Dana Mentink

Let’s Go to the Boardwalk!

Ah the boardwalk…the sand, the surf, the salt water taffy! Recently, I visited the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk while researching for a new mystery series. Sure there were rides and fried foods and cheapie souvenirs, but what struck me was the history of the place. There are glimpses of bygone years in the antique carousel where riders can still toss the original metal rings as they gallop by, and view the old photos of the giant indoor poor and the beachfront concerts. I enjoyed that sense of nostalgia for the old days when licorice whips were a treat and folks would ride the Big Dipper , a giant wooden roller coaster, with their families.

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk used to house a lovely indoor saltwater swimming pool. This “Coney Island of the West” actually started out as a public bathhouse in 1865 which would later morph into the boardwalk.  Can you picture all those ladies in their “bathing costumes” parading around? I can see it so clearly in my wee little writer’s mind.

Another thing that fascinated me was the historic Looff Carousel created in 1911. The horses are wooden, hand painted, with real horsehair tails. Atop their jeweled saddles, you can see that modern day children are completely enchanted and when that old Wurlizter organ gets going, there is no one without a smile on their face… just as it has been since 1911.

So what do you think? Would an historic boardwalk be a good place to set a mystery series? I sure think so!


Jennifer Pierce

It’s November! Guess what that means? Yes, Thanksgiving is this month and we’re that much closer to Christmas, but that’s not what I’m talking about. It’s National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. Every November writers across the world buckle down and try to write 50,000 words during the month of November. For some, like me, that’s a whole novel (or really close to it). For others, it’s half a novel. It doesn’t matter how you look at it, it’s a lot of words in one month. Let’s do the math shall we? There are 30 days in November so that’s writing roughly 1,666.67 words per day. For full-time writers that is a piece of cake. For us part-timers, it takes some dedication.

NaNoWriMo is more than just trying to write a novel in a month. It’s a community where authors cheer each other on and encourage one another. Authors find new writing buddies that they can continue to connect with when November is over. There are also tools for writers and trackers that help track your progress through the month.

I’m going to be completely honest. This is not the first year I’ve signed up to do NaNoWriMo, but it will be the first year I actually participate beyond just announcing my intention to write. If I can hit the ultimate goal of 50,000 this month, it will be the fastest novel I’ve written.

I didn’t keep track of how long it took to write Hidden Danger and Expecting Danger, but I’m going to say probably about a year a piece. I wrote Deadly Connection in four months (the last 18,000 words in the last two weeks) and Giving Grace in one month. So, what was the difference? Deadlines. I had hard deadlines to meet and they HAD to be written or I’d forever lose the chance on them.

My NaNoWriMo project this year is the first book in an indie series I plan to start publishing in 2023. So, if you see me hanging out on social media, remind me I have a novel to write.


JL Crosswhite

As a Christian romantic suspense author, I often don’t have to go far to get inspiration. It often comes straight from my life. One night this summer, Rajah the Wonder Cat thought she was saving all of us from a little plastic disk in my daughter Caitlyn’s closet by stalking it. When I went to pick her up to rescue her, she thought I was the attacker and dug her back claws into my thumb and sprang off of it. Not only did I have two significant puncture wounds, she did some serious damage to my right thumb. It ended up being in a splint and was greatly swollen.

Right now, I’m writing my next series, Beneath a Star-Lit Sky (you can check out my progress–or lack thereof–here), which creates its own pressure. Will I have time to makeup this slow down? Is this something I can use in a book? How would my characters respond to something like this?

As a writer and an editor, I’m pretty attached to my keyboard and mouse, both of which involve using my hands. Dictation only works so far, especially if you don’t use it all the time and don’t have a proper system set up. It’s not a quick replacement for a temporary injury.

But no matter how much preparation you do or how many systems you have set up, life is always going to throw you a curve ball. I’ve recently been talking to other writers about this. When we are planning out our writing schedules, we need to factor in “life happens” time. There’s just no way around it. It could be a sick family member, an injury, car accident, natural disaster, or a disaster in your house. These things happen that you just can’t plan for.

And that’s okay. It’s part of life, and going through these challenges gives us a chance to lean on each other. I’m not a big fan of asking for help, but circumstances like these force me out of my comfort zone. Friends and family most often would really like to help, if they just knew what to do.

Interestingly enough, I wrote a similar post last year about the nearby fires and my hip surgery. So the unexpected should really be more expected.

The funny part of this story is that I’ve broken this same thumb twice before, both while doing gymnastics when I was younger (much younger–read on to see the historical references). One summer I learned how to program in BASIC computer language because sitting in the hallway in front of the Apple IIe was the coolest place in the house, being it was in direct line with the swamp cooler. I couldn’t go swimming at the neighbors’, which was my usual afternoon activity.

I also learned to hit the spacebar with my left thumb, something that has stayed with me until today. Yay! One thing I don’t have to adapt to. However, we didn’t have a mouse back then. That’s been the biggest challenge.

That and tearing open cat food packets. Too bad Rajah the Wonder Cat hasn’t figured that one out herself. If she could, there would be no stopping her. Hmm, sounds like an idea for a story!


Kathleen J. Robison

Giving Thanks for Good Food

A Welcome sign stretches across my dining room beamed ceiling. Fall colors dot the triangular banner. Orange, red, and yellow leaf sprigs peek out from my house plants. I tuck the colors everywhere. Plump pumpkins and smiling scarecrows greet my grandkids, and spice candles permeate our home. Although it’s eighty degrees out, and there’s no crisp wind blowing, I envision smelling Thanksgiving dinner all through the month of November. After all, the holiday is synonymous with food, right? But above all else, it’s a time to give thanks to God, and while cooking my favorite dish, giving thanks for good food is easy to do. I can’t help but be filled with joy and thankfulness in my busy kitchen while recalling the story behind a unique side dish.

It’s one of the things I love best about writing, remembering the past, and getting to share my memories. Bringing them back to life is a great blessing for me, and I hope it is for you as well. Here’s one of my favorites.

When my mother first immigrated to the United States from Okinawa, she spoke little English and was so homesick that my father found her crying, and my mother hardly ever cried! Daddy did everything to make her feel at home in the United States. He even looked up her surname in the yellow pages. Surprisingly, he found it listed and called the strangers asking if he could bring Mama out to meet them so she could converse in her native tongue. They were gracious and became life-long friends.

Still, it was difficult for a young Okinawan woman married to a blue-eyed American just ten years after WWII ended. Additionally, she left her family and a simpler life in Okinawa, where relatives helped her manage three young girls and a household. In the US, she had to navigate a new, complicated life in a strange country where suspicions toward Asian foreigners still lurked.

When it came time for Thanksgiving, Mama had to compete with my American grandmother, a phenomenal cook who had owned a restaurant at one time. While it took time for my grandmother to warm up to my mother and her only son’s new half-Okinawan children, she graciously made an effort, and Rice Dressing was invented.

Grandma created the dish for my mother in place of the traditional bread stuffing. Rice being the staple at every meal for Mama, it warms my heart to remember that Grandma did that for her. It was a big hit, and the recipe has continued with our US relatives, complete with ground giblets. My sister still has my mother’s hand meat grinder.

Many years later, when we celebrated a Friendsgiving, in addition to our family Thanksgiving dinner, my friend made a Sage Rice Dressing dish. Oh my, it was amazing, and I was on a quest to experiment. Over the years, I’ve perfected my own recipe. I start with wild rice and add finely chopped celery, pecans, mushrooms, and cranberries. I love sage and pepper, so lots of that too. It’s a sweet-savory dish, and although I’d love to try adding the giblets, I’ll save that for another adventurous Thanksgiving.

I’m so thankful for the love my American grandmother bestowed on my Okinawan mother and the results of that expression. As I said, Thanksgiving is synonymous with food.

Do you have a special dish with a story behind it? My husband says the secret ingredient is love, no matter the food. My grandmother definitely created this dish with love for her lonely immigrant daughter-in-law, who made the US her new home. She also taught my mother American cooking, but I’m also thankful that Mama kept alive the dishes of Okinawa and Japan as well. It’s definitely a loving blend of food cultures in our home.

As you enjoy the foods of the season, I know you’ll be giving thanks for many other things as well but take a look at the foods that the Lord has blessed you with and savor the tender morsels. Every good gift comes from Him above. Happy Thanksgiving, with love.