Archives

Beautiful Smoky Mountains

I grew up in a small town in northern Idaho, and I loved the mountains. I have great memories of hikes I took with my grandpa, as well as treks up the mountains to pick huckleberries with my mom and dad. To this day, I can still remember the smell of huckleberry bushes. As we drove up the rugged roads, we’d stick our noses in the air to catch the scent of those wonderful berries. And when we smelled them, we’d holler for the vehicle to be stopped so we could get out and hunt them up.

Almost thirty years ago, I left Idaho in pursuit of my dreams, and I moved to Tennessee. Here, I met my husband, and he introduced me to another range of mountains. The beautiful Smokies. They have some similarities to the Rockies, but they’re also different in their own right. The shades of green are definitely different, and I’ve never smelled huckleberries in the Smokies. Regardless, I fell in love with the mountains all over again.

My husband took me on a trip to Gatlinburg, TN, for one of our first anniversaries. The town has its own charm–as does Pigeon Forge and some of the other outlying cities. We took a drive ‘up the mountain’ to a place I’ll cherish forever. If you’re familiar with my books and my writing, you’ve probably heard this story before, because I can’t stop talking about it! We ended up in Cades Cove.

When he told me we’d be going to a place that only had a one-way road that looped from one end to the other, and that everyone had to drive around it slowly, I wondered why. He talked it up as if it was the best thing in the world. Honestly, I thought it sounded horribly boring. As much as I appreciate pretty scenery, putting along on a one-way road didn’t sound too appealing. I wanted excitement and adventure–like I knew I could get at the nearby theme park.

I learned a valuable lesson on that venture. My husband was right. It was the best thing in the world. Cades Cove transported us back in time to a simpler life. One that was unhurried and pure. The cove sits in the middle of the mountains. Acre after acre of land that was once farmed and loved by the people who lived there. Some of the original cabins still remain, along with a mill, several churches, and cemeteries with the graves of those who’d called the cove their home. The unsurpassed beauty of the land touches my heart every time I go there.

We return to Cades Cove every year. I’ve memorized much of it, but I’m never any less in awe of the splendor. It had to have been difficult for the residents of the cove, when the states of Tennessee and North Carolina decided to create a National Park that included the Cades Cove land. I doubt it was easy to put a price on the land they loved, then leave it behind and go elsewhere. Some residents were able to stay, yet I’m sure it wasn’t the same.

All that being said, I’m glad that the past has been preserved in the cove. When I learned about the hardships that the residents endured during the Civil War, I was compelled to write about it. Here’s a link to the first book in my Smoky Mountain Secrets Saga: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06ZYYY5WK I did my best to capture what life was like for those families, and to this day, I feel like I can sense them walking by my side when I visit the cove.

Every place in this world has a story to tell, and I hope that you’ll make a trip to the Smoky Mountains and specifically, Cades Cove. Be sure to have your camera handy, so you can capture its majesty. It’s a little bit of Heaven on Earth with some wildlife thrown in for good measure. You might see a bear or two, as well as deer and turkeys. If you like to hike, there are plenty of trails you can take. Some will lead you to remote cabins, and others are simply for the sake of enjoying nature. More than anything, you’ll come away, content, with an appreciation for the simpler things in life.

In my opinion, that alone is worth the trip!

Are You Puzzled?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved puzzles. Mainly, jigsaw puzzles, but I’m also fond of word games like crosswords and word searches. I’ve heard that doing those keeps your brain active, and as I grow older, that becomes more and more important. My parents are in their eighties and still sharp as ever, so I’m hopeful that I’ve inherited their sharpness genes.

So what is it about jigsaw puzzles that draws me in? Maybe it’s because I like to fix things, and if I see something all discombobulated, I want to make it right. Plus, it’s so much fun watching an image come together. I don’t know about you, but I get a happy thrill every time I put a piece in place. I guess it’s good that it doesn’t take much to amuse me!

My first puzzle memory is from when I was about six years old. We lived in Spokane, Washington at that time, and there was a local fair a short distance down the road from us. It was one of those sorts that was likely put on by the high school and run by teenagers. They had all kinds of games and activities for children. I can’t remember what the particular game was that caught my eye, but the prize for winning the game was a puzzle. They were used puzzles donated by the organizers of the event. Used or not, I didn’t care. Trouble was, I didn’t have any money and couldn’t play the game. So, was that a good memory? Oddly, yes, since it makes me smile to remember it. I didn’t get a puzzle from that fair, but my desire for jigsaw puzzles never left me.

I have quite a collection now, and many of my puzzles have been put together more times than I can count. Most of them have 1,000 pieces, and I can usually put them together in a few days’ time. I like to work on them in the evenings after a day of writing. It helps me relax, but it also allows me time to gather my thoughts for my next day of writing.

I like the puzzles that have interesting pieces–those that aren’t a typical shape. They make the entire process more challenging. However, I also appreciate pieces that fully interlock. So, I guess you could say, I love any type of puzzle.

I recently put together the most tight-fitting puzzle I’ve ever encountered. So tight that I could hold it up in the air while it still had a lot of pieces missing. Hopefully, you can see what I mean in this photo.

Yep! You can see right through the middle, and nothing fell apart when I held it up. Crazy! This is the kind of puzzle that wouldn’t even need glue if you decided to frame it.

I always start by putting together the border. I think that’s pretty typical, thought my son tells me it would be more challenging if I didn’t. From the picture on the box, I also know what it’s supposed to look like when it’s done. Again, my son tells me not to look at the image to increase the challenge of putting it together. I try that sometimes, but there are certain puzzles that stump me and I have to look.

I think my writing style is similar to the way I construct puzzles. I know how I want a story to start, (thus the border), and I know how I want it to end. (Like the finished picture). But the middle often takes me in different directions. I may add a piece that takes me down an unexpected road. Those little surprises makes the process so much fun! A character who I think is minor becomes a major part in putting together the puzzle of my story.

I suppose I also like to fix the discombobulated lives of my characters. I promise a happy ending–eventually–but they usually go through many challenges on their way to attaining it.

Thank you for reading, and I’d love to hear your ‘puzzling’ stories, too!

Write on!

To Review or Not to Review

I don’t ever like to say something bad about anyone or anything, but on occasion, it’s good to let people know if you’re disappointed with something. For example, there have been two times in my life that a manufacturer has changed a particular food product that I enjoy. Supposedly, they’ve made it “new and improved” and “better-tasting.” In the two instances I’m referring to, I completely disagreed with the manufacturer. So much so that I wrote a letter to one stating my disappointment in the change, and the other, I made a phone call and left voicemail. I suppose you could say I’m passionate about food, and when a beloved recipe is altered, I find it disappointing.

Of course, my grievances did little good. They didn’t say, “Oh, my goodness, Jeanne Hardt doesn’t like this new recipe, so we’d better go back to the old one!” I don’t have that kind of pull. Although, I did get a coupon from the manufacturer I wrote to for future products. Still, I would have rather had the original item before the recipe changed.

So, where am I going with all this? Well . . . as an author, I can say without a doubt that positive reviews are always welcome and appreciated on my “product.” Hopefully, none of my books will leave a bad taste in your mouth or the desire for a change in my recipe. It would be wrong of me to say, “Don’t write a review if you didn’t like my book,” regardless of the fact that I prefer reading the positive comments! Not everyone has the same taste in literature, and I’ve gotten my share of negative reviews. Honestly, even they can be helpful. I never respond to any review, because that’s not my place to do so, or the purpose of a review. Still, I put my mind to what was said and ask myself if there’s something I need to improve. Most of the time, I simply accept that my style isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.

The main purpose of a review is to help a potential new reader decide if they want to give the book a try. So, with that being said, reviews are important to those potential readers. They might base their decision solely on the rating of that book or a particular comment that a reader has made. Because of that, I encourage you to post reviews. I believe that many venues will also allow you to post a rating alone, without a written review, which is also good.

If you’re unsure what to write, simplicity is best. It’s as easy as saying, “Great story.” “Captivating.” or “A page-turner.” Those kinds of comments are always appreciated, and hopefully, you’ll feel that way about what you read. Most importantly, honesty is best.

There are a few things I’d caution you NOT to do:

1. Don’t give away secrets. Nobody likes spoilers, and if you tell the big ‘aha’ moment in the book, you’ll be spoiling it for the potential reader. So choose your remarks carefully. If you like or don’t like a particular character, it’s fine to say, but don’t give away what that particular character does. We all like to be surprised, don’t we?

2. As an author, I’m so blessed to have friends that read my books. And, of course, I hope that never changes! If you know an author and post a review for their books, it’s a good idea not to say, “this author is my friend,” in the context of the review. It can affect the validity of your review, because the reader might think you’re simply being kind to your friend by saying something nice about their book.

Authors wouldn’t have careers without readers, and we appreciate each and every one of you! We strive to write stories you’ll treasure, and we thank you for taking the time to let us know your thoughts.

Who is Vern Harpole?

It was a fun and exciting new experience to write a fiction book based on an actual person. I was blessed to have a good friend who gave me the freedom to expand her grandfather’s story and ‘fill in the blanks’ so to speak in areas of his life that the family is unsure of exact details.

In “His Heart’s Long Journey,” you’ll travel with Vern as he seeks out answers to his past and also strives to move forward with his love interest, Margaret Jordan. Margaret is a strong-willed woman with her own troubled past, and the last thing she wants is the attention of a man.

When my friend, Ann, told me her family’s heart-wrenching story, I was compelled to write it. It was hard for me to believe that someone could experience all that Vern went through in his young life. As I wrote, I felt I really knew him. He became alive to me, and I hope that when you read this series, you’ll feel the same.

I also became fond of schnecken while writing this story. The trade of being a baker was passed on to Vern from the family who took him in at a very young age. Mr. Hinze was a German baker who taught Vern all he knew. Schnecken is a German sweet roll, similar to a cinnamon roll. I found a wonderful recipe online while researching German pastries. You can find it on the food.com website.

This is an actual photo of Vern in his baker’s garb. I didn’t see this photo until after I wrote the series, but I was surprised to find how much he looked the way I’d imagined him.

If you haven’t read “His Heart’s Long Journey,” I hope you will. It’s so much fun to travel in the footsteps of the past and share in the lives of others. Book one, “Forsaken by Love,” can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B082QWKM56

Free Download!

I’m happy to say that today thru Tuesday, November 10th, you can download “Forsaken by Love” for FREE from Amazon! I hope you’ll enjoy Vern’s journey. The book is based on a true story that one of my friends graciously shared with me. When she told it, I knew I had to write it! I’m thrilled she allowed me to tell it.

Free Download – Island in the Forest!

Today thru Monday, in celebration of the soon-to-be-released book 5 in the Shrouded Thrones series, book 1, Island in the Forest, is being offered as a free Kindle download from Amazon!

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BJ2P283

Island in the Forest

Olivia has lived her entire life behind the walls of Padrida, a kingdom unknown to the rest of the world. As the king and queen’s only heir, she is destined to rule. Though given all that she needs, she wants only one thing.

Freedom.

Boredom plagues Prince Sebastian of Basilia. The realms have been at peace for more than a century, and he has little to occupy his time. He journeys to Black Wood, seeking adventure. The dense forest has a dark reputation, and Sebastian intends to uncover the truth of the many horrific tales that have troubled him since childhood.

He finds something else entirely.

Write the Right Thing

When I began my writing journey, I confess, I was basically clueless on the industry and the methods of writing in general. Thanks to the guidance of my writer friends, Romance Writers of America, and the Nashville, Tennessee Chapter, Music City Romance Writers, I was given direction as well as an abundance of encouragement.

I discovered that my stories aren’t true romances, and what I write is often categorized as women’s fiction. However, a lot of women’s fiction ends sadly, and I do promise a happy ending. It sometimes takes a while to get there, and maybe not until the end of a series, but there will be a happily ever after.

I’ve always had a passion for history, and that love led me to write historical fiction. It’s so much fun to imagine myself walking into the past and what it might have been like to live in a different time. I enjoy the research and love to intertwine real history with my fictitious characters.

I appreciate every reader who picks up one of my books and shares my journeys. I think many of you wondered why I deviated from historical fiction this past year and ventured into medieval fantasy. I guess I can chalk that up to another learning experience! I followed my heart and wrote what moved me. Plus, I had it in my head that the medieval time period was in essence ‘historical,’ however, since I didn’t base my stories on anyone or anything ‘real,’ I definitely took a sharp turn away from my usual stories.

That being said, I hope you’ll give the Shrouded Thrones series a read and shoot me a message with some feedback. I like to think of this series as a grown-up fairy tale. In book one, “Island in the Forest,” the kingdoms are at peace. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BJ2P283However, by book two, the story gets a bit dark when power-hungry evil rulers seek total domination. The final book in the series, “Queen of Prophecy,” will soon be released, and I’m excited to share how everything comes together. I’m going to miss the characters in this series, as well as the time period. Though set in fictitious realms, the story embraces the feel of historic England, with maybe a bit of a King Arthur flair.

I will soon be returning to United States historical fiction, and I’m excited to start on my next project. “His Heart’s Long Journey” will be based on the true story of one of my friend’s relatives. It will be set in the old west and end up in the small mining town of Murray, Idaho.

So, how do I know that I’m writing the right book? Every one I start is a new adventure, and I simply follow my heart. It guides my mind and fingers, and I just sit down and type. The funny thing is, sometimes in the morning, when I read what I wrote the day before, I don’t remember writing some of it. I guess I ‘get in the zone’ and just go. My characters frequently tell me what they want to say and do, and I just record it. Is that strange?

Unusual or not, I’m thankful for the freedom I have to write what I want. What a blessing to be able to do so!

If you are a writer, keep at it! Follow your heart and write what moves you. And if you’re a reader, thank you for every book you pick up and read. You keep us writers motivated and give us the ability to do what we love.

Medieval Fantasy

I never believed a story inspired by my five-year-old son’s request for a bedtime tale would one day become an epic fantasy. What had initially been a children’s fairy tale has grown into a very adult adventure.

When I wrote my Southern Secrets Saga, I introduced the devious, John Martin. I thought he would always rank highest on my list of nasty and cruel characters. However, John Martin is a saint compared to Princess Angeline and Prince Frederick in the Shrouded Thrones series. They are devious, manipulative, selfish, and of course, quite evil. And, I admit, I thoroughly enjoy writing their scenes! Not sure what that says about me…

When you step into the medieval world I created, I hope you’ll be drawn back in time to a much simpler and oftentimes barbaric way of life. It’s easy to romanticize the time period, but things were quite ugly then. Even though my kingdoms are fictitious, I set the stage as if traveling into the world of King Arthur and his knights. (Also fictitious, but based on actual history.)

I’ve had several readers ask if this story will have a happy ending. For many of the characters, yes, it will. However, as with all my books, I put everyone through many tests and trials. I enjoy catching readers off guard with unexpected plot twists. Even so, I rarely ‘kill off’ the most beloved characters.

Book one, “Island in the Forest,” is the original story I told my son thirty years ago, now matured for an adult audience.  It comes to a conclusion, though it will leave you wondering about a few details. At the time of “Island,” the kingdoms had been at peace for more than one hundred years. However, in book two, things take a dramatic turn. The story gets a bit ‘dark.’ When evil people are trying to put themselves into power, it’s to be expected.

I’ve told some people that this story is “Game of Thrones” light, with five kingdoms instead of seven. If you enjoy medieval fantasy, I hope you’ll give my series a try!

Here’s a little bit about book one:

 

Olivia has lived her entire life behind the walls of Padrida, a kingdom unknown to the rest of the world. As the king and queen’s only heir, she is destined to rule. Though given all that she needs, she wants only one thing.

Freedom.

Boredom plagues Prince Sebastian of Basilia. The realms have been at peace for more than a century, and he has little to occupy his time. He journeys to Black Wood, seeking adventure. The dense forest has a dark reputation, and Sebastian intends to uncover the truth of the many horrific tales that have troubled him since childhood.

He finds something else entirely.

Here’s the link! https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07BJ2P283

Available in e-book and paperback.

Also available are book 2 and 3. Books 4 and 5 will be released in 2019!

Mountain of Masks, Shrouded Thrones, Book 2: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DZ253W4

Bane of Black Wood, Shrouded Thrones, Book 3: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L8VSD2L

Thank you for traveling with me on these adventures!

In the Shadow of the Sun

I’ve been enjoying sharing the work of my author friends, and today I’m pleased to tell you about a historical fiction novel written by Elaine Meece, and her husband Geoffrey.

This collaborative work took Elaine out of her norm! She usually writes romantic suspense, and has also delved into romantic comedy. Be sure to check out her website for more information on her other books.   http://www.elainemeece.com/

She and Geoffrey spent many, many hours researching the time period for “In the Shadow of the Sun.” With the help of the nurses’ journals, newspaper articles and clippings, and other resources, they brought this story to life. Ninety-seven-year old veteran, Olin Pickens, claimed it to be the most realistic WWII book he’s ever read!

Here’s the link: https://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Sun-Elaine-Meece-ebook/dp/B07FKS4G2Q

In the Shadow of the Sun

The story of Ressa and Geneva Jenkins.

What starts off as an adventure turns into a nightmare.

In August of 1941, sisters, Ressa and Geneva Jenkins, from Sevierville, Tennessee arrive in the Philippines to work as nurses at Sternberg Hospital in Manila. Life in this tropical paradise is everything they had hoped for, until the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor. Geneva and Ressa are caught in the middle of the war and life becomes about survival.

 

 

Breaking the Rules

I love sharing the work of my talented friends, and today I want to tell you all about the newest release from Emma Leigh Reed, “Breaking the Rules.”

This is contemporary women’s fiction at its finest!

Isabelle’s home-life is troubled, to say the least, and she has definitely hit rock-bottom. But this inspiring story will have you cheering her on as she comes to grips with the truths about her life and allows herself happiness–something she believed she never deserved.

Here’s a little more about the book:

Isabelle LaFayette tries to end her own life. Her failed attempt haunts her, along with her other past regrets and the inability to forgive herself, for what her mother calls a selfish act.

Jack Riley comes into Isabelle’s life and makes her feel alive, but believing she doesn’t deserve to be happy, she pushes him away. She must find the inner strength to confront the true source of her pain, or she’ll never be released from the bondage she’s encased herself in.

Isabelle needs to give herself permission to heal and break the rules that have been imprisoning her. It is the only way for her to find ultimate freedom from the past and piece her heart back together again.