How I Spent My Summer Vacation #1: Visiting Mondhuoun

I crave the mountains. Not just any mountains, mind you, I want the Blue Ridge. More specifically, I pine for upstate South Carolina.

Spoonauger Falls

My parents both hail from pioneer families whose ties to that part of South Carolina stretch back to when this country was not only a colony but a wild and woolly wilderness. They left the area shortly before I was born, forever dooming me to a bit of an identity crisis. School holidays always brought out the suitcases and the general understanding that we were “going home” to South Carolina. As one Florida born, I never really understood, but I didn’t have to. Those mountains are in my blood. They’re in my very DNA.

My father is a mountain man born out of time. Every chance he gets to this day, he takes off for the land of his birth, finding solace and comfort in the unchanging wilderness of the Sumter National Forest and the Chattooga river. Coming off the trails his arthritic legs can no longer negotiate with ease, he scans the roadway, telling stories of mountain folk long gone, stores and landmarks so buried in time that not even the current residents remember them anymore.

When I was a child, my father took me into the woods and tried to impart his backwoods wisdom. Much of it stuck. On our recent camping trip there, my sons were impressed to learn that my fire-building capabilities surpassed those of my husband, who is no tenderfoot. I can survive a backcountry trail quite comfortably if I had to. At my age, I no longer want to.

I grew up in those mountains, like my parents… like their parents.

Even when you write science fiction, one way or another, you end up writing what you know.

As I’m working on the second book of THE BLACK WING CHRONICLES, the story takes me to places both familiar and distant. When I try to picture the Gallic Highlands of Mondhuoun, the land of Bo’s birth, I can’t help but picture the ancient and rugged terrain of the Sumter National Forest and the Chattooga River. Gallic bluestone was inspired by the blue granite of those mountains.

Like Bo, I was exiled from that land I love. Like Bo, I treasure every visit home.

Games Husbands Play With Novelist Wives

Many years ago, when my husband and I first met, I was a freelance writer working on a novel. He expressed polite interest and as our relationship blossomed, I offered to let him read it.

“I don’t read much fiction anymore,” he said.

I didn’t press the issue.

Because we married, and shortly thereafter, our first child was on the way, I put my writing aside. He occasionally called me in to read over the papers for his graduate study course work, but otherwise expressed no interest in anything remotely literary that I may do. Time passed and eventually, I picked up writing again and resumed work on The Black Wing Chronicles series. Despite my repeated requests that he read it and give me feedback, he declined to return the favor I’d done for him during his grad studies. I couldn’t get him to read any of my writing for any amount of begging and pleading, despite the fact that I was working on a completely different novel. When Sovran’s Pawn was published, he fell back on his tired old excuse.

“I don’t read much fiction anymore.”

It got to be a family joke.

“Dale still hasn’t read your book yet?” my father asked.

“No, and I don’t intend to,” my husband replied. “I don’t like reading books on the computer.”

When my proof copy arrived, he was all out of excuses. His reluctance to read it amused me.

When we left on vacation, he caved to the pressure from his friends who have already read it and badgered him endlessly about it. He started reading it under duress. After reading the first chapter, he set it aside.

“I already have a problem with it,” he said with all the petulance of a schoolboy being forced to memorize and recite epic poetry. “I just don’t like contrived, cliché names. I mean, Edge? Really? Who names their kid Edge?”

I smiled. “Have you read Chapter Two?”


“Edge’s name is explained in Chapter Two,” I said.

He eyed me dubiously.

“Two things you need to know, honey,” I said. “This book is an adventure written with tongue very firmly in cheek. A major theme in the whole story has to do with the nature of names as they relate to a person’s identity. The characters are named accordingly.”

With a long-suffering sigh, he picked it up again and resumed his reading. Once he got into it, he flew through it. I glanced over to find him chuckling out loud over passages. He’d look up at me over the top of the book with a merry twinkle in his eyes and a silly grin on his face.

When he reached Chapter Ten, he groaned and chortled, then set the book aside grinning hugely. “Eben Mohr?” he teased. “Really? Eben Mohr?? I can’t believe you named him Eben Mohr!”

I just smiled and shook my head. “That was my little joke with myself,” I said. “That’s my homage to James Bond. If Ian Fleming can have a character named Pussy Galore, I can have one named Eben Mohr. Tongue-in-cheek, baby.”

He shook his head and resumed his reading. He plowed through the book during the week we were in the mountains, reading as long as the light held out. Our last night in camp, the propane lantern hissed well past quiet time and he kept turning pages. He stopped when he reached Chapter Twenty-Four.

“I thought you were going to finish it tonight,” I said as we snuggled under our sleeping bag a little while later.

“I wanted to prove to you that I could stop.”

“You do realize that’s not exactly a compliment to a writer, don’t you?”

“It’s not my kind of book,” he said.

I’m pretty sure that’s all the praise or criticism I’m going to get out of him on the subject. I’m also pretty sure he’s not going to read the last two chapters out of sheer cussedness as we say in the South. He can be a contrary sort when he wants to be. The same thing that will keep him from reading the last two chapters and finishing his wife’s novel is the same contrary nature that drives him to seek out movies he’s pretty sure I can’t resist to lure me away from the computer in the evenings when I try to write. Tonight, as I’ve been working on this post, he’s already tried Desperado (Antonio Banderas) and when that didn’t get a rise out of me, he’s gone to Young Frankenstein. I think it’s a game to him.

Oh, I’ll get off in a little while… after Gene Wilder’s first scene in the medical school is over, or at least when he stabs himself in the leg with the scalpel.

You see, my husband isn’t the only one who can play games.

What Do Writers Read Over the Summer?

Did you ever wonder what writers read when they curl up with a good book? My friends have asked me to share my Summer Reading List with them. As a fan of SF (science fiction) and M (mystery), there is a lot of it on my list, most of it R (romance), but not all of it.

Last time I gave you the list of books on my Kindle for Summer Reading, this time, I give you books I’ve read and HIGHLY recommend. These are some of my favorite new releases and some old favorites I go back to again and again.

Click on the book title for the Amazon sales link:

KEIR by Pippa Jay (SFR)


AMBASADORA by Heidi Ruby Miller (SFR)

A ROSE IN WINTER by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss  (R)
(or SHANNA if you prefer something more tropical and summery)

HONOR’S SPLENDOR by Julie Garwood (R)
(really anything by Julie Garwood to be honest. LOVE HER!!)

(Any Jude Deveraux book, really)




THE CRYSTAL CAVE by Mary Stewart (F)

CASINO ROYALE by Ian Fleming (M)

THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler (M)


DEATH ON DEMAND  by Carolyn Hart (M)

A NEW LEASH ON DEATH by Susan Conant (M)

REST YOU MERRY by Charlotte MacLeod (M)

What’s on YOUR Summer Reading List?

What Do Writers Read Over the Summer?

Did you ever wonder what writers read when they curl up with a good book? My friends have asked me to share my Summer Reading List with them. As a fan of SF (science fiction) and M (mystery), there is a lot of it on my list, most of it R (romance), but not all of it. I have to admit that all of the books on my TBR list are by authors I’m acquainted with and owe reviews to. Some of them are so talented they make me want to give up writing altogether!

Here are only some of the books I haven’t read or finished yet, but are on my list of summer reading. It is an incomplete list, but these are the books I hope to have finished before Labor Day. I am looking forward to reading every one of them. Click on the book title for the Amazon sales link:

THE WHISPERING TOMBS:  A Quality Times Novella by Gayle Ramage (SF-humor)
In ‘The Whispering Tombs’, Quality and Tim are residing at the luxurious Baala Haven Resort, on an unpronounceable planet, when they’re invited on a quest to find ancient hidden treasure by a wealthy alien archaeologist. Reaching the caves of Azrokaran, however, loyalties are tested to the very limits as those within the group reveal their true colours. 

A super villain at the top of his game must choose between the world he wants and the woman he loves. 

PARADIGM SHIFT by Misa Buckley (SFR)
Observatory tour guide Megan Shaw has always had stars in her eyes, so when she all but runs down the otherworldly Raul, she barely blinks. It doesn’t hurt that Raul is hot – whether in his human form or his natural one – and that there’s an immediate mutual attraction. But Raul is on the run from his alien overlords and soon Megan finds herself fighting against a foothold situation with nothing more than a couple of cattle prods and Muse for soundtrack. However Earth is not the only planet at risk and with his species desperate to escape generations of oppression, will Raul’s loyalties shift as easily as his physical appearance?

KICKING ASHE by Pauline Baird Jones (SFR)
Seems Time has a new hobby: kicking Ashe (and shame on It for doing it when she’s down). 

Not that she plans to stay down. Or give up the guy.

(the entire Aston West series actually)
Everybody’s favorite Space Pirate.

ALONE ON THE EDGE by Patrick Stutzman (SF)
After accepting a job as a robotic engineer that sends her to a mining station at the edge of explored space, Anna Foster finds that her position is not what she expects and must adjust to life as the only living being aboard, struggling to keep her humanity while a relentless computer lords over her existence. But, the discovery of a secret could prove to be the key to her freedom.

No LimitsNO LIMITS by Jenna McCormick (SFR-E)
All Genevieve Luzon wants is to be loved by one man, a seemingly impossible task in New York City – though she can buy sex as easily as she can order pizza on a Friday night. Needing a job and sick of being alone, Gen enlists as a pleasure companion at a premium escort service…During Gen’s first training session, she meets Rhys. He is an empath, a man with the extraordinary ability to fulfil her most secret desires. His dangerous mission might claim his life, but Gen is not about to let something she’s wanted for so long get away now that she knows how good it feels…
You can read all about it here in an earlier post when Jenna was my guest!

GREENSHIFT by Heidi Ruby Miller (SFR)
(Prequel to Ambasadora)
David Anlow, a former captain who was betrayed by both the fleet and his ex-lover, now spends his lonely days shuttling around a group of scientists for hire.
Boston Maribu, Mari to her friends, is one of his passengers, a young botanist who is as beautiful as she is naïve and innocent. 
When Mari asks David to teach her about more than just piloting the Bard, nights on their ship heat up and their feelings for each other mature into a relationship neither expects. But a suspicious new client shows up with wicked plans for Mari, and the soldier inside David comes alive, ready to fight for the young woman who stole his heart.

(not sure how to categorize this one, it’s billed as Appalachian Gothic)
Preston Black has a nasty habit of falling in love with the wrong type of woman. But girls who don’t play nice are the least of his problems. This handsome bar band guitarist isn’t washed-up, but he’s about to be. He’s broke, he’s tired of playing covers and he’s obsessed with the Curse of 27.
He’s about to add ‘deal with the devil’ to his list.
Lucky for Preston, he has help. Like the angelic beauty who picks him up when he’s down. And the university professor who helps him sort through old Appalachian hexes and curses to find the song that may be his only shot at redemption. And when things get real bad, he has the ghost of John Lennon to remind him that “nothing is real.”


Next week, I’ll put together a list of books I’ve already read and highly recommend!

What’s on YOUR Summer Reading List?