June 28, 2015

The Montana of Author Dan Burns: Part Time Home, Full Time Muse

I first traveled to Montana with my family in the summer of 2001. As an avid angler, I had read about the famed rivers and heard the stories of endless trout and big sky, and realized I had to go. We rented a home outside of Bozeman and spent a week exploring all that the area had to offer. We experienced the majesty of Yellowstone National Park, took a step back in time in the quaint small town of Livingston, fished the Gallatin River every day, drove hundreds of miles under the biggest and bluest sky we had ever seen, and spent quiet evenings on the deck
playing games and cherishing our time together.

We fell in love with Montana and it became a part of each of us. We returned the next two summers to continue our explorations and then decided to buy a small place of our own. It has been fourteen years now and while our home outside of Bozeman on the East Gallatin River is a part time residence, it is a full-time member of our family. We long to get back there to take in the mountain air, walk the river rock shores of our favorite rivers, and spend quality family time together.
The nature, culture, and people of Montana inspire me. When I’m in Montana, I’m free—unencumbered by the usual distractions back in Illinois—and able to explore ideas and easily get the words down onto the page. When I’m not in Montana, I’m always thinking about that glorious place, and my experiences there end up finding their way into my writing. What follows is an example of how Montana became part of my short story, Come Out, Wherever You Are.
These days, our world is enmeshed in technological connectivity— twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week—and many people spend the majority of their days searching and texting and updating their networks of people on every minute detail of their existence.
I think we need to be forced away from our devices every once in a while to relish the simple pleasures in life: reading a book, taking a walk, or just looking around and taking in all that is happening around us. For without the break, we might get so distracted that we’ll miss out on what is really important. 
What if a person decided to walk away from the technological tether and live his life in solitude, and what if while he was away, something happened to the social network? That, very simply, was the seed of the idea, and it was all I needed to get on with writing the story, Come Out, Wherever You Are.
In the story, the protagonist, Verne, had forced himself to break away. During his career as a politician, he was always in the spotlight and always in the news. Privacy was not a possibility and he understood that the absence of it came with the job. So, as he came to the end of his career, he made a wish to live in Montana, and then when he retired, he made the wish a reality. What he didn’t expect was for the circumstances that nudged him into exile to end up being the same circumstances that made his exile permanent.
I had the main character and I knew exactly where to put him. Since falling in love with Montana on my first visit there, I have been pursuing my own temporary but regular exile there ever since. 

The sky is big, the rivers are endless, and I think the people there are likely the nicest people in the world. Add to that, regarding the people, there are only about one million in the entire state. There is one square mile of land for every six people. It’s open and easy to get lost there, and I liked the possibilities. Montana was where Verne needed to go. 
I knew Verne would start and end his story in Montana, and at the end, I expected him to simply head off into the sunset to finish out his remaining years in solitude, as he had wished. However, since that time, I find that I’m often wondering—maybe even worrying—about Verne and what his future holds. Who knows, maybe I will run into him again somewhere down the road, in Montana.

Everyone Wins! Learn more about how Montana inspired me and find out what happens to Verne in the short story, Come Out, Wherever You Are, from my latest story collection, No Turning Back: Stories. For a free PDF download of the story go to: http://www.danburnsauthor.com/files/Come_Out_Wherever_You_Are_-_PUBLISHED.pdf

Enter to Win More! Please leave a comment and your contact information for a chance to win a signed hardcover edition of No Turning Back: Stories. Good luck!

Traveling to Montana? If you are in the Bozeman area, be sure to wet a line on one of the many famed and local rivers. If you’re looking for a great dinner spot in Bozeman, you can’t go wrong with Dave’s Sushi and their creative and inspired sushi creations or Copper Whiskey Bar & Grill and their classic cocktails, hip crowd, and inventive menu items. Plan a day for a side trip over to Livingston for shopping, breakfast or lunch at Gil’s Goods, a drink at the Murray Hotel bar, and dinner at 2nd Street Bistro.

Author Bio:

Dan Burns is the author of the story collection, No Turning Back: Stories, and the novel, Recalled to Life. In addition to writing novels, short stories, and poetry, he also writes screenplays for the big screen. His forthcoming novel, A Fine Line, is a mystery set in his hometown of Chicago. For more information, please visit www.danburnsauthor.com.
(all info provided by author)

June 21, 2015

I’m from Missouri--Julie Lynn Hayes Shows You!

This might not be the official nickname of the state, but by Golly, it’s pretty true. Just look at our license plates. We’re proud to tell you. We’re also known as “The Cave State” because there are more than 6000 recorded caves in Missouri. While I haven’t been in most of them, I’ve been in a few, and it’s quite the experience.

I’ve lived in Missouri most of my life and I think it’s one of the most beautiful of the fifty states. Of course, I might be prejudiced a little bit. However, if you want to really annoy me, mispronounce the name of my state. It’s “Missouri-ee”, not “Missour-uh”, despite what some people on the other side of the state might tell you. Here in St. Louis, we know better.

Missouri sits smack dab in the middle of the country, which is a decided advantage for travel and trade purposes. Overall, the cost of living is lower than on either coast.  We have a lot of rivers and lakes, including the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and the beautiful Lake of the Ozarks, located in the Ozark Mountains. Don’t let the name fool you. They aren’t really mountains,’ cause they’re not tall enough to qualify, but they sure are beautiful. Get in a boat and go out on the Lake, it’s gorgeous.
The largest cities in Missouri are St. Louis, Kansas City, and Jefferson City. St. Louis was the starting point for the Lewis and Clark expedition, and if you go to historic Fort Bellefontaine, you can see where the explorers began their journey.  

There are many parks located throughout the state, and they offer a variety of things to do, including fishing, boating, hiking, and camping. And of course, there are the caves, many of which offer guided tours. You can visit Jesse James’ hideout in Meramec Caverns. I’ve been there more than once myself. You can tour Daniel Boone’s home, or the home of Ulysses S. Grant. If you go to Grant’s Farm, in St. Louis, you can ride the train, see the animals, and receive complimentary beer (if you’re of age!).  The St. Louis Zoo is one of the best in the country, and it’s free! Or go to Hermann, and tour some of the wineries! Don’t forget to visit Hannibal, home of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain. Six Flags is located in Eureka, if you’re looking for anamusement park.

Recently, I took my daughter and her friend to Laumeier Sculpture Park here in St. Louis, and she took some pictures of a few of the interesting sculptures we saw. This is a great place to picnic. And if you’re visiting St. Louis and want some great Chinese food, go to Old St. Louis Chop Suey.

Did I mention I have a prize to give away? I do! A copy of anything from my backlist. What do you have to do? Just comment. Tell me something interesting about your state.

When Will I Be Loved is the sequel to When Will I See You Again. The second book is about Miller Fenwick, best friend of Alexx Jameson. I have to say if not for one of my readers, this book would never have come to be, so thank you very much, Shorty!

Fairy tales can come true…
Miller Fenwick wants the kind of happy ending his best friend got, with the hunky werewolf of his dreams. Trouble is, there doesn’t seem to be a Prince Charming on the horizon, and casual encounters don’t cut it anymore. Now that Alexx and Raoul are engaged, Miller is becoming resigned to being the bridesmaid, never the bride. But a chance encounter with a sexy stranger at Charisma has his hopes soaring, and his heart is wide open to possibilities.
Holt Wynne is the head of Helios, the largest vampire organization in the country. He’s a very influential and wealthy man, with a deep-seated hatred of werewolves. His running into Miller at Charisma isn’t entirely accidental. He’d meant to wait, but his emotions got the better of him, and he couldn’t stay away. And now see what he’s done…
Wait until Miller finds out he’s sortof just gotten married to the sexy vampire who hates the people who are Miller’s best friends. Sparks are gonna fly—and not just in the bedroom. One thing for sure—life in Crescent Bay is never dull!

Julie Lynn Hayes first began publishing short stories and poetry in the 1990’s, when it was a different ballgame altogether, and Ebooks hadn’t been dreamed of yet. That changed in 2010 with the acceptance of her first romance novel. She’s come a long way since that first book appeared, and is finding the journey a very educational one.

She lives in St. Louis with her daughter Sarah and her cat Ramesses. She often writes of two men finding true love and happiness in one another’s arms, and is a great believer in the happily ever after. She likes to write in different genres, to stretch herself in order to see what is possible. Her great challenge is to be told something can’t be done—she feels compelled to do it.

When she isn’t writing, she enjoys crafts, such as crocheting and cross stitch,  needlepoint and knitting, and she loves to cook, spending time watching the Food Network. Her favorite chef is Geoffrey Zakarian. Her family thinks she’s a bit off, but she doesn’t mind. Marching to the beat of one’s own drummer is a good thing, after all. Her published works can be found at Dreamspinner Press, eXtasy Books, Wayward Ink Press, and Amber Quill Press.

Links to Julie Hayes work:
(Info Provided by Author and Author's Daughter) 

June 14, 2015

Melanie Atkins and Mississippi

My home state is Mississippi. Right now, I'm on my back porch listening to countless songbirds, a few croaking tree frogs, and a gaggle of honking geese flying over to another pond in search of food. My home is in a growing suburb of Jackson, our capital city, in an area that's not quite rural nor heavily suburban, a place where I feel safe and happy. A place that has changed immensely and yet not enough over the past hundred years or so.

Mississippi has a rich history and an even richer literary heritage, including the likes of William Faulker, Eudora Welty, and Barry Hannah, to name just a few of of the famous authors who once called my state home. This past Christmas, a friend and I ventured into the capital city to participate in a free Candlelight Tour of half a dozen historic homes and such near downtown. The tour began at the governor's mansion and included the Manship House, the Department of Archives and History, and the Eudora Welty House Education and Visitors Center, to name a few.  What a wonderful glimpse into the past. Each place was decorated for the holidays, and a few even boasted refreshments.
I enjoyed our stop at the Eudora Welty House Education and Visitors Center the most. Ms. Welty (1901-2001) grew up in Jackson in the house next door to the visitors center and attended the same schools as my father, albeit a few years earlier. He often told me stories about seeing her around town. Her home has since been added to the National Register of Historic Places. You can see pictures of it and read more about it here: http://eudorawelty.org/the-house/.

Eudora Welty graduated from what is now Mississippi University for Women in 1927 and completed her graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin and Columbia University in New York. She graduated from Columbia at the height of the Depression, when jobs were scarce, and had trouble finding work in New York City, so she returned home to Mississippi. She soon landed a job with the WPA, criss-crossing the state and meeting many interesting characters, some of whom later became the focus of her novels and short stories.

She published her first short story in 1936, and many more followed. Her short story collection A Curtain of Green, released in 1941, brought her a plethora of accolades and helped to grow her readership. She published her first full length novel, Delta Wedding, in 1946. One of her later novels, The Optimist's Daughter, published in 1972, earned her the Pulitzer Prize. Not one for praises, Ms. Welty tucked the Pulitzer away with all of her other honors, and none saw the light of day again until after her death, when workers found them in the top of her closet.

So many stories, and photographs, too. Ms. Welty was also an accomplished photograper, and many of her photos of life in Mississippi in the mid-20th century were included in the book Eudora Welty as Photographer, released in 2009. You may view some of her photographs here: http://eudorawelty.org/life-works/photography-art/. She was truly an artist.

I'm proud to hail from the same state as Ms. Welty. My work is much more commercial than hers and takes place in a different era, but I still look up to her. She helped to put Mississippi on the literary map and proved that women could be successful in a field crowded with men at a time when many were not. My stories, like hers, take place in the Deep South. Many of them are based in Mississippi, including Sealing His Fate, the second book in my Bayou Bounty Hunter series.

Miranda Gibson will do anything to find her children after her abusive ex-husband kidnaps them whisks them off to parts unknown. The cops won't help, because Harper comes off as a nice guy. A family man. He impressed the youth court judge with his fast talk, and the man gave him joint custody. So Miranda is forced to beg a private investigator to go after her kids.

Riley Magee started Bayou Bounty Hunters, Inc. because he likes helping people, but he isn't a law breaker. So when a distraught mother asks him to find her kidnapped kids but tells him her ex-husband has joint custody, he refuses to help. Then he learns Harper has abused her in the past and changes his mind… only to balk again when Miranda insists on going with him.

Time is running out. Miranda fears Harper may take the kids out of the country, so when Riley refuses to help, she decides to go after them alone. A phone call from Miranda's terrified son causes Riley to change his mind, as long as she promises to stay out of his way and let him do his job. To bring the children home safely, the two of them must forge a workable peace… a difficult, if not impossible, task.

Please leave a comment here for your chance at at $10.00 Amazon Gift Card!  

You can read more about Sealing His Fate here: http://amzn.to/1aJSy5E and check out my website here: http://www.melanieatkins.com and my Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/melanie.atkins
(all info provided by author.)