Reach for the stars

One afternoon, not so long ago, I found this attached to my basement wall.  It’s artwork from one of my son’s friends duct-taped in their hangout room.  So, here’s a warning: Once attached to my home I get to keep it–especially if it’s cool.  🙂

UFO Graphic

Artwork taped to wall.

UFO Artwork

Of course I had to frame it!

You’ll be hearing from me again soon!  Until then, reach for the stars!

Jan

My first book signing

CELTIC MOON coverCeltic Moon is now available! It seems so surreal to finally type those words. As many of you know, the path to publication is not easy. When I was first learning How to write a book, I loved what I was doing but it took me a while to ge tthe hang of it. For me, it took six novels and ten years, but I am grateful for the opportunity, and for the journey that has brought me to this wonderful place. I hope you enjoy the adventure as much as I enjoyed writing it.

This week has been filled with several heart-warming moments, a few of which I must share. Yesterday, the Bangor Public Library hosted my very first book signing. All proceeds from this signing were donated to the library. My publishing house (ACE/Penguin) graciously donated books for this event. Honestly, I had not expected to go through them all, but am so thrilled to announce that the library sold every single one and raised almost eight hundred dollars.

I have fond memories of this library, having worked there for many years. I have since retired, but over the years patrons have given me grape vines, perennials, herbs and garlic, because they knew I loved to garden–and enough recipes to create a cookbook. If I mentioned my overrun zucchini plants I would have hand-written recipes using zucchini given to me throughout the day. I’m smiling now as I write this next tidbit, because I once blogged about the increased popularity of erotic literature, and I had some interesting titles secretly appearing in my box and on my desk from patron’s private collections. I remember organizing a writing group for teens, their enthusiasm and creativity, and later, a published book from one of the members. A co-worker and I co-founded a book group that was featured in a cover story of the Library Journal and was awarded a grant to buy ereaders for all its members. Later, I was thrilled to watch that same co-worker accept the RWA’s librarian of the year award.

Having my first book signing in a place that has brought me such joy was the perfect way to launch my debut novel! I will admit it was somewhat strange to be sitting on the other side of that desk.

Library Book Signing

My first book signing at the Bangor Public Library.

Sweets from the library signing

And what’s a book signing without coffee and sweets?

So, to everyone who came to the library to buy a copy of Celtic Moon—THANK YOU! I truly appreciate your support. I will leave you with a quote from the Library Journal because I think it’s fitting. The quote is from me, about this library, its patrons and readers, and our shared love of books.

Until later,
Jan

One summer night DeLima was struck with how little things have changed as she and her colleagues were locking up after a long day at the library. “Our book group members had moved on to the front lawn and were still laughing and talking about their favorite reads–this diverse group, patrons of all ages and lifestyles, had found a common joy,” she says. “Whether we download to an ereader or read the traditional way in paper and print, we still want to share our love of books with others.”

~Library Journal, September 2011

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Take a photo stroll around my cottage garden

I have been tucked away in my office writing, so I haven’t done much this year to my little cottage garden. However, my garden didn’t seem to mind, because summer has arrived in full bloom without me. I have more hummingbirds this year, butterflies, birds, and bumblebees than ever before. In the mornings, when I walk around with my first cup of coffee, it is like listening to a symphony of nature. It is so beautiful. One day I’ll have to post a video on my blog or directly on my Instagram story so you all can enjoy the birds with me. I suppose I’ll need to look at getting some free followers before I start posting online, I’m not much of an Instagrammer!

My garden is only small but I love it just the way it is. At the minute, it’s manageable. However, when I get older, I may not be able to keep on top of all of the jobs that need to be done to ensure the garden looks lovely. In that case, I’ll probably need to find someone who can sort my garden for me. Perhaps a company like https://www.lawncare.net/ could maintain the garden, it’s worth keeping a business like that in mind for when we all get older!

Although my garden is smaller than others, I was speaking to one of my friends from Australia the other day though and she told me that she is currently in the process of having a granny flat built her in a large garden. Her parents are not as mobile as they used to be so she wants them to live as close to her as possible. It turns out there are plenty of granny flat builders in the Sydney area who can create the granny flat of your dreams provided you have enough space. I thought it was such a lovely idea as caring for your loved ones is so important.

Back to my garden now though and I love perennials, and I tend to choose hardy ones that come back each year without fuss. Peonies, poppies, Dutchman’s pipe, climbing roses, wisteria, clematis, honeysuckle, and allium are all in bloom. Everyone always asks how much time this takes to maintain, and truly, it isn’t much. I do one round of weekend weeding and mulching each year in the spring, and then let it go for the rest of the season, except for an occasional offender I might see while walking about in the evenings when my husband is grilling. Of course, there’s the odd job in the garden we’re not able to do ourselves unless we want to put ourselves in harm’s way, trying to tend to or remove a tree being the one that pops into my mind. If we ever have a need to do these tasks, we’ll likely use the arborist services (like those found here – www.treeserviceremoval.com) for assistance.

Although, for whatever reason, clover abounds in my flower beds this year. I’m just going to take that as a sign of good luck. Here are a few pictures I took yesterday. There will be another round of photos come mid-summer, when my daisies, coneflowers, dahlias, sunflowers and morning glories arrive.

Until then, here’s a little photo stroll through my garden in June…

Pinks and Poppies

Pinks and poppies spill over the walkway.

Lantern through the garden gate

Open the garden gate to where the lanterns have been hung.

Peony Bouquet

Pick a bouquet of peonies for the table, and don’t mind the ants because they are working hard to pollinate them for next year.

Grape buds

Grapes have begun to grow. They were a gift from a library patron and are over five years old now. Maybe this year we’ll try to make wine. Or drink someone else’s attempt and eat the grapes.

Sugar water over hanging plants

Boil some sugar water and fill the feeders.

Hummingbird

For the hummingbirds to enjoy.

Hostas and Clematis

Hostas keep the clematis’ roots cool.

Gate Keeper

The gate keeper assesses the situation…

Willow

And then snuggles into her favorite shaded spot.

Climbing Roses

The climbing roses have begun to open. They get one uninterrupted bloom before the Japanese beetles hatch and much away.

Dutchman's Pipe Vine

The Dutchman’s pipe vines its way around the garden bell. Look closely and you’ll see it’s in bloom. Maybe this year we’ll get Dutchman Pipe butterflies.

Hope you all have a wonderful summer!

Best wishes,
Jan

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Highlands of Maine in Winter

Just an hour north of Bangor is a beautiful lake and mountain region, with secluded villages and towns along the way that seem to have defied time. They have kept their unique heritage while the cities have moved on. Greenville is slightly northwest of Bangor, while Millinocket and Baxter State Park are northeast, but the mountains connect within the valleys, if not by road, then by rivers, lakes, streams and forest trails. The cluster of mountains is sometimes referred to as The Highlands of Maine, especially by other romantics like myself.

My husband and I took an afternoon drive yesterday up through Greenville and into Kokadjo. We have never taken this route by car, only by snowmobile. We learned that our car’s GPS system didn’t recognize Kokadjo as a town—that’s how isolated it is. To snowmobilers it is a central hub for gas, and it is right in the center of all those beautiful forests and mountains. Winter thaw has begun. Snowmobilers are expecting just one more weekend before mud season is upon us.

I love this area of Maine, so much so that I set my first book here. While I have made up my own fictitious village, the environment is very real and just as isolated as I have portrayed in my series. Whilst this can be relaxing, it could also be quite scary and lonely. Having a house out in the middle of nowhere would frighten some people, especially because of the lack of neighbors and other people. In the event of any house break-ins, people would be very secluded and almost a prime target. It wouldn’t be surprising if the few residents of this area all had an alarm system fitted to their houses in order to make themselves feel safer. There are definitely pros and cons to living in an isolated area like this.

Wolves could easily hide for centuries in one of these villages in the valley of mountains, where modern devices can’t even locate. Mine have! Many of the people living in this area have to decide between things like whether or not to opt for the survival axe or hatchet? This tool can be used for gathering wood and even for defending against some of the not so friendly creatures dwelling in the forest and mountains.

I have learned on my travels that most people outside of Maine are familiar with our coastal towns, which are also stunning, but go inland and you will find Baxter State Park, the forest area around Katahdin, which is mandated not to allow any unnatural construction. There’s an occasional outhouse, and a few outer buildings, but for the most part it has remained untouched by modern development; it is also the end of the Appalachian Trail. Henry Thoreau wrote quite a few poetic verses on the Katahdin region. I love this one, perhaps even more so because the forest is still wild, and the moose still thrive…

The moose will perhaps one day become extinct; but how naturally then, when it exists only as a fossil relic, and unseen as that, may the poet or sculptor invent a fabulous animal with similar branching and leafy horns, – a sort of fucus or lichen in bone, – to be the inhabitant of such a forest as this!

~Henry David Thoreau, The Maine Woods

The environment of Katahdin is perfect for many wild creatures. There are rumors that gray wolves have been sighted but for now they are just rumors—our own local urban legend. Wolves are in the woods of our Canadian neighbors to the north, it is not a stretch of logic that they would migrate south if the environment supports their habitat. Wolves, I suspect, don’t recognize state or country lines on human maps, only forests and food. Perhaps one day that legend will be revealed as truth. I have not seen them in my woodland adventures, but I have seen many a deer and moose. I’ve seen a few deer trail cameras and feeders around the woodland areas so I’m not surprised to have seen so many deer! A friend of mine is into trophy hunting and told me to check out Feedthatgame.com to learn more about deer before I came on this trip. I learnt about some of the different types of deer and I could even tell my husband which type we were looking at. I also wouldn’t have known what the feeders were if I didn’t do some research so I’m really glad that I did some!

I don’t have any book news I can share just yet, other than I have seen the first draft of my cover and it is ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! I have printed it out and taped copies all over my house—and can’t wait to share it with you!

Until then, I have posted a few pictures below that I took yesterday on our drive, and you can see why this area inspired more than one author over the years.

Jan

Kakadjo Sign

Kokadjo Town Sign

Kokadjo Cottages

Cottages on the bank of a stream. (Kokadjo, Maine)

Greenville Maine

Moosehead Lake in Winter (Greenville, Maine)

Sangerville Bridge

Covered bridge (Sangerville, Maine)

Tree Farm

Tree Farm

Maine Highlands

Highlands of Maine in Winter (Greenville, Maine)


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Snowmobiling Around the Mountain

My husband and I haven’t had much time to go snowmobiling this winter—Mother Nature having been a bit temperamental lately. Four days ago it was twenty below in Bangor, the kind of cold that hurts when you breathe—and yesterday it was in the fifties, with wind gusts that felt like a tropical storm. My backyard is completely bare of snow, but they are already predicting more soon.

We did get one ride in a month ago. I’m not comfortable riding over lakes and rivers with somewhat heavy machinery, and that’s not including myself in that weight estimate by the way, but my husband convinced me to try this sport about two years ago. My family is from this area; I have heard countless times, “You can drive a truck on that ice.” And people do, I’m not kidding, but I’ve also seen trucks that have sunken under the ice. I’m sure the truck drivers in question would have had some interesting conversations with their insurers or law firms regarding their truck accident and what happened… Anyway, we’re hardly brave enough to take our snowmobiles over the ice, nevermind a truck!

However, there are so many trails around Katahdin that don’t require sledding over ice, and I’m so glad my husband wore me down, and will admit I’ve become a bit addicted now. My favorite route is to go from Millinocket to Kokadjo, then either up to Greenville or over to Northeast Carry. The trails are like untouched highways in the middle of the forest, with panoramic views of snow-capped mountains. It is so incredibly beautiful, and I’m hoping we can get a few more rides in before spring, weather permitting. I am always inspired to write afterward, having been emersed in the surroundings of my story.

Here are a few photos taken from our last trip…

Katahdin in Winter

This photo was taken in Baxter State Park on Katahdin.

Jan on snowmobile

Me

Stream on Katahdin

Stream on Katahdin

Entrance rock to Baxter State Park

Entrance rock to Baxter State Park

There’s a hovering cloud covering the mountain peak that refused to budge in this last picture. I will post another photo of this view on a clear day in the future, because it is beautiful. This is the road up to Baxter State Park’s entrance gate. In the winter months it becomes a snowmobile trail. I’m going to date myself here, but I can remember when that rock was covered in graffiti.

Best wishes,
Jan

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Cover Reveal: Celtic Moon

I am beyond excited to share with you the cover of Celtic Moon, my debut novel and the first book in my urban fantasy series. It will be available September 24, 2013!

CELTIC MOON cover

Before I share what I love most about my cover, I must send out a giant THANK YOU to the entire art team at Berkley/Penguin for creating such a beautiful representation of my story. I couldn’t be more pleased!

Without question, the woman is stunning, but even better, she’s wearing normal clothing. How cool is that? This works for my heroine because she is a practical woman and a mother of a teenager. For survival reasons, she wouldn’t wear anything that might attract attention. Sophie has quiet strength, forced by circumstances to become the person she needed to be to protect her son. I think they did an amazing job illustrating the general feel of her personality.

Also, the setting of my story takes place in an isolated town in Maine, in an environment conducive to wolves. The background is so accurate it’s surreal, as if I could just dive into the cover and find myself in our Maine woods, only with a beautiful wolf waiting to greet me. (The wolf happens to be the father of Sophie’s son. He is also an immortal shape-shifting Celtic warrior and just as lovely in his human form.)

Overall, I think the cover is wonderful and it represents the atmosphere of my story well.

Now, I can’t wait to see what they come up with for book two!  I have a river castle in that one, a tattooed hero, and a heroine who carries a sword.  It could be interesting!

Until later,
Jan

Description on back cover of Celtic Moon:

Like father, like son…

Sophie Thibodeau has been on the run from the father of her son for more than fifteen years. Now her son, Joshua, is changing, and her greatest fears are about to be realized. He’s going to end up being just like his father—a man who can change into a wolf.

Dylan Black has been hunting for Sophie since the night she ran from him—an obsession he cannot afford in the midst of an impending war. Dylan controls Rhuddin Village, an isolated town in Maine where he lives with an ancient Celtic tribe. One of the few of his clan who can still shift into a wolf, he must protect his people from the Guardians, vicious warriors who seek to destroy them.

When Sophie and Dylan come together for the sake of their son, their reunion reignites the fierce passion they once shared. For the first time in years, Dylan’s lost family is within his grasp. But will he lose them all over again? Are Joshua and Sophie strong enough to fight alongside Dylan in battle? Nothing less than the fate of his tribe depends on it…

Excerpt from Celtic Moon:

“I’m going for a run,” Dylan said, taking off toward the woods.  His people had wronged Sophie.  He was convinced of that now.  And still she had come home to him, of her own free will—for their son.

His wolf clawed at his spine for release. Its fury, its need—its desire for the woman who’d had the courage to return for their child was no longer controllable.

The wolf wanted out.

Having her near and within reach was akin to pain.

Perhaps it was a good thing Sophie hadn’t invited him to stay, Dylan thought as he entered the forest, ripping off clothes as he walked. For if she had, he wasn’t sure if he could have controlled his hunger.

It had been too long.

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