April 14, 2014 02:20:44
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
Welcome, Marsha! To get started, please tell us about
Thanks for having me, Susan. I’m a former school board
member and threatre arts teacher, and a retired elementary
school principal. I write Romance, Suspense, Second Chances.
Experience Required. My husband (who’s a super supportive
lawyer) and I love to travel, and we’ve been fortunate to visit
many lovely places. We live in Texas where we raised our two
daughters. They have presented us with three delightful
grandchildren. The girls live in the same neighborhood in which
they grew up. They’re five minutes from us. It’s pretty cool.
I read your novel Vermont Escape and thought it was
terrific, very suspenseful. How did the concept for this book
On a visit to New England I fell in love with Woodstock,
Vermont. I hadn’t begun Vermont Escape, the charming town
stayed with me. Texas has the lottery and horse racing, but no
casinos. Every two years (the only time our legislature meets),
the big fight comes up. The state was really having financial
problems, and casino gambling appeared as the genie to refill
the coffers. As in years past, a bill didn’t get off the
ground, but the issue comes up every two years. And I thought,
“Hmmm.” The story grew from the newspaper coverage of the issue
and asking what if.
I have to tell you that last spring as I waited for the
release of the book, I held my breath fearing that the bill
would finally pass and make my book of less interest. It
didn’t. I’m hoping for a print release of this book in June.
The blurb is:
Two years after the murder of her husband, someone
guns down Jill Barlow’s father, a Texas State Representative.
The authorities suspect a connection between the murders, but
can’t find proof. Jill longs for the peace she found when she
visited Vermont after her husband’s death. With the
perpetrators still at large, she flees to the small town of
The gambling syndicate, believing she has damning
evidence against them, pursues her, shattering her dreams of
peace. In an effort to protect her grown children, she doesn't
tell them violence continues to stalk the family.
Despite having lost so much already, with the
lives of her family and friends at stake, will Jill be required
to make more sacrifices, even the hope of a second chance at
You have an upcoming novel, Truth Be Told. Please tell us
a little about it.
Happy to, Susan. It’s set in Fort Worth and much of the
action takes place in a house I used to drive by several times
a week This is the fifth book I’ve completed, and it’s
scheduled for e-release in May 2014. The short tag is: A SWAT
member works with her brother and his former LA homicide
detective partner to stop a blackmailer. Falling in love wasn't
one of the strategies.
Of course, it’s more complicated than that. The blackmailed
person is Meg’s father, the mayor of Fort Worth. Her brother’s
partner, Scott, was medically retired from the force when he
nearly lost his life saving her brother’s. Scott struggles
against the attraction he feels for Meg, who couldn’t possibly
find anything of interest in him when he can’t walk without his
cane and has no clue what shape his life will take. All the
while the blackmailer inserts himself into the family’s life.
Will he succeed in killing one of them before they can stop
Please go to Part B below.
April 14, 2014 02:19:16
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
Have you thought about other projects after Truth Be Told is
I’m delighted to say I’ve sold a 3rd book to MuseItUp. Second
Chances follows up with a supporting character from Vermont Escape,
Mike Riley. I had to promise him his own book to get the book
finished the way I’d planned. Second Chances is the beginning of a
series about four women friends who met in second grade in camp.
The short tag is: “When a member of the board of a non-profit arts
agency in Fort Worth turns up dead, the homicide detective assigned
to the case looks at everyone involved in the organization,
including the Executive Director. I’m about 25 thousand words into
the second book in this series.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in
writing (not marketing)? What was the hardest thing about writing
Everything! LOL Seriously, I’ve found it’s much more difficult
to write a series, even with a different heroine, hero, supporting
characters, and setting. Before I submitted Second Chances, I kept
checking back with Vermont Escape to see what I’d said about Mike.
It was important to make sure he hadn’t gone from being a coffee
drinker to a tea drinker, that if I described him in any way, I
made him the same in SC. Now, I’ve started the second book about
the friends, and I’m making lists of what everyone drinks, eye and
hair color, and height, to mention the basic things that set us
apart. I’ll need to include traits and habits, fears, etc. It’s
What's a typical writing day like for you? Where do you
Well, I don’t have a typical day, but I always work in my study
on the big-screened computer with the ergonomic keyboard wearing a
support on my right hand. I also have a cup or glass of something
near. Iced water, hot or cold tea/coffee. My current WIP is the
first book I’ve written since being published, and it’s difficult
to juggle all the social media and emails with writing. I love to
blog, either on my own or someone else’s blog. I like to spend huge
chunks of time writing, rather than in fits and starts.
What is the best thing about being an author?
The best thing about being a published author is when someone
says they loved my book. It’s like standing on a stage and getting
applause. That’s pretty special. Most people go through their lives
never getting to experience that euphoria.
Please tell us about an important lesson, life has taught
It has to be to never give up. That certainly applies to my
writing journey. I’m so thankful, I never gave in, but there were
so many times. I thought, “Gee, it’s not fun to be hit like this by
the critiques, contest judges and editors/agents.” But I kept
learning (and we all do that at our own pace) and improving and am
very grateful to have found MIU.
Marsha, thank you so much for being on my blog today. I wish
you all the best with your books and future writing endeavors.
You’re welcome, Susan.
Vermont Escape can be found at:
B & N http://goo.gl/1lR6D
Truth Be Told releases next month and I don’t have the
http://www.marsharwest.com/category/blog for Thoughts on
Thursday and Tuesday Author Chats
April 1, 2014 02:36:28
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
Holi – The Spring Festival of Colors
In the last few weeks, if anybody noticed their Indian
neighbors or colleagues smeared by colored powder or spraying
their friends or guests with water guns and water balloons, be
assured they were not being mindlessly messy, but celebrating
arrival of spring in the tradition of Holi, the festival of
colors. Usually celebrated on the full moon day in March, which
was on 17th March this year, in the United States the community
observed it over a couple of weekends, and in many parts of
it was celebrated over a full two weeks.
Holi is mainly a north Indian tradition, but is celebrated in
many parts of the country. Prompted by the fertility of the
and the agricultural cycle, it is also about mythology that
celebrates the victory of good over evil and is a time for
reconciliation between families and neighbors. But most
noticeably it is a surprisingly uninhibited expression of the
of the lord of love, Lord Krishna and his consort Radha, which
deeply rooted in the culture of northern India.
Bonfires are lit in many communities the night before to
commemorate the death by fire of the evil king Lord
and his evil sister Holika by his virtuous son Prahlad. The day
of Holi is a day of merriment and exuberance, played with water
and colors which were originally derived by grinding the flowers
of local trees, but which in modern times have been replaced by
chemical colors. It is said that the young blue skinned Lord
Krishna was concerned that the fair Radha would not pay heed to
him because of his color. To help him cope with his anxieties,
mother suggested that he smear her with color. In that
young and old walk the streets and neighborhoods to smear each
other with colored powder to have some fun and in the process
personal wounds and differences. It also allows for some
and otherwise prohibited flirting between young men and women,
sometimes accompanied by songs of love and innuendo, which
unfortunately often is unwanted attention for the womenfolk. In
the public squares of some towns, men and women stage mock
where the men are beaten with sticks by the women for their
eye and unfaithful ways. Many housing societies in major
metropolises organize full-fledged Holi events complete with
sprinklers, music and food for regulated and supervised fun.
While the lighting of the bonfire is a Hindu tradition, the
celebration is not limited by caste or religion.
In my own family, Holi was a major though comparatively mild
event. My parents hosted a big lunch or dinner for relatives
my father’s and my mother’s side and anybody else who stopped
As a more formal touch and also since not everybody liked
powder, my father and his brothers would welcome the guests with
sprinkling of rose water and rose petals. We youngsters had a
blast in the morning with the kids from the neighborhood,
drenching each other with buckets of water and stopping by every
now and then to partake of the goodies my mother had prepared.
Here in the United States, I try to make a couple of special
things on the day, but have never played with color or water.
Indians who have migrated to the US from Guyana, Trinidad and
Tobago, and other Caribbean countries hold a major parade in the
Queens borough of New York City; they call it Phagwa. Students
university campuses here also observe it with verve and gusto,
Happy Spring everybody.
March 7, 2014 06:43:14
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
Today I am anticipating the first day of spring. Spring
ideas of rebirth, regrowth, and rejuvenation. It's the time
days are close to twelve hours long. And no other season
more visual images to mind, perpetual astonishments of new
bursting all over ...
"Come, gentle Spring! Ethereal Mildness! Come." ~ James
The top ten things that I am looking forward to this
Spring. (Not in any order.)
1. Flowers - Daffodils, tulips, hyacinths.
2. Anticipating my travels this year with my husband -
Planning and dreaming is half the fun.
3. The warmer weather - Being able to take walks outside
daily basis. Having the windows open in the house.
4. Bike rides.
5. Getting our new sunroom finished and decorated – My
new place to
6. Planning my garden – Daydreaming in my garden.
7. Weekend getaways – Art museums – Concerts – The beach.
8. Cookouts, picnics, socializing more with friends.
9. Locally grown fruits, vegetables.
10. Longer days. More hours of sunlight.
What are your favorite things that you look forward to
March 2, 2014 12:17:15
Posted By Susan Bernhardt
Hi Susan, thanks so much for inviting me to your lovely
My pleasure. Helena, please tell us about yourself.
I live in the north of England in an old Victorian mill
town, with my husband and my rescue dog, Lex. I write
romances – and read everything!
What inspired you to write your first book?
I’ve always wanted to write, but wanting to write and
actually doing it are two very different things, as every
writer knows! My husband was the one who finally motivated me
and got me to sit down and Just Do It.
Just Do It, is excellent advice. What kind of research
did you do for your books?
I like to write mainly from what I know, but if there is a
scene that requires me to research, I do what a lot of people
do these days, and turn to Google first. In a book I’ve just
finished writing, the hero, who is terrified of flying, does a
parachute jump. I can well relate to the terror – the fear of
flying was no problem to describe whatsoever! – but there is
absolutely no way you would get me to jump out of a plane,
even if publication depended on it. Instead, I watched video
after stomach knotting video on the internet, until I feel if
I actually had to, I’d know exactly how to use an altimeter.
Let’s hope I NEVER have to! I really enjoyed writing the
scene – but would hate to be in it!
That's interesting. What's a typical working day like
for you? When and where do you write?
I get up early and write for an hour before taking my dog
out. My dog is highly active. She’s a rescue dog, very
nervous and highly-strung. A long walk helps keep her to keep
calm and work off some of her nervous energy. We go out on
the moors, where we don’t see many people, and where my dog
can run free without getting stressed. The solitude is also
great for thinking and mulling over plot lines. After a long
walk my dog sleeps on the settee next to me, and I spend the
I've seen the photos of your moors. Breathtaking!
What's the hardest part of writing for you? Here I am not
talking about marketing.
I’m the world’s greatest prevaricator. I’d sooner do
anything rather than just sit down and get on with writing.
It’s an effort of will. Once I’ve actually sat down to write,
though, often the words just flow really quickly. Other days,
a scene just won’t go as I want it, and every single word is
forced out in the most painful way. I might spend two days
writing and rewriting just to get down 500 words. It’s funny,
though, when I read those painstaking scenes back later, they
seem to flow just as easily as the scenes that were easier to
write. It’s very strange!
Helena, what other passions besides writing do you
I love reading, and read a lot of genres besides romance.
I’m just re-reading Patrick O’Brian’s fabulous sea-faring
adventure Master and Commander. I also love music. I used to
listen to a lot of classical music when I was younger, but
that got swept away by the rise of punk! Now I find I’m
increasingly turning to classical music again, and I’m
enjoying going to classical concerts.
Sounds lovely, What do you do for rest and relaxation?
Reading is my favourite way to relax! Besides reading, I
love to knit and sew. I’m just knitting a cable cover for my
iPad mini. I also love embroidery. Both these pastimes a
therapeutic, in a way that reading sometimes isn’t. My mind
goes clear when I’m knitting or sewing.
Thanks for your great questions, Susan. They made me think
hard about how I write. And thanks for being such a gracious
Thanks, Helena for agreeing to an interview. Best
wishes on your novels.