Mama Diaries

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Present for the German Shredder

First of all, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Hope you all are enjoying the holiday season.

If you recall, a few weeks ago, our hundred pound German Shepherd, Schultz, found a box and had a great time playing with it. Many of you commented that we should give Schultz a box for Christmas. Well, we took your advice and did just that.

We gave him a box that was almost as big as he is, and then took him outside and let him do whatever he wanted. Let me tell you, the dog had a blast!   He began by ripping down the sides. He clamped on to the box with his big mouth and shook his head ferociously. He threw it into the air. My husband caught it and held it high above the dog. Schultz jumped up and grabbed it. He tore it some more and pranced around the yard with a piece in his mouth.

This little charade went on for about twenty minutes. By the time Schultz was done, the box was completely ripped apart in very small pieces.

My husband picked up the pieces and dumped them into our recycle bin. "Thanks, Schultz!" he said. "Now I don't have to cut up the box."

It's good to have a German Shredder!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Attack of the Cookie Monsters

'Tis the season for baking Christmas cookies. I've been in full swing at my pad, making all sorts of delightful confections. This has not gone unnoticed by the cookie monsters. They lurk in shadowy places, waiting for me to put the cookies in tins and leave them unattended.

The first cookie monster attack occurred about a week ago. I had baked a batch of my famous chocolate chip cookies. (I only bake this recipe at Christmas because they're so decadent.)  The recipe yielded 60 cookies. I placed the cookies in tins, and hid most of them. Unfortunately, it's a little tough to hide that many cookies. One tin was not concealed well enough. Sure enough, the cookie monsters struck. The next morning, the tin was not in its place. When I opened it, the cookies were missing. And the little monsters didn't even leave a thank you note.

I was determined not to let this happen again. I baked a batch of different cookies while the monsters were out. I put them in tins and hid them in the cold basement. I figured they'd be safe there. Unfortunately, the smell of cookies lingered far longer than I had anticipated. As soon as the monsters returned, they smelled cookies.

"Where are they?" the biggest monster asked.

I scowled. "I'm not telling."

"Oh, yeah?" The biggest monster grinned. "Come on," he called to the little monsters. "Let's go find the cookies!"

Their noses led them right to the stash. With a look of triumph, they opened the lid and started munching.

Next year, I'm buying a cookie safe, and locking it down. I've had enough of these cookie monster attacks!

Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Secret Files of Fairday Morrow

Happy 1st book birthday to THE SECRET FILES OF FAIRDAY MORROW! It's been a year since the mystery of the Begonia House was revealed to the world, and now the paperback will be available January 3rd, 2017. The new cover stays true to Fairday's snazzy style, sprinkling in a few added charms. Can you spot the differences from the hardcover? ;) 

Catch the book trailer to find out about the mystery...

Planning to pick up the paperback? Pre-order a copy and you could win a $50 VISA card to treat yourself after the holidays. Contest is open to all! For more details on how to enter, click here.

For more information about the book, visit the DMS at

The Process of Publishing a Book
By Jessica Haight & Stephanie Robinson

Be ready to put forth a lot of effort!

When we started the publishing process we had no idea what we were getting into. Our book was written, but what were the next steps after having it edited and “ready to go”? We learned a lot along the way, and we'll share some of the highlights here. 

Stephanie Robinson, Unicorn Writers' Conference
1. If you want to write books, start going to writers’ conferences. We gained something from every one we attended, and it’s also awesome to be surrounded by so many people who share your passion for writing. Very inspirational!

2. If you decide to go the traditional route, it is important to research the agents you would like to query. You want to make sure the person representing your book loves it too! Be patient. After you write your query and send it off- you’ll have to wait for 1-3 months before you hear back about whether they would like to pass, see a partial manuscript, or read the whole manuscript. During this time- keep writing. Work on your next book!

3. Once you connect with the right agent, you will sign a contract with them. Read it over carefully and check it with other professionals before you sign your name. Make sure you understand what you are agreeing to and what they will do for you. We were thrilled to sign our contract with Talcott Notch Literary Agency, but we’ve heard nightmare stories from friends who had contracts that weren’t acceptable.

Gina Panettieri, Talcott Notch Literary

4. Your agent will start querying editors. After you’ve found the right agent, they will know what to do during this process and will check in with you to let you know where and when they are sending your work. When you hear back from editors, you will typically receive general remarks that you’ll need to consider. Remember, reading is subjective and even JK Rowling was rejected before her first Harry Potter book was published.

Signed contract with Delacorte Press
5.  When you sign with an editor you will most likely do a happy dance and run around screaming, like we did. Depending on the size of the publishing company the time frame to begin edits will vary. We signed our contract in October, but didn’t begin working on edits until March. The editing continues as the art department works on illustrations and cover art for the book. Once all the pieces are in place, the book is printed as an ARC- advanced reader copy.
6. ARCs have errors and the publishing company is working to fix them, but time is limited to get them done and errors cost money to fix. We read through our ARCs and made a list of all the mistakes we found. We were able to fix one of them because it isn’t easy to fix them at this stage, but luckily the editors had already fixed the other mistakes we had found (though we didn’t know for sure until the book was out).   

7. After the ARCs you will keep working on your other writing while you wait for trade reviews to come in. Ours came a few months before the book was out.

8. Release day! You'll be a bundle of nerves seeing your book out in the world. It's exciting, but you may feel a little vulnerable. Make sure to celebrate and enjoy the moment!
Voila! The finished product.
If you decide to publish traditionally, take your work seriously and protect your creative space. You are your own best advocate, so believe in yourself and fear not the unexpected! ;)

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mama's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Let me tell you about my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Which was actually kind of funny, in a weird sort of way.

Georgia, the fine state in which I live, had experienced a drought. We had no rain for a couple of months. Well, that all changed on the day my son and I were scheduled to go Christmas caroling with a nice group from church. Of course, on that day, the heavens opened, and the rain came down. Mama got soaked. Did I mention it was cold?

Then, I came home (still wet and cold) and did some laundry. Except I had a little problem. Somebody had lost the cap to the laundry detergent. You may or may not be familiar with how the mega-sized liquid detergent bottles work. There are actually two spouts. One is a spigot, where you press a button and detergent flows out, and the other is the cap, where you can pour it out. Since my washing machine is a tall, super high power thing, it's much easier to use the spigot. Which I did. But I didn't notice that the cap was missing on the other opening. Guess what happened?  As I used the spigot, I tilted the container. As I did, liquid detergent poured out of the top, onto my head, and on my clothes.

So now, I was cold, wet, and covered in detergent.

But that's not all.

I went down to the kitchen to pack my kids' lunches for school. As I reached for the sandwich bags, which were on a very high shelf in the pantry, I knocked something over. A glass bottle of shrimp cocktail sauce. It splattered on the floor, breaking in a million pieces, covering me, the cabinet, and the floor with red goop.

All I could think was, why?   Why couldn't the shrimp cocktail sauce have fallen first? And then the detergent, and then the cold rain. At least I would have been clean. But no. I had to end my terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day  as a strange-smelling, cold, grouchy, irritated catastrophe.


Friday, December 2, 2016

Question of the Month, and The Dog and the Box

It's time for Question of the Month, hosted by Michael D'Agostino. And this month I'm not late!
The question is, "What does your retirement look like?"

Retirement? Me retire? I don't think so. I love teaching music and performing, so unless something happens and I'm no longer able to do it, I plan to keep working until I die. But if I were to slow down a little, I'd like to spend time travelling and seeing more of the world. My plan is to visit every continent (including the North and South Poles). I don't know if that's at all realistic, but it's good to dream. I also want to visit all fifty states. I've made a good dent in that, but I still haven't seen a lot of western states, Alaska, or Hawaii.  What I don't see myself doing, is sitting in a chair watching TV or staring out a window. There's so much to see, so much to do, and so much to learn, that I think I'm just going to run out of time to do it all.

What about you? What does your retirement look like?

Now for the story: We all know how much kids like playing with boxes. But did you know that dogs like playing with them, too? 

An empty box was sitting on our living room floor. Our hundred pound German Shepherd, Schultz, decided he was going to have a little fun with it. He grabbed the box in his big mouth and flipped it over his head. Then he ran around, bumping into just about everything in the room.

My kids laughed. I shook my head. "Schultz, you big idiot. You're going to hurt yourself!"

He gave himself a shake, and the box flew off.

I thought that was the end of it. But no. Apparently, Schultz enjoyed having a box on his head. He grabbed the thing, flipped it over his head, and ran around, again.

This continued for about ten minutes. Finally, he shook the box off, gave it a big sniff, and trotted off. What a goof ball!

(I'm wondering what Schultz would do with some crayons and markers and that box!)    

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

More Food, Please

This is part two of my family's Thanksgiving shenanigans.

So, I had spent two days baking and cooking for our Thanksgiving feast. I made pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, pumpkin pie, a cranberry walnut tart, green bean/ corn casserole, squash casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, and a sixteen-pound turkey. It was a ridiculous amount of food.

My family devoured everything, and complained about how stuffed they were afterwards. I'm sure you're familiar with the story if you live in the good old USA.

Four hours later, at around 10:00 PM, I walked into the kitchen and found my son, my daughter, and my daughter's friend mixing ingredients. That's right. They were getting ready to bake.

"What the heck are you doing?" I asked, completely flabbergasted. "We have a ton of food in the refrigerator. You don't need to make more. Besides, it's way too late to be baking and eating even more food!"

"But, Mom," my daughter said. "You didn't make monkey bread. And it's never too late to make monkey bread."


Thursday, November 24, 2016


First of all, I'd like to wish all of my American friends a very Happy Thanksgiving!

As I was preparing our traditional Thanksgiving meal of turkey and the fixings, my son came up and made a face. "We're having turkey, again?"

I made a face back at him. "Of course we are. It's Thanksgiving. We eat turkey on Thanksgiving."

"We should try something different."

"Like what?"


"What?" That sounded like some alien life form.

"It's a turkey stuffed with duck and chicken."

I thought he was making this up. "There's no such thing, Bubba. Don't be ridiculous."

He grabbed his handy dandy computer and pulled up a picture. "Here it is!"

Okay. Well, it's a real thing. But if you ask me, it looks like a turkey, but with a whole lot more work involved. I'm just going to stick with our traditional turkey, thank you very much!

(Has anyone ever tried this? I wonder how it tastes.)   

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Question of the Month and Chasing Deer

It's time for another (late) Question of the Month hosted by Michael D'Agostino. This month's question has to do with a first kiss. I can't remember the details of the question, because it's lost somewhere in my vast quantities of emails. All I'm going to say, is that I was thirteen years old when I had my first kiss, and it wasn't from my husband. That's more than you ever need to know.

Now for the story:

As you know, our German Shepherd, Schultz, likes to chase deer. There have been several stories here about him doing so. But there has never been a story about the Mama chasing deer. Yep. That's right. This crazy old lady decided to teach those oversized rodents a lesson.

Schultz was in the backyard barking his head off. I looked out the window to see what the problem was. A herd of about ten deer was casually grazing behind our fence. Schultz was doing his best to make them go away, but the deer, being the insolent lot they are, didn't care. It's like they were totally disrespecting the dog.

Disrespectful deer really tick me off. So I got on my shoes and jacket and went out into the yard. The rodents stopped momentarily to look at me, and then continued. I'm sure they thought they were perfectly safe. There's no way any creature on the other side of that gate could get to them.

They were wrong. I walked over to the gate, lifted the latch, and walked onto their side. You should've seen the look on their faces! They bolted toward the river. I followed. They stopped at the bank and looked back at me. "I see you," I said. "And I'm coming to get you!"

They knew I meant business. They ran through the river to the other side. Up the hill they went, until they were out of sight.

I think the deer and I have an understanding. No more disrespecting the dog. If they do, they have to deal with the Mama!

I have one more thing to say. I seem to be having some trouble commenting on some of your blogs. I can type my comment on your page, but there is no way for it to be published. Not sure what the problem is. For those of you who have Google sharing capabilities on your page, I've been sharing on Google and commenting there. If you don't have that, you won't be seeing any comments from me, even though I'm reading your posts. Just wanted to let you all know. Hopefully the problem will get fixed soon.   

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Crystal Collier and Timeless

Welcome Crystal Collier here today to share her new book!

In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

BUY: Amazon | B&N

Author Interview

1. Did you start writing Moonless, thinking you were going to make a trilogy series, or did it just happen that way?

My first draft of Moonless (in 2002) was a novella. A historical love story about a woman defying society and her father. It wasn’t until the next draft it wrapped its fingers around one of my much older characters. That was the point at which I knew it was going to evolve, but the key to publishing is being open to follow success. If a book does well in the market, it deserves sequel—maybe more. Because of that, I wrote it as a standalone, but I had the beginnings of both a second and third book written, just waiting for the green light.

2. How long did it take you to write your latest book, Timeless?

To write it, or rewrite it? Or rewrite it again? This book suffered from baby syndrome. I was expecting while drafting, and all my creative powers were sucked into my baby girl. (Friends, don’t try this at home.) Welcome the no-sleep/newborn stage. The first, awful draft (45,000 words, 150 pages,) took about a year…after ripping out 30,000 words (about 90 pages) because the dual time stream was breaking my brain. (No exaggeration.) The next draft was six-week rewrite, then another major rewrite. Then 2.5 months of edits. Of the original 45,000 words, about 10,000 (30 pages) survived to the final draft. 1.5 years of work.

3. And since you are the "Cheese Lady," what's your favorite kind of cheese?

Who is my favorite child? Oh, you asked my favorite cheese. My question is easier. ;) No. I don’t have a “favorite”, but MANY.
Vanilla cheese (goes with anything): muenster, runner up is mild cheddar
Swiss variety: Jarlsberg
Italian: Provolone, followed by Romano
Savory: Feta
Comfort cheese: smoked gouda or Colby jack
Sweet cheese: Fontina
Fun cheese: squeaky cheese! (Cheddar cheese curds.)

Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese.

(Email address is required for awarding prizes.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Living Decorations

Yeah. I know. I've been MIA for a while. I'm the coordinator for a big concerto competition, and I've been super busy working on that. I have a brief moment, so I'll share a story before I disappear again.

My son wanted a Halloween party. Since I've been so busy, I wasn't really feeling like doing one, but I did it anyway. I decorated the house. These decorations included silhouettes of bugs and rodents. The entire entranceway had them all over the walls and floor. It looked pretty cool.

When the guests arrived, they commented on how good it all looked.

"I like the bugs you have outside around your door," one of the guests said.

Outside around the door? I didn't recall putting any out there.

I went outside to see what he was talking about.

Do you know what I saw? Swarms of June bugs all around my entrance. It was a major infestation! The place was crawling with them.

Guess Mother Nature did her own decorating!

(Hope y'all had a nice Halloween!)  

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Ukulele Club

When I got my teenaged daughter a ukulele for Christmas, I didn't think it was going to become a new trend. My daughter really took to the thing, and started going on YouTube to learn how to play all kinds of songs. Whenever her friends come over, she plays. And so do they. In fact, all of her friends now have ukuleles.

Now they have a new thing:  The Ukulele Club. A group of girls bring their instruments and strum tunes during lunch. I guess it's rather entertaining for everyone.

The trend seems to have caught on. The other day, as I drove my daughter to school, we saw another young lady walking, holding her ukulele. "Do you know her?" I asked.

"No, but now everyone wants to play the ukulele."

I guess so. I will say one thing. When my daughter and her friends are in my car, and I'm driving them some place, I never have to put on the radio. They bring their ukuleles and provide the music.

In case you want to hear some good playing, here's a video by IZ, which kind of inspired me to get the ukulele in the first place:


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Question of the Month and Banana Phone

It's time for Question of the Month hosted by Michael D'Agostino. Actually, it's past time. I'm late again. Oh well. The question is, "Have you ever had to make a difficult decision which you didn't want to do, but you knew it was for the best?"

The answer is, yes. I've actually had to make quite a few of them. One of the more recent was during my move from Ohio to Georgia about three years ago. I was the president-elect of the Ohio String Teacher's Association. My term as president was supposed to begin just as I was leaving. I was looking forward to serving as president, and I had a lot of big plans. I could've done it from Georgia, but it would have been a challenge. So I decided to step down and let someone else who lived in Ohio take the position. It was very disappointing for me, but I knew it was for the best.

Have you ever had to make any difficult decisions like that?

Now for the story: 

I was sitting at the dinner table when I heard a cell phone ring. It didn't sound like mine. A few seconds later, my son came into the kitchen.

"Mama, you have a call."

I turned around, and found my son holding a rather peculiar looking phone. It was yellow and shaped like a familiar fruit. But it had writing on it.

"Dude," I said. "What's this?"

"A banana phone. You'd better answer it."

So I did. And I had a nice conversation with the monkey on the other end.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dog Genius

Our hundred pound German Shepherd, Schultz, is now six years old. (Which means I must've been blogging for six years, since he was just a puppy when I first started.) The dog is rather smart, but he never seemed to know my name. He knew "Daddy," and "Bubba," and my daughter's name. But not "Mama."

Time and time again, we'd ask him to "get Mama." and he never would. He'd go to the window and look out, even though I was standing two feet away from him.

Well, some kind of connection finally happened in his dog brain. The day he turned six, he figured it out.

"Go get Mama," my husband said.

And he did!

We made a big fuss about it.

We asked him the next day, and he remembered.

It's been a whole two weeks, and he still knows who I am. Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?

Monday, September 26, 2016


My twelve-year-old son had a class field trip to a place called Biz Town. At Biz Town, the kids are given grown-up jobs. They spend seven hours that day working their grown-up jobs. My boy's job was as CFO (chief financial officer) of Delta Airlines. I don't know how the boy got selected for that one, but he was the man.

He had one of the largest offices in the place, and a steady stream of "employees" consulting him about budgeting and payment issues. The boy was kept busy the entire day. While he enjoyed one of the highest salaries, he was not thrilled with the small amount of free time he had. "Everyone else got to check things out, while I had to sit behind the desk and deal with piles of papers!"

"So, how did you do?" I asked.

"We didn't go bankrupt," he said.

"That's good," I said.

"But we only ended up with $200 for operating costs for the next day."

Hmmm. Well, at least it's nice to know that Delta Airlines has lived to fly another day.

Before I go, I want to let you know I'm giving away free downloads of my book, Ten Zany Birds, on Smashwords. If you'd like to get one, follow the link and use coupon code WJ95M. Offer expires October 26, 2016.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Rude Awakening

My teenaged daughter doesn't like to clean her room. Ever. I keep telling her that if she doesn't clean it, and she keeps bringing food up there, she's going to end up having bugs. She didn't believe me. I'm just the Mama. What do I know?

Well, last night, she got a rude awakening.  Literally. While she slept, a rather large insect was prowling around her room. It ended up in her bed. She was unaware of its existence until she felt something tickling the palm of her hand. Do you know what it was? A centipede! A big one! The thing was crawling in the of the palm of her hand. 

She screamed and threw it on the ground. Then she tried to kill it. But it escaped - under her bed among the piles of trash.

Now she's terrified to be in her room, because of course the centipede is going to seek revenge. And we're quite certain there's an army of critters under there to help it.

"I have to clean my room!" she said. "And not just my dressers. Everywhere! The bugs must die!"

Yes, indeed. Thank you, Mr. Centipede! 

Before I go, I'd like to let you know that my blog friend, Robyn Proctor has featured my book, That Mama is a Grouch, on her blog. That was so nice of her! If you'd like to read the review, please go

Friday, September 16, 2016

Question of the Month and Burning the House Down

I'm a little late this month for the Question of the Month. But hey, better late than never. Host, Michael Agostino's question is:  What kind of music speaks to you the most?

Classical. It's more complex than most of the popular music your hear on the radio. I actually get kind of annoyed with the same I, IV, V chord progressions that are used in popular music. (I know, if you're not a musician like me, you have no idea what I just said.) I've been known to turn off popular songs because they're too boring, musically. My brain likes complex things. And I really enjoy performing classical music, because in doing so, it evokes an emotional response. I feel music when I play. 

What kind of music speaks to you?

Now for the story.

My twelve-year-old son, Bubba, likes to cook. Yesterday, he decided he was going to make dinner. He began cooking. A short time later, I smelled something funny. I came downstairs and found the kitchen filled with smoke.

"What are you doing, Bubba?" I asked, opening the back door to let the smoke clear. "Trying to burn down the house?"

"No, Mama." He pointed to a box on the kitchen counter. Bubba Burgers. "I'm making Bubba Burgers. The directions said to fry them three minutes on each side."

"And did you?"

"Well, maybe one side was four minutes."

Uh huh. (In case you're wondering, Bubba said his Bubba Burger was delicious. I can't verify that, because I didn't try one. You'll just have to take his word for it.)

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Timeless Maiden of Time Cover Reveal and Giveaway

Today, I get to reveal Crystal Collier's cover of her new book, Timeless. It looks awesome! Check it out!

TIMELESS (#3 Maiden of Time) by Crystal Collier

Book Title: TIMELESS (Maiden of Time #3)
Author: Crystal Collier
Genre: YA Paranormal Historical
Release Date: November 1, 2016


In 1771, Alexia had everything: the man of her dreams, reconciliation with her father, even a child on the way. But she was never meant to stay. It broke her heart, but Alexia heeded destiny and traveled five hundred years back to stop the Soulless from becoming.

In the thirteenth century, the Holy Roman Church has ordered the Knights Templar to exterminate the Passionate, her bloodline. As Alexia fights this new threat—along with an unfathomable evil and her own heart—the Soulless genesis nears. But none of her hard-won battles may matter if she dies in childbirth before completing her mission.

Can Alexia escape her own clock?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Crystal Collier is an eclectic author who pens clean fantasy/sci-fi, historical, and romance stories with the occasional touch of humor, horror, or inspiration. She practices her brother-induced ninja skills while teaching children or madly typing about fantastic and impossible creatures. She has lived from coast to coast and now calls Florida home with her creative husband, four littles, and “friend” (a.k.a. the zombie locked in her closet). Secretly, she dreams of world domination and a bottomless supply of cheese. You can find her on her Blog, FacebookGoodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

Want the first chapter free? Sign up HERE.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Not-So-Bloody Mess

My twelve-year-old son plays tackle football. And he gets banged around a lot. After each practice, he always has a new bruise to show me. Last night's practice was a little over the top. When I picked him up, he had some very real bloody scratches . . . and red stains all over his white Nike t-shirt.

"Oh my God, Bubba," I said when I saw him. "What happened to you? Are you okay?"

"I got hurt, again," he said.

"Hurt? From the looks of your shirt, you should be in the hospital! Is that blood?"

I made him pull up his shirt so I could see the extent of the damage. When he did, all I saw were a few scratches. Not enough to make all that "blood."

I narrowed my eyes. "That's not blood, is it?"

He grinned. "No. It's cupcake frosting. I dropped a cupcake on my shirt."


And now for a special little surprise:  Recently, I performed for a concert at Dragoncon, in Atlanta. Here's a video where you can see me performing the song, Firefly, with a small group. I'm the violist on the far left.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Guest Author, Mark Noce

Today at my pad, I have a very talented guest: author, Mark Noce.  His new book, Between Two Fires, has just been released. And let me tell you, it's good! It hooked me from the beginning, and kept me interested to the end.

Here's my review:
Lady Branwen is a sixteen-year-old woman who enters an arranged marriage with the Hammer King, a powerful warlord. The marriage is supposed to unite two kingdoms, but Lady Branwen is nothing but a pawn in an elaborate game. Treachery abounds as many attempts are made to take her life.

Between Two Fires is a compelling historical romance that keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Fantastic characters and continuous action combined with an authentic setting in sixth-century Wales, makes this a truly memorable novel. Highly recommended for historical fiction enthusiasts.

Here's what others have to say:

Praise from Bestselling Authors for Between Two Fires

“A spirited ride through a turbulent slice of Welsh history!” – Paula Brackston, NYT Bestselling author of The Witch’s Daughter

“A fast-paced read that has a wonderfully visual style and some memorable characters. Mark Noce combines Welsh history with a touch of folkloric magic in this promising debut novel. Lady Branwen is a strong and engaging narrator and the turbulent setting of early medieval Wales makes a fine backdrop for an action-packed story.” – Juliet Marillier, Bestselling author of Daughter of the Forest and Wolfskin.


Synopsis of Between Two Fires

Saxon barbarians threaten to destroy medieval Wales. Lady Branwen becomes Wales’ last hope to unite their divided kingdoms when her father betroths her to a powerful Welsh warlord, the Hammer King.

But this fledgling alliance is fraught with enemies from within and without as Branwen herself becomes the target of assassinations and courtly intrigue. A young woman in a world of fierce warriors, she seeks to assert her own authority and preserve Wales against the barbarians. But when she falls for a young hedge knight named Artagan her world threatens to tear itself apart. Caught between her duty to her people and her love of a man she cannot have, Branwen must choose whether to preserve her royal marriage or to follow her heart. Somehow she must save her people and remain true to herself, before Saxon invaders and a mysterious traitor try to destroy her.


Places to Order Between Two Fires

Release Date: August 23, 2016


And now for the interview:

Thanks for stopping by, Mark!

What inspired you to write a historical fiction/romance set in sixth century Wales?
For me, it’s the first line of a book that really gets me going, and once I had the first line of my novel I could see the whole thing in my head. “Today I will marry a man I have never met.” That line provoked images of Branwen and medieval Wales in my mind and I simply had to write it all down. Plus, who doesn’t love history and romance?

 That's a fabulous first line! It amazes me that you can come up with an entire story based on one line! 

  How much research was involved?

I certainly read all there was on the subject, looked up archaeology, etc., but part of what drew me to the time period is just how little actually survived. We have very little physical and textual evidence to go on, which as an author, allows me some comfortable leeway in crafting my story. For me, it was essential to use a good dose of commonsense, and ask myself what would I do in certain situations? Where would I find food, what would I consider a safe or dangerous decision given the knowledge of the era.

I think you did a great job in making everything seem realistic, even though there wasn't a lot of historical documents for you to utilize.  

 How long did it take to write?

My first draft usually comes pretty fast, maybe 3-4 months. Then another month or two of edits before handing it off to my publisher. My publisher of course had plenty of rewrite suggestions which I acquiesced to as rapidly as I could, but it would often take months before my publisher was ready to read those rewrites. So the process can get drawn out over a pretty length period of time.

Considering the length of the novel, I'd say that's an incredibly short period of time. You must've been a writing machine!


Do you have any other projects you are working on?
Well, I do have the sequel already written and in the publisher’s hands. It’s entitled The Long Defeat, and chronicles the Welsh dealing with a new threat, the Picts. There’ no officially release date yet, but it’s part of my two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press, so it’ll definitely hit bookshelves eventually.  

That's terrific! I look forward to reading it when it comes out.
Fun Questions:
1. If you were an animal in a zoo, which would you be? Cheetah, I love to run fast!
2. If you had a superpower, what would it be? I wish I could talk to animals (yes, beastmaster-esk).
3. If you could live in any period of time, past, present, or future, which would it be? I really do enjoy modern plumbing and hygiene, but aside from that the wild beauty of the colonial frontier in America has always intrigued me.

4. Where is one place you'd like to visit that you haven't been before? Everywhere! I’d love to take a cruise down the Nile in Egypt someday. Or maybe Tahiti too.


Mark Noce writes historical fiction with a passion, and eagerly reads everything from fantasy to literature. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, he’s an avid traveler and backpacker, particularly in Europe and North America. He earned his BA and MA from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, where he also met his beautiful wife. By day, he works as a Technical Writer, having spent much of his career at places like Google and Facebook. In addition to writing novels, he also writes short fiction online. When not reading or writing, he’s probably listening to U2, sailing his dad’s boat, or gardening with his family.

His debut novel, Between Two Fires, is being published by Thomas Dunne Books (an imprint of St. Martin's Press and Macmillan). It is the first in a series of historical fiction novels set in medieval Wales.


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