Tag Archives: writing

2017 Was A Disaster

I’m back from a year of working hard on many projects. Unfortunately, none of them were writing related. I intend to make up for that this year.

We started 2017 with a bang by heading to California to visit my husband’s cousins whom he hasn’t seen in fifty-plus years. I’ve been working on his genealogy so it was rewarding to finally meet long lost relatives and learn more about his childhood. He was raised by guardians. The history of his biological parents was always a shadow I could never quite grasp but at least I made progress. There’s still a long ways to go.

The trip to California was not without issues. Our rig got stuck TWICE in sand and once in mud after a torrential rainstorm. RVing is not all sunshine and lazy days. Enough said.

After a great reunion with the hubmeister’s family and a quick day trip to Yosemite, we headed to Ruby’s Inn at Bryce Canyon to work as “workampers” for the summer season. Another interesting experience. We met wonderful people, learned a lot, enjoyed our incredibly beautiful surroundings, and nursed me back to health after an abscessed tooth needed extraction by an oral surgeon. Since our jobs were almost full time, I had little time to write or to visit the many outstanding parks in southern Utah.

I was uprooted to work as a post-disaster housing inspector in Texas and Florida

Just as the season was coming to a close, I received my deployment notice to report to Houston as soon as possible. I’m an “on-call” Fema contractor who performs housing inspections in the aftermath of natural disasters, in this case Hurricane Harvey. Of course, Irma was right behind. And then Maria. It was a very long deployment – almost three months of working seven days a week for 12-14 hours a day in both Texas and Florida. There was absolutely NO time for writing, plotting or anything besides work and sleep.

I flew home before Thanksgiving. Hubs had moved our RV from Bryce Canyon to Tucson so it was great to share the holiday with him and my fur babies in my favorite state. After a couple of weeks catching up on sleep and de-stressing, I decided to re-visit a thriller I started at the beginning of the year. It simply wasn’t coming together the way I wanted and after a lot of soul searching, I realized it needed a complete re-write. I like it much better now.

December was filled with visits from friends which included road trips, cook outs, movie nights, etc. My writing once again got pushed to the back burner.

Now it’s January – a whole new year lies ahead! I am focused and determined to complete four projects in 2018. One is the second book to my Dead Men series – Dead Men Can’t Dance. It’s nearly complete so I’m anxious to finish it, get past the edits and send it to my beta readers. The next project is a spin-off of Road Tales called Road Lore and More. It will include all the tales from the original book plus a few more. I will also incorporate many of the short stories  I’ve written based on those myths and legends (check out my short story link here). Since Road Tales is only available in print, I intend to release Road Lore and More as an ebook. It won’t feature the photos that appear in the print version but will have some new tales of strange places as well as all those wicked, fun short stories . . . and more!

The next two projects are already plotted and started. Both are dark, psychological thrillers. I may write those under a pen name since they are so different from anything else I’ve produced.

Well, that’s my new year goals. Ambitious? Yes, because I have a lot of catching up to do. Thanks for staying with me while this site was “dark”. I promise to be more active on my blog and Facebook page in the future.

I’ve also started a blend of Keto and low carb diet in an effort to lose the extra pounds I gained eating junk food while on deployment. If you have a good recipe that is Keto or low carb friendly, please share it.

Fun Is Over . . . Back To Work!

Living on the road is an unstructured lifestyle, certainly not conducive to routine activities . . . like writing. I don’t exercise enough self-control when it comes to hiking or exploring because immersing myself in such awe inspiring beauty motivates my spirit – which is good for creative endeavors. Daytime was play time because I would write at night. But a funny thing happened during the past few months – my insomnia dissipated . . . and so did my writing.

Yosemite, California

Not that I had much time to write, anyway. March was a whirlwind of activity filled with author appearances, presentations, gatherings, and making a mad dash to California to visit the hubmeister’s family. I managed three book signings, one at the prestigious Tucson Festival of Books, a successful Gold, Ghosts and Gravel Roads presentation before almost two hundred attendees, spent four days at the Escapees Escapades – a gathering of over 2000 RVers, and enjoyed great fellowship with some new friends in Tucson. I also was awarded a signed copy of Red Steagall’s book, “Ride for the Brand” featuring his poetry and songs when I won the Cowboy Poetry Contest at Escapades57.

The Colorado River below Hoover Dam, NV

But all that is behind me now and it’s time to get back to business. Starting May 1st, we’ll be “workamping” at Ruby’s Inn in Bryce Canyon, Utah. Even though I’ll be settled in one place for five months, my job in the Rock Shop will compete with writing time. I’m hoping my psyche will respond to the newfound “structure” and re-ignite good writing habits to take with me after we leave. Keeping my fingers crossed.

Follow me on Facebook or Instagram for updated posts and photos from my travels.

Here’s the poem that won the Cowboy Poetry contest . . . based on the legend of the ghost horses from Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. You can read the history behind the lore in my Road Tales book.


The night was as dusty as an ol’ wrangler’s chaps

After rounding up strays on the West Texas flats.

As I searched through the darkness for Camp Cookie’s fire

The wind cut right through me like a strand of barbed wire.

My horse gave a whinny, his eyes grew real wide

Hooves pawed the ground as he danced to the side.

Something was out there. It was too dark to see . . .

But the ground rumbled ‘neath us and I whispered . . . “Stampede!”

I pulled my horse next to a stand of tall trees,

Praying we’d survive the oncoming steeds.

I tugged down my hat and held the reins tight

As thundering hooves galloped past us that night.

A hundred wild ponies, fast on the run . . .

I heard them. I felt them. But saw not a one.

When the sound faded into the folds of pitch black

I spurred on my horse, and never looked back.

Now I’m an old cowpoke with my share of strange tales

But I never had nothin’ turn me death pale

Like the Devil’s ghost herd on that cold Texas trail.

Home is Where You Park It

Some of you may have noticed my blog feed has been sporadic of late, as well as undergoing a few subtle changes. There’s a reason for that . . . the call of the wild. Gypsy fever. Nomadic life. Full time RVing.

parkscampgrounds_heroYep. Me, hubby, the dog and cat are about to become Happy Campers. I’ve always had an adventurous spirit but never found the right time to fully embrace it. Until now. We’ve been mentally preparing for this daunting change for about six months but are just now purging possessions. I call it downsizing panic. I’m excited.  But nervous. Eager. But bittersweet about giving up my “stuff”. I tell myself material things do not make a person. So why is it so hard to let go?

It’s been a difficult couple of years. My writing took a backseat while I helped our daughter and her family adjust to a special needs baby. A wonderful but emotionally draining experience. It’s hard to be creative when your heart hurts.  Thank God everyone is doing well and on the right track. Now . . . time to resurrect my writing career. I’m almost finished with the first book in a new, cozy style mystery series and excited to get it out there. I’m sure many of my fans have forgotten me but hopefully we can reconnect while I earn a few new ones.

New books. New life.

Everyone thinks full time RVing is a long “vacation” but it’s so much more. It’s a lifestyle. It’s tiny house living on wheels. It’s minimizing every single aspect of your world. It’s slowing down to enjoy life, embracing the wonders of nature and  returning to – or discovering – a simpler existence.  I’m looking forward to long walks, uninterrupted writing time, and watching the sun set over mountain tops and desert floors. With a glass of wine, of course.

Hubby and I are torn between two styles of RV’s – a Fifth Wheel and a Class A. Owners of each type are passionate in their belief that theirs is the best rig for living on the road. Pros – I like the interior of Fifth Wheels, the added option of a vehicle in which to explore, and the easier turning radius when driving. Cons include less storage area and more time setting up camp. Class A’s have tons of underbelly storage, easy set up, and comfortable travelling for us and the pets. Downsize is . . . the size! It’s a little intimidating to drive a 37-40′ beast around, much less parking it. If we don’t pull a “toad” or tow behind vehicle, we are limited to renting a car for local excursions which is probably cheaper and safer but still a hassle. What to do? We’ve flip-flopped so much on this decision I’m getting dizzy! Whatever we decide, we are adamant about making the purchase in April and being on the road by the end of May.

I’m already building a new website for our adventure and will introduce it soon. DebSanders dot com will remain my author site. The other will serve as a travelogue – with a bonus.  I plan to research local lore and myths while wandering from place to place, then write short stories based on those legends. It will be a fun diversion in between novels.

I’ll still be posting book reviews from time to time on this site, as well as more articles about the craft and industry. And who knows what other tidbits might appear? Stay tuned and find out.

Author Maria Hammarblad: On Writing Sci-Fi

I admire any author who blends science fiction and romance. The task of combining research and technology with a character driven story is not for the faint of heart . So today, it is with great appreciation and a bit of wide eyed awe that I present a talented author from the science fiction genre. Maria Hammarblad has graciously agreed to guest blog on  the art of researching and writing sci-fi. Read on and prepare to be fascinated. Afterwards, you’ll find information about her new release, “High Gravity”, the second novella in the Embarkment 2577 series.

Research and Science Fiction Reports
by Maria Hammarblad

I’ve always loved science fiction. The future, space, and technology hold an irresistible allure, turning me into a little kid in a candy store. The genre is convenient too; there’s plenty of room to make stuff up. I do however believe that every story, no matter how fantastic, needs to be anchored in reality in some way. A book needs to give readers something they can relate to, and larger and more detailed snippets of truth lead to a more believable story.

Writing science fiction takes a good deal of imagination and the science portion might be a small part of the finished book, but it’s important. Many readers have an excellent grasp on science – much better than I. For example, how does gravity really work? (Thus far, no one knows.) What would the solar system look like if you approached it in a spaceship? How far away is the nearest star?

Google supplies many answers, and I tend to stumble over interesting articles in the most unexpected places. When working on my recent re-write of the Embarkment 2577 novellas, my eyes fell on an interesting piece regarding how long a human can survive in space. I always imagined imminent death, but one would have a long time to process the experience. Needless to say, this information does not soothe the heroine of the Embarkment books…

When I wrote on my novel Kidnapped, I needed to fill out some gaps in my knowledge, and boldly enrolled in a college course in astrobiology. Astrobiology is a big and intimidating word. Back in high school, chemistry was my worst subject, and I expected this class to contain a lot of molecular bindings, carbon, silicon, and periodic system. I approached the classroom carefully, wondering why I insisted on straying outside my own comfort zone.

It was a very interesting experience, with a minimum of chemistry. The teacher was really cool, and devoted to space. At times, he wore a NASA uniform to class, and told us how his wife rolled her eyes when he wore it to Kennedy Space Center and pretended to be a real astronaut. Other visitors would see him and ask if he worked there, and he’d say, “Sure!” He also built scale models of spaceships, and they hung from the classroom ceiling. The model of the Saturn V was too big to hang; made in a scale that made other crafts seem reasonable, this one was still gigantic.

We had a stargazing event, and seeing the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter with my own eyes was breathtaking. We drove a simulated Mars rover, talked about planet and suns, and experimented with testing for life in samples of sand. I have to admit my science papers turned into science fiction papers, but the teacher was a good sport about it. He didn’t mind reading an imaginative description of how the little rovers Spirit and Opportunity rolled on the red sand of Mars with the moons slowly orbiting the planet – as long as I got the actual science right.

Maria Hammarblad_2

The class wasn’t just fun; it has also proven useful. Before I took it, I would never have realized a spaceship that just went through the atmosphere of a planet would be hot. It’s logical when thinking about it… Well, at least after someone points it out.

Before taking the class, I didn’t realize just how similar DNA has to be for two beings to be genetically compatible. After taking the class, all my aliens in romantic relationship with humans are basically human.

Science gets distorted in the books, of course; it’s fiction. I like making things up, and I like creating theories around how things might work. Most of my theories never make it to the books. I try to keep long explanations of how I think stuff works out of the stories and focus on people and their relations instead, but when I do write something sciency, I like to have thought it through. =)


About The Author:

Born in Sweden in the early 1970’s, Maria showed a large interest for books at an early age. Even before she was able to read or write, she made her mom staple papers together into booklets she filled with drawings of suns and planets. She proudly declared them, “The Sun Book.” They were all about the sun. She also claimed, to her mother’s horror, that her being on Earth was a big mistake and that her alien family would come and bring her home at any moment. This never happened, but both the interest in space and the passion for bookmaking stayed with her.

As an adult Maria’s creativity got an outlet through playing bass in a number of rock bands, and through writing technical manuals and making web pages for various companies and organizations. She did write drafts for a few novels, but the storytelling muse was mostly satisfied through role playing online on Myspace. It was here, while writing stories together with people from around the globe, she stumbled onto Mike. They started talking out of character, and she moved over to Florida to him late 2008. Today the two are married and live in the Tampa Bay area with three rescue dogs.
Besides writing and playing bass, Maria enjoys driving off-road, archery, and Tameshigiri.
Upcoming releases
Flashback, to be released by Desert Breeze Publishing June 2013
Operation Earth, to be released by Desert Breeze Publishing August 2013
Borealis XII, to be released by Desert Breeze Publishing November 2013
Fun Facts
Favorite color:              Blue
Favorite food:               Chicken with cashew nuts
Doesn’t eat:                     Mammals
Favorite TV Show:       Star Trek TNG and Leverage
Favorite animal:           Border Collie
Quotes:            “Full Speed Ahead” and “Caffeine is good for you”
Find Maria on the web
Website:                          http://www.hammarblad.com
Facebook:                      https://www.facebook.com/mariahammarblad
Blog:                                 http://www.scifiromance.info
Twitter:                           @mariahammarblad
Publisher’s website    http://www.desertbreezepublishing.com



High Gravity Button

High Gravity

Embarkment 2577, Novella 2

Maria Hammarblad

Genre: Sci-fi Romance

ISBN: 1456515128
ISBN-13: 978-1456515126
ASIN: B004HO673O

Number of pages: 131

Word Count: 28566

Book Trailer:  http://youtu.be/FWMObuBulXc

Purchase Links: http://amzn.com/B004HO673O

Book Description:

In this second novella in the “Embarkment 2577” series, the story picks up shortly after it left off in “Brand New World.” The main character Alex has come to terms with her new life on a starship in the year 2577, and reluctantly won both respect and admiration for her actions during an alien attempt to conquer the ship.

Little does she know a number of new trials are about to shake her world. Besides encounters with alien species and an unexpected relative surfacing, a fatal navigation error will test her relationships with both her android lover and her friends.


“Joshen Martinez is an old friend of mine, a mentor, he wouldn’t hurt you. He just wants to connect you to a machine that will tap out your memories. Your knowledge is valuable, and everyone would be able to see what you know. Sort of… like watching a movie.”

Having people watch all my memories? Intrusion of privacy, much?

I got to my feet. “I’ve heard enough of this. I have other things to do.”

Kevin stood up too. “Yes you do. Go pack your bags. This joke is over and you’re coming with me to the Kentucky.”

I took a step towards the door. “In your dreams.”

Blake said, “Sit down. Both of you.”

He didn’t raise his voice, but it was impossible not to obey. Kevin opened his mouth and my Captain made a dismissive gesture. “You’ve already said too much. Sit down and be quiet.”

Watching the scientist sink down, carefully keeping his mouth shut, filled me with glee. Blake pressed a button on his desk. “Commander Adam, could you come to my office for a minute, please.”

My husband’s voice filled the room. “Right away, Sir.”

I didn’t realize how tense I was until he stood in the doorway and I dared relax. He glanced between me and Kevin and crossed his arms over his chest. Adam was tall, strong, intimidating, and mine.

“What’s going on?”

Once again, Kevin opened his mouth. Blake snapped, “Silence.”

Kevin leaned back in his chair and rolled his eyes.

“Adam, this is Kevin. He has come to retrieve your wife.”

“Not happening, Sir.”

I wanted to squirm. “Can I move now?”

Blake smirked. “Yes Alex, you may move.”

I bounced to my feet and threw my arms around Adam. He hugged me back and murmured, “Don’t worry.”

After kissing me tenderly, he put his hands on my shoulders and turned me around so I faced Kevin. Then, he wrapped his arms around me from behind. “This is my wife. She means more to me than my life. She definitely means more to me than your life. If I were you, I’d choose my next words wisely.”

I glanced up at him. “I love you too.”

He smiled and brushed his lips over my temple.

Blake leaned his elbows on the desk and tapped his fingers together. “Mr Nolan, have we satisfied your curiosity, or do you wish to continue the discussion with the commander? I’m sure he’d be more than happy to demonstrate his… abilities. Would you like to see him fold a spare piece of hull plating a couple of times?”

“We’re good.”

Do You Believe in Fae?

My good friend and fellow writer, Janet Brooks, is one of the best researchers I’ve ever met. She can uncover delicious tidbits long after most folks have said “enough”. An example is the following guest blog, which Janet graciously agreed to write. She explores the topic of Fae and portals to the Underworld, a central theme in Book Two of Clans of Tagus series, The WARRIOR. By blending elements from Janet’s research with a contemporary plot and characters, The WARRIOR is sure to uphold the five star ranking Amazon readers have lavished on Book One, The GATEKEEPER. 

Do You Believe in Fae?

By: Janet Brooks

A long time ago, in a mountain far, far way, Celtic legend tells of a warrior, Fionn mac Cumhaill, who fervently pursued his betrothed, Gráinne, when she eloped with another. It was also a time when people told stories of how the Fae were vanquished by mortals and forced to descend into the Underworld through portals, similar to the one on the left in this photo of Ben Bulben, located in Sligo County, Ireland.

Even today Ben Bulben is a place often shrouded in mist and mystery – from its multiple names and spellings to the frequency with which its colors appear to change throughout the day, shifting from dark hues to bright green. Arctic flora found nowhere else in Ireland still grows on this mountain, which was formed by glaciers approximately 320 million years ago.

(In The WARRIOR, Artimon, a Tagusian shape shifter, accompanies Zara, a Dark Fae, to Ben Bulben where they must access the portal in a desperate attempt to save her twin sister from the Tagusian Warlords, the same clan that slaughtered many of her Fae ancestors and forced them into hiding.  In Book One, The GATEKEEPER,the original portal between the Earth and Tagus was located at Hamilton Pool, a tropical oasis hidden away in the Texas Hill Country. The waters of this landmark  exhibit similar characteristics as the Irish landscape near Ben Bulben, such as changing hues and emitting a green glow.)

The surrounding area is known as “Yeats Country” and is immortalized in “Under Ben Bulben,” which W.B. Yeats wrote in the year before his death. At his request, Yeats is buried in a churchyard near the base of the mountain, close to the land and legends he credited as the source of his inspiration. I’m inspired by the Celtic legends of Ben Bulben and another poem from Yeats, “Where My Books Go.”

     All the words that I gather,
     And all the words that I write,
     Must spread out their wings untiring,
     And never rest in their flight,
     Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,
     And sing to you in the night,
     Beyond where the waters are moving,
     Storm darkened or starry bright.


Videos of Ben Bulben:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7k-PoQCPGA&feature=related (with ad you can skip)

http://www.rtbot.net/sligo_ireland (Click on the second video which has the best time lapse photography of the changing colors of Ben Bulben but no narrative.)


Article/Photos of Ben Bulben:


Celtic Legends:



Irish Fairy Tales edited by W.B. Yeats:

http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/31763 (Includes poem quoted above.)

Cliff Diving Into My Future

I’ve always viewed endings in the same light as beginnings. When a situation/relationship fades, another starts anew. You can’t have one without the other. That’s life. It’s impossible to avoid so we should embrace the process. Sometimes easier said than done, especially when emotions accompany the transition.

Yesterday was my last day as a paid employee. Emotions are running rampant right now – elation, relief, excitement, nervousness, fear. It’s like cliff jumping at the lake. Running toward the rocky ledge, jumping with the exhilaration of flying through air, realizing you’re falling, holding your nose and clamping your lips together as you hit the water with a smack. Slicing into the black depths until your descent begins to slow and you look up at the bright ripples overhead. Kicking, swimming, moving toward the light, your lungs screaming for air.

I’ve jumped boldly into the future, moving from a secured income to one based solely on my own efforts. Kinda like a commission based job, except there’s no “draw”. I think I’m in the freefall stage right now. There’s no going back, the exhilartion is fading and I’m plummeting toward a watery abyss. No guts, no glory. That’s what I keep telling myself.

I’m not good with farewells. It was hard leaving a job where I’ve excelled and maintained a standard of excellence for the past year. Saying goodbye to friends and associates who have become like family. People bond for various reasons. Once that bond is broken or removed, many relationships don’t survive. All the promises of calling, meeting for lunch, and keeping in touch fell under a shroud of regret. It probably won’t happen. I’ve left their world and the elements that drew us together are no longer in place.

I’ll miss most of my co-workers. Not the stress. Not the chaotic changes and missteps by management that kept our entire department in flux. Not the overload of work on too few people. Not the nepotisim that created an unfair burden of responsibility on others. And not the health issues I’ve incurred over the past few months as my job went from bliss to hell.

Nope, I won’t miss that.

So here’s to a new beginning. I now have time to focus on my writing. Promoting my existing books. Creating new ones. Keeping up with my blog. Connecting with my fans. Re-acquainting myself with family. Losing the twenty pounds I gained in the past year at my job. Enjoying more physical exercise and hopefully a healthier lifestyle.

It took a huge leap of faith to choose an unknown path over one less pleasant but familiar. But I’m an adventurer. I’ve done this before. Sometimes with glorious results. Sometimes not. I have no idea what lies ahead but I’m excited to get started.

I just need one more glance over my shoulder at what I left behind . . . one last goodbye. And on I go.