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?


  1. Rebecca, thanks so much for hosting me today! And yes, West Texas, the setting OF and for Wild Rose Pass, is indeed a getaway!

  2. Great blog. Cookbooks are the best. I love flipping through especially the old ones. D. V.

    1. Thanks, Donna, for your support - appreciate your stopping by! Sorry to be so slow on your review - got an edit that I'm trying to finish. Love your book!

  3. Enjoyed the interview! Marketing and promoting are my least favorite bits about this career, yet they must be done. I tend to this chore first thing in the morning. As I told my children when they were young, "Do your least favorite homework first, so you can focus on the ones your enjoy." Wishing you all the best, Karen!

    1. Bless your heart for stopping by, Mary! Ya, you have the right approach. I do it when I'm already tired, but I try to save my mornings (when I'm fresh) for writing. I'll try it your way! Thanks for dropping in!

  4. Enjoyed your interview. Marketing and promo are my least favorite things to do. I get them out of the first thing in the morning, then I'm free to write the rest of the day. I'm reading The Wild Rose Pass and loving it. Going to hate to see it end. LOL

    1. Tena, bless your heart! Thanks for your kind words, advice, and stopping in today - appreciate it <3 Am finishing up Donna's book, have one more I've promised, and YOURS is next. Thanks again!

  5. Really enjoyed getting to know you better, Karen. I join the crowd with promoting/ marketing as my least favorite things. I have your book--now I just need to be able to relax and read it! Best of luck :)

  6. Another great interview, Karen!


Lighting the Way

It's time to start building up your library for those cold winter months ahead--getting those books for you to read by a cozy fireplace ...