My BCs

The Inspiration(s) for Tater the Border Collie

When I began writing Divine Guidance, my heroine, Marnie Reilly, needed a side-kick. It couldn’t be just any side-kick, though. This side-kick had to had to be loyal, intelligent, funny and loveable. It didn’t take long for me to write the character of Tater – Marnie Reilly’s devoted Border Collie, and her loyal, intelligent, funny and loveable canine side-kick. Tater was one of the easiest characters to create because, well, I love Border Collies.

I have been blessed with four Border Collies in my life – Murphy, Finnegan, Dougal and Callee.  The breed is unlike any other. I do believe in my heart that once a person has been the proud slave to a BC, no other breed will ever quite add up.  I know! I have and have had other dog breeds in my world – there’s just something about a Border Collie. All dogs are special. Border Collies are exceptional – outstanding – remarkable. Their intelligence, capacity for reasoning, cheekiness, and intensity is unmatched, and when a Border Collie flashes one of their trademark smiles, it melts my heart – every single time. Each Border Collie has taught me something important about life. They are funny characters.

Border Collies
Murphy, Finnegan, Dougal and Callee

Tater, Marnie Reilly’s faithful Border Collie, is bits of each of my Border Collie family – mostly Murph and Finnegan, but bits of Dougal and Callee appear in his character in Torn Veil.

Tater from Marnie Reilly Mysteries Torn Veil and Divine Guidance


Murphy was my first BC. Oddly enough, Murphy means sea warrior in Irish. I didn’t know that when I named him, but Murphy did love the ocean.  My happiest times with Murph were the lazy Saturdays and Sundays we would spend at the beach playing fetch and running in the sand. He was my faithful co-pilot, and happily jumped into the passenger seat of my Jeep when I jingled my keys. He was always ready for an adventure.  

Murph, Murphenstein and Murphymeister were just a few of his nicknames. He answered to all.  My mild tempered boy rarely barked – unless something was amiss. He was calm, steady and loyal. Murphy crossed the Rainbow Bridge far too young. A snake bit Murph, and he died several hours later. The vet couldn’t help him. I consider myself blessed to have shared 5 wonderful years with Murph. His friendship kept me sane at a time when I needed a best buddy.

Murph’s memory lives on in Divine Guidance. Do you remember the bit in Chapter 26 where Danny asks him to shake, and Tater literally shakes like he’s shaking water from his coat? Yup. Murph did that.

What did I learn from Murphy? It is okay to take the day off, go to the beach and play in the sand. Oh… only bark when necessary.

About two weeks after Murphy died, a good friend called to tell me that there was a farmer near her giving away Border Collie pups. They had 8 pups, and didn’t want them because the mother was a champion working dog, and the father was a champion show dog. You see, the pups’ parents were never meant to breed, but, well, they did. The owner of the mother and the owner of the father didn’t want the pups – the father’s owner only wanted pups of show breeding, and the mother’s owners only wanted pups of working dog breeding.

Of course, I was more than happy to take one of the pups off their hands.

Enter Finnegan!



 Finnegan means fair-haired in Irish. His face was mostly white, so his name was perfect for him. Like Murph, Finnegan had many nicknames – Finn – Finnie – Finnster – Little Man – Boomba Boy. Finnegan was handful. He was high energy, stubborn, incredibly vocal, and whip-smart.

One afternoon I watched Finnegan trying to bring a huge stick up onto our back deck. The “stick” was actually a tree branch that had fallen in a storm. He kept catching the branch on the step railings. Each time the stick would catch on the railings, Finnegan would take a step back, put the stick down, and try another strategy. After his third attempt, Finnegan picked the stick, set it vertically on the first and second steps, he walked up the third step, and pulled the stick up vertically. He then pulled the stick to where I was sitting, and barked at me to throw it.  Clever boy! 

Finnegan was 6 weeks old when he rescued me. He was 17 when he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I miss him – and I miss Murph, too. I think of them both every day. Whenever Tater flashes his smile or stares intently at something, I see Finnie’s face, and it makes me smile.

What did Finnegan teach me? He taught me that persistence is the key to success.

When Finnegan died, we missed his huge personality and his cheeky smile. Losing Finnegan left a huge hole in our hearts and our home, and it wasn’t long before I decided that we couldn’t go another day without a Border Collie in our lives. We could never replace Finnegan, but we could welcome another Border Collie into our home. I found a beautiful Border Collie puppy named Calabash on Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s website. I filled out adoption paperwork, and waited… and waited.

Finally, about a week later, I received a call confirming that we could adopt Calabash. I ran into my other half’s office, and informed him that we would be driving to Utah on Friday. He asked why, and I thrust a picture into his hands, and said, “To pick up this puppy!”  He said, “Okay. Let’s go!” 

Enter Dougal!



“Dark stranger” is the Irish meaning of Dougal’s name. It is quite apt because Dougal’s is main color is glossy black with bits of white and sable. “Stranger” does fit if we are speaking of extremes of strange – which he is – in a good way. Dougal is stealthy – one minute he isn’t there, and then suddenly he is.  It freaks me out daily. Punctuality and order are of extreme importance to Dougal. Yup. He has OCD. There is no denying it, but that’s all just fine because Dougal is all love. I don’t know how else to explain my boy. He gives hugs – he actually asks for hugs. He is also incredibly smart, athletic and lightning fast – especially when chasing his archenemies, the squirrels.

Dougal, like our other pups, has a few nicknames – Dougally, Doogie, Dougal boy, Little Man, Baby Boy, and Boofhead, to name just a few. 

Anytime Tater places a paw on Marnie’s leg or when he shows sympathy for another character, that’s all Dougal. That’s my boy!

What have I learned from Dougal? Give and receive hugs often.

When Dougal came to live with us, we already had three other pups – Pip, Midget and Mags. Pip (Pippy Lou) crossed the Rainbow Bridge about 8 months later when she was 17. She was a wonderful girl – a Jack Russell/Kelpie cross – and Finnegan’s best friend. When we lost Pip it left a huge void. I know! We had three other dogs!

Midget and Mags were rescued together – they are sisters, and were found in a cardboard box on an old dirt road in the middle of Palm Desert. They are crazy, playful Parson Jack Russell cross something or other.  Problem was, they didn’t like to play with Dougal. They excluded him from their shenanigans.

Enter Callee!



We rescued Callee from Carolina Border Collie Rescue. Her name was originally Lilly. The original owner’s daughter surrendered her to Carolina Border Collie Rescue because the original owner had been abusive. Her foster mother named her Carly. We didn’t want to change her name too much, and so we named her Callee – which in Irish means “from the forest” – which is perfect because we live at the edge of a forest.

Callee, also know as Psycho Bullet, Crazy Callee, Cal Cal, Calster, Daddy’s Girl, and Baby Girl, is our funny, lovely, silly, LOUD, beautiful, snuggle monster. She is also Dougal’s best friend, and Midget’s and Mag’s archenemy.

Callee is quite boisterous and bossy. She yells at us when we don’t do as she wants, she “sings” when she’s happy, she speaks her own crazy language, and she warms our hearts with her silly antics.   

When Tater rolls on his back and sleeps with his legs in the air in Torn Veil, that’s all Callee. All Border Collies do this, but Callee does it more than most.

What have I learned from Callee? It’s okay to be crazy because others will join in, and everyone will have fun being silly for a while.

You may have noticed that all of my Border Collies have Irish names. That’s an homage to my maternal grandmother. Her family was originally from Ireland before they settled in Canada. Plus, their names suit them, and that is all that matters.

Every Border Collie has their own unique personality, but every BC I’ve been lucky to know have a few things in common – a high degree of intelligence, cheekiness, compassion and agility. If you ever do have the chance to be owned by a Border Collie, don’t pass it up. A BC will change your life for the better. ❤️🐾🐾❤️


Border Collie Facts

Here are few facts about Border Collies with some help from the American Kennel Club.

The Border Collie is one of the most talented and hardworking dogs there is. A BC will impress you with their intelligence and win you over with their eagerness to please. Here are 10 fun facts about Border Collies:

They Are Extremely Smart Dogs

We cannot talk about the Border Collie without talking about his/her intelligence. Dog experts widely agree that the Border Collie is an intelligent workaholic. They are capable of learning a remarkable number of words and commands, and they are happiest when they are put to work every day.

Dougal and Callee both have jobs. Dougal’s job is keeping his sisters, Callee, Midget and Mags, under control.  He herds them and watches over them. Dougal is also in charge of keeping Callee quiet. When she gets too loud, Dougal scolds her. It works – she usually stops barking when her big brother tells her to do so. Callee’s job is to keep Dougal busy. Together, Callee and Dougal patrol the yard to ensure squirrels are not eating out of the bird feeders.  Callee also entertains the cardinals. She plays chase with them for as long as they are willing to flit from tree to tree.

Each time we leave home, we tell Dougal he’s in charge. He’s never failed us – he keeps the others in line brilliantly.

Their Name Comes From Their Home Region

The Border Collie was originally developed in Scotland and thrived in the region on the border of Scotland and England. The word “collie” is a Scotch word used to describe sheepdogs. Because this breed flourished in the border region, it was christened the “Border Collie.”

They Are Champion Herders

Border Collies were originally bred to herd sheep. They excel at the task because of their strength, stamina, intelligence, and work ethic. Border Collies are famous for using “the eye”— staring intensely at members of the flock to intimidate them. When the earliest recorded sheepdog trial took place at Bala, Wales, in 1873, the crowd was astonished that the Border Collies were able to herd sheep into a small pen, guided only by hand signals and whistles from their owners.

Dougal and Callee both have the intense stare for which Border Collies are famous. That intense stare is used most often on their humans when they want a treat. It works 90% of the time.

Callee has a slinking posture when she has her sights set on the object she intends to herd – like a squirrel, or Midget and Mags. Dougal is more of stalker – he stands tall, watches and waits. This is typical of an Aussie Shepherd – have I mentioned that Dougal is BC/Aussie Shepherd mix? That’s why he’s a bit more muscular than my other BCs.

Auld Hemp

Auld Hemp was a stud dog considered to be the progenitor to the Border Collie breed. He was owned by Adam Telfer, and was used as a working dog to herd sheep. His style was different from that commonly seen during his era, as he worked far more quietly than the other sheepdogs of the time.

Auld Hemp
Old Hemp

Queen Victoria Loved Them

Queen Victoria was a true dog lover who took a liking to many breeds, but in the early 1860s she became an active Border Collie enthusiast. At this time, the Border Collie began to separate and become distinguished from the modern Collie.

One Was Featured in Scottish Poetry

The famous Scottish poet Robert Burns (If you don’t know him, think: “The best laid schemes of mice and men . . .”) owned a Border Collie named Luath that he loved dearly. Luath’s tragic death inspired one of Burns’ best poems, “The Twa Dogs,” which captured the special bond between dog and man. Multiple statues of Robert Burns include Luath right by his side.

They’ve Broken All Kinds of Records

A Border Collie named Chaser has been widely recognized as the world’s most intelligent dog; she knows the names of more than 1,000 objects. Another Border Collie, named Jumpy, holds a Guinness World Record for dog skateboarding: 100 meters in less than 20 seconds. Striker, a Border Collie from Quebéc City, set the canine record for rolling down a manual car window. In 2008, a Border Collie-mix named Sweet Pea set a record for dog balancing; she balanced a can on her head and walked 100 meters in only 2 minutes and 55 seconds.

They Make Great Actors

Border Collies have been cast in many films and TV shows. The film “Babe” — about a little pig that defies the odds and becomes a sheepherder — features Border Collies, as actors and as herders. Border Collies have also been cast in the movies “Animal Farm” and “Snow Dogs,” and in the hit ’90s television series, “Mad About You. Remember Murray?”

They Also Make Great Search and Rescue Dogs

In addition to herding, another common job for Border Collies is search and rescue. A Border Collie named Blitz recently saved a 51-year-old woman’s life in England. The woman had been missing for more than one day when Jess Ellsmore, a volunteer search and rescue handler, brought her dog Blitz in to search the area. Blitz found the missing woman under some thick foliage, where she wouldn’t have been visible to human searchers alone.

Border Collies Can Be Official Goose Masters

Border Collies have all kinds of jobs, but one career you probably haven’t heard of is “goose master.” One Florida company trains Border Collies to keep geese off people’s property. The University of North Florida hired a Border Collie named Bee to be the goose master for their campus. Bee keeps geese away from high-traffic areas.

Border Collies Talk

That’s right. They use varying tones of barking, whining, trilling and whimpering pending what they are trying to convey.  While it may sound silly, I carried on conversations with Murph and Finnegan, and my other half and I carry on conversations with Dougal and Callee – and yes, they do respond. We don’t bother spelling words like park, or walk, or truck – they know exactly what we are talking about when we spell. Border Collie’s are just too smart to be fooled by a little thing like spelling.

Shepherd’s Lantern

The white tip on the tail of most Border Collies is called a shepherd’s lantern. It allows shepherds to follow their BC home at night in the dark. The long fur around their necks is often white, too. It’s referred to as a shawl.

I hope you enjoyed this little blog about the inspiration(s) for Tater, and the fun facts about Border Collies. Yes, I am a crazy dog lady – but I’m okay with that. Callee told me it’s okay to be crazy.

Interested in learning more about Border Collies? Click the link below.

Border Collie Dog Breed: Facts, Temperament and Care Info

You can read more about the characters in Divine Guidance and Torn Veil here:

More useful links are below:


Torn Veil – Read the first 7 chapters

Torn Veil – View on

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Torn Veil – View on

Torn Veil – View on Barnes and Noble

Divine Guidance – Read the first 7 chapters

Divine Guidance – View on

Marnie and Sam (and Tom) – the early years…

The screen door off the kitchen slammed shut. A tall lanky boy loped through the door, sweat dripping from his brow – his short dirty blonde hair sticking up in spots – his cheeks smudged with dirt – grass clippings clinging to his perspiring legs.

“Samuel, you weren’t wearing shorts to mow the lawn again, were you?” asked a tall woman with flour on her hands. She was wearing a pair of white Bermuda shorts, a bright blue t-shirt, and no shoes. Her honey blonde hair fell in soft waves around her face. Her mouth quirked up slightly on one side, and her soft blue eyes revealed that she already knew the answer to her question.

The boy responded with a roll of his hazel eyes. “Yeah. Dad asked me to cut the lawn before he would give me an old tire from his workshop. I promised to put a swing up for Marnie. I was going to change, but…”

“But… you got distracted and forgot the promise you made to me.”

“Yes, ma’am. I forgot. I’m sorry.  I just wanted to get it finished so that I could put the swing up.” Sam’s head hung for just a moment – then he heard the freezer door open, a bit of rustling and then the door closed. His head shot up, and he stared into his mother’s face. She was smiling, and handing him an orange Popsicle – his favorite.

“Off with you! Your sister and her new friend are eating Popsicles out on the veranda,” Sophie Reilly said with a wave of her hand and a grin. “Remember to put your jeans on the next time. A rock is going to kick back at you and rip your leg open one day. Between you and your sister… our emergency room visits are getting expensive.”

“Thanks, Mom! I’ll remember!” Sam called out as he walked through the house to the veranda.

“Don’t slam…” Sophie Reilly called out just as the front screen door slammed shut. “…the door! The two of them will be the death of me.” Sophie shook her head, smiled, and went back to making piecrust.

“Hey, Squirt! Who’s this?” Sam pointed his Popsicle at Tom.

Marnie hopped up and danced from foot to foot – excited to share the news of her new friend with her brother. “This is my new friend Tom. Tom Keller. He and his family just moved here, and he helped me get the rope up over the branch!”

Sam nodded. “Hi, Tom…”

Marnie cut him off. Her face beamed with pride. “Tom this is my big brother, Sam. He’s the biggest kid in the whole neighborhood. He’s 12! He’s real strong, and he plays baseball, and football, and he runs really fast! And he’s funny, too. And he gives me piggyback rides, and he reads to me, and he’s really, really smart. He’s smarter than just about anyone – except my mom and dad…” Marnie stopped and took a deep breath.

“Breathe, Marnie! You’ve got Popsicle all over your face!” Sam laughed, pulled the hem of his t-shirt out of the waistband of his shorts, and wiped Marnie’s face with it.

“Yuck! That’s all sweaty and dirty!” Marnie pushed Sam away and spit on the deck of the veranda. “Blah! That’s gross! Blah!”

Sam laughed and pulled the visor down on Marnie’s cap.

Sam stuck out his hand to Tom. “Hi, Tom. I’m Sam – Marnie’s brother. You wanna help us put the swing up?”

Tom hopped up and shook Sam’s hand. “Yeah! I wanna help! I don’t have a big brother!” Tom turned to Marnie. “You are so lucky to have a big brother!”

Marnie grinned. “I know! I have the best brother in the world.” Marnie threw her arms around Sam’s legs and hugged him tight.

Tom’s eyes danced. “Geez, Marn! You have two dogs and a big brother! You’re the coolest girl I know!”

“I know! I’m real lucky!” Marnie grinned. She grabbed Tom’s hand and raced down the steps, and across the front lawn to the big old oak tree. “C’mon, Sam! Let’s make a swing!”

Sam loped off the veranda steps, and walked around the side of the house. “I’m coming! Let me get the tire. It’s leaning on the fence.”

Marnie hopped up and down. “Look, Sam! Tom and me… Tom and I got the rope over the branch! We tied it around a rock, and threw it real high! Look, Sam! Look!”

“That’s really good, Squirt! Did Tom come up with that idea?” Sam asked, as he rolled the tire across the lawn.

Tom nodded.

Marnie nodded, too.  “He sure did! He’s pretty smart, huh?”

“Okay. Can you two hold the tire up while I tie the rope around it?” Sam asked.

Tom grabbed the tire and tried to pick it up. “Whoa! This is heavy!”

Marnie pushed her way around Sam. “Here, Tom! Let me help. I’m 5. I can pick up that tire!” Marnie curled her arms and flexed her muscles.

Sam put a hand on Marnie’s shoulder. “Marnie, what did Mom and Dad tell you about pushing people? You’re not supposed to push people!” Sam scolded.

“Dang it, Sam! I didn’t push you. I just nudged you a little, that’s all.” Marnie crossed her arms and stuck out her bottom lip.

“Marnie, you know darn well you pushed me. You gotta slow down, Squirt.  You don’t always have to be in a hurry,” Sam said, frowning down at his sister.

Marnie threw her arms in the air and tossed back her head. “I know! I’m just excited about the swing. We’ve been talking it about for years!” Marnie stomped her foot, and looked up at her brother with frustration.

“We’ve been talking about it since breakfast,” Sam said, smirking down at Marnie.

Marnie sighed a big frustrated breath. “Fine! Since breakfast!”

“Hey, Marn! Look at this caterpillar!” Tom shouted.

“Where!” Marnie pushed past Sam again and ran to Tom’s side.

“It’s right here! Look at it! It’s blue!” Tom was squatting in the grass watching a caterpillar squirm across a fallen oak leaf.

Marnie squatted next to him. “That is so cool! We should get a bottle and keep him!”

“Leave the caterpillar alone! He’ll die if you put him in a bottle,” Sam said.

Marnie wrinkled her nose up at her brother. “How do you know it’s a boy caterpillar? It could be a girl!”

Tom wrinkled up his nose, too. “It’s probably a boy. It’s blue!”

Marnie rolled her eyes. “Pfft! So! My shorts are blue, and I’m not a boy! Mom’s shirt is blue, and she’s not a boy!”

Sam rolled his eyes, too. He put his hands under Marnie’s armpits. He swung her up over his head, and onto his shoulders. “Okay! Enough with the caterpillar. Let’s put up this swing!”

Marnie threw her arms above her head. “I’m the king of the castle, and you’re both dirty rascals!” She giggled, and messed up Sam’s hair.

Sam reached up and tickled Marnie. She giggled, squirmed and fell backward off Sam’s shoulders onto the lawn with a sickening thud.

Sam whirled around and knelt on the lawn next to his sister. “Oh, my gosh! Marnie, are you okay? Marnie, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to drop you!”

Tom – mouth open and eyes wide – stared down at his new friend. Her eyes were closed, and she wasn’t moving. “Is she dead?” he asked in a small voice.

Sam shook his head. “No, she’s not dead. She’s just knocked out. She’ll be okay. She falls down all the time.”  Worry spread across Sam’s face. He closed his eyes and said a quick prayer.

Tom knelt down on the lawn next to Marnie. “Marn! Hey, Marn! Wake up! Please don’t be dead.” Tears welled up in Tom’s eyes.

Marnie opened one eye, and then the other. “Sam?” she squeaked out in a tiny voice.

Tom clapped his hands together lightly and produced a smiled. “She’s not dead!”

Sam pulled her up into his arms. Marnie wrapped her arms around her brother, and snuggled into his neck.

“I’m sorry I squirmed,” Marnie cried.

“That’s okay, Squirt. You’re okay. I promise I won’t ever hurt you again. You scared me. I’m sorry. Is your head okay?” Sam pulled off Marnie’s cap and ran his hand over the back of her head.

Marnie turned to Tom – her eyes wide. She put a finger to her lips. “Shh…don’t tell my mom. She’ll get mad at Sam. He’s not sposed to put me on his shoulders.”

Tom gave a quick nod, and put a hand gently on Marnie’s shoulder and rubbed comfortingly. “I won’t tell. I promise. I won’t tell.”

Sam set Marnie gently on her feet, and stood up. “Wanna finish this swing?”

Marnie and Tom hopped up and sprang across the lawn to the tire.

“Yay!” Marnie shrieked.

“We can hold the tire for you, Sam!” Tom shouted with excitement.

Marnie grabbed one side of the tire, wrapped her arms through the middle, and held tightly to the tire. Tom did the same, and together, he and Marnie heaved the tire up into the air between them. They struggled to hold it up while Sam put the rope through the middle of the tire and tied a knot at the top.

“There you go. You can let it go,” Sam said. “What do you think?” Sam stood back, and admired his work.

“That is so awesome!” Marnie yelled.

“Yeah! Awesome!” Tom shouted.

“Can I try it?” Marnie asked.

“Sure. Be careful though. I don’t want you to fall again,” Sam said, as he helped Marnie into the middle of the tire.

Marnie, legs dangling, turned to her brother. “Push me, Sam! Push me!”

Sam pushed the tire, and Marnie giggled as she swung back and forth on the tire swing.

Tom hopped up and down next to them. “Can I try? Can I have a try?”

“Sure!” Marnie said.

Sam stopped the swing, and helped Marnie down from the tire. Tom grabbed hold of the top of the tire with both hands, and swung himself through the hole. His legs dangled. He couldn’t reach the ground to push himself, so Sam pushed him, too.

“You want to try it, Sam?” Marnie asked.

“Nah! I’ve gotta go get my glove and bat. I’ve gotta go to baseball practice,” Sam said.

“Ah!” Marnie cried. “Will you be home soon? I wanted to show Tom the pond, but I can’t if you’re not with us!”

“I’ll be home for dinner. You two play on the swing, and I’ll be back in couple of hours,” Sam called back to his sister.

Marnie ran across the yard to Sam. She pulled his hand so that he would bend down in front of her. She wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a huge hug.

“I love you, Sammy bear!” Marnie squished up her nose.

“I love you, too, Squirt.” Sam squished up his nose, and hugged her back before going into the house to get his glove and bat.

Marnie turned, sprang across the lawn, scooped up her cap and shoved it onto her head. She grabbed Tom’s hand, and pulled him forward as she ran toward the sidewalk.

“C’mon, Tom! I’ll show you the bridle trail! It’s really cool! There are heaps of grass snakes, and frogs, and rabbits, and bugs!”

“Cool!” Tom ran alongside his new friend – excited to explore the bridle trail down the street from Marnie’s house.

Marnie and Tom - the early years...

Marnie and Tom – the day they met…

“Dang rope! C’mon! Get over that branch!” A little girl wearing a baseball cap with a strawberry blonde ponytail poking through the back of it, threw a scraggly old rope in the air aiming for a large branch on an old oak tree.

“Whatcha doin?” asked a boy with dark wavy hair and violet eyes.

The little girl turned around, squinted into the sun, adjusted her cap, and saw the boy standing on the sidewalk, his bicycle resting against his legs. The little girl threw the rope on the ground in frustration.

“My brother went looking for an old tire in my dad’s workshop. He told me to get that dang rope over that branch up there, and he would make me a tire swing.” The little girl scowled, pointed at the offending rope, put her hands on her hips in disgust, and looked up at the long, knobby oak branch.

“I can help!” called out the little boy, laying his bicycle on the sidewalk.

The little girl squinted in his direction, and asked, “What’s your name?”

“Tommy. Tommy Keller,” said the boy.

“Tommy?” the girl giggled. “That’s a silly name for a boy. Can I call you Tom? My mom’s cat is called Tommy, and I don’t think you look like a cat.” The girl giggled again, and kicked an acorn across the yard.

“Sure! You can call me Tom. I like it better than Tommy, anyhow. Hey! What’s your name?”

“Marnie Reilly,” she answered. “Well, c’mon. Let’s get this rope over that branch.” Marnie planted her feet, adjusted her cap, and stared up at the branch.

Tom raised his eyes up to the branch, twisted his mouth to the side, and then ran his eyes across the front lawn of Marnie Reilly’s home.

“How ‘bout we tie a rock to the rope so that it goes up high, and over the branch?” Tom suggested, assessing the situation.

Marnie snapped her little fingers awkwardly, a smile spreading across her freckled face. “Hey! That’s a great idea. Thanks, Tom!”

Marnie and Tom wandered around the lawn, searching for the perfect rock to tie to the scraggly rope.

Marnie held up a rock about the size of baseball. “How ‘bout this one?”

Tom crossed the lawn, examined the rock and shrugged.  “We can try. Do you know how to tie a knot?”

Marnie shrugged. “Yeah! I can tie the laces on my sneakers.”

Marnie squatted on the grass underneath the big oak tree.  “Careful! Don’t sit in the grass. There are bitey ants in the grass. They’ll crawl up your shorts and bite your bum.”

Tom frowned. “Okay. I’ll be careful. I got stung by a bee a couple weeks ago. I had to go to the hospital and everything.”

Marnie’s aquamarine eyes grew as big as saucers. “You got stung by a bee? Wow! I’ve never been stung by a bee. Are you lergic?”

Tom nodded. “Yeah. I’m lergic. Mom made me breathe into a lunch bag all the way to the doctor. She said I was… umm… I can’t remember the word. It was a big one. She was real scared. She called my dad at work, and told him she was taking me to the doctor.”

“Did you die?” Marnie asked, eyes wide.

Tom burst out laughing. “No! If I died I wouldn’t be here.” Tom rolled into the grass and laughed.

Marnie stood quickly and scowled at Tom. “Yeah, you could be! You could be here if you died! Stop laughing! Stop laughing at me!” Marnie balled her hands into fists. “Stop it! It’s not funny!”

Tom stopped laughing, pushed himself up onto his knees and looked up at his new friend. His face grew serious, and his eyes became teary. “I’m sorry, Marn. My sister died. She got hit by a car. That’s why we live here now. Mom and Dad didn’t like our old house no more – not without my sister.”

Marnie put a hand gently on Tom’s shoulder. “I’m sorry, Tom. Is your sister’s name Annie?”

Tom stood, swallowed hard, and nodded. Eyes wide, he asked, “How did you know that?”

Marnie shrugged, pointed to the sidewalk and gave a curt nod of her head. “She’s right there, silly. Don’t you see her? She’s been watching us look for a rock.”

Tom looked sideways to the place Marnie was pointing. “I don’t see her.”

“Right there! She’s standing right there! She has black hair and blue eyes and a blue dress and white sneakers. She’s right there!” Marnie continued to point. “You can see her. I know you can!”

“No, she’s not there!  She’s in heaven! She’s not here!” Tom demanded – his face red – eyes watery.

Marnie threw up her hands. “She just told me that you won’t believe me. She’s been trying to talk to you, but you won’t listen. She told me that Mr. Kramer hit her with his big car, and that it wasn’t his fault. She said that she ran in front of his car to get her doll’s head – it fell off and rolled into the street. She said he didn’t see her. She said Mr. Kramer is in big trouble, and she’s sad about him being in big trouble.” Marnie took a deep breath. “She said she shouldn’t have been outside because it was getting dark.” Marnie stopped talking, put her hands on hips and glared at Tom. “You can hear her, can’t you?”

Tom stared down at his sneakers. Kicking an acorn, he shrugged. “Sometimes. I think so.”

“Well, I can see her, and she wants you to tell your mom and dad it’s not Mr. Kramer’s fault,” Marnie replied. She put a hand on Tom’s shoulder, and stared into his face. “You have to tell your mom and dad. Annie wants you to tell your mom and dad.”

Tom nodded reluctantly. “Okay. I’ll tell them tonight. They’re just gonna tell me I’m making it up, but I’ll tell them.” Tom took a deep breath, and then glanced up at the branch. “Let’s get this rope up into the tree so we can swing.”

Marnie nodded. “Okay.”

Tom glanced over his shoulder to the sidewalk. “Is she still there?”

Marnie shook her head. “Nope. She’s gone. She said what she needed to say.”

Tom visibly shuddered.

Marnie frowned. “Are you afraid of ghosts, Tom?”

Tom held a hand out in front of him. “I don’t want to see them. I don’t want to hear them, and I don’t want them in my room at night.”

Marnie shrugged. “You watch too much T.V. Ghosts can’t hurt you.”

Tom glanced sideways at his new friend. “How do you know?”

Marnie rolled her eyes. “Pfft! I see them and talk to them all the time!”

Tom’s eyes widened. “You do? You see ghosts all the time?!”

Marnie stuck out her bottom lip, nodded and shrugged. “Yeah! C’mon, let’s get that rope over the branch. My brother is gonna be back with the tire soon.”

Tom and Marnie squatted down under the oak tree. Marnie tied a perfect bow around the rock; Tom threw the rock as hard as he could, and the rock and rope sailed over the large oak branch.

Marnie jumped up and down, and clapped her hands. “Yay! You did it! You got the rope over the branch!”

Tom beamed, and looked up at the rock dangling from the scraggly old rope, which hung over the branch.

“Hey, Marn?” he asked.

“Yeah?” Marnie answered.

“If you do see a ghost, will you let me know?” Tom asked.

Marnie nudged her cap up just a bit so that she could see Tom’s face. “Hmm. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you. You might get scared.”

Tom nodded in agreement. “Okay. Maybe that’s a good idea. Pinky swear? If you see a ghost, you won’t tell me.” Tom held out his hand and extended his pinky.

Marnie wrapped her pinky around Tom’s. “Pinky swear! If I see a ghost, I won’t tell you –unless I have to.”

Tom frowned. “Why would you have to?”

“Well, what if it’s a good ghost and it can help us?” Marnie asked.

Tom nodded. “Okay. Only if it’s a good ghost.”

Marnie twisted her mouth. “What if it’s a bad ghost, and we need to run. Can I tell you then?”

Tom thought about it for just a moment, and then he nodded. “Okay. If we need to run, you gotta tell me!”

“I swear on my dogs’ life!” Marnie replied.

Tom’s eyes dance and he said, “Wow! You’ve got a dog?” Tom asked.

“I’ve got two dogs,” Marnie replied. “C’mon! You can meet them! They’re inside with my mom.”

“First, we gotta pinky swear on the ghosts! You see a good one, you tell me. You see a bad one, and we gotta run, you tell me. Deal?” Tom stuck out his pinky.

“Deal!” Marnie stuck out her pinky and they sealed the deal, wrapping their pinkies around each others.

Pinkies still wrapped together, they wandered up the path into Marnie’s house to get a red Popsicle.

Kathy Review banner

Where do those stories come from?

Where do I come up with the ideas for my stories? Hmm… That is a very good question, and I have a simple answer: life. That’s it. Life – my family, the people I have met, the places I have been, my career, the books I have read; a funny thing my dog did yesterday; a funny thing my other half did yesterday; memories – good or bad… Everything that has occurred in my life has given me more than enough fodder for the stories I write.

Michele review

When people tell me that they have a story in them, and then they don’t sit down and write it, I wonder for just a moment what they are waiting for – and why aren’t they doing it. Well, that’s also a good question, and there is a simple answer: life.

Finding inspiration isn’t the hard part for me. Ideas pop into my head all of the time. I have conversations with my characters – and I write their dialogue in my head when I’m doing housework, falling asleep, walking through the grocery store – my brain does not stop. I dream about Creekwood and my characters often. It’s carving out the time – undistracted time when work, dogs, Big Dawg, laundry, gardening, and other commitments aren’t clouding the creative space in my brain. Plus, keeping a social media presence alive takes a considerable about of time. Creating content and finding content to post every day to Instagram, Facebook and other social media platforms is a time intensive exercise. It’s fun – but it takes time out from writing.

KM Amazon Review
“Torn Veil won’t disappoint! A fantastic follow up to Shari T Mitchell’s debut novel, Divine Guidance.

Once I do sit down, and settle into writing, time disappears. Hours pass – words turn into sentences – sentences turn into paragraphs – paragraphs turn into chapters – chapters turn into a terrible first draft. That terrible first though… That terrible first draft is then molded into a second draft, and then a final draft. What many people don’t understand is that before a book hits the shelves, thousands of hours of research, writing, proofreading, editing, and design have been spent getting the story onto the shelves.

“Fantastic! This book is amazing! I love the characters-I’m glad we saw more of Gram! There were twists and turns, horrible bad guys, wonderful good guys!

When I do sit down and write – when I do carve out time for my favorite creative endeavor – I create a whole new world for readers to explore. That’s also part of the inspiration – writing stories that people love makes it worthwhile. Knowing that someone has picked up my book, and that they have appreciated my words, and the world I have created – well, that’s inspiration in itself.

If you’ve read Divine Guidance or Torn Veil, drop a review on my website. I would love to your hear from you.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! Happy Friday!

TGIF! Thank goodness we’ve gotten through the first week of 2021.

As I continue writing Fatal Vow, the third book in the Marnie Reilly Mystery series, and as I await new reviews of Torn Veil (yes, that is a hint), ideas pop into my head for videos and marketing support items for Divine Guidance and Torn Veil. One of the latest things to hit the publishing industry is book trailers. So… we have put together a trailer that promotes the first two books in the Marnie Reilly Mysteries series – Divine Guidance and Torn Veil, and we’ve put together the first book trailer for Fatal Vow – the third in the series.

Marnie Reilly Mysteries Trailers

Marnie Reilly Mysteries
Fatal Vow Trailer #1

Divine Guidance and Torn Veil are set it late autumn and winter. Snow, sleet and frigid temps set the scene. Fatal Vow drops Marnie into the beginning of a hot, humid summer in Creekwood, NY. Pretty sure there will be a few crazy thunder and lightning storms for our heroine to contend with on her most dangerous journey thus far.

As I write Fatal Vow, I conjure up the sounds of summer in my memory – crickets, tree toads and birds calling for rain, mosquitos buzzing my ear as I fall asleep, and the sound of rain on the roof just outside my bedroom window. I also remember the humidity – the hot and sticky days of summer, when the only relief came from a breeze off of the river. The sights and sounds of my childhood summers will all be present in Fatal Vow – the train whistle from across the river in Canada, lightning bugs blinking in the distance, a thunderstorm brewing, the Big Dipper sparkling in the night sky, the sound of ships chugging up and down the St. Lawrence, and the lap of ship waves slapping the shore.

Divine Guidance began just before Thanksgiving – Torn Veil just before Christmas. I’ve got a theme going with holidays, and as such, Fatal Vow brings us to Independence Day – fireworks and all. This is going to be fun!

Thanks so much to everyone who has been kind enough to post a review of Divine Guidance or Torn Veil. Every review helps lift my book(s) in the rankings, and it also gets the book(s) in front of more people. So, if you haven’t written a review yet, I would be grateful if you could find a few moments to do so.

I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas and New Year. Cheers to a brilliant 2021!

Torn Veil

Torn Veil – A Murder Mystery with a Paranormal Twist – Available for Pre-order

Murder mystery Torn Veil, the sequel to Divine Guidance, will release worldwide on November 10, 2020 in paperback, e-book and hardcover.

Torn Veil – a murder mystery with a paranormal twist – is currently available for pre-order in paperback and Kindle edition from Amazon in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Australia. Links to other locations and retailers will be updated as available.

Torn Veil will also be available in paperback, Nook and hardcover from Barnes and Noble, and can be purchased by book retailers through Ingram.

Recommended retail price of Torn Veil e-book is $9.99, paperback is $16.99 and the hardcover, exclusively from Barnes and Nobel, holds a recommended retail price of $28.99. All pricing is US dollars.

Christmas is coming, and so is a killer. Will the psychic psychologist save Christmas and herself?

Marnie Reilly is back in Torn Veil, the sequel to Divine Guidance.

Marnie Reilly’s sixth sense is working overtime this holiday season. A haunting sense of evil sweeping through the little town of Creekwood is disturbing her dreams and her waking hours.  The ghosts of her past are trying to help, but the messages from beyond the veil are muddled and vague.

When Marnie’s childhood friend turns up dead on the wrong side of the tracks, police detectives discover her business card in the dead man’s pocket.  Is it an overdose or murder? As tensions rise in the race to solve the case, so does the body count. Detectives Tom Keller and Danny Gregg are on the scene to protect Marnie from the evil lurking in Creekwood, or is it Marnie who is protecting them?

Read the first 7 chapters of Torn Veil.

About the author, Shari T. Mitchell

Torn Veil

Murder mystery Torn Veil… Read the first 7 chapters

The first 7 chapters of Torn Veil have just been posted! If you’ve been waiting to read it, click the preceding link and get to it.

The cover art is currently in design. While we wait for the cover to be revealed, here’s a bit from the back cover:

Christmas is coming and so is a killer. Will the psychic psychologist save Christmas and herself?

Marnie Reilly is back in Torn Veil, the stand-alone sequel to Divine Guidance.

Marnie Reilly’s sixth sense is working overtime this holiday season. A haunting sense of evil sweeping through the little town of Creekwood is disturbing her dreams and her waking hours.  The ghosts of her past are trying to help, but the messages from beyond the veil are muddled and vague.

When Marnie’s childhood friend turns up dead on the wrong side of the tracks, police detectives discover her business card in the dead man’s pocket.  Is it an overdose or murder? As tensions rise in the race to solve the case, so does the body count.

Detectives Tom Keller and Danny Gregg are on the scene to protect Marnie from the evil lurking in Creekwood. Or is Marnie protecting them?


If you don’t already follow this blog, do so to stay updated on release dates and upcoming events. Follow me on Facebook for updates, too.

Nicole Ballingal, Artist

Artists Supporting Artists

Whether a writer, sculptor, painter, singer or dancer, artists work hard for their craft. It’s important for artists to support the arts and one another.

My dear friend, Nicole Ballingal, is a painter, sculptress, caricaturist, graphic designer, teacher, wordsmith and so much more. I am in awe of Nicole’s immense talent.

Below is one of her beautiful seascapes. Nicole has worked tirelessly to hone her craft. She deserves every success that comes her way.

Seascape, Nicole Ballingal, Artist
Nicole Ballingal, artist

Nicole is also an art teacher with Sydney Art Space. Her bio is available in the link.

Nicole competes regularly in art competitions in her homeland of Australia. She has recently submitted a breathtaking portrait in the Archibald Prize. The Archibald Prize is awarded annually to the best portrait, ‘preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia’. I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

The cover art, bookmarks, posters for Divine Guidance are just a few of the pieces Nicole created for the launch. I love working with her! We can chat about a project and she creates the image I have in my head. She’s amazing like that.

Divine Guidance Cover Art
Divine Guidance Cover Art – Nicole Ballingal, Designer

Artists supporting artists is an integral component to artists living their best creative lives. We each know how much work goes into our respective crafts. Time, patience, lack of sleep…we can certainly empathize with one another. The support of family and friends also helps in our dedication to the creative endeavors we pursue.

Just in case it isn’t clear, I am one of Nicole’s biggest fans – so much so, that I created a character just for her in my soon-to-be-released murder mystery, Torn Veil.

Please support the arts and follow Nicole’s studio, Factory5 Creative Space on Facebook.

If you love a piece of artwork you’ve seen or a book you’ve read or a theater production that touched your soul, share a kind word about the artist(s) with friends and family. The artist will appreciate it.


Murder mystery, Torn Veil – Officially on the way to the editor…

That’s right! Murder mystery, Torn Veil was sent off to the editor on Friday. That’s excellent news for readers because that means we are one step closer to release. November 2020 is just around the corner. And it’s excellent news for me because I can now start pouring my energy into the third book in the series.

As I read through Torn Veil for the fifth time, I picked out a few passages that resonate with me. Does that sound strange? Shouldn’t they all resonate? Perhaps, and the paragraphs, dialogue and chapters do, but there are moments when I write and I don’t remember typing specific sections of text. Something takes over and the words appear on the screen in front of me. It’s kind of like auto-pilot I suppose. Then again, I wrote a story that has been played out in my head for the better part of 5 years – I suppose I was on auto-pilot. The fact that I love my characters probably has something to do with it too. I do love my characters. Even the bad ones.

The character interaction is so much fun. I have conversations in my head about how they will discuss a certain subject or how Marnie will react to something Danny has done or something silly Tom has said. Their chatter is in my head when I fall asleep, brush my teeth, have a shower, cook dinner… They are with me a lot! Writing dialogue between Danny, Marnie, Tom, Carl and Tater is a breeze because of this. And the characters are bits and pieces of the many people I have met throughout my life. My characters are pieces of friends, relatives, acquaintances and of course, some people I don’t particularly like.

Adding new characters, one with a pronounced stutter and one with a Southern drawl, gave way for interesting interactions. And of course, writing for Gram is a heap of fun. Researching her Irish brogue and the colloquialisms of the Emerald Isle delivers better dialogue for her character. Watching a bit of ‘Mrs. Brown’s Boys’ was great inspiration too.

Writing Tater’s actions and behavior is such a joy for me. Tater is a cross between my first border collie, Murphy, and my second border collie, Finnegan. There are also a few character traits from my current border collies, Dougal and Callee, as well. Border Collies are such intelligent cheeky dogs. I do love writing Tater. He is my favorite character after all – and then Tom.

And then there is the genre… Having been introduced to mysteries at a young age, murder mysteries are my favorite genre to read and write. Starting with Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys, then moving on to Agatha Christie, Mary Higgins Clark, Ruth Rendell and so many others, I have consumed mystery novels for over four decades. It’s the same when it comes to television and movies. Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Mystery 101, Murder 101… you name it, I will watch it. I love figuring out the mystery before the end.

With all of that said and/or written, I better get back to focusing my energy on Fatal Vow – the third in the series.

Torn Veil, a murder mystery with a paranormal twist

Creekwood – The Good. The Quirky. The Bad. The Evil.

Torn Veil is just a bit darker than Divine Guidance. We dive into occult practices and the seedy underbelly of Creekwood, NY, a fictional town located along the Hudson River somewhere between the Adirondack Mountains and Hudson, NY.

Why somewhere? Because reading fiction is all about using your imagination. Every writer hopes their description of a place, person or thing helps the reader see what they see. I know what Creekwood looks like – I see it in my imagination every time I write about the quaint little town. Hopefully, readers do to.

I try to do the same with characters. Gram for instance – I don’t give too much detail about her physical appearance because readers should visualize her in their own imagination. A few characters’ physical appearances are explained in detail – like Marnie, Tater, Danny, Tom and Carl. A few are not. What they look like is up to the reader.

Speaking of characters… Torn Veil has a host of intriguing characters – good, quirky, bad and pure evil. I love writing all of them – but it is so much fun to write the dialogue and the thoughts of a nasty, vile, psychotic and evil character. It’s like therapy – you get to take your evil twin out for a stroll.

Anyway, I better get back to work. I’m still fiddling with few final changes to chapters. Why? Because my proofreaders ask a lot of questions. If a vital bit isn’t as clear as I thought and two or three proofreaders ask the same question, I make a tweak to ensure clarity. Sometimes the clarity is already there and just one of the proofreaders missed it. It’s a balancing act, folks.

I will keep you posted. Have a great day!