hassie most treasured, and Mrs. Reston had a smug look on her face as if she knew a dummy wouldn’t, couldn’t complain.

Stretching to reach, Hassie grabbed the register from the other side of the desk and the pen from the inkwell tray. She uncapped the ink, dipped the pen, and wrote.

Bret read aloud. “Embroidered tablecloth, gold locket on chain, gold ring.”

Mrs. Reston disappeared before he finished the last word and reappeared seconds later with the cloth in one hand. She raised the clenched fist of the other hand.

“Don’t,” Bret said. “If you throw anything, you’ll be down on your knees picking it up.”

The tablecloth landed soundlessly on the desktop. The jewelry rattled. Hassie shook out the cloth, checked both sides, refolded it, and tucked it in her bag with the necklace and ring.

To her surprise, Bret broke his gun in two and replaced the empty cartridges with fresh rounds. “Six is better than four,” he said, his voice almost normal. “Let’s go.”

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Monday, September 22, 2014


"Go West," they say.
"Out West." The phrase, referring to North America evokes a sense of adventure, of mystery, of romance, of grandeur. Yet even in smaller countries, the pull of the West is intense on our imaginations and our desires. It seems to us that there we will find a slower pace of life, more peaceful environs, and a higher quality of life.

My second novel, Five Days on Ballyboy Beach is set in the West of Ireland. It's a fictional village - even the county it is supposedly situated in is uncertain. It's either Galway or Mayo, but it doesn't matter which. The important thing is that it's in "the West."

In England, "the West Country" is a group of several counties west of London on the Atlantic south of Wales. They're rural and idyllicized (Thomas Hardy's Wessex is situated there) to a certain extent, just like "the West" is in Ireland. Both places are only a few hours from the capital city, but seem many leagues (in the pre-motorised transport era sense!) away when you are there. And people are very different to city folk...

"West Coast" also has a romantic ring to it. Perhaps it is the sunsets. There's something very special about watching the sun set over the sea. We can imagine the edge of the world - or visualise the curve of our planet - much more vividly than when the sun sets over land.
Maybe when we are out West, we give ourselves more time to watch and think about the sunsets.

In this excerpt from Five Days on Ballyboy Beach, the main character, Derek, narrates as he and his friends walk along the coast towards the village at sunset.

The sun was going down as we set off, hanging just above the sea and settling into the horizon, its growing redness glowing and burning the water. There are few places better to watch the sun set than the west of Ireland. The weather is perhaps more unpredictable than the west coast of America, and maybe fewer sunsets can be seen perfectly clearly, but the presence of cloud ensures that not only the sea, but the sky, too, is set alight. This was true of that day, and I gazed out to fill my eyes with the picture every so often as we walked, not wanting to miss any change in hue.
When the sun touched the water, I suggested to Sinéad and Bill that we stop and watch the last rays while we waited for Sarah and John to reach us, which they lukewarmly agreed to. The other two had fallen behind and were very slow in catching up. I saw them stopping too, and looking out to sea. We sat on the dry stone wall that separated the road from the elongated field on our right, which twenty yards seaward ended abruptly in the cliff edge. The red ball quickly melted into the horizon and the sea burned. Above, the streaks of cloud were orange and red and pink as the sun disappeared completely, leaving only a dull glow, like a distant fire. We stared at it for a few more minutes, and then, as the last rays of the vanished sun left the highest clouds and their undersides turned from pink to grey, the other two caught up with us.
           The light was getting low when we reached Ballyboy. The few streetlights that illuminated the village were already on, and the five or so small boats left in the river were bobbing slowly on the tide. Apart from an old couple walking into The Drowning Duck, there was no sign of human life. However, the very air gave the impression of life, of being alive. Since it was such a small village, the wildlife was never far away.
           A small dog made its way down the street towards us, meandering from side to side as it pissed against each major landmark of lamp post and house corner. Two seagulls settled down to roost on top of a pale white dock light, above the swaying mast of a boat called the Aishling. Around the pale glow shed by the streetlamps, a few bats flitted into sight, squeaking now and then as they caught moths attracted by the light. Below the river walls we could hear the murmur of the water in the calmness. From time to time it seemed to splash, as if rats were scurrying and diving along the banks. The mumble of voices inside the pub was the only sound that broke the tranquillity and the feeling that the streets belonged to the animals.
          The fire glowed beneath the mantel in the end wall of the lounge of The Scarlet Haddock when we walked in. We got the obligatory stare from most of the patrons as we entered. However, I reckoned that it was getting shorter and shorter each time we went in. They look around to see who has just come in, partly, I am sure, because in a small town the chances are that the person coming in is a friend, neighbour or other familiar acquaintance, and they can call them over for a chat. The other reason is that there is a hobby down the country, among the culchies - what we Dubliners call people who live anywhere outside city limits - I’m convinced, called people-spotting. It’s similar to train-spotting, except instead of people going to a station or a railway bridge, they simply put their heads out their front door on a terraced street, hide behind the curtains in a housing estate, stand at the front gate on a country road or hang around the local pub of an evening. They don’t carry notebooks or timetables. The details are taken down mentally. Since the arrival of people is much less predictable than trains, they have to be on the job, as it were, more or less full-time – always with an eye out for a new one to pass by. When this happens, the person’s face, hair, clothes, behaviour, way of walking, actions, general direction and probable reason for being in the area are all taken note of and stored, along with the particulars of every other stranger to pass by. This information is stowed away for future use in the unlikely event, not that they’ll pass by again, but that a policeman will require it or even that one day their face will appear on Crimeline.
        In the pub, if they don’t know you, they stare at you to size you up; to see where you are from and why you might have come to their part of the world. The last part of the stare is to let you know how they feel about you being there. The stares progressively shorten as it takes less time to size you up, but that is not to say that they ever come to approve of your presence.


A startling revelation - the long-time friend you never viewed romantically is actually the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.

But what do you do about it?

For Derek, a laid-back graduate camping with college friends on Ireland's west coast in the summer of 1996, the answer is … absolutely nothing.

Never the proactive one of the group - he's more than happy to watch his friends surf, canoe and scuba-dive from the shore - Derek adopts a wait and see attitude. Acting on his emotional discovery is further hindered by the fact he's currently seeing someone else - and she's coming to join him for the weekend.

As their five days on the beach pass, and there are more revelations, Derek soon realises that to get what he desires, he'll have to take it. Events conspire to push him to the forefront of the group, and, as unexpected sorrow begins to surround him and his friends, Derek grasps his chance at happiness. After all, isn’t life too short to just wait and see?


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Every author is asked enumerable times where they get their ideas for their stories. My entire writing career began with a dream. Not the dream of becoming a writer. I didn’t seriously consider doing that until sometime after I began my first novel. No, it was a dream that started me writing, a dream so vivid and compelling that I dragged out a portable typewriter (pre-computer days) and began to type.
            That first book, a time travel when no one was buying them, has sat in a box on a shelf for over twenty years. An editor told me the story was too unusual to sell as a first book and suggested I write a simple romance, get it published, and after a few more books I might be able to sell the complex stories I love most. So I wrote about a woman who faked her own murder to escape an abusive marriage. She joined a wagon train for Oregon and hired a guide to pose as her brother. Naturally she and the guide fell in love. That book became a Golden Heart Finalist and was published by Kensington Books as Tender Touch.
            My most successful paperback, Forever Mine, came from a visit to an Oregon lighthouse and saw a bridal photo of a keeper and his wife who were married there. Neither looked happy, but she appeared absolutely forlorn. I thought about what that area of the country would have been like in the waning days of the nineteenth century, what a chore it would have been simply to get to the lighthouse from the nearest town, nine miles away, when there were no roads. And Forever Mine was born. You can find it through September on sale for .99 at Amazon and other eBook sellers.
            Taming Jenna is another story. My critique group and I were having lunch after a meeting and I said to one of the members I knew had a quirky sense of humor, to give me an idea for a new story. Without hesitation, she said, “Write about a woman who has to find a man and the only way she can identify him is by a scar on his bottom.” The result? —a lady Pinkerton who finds herself at odds with a bounty hunter after she pulls a gun on him and makes him drop his drawers. That was a fun story to write.
            Ideas for novels come from many sources and what they are doesn’t really matter. What matters is that the writer is inspired by an idea that carries her through to the end of the tale and creates a vivid, compelling read. I like to believe this is what I’ve done in my books.
       To Have and To Hold  was the idea of my editor at Kensington. He wanted a story about a widow, perhaps with a couple of kids, and a drifter. I got to choose the characters. For my heroine I wanted a strong woman, feisty, and unique. Tempest Whitney suited the bill. She has her own colorful language and she takes no guff from anyone. Instead of a drifter, I created Buck Maddux, every woman's dream, who was just released from prison after doing two years for being involved in the robbery Tempest's husband actually committed. Buck simply happened by and found the wounded thief dying. Unable to just ride on and leave the man, Buck stayed and in the process promised to check on the man's wife and children for him. After prison, he kept that promise. Tempest didn't exactly welcome him.
      Buck had twin half brothers, Cade and Whip Kincade. For my next book, I decided to write Whip's story, which ended up titled The Scent of Roses. But who was Whip Kincade, truly? I had to find out. I found him in a small town on the Utah-Arizona border running a saloon and a mine with a partner. The two also owned and shared the biggest house in town, haunted Rose House. Unfortunately, Whip and his partner, Josiah, have a fight in front of numerous witnesses. That night Whip finds Josiah dead, murdered. The next thing he knows, he's accused of the deed.To avoid arrest while he hunts down the real killer, he hides in secret passageways in the old house--passageways with peepholes that let him spy on Rosalyn Delaney who arrives a day later claiming to be Josiah's widow. Trouble is, Josiah already had a widow who takes an instant dislike to Rosalyn. Whip decides on the spot that the newcomer looks guilty as hell. The Scent of Roses is definitely a romance but also a bit of a mystery.
       One of these days I must write Cade Kincade's story. Hm, who is he and where will I find him? How about some suggestions. Anyone have an idea?
       Where do you authors get your book beginnings? Ever flounder for a new storyline? I'd love to hear your experiences.

Monday, September 8, 2014


For the entire month of September, Tirgearr Publishing is making my historical romance, FOREVER MINE, available for only .99.

This book has an average rating on Amazon of 4.5 stars. Ind'Tale Magazine gave it 5 stars.

A writer could find few spots on the Oregon coast more romantic than the Cape Meares lighthouse. The light itself sits at the tip of a finger of land comprised most of basaltic rock, part of a cape named after an early British explorer, John Meares, who first charted the cape. Dedication of the light took place January 1, 1890, a year and a half before the story told in my book Forever Mine takes place.

I visited there soon after the lighthouse first opened its doors to tourists. Inside a glass counter sat a photograph of a man and woman who looked remarkably miserable. The photo was of one of the keepers and his bride the day they were married there.

The image of that bride and groom stayed in my head long after I left. What had it been like for her to go to what had in 1901 been a very lonely and isolated location to start a new life? The nearest city, Tillamook, sits nine miles away on Tillamook Bay. Today, you can travel from the city to the light on a narrow road in a short amount of time. But in that bride’s day, the only access involved a boat ride at high tide to a landing near a spit of land that ran north to the opening of the bay. From the landing, she would have taken a bumpy, muddy wagon or horse ride up and over the cape through dense forest on a road that barely deserved the title. Her only company once she reached her new home would have been her husband’s fellow light tenders and their families, should they be married.

My imagination delved deeper. What if the bride had never met her husband until her wedding day? Soon, I had characters yakking in my head, demanding their stories be told, and FOREVER MINE was born.

Kensington Books published Forever Mine in 1995 and it became my most popular story, receiving a Romantic Times Reviewer’s Choice Award nomination and high ratings. Eventually it went out of print. Last year it was released as an e-book by Tirgearr Publishing.

The Cape Meares Light stands 225 feet above the sea on a bluff 800 feet long and 200 to 300 feet wide, with the light at the narrow tip and the keepers’ homes at the widest point near a thick forest of Sitka spruce and hemlock trees. Today the bluff is wooded, but during the light’s active years, the land was kept barren, allowing fierce winds to sweep over the cape. 

The head keeper and his two assistants took turns tending the light and keeping it operating. The outside of the great Fresnel lens that created its life-saving beam is made of curved prisms that refract or bend the light so that it comes from the center of the apparatus in a narrow sheet. Four magnifying glasses called bull’s-eyes at the center of the lens intensify the beam. A kerosene burning Funck lamp with five tubular wicks, mounted in the center of the huge lens, provided the illumination. The lantern was so large keepers could walk around on the inside as well as the outside of the lens while doing their daily cleaning chores. Forty-eight glass panels protect the apparatus.

The lens had to be cleaned and polished every day, the lamp cleaned and filled with fuel. The framework was dusted, the wicks carefully trimmed or replaced, all in readiness for the lighting of the lamp come evening. The copper and brass fixtures had to be cleaned and polished, as well as the utensils used in the lantern and watch rooms. Walls, floors, balconies, stairways, landings, doors, windows, and the passageway from the lantern to the oil storage area were also cleaned daily. Every two months the lens was washed with alcohol, and polished annually with rouge. Equipment had to be kept in good repair and the tower painted. None an easy task. 

Besides the normal chores of housekeeping, cooking, laundry and child rearing, wives maintained large gardens and helped take care of the domestic animals. Children were home schooled until a school was built close enough for them to reach it on horseback.

In my book, Forever Mine, the men become incapacitated at one point, and the heroine, Ariah, had to assume their tasks as well as play nursemaid to them. During that time a bad sou’wester came up, nearly blowing her right off the cape. The angry sea tossed a rock through the glass of the light, chipping one of the prisms of the lens. Readers questioned how that could happen when the light was over 225 feet above the sea. The story of the rock, as well as other events in the book, came from the son of the light keeper whose wedding photo inspired the book. “Ole Hig,” as he liked to be called, was the only one of the keeper’s four children not born at the light, but he grew up in the Cape Meares village nearby and spent many hours at the light. He listened to numerous tales related by his father and other keepers. I was lucky enough to become acquainted with “Ole Hig,” who shared his memories with me. Thanks to him, Forever Mine took on a new depth that truly brought the story to life.

Lighthouses have fascinated me for years. Have any of you ever lived in one? If so, I’d love to hear your remembrances.

Saturday, August 16, 2014




YOUR FIRST COVER, custom design, pre-made, eBook, or print is FREE!!

That is ONE free cover per new client.
(additional purchases not required)

If you act NOW.

Offer good only for the month of August. Last day to get in on this deal will be August 31

Email me at

Here are some of the latest pre-mades posted to Cover-Ops: