I’m still in road trip mode.  We got back on Sunday night but I feel like my life is still in a suitcase that is sitting in my car.  I was trying to think of a post for the blog but I think my Thinking Cap is in that suitcase in the car!  I’ve sort of been posting lists on Tuesdays so I thought maybe you would like to see a “list” of pictures from the trip.  At least I hope so.

This was when we went out to the boardwalk over the sand dunes and to the ocean in Guadalupe.

This was when we went out to the boardwalk over the sand dunes and to the ocean in Guadalupe. He had to go ahead of Nana!

This little critter caught Anderson's eye and kept him on the lookout for more critters.

This little critter caught Anderson’s eye and kept him on the lookout for more critters.

I told him that animals might want to pop their heads in to check him out as we drove through Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon.  He didn't believe me until this happened.  And yes, the window was open!

I told him that animals might want to pop their heads in to check him out as we drove through Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon. He didn’t believe me until this happened. And yes, the window was open!

When we went to the pizza night for the reunion, he didn't want to sit at the group table so he sat behind me in a booth and spread out his Legos.  He played with them throughout the evening, having conversations with them.

When we went to the pizza night for the reunion, he didn’t want to sit at the group table so he sat behind me in a booth and spread out his Legos. He played with them throughout the evening, having conversations with them.

One of the hikes we took was around the lake at Howarth Park in Santa Rosa.  He saw squirrels and lizards and lots of ducks and geese.

One of the hikes we took was around the lake at Howarth Park in Santa Rosa. He saw squirrels and lizards and lots of ducks and geese.

A monument to the life on Cannery Row which was portrayed in John Steinbeck's novel by the same name.

A monument to the life on Cannery Row which was portrayed in John Steinbeck’s novel by the same name.

View of Memorial Auditorium and the Silicon Valley beyond. Taken from Stanford's Hoover Tower.

View of Memorial Auditorium and the Silicon Valley beyond. Taken from Stanford’s Hoover Tower.


Melissa Barker-Simpson

Melissa Barker-Simpson

Today, help me welcome author and fellow blogger, Melissa Barker-Simpson.  I hope you enjoy reading about here and her books and that you take a look at her novels.

It’s lovely to be invited to Corina’s place to visit with you all. I’ve been blogging for two years now, and I’ve met some incredible people along the way. It’s a vital online community and, as a writer, it feels like my second home! There is so much to learn, so much to share and experience.

I’ve been writing since Junior School, which in the US I believe is classed as Elementary (first grade). I loved nothing more than creating new worlds and sharing my adventures with others. When I left school and went to college, I spent less time writing, and more time studying. I couldn’t decide on a career and so, after leaving full time education I held a number of jobs. Although I couldn’t seem to make anything stick, I did have a passion for language, which led to my interest in British Sign Language (BSL). I eventually became an interpreter, and have been interpreting for ten years now.

It’s a job I particularly enjoy because I get to explore different settings; police, theatre, community, education, medicine. It’s a lot of fun and, though it can be challenging at times, the variety suits my fickle nature! BSL is a beautiful, visual language, with a rich and complex grammatical structure, one that never ceases to amaze.

One of my most important roles in life though, is being a mother. I have two teenage daughters, who are a great source of joy.

I didn’t begin seriously writing again until 2005, a year after I lost my father. It was a really difficult time, and I escaped my grief by remembering the stories I shared with him in my youth. The characters never really went away, even when life got too busy, so when I let them back in, it became impossible to deny the part of myself I had supressed for so long.

There are a number of things I could talk about when it comes to my writing journey. I recently published The Fallen, which is my ninth novel, and the first in a series. It seems I have a penchant for writing series, and thanks to my busy mind, I’m unable to concentrate on one project at once.

My work is always character driven, and Maddison, the protagonist from The Fallen has her hooks in me at the moment. When I sit down to write, whether it is a short-story, or my next work in progress, she invariably muscles her way in!

It’s the reason that, as well as working on my latest novel in the Morgan and Fairchild series, I decided to venture into serialised fiction. I’ve been thinking about it for a while. I love the idea of creating monthly episodes like a television series, and pulling those together to create a season. There are different ways to approach serialised writing, but I aim to have an overarching theme while solving individual story arcs during each episode.

The Collective is an offshoot of the Fractured series, so readers will be familiar with some of the characters. I’m sure Maddison will make an appearance or two. It is a lot of fun developing this group of supernatural creatures, and to explore more of the world I created.

At the beginning of this month I published The Contract, prequel to the Fractured, as an introduction. One of the main players is a god, Orion Reece, and he seems to be a popular character. So I decided to share a scene with you from The Fallen, which incorporates Maddison and Orion.

The Fallen.jpg

The Fallen

*Background: Maddison Wood is a hunter, and a witch. Her instincts draw her to the city; trouble is coming and she wants to meet it head on. Donovan is her partner in crime. She rescued him from a particularly brutal clan of demons, and now owns his contract.*

“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me,” Maddison groaned, hackles rising.


She didn’t look Donovan’s way, her eyes were glued to the street, to the ball of light which glowed like a beacon of tightly controlled power. “Orion Reece,” she said through clenched teeth.

Am I supposed to know who that is?’ Donovan asked, his voice a deep rumble inside her mind.

She could feel his eyes on her, but she didn’t turn.

When Orion appeared, he did so with none of the arrogance she had come to expect, and, for some reason, the lack of drama unnerved her more than his presence. He was a god, one who enjoyed flaunting his superiority every chance he got. The pale blonde hair, hanging to his shoulders like fine silk, still shone as a testament to his power, and yet alarm bells were ringing in Maddison’s head. Something was definitely wrong with the picture.

“To what do we owe the pleasure?” she asked, her voice and gaze steady. She would not give him an inch.

“Come now, Woody.” His dark eyes flashed, the gold at the outer edges drawing her in. “You can do better than that.”

Woody?’ Donovan asked through their connection.

Long story,’ Maddison replied. She took a step towards Orion, delighted when Donovan followed suit.

“We haven’t been introduced,” Donovan said, extending his hand.

Orion threw back his head and laughed. “My dear boy, if you want to know more about me, all you have to do is ask.”

As a hympe, Donovan had a unique gift. It was empathy based, so if he opened himself up to the connection, he could learn anything through touch.

“I’ll forgive the discourtesy,” Orion continued. “Because I have you at a disadvantage.” His eyes grew cold. “I’m the reason your current owner stumbled upon your sorry excuse for a-”

“Nobody owns him,” Maddison said, stepping between them. “And you’re not the only reason he’s free.”

Orion raised his hand, eyes flashing with challenge. Maddison’s hair slithered towards him, the long braid dancing in the cool night air, like he was a regular snake charmer.

“Is that so?” he asked.

Maddison shot magic into the wayward locks and regained the advantage. She knew Orion used the trick to test her, to steal her control. Given that her hair was her weapon of choice, it was an effective reprimand.

What’s he talking about?’ Donovan asked.

He sent me to the Firmani Caves, or at least set it up so I would be in the right place at the right time.’

Donovan’s shudder was involuntary. The Firmani Caves were home to the Nrikabat demons, the original proprietors of his contract – those responsible for his torture and abuse.

“How did you know?” Donovan asked, staring wide-eyed at Orion. “Why would you care?”

“I don’t.” Orion’s tone was bored. “But I owed your father a favour.”

Don’t listen to him,’ Maddison said, touching Donovan with her mind. ‘Even if he’s telling the truth, he will use the information against you. I’ll find another way to learn his secrets.’

She turned her attention to Orion. Everything about him was designed to entice – the tall, sculptured body, strong jaw, sinful mouth; he was quite a package. “Can we just get this over with? Why don’t you tell us what you want?”

“Oh, how you wound me,” he said, placing a hand over his heart. “Can’t I have the simple desire to visit with an old friend?”

He was stalling, she realised. Taunting them purposely, perhaps hoping they would lose the trail. She could almost feel her instincts curling up in her gut, retreating into silence. “If you’re here to shoot the breeze, we can do that as we walk,” she said, starting to move past him.

Orion sidestepped, putting himself in her path. His strong jaw was set, lips pressed into a hard line. “You need to get as far away from here as possible,” he said, his voice low and urgent.

She blinked, genuinely surprised by the concern in his dark eyes. “Something’s coming, isn’t it?”

There was a long beat of silence. “You don’t want to get tangled up in this, Maddy.” He squinted, assessing her reaction. “Don’t force my hand.”

Donovan moved so he was shoulder to shoulder with Maddison. “That sounds like a threat.”

She almost smiled. Donovan had no idea who he was dealing with; either that or he had a death wish. Orion could squash him like a bug; though, granted, Donovan hadn’t been crushed yet.

“If he was going to do something, he’d have done it already,” she said. “He either can’t interfere, or the focused use of his power will give him away.” That was it. She knew it as soon as the words left her mouth. Why there had been no fanfare when he arrived, why the light of his power was subdued. “It’s big, isn’t it?” she said, more to herself than Orion, because she knew he wouldn’t answer.

I hope you enjoyed the snippet. Thanks again to Corina for inviting me, and to you all for reading.



The Fallen

Author Website

Blog: http://www.mbarkersimpson.wordpress.com

Email: info@mbarkersimpson.co.uk

Twitter handle: @mbarkersimpson

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/melissabarkersimpson

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/mbarkersimpson

Changing Worlds 2

Changing Worlds

Fifth Watcher - Cover for Createspace

The Fifth WatcherHands_of_Evil_Cover_for_Kindle

Hands Of Evil

On The Road–Still


If we were having coffee today, we would be at my motel as I’m on the road for a second consecutive Saturday.  This morning finds us (my 5 year old grandson and I) in San Jose, California.  We are heading back home today and will be back home on Sunday evening.  Still some trip left.

If we were having coffee I would tell you that on Thursday we spent the day in Monterey.  I have spent a lot of time there and it is one of my favorite places.  It was great to share it with Anderson.  One of the neat places I took him to was the Dennis the Menace park in Monterey.  It’s a wonderful playground for kids (and their grownups).  One of the things that makes it special is that I played at that same playground as a child and then my own kids played there, too.  Now Anderson!  It has play areas for little ones under 5 and then another area for the 5 to 8 year olds and one with a very challenging play structure for the older kids.  All slides included number about eight.  It overlooks an adjoining lake and then the bay.  It is a beautiful place for the grownups to enjoy as the watch the kids play.

We also went across the bay to Cannery Row, that ever changing place which inspired John Steinbeck’s novel by the same name.  There are some fun looking coffee shops overlooking the bay there.  I had not been to Cannery Row in maybe 8 or so years so there were some new things there, like the monument to the Cannery Row that inspired the novel (yes, the characters were real as were some of the events in the novel).  Have you read Cannery Row?  What did you think of it?

Yesterday we stopped in at the campus of Stanford University.  We stopped in last week on our way through but it was very crowded and I promised to take him back to go up to the top of Hoover Tower. That’s what we did.  We parked at one end of the campus and walked through to the front.  We took the elevator ride to the top of the tower (14 stories so not super tall but taller than any place he had been to). We also went into Memorial Church.  Unfortunately, only the very front entrance of the church was accessible.  Kind of just enough space for getting the feel of the church and a view of the mosaics and the stained glass.  The rest was roped off.  I’m not sure why but I do know that there is some restorative work being done on the outside so perhaps that has something to do with it.  Afterwards, we walked back through campus, make a quick stop at the bookstore and then played hide n seek in the trees!  He needed to run so he ran around the grassy areas.  A short visit to campus but it was very nostalgic for me.

If we were having coffee, I would need to check in on Anderson.  He’s in the room, three doors down from the motel’s breakfast room.  I’m letting him sleep in while we chat.  He had a late night.  I took him for his first ever drive-in movie last night.  He loved it.  The whole experience.  He loved that he got to sit up front with me and not in his car seat.  He loved that he could talk during the movie and it didn’t matter.  And he enjoyed the movie (Inside Out).  So I’m letting him sleep in just a bit.  No rush.  Our drive toward home today will only be about five hours before we stop for one more night.  So no rush to get out of the motel early.  But I will have to be going soon.  I need to pack up our stuff  while I let him snooze a bit.  I’ll be quiet so as not to wake him.

Anyway, I have lots of pictures to share with you but for some reason they are not making it from my phone to my email so I can download and post.  I’ve sent the pictures three times.  Now I’ll probably get a gazillion emails just after I hit publish on this post.  I’ll figure it out and use them for another post later this week.

Oh, I said I would share Anderson’s “discovery”.  This trip has been filled with wonderful moments as he chats with me and says things that he is thinking about that he might not normally share if we were at home during some of our daily running around.  It has also brought out the “funny” in him.  The other day, I was sitting in the motel as he watched TV and played with his Legos.  I was trying to write in my travel journal when I heard a loud thump and the room shook.  I jumped and looked at him.  He was on the floor.  And asked if he was okay and he laughed.  He said, “Yeah.  I’m ok, Nana.  I was trying to fly.  Guess what?  I can’t fly!” and he cracked up, as did I!  A valuable lesson learned.  :)

Well, I should go turn on lights so he’ll wake up slowly while I pack up.  Let’s see what today’s traveling brings.

Now it’s your turn!  Talk to me!

Hoover Tower taken from Oval.

Hoover Tower taken from Oval.

One shot that was on my computer from last week…more soon.

To join in the Weekend Coffee Share blog hop, write your post and visit Diana at Part Time Monster and add your url to the linky.

From the Road

Sand dunes, Guadalupe, California

Sand dunes, Guadalupe, California

One of the stops on our re-vamped road trip.  I had never been there; in fact, I had never heard of it.  It was a short fifteen minute drive from our motel.  Then a 1.8 mile hike on a wooden boardwalk through several environments then finally to the sand and the beach.  We both made it although this time, Anderson got very tired.  But it was still a lot of fun going out there.

And a funny: I got out at the very crowded gas station to pump gas.  That’s different to Anderson as we don’t pump our own gas in Oregon (it’s illegal).  He can’t see me pump the gas from where he sits in his car seat.  When I got back in the car, he was staring intently at another driver pumping his gas.  I asked what he was looking at and he answered  “I was looking at that man.  He’s downloading gas.”

Well, off for our last day before we hit the road back home.  We’ve been traveling north gradually.  Tonight we’ll be back at our original stop, San Jose.  In the morning we’ll head north and make it home on Sunday. So a few more adventures today.

Lane Hall, History Corner, Stanford University

Lane Hall, History Corner, Stanford University

On a recent visit to my alma mater, I took some door pictures to share.  This is the first.  It is the entrance to Lane Hall in History Corner of the Outer Quad at Stanford University (designed by Frederick Law Olmsted). I picked this one to photograph because my first declared major at Stanford was History and I had several very, very early morning World History classes here.  Those early morning classes were probably the reason that I quickly changed majors (several times).  My academic advisor’s office was in this building and I always loved going there.  Not just because he was quirky and brilliant, but because of the inside of this building.  All that polished wood.  All that history.  All those dreams for the future!

And here are a couple more photos to give you the feel of the building.  The top one is the gateway leading from the outer quad to the inner quad.  The second one is of the archways in the inner quad.  I never tire of photographing the corridors of the inner and outer quad.

Entering the inner quad, Stanford UniversityInner Quad arches, Stanford University

For more door photos, go over to Norm 2.0 for Thursday Doors, a weekly feature.

Things Change

Well, things can change in an instant. Yesterday evening, as I was driving us to my mom’s house, I was made aware of a situation that I didn’t want to take myself or Anderson into. Neither of us needs the drama.

So we’re turning around and heading home.  First well spend the day at a kids’ discovery museum and a natural history museum and a sand dune park fire hiking. Tomorrow will start north and stop in Monterey.  So we’ll have different kinds of adventures and it will still turn out okay. 

Sometimes spur of the moment changes turn out for the best. Anderson is still having a good time. We’ve kept him unaware of the drama, which hasn’t been easy as he is all ears when in trying to talk to his mom on the phone and he’s full of questions!

So we’ll have different unchecked adventures. That’s okay with him and with me.

No, Not That One


Anderson and I are off on our trip. We’ve been on the road since Friday. He’s such a good traveler and very easy to keep happy.

Today we are in Santa Rosa visiting my daughter, Susie.  We are off to breakfast soon. We have a nature hike planned and then we’ll run around and find Schultz character sculptures.  We already spotted a couple in the hotel lobby!  More on the sculptures and photos to follow in the next day or so.

We also stopped off at Stanford on Sunday. We walked around campus a little bit but it was crazy crowded so we might go back and take the elevator to the top of Hoover Tower. I’ll be sure to take pictures!

By the way, we are staying at the Flamingo. It’s an historic hotel fashioned after the Las Vegas Flamingo. In the 50s and 60s it was where celebrities stayed when shooting films up here.  It’s now a resort and conference center. When I lived in Santa Rosa I wanted to come stay here. It’s one of those things I just wanted to do but didn’t. Now, because we got a special rate through my daughter’s work, I get to stay here!

Weather had been good so far but today it’s supposed to be in the 90s. We’ll see how much of a hike we get to do!


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