July 27, 2014

From New Jersey with resident Jacqueline Seewald

My husband and I were visiting San Francisco some years ago and ate at a wonderful Italian restaurant. The waiter, observing we were tourists, asked where we were from.
When we told him New Jersey, he became animated.
“I know all about New Jersey,” he said. “I watched every episode of The Sopranos.”

New Jersey isn’t all about gangsters and Mafia—although we’ve had a notable share of criminals in our state. I was born, raised and still live in NJ. There’s a great deal that is special and unique about my state, some good, some bad.

We used to have lots of industry in the state, much of it not clean. So we had a serious pollution problem and high rates of cancer. But most of the industry is gone now. Of course, that means fewer jobs. Our state suffers serious financial problems. We have some very rich as well as a great many poor people. Inner cities such as Camden and Newark have bad problems not easily solved. However, the city of New Brunswick has Rutgers University and a number of solid businesses. It’s an excellent example of how cities can reinvent themselves and rebuild in a positive way.
The Jersey shore is a great place to visit. There are many resort locations near the beaches. In New Jersey, you’re never really far from the ocean. New Jersey also has many lighthouses. All the lighthouses are open to tour during the October Lighthouse Challenge.


I now live in North Jersey overlooking the Hudson River and facing Manhattan. It’s a lovely view. The George Washington Bridge looms. It’s the world’s most busy bridge.  For forty years I lived in Central Jersey, an area that was once rural and now has many housing developments. New Jersey is a small state in area but has the greatest density in the nation.


Like many authors, I often write about what I know best. New Jersey provides the setting for many of my books.  My children’s picture book A DEVIL IN THE PINES was published by Afton Press. It is in part about the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, a fascinating and unique location with roots in our country’s colonial history era. My co-authored mystery novel THE THIRD EYE is also set in the Pine Barrens. My Kim Reynolds librarian sleuth adult mystery series is set in Central Jersey. There are four books in this series, the most recent being THE BAD WIFE. It’s a realistic mystery series that has been critically well-received. In addition, I set my YA novels in New Jersey, THE DEVIL AND DANNA WEBSTER being the most recent. I hope you will visit our state and also read my books.

 Visit Jacqueline Seewald and find out about her work here:

(All info provided by author.  Pictures provided by Anna Seewald)

July 20, 2014

Revisit New Hampshire with Nora LeDuc

Buckle your seat belts,  get ready for a road trip. You’re in New Hampshire, the land of Live Free or Die.  Begin your adventure in Portsmouth, or Strawbery Banke, as it was once named in the 1600s during the charm of days long past. In 1774, Paul Revere rode to Portsmouth warning that the British were coming. These days, Portsmouth has something for everyone. Choose a restaurant on the water, sit on the deck and enjoy the food and cool breeze.  Watch the ships passing in the harbor. Walk through the square to find quaint shops. Visit the Children’s Museum or stroll through the preserved Strawbery Banke Museum and be transported back to another era. Across the street is beautiful Prescott Park which sits on ten acres of flower
gardens, walkways and grass areas all designed for public use. In the summer enjoy the trial garden, planted with over 500 flower varieties. In the evenings, sit under the stars and enjoy a play or a musical presentation.                                                                
Head west to Manchester, the largest city. The Red Arrow Diner is open 24 hours so you’re never too early or too late for a meal. Catch a ball game at Fishercats Stadium, a Double-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays major-league club and then watch the fireworks. They’re as good as the fourth of July. The stadium is located in the Mill yard, once a thriving textile center owned by the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company and now the home of restaurants, a science museum and upscale apartments. One of my main characters in Pick up Lines for Murder lives in the Mill Yard.
A northerly direction leads to the Lakes Region. Drive through Concord, the State Capitol and stop for an educational tour of the State House. The New Hampshire State House is the only state capitol whose legislature still sits in its original chambers-no small feat, since the 424 member New Hampshire General Court is the largest state legislative body, and the third largest legislature among English-speaking peoples. After a quick tour, head for Weirs Beach in Laconia and hop on the Mount Washington for a tour of Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in New Hampshire. Once on board, catch a glimpse to the north of the White Mountains. John Greenleaf Whittier, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne Hawthorne are a few poets inspired to write about the beauty of the Mountains.  Those same mountians inspired me to make them home to my hero in Murder by Heart
The cruise lasts about three hours but, for a shorter ride, catch one of the mail boats. The Captian stops along the way deliver mail direct to New Hampsire's local residents. 
A native New Hampshirite, I love books and thanks my family and Memorial High School English teachers.
Exposed to a wide variety of literature, I never planned on becoming a writer. When I began reading romances at a late age I was working two part time jobs in the field of education, taking a course, and caring for my husband and two children.

As if I didn’t have enough to do, I looked for  an entertaining diversion. During a visit to a book store, I discovered the romance section. I devoured every historical by Johanna Lindsey, Julie Garwood, and Amanda Quick then expanded into contemporaries.
My life changed when I found a world of romance on the Prodigy Romance Board in the early 1990s. There, I learned about Romance Writers of America and became a member.
I realized  authorship was my calling.

For another road trip adventure with Nora LeDuc or the characters in her novels, visit her website, www.noraleduc.com or find her on FaceBook.

July 13, 2014

Nevada Via the Alamo with Mary Jean Kelso

Who knew what trails our ancestors might blaze for us when they boarded ships abroad and sailed to America?

As for me, I have been a Nevada resident for eleven years, now. Yet, I knew my roots were in Texas -- a state I had never stepped foot in even though I had crossed it several times by train.

My career was created by my ancestors -- without my knowledge until the last couple of years. 

Reported by interviewers to be "prolific" I now see through research material linking me to William Jennings Bryan, who ran for U. S. president three times, which we have something in common. References state that he was "a prolific writer."

I have ties to the Alamo through my 2nd great-grandfather who was killed there during the battle. Giving me the opportunity to belong to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas and the Alamo Defenders Descendents Association. His son, Samuel K., my great-grandfather, was one of Captain Cady's First Mounted Texas Rangers. They did all the hard work and didn't live to know the glory. While I write western stores, previously unaware that it was my "calling" to do so.
I am sure I am an author due to inheriting the good ol' "stick-to-it-ive-ness of never giving up.

In honor of my relatives' sacrifices to build a state and a nation, my daughter, Wendy Whiteman, and I co-authored my one factual book.  A Visual History Record of Alamo Defender Gordon Cartwright Jennings’ Family released March 1 and introduced March 8 at the Alamo Society Symposium in San Antonio. It has its own Facebook page where it can be ordered through PayPal.

As a Nevada resident, I and my daughter make a yearly trip to Texas to honor the ancestors who did the really hard work at the hallowed grounds of the Alamo.
Since I am charged with writing about Nevada as a Nevada Author, I must fill in the blanks with why I see Nevada as similar to Texas.

While Texans are deeply Western in their lifestyle, there must be some competition as to which state is more "Cowboy" -- Nevada or Texas. I'm sure they must be close in their bragging rights to be Country.
I have been a journalist most of my life. Besides holding down a full-time job, and raising a family, I worked writing articles for newspapers and magazine while my true desire was to write fiction, Children's fiction. When that was nearly impossible to break into, I turned to Young Adult and had some success. (My first book, Mystery in Virginia City, has been reprinted 3 times and is now released as Goodbye Is Forever).

Even then, in 1984, my subconscious drew from historical senses while writing a contemporary story about Virginia City, Nevada. I set the story in the historic site and used the town's original locations for a backdrop.
Thousands of people who visit Nevada plan a side trip to the old town where Samuel Clemens transformed into Mark Twain. 

I was honored, at a book signing recently, to speak from Mark Twain's personal podium that was one of very few items to be saved from a church fire many years ago. Truly an honor in an author's journey!

If you come to Reno, Nevada, plan a visit to Virginia City. Gather you children and show them what life was like a hundred and fifty, or more, years ago. I believe it will make history come alive for them. I know it did for me.

I am convinced that growing up hearing about family history is what led me to write, naturally, about homesteading and pioneering. I enjoy imagining how the people would have moved about their daily lives when their activities, to us, are now so antiquated.

And, when you think about it, whether I set a story in New Mexico, Texas or Nevada, life wasn't that much different when you crossed the borders from one state, or territory, to another.

There is much to see in Nevada, whether it is a lively ghost town, like Virginia City, or ghost towns mostly inhabited by the spirits when the tourists return to evening entertainment in the casinos. 

Outdoor activities are abundant whether it is Lake Tahoe nearby or a hotel facade on Virginia Street in Reno that boasts one of the tallest climbing walls in existence. Museums are plentiful -- many geared to children.
River rafting and other sports are plentiful as well as hunting and fishing in season.

There is truly something for everyone in Nevada. Check this site for more information: http://www.travelnevada.com/.

Why did I title this piece "Nevada Via the Alamo"? I believe I had a grandmother that was as headstrong as I am. And, we are told, her grandmother, Catherine Overton Avery McCutcheon Jennings, was even more so. (She led the settlers away from Santa Ana's army that was coming to kill them.)
When things didn't work out for my grandmother's family in Texas, they hit the Chisholm Trail and headed to ranch in Montana. Leaving most of the Jennings/Williams relatives behind. Since my father worked for the railroad he transferred to various locations in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Eventually he moved his family to Oregon, where I was born and lived most of my life until moving to Nevada. 

Still, although I didn't have my feet on Texas soil until two years ago, when I did, it answered many questions for me. Questions like, "Why do I write Historical novels instead of Sci-fi?" "Why do historic buildings feel comfortable to me?" And, "Why do I so enjoy visiting these places?"
I suggest you look into your genealogy. What you write just might be in your genes.

Visit Mary Jean Kelso here:  http://maryjeankelsoauthor.wix.com/mjkel
(all info provided by author)