Saturday, June 29, 2013


          Telling spooky stories for a living is an interesting, if not a bizarre, livelihood. Both Berk and I have always enjoyed hearing and telling good stories. Some would say that a large part of being a trial attorney (my previous occupation) is knowing how to tell a good story. But, it is one thing to just tell entertaining stories, which we enjoy, in and of itself, and an entirely different thing to want to tell a story that will scare the dickens out of your audience. That is taking the art to a whole new level. Whether or not that is a higher level is open for debate.

          Berk and I were told scary stories as a basic part of our growing up experience. I don’t remember a time when we weren’t telling each other spine chilling tales. As a child I can vividly recall lying awake for hours after hearing a horrifying saga told right at bed time; thinking that every creaking noise, every whisper of the wind, was the latest monster coming to eat me.

          I can also vividly recall as a very small child, maybe three or four years old, the night some mysterious thing came scratching on the window screen of our bedroom, which was an extra room built on the back of the house. Not only did it scare me, but it scared my two older brothers, Berk and Allen. At my tender age, I knew that if the big boys were frightened, then there must really be something to be frightened about. Turns out, it was our mom, bringing the clothes in from the line, who took a stick and used it to scratch on our window screen.

          Our mom, now deceased, was not above scaring her own children, or anyone else for that matter. She told me several times about once, when still a newlywed, she snuck up the basement stairs and flung the kitchen door open, shouting “BOO!” startling her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and two year old niece. Grandma Washburn was not fond of those types of hijinks and pointing an accusing finger at my mother exclaimed, “For Shame!” By the time my father got there to see what was going on, everyone in the room was in tears.

          That did not cure my mother though. She loved to scare anyone and everyone. It is with special fondness that I recall one Halloween. I was in junior high, and my older brother and sister, Allen and Linda, received permission to throw a Halloween party at our house for their high school friends. (Berk and Ann were both gone to college at this time). There were treats, soda, and games in which even us younger kids were allowed to participate. But the culmination of the party, its climax, was a scary story told by Mom.

          I wish I remembered more of the details of that story. I only heard it that one time. I should get together with Allen and Linda sometime and see if we can recreate it. (This was, after all, over forty years ago.) It was a story our mother made up on her own, as she often did. She said she woke up at about 2:00 am, and the story just came to her as she lay in bed.

          It didn’t have much of a plot. I do recall it had to do with a band of outlaws that had terrorized our high desert countryside during the nineteenth century. The way Mom told it, the ghosts of those outlaws were still plundering and pillaging. She told several snippets about people running into the ghosts and the results of their awful meetings. I also remember something about a man hanging by his feet from the ceiling with half his head missing.

          The story was told in our living room, with Mom sitting on the hearth of the fireplace. All those teenagers, about twenty or so, sat on the floor around her feet. All lights were turned off. Only a few rays from the streetlight outside managed to find their way into the room. Mom told the story in a hushed and grim voice, as if every word was true. She sounded as if she was sounding a deadly-serious warning.

          She was about half way through the story before some of the girls started to whimper and whine. The boys were “obviously” too brave to complain, but at one point, one of the older boys suddenly got up and left the room. He didn’t come back until the story was over. One girl called out twice during the story, claiming she saw someone sneaking by the windows. Of course, whenever she hollered, everyone else did too, even though they didn’t know why.

          She was correct! What she saw was Allen sneaking around the side of the house to where he had unlocked a window. Just when my mom reached the zenith of horror in the story, Allen opened the window and started to climb through it into the house. He was wearing a full-head mask that he had painted with glow marks along the dark-red gore painted on the distorted face.

          The screaming and crying was glorious. Even some of the guys screamed. Finally one of the boys yelled out (with more panic and stress in his voice than I’m sure he would have liked), “It’s Allen! It’s Allen! I know it’s Allen!”

          It still took a minute to get everyone calmed down. By the time Allen removed his mask only a few of the girls, and maybe one of the boys, were still weeping.

          How much fun was that? The best Halloween EVER!

          So, perhaps Berk’s and my love for scary stories is nothing more than a chromosomal phenomenon. (I could just say “we came by it honestly”, but how trite is that?) However we came by our fascination for horror stories, we love them, and hope to keep telling them for a long time to come. We might even make a little money at it. Mom would be so proud.

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          To see the original post go here:  Bibliophilia, Please  Our fantastic blog tour host, Kayla Beck, has a wealth of reviews on her site.  Pay her a visit and browse!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

BLOG TOUR: Teri Harman talks about BLOOD MOON

Willa dreams of true events and her best friend is a ghost. Simon can heal any wound with a touch and senses others’ emotions, intentions. All their lives they’ve felt alone in their bizarre abilities, hiding behind a facade of normalcy, wondering why and how. The night Simon walks into the Twelve Acres Diner and meets Willa face to face, in a swirl of electric heat, they are bound to one another and glimpse the magic of who they are.
 Across town a witch is held prisoner in the derelict basement of an old Victorian house. One night as it rains, she dares to reach her filthy, scarred hand out the window. Willa, walking home from work, recognizes the pathetic hand from a recent, terrible dream.
 After a daring rescue of the witch, Willa and Simon are catapulted into the alluring but dangerous world of witchcraft and the magic of The Six Gifts. Answers to all their questions are within reach, but they’ve stepped into the middle of a deadly fight for the Powers of the Earth. Do they stay, risk their lives on the promise of power, or walk away?
We are excited to welcome fellow author Teri Harman to our blog today to talk about her book, BLOOD MOON, newly released by Jolly Fish Press on June 22, 2013.  (If you want to know what WE think about her book, go here: Our Review of BLOOD MOON )
First off, here are her answers to questions we’ve wanted to ask ever since we read BLOOD MOON. 
1.  What inspired you to write a novel about witches?

It was actually a Halloween party. Every year I host a witch themed Halloween party for the women in my family. In 2010, I found an incredible location: 100 year old school house out in the middle of nowhere. The Camp Floyd School House was so perfect I needed a party to match. I started reading up on witches and magic to get ideas for the party, but was so fascinated by what I read that it soon became inspiration for a novel.

2.  Where did the many detailed magical elements in your book come from?

As I read up on witches, I came across a technique/belief system known as Natural Magic. Natural magicians believe in the power of nature and that every rock, tree, plant, herb, drop of water has specific magical powers. I loved this; it fell in line with how I thought witches should be. So I developed the magic of the Moonlight Magic around this system, adding my own flare and imagination.               

3.  What is the draw of magic for readers today?

I think we all like to imagine there are things mystical and wondrous, things that do not fit into reality. The escape of magical books, movies and TV is tonic to the stress and, sometimes, monotony of life. Plus it feeds the imagination and is lots of fun.

4.  Is there a scene in your book that is especially significant to you and why?

Chapter 8. The scene of a pale, dirty hand reaching out a basement window was the first scene I wrote for BLOOD MOON. It was inspired by a dream I had of this hand reaching out the window to touch the rain. The person attached to the hand is very important to Willa and Simon, my main characters, and her rescue a critical turning point in their story. 

5. What is the writing process like for you?

It’s chaos. I’m a stay-at-home mom of three kids, ages 7, 5 and 3. I write when I can and am constantly interrupted. But when I do write, I write instinctively; I’m not an outliner. This makes for some messy manuscripts that require a lot of fixing and cleaning up, but it works for me. I have a ‘crazy person wall’ where I keep each chapter and scene on a big index card. This helps me keep track of everything and makes it easy to rearrange scenes so that everything flows well. I also have a binder in which I keep notes.

It takes me about 8-12 months to finish a manuscript. Before it’s done I often wonder if it will be possible J

Thanks, Teri!
Written words alone cannot do justice to this fun and gracious lady.  We'll let her tell you herself how BLOOD MOON came to be.

You can find BLOOD MOON on Amazon  and Barnes & Noble
To learn more of Teri Harmon visit her on:

Before you leave, be sure to check out the Giveaway below.    Happy Reading!

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

REVIEW of Blood Moon by Teri Harman

Teri Harman's new book,  BLOOD MOON, has now been released by Jolly Fish Press.  Much can be said of this magical book--we can only scratch the surface.

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All her life, Willa’s abilities to see ghosts and dream of real events have alienated others from her.  Even her parents pretend her strange powers don’t exist.  Willa is alone—unless you count the ghost in the Twelve Acres History Museum who is her best friend.

Then one summer evening at the Twelve Acres Diner, Simon, the new cook, walks into the diner and Willa discovers a new ability—an instant and electric connection to him in a way she never imagined.  Not only does Simon feel that same magical bond, but he also has unusual abilities. 
When one of Willa’s dreams prompts the two of them to rescue a woman imprisoned in the derelict basement of the town founder, Willa and Simon are catapulted into a desperate race to stay alive and ahead of dark powers that would kill them or use their abilities for their own dark purposes.  However, even Wynter, the Light witch they rescued, and her witch husband, Rowan, cannot fully protect them from the power of Archard, head of the Dark Coven.
BLOOD MOON is a bewitching book.  Teri Harman pulls us in, not only with the rapid unfolding of her story, but with the sheer force of our connection to her characters.  With a deft hand, she sketches out their minds and hearts, investing us with concern for their welfare or wishing them gone.  Even the ghosts become real persons with not only histories but purposes in their half-lives.  Some of those purposes we suspect are not fully revealed in this first book.
In order to introduce Ruby Plate, Amelia, or others, Teri Harman time-hops back to key events.  She does this so adroitly, that I never felt any time warp.   Invested as I was in these characters, I welcomed these opportunities to know them better.
Something must be said of the enchanting world of witches contained in BLOOD MOON.  I have read many books using magic and enjoyed the fantastical element.  The detailed and congruent magic in BLOOD MOON, however, became so logical that it seemed like a new reality, a new normal.
I am glad there will be sequels to BLOOD MOON.  The book can be enjoyed by itself, but my appetite is whetted now, and I want more. 
If you'd like to learn more about Teri Harman and BLOOD MOON  go to:
Twitter: @TeriHarman

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Want a taste of what is in store for you in this fantastic book?  Check out the book trailer below.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


(Find the original post on Adrienne Monson's blog.)

CC Stan Shebs /Wikimedia
Kingston Range Excelsior Mine Road 1
          Summer vacation was here at last. Jay Bell along with my brother Hugh and I were ready for an adventure. Jay borrowed his dad’s old pickup truck, and we told our parents we were going camping for a week. When we said camping, we meant exploring. We could drive hundreds of miles in just about any direction from Trona, California, and not meet another human being or even cross a paved road.
           From Searles Valley to Panamint Valley to Death Valley, the terrain was rugged with mountain trails climbing thousands of feet above sea level into regions of permanent snow and valley trails dropping hundreds of feet below sea level into arid country that rarely saw rain or moisture of any kind. Many trails were washed out, overgrown with sage brush and barely usable, but they were the only way to get to old mining sites and ghost towns. Some sites didn’t show up on any maps, and we were always excited to stumble across a new find.
           That morning, packing was easy–we threw everything in the back of the truck. We were careful to bring lots of extra batteries for our flashlights. Sometimes we spent days exploring old, abandoned mines that we found along the way. In addition to topping off the gas tank, we also brought along a backup can of gasoline. We would need to make our gas last all week. Of course, this was B.C. (before cellular phones), so it wasn’t unusual for us to be out of touch for days at a time. It didn’t dawn on us to tell our parents where we were going, or even which direction we might be going in–and they didn’t ask. We were always going camping.
           The first day out, we drove into the mountains, getting as far away from civilization as possible. Though the desert seems desolate on the surface, we saw lots of wildlife. Vultures, hawks and eagles filled the sky. Besides the ever present scorpions, tarantulas and snakes, jackrabbits bolted from the scrub as we passed and, in the distance, a scraggly coyote appeared at times, watching us warily. We knew mountain lions prowled the high country, but they were usually too smart to show themselves. The sky was clear, life was good, and we didn’t have a care in the world. This was our kingdom, and we were the unchallenged rulers.
           Finally realizing the sun had long disappeared over the mountain tops, we knew that darkness was imminent. It was time to pick a campsite safe from wildlife and weather while we still had daylight. We were driving up a deep mountain ravine, just coming out onto an embankment along the wash, when suddenly loud popping noises rang out from behind the dashboard. All the dashboard lights blinked out and the engine died. I turned the key off, put the truck in park, and tried to restart the engine, but nothing happened–nothing at all. The truck’s electrical systems were totally dead.
          We sat silently in the deepening gloom, surrounded by smoke and the smell of an electrical fire, before the acrid smoke forced us to wind down the windows to air out the cab.
          After a long silence, Hugh leaned out the window and said, “I don’t think this is a very good place to park.” The truck was perched perilously on the edge of the ravine and straddled what seemed to be a well used wildlife trail.
           After another long silence, Jay asked, “Did anyone think to tell our parents where we were going?”
          When no one answered, I said, “No, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because we told them we were going camping for a week. No one is going to think to worry about us until the week has passed.”
          Hugh leaned back and closed his eyes. “It will take a week to hike back to that last paved road we crossed.” He let out a long, weary sigh.
           Jay nodded. “And another week, if we’re lucky, before anyone drives by.”
           “And,” I added, “Unless we can figure out how to carry one of those heavy jugs of water, all our water will be back here with the truck.”
          Daylight was fading fast, so we decided to get out and look around while we could still see. Things didn’t look good. Numerous smaller gullies fed from above into the large ravine, on the edge of which our truck was precariously stalled. If it rained higher up in the mountains, we could lose our truck in a flash flood. Also, all the wildlife trails coming down the mountain merged together in a wide path going under our truck and down the deep ravine.
           Our truck was now a road block for any local critters passing through the area in the night. The mountain grade was too steep for us to push the truck up the hill away from the ravine and the trail, and there was no way we were going to roll the truck back down the hill where it would be deeper in the ravine and in even greater danger from flashflood. Like it or not, our truck was stuck right where it was.
           Once the deep blackness of a moonless night was upon us, we hauled out the flashlights. While we continued scouting the surrounding area, we gathered sticks and brush into a pile on the trail up the slope from the truck. As Hugh got a fire burning, we heard the yelping and howling of a coyote pack not far away in one of the higher gullies. Our bon-fire wouldn’t last long–there wasn’t much wood in the area, and we hadn’t brought any fire wood with us. Without a fire, the coyotes would soon be down to see who was trespassing in their territory.
           Suddenly, we heard the sound of rocks cascading down the side of the ravine not far downhill from us. Something big was coming up the wildlife trail toward the truck. Without a word, we all quickly climbed back into the cab, rolling up windows, locking doors, turning out flashlights, and slumping down in our seats–as if it couldn’t see us, if we couldn’t see it.
           Outside, everything had gone quiet–even the coyotes had stopped howling. After holding my breath for an eternity, I slowly lifted my head to peek out the driver’s side window, just in time to see a dark shadow glide around to the front of the truck, out of sight. Lifting my head slightly higher to look through the windshield, I saw our little bon-fire had died down to a few glowing embers, blowing in the gentle wind.
lawren / 123RF Stock Photo
           As I watched, the dark shadow raised up slowly in front of the truck, blocking my view of the embers, but still not revealing any detail of what it was. If only I could turn on the headlights and see what was out there! But all the truck’s electrical systems were dead, and I knew if I turned on my flashlight, the window would reflect back as much light as it let through. Whatever was out there would see us in the cab.
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          Suspense is the result of proper plot development, and a writer has many tools to use in developing a storyline that will capture the reader’s imagination and carry her/him along towards an anticipated destruction or salvation. Tools like point of view can put the reader in a character’s mind, building an empathetic bond. Repetition of seemingly innocent facts can build tension. Foreshadowing creates curiosity, and the list goes on. Make the reader hungry and then slowly, carefully feed and starve the reader as the tale unfolds.
          Suffice it to say, in my story above, after a very long night, the truck’s headlights become the eventual means of our salvation, but that’s for another day.
          Of course, the story doesn’t end here, but the scene has been set and hopefully your expectations have been prepared for a journey through the unknown. The best part of the story is yet to come and the reader should now be voluntarily on board and excited for the ride–hungry for the rest of the story. Suspense is like an unsatisfied hunger that keeps the reader reading until the end of the story, where the hunger will be satisfied. In the best stories, the reader relishes both the hunger, while it lasts, as well as the eventual satisfaction of that hunger.
           What about the story?  Want to know more?

Saturday, June 15, 2013


I took this picture of my Mom and Dad
when I was 7 years old.
I have many memories of my Dad, but one sticks out in my mind from the time we lived in Trona, California.  Dad was the only dentist in town and active in the community.  For many years he served on the local school board.
                 During one school board meeting, the recreational use of dynamite by local high school youth became a hot issue.  Trona was a small, isolated town in the Mojave Desert.  The  principal employers were the local mineral processing plants and the railroad.  The desert, however, was studded with old mines and active prospecting sites, where stashes of abandoned dynamite lay hidden, ready for the taking by exploring teenagers.
                In that meeting, Dad waxed a bit hot under the collar on what should be done about this problem.  One member interrupted to say, “AlDean, your son is one of the ringleaders.”
                That stopped my Dad cold.

                I confess.  I was guilty as charged.  My friends and I for years had collected old dynamite.  Dynamite didn’t scare me.  With the hard caliche layer in our desert soils, dynamite use was pretty common.  Besides, I had looked up dynamite facts in a university library while I was there for a youth conference.   Along with learning the basics of how to do a blast, I had researched safety.   What could go wrong?
                I was late that night coming home from football practice.  As I walked in, I saw Dad sitting on a kitchen chair in the living room, facing the door, staring at me.  This was not usual.
                “Come sit down on the couch,” he instructed.  “We need to talk.”  His face was serious.
                 Uh-oh.  This did not look good.
                “At the school board meeting tonight, they said you were one of the kids using dynamite.  Is this true?”
                I never lied to my Dad.  “Yes.”
                He proceeded to tell me what a dumb thing that was.  He said I would get myself killed or kill someone else.  “What are you thinking?” he finished.
                “I never blow up anything that is worth anything, Dad.  Just old abandoned cars and stuff, big rocks and things like that.  And I am always careful.”
                My Dad shook his finger at me.  “Do you have any dynamite now?”
                “Where is it?
                “Hidden out in the desert.”
                That stopped him for a moment.  “Well, get rid of it.”
                “Dad, how am I supposed to do that? You can’t just put it out for the garbage truck.”
                Dad stared at me for a moment.  “Well, this weekend go out into the desert and blow it all up.  Just be careful.  And don’t get yourself killed.”
                “Okay, Dad. Don’t worry.”
                His face relaxed a little.  “And don’t tell your Mom.”
                That weekend my friends and I had a blast blowing up 50 or more sticks of dynamite in some of the largest blasts we had ever engineered.  That evening, Dad asked me if I had any dynamite.

                “It’s all gone,” I answered truthfully.
                I did do dynamiting while away at college, but never again at home.  After that evening, Dad never brought up the subject and we never talked about dynamite again.  He was never backward about letting me know when I messed up, but then the subject was in the past.
                My Dad was my good friend as an adult.  I always valued his wisdom and I miss him now that he’s gone.  I know everyone thinks they have the best Dad, but I’m pretty sure that I did.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fate, Karma, or Blind Luck

            Last Saturday, June 1st, I finally met Rachel—THE Rachel.  To understand why she is special to Andy and me, I’ll have to give you some background.

            During a writer’s conference that Andy and I attended in New York City during November of 2010, literary agents at the conference repeatedly expressed the need for Young Adult horror manuscripts.  Andy and I looked at each other and said, “We have a scary story to tell.” For much of our growing up, we had told a campfire story that scared the socks off of family and boy scouts.  For the next 2 days as we traveled the subways around NYC, we discussed characters and plot twists and turns.
            Once back in Colorado, we spent the next 9 months writing and perfecting the manuscript.   I sent out over 150 query letters in 2011 to literary agents, hoping one would want to represent us.  Although we had several opportunities to submit portions of our manuscript, we had no takers.

            At this point, Rachel Black entered our lives, though we didn’t know it.  She was a member of a writer’s group and attended a writers’ conference in Utah where a publishing company named Jolly Fish Press made a presentation.  Rachel was impressed and told her sister, Becca, “They seem pretty sharp and they’re looking for manuscripts.”

            Well, Becca took the word back to her father-in-law, Andy, recommending we try Jolly Fish Press.  Middle of January 2012, I sent Jolly Fish Press a query letter with 30 pages of the manuscript.  The next weeks were feverish as we responded to requests for more pages, continually polishing until we were asked to send the complete manuscript.  Then we waited.  And waited.

             One vivid memory stands out.  My critique group was just finishing up in a meeting room at the Courtyard by Marriot near my home, when I looked up to see my wife standing at the door.  All she would tell me as we left the hotel was, "Chris Loke, chief editor at Jolly Fish Press wants to talk with you."  I got Andy on a conference call.  Together we listened to the enthusiasm in Chris' voice as he welcomed us to Jolly Fish Press.              
            Such exciting times followed and continue to unfold.  But in the middle of it all is a little thread that stretches back to Rachel Black.  So we say, “Thanks, Rachel” (and Becca) and shake our heads thinking how slim the odds were we'd hear of Jolly Fish Press or have a book published.
            Was it fate?  Was it karma?  Or just blind luck?  I’m not answering that one.

            What do you think?
            All I can say is, "Let's Party!"