About the books, behind the stories, and free reads



What It’s About:
As manager of a high-end upscale horse training facility in northern Minnesota, Maggie Squires does everything herself, thank you very much, along with Carlos, a bona fide horse whisperer, until a rogue puma threatens the horses and she must go against her gut and allow former Army Ranger sharpshooter Max Abrams, who is helping out while Carlos’ broken leg heals, to take charge of the hunt for the puma, the facility, and possibly Maggie herself.
Distance Riding:
I’d never heard of distance riding until my youngest daughter — the daughter who loves horses and once worked as a cowgirl at a dude ranch — took up this sport that requires that both horse and rider be in tip-top shape. The rider is left to figure out for him/herself if he/she is up to the task. The horses are carefully monitored by vets who usually volunteer to check them regularly.
The horses and riders then take off across country — or over mountains — or through forests like the one in Wanted: Sharpshooter. Fifty mile rides are common, one hundred mile rides aren’t unheard of. The horses must be trained and exercised regularly to get them to the utmost in fitness so they can compete. And they love it, looking forward to the experience every bit as much as their riders do.
Evenings, everyone gets together at the campsite and shares meals, memories and stories. It’s a great way to spend a long weekend.


When Dreams Do Come True


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What It’s About:

“When Dreams Do Come True” is a quick read about a woman who has a dream while wide awake in which she… and she alone… can save a lost child. But dreams aren’t real, right? Or are they?  The child is crying and asking her for help.  She can’t ignore her.  But if she goes with her  gut, ignores common sense, and steps into the dream in order to save the child, what will happen?  Will she be able to return to the real world once the child is safe?  Or will she cease to exist?  And what about the child’s good-looking father who is searching frantically for his daughter?  What will happen if they meet?

Yes, Some People Are Psychic:

I don’t have a psychic bone in my body. None. I once took a test to see if I was psychic and — not surprisingly — I flunked. But I do know people who are psychic, even in my own family, and I’m in awe of their abilities. I once told one psychic friend that if I’m ever lost in the forest and afraid that I’ll start sending mental messages to her and she’d better be listening! She agreed to be alert and, if it ever happened, she’d listen and come right to my rescue.



flying bird


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What It’s About:

A one-page short story written in the style of Native American ‘creation’ stories, this tale tells how birds first flew. I’ve probably had more comments on this simple story than anything else I’ve written.

How It Got Written:

I belong to the Jackpine Writers Bloc, a group of writers here in northern Minnesota. Once they asked me to participate in a 20X20. I didn’t know what that was but I soon learned. They asked 20 artists to each loan a work of art for 20 writers– each writer matched to one work of art– to write a one-page story inspired by the artwork.

The artwork I was matched with was a pottery plate and matching bowl. The plate had a cute, little snake on it and the bowl had an equally cute bird, all done in what seemed to me to be a Southwestern style. So I wrote a story in the style of Native American Storytellers and I chose to write about the beginning of the world, specifically how birds learned to fly. It was one of those stories that just flowed. No revisions, no changes, nothing. It just came into existence. It gets a huge positive response, which makes me dance for joy.



nonfiction book write fiction like a pro cover



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What It’s About:

Tips and techniques to improve your fiction. Short and concise advice to help writers at every stage of the writing game.

Where It Came From:

Each tip originated as a post on my blog, where they still reside and be read for free. Or you can buy the book and get them all together in one place that’s easy to reference.



short story the river boy cover picture take 3



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What It’s About:

Short, dark fantasy story about a girl who falls in love with the prince of a river. Totally fantasy.

The Inspiration:

A number of years ago, my husband and I spent a day just upriver of the mouth of the Columbia river in Washington State. Before we left, we were instructed to wear our life jackets at all times because the waters are so dangerous and submerged logs so common that there was a real possibility of our boat being overturned and us being thrown into the water. If that happened, we were told, we’d not survive without life jackets. The current was that strong and just a week earlier the unthinkable had happened. Needless to say, we wore our life jackets. Though our trip was safe and uneventful in that respect, I was totally awed by the high riverbanks on either side of us and the undergrowth that turned that place into a different world, one of mystery and magic.



short story the goldfish pond cover


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What It’s About:

A short story, a fantasy about a boy who disappears while sailing across a goldfish pond on a ship made of an old barn door and the detective who searches for him.

The Inspiration:

I never lived near a small pond such as the one in the story, but I lived on lakes for many, many years and the small bays and inlets are similar to the goldfish pond in the story. They needed a story so I wrote this one.



short story down from the mountain cover picture


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What It’s About:

A dystopian short story originally published in The Talking Stick by the Jackpine Writers’ Bloc about a group of condemned prisoners on their way to be executed, not for anything they did wrong but because they are carriers of a virus.

The Inspiration:

Every since reading The Day of The Triffids as a child, one of my favorite kinds of stories has been the dystopian story involving end-of-the-world survivors. I’ll never rise to the level of The Day of The Triffids but I’ve done a bit of dystopian writing myself.



book cover universe


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What It’s About:

The Eye of the Universe” is a short story that explores what happens when the world will end unless two lovers agree to part forever…. and one of them decides not to abide by those terms.

How It Came to be Written:

I’m not proud. I’m willing to admit that my youngest daughter inspired this story when she once commented that there must be something about balls that’s fundamental because every culture has at least one game that involves a ball. From that beginning, my imagination took over. I remembered the story of a grisly ball game played by Mayans in which the ball was a human skull. My imagination kept going and this short story is the result. It’s had more hits than any other short story I’ve written.



Product Details

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What It’s About:

Recently jilted, Chloe Brown is back home in Johns Falls, Minnesota, working for her aunt selling furniture and other garden paraphernalia until she can recover emotionally, after which she’ll leave.

When she discovers a family of Mallard ducks in one of the huge vases in the outdoor portion of the store, her aunt agrees to let them stay because protecting the ducks is taking her niece out of her severe depression.

Soon Chloe meets Ryan, short-term, interim manager of the Johns Falls newspaper. The two agree to support each other during this temporary, small-town stage of their lives, after which they will happily leave Johns Falls and each other. They find themselves sharing confidences, but Chloe has sworn to protect the duck family and keep them safe, so she keeps their existence a secret lest Ryan write about them in the paper, because a story could bring unwanted publicity, too many visitors, and possibly danger.

But secrets have a way of being uncovered, especially by experienced reporters.

And love isn’t temporary.

Johns Falls: home of clean, wholesome, small-town romance:

Shhh — Don’t Tell is the first in a series of clean, wholesome small town romance. It’s a stand-alone book in a series of stories that take place in the fictional town of Johns Falls, Minnesota that can be read in any order.







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What It’s About:

Elle Olmstead isn’t your normal, every-day botanist. She’s different. As a descendant of Ceres, goddess of the harvest and fertility, she, like others of her family, has a magic touch with plants. Real, honest-to-goodness magic. Which is why she unwillingly stows away on the Destiny, a space ship filled with ten thousand colonists heading for a distant planet. Because she knows that her abilities are essential to keep the plants alive that keep the colonists alive and that will be the basis for their survival when they reach their destination.

She’s caught and thrown in prison, where her powers are useless. Soon the plants begin to shrivel and die. Starvation is imminent, not to mention that the plants provide essential oxygen. But no one believes her when she tells them who she is and what she can do, especially not Cullen Vail, the one person she has come to like, maybe even love. Because Cullen is head of Security, an inscrutable, military type who has no time for stowaways and doesn’t believe in foolish legends.

She lied before, why should he believe her now? But somehow she must persuade him of the truth or ten thousand people will die.

Free short story about the Olmstead family:

If this story appeals to you, you might enjoy reading this free short story about another member of the Olmstead family. THE TREE THING


A vivid world created on board The Destiny

May, 26 2015

Earth Legend tells the story of Elle, a descendent of the goddess of harvest Ceres, who lives in a time of drastic upheaval as her own world is about to be traded in for a new colony on a distant planet.

With any story that uses a subject matter as dense and scientific as space travel, straddling the line between authenticity and imagination is difficult. I was a little concerned that the launch wasn’t more heavily protected and that that there wasn’t more of a screening process in place. But the initial conflict, of Elle and her cousins driving to the launch of Destiny, and trying to stow away as colonists, a group of genetic elite chosen to travel on the space ship Destiny and begin a new civilization on a far away planet, is surprisingly clearly and undramatically introduced to us. The author’s style is authoritative and reliable. From this point on, the reader is able to suspend her disbelief so even though we can’t verify the plausibility of the ship’s mission, it doesn’t matter.

But from then on the world building is simple and evocative. We get a clear picture of the atmosphere on board the Destiny, its expansive artificial settings, the darkness as “a good imitation of night” rather than night itself for example, and the vitality of the flora and fauna that Elle comes to care for so deeply. The outside world, and Elle’s outside connections, are less clear, but I don’t think this is a fault of the writing but a choice; it serves to make the world on board the ship seem more immersive and bubble-like. A romance plot as well as the high-stakes survival narrative pull us along expertly and with equal force.

The only aspect of the book that slightly jarred with me was the insertion of the mythological characters, but the author did a good job of convincing me in the dialogue between Elle and the Captain later on, in which the difference between myth and history is brought up, and we are able to see the characters grapple with this problem themselves.

Some sections of this romantic prose are gorgeously elongated and illustrated, the part where Elle looks deeply into Cullen’s eyes for the first time for example and notices worlds of colours and details in them – “his eyes weren’t solid black and that was close indeed because I saw clearly the pure night and lightning and thunder in them.” And the moment that Elle stops seeing the Destiny as a constrained temporary world and it becomes a full rich world, where she, at least on some level, belongs, is also really well done. “The Destiny was no longer a ship. It was a country and Center City was the capital, complete with streets and parks and it was beautiful,” she admits, as she becomes more and more invested in how she alone can determine the outcome of the Destiny’s mission.

Overall, this is a transporting read, with characters and a world that feel real and are well controlled by their author. I can imagine this as a pretty cool movie, too!






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What It’s About:

Jane, who dislikes wolves because they kill her livestock takes Buck Portman, wolf researcher and wildlife professor at a nearby college she attends, to an island to seek out the huge wolves of legend … the dire wolves of prehistoric times … fishermen say they’ve seen there. She’s skeptical until a huge wolf runs through their camp and mentally connects with Jane and invites her to visit so they can sort out this strange mental phenomenon neither of them expected. Jane follows the wolf and Buck follows her into another world, another dimension, one populated by larger-than-life dangerous animals, including the wolves of legend. Her mental connection to the alpha wolf is all that keeps them alive in this dangerous world and when they return, at the request of the alpha female, they take with them an injured wolf pup to be healed. The pup heals nicely… but as it grows, will it remain a pet or will it become a dangerous predator in a world where it doesn’t belong? As the attraction between Jane and the professor grows, so do the problems inherent in having a huge, prehistoric dire wolf in today’s world.

Lake of the Woods:

The border between Minnesota in the US and Canada, where much of the story is set, contains a lot of water. Some of that water is in the form of a river but a lot is lakes. Lake of the Woods is possibly the largest lake between Minnesota and Canada and it’s filled with islands. Many, many islands. It’s a huge lake and it’s easy to get lost there. Boaters are advised to take ship-to-shore radios and/or satellite GPS locators. Normal cell phones don’t work because there are few towers in that vast, lonely area.



Spirit Legend: romance has a way of developing even when it's not wanted by [Witkop, Florence]

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What It’s About:

Legend says a spirit lives in the lake in the center of a tract of wilderness purchased by Macallister Outdoors. While Charlie, first female forester for Macallister Outdoors, and Ian Macallister, owner of the company, are checking out the new property a horrific storm destroys the forest and the beaver dam that created the lake and strands them. Then they see a spirit and hear it sing. It’s real, it’s beautiful, and it will die when the lake drains dry. They resolve to patch the dam and save the lake and the spirit. As they work, they learn about the spirit and about each other, while deliberately ignoring the growing attraction between them because a romance between a boss and employee is always a bad thing. But some spirits can do more than just sing and look lovely. And romance has a way of developing even when it shouldn’t.

The 1999 Blowdown:

 The inspiration for the storm that isolated Charlie and Ian in the wilderness and destroyed the lake the spirit lived in was the July 4, 1999 storm that was the largest blow-down ever recorded in North America.  It devastated much of northern Minnesota. It only lasted about 20 minutes but the winds were in excess of 90 miles per hour.  It’s effects will be felt for a lifetime.  We were sitting in the kitchen that day when we saw dark clouds approaching.  As they grew nearer, it looked as if the earth itself was being lifted into the sky.  We ran for the basement.  Though we were fine, the wilderness was changed dramatically.  Our daughter, who was on a train shortly after the storm, told of looking out the train window for hours at a time and seeing trees that had been flattened by the storm. I cannot even imagine how many miles of forest were destroyed.  Even now, years later, we occasionally still see remnants of that storm.

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