Sunday, November 23, 2014

Fatal Brushstroke by Sybil Johnson: Guest Author & Giveaway

Fatal Brushstroke

 From Idea to Story
by Sybil Johnson

“Where do you get your ideas?” is one of the most common questions people ask writers. Most of us would say “everywhere.” I’ve gotten ideas from newspaper articles, items I’ve seen in catalogs, personal experiences, and dreams. For me, ideas are easy to come by. I have a whole notebook filled with them. What takes the time is developing a story around one.

Sometimes a title is the first thing that springs to mind. That was the case with my short story, “Annual Marriage Test,” published earlier this year in Mysterical-E. The title came from years of preparing taxes with my husband. One year I started calling it our “annual marriage test.” As time went on, I realized that would be a great title for a story. So, I had the title and the basic idea—a couple does their taxes—but I initially had no clue where it was going. From there I created characters, fleshed out a plot and, eventually, a full-fledged story was born.

For Fatal Brushstroke, the first book in the Aurora Anderson Mystery series, I woke up one morning with an idea: a young woman finds the body of her tole painting teacher in her garden. I’d been a fan of mysteries for years, so I knew the basic concept behind one, but I’d never attempted to write one. I soon found out I had a lot to learn.

I read books on writing fiction in general and mysteries in particular, took a couple online courses, and started writing. The first draft was ugly, the second draft was better and, eventually, years and years later, the book is being published.

Some writers do no planning at all, writing by the seat of their pants; others outline a project in great detail before putting a word on the page. My process falls somewhere in between the two extremes. I need to have some idea where I’m going before I write anything, but I don’t need to know all the details.

Once I get an idea and decide on the setting, I spend a lot of time creating characters, figuring out what they’re hiding and what makes them tick. As I’m developing my characters, I decide on the crime, the murderer and the motive. Next, I plot out the major turning points for the story and look at the crime from the killer’s point-of-view. Only then do I start writing. Knowing all these things before I start work helps me write the book faster, yet it’s flexible enough I can change my mind as I write.

There you have it, how one writer goes from idea to a story. Not every writer uses this method. There is no one approach that works for everyone. The important thing is to have a process and figure out what works for you.


About the book: A dead body in her garden and a homicide detective on her doorstep…

Computer programmer and tole-painting enthusiast Aurora (Rory) Anderson doesn’t envision finding either when she steps outside to investigate the frenzied yipping coming from her own backyard. After all, she lives in Vista Beach, a quiet California beach community where violent crime is rare and murder even rarer.
Suspicion falls on Rory when the body buried in her flowerbed turns out to be someone she knows—her tole painting teacher, Hester Bouquet. Just two weekends before, Rory attended one of Hester’s weekend painting seminars, an unpleasant experience she vowed never to repeat. As evidence piles up against Rory, she embarks on a quest to identify the killer and clear her name. Can Rory unearth the truth before she encounters her own brush with death?

About This Author: Sybil Johnson’s love affair with reading began in kindergarten with “The Three Little Pigs.” Visits to the library introduced her to Encyclopedia Brown, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and a host of other characters. Fast forward to college where she continued reading while studying Computer Science. After a rewarding career in the computer industry, Sybil decided to try her hand at writing mysteries. Her short fiction has appeared in Mysterical-E and Spinetingler Magazine, among others. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, she now lives in Southern California where she enjoys tole painting, studying ancient languages and spending time with friends and family.

Author Links
Facebook Author page:

Purchase Links

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Caturday Art: Dream BIG

What do you think Truffles is dreaming about?

"If you're gonna dream, dream BIG." ---Truffles

Is the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade a holiday tradition at your house too?

Check out more artsy kitties here.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Natural Supplements for Feline Diabetes

I would dare to guess that many of you are like me and take supplements with the hopes that they are beneficial to your health. Many of us also give supplements to our pets. Through all of Tara's health problems, especially her heart disease, I did a huge amount of research on supplements, and I strongly believe that they kept her with me for far longer than the doctors thought possible.

I recently came across a fascinating infographic containing information on treating feline diabetes with natural herbs and supplements with the guidance of your vet, and decided to share it here in honor of Pet Diabetes Month. Check it out and then we'll chat more below.

Many of these supplements I had never even heard of, but because of Tara and a prevalence of heart disease in my family, I do know a bit about the supplements that benefit the heart, such as Omega-3 and Vitamin E. Cardiovascular disease is also the leading cause of death in diabetics.

A more convenient way to provide natural support for feline diabetes is with an already prepared blend, such as Blood Sugar Gold - Cat Diabetes Support, a unique formula developed for times in a cat's life when stable blood sugar and insulin levels are needed. Using the best known botanicals for blood sugar maintenance, it also contains herbs to support a healthy liver and eye health. Cats taking Blood Sugar Gold may respond by having healthy amounts of urination and normal thirst. Appetite within a healthy range is also common when insulin levels are maintained. Normal weight, good energy and/or good vision may also be maintained. If your cat is taking prescribed medication such as insulin, please read through the precautions for Blood Sugar Gold. It is of utmost importance that blood sugar levels be kept in a healthy range and not get too low.

Active ingredients:

* Devil's Club root bark:  This indigenous North American herb has vast uses. Maintenance of normal blood sugar levels is one of its most powerful applications. It has also been used traditionally by First Nations Peoples for the respiratory system, for joints, the digestive system and as a general health tonic.
* Gymnema leaf:  With the addition of this herb to the formula, there is specific support to the beta cells of the pancreas and also to maintain healthy blood sugar levels immediately following consumption of food.

* Fenugreek seed:  A seed used extensively in India for health and nutrition, recent studies concur that healthy liver and insulin levels may be linked with regular ingestion.
* Burdock root: High in inulin, Burdock has been used traditionally to support healthy blood sugar levels, support the liver and for good digestion.
* Goat's Rue herb:  Used and grown in Europe for hundreds of years, this herb may allow the body to better tolerate carbohydrates. It is also one of the main plants used for maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. Its secondary ability to support the liver makes it a valuable addition to this formula.
* Dandelion root: Both leaf and root are commonly used in herbal formulas. The root's therapeutic actions are as a pancreatic regulator, cholagogue, for pancreatic and bile duct stimulation, and portal circulation.
* Bilberry fruit:  Rich in anthocyanins, these berries are considered a wonderful food source of antioxidants. The extract is known to affect the tiny blood vessels that supply the eyes. It also shows specific action in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.

Another popular blend is PetAlive GlucoEnsure, which contains a variety of helpful nutrients and herbs that can support the animal’s system and possibly reduce the amount of insulin required.

Active Ingredients - Bilberry (fruit), Goats rue (herb), Fenugreek (seed), Astragalus (root), as well as chromium, a mineral supplement which has been clinically proven to improve the effectiveness of insulin. It also helps in the breakdown of fats and can therefore balance cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Have you ever used herbs, extracts, or dietary supplements on your pet? Did you find them to be effective?

As the infographic states, it is extremely important to check with your vet before giving any herbs to your pet because cats can be highly sensitive to certain herbs and essential oils. Your vet also needs to be aware of any natural methods you are using in order to avoid drug interactions and to adjust insulin requirements accordingly. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

K-9 Cop: Case #1 The Dreck Report by Erna Mueller: Character Guest Post & Giveaway

Hey there. My name is Spencer Watley, and I’m a Lieutenant at the Seattle Police Department. Well, I guess that’s not the whole truth. You see, some Cyber killers did me in and I landed before the gates of heaven. I was standing there knockin’ but the door wouldn’t open. An angel standin’ there told me no way am I going in. What, you must be mistaken, I says, what’s my room number? Here I am a great cop, donno know how many scumbags and lowlifes I put in the slammer. Don’t that count for nothin’? The angel wasn’t listening, she just told me I was jerk, and insensitive to boot. Do you believe that, a jerk! She said I had to go through the J.R.P. if I ever wanted to enter. The J.R.P I asked, what the heck is that? It’s the Jerk Redemption Program, said the angel. That’s non-stop Oprah and Dr. Phil reruns, we will make you nice and sensitive, jerk. I shivered and nearly passed out at the thought. Can you imagine that? I can’t stand all that mushy, touchy feely stuff. But the angel had something else up her sleeve. The other option she gave me was, I could help a young kid and his dysfunctional family. Hey, that sounds way better I said. And just as she’s sendin’ me back down to earth, she pulls this zinger on me. I can only go back in the body of my K-9 partner. Well, I just said forget it, I ain’t becoming no dog. But the angel wouldn’t listen. So here I am a stupid dog. And the teenager I’m trying to help is a smart-mouthed, know-it-all puber who’s grouchier than I am. You think this is bad, wait till you read the rest, it gets even worse. I dare you to read it. Woof.


Title: K-9 Cop: Case #1 The Dreck Report
Author: Erna Mueller
Publisher: Erna Mueller
Pages: 220
Genre: YA
Format: Paperback/Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

No one thought as highly of Lieutenant Spencer Watley as he did himself. This selfish cop met 14 year-old Justin Andrews during an important stakeout. Determined to nab a group of cyber killers, he wasn’t going to let anything get in his way, especially a smart mouthed teenager like Justin.

After Spencer bids him good riddance, he is killed by the hackers and stands before the gates of heaven. But - what’s this? After a life of putting dangerous criminals behind bars, he’s locked out? 

He yells at the angel blocking his entrance, only to find out he needs to go through the J.R.P. program before he can enter. That’s the Jerk Redemption program, otherwise known as sensitivity training boot camp, which to his horror consists of non-stop Oprah and Dr. Phil reruns. Or he can go back to earth and help Justin’s dysfunctional family. Spencer opts for the lesser of two evils, to help Justin.

But the Angel pulls a fast one on Spencer. He can only go back to earth in the body of his K9-Partner. Spencer refuses, but like it or not, Spencer becomes a dog. He falls back to earth and is slowly morphed into a dog that closely resembles a mop.

And if being a dog wasn’t bad enough, Spencer also swallowed an important microchip his killers need to hack into PC’s and steal millions. Now the criminals are hot on his trail for the only existing microchip that’s logged in his belly.

Justin and Spencer butt heads constantly; both are stubborn and willful, neither one wanting to give an inch. Spencer needs to find out what the killers are up to, so he swallows his pride and forms a bond with the boy. Spencer relays to Justin his past and together with the help of Justin’s girlfriend, Shahla; they discover the hacker’s plans. Spencer has broken down Justin’s reserve and he finally learns the meaning of unselfish love.

But it’s too late, the hackers have captured them.

Can Spencer maul the shins (and other choice areas) of his kidnappers and stop them from their evil plan?

Can a selfish man find a heart?

You bet. He just has to become a dog first.

K-9 Cop is available at Amazon.
Pick up your copy at
Barnes & Noble.
Watch the book trailer at
Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at
About the Author: I was born in Austria and my family immigrated to the U.S. I loved living here as a child and considered the U.S. my home. My family returned to Austria and of course I had to tag along. I missed the friendly faces and the cultivation of the free spirit which America symbolizes. In Austria I completed my education but always wanted to return, so here I am.

I traveled the world and lived in many exciting cities such as Paris, Munich and London. I currently work as an accountant for a large pizza company in Seattle by day and passionately pursue a career as a writer in my spare time.

My new book, K-9 Cop, is adapted from my multi-national award winning screenplay. The book has won several awards including first place in the 2009 National Good Read Competition sponsored by

Please visit my web site at for more reviews and other info.

Connect with Erna on Facebook and Twitter.

Erna is giving away one audiobook of K-9 COP!
Terms & Conditions:

* By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
* One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter.
* This giveaway begins October 6 and ends Dec 19.
* Winner will be contacted via email on Monday, Dec 22.
* Winner has 48 hours to reply.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Word of the Day: Championship

Truffles: If you follow us on Facebook you probably already know that a certain sports event on Sunday night has had Mommy deliriously happy. She jokes that she had about 5 heart attacks within an hour that night. She screamed, she cried. You kitties know how humans are during big sports events, right?

I'm letting Mommy have her moment, though. NASCAR is the only sport she follows, and Kevin Harvick has been "her driver" since his rookie year in 2001. She's been waiting for him to win the Sprint Cup Championship for 14 years. (But why does she have to watch every recap show? It's like she expects there to be a different outcome or something!) And would you believe she's already counting the weeks until Daytona???

I sure hope the excitement dies down pretty soon. I'm exhausted.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review & Giveaway: Mrs. Kaplan & the Matzoh Ball of Death by Mark Reutlinger

Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death

Blurb: Move over, Miss Marple—Mark Reutlinger’s charming cozy debut introduces readers to the unforgettable amateur sleuth Rose Kaplan and her loyal sidekick, Ida.

Everyone knows that Rose Kaplan makes the best matzoh ball soup around—she’s a regular matzoh ball maven—so it’s no surprise at the Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors when, once again, Mrs. K wins the honor of preparing the beloved dish for the Home’s seder on the first night of Passover.

But when Bertha Finkelstein is discovered facedown in her bowl of soup, her death puts a bit of a pall on the rest of the seder. And things go really meshugge when it comes out that Bertha choked on a diamond earring earlier stolen from resident Daisy Goldfarb. Suddenly Mrs. K is the prime suspect in the police investigation of both theft and murder. Oy vey—it’s a recipe for disaster, unless Rose and her dear friend Ida can summon up the chutzpah to face down the police and solve the mystery themselves.

Advance praise for Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death

“Is there kosher food in jail? These two heroines have gotten themselves in quite a pickle! Well, it’s a matzoh ball mess, really. Too deliciously funny!”—Rita Mae Brown, bestselling author of Nine Lives to Die

Tortie Shorties
Book reviews that are short and sweet...just like Truffles!

This novella takes place at the Julius and Rebecca Cohen Home for Jewish Seniors and features a pair of sassy seniors reminiscent of Miss Marple, Jessica Fletcher, and Holmes & Watson rolled into one.

Rose Kaplan is once again chosen to make her famous matzoh ball soup for the Home’s seder on the first night of Passover, but everything goes terribly wrong when  Bertha Finkelstein ends up face down in her soup bowl after choking on a stolen diamond earring. Who stole the earring in the first place and how did it end up in the soup? Poor Rose is instantly the main suspect, and as a mystery lover takes it upon herself to clear her name with the help of her dear friend Ida.

The antics these two get into solving the mystery, as well as their interactions with other residents of the retirement home, had me in stitches, and the final revelation of how Bertha died took me completely by surprise.

For a fun few hours of reading you can't go wrong in downloading Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 17, 2014

Review/Giveaway: Himalayan Blue Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain

Did you know your pet needs approximately one ounce of water per pound of body weight each day? Ensuring proper pet hydration is extremely important to PetSafe. This July, the brand celebrated Pet Hydration Awareness Month to help educate pet parents about the importance of providing pets with access to clean, fresh water.

As the only pet fountains developed by a veterinarian, PetSafe’s Drinkwell pet fountains were invented in 1994 by Dr. Mary Burns, after noticing that her cat, Buckwheat, would only drink from a running faucet and would wait all day for Dr. Burns to turn the faucet on for her. In addition to providing the moving water source that cats (and dogs) seek, PetSafe’s Drinkwell pet fountains aid with proper metabolism, energy conversion and temperature regulation, as well as promote healthy kidney function and prevent urinary tract infections and disease in pets.

After garnering the majority of votes during the DIY Network’s Blog Cabin 2014 People’s Choice voting period, PetSafe® brand is proud to announce that Himalayan Blue will be the next color offered for its popular Drinkwell® Pagoda Fountain. More than 390,000 votes were cast for the next pet fountain color, with Himalayan Blue beating out Taupe by receiving 76 percent of votes. PetSafe’s Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain is now available in the winning color on

Also available in red and traditional white, the PetSafe® Drinkwell® Pagoda Fountain is a stylish, ceramic fountain that freshly filters and continuously recirculates 70 ounces of free-flowing water for pets, keeping it cleaner and fresher than a normal water bowl. The ceramic design is more hygienic, easy to clean (top-rack dishwasher safe) and looks great in your home. The upper and lower dishes provide two drinking areas for pets, and the dual patented free-falling streams add oxygen for freshness, which encourages pets to drink more.

Key Features

* Ceramic design is more hygienic, easy to clean, and looks great in the home
* Dual patented free-falling streams add oxygen for freshness and encourage pets to drink more
* Upper and lower dishes provide two drinking areas for pets
* Low-voltage 12V system with submersible pump for safe and quiet operation

Our initial thoughts: I've heard of many cats who are quite particular about their water source, but Truffles isn't one of them. As long as her water bowl is clean and fresh, she's good to go. And while cats are often lackadaisical about water consumption, she hydrates herself on a regular basis. (Not in excess, however. After experiencing kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and diabetes in my last 3 cats, I am very attentive to monitoring how much water a cat drinks.)

We've only had this fountain for a week, but Truffles took to it right away. Never having had anything like this before I wondered if she would be hesitant about the moving water (a sound that I find quite soothing) but after checking it out for awhile she approached it with no issues whatsoever. (I've also still kept her regular bowl down "just in case".) It was quite easy to put together, which was very important to me, and looks very sleek and stylish in the kitchen.

Guess what? PetSafe has generously allowed me to offer a Himalayan Blue Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain to one lucky reader! For your chance to win simply fill out the Rafflecopter form below; US entries only, please.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer:  I received this Drinkwell Pagoda Fountain for free in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are our own.