Saturday, August 30, 2014

Two hundred year anniversary of our National Anthem

September 13, 2014, marks the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Fort McHenry and the writing of what would eventually become the United States’ national anthem -The Star Spangled Banner. 

But once again, historians have left out some important information.  Sammy (Samantha) Brown, a 7th grader in Miss Wickware’s history class, played a key role in the whole process.  Without her, Mr. Key may have never been on the boat that gave him a bird’s eye view of the whole battle which prompted the famous poet to….maybe you just have to read the story yourself.


Sammy Brown, winner of the first junior sailing regatta for kids, ages twelve to fourteen, is walking on air Tuesday, after being absent the previous day, due to the race.  Miss Wickware, her history teacher, asks Sammy to stay after class because she needs to draw a subject out of a box and give an oral report on the drawn subject.

“UHG”  History and Sammy are not friends, but her good mood won’t be dampened until a fall and a bump on the head sends her back to 1814.  It’s her expertise in sailing that helps Francis Scott Key rescue an imprisoned friend from a British ship that leads to a historic battle and a famous poem!
“Don’t be afraid, child. I am Dr. Beanes, and these are my friends, Dr. William
Hill and Phillip Weems. We were on our way to my home. My wife, Sarah, can
help you.”

“Forget, it!” Sammy shouted, hysteria bubbling up in her voice. “I’m not some
moron that would just blindly goes off with three weird men, especially two that
dress like my mom in shorty pants and foo foo blouses and the third one dressed
like some fancy, shmancy bell hop!”

“What’s a bell hop?” Beanes asked under his breath to nobody in particular.

Meeks was plainly taken back by her comment, while Dr. Hill blustered, “Foo
foo, indeed!”

When Dr. Beanes recovered, he reminded his friends of her possible
concussion. “Let’s all calm down. Now look…what is your name?”

She leveled her gaze at the three men before answering. “Sammy Brown.”

“Sammy?” the three men echoed in unison.

Even in her fear and confusion, that response got her back up. She stood as tall
as she could raising her chin in the air. “Yea…Sammy.”

“Where is your home, Sammy?”

She searched her unfamiliar surroundings and swallowed hard. “Nineteen West

“That’s odd,” Beanes said, looking at his friends. “You must be on the other
side of the Patuxent River.”

A tear slipped down Sammy’s cheek. “There’s no river or lake by that name in
Phoenix.” Her lower lip trembled, dreading his next statement.

The kindly doctor took her hand in his. “My dear girl, I’m sorry to say I have
never heard of Phoenix. We are in Upper Marlboro, Maryland.”

* * * *

Because of The Stars Spangled Banner having its 200th year anniversary, Bumped Back In Time has been reduced to 99 cents. More than half off!   
Bumped Back In Time Book 4 of The Wickware Sagas.  Take a look at

Friday, August 29, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation Blog Hop

My Summer Vacation

This summer my sister, my mom and I drove from Arizona to Iowa for my mom’s sixty-seventh high school reunion (there were 25 of them there!) and a family reunion.  In West Liberty, Iowa, I have a slew of cousins (as my mom had fifteen brothers and sisters) which I had not seen in MANY years.

Let me say my family is pretty close, but I was a touch concerned about being in a car for three day up and three days back and four days sharing a hotel.  But all my fears were for not.  We talked, laughed, and told stories the whole time.  My mom found out so many things we did as teens that I’m sure she wished she didn’t know.  Visiting with my relatives was a treat.  I had forgotten just how funny my cousins are.

This summer trip was all about family and one I will cherish for a long time to come!

I have four romances I have written, one family drama, and many kids' stories.  You can look to the right of my blog and see all that I have written or go to  One chosen commenter can choose any of the stories I have written in ebook form.  Be sure to check out the rest of the authors involved and get into the rafflecopter.  A $50 amazon card could be yours!!!

Now what did you do this summer?????

Christina Cole Romance 
is sponsoring this terrific hop
and is giving a
 $50 Amazon Card!

There are over 18 authors involved in this 
romance hop and all are offering great giveaways!
 Right click on the hunk in the picture 
and check out all the authors and 
get in on your chance to win!

Don't forget to comment here and 
leave your email address!  

Happy hopping!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sara-Jayne Townsend has some great news to share on Penny's Tales

Poking around in family closets produces skeletons…

British-born, Toronto-based, actress Shara Summers turns amateur sleuth when her sister is stricken with a mysterious illness. Summoned back to England to be with her family during a time of crisis, Shara discovers doctors are at a loss as to what's causing Astrid’s debilitating sickness.

After her aunt is found dead at the bottom of the stairs the death is deemed an accident. Shara suspects otherwise. Her investigation unearths shocking family secrets and a chilling realization that could have far-reaching and tragic consequences that affect not only her own future, but Astrid’s as well.

DEATH SCENE is coming 22 September from MuseItUp Publishing:

Ruth sat in her rocking chair watching the television–which was probably about ten years old, and appeared to be the most modern thing in the room. She was wearing a blue floral dress, with a patchwork blanket over her knees. I had seen that dress before. Her hairstyle hadn’t changed, either–her white hair was thinning, and she wore it short and curly, in the style of old ladies everywhere. When we came in she looked up, a toothless smile breaking out over her face. She had dentures that she never wore–something else she only saved for special occasions. As a child, Ruth had appeared very scary to me on the occasions she wore her dentures because we just weren’t used to seeing her with them.
My mother went up to Ruth and leaned in to give her a kiss on her soft wrinkled cheek. “How are you, Auntie Ruth?” she said loudly. Ruth’s hearing had been going even back then. She must be virtually deaf by now.
The house was freezing. The only source of heat was a three-bar electric fire on the floor by Ruth’s feet.
I’m doing all right, dear,” Ruth said. Her voice was husky, ravaged by age and lack of use. “Mustn’t complain.”
Summer, still in my mother’s arms, began to cry and squirm, no doubt intimidated by the presence of this ancient lady. “Who’s this?” Ruth said, stroking one of Summer’s chubby legs.
This is Summer,” Mum said. “This is my granddaughter. You’ve met Summer. Astrid’s daughter.”
Ruth frowned. “Astrid? Your little one?”
Not a little girl any more, Auntie Ruth. She’s all grown up now.” Mum pointed in my direction. “This is my other daughter, Shara. Do you remember? Shara lives in Canada.”
Ruth was staring at me, frowning. There was no indication that she recognised me. “It’s been a long time,” she said eventually.
Hello Auntie Ruth,” I said.
Have you taken your pills, Auntie Ruth?” my mother asked.
Ruth frowned in concentration. “Pills? Think so. Can’t remember, you know. My memory’s not what it was.”
My mother thrust the crying child into my arms. “Watch Summer for a moment, Shara. I’m going to make Auntie Ruth some lunch.” And off she went into the kitchen.
I sat down in the faded armchair and bounced Summer on my knee. She kept crying. Ruth stared fixedly at the television. There seemed to be an Australian soap opera on. I couldn’t tell which one. I wasn’t a fan, and they all looked the same to me. “So what are you watching, Auntie Ruth?”
Eh?” She swivelled round to stare at me.
I raised my voice. “The television. What are you watching?”
Oh, I don’t know, dear. I watch everything. Keeps me company, you know.” And she lapsed back into silence, staring at the television. A couple of minutes went by and then she said suddenly, “they’re stealing from me, you know.”
“They’re stealing from me.” Ruth continued to stare at the television. I wasn’t at all sure she was even aware of anyone else in the room. I stood up with Summer in my arms and hurriedly went to find my mother in the kitchen.

They were dying to be famous. And someone was prepared to kill for it…

Actress Shara Summers has settled in London and is “between jobs” when her Canadian ex-boyfriend David sails back into her life, begging to her to fill the backing singer vacancy in the up and coming band he’s about to go on a European tour with.  Short on funds and auditions Shara reluctantly agrees, but tragedy strikes at the opening night party when the band’s charismatic front man Dallas Cleary Anderson falls to his death from a hotel window.  It soon becomes clear that Dallas did not fall, but was pushed.  His arrogant and confrontational manner means there are no shortage of people who wanted him out of the band permanently – but who would resort to murder?

Sara-Jayne Townsend is a UK-based writer of crime and horror. She was born in Cheshire in 1969, but spent most of the 1980s living in Canada after her family emigrated there. She now lives in Surrey with two cats and her guitarist husband Chris. She co-founded the T Party Writers’ Group in 1994, and remains Chair Person.

The first two books in her amateur sleuth series about Canadian actress Shara Summers will be released by MuseItUp Publishing in 2014. DEATH SCENE, the first book (and a re-release) will be available from 22 September, with the sequel, DEAD COOL, following 0n 25 November. Pre-orders being taken now on the MuseItUp book store site:

You can learn more about Sara and her writing at her website at or her blog at


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Barb Caffrey talks about her story An Elfy On the Loose!

"On the Writing of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE"
by Barb Caffrey

To discuss how I wrote AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE – much less why I wrote it in the first place – I need to discuss the most important person who's ever been in my life: My late husband, Michael B. Caffrey. Because without him, AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE – much less the entirety of the Elfyverse – would not exist.
Michael was a much more assured writer than I was when I met him back in 2001, as he'd written two full novels and was working on another one. (I've managed to extract two stories from his first novel, and those stories, "A Dark and Stormy Night" and "On Westmount Station," are available at Amazon as e-books.) Michael also was an accomplished editor, and was probably the best person I could've been around as I started to seriously write fiction.
However, when we married in 2002, the novel I was working on wasn't AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE. I had no idea that I was about to write AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, either, nor that I'd write more than 240,000 words in the space of about thirteen months.
So what happened to jog loose the story of Bruno the Elfy and Sarah, his Human companion and friend? And why did I listen back in September of 2002 when Bruno popped up and said, "Hey, over here! I have a story to tell?"
Back then, Michael and I had just gotten back to San Francisco, California, which had been his home for many years, from a lengthy honeymoon visit with my family. And I'd read an anthology about Elves where the anthologist said something to the effect of, "These Elves aren't your normal Elfie-welfie stuff, either." While the name of that anthology didn't stick, the thought of what, pray tell, "Elfie-welfie stuff" might be apparently did, as it wasn't three hours after I closed the book that Bruno appeared.
When a character appears, fully formed, it's best to listen to what he has to say. But all I knew, when I started writing, were three things: Bruno liked to wear black, when his race, the Elfys, mostly loved bright colors. He was the equivalent of a teenager. And he did not like to rhyme, even if all the other Elfys did.
Even so, that was enough for me to start writing what I then called "The Elfy Story." I wrote the first six parts or so – less than chapters, about a thousand words per part – alone. Michael took a hand when I got to the seventh part because I had some sort of problem I couldn't immediately solve, and he got intrigued. Then he figured this story had legs, and he wanted to help me figure out where it went.
What did he do, exactly? Well, I have an Elfy Lexicon in the Bilre language – Bilre being what the Elfys speak, of course – and I wouldn't have that without Michael's help. He also helped me hash out how the Elfys are governed, and what their society is like. Trade is a must, and whoever Trades with all the other races can be a very wealthy and powerful person, but knowledge, too, is essential – because if you don't know what's likely to be important to each species, how could you possibly relate? (Or Trade, either?)
In figuring all of that out, we decided that the Elfyverse must be a true multiverse, where the various races tend to have worlds (or levels) of their own. And each race is different; for example, I knew from the beginning that Elfys were a type of shorter Elf (no Elfy is taller than four feet, two inches unless he or she is of mixed blood), but didn't have the same set of strengths and weaknesses as the Elfs (never Elves, as if you call them that in the Elfyverse, the Elfs will charcoal you for your presumption). And I knew that we had at least three races involved – Elfs, Elfys, and Humans. But as time went on, I knew the Dwarves were present (as they built air-cars), as were the Trolls, and maybe even the Ogres . . .
Still, world building aside, why should anyone care about Bruno just because he's an Elfy and from a magical society? You'd think that someone who has magic, and a lot of it, would be too hard to root for, right?
Not in Bruno's case. He's an orphan, a ward of the state, and because of a past traumatic brain injury, he doesn't remember everything he should. Further, most of what he's been told about himself is wrong. Worse yet, the Elfy High Council is so afraid of Bruno's potential magical power that they've intentionally mistrained him before sending him off to the Human Realm (our Earth), intending to maroon him there forever.
Despite all this, Bruno never completely loses his sense of humor, which appealed to me. He refuses to give up – it's just not in him – and that, too, appealed to me. So I kept writing . . . and my husband kept editing.
As I wrote, I learned that Bruno had landed in a house that was haunted. And where he mostly couldn't do magic. And where he only had one friend: the strange Human girl Sarah, who he had to make common cause with due to her loathsome parents (as one of my friends put it, "Sarah's parents are straight out of reality TV"). They're in a bad situation, but it quickly gets worse when Bruno's mentor Roberto tries to rescue them, but instead ends up getting captured himself by Sarah's terrible parents. Who are themselves in thrall to a Dark Elf, who's up to no good . . . and then, of course, they fall in love, and everything gets better in a weird way because that's what love does, despite everything else going to the Hells in a handbasket.
With all of that going on, Bruno and Sarah realize they have to gather allies. But how can they? Bruno's new to the whole Human Realm (our Earth), while Sarah's been told her whole life that she's unimportant and way too young to be bothered with. And they need both Elfy and Human allies, which isn't going to be easy . . .
But somehow, some way, they will do it – or die trying.
With this huge, complex plot, I could've easily gotten lost. Fortunately for me, Michael was there every step of the way. He told me when I'd get frustrated, "Don't worry. The story will come." Or he'd tell me jokes in a similar way Bruno tries to do with Sarah from time to time in AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE (where do you think I got that from, hm?). Or he'd help me draw diagrams when I tried to figure out why the Elfy High Council did anything at all . . . plus, he edited what I wrote, gave me excellent advice, and re-wrote nearly all of Dennis the Dark Elf's dialogue to make it even nastier and more hissable.
What more could anyone ever ask from her spouse than that?
So, in closing, if you enjoyed any part of AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, please remember my husband Michael. Without his presence in my life – without his understanding, patience, and love – this novel would not exist. Because I'd not have known enough about love to write it.

BARB CAFFREY is a writer, editor and musician from the Midwest. She is the author of the humorous urban fantasy/romance AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, and is the co-author of the Adventures of Joey Maverick series (with late husband Michael B. Caffrey). Previous stories and poems have appeared in BEDLAM'S EDGE, HOW BEER SAVED THE WORLD, BEARING NORTH, STARS OF DARKOVER, the Written Word online magazine, Joyful Online, the Midwest Literary Magazine, and at e-Quill Publishing. A writer, editor, and musician, Barb is also an inveterate reader, a huge baseball fan (Go, Brewers!), reviews books at Shiny Book Review, follows politics, is mystified by the Maury show, and wonders when her little dog will ever stop doing "the paw trick."  Find her at Elfyverse, Facebook, or Twitter.


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Michael Thal and the Koolura Series on Penny's Tales


When I was teaching sixth grade I noticed that my pre-teen daughter wasn’t reading. During her toddler years and first three years in elementary school I had read books to her prior to bedtime. Once her reading level was fluent, I figured she would enjoy reading on her own. But now in middle school, she only read when she had to.

So one day I confronted Channie. “Sweetie, why aren’t you reading on your own for enjoyment?”

Books are boring. I like to do cool things like play with video games and put together puzzles.”

I thought for a second and said, “Would you read a book about a very cool girl?”

She had to think for a while, and then shrugged. “Maybe.”

Channie was always interested in psychology, so I said, “How about if I wrote a book about a very cool girl with psychic powers.”

Channie’s eyes lit up. “That’s real cool. I’ll read that.”

That was when Koolura was born.

The Legend of Koolura tells the story of a sixth grade girl and how she obtained the cool powers. She has the ability to dematerialize at will and reappear where she chooses. She can move objects with her mind and she can even defy gravity! But will these powers be of any use in stopping a stalker intent on her destruction?
The stalker is determined to retrieve Koolura’s unrealized psychic powers and hurt any of her friends who get into his way.

As the hour approaches for Koolura’s final confrontation with her nemesis, she may finally find vengeance to the man who killed her mother.

By the time Channie became a parent herself, Solstice Publishing published The Legend of Koolura during the winter of 2012. True to her word, Channie read the book dedicated to her and her sister, Koren.

I had taught public school for 28 years until a virus robbed me of my hearing. Unable to understand what my students were saying to me, I retired from my profession and reinvented myself. I taught myself how to write like a pro.

By this time, my youngest daughter was attending the University of California at Santa Barbara. One weekend I visited her and we took a ride into the nearby Santa Ynez Mountains where we discovered Lake Cachuma and a nearby sleep away camp. I thought this would be a great setting for my second Koolura book. I wanted to make sure the books were connected, but survived nicely on their own. As Koren and I strolled the surrounding forest and the water’s edge of the lake, a plot began to coalesce.

In Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback, Koolura reveals to readers her powers—teleportation, flying, healing and levitating. However, after her first night in the girls’ bunkhouse, Koolura wakes up drained and powerless. Who or what has stolen her psychic abilities?

As Koolura searches for the truth about her power loss, she and the Chumash Girls have to deal with pranksters ruining their cabin and destroying their summer. Campers plan revenge but problems escalate as lives are threatened. Will Koolura and the Chumash Girls solve the mystery at Camp Saddleback? (Solstice Publishing published Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback November 27, 2013.)

Since Koolura officially entered puberty during The Legend of Koolura, I wanted to show her continued growth and power development. During the course of The Mystery at Camp Saddleback, Koolura discovers she can time travel. Now how cool is that, Channie?

Currently, I’m working on book three in the Koolura Series, “Koolura and the Mayans”. The novel opens about four months after Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback ends. Koolura is traveling to Oaxaca, Mexico with her friend Leila, a deaf girl she befriended during summer camp. Koolura’s dad will be marrying Terri Lather, the police officer who helped Koolura in the first book. (Terri reappears in book two when dad announces the engagement at the Santa Monica camp.)

In The Legend of Koolura, we learn that Koolura got her amazing powers from an alien machine called the Decoolerizer. In book three, while Koolura and Leila are traipsing through a Mayan ruin, days before the wedding, they discover a Decoolerizer, which when handled by Koolura, transports the duo back to the time when the Mayans ruled pre-Columbian Mexico.

All three books in The Koolura Series are connected, but the plots are not dependent on the previous book(s). If a reader never read The Legend of Koolura it wouldn’t affect his or her understanding of Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback nor “Koolura and the Mayans”.

During the 15 years out of the classroom since my hearing loss, I wrote two other novels besides The Koolura Series. These books include Goodbye Tchaikovsky ( Royal Fireworks Press, 2012), the story of a teen violin virtuoso who wakes up on his twelfth birthday deaf, and The Abduction of Joshua Bloom (Solstice Publishing, 2014), a science fiction novel about the abduction of a teen by an alien race of humans determined to find a new home for their people.

Feel free to visit my website at to read the reviews about my books.

For five days beginning August 1-August 5 The Koolura Series will be on sale for $.99 at these sites (the print books are available, too):

The Legend of Koolura:
Koolura and the Mystery at Camp Saddleback:

Barnes & Noble- Nook
The Koolura Series:

Smashwords- epub, mobi, pdf, rtf, lrf, pdb, txt
Books by Michael Thal:

Solstice Publishing- mobi
The Koolura Series: