Friday, April 24, 2020

Escape to the Wild West

With Spring in the air, we're looking for new books to read that take us outside to visit different new worlds and get away into great stories.  My guest today in My Writing Corner, Karen Hulene Bartell,  has just such a tale to do that. 

Author of the Trans-Pecos, Sacred Emblem, Sacred Journey, and Sacred Messenger series, Karen is a best-selling author, motivational keynote speaker, wife, and all-around pilgrim of life.

She writes multicultural, offbeat love stories that lift the spirit. Born to rolling-stone parents who moved annually, Bartell found her earliest playmates as fictional friends in books. Paperbacks became her portable pals. Ghost stories kept her up at night—reading feverishly. The paranormal was her passion. Westerns spurred her to write (pun intended). Wanderlust inherent, Karen enjoyed traveling, although loathed changing schools. Novels offered an imaginative escape. An only child, she began writing her first novel at the age of nine, learning the joy of creating her own happy endings. Professor emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin, Karen resides in the Hill Country with her husband Peter and her “mews”—three rescued cats and a rescued *Cat*ahoula Leopard dog.

Have you always wanted to write fiction? 
I think I have always wanted to write fiction. My escape, as a child, was into books. My parents moved quite often – eight times when I was eight years old. Depending on where we moved, I was either a city-slicker or a country-bumpkin. Reading was my only getaway, and writing became a an even better flight of fantasy.

What are the challenges of being a writer? Marketing and money are my two bugaboos. I love writing – losing myself in writing – but I’m not fond of the necessary marketing or the small rewards for the hours I invest.

Tell us about your road to publication.
I broke into publication through cookbooks. Before the age of computers and Internets, people relied on cookbooks, and I found them a lucrative start to a career in fiction writing.

How do you come up with your characters?
Mostly, they evolve. First, I think of the action. Then a character comes to mind. Sometimes, I search photos online, looking for the characters I picture in my mind. Then I refer to those photos to remind me of the color of their eyes or some other physical traits.

How do you come up with your plots?
I like to brainstorm with friends. I call it “Playing Dolls,” where we imagine where the characters go and what they do next.

Tell us about your latest book, The Wild Rose Pass.  What made you write it?
The idea for Wild Rose Pass started with West Texas’ amazing geography. Sixteen years
ago, my husband and I spent Christmas week hiking in Big Bend National Park. You’ve seen the area on maps—the southernmost tip of Texas that borders the Rio Grande and dips into Mexico.

Driving home, we missed the turnoff and followed TX-118 north. Snow-covered and glinting against the frosty blue January sky, a remote jumble of mountain peaks and ranges beckoned as they rose above the desert floor. I was enchanted.

A hasty glance at the map told us these were the Davis Mountains. As we approached, vertical basalt columns rose like thousands of giant fingers reaching for the sky. The palisades, buttes, and bluffs towered above both sides of Wild Rose Pass with a raw, majestic beauty, and I breathed a contented sigh, sensing a homecoming.

Then, when I learned a friend’s great-great-grandfather had not only worked for Fort Davis’ cavalry as an Indian scout in the 1870s and 1880s but had been captured as a child and raised by Comanches, an idea took root. The outcome of that budding thought bloomed into my latest historical novel: Wild Rose Pass, Book I of the Trans-Pecos Series.

What advice do you have for beginning writers?
 Write every day. Keep the storyline fresh. Then, even while you sleep, your mind will work out the plot and characterizations.

How about  a blurb:
Cadence McShane, free-spirited nonconformist, yearns to escape the rigid code, clothes, and sidesaddles of 1880s military society in Fort Davis, Texas. She finds the daring new lieutenant exhilarating, but as the daughter of the commanding officer, she is expected to keep with family tradition and marry West Point graduate James West.

Orphaned, Comanche-raised, and always the outsider looking in, Ben Williams yearns to belong. Cadence embodies everything he craves, but as a battlefield-commissioned officer with the Buffalo Soldiers instead of a West Point graduate, he is neither accepted into military society nor considered marriageable.

Can two people of different worlds, drawn together by conflicting needs, flout society and forge a life together on the frontier?

Want more?  Let's get an excerpt:

     Reining his horse between catclaw and prickly-pear cactus, Ben Williams squinted at the late summer sun’s low angle. Though still midafternoon, shadows lengthened in the mountains. He clicked his tongue, urging his mare up the incline. “Show a little enthusiasm, Althea. If we’re not in Fort Davis by sunset, we’ll be bedding down with scorpions and rattlesnakes.”
     As his detachment’s horses clambered up Wild Rose Pass, the only gap through west Texas’ rugged Davis Mountains, Ben kept alert for loose rocks or hidden roots, anything that might trip his mount. A thick layer of fallen leaves created a pastiche of color shrouding the trail from view. He glanced up at the lithe cottonwood trees lining the route, their limbs dancing in the breeze. More amber and persimmon leaves loosened, fell, and settled near the Indian pictographs on their tree trunks. When he saw the red- and yellow-ochre drawings, he smiled, recalling the canyon’s name—Painted Comanche Camp.
     “How far to Fort Davis, lieutenant?” called McCurry, one of his recruits.
      “Three hours.” If we keep a steady pace.
      Without warning, the soldier’s horse whinnied. Spooking, it reared on its hind legs, threw its rider, and galloped off.  

      As he sat up, the man groaned, caught his breath, and stared into the eyes of a coiled rattler, poised to strike. “What the…?”
     Flicking its tongue, hissing, tail rattling, the pit viper was inches from the man’s face.
     A sheen of sweat appeared above the man’s lip. “Lieutenant—”

If you want more and would like to read on, here are the buy links:

Amazon Paperback
Barnes & Noble NOOK Book
Barnes & Noble Paperback

If you would like to connect with Karen:
Amazon Author Page  

Thank you, Karen,  for being my guest! Any comments or questions for Karen?

Friday, April 17, 2020

A Listening Adventure

These days at home are a great time to listen to audio books or to find a new author.  I've been a fan of Jean Grant for a while, and I was excited to see that her book is out on audio so we can not only read her work now, but listen to it. 

Jean writes historical and contemporary romances and women’s fiction. She also writes articles for family-oriented travel magazines and websites. When she’s not writing or chasing children, she enjoys tending to her flower gardens, hiking, and doing just about anything in the outdoors. Her background is in science and she draws from her interest in history, nature and from her own family for her inspiration. 

Her wonderful book is Will Rise from Ashes, a contemporary women's fiction book and it is now available in audio, and it's a great way to spend an afternoon if you're having to stay indoors. This book grabbed my interest the first time I heard about it and I am looking forward to listening to it.

Here's the blurb:

Living is more than mere survival.

Young widow AJ Sinclair has persevered through much heartache. Has she met her match when the Yellowstone super-volcano erupts, leaving her separated from her youngest son and her brother?

 Tens of thousands are dead or missing in a swath of massive destruction. She and her nine-year-old autistic son, Will, embark on a risky road trip from Maine to the epicenter to find her family. She can't lose another loved one.

Along the way, they meet Reid Gregory, who travels his own road to perdition looking for his sister. Drawn together by AJ's fear of driving and Reid's military and local expertise, their journey to Colorado is fraught with the chaotic aftermath of the eruption. AJ's anxiety and faith in humanity are put to the test as she heals her past, accepts her family's present, and embraces uncertainty as Will and Reid show her a world she had almost forgotten.

Will Rise from Ashes
Contemporary Women’s Fiction
 Audio Release date: March 16, 2020

If you would like more information on Jean, here is how to 

Social Media links:

Thanks, Jean, for being my guest today. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

A Lyrical Escape

With days warming up, I find it's a good time to get outside and sit on the patio and read a new book so, of course, that means a constant search for new reading material.

This week's guest author in My Writing Corner, Amber Dalton has a new book out that sounds perfect for my next round of  sunny-side reading.

Amber Daulton is the author of the romantic-suspense series Arresting Onyx and several standalone novellas. Her books are published through The Wild Rose Press and Books to Go Now, and  are available in ebook, print on demand, audio, and foreign language formats.

Amber lives in North Carolina with her husband and three demanding cats.

Let's learn more about her newest book, which takes us back to that wonderful
location--Deerbourne Inn.

Out-of-work violinist Erica Timberly decides enough is enough. She leaves her abusive boyfriend and flees the big city, but then her car breaks down in the middle of the night. Though wary of men, she accepts help from Dylan Haynes, a stranger driving by on the road, and soon recognizes him as the sexy former drummer of her favorite indie rock band. Maybe, just maybe, her run of bad luck is finally turning around.

Music teacher Dylan Haynes knows Erica is in trouble, and her black eye is only the first clue. The stubborn yet vulnerable woman needs a friend, but he’s determined to give her everything she deserves.

Will Erica listen to the music in her heart and trust Dylan, or will her past always threaten her future?

Want to know more? Let's dig a little deeper and hear more from our hero. Dalton, what impression do you make when a person first meets you?
I like to think of myself as a normal guy, and I hope I portray that to the people I first meet. I used to play for an indie rock band, Fortune’s Glory, but most people don’t recognize me since the band never made it big. I’m grateful for that. I’ve moved back home to Willow Springs, Vermont, so I usually don’t meet clubbers and fans anymore.

What is your greatest fear?
Losing Erica. She’s been through a tough time, and I love her like crazy. Her ex-boyfriend came around a while back and threatened to kill her—to kill us. God, I don’t even like thinking about that. If I lost her, I don’t know what I’d do.

What is your profession?

I’m an ex-professional drummer, and now I’m a music teacher at my parents’ school, Haynes Music Academy. I love teaching kids how to play instruments, and I feel pride in their success.

I’m also a volunteer fireman. After so many years of partying and having fun, I wanted to do something good and give back to the community where I’d come from. Being a fireman and EMT helped me accomplish that goal.

What skill do you have that you’re proud of? Why?

I’m a helluva drummer, but I can play almost any instrument. Music has been my life since I was a little kid, and I can’t see my life without it.

Describe your ideal woman.
Erica is perfect for me. She’s strong, beautiful, and stubborn, but vulnerable too. She’s an excellent violinist and loves music just as much as I do. After all the crap she’s been through, she’s still trusting and kind. She loves with her whole heart, and I’m damn glad she picked me.

What trait do you like most about the person you fell in love with?

Erica’s strength and her ability to not let life get her down. She’s the type of woman to get back on that horse after falling off. I couldn’t be prouder of her.

If you would like to hear an audio sample, here's the link

Feel free to visit her at

And if you would like to know more about Amber and her work, here is how to get more:

Amazon Author Page –

Thank you, Amber, for being our guest and for introducing us to a great new hero! Any questions or comments for Amber?

Friday, April 3, 2020

Finding Romance & Adventure

I continue to look for new books and audio books to enjoy and I keep finding so many that are wonderful that I never had time to read in the past. Today's guest author  in My Writing Corner, Helen C. Johannes has a new offering that really hit the mark. It's a pleasure to get away to a far off land and follow a journey filled with danger, adventure and romance. 
Helen writes award-winning fantasy romance inspired by the fairy tales she grew up reading and the amazing historical places she’s visited in England, Ireland, Scotland and Germany. 
She tells us that she writes tales of adventure and romance in fully realized worlds sprung from pure imagination and a lifelong interest in history, culture, and literature. She writes of warriors on horseback, women who refuse to sit idly at home, and passion that cannot be denied or outrun.
She says that’s what readers will find in her books, so let's get a taste of her latest romantic adventure. 
What if looking at the face of the man you loved meant death?
Years ago, warrior Durren Drakkonwehr was cursed by a mage. Now feared and reviled as the Shadow Man, he keeps to himself, only going to town to trade rare bloodstones—petrified dragon’s blood—for supplies. Though he hides his face, he can’t hide his heart from the woman who haunts his dreams…
Needing bloodstones for a jewelry commission, Mirianna and her father journey across the dreaded Wehrland where the beast-men roam. When their party is attacked, only the Shadow Man can save them. Strangely drawn to him, Mirianna offers herself in return for her father’s rescue.

Living in the ruined fortress with the Shadow Man, Mirianna slowly realizes that a flesh-and-blood man, not a fiend hides there in hoods and darkness. But are love and courage enough to lift the curse and restore the man?

Want to know more? Let's get an excerpt:

    “What about us? What do we do?”

     Only the hood rotated, cocking with exaggerated deliberation. “Why, you die, old man.”

     Her father blanched. His grip on Mirianna’s arms faltered.

    She saw the Shadow Man turn, saw the muscles of his thighs bunch as he prepared to leap down the hillside, saw, in the corner of her eye, shapes gathering along the tree line below, horrible shapes she’d seen only hours before rushing at her from a darkened clearing. With a shudder, she broke from her father’s grasp.

    “Please!” She reached out to the black sleeve. “Help us!”

    He recoiled at her touch like one snake-bitten. The sudden, sharp focus of his regard staggered her, but she backed no more than a step. No matter how he terrified her, he’d helped her once. She’d been led to him again, and not, her instincts told her, without reason.

    “Please,” she repeated. “Help us. I—we’ll do anything.”


      His voice was a whisper that caressed flesh. Mirianna’s stomach quivered. Her breasts tingled. Her mouth grew even drier. Without thinking, she slid her tongue along her lips. Vaguely, she wondered what she’d done. And why time seemed suspended, as if everyone but she and the Shadow Man had been cast in stone and all sound arrested. All sound except the taut, guttural repeat of his question.


I don't know about you, but I want to read on … or listen on. Here are the buy links.

Book Links:

If you want to know more about Helen and her books, here are the links: 

Thank you, Helen, for introducing us to your special world and your special characters.  

Mysterious Doings

As the  summer begins, it is time to start selecting those books we want to take on vacation or for sitting around the pool or at  the beach...