Posted By Susan Bernhardt

Welcome, Marsha! To get started, please tell us about yourself?

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 come about?

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 Woodstock. 

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 love?

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 him?

Please go to Part B below.

 
Posted By Susan Bernhardt

Have you thought about other projects after Truth Be Told is published?

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 your books?

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 nightmarish.

What's a typical writing day like for you? Where do you write?

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 you.

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:

MIU http://goo.gl/nJtaa

B & N http://goo.gl/1lR6D

Amazon http://goo.gl/qhzBm

Truth Be Told releases next month and I don’t have the cover yet.

Social Links:

http://www.marsharwest.com/category/blog for Thoughts on Thursday and Tuesday Author Chats

https://www.facebook.com/#!/marsha.r.west @marsha.r.west

http://www.twitter.com/Marsharwest @Marsharwest

 
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 the 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 India 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 land 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 lore of the lord of love, Lord Krishna and his consort Radha, which is 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 Hiranyakashipu 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, his mother suggested that he smear her with color. In that tradition, young and old walk the streets and neighborhoods to smear each other with colored powder to have some fun and in the process heal personal wounds and differences. It also allows for some intense 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 fights where the men are beaten with sticks by the women for their roving eye and unfaithful ways. Many housing societies in major metropolises organize full-fledged Holi events complete with water 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 from my father’s and my mother’s side and anybody else who stopped by. As a more formal touch and also since not everybody liked colored powder, my father and his brothers would welcome the guests with a 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. The 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 on university campuses here also observe it with verve and gusto, weather permitting.

Happy Spring everybody.

https://www.google.com/search?q=holi&client=firefox- a&rls=org.mozilla:en- US:official&channel=sb&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=O0M3U7 jBELOysQTy1IHwBg&ved=0CEwQsAQ&biw=1600&bih=758

 
Posted By Susan Bernhardt

Today I am anticipating the first day of spring. Spring brings ideas of rebirth, regrowth, and rejuvenation. It's the time when days are close to twelve hours long. And no other season brings more visual images to mind, perpetual astonishments of new growths bursting all over ...

"Come, gentle Spring! Ethereal Mildness! Come." ~ James Thomson

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 on a daily basis. Having the windows open in the house.

4. Bike rides.

5. Getting our new sunroom finished and decorated – My new place to write mystery novels.

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 in Spring?

 
Posted By Susan Bernhardt

Welcome Helena!

Hi Susan, thanks so much for inviting me to your lovely looking blog!

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 afternoon writing.

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 have?

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 hostess!

Thanks, Helena for agreeing to an interview. Best wishes on your novels.

 

 

 
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