Friday, December 30, 2011


Hunkered down in my writer’s pink cave, I have the privilege of torturing characters before giving them a happy-ever-after ending. Except for villains, of course, who never win because this is (drum roll) fiction. Authors also have the ability to hurl characters through time with the touch of a keyboard. My life is great, right? (Except that tonight, Blogger won't let me add images to this post. Grrr! I'll persevere until I can figure out why Blogger has gone maverick.)

Let me tell you about one set of characters I still love, even though OUT OF THE BLUE was released in 2010 from The Wild Rose Press.

Radford, Texas Police Detective Brendan Hunter is recovering from near fatal wounds received in the shooting that killed his best friend and partner. Brendan is called Mr. Squeaky Clean by his detractors because he never wavers from right. Yes, he’s a man who sees everything as right or wrong, with no maybe. But every man has a weak spot, and Brendan’s is his widowed mother, Blossom.

Blossom was only a teen when she showed up at a California commune cooperative farm. Trey Hunter joined more to thwart his wealthy, overbearing parents than because he believed in the concepts practiced on the farm. Brendan was ten when his dad was killed. In OUT OF THE BLUE, Blossom is a responsible health food store owner, but she still has the live-and-let-live outlook that led her to the cooperative farm all those years ago. While Brendan leans toward cynicism, Blossom is bubbly and optimistic.

I have to mention here that Hero and I love history, and we love visiting Ireland. Add to that a few members of our family who have "the sight," and you discover why I came up with Deirdre Dougherty, a clairvoyant Irish woman from 1845 who is accused of cursing the potato crop in her remote village. To escape a mob incited by her nemesis, Deirdre leaps from a cliff and plunges toward the Atlantic. By chance (and the fact that as her creator I can manipulate her fate), she plops down in 2010 Lake Possum Kingdom, Texas.

What would upset a by-the-book control freak more than someone who doesn’t fit the mold? What would confuse a psychic woman more than being thrust out of her element? Through it all, Blossom goes with the flow...and her beau, the local doctor.

Here’s an excerpt after Deirdre has started helping in Blossom’s store:

Blossom gave Deirdre the mail. "Do you mind, dear? I hate going out in this sticky heat. It frizzes my perm, but it seems to have no effect on your gorgeous hair."

"I’ll post these and be back in a minute to straighten the front display of that new organic salsa from Austin." Deirdre carried the letters outside and dropped them into the box on the corner across the parking lot. She turned to start back.

A huge black car apparently had been parked at the back of the lot by the Dumpster and pulled alongside her. She saw the dented fender before the door opened. Then she realized the two scary guys from the bar were inside, partially obscured from view by the tinted windows. The blond stepped out and reached for her.

She understood his intent so she screamed for help and ran away from him.

People came to the store window.

Polly rushed to the door. "Blossom’s calling the police. Hold on, Deirdre, we’re coming."

But no one rushed to her aid. What could a few ladies do against these two frightening men? She’d have to save herself, so she screamed again.

The blond caught up with her and grabbed her arm. "No use screaming, lady. You’re coming with us." He dragged her toward the car.

She kicked him and screamed again, clawing at him with her free hand. She drew blood along his arm and scratched his face.

He jerked her and grabbed both her hands. "You’re gonna be sorry you made me mad. I have lots of ways to get even." He told her what he planned as he yanked her toward the car’s back seat.

Strong as an ox, the man held her in an iron grasp so her feet barely touched the ground. He heaved her toward the open door.

Suspended above the ground, she braced a foot against the car’s body. With her other, she kicked him between the legs, just as Ma had taught her.

He turned red and released her as he doubled over and dropped to his knees. Without him supporting her, she hit the pavement hard. Her back took the force of her fall and the air whooshed from her. She couldn’t stand but she rolled away.

The driver pointed a gun at her. "Get in or you die right here, right now."

What had Brendan said about this situation when they watched television? Never get in the car with anyone.

But how could she resist without him shooting her? She recalled the blonde’s threats. If she had to die, she’d rather it be here quickly than at the hands of these two later. She made the sign of the cross and prepared herself for death.

A horn honked and tires squealed. Brendan yelled. "Deirdre, I’m coming."

Blossom and Polly hurried toward her, each carrying a broom and wielding it as if they intended to beat on the blond man. Several associates came with them and lobbed jars of something at the car. In the heat, the jars exploded like small bombs. After one loud crack, red oozed along the spider-webbed glass windshield.

"What the hell?" The scary man in black turned back toward the steering wheel. "Damn it, Rod, with or without her, get the hell in here."

She struggled to her knees then stood, backing away.

Apparently unable to straighten, the guy she’d kicked hoisted himself back into the car. He yelled, "I’ll get you for this, bitch. When I do, you’re gonna beg me to kill you before I’m through."

The black car took off with a squeal from smoking tires, dripping red salsa and leaving glass shards in its wake. The driver had his head stuck halfway out the side window, his front windshield obviously too damaged and dirty for the wipers to clear. Aromas from the salsa’s spicy contents filled the air—cilantro, tomatoes, chili peppers.

Deirdre fell in love with those scents.

Then Brendan was there, lifting her and carrying her to his car. He cradled her in his lap with the door open.

Blossom followed them and stood beside the car. "I called the police. We couldn’t think of any weapons but brooms and one-pound jars of salsa. Pretty feeble."

Polly hovered behind Blossom. The other associates had gone back to their duties. A dozen customers and people from nearby stores stood near the building in the shade of the overhang, talking to one another or staring.

"You were brave and clever," Deirdre assured Blossom and Polly then looked up at Brendan. "But they’d have been unable to stop the men if you hadn’t come."

He smiled. "It looks like you had them on the run, Mom. Salsa was a clever touch. Didn’t help the parking lot, though."

Polly said, "Oh, those horrid men, at least they’re gone. We’ll use the brooms to get rid of the glass and hope for rain. Otherwise, maybe we can talk the fire department into hooking up a hose and spraying the lot for us."

Deirdre nestled her head near Brendan’s ear. "The scary guy with the black hair had a gun. A broom and jars of tomato salsa are not much against a bullet. He could have killed everyone."

OUT OF THE BLUE is a time travel romance with suspense and humor. Hero says this is his favorite of the books I’ve written. I hope you will read it and let me know if you enjoy Brendan and Deirdre and their supporting cast. Available in print of e-book, you can find it at, and at Amazon and other online stores.

Happy New Year to you and yours. Stay safe and keep reading!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Kokopeli petroglif
in New Mexico, like one
mentioned by Julia
Evans in the first
book of this series.
By Linda Weaver Clarke
Published by Bedside Books,
Imprint of American Book Publishing
$19.95 each in print
(Coming soon, DESERT INTRIGUE)

Hero and I have hiked through many Anasazi ruins over the years including several trips to Pueblo Chaco, Hovenweep, and Mesa Verde (when you could still enter the big ruin). We love reading and studying about the mysterious Anasazi who built the homes and who often had complicated and amazingly advanced astrological theories. After all our studying and hiking, Hero and I love reading fiction set in the area once inhabited by these peoples. We also like reading archeological and historical non fiction of “those who came before.”

Linda Weaver Clarke
Research is important for any author. Linda Weaver Clarke’s extensive research is evident throughout her three books: ANASAZI INTRIGUE, MAYAN INTRIGUE, and MONTEZUMA INTRIGUE. Linda states in the foreword that she was a fan of the 80’s series “Hart to Hart.” (Heavens, has it been that long?) I loved that series too. Linda has conjured up John and Julia Evans as a less affluent and Mormon version of the Harts. Julia is a reporter for her local newspaper, The Dixie Chronicle. The couple’s three children appear in these wholesome books, particularly the third volume. Together, John and Julia thwart criminals and travel through the West and Mexico.

Here are the blurbs for the books:

ANASAZI INTRIGUE When a devastating flood wipes out homes in a small Utah town, residents are shocked by the news of a possible poison spill that also kills many of the fish and neighbors’ pets. No one knows what to think or do until Julia, the town’s newest reporter, jumps into action and begins her investigation. Quickly Julia realizes the story is much bigger and more dangerous than she first thought. As information unfolds, Julia and her husband find themselves on the run, trying to save their lives while finishing the story of a lifetime. Will Julia and John be able to get the scoop and survive?

MAYAN INTRIGUE The discovery of a priceless artifact puts Julia’s life in great danger! From valuable artifacts to shady businessmen, the Yucatan Peninsula becomes a dangerous vacation spot for John and Julia Evans. While on assignment for the newspaper, the Evans try to enjoy a romantic vacation among the Mayan ruins. When Julia accidentally comes upon a couple of suspicious men exchanging an item, she quickly turns and leaves but it is too late. As a reporter, Julia does not easily give up and her curiosity gets her and John in a mess of trouble. Before John and Julia realize what is going on, they are both in danger and find themselves running for their lives through the jungles of the Yucatan.

MONTEZUMA INTRIGUE When a leather parchment of Montezuma’s map is found in great-grandfather Evans’ old chest, April Evans and the Evans twins know this summer is going to be a memorable one. With Julia’s help, April and the twins convince John to go on a treasure hunt. Is Montezuma’s treasure a legend or reality? Whatever the case, John insists on keeping their little treasure hunt a secret. If certain people find out about it, the family could be in danger.

If you like inspirational romantic suspense with a Morman flair, then this series is for you. The buy link is

Note: These books were furnished for review by the publisher.

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, December 26, 2011


Yes, Karen is in England here.
Her family feared they'd never
get their Anglophile home!
By Karen Wojcik Berner

Caroline, thank you for inviting me to guest blog today. I am very excited to be here.

When I was writing A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (The Bibliophiles: Book One), I knew I wanted to bring the main characters of Sarah and Annie together through a book club, but what kind?

Being an English major, the choice was obvious. What could be more fun than discussing the classics? After all, these novels have withstood the test of time and have been shared for hundreds of years.

Do you remember your first classic novel?

Mine was LITTLE WOMEN, which came from a huge box of books my mother had saved from her parents’ house. It was a hardcover, of course, with yellowing pages and a semi-cracked spine. Holding it in my ten-year-old hands, I remember thinking, “What the heck is this? It’s almost crumbling, for goodness sake.” I shrugged and dove in.

I spent the entire day immersed in the lives of Jo and her sisters. So vibrant! So entertaining! I could totally relate to them.

Wait a minute — a mid-1970s kid could identify with the Civil War-era March family?

That, my friends, is the magic of the classics. They tell fantastic tales that bridge time and still entertain us today.

Some expose societal ills and warn us against making the same mistakes. Harriet Beecher Stowe showed the evils of slavery in UNCLE TOM’S CABIN. Charles Dickens illustrated what happens when there is a vast disparity between the rich and poor through DAVID COPPERFIELD and OLIVER TWIST.

Others are shining examples of masterful writing, such as MRS. DALLOWAY. Reading Woolf reminds me how beautiful the English language can be. And no one blends a powerhouse storyline with gorgeous prose better than William Shakespeare.

Then there are the epic tales that still amaze me, stories that, although large in scope, still manage to connect to all of us on an individual basis. MOBY DICK, by Herman Melville, comes to mind here, as well as Homer’s THE ILLIAD and THE ODYSSEY.

At their core, the classics reveal universal truths of human nature, truths that do not change from decade to decade, from century to century. They are the very heart of literature.

The first novel the Bibliophiles read in A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (The Bibliophiles: Book One) is James Joyce’s A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN. Edwina Hipplewhite, the book club’s moderator, chose it because of its size, having wanted to ease the newly formed group back into the classics, not overwhelm them, which is a valid point. Some classics can take a lot of work, but they are well worth the effort.

A blurb of Karen's FROM A WHISPER TO A SCREAM:

Have you ever wanted something so badly it hurt?

Annie Jacobs has dreamed of the day she would become a mother since the first time she held her Baby Tenderlove doll. Unfortunately, biology has
not cooperated with her plan, and she finds herself dealing with a diagnosis of unexplained infertility instead of picking out baby names.

Across town, stay-at-home mom Sarah Anderson is just trying to make it through the grocery store without her toddler hurling a box of rice at a
fellow shopper. She is exhausted from managing the house, a first grader and a toddler, all without any help from her work-obsessed, absentee

When they meet through a Classics Book Club, each thinks the other one's life is so much better than her own. But is the grass truly greener on the
other side of the fence?

A WHISPER TO A SCREAM (The Bibliophiles: Book One) is available in paperback and e-versions at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Barnes and Noble:


Karen Wojcik Berner lives a provincial life tucked away with her family in the Chicago suburbs. If it was good enough for Jane Austen, right? However, dear Miss Austen had the good fortune of being born amid the glorious English countryside, something Karen unabashedly covets, so much so that she majored in English and communications in college. Like the magnificent Miss Austen, Karen could not help but write about the society that surrounds her.

The result is The Bibliophiles series of novels illustrating the lives of the members of a suburban Classics Book Club. The first, A WHISPER TO A SCREAM, centers on Sarah, a stay-at-home mother of two, and Annie, a PR executive with fertility issues, each of whom thinks the other’s life is far superior to her own. The second novel, set for a February 2012 release, is Catherine Elbert’s journey as she bounces from coast to coast in search of her true self.

To learn more about Karen, please visit her website,

And here's Karen's question for readers:

Which work of classic literature would you like to read again or take a stab at for the first time?


Santa is relaxing after his big day.

Mrs. Claus and the elves are busy cleaning up the mess under the tree.

Please return Wednesday for a visit with Karen Wojcik Berner.

Friday, December 23, 2011


                          One Good Turn

Wind pushed against the cabin door as a blizzard raged around the small structure. Battling terror, Abby laid another log on the fire and hoped she had wood enough to last through this storm.

Dear Lord, help us, I don’t know what we’ll do next.

“Aunt Abby?” She turned at the tug on her skirt. Her niece said, “I’m hungry.”

“Let me get you a bowl of soup, angel.” She brushed four-year-old Susie’s blond hair from her forehead. The child’s hair was like that of her mother’s and Abby’s, but Susie’s small body had lost weight this past month.

“Ma and Pa ain’t ever coming back, are they?” Ten-year-old Jimmy’s brown eyes accused her, as if she were privileged to secrets about his parents’ disappearance. His eyes were like his father’s rather than the deep blue of his mother’s family.

She touched his shoulder, knowing he thought himself too old for a hug. “We don’t know that, dear. Not for sure.” But she did. Parents didn’t leave for a week and stay away over a month, especially with Christmas only a couple of days away. Her brother-in-law, Norman, was lower than a snake in her opinion. But her older sister, Laura, would never willingly abandon her children—or her.

Jimmy crossed his arms. “Soon as this storm’s over, I’m setting out for town. Someone there will know what’s happened to them.”

“No, Jimmy, whatever we do, we stay together. No one in town will know any more than we do. If your parents were in Pleasant Springs, they would have come home before the storm hit. Once the weather clears and it’s safe to travel, we’ll all set out together.”

She ladled thin soup into bowls and set them on the scarred table. “Supper will warm your insides.”

Neither child complained about the poor fare. Jimmy was old enough to see their stores had all but disappeared. She knew he worried almost as much as she did. Abby pulled Susie onto the bench beside her.

They’d spooned up the last of their meal when a loud thump jarred the door. Susie yelped, and Jimmy rose and reached for his dad’s rifle. Though just a boy, he tried to be the man of the house. Abby’s heart pounded and her blood raced.

“Get behind me, children.” She slid off the bench. “Jimmy, don’t point the gun at the door in case it’s a friend. Wait until we see who’s there.”

“Might be a bear.” Jimmy said.

Abby strode to the door. “Far as I know bears, don’t knock.” Two-legged coyotes sometimes did, though.

Standing at the door, she called, “Who’s there?”

“Help,” a faint voice called and a lighter thump greeted her, sounding as if it were at the base of the door. Maybe a gunman kicked against the thick wooden barrier. “Help,” someone called again. Bracing herself, she raised the bar and opened the door a crack. A gloved hand flopped into the opening and slapped the cabin floor.

Abby yelped and threw the door open wide. She jumped into the snow that whirled in through the door. “Jimmy, put down that rifle and help me. This man is near frozen.”

With her nephew’s help, she tugged the man into the room. His lips were blue. He mumbled something, but she couldn’t make it out. She leaned near.

“Horses.” His word was barely a whisper.

“I’ll take care of your horses soon as we get you by the fire.” She was no fragile doll, but this man was big. “Help me, Jimmy. Let’s get him closer to the hearth.”

Susie squatted beside the visitor and peered at him. “He gots ice on him.”

“I know that, dear. While your brother helps me, why don’t you get me a couple of quilts?” Abby called, “The older ones” as Susie scampered away.

As soon as Abby had tugged the man well into the room and Jimmy barred the door, Abby set about shucking the visitor out of his coat, hat, and gloves. His long duster over a sheepskin coat had kept him from freezing, but she doubted he’d enjoyed his ride through the blizzard. She gasped as she removed his coat.


“Look at that, Abby. He’s bleeding.” Jimmy pointed at the hole in the man’s shirt.

The bullet penetrated a couple of inches above and to the right of his heart. She wondered if it had missed his lungs. She leaned down and listened. He didn’t gurgle, so maybe it had.

“If the weather weren’t so cold, likely he would have bled to death.” She wondered if anyone was trailing the man. Was he a villain or a victim? For now it didn’t matter. She’d let no man die if she could help it. But with two children in her care and miles from any help, she’d be on her guard.

His Colt was stuck into his waistband, and she removed the revolver. Rising, she gave the gun to Jimmy. “Hide this in the cupboard where Susie won’t find it, then bring me some towels.”

She pulled the man’s boots from his feet and set the boots beside the fire to dry as Susie returned with two quilts. When the girl started to spread a quilt over the man, Abby held up a hand. “Not yet. I have to remove his wet clothes.”

Susie’s eyes widened. “You’re gonna see him nekked?”

Resigned to doing what she must, she shrugged. “Not if I can help it.” She felt his feet, and his socks were dry but cold as the ice that had clung to his coat.

“Here’re the towels.” Jimmy handed her three of the thin towels they used for drying off after bathing. “Susie, I’ll help Aunt Abby. You get back in case he wakes up.”

“I wanna see him nekked.”

Abby sent her niece a scolding glare. “Susie, no one is seeing anyone naked. Go up to bed. Either Jimmy or I will come tuck you in when we get this man taken care of.”

“Everybody’s always tellin’ me what to do.” Pouting, Susie clambered up the ladder to the loft.

Watching to make sure Susie didn’t fall, Abby was startled when the man grabbed her wrist.

“Horses.” His whisper was gravelly, as if he could barely speak.

She pulled from his grasp. “I’ll take care of your horses, mister, but we have to get you warmed up first.”

“No.” His pale blue eyes opened and bore into hers. “Now.” He made a futile attempt to sit up.

“I’ll do it, Aunt Abby. We still got a bit of feed left in the barn.” Jimmy pulled on his dad’s old coat. Tonight the fact the garment was several sizes too large would help.

“Wear your cap and pull it down over your ears. Be careful with the lantern.”

The man slumped back and appeared to pass out. Abby stripped him down to his union suit. He was a big man all over, she noted, blushing at her errant thoughts. She folded one of the quilts in half as a pallet and rolled him to get it under him, then tucked the other one over him to keep him warm.

By the time she’d finished and laid his clothes over furniture to dry, Jimmy stomped back in. “Mighty fine horses, two of ‘em. I left the saddles in the barn, but figured he’d want his rifle and saddlebags in here. Also had him a bedroll we might need.”

“Good thinking.” She shook out the bedroll and spread it oiled side up over the quilt. “I think he’s out for the night.” She glanced at a bundle Jimmy held under his arm. “What’s that?”

He grinned broadly. “Food! Aunt Abby, he had bacon, and real coffee, beans, flour, and meal. And canned milk and peaches.”

“Thank heavens!” She laid a hand at her throat. They were saved. Temporarily, at least, they wouldn’t starve. Her mouth watered at the thought of good food after weeks of almost nothing.

“We can eat a real meal tomorrow.” His eyes widened. “Sorry, Aunt Abby. I know you’ve made meals out of thin air.”

“You’re right, Jimmy. We haven’t had anything decent in quite a while. I’d tell you to help yourself now, but I think we should at least ask his permission.”

“Reckon he’s a robber?”

She shrugged. “How could we tell? Can you help me see if there’s any lead still in that hole?”

“Sure. Want I should get Pa’s whiskey?”

“Yes.” She grimaced. It was a wonder any remained in the bottle, the way Norman liked it. She gathered bandages, her box of medicinal supplies and anything she could think of she might need.

The man groaned when she used her knitting needle to probe for a bullet. She slid the needle under the lead and popped it out of the wound. “Hold his shoulders for me.”

When she poured whiskey on the opening, the man cried out and sent Jimmy tumbling backwards.

Abby glanced at her nephew. “You okay?”

“Caught me by surprise is all.” Jimmy blushed and stood.

A poultice of flour and gunpowder staunched the blood, then Abby bound the man with bandages.

She leaned back on her heels. “Go on up to bed and make sure your sister is covered. Reckon I better sit in the rocker in case he wakes up.”

“You want I should sit for a while first?”

Indecision struck her and she paused, chewing on her lower lip. “For a bit. I need to clean up this mess and get myself ready for bed.”

She picked up the things she’d used to treat the man’s injury and tidied the room. She cleaned the needle and stuck it back into the yarn beside the rocker. She readied for bed, but decided—with no telling who their visitor was—to sleep in her clothes. After brushing her hair, she plaited it for the night. When she’d gathered a quilt and pillow, she stepped into the main area from the curtained off section that served as her bedroom. She added another log to the fire and settled into Mama’s rocking chair, the only furniture Laura had brought from their home.

“Thank you, Jimmy. Check on your sister and go on to sleep so you can keep watch tomorrow.”

Her nephew climbed to the loft and she heard him moving quietly overhead.

She stared at the saddlebags and chewed on her lower lip. Didn’t she have a duty to her charges to make sure they weren’t harboring a criminal? She pulled the bags near and opened one side and peeked in. Two shirts, a union suit, a pair of trousers, socks. She shook out a pair of the socks and laid them aside. He needed those on his feet. The other side offered a packet of letters, two books, ammunition, and odds and ends. She looked at the name on the top letter. Zach Kincannon. Was that his name?

His coat pockets yielded a handkerchief, jerky, and a small book. She checked his shirt and pants and came up with a few more odds and ends—and a tin star with a dent in it. A Texas Ranger’s star. Looking at the dent and visualizing where he’d wear it, she figured it had saved his life. With a sigh she replaced everything except one pair of the socks. She knelt and slid them onto his feet, which were still icy cold. After tucking the cover more securely around him, she returned to the rocking chair.

Rocking to and fro, she gazed at the sleeping Ranger. His dark hair waved gently. Now that he was warmer, she saw his skin was well tanned. He was a handsome man. At least now she knew he hadn’t come here to kill them all in their sleep. Or she thought she did. He could have stolen the badge. Hmmm, somehow, she doubted it.

He was the kind of man she’d hoped to marry someday. Small chance of that happening stuck here in the middle of nowhere. If Laura hadn’t needed her help so much she would never have stayed all these months. As if she had anywhere else to go.

Perhaps she could teach school, work as a companion, or as a governess. She might find work in a store, but most storekeepers only had family help out in their place of business. Besides, Laura’s pregnancy and losing another baby meant she needed Abby’s help. Now unless she wrote to a matrimonial agency, she’d probably never marry. She admitted she’d never find a man she wanted who wanted her back.

Abby picked up her knitting and tried to concentrate on the sweater she’d almost finished for Jimmy’s Christmas. Poor kid usually had to do with his dad’s hand me downs. What had her sister Laura been thinking to marry that no-account Norman Martin? Now his selfishness had probably cost both of them their lives. If it hadn’t, she was likely to kill her brother-in-law herself when--if--he showed up. Her fingers knitted and purled long into the night as she worried about the people she loved and the one she didn’t.

She woke with a start, to find her knitting had fallen to the floor. The visitor sat propped against the wall and stared at her, his blue eyes red-rimmed but watchful. She gathered up the fallen knitting and only lost a couple of stitches. “I must have dropped off. My nephew looked after your horses. Can I get you some broth or water?”

“Please.” His voice rasped out hoarsely.

She hurried to the fire where the sorry kettle of broth set on the hob. She pushed the hob over the coals to warm the thin soup while she gathered a bowl, cup, and spoon. “We’re a mite short of supplies but your broth will be warm soon enough.” She turned to face him. “Do you mind if I use some of your coffee?”

He shook his head, his eyes watching her every move. He’d been polite. How many men said please out here? But his stare unsettled her. She dug out coffee and rinsed and filled the pot from the snow they’d left melting near the fireplace. When coffee was brewing, she wet a towel and warmed it, then gave it to him. “This might make your face feel better. We were afraid to rub your skin last night because you were so cold. I’ve heard rubbing near-frozen skin causes damage.”

He took the towel from her and wiped his face and hands. “Thanks.”

“This is Laura and Norma Martin’s cabin. I’m Laura’s sister, Abby Perkins. My niece and nephew, Susie and Jimmy, are asleep in the loft.” She waited for him to volunteer his name. When he didn’t, she tilted her head and smiled. “Your turn. Who are you and how did you come to be shot?”

“Name’s Zach Kincannon. Your brother-in-law shot me.”

She plopped onto the rocker. “What?”

“You heard me plain enough.” He still stared at her.

“W-W-Why would Norman shoot you?”

“I tried to arrest him.”


“Caught cheating at cards. Shot the men at the table, scooped up the cash, and ran.”

She leaped to her feet. “Has something happened to my sister? Is Laura all right?”

He motioned for her to sit. “She’s in the hospital in Denison. He left her half dead after he beat her. She told me what happened and that you were trapped here with the kids, few provisions and no mounts. Told me a lot about you and how you take care of her and the kids." He adjusted his position. "I tracked Martin until I caught him then headed for this place.”

Wringing her hands, she asked, “Will she be all right? How badly is she hurt?”

“She’s bleedin’ inside but the doc said she’ll likely heal. Won’t have any more kids, though. Looked like she’d been run over by a team of mules.” He adjusted his back against the wall and tried to sit up straight. “You haven’t asked about your brother-in-law.”

“You think I care what’s happened to that rat after what you just told me?” She gasped. “Oh, the children. How will I tell them?”

Jimmy came down the ladder. “Tell us what?”

Stalling to gather her thoughts, she poured a cup of coffee for Zach Kincannon. “Jimmy, this is Mr. Kincannon. He just told me your mom was injured and is in the hospital in Denison.”

Jimmy looked from Abby to Zach Kincannon. “Ma’s hurt? What about Pa?”

“He didn’t make it, son. Sorry.” Zach watched them over the rim of his cup.

“Pa’s dead?” His voice rose in a half sob.

Abby rushed to him and grasped his shoulders. “Think about your ma. She needs us to be strong for her. Soon as the storm’s over and Mr. Kincannon has gained some strength, maybe he’ll take us to her.”

“Yep. That’s why I brought an extra horse. Figured one kid could ride with each of us.”

Hugging a sniffling Jimmy to her, she met Mr. Kincannon’s gaze over her nephew’s head. “I can’t thank you enough for risking your life to ride through the storm to help us, especially injured like you are. There’s no way to make this up to you.”

He smiled, his blue eyes twinkling. “One of these days when things are settled down, maybe you’ll think of something, me being single and all.”

      The End—Or, Maybe It’s A Beginning
From our house to yours, have a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Vonnie Hughes
Today, Australian/ New Zealand author Vonnie Hughes joins me. Please welcome Vonnie!

Caroline: Where did you grow up?

Vonnie: I’ve spent most of my life in New Zealand, and we came to the Gold Coast of Australia only nine years ago. My husband and I (I sound like the Queen) have two adult sons, both married, and they followed us to Australia where we all live within a short distance of each other. Our sons married very interesting girls – one is Japanese and the other Ukrainian! We came to Australia for the more tropical weather and laid-back lifestyle.

Caroline: My husband and I have always wanted to travel to Australia. What’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?

Vonnie: The dog and I jog/walk together most mornings. We trot alongside the little marina or along the Broadwater under the trees. When nobody’s looking I do a few lunges or sideslips. That sort of thing relaxes me. I also go to the gym twice a week, but that does not relax me! This trying to keep fit and slim thing is a real bugbear. (I’m short). My other main hobby is reading and reading and reading. I’m also involved on the periphery of animal rescue, and I help out with the Romance Writers of Australia assisting with preparation for next year’s conference and judging and also proof-reading for their monthly magazine. I guess that’s umm…relaxing?

Caroline: Sounds pretty busy to me. Do you have a favorite quote that sums up how you feel about life?

Vonnie: “Do as you would be done by.”

Caroline: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?.

Vonnie: Pleasure and the memory of an intriguing story.

Caroline: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Vonnie: Keep trying. Never, never give up. Sometimes success comes at the oddest times. And remember, it all depends what you mean by ‘success.’ If you want to be on the NY best selling list, fine. If you want to write YA novellas for iPads, fine. You just do your thing.

Caroline: Good advice. What is something interesting you discovered while researching this book?

Vonnie: I am actually talking about two books at once, since both came out on the same day. One is a Regency and the other a Romantic Suspense. I found the research for the Romantic Suspense – LETHAL REFUGE from the Wild Rose Press – to be just as hard to track down as my Regency research. For the Regency, I used my favorite collection of 19th century references such as WELLINGTON’S PENINSULAR WAR, SOLDIER OF THE 71ST, and THE AGE OF ELEGANCE for information regarding the particular regiments that fought in various skirmishes and battles. Even though my hero spends only nine months there, it is essential to get the facts right. With regard to the contemporary Romantic Suspense that is set in New Zealand, my home country, I researched the police hierarchy online. Their police force is set up similar to the British one so sometimes I cross-referenced. It is a question of getting attitudes, practises and titles correct. Nothing worse than a police procedural set in the southern hemisphere that sounds like a Mickey Spillane novel.

Caroline: That would be odd. Tell us about your latest releases.


THE SECOND SON is how Lord John Trewbridge inherits a marquessate for all the wrong reasons, and how Marguerite Ninian, a disabled woman, teaches John to forgive himself.

When he came upon the scene of the accident, his heart caught in his throat. The farmhands had set flares around the over-turned phaeton, and in the blackness it looked like a scene from Hell as men heaved and tugged, trying to free Spencer who was trapped beneath the cross-struts.

It was a bad situation. Had Spencer been caught beneath a wheel, they could have lifted the high-perch phaeton off him. But he was caught fast beneath the centre structure. No wonder he screamed when they tried to shift him.

John swallowed hard and dismounted. He crouched down beside the phaeton.

“Spence? It’s me. John.”

“Knew you’d come. Guilty conscience wouldn’t let you stay away.” Spencer’s voice was slurred and fading, but there was an echo of the old vindictiveness still there.

“Guilty conscience?” John asked, wondering if his brother’s mind was wandering.

“Oh, yes. I’ve always known you wanted to be me.” Spencer paused and fisted his hand for a moment. His other arm was trapped beneath the phaeton.

The pain must be excruciating. John tugged off his glove and held tight to Spencer’s free hand. “No, Spence. I envied you Trewbridge, not the title. Oh, and sometimes I envied your famous way with the ladies. But I didn’t want to be you.” He noticed he was talking in the past tense and reined himself in. How callous could he be? “No. I’m too dull to enjoy racing around, trying to keep ahead of my conscience.”

Spencer ignored the last comment. “Dull,” he rasped. “I told her that would singe your whiskers.”

“For a time it did,” John murmured. “But I’ve found someone who needs me and doesn’t think I’m dull. And I have an estate that will not give me sleepless nights like the responsibility of Trewbridge would.”

There was a long silence and John felt the world shrink down to just the two of them, in the dark, with the sounds of rescue far away. Then Spencer’s cracked voice whispered, “But you will have it all now, while I dance with demons.”

“I don’t think so. We’ll get you out of here. More men are coming. We will lift this damned phaeton off you and—-”

“No!” Spencer’s voice rose again. “I do not want to be saved.” He gave a slight huff that might have been a laugh. “Never did.”

The erratic pulse fluttering against John’s fingers slowed, and in the fitful torchlight, John saw his brother slide away. Spencer’s last breath exhaled on a sigh and his face gradually slackened into pain-free oblivion. His cold hand lay flaccid in John’s warm one.

John bent his head and prayed for Spencer’s soul. He had never, never imagined that one day he would kneel on the edge of a roadway in the peaceful English countryside beside his dying brother. He choked back a sob. “A wasted life,” he whispered.

Romantic Suspense: LETHAL REFUGE

Abused and abandoned as a child, Célie Francis knows better than to trust anyone. But after she witnesses a murder, she's placed in the Unit—New Zealand’s witness protection program—where she’s expected to trust strangers with her life.

Inching along the wall, Célie reached the window. She held on to the door jamb, a little island of security in a sea of fear. Then she stretched across and peered out.

A featureless face stared back at her.

She screamed and jumped back, bashing her elbow on the laundry tub.

Peaches lumbered to his feet, shaky and confused.

The face was still there. No eyes. No mouth. No nose.

Peaches staggered over to the door and snuffled.

Mesmerised, Célie kept staring at that distorted face as she backed into a corner.

Then the face moved and a hand spread across the glass. The forefinger and thumb rubbed together.

Flashes of memory seared her mind. She gasped, remembering that fearful morning when she’d discovered poor Occy’s disemboweled body. Stunned, struggling not to vomit, she’d been hovering over what was left of Occy when she sensed she was being watched. For a few precious seconds she had stared back at the creepy figure silhouetted in the early morning gloom watching her—just watching her.

Then he’d rubbed his thumb and forefinger together covetously, as if he were contemplating the best way to eat her alive.

And she’d bolted. And done her best to bury those memories.

Whoever that monster had been, he was outside the window right now.

Caroline: Wow, that certainly piqued my interest! Where can readers find your books?

Vonnie: Either by clicking on the buttons on my site at or going to my page which is

Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?

Vonnie: As well as the above website, there is also

Thanks, Vonnie, for being a guest today and sharing your new releases with us. Books make wonderful gifts, don't they?

I'll be back on Friday to share a Christmas story with you. 

Monday, December 19, 2011


Vanetta Chapman
Caroline asked me to blog about something I learned while researching my Amish cozy mystery, FALLING TO PIECES, set in Shipshewana, Indiana. Easy to do, since I learned a lot! I'll give you my top 5 things, but trust me . . . there are many more.

An Amish family garden
5. Amish women are hard workers. I kind of knew this since they don't have electricity, many live on a farm, and most have a lot of children. But when I visited one farmhouse and saw the beautiful vegetable garden, and this sweet mother running around working at the end of the day--I wanted to drop on to the porch swing and rest just from watching her. These folks work hard, and I was a bit ashamed of myself for whining when I have to fill up the dishwasher.

Amish boys with
mom at the market
4. Amish boys in Shipshewana wear wool caps instead of the traditional Amish hat. This was a surprise! I had the image of the little boy in the movie, "Witness," but when we arrived in Shipshe, we saw all of these boys (from toddlers to teens) wearing wool caps--and the first time we were there was in June! When I asked why, the woman I was with shrugged and said, "Because that's what their dat wore." They do wear the traditional hat to church and formal gatherings.

3. Amish teens often have cell phones that they charge when they're in town. Whoa! Stop the manuscript. Seriously? Oh yeah. You might be familiar with the word rumspringa, when an Amish teenager tries things from the Englisch world. Turns out many now have cell phones, which they charge when they're in town at their jobs or meeting friends. One pastor told me he knows his older son has a phone, but he will not allow him to have the internet on it.

2. The Amish live in fairly normal looking houses. In my mind, I was expecting something like what Laura Ingalls Wilder grew up in, but in fact Amish homes and farms look very similar to everyone else's. We learned to tell the difference fairly quickly--buggies in the barn and no electrical lines to the property!

1. The Amish are more than willing to talk to "Englischers." Probably the biggest surprise waiting for me in Shipshewana was the people. For some reason I expected them to be reclusive, reticent, unwilling to talk to outsiders in general and authors in particular. My experience was completely the opposite. Some of the Amish I met were regular chatter-boxes. Others were more quiet. All were friendly and invited me into their homes.

As you can tell, I learned a lot during my first visit to Shipshewana, the setting of FALLING TO PIECES. My second trip there, after the advanced reader copies had come out, I was a little worried how folks would react to me. I was killing off people in their town! They were so gracious and kind. And when we went back the third time? It was because they'd asked myself, Shelley Shephard Gray and Amy Clipston to be grand marshals in their Christmas parade. What an awesome experience, and what a lovely community. I can't wait to visit them again!

Buy link

You can find me on Facebook, my blog,
and my webpage

Vannetta, thank you so much for sharing with us today. The divider of mittens is in homage to your earlier series, the Amish Knitting Circle books. Wishing you continued success with your wonderful books!

Readers, thanks for stopping by!

Friday, December 16, 2011


Writer waiting for idea!
 Where do writers get our ideas? Everywhere! Mine for THE TEXAN'S IRISH BRIDE came partly due to my fascination with Ireland, and partly due to a very sad event that occurred several years ago in the Fort Worth, Texas area. This particular idea also required extensive research.

Perhaps you already know that Irish Travelers are descended from medieval minstrels and poets who traveled Ireland telling myths and stories. At that time, they were well respected and quite learned. Travellers claim that they even predate the Celtic invasion of Ireland, and are the oldest inhabitants of that Island. Travellers claim by oral tradition to be descended from the pre-Celts. Mab is an old pagan female goddess of the pre-Celts, who were known as the "fairies," "Fir Bolgs," and "Tuatha De Danann."

20th Century Irish Travelers
Modern Travelers have their own language or cant (also known in Ireland as Gammon), Sheldroo, which is linked to medieval language. At the the various times of English occupation, many Irish families were turned out of their homes. During periods of the 18th and 19th centuries, it was illegal for Irish to learn to read and write—only the English could attend schools and universities. Teaching an Irish child to read was even a crime. Hedgerow schools met--you guessed it--under the hedgerows where those displaced who could read taught some of those who could not. Most, however, did not learn to read and write more than their name, if that.

Restored Traveler wagon has a
surprising amount of storage
Homeless Irish families drifted in with the traveling minstrels and eventually became the Irish Travelers. They camped in fields. Later they acquired tents, then the colorful wagons that resemble gypsy wagons. Hero and I were fortunate enough to see several of these colorful wagons in Irish and Scottish museums and they are amazingly compact with a surprising amount of storage. Those we saw were in primary colors of red and green with yellow wheels. 

Even though their wagons are similar, Travelers are not gypsies. Gypsies are Roms and originated in India/Asia. Travelers are of Irish origin, although they have now spread throughout the Western world.

Legislation in Ireland has set aside special camping places for the Travelers. In Ireland and the UK, controversy continues over whether or not the children should be forced to attend school. In the U.S., they are supposed to attend school.

A large base of Irish Travelers is in White Settlement near Fort Worth, Texas and another in Los Angeles, California. There are other settlements thoughout the United States, especially in the Carolinas and the Appalachian states. In White Settlement, many Travelers live in RV’s or mobile homes at a park owned by one of the Travelers. The children don’t attend school, or if they go, it’s only sporadically. Most of the families are Roman Catholic and most wives attend mass.

Travelers were/are also called Tinkers because there was usually one among them who repaired pots and pans and metal wares. I first heard the word tinker as a child, used in the nursery rhyme I sang as I jumped rope. Wherever the jumper missed, that was who she or he would marry. The rhyme, in case your childhood was more sophisticated than mine, went something like, "Doctor, lawyer, policeman, thief. Tinker, tailor, Indian chief." Later, I read the word tinker in Louis L'Amour's books, referring not only to a man who worked metal, but one who made knives.

My first introduction to modern Irish Travelers—or Tinkers—came one January day when a terrible accident happened on Interstate 20 just west of Fort Worth, Texas. I've mentioned this before, but it made an indellible impression on me and many others. Hero and I were driving by as traffic was diverted by State Troopers. Paramedics spread yellow groundsheets over the last victims as we passed. From the several groundsheets spread on the ground, we knew the accident was a bad one, but learned from the newspaper the following day just how sad. A group of boys had been driving the new, red, double-cab pickup one received as a Christmas gift and going to visit their uncle west of Weatherford. The five boys—all cousins or brothers—were going so fast when the driver lost control that the pickup actually became airborne, sailed across a median, and landed on top of another pickup. All six people died. Three were brothers, cousins to the other two brothers, plus the man driving east toward Fort Worth.

Texas State Troopers, sheriff’s deputies, police officers, firemen, and paramedics were so moved by the deaths of these five young men from one extended family that many of them attended the funeral in White Settlement. At the funeral, they learned these young men were all much younger than they'd believed. Their drivers licenses were fakes! The ages were from 13 to 16, not 16 to 21 as the ID’s had indicated. Sadly, fake ID's are not uncommon for modern Irish Travelers. This accident sparked several in-depth columns about Irish Travelers and their culture in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

About three or four times a year, an Irish Traveler stops by our rural home and offers to pave our drive or repair our roof. The men are usually medium height and have startlingly clear blue eyes. If we were gullible enough—as one of our friends was—to let him resurface our driveway, in all likelihood he would use a mixture of fluid which might resemble asphalt, but actually would be oil which washed away in a hard rain. Another common ploy of dishonest Traveller (and other) roofers is to get a 50% deposit for roofing, then disappear.

I am not bashing Irish people. After all, I’m partly of Scot-Irish descent and love anything to do with Ireland!

I’m identifying a stereotype. I’m sure there are good people from this sub-ethnic group of Irish Travelers. As with many other groups, we only hear about the bad ones. (When's the last time you heard a feature news story about a happy Hollywood couple?) For a couple hundred years, Irish Travelers have been thought of as con men and their wives as beggars. In fact, some make a good living honestly while others live hand to mouth or steal.

They’re accused of “selling” their daughters at a young age to marry much older men. Is that true? I don’t know. I admit I've watched the tasteless TV show "My Big Fat Irish Wedding." What can I say? It's like a train wreck and I simply can't look away. 

Travelers have made national news because of their shoplifting rings. Are there honest Travelers? Of course there are, just as there are honest and dishonest people from any ethnic group.

In THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, the heroine and her family were among those turned off their land by an English landlord. Rather than starve, they joined a band of Irish Travelers. How did they end up trekking across the U.S. and in Texas?

Sure, now, and it's a lovely tale. I hope you’ll read the book to learn the answer. (Hint!)

Buy link: OR at Amazon and other online stores. Makes a great gift! (hint, hint, hint!)