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Last Holiday Season, my husband and son did something truly cool with their Boy Scout Troop.  They spent a Saturday with the Turning Wheels group, assembling donated bikes for children who, without this gift, might not be receiving anything under the tree.  In one day 800 volunteers assembled over 2500 bicycles, all for kids who needed them.  Eric and David came home lit up with enthusiasm and a dose of the true spirit of the holidays, giving.

Team San Jose generously donated the South Hall for the annual build.

Team San Jose generously donated the South Hall for the annual build.

They were so pumped up by a day of making a difference that nine months later when Eric heard of fundraising dinner for the newly established TriValley branch of Turning Wheels he asked me to book a sitter so we could go.  What? Eric asking to go spend money at a fundraiser? Color me impressed.

Turning Wheels For Kids is an organization begun in Santa Clara, California by a woman who felt the potential pathos laden in the question, “What did you get for Christmas?”  Sue Runsvold founded Turning Wheels in a ceaseless effort of compassion to supply an answer, “A bike.”

As Eric and I drove to the silent auction and fundraising dinner, we talked about what owning our first bike had meant for each of us.  Growing up, a bicycle is often the first item of real note many of us own. Cars, boats, houses, if we’re fortunate, all of those come later, but the road to independence begins with a bike.

I can still remember the feeling of pride and excitement the day my mom took the training wheels off my bike.  I sped up the street one way, only to race back down the other, wind in my hair, ear-to-ear grin on my face.  Not only was owning a bike the pinnacle of coolness for my third grade self, but I was going places!  I was mobile. I could go to friends’ homes.  Later I was consumed with going to 7-11 for bubble gum. It was a step toward adulthood, even though at that point I was only focused on how much fun I was having.

Bikes are an important part of healthy living, getting children away from the siren call of the video game screen.  It’s important that we as adults get our kids back outside for active, often interactive, play.  Their skills in learning to ride, do tricks, go faster, all build children’s self-esteem and confidence.  Also, I have to be honest, there are mornings when I am very thankful that my gang of three prefer to ride their bikes to school.  Sometimes the extra five minutes alone with a cup of tea is a life saver as I embark upon my busy day.

This excerpt is taken from the Turning Wheels For Kids website:

“In 2003, Susan Runsvold set out to ensure that no child would have to experience a Christmas without any cool and exciting gifts, an experience that she feared herself when she was young. Since then, her vision has expanded, as she discovered that bicycles–one of the coolest gifts a child can receive for Christmas–can have a more profound impact on children’s lives than she first imagined.

Her original vision was to buy bikes at Christmas and give them to underprivileged children, children she believed might otherwise not receive any present from Santa. She began what she hoped would be a tradition of collecting money from her friends and colleagues to purchase as many bikes as possible for holiday distribution. The first year, she bought 12 brand-new bikes and gave them to children. She soon realized that beyond the immediate thrill of Christmas morning, these bikes bring children independence, confidence, a fun way to exercise, and a sense of adventure that nothing else could quite match.

But the story doesn’t end there. In 2005, Susan asked an amazing group of volunteers—many of whom now comprise the TurningWheels for Kids board—to help flesh out her dream. With a resounding “Yes!” from the team, TurningWheels For Kids (TWFK) was born. The unbelievable success of this group has resulted in more than 13,000 bikes being built and given to local children.”

Please visit the website below to help.  Or email:

Santa Clara chapter-

TriValley Chapter:

Why not start a chapter of your own? Now there’s a thought!

It takes about $100 per recipient to purchase a bike, helmet and bike lock.  Thanks to corporate partners, your donations go 100% to bikes, nothing else.  Speaking of businesses doing neat things, check with your own employer to see if they have a corporate donation matching plan.

As you can see this is a group making a difference, one bike at a time, changing lives.  We may not be able to solve the big problems so easily, but, by golly, we can make Christmas happier, one kid at a time.

Eric and I have a lot of “stuff” so this year we’re going to be asking our relatives to make a donation to Turning Wheels for us.  They’ll get a tax write-off, we’ll get to help, and somewhere out there another child will have the same ecstatic rush I did that Christmas so long ago when I saw Santa Claus had brought me a BIKE!

Naturally, there is only one song appropriate in this situation.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you “Bicycle Race” by the one and only Queen.

“Now, get on your bikes and ride!!!”

You never forget how to ride a bike.


Last week my writers’ critique group, The Beer & Bacon Babes (aka The BBB’s), had a night out at Towne Center Books on Main Street in Pleasanton.  We were there because four fabulous LOCAL authors were doing a book signing.  Well, honey, you put four great mystery authors, wine and chocolate at a book store in front of me and my friends?  It’s just like we’ve died and gone to heaven.

Photo by Amy Moellering, used with permission from Towne Center Books.

As four very different, but equally intelligent and engaging ladies began sharing their stories with us I knew a.) I needed to read them all and b.) you had to meet them.  Ladies & Gentlemen of my blogging universe allow me to introduce: Carole Price, Ann Parker, Staci McLaughlin and Penny Warner. Lady Authors, please meet… everyone.  It’s clear that this sort of intro won’t do anyone any justice so… Ergo, these interviews.  I will be interviewing each of these authors in turn weekly because that is just how amazing they all are.

This week we’ll be meeting Carole Price, the author of Twisted Vines.  This is Carole’s first published novel and the beginning to a wonderful new cozy mystery series, The Shakespeare in the Vineyard Mysteries.  I read Twisted Vines in a day.  Imagine a beautiful, but independent-minded crime analyst, our heroine Caitlyn Pepper who has just inherited a fortune from an aunt she has never heard of, let alone met.  Now picture that maybe not everyone is happy about Cait’s inheritance, and maybe didn’t care for the aunt either… It was a page turner full of vivid and complex characters, action, twists, a dash of romance and just right amount of danger.  I highly recommend it.

Author, police volunteer, hiker, mother and wife- she does it all!

So let’s find out a bit more about Carole Price…

– Sorry to go for the obvious question, but where did the idea of Shakespeare in the Livermore Valley come from?

A. When our daughter, Carla, moved to Ashland, Oregon, home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, I started attending many of the plays. I fell in love with the Bard. I signed on for a back stage tour and thought how fun it would be to bring Shakespeare to the Livermore Valley, create my own festival, and toss in a few bodies.

– What other places in the TriValley do you love and might possible pop up in future books?

A. I hope to feature more at Las Positas College. Cait needs to venture out more, probably to Pleasanton. Although not in the Tri Valley area, I have an idea for a book in Niles/Fremont where there’s a fun silent film museum.

– Do you have a guilty pleasure spot in Livermore?  You know, something off the diet, a spa or maybe a nail salon?  Some place that you can spoil yourself just a bit?

A. Not really. I do hike almost every week in the hills in and around Livermore. I get inspiration from that and take tons of pictures.

– Did you research this book?  How so? What was your favorite part of this learning process?

A. I arranged to talk with someone from the Oregon Shakespeare Festival about their actors, i.e., their education, experience, etc. I bought lots of books and materials from their gift shop and used the Internet to research weapons from that era. To learn about police procedures, I went through Livermore’s Citizen Police Academy and am an active police volunteer. I role play with the SWAT team, work at events (Livermore rodeo, festivals, etc.), and have a “regular” weekly volunteer job. The officers have been great answering my questions.

– Your main character, Cait, is a dynamic, vibrant woman.  What is your favorite quality about her?

A. Cait’s integrity and honesty runs deep. She’s a good friend.

– I love Cait’s name, Caitlyn Tilson Pepper.  How did you chose your protagonist’s name?  Did you think of it or did the character sort of simply “be” the name?

A. I love her name too. I wanted a name easy to remember and easy to pronounce. My daughter had a friend named Caitlyn. Tilson is the middle name of a San Francisco symphony conductor. Pepper just came to me.

– As your series develops, can you give us a hint as to how Caitlyn may change as she comes into her inheritance and leaves her law enforcement background behind?  Or do you ever leave that kind of experience behind?

A. Good question. I’m told that once a cop, always a cop. Cait struggles with this as she works with a detective from the Livermore PD to solve crimes that affect her or her Shakespeare festival. She’s impatient when told to let the police do their job, that she’s no longer a cop. But Cait has changed. She’s come to terms with family secrets. She’s taking viticulture classes at the local college and will become involved with Livermore’s wine associations. And she may learn to love again.

–  Okay, I have to ask, as any woman would, will we see hunky R.T. again?  And, is he based on anyone in real life?  (Please say yes!)

A. I love RT. He’s a keeper. He’s a composite of traits I like, and I did a little Internet research on Navy SEALS. He had to be organized, cynical, anti-social at times, a private person, and a thinker. And, of course, hunky. The name Royal Tanner just popped into mind as a strong name with character. I did have a friend with the last name of Tanner.

– Did you always want to be a writer?  What led you to this path?

A. Sorry, I wish I could say I always wanted to write. But I am an avid reader, particularly mysteries, and thought it would be fun to create my own story. I didn’t start writing until I retired. I met an author at a book signing who encouraged me to write. When she invited me to join her critique group, I jumped at the opportunity.

– It comes up in almost every interview, but, the question remains, you’ve achieved your dream, what words of wisdom do you have for the writers trying to make it today?

A. Don’t give up. Write every day. I had lots of rejections on my first (still unpublished) book. I used to think all I had to do was sit behind my computer and make up stuff. Not so. Join a critique group and attend conferences. Sign up for a writing workshop. Be involved.

– I know you rely on your critique group for solid feedback, would you recommend a critique group to other writers?  What do you like best about your group?  (No fair saying lunch!)

A. Absolutely. Twisted Vines would never have been published if not for my critique group. We meet every Friday to discuss our books, conferences, the world of publishing, and social media. We give positive feedback. We support each other and celebrate our successes.

– While I would never ask for spoilers to your forthcoming sequel, Sour Grapes, can you give us any hint on what Cait may be facing next time around?

A. Cait was a police officer before becoming a crime analyst. An unpleasant situation during her years as a cop comes back to haunt her. Sorry, but any more would give it away.

– I am ready NOW for the sequel, when can we buy it?

A. Ha. I hope Five Star will offer me a contract for Sour Grapes after I send them a synopsis. That should be soon since I only have two more chapters of the first draft left to write. I know my publisher is pleased with my promotional efforts. And I just learned that Twisted Vines will come out in large print in January 2013.

– Finally, I am a wine drinking gal.  Please dish, what is your favorite Livermore Valley wine?  It’s okay if you have more than one!

A. I’m a tea drinker, but I do like Wente wines and only white.

Carole, I’m partial to Earl Grey myself.  Thank you so much for taking the time to share your craft and your characters with us today.  We’ll all be looking forward to Sour Grapes!

To purchase Twisted Vines I always encourage people to call your local independent bookseller, like our own Towne Center Books at 555 Main Street, Pleasanton 925-846-8826.  However, failing that, Carole’s book is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

You can keep up with the latest Shakespeare in the Valley Mystery by checking out Carole’s website:

Twisted Vines by Carole Price

More Murder in the Valley Book Tour Dates!

Sunday, Sept. 23, 4 p.m.
Book Passage
Corte Madera

Wednesday, Oct. 3, 1 p.m.
Danville Library
Danville, CA

Thursday, Oct. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Lafayette Library
Lafayette, CA

Sunday, Nov. 11, 2 p.m.
Livermore Library
Livermore, CA

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