Beryl’s Boys or, Wicked Hammered at the Stage Door Canteen

world war II men drinking

Story ideas can come from anywhere, a dream, a memory, a random comment overheard in a coffee shop. As for my romance-y WWII-set time travel mystery, BERYL BLUE, TIME COP, the idea came from this picture I found in an antiques shop.

Now, it’s no secret I’m a WWII history buff, so when I saw the picture above, I had to buy it (two dollars!). My first thought was, what would it be like to be there with these guys? Well, no, that was my second thought, my first thought was, these dudes are totally wasted. Except maybe Floyd Floodpants there on the left, who looks to be drinking Coke.

A lot of other questions cropped up, but since there’s no identifying info on the back of this 5×7, those questions were—and still are—unanswered. Where was this photo taken? Who were these guys? Were they friends (or the local chapter of the Prominent Forehead Club) meeting up one last time before they were shipped out? Or just a bunch of guys on leave who grabbed an open chair at the local dive and met a bunch of new friends?

Another not-so-secret thing about me is I’m obsessed with the time travel genre. I love to read, watch movies & TV shows, and especially write time travel (and especially, especially if it’s set in WWII). So, seeing this picture, a time travel story popped into my mind: What would happen if a contemporary woman, a fresh and feisty wannabe librarian, maybe, time traveled into this world, and fell for one of these guys?

Interesting, but needed more spice.

What if she’s plucked out of her own time by a cop from the future, who sends her to 1943 with a mission to protect the soldier she falls for?

Yeah, almost there.

And what if the cop from the future tells her a time traveling madman is after the soldier she falls for and her job is to stop the bad guy by killing him, or the future is screwed? Wannabe librarian as unwilling assassin? Now we’re talking.

And so, BERYL BLUE, TIME COP was born (or written, rather).

Took me a while to get going. There were a lot of who, what, where, and especially why questions to answer before the story came together. Beryl’s backstory got complicated. So did her love life life. That picture, with “Beryl’s Boys,” a bunch of wasted GIs gathered around a tiny, beer-bottle studded table, became a pivotal scene. A wicked funny, romantic but kind of sad and bittersweet scene that set the tone for the rest of story.

BERYL ends on a cliffhanger that sets up two action packed sequels, in which the big question is, will Beryl wear her hair like this (and how much will she complain about it?).


Take a Trip in The Time Tunnel

time tunnel

It’s no secret I love time travel. It’s a lifelong addiction – I first got hooked on the genre as a kid, and my gateway drug was a show called The Time Tunnel.

It was a smart show, with great special effects for the era. Two scientists, one a level-headed pencil-pusher, the other a hot-headed hottie, are flung into the past when they enter an experimental time machine (the tunnel of the title). The guys get bounced around in time (to, conveniently, all the major events we learn about in history class), while the team at central command try diligently to bring them back home.

A kind of mash-up between Quantum Leap (earnest time travelers try to set right what once went wrong) and Gilligan’s Island (no matter what they do, the poor dopes can’t get off that island), it was a show 10-year-old me simply adored, and I watched it whenever I could catch it in reruns. Sadly, the show had only one season of 30 episodes before it was cancelled.

Now I’m all growed up, and not only decided to do a re-watch of the show, but also recap each episode for Time Travel Nexus, the place for all things timey-wimey. I recapped an episode each month for 30 months, beginning with a fun and funny look at the pilot, Rendezvous With Yesterday.

So, why not take some time and head over to Time Travel Nexus for a look – maybe you’ll get hooked the genre too!

Beryl Blue, Big Damn Finalist!

Lots of this happy dancing thing going on here over the news that I’m a Romance Writers of America 2017 Golden Heart® contest finalist, for my WWII-set time travel, BERYL BLUE, TIME COP.

I got the call from the amazing and talented author Tessa Dare, telling me I’m a finalist in the paranormal category. I’m sure she’ll never forget my witty and articulate response: “Huh? Uh, uh, something, something, something, uh, babble, babble.”

I thanked her and got off the phone before I could embarrass myself any further. Then I hyper-ventilated. Then I called everyone I knew, and quite a few people I didn’t know, too.

For those who don’t know, The Golden Heart contest, as RWA puts it, “promotes excellence in the romance genre by recognizing outstanding manuscripts written by members who have not published a Novel or Novella.” A final means the judges liked my manuscript enough to give it a high score. I’m in good company–40 other fabulous authors made the finals in a variety of categories, including romantic suspense, contemporary romance, historical, young adult, and paranormal.

Frankly I’m stunned to have gotten this far. BERYL BLUE colors outside the lines a bit. Sure, the hero is a hunky G.I. and there’s plenty of kissing, but it’s told in 1st person, it’s the first in a series, with a “happy for now” ending, the heroine, a young wannabe-librarian with a rocky past, wields snark like a weapon, and it’s time travel, a tricky genre people either like or they don’t.

Happily, some people liked Beryl enough to get her where she is today–a big damn finalist. Now on to the final round and the awards ceremony at the RWA National conference in July. Apparently I can’t wear my sweatpants, not even my formal pair, so I’d better get thee to the mall…

world war II men drinking

[If you’re interested in learning more about BERYL BLUE and how this picture inspired the story, I wrote about it HERE last year]


The Spirit of ’76 (1976, that is)

I graduated high school in the Bicentennial year, 1976. Now, I know you’re thinking two things: Goodness, Janet, you look so young (thank you, I graduated when I was 2) and 1976 was a long, long, long time ago. Well, don’t I know it, and if I didn’t, the fact was knocked into my brain repeatedly when I recently attended my class reunion. I couldn’t help but gape at the sheer number of grayheads clogging the function hall. I mean, I don’t remember getting older, when did they?

janet raye stevens grad photoWorse, I didn’t recognize most of my classmates, and it was a sure bet they didn’t have a clue who I was. Can’t fault them for that – I was a lot blonder, a lot pimplier, and a lot heavier in 1976. Sort of Marcia Brady’s plumper doppelganger, only I was the farthest thing from Marcia’s popular cheerleader. I was firmly in the unpopular clique and, though I spent about 8 minutes in the Pep Club, I was most comfortable as a Library Aide, a position I was born to fill. Hanging out in the library during free periods, shelving books when it was busy and reading books when it wasn’t? Sign me up!

Now don’t get me wrong, I had my wild side in school. Sometimes I shelved the books in the wrong place. Sometimes I skipped class, caught a bus downtown and went to the movies. The wildest thing I did was to punk my classmates who confused me with a young-ish social studies teacher I resembled. When kids thinking I was their teacher approached me in the halls between classes with a “I’m going to be late for class” or “I forgot my homework” excuse, I’d give them a smile of absolution and say, “Don’t worry about it.” Hmm, maybe it’s a good thing some of my former classmates couldn’t remember me.

As for the reunion, well, it’s a fact universal that the favorite things of old people are 1. the early-bird special, 2. a sale on Metamucil, and 3. reminiscing. And reminisce we did, sharing memories of school, the good (certain teachers), the bad (cafeteria food), and the hilarious (that kid who “streaked” – that’s running naked for you young pups — up the C corridor on a dare).

Ah, the good old days. The only thing most of my classmates and I had/have in common; the trials and challenges of our era, the only way we could/can connect. I suppose it’s that way for any generation – for my mother and her peers, it was the Great Depression and a world war. For my oldest brother and his friends, it was Vietnam and the draft. For us, the class of 1976, it was the eternal argument, who was cuter, Starsky or Hutch? Or which was the sickest burn, “Sit on it” or “Up your nose with a rubber hose”?

janet raye stevens grad photo

Several folks I chatted with (after squinting at their nametags to see who the heck they were), mentioned that 1976 was “a simpler time.” I respectfully disagreed — it was just a different time.

Back then, we didn’t have clowns lurking in the school yard scaring kids to death, we had a smoking area where kids could puff themselves to death. Now there’s computer class and no cell phone use during school hours; then we had typing class and no pay phone use during school hours. Then, it was disco and polyester leisure suits; now it’s TikTok mashups and cropped cardigans. Then, Zoom was a show on TV; now, Zoom is geometry class on a laptop. Then, I had a lot of pimples; now, wrinkles. And now the library is a media center, with, sadly, fewer and fewer books on the shelves.

All in all, it was a boogie-oogie-oogie good time. I partied like it was 1976. My bones remembered it was [number redacted] years later quite painfully the next day. I’m thinking I might attend the next reunion, in five years. No, I will not write the actual years-post-high-school that will be (too scary), but it will be a date to remember, I’m sure.


Picture Perfect (well, sort of)

Hi! Thanks for stopping by my little ol’ blog, wherein I discuss a whole lot of nothin’ for your edification and (hopefully) amusement. This week: Author Photos.

So, with a couple of my manuscripts now out on submission, I think it’s a good time to update my author photo.

This, my current photo, has never been my favorite. I mean, the colors are good and the pose is suitably author-y, but that jaw clench is all George Washington and his painful wooden teeth. What’s more, my expression says, this woman is concerned, this woman is serious. False — I’ve never been concerned, much less serious, a day in my life. Don’t just take my word for it, there are lots of people who’ll swear to my lack of seriousity in court.

So I’m ditching old jaw clench in search of something new. First up, a photo from last year, one of my favorites.

The pose is casual and more ‘me,’ and by that I mean sarcastic, insouciant, unserious, but it also looks as if I posed in a prison yard, and if any setting just screams for a serious expression, a prison yard is it.

Besides, I look far, far too much like my doppelganger and childhood celebrity boyfriend, Charlie Bucket.

So, that’s a no.

How about an author photo that makes me look younger? A fine idea, everyone knows young is where’s it’s at and only total geezers would admit to being born in a year that begins with the numbers 19–. How about this lovely young lady photo gem?

Surely no one will notice it’s basically B&W and I’m dressed like I’m on my way to an anti-war rally at the local draft board, right? Okay, maybe not.


And maybe not this photo either.

It’s a classic author pose. Maybe THE #1 classic author pose. And I really did try to serious-it-up with this one, but oh, that expression! That epic smirk shoots this picture zooming past unserious territory to land squarely in parody-land.

Plus I seem to be punching myself in the jaw, for what reason I do not know, but I’m sure I deserved it.

Whew! All this picture perusing has made me thirsty. Anyone want to join me in a cuppa? No scones, sadly, I’m gluten free, but we can go wild on clotted cream.

There, that’s better, all refreshed and happy, and you know what? I believe we’ve reached the end of my quest for the perfect author photo.

I mean, is there any other picture that shows you who I am? A little whimsical, a little sweet, a lot cheeky, and all me (except for the retouches, of course!). Let me know what you think.

Thanks for visiting and please stop by again (I’m serious about that!).

Janet – No power in the ‘verse can stop me


Words. Mere Words.

girl writing

Nice blog title, huh? Lyrical, vaguely Shakespearean, bordering on, dare I say it, literary. Quoted from one of my favorite X-Files episodes, Jose Chung’s From Outer Space. The lines, spoken by Charles Nelson Reilly (wearing an ascot, of course), are about the power of words to transform, inspire, amuse, anger, demean, motivate, humble and a host of other, well, words.

As a writer, I kind of have to understand words. I have to know how to put words together to evoke some kind of reaction, some kind of emotion, or there’s no point to what I’m writing. I want to make my reader tear up, laugh, or say, “Ohmigawd, what’s going to happen next?” at the end of a chapter. Or at least I try my damnedest, and the only way I can do that is by putting together a sequence of words in the best, most clever way I can and hope for the best.

Funny thing is, I’m a real dummy when it comes to parts of speech. I’m a disaster at Mad Libs. I have to ask my kids to explain the difference between an adverb and an adjective (don’t know why I bother, because their word choice for filling in the blank is always some variation of “poop”).

I blame my grammar ignorance on this monster pictured above. No, not a map of the DC Metro lines. Sentence diagrams. Pretty sure that week in 9th grade when we learned about the parts of speech and how to diagram a sentence I was absent. The same reason I never learned the 6-7-8 times tables in 4th grade. I was absent for two weeks due to a nervous breakdown (or maybe it was the mumps).

Whatever my excuse, the upshot is, though I kind of know how to put the words together, I can’t tell you how I do it. Dangling participle? Is that a wardrobe malfunction? Subject-verb agreement? Is that some kind of syntax treaty several grammarians hashed out in a smoke-filled boardroom? I just don’t get it. I think it’s because it’s kind of like math, and math and I don’t get along. Haven’t since that great times table debacle long ago.

But I muddle through, and some people seem to think I put the words together just fine. Including the awesomely terrific literary agent who loves, no, lurvvvvessss my work so much she called to offer me representation last week. I’ve been hoping to hear those words for a long time, words that totally call for a drink!

What? You thought I’d celebrate with any other libation?

Now, as soon as I finish my tea, I’ve got to get to work on revisions. The next step is submissions to publishers–words I can totally get behind.

Me, A-to-Z

Checking in here (blog #2!) with a bit of fun I cribbed from Facebook a while back:

A- Age: A number between 1-and-100
B- Biggest fear: Elevators. And moths. Put me in an elevator full of moths and I’d stroke out.
C- Current time: Time to goof off, apparently.
D- Drink you last had: Tea (is there anything else?)
E- Every day starts with: Tea. Hot tea. Sugared, then stirred.
F- Favorite song: As Time Goes By
G- Ghosts, are they real?: Ehhh…
H- Home: Anywhere I hang my hat
I- In love with: Tea (my husband’s a close second, though)
J- Jealous of: Nothing and no one, I’m perfect. Jealous?
K- Killed someone?: Only when I could get away with it.
L- Last time you cried?: Watching the Game of Thrones finale, and not in a good way
M- Middle name: Elvis. And I’m all shook up.
N- Number of siblings: Gosh, you expect me to know that?
O- One wish: World peace. Failing that, a pony and a plastic rocket.
P- Person you last called: Call? People still do that?
Q- Question you’re always asked: Are you serious?
R- Reason to smile: Gas?
S- Song last sung: Two things you don’t want me to do: cook and sing. Stomachs will be pumped, dogs will howl. Trust me on this.
T- Time you woke up: Teatime
U- Underwear color: You wouldn’t ask a man this question.
V- Vacation destination: Normandy, France (Hawaii’s my back-up plan—Pearl Harbor’s there, right?)
W- Worst habit: Drinking too much tea (kidding, there’s no such thing as too much tea).
X- X-Rays you’ve had: Do the TSA body scanners count?
Y- Your favorite food-country-and-70s slang insult: Turkey
Z- Zodiac sign: Rigel 7

My Blog, Chapter One

And so another blogger is born.

What kind of blogger, I haven’t quite figured out yet, so this chapter will be short. That’s good, right? I mean, starting the story with an info dump, or a florid description of the room in which I’m typing, or laying out a long, ponderous, Citizen Kane-style Statement of Principles is guaranteed to send you (and me) to snoozeland.

So, until I figure out what message I want to hurl into the blogosphere’s gaping maw, these promises of what I want to accomplish here will have to suffice:

I promise to avoid windbagism (super tough for me, queen of verbosity; my childhood nickname was “lungs”).

I promise not to take myself too seriously (no problem there, as most of my teachers and employers and children I’ve birthed will tell you).

I promise not to take you too seriously (already don’t).

I promise to make you laugh. Or die trying (well, not literally, I’m not that desperate for approval).

And finally, I promise to be back with something pithy and fun and not too long from now.

Until then, write on! – Janet

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