Pushing Up Daisies: Pet Psychic Book 5 is Here!

The dog days of summer are back, and Darwin Winters, pet psychic, is excited to attend the St. Pete Seafood Festival with her sister. Unfortunately, the festival gets shut down early when a despised, local food critic dies from ingesting pufferfish toxin while judging the Chef’s Golden Lobster Contest.

When Hana Ishida, the chef who served pufferfish to the victim, is taken in for questioning, Darwin agrees to dog-sit the woman’s dachshund, Daisy. Darwin receives a vision from Daisy showing Hana in a heated argument, but for Daisy’s sake, Darwin desperately wants to dig up the truth and help her boyfriend, Detective Will Blake, prove Hana’s innocence.

Though Will does have a few fishy restaurant owners on his suspect list, none of the clues are pointing to anyone but Hana. Can Darwin help him reel in the right suspect? Or will this killer be the one that got away?

Order on Amazon today. FREE w/ Kindle Unlimited

My Adventures in Healing

Hope you all have been enjoying the holidays! I can’t believe 2019 is right around the corner. I have to say, I’m not sad to see 2018 go, it was a rough one. But in the spirit of new beginnings, I’ve started a separate blog to chronicle my adventures in healing. (I’ll still blog here about book stuff.) You can check it out here:

My Adventures In Healing

The one thing that kept me hopeful over the past four years was other people’s recovery stories, so that’s my main goal with this new blog. To pay that forward. Please share the link with anyone you know struggling with chronic illness.

May 2019 bring you oodles of peace & joy!

Book 3 in the Paws & Pose Series is here!

It’s Christmastime on the exclusive island of Moon Key and Elle Pressley, doga instructor, is excited about her new client—movie star, Talia Hill. But that excitement quickly turns to shock when Ms. Hill’s dog nanny is found dead and her beloved terrier, Ginger, goes missing. With the help of her P.I. boyfriend, Elle leads the search for Ginger.

As suspects pile up, a ransom note arrives demanding a million dollars for the safe return of Ginger. When the ransom drop-off goes horribly wrong, Talia Hill falls into deep despair. Elle is determined to get Ginger back for her but the clock is ticking and an elusive killer holds their fate in his hands. Can she pull off a Christmas miracle?

AMAZON            KOBO            BARNES & NOBLE   

Haven’t read the first two books? No problem, here they are:

FAUX PAS (Book 1) HERE                                                   HIGH JINX (Book 2) HERE

*(paperback coming soon)

And good news: As my health has improved enough that I can write a bit again, I will be working on PUSHING UP DAISIES (Pet Psychic Book 5). I think this is going to be a good year. Happy Holidays, everyone! 

Medical Hiatus & Book Schedule

Writing has always been there for me, it’s my outlet, my therapy, the tool I use to understand the world around me. Unfortunately I must take an extended break from it. If you’ve been following my story, you know I battled CFS/Fibro for four years and was about 80% recovered before I got hit by a major trauma in October that almost took my life. From that, I developed PTSD and my health took a turn for the worse. A few weeks ago I spent five days in the hospital undergoing tests on my heart because my heartrate would shoot up to 180 bpm when I tried to stand up. I’ve been officially diagnosed with POTS, though I understand it’s just another symptom of the nervous system dysfunction I’m experiencing from all the trauma. Now I must put all my energy into healing because this has gotten serious.

So, obviously Pet Psychic Book 5 is back on hold. But, DOG GONE (A Paws & Pose Mystery No. 3) will be out this Christmas, as it’s already written and just needs editing. After that I hope to finish a second psychological thriller.

There are beautiful life lessons in all of this anxiety, fear and uncertainty. Maybe I’ll do a blog post on those when I feel up to it. Sharing hope and gratitude would make me much happier than writing a post like this. So until next time … when I will hopefully have better news.

 

 

 

A New Genre, A New Release!

Have you ever been haunted by a goddess?

Over the past few years, a character named Alice has haunted me. She made her debut in a piece of flash fiction I wrote in 2011 called Mario’s Goddess. She now officially has her very own full-length story in my new psychological suspense, THE BURNING.

This book came to me differently than my cozy mysteries, and it’s a much darker tale. In the flash fiction story, Alice is the goddess of war and is locked up in a mental institution. Over the past couple years, her character wouldn’t leave me alone, but I didn’t know what she wanted. What were the opposing forces in her life? What was her story?

Some of her life came to me in pieces, scenes actually, that I dutifully wrote down over the years. She was a mother with two small children. She was orphaned at birth, spent her life in and out of a children’s home. She couldn’t remember anything before her thirteenth birthday. I have to say, she confused me. Was she a goddess of war? Was she a human mother? Was this a fantasy story? Magical realism? Paranormal? And then it hit me. She was both a human mother and the goddess of war, and this was a psychological suspense. They don’t call it multiple personalities anymore, now it’s called dissociative identity disorder, and this is what Alice has. Or does she? (I’ll let the reader decide) One of her personalities is Kali, the goddess of war, and she insists she’s a goddess having a human experience. She’s also the one who gets Alice in serious trouble. Arrested for arson and murder, in fact.

As more of the scenes came to me, I knew Alice/Kali needed an antagonist, but what kind? Enter the 2016 Presidential election where America elected a man who’s been repeatedly accused of sexual assault and bragged about groping women on tape. (Whatever your political leanings,
or whether you believe he is innocent of these charges, we can all agree such behavior is not acceptable.) Kali rose up and said HIM. So, I had a template for Alice/Kali’s enemy and the rest of the plot unfolded from there.

It wasn’t my intention to tackle sexual assault and human trafficking but that’s where Kali led me, and who am I to argue with the goddess of war? It seems kind of serendipitous to me that she led me down this road just as the #Metoo and #Timesup movements arrived.  I’m excited that this book can add to the conversation and hopefully the healing process for all women.

Summary:

Alice Leininger seems to have the perfect life. She’s happily married, has two beautiful children, a close knit group of friends, and a cause she cares deeply about. But beneath the surface, her world of safety and comfort is unraveling. The periods of lost time she’s kept secret—even from her husband—are happening more frequently. She certainly doesn’t remember leaving her Sarasota home at three-thirty in the morning to burn someone alive. Now she sits in a Florida state mental institution, awaiting judgement on whether she’s fit to stand trial on charges of murder and arson. While a psychologist works to help Alice face her past, her future depends on the answer to one question: How far did she go for justice?

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

AVAILABLE ON BARNES & NOBLE

AVAILABLE ON KOBO

AVAILABLE ON ITUNES

 

My Unrest Story

I just watched this documentary UNREST by Jennifer Brea, about her life after she was struck down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It’s a powerful film and I hope it succeeds in getting the medical community to take this illness, which affects millions of people, seriously.

I am one of the people affected, though I rarely talk about it. I don’t talk about it because I don’t want this illness to define my life. But that’s not the only reason. I don’t talk about it because a lot of people don’t believe it’s a real illness, even people in the medical community. Everyone gets tired, right? And I get it. Unless you are going through it or watching a loved one go through it, it’s hard to imagine the kind of debilitating fatigue where breathing is all you can do, for weeks, months or even years, depending on how severe your case is.

But what I’ve realized watching this movie is staying silent is the worst thing I can do. The push to get this illness taken seriously, and get the research funded to find a cure, needs every voice it can get. So, I am speaking up.

I was lucky enough to be diagnosed early, though not by an understanding rheumatologist (His only advice was to keep exercising). When I look back before the moment I got sick, I can see a pattern where I started to get run down. I had two serious medical traumas in the span of a few years. As I recovered from those, I noticed I never really got back to feeling good. The fatigue was there, just not debilitating yet, so I kept pushing myself, working out, trying to eat better. Until one morning I woke up feeling like I had the flu with severe pain and fatigue. And I never recovered.

That was four years ago. I said I was lucky to be diagnosed early  and that’s because I was able to research enough to learn that pushing myself at all physically could be catastrophic and put me in the “severe” category that most people don’t recover from. Because my main complaint was the pain (my hands and legs burned like they were on fire, my joints ached) my diagnosis was fibromyalgia, though the fatigue is more debilitating for me. Fibro, CFS, ME… these labels are slapped on the cluster of hundreds of symptoms that come with this illness. It is a multi-faceted illness involving the nervous system and the immune system. The digestive, endocrine, cardiovascular and muscular systems are also affected.

The first six months were the hardest for me. There was a lot of spending time in the bathtub and pool because being in water brought the pain down to bearable levels. There was also a lot of grieving for the life I had lost. I have twin boys who were eight at the time. I could no longer ride bikes, go to the beach, throw a baseball, even reading to them would wipe me out for days. I also had two dogs that I could no longer take for walks. I had friends that couldn’t understand how sick I was. My world shrunk to immediate family. To my bed. My couch.

I did see many different types of specialists, but no one had answers. I spent most of that first year with severe brain fog, but when I could concentrate I would research or watch videos of how other people recovered. It took a year of this to find the little things which helped me slowly begin to improve. With a combination of things like: LDN (a drug that boosts the immune system), restorative yoga & meditation (to heal my nervous system), cutting out sugar (to help the inflammation in my body), seeing a restorative medical practitioner (who helped straighten out all the systems that had crashed along with vitamin deficiencies) and learning how to pace (using less energy daily than your cells are producing)  I managed to get to the point where I could do some important things again like write and cook. You could look at me and not see a sick person, as long as I wasn’t doing anything physically taxing, because then I would be in a wheelchair.

In October of this year I was feeling pretty good. I still had exercise intolerance so I still couldn’t do things like walk the dogs or ride bikes, but I could spend fifteen minutes doing light yoga or doing some movement in the pool. I could finally make it through the grocery store without crashing, though I would have leg pain afterwards. I felt like I had a handle on this thing. And then I had another medical emergency. For the third time in four years, a main artery burst in my sinuses and it took two emergency surgeries, a stay in the ICU and a blood transfusion to save my life.

It’s been almost three months and I am still recovering. The crushing fatigue is back. I am frustrated but I know that I have to keep my stress levels down and just go back to the beginning, not using more energy than my body is creating.

Guys, this illness robs people of there lives. There’s this cycle of feeling a little better, getting some hope and then overdoing it and crashing for days or weeks. And by overdoing it, sometimes it’s just reading too long or taking too many trips to the bathroom.

So, if you know someone who has been diagnosed with fibro or CFS/ME please believe them. Support them. Spend time with them, even if you just sit with them. Watch this movie! It’s an isolating illness. It’s scary and its hard to stay hopeful.

Because hope is our life preserver, I’m going to share a few online resources that have helped me:

Fed Up with Fatigue (Donna sends weekly links to your inbox for news/info on Fibro/CFS)

CFS Unravelled (Dan Neuffer was a sufferer who has recovered & now dedicates his time helping others. Tons of great recovery stories on here)

The Optimum Health Clinic (Started by Alex Howard, who himself recovered & wanted to help others. They have tons of great information videos & recovery stories on YouTube. I have an appointment to talk to them at the end of the month.)

Thank you for reading my story and if you’re one of the invisible people suffering through this, hang in there. I see you and I do believe recovery is possible.

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Spring with Strawberry Nice-cream!

To celebrate the arrival of Spring, I’ve joined some other fabulous authors for a Spring Bling Blog Hop! And since it’s strawberry season here in Florida, what better way to celebrate the end to dark, cold winter days then with an easy, healthy, strawberry frozen dessert?!

If you’re not familiar with “nice-cream” it’s basically ice cream made with a frozen banana base instead of dairy.

So the first and most important step here is to cut up three ripe bananas into small chunks and freeze them. Be sure to lay the bag flat in the freezer so you don’t get one big lump of bananas.Then wash and freeze the strawberries.

You will need a Vitamix, Ninja or other high-powered blender. (These frozen banana pieces are tougher than they look.) Once frozen, throw them in the blender. Then add the frozen strawberries, 1 tsp vanilla, 2 TSP of coconut or almond milk & blend until smooth!

This makes four servings. You can serve immediately (will be very soft) or freeze again for harder consistency.

There’s no end to the types of nice-cream you can make! You can add cocoa, mint, chocolate-chips, peanut butter, etc. Experimenting is part of the fun.

So, have you tried making your own nice-cream? Any tips or success stories, please share!

Also, don’t forget to visit the other Blog Hop participants for some more fun ways to celebrate the arrival of Spring:

Allyson Charles: https://www.allysoncharles.com/blog

Conniue di Marco http://www.conniedimarco.com/blog/

Gillian Baker: http://gilianbaker.com/blog/

K.B. Owen:  http://kbowenmysteries.com/blog

Layla Reyne:  https://laylareyne.tumblr.com

Kirsten Weiss: https://kirstenweiss.com/blog

Mona Karel:  https://mona-karel.com/blog/

Misterio Press: http://misteriopress.com/

Victoria De La O: http://www.victoriadelao.com/

 

Where I Come From: a poem

There’s a poem called Where I’m From by Kentucky writer George Ella Lyon which is used as a popular writing prompt. You should try it (even if you don’t consider yourself a writer). It’s fascinating which moments and memories pop up. Here’s mine…

http://www.ForestWander.com

http://www.ForestWander.com

Where I Come From

My roots are thick with coal dust
from a small mining town.
Thorn-pricked fingers stained purple from
dew-covered-dawn blackberry hunts.
I come from Pierogis, Goulash, garden delights
plucked by grandfather’s hands.

Snow-bound winters in unforgiving
Pennsylvania country
where my best friend’s sister disappeared
off our back-country road, murdered by
a serial killer.
I learned to tip-toe early.

I come from long, winding, car-sick trips
to grandma’s house. Real maple candy and
Dairy Queen after softball.
Rustling fall leaves, intoxicating sweetness,
covered bridges and deer hunting season.

I come from
fireflies-in-a-jar childhood magic, hours
in the woods, stomping through
cold-water creeks lifting rocks
for the reward of glistening jewel-eyed
salamanders. Wild-nature child.

I come from a deep love of books and solitude.
I come from don’t-tell-me-what-to-do and
God-my-heart-is-breaking and

I come from my mother, soft-shelled
heart, artist. And my father: I was
chipped off the block of his perfectionism.

I come from the year we moved south
and I fell in love with the ocean and
impossibly blue wide-open Florida sky.

Folding up my wings and
closing the book, it no longer matters
where I come from because
I am home.

Pet Psychic Book 4 Release Day!

Today is the official release day of FOR PETE’S SAKE (A Pet Psychic Book 4)!!!

To celebrate, we’re talking pet photography tips over at misterio press. Come say hi!

Summary:

A picture perfect wedding in paradise…what could possibly go wrong?

Pet boutique owner and reluctant pet psychic, Darwin Winters, is looking forward to watching her best friend and business partner, Sylvia, say “I do” to the man of her dreams. But when their wedding photographer turns up dead on the big day—and Sylvia’s superstitious mother believes his heart attack is a sign their marriage will be cursed—Sylvia’s dream wedding quickly becomes a nightmare.

Darwin only has a week to help her detective boyfriend prove the photographer’s death was not from natural causes before Sylvia’s family jets back home to Portugal, and the wedding is off for good.

As more than a few suspects come into focus—including Peter’s model clients, a rival photographer and the director of an animal shelter being investigated for fraud—time is running out. With just one clue from the photographer’s orphaned Yorkie pup to go on, can Darwin help save Sylvia’s wedding and capture a killer? Or will both justice and Sylvia’s wedding cake go unserved?

Get your copy here!  AMAZON       BARNES & NOBLE        iBOOKS  

Hurricane-Inspired Short Fiction

By Raghav veturi (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Raghav veturi (http://creativecommons.org/licenses]

                         THE MOORING

A tropical storm swirls out at sea. A boat tugs against its mooring, the vinyl rope stretching and relaxing as the waves rise, the water churns.

She watches this out of the rain-splattered window too close to the rising waters, which are beginning to splash over the concrete seawall.

The old center console fishing boat has never been used for fishing. It was a checkmark, ownership its sole purpose. The salesman’s words long ago echo in her ears now. This elegant machine is built tough for rough off shore waters. But the fish lockers remain clean of fish scales. The 350 horsepower engines have never chased down a single marlin or red drum fish, elegantly or otherwise. Potential wasted.

THE OTHER WOMAN. She can’t quite make out the blue lettering stenciled on the hull, but that’s what it says. Her husband’s idea. Better than Masterbaiter. Bow Movement. Fish N Chicks.  Men being clever always involve a bodily function or a woman.

Her spine is getting stiff, her eyes dry. But she cannot tear herself away from the window. Not even to board it up. Minutes turn into hours turn into hope. The ringing phone is a mosquito. She bats away the sound. It’s too late now anyways. She’s seen photos of boats after a storm surge. Boats turned on their sides, half submerged, no longer elegant. THE OTHER WOMAN is taking on water.  She can see her sloshing and splashing as the swells rise and fall. Panic crawls up her throat. But something else is happening, too. The rope is coming undone.

Will she sink or will she break free? This is all that matters now.

If she sinks, she will be reborn. Like those lost treasure ships, she could rest in the silt; become the whole world to a marine microorganism community; bath in silky green saltwater all her days; grow emerald coral and forest green algae. In Feng Shui green is the color of tranquility but also of renewal. Green would suit her new life.

If she comes undone, unmoored, that would be a new life, too. One of adventure instead of peace. Swept out to sea without a way to steer, without a way to control direction or speed. Madness, really. Alone. Uncharted. That did sound exhilarating. Her spine protested as she straightened it. Her twelve-year-old blind-in-one-eye tabby wound itself around her swollen calves, stretched out on her arthritic feet, anchored her to the floor with affection.

Time has become background noise, like the ringing phone. The storm is what they call “bearing down” now. Wind gusts rattle the window. She is squinting through sheets of rain and fogged glass at THE OTHER WOMAN. The sky is layers and layers of blue-black-charcoal-grey-black fury. The sea has erased the distance between them. She is not afraid.

Either way the storm will be her savoir.