Friday, June 2, 2023

This week in The Loft: Author Brenda Whiteside!

Joining me today in The Loft is award-winning author Brenda Whiteside. Brenda writes romantic suspense, cozy mystery, and romance. She’s also delving into children’s books and hopes to have her first one, co-written with her ten-year-old granddaughter, published this year. After living in six states and two countries—so far—she and her husband have settled in Central Arizona. They share their home with a rescue dog named Amigo. 

Author Brenda Whiteside

S:  Good morning, Brenda. I'm so happy you could join me today!

You began your career as an artist, but transitioned to writing books. If you had to do it all over again, would you still choose to write books?

B:  That is a resounding yes. In fact, I would’ve chosen writing so many years sooner if I could do it again. I’ve always liked to write. In school, I was in accelerated English and loved all writing assignments. But from the time I was about six years old, my artwork gained more attention than my writing. I geared myself to be an artist. Art was my major in college. I never worked in an art field. When I married, I got off track for any kind of education or career. Eventually, I took some classes, one of which was a creative writing class. I was hooked. I packed away my paints and filled blank pages with words instead of paint.

S:  Do you write in genres other than romance?

B:  I wrote a couple of strictly romance books in the beginning of my author career. Although one of them is considered romance, it’s written with some light suspense. That gave me a taste of a cross-over genre, and I switched to romantic suspense. I like writing about villains. And I like writing them from their point of view. The old adage is write what you know, but I say write what you like. Recently, I’ve branched out into two other genres. I am co-writing a cozy mystery with Joyce Proell. This new venture is so much fun. Why am I trying cozy? I had an idea for a series, but it didn’t fit in the romantic suspense genre, yet I couldn’t let the idea go. The Chocolate Martini Sisters demanded I give them a shot at their own series. I’m not sure I would’ve tried it without my mystery partner, Joyce, because mystery and suspense are quite different if done properly. I’m also co-writing a children’s book with my ten-year-old granddaughter, Sadi. This series is inspired by Sadi and her dog Max. The why of this one is simply that my granddaughter asked me to do it. She’s my illustrator and my synopsis gal. If I could just keep her on schedule. Ten-year-olds do have lives outside of writing.

S:  It sounds like you have some exciting times ahead. Congratulations.

Do you remember your first kiss? What was memorable about it?

B:  I certainly do. I was in sixth grade, and he was an older man—eighth grade. We were in the back of a truck. I can’t remember the details of where we’d been. I think the school had a swimming party of some sort at some public park. We’d met at the school parking lot, and we were on our way back to the parking lot to go home from there. I ended up in the back of a truck, in the dark, with Gary. There were other kids, too, but I didn’t care. I’d had such a crush on him. He probably knew it. He took advantage of me! I also didn’t care about that either. It was a simple, sweet kiss, but wow, did it send me into heaven. By the way, our relationship began and ended with that truck ride home.

S:  Someone should write a book about experiences in the back of a pickup truck. I imagine it would be filled with memories like yours.

What was your worst date ever?

B:  In high school, dating a letterman was the ultimate--some sort of status. So when a letterman from another school asked me out, I said yes. I wasn’t attracted to him, and I didn’t really know him. But he wore a letterman’s jacket. Lesson learned. He took me to a drive-in. He was the worse kisser ever. I tried eating popcorn, asking for a second cola, laughed at the movie—anything to avoid having him slobber all over my face. Man, that guy had a huge mouth.

S:  Remember the saying, "You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet your prince?"

Do you believe in love at first sight? 

B:  Technically no, I don’t believe in love at first sight. What I do believe in is lust at first sight. It might turn into love rather quickly, but it really isn’t love with that first glance. When I was younger, I had lots of lust at first sight experiences. Only one of those actually became love. But it didn’t last. Strangely enough, the man I ended up with and have been married to for decades wasn’t even lust at first sight.

S:  What inspired "The Deep Well of Love and Murder?"

B:  In this case, inspiration was a great deal of work. When I came up with the idea for a romantic suspense series, I asked my publisher to be locked into a five-book contract. At that point, I had no idea what books four and five would be. "The Deep Well of Love and Murder" was the most difficult. Two characters who basically had walk-on parts in prior books whispered to me. They wanted a story, but wow, were they reluctant to spell it out. When I finally understood the gist of what was happening, I got my teeth into a complicated double plot. Remember how I said I like to write villains? This book has at least two. I don’t want to give too much away.

S:  Is there anything special you would like people to know about "The Deep Well of Love and Murder?" 

B:  This is Book 4 in the Wild Horse Peaks series. This is the second edition of the book. The series was originally published under the series name, Love and Murder. I’ve re-edited, updated, and re-released all the books. If you haven’t read it, it’s a first for you.

Here's the blurb:

A vengeful ex-husband and bloody fight for land threaten a love-struck couple’s happiness.

After an abusive childhood and bad marriage, Laura Katz has finally found a home, stability…and possibly love. But her blissful refuge as nanny on the Meadowlark Ranch, miles from Timberline, shatters when her ex is released from prison, determined to reclaim her.

Randy Silva, the Argentine foreman, has plans for his own ranch, but a brutal land grab is underway. As the battle escalates, Laura steals his heart, but there are outsiders who stand in their way. He’s in a vicious battle for his land—and the woman he wants by his side.

Stakes are high, as the attacks on Randy and his ranch draw blood. While the vengeful ex-husband stalks Laura, a mob-backed land developer teams with a desperate gambler. Uncertain where the next attack will come from—will their love be caught in the crossfire?

S:  That sounds like a suspenseful story! Where can readers buy your book?

B:   It's available at--

S:  Brenda, thanks so much for visiting The Loft! If you'd like to learn more about Brenda and her books, please visit--

Sunday, May 28, 2023

Honor the fallen!

In America, it's Memorial Day weekend, a time when we honor those who died while serving our country in the U.S. military.

Friday, May 26, 2023

This week in The Loft: An interview with Gayle M. Irwin!

Joining me today in The Loft is award-winning author Gayle M. Irwin.  Gayle writes sweet contemporary, later-in-life romance stories set in the Rocky Mountain West.  She is also a contributing writer to eight Chicken Soup for the Soul books and the author of many inspirational pet books for children and adults. Gayle retired from her day-job in December 2022 to pursue writing full-time. She enjoys traveling, especially to national parks, forests, and wildlife refuges, and nature photography. Gayle lives with her husband, Greg, and their rescued pets--Murphy, a nearly 18-year-old longhaired tuxedo cat; Sadie, a brown and white springer spaniel; and Jeremiah, a black and white shih tzu who is a puppy mill survivor and the mascot for her Pet Rescue Romance series.

Author Gayle M. Irwin

S:  Good morning, Gayle. Thanks for joining me today!

What’s love got to do with writing romance?

G:  As an older romance writer, I reflect upon the times when I was a younger woman in love. I recall the nervousness, excitement, and joy as well as the chemistry shared with the man. Although the word ‘"love" can have different connotations for different people, I think most romance book readers enjoy not just the saucy and spice, but also the sweetness of romance and love, such as hand-holding, tender kisses, cuddles on the couch, and waltzes/dances shared between a couple in a romance story. Love and subtle intimacy equal romance, in my opinion, and therefore, that’s how I write my stories.

S:  Do you write in other genres? 

G:  I’m a multi-genre author, although my focus is on sweet/clean contemporary romance. I recently joined a group of five other sweet and Christian romance authors to release a romance anthology earlier this month titled, You Have Made My Heart. Proceeds from book sales go to a nonprofit. This was my first experience writing for a romance anthology, and I’ll be participating again with these and other authors for a charity anthology for the 2023 holiday season. In addition to sweet romance books, I’ve crafted children’s books and Christian devotions. I enjoy variety, and when I feel called to write in a specific genre, I heed that nudging. I’m currently working on another children’s book and a devotion, in addition to three more romance stories. My goal as an author is to inspire, entertain, and educate, and with the writing that I do, whether for children or for adults, I strive to meet those goals.

S:  What was your worst date ever?

G:  I’ve experienced several ‘not-so-fun’ dates in my life, but the one that stays in my memory happened when I was 21. A friend of mine set me up with a guy she knew--the date was simple enough, dinner and a movie. He and I conversed readily over dinner, and I was enjoying myself. Then, he drove us to the movie theater--to see “The Howling.” I hate horror movies, even those that come close to horror. I refused to go in. He kept saying, “It’s not that bad. It won’t be that bad.” I still refused and asked him to take me home. He said, “Well, we’re already here. Let’s just see the movie.” I began walking home. He caught up with me and reluctantly said he would drive me home, which he did. We never went out again. And I still don’t watch horror movies!

S:  I would have done the same thing. If I watch a horror film, nightmares follow.

What attracted you to your current partner?

G:  I’ve been married for nearly 23 years. Four things attracted me to my husband: his concern for the environment, his smile and laughter, his musical ability, and his love for pets. My dog and cat took to him and he to them, and I thought, “If my pets like him, he must be a great guy.” They were right!

S:  What would you like to people know about you?

G:  I mentioned my concern for the environment and my enjoyment of pets--nature and animals are important to me. I support many conservation causes, from wild horse advocacy to national park preservation. I also support pet rescue organizations. I’ve served as a rescue transporter for various groups, including Mid-America Boston Terrier Rescue and English Springer Spaniel Rescue. I donate a percentage of book sales to such groups, and my books feature rescued animals, from horses and sheep to dogs and cats.

S:  Those are wonderful causes. Although I can't have a pet, my family always adopts rescue cats and dogs.

What is the best/worst thing that has ever happened to you as a writer?

G:  I’ve experienced several positives in my writing career, from reader emails to awards. In January of this year, I was awarded first place by the Wyoming Press Association for a magazine article I wrote in 2022, "Missing and Murdered Indigenous People." I’m proud of the award and grateful for that recognition. The article sheds light on and educates readers about this important topic that still needs a solution.

S:  Congratulations. On the award and the topic. 

If you had to do it all over again, would you still choose to write books?

G:  If I had a life to do over again, I would pursue writing more vigorously and at a younger age. I still find writing thrilling, but I struggle more with novels--I seem to become more easily distracted and travel rabbit trails instead of focusing on the plot and manuscript at hand. I still write short stories--my eighth acceptance into Chicken Soup for the Soul happened in January--and magazine articles, and those shorter works still come fairly easily. I attribute my lack of focus to my older age, and since I’m not getting any younger, I may seek to write shorter romance works in the coming years.

S:  I have the same problem. I think it's due to training as a journalist. We're taught to keep things short and simple. Writing books is so different. We need to take more time developing plots and characters. 

How do you get in the mood for writing?

G:  I write best in the mornings, or at least prior to 2 p.m. I tend to rise early and place myself in front of the computer by 8 or 9 a.m. and work for three to four hours straight. I then eat lunch and either do interviews for magazine articles, work on social media, or watch educational videos on the craft or marketing of writing. I listen to soft, instrumental music as I write, and I sit next to my dog on the couch while watching educational videos. I primarily write in my home office that has windows looking upon bird feeders and a side garden. I also spend time at a friend’s ranch and at my mountain cabin for self-imposed writing retreats. I recently joined two programs by which I’m seeking to improve as an author and businessperson, and I expect to spend more time with those courses during the next few months.

S:  Have you ever shelved or thrown out a manuscript?

G:  I’ve shelved three manuscripts in the past, two of which I’ve brought out to finish this year, and the other I plan to pick up and work on again in 2024. Last year, I threw out a Christmas novella I had started--the characters and direction of the story just wasn’t going where I envisioned it when I started writing. The work is still on my computer, however, and maybe next year I’ll pull it out again … or maybe not.

S:  What do you consider your greatest achievement?

G:  My greatest writing achievement is two-fold--writing the story on "Missing and Murdered Indigenous People" and being recognized for that work, and also having eight stories published in eight Chicken Soup for the Soul books. My most life-fulfilling achievement is helping animals through rescue and adoption. I love serving as a transporter --I get to know the animals that I travel with and I get to help them have a second chance with a new family. Knowing that nearly one million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters in the U.S. every year breaks my heart, so when I can help alleviate that in a personal way as a transporter as well as through monetary donations and with subtle education within the pages of my books, my heart and soul are uplifted. My own pets are rescues, and I will always adopt instead of purchase from a pet store or breeder. Too many dogs and cats die in shelters every year through no fault of their own, and my life mission is to make a difference for rescue animals and organizations.

S:  Gayle, I'm so glad you could visit today. If you'd like to learn more about Gayle and her books, please visit:
Facebook: (author page)

Friday, May 19, 2023

This week in The Loft: Author Ann Raina!

Joining me today in The Loft is fellow Extasy author Ann Raina. The author of more than 30 books, Ann writes contemporary and erotic romance, and romantic suspense and science fiction. Her series include The BodyguardLiving for the Act, and Nick and Jacklyn. She blames her career as a writer on Han Solo and her love for writing fanfiction. Ann lives and works in Germany, where she enjoys spending time with her horse and two cats. 

S:  Good morning, Ann! Thanks for visiting The Loft!

What’s love got to do with writing romance?

A:  If you’re living in a loving relationship, you’ll find many sweet little moments to include in your writing. If not, you can at least imagine such moments or listen to your friends reporting about their relationships. Love has a lot to do with how you write romance. You’re by far more credible if you speak out of experience.

S:  Critics say romance novels mislead readers about the reality of romance and in fact, give readers false expectations. Do you agree?

A:  No. On the one hand, readers want to escape reality and slip into the warm embrace of a romance story. On the other hand, there’s so much love in many relationships that the stories we as romance authors write aren’t that far away from reality. In many cases, I've heard stories from friends and felt a warmth in my heart that I tried to project into my stories. Nicolas and Jacklyn have a unique relationship, and they love each other dearly. Because of that and to beat the clich├ęs of women being disappointed by the police officer lover, this love will last. So if you as a reader are into intact relationships that aren’t hassled by fabricated drama, join me.

S:  I think it's important to remember that a romance author's goal usually is to provide an escape from reality. 

Do you remember your first kiss? What was memorable about it?

A:  My first kiss wasn’t that romantic at all. The young man wanted too much at once, and I shied away from the sudden and previously unknown intimacy. I guess I frustrated him more than I brought him joy.

S:  What would you like to people know about you?

A:  Writing erotic romance and thriller novels isn’t my only hobby. I’m also a passionate rider, have a garden I take care of, and I’m a yoga trainee. I found out that riding and yoga fit well together–while the first one needs strength and stamina, the latter helps me stay flexible.

S:  I have found yoga an essential part of aging. It is the key to a peaceful mind and a healthy body.

What inspired "Best Intentions?"

A:  It’s the tenth book in my series. With this book, my muse and I were trying to break new ground. It started with a conversation with a friend about marine pollution. Then we took it a step further—how far would people go to protect marine wildlife? Would they protest peacefully or would they attack polluters? It was interesting brainstorming. That's how this book was created.

S:  Is there anything special you would like people to know about "Best Intentions?"

A:  I hope the story will inspire some readers to think about environmental protection. That is a wonderful thought.

Here's the blurb--

The man with the baseball cap stifled a grin as he approached the jetty that was still blocked by the police. Among other spectators, he watched the still smoldering remnants of the fishing boats. When he had seen enough, he walked away, and his smile turned to a full laugh.

S:  It sounds like a thought-provoking book. Where can readers buy "Best Intentions?"

S:  Ann, thanks so much for joining me today. If you'd like to learn more about Ann and her books, please visit--



Sunday, May 14, 2023

Cover reveal!

Check out the cover for "In the Midst of Angels," coming June 30, 2023. Contemporary romance with a heavenly twist!