Saturday, 10 April 2021

Branching Out with Author Susan Bernhardt.




Welcome to the new interview look at the Scribbler.  The title – Branching Out – was selected by popular vote from our fans. Hats off to JJ Carrier for suggesting the name.


Our first guest under the new banner is cozy mystery writer, Susan Bernhardt of Wisconsin.

I’m a fan of her writing and recently finished reading A Manhattan Murder Mystery. It’s an intriguing story filled with cool characters and an interesting premise. Read the reviews HERE.



Thank you, Susan, for being our guest this week. 

Let’s chat!

Thank you, Allan. I'm excited to be the first guest on your blog's new format.  How cool is that!





Allan: Before we discuss your cozy novels, can you tell us how you’ve braved the pandemic we are experiencing? Has it affected your writing?


Susan:  A year ago when we learned about the Covid-19 pandemic and it was projected that there would be 200,000 deaths in the United States, I was scared. My first thought was of my family. What were the chances at least one of us wouldn't be affected? My husband and I just about went into lockdown. We stopped seeing our loved ones, our friends. Other than for walks where we avoided everyone, we decided to only leave the house every three weeks to get food from the grocery store. I made a daily activity sheet and put it on the refrigerator so we would have some fun things planned throughout the week. A year later with over 500,000 people dead in the U.S., we received our second Covid vaccine last week. With each shot, we've had an immense feeling of relief. In April we plan to visit both of our sons and their families. We have also made plans for getaways to various cities.

Covid hit me hard. I've kept track every day on a calendar since March of 2020 of the cases of Covid in my state and in the two counties where my city is located. I wrote each week day for about four hours from March to October to stay sane.  My second Manhattan mystery, Dress to Kill, came out mid-October.

After the holidays, which of course were spent in isolation, I didn't feel much like writing. I did begin the sixth Kay Driscoll mystery, but no longer wrote on a regular basis. Since getting our second Covid vaccine, I am once again back to writing and the world seems brighter. We isolated for over a year and now with getting the vaccines, we are going back to “normal” living once again.



Allan: The last time you visited you mentioned your career in nursing. One of your main characters – Kay Driscoll - is a retired public health nurse, like yourself. We are often told as writers to write about what we know. This seems to be a typical example. What are your feelings on that?


Susan:  Kay Driscoll, a retired nurse, volunteers at her local Free Clinic. The series is not medical related at all, other than Kay picking up important clues when she works at said clinic. I also worked/volunteered at our local Free Clinic for several years until my retirement.

I do write what I know and often write from life experiences, but I also write what I learn and what I want to know. I do a lot of research when writing, which is enjoyable. In the Kay Driscoll series, I based many characters on people I knew, some intimately, and know how they think and feel. The setting for my Kay Driscoll mysteries is based on where I live. When writing the Irina Curtius mysteries which are set in Manhattan, I did a lot of research and also spent time there. From a number of reviews by New Yorkers, I'm happy to say that it sounds like I got the feel/the vibe for the City.




Allan:  On your last interview, you mentioned you were working on Manhattan 2. How is that developing?


Susan: Dress to Kill is the second Manhattan murder mystery. I started the book in November of 2019 and finished it in October 2020. A fun aspect about this book is that Kay Driscoll, the protagonist of my first series and her husband come to Manhattan to visit Kay's cousin, Irina Curtius the protagonist of the Manhattan series and together they work on solving a murder. In Dress to Kill a friend of Irina's is murdered at the theater after an opening night performance with the New York City Ballet. The police see it as a unfortunate, horrific accident. Irina with the help of Kay sets out to prove that her friend was murdered in cold blood.

*It's an ingenious idea having your two MCs meet up and I hope to do the same in a future story with Drake & Jo.



Allan: Your bio tells our readers that when you started writing, you hoped to become a traditionally published author, which you succeeded at. Why was this important to you? As opposed to self-publishing.


Susan: I started writing as a challenge to myself. I've often challenged myself. One example is, in my mid-30s I went to school and obtained a computer programming degree not knowing at the beginning, how to even turn a computer on. (In those days, there wasn't just a button that you pushed.) I graduated with High Honors (then went back into nursing).

With my new challenge of writing a novel, I took a number of writing courses. After I finished The Ginseng Conspiracy, I never even gave self-publishing a second thought. It was always my goal to find a publishing house for the simple reason, I just wanted to see if I could do it. I had no other motivation.   

I spent months writing out query letters and finally found a publisher who took me on. Four years later, I asked for the rights back to my books and then self-published them.



Allan: When you decide to write your next novel, how do you proceed? Do you outline and research first or are you a pantser? 

Susan: When I write a book, I never know what's going to happen until I have it down on paper and then that could change at any time. I don't outline or follow a format. I do research prior to writing and along the way. It makes writing for me more fun and interesting to find out where the story is going to lead me.


Photo by Susan.


Allan: You are a stained-glass artist and a musician Please share something about your activities outside writing.


Susan: Besides being invested in my family...

When Covid began one of the scheduled weekly activities was playing music with my husband. Because of Covid he no longer was able to play with his band. To be, once a week we jammed together, playing guitar and singing classic rock songs from the 60s and 70s. I took guitar in college and hadn't played in decades. I lost a lot of my skills, one being, decent fingerpicking, but the ability to play came back, no matter how badly.

Like Allan, I work in stained-glass. I have designed and made many stained-glass lamps, vases, window hangings. I did the kitchen cabinets in one of our homes. Designing each project is my favorite part.

*You do beautiful work, Susan.

I consider myself to be an amateur photographer. I enjoy taking photos of everything from closeups of the flowers and insects in my garden to churches in Palermo, Sicily. 

Photo by Susan.

Photo by Susan.

Prior to Covid we frequented art museums, the theatre, and various music venues. I also enjoy cooking with my husband.



Allan: Share something which your readers might not know about you, either personally or as a writer.


Susan: My husband and I love to travel. Not travelling was a difficult part of Covid for us. We cancelled booked trips in 2020. We have travelled extensively in North America and in Europe. We love exploring new places and experiencing different cultures. A quote I agree with by Mark Twain is, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”





Susan's mysteries:


The Ginseng Conspiracy (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 1)

Murder comes to town and so does Kay Driscoll, whose tenacious nature tells her city officials are attempting a cover-up and she must expose the truth.

Murder Under the Tree (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 2)

During the season of peace on earth, good will to men, Kay uncovers sinister plots of corruption at a retirement home, while investigating the suspicious death of a beloved caretaker.

Murder By Fireworks (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 3)

An obnoxious member of Kay's book club is found dead on the beach. When Kay investigates, she discovers that the death, covered-up to look like suicide, was in fact murder.

Paradise Can Be Murder (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 4)

When Kay, Phil, and friends take their first vacation together, they find themselves involved in a murder investigation. Will Kay and company be able to solve the crime before the cruise in paradise ends?

Murder Misunderstood (A Kay Driscoll Mystery Book 5)

A month after an unlikeable newcomer arrives in Sudbury Falls with her unsettling hobby of cultivating a poisonous garden, she is murdered. Will Kay be able to prove the accused innocent and find the real culprit(s)?

A Manhattan Murder Mystery (An Irina Curtius Mystery Book 1)

When a neighbor's failing health is suspicious and he dies, a vivacious, retired ballet dancer investigates so that justice prevails.

Dress to Kill (An Irina Curtius Mystery Book 2)

When a friend of Irina's is found dead after an opening night performance at a ballet, and her death is seen as an accident, she decides to investigate with the help of her cousin Kay Driscoll to solve the mystery and expose the truth.


Thank you, Susan for being our special guest this week. It’s a pleasure having you to chat with and thanks for your stories.


The pleasure is all mine.


Please follow Susan’s links to discover more about our talented guest.

Author FB page:
Twitter: @SusanBernhardt1

Saturday, 3 April 2021

Happy Anniversary to the South Branch Scribbler.


Photo by Gaelle Marcel.

The Scribbler is eight years old.

Photo by Adi Goldstein.


606984 Page Views to date. Wow!


354 posts. Mainly visiting authors but there’s been some artists, photographer’s and musicians. I’ve shared short stories, recommended some books I liked – it’s been a challenge at times but it’s always been fun. And still ad free.


When I started writing stories, someone mentioned I needed a blog so I could tell the world about them. So, the Scribbler was born. Nobody beat a path to my door for the first year or so but word got around, more and more people stop by.


A few of the original blog posts are gone now, errors I made and a glitch on Blogger which couldn’t be corrected properly so they had to be deleted.


These are the first ones – maybe you’d like to take a look – August 2013 – one of my earliest guests – Mark Young, visual Artist – see it HERE.

September 2013 – Visit Beautiful Bangladesh with me… - see it HERE.


And this one was fun - Adam Hudson on Love of Gaming. Go HERE.



It’s changed a lot over the years. Got better, I hope.  Different themes and colors.


When I started doing interviews, I called it the 4Q Interview, had a neat logo made. I thought four questions would be sufficient but soon realized that four questions would not be enough to get to know a guest and talk about their creations, so the questions increased but the name – 4Q – stuck.


Well, as of today, that is changing as well. The new interview portion will henceforth be referred to as Branching Out…

Thanks to my many readers for suggesting different names for the new interview format. We picked the top six suggestions and then our readers voted on the one they liked best – Branching Out.

The suggestion was made by JJ Carrier of Belledune, NB. Thank you, JJ. JJ is a very cool gentleman that is great at sharing the good news of New Brunswick creatives. Check out his Facebook page – New Brunswick Independent Authors Association – Go HERE.


Next week we will be rolling out the new interview format – no startling changes but a more personal and open dialogue. Kind of like sitting around a fireplace chatting.

Our first guest with the new changes will be cozy mystery writer, Susan Bernhardt. Susan has been a guest before and I love her stories. 


Highlights of the past eight years.


Since January 1 of this year, we’ve added a special column titled the Editor’s Edge by Karin Nicely, a professional editor from Florida. She adds a different flavor to the blog and contributes insightful posts for authors and writers. Go HERE.


 One of our most popular guests – Chuck Bowie of Fredericton, NB – has been a guest eight times. Here’s a couple to have a look at. Go HERE and HERE.


The guest with the most views has been none other than one of the most generous and supportive authors I’ve met. Thriller writer MJ LaBeff. See her most recent visit HERE.


Author Susan Toy of the Caribbean Island of Bequia, has been a guest five times. Check out a couple HERE and HERE.


Last year the Scribbler worked in conjunction with Mickey Mickelson of Creative Edge by hosting a different authors from across North America. It was successful enough for all involved that we decided to carry it over for this year too and V S Holmes, a fantasy and Science Fiction author will be featured April 24th.


What’s coming?

Photo by Charles Etoroma

The Scribbler already has a fantastic line up for the next few months with Branching Out Interviews, some excerpts and a ton of fun. Watch for these talented authors:

April 10th – Susan Bernhardt of Wisconsin, US.

April 17th – Bobby Nash of Bethlehem, Ga.

April 24th – VS Holmes. (Creative Edge)

May 1 – Ann Shortell of Vancouver.

May 8th – James Palmer of Atlanta, Ga.

May 15th – Roger Moore & Jane Tims of New Brunswick

May 22 – ArtShediac with Colleen Shannon & Susan Jardine.

May 29th – Author C P Hoff. (Creative Edge)





What have I been up to beside blogging?


I finished the first draft of the third installment of the Jo Naylor series. Tentativley titled Shattered Dreams. The success of the first two – Shattered Figurine & Shattered Lives - has been overwhelming and I am deeply grateful to all my readers. Watch for it in Jan/Feb 2022.


An Excerpt from Shattered Dreams:

She had loved her job. Until they had to arrest her father, the prime suspect in a killing spree that she and Thorne had been investigating. The horror of what she discovered still clutches her heart and makes her angry. Questioning her own response to his madness, she sometimes regrets what she did before she fled the country. Giving it all up.

She can’t go back. At least, not yet. Not until she can live with the past. It’s inconvenient to travel under a false name and yet she loves the drama, like the spy novels she’s read, the secret only she and a fast-talking crook who provided the forged documents, who also happens to be a genius. For the right money, you get a new life. In the real world and the web world, at least in all the right places nosy people might look. The slime charged her double because he knew she was a cop.



I am presently editing and writing the third draft of book three in the ongoing Drake Alexander adventures – The Vigilantes. Dark Side of a Promise – book one – and Wall of War – book two have taken the reader all over the world in the chase for justice, from Bangladesh to Panama, and Peru. Alexander is searching twenty-year-old clues for two murderous brothers that have escaped the law and are in hiding. Can he and his people track them down? The Vigilantes will be ready for publication in the fall of 2021.

An Excerpt.

Anne Chouinard was laid to rest on November 5th, 1984. Her closest friend, Mireille Lambert, was interred this morning.  The ancestral cemetery is on the highest rise of the estate, overlooking lazy rolling hills, by empty grapevines lined in precision, their weary stems hang in mourning. To the left, the family chateau, a stately two-story edifice, is a five minute walk along the rows. People attending the reception are visible in the wide windows of the downstairs rooms that face the Garonne River. Close by is a low roofed structure with walls of the same brownish stone as the main building.

 Windowless with only a wide door on one end, it squats among the fields of naked vines. Jean-Phillipe Chouinard is a master vintner and has been for the last thirty years at the Lambert Estates, the family vineyard. He is one of three key holders to the storeroom. From the reserves, he carries ten bottles of 1993 Chateau Lambert Bordeaux. Before going into the house from a side entrance, he pauses to look back at the small group gathered around Mireille’s grave.

When he heard their conversation about hunting criminals, he couldn’t help but tell them about his daughter and what happened to her all those years ago. The tall man he talked to, Drake Alexander, he knows him to be from Canada, a former soldier in the Canadian Armed Forces, assured him they would find the men that murdered his precious Anne, even with a trail twenty years old. It’s what he and his team do. Chouinard doesn't hold any hope, it’s been so long. The brothers could already be dead.



Following the success of The Alexanders, 1911 – 1920, volume two of The Alexanders – 1921 – 1930 – is halfway complete and targeted for publication in the summer of 2022.


An Excerpt from 1921.


Maria is ahead of them and has the safe open. The bottom section has three wheeled carts with slots for the jewellery pads. They are arranging the displays when Nick comes in. Stiff legged and two canes, discomfort shading his brow, he catches one heel on the threshold. It throws him off balance. He tries to catch himself by reaching out to the counter on the right but is not close enough and tumbles to the floor. Canes fly across the floor. He comes to rest on his side, his back to the other three. He’s not moving.

The women clutch their mouths and their gasps echo in the ceiling. Dominic rushes to his friend’s aid.  Kneeling at his back, Dominic gently touches Nick’s shoulder. About to ask him if he’s okay, he feels shudders under his hand. The stifled sobs tear at his very being. He looks back over his shoulder and nods to Maria. Both ladies stand behind him with stunned looks. A small gesture tells them to carry on. He gives his friend’s shoulder a squeeze.

“C’mon mate, mon ami, let’s get you off those legs before you kill yourself.”

“I’d… I’d be lying if I didn’t think of it sometimes. It’s hard Dominic. They always hurt.”

Dominic abruptly turns Nick to face him. A glare freezes Nick from saying anything further. The voice is trying to be harsh, but out of the ladies hearing.

“Don’t you ever repeat that. Throw that thought away as far as you can. You have too many goods things going. It’ll get better Nick, it always does. Now c’mon, get in the chair. I’d offer to help you but you’re too damn stubborn. At least I’ll pick up your canes, can’t have them littering the store.”




Hats off to all you wonderful, fantastic, agreeable, incredible, phantasmagorical, astonishing, adorable, brilliant, cool and pleasant readers, visitors and guests. You make it all worthwhile.


Thank you.


Photo by Daniel Andrade

A call out to other authors, musicians, artists, photographers and other creatives. Looking for a new audience? Send me a message and you could be part of the Scribbler's success.

Leave a comment, please. Do you enjoy the Scribbler? Any ideas for another guest columnist? Any authors or creatives you’d like to see featured?

If you do leave a comment, you might be eligible for a surprise to be announced next week. We are giving something away, anywhere in the world. Leave a comment and contact info.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Author Allan Lewis of South Wales, UK.


Like many of my author friends, Allan and I ran into each other on different social media and followed each other with an interest of what we are writing about and our novels.

I decided to follow Allan because we not only share the same given name but his books are enticing and I’m anxious to add them to my TBR list.

He has graciously accepted my invitation to be a guest this week for a 4Q interview and rather than share an excerpt, he would like to give them a free copy of “Get Out Of My Dream” if they subscribe to my newsletter? 

FREE Copy of ‘Get Out Of My Dreams’ – Allan J Lewis



Allan J Lewis was born in South Wales UK, a son of a coal miner, in August 1939, just before the outbreak of World War 2.

He started work underground for the National Coal Board on his fifteenth birthday. He married in March 1961 and has two children, a daughter and a son, and two grandchildren.

Deep down he always wanted to be a writer but he felt thwarted by his lack of education. He would write a few pages and give up, frustrated by spelling and grammar. (This was before the days of personal computers.) As a young man, he didn’t have much time to read or write. He was working two shifts on the coalface, and when his daughter came along he got himself another job as a part-time fireman.

By the time he was in his late forties and his two children had married, he found time to start reading again. He enjoyed the adventure novels of Wilbur Smith and the works of James Patterson and Lee Child. He loves a good crime thriller.

The pleasure he found in reading rekindled his desire to write.

He would create stories in his head but did not put pen to paper in earnest until he retired. Allan has written five books a Mystery/Thriller and five Erotic Adventures.


Get out of My Dreams is Allan’s first Psychological Thriller novel and the first in the series of Joe the Magic Man. Where the two main characters are, Joe, who the FBI believes to be a rogue hypnotist, and Joe’s friend Alice Timberlake a freelance journalist, and the two of them with Joe’s gift of getting into your mind, ends up helping the FBI solve difficult crimes.


Allan’s Erotic novels are a spin-off from ‘Get Out Of My Dreams” where Joe’s addiction to getting into someone’s dreams leads him to find his dream lover Jean Thornton, who looks forward to Joe’s visits as he takes her on sexual adventures in her dreams, where she could end up as a barmaid back in France in the time of the Three Musketeers, or back in King Henry VIII time and have two young soldiers wanting to marry her. And a few present day time dreams, but whatever dream Joe visited, Jean knew it would be an erotic adventure that she would love. 







4Q: First off, Allan, thanks for being our guest this week. Please tell our readers about Joe the Magic Man.


AL: I love the “Alex Cross” series by James Patterson and thought I would love to have a series with a character that could help police solve crimes, something like the Castle series someone who is not a cop but helps police. So I came up with the idea of having someone that could read minds, the more I thought about it the more excited I became with all the possibilities a person like that would have, and when I came up with the name of “Joe the Magic Man” the plot thickened and the more Joe used his gift. I realized if someone had those powers the USA Government would see him as a threat to National Security and would want him eliminated, so I have got Joe trying to keep his identity a secret. But there are those in the FBI that see Joe’s gift of reading minds as a weapon to fight crime, and Joe works with the FBI to find out information for them by reading criminal's minds. I came up with the title of Joe because he also has an addiction of getting into young women’s dreams.



4Q: You have an intriguing selection of thriller novels. Please tell us about your newest work and what readers can expect when they pick up a copy.


AL: It is a political thriller titled “Code Red The President Will Die” it’s about the people of Syria and their fight against their government and ISIS, and how one man went to extreme measures to get America’s help to give them the power back to the people of Syria. When that extremist starts poisoning American politicians, the FBI asks Joe to find out who he is and track him down. The story has many twists and turns with an unexpected ending.




4Q: Can you share a childhood memory and/or anecdote?


AL: There are so many, one of my proudest memories was when I was fourteen and I was made school captain of the athletic team, I was a sprinter, hurdler, and high Jumper, and that year I won the Rhondda Valley Championship. I broke the record in the hurdles and the high jump and I was the lead man in the 4x100 meters relay that won the school the Valley Championship, and to be called out in front of the school assembly to show the two cups I had won, was one of my fond memories.




4Q: You are also a noted author of erotica. What draws you to this genre?


AL: Although my first book “Get out of My Dreams” is a crime thriller, there are a few chapters in it where Joe gets into Alice Timberlake’s dream and takes her on an erotic adventure. That was before he put his gift into good use, by helping the FBI to fight crime; Joe could get into a criminal’s dream and find out if he killed Jane Doe, where he hides the body, and get into a terrorist dream to see where they plan to attack next.

I had a few reviewers that said there was no need for the sex scenes, and there were others that said they enjoyed Joe’s and Alice’s erotic adventure, and that I should write more about Joe’s erotic dreams. So, I thought why not and I wrote my first erotic novel “Tale of the Inn Keeper’s Niece”  The first six reviews I had were all five stars, which encouraged me no end, and now I have four more out in the series of Joe’s Forbidden Dreams.




4Q: Can you tell us a bit about your writing habits? Your favorite spot to write? Has anything changed due to the pandemic?


AL: We have a spare bedroom that I use as my writers' den and the wife brings me a mug of tea every hour to keep my old grey-cells happy. I can’t wait for this pandemic to be over and for everything to get back to normal.



4Q: Favorite author? Novels?


AL: I loved the way Wilbur Smith wrote his adventure books, and the many books of James Paterson, and more recently Lee Childs. (Don’t tell anyone, but I pick up most of their books from car boot sales, I can’t pass without having a look to see what’s on offer.) I have no favorite, there are so many.



**I’m a big Wilbur Smith fan as well. A clever storyteller.




4Q: If you were chosen to write a memoir of anyone living or dead, who would it be?


AL:  I am a late starter and I find I am getting more passionate as the years go by and with every book I write. I have written my biography and I keep adding to it as time goes by, it is mainly about my mining experience and the nine years I worked as a part-time fire-fighter, where I saw some horrific accidents. The one that will always be with me was the Aberfan disaster of 1966 where a coal tip slid down the mountain and buried a school killing 116 children. I helped to dig out the bodies of four little girls and their teacher; writing about that brought it all back and I was very emotional more than passionate when I wrote about that day.



4Q: If you are not writing, what other interests do you have?


AL: I have played darts since I was eighteen, and still play in the Sunday and Friday night darts league. I am not as good as I used to be and only play if they are short, but I don’t miss a game. Saturday Night is dance night, the wife and I love our dance and a game of bingo. I met the wife at a dance some sixty-two years ago, she was the prettiest girl on the floor and she still is, and we can’t wait to get back out dancing with all our friends.






FREE Copy of ‘Get Out Of My Dreams’ – Allan J Lewis



For all you fantastic visitors wanting to discover more about Allan and his writing, Please follow this link:


Thanks again, Allan for taking the time to share your thoughts. Wishing you all the success you deserve with your future writing.