Check out this inspirational interview with Linda Strader, author of Summers of Fire, a memoir

  • lindaMs. Strader is a landscape architect in southern Arizona, the very same area where she became one of the first women on a Forest Service fire crew in 1976.

Summers of Fire is a memoir based on her experiences not only working on fire crews, but how she had to find inner strength and courage to reinvent her life not just once, but several times. 

Her publishing history includes many web articles on her expertise of landscaping with desert plants. A local newspaper, the Green Valley News, printed an article about her firefighting adventures, which led the magazine, Wildfire Today, to publish an excerpt. The article generated interest in her speaking on this topic to several clubs, including the American Association of University Women. Summers of Fire is her first book, which is scheduled for publication in 2018. She also does fabulous water colors and blogs at

  • Who are your literary influences or inspiration?
  • Cheryl Strayed. If it hadn’t been for her memoir, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, I’d probably still be floundering for direction!
  • Why do you write?
  • It helps me cope with day to day life, which has been challenging after many losses over the past 8 years.
  • As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?
  • I’m not published yet, but will be in 2018. This just flat-out amazes me. When I wrote my memoir, I never dreamed I would publish some day. At the time, it was a way to cope with depression over losing my job, my mom, and my marriage.
  • What genres do you work in?
  • So far, I’ve only written nonfiction/memoir. I just finished a prequel to my book Summers of Fire.
  • How do you start a novel/story?
  • I just jump in and start writing.
  • What feeds your process? Can you listen to music and write or not… can you write late at night or are you a morning person… when the spark happens, do you run for the pen or the screen or do you just hope it is still there tomorrow?
  • I need silence. I write a number of times throughout the day, whenever I can squeeze it in between my real work (landscape design). I’d say my most creative time is about 90 minutes in late afternoon with a glass of wine at hand. Morning is my best time to edit.
  • How much time do you spend writing each day?
  • I write anywhere from 2 to 3 hours per day.
  • What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?
  • The hardest part about writing is thinking you’ve written something quite witty and special, only to look at the next day and realize it’s garbage! Publishing…for me it was the longest and most challenging thing I’ve ever done because I chose the traditional route. Despite all those who say I should have self-published, I am glad I stuck with what I wanted, the traditional route, and so glad it all worked out.
  • Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?
  • One of my coworkers. He was a chauvinist, egotist, and obnoxious, but I found him fun to write about because he was so colorful.
  • Why should people want to read your books?
  • Summers of Fire is an adventure story, a love story, a story of strong friendships, a story of heartbreak—and a story of loss, inner strength, courage and rebuilding. I think just about anyone would relate to my story in some significant way.
  • If a movie was made of your book, who would the stars be?
  • I would love to have Reece Witherspoon play me!


Sally Whitney gives valuable insights into her writing process in this interview!

Meet Sally Whitney, who has spent most of her adult life in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kansas, and New Jersey, thought her imagination lives in the South, the homeland of her childhood. The stories Sally writes have been published in literary magazines and anthologies, including Grow Old Along With Me—The Best Is Yet To Be, the audio version of which was a Grammy Award finalist in the Spoken Word or Nonmusical Album category. Her stories have also been recognized by the Syndicated Fiction Project, the Salem College National Literary Awards competition, the Black Lawrence Press Black River Chapbook Competition, The Ledge Fiction Awards Competition, and the Shenango River Books Prose Chapbook Contest.

She currently lives in Maryland with her cat, Ivy Rowe, and is delighted to be once again residing below the Mason-Dixon Line. When she isn’t writing, reading, watching movies, or attending plays, she likes to poke around in antique shops looking for treasures. “The best things in life are the ones that have been loved, whether by you or somebody else,” she says.

Surface and Shadow is her first novel.

How do you start a novel/story?

My stories usually start as an idea, an observation, or a question. Surface and Shadow started with observations of small mill towns and an idea about an outsider who wants to learn a mill town’s secrets. Like most of my story beginnings, those elements gestated in my imagination for months while I finished other works in progress. By the time my schedule was clear, the story had grown to include more characters, a particular setting, and a few plot points. I’m a planner by nature, so the next thing I had to do was figure out more plot points and put them into a rough outline of how the story would proceed. The outline changed many times as I wrote the novel, but it gave me a guiding light when I started.

sally-whitney-color-photo-for-webWhere do your characters come from?

Most of my characters are mixtures of different people I’ve known, but I also like to throw in quirks and personality traits to create people I wish I’d known.

What feeds your process? Can you listen to music and write or not… can you write late at night or are you a morning person… when the spark happens, do you run for the pen or the screen or do you just hope it is still there tomorrow?

Writing is an occupation (obsession, maybe) you never get away from. Ideas strike all the time, especially in the shower, and then I start composing in my head. I’ve found that if I don’t write down at least a few sentences as soon as possible, the ideas can flitter away into nothingness. Mid-morning to mid-afternoon is my favorite time to write, but I’m getting better at writing later in the afternoon. When I write I need silence so that I’m totally absorbed by the world I’m creating. Almost any sound is distracting.

Do you neglect personal hygiene or housekeeping to write? Or vice versa?

I neglect housework to do anything, especially writing. It’s like the poem about babies: “Quiet down cobwebs/Dust go to sleep/I’m rocking my baby/And babies don’t keep.” Writing doesn’t keep either. You have to strike when the muse is with you and sometimes when it’s not.

How do you come up with book titles?

Titles are really hard to write. A good title should capture the spirit of the noss-final-cover-for-webvel and intrigue a prospective reader, all in a maximum of about five words. It’s a tall order. My favorite titles come from the text of the novel. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird is a perfect title. It comes from the text; it conveys one of the main themes of the book, but you don’t know that until you read the book, so it’s intriguing, and it’s only four words. Surface and Shadow isn’t lifted directly from the text, but the words are mentioned in the context that the title is meant to convey. I’ve been pleased to see from some of the Amazon reviews that readers picked up on that context.

As people learned about your book, what unexpected things happened along the way?

Largely through Facebook, I received nice notes from people I hadn’t talked to in decades. It was a real blessing because now I’ve reconnected with some of those people.

Tell an anecdote about an interaction between you and one of your more articulate fans.

The most surprising question I’ve gotten at a reading or book signing for Surface and Shadow came from a woman who’s originally from Argentina. She wanted to know why the character Stella talks the way she does. I explained that Stella speaks in a dialect common among some black people in the southern United States at the time. The woman understood, but the question made me realize that I can’t assume readers come to my novels with the same knowledge and experiences.

How would you like to be similar to your protagonist(s)?

My favorite characters in stories I read or write are strong women who, despite adversaries or obstacles, are able to make a difference in their lives or the life of someone else. When readers ask if Lydia in Surface and Shadow is based on me, I tell them I’m not sure I could ever be that brave. When I create a character, I can make her as brave or strong or compassionate as I want to. In real life, developing those characteristics is harder.

If you didn’t write, what would you do with that time? Do you feel compelled to write or choose to?

I often ask myself that question, especially when I get frustrated with the writing process. Having given the subject so much consideration, I can tell you that at this point in my life I would volunteer with a children’s literacy organization. But it never happens because I can’t stay away from the keyboard for very long.

How would you like your books to change the world?

I think a novel has succeeded if it makes readers think about the world in ways they haven’t before. If my novels can encourage readers to see people they know and situations they experience in a more open-minded way, then I’ll be happy. I hope readers of Surface and Shadow will think more carefully about the roles society often forces on people because of their gender, race, occupation, or economic status. I want readers not to be afraid to question the status quo. Surface and Shadow takes place more than 40 years ago, but often it’s easier to talk about harmful attitudes if we view them from a safe distance. I always thought that was the case of To Kill a Mockingbird. The novel was released in 1960, but the events take place in the early 1930s.






Novelist Lisa Brunette gives fun facts about her writing world in the following interview

Meet Lisa Brunette, a novelist, game writer, and journalist. Her non-fiction has appeared in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Seattle Woman,, and many others. She’s the awa2-landscaperd-winning author of the Dreamslippers mystery series and other works and has hundreds of story design credits in digital games. She blogs weekly at

  • Where do your characters come from?

One of my protagonists in the Dreamslippers Series was inspired in part by my late mother-in-law, who died five years ago. She was a trailblazing woman who developed programs to help women transition into independence, and she followed a self-directed spiritual path. She had legally changed her name to A. Grace, using the A only because officials told her she couldn’t go by just ‘Grace,’ like Cher. When asked, she’d tell people the A stood for ‘Amazing.’ I had less than a year of knowing her before she died, and I think I created a character in her likeness as a way to sort of keep her with me. But the character isn’t her, of course; they are very different. I like to think they would’ve been friends.

  • Who is your favorite character from your book(s)?

Grace is everyone’s favorite, mine included. It’s hard to compete with a 77-year-old yogi who’s mastered a psychic gift for slipping into others’ dreams and uses it to solve crimes. She’s fashionably flamboyant, drives a convertible in rainy Seattle, takes new lovers at whim, and in her own dreams, has visions of the Buddha.

  • How do you come up with book titles?

Titling the book is one of the last pieces of the puzzle for me. I believe it’s best to wait till all the revising is done, when the book is in solid shape. In the game-writing work that I do, I’ve titled hundreds of games, coming up with series titles as well as each game title in the series. Though I know it’s common especially in the mystery genre to use familiar phrases as titles, I prefer titles that are unique, that haven’t been used before, and that aren’t sayings or cliches, unless it’s playing on those.

Choosing a title is a real art, and especially now that we’re in the Age of the Algorithm, it’s tough to anticipate what can happen in a live onlinbound-to-the-truth-thumbe environment. For example, we had some confusion when we released my first book, Cat in the Flock, as Amazon’s bots assumed the book fit into a category known as ‘pet noir.’ But ‘Cat’ came from the protagonist’s nickname, Cat, short for Cathedral.

  • As people learned about your books, what unexpected things happened along the way?

When I gave a reading in DC last year, I got a huge surprise when a limo picked me up for the event. It turned out my old friend Brewster, who’d sponsored the event and counted amongst his eclectic car collection a 90s-era limousine. It had actually been used by the Bill Clinton White House, and since Brewster and I had met when we were both political interns in DC in the 90s, it was hugely appropriate. I was really touched, as he had his driver wear a cap and the whole bit.

  • What have people most liked or found most meaningful/funny/creative/ challenging about your books?

The word most often used to describe my characters is ‘quirky.’ I love a good oddball in real life and in fiction, and writing about them is incredibly fun. Readers often comment on how much they love my strong, lively characters. But the books are frequently described as page-turners in terms of the plots as well.

  • What does your writing space look like? Do you have a crazy mess of a desk full of notes and post its? Or is it a quaint chair at a coffee shop?writing-wall

I write at a desk that I can lever upward for a standing desk at times. The wall behind me is painted in whiteboard paint so that I can outline, draft, and make notes in marker directly on the wall.

  • What genres do you work in?

My novels are romantic suspense. There’s always some romantic element, but that’s secondary to the suspense, the mystery.

  • Where would your dream book signing occur?

That’s an easy one. I’d love to do a St. Louis book tour, with especially signings at Left Bank Books in the Central West End and at St. Louis University, my alma mater. St. Louis is primarily where the first book in the Dreamslippers Series is set, it’s where I spent my formative years, and it’s where my family still lives. I know most writers would say ‘Paris,’ or someplace equally dreamy, but there you have it!

  • As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?

I learned that I can write pretty quickly, finishing a novel draft in two months, and that I get so immersed in the project at these times that I can keep working to the point where all that sitting at a computer takes its toll on my body.

  • If you didn’t write, what would you do with that time? Do you feel compelled to write or choose to?

“That time” makes me laugh, as there is never enough time. I’ve never been in a position of needing to “fill time” and can’t imagine what that would feel like. But during the hardest periods for me as a writer, I’ve wished the compulsion to write weren’t such a part of me. I sometimes think I’d have been happier—and healthier—as a yoga teacher. But instead, it seems my calling is to write about yogis!

Follow Lisa at the following links:                                                                                    



Author Photo: Regan House Photo

Writing Wall: Lisa Brunette


In this interview, Karen Hulene Bartell highlights the features of her new novel, Sacred Gift, Volume II of the Sacred Journey Series

NEWSacredGift_Front_4-8-15[4] copyWhat kind of recurring themes tie your first and second book of the series together?

The supernatural is a recurring theme. Angela, the uncanny baby of Sacred Choices comes of age in Sacred Gift. Kissed by the divine and grazed by the ungodly, Angela’s proof there’s “more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of” when she opens herself to communication with the afterlife. She uses her sacred gift to resolve the deep-rooted pain of those around her and spur them to recognize their potential.

The divine ties together Sacred Choices and Sacred Gift. The main characters are each on a sacred journey, and the divine subtly intervenes to guide them along their paths.

In Sacred Gift, many of the characters complete the journeys they began in Sacred Choices. Now grown, Angela Maria becomes the catalyst, the mediator. Because of her, Judith tears off her defensive ‘Band-Aid’ of busyness to forgive herself, come to terms with her aborted child, and reconcile with the child’s father. The timely topics of abortion and adoption infuse Sacred Gift.

Ceren comes ‘full circle’ with her past, ties in with Develyn’s future, and releases Esteban’s earthbound spirit. Sister Pastora recognizes her concealed gift and its potential. Jarek meets his daughter and his ‘karma.’

What do you think your readers will like or respond to the most about this story?

The sequel to Sacred Choices, Sacred Gift blends the Tex-Mex nationalities. It crosses the generations and includes multiple ethnic and cultural groups. In Sacred Gift, north meets south, and the ‘twain’ do meet. Many of the characters of the first book complete their stories in Sacred Gift, yet new characters steep the sequel with unique trials, novel missions, and fresh approaches to life’s challenges.

Though the main characters range in age from eighteen to ninety-two, from early reviews, twenty-something Develyn seems to resonate with readers. A botched-abortion survivor, whose mother died trying to abort her, she hears God’s call and slowly transitions from Goth girl to Religious.

What would a story be without romance, both for the young and young-at-heart? Astronomy-student Kio introduces Angela to moonlit river cruises, horse-drawn carriage rides, and puppy love. After eighteen years of marriage, Ceren and Justin rekindle their passion with a paranormal nudge.

Most of all, I believe readers will respond to the astro-archaeological secrets at Missions Concepción and Espada in San Antonio. Apparently, the Franciscan friars knew quite a bit about sacred geometry in the seventeen hundreds. You might say their knowledge is ‘illuminating.’

How do you incorporate the central TX area into your story? What will be familiar to people from the area?

San Antonio and the Texas Hill Country make up ninety percent of Sacred Gift’s setting. Primarily Angela travels San Antonio’s Riverwalk and Mission Trail, where she encounters the eerie apparitions and wraiths. Readers will recognize local restaurants and other venues, but Hill Country areas, such as the Devil’s Backbone, Purgatory Road, Wimberley, San Marcos, New Braunfels, and Austin should also be familiar ‘haunts’ to readers in central Texas.

Roughly ten percent of Sacred Gift’s action occurs in Mexico at Mexico City’s Our Lady of Guadalupe Basilica, Puebla, and the pyramids of Cholula and Teotihuacan. I dovetail Mexican locations into the central Texan story using flashbacks and recollections.

Were there any particular challenges writing this novel? And if so, how did you overcome them?

Over forty years ago, I terminated my only pregnancy in abortion. That still weighs on my mind. Writing Sacred Gift, the sequel to Sacred Choices has not only been personally cathartic, it’s been the key to helping others who’ve traveled similar paths. Everyone has a different story, rationale, and history, but there are so many walking wounded. It’s my privilege to address these women who’ve been scarred by abortion or adoption and offer help.

How did I overcome my challenges in writing this novel? I presented both sides of the pro-life/pro-choice decision – and let each reader make their own choice. Sacred Gift explores the series of decisions that ultimately leads to that choice.

How do I continue to overcome these challenges? I make myself available to speak to women’s groups. After I give a presentation, it’s rare that one or two women don’t approach me to share their stories. I want these women to know there are ways to release their pent-up grief and move on. I want to encourage them to open their ‘gift.’ Everyone’s gifted, but some never open their package.



Karen Hulene Bartell is available for speaking engagements and can be contacted via email: Check online:

Sacred Gift is available at Amazon ( and Pen-L Publishing (, as well as all major bookstore.


Interview with guest author Andrea Cumbo-Floyd

AndiAndrea Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and writing teacher who has written The Slaves Have Names: Ancestors of my Home about the people who were enslaved on the plantation where she was raised and about her journey to get to know them. She and her husband live and thrive at God’s Whisper Farm at the edge of Virginia’s Blue Ridge. You can read more of her work at her website—

·      Who are your literary influences or inspiration? 

I could go on and on here, but I’ll just list a few—Marilynne Robinson, Kathleen Norris, Tracy Kidder, Octavia Butler, A.S. Byatt, JoAnn Beard, and so many more.

·      What have people most liked or found most meaningful/funny/creative/ challenging about your book?

In The Slaves Have Names, readers have taken hope, I think, in finding the stories of enslaved people because those stories are so rare.  We have a few slave narratives, which everyone who REALLY wants to know about the experience and history of slavery should read, but we really don’t have much beyond that. So several readers have told me they appreciated hearing what I could find about the people enslaved at the plantation where I was raised and also my attempts to imagine their lives when the facts gave out.

·      Why do you write?

It’s something that many writers have said, of course, but I write to know what I think, to understand why I feel the way I do, to clarify my own experiences.  I also write because I don’t know how not to.
·      As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?
Oh goodness, I’ve learned lots of things.  I realize I was impatient with getting The Slaves Have Names out. I could have taken more time to edit, to get the cover just right (although I love the cover my husband designed), to get the marketing plan in place a bit more.  But I’m usually one to act fast and then deal with the consequences—good or—so this is no different.
I’ve also learned that despite the fact that I KNOW that my book cannot appeal to all people, I am still quite disheartened by bad reviews.  So I”m learning to not read those unless I’m in a good head and heart space.  the slaves have names
·      Where do your characters come from? Since I write largely about the history and legacy of slavery, my characters often are historical people whom I am trying to uncover.  Or in the case of the YA novel I’m editing now, most of the characters are loosely based on people I know or have researched. But for one—Moses—he walked into my imagination a fully-formed person; still, though, he is much like I imagine my 3x great-grandfather James Henry Cumbo being.
·      What does your writing space look like?… like do you have a crazy mess of a desk full of notes and post its? Or is it a quaint chair at a coffee shop? 
I have just moved into my new office, which was the summer kitchen here at our 210-year-old Virginia farm.  I sit where the cookstove was, and my desk is placed where I imagine the enslaved woman who cooked in this kitchen stood.  I have three windows and the original door still hands directly across from my chair.  It’s made up of five vertical boards and three wide boards to hold it together.  The original latch is still there.  It’s a peaceful, rich space, and I treasure it and all the stories it carries in itself.
·      What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?

For me, getting to the page is the hardest.  I will exude a tremendous amount of energy to avoid getting started. I haven’t quite figured out why that is yet, but I find that when I actually start, the writing is not that hard.  Editing is hard but drafting comes pretty easy for me . . . if I can just get myself to start.
·      What writing mistakes do you find yourself making most often?

Well, I keep forgetting that starting is hard, so there’s that.  I also tend to rush the editing, and that’s never good.  I’m trying to rectify those habits of mine.  In terms of mistakes in the writing, I still can’t get “its” and “it’s” right as I draft, and the right uses of “lie,” “lay,” “laid,” etc still baffle me.  That’s why I hire an editor. 🙂 
·      How would you like your books to change the world?
What a great question!  I would like for my books to help people see that they can look at the history and legacy of slavery with open eyes and open hearts and find healing and magic there.  We are so afraid of this history, so ashamed, too.  But until we will see it, we cannot heal from it.  So I hope my books help people see.
·      Where would your dream book signing occur?

I want to say that I’d love to sign books at Powell’s or the Strand bookstores, and of course, I would be so honored. But what comes to mind now is a dock overlooking some body of water—maybe a lake here in Virginia—with people sipping something delightful, eating locally-grown and rich snacks, and enjoying an evening together while I signed.  

Interview with guest author Janet K. Brown

janet (3)Thanks to Janet Brown for being my guest. Following is an interview I recently had with Janet.

How do you come up with book titles?

With Victoria and the Ghost, I named it for my granddaughter. It was never changed. With my devotion book, Divine Dining, my publisher changed it. I had titled it My Way or God’s Way. He thought it was too long & needed to be catchier.

With the new book, Worth Her Weight, I started with two other working titles. The first one was Higher Power. The second was Liberty for Lacey. My critique group suggested using a title with something about self worth. With their approval, I came up with Worth Her Weight since it involved a food addiction with my heroine overweight to begin with. Pen-L Publishing did not change that one.

As people learned about your book, what unexpected things happened along the way?

Most readers, so far, identify with Lacey’s food addiction. Since I’ve lived with the problem all my adult life, I was surprised to find a couple who said, “That’s not realistic. No one can eat that much food.” Boy, do I have news for them!

Why do you write?

Because I must. That’s the simplest, most straightforward answer. If you can give up writing, you weren’t meant to write. I can’t give it up.

Why do I write what I do? I consider my writing as a ministry. I type while God dictates.

As a result of publishing your book, what have you learned about yourself and/or the writing process?

Many years ago, I published my first short stories. Publishing a book, now three books, is like a dream come true. If I never do anything else with my writing, I feel so blessed to have lived my dream.

Since publishing, I have learned that the process is much harder and takes more patience than I ever thought possible.

At what moment did you decide you were a writer?

In ninth grade, my English teacher gave me a rough time. My essays and book reports had more red marks than a child with measles. Near the end of the year, I asked her why she picked on me more than anyone.

She said, “Because, Janet, I see promise in you that I don’t see in others. I want you to work harder.”

I was hooked.

What does your writing space look like? 

I converted our formal living room into my study. We put French doors on it to close it off because it stays messy. I have my old piano and my mother’s love seat in the room. I have a curio cabinet, a book shelf loaded with books, and two file cabinets. One desk holds papers and my printer. The computer desk has the monitor and lots of papers. Above my desk is a picture of Texas bluebonnets, and the other side has a plaque that reads, “Lo, I am with you alway. —Jesus.”

How do you start a novel/story?

  1. I have an idea.
  2. I start writing until I’ve finished a rough draft of about 3 chapters.
  3. Then, I draw an amoeba-shaped picture to plan the big things that I want to happen including the ending. (As far as I know at that point.) This website shows you what I mean by an amoeba-shaped picture and how it evolves:
  4. I interview thoroughly my main characters and do a brief interview of secondary characters.
  5. Then, I go back to writing. I write without editing the whole rough draft until I add “The End.”
  6. Then, it’s reread and edit about 4-5 times over.

What feeds your process? Can you listen to music and write or not… can you write late at night or are you a morning person… when the spark happens, do you run for the pen or the screen or do you just hope it is still there tomorrow?

I write best in the morning when everything is quiet. I have been known to jot down notes, or even dreams, when I come across things to include in a story.

Where do your ideas come from for stories/books

Everywhere- from what happens to me, from what happens to others, to what I read in the paper or see on TV. A story is around every corner.

How much time do you spend writing each day?

It varies. When I’m in heavy promotion time, I do well to get in an hour a day. When a book is coming together and that spark you were talking about is alive, I might write four-five hours a day. I do try to write something every day to keep my head in the story.

Here is Janet’s bio and her book information:

Janet K. Brown lives in Wichita Falls, Texas with her husband, Charles. Writing became her second career after retirement from medical coding.

Worth Her Weight will be the author’s debut inspirational women’s fiction, but it makes a perfect companion to her recently released Divine Dining: 365 Devotions to Guide You to Healthier Weight and Abundant Wellness. Both books encompass her passion for diet, fitness, and God’s Word.

Worth Her Weight marks Brown’s third book. Who knew she had a penchant for teens and ghosts? She released her debut novel, an inspirational young adult, Victoria and the Ghost, in July, 2012.

Janet and her husband love to travel with their RV, visit their three daughters, two sons-in-law and three perfect grandchildren, and work in their church. Find her at http:/ /, on Twitter at, on Facebook!/pages/Janet-K-Brown-Author/143915285641707, and by e-mail:

WHW_cover_11-26-14 (2)[1] copy

How can a woman who gives to everyone but herself accept God’s love and healing when she believes she’s fat, unworthy, and unfixable? Can she be Worth Her Weight?

LACEY CHANDLER helps her mother, her sister, her friend, and then she binges on food and wonders is there really a God?

BETTY CHANDLER hates being handicapped and useless, so she lashes out at the daughter that helps, and the God who doesn’t seem to care.

TOBY WHEELER loves being police chief in Wharton Rock, but when the devil invades the small town, he can’t release control.

Book Trailer:

This inspirational women’s fiction is available now at

And on Amazon:

Barnes & Nobel


I’m delighted to introduce author Karen Hulene Bartell, PhD:

Please introduce yourself and tell us something about your books.

My name is Karen Hulene Bartell. I’m the author of Sacred Choices, Belize Navidad, Sacred Gift, Karen1[2]Sovereignty of the Dragons, and Untimely Partners, as well as a motivational keynote speaker, IT technical editor, wife, professor emeritus of Soochow University, Taipei, Taiwan, and the University of Texas at Austin, and all-around pilgrim of life.

I write the kind of books I want to read: spooky, but not gory; romantic, but not graphic.

What genres do you write in?

That’s a quirky question for me. I’ve tried writing in numerous genres. My bread-and-butter job is an IT technical writer, so I’ve written every kind of whitepaper, manual, and press release there is. I started out writing cookbooks, but, when I lectured at the universities, I wrote college textbooks. I’ve written children’s books and time-travel books, but finally I’ve found my ‘voice.’

My favorite genre is multicultural, offbeat love stories steeped in the supernatural that lift the spirit.

How did you come to write your first book and how long ago was it?

My first cookbook was The Best of Polish Cooking. I wrote it thirty years ago, and, according to my publisher and Publisher’s Weekly, it’s still a ‘best seller.’ I wrote it for three reasons. I knew I wanted to be an author. Someone had advised me that cookbooks were an easy way to break into the market – at that time, before recipes on the web took over. I loved cooking (then), and enjoyed experimenting with ethnic dishes. Plus, I had a Polish boyfriend at the time, who I wanted to impress 😉

When you sit down to write a new story, do you know what the ending will be before you start or does it evolve as you write?

I’ve never yet known what the ending will be. I start out with a vague idea of the plot. Then, as the characters develop, the story evolves. Many times, characters write their own scenes. They just ‘happen.’ Once, a character’s wife came to me me in a dream, advising what to write.

Are you a self-published author?

No, my publisher is Pen-L Publishing, but how they became my publisher is a funny story. After trying to get Sacred Spaces published for several months, I decided to self-publish it. I uploaded it to the web on Sunday afternoon. On Tuesday morning, it occurred to me that I’d sent the manuscript to a publisher several weeks before. Thinking it was the polite thing, I emailed them saying not to bother reading it, that it was published. After many back-and-forth emails, later that same day, they suggested that I divide into two books, Sacred Choices and Sacred Gift, and they offered me a five-year contract for as many books as I could write. (Follow-up note: Sacred Gift, the sequel to Sacred Choices, is being released in April.)

Which is the hardest part about being an author – the writing, the editing or the marketing?

The hardest part of writing is the marketing. IMHO, 95% of ‘writing’ is marketing. I write because I’m called. I love it. It simply flows. Editing’s second nature to me, but marketing is something I’ve had to develop. Scratch that. It’s something I’m learning as I go.

If you could vacation anywhere in the world, where would you choose and why?

If I could vacation anywhere, I’d go to Spain. It’s ironic that you ask! For our upcoming twenty-fourth anniversary, my husband surprised me with a trip to Spain next month. (Inside information: Spain will be the setting for my next novel. Working title: Christmas in Barcelona.)

Do you have your own website?

I do:

Web site:



Amazon Reviews:

Amazon Author’s Page:

Sacred Choices on Goodreads:

Goodreads Author Page:

My Goodreads Blog:

Are you working on a new book at the moment?

I’m putting the finishing touches on Sacred Gift, the sequel to Sacred Choices.

Everyone’s gifted, but some people never open their package.


Angela Maria Brannon, the adopted baby from Sacred Choices has come of age. Because of her Sacred Choicesconnection with the Aztec goddess Tonantzin and Our Lady of Guadalupe, she has a special gift. Able to communicate with the afterlife, she helps souls both in this world and the next to forgive and progress.

Because of Angela, her birth-mother Ceren comes full circle with her past, tying in with Develyn’s future. Develyn, the survivor of a botched abortion, hears God’s call, slowly transitioning from Goth Girl to postulant. Esteban’s earthbound spirit is liberated, allowing him to move on. Judith tears off her defensive ‘Band-Aid’ of busyness to forgive herself, come to terms with her aborted child, and reconcile with the child’s father. Pastora recognizes her concealed gift and its potential.

Located in the Texas Hill Country, along San Antonio’s River Walk and Mission Trail, Sacred Gift features eerie encounters with spectres, analemmas, and solar illuminations with both religious and astronomical significance. Kissed by the divine and grazed by the ungodly, Sacred Gift proves there’s “more in heaven and earth than is dreamt of….”


Guest Post by Blanche Day Manos: Mystery, Murder, Mayhem

Mystery, Murder, Mayhem

Why would a mild-manner retired kindergarten teacher turn to murder and mayhem in her golden years? Maybe it’s because being an author has been a lifelong dream. But why, you may ask, would her chosen genre be such a violent one? Actually, in a cozy, most of the violence happens off stage, so to speak but there’s a more important reason: I love reading and writing cozy mysteries.

A writer has to be, first of all, a reader. It all began with Nancy Drew, many years ago. From The Secret of the Old Clock, I was hooked on mysteries. Then, of course came the popular television series, Murder, She Wrote. I just had to try my hand at writing a Jessica Fletcher type book.

A friend, Barbara Burgess and I came up with the idea of a mother and daughter sleuth team. Barbara and I both had supportive moms who were inspirations for our writing. We both had Cherokee ancestry. We were brought up in rural areas and writers are supposed to write about what they know, right? Throw in some legends, two women with a healthy dose of curiosity and a penchant for mystery, place them in a hundred-year old farmhouse in a small Oklahoma town. Stir in a romantic interest or two and that’s a recipe for our cozy mysteries. We named the younger sleuth Darcy and her mom, Flora. We named the town Levi.

We got to know Darcy and Flora. We liked sitting down and having coffee with them around the old wood dining table. We admired their courage and determination and empathized with their human failings. So, we couldn’t just leave them in Levi after The Cemetery Club’s rousing finish. That’s how the second book, Grave Shift came about.

After the first two books, we had some questions we wanted Darcy and Flora to answer, questions about their own family and happenings in the long ago past. Best Left Buried was the ultimate and natural result.

Every writer knows that writing is a way of life, a flame within that will not be quenched, a dream that keeps growing. So, after Darcy and Flora, I launched out into a new series with a new protagonist set in another small Oklahoma town. Moonlight Can Be Murder grew out of a lot of “What Ifs.” What if a slightly past middle aged woman came back to her hometown after forty years absence, found her uncle dying, inherited a Victorian house and stirred up an old hornet’s nest? Well, you can see that this premise could not be ignored.

With a mystery writer, there’s always another possibility just around the corner, a long ago legend, a mysterious disappearance, or a question without an answer. This retired kindergarten teacher doesn’t plan to rock gently into her sunset years. I plan to liven up life a bit and what better way than jumping headfirst into a mystery?

Blanche Day Manos is a retired kindergarten teacher who makes her home in Northwest Arkansas after being an almost-lifelong Oklahoman. When she isn’t busy cooking up the next round of murder and mayhem, she enjoys her grandchildren, painting, playing the piano, and, of course, that most relaxing pastime, reading.

The Darcy and Flora cozy mysteries are available at,, Barnes and Her blog site is and she invites you to drop in for a visit.