Monday, December 28, 2020

The End of 2020--FINALLY

It is finally the end of 2020, and I don’t know about you, but I will be staying up past midnight to kick this year out the door! I feel like the writer’s room mistakenly put all the action and cliff hangers and disasters into one year, rather then spreading them out over a century (or two)—yes, I stole this from a meme, but it resonated with me.

Anyway, there were some good things to come out of this year. We learned resilience. We cherished family and friends. We preserved hope, sometimes digging really, really deep to find even a sliver. We discovered our true selves—and found out how selfish or selfless we were—and that’s always a good thing. And hey, we learned how to clean!


My wish for the New Year is as follows: 


Be kind, not cowardly.

Hug a lot and often (when we’re allowed).

Find the joy, get rid of the germs.

Appreciate the small things, they are sometimes all you have.



Sending you all health and happiness for a glorious 2021. We deserve it (well, most of us).


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Welcome Jeny Heckman


hen I first wrote, the Catch, back in 2008, I'd never written anything before in my life. My father-in-law, Chuck, was in the final stages of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and I was a nursing student. Rather than go back to school, I chose to stay home and help take care of him. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life. I got to know him on a level I hadn't in the fifteen years I’d been married to his son. Not that we weren’t close, we were, it was just different. 

I knew he was dying, but my family wasn't accepting it very well. He'd battled the same disease for nineteen years and beat it every time. I'd come home in the early evening, a little stressed because I didn't know how to get through to them, that his time was limited. So, I walked... a lot.

My favorite show at the time was, Deadliest Catch, the reality show about Alaska crab fishermen on the Bering Sea, and their incredibly dangerous job. I watched everything they produced on it, including the little vignettes on their website. Things like how does a crab pot work? The anatomy of a rogue wave, and my personal favorite... superstitions. I found out one of the biggest omens involved women onboard a fishing vessel and how they aren’t very welcome. Taboo, I think they said, during one season. Being someone that has always beat to my own drum, naturally I thought, what a crock of shit! One evening after staying with Chuck, I watched that little side show on superstitions, and started coming up with a story.

 I’ve done this all my life, having ideas for stories and making them up in my head, or reading stories and thinking how I would have written them differently. As I walked, I started wondering what would happen if I wrote my imagination down. So, I did. Four hours later, I had my plot and a fleshed-out outline. I wrote the story, in a few months, but painfully we lost my father-in-law, and were all devastated. 

Both of my children were in middle school and heavy into sports and their friends, whom always congregated at our house, and we had a business we needed to run. So, the Catch, stayed shelved. However, after a time, my son, Charlie, asked me about it and even read some. Not being a huge reader, I was tremendously happy he deemed me worthy, and when he asked me to publish it, I decided to do it. 

I decided to self-publish it, and as time moved on, I started writing down more stories and going to conferences to learn more about my craft. My second book, The Sea Archer, was picked up by New York publisher, the Wild Rose Press, and thus began the award-winning, Heaven & Earthseries. However, I always thought about the Catch, because I’d learned a lot and believed so much of the story was still rough. My grammar, and other mechanics weren’t as polished as I wanted, but I loved the story about survival, fathers and daughters and a woman in a man’s world. I decided to improve it, make it cleaner and republish it. However, certain story arcs changed a lot in the re-telling, thereby changing the tenor of the story somewhat. So, I decided to create a new book and entitle it, Releasing the Catch, which is actually a better name for the story, in many different ways. The result of which now lies in your hands and is published five years after the first. I’m very proud of it.

 There’s a million memories for me in this book. You’ll probably wonder how or why by the end of it or what I have in common with rough talking salty sea dogs. More than you might think, down in my core. I love Faith and Mack’s strength and growth in this story and sincerely hope you do to! 

Thank you for taking this journey with me.



Mack Carter’s life is circling the drain. When he hears about how lucrative the fishing industry is in Alaska, he decides to try his luck on the frigid Aleutian Chain. There he meets, Nels Pearson, who teaches the younger man how to be a crab fisherman on the deadly Bering Sea and becomes the friend and father-figure Mack’s never known. Carter must learn to navigate both the foreign world on the water and home life on land, finding a tenuous balance with both.


Through circumstances beyond her control, Faith Pearson is inserted into the dangerous life the men live in. To most fishermen in this high-velocity world, women onboard a crab boat is a bad omen. Faith finds life on the sea difficult to maneuver, not just the conditions but the men and superstitions she must also endure.

When tragedy strikes her life again, Faith strives to overcome great obstacles, and prove herself worthy mentally and physically, as she navigates self-discovery in a man’s bleak yet adventurous world. She also discovers lessons about love from a delicious new co-worker and just how deadly the Bering Sea can be when her own life is on the line, possibly never releasing her from the catch.

Releasing the Catch, is a story of fathers and daughters, letting go of the past, self-discovery, and overcoming odds made harder simply for your gender. It’s the story of two individuals at different times in an intertwined and extraordinary life, with so much to teach one another.





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“Oh no, I think we’re good here, thanks sweetheart,” Andy said, mistaking her for the waitress and darted a questioning gaze back at the men. “Unless anyone needs another round?”

Faith drew in a deep, irritated breath, lifted her chin and peered down her nose at Jake, who gazed back with a hesitant twitch at the corner of his mouth. Oh, yeah, he’s getting it. At least she’d give him marks for some intelligence.

Squaring her shoulders, she shifted her eyes back to Andy and stuck out a hand. “Actually, I’m Faith. Mack says you’re looking for a seasoned deckhand to help you through the winter, that, right?”

Confused, Andy’s stared first at her face, then her chest region, then at her outstretched hand. In complete bewilderment, he checked Mack’s face, then his brother’s.

Jake, long legs sprawled out in front of him, an elbow on the table, and hand supporting his chin, serpentined a slow, genuine smile across his face. He flicked his index finger up over his lips and used only his eyes to measure his brother’s reaction. Since the skipper didn’t appear to snap out of it any time soon, his younger brother outstretched his own hand, and shifted his gaze back up to Faith.

“That’s right. I’m Jakob Rassmussen, deck boss. You can call me Jake. This is my brother, Andy, he’s capt’n.” They shook hands and Jake returned his observation to Andy, whose face started to turn colors. A gurgle of laughter escaped from the younger man, before covering it up with a cough. Mack never stopped peering into his drink.

“Oh, for chrissake!” Faith said, disgusted, and all three men jerked their attention toward her, as if slapped. “My father,” she gestured at Mack. “Is an asshole. It’s not his fault, he was just born that way. He didn’t tell me about any of this,” -she waved a hand at them and the table- “Until I got here, a little over an hour ago.” 

She flicked an accusatory glare at Mack, who had the excellent sense to stay quiet. “Look, I don’t have time for any of your good-ole-boy superstitious bullshit. I’ve lived on a crab boat since I was eight-years-old. I became a full share deckhand at sixteen, and I’ve worked as deck boss and as an engineer.” Her glare now fell on Jake, who stared back in fascination. “I just left my last job because it was time for a change, not because I couldn’t hack it. I work well on the hydraulics, stack, rail, bait, wherever the hell you want to put me. I’m a fast learner and I don’t expect to find your boat to be the space shuttle. Either you want me or not. I’ll be on the pier tomorrow at seven a.m., so you have the night to decide. Right now, I’m tired and I want to go to bed.”

She grabbed Jake’s drink, the closest and fullest, with three fingers of some strange, yet horrific alcohol, she discovered. She drained it in one large gulp, turned on her heel and left the bar. All three men stared in her wake, open-mouthed. Her stomach roiled by the time she got upstairs, and puked.

“What the hell was in that?” she asked the room at large. The idiot didn’t even have the sense to drink whiskey. She shuddered with disgust and lifted a hand to her mouth at the lingering taste of vomit and licorice, before sitting down next to the toilet, and flinging her arm across the closed lid. At least the first pissing match went to her. She reached up and grabbed her toothbrush off the counter, smiled for a few seconds, then put a hand back to her stomach as it roiled again, lifting the lid for another digestive pyrotechnic experience.

Author Bio: 

Jeny Heckman is the award-winning author of the paranormal-romance series, Heaven & Earth. When she isn’t writing, you will find her boating with her husband, enjoying game night with her kids, cocktails with her friends, getting frustrated with photography or dreaming and plotting her next adventure. Jeny lives in Washington state with her husband of over twenty-eight years.


            Amazon Author Central:










Monday, December 14, 2020

Hanukkah 2020

Hanukkah in a pandemic.

I didn’t think it would bother me as much as it does. It’s a holiday I treasure because it brings us, as a family, closer together. While it’s not a major holiday by any means, reserving time each night to gather around the menorahs, light the candles, and find a little something special to do each evening, is the equivalent of sharing a family meal together. We bond. We laugh. We talk. 


This year, we still do those things. I’m lucky enough to have my girls home for the holiday. They are both healthy. The four of us can be together. Our immediate family traditions haven’t changed.


But other things have. 


We didn’t have our big family Hanukkah party this year. Instead, we FaceTimed and texted and did quick present drop-offs. No cousins going off laugh together, no hugs.


We celebrated one night with my parents, from a distance. How do you do that? Well, here’s one suggestion:


Plan for celebrating Hanukkah with grandparents, COVID edition:

1) If possible, FaceTime. If not (for example, if suggesting FT will cause a riot), move onto step 2

2) Invite them to arrive at sundown--since that occurs at 4:30, no dinner is involved (aka, no eating without a mask).

3) Wear masks. No hugs or kisses. Sit over THERE and don't move!

4) Provide candles for grandparents' menorah, having determined that our orphan candles burn waaaayyyy faster than their fancy ones. 

5) Strategically arrange menorahs so we are far away from each other, but in some sort of line so that six people can be in the photo (probably not possible, but...)

6) Do not serve latkes or fried Oreos (see reason #2).

7) You may only drink if you're willing to drink through a straw. Yeah, I didn't think so.

8) Spend the half hour the candles are burning yelling back and forth since you're sitting across the room wearing masks (I knew an open floor plan would come in handy).

9) Candles burn out, BYE!! 

Miss Manners is gonna kill me. Unless of course, she wants to be safe, too. Then maybe I’ll get a one-year pass.


We also didn’t celebrate with our friends. No “have menorah, will travel” and no “fried Oreo extravaganza.” Not this year. Traveling and extravaganzas are frowned upon. 


I get it. I really do. I support being extra careful. I’m the one who tells everyone not to do anything, not to forget their masks, to wash their hands again, to skip the hugs. But it’s been nine months and it’s getting old.


We still have the light and the warmth of the candles. Especially this year, lighting the darkness is important. And maybe, this year, we ARE the light in the darkness. The ones (of many, but not nearly enough) who follow the rules, who keep others safe, who find joys in the forced proximity. Maybe we’re showing our will to survive so that when this is finally over, we’ll celebrate the darkness that didn’t overtake us, and the light that we passed on to others.


Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Be the light.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Welcome, Joan Koster/Zara West!

 The Question that Is Key to Any Successful Revision

One of the hardest parts of revising my novels is knowing what to keep in and what to take out. Every word is precious. For a long time, I resisted taking out a single word, and then I was asked to remove 20,000 words from a romance novel I had submitted to an agent.

20,000 words?

What in the world could I remove that wouldn’t destroy the story? I had already tightened up everything as much as possible. I’d cut out every unneeded and overused word. I’d shortened my long paragraphs and sentences. I’d even removed a lot of my lovely description of the small town and bay where the story was set. How could I remove anything else?

I thumbed through the manuscript. I had used Gwen Hayes’ Romancing the Beat as my template. There was the cute meet and initial attraction, the first rejection of the possibility of love, the point where the hero and heroine were thrown together on the boat, the moment the attraction became irresistible, the first touch, the first kiss, then the moment of doubt, the betrayal, the break up, the regret, the grand gesture on both parts, and the final coming together.

Then it struck me. I set the manuscript down. I was asking the wrong question. The question I needed to ask—the question that is key to any successful revision—is what absolutely has to be in the draft to make the story whole?

I went through the manuscript again, highlighting in bright yellow all the scenes that related to the romance plotline. By looking at what had to be kept, I suddenly saw the things that were extraneous—extra characters in the bar scenes, a side trip added because I wanted to share a place I had visited, the long-winded description of a sunset over the ocean that was lovely, but irrelevant to the romantic couple who had other things on their minds. 

It wasn’t easy, but in the end, I did remove 20,000 words. Hopefully, you will never have to do the same. 

But if you do need to tighten up a draft, looking for what has to be kept instead what should be cut may make the process less stressful and more productive. That’s because it is always better to see the positives instead of the negatives. 

Give it a try and let me know what you think.





You’ve finished your rough draft—great! Here’s how to quickly and easily revise it to show off your true writing skills.

From the award-winning author and educator who brought you the Fast Drafting method comes an easy, effective way to approach the often daunting task of revising your work. It doesn’t have to be difficult or frustrating! Revise Your Draft: And Make Your Writing Shine.


About the series:

Don’t just write…write for success! From award-winning author and educator Joan Bouza Koster comes a revolutionary series of guides showing you the steps that helped her writing not just land an agent and book deal but win praise from readers and literary tastemakers. Whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, romance, thriller, or historical, this series delivers behind-the-scenes tips, inspiration when you need it most, and the flexibility to fit your writing career. Write with confidence and write for success.


Available from AMAZON


About the Author

When she is not writing in her studio by the sea, Joan Koster lives with her historian husband and a coon cat named Cleo in an 1860s farmhouse stacked to the ceiling with books. In a life full of adventures, she has scaled mountains, chased sheep, and been abandoned on an island for longer than she wants to remember.


An award-winning author who loves mentoring writers, Joan blends her love of history, and romance into historical novels about women who shouldn’t be forgotten and into romantic thrillers under the pen name, Zara West. She is the author of the award-winning romantic suspense series The Skin Quartet and the top-selling Write for Success series.


Joan blogs at JoanKoster.comWomen Words and WisdomAmerican Civil War VoiceZara West Romance, and Zara West’s Journal and teaches numerous online writing courses. Her 30 Days of revision Tips will be offered by From the Heart Romance Writers this January.







Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Welcome, Mike Torreano

 I'd like to welcome fellow Wild Rose Press author, Mike Torreano to my blog today. He writes Westerns, so you're in for something a little different. 

What inspired you to write? In fifth grade, back in Ohio, my teacher made us read a book a week, and write a report. You never knew who she was going to call on, so you had to be ready. That first week, she took us to a wall shelf stacked with books. I scanned the titles and stopped at a spine that said, ‘Zane Grey’, and I thought ‘what’s a Zane Grey’? Well, I spent the rest of that year devouring his novels and this kid from Ohio got hooked on the Old West. I could see the Cowboys and Indians racing along red sandstone buttes in the Painted Desert. Good teachers could make all the difference then-and today.


When did you start writing? I started seriously writing in 2013, when I retired. Before my first novel, I used to jokingly say I was writing a book. I had all the pages numbered, all I had to do was fill them in. Little did I know then how much work it is to complete and polish a story. I’m not a disciplined writer, either. I find snatches of time to flesh out my current scene, but often spend days percolating on where to go from here.


Why do you write what you write?  I’ve thought about that at length, as I write in what is more or less a niche genre, traditional westerns with a dash of mystery and romance. I’ve always been drawn to black and white things, more so than shades of gray. In the Old West, there were things you were supposed to do, and things you weren’t. If you did wrong, consequences were often immediate, and sometimes severe. Even the bad guys knew where the line was, something that’s been blurred over the years. Many places had no law except The Code of the West, which reflected timeless values we could use more of today.


Are you a ‘plotter or a ‘pantser’?  I’m definitely a pantser. I’m thinking of writing a non-fiction work titled, The Perils of Pantsing. Not really, but while it’s easier to start a story by pantsing, I’ve found it often gets tougher the deeper into the story I go. I always have a 50,000 foot idea of what happens overall, but a lot of times I find myself wondering what happens in the meantime. But, where we all write is at the 5,000 foot level. ‘What happens now’ is my often unwelcome visitor. That’s when I wish I was a plotter. But, with only the most general outline, that allow my characters to do lots of unexpected things. Twists and turns are part and parcel of being a pantser, although I know plotters often encounter surprising happenings along the way, too. And I don’t even want to talk about how hard it is to polish a pantser story. Having said that, though, that’s what seems to work for me.

Which element of novel-writing do you consider most challenging? (Plot, setting, characters, dialogue, etc.) For me, it’s description. My novels are set in the Old West, with many scenes outside amid spectacular scenery, so description is key, and that’s where I have to pay the most attention. I do lots of research in order to ‘see’ my scene’s surroundings clearly before I can properly share those settings with my readers.

Which comes first, character or plot? For me, it’s plot. My characters reveal themselves as I create the story. As long as my plot holds together, the characters seem to fill themselves in. As strange as it might sound, I tend to know little about my characters when I start a new work.

What are you writing now? A Score to Settle was just released by my publisher, The Wild Rose Press. It’s set on the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail in 1870 New Mexico Territory. I was drawn to this locale after devouring the iconic western series, Lonesome Dove. Author Larry McMurtry used an incident in LD that paralleled something that actually happened on Goodnight-Loving. Oliver Loving was shot near Fort Sumner, NMT in 1866. After he died, his partner, Charles Goodnight, carried out his last wish by wagoning him back home to Texas. This is one of the Old West’s most famous legends and I wanted to weave a story around it.

My current WIP is set in New Mexico Territory around 1890. White Sands Gold tells of a legendary cache of hidden gold bars, and the conflict between those who seek it and those who have sworn to protect it. But, is the treasure so many are willing to die for real? 

Should be out in 2021.


Thanks for having me, Jennifer!



Broken after his family is murdered, rancher Del Lawson signs on to a cattle drive along the Goodnight Loving trail in 1870, unaware he's still in danger. When he falls for a pretty Army nurse, the killers target her.

If he's to recover from his grief and build a new life, Del must set out on a gritty hunt for the men who are hunting him.

Meanwhile, Del's mother, Maybelle, doesn't know her son survived that murderous night. When she discovers the gold the killers are after, she uses the treasure in an elaborate masquerade to take the murderers down.

Will mother and son's plans reap justice-or destroy what's left of the Lawson clan?



“Tell me your story, Del. We got time.”

Del tried to piece the last few days together. He told Sonny about leaving Rose and—

She interrupted. “That your woman?”

“If she’ll have me. If I ever see her again.” He told her about the search to find Tyson. Riding through Santa Rosa, the trickery about Lost Creek, Potter’s ambush south of town amid the sandstorm. Riding for Wilkins’ ranch and Shade being played out. The desperate walk to find Sinola in the dark.

“You’ve had quite the adventure, Del Lawson.”


Mike Torreano has a military background and is a student of history and the American West. He fell in love with Zane Grey’s descriptions of the Painted Desert in the fifth grade, when his teacher made her students read a book and write a report every week. 

Mike recently had a short story set during the Yukon gold rush days published in an anthology, and he’s written for magazines and small newspapers. An experienced editor, he’s taught University English and Journalism. He’s a member of Colorado Springs Fiction Writers, Pikes Peak Writers, The Historical Novel Society, and Western Writers of America. He brings his readers back in time with him as he recreates western life in the late 19th century.

Mike Torreano’s latest western, A Score to Settle, has just been released by The Wild Rose press. Find it, and his first two western mysteries, The Reckoning, and The Renewal, using the links below.



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A Score to Settle



The Reckoning



The Renewal