Tag Archive | Stories

Jan McCanless~Beryl’s Cove Mysteries

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Jan McCanless is a retired school teacher and noted premier Southern Humorist. Her homespun articles appear in six national magazines, and her regular newspaper columns. Her delightful Beryl’s Cove mystery series is a cross between Mayberry RFD and Murder She Wrote, and she has two compilations of her humor articles out as well. Once you’ve read one of her books, you are hooked and become a Jan McCanless fan for life! 

Welcome Jan. We are thrilled to have you visit us today.

Tell us something you would like your readers to know about you they don’t.

I am an absolute fanatic about crossword puzzles, and am usually seen working on one anytime I am not writing.  Spouse claims I am the world’s best cook, and  I am an ordained Lay Minister of the Lutheran Church – a fact I am very proud of.

Wow, I did not know that.

I understand you traveled to a most unusual place. Where was this and did it wind up in one of your books?

Quite honestly, the most unusual place was a wax museum in New Orleans. It was dedicated to the macabre, and had some really unusual things in it. Scenes from Dracula, that sort of thing.  No, it never made it into one of my books.

Most of my columns are autobiographical in nature, so things of this nature find themselves in my stories.  Interesting thing about this adventure was the sign on each exhibit, telling the visitor to keep their hands down, so as not to sound an alarm. Naturally, I had to point and gesture, setting off every alarm in the whole place, at each exhibit. Spouse says I embarrassed him tremendously, but, isn’t that what I’m supposed to do with my columns?

In a previous life, what did you do before becoming a writer?

Most all my readers know I was a school teacher, but, a lot of them are surprised to learn I was once a registered Medical Technologist.  I was an assistant to a pathologist, and we of course, did forensic work, autopsies, tissue examination, that sort of thing. I’ve always been fascinated by forensics, probably why I write murder mysteries. I loved the work.  Retirement brought me to the job of volunteer tour guide for our local senior center, a very rewarding job, and I absolutely loved it.jan

If you’ve retired, how difficult was it to give it up?

My first day of not teaching was hard, I got up early, got dressed and was going out the door to school, when it occurred to me I was no longer employed there. I’d still be teaching if not for arthritis, which made it extremely difficult to walk the concrete floors and carry AV equipment, etc .  To this day, I miss my students, many of whom have remained friends over the years, and I miss the mental stimulation.  Realistically, I knew I could not give it my all, so, yes, I miss it.

Does coincidence sometimes play a role in your books? If so, is there a particular example you can share. 

Not as much as one would think,  since my books are pure fiction. My two compilations of columns  did have a coincidence. I had just submitted a column about my time up in Fish Creek , Wisconsin, visiting my brother. Spouse and I were taking a day trip up to the mountains, when I ran into a gentleman who was visiting North Carolina from Fish Creek, Wisconsin. My column ran that very week, so, I was quite surprised at the coincidence, and the gentleman and I had a nice, long chat. He loved visiting here he said, and I loved visiting there.  What I find so amusing is, someone at a book signing will invariably tell me they have been to Beryls Cove, NC, an entirely fictional place, yet, they will insist they have been there and loved it. Fans, you gotta love em !  back_to_b_cove

What is your favorite Hobby? Does it by chance have any influence on your writing?

Without question, its reading. I love to read, and  between May and July of this year, I read 14 books. I read constantly, when I’m not writing, and could not live without my books. I have a personal library in my home with over 300 volumes of books I want to keep and maybe read again some day. Other books go to consignment, there simply is not room enough for them.

Does reading influence my writing? Absolutely, I love to study characters and interesting, exciting plots will really hold my interest. I try to learn from other successful authors too, and have garnered many ideas from them over the years. You have to tell yourself  that they are successful  for a reason.  I try to take something away from all of them, and writing well is a constant learning process.

Do you have to do much research in your writing?

Writing a good story takes research, no matter what the subject. Even fiction has to be accurate if you are quoting facts, so, I actually enjoy research. I have a research assistant  when needed, and have found out many things about Las Vegas, for instance, and the book I’m writing now takes place in England. So, I am thoroughly enjoying researching places near my fictional town. Over the years, I have made a few mistakes in my facts, so, I quickly learned that to be accurate, I must research. It’s time-consuming, but, worth the effort. For the book I am doing now, I did about 3 months worth of research before I wrote the first word.

What are yo working on now?

It’s the third book in my Brother Jerome series, which is an offshoot of the Beryls Cove mysteries. I made the HUGE mistake of saying in my last book, there would be no more, and fans and publisher alike jumped all over me, wanting more, more, more. So, This book is entitled The Opera House Murders, and is about this lovely old home that is now a residence for elderly, retired entertainers in the small English village of Colliers Dog.  I have lovely, elderly British people, retired from show business, but, still entertaining themselves, and wonderful  English customs and sayings to employ.  My maternal grandmother was born in England,and I used to adore her way of speaking, and am absolutely fascinated by British mysteries, so, thought I would write one myself. I am really enjoying it,and having great fun with my characters,and especially Brother Jerome, a true misfit if there ever was one.  Hopefully, it will be out next winter.

Tell us how your newest book came about, the story behind it.

Well, as I said, I love the English mysteries, but, to tell you the truth, in my last book,  Gold, Frankincense and Mrrrdur , I had an English  character, and he was very popular with my readers. I loved the way his part in the plot was revealed, and enjoyed writing about him, so, I thought, why not?murder jan

What is the easiest for you? Writing dialogue, creating characters, plot or scenes?

For me, the easiest is the plot, it’s usually fomenting in my brain for quite some time before I sit down to write. In fact, it  generally keeps me awake at night,and when I can’t stand it any longer, I sit down and write.  Plots , for me, are easy, they just simply pop into my head.  Hardest is writing dialogue. For one thing, I was an English teacher, and proper grammar is important to me, but, most people don’t speak a formal English with a lot of correct grammar. I have to remember that when I write. A construction worker, for instance, is not going to tell you he is headed to the restaurant and going to buy a cup of coffee. No, he will say he’s goin to the diner to get a cuppa coffee, or joe.  Most folks are turned off by overly formal language and all the proper grammar a writer can throw at them, they are intimidated, so, I try always to write as the average person speaks.  In my early books, I have octogenarian twins, one repeated everything the other one said. Oh man, that was hard, because I was writing everything twice. It made their characterizations quite endearing though, but, it was a long, slow process.

What advice would you give to other writers?

I would tell them three things.  Stay the course, don’t be put off by rejection or two, we all get them or have gotten them.  If you believe in your work, then, eventually, someone else will, and you’ll be on your way. I self published my first book, because all the rejects I got told me there was not enough sex, violence or profanity in it. I don’t write books like that, and I believed in my work. One publisher told me I’d never get anywhere with it, but, I published it anyway, and it was out one week, and went best seller. the rest, as they say, is history. Now, my publisher asks me when he can receive the next book.

Network as much as you can with other authors.  Writing is a learning experience, and talk to other authors as much as you can, and you will find out a lot of good information.  Southern Writers Magazine is a marvelous resource for this, and eventually, you’ll hit upon your own voice and style of writing.  I work at least 2 book festivals a year, in other parts of the country, and I learn from every one of them. I see many author friends, and we get together and brain storm. you’d be surprised the good ideas you can pick up from another writer.  We swap books often,and you can really learn from all this.

Write what you know. If you are into romance, don’t try to write science fiction. Write what you know, and familiarize yourself with your audience. I had the advantage of writing newspaper columns for the middle ager, that’s what I know, so, my characters are almost all middle-aged or older, with few exceptions,  because I know and understand how the middle years affect people.  I could not nor would not attempt to write a book about teenagers, too far removed from them ,despite having 6 teenaged grandchildren, I am not with them 24/7 to see all their activities, or understand their language and music today.  My favorite genre of book is murder mysteries, Agatha Christie being my fave author, so, that is what I write. Murder mysteries, always with a twist, and always family friendly stories.

Tell me a fun fact about you.

I am an incorrigible practical joker, and I could not live without humor. I tried being serious once, it didn’t work for me.   Humor is  a big part of my public speaking, and I am a very frustrated pop singer.  Don’t tell anyone though.

It has been an honor having Jan McCanless with us today. Check out her sites and get her books if you want great reads.








Robin Lee Hatcher’s Sharing Love, Loves and Loving

robin lee hatcher photoWelcome Robin, it’s so nice of you to drop by and bring us up to date on your new books.  

Thanks for having me Susan. I’m excited to share my new books and how they came about.

Robin Lee Hatcher, author of two new books is visiting today. One of her new books is Whenever You Come Around. Tell us a little about that book.

Whenever You Come AroundThe idea for the heroine’s dog to cause the hero to fall and injure himself so that he can’t work was the initial impetus for this story. I pictured it so clearly in my mind. The accident. The guilt. And then the heroine being obliged to help him while he is immobilized. It seemed the perfect set up for romance.

This is the 2nd book in the Kings Meadow Romance series and the third book set in that location. It  tells the story of Charity Anderson, a successful novelist, and Buck Malone, a wilderness guide. Charity has avoided returning to her hometown over the past decade due to a painful secret that has kept her an emotional prisoner. But flood damage to her Boise home has forced her to come to Kings Meadow for the summer so she can concentrate on finishing a new book. When Charity’s dog causes an accident that leaves Buck with a broken ankle and wrist at the start of prime tourist season, Charity has little choice but to render aid while he recuperates.  Soon Buck becomes the inspiration for Charity’s hero, both on the page and off. The question is can he also help her face and overcome her fears so they might find their own happily ever after?


The other book is titled I Hope You Dance. Tell us about that one.

I Hope You DanceThe heroine of this novella is a dance instructor, and the hero, who needs to learn to dance for his friend’s wedding, has two left feet. The heroine dreams of her own wedding day and wants a big family, and the hero, the second of ten kids, has no plans to ever marry and definitely does not want kids of his own. Of course they are made for each other. NOT!

This book releases in  July 2015 in the Year of Weddings novella series and the fourth book set in Kings Meadow. Grant Nichols is a genius in the kitchen and a klutz on the dance floor. But his friend’s wedding is shaping up to be a shindig the likes of which Kings Meadow has never seen—including dancing. Lots of dancing. Then he learns a local dance teacher, Skye Foster, is offering dance lessons for the wedding party. What does he have to lose?

Oh how funny Robin. What made you choose this particular storyline for your books?

Most of my stories begin with a little glimmer of the premise, one that will not let go, one that forces me to keep thinking about it. Then the characters begin to develop in my mind. And once the main characters fully blossom into “real” people, I let them tell me their stories. So the short answer is, the stories choose me, not the other way around.

Were there any challenges in writing either book?

When I started writing Whenever You Come Around, I thought that Charity’s high school crush on Buck was at the root of what would be the crisis. But eventually I realized that Charity had much deeper and serious hurts than unrequited love. It led to an overhaul of the story that was sometimes difficult to accomplish and more time-consuming than I would have liked.

On the other hand, I Hope You Dance may have been the most fun I have ever had while writing. I loved Skye and Grant from the get-go. I loved the way they interacted. I love the way they fell in love. It was a joy to show up at the computer each day to see what would happen next.

How did you choose the plots for both books?

I’m an intuitive writer, and my books are very character driven. Which means most of the plot development happens in my subconscious, and it’s the characters who decide what will happen to them. I honestly cannot tell you where the idea of Whenever You Come Around first tugged at my imagination, but at the beginning, I thought it was going to be the story of high school sweethearts whose love went wrong. But it didn’t become that at all.

It is a little easier to identify the genesis for I Hope You Dance. For this second Year of Weddings, rather than telling the stories of the actual brides and grooms, the authors are telling love stories about the people who help make the weddings happen. I chose to tell the story of a dance instructor who is in love with love and who dreams of her own wedding–if she can ever meet the right guy. With that setup for the heroine, it was obvious to me that the hero had to have two left feet (to start with). Everything else blossomed from that beginning.

You do such a beautiful job of writing and I have enjoyed every book you’ve written. Can’t wait to read these two.

Tell me, what’s next for you? 

Keeper of the Stars. This book releases in January 2016. It’s the 3rd book in the Kings Meadow Romance series and the fifth book set in Kings Meadow. It tells the story of Penny Cartwright and Trevor Reynolds, whom Penny blames for the death of her brother. It was difficult for Penny to understand when her younger brother chose to join a country singer’s band rather than return to Kings Meadow after college, and the separation strained their relationship. Then a car accident made certain her brother could never return. Trevor has chased stardom in Nashville for more than a dozen years, but it remains out of his reach. After an accident kills his young drummer, Trevor goes to Kings Meadow to keep a promise—and perhaps to discover what truly matters in this life.

Oh, that sounds wonderful. Looking forward to this book too.

Thank you so much for dropping by and telling us about your two new books. They sound wonderful, and when I leave here, I am going to go get both of them.

Be sure to check her website to keep watch for new books releasing. Real the wonderful information Robin shares with her readers about herself and her books. http://www.robinleehatcher.com/


Until Next Time, Happy Reading.