Saturday, 12 June 2021

Branching Out with Award Winning author Ken Baird of Florida.



I was recently introduced to Ken by another Scribbler guest, Heather McBriarty, author of Somewhere in Flanders: Letters from the Front, who suggested Ken would be a good fit for our author interviews. I’m glad she did. You can read her interview HERE.

I have been gifted Ken's debut novel - Yukon Audit – and I have read this terrific story. I’m eagerly anticipating reading book 2 in the series – Yukon Revenge.

The detail is remarkable in the story. Baird is a pilot and when he takes you flying, you can feel it. A fine storyteller.

The novel has garnered a ton of 4 & 5 star reviews on Goodreads. See them HERE.

Let’s have a chat with Ken.



Allan: I have trouble finding a bio on you. Is that intentional?

Ken: Before I answer that, let me first say thanks for the opportunity to talk to the Scribbler clan. I love talking books with people who love books. 

*** You are most welcome, Ken. It’s a pleasure having you as a guest.


Now to your question. At the end of each of my novels is a brief two-line bio which is also   included in the bar code meta data for each print version. So that two-liner should be accessible somewhere on the net. But I’ll save everyone the trouble and recite it to you now. It succinctly states: 

“Ken Baird operated a Yukon gold mine for ten years. A former receiver-manager and private pilot, he now lives in Florida.”

And that’s the extent of my online persona. I’ve never been a fan of social media, and in particular of those scoundrels running Facebook, and have never used the internet for any kind of promotion. I have no website, no Facebook page, no Twitter account, no Amazon Author page, in fact don’t even own a smart phone. My writing is my product, not me, and I’ve always let the merits of my books stand on their own. Thankfully they’ve been well received by readers who continue to post plenty of positive reviews, and nothing sells books like positive reviews. The word-of-mouth strategy has worked well for me.

So, with regrets for your time spent looking, you were not going to find a more comprehensive bio of me posted anywhere online. Is that intentional? Probably.



Allan: Before we get into writing and such, please tell our readers a bit about yourself.


Ken: Well, I’m a Canadian and damn proud of it. Still listen to CBC radio in the car. Been all over Canada and around the world. Had a lot of adventures and did some dangerous things. Hated every minute of every day I ever spent in school. And I wish we were nicer to the animals. And I really, really wish we would start to get serious about managing the planet better, which among other things will mean smaller houses, smaller families, and smaller people.   



Allan: From reading an intro in Goodreads, I discovered you spent many years in the Yukon and the vivid descriptions in your novel can only come from someone who’s been there. Can you share a little about this experience and how it affected your writing?


Ken: Ah, the Yukon. Well, as the saying goes, home is where the heart is, and for me that will always be the Yukon. I went up there for the first time in 1979 for an office job, left a year later for a so-called promotion in the city, and not long after took a big demotion to return just as fast as I could. Next thing you know, I’m a gold miner.

Regarding the Yukon’s influence on my writing, it’s the mystique of the place that inspires me. There’s no such thing as a frontier left anywhere in the world, satellites have put paid to that concept, but at least the Yukon still looks and feels like one (especially when you’re lost in an airplane). Can never hope to explain this adequately, but there were times when it was just me and the land and the wilderness, and I’d often be overwhelmed by this eerie spiritual reverie. I can’t count the number of episodes I had like that over my twenty years up there, many of which to this day remain vivid and palpable. If life is about weaving memories, then I had my fair share in the Yukon, whether digging for gold in the middle of nowhere, or flying in an empty sky, or crossing a big mean lake in a boat too small, or simply gazing at a mountain in the middle of the night, glowing like bronze in the midnight sun. And oh, I also had a couple of hundred adventures and a bunch of close calls too, but those are for another day.  

So armed with that nostalgia, when I sat down to write my first novel, guess the setting for the first chapter.   



Allan: Please tell our readers what to expect when they pick up their copies of the Yukon novels.


Ken: Well, both Yukon Audit and Yukon Revenge are definitely thrillers, but thrillers with a difference, because the hero has to share the limelight with the Yukon.

The protagonist is a guy by the name of C.E. Brody, a reclusive bush pilot and handyman who lives on the Yukon River with two poorly behaved dogs. Brody likes to mind his own business and just wants to be left alone, which means he’ll do anything and everything to avoid any form of authority and the various trappings of a modern world. But trouble finds him anyway when a beautiful woman, and some very evil bad guys, walk into his life and turn it upside down.

I think the ways in which Brody confronts the threats and challenges he must overcome are what make these thrillers unique, because it’s the Yukon itself that ultimately provides him with the means to survive. Then there’s the cast of supporting characters, composites of the eccentric people I knew up there (aka the colorful five percent), and readers should enjoy their off-the-wall attitudes and perspectives on life. I also do my best to paint a picture of the land and delve into its gold rush history, its geology, geography and wildlife, as well as providing some exciting scenes with Brody at the controls of his beloved old plane. So there you have it, a pair of thrillers with a different kind of hero, some very evil bad guys, plenty of action and suspense, a sizzling romance, and an incredible setting. Something for everyone.  



Allan: Please share a childhood memory or anecdote.


Ken: My whole childhood was an anecdote so here’s a shorter one from later in life.

I remember walking past a bookstore when I was in my thirties, looking cynically at the people inside, and asking myself, “Why would anyone buy a book?” Years later I sat down and wrote one. Guess you’ve got to try everything at least once, because life’s no fun if you don’t.



Allan: Yukon Audit is an award-winning novel. Best Thriller – Indie Book Awards. This is a great accomplishment. How does it feel to be recognized like this?


Ken: Yeah, who’d ‘a thunk? My first novel. Best Thriller. And it wasn’t just any book contest. The Next Generation Book Awards is the “world’s largest not-for-profit contest for independent publishers and self-published authors”, and “the Sundance of the book publishing world” claim the people who run it, the Independent Book Publishing Professionals Group. So talk about a longshot. Anyway, it truly was an honor to win, a huge surprise of course, one of the most rewarding moments in my budding career as an author, and an accomplishment that gets better and better every year. That said, I can also tell you it’s the only book contest I won, and I entered quite a few, so feel very fortunate for the recognition.



Allan: Please tell us about your writing habits and/or favorite spot to write.


Ken: Years ago, I bought this big old colonial desk, solid wood, weighs a ton, and little did I know at the time it would become the centerpiece of what I now use to produce my work. As to writing habits, I have none, preferring to work in fits and starts and whenever the moment grabs me. On that note, I keep my computer on 24/7 and so on a whim can sit down at my desk any time, jiggle the mouse, and up comes my manuscript. This has proven to be very convenient, especially when I have an epiphany in the middle of the night and feel compelled to get up and write.



Allan: What’s next for Ken Baird, the author?


Ken: Right now I’m writing the third C.E. Brody novel, Yukon Justice, and it might well be the last of what would then be the C.E. Brody trilogy. Not sure what’s next after that, but perhaps something different. I had a job in a big city once and was appalled at the disparity in fortunes between the people like me working in the glass towers, and the hapless homeless souls living on the sidewalks below. Sometimes we literally had to step over them on our way home after work. That disparity in fortunes still bothers me to this day, and I have some ideas for a story to bring it to light.



Allan: There is a cliché amongst authors – Write about what you know. What are your feelings on this statement?


Ken: I’m not sure, I suppose it depends on what you’re writing about. But one thing is certain, the instant a reader senses you don’t know what you’re talking about, then your whole story loses credibility, and so do you. A few years ago I picked up a popular new novel by a New York author about the Klondike Gold Rush. Only a few pages in he began describing the methods of mining gold in the Yukon at the time, and how the gold could be easily recovered from the creek gravel because the gold was so much lighter than the gravel. I was flabbergasted at what I’d just read. I mean come on, who doesn’t know that gold is heavier than just about everything else? I thought, “It’s the other way around, you idiot!” I almost called the cops on the guy. Needless to say, I tossed his book.

Which raises the importance of research. If you’re going to describe anything at all, then do your research and do it thoroughly. Get the facts and get them right. Diligent research is a big part of the writing process, and a crucial responsibility to your audience.



Allan: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?


Ken: Only to say thanks again for this, that I’m still having fun with my new gig as an author, and to look for the third C.E. Brody novel in late 2022.  


An Excerpt from: YUKON JUSTICE (scheduled for release in late 2022).

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission.)


Excerpt From Yukon Justice © 2021 by Ken Baird




The man in the back of my plane was in a body bag.

        At least I assumed he was a man, judging by the length of the lump inside.

        I’d just taken off from Franklin Lake, which is a hundred miles north of where I live, a dot on the map called Minto, on the Klondike Highway, in the Yukon.

        Two cops had loaded the bag into the cargo bay and told me to fly it to Whitehorse. They said some other cops would be waiting there to unload it. Of course they wouldn’t tell me who was in the bag, but seeing as how yesterday I’d flown a Yukon conservation officer into the very same Franklin Lake, and seeing as how the only other access into the lake was a trail still waist deep in snow, well I had a pretty good idea of who it was.

        Which was damn depressing.

        Because he was a nice guy.

        And just a kid.

        Which had me wondering what might have happened to him.

        I took off and climbed to three thousand feet, leveled off, eased back the throttle, and with a heavy heart pointed my old plane south.


        Naturally the cops weren’t going to trust a bush pilot like me with a dead guy in a body bag, and so I was accompanied on the flight by a Constable E. Saunders of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Saunders was a fierce looking woman with a crew cut, the personality of a fence post, and a body made out of concrete blocks. I’d met her last summer in Whitehorse where she’d given me a two hundred and fifty dollar ticket for using my cell phone while driving my truck.

        We didn’t exchange Christmas cards.

        She was sitting beside me in the only other seat in my plane, frozen like stone, hands clenched between her knees, face white as a sheet. She was fixated on the console, breathing in short gasps, except whenever we hit a bump and she’d stop breathing altogether.

        Guess she didn’t like flying.

        An hour later with Whitehorse on the horizon, I got up my nerve and decided to pop the question. With the press of a button on the wheel, I jutted my thumb over my shoulder and asked, “So who’s in the bag?”

        Constable Saunders didn’t respond though I knew she could hear me through the big green headphones on her head, same as the ones I was wearing. You’ve got to wear ear protection in my plane, the big radial engine is loud, and like it or not she’d had to remove her Mountie hat to put them on.

        “Is his name Blake? I flew a guy named Blake into Franklin Lake yesterday, but hey, I guess you knew that already. Right?”

        She said nothing, didn’t move, and remained transfixed on the console.

        “So what happened?” I said.

        Still the silent treatment. I gave her a good long look and could see she was in a personal battle to keep her lunch down. I know the signs all too well when a passenger is about to lose that fight. First they start burping, little ones at first, then the burps get bigger and more frequent and their cheeks will inflate with each one. It’s only a matter of time after that.

        I kept an eye on her, waiting and watching. The next time she burped her cheeks puffed up like tennis balls. “Hey,” I said, “if you’re going to be sick use that bag in the pocket beside you, or that fancy hat of yours for all I care. But don’t upchuck on the floor or I’ll have to add a cleanup fee to your bill.”

        When she turned and glared at me, I glared back and said, “It’s two hundred and fifty dollars.”

*  *  *





Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, Ken. Wishing you all the success you deserve.





For all you exceptional readers wanting to discover more about Ken and his stories, please follow these links:

Next week, June 19th, Author Marjorie Mallon will be back. 

Saturday, 5 June 2021

Branching out with Returning British Author Angela Wren.



A mutual friend of Angela and I has a reading recommendation page on FB and that’s how we met. I was intrigued by her Jacques Foret character and her cozy mysteries. I’ve since read all five of the novels and have never been disappointed.

Angela has been a guest previously on the Scribbler and you can check it out HERE.

Exciting news! Both Angela and I, along with six other noted authors, are involved in an anthology tentativley titled Autumn Paths, due to be released in September 2021. Watch us on our FB pages and websites for more info to come.


Let’s chat with Angela.



Allan: Welcome back Angela. I know you are a busy lady so we appreciate you taking the time to be with us today. Before we get into your writing, please tell our readers a bit about yourself and your hometown. Did you always live in Yorkshire?


Angela:  Hi Allan and thanks very much for inviting me back to your blog today.

I love history, I’m an avid reader and I like to travel.  I spend as much time as I can in France each year and I can’t wait to get back there once the restrictions are finally lifted.

As for Yorkshire, yes, I've pretty much spent all my life here.  I’ve had spells of living in London for a short while because that was where the work was.  I also spent two years living in Whitley Bay because my job moved to Newcastle-on-Tyne.  But once I found my present house, which is in a tiny village in North Yorkshire, I decided that I would always travel to work.  As I result, I’ve worked all over the mainland of Great Britain but it was always good to come home to my little space at the end of the day, week or month.

Pontefract, a very old market town is my nearest place to shop etc.  It might only be small but it has a fascinating history.  Captured by William the Conqueror and gifted to one of his men, it became a place of strategic importance.  A castle was built around 1070 but only the ruins remain today.  The castle and the town – then called Pomfret – are mentioned in two of Shakespeare’s plays and it is thought Richard II was murdered here.  During the English Civil War, Pontefract and its castle became a Royalist stronghold until it was besieged by the Parliamentarians (Oliver Cromwell and his Roundheads) in 1644-45.  There are centuries of history here and I really like that.



Allan: You have a keen sense of plot with your stories. Each novel can stand on its own but contributes to the series. Please tell our readers what to expect when they pick up there copy of your newest mystery – Mercoeur. 


Angela:  Thanks Allan.  As a writer, I’m very much a plotter.  But that’s what twenty years of work in project management will do to you!  However, I don’t plot every last detail.  When I sit down to write I inhabit my characters and sometimes they surprise me.

For Mercœur, readers will find that nothing is quite what it seems at the outset.  Here's the blurb…

On a quiet forest walk, Investigator Jacques Forêt encounters a sinister scene.  Convinced there is evidence of malicious intent, he treats his discovery as a crime scene.

But intent for what?  Without a body, how can he be sure that a crime has been - or is about to be - committed?  Without a body, how can Jacques be sure that it’s murder, and not suicide?  Without a body, how can the perpetrator be found?

A baffling case that tests Jacques to his limits.




Allan: In Mercoeur - we discover more personal things about Mr. Foret as well as a sad moment in his life. Was this difficult to write about?


Angela:  Very much so.  Some of those scenes were very distressing and I found I had to walk away from the desk and give myself a break.  Writing is very much about reviewing and revising, too – so editing those scenes was equally as upsetting.  Because of the nature of the sadness that Jacques experiences in this story, it took me quite a while to get to the final versions.  It also took a great deal of mental and emotional energy to create the scenes.  I inhabit my characters as I write and that means that I sometimes have to draw on my emotional reserves.  As an actor, I am used to doing that, but it still takes a lot of thinking to get the right words in the right order to convey how Jacques was feeling in those scenes.



Allan: Your bio on your website - HOME ( – tells us about you are involved in theatre, both as a director and an actress. Tell us more.


Angela: I got into drama and acting when I was 6 years old.  I had a speech defect that needed correcting.  So, after school every Tuesday I went to my Speech and Drama class.  That’s where I was first introduced to Shakespeare, too.

At 7 I was moved to a new school and my drama teacher also taught there.  Suddenly, I had three days each week where I could pretend to be somebody else!  It was great.  My new school was girls only.  For end of year shows that meant somebody had to play the boy's roles and that always seemed to be me.  I began that part of my stage career as Hiawatha and moved through various male characters from fairy stories and children's plays.

As an adult my work in theatre provided a very necessary release from the stresses and strains of my job.  It’s really quite therapeutic pretending to be someone else for a couple of hours after a tough day at work.  I’ve played all sorts of roles from a blind girl in an adaptation of Murder in the Cathedral, through to characters in Shakespeare, the wicked witch in pantomime and Mr Twit – the gender bending didn’t stop just because I’d left school.  I've played comedy, drama, historical (I've always loved being able to wear gorgeous costumes), and I've done revue, choral speaking, verse speaking and mime.

I'm essentially a character actor and I've always liked to be challenged.  That's probably why, when I look back on all the roles I've played I can honestly say that I've never been type cast.  Nor would I ever want to be.  It's much more fun playing an 82 year old at half that age or a 15 year old at the age of 29.

I didn’t get into directing until I finally ditched the day job.  I love the creative bit that’s needed when putting a show together – thinking about the set, the costumes, the whole look and feel of the production.  That all goes on before we even start rehearsal.  The actual rehearsals are really all about managing the people and encouraging a performance out of the actors.  Rehearsals are great fun but they are hard work too.  At the point where the show goes onto stage, the production is handed over to the Stage Manager and the director basically becomes redundant.  On every production I’ve undertaken as a director I’ve always felt bereft at that handover point.





Allan; I’m happy and excited to be involved in an anthology with you, Angela. While this is new to me, you’ve been involved in several anthologies before. Can you share this with our readers?



Angela: I’ve contributed several stories to various anthologies.  I write romantic stories for the Miss Moonshine anthologies and we’re about to publish the third book.  We’re a group of nine authors and we all live within reasonable travelling distance of the fabulous Yorkshire town of Hebden Bridge.  The town was also the inspiration for our fictitious town of Haven Bridge where Miss Moonshine has her wonderful Emporium.

As authors we meet up in Hebden Bridge to chat about writing and our current projects and it was at one of those meetings that the idea for an anthology with a single linking character - Miss Moonshine - first emerged.  We saw the creation of the first anthology as an opportunity to introduce our work to new readers.  What we hadn’t envisaged back then was that Miss M and the stories would kind of take on a life of their own and become a series.

We work collaboratively to get each book out.  Having agreed to a broad production timeline, we then work independently to create our stories.  If we need to check in with each other we just email and agree whatever is needed.  I find it very encouraging to be working with such great authors and having to stretch myself to write in a different genre is challenging but refreshing.  Writing romance is quite different from crime!



Allan: Any teasers about Book #6 that you are outlining at present, or is it too early to tell us what to expect?


Angela:  Hmm, what can I say?  It still doesn’t have title yet but, there is an art gallery involved and a particular painting.  Jacques also has to help out an old business partner.  Didier Duclos and Thibault Clergue will be working with Jacques on various aspects of the investigation.  There will be appearances from some of the villagers in Messandrierre, too.



Allan:  Looking back at when you wrote your first novel, has your path as an author been what you expected? High points? Low points?


Angela: Not really, no.  I made the fundamental mistake of thinking that once the first book was published, that was the end of the journey.  Of course, it wasn’t and I quickly adjusted my thinking.  The book being published is actually the beginning of another, very different, journey.  Once Messandrierre was out, I then had a steep learning curve as I threaded my way through promotion, marketing, and finding an audience for the story at the same time as writing the next one in the series.

Angela's workspace.

Luckily, I had the support of my publisher – Crooked Cat/Darkstroke - and all the other authors on their books to help me out and answer questions.  I can’t pretend that was easy because it wasn’t.  Having that support network there was essential.  I doubt I would have been able to say, as I can today, that I’m working on book 6 in my current series and that I’m developing characters and brief storylines for a new series had CrookedCat/Darkstroke not been there.



Allan: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?


Angela: Don’t think so.  Just that I’m really looking forward to completing the ‘Autumn Paths’ anthology.  There will be info on my blog, #JamesetMoi, about that along with information about the next Jacques Forêt book and the third Miss Moonshine anthology over the coming weeks and months.

And finally, thanks for hosting me Allan.



Book one of the Jcaques Foret series.



It’s always a pleasure having you as a guest Angela. Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. All the best to you and wishing you continued success with your writing.



For you devoted fans wanting to discover more about Angela and her novels, please follow these links:

Amazon : AngelaWren

Website :

Blog :

Facebook : FacebookAngela Wren

Twitter : TwitterAngelaWren

Instagram : InstaAngelaWren

MeWe : MeWeAngelaWren

Bookbub : BookBubAngelaWren

Goodreads : GoodreadsAngela Wren

Contact an author : Angela Wren

Saturday, 29 May 2021

Branching out with Author C P Hoff of Alberta.


Due to a successful partnership with Creative Edge of Saskatchewan in 2020, the Scribbler played host to accomplished authors selected by CE. It was so much fun for all involved, we are doing it again in 2021. Watch the last Saturday of each coming month for authors under the CE banner.       


 This month, you will meet Canadian author C P Hoff.

While researching Ms. Hoff’s body of work, I was excited to discover her novel – West of Ireland – which I ordered recently and am looking forward to reading as soon as I can.

She has graciously agreed to a Branching Out Interview and is offering us an Excerpt from West of Ireland.


C.P. Hoff lives in southern Alberta with her husband, and children. She has written for the local paper, which might be impressive if she lived in New York, and if anyone read the local paper. Hoff is a founding member of WordBridge – Lethbridge Writers’ Conference.

Her first novel, A Town Called Forget, was longlisted for the Stephen Leacock Medal For humour. Her second novel, West of Ireland, received a Kirkus star and was featured in Kirkus Best Indie Fiction & Literature 2020. Her third book, Canterberry Tales, also received a Kirkus star.




So, let’s have chat with Ms. Hoff.


Allan: I’ve read that you grew up as a gypsy, but you’re not a real gypsy. Care to explain?


Connie: Yes. We moved a lot, which made it hard to make friends. I’ve lived in all three prairie provinces, in the far north, and close to the 49th parallel—from hills and trees to the badlands. I lived in thirteen different houses before I was eighteen. On the one hand it was impossible to lay down roots, but on the other, it makes it easy to pin down the date of a memory.  I just have to envision the house I lived in at the time.




Allan: Before we chat about writing, can you tell us about your family and Mrs. Beasley and her dubious reputation.


Connie: My family is huddled down, quietly waiting out Covid. It is a different time and takes some getting used to. We are all healthy and content, which is all I can ask for. As for Mrs. Beasley, I’m sad to say she is no longer with us. She developed Cushing’s and subsequently died of cancer.




Allan: You write under a pseudonym. Is there a story behind this?


Connie: There is not much of a story there. Hoff is my maiden name.




Allan: I’m looking forward to reading your novel – West of Ireland. What can I expect when I get my copy?


Connie: Oh! You get to meet the O’Briens. They are glorious in their dysfunction. Like many families, they poke and prod each other at the most inopportune times. Unfortunately for the O’Briens though, their foibles come to life on the page. They can’t be hidden and hushed away. And you, as a reader, will get to chuckle at their absurdities and scowl at their vices—which is not always appreciated by the characters. As Mr. O’Brien quips on the back cover of the book, “A piece of literary fiction my arse!”  West of Ireland was one of Kirkus Review’ Best Books Of 2020.




Allan: What can you tell our readers about your Picaresque Chronicles?


Connie: The Picaresque Chronicles are full of offbeat characters who share the same longings and desires that make us all human. Examining their quirky lives allows me to step back and chuckle at my own peculiarities, ones I tend not to give voice to. I hope in meeting this motley crew, readers will find the same enjoyment, and that this strange bunch will give them a laugh when it is most needed.



Allan: Please share a childhood memory and/or anecdote.


Connie: I was a reluctant reader. The summer I was supposed to head into the sixth grade, I was told if I didn’t read twenty books I’d be held back. To encourage me, my mother read me the first half of each book, thinking that if I was well into the story my curiosity would drive me forward. That was not the case. I spent the summer making up a myriad of endings. And as a bonus, I didn’t fail, and was well on my way to becoming a storyteller.





 Allan: Do you have a process you follow from idea to finished novel? Panster or Plotter?


Connie: I’m on the fence on that one. Sometimes I’m a pantster through and through, and other times a slip of a plot guides my way. It really depends on how well the story is flowing, and whether or not I’m lost in the weeds. When lost, I turn to plotting. When it feels like I’m skipping through the tale on a sunny afternoon, being a pantster is the way to go.





Allan: Do you have a mentor or has anyone influenced your work?


Connie: As a child I was bombarded by stories. My mother read to me, and my uncle made up heroic tales in which he always saved the day. I was encouraged to revel in my imagination, and that has an impact on a child. This was coupled with the books that were lying around the house—The Spider King, The Captain from Castile, Our John Willie; and the ones I chose as an adult—Anam Cara, The Amulet of Samerkand, Furiously Happy, and the Chief Inspector Gamache books, to name a few. I can’t pin down any one influence. There has been a lifetime of amazing storytellers who have informed me. Naming just one would be a disservice to the rest.





Allan: Anything else you’d like to tell us about?


I have another book coming out this May, Canterberry Tales.

The blurb reads, “Pull up your knee socks and buckle your pinchy shoes, your childhood is calling. Celia Canterberry, a precocious seven-year-old, hell bent on saving earthworms, is about to drag you down memory lane and remind you what it was like to look at a careworn world with wide-eyed bemusement. Now take a deep breath. Smell that? Nostalgia.

Celia flits through the streets of Happy Valley to her Nan’s chagrin, causing havoc wherever she goes. She’s so infamous, she’s got her own comic strip in the local paper, and Old Lady Griggs, her babysitter, is only too happy to read it with her. But what Celia secretly wants to know is where she came from. You see, Celia was abandoned at the hospital by her should-have-been parents, and her Nan won’t explain how or why…”

Kirkus reviews writes, Hoff is always ready with well-executed humor: “[Nan] never wears her teeth when she’s gardening,” Celia tells Old Lady Griggs at one point. “She thinks it’s best not to let the plants know her true intentions.” The combination of warm nostalgia and a sharp, modern sensibility is perfectly managed, and the promise of future volumes will please readers who want to spend more time in Happy Valley.

A well-crafted tale of a precocious child. ——Kirkus Reviews (starred review)







An Excerpt from West of Ireland.

(Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission.)

Mr. O’Brien banged his walking stick against the side of the banister and called up the stairs, “Don’t be troubling yourself, Mary-Kate O’Brien. It’s not like I don’t have all day.”

There was no response from the upstairs bedroom, and Mr. O’Brien could feel his temper rise. “Can’t a man see his own daughter’s shining face in the morning? Is that too much to ask? I feed you, I clothe you for nigh on twenty years, and my pocketbook has grown rather light because of it. To relieve me suffering, I’ve asked around and there is not a soul in the world willing to take you off me hands. Yet you don’t hear me complaining, do you?”

The sound of his daughter opening and closing her dresser drawers drifted down to him. It was as if he spoke to the wind. All Mr. O’Brien wanted was for Mary-Kate to hurry her pace, skip down the stairs and merrily link her arm in his. However, Mary-Kate never skipped, and arm-linking was something she seemed to have an aversion to. The last time he insisted she take his arm, Mary-Kate went limp at the knees, and he ended up dragging her down the street. The great oaf and his rag doll.

He closed his eyes and leaned against the banister. She was up to something; he was convinced of it. The thought of not knowing what mischief she was entertaining irritated him like nothing else. If there was mischief to be had, it should be had together. It had been that way since she was a babe, and he saw no sense in changing their ways now. It was what steadied their rudder, kept them from going adrift when storms threatened. Pulled him back when he forgot his place and lost sight of the one he chose to be tethered to.

“Are you well?”

Mr. O’Brien opened his eyes. His wife stood in front of him with a cup and saucer in hand. As fetching a woman as he could have hoped for, she even rivalled some that plied their trade on the street. Though he’d never found an opportune time for telling her so. His Mary-Kate had inherited her mother’s mass of red hair and, sadly, much of her attitude. “Why would you ask me such a thing?” he frowned, puffing out his chest. “Am I not as robust this morning as I was last evening?”

“Keep your voice down,” Mrs. O’Brien snapped, roses blooming on her cheeks. “Or you’ll not see the inside of me bedroom for a month.”

“Oh, I don’t have to see the inside of yours, you could cross the hall to mine.” Mr. O’Brien stepped into his wife. He looked down at her and waited for her to lean her ample waist against him. Her breathing changed, but Mr. O’Brien wasn’t sure if she were inclined or annoyed. He gave her a seductive wink, or it would have been, had an eyelash not worked itself free and blurred his vision.

A look of disgust crossed his wife’s face. “You’re making a nuisance of yourself, Mr. O’Brien,” she said thumping him in the chest with her free hand.

Ah, now he knew. She was annoyed. The thump was too hard; there might even be a bruise. The morning was not going as he hoped. There was no tenderness in it, no cooperation. “What’d you do that for?”

Mrs. O’Brien turned her face away. But before she did, he caught a flicker of something unfamiliar in her visage, in the corner of her eye, the shape of her mouth. He wasn’t sure what it was, but there was a darkness to it. “In all our years together, you’ve not done such a thing to me,” he said rubbing his chest. “What’s got into you?”

Instead of answering his question, Mrs. O’Brien handed Mr. O’Brien her empty cup and saucer before heading up the stairs.

“What’ll I be needing these for?” he asked looking down at the cup and saucer.

“For a happy marriage.”

“A happy marriage? Never heard of such a thing.”

“I heard that Mr. O’Brien,” she said without turning around. “Don’t be acting like I’ve given you a snake. Just take them to the kitchen.”

“Don’t be acting like I’ve given you a snake,” Mr. O’Brien mimicked softly. He pulled back the leaves of a nearby fern and carefully set the dishes on top of those his wife had given him the day before. Forgetting his daughter, he picked up his bowler and stepped out the front door into the chilly April air.



Thank you, Connie, for being our featured gust this week. Wishing you continued success with your stories.



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